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June Newsletter: Darkness/Boston bombing

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Appropriately, most of us have been pre-occupied with the terrible bombing of a Boston Patriot’s Day/Marathon Celebration.  We live in perilous times for sure, and we must find a way to reconcile that with our assurance of the Spirit of God’s presence and live in the power and strength of His resurrection.  It seems we’re just beginning to be enlightened to the necessity of having more than a list of rules, moralities, ethics or religious formulas to make it through times like these.  Our Faith is not just about what is right, but more accurately, Who is Right.

The pressure in a world characterized by things such as the Boston bombings, political greed and corruption, immorality on many of our streets and simply the attitude of the culture’s desire to separate itself from the Love of God, will either wear us down or will, if received appropriately, nudge us toward God.  An essential relationship we will need in order to survive the broken-heartedness of a broken world.  Certainly, we live in a time when the contrast between good and evil, light and dark, (what might be called Kingdom against kingdom) is exposed and makes our choices more obvious.  Each day it seems that we must choose between Life and life.  God’s Wisdom has given us a way to overcome this ‘darkness’ but each of us will decide and determine whether we follow that Wisdom or go our own way.  The majority will do exactly what was first done in the Garden of Eden, they will choose a way that leads to separation from the source of Life and choose the way that leads to an ordinary, chaotic man- generated life.  It is our choice and no one escapes it.  Since Genesis it’s the same story: believe and trust in the Truth, walk and talk with the Wisdom of God, or separate ourselves, go our own way and suffer the consequences of that choice.  Not complicated, just a choice between being in the Light and stumbling around in the darkness.  In spite of how incredibly smart and intelligent we are, the reality is that we are simply repeating Genesis each generation and each individual, suffering the consequence just as Adam and Eve did.  Old, old story, same results.  It’s like back to the future!  There are no other choices in life, just simply choosing whether to embrace the darkness or to walk in the Light.  Just as Nicodemus, each person comes in the darkness of midnight to find a new way, The Way that is the Light.

Now, and really always, we need the kind of relationship that will affect our lives not just a couple times a week, but will be a part of our work and our play.  How do we live in a world that is rapidly moving away from God and moving eagerly toward ‘evil’?  How do we live in a world growing increasingly hateful?  How do we live in a time where, instead of someone or some group that could do some terrible deed that would affect the lives of a local few, now can do deeds that might ignite millions of people if not the whole world?  What do we hang on to in ‘this present darkness’?

With all of our attempts at trying to be peaceful within this ‘darkness’, we’re discovering where our hearts are, what we’re really trusting in on the Journey.  Welcoming that discovery of where we are in our hearts and mind is part of the enlightening to God’s purposes and plans for each of us.  If nothing else, the pressure of living in this world will produce questions and searchings that can help find a new and deep understanding of the Love of God and the relationship He desires with each of us.  Learning that we’re not in this alone, learning that He has a desire to be close, strengthen and guide us individually can be the reward of that pressure.  We can embrace relationship or push it off, go our own way and do the best we can to cope in our own ability, or we can partnership with Wisdom.  Will the pressure of today cause us to harden our hearts or will it gather us to a deeper relationship with God?

I’m sure we all, as believers, want to think we’ve arrived at being enlightened to God.  Truth is, we never will arrive at having ‘complete Truth’; walking completely in the Light.  If we’re not resistant to the presence of God, now is a chance to continue growing closer to Him by developing a closer and more tender relationship.  It’s easy to be frustrated or discouraged in times like these, but we’re gifted Faith in order to overcome times like these.  Paul talked of being the same in season and out of season.  And while most of us believe in season is when everything is going well, when we are at our highest point of ‘good times’, actually, being in season is when we need Him the most.  It’s when we are challenged by the world to the temptation to separate ourselves from the Love of God.  The season of His presence in trouble can be the times of knowing Him most.

It was not God’s desire that we go through any of this!  His idea of earth was described in the Garden of Eden before the fall of Adam.  That kind of world, that kind of relationship, is the picture of His desire for us and in actuality we are discovering our way back to that.  That’s the purpose of all this.  He is wooing us back to that kind of intimacy in this generation and has hoped that for every generation.   We’ve spoiled His Creation with our independence and love of the darkness.  Now, in moments of hardship and independence we can discover the existence of a personal and close relationship with God, a restoration of the original kind of relationship of the Creation.  (Jane and I would tell you that we did not find God’s manipulation in her health crisis, but rather found how deep the relationship, how rich the presence of God can be in the middle of crisis.  Disaster is not the training ground of God, but it can be the location of our Trust and Hope, confirming and verifying His promise to us to never leave, never to forsake.

He that dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, ‘my Refuge and my Fortress, my God in whom I Trust.’  For He will deliver me…Psalm 91

His promise is to those that dwell!  Simply, those that ‘stay home’ in Christ will be blessed in Christ.  That’s key to how we must live today.  Staying home is to Trust in easy times and especially times of trouble. This present darkness is both a terrible thing for those that love the darkness and for those that hate it but have to stand in it as well.  Darkness splashes.  It soils the environment all round.  It does rain on the just and the unjust but God has come to overcome that rain.  Darkness is guaranteed and will be present in the absence of the Love of God.   We should not be surprised when we see so much trouble; trouble is the default unless the Love of God is chosen.  It may show up in a million different symptoms, but it shows up just the same.  It’s a natural response to our separation from the offer of God’s Peace.  I’m not shocked that this is where we find ourselves today; not overwhelmed either.  In spite of it feeling terrible and even though we might even have the temptation to be discouraged, this is ‘in season’ for Believers, a time of more and more dependence on Him.  Uncomfortable?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Tempted to fear? Yes.  Overwhelmed?  No!  Knowing the Love of God, knowing it as a personal relationship, permits a dwelling place for us no matter what kind of pressure we experience.  At the time the 91st Psalm was written, David was surrounded on every side, overwhelmed with insecure thoughts and physically threatened for his life, yet was able to write this last line:  ‘When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him and show him my salvation’.  That’s true even in our ‘present darkness’; be of good cheer, He has come to overcome in you!

Chonda Pierce with Geoff Moore

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May Newsletter-Get Happy

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Happy is that people whose God is Jehovah… (Psalm 144:15)

Yep, were going to get happy this month.  We will do something we’ve never done before; we’re bringin’ in the funny lady: Chonda Pierce.  If you’re new to Faith, many of you might not recognize the name, but just wait a few days, then you will never forget Chonda.  She is part our celebration of Mother’s day on May 12th, performing in concert on Saturday night the 11th.  Scripturally, a merry heart (only possible through Christ), a smile, a laugh is like a medicine to us and you will get a good dose of that on that evening.  Geoff Moore will join Chonda to host the event.  He is one of the early artists in our concert series that caught the heart and imagination of our listeners and for many years held the record for number of concerts performed for WBVN—well, until some kid named Mark took that over.  It will be a great reunion with Geoff and a terrific introduction to Chonda.  Of course, I have a reason to ‘promo’ that event that’s not really about that event at all.  I want to go back to that Scripture about being happy.

We are a ministry of encouragement placed right in the middle of a world and culture that is not very encouraging at all.  Truth be told, if we all took off our ‘everything is great’ mask, dropped our ‘everything’s fine’ line, it seems everyone has some kind of trouble to deal with.  Had a conversation with a friend the other day and his statement was to the effect that he’d forgotten how it was not to worry or hurry about something all day long.  We have calendars and watches to tell when and where we should go, phones that do the same plus they talk to us moment to moment.  Facebook is watching and seems to be interested in everything you think or are doing.  How many emails do you get each day? Plus internet, TV and you can twitter if you must!

So, how are we to be glad as the Word of God suggests believers should be?  We find part of that answer in Psalm 4.  Contrary to what we think, the true source of gladness is not in our increase, not in what we have in our home, not in what we put in the bank, but gladness is contained within hearts.  I know it seems trite to say such things, but God says such things.  The 146th Psalm declares that gladness is to be found in knowing the God of Jacob and knowing He is our help.  True gladness, or the more spiritual Joy, is not to be had by controlling everyone and everything in our lives.  It’s not obtained with endless, incessant labor on our part.  Psalm 127 reaffirms that we labor in vain unless Jehovah builds the house, going further to suggest it’s vain to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for He gives His beloved sleep (Rest).  Gladness is not obtained by our pain or sorrow but is simply the fruit of knowing Him.  Adam and Abraham were both given gifts while they were helpless, unable to do anything for themselves; they were both asleep.  Can we get to a Rest where God does what we can’t and we have the confidence that He will do just that?  Scripture says happy: is the man whom God corrects, is the man that finds Wisdom, is the man who has Mercy, is the man who trusts God.

Jesus gave us instruction on how to overcome.  John writes of a time when many of the disciples deserted him (John 6:66), times his brethren did not believe (John 7:5).  Jesus was thought to have been ‘beside himself’ (Matthew 3:31).  He was rejected as a glutton and drunkard and at the same time his miracles were fruitless.  In all these, he found Rest in submission and resignation to the Father’s Will.  ‘At that time’, a specific time, a time when the disciples were weary and heavy laden with burdens, Jesus’ words are to ‘come unto me all you that pressed and I will give you Rest for your souls (mind, will and emotions).  Jesus was not offering a Rest that would come from simply ‘tipping our hat’ as an acknowledgement that he exists, but a Rest that comes from his invitation to ‘be His’.  (One of the wonderful things Jane and I discovered during the GBS incident in her life this last year is that as the pressure intensified the ‘complete Peace’ increased in both our lives.)

Many times, in the original Hebrew text, in an attempt to emphasize the point to the highest degree possible, the Spirit of God had the inspired writers to repeat a word twice.  In Isaiah 26:3, the original Hebrew language literally reads God will keep us in ‘perfect Peace Peace’ whose mind is stayed on Him.  The emphasis is to suggest that God will keep us in much Peace-great Peace, or more accurately, a complete Peace.  Need some of that?  Jeremiah chapter 6 speaks of a kind of peace spoken of by the prophets but the truth was there was no Peace.  Isaiah’s Peace in contrast was one that would pass all understanding even in a time of great trouble.

While Adam and Abraham had a sleep imposed on them, we must choose our Rest to be glad!  And, while we cannot be isolated from trouble, the Rest of God can insulate us in our hearts and minds even in trouble.  Recently, my mother buried a son; my sister and I buried a brother.  The most impressive symbol of that day, the most impressive moment was while I was welcoming people in the visiting line, I turned and looking back at the casket, there stood my 90 year old mother, a smile on her face and greetings in her heart for all that came.  She stood at the head of the casket for an hour and half, never faltering, never sighing, and made sure people knew how much it meant to her for them to come, how much she loved each one.  Hers was not a simple calmness but a strong tower of Faith because she knows the God of Jacob.  I will always remember that day and her Peace and Strength beyond understanding because her God is Jehovah.  Shalom! Shalom!

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