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Newsletters

April Newsletter-Accepted, Believe, Change.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Has everyone discovered by now that we’re pretty ‘lame’ excuses for living the Life that Christ describes for us?  You know the one, a Faith/Life that’s so impressive it ‘inspires’ our Father into action on our behalf. After years of trying to be our own salvation, of running ‘the Race’ using only our own ability to relate to God has left us gasping for a breather.  I’ve migrated a bit on the word Faith over the years.  I’m not diminishing its necessity and importance for us individually. I’ve just grown a little more comfortable sharing in a partnership with Christ and His Faith playing a role in our learning to Trust in Him. I’m not trying to master my own Faith every minute of every day, but I recognize the partnership of Faith that’s available to believers.  It’s Faith that has Christ as a constant companion.  His Faith shores up my faith.  A Faith mingled with the Faith of Christ (His part) and a Faith in Christ (my part).

For many years, my advice for new believers is to read the Bible starting with Paul’s New Testament letters.  Read Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, the two Timothy’s, and Galatians rather than starting in Genesis and reading straight through.  I do not desire to diminish the Old Testament, not to do away with it in any way, but the finished work of Christ is found in Paul’s revelation of Christ in those later passages.  Much of the time, we subject our teachings and Faith found in the New Testament to our findings in the Old.  And, (while I’m aware of getting slammed here) I think the priority should be that we subject the Old Testament teachings in the Light of the New.  In the New, we find that His Light has come and God’s plan and purpose is, for the first time, fully revealed.  The New, and specifically, Paul’s discipleship, put a period at the end of the God’s Gospel sentence.  Jesus came to reveal the hidden Gospel found in the Old Testament; Paul came to reveal Christ and His finished work in the New.  Paul is the final paragraph of a long Testament of God working from Genesis through today.  For 15 years Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit of God before ever opening his mouth about the Gospel, thunderously having been chosen by Christ and toppled from being the chief Hebrew and becoming the ‘chief’ spokesman for a risen Christ.  Paul had the weight of expressing the Mystery of Christ to a new Church and the sanctification (being set apart) to do so by the witness of God, he having been empowered on the road to Damascus.  (Saul, who was on his way to Damascus to gather up believers, was to bring them back to Jerusalem for imprisonment.)

If I could encourage you in one thing, it would be to relax and embrace the Love of God.  Christ continues to reach out, to offer His Peace and Joy, His Rest.  The world continues its thing, to reject that Reconciliation.  That rejection is called the spirit of anti-Christ and has a universal presence around the world.  It wears different masks to sell the Lie in order to hide itself and from being obvious.  Sadly, many today continue to hope in a fleshly attempt at self righteousness to relate to The Father.  Ravi Zacharias puts it this way (I paraphrase): many believe Christ came to make bad men good when in actuality Christ came to make men alive.  We can easily convert our Faith into arguments of ethics and morality rather than a belief in Christ.  All religions are caught up in making bad men good, determined by their unique definition of what is good and moral.  How’s that working for us?  However, believing in the Faithfulness and Trustworthiness of Christ brings us Peace and Rest, putting all our hope and faith in the life and actions of Jesus as a substitute for us, a victorious ransom for our ‘lameness’.

For the most part, doing this Gospel any other way than depending and coming to Christ as our source of Life dooms us, forces us to find some other way to fix our lameness ourselves.  We try fixing our Faith by increasing our intensity in things that we do to please God.  Doing so, trusting in our own ability to forge a relationship with Christ, only reflects back on our lack of Faith in Him to have already done that reconciliation.  Doing so leaves us little choice but to spend our time mustering up our Faith through religious performances.  That sentences us to a belief in ourselves, in our abilities, in what we do and in what we don’t do.  That is, we rely on our own efforts and expression to relate to God.  The Truth: Christ is our Sabbath; we will find Rest in Him, at least as much Rest as we will permit.  The Fruit of the Spirit should be evident when the Spirit rules.  We learn that our Righteousness comes from His Faith for all those that believe (Rom. 3:22).  Gal. 2:16 says that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through Faith of Christ Jesus, even we who have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the Faith of Christ. (Check out Galatians 2:20 and 3:22, Ephesians 3:12 and Philippians 3:9)

I have one more limb to climb out on.  I once heard a Bible teacher say that the Gospel is subtraction, not addition.  I had to think about that a minute, well actually months.  But I’ve become more comfortable with that idea.  The world loads us down with pride, self-interest, and independence. Religion loads us down with performance and guilt.  We need to subtract some of that from our lives if we are to live free.  If we believe we’ve been given ‘the’ measure of Faith as a gift from God; believing (as Abraham did) is after all Faith!  Scripture says that we are complete in Him. We can, if we’re not careful, create a great mystery out of the Gospel message.  Assuming in our hearts that God intended only a few of us to figure it out, and He only finds pleasure when someone gets it.  In actuality, we should know that God’s desire is that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of Christ.  We can, if we are not careful, search and ‘never come to the knowledge’ of the Gospel. We can ever learn and never come to the Truth. Christ Jesus is Truth. The only Mystery to be found in the Gospel is Paul’s Christ.  Hidden until the appropriate time and appropriate place; revealed at just the right time and place.  It’s that knowledge, knowing Him for Who He is, that’s required.  I think it’s appropriate to memorize Scripture, terrific to study day and night, but if those do not lead to a simple relationship with the character and heart of God’s Spirit they are in vain. I believe we should all live a righteous life and do the things of God, but unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of those found in Matthew Chapter 5, we stand condemned.  We come to Christ with a child-like belief, that is, a simple trust in Him, a confidence in His relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit– a relationship that we have been adopted into in order to be a part of.  Our confidence comes from believing that everything He said about that relationship is true.  That we are Holy because He is Holy; we believe that He would never leave us, He does not condemn but saves, that the work we are to accomplish is to believe and be blessed by having believed in Him.  The Gospel is not adding more and more to our lives to find a holy mountain top, that’s what all religions promise.  Our God came down from the mountain and lives with us.  Our Gospel is simply Christ, and our Faith in Him, and His Faith in the Covenant between Him and the Father and Spirit.  Let me summarize with this short comparison:

“Change…Believe…Accepted”——-“Accepted…Believe…Change”

Which is our Gospel?

March Newsletter: Forsaken

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Last month I wrote about Jesus teaching us to pray like this: ‘My Father, who is in Heaven…’ and the significance of personalizing and confidently coming before Him.  This month I’ll take a different road about relating to God.  A wonderful thing about our Faith is that it’s championed by a loving God and an obedient Savior who wished to hide nothing that can be revealed for our heart’s benefit.  He reveals all with Truth, even those things that make no ‘mythical god sense’, things that a made up god would never use to communicate with the lowly human creature.  Things like, well, our hero seemingly losing it at the very pinnacle of the Gospel story.

 It’s been a couple years ago that I first  wrote about the phrase: ‘My God, My  God, why hast thou forsaken me?’  The word forsaken there most commonly means to ‘leave someone behind.’  That’s the only place in all of scripture that Jesus called out to God, rather than calling on the Father.  Here, it was not the personal, intimate calling but a call to the Creator (Elohim).  At that moment, Jesus’ humanity was paying a price for us.  As a man, not as the Son of Man, he was crying out to the Creator of the universe.  As a man experiencing all that could be experienced for us, every thought of loneliness, despair, hopelessness and isolation fell upon Jesus.  Today, there seems to be a great awareness among us, many having those same feelings in this world.  No wonder we’re a bit gun-shy.  Our enemies surround us and our own leaders can’t seem to find a way to share a positive vision or purpose.  (There surely must be a college course somewhere where they teach our politicians to fib but do so with great ‘compassion for the folks.’)  We live in a time, because of the rejection of the Love of God in the earth, that many of us feel all alone, more isolated and less hopeful.  Those kinds of feelings are not uncommon and are not to be ashamed of; those feelings, as we have seen, were evident at the cross in Jesus.

I suppose we really can’t imagine the intensity of the hopelessness of Jesus at that moment.  Some would say, that because of who he was, the cross was ‘no step for a stepper’, passing off the agony of Jesus as though it were a drama to be acted out on a world stage, not a pressure cooker of despair.  There should be no mistake: the immense burden of the Cross was not less because Jesus was more.  Picture it like this, that the most sensitive being to the Spirit of God, the loveliest, the most related to God, the most true, the one most touched, was the one most deeply swallowed up by an undesired isolation and abandonment!  Imagine that that moment was tenfold our life experience.   It was the most unjust, the most undeserved, of all divine interaction.  Never before had Jesus not been able to know that God was with him, his Father was part of him.  This loneliness was as deep and as full as was possible for any human to experience.  The earlier temptations came with a feeling, a knowing, his Father’s presence.  The Cross came with antagonism, physical pain and a deep loneliness.  Those other times had come with an easy ability to raise his eyes to Heaven and say ‘My Father’ and find comfort.  This time was not like any other time; never before had there been a challenge like this.  This was a time when nothing else meant anything to him.  Jesus’ humanity was consumed in real pain and disappointment; this was not a drama but real blood, bruises, cursings, and piercing death.    The humanity of Jesus had become like us in every way, being tempted in all things as we are, all things that are common to each of us, and probably more intensely so.

Forsaken?  No, God does not leave us behind, but simply stands to the side being a companion.  He does so, so that we can act from ourselves, choosing or abandoning His Will, embracing or rejecting ours.  Each day He leads us, pushes us, and hopes that we will choose Him and so become more and more His children.  That space in between us and Him is permitted, created, as an opportunity to bind us further to Him.  Freedom comes not from being independent from God, but rather from becoming more and more captured by His Love.  In His creation, with the opportunity to choose Him as Lord, comes His striving to make us free.

(Pressure brings pain but also always brings a choice.  Will we run toward Him or away?  Adam and Eve hid themselves.  Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh placed a choice before the ruler to draw near or to separate further from God, hardening his own heart toward God.   The love of God always calluses our hearts or it softens.  He comes over and over with the offer of relationship and love.  How we receive that offer molds our futures.  What was created to send us into His arms very often, and more times than I wish, ends up identifying our independence, or more harshly, our rebellion.)

Jesus, at the moment he uttered the word ‘forsaken’, felt (in his humanity) just like we feel sometimes, but even more so.  He and we feel we’ve been abandoned by family, friends and even the God we believe in.

In times like we find ourselves in today, we could use some assurance in our own hearts that He is there with us.  Scripture is our tutor to finding the nature of a never changing God.  From Psalm 22, we know that Jesus was ‘thinking’ abandonment; however, that same scripture teaches us and we know that God was with him, in him.  Jesus felt like a worthless worm, the reproach of all men, despised by all, the wicked surrounded him.  And, just as then, now we have that same assurance that God is a constant companion, even being purposely called Emmanuel (God with us) so that we might remember His promise.  Jesus felt forsaken, but more importantly his statement was a question.  Jesus was asking for affirmation of something he believed.   In that moment humanity had crashed in upon him with a weight most unbearable; Jesus actually did feel like God had left him behind.  His response was from the most perfect believer of us all!  However, the next word from Christ was ‘yet not my will but Thy Will be done’, a word of Trust.  God hears us in the desperate situations, is with us then, is always present even in the times we feel abandoned the most.  As I mentioned in the earlier letter, we should always remember that after the disturbing description of the crucifixion found in the 22nd Psalm, David wrote what most people consider the most comforting Psalm of all, the 23rd.  Now we have circled back to last month’s letter: ’My Father who is in Heaven…

February Newsletter-Fishes & Loaves

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

The Lord IS MY! Shepherd… (23rd Psalm)

I emphasize the ‘is my’ because when we read or say this prayer it should be more akin to a shout, a profound revelation of our relationship with God.  I know you ‘read the paper’, well actually, you probably read the internet, and we are all well aware of the plight I, you, and the whole world faces with the current world affairs. We are aware of the real concerns with national and cultural wars within our own borders and the personal, one on one conflicts of everyday life.  We live in a world of unbelievable contrast and division.  These are tough times.  They hold no definition for the future.  We live in a world of huge and terrifically important choices; a world that tries to make those choices camouflaged but in doing so makes them clear.  They seem to scream to us, ‘choose you this day who you will serve.’   It might even be called ‘kingdom against Kingdom.’  I still (and especially after the last 10 months experience with Jane’s physical struggle) think that for the moment we find ourselves in, the most important message to deliver to believers is to learn to Trust!

It was one of many of the miracles that Mark (Chapter 8) describes in his Gospel.  Jesus had just fed 4000 followers with 7 loaves and a few fish.  The disciples had witnessed this miracle and were fully aware of what had just happened.  Immediately afterward, Jesus and the disciples entered a boat and sailed across the lake.  There, they ran into Pharisees, who were disrespectful and belligerent.  Jesus left them in their unbelief and re-entered the boat and went back across the lake.  In that crossing the disciples, having one loaf of bread in the boat, became pre-occupied with eating and how they were to be fed.  They had just seen Jesus bless and break bread for 4000, and here they are, minutes later, wondering about where their next meal might come.  Jesus’ simple response was, ‘do you not yet understand?’  Really, not a very complex question from Jesus, no hour long lecture here, just a simple question to prompt thought.

In that exchange, he does not tell them that they are stupid or even wrong, simply walking them through what a ‘soulish’ blunder they had made.  Their mistake was in not trusting in his Love, even doubting, just after having seen Jesus feed all those people with so few resources.  They failed to see the compassion of God, the heart of God.  Instead, they saw a miracle, a physical act of God but an act that did not have the staying power of a converted mind and will.  They needed something in their hearts rather than in their eyes!  They remembered the bread but forgot the Father.  They knew the number of fish, number of loaves and the number of people but forgot the Compassion that broke the bread.  Physical miracles are terrific and necessary many times, but we will need a heart change, a mind and will change in the long run, in order to meet the daily grind of this grist-mill called life.  We not only need the experience of having seen God on the outside of life but, in our inner life, eventually we will need to experience Him as well.

Trusting lets us, makes us, free and at ease.  ‘..take no thought what you shall eat…drink or how you will be clothed, …your Father knows what you have need of, but, seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness….all these things will be added unto you…take no thought for the morrow’.  (Matthew 6:31)  Actually, had the disciples gotten that message and not just the image of the miracle, they would not have had to remember anything else.  They would have realized that the one loaf in that boat was more than enough.  Had they been looking with their hearts rather than their heads, they would have known that they had the One that makes all loaves in the boat with them.

They had immediately lost heart to the notion that Jesus taught on how to take no thought for tomorrow.  Tomorrow means any future: the next second, the next hour, the next week, next year and beyond.  The next minute from now is just as future as the next 1000 years in the heart of God.  For us, tomorrow has not been made yet!  Our lives are like novels that are to be read one day at a time; tomorrow we will learn what happens on the next page, revealed in full when we get there, not before.

These disciples were not unbelievers that were simply lost, these were men that had left everything to follow Jesus. They were purposed, dedicated and still ‘growing up in Christ.’  In Mark, Jesus taught of the bad leaven of the Pharisees and also of a good leaven of the Kingdom of God.  Good leaven takes time to expand, time to rise, and time to come to full measure.  I think the Kingdom of God in our lives is like that.  The Love of God gradually leavens the whole man.  We can have ‘things that enter in’ during our daily clamor.  Things that keep us from seeing the subtle and important teaching of Jesus; we see the miracle but miss the Heart which is intended to fortify our Christian walk.  That one loaf and their bellies had blocked the door and barricaded the intimacy between the disciples and Jesus teaching about the Father’s Compassion.  Fear and doubt entered their minds rather than the thought that they were walking with the Creator of the universe.  Sometimes what we have blocks us from God; sometimes, as it was in this case, what we don’t have clouds our thinking, not trusting who has given to us in the past and who is ready, willing and able to give to us again.

It wasn’t the miracle that Jesus wanted the disciples to see; it was the Compassion and Love that was his message.  Signs are easily forgotten; however, once revealed by the Spirit of God, the Love of God will never be forgotten.  We kind of live in a one loaf world right now…is that going to be enough?

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