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Legendary CCM Artist Russ Taff is coming to Marion!

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December Newsletter-Incarnation

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I quit! Well actually that’s not new news or big news from me.  I quit long ago.  And, now I’m laying back a bit, believing and seeing more and more that He’s the answer I’ve been seeking all along.  He has become the Captain of my Faith, the center of my Gospel.  It hasn’t always been like that; for a long time it was like I was the center of this thing.  Everything depended upon me to figure it out, my coming to understand.  That said, it doesn’t mean I’ve quit seeking and studying about Christ, just means that in the seeking and studying I’m comfortable with Him revealing Himself to me in ways that I’ve not noticed before.  At Christmas you might say, why bring this up now? I mean these are the ‘high-holy’ days of the Christian faith, the birth of Jesus. Well that’s the reason right there!  Jesus’ birth changed everything.  That birth was not just the continuation of the Christian story, it was the period at the end of a long Promise and history found in the heart of God from the very beginning of Genesis 1, before the foundation of the world!

Incarnation is the correct word for what happened on the birth night.  Incarnation was not just another incident in the story of God to be added to all the other stories about God; it was the pivotal, targeted, unique and purposed incident of all incidents.  I think we sometimes look at Jesus’ birth as a picture of God’s compassion or, in our minds, we see how beautiful it was for God to come as a man. Truly it was both of those, but from God’s point of view, it was not just a loving and beautiful thing, but even more profoundly, a powerful night.  So powerful that angels filled the air, stars lined up to declare that night, and at that moment a virgin gave birth, shaking all Creation.  No other night, no other time in time, held that moment’s meaning.  Before time began, back when only the Father, Son and Spirit huddled before the foundation of the world, did any time equal this time, this night.  Our celebration of the birth of Jesus, along with his crucifixion and resurrection stand alone as unique days in all the universe with echoes and overtures that overpower all the other days before or since.  Christ’s birth was not a day, but the day!  Ephesians 1 calls it the fullness of time, all that is heaven and all that is earth collide and is reconciled with Jesus’ birth.  On that day His Kingdom did come, not a political one, not a social one, not a powerful worldly one–His Kingdom is based upon a relationship forged by that very birth, death and resurrection.  On that day Jesus stepped into our world, and this world would never be the same again.  His arrival did that and no matter that the world refuses to yield to that fact, whether the world agrees with Him or not makes no difference in His being Truth.  In Christ, His Kingdom did not come in overpowering might as the Jews expected but came as Jesus himself said, as a mustard seed or a bit of leaven.  Jesus’ Kingdom was humanly looked upon by the Jews as embarrassingly small or weak and by the Romans as simply irritating. (For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Rom 14:17) But this Faith, this moment, penetrated all the creation.  When Jesus stepped into our world all the weight shifted from the first Adam to the second Adam, to a single man, resting on Jesus’ teachings and what he did.  Everything about the relationship between creature and the Creator was altered to reveal the nature and character of Father, Son and Spirit–forever forward the secret is out!

Most research points to the first week of April as the actual day that Jesus was born, but it’s not the actual date/day that’s important about that birth. Its importance comes from the fact that it was a new beginning, a new Genesis.  Here, on that night, God (Father, Son, Spirit) revealed themselves in their fullness.  That night took away previous speculation about the heart of God and an incarnation took place in Jesus’ birth that clarified all things, made all things new.  It defined the Mystery of Christ in such a way that all guessing about, all the gaps of knowledge about God, were made transparent for all people to see.  All that had been dim was made plain.  The essence of that is declared in much of Paul’s writings:  If you have perceived Jesus you have perceived the Father…I am the Way, the Light, the Truth and the Life…All the fullness of the Godhead abides in Christ…All things have been given over to Him… Jesus came to show you the Heart of the Father.  Christ Jesus is the Revelation of God, the Cliff’s Notes of what the Godhead is like. (Math. 11, John 8, John 17, Heb. 1)  The Scriptures do not prove Christ Jesus, He proves the Scriptures, He existed long before the Scriptures.  All things are subjected to Him. (Strong stuff to match a strong incarnation!)

That’s why I quit trying to reason my way to the knowledge of God. I’ve gotten comfortable trusting that His ways are superior to our ways.  That’s not to diminish our part in a Faith response, but subjecting Him to our Greek logic and human mind, much of the time clothes us in silliness. That ‘greekness’ doesn’t glorify God.  In some ways, it boxes Him into our earthly expectations, frustrating our wee-little brains and locking our hearts away from the Spirit Life that’s granted to us as a gift through Christ. There was only one motivation for The Word to be manifested in the flesh: to express the Love found in the trinity of God.  Jesus came for one reason: to seek/save those that were lost, people in the dark.  The mystery contained within Jesus is the knowledge that you’re related to the Father, Son and Spirit by Their desire to have you enter into Their Life, even when you don’t deserve to be present in Their Life at all.  In Jesus’ incarnation we discover that our approval is part of God’s desire to bless us, include us.  That’s what we find in His Word that makes us free.  We’re not set free so we can sin more which only causes us to oppose ourselves more. We’re not set free so we can be foolish with our lives even more than before; no, we’re made free so we can step into a life-style that finds the embrace and cheerleading of a loving God, a Life where we can be free to Love without being afraid or ashamed, free to care without fear of the vulnerability for doing so.

I’m resolved to knowing there’s a lot I don’t know about Him.  In fact, seems to me we know only a small portion about Him compared to all there is to know; actually, there’s more we don’t know than we do.  It is said in Scripture that thousands of things could have been written, volumes of books about Jesus, not just the recorded words we do have recorded about him.  What I’ve learned over the past few years is we have a God that wants to reveal Himself to us, in fact, eagerly wants to do that.  He’s not absently sitting by and watching us dig through books, tapes, conferences and prayer to see if we might figure this puzzle out about Him.  In the incarnation, He revealed Himself in all the fullness of the Godhead.  As the old saying goes, it would be comical if it weren’t so sad seeing people struggle at knowing the heart of God when He has shouted His will in the very incident of the incarnation.

It’s so much more fun, more rewarding, to lean in and trust in God, becoming comfortable in His hands rather than constantly looking for a God who meets my simple, sometimes even small expectations. His surprises and unexpected blessings are so evident when they’re not cluttered with our vision and our struggles in the implementation of His ways.  It is Finished, He has won, victory declared, authority to walk in His Mercy and Grace has been declared in the heavens.  Truly Peace on earth, good will toward men has come in the birth of Jesus, on that unique day, for all times. Sometimes He reveals Himself in small daily bits and pieces and many times in explosions of big events in our lives.  Knowing He is a Father to us, God desiring to live within our earthly circumstances takes all the frustration away of having to solve some mystery of God.  Actually the Mystery of God has already been revealed to us in every way: Christ Jesus is that Mystery.  Figuring Him out would take no telling how many lifetimes, probably it will take an eternity. Knowing Him through the birth of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, Father, Son and Spirit intended for it to be possible in one simple birth that declared Their intentions to all the world: for God so loved the world that He gave a son to prove and show us who He really was.

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November Newsletter: Revelation

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Had a friend call me the other day and he simply said, ‘The end is near.’  That happened after recently running into a guy at the post office that always says in passing, ‘It’s over in America.’ For sure Jesus is coming and has been coming all along into our lives.  My friend’s call caused me to re-visit some of the Book of Revelation.  I didn’t get very far into the text without being overwhelmed by the word pictures drawn by John.  Two chapters in and I was stunned by the message delivered in that book.  Let me begin by saying this:  the whole of this book is about one nov162thing–the revelation or revealing of Christ Jesus.  Sure there are instructions of an apparent end of the world as we know it, there are discussions about worldly conditions and failings, punishments and rewards.  But, according to the book’s author, John is foremost the revelator of the person of Christ.  I believe the book’s theme, a summing up, is found in the text from the very first chapter: ‘Do not fear, I am First, I am Last and I am Alive!’  John goes on.  What he’s about to share is a picture of the authority and glory of God.  We call this a book of the Apocalypse.  The Greek word used for apocalypse is identified in other biblical text as an unveiling.  Much like a statue covered with linen, which can show the image outline of the thing underneath, but only when the covering is pulled back do we see the real thing.  Before, we have a general idea of the thing, but when the linen falls we have the exact, perfect image revealed right before our eyes.  The hidden image reveals new information about what’s underneath.  Pulling the covering away reveals the statue in all its detail, its fullness and a new glory.  That’s the book of Revelation.  It reveals Christ ‘right-relatedness’, his full authority and power, to this world.  Here we see the fullness of his Kingdom.  We see what was not revealed previously, what eye has not seen and what our mind has not imaged.

Revelation is a look into the unseen, a glimpse of what is hidden but, at that same time, hidden in full view in our presence.  In some shortened, compact way, the book is a manual of how to survive, how to stand in the harsh realities of our world.  This is Jesus’ story of kingdom against Kingdom.  If I’m limited to one word for its essence I’d choose Overcoming.  Here we discover that things are not what they seem, that not living by sight takes on a whole different level of reality.  When Jane was in Chicago, in an intensive care hospital, existing each day with one foot on this side of this creation and one foot seemingly on the other side of creation, not living by what I saw took on a whole new meaning.  Something much bigger is going on than just our earthly experience, our daily struggles.  It’s obvious that humans are worshipers by the very nature of our Creation.  We either worship God or other gods of one kind or another.  Politics, Hollywood and sports teams have shown us just how blind we become in our worship of something, someone.  Revelation sets that issue straight by identifying exactly Who our worship nature should choose to adore, leaves no doubt about how this life is not the true expression of His Life.  It comes down in Revelation to worshiping the Lamb versus following the Beast.

For all its complexity Revelation is a book of encouragement.  As early as Chapter 2 and as late as Chapter 22 we get a glimmer of Hope about our future (actually our present as well).  There, we see the Morning Star revealed.  A gift according to John, a sign of Christ.  This star lights the sky generally about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.  It shows before the dawn but it is a promise of the dawn.  Actually, it comes at the darkest hour, when the least light is being shown.  Night has reached its peak!  Darkness rules the night!  And there, in that moment Jesus promises us a bright light to usher in the dawn of a new day.  That’s the Hope of Revelation.  Revelation expresses the darkest of times but a time pregnant with Hope.  I get accused sometimes of being too positive in these BVN letters, of being not balanced in my outlook. But Jesus came exactly to give us Hope, Faith and a dream about our futures.  Came to give us Life, not death.  Yes, Revelation is a story full of ‘crushing’ pressure but in that same book, according to Christ, we are not to fear whatever we will endure! (Revelation 2:9-10)  On one hand a pressure unlike ever before, on the other hand a Grace and Peace like never before.  On one hand the darkest hours, on the other hand the greatness of the Father revealed.  On one hand the destruction of the faith and on the other hand a rising up, deliverance and establishment of the Kingdom of God manifest.  Days of tribulation and also a promise of Joy, Fullness and Love.  On one hand the end of the age, on one hand the ushering in of a New Day, a New Heaven, a New Earth.  At the cross, darkness fell upon the earth but that darkness was ushering in a new Life.  In God’s economy of Life, there’s always death before a rising up. In Revelation, there’s a dying of the old system to bring in the New Heaven and Earth.  Tribulation is about a time when all that can be shaken will be shaken.  The reciprocal of that statement means that there are things that are unshakable– Faith and Love are those.

As the linen is dropped and Christ is revealed in His fullness, we’ll do well to remember that the Spirit of the Anti-Christ’s target is not believers but, according to this book, the target is the Lamb whom he hates. We will be wise to remember that the word of Christ spoken to us in this book is to not be afraid, be faithful.  Be faithful when it’s the darkest, our role in His battle is just be faithful, thankful about Him in all things.  We do have a Hope in the worst of times.  Remember the cross looked very bleak to his followers, but there was a victory there that was not intended to be seen with human eyes but with the Spirit.  We live in a time where the counterfeits gather against the Truth.  We are told and forced into acts of human tolerance inspired by the book’s Beast.  Human tolerance substitutes itself for a biblical, Godly Patience, Mercy and Grace.

Nov161All of creation’s space is occupied with the struggle in Revelation.  Always has been, always will be, until that struggle is put away by the revealing of the true Christ.  Not a Christ of our imagination, not one assumed by our mind, but one that’s had the linen pulled away and shown in all His Glory.  Just as that Morning Star appears in the darkest hour and dispels what appears to be a lost cause, He invades every inch of the battlefield of all time and space.  Our eyes and ears can’t comprehend the truth of that struggle adequately.  This story, His Story, is not in doubt in spite of all we see or all we experience.  There’s only one Champion and all generations have declared Him down and out!  Kings, brilliant minds, political leaders, countries, movements, people of all kinds offering up the funeral pronouncements about the end of God.  Each generation has been ruled by their love of the darkness and the self-righteousness of their causes. I heard it once said, that ‘when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. It’s much worse than that, they believe in anything!’  Only the handed down battle between Anti-Christ and a Lamb remains to continue generation after generation.  John’s instructions: write down everything you see– things that already are and things about to come.  One message rings clear to the seven churches of Revelation, simply overcome!  I quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible

‘I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One seated on the Throne.  It was written on both sides, fastened with seven seals.  I also saw a powerful angel, calling out in a voice like thunder, ‘Is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seals?’  There was no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld, able to break open the scroll and read it.  I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it.  One of the Elders said, ‘Don’t weep.  Look– the Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David’s Tree, has conquered.  He can open the scroll, can rip through the seals.’  So I looked and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals and Elders was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall.’

In that Scripture the linen just dropped and revealed all things full.  Revelation is not about an ending in as much as it’s about a new beginning.

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