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Pastor's Corner

 

December 25, 2019



Understanding

Holiday celebration and cheer is not a reality for everyone. The fact is many people find themselves actually feeling the opposite. Some people suffer from a disorder that we call "depression." Statistically, it is more evident at this particular time of the year. Not everyone is hooked up with family, and Lord knows that all families do not function the way that God created them to. Some are experiencing Christmas for the very first time without someone they have deeply loved, and it hurts. The daylight hours are short, and it does seem to be cloudy quite a bit. I didn't mean to, but I also spent more money than I should have, and now I have to dig out. And less we shrug this off as not really being a serious problem, let me remind you of one of the severe consequences of depression, suicide. We are told that Montana has a high per capita occurrence of this tragic outcome. I want to share about depression from a spiritual view, and maybe you might learn a little. You might be able to help better someone you love not only survive but even perhaps begin to see that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.

If a counselor has a secular or naturalist viewpoint, they will often make a diagnosis by looking at criteria from a manual called the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders." It is a manual put together by the experts to help others diagnose mental disorders. It was first written in 1952 and we are now in its 5th edition so we can shorten the name to “DSM-5.” The DSM-5 lists three core criteria for mental disorders. They are (1) deep impairing sorrow, (2) a sense of being hopeless, and (3) guilt or shame. A clinician would ask questions and then go to the manual, and if they found one or all three of these, they would likely diagnose "depression." It seems to me that these three are understood more correctly from a spiritual perspective rather than the secular approach. The naturalist believes that you are born, live, and die, and then nothing. The only thought of hope comes from individual victories in life that soon fade away. The true believer has a faith that transcends all time into what is called eternity. It is life without end in the presence of the eternal God. That hope is based upon the promises of God. If you have been depressed, you probably have found that you believe that there is no hope. That is why some will end their lives because there is no purpose in this life and no hope in another life.

Guilt, in large part, is based upon the concept that you have done something wrong. How do you define what is right and what is wrong? We could discuss this at length, but many will end up back with God or some concepts involving God. He is the one who defines it, and it is based upon who He is. Life experience will reveal to us that there is always something to be guilty about. Guilt has a tendency to eat on the inside and has the potential of tearing us apart.

What do we do? The simple answer is, in fact, found in Christmas and the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus didn't come to earth to make a terrific story. He came to heal the soul and spirit of the sad, hopeless, and the guilty. It starts with guilt. Jesus took our sin, the wrong we have done, and suffered the penalty for it. The price has been paid by Jesus. That means no more guilt on our part. That gives us hope above and beyond anything that we could have ever imagined. The sorrow is lightened in part because we now have a friend that has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother and will be with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.

If you're suffering from a heavy load and you don’t know what to do, Jesus is your answer. Try not to isolate yourself from others. Still, even more than that, allow Jesus to forgive your sin and come into your life as not only your Savior but also your greatest friend.

Pastor Lynn Rettig

Musselshell Community Bible Church

WHERE?

Do you ever ask God questions while you are reading His Word or even hearing His Word read to you? God often leaves out stuff I want to know so I ask questions about things. Like: How did the shepherds know Where to go to find the baby the angels told them about? It would have taken all night to knock on doors and ask, “Is He here?” But they went to the place immediately. Isn’t that odd? How did they know. Yes, the angels were up above hovering over the area, but that wouldn’t pinpoint the spot unless they were using laser beams. Some history and tradition might shed some light on this question.

In Genesis 35:21 we read that one of Jacob’s wives died in childbirth on the way to Bethlehem. Jacob buried her there and put up a pillar or a tower to mark the place as she was his favorite wife – Rachel. The shepherds were guarding the flocks of sheep just outside of the city of Bethlehem and tradition has it that they used the tower, called Migdal Eder, to keep watch over the sheep. We know from reading the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) that the lambs, which were sacrificed twice a day and more often during special occasions, had to be spotless in order to take on the human sins and give the humans their cleanness. So, to keep the lambs meant for sacrifice from getting cut, scraped, or having their wool torn, they were wrapped in swaddling clothes and put in stone mangers to be sure that they were kept pure for the sacrifice. Of course, the sheep herders would have known where these mangers were located and in whose stable they were. The angels gave the men specific instructions as to what the baby was wearing and where he could be found.

I apologize if I marred your image of a manger. It was not a wooden structure such as we know here in the west, but one of carved out stone. Smooth edges and sides so the lamb would not be injured in any way. Tradition also has it that the inn was actually one that belonged to the tribe of Judah which is probably why Joseph and Mary went there to stay – it was family. They just came late – God’s plan!

It is so important to know that the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, was treated just like the lambs of the sacrifice were treated – from birth onwards. He followed the ancient pattern set by His Father, God, in the very beginning of the human story. God had it planned all along and He carried out His plan just as He said He would.

One day, Jesus is coming back to this earth, but not as a baby in a manger. He is coming to set up His Kingdom and to bring everlasting peace upon our earth. God has a plan for our present and our future, too and we can either get in step with it, or blame someone else for it, or try to stop it. Nothing can stop God from carrying out His plan. The best thing we can do is keep reading His Word, listening to His Spirit and trusting in His Son, Jesus. All the answers are there to every question we may have.

I pray you all had a very wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and that your relationship with Jesus will grow stronger each day of the coming year.

Rev. Joyce Kaplan, M.Div, Retired United Church of Christ Pastor

 

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