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August Newsletter-Confidence

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I’m going to start this letter with what I like to think of as a “modern parable.”  I used this quote in a letter years ago, but after 10 more years experience, I’m more convinced than ever it’s a needed, important part of the Gospel today.  I like it because there’s a thread of Gospel Truth buried in it, even though it’s not a Biblical quote.  I like it, not because of that ethic found in it, but because of its devotion to being constant in our daily efforts to be faithful.  I think the essence of this quote is a safe hint of how to experience more and more of the Faithfulness of God the Father.  If I had to give people something to try, something they could try to see how it works, (and I wasn’t permitted to say ‘knowing God’ for my answer), this quote would be very close to what I would say.  Not just how to be successful but how to experience something we so much want: the evidence of the presence of God in their lives.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered…Love them anyway
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives…Do good anyway
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies…Succeed anyway
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow…Do good anyway
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable…Be honest and frank anyway
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by
the smallest men and women with the smallest minds…Think big anyway
People favor underdogs but only follow top dogs…Fight for a few underdogs anyway
What you spend your years building may be destroyed overnight…Build anyway
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them…Help people anyway
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth…Give the world the best you have anyway

 (written by Kent Keith)

Summed up: Trust in God’s Love for us!  “Anyway” has been quoted and published by politicians, business leaders, military commanders, teachers, religious leaders, and coaches.  It’s been used by the Boy Scouts, the Special Olympics, quoted at the United Nations…  Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, India, had it hanging on their wall.

Believers must sell out that Christ is our Hope in all situations, no matter how stacked against us those situations are.  We need to own the expectation that God will see this through even if the world around us will not.   If we can make up our minds to follow our hearts, to live the Truths of God, we often would be doing the things described in this poem.  We need to persuade our minds to do the things that God says works for us and quit making “adjustments” by responding to the physical world around us.  And, although so much is against us, we can have the confidence described in this “parable” because the Spirit of God leads us into all Truth, shares with us how to live.  Jesus is the Way and the Light of Life to lead us into that Truth.

“Do it anyway!” can be a motto for Believers: simplified, “Do the Gospel anyway.”  It doesn’t matter how illogical or how unpopular with people around us it is, just do it anyway.  God said His ways were foolishness to men so we should quit being so alarmed or ashamed of that.  We were never taught to concentrate on the results of our Faith actions as much as live by Faith not the sight of our eyes and minds.  It’s a quiet confidence even when it doesn’t look or feel like things are working for us at all.  Remember the story of Samuel and Saul?  Samuel was busy trying a bit of everything to solve his “king problem.”  He’d done everything but trust God.  Samuel’s answer was already in the field; a shepherd boy was God’s provision for Samuel’s problem even though Samuel was completely unaware!  (Where might our provision be hidden?)

While reading the Dwight L. Moody biography, I remember a story about Moody’s confidence in God.  Someone asked him how he felt about the death of his grandchild and Moody replied he’d almost forgotten how he felt about anything.  Until explained, that story sounds very cruel.  However, Moody continued that he had learned to act on his confidence in God, rather than depending on how he “felt” about any situation.  The comparison of our “feelings” contrasted with God’s Word and Spirit becomes almost comical to think about.  Nothing that’s True of God is changed by how the world views it.  How we feel about anything is in no way as powerful as our dependency on God.  Trusting Him above any of our feelings. Perhaps, we should stop checking our fleshly experience to determine our spiritual life.  In 2012, when Jane was paralyzed head to toe and on a breathing machine, when every organ had failed and when every physical observation ‘looked’ bleak, we found a natural ability to believe that God was with us, embraced us, cared and rallied our hearts for us.  Faith ruled over what we were seeing!  We were not in a denial about the physical but experienced affirmation of the realness of God’s Love for her, no matter the physical!  (If you play pinochle you know for a fact that you have an all powerful trump card in the game.  Our trump card was a certainty of a compassionate, eager to Love God.)

God’s our source of abiding gladness and joy.  Eventually, gladness and joy will not be found in things we put in the bank, have in our garages or homes.  It’s what we’ve stored in our hearts that matters.  When storms come, what’s inside our hearts will be revealed, or as the old saying goes, “When your cup gets bumped, then we’ll know what’s inside the cup.”  Secularism depends upon circumstances to make us happy.  God’s Joy is available in any circumstance simply because God is present in our circumstances!  Psalm 4 references a Gladness in our hearts and a sleep (Rest) in Peace.  I think Eugene Peterson, in his The Message translation, calls that Peace an awareness of God’s ‘more-than-enough.’

There’s Rest in God that’s not obtainable by our labor or our pain.  Labor is not how God gave gifts to Solomon (1Kings 3:3-15), or how He gave Adam a bride, or Abraham a covenant!  They were all asleep, unable to do for anything for themselves, when God blessed each of them.

The time of Jesus’ rejection was a time of confusion, doubt and fear.  John had questioned who he was, others had rejected him saying that Jesus was a drunkard and glutton; his works were, in the end, fruitless to confirm his standing as Son of God.  It appeared to his followers’ eyes and minds to be a time of great failure and trouble.  Yet, Jesus found Rest in a Faith simply knowing the Father’s will.  While the disciples were “weary and heavy laden”, while everything seemed to be going wrong, Jesus offered a solution.  He invited them to “come unto me and I will give you Rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find Rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

To follow Jesus is to enter into a way of Life, one that’s given its character and frame by the nature of Christ. That frame is able to hold us up.  It’s picking up the rhythms of Jesus in such a way that we not only observe what he is saying but we begin to walk in what he is doing and how he’s doing it. Many times, following him is as much about our feet as it is our ears.  So! Love anyway, do good anyway, succeed anyway, be honest anyway, think big anyway, fight for the underdog anyway, build anyway, help people anyway, give the best you have anyway.  Do it without looking around to judge how it’s working, do it without being moved by what we hear and see, just do it anyway!  Do the Gospel, trust in Christ, simply because God said it would work anyway.

July Newsletter-Repent

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Let me begin by saying I’m going to have a little conversation with you in this newsletter about a subject that I certainly will not exhaust all that might be said about the subject.  There’re many differing opinions about it and I’d like to, as they say, just ‘chew the fat’ among us friends.   This conversation isn’t meant to be in an ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ context.  It’s more like one of those Amazon ‘add-on’ items where for a few bucks more this little extra item can come with your order. Those items just get added to your original purchase.  I like discussions about the Gospel, even ones I don’t agree with.  I’ve enjoyed learning about it on the way of a 50+ year believer’s journey.  We should have lots of territory to discover as we study and express the Life of Christ during our lifetime.

The Faith of God becomes faith within us as we continually seek to learn of Him.  A friend once described the differences in his and my conversation as both of us looking at a mountain from different sides. It was the same mountain but different descriptions because of where each of us was standing.  Having traveled such different roads along the Gospel path had given each of us a different view of the same mountain.  I’m not saying the Gospel is to be determined by whim apart from authority; no way I’m saying that!  What I am suggesting is when looking at the Gospel we can sometimes express it uniquely because of the unique path we’ve each taken to get to where each is standing.  I think more often than not we agree on much of it, but sometimes we let little differences in our expression divide us unnecessarily.  One of the terrific experiences we have had at WBVN is the opportunity to care about and encourage a wide range of people with all kinds of unique Gospel expressions, but all unified in one single Christ.

Now to the subject of this letter: repentance– or perhaps you prefer confession.  Actually, I doubt there’s much difference in many of us about either, but I thought it would be fun to have this ‘family conversation’ to just slice the idea up a bit.  Cut it maybe in a slightly different way.  It’s like having an opinion about a thick or thin steak; while we each have our preference, and there’s some difference for sure, there’s not so much of a difference that we would come to blows over it.

Let me begin with the idea that repentance/confession is more than about acknowledging sin.  We all know we should confess our sins but that can be expanded to not only include an awareness of our ‘missing the mark’ but secondly, an obligation to agree with God’s solution for Sin.  Romans 12:2 refers to a transformation of our minds that steps us away from our rational thinking to His perfect thinking, acceptance of His higher thoughts than our thoughts.

Confession in this letter is weighted toward not only Sin’s presence and the reality that God does not tolerate it, but I’ll also suggest He requires our obligation to say the same about Sin as He says about Sin.  We need to come into agreement with Him.  He says in the strongest way possible that He has dealt with it in Jesus Christ!  That’s really the hard part.  Generally, as Christians we have no problems with knowing and even acknowledging our Sin, but it’s our yielding to how much God has done about our Sin that we struggle with sometimes.  I think because we know ourselves (and others), we so easily embrace a lesser reality about Sin than God possesses.  God was reconciling the world while we were still in our Sin. (Romans 5:10)  In Jesus, (from the very foundation of the world) God was preparing a way to not hold our sins against us.  He, in the purpose of Christ, entered down, way down, and even more down into our darkness.   Jesus was swallowed into our violence, our hatefulness, and suffered our condemnation, not just as a simple substitute, but even more as our representative. He was taking for us, and from us, what we deserved ourselves. (Here, Jesus literally entered the strongman’s house, bound him and spoiled all his goods.  (Matt. 12:29) He did that for us!  Not only did he cleanse us, forgive us, but emphatically put a period at the end of the sentence about Christ’s purpose.  ‘It is finished!’  As a result, now confessing/repenting is not only us telling God about our Sin but also it’s us telling Sin about our Christ. (Too tough?)  Again, it’s not the only way to look at the subject but it’s something like that add-on item, comes with the original order, adding to those things you already know about confession.  In Christ, we now live in a new day.  A day to declare a victory over Sin.  With the death and resurrection of Christ, and our place of relationship with Him, our victory over Sin is not just our potential -it’s a Truth!

Now, we can say yes or no to Truth but our agreement with it, or not agreeing with it, doesn’t change Truth.  Disagreeing with Him will alienate us from Him in our minds.  However, our non-agreement with God only changes us, it does not change Him.  That’s the reference in Romans 12:2 about renewing our minds.  We’re to be transformed into having right-minds.  Right-minds are those that say the same, believe the same things, as the Father says about us.  Right-mindedness is opening our eyes and hearts to His thinking.  It’s a thinking that’s not our way of thinking; it’s an understanding that’s different than our understanding.  In Job 22-21, we find these words: agree with God and be at Peace.  Repentance and confession is not about simply being sorry-full and persuading God to forgive you.  He’s already done the hard part of that by suffering death to forgive you.  Repenting is also to say and agree with God about His Goodness and Purpose in submitting Himself to His own creation for judgment.  Paul writes in Romans 2: 4 that repentance is produced by opening our eyes to His Love.  Repentance does not lead God to Goodness, it’s the other way round; our coming to knowledge of His Goodness leads us to Him.  Eugene Petersen says it like this in his Bible translation- The Message:  ‘It is important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God.  No, God brings it all to you.  The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what He does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him’.  He has already done more for us than we could ever deserve by Jesus Christ.  He is not a reluctant God, we are a stiff-necked people.

If there were ever one chapter of the bible that reveals the heart of God and the nature of man it is in Luke’s story of the prodigal son.  There, while the son’s father is longing for his return having already reconciled his son in his own heart, the son does not know the reality of his own father’s love.  The son, being aware of the things he deserves, is alienated from his father in his own mind.  Then one day that son ‘remembered his father’, remembered who his dad really was and made a journey back to him. The son found a father waiting for him, forgiving him, embracing and rushing to the meet that son.  In Luke’s story, even the son that for sure should have known the father, the son already at home in the family, the one that had claim to all but likewise had misinterpreted the father’s heart, was alienated because of his unbelief in the goodness of his father as well.  Both needed to agree with the father about who he said they were, needed to agree and act upon their all-ready reconciliation.

OK, that’s my side of that mountain.   In Hebrews 11:6, Paul says this: ‘for he that comes to God must (1) believe that He is, and (2) that He’s a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.  That ‘two-step’ is the way to experience the fullness of the Gospel.  That knowledge of God’s character and Grace is evidenced by the life and actions of Jesus Christ.  He’s the revealer of the Heart of God.  Christ Jesus is our Reward (Inheritance) but that’s another conversation for another day.july


June Newsletter-Prayer

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Don’t know about you, but I’ve found too many times that beg for prayer recently.  Whether personally, or for family, friends, country or for the world, I can’t remember a more necessary time to quietly approach the Love of God in prayer for all.  Call it pressure or stress or just plain old fallen world, so many things are in need of repair/salvation that it’s a daily effort to stay on top of all the occurrences of need.  I remember studying prayer in a Bible study years ago.  I was certain that I knew what prayer was not, but struggled to express a definition shared in the Gospel message of Christ as to what prayer was.  I found help over the years having read and re-read E. W. Bullinger’s statement about prayer.  In fact, I thought so much of it I have it printed on the wall of our WBVN studio.

What is prayer?…  “Prayer is the breath of the new nature.”  Just as the natural breath is the sign and evidence of physical life, so prayer is the mark and sign of the possession of spiritual life…  Natural life commences with breathing and the breathing produces a cry.  It is so with the New Birth… From that moment, breathing continues as the spontaneous outcome of the New Life.

No knowledge of Physiology is required for the one (breath), and no knowledge of Theology is necessary for the other (prayer)… The moment it becomes the subject of discussion—its essence is gone…The moment we reason about prayer we make it artificial.  But true prayer is spontaneous.  Our business in natural life is to breathe and not to think about it.  Our business in spiritual life is to breathe (to pray) and not to think about it.  The moment we begin to think about our prayer we are occupied with the means and lose the end…

I’ve read each Bible scripture where Jesus prayed; 25 incidents are cited in Matthew, Luke, Mark and John.  My favorite prayer is the most lengthy one found in John 17, more about that later.   1Thes. 5:17 encourages us to pray always, finding Grace and Help for all our needs.  In the 25 times recorded of Jesus’ prayers, He prayed alone, in public, before meals, after meals, before healings and after healings.  He prayed for guidance and even showed us how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer.  (Matt. 18, Luke 11)  And of course we all grew up with the example of the 23rd Psalm as a Messianic Prophecy prayer about a future Lord.  I do think there’s a difference to be noted in the Old Testament prayer teachings contrasted with the New.  There’s a victory in the New Testament prayers that are only hoped for in the Old.  Something happened in the prayers of Jesus and Paul that confirmed the presence of a new way of praying and relating to the Father, a new confidence in the relationship between the Creator and the human heart.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples and all believers in a way that’s the perfect place for us to see the heart of God for praying today.  Simply, it’s a prayer of hope established upon Jesus’ unique knowledge of the compassion of God for Him and for us.  To paraphrase:  Father be with me (on the way to Gethsemane)…what We set out to do before there was time, that is finished.  Be with Your people, keep them, be One with them as We are One that they may know that You Love them as You Love Me.  … (know) that the Love I have with You may be in them and I in them…  It was a prayer from a heart of hope and confidence in the One to whom he is praying.  Jesus knew the Father fully, intimately, and knew that His purpose was to do all that He asked from before the foundation of the world.  Jesus knew full well that the Father could be trusted in all things.

One thing Jane and I were privileged to experience during her Chicago hospitalization, during her recovery months later, and even today, every day, is the wonderful position that we’ve been placed in because of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  It’s a free Gift of God to be trusting and able to put our lives in His hands.  We’ve been placed in a position (as a gift) by One who has accomplished something for us that we are not capable of purchasing with just our own efforts and our prayers.  That gift, to Jane and me in that moment, was a comfort to our hearts, a confirmation to the Father that we get it, we receive it and we know it beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It was, as Jane keeps reminding me, simply that ‘Christ is enough!  That’s really our prayer. A thanksgiving for Him being enough no matter what.  It can be as natural as that breath written about in Bullinger’s definition of prayer.june2016

The Apostle Paul teaches: confess Him with your words, say the same thing about you as the Father says about you, be the same in little and in much.  What we pray in some sense doesn’t have to change much with our earthly circumstances.  What is true about God, what was accomplished by Jesus, what Victory He grabbed for us, is true even in times where they don’t look so true.  I discovered a whole new truth about the scripture that refers to not living by sight while on the 5th floor of that Chicago hospital….no matter what I was seeing in Jane’s health, no matter what was said about her condition, I knew that God was with us.  God was present.  God was her Father, loved her more than even a husband can, and He had said and confirmed with that Love to be with her, to hold her, and have great compassion for her.  Our prayers were prayers of thanksgiving for a God that did not, would not, leave or forsake either of us even in that moment of near death, not even in this time of walking through the valley of shadow of death that we were experiencing.  Our prayers and our hopes were braided together with our trusting in the God that we knew and a Christ that had paid a very dear price to be with us mingled in the middle of our lives, even in the very moment that threatened to extinguish this life itself.

Well, I still don’t know that I know very much about prayer.  I try not to do things described as taking thought in order to pray.  Prayer should be very much a natural conversation with the Father and not labor anymore than our breathing is labor.  The idea of praying without ceasing brings to mind the ease of a continual conversation between believers and The Believed.  That’s part of our gift from God.  It’s an Abba relationship that has been granted to us just like a son or daughter communicating with their mother or father.  One of the real challenges of our Faith is to have the grace and peace to do as Jesus said to do: pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done…..’ That relationship with God got him crucified; it was a price he was willing to pay for your opportunity to pray that same way!

“…pray without ceasing…”