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Newsletters

Rhythm of God

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

A few years ago I remember writing a newsletter about the ‘rhythm’ of the Gospel. Recently, I watched a video about how God’s presence in the earth is like a song that just keeps playing and playing and playing. It’s a song uninterrupted by what goes on in the world. It is steady, unchanging and seemingly able to be played without being ‘drowned out’ by all the things going on around it.

Not long ago, if you were the parents of girls, you would have had to learn a few things about jumping rope. It used to be a ritual for little girls. Even the schools they attended had large, grass jumping ropes. We had three little girls. All three jumped rope. I even tried it a couple times. I still remember some of the lingo: hot peppers and double Dutch. I also remember that the secret to jumping rope was the timing. The rope, or in some cases ropes, were ‘whirlwinds’ of rope! I can still see one of our daughters standing at the side, ‘semi-stepping’ (timing) into the rope, waiting for just the right moment to ‘step in’. They needed to get into the rhythm of the thing in order to get into the thing! That image reminded me of getting into the Life as the Father would have it for us.

Our lives are like those whirlwinds. We are so busy. We’re trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. We’re attempting to become financially secure. Most everyone is trying to ‘get theirs’ before someone else comes along and takes ‘theirs’ from them. Many are searching for a fountain of youth. We’re dieting. We’re exercising. In all this business, we look for purpose. On top of that, we ‘gotta’ have transportation, got to get some health insurance, got bills to pay, gas is going up to $4 a gallon, got to eat, have to mow the grass before it rains, and when’s that soccer game? There is this meeting and that meeting. Don’t forget the braces for ‘Sally’s smile’, for some people the pool needs shocking, there’s the wedding to get organized and pay for, need to back up the computer just in case some virus comes along and destroys all that important information on the hard drive. Got to re-schedule the dentist appointment. Supposed to meet the wife downtown at 6pm, deliver the girls at 7pm. When is there ever going to be time to water the flowers? You know the drill.

I remember a story told by Max Lucado. It was about a 60 year old man that had just finished running in his 50th iron-man contest. Max asked him how he did it at that age and at that pace. The man’s reply was, “I start out very slow and taper off after that.” That’s a pretty good formula for the Christian life, I think. We have to slow down enough from the hustle and bustle to hear the heart of God. We need to taper off enough to make quality decisions about how to spend our time. Any time we are in fear or in a hurry it’s very difficult to hear the voice of God.

That’s why it’s so critical for believers to ‘enter into His Rest.’ Doing that is very much like entering that jump rope. Having been born again, we, as a second step of our choosing, can enter into the life-style of the Gospel. The Christian Life is like a dance- you can get into the ‘pattern’ of it and it becomes a lot easier to get into the 1-2-3/1-2-3 of it. Good baseball pitchers have been said to get into a rhythm with their pitches. Wonderful musicians have to get with the beat of their song. Gifted artists seem to get into a rhythm with their works. As successful Christians, we will have to get into the rhythm of giving, of forgiving, of loving, of caring, of hoping, and of listening. It’s not like a chess game where we make a single move and then stop and watch to see if God is going to make the next move or not. It’s more like stacking boxes one on top of another. It’s an accumulation of making moves without stopping to evaluate their individual results. It becomes a life-style of living the Gospel, knowing what to do and doing it without evaluating each move. Finding our rhythm is like jumping rope- once in, it’s not nearly as difficult as finding the timing for ‘getting’ into it. That first step is the hardest part of jumping rope. You know that if you have tried to get in without getting into the rhythm, you get rope all around your head and shoulders.

A couple days ago, one of our daughters sent me a picture taken from the latest space shuttle trip. It’s a picture of hurricane Dean. It shows the very center of that storm, the ‘eye of the hurricane.’ In the center of a terrible storm like that, with winds and destruction all around, there’s a place that’s relatively calm. You can actually stand in the ‘eye’, right in the middle of that storm, and be perfectly safe. Entering into the rhythm of the Christian Life is like standing in the ‘eye’ with the world whirling all round. Right in the middle of the war on terror, in the middle of our financial pressure, in the heat of a medical crisis, there is a peaceful place! But, we’re not going to be able to enter into it by just ‘talking about it.’ We will have to get into the rhythm of the ‘God life.’ We’ll have to take a first step to get in there! Getting into rhythm with the Life of God puts us into the center of the ‘whirlwinds’ of this life. There will be things going on all around you but you will not have to struggle each day just to stand. You will not ‘pull your hair out’ trying to come up with every solution. You will enter into ‘trusting’ God in a way that you have not been able to do thus far. To experience that, we will have to do our part first. We will have to begin to time the thing, get into that Life of God. His Life is a system of living that changes us and sometimes the things around us. Once we step inside the whirlwind we need to keep doing the giving, the loving, the forgiving and the hoping over and over again. We can’t stop and look around to see if we are doing OK. We will just need to keep ‘doing’ the things that God told us would work for us, even if they appear, at any given moment, as though they are not working for us. After all, isn’t that the very nature of Faith, hoping for those things not seen? Man, once I was inside that whirlwind of rope, it was easy to jump the rope. Inside the Life of God, there are blessings to be discovered! Getting into the ‘rhythm of God’ sets in motion a life-style of God. Will everything be perfect? No! Will it always go well? Probably not! Is every day a ‘picnic’? No, might be a war that day! Can we be blessed in spite of that? Yes!

There’s a special meaning to the Hebrew word for blessing, R’RaCha. In the Hebrew language words are either male or female. In this case, the word R’RaCha is female. Its essence is that one blessing becomes two blessings, and so on. You see, R’RaCha has the ability and the nature to multiply itself! One blessing produces many more! We will have to become like Radar O’Reilly on Mash, ‘wait for it!’ Some days we will not be able to see it, but Radar O’Reilly could always anticipate something happening long before anyone else. It will come if we are in that center place, that secret place that God has prepared for us. Give and expect it to grow. Love and expect it to multiply. Trust and watch the Father be trustworthy. That’s being in the rhythm of God. Keep doing even when things don’t seem to be working for you. You need to stop looking back to see if it’s working for you. Going back is to step back into the whirlwind. According to Scripture, going back is seven times worse! Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Just do it! Over and over, do it!

That video I mentioned referred to the Life of God being like a song and we can either enter into it ‘in tune’ with His heart and purpose, or we can go through this life ‘out of tune’ with it. Entering in tune, while on frequency, will make the Christian Life enjoyable no matter what comes along. However, just like an orchestra playing, being out of tune with God, doesn’t create a very pleasant ‘sound’ at all in your life. Getting in rhythm with the orchestra leader makes for a wonderful, beautiful song. And don’t forget, God’s song goes on and on even when the noise around us seems so very loud. Listen close and you can still hear that still, small voice of God.

Godly Genealogy

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

‘You shall be Holy, for I am Holy!’(1 Peter 1:16)

In the winter, when it’s not very practical to be outside, I like to work on our family’s genealogy. I work on all the family lines, but especially my grandfather Anderson’s family. That line is the most difficult to follow. Tracking that line means working their Scottish ancestry. The Andersons can be traced to an area near Aberdeenshire, Scotland, near Falkirk along the Carron River. Anderson is the 8th most used name in Scotland and originated from the name ‘son of Andrew’ (Scotland’s patron saint). In the Highlands of Scotland they referred to themselves as MacAndrew (Mac designating ‘son’), however, the more common name in the Lowlands was Anderson. The name first appears about the year 1400, and at that time the family was known as MacAindrea.

My great, great, great grandfather, John, a Scotsman, was a stonemason, who with his wife Elizabeth and son William, originally settled in Pope County near the town of Golconda, about 1818. He built the first brick home there. There is one document that indicates he originally came from Pennsylvania, and married Elizabeth, an Indiana girl, before coming to Illinois. William was born along the way to Pope County. Working Scottish genealogy means you must find your ‘tartan.’ It’s pretty easy to do actually. For you ‘non-Scots’ a tartan is the colorful, plaid blanket, whose color patterns have, over time, become associated with certain clans and families of Scotland. The tartan colors have become more important over the centuries, and expanded to kilts, socks, and bonnets. All you have to do is look at the tartans people are wearing to know exactly to what family or clan they belong. The Anderson tartan pattern is made of the colors blue, green, red, azure, black, white and yellow.

Researching the tartan and how much it was used for family identification caused me to think about the family of God. I remembered scripture that spoke of being in Christ and being identified with Him. I thought about our identity in and with Christ. How God prepared a specific identity for His family members. How He made a covering for us that, when seen, would indicate Whose we were.

That was God’s way of solving our alienation from Him. According to Ephesians 1:4, it was His plan to do so from the very beginning of time, long before we had even chosen Him. (Eph. 1:4) The solution was that God was going to place us into the lovely, innocent, holy Christ and declare us innocent rather than guilty. God knew we had such an impossible need, that only He could provide the remedy. The Word of God came to earth and solved that problem by placing us inside Himself. Where were you when Jesus went to the cross? According to Scripture you were crucified with Christ. You were in Him on that cross. (Gal. 2:20, Romans 6:6) You were executed that same day, in Him. He who knew no Sin became Sin on our behalf, and we, who were guilty of Sin, were raised up to Righteousness, placed in His Righteousness as a free gift. There was a line drawn that day: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new! Now all things are of God…” (2Cor 5:17-18) God is ‘seeing’ things differently now, at least the way He sees you. I know for a fact that my thoughts and actions disqualify me for God’s blessing, and I’m growing increasingly suspicious of your qualifications as well! However. He ‘reckons’ us to be innocent because we are in Christ. Not because we are innocent, not because we actually can live perfectly, but because we have entered into a holy place that is glorious! He has set us there so that we can be in His presence. Otherwise, we deserve– even the very best of us deserve– to be separated eternally from Him. By placing us in Christ, He has done what we could not do in ourselves. No one qualifies for what God has prepared for us, ‘no, not one!’

I like the Book of Colossians because it’s completely written in past tense. Things mentioned in those Scriptures have already happened. Paul teaches: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walkin Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ. For in Him all fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the workings of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Do you think that is true? I hope we can let our minds permit that to be true. That’s part of the ‘renewing’ of our minds that needs to take place. We need to be converted to that truth.

We usually watch what people are doing in the natural to assume their heart. God looks at the heart of a man to interpret the natural. He doesn’t ‘see’ the same way we do. As an example, how many sons did Abraham have? Obviously, he had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael. (one by the flesh and one by the Spirit) But, God told Abraham that he should take his son, his only son, to the mountain. God looked at Abraham’s life a little differently than Abraham did. God perceives His believers differently than just what we see in the natural world. In God’s eyes, we are not simply old sinners saved by Grace, rather we are saints changed by Grace because of being in Christ. In the spiritual world of God, when He looks at you He sees you in Christ. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Why did He do that?) in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His Grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

A few years ago, Rich Mullins told a story about his Irish ancestry in one of his concerts. Seems that the Irish fishermen’s wives wove heavy, cabled sweaters for their husbands to use as they worked in their boats fishing along the shores of Ireland. The sweaters would keep their husbands warm in the chill of the North Seas, but there was also another purpose for those sweaters. The wives would weave specific patterns, sometimes sewing or tying on a ribbon, so that each husband had a unique sweater that set him apart from the other fishermen. As you might imagine, many fishermen were lost at sea in storms and accidents. Sometimes the men were not found for days, but when found they were easily identifiable because of the sweaters they had on. As Rich told it, the women would see the sweater and know immediately, ‘he’s mine.’ Rich liked to share that story because Rich says that’s what happens to all of us. We wash up on the shore of Heaven and because of our ‘clothing’ (being in Christ) God will say without hesitation: “I recognize that sweater, I made that for him, that one’s mine.” We are reckoned as righteous, as blameless, as sanctified, as holy, not because we are truly all those things but because we are in Christ, and His life has been placed on us like one of those Irish sweaters. God uses it to identify us as one of His. Does this knowledge of being in Christ push us toward a liberty to sin? No! It produces in us a gratefulness, an appreciation, a gratitude, an awe, a thanksgiving that pushes us to do better-not worse. I think we have to let God’s Grace be that big; it needs to be that complete. If we do not, we reduce its importance and its ability to make huge changes in our everyday lives and bring the Peace that passes our own understanding.

Francis Schaeffer

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“The important thing after being born again spiritually is to live.”

That’s a quote from someone who, forty years ago, was a cornerstone for Christian thought in America. Originally a pastor in St. Louis, he and his wife later moved to Switzerland and established a ministry known as L’Abri. His two most successful books were The Christian Manifesto and another titled How Should We Then Live? Written by Francis Schaeffer, they are terrific apologetics of the Christian Faith. In the late 1970’s, if you did not own a copy of his Christian Manifesto you were suspiciously looked at as unfaithful. (Just kidding.) Being rather scholarly, Schaeffer’s writings are not everyone’s cup of tea, but given a cool, rainy day and lots of time to kill, I’d at least encourage starting one of his books. Even if you don’t get all the way through it, before you notice, you’ll find yourself ‘thinking’ much more than usual.

Francis believed that “modern man’s problem is not getting to the stars, it is the loss of his humanity.” In his books, you get to reading along and come up on the next sentence and think to yourself, “I can’t take another heavy thought right now!” They just seem to come like waves on the beach, one right after another. But when that happens you just lay the book down and wait for another rainy day to try and force more intellect into your brain.

You might look at another book by Schaeffer: True Spirituality. I bought a copy the other day on the Internet for only 75 cents. It’s fairly small and doesn’t take quite as long to put your self through. And, it’s not too scholarly, at least not enough to make you want to wash your head off to cool it down from all the brainwork.

According to Schaeffer, “True Christian life, true spirituality, does not mean just that we have been born again. It must begin there, but it means much more than that. It does not mean only that we are going to be in heaven. It does mean that, but it means much more than that. The true Christian life, true spirituality in the present life, means more than being justified and knowing that I am going to heaven… Our desire must be for a deeper life…it is positive; positive inward reality, and then positive in outward results. It is not just that we are to be dead to certain things, but we are to love God, we are to be alive to Him, in this present moment in history…anything less than this is trifling with God – trifling with Him who created the world, and trifling also the Him who died on the cross.” I hope we all think the Christian life should be more than just getting born again and waiting around 80 years to die. It should be more interesting and entertaining than that. I hope you have a Hope for something profound in between the born again and the dying.

Here’s more: “The Christian life never ends on a negative. There is a negative because man is a rebel. But it does not end there, it always goes on to the positive.” Schaeffer believed that true spirituality always ended on the plus side. “Although the negative should not be over looked in Scripture and our life experience, inevitably life always leads to a positive when based on our Faith in Christ. It is always: death, burial and (praise God) resurrection. In Scripture, we are presented much that starts out as negative and ends on the positive. Scripture patterned often like Galatians 2:20, ‘I am crucified with Christ (negative in its content)… YET! not I but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by Faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ ” Correction in the Bible can be quite negative, but it always sweeps over into the positive. (Might look to Romans 6:4 and Galatians 5:15. They are patterned in the same way.)

For Schaeffer, “The reality of living by Faith, as though we were already dead, of living by Faith in open communion with God, and then stepping back into the external world as though we already were raised from the dead, this is not once and for all, it is a matter of moment-by-moment faith, and living moment-by-moment. This morning’s Faith will never do for this noon. The Faith of this noon will never do for supper time…To believe Him, not just when I accepted Christ as Savior, but every moment, one moment at a time: this is the Christian life, and this is true spirituality.”

The result of much of Francis Schaeffer’s thought brings us to the conclusion that God’s grace is sufficient for us. That specific understanding yields a knowledge that God loves us, and that knowledge cast out our fear of God: “Fear falls to the ground when we see before whom we are standing. We are standing in a living relationship with a living God who loves us, and has shown His love for us to such an extent that Jesus died on the cross. Fear falls, and we have the courage to give ourselves for His use without being afraid when we see we are not giving ourselves into the teeth of an impersonal situation, or of a world that hates us, or an inhuman world of men. (Rather) We are offering ourselves before the God who loves us, and He is not a monster, but our heavenly Father.”

“The inward area (our spiritual heart) is the first place of loss in the Christian life, of true spirituality, and the outward sinful act is the result.” Reading Schaeffer’s books are challenges to the Christian intellect and inner thoughts of man, rather than to the outward expression of man’s rebellion. For Schaeffer, it is the heart of man that is evil long before that man manifests the outward expression of the rebellion. (Matthew 15: 16-20) Solomon expressed that in the wisdom of Proverbs 23:7, ‘as a man thinks within himself, so he is.’ It’s the wisdom of God that encourages us not to perfect the flesh in order to be spiritual, but rather to work on the heart, love God and man in order to change the outside expression of a man. (Gal 3:3) The problem with the creature is that his heart is evil first, and the symptom of that is expressed in his outward expression. It is the heart of man that will need to be ‘converted’ before man’s walk can ever be.

Francis Schaeffer is a challenge to us. Nospiritual candy here. I get to reading along and think to myself, “Oh, no, not another thought that I have to try and remember. It’s too much.” The parts that I think I need to try and remember just come too fast. My brain feels like it could burst if I packed in one more idea. But, it’s possible to read if you pick a cool, rainy day. Just take a small portion at a time. Chew on it, but eat slowly. If you’re looking for a good brain ‘workout’ without getting sore, give it a try.

I’m going to leave you with one last little thought from Schaeffer, “…the universe is not what our generation says it is.” Actually, he believes each generation misses the mark on its definition of the universe. He thought that was true of every generation. Each pulls away from the Creator to do business with the created. Each generation tries to solve its problems by rebelling against God, and therefore interprets the universe in its favor, missing the whole purpose and opportunity of the universe and its Creator. Think about that on a rainy day.

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