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April Newsletter-With God There is No Time

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Exodus 32 tells the story of how God’s people melted all their gold and made themselves a golden calf and an image to worship.  Simply put, they rejoiced in the works of their own hands never supposing that they were moving away from God’s purpose for them. Those were the same people that were led by their prophet Moses, had Aaron as priest. They had experienced the miracles of Egypt.  They had followed the fire by night and the cloud by day.  They were a group that had manna from heaven; they had been uniquely called to be the people of God.  They were a generation of people called specifically to Worship the True God.  But in spite of that purpose and call, they were a misguided people just the same.  How?  By worshipping their own works they lost their way, and because of those same hands, lost their relationship with God.  As believers, we can all do that if we are not careful.  We can fall for the ‘look at what we have done for God’ mindset.  I mean, just look at how we serve Him.  Look at my prayers, my Faith, my ministry.  All of that can be with good intention initially, but gradually it can walk us away from the design of God to follow and Worship Him and Him alone.

Sometimes it’s important to re-evaluate what’s motivating us, whose works are present and what’s consuming our time.  Perhaps we’re doing something great for God but we may not be doing something great with God.  It’s a subtle distinction.  The problem with ‘calfing’ is that it’s a fleshly worship/praise and not a Spiritual one.  At WBVN we’ve always hoped and prayed for a Spiritual result rather than a soulish one.  We hope our psalms, hymns and songs are directed at the hearts of men and women not directed just to their brains.

One of the characteristics of working ‘with God’ as opposed to working for Him has a common denominator: waiting.  It always seems to make up part of the mix of finding purpose in our journey.  What we do all of a sudden rarely contains the same power in our lives as those things that come slowly and deliberately.  I can’t find any ‘hurry’ used in the context of the scriptural text found in the Old or New Testament.  Patience seems like a catalyst for all good things.  In our culture we want instant and quick.  But looking back at the story of the Gospel, all the roads seem to be rather long, a journey rather than a sprint.  We would do well to remember that the Spirit of God will always eventually manifest Himself, time is of no matter.  Time is not a feature of the future and should not be a feature of our present.  With God there is no time, I mean a thousand years is as a day to the One who created all things and holds all things together.  It’s the end results that are important, not the path we take to get there.  Faith by its very nature is not limited to what the calendar hints, the watches say or by the siftings of an hour glass.  I remember hearing someone say many years ago, ‘in the Gospel, we don’t play two halves, don’t play four quarters; in God, we play till we win.’  Christ wins.  

I was thinking about the things we seemingly lack in this society in order for salvation to blossom and the Word to spread like a wild fire again.  I realized there never has been a time that was perfect for that, yet the Gospel consistently moved into each generation.  Certainly, we can’t explain how this Gospel exponentially has grown for the past 6 thousand years.  There never have been perfect people to explain it or perfect denominational expressions to proclaim it.  It simply grows and continues because of what the Spirit does, rather than the works of our hands.  We facilitate the Spirit but we can’t do what only the Spirit can do.  We can build our projects and put in lots of effort sometimes, but they can be golden calves, sterile and worthless, moving us away from purpose.  His Spirit is necessary and able for any lasting results.  We must continue to trust and believe even without a complete understanding of how the full Gospel can come to pass as promised in our lives and the world.  Faith is about believing something not seen, not believing something that’s been proven.

Life is tougher than we were ‘sold’ it would be.  Jesus said as much in the Book of Acts (26:14) telling Saul (Paul) that living life separated from Jesus is ‘hard for you to kick against the briars.’  Without Him, we are always entangled in the thorns of this life.  With Him we are as able as Br’er Rabbit in those briars.  We’ve been promised by the world, and some religion, that everything’s going to be just great; just buy this or just perform that and it will be perfect.  Actually, Jesus left little doubt that there’s trouble in this world.  Coming as man, he subjected himself to trouble; he was challenged each day with what this world has to offer, was tempted to abandon the Father just as we are.  Eventually, they killed him because of his Faith and they’ll do the same to you; only today, instead of physically killing believers they do it by bullying; killing what you say, what you think, what you do, and what you believe.

It’s weird in a way, even with every opportunity to do so, we seem to push away from the table of Trust and Belief, walk away from the opportunity to stay in the ‘shadow of the Most High’.  It comes down to one thing really, permitting our hearts to be led by the Spirit of God that’s been placed within us.  That small voice will often, most often in fact, be going in the opposite direction of our thinking.  But, our thinking has gotten us into a lot of trouble, if not with the law at least with our psychology (our hearts).  We think we know how to do things better; do it our way, but that ‘doing’ is all in the flesh.  The Gospel teaches us not to put our trust in the flesh, yet we continue to cozy up to it most the time, separating ourselves from our hearts.  The flesh is where we’re most comfortable and the thing we’ve been taught to embrace, encouraged to follow rather than following our hearts.  Some go so far as to even use their fleshly condition to measure and ascertain their spiritual condition.

Life is like our highway system, traffic going in two directions at the same time, both along the same path.  It’s not that there’s only one thing going on at a time, actually two things are going on at the same time.  You may be going in one direction, going along with all the has world to offer, but right next to you  the Love of God (profoundly right next to you) is a companion offering you something better but going in the very opposite direction.  There is a way that seems right but leads to destruction; however, the reciprocal to that scripture is that there’s a way that is better, profoundly better, and leads us to Life.  Which road will we take?  Christ encourages us to stop kicking against the briars and slow down, to rest, and the thorns and briars that we struggle against in this life will loosen their hold and will begin to be escapable. Wrestling against the Love of God, mingling with the world only entangles us more and makes life more difficult of a struggle.  Work with Him and we will begin to be set free from what holds us back from experiencing the fullness of a partnership with God.

March Newsletter-Brought Forth

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Brought Forth!


‘God put a million-million doors in the world for His Love to walk through, one of those doors is you…with every act of Love we bring the Kingdom Come’…Jason Gray, “With Every Act of Love”


I have a birthday in April.  That’s my excuse for introducing you to my mother.  Josephine Mariah Holmes Anderson.  My mother is XCI years old and doing very well.  She still attends the WBVN concerts and has only had to miss a handful of the 160 events over the years.  My mother is one of the most influential people in my life.  Every time I make a decision to do the right thing, when at the same time, I don’t ‘feel’ much like doing the right thing, I think of mother.  She’s taught me, in her quiet way, as much as any book, tape, or conference.  A true example of stability and consistency, she has always known how to be strong when she feels weak, be calm when others would panic and she’s endured more than her share of hardship with a Godly dignity and grace.  She’s a hero to me.  If I could choose from a whole world of moms, I would want her to be my mom; I would choose her above all the others.  No one loves or appreciates life more than my mom. 

‘Josie’ brought me forth.  Yep, if it wasn’t for her and my father, no me.  Whether bringing me forth was good or whether they should be blamed for that, I’ll have to leave for others to decide.  But her unique genetics and my father’s unique genetics created something unlike any other combination on earth.  I’ve seen people that look alike, but never have I met anyone that is just like anyone else.  Truly, each child is unique and special in the eyes of God and it would be in His will that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of God and all have unique purpose in His Kingdom.

There’s a little lesson in the experience of every mom and every child.  God, in His Wisdom, brought forth a Son through Mary.  Mary, a common, real life, human mom!  Mary simply said yes to the Father and a miracle happened.  All our mothers and fathers met in a similar agreement and miracles were brought forward.  The Father always shows us something about Christ through the simple pattern in the lives of His creatures.  He shows us in the physical what He has or is doing in the Spiritual. Doing so makes it easier for us to learn and understand Him.

Have you ever studied the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah?  At the beginning of that festival the female of the household is chosen to bring a candle into the room and light a nine branched Menorah.  She lights the center post, the ‘most-high’ post, it being above all the other 8 branches.  As the festival progresses over that 8 day span, each day another branch is lit, all from the light of that center post.  In the Jewish language it’s said that the woman is ‘nerot’ (or lighting) and it’s a role specifically reserved for her.  It’s believed that the lightings tradition began with Sarah, followed by Rebecca after Sarah’s death, and handed down to the lady of the house ever since.  By having the woman of the house bring forth the light, it is a typology of Mary bringing forth the Light of the world; a prophesy of what was to come in Isaiah’s scripture of the virgin birth.  She brings the light into the room and establishes it in the highest position.  All the other light that shines during the holiday comes and depends upon that original, most center Light. That’s what should be going on in our lives; all believers should be a source of that highest Light shining Him into our little part of the earth.  To me, here are two things happening, people are either throwing trash down or they are picking up the trash; they are part of the problem or part of the solution.  Jesus simplified it further saying that there were only two kinds of people, ones that were for him or those opposed to him.  Each person is one or the other whether they recognize it or not.

That same picture of God, showing the essence of Christ as Light of the world, is shown in the physical world by the simple relationship of the sun and the moon.  The sun is the source of light for the moon; the moon cannot produce the night time light without the sun shining on its surface.  The moon would be as black as the night sky if the sun was not illuminating it.  The moon simply reflects another’s light.  Believers are the same.  They have no light of their own, at least no meaningful light.  If we have any Light at all, anything we reflect should be with Him as the Source.  Reflecting His Light is the only thing about our lives that has the potential for impacting people’s lives, i.e., it’s Him not us that has the power to change.  The Greek actually distinguishes Light and light by two different words.  One is Light not derived from anything, absolute Light, a Light with no other source.  The other identifies a light-giver and is always a light reflected and derived from something other than itself.  In Heaven, the source of the light of the Heavenly City is a light reflected from another source, that source which is the Lamb.  Even Jesus could declare that he was nothing but a reflection of His Father, only doing what he saw the Father doing.

Christ has been declared the Light of the world.  In the original language, ‘He is the Light of the cosmos’.  He is not just the Light of our world/earth (Milky Way Galaxy), He’s the Light of all the galaxies.  He is not just the Way to live but the Thing that holds the whole of creation in order and in check.  Believing in Him creates a union with the Way, the Truth and the Life of everything that exists!  If that’s not true then Jesus’ testimony is a bizarre claim; if it is true it’s so profound that it should overwhelm the way we act about what we believe, how we live.  Unifying with Him gives us a way to live that provides order in an un-orderly world.

Even the hard-headed, the hard-hearted, can, if they look, discover the story of Christ in our everyday lives.  Mary brought forth the Savior of the world.  Through her, a young Jewish maiden, came the Light of the cosmos!   In the natural world, each mom, by bringing forth life, gives the world an opportunity to have the Gospel shared.  Those million-million children-doors can permit God to live through them, share His Love, or they can reject Him and never reflect anything of God.  Nonetheless, the opportunity for Christ to be shared in this world comes from the simple birth of a child.  Just as at Hanukkah, the Light of the cosmos continues to be shared by mothers of this world.  Every birth is loaded with potential to take this Message and Love forward.  Some will, some will not.  In the heart of God, all were created to that purpose; all were to be converted into the very image of God.  We were not purposed to be right, but to share, to reflect the Love of God and be captured by His Righteousness.  If we will, every child can carry that Light from our center, the source of our light: Christ Jesus.  As we decrease, He increases and the Light of the cosmos can shine brilliantly, obviously, into the earth.

February Newsletter-Life

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Hubert Shuptrine is one of my favorite artists. He paints water color, a form of water color he calls dry brush.  I don’t really know anything at all about painting, I just like the fact that Shuptrine seems to be able to capture, not a picture of people, but the story of people in a painting.  Hubert’s wife says that Shuptrine painted biographies, not portraits.  Shuptrine often told a story about a man he had painted years ago.  The essence of his story was that many times we’ve forgotten the difference between living a good life and making a good living.  The story centered on the portrait of a 99 year old man that Shuptrine had used on the cover of his book titled Home to Jericho.  George Houston Greene was the man’s name and he lived on a mountain top in North Carolina. Greene had lived in Detroit most of his life, but when his wife became very ill they moved to that North Carolina mountaintop to live a simple life together.  Shuptrine’s words:  ‘He (Greene) told us about his wife and how he nursed her to the very end…He grew his own vegetables, chopped his own firewood.  When we got ready to leave (his property), we said our good-byes and we started toward our vehicle.  Halfway there, he (Greene) stood up and said, ‘George Houston Greene is a rich man,’ And, I turned around to face him, and he yelled that out at me three more times.  ‘George Houston Greene is a rich man,’ almost in anger.  He said it one more time, and turned and walked into his little shack, and the dogs followed him in there.  I was puzzled by that.  Coming down the mountain Phyllis (Shuptrine’s wife) and I talked about it-what he might have meant by that.  ….I painted him four more times over the years, and I came to realize he meant, (in your paintings of me) ‘Don’t depict my poverty or my station in life.’  But what else he meant was this: He, George Houston Greene, didn’t just die at 103; he lived to 103 – a big, big difference.

Now it would be easy to write about the rich young ruler, or the evils of money or perhaps some things we should not be doing with our money.  There are hundreds of teachings from people, terrifically talented and anointed people, to do that.  I instead want to write just a word about how George Houston Greene could say such a thing, or in our case, how can we say the same thing because of our Gospel.

I don’t know how we are going to do it, how we can share it, but Christians are in critical need of being able to share our message and share it in a way that people come to understand how George Houston Greene could think like that and how we can come to think of ourselves independently, not finding all our identity by our financial successes.  Our schools, media, movies, television and now the new social media come up short on that one.  Somehow we have to find a way to ‘model’ a life for our children and the people around us, show that there’s a life that is more than making a good living financially, and point them to a Life that’s more than that, show that there’s a good life to live that is purposed and worth living.  What’s surprising is that the Gospel message has that as one of its very purposes.  A life that isn’t measured by what we have in our garage, house, or bank.  People need to learn of a God kind of Life, separate and many times hidden in our human life.  Those two lives are not the same.  In some perverted way, we’ve tried to humanize the Spiritual kind of Life rather than spiritualizing the human kind of life.  One is associated with simple biology: food, shelter, etc; the other is associated with the Mystery of Life, one that is not so obvious but can be discoverable, a Life that might be hidden at first glance.  That’s why it’s harder for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  His success and self-satisfaction so dominate that he misses the simple meanings hidden in the Life of God.  He’s typically trying to get satisfaction with things that don’t satisfy.  Even knowing that, he tries just the same.  Human life is eventually frustrating; God’s Life is rich with beautiful and profound meaning and purpose.  I think we’ve all discovered that apart from the Life of God, human life grows stale and wearying, but we may not want to admit that to ourselves or others.

Sellers get wealthy convincing us that they have what will satisfy, but we discover sooner or later it does not.  Education promises satisfaction, ‘sex, drugs and rock-n-roll’ whispers it to us as well, but doesn’t deliver what we truly need or eventually want.  The Gospel of Grace, the Love of God, is the only promise that keeps its promise; it’s the only thing that really has the power to change.  It makes us rich when we may not be wealthy; it can make us satisfied when we are facing any unpleasant or threatening situation.

I’m not seeing that enough right now.  We live in hard times– scary might be a good term to use.  As with David, trouble on every side, yet David was comforted.  When Jane was so severely ill, we always knew that God was with us, comforting us.  Today, while it seems so many things are coming apart, He is with us.  It’s not an easy time to live; everyone I know is facing a challenge of some sort.  Yet He comforts us if we will permit that.  With all the stress, all the pressure, even when the very foundations are shaken and things don’t seem to be getting better, when it seems they are actually getting worse, the warmth of his love, the closeness of his breath is present even then.  (Maybe more so then.)  NEEDTOBREATHE touches on it in their song “Washed By the Water: ‘even when the rain falls, even when the flood starts rising, even when the storm comes, I am washed by the water.’

Jesus lived in very hard times, suffered HARD times.  The suffering Cross, the name-calling, being misunderstood, even his disciples who witnessed and walked with him abandoned him and lived in some unbelief.  (Each generation has its Herod, hypocrites and in essence crucifies Christ again and again.)  But, knowing his purpose, Jesus kept moving toward that purpose no matter what seemed to thwart his effort.  We can do the same in our hard times as well.  Something about the world’s callousness, the country’s divisiveness and spirit of this whole earth disappoints, but knowing that, we can find the touch of God’s Love enough to manage any fear, frustration or discouragement.  If He is real we can Rest in Him; our world does not have to be perfect and at peace in order for us to be comforted.  He was rejected by men once before, the Holy Spirit of God is being rejected by men again…that’s nothing new for Him or so defeating for us that we can’t depend on our Faith…God is the same no matter.

Just like George Houston Greene asked, don’t depict us by our surroundings, don’t paint our picture showing only the things that are not going well, not going our way, ‘don’t depict our poverty’ because God has made us peaceful, made us free, made us rich with His Truth and Grace.  George did not shout that (at Shuptrine) trying to be poetic, and he wasn’t boasting.  George said that because it was true.  While no one else might be able to see it, or think it, it was true just the same.  Our Faith is like that.  While others might not understand, may not believe that we really mean it; it’s real and it’s true just the same.  No matter what is going on around us, because we are in Christ, we are rich!

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