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Newsletters

A Kingdom Upside Down

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

OK, going out on a limb here!  It’s not like you have not had enough Christmas stories, songs, and the like.  And, I do feel a bit uncomfortable talking about this subject again since we just finished the Christmas Season that most often identifies itself by the birth of our Christ.  And, after 45 days of being reminded often, sang to with songs about that subject, and a December newsletter about ‘that baby’, I find myself putting in my two cents worth again about Jesus’ birth.  On the radio, we’ve rotated over 50 new songs in the past 6 weeks; each of those songs about the celebration of that Bethlehem morning.  Near the end of this Christmas season, we started a song rotation that included an ‘old favorite’ of mine. The song ‘Strange Way To Save The World’ pushed me, once again, to think about the story of our Faith.  That song’s lyrics still catch my attention since the song first showed up at the station on a 4 Him Christmas disc back in 1993.  It points out so well the really strange way God chose to make the most important question and the most necessary answer conform to the simplicity of the heart of God through our Gospel.  And after 7 weeks of Christmas rotation, I’m reminded again of our great ability to take the most profound thing in the world and not really think very much about it, boiling it down into a couple responses during December: (1) making it a season of kindness to our friends, relatives and acquaintances, and (2) summarizing it as a season measured in large part by trips to the mall.

Think about it:  In His story of redemption, where the smallest, the strangest and sometimes the most illogical are presented to us as Truth.  In the seemingly unbelievable, comes the believable for us.  Example, this Savior was born in a barren desert land, instead of Babylon and its splendor. He was born to a carpenter rather than to royalty, the son of an unwed Jewish girl instead of a well established family.  Born in Bethlehem, rather than what was the cultural center of Joseph’s world, Jerusalem.  This miracle baby cried his first cry in a manger rather than a synagogue.  This Savior would be King without an army, or title, without wealth, had no book deal to fund his movement, no television program to establish a foothold, no handlers to manage his image.  In fact, this Savior did not have a place to lay his head.  This Savior seemed to be pushed forward as he voluntarily kept stepping back from anything that promoted himself.  He became our Leader of Truth in a world set on believing the Lie.

Amazingly, the Faith we proclaim is not about simple personal improvement, not just about good and evil, but about the possibility, the power to be transformed from one creature into a new creature.  It’s a strange way to save the world for sure.  This King associated himself with tax-collectors, thieves and a few women of poor reputations.  This King gathered his friends from the local fishermen and the like, telling them (and in turn telling us) that they would have to lose themselves in order to find themselves; that we would have to decrease in order to see the presence of God increase in our lives.  That if we gave away, we would then find people giving unto us.  Going so far as to suggest, that we must die to live; we must be meek to inherit the earth.

With this son, life just kept squeezing him to the top.  He amazed the scholars at 12 years old, yet did no miracles until the age of thirty.  His early ministry lasted just three years, having been judged, crucified and buried by the age of thirty-three.  His followers were scattered and all killed except one: John.  In three years, this Savior, this life meant to save the world, was done.  Did everything he needed to do about saving the world in 36 months.  Now that surely is a strange way to save the world.

Now, we are left some 2000 years later to put our trust, our faith, in a system that seems so illogical and to many a fable, to most a myth.  In this story the ‘strangeness’ continues.  People that are not perfect have been made perfect by the blood of this Savior.  The unsaintly have been declared saints by this Gospel. The unholy are holy because He was holy.  In this story, the joy of the Lord is our strength, not good self-esteem.  There is hope in our patience, and peace in our steadfastness in times of trouble.  It’s a life not fueled by power but by His Spirit.  It’s a trust that the more we get out of the way the more of His presence is revealed in our lives.  We are free because we have been made a slave unto Christ.  It’s a strange way to save the world.  We have to discover that we have more life because we do not try and preserve our life.  We must learn that the cultural creed of ‘finding ourselves’ only leaves us lonely, frustrated and disappointed.  Finding Him leaves us fulfilled; find Him and everything wonderful gets thrown in.  We learn that praying for our enemies and loving our neighbors have a profound effect on ourselves.  We will be most mature when we come as little children and trust in our Father.  All that strangeness causes me to still think and consider the birth of Christ even after our Christmas, probably all the way until at least June!

 

‘I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him, ‘cause never in a million years would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes the message from the angel come to life.  And Joseph said:  Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade?  Why Him with all the rulers of the world?  Why here inside this stable filled with hay.  Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl.

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say.  But this is such a strange way to save the world. (Strange Way To Save The World, 1993)

To think of how it could have been if Jesus had come as He deserved.  There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at his birth.  But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far.  And, as he held the Savior in his arms he must have thought…this is such a strange way to save the world.’

 

 (As C. S Lewis noted in his book Mere Christianity“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”)

This Baby

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“THIS BABY”

Well, He cried when He was hungry, did all the things that babies do;

He rocked and He napped on His mother’s lap, and He wiggled and giggled and cooed.

There were the cheers when He took His first step, and the tears when He got His first teeth;

Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as it could be.

But this baby made the angels sing, and this baby made a new star shine in the sky.

This baby had come to change the world, this baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.

This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.

And this baby grew into a young boy who learned to read and write and wrestle with dad;

There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees, and all fun that a boy’s born to have.

He grew taller and some things started changing, like His complexion and the sound of His voice;

There was work to be done as a carpenter’s son and all the neighbors said He’s such a fine boy.

And love made Him laugh and death made Him cry. With the life that He lived and the death that He died

He showed us heaven with His hands and His heart, ‘cause this man was God’s own son.

This man was like no other one, Holy and human right from the start.

….Steven Curtis Chapman

If we can I’d like to slow it down a bit. Even on one of our regular, slow, common, lazy days we seem so busy in our minds. We think about the things we’ve done, the things we are doing and much of the time already into tomorrow’s obligations and expectations. As believers, some of the things we just say and take for granted, if we would just stop and think about them, are so profound– they are in need of being thought about for awhile and dissected layer by layer. Lately, in fact much of the time, that happens when I read just a couple scriptures and find myself putting much more thought into them. God has such a terrific way of saying so much with so little. A scripture that always caught my attention for that very reason is: Jesus wept. Really! How is that possible, he knew the beginning and the end. He understood all things. The Spirit of God housed in this person created the whole world out of His breath, and yet Christ, the Creator, wept with the loving emotions of the created. Another scripture that always stopped me cold was when Jesus walked out of the tomb and told Mary: Go and tell Peter! Those were the first words he said. Imagine, Jesus at that very moment accomplishing what must be accomplished from the foundation of the world, and he responds to that intense, triumphant moment by concerning himself with the broken heart of Peter.

We’ve been doing this ministry at WBVN for 20 years now. During the Christmas season, I’m always reminded of how much the Spirit of God has proven Himself to us, shown Himself to us so many times. I’m also aware of the contributors to this ministry that have provided the opportunity for us to stay here and the opportunity for Him to work through the ministry here. Our listeners’ generosity is only rivaled by the great Grace and the provision of God to WBVN.

At this radio station, we’re doing what we believe Scripture encourages us to do, ‘teach one another with the music of psalms and hymns’. Now, for the 20th time we celebrate the Christmas season. In some way, it’s Christmas all year long through this ministry. The reason I say that is our concentration and focus has, from the beginning in 1990, been on ‘that baby’. We can, if we slow down our thoughts, actually imagine the amazing truth that the Savior of the world ‘wiggled and giggled and cooed’. That this baby did nothing because of who he was, but rather, did everything because of what he was. It would not be profound if a god (The God) did the miraculous, but what if this baby, under the hand of God, performed the profound. Would it even be a miracle if a god did the impossible, or would it be more of a miracle if this baby, under the anointing of God, if this baby did what he only saw the Father doing. What if that were true? Now, that would be more than we might ever imagine. This baby, this one single life that separated (emptied) himself of all deity. Slow that down, think about the possibility that this baby would be able to take 12 men and change the world, would be the center of contention even today. Imagine the significance of that. This baby, who chose the isolation of giving up the godly power that was his, for the weakness and pain of humanity. He could have called 10,000 angels but simply isolated himself from the Word of His Power and humbled himself to come in the likeness of man, and simply said follow me. Well, millions, perhaps billions have done just that.

And, he did that in an extraordinary way. He did not raise his voice in the streets to declare a kingship, though he was King. He did not draw attention to being the Son of Man, actually only confirming that men called him that. Of himself, he said he did not do the very works that were evident but pointed rather to the Father working through him. Slow it down to a very slow thought. This baby whimpered when he was hungry, cut teeth, scraped his knees, and this baby made the angels sing. With this baby, love made him laugh and death made him cry.

I sometimes think we try too hard to find the profound and in doing so overlook the wonderful right before our eyes. There is so much to be in awe of without chasing thousands of details. I’m pretty un-demanding about Faith. I like to simplify the Gospel into small bites, easy to swallow that way. I prefer the uncomplicated to the complicated. This baby’s story is in some ways enough to fill any of our cups to overflowing with reason to believe. The simple story of Christ is so ‘wow’ that I’m amazed how we can find so many things to divide us, waste our time on and overlook the wonderful things we can agree on and be amazed about.

As we celebrate this season, this past year, and look to the New Year, we want to be sure and acknowledge His presence and your help. Thank you for 20 years. We stand amazed at His story and the kindness you have shown to this ministry…..Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Precept On Precept

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Oh, the times we live in. Seems that we’ve tried everything; things others have suggested and some things we have come up with ourselves to try and make this Gospel work for us; work just like we want it to. We’ve tried saying everything, praying everything and sometimes believing anything, in order to see the proof of God in our lives. It will come as no surprise to those that have talked to me that I regard Paul’s writings (post-Jesus) as the most ‘necessary’ resource for finding the things that the Spirit of God wants to reveal to His Church. When people ask me where to start reading the Bible I usually suggest starting with Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It’s very important because this book is written in past tense and your high school English teacher has already taught you what past tense means. From there I suggest the letters to the Galatians, Ephesians and Romans. Those are foundational to our faith, and having a proper foundation is so important when building the whole house of God. I know it’s a bit goofy, but I think all the other writings of Scripture must be held up to Paul’s writings in order to understand their meaning, subjecting them to the light of the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus and Paul for clarification. This apostle was chosen uniquely by God to share His heart and His words.

In the Old Testament I suggest the Prophet Isaiah. I’m aware these are just personal preferences; however, other than David’s revelation of God’s Love and Mercy in the Psalms, I find Isaiah an O.T. book full of New Testament revelation. Written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah is largely about our Savior and the Church today. In it is, in my thinking, some of the foundational teachings about the Christian life that we must learn, especially today.

Almost all remember Isaiah’s prophecy of the virgin birth. They are aware of Isaiah’s teaching of the rejection of Messiah, of Jesus’ silent trial, suffering and sacrifice. This prophet gave us the list of characteristics of Christ expression: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father and Prince of Peace. He revealed that God would appoint Jesus as a covenant to the people and a light unto the nations. It’s Isaiah who confirms that this anointed One would take away our sins.

Isaiah identifies that there would be a time future when believers could trust and live out of their hearts. In fact, Isaiah tells us that we must live out of our hearts to serve God. Isaiah spoke of an order to the ministry of God (Chapter 28), simplified: that the Christian life would be put together ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’. It’s putting one foot in front of the other and just keeping on doing those things that are declared as Gospel action time after time. If we follow the wisdom and knowledge of God we will see the fruit of ‘following Him’. When we oppose the order of God, His wisdom, we will stumble backward; we will be broken, snared and taken captive (vs. 13). In verses 13 and 14, the Hebrew word translated ‘marvelous’ implies singleness. When we are dealt with ‘in a marvelous way’ (when we are without the wisdom of God, separating ourselves from it), the results are described in verse 14, ‘the wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the discernment of the discerning men shall be concealed.’ That sounds a lot like the mess we find ourselves in right now. It’s not the Father holding out on us, it’s the result of not following the progressive order of His Word and the wisdom found within it.

Isaiah’s remedy for New Testament living is found in Chapter 58:5. There, he contrasts an old and the new fasting. He obligates New Testament believers to fast, teaching of a fast from themselves rather than foods. It’s a fast away from our own interest, our own preservation. When we concern ourselves with ministry that loosens what binds, undoing the bands of the yoked and letting the oppressed go free, then we will see what is promised in verse 8: ‘your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth…then you will call upon the Lord and He will answer you, you will cry and He will say ‘Here am I.’

That’s what I hear the most from people when they describe where they would like to be in their Christian walk. Verse 9 encourages us to stop pointing the finger of accusation and condemnation. If we will do that, then our light will rise in the darkness and our gloom will become as midday. Not following the wisdom of Isaiah’s teaching leaves us without expectation of God’s revealings. There is a great promise found in Isaiah 60, it’s a promise about the angel of His presence, ‘Arise, shine for your light has come, and the Glory of the Lord has come upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness on the people; but the Lord will rise upon you and His Glory will appear upon you…and your heart will thrill and rejoice.’ How? When we are in ‘order on order’, building our faith ‘line upon line’, without that consistency we perish. This Christian faith is a lifestyle; it’s not a try this now and try something else later. Paul said he had become the same in all things. There was no changing in Paul. He did the same no matter what. We could use a little more of that in our lives, not judging the Gospel day to day but having determined in our minds about it from now until our eternity begins.

When we turn from God’s consistency for implementing the Power of God, we become single and we are without the Power of God to perform the glorious in our hearts. Notice I said hearts. That’s the joy of this Gospel; nothing external is as rewarding as what can be experienced in our hearts. All the splendor of Solomon cannot compare to the rejoicing to be found in our hearts. Jesus boiled it down to the simple: it’s in giving that we receive. That’s a first thing. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you, that is the order of God. You have to ‘bake’ it for awhile in the oven of God’s time. Keep putting in, even when you don’t see immediate results. I have a long story about this radio ministry along these lines that’s much too long to share here, but I can tell you that we constantly are looking for ways to serve the Gospel and its people, not looking for immediate confirmation, but just doing the same thing over and over, putting things in the oven to develop over time. We do not keep looking in to see how it’s going; we just trust it will go well in the long run.

Many times the secret of God is just getting into the order of God. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ yields an avenue for God to travel your heart. Don’t give up too soon. To do this Gospel any other way will drive us crazy. Trying to accomplish that lifestyle in our own effort and ability will leave us frustrated. Only the Spirit of God, living in and through us, has the capacity to produce the life we all hope for.

Let me add one thing that might be controversial, but true from my experience just the same. It is what I believe has made our journey terrific, although the road has been long. We do not serve people, we serve the Gospel. Our attention is on it. Our actions are for the Gospel’s sake. People are just the beneficiaries of our serving the Word. Trying to serve people just for people’s sake, while virtuous and good, can be frustrating and does not produce the long lasting joy of having served the Gospel. This Christian life is about Him and Him alone. People will benefit from the fruit of our serving the Gospel. We will benefit from the Joy of the Gospel from having served Him.

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