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August Newsletter-Jesus

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Jesus (jee-zuhs), n. born 4 b.c., also called Jesus Christ. (also: the One who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist…For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, whether things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight… Col 1:13-22

It was over thirty years ago. A friend of mine and I worked together, both were believers in Christ. He later became the pastor of one of the churches in the area and continues to teach about Christ today. In one of our discussions, he simply said, ‘Ken, you don’t have enough Jesus in your conversations.’ I’ve thought about that, revisited that statement over the years. In some sense, there was something not true about it, but still I knew that there was something about his comment that lit a small flame in my heart, put a question in my conscience. I mean, I talked about Jesus all the time, not always by name, however, in my mind, my words always referred to him. And that was the key, right there in that statement I just made in this letter. I’ll explain later.

Over the years I migrated through listening, studying, and reading Scripture. Never was the idea of not having enough Jesus in my conversation something I wrestled or struggled with, but it was still rattling around in the back of my mind. Why had my friend said that to me? You know, some things just take a while to come into our understanding. John was 90 years old when he wrote of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Even after walking with and talking to Jesus during Messiah’s ministry it took John a while. It was a journey for John; it should be a journey for us. We’re not ‘finished’, there is always more to discover and to be revealed to us by the Spirit of God.

It’s akin to discovering the first few verses in Hebrews: ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…’ that produces a different conversation about Jesus if you ‘deeply’ consider that scripture.

It’s coming to the understanding that Jesus is the Father’s exact likeness, the expressed and exact image. Jesus is, by the very nature and character of God, the perfect expression of the Father’s intent to include us in the Life of God. If you will, Jesus is the perfect display of the Father’s Heart. The Cross, Death and Resurrection was always in the heart of Father, Son, Spirit. They were His Finish to redeem us, the final act of His dream to embrace us and literally be Emmanuel (God with us). They were representative of His intent to embrace us to the point of never leaving us or forsaking us, having placed us at the doorway of a new and living way, a way that permits us to come to the knowing of living and moving and having our being in Christ. That Way permits us to be in His presence, not occasionally, but in all we do!

Jesus did not come to give us a 10 point plan on how to improve ourselves, not to establish a new ethic, not a political solution, not even to compete with a new religion, but came to grant us relief for the stuff of our souls. (Our world today can’t even admit there is such a thing as ‘our souls’, let alone address or remedy something it doesn’t believe exists.) Unlike the secular psychology or religious rules, Jesus came to reveal the heart of His Father and to redeem people back to their original relationship, the original value experienced between Adam and his Creator. Actually, it’s a value that goes back even further than that because before the foundation of the world, before time and Adam existed, the Father, Son and Spirit’s hearts dreamed of you. Before being in our mother’s womb, we were in the heart of God, and His giving up on you was just not part of the plan, not the will of God.

I had a friend who carved eagles, frogs, birds, etc out of blocks of wood. When someone asked him how he did that, he replied he simply removed all that’s not eagle. That’s what Jesus has done for us. He’s removed all that is not Gospel for us, leaving us a recognizable image of the Father’s heart toward us. Simplified, His passion and love for us is shown in the incarnation of His Son. God revealed His will and nature in a person, revealed Truth and Life in Jesus Christ. Jesus led us to where He is and set up shop with us. The price paid for us was so high, so deep, that it’s not so fragile you never know what to expect next. The Author and Finisher of Faith is without shadow or turning; the same yesterday, today and will be the same forever. How can we think of such a Faith for us? I think it’s buried in our hearts and, like a river of living water, it bubbles up out of our being and is capable of transforming our minds. We so often think that we have to change our heads to strengthen our heart; actually, our hearts are strong in the Lord, it’s our thinking that needs redeeming by experiencing Christ in us, out of our ‘bellies’ comes evidence of God indwelling. According to John 14:20 Jesus is in the Father, Jesus is in us, we are in Him. We have inside us what we need to change our minds, not having to call Him down from heaven, but living in our hearts, waiting to be revealed by our seeking Him.

On Christmas Day in 1624, John Donne wrote … ‘God has made no degree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies. In Paradise the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always autumn, His mercies are ever in maturity. We ask our daily bread, and God never says you should have come yesterday. He never says you must (come) again tomorrow, but (says) today if you will hear His voice, today He will hear you.’ That expression of the Love and Character of God is seen in His Son in an ‘earth-suit’. aug2

This salvation, this Gospel was no mistake, not a plan B. We must give Him credit for a greater Wisdom than that. In the wisdom of God, Adam and, yes, you are no mistake. The Son of God created all things on earth and in heaven. We may be alienated in our minds but Jesus came to change our idea about the Father, came to give us understanding, not leaving us as orphans but revealing Emmanuel, revealing Him with us. The same Son that created the Universe, the engineer that hung the stars, the planets, the moons, the same Creator that precisely balanced all and in Whom all is held together, created the earth at a perfect angle so that the two hemispheres could experience winter and summer at the precise same time, spun the thing like a top, circled it around a star. Had it not been so precise and had it stood up straight, New York would be 40 degree year round, Phoenix 120 and the equator would be boiling, the North and South Poles, -100 each day. That same Son engineered your salvation! Perfectly! He is able and He’s been set above all things. He is Jesus! Now that’s the Jesus part of my conversation. It’s not that all those years ago I was guilty of overestimating Jesus, it was that I was guilty of underestimating the Love, Mercy, Grace– i.e. underestimating the Engineer. There you go, Todd. You win. You were exactly right. I was guilty thirty years ago, guilty of talking about him, instead of Him! Jesus Christ, Lord of all….all!


The City Harmonic with Darren Mulligan

Posted on by Laura Posted in Concert Photos | Leave a comment

July Newsletter-Hear Ye, O Israel

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Hear Ye, O Israel!
Some friends have been asking me what I think about the international situation and the massive troubles brewing in the Middle East (not to mention our own neighborhoods). It should not be surprising that without the Love of God this is the kind of world we would have and seems as though we will have ‘wall to wall’. In an effort to try and keep from saying you need to pack up everything and head to a mountain top and live in a cave, let me just say a few things that come to mind. Something that’s tattooed my brain for many years now is how important it is to keep our eye on the country in the bull’s-eye of all the trouble, God’s chosen: Israel.
First of all let’s remember that they were chosen not because they were particularly religious people, not necessarily the most academic, not particularly God fearing, not uniquely profound or wonderful, simply chosen by the Wisdom of God for some undisclosed reason. They were actually represented, held together by the arms of one man, Abraham. He was a moon worshiper in Ur, who had no credentials as priest, not a perfect man, just a simple pagan at best, just a believer in something. God picked him out of all the people on the earth, cleaned him off, shined him up a bit and said, look you’re the only thing I have to work with, and I know you’re not, by any means, a finished product, but hey, I’ve got to start somewhere with this Adam problem, so I’ll just start with you. Abraham was the first foothold of the climb to Messiah. He alone was the beginning of ‘you will be my people and I will be your God.’ It simplifies things to look at the history of the Chosen by looking at Israel as simply the whole of Abraham’s work. They were chosen to reveal the Love of God to man, chosen through Abraham to be the blessing of the whole earth. Israel is the conduit through which Love would flow, the community where God would hammer out Messiah’s revealing until the coming of the full revealing in Jesus Christ. No matter how much they rebelled, no matter how sinful they became, Israel could not escape being in the pressure cooker of God’s plan. The Chosen, though undeserving, couldn’t shake the Love and Faithfulness of God. (Sound familiar?) They would misunderstand a lot of it, but God had made them His people and Him their God, period! Somehow in God’s plan, historically, each time He drew near, they rebelled even more. In the Wisdom of God, He was going to take that rebellion of Israel, their actual killing of the Son of God, and make something beautiful out of it. He would take their estrangement, and in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, reconcile the world. Imagine that! Only God could come up with such a plan. I’m sure we would have come up with different plan than a divine death, a death that demoralized Christ’s followers and encouraged His enemies, but a death that would bring an eternal Life.
JulyIsrael is simply, in itself, one prophesy given to Abraham: Messiah is coming and no matter how hard, how unlikely, no matter what His Chosen went through, Jesus is coming! After all, Jesus had been coming before the foundation of the world. God will see that Promise through in spite of Israel, through Israel, but not because of Israel. The Old Testament is not so much a story of individuals as much as it’s a larger story: a historical, gathering drama of the coming Christ.
Through the history of a people chosen by God, (a people rejecting that call for the most part), Israel became in every sense, His-story. In fact, seems that their whole history is about His-story, (Luke-24:44, And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me.) and His story’s not done yet.
This revealing of a Messiah is also the beginning of the story of Someone that would eventually reveal God fully; Jesus who was Christ. This Christ was not only to reveal God’s nature and character, but astonishingly, He was also to reveal that He Himself was identical with the God He revealed! ‘I Am’ was being revealed by Jesus who simultaneously said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me. Someone that said if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father. Imagine! Not only that, but that Someone declared that the Father dwelled within Him and that He dwelled within the Father. Said that He was the actual Son of the Father, that He and the Father were One– One in essence and in action! Astonishingly, He declared that He was in us and we were in Him, saying He was to be the perfect Mediator between humanity and God. He was the One that takes away our sin and unites us with His Father. (Go figure, all that’s enough to take our breath away if we stop and think about it one word at a time, which we seldom do!)
In spite of them being unqualified, foolish, and unfaithful, Israel is who God chose to work with, and I believe He’s still working with them. I think if you want to know where we are in time and space, look at Israel. That’s a believer’s time-piece. Watching any other part of the world, keeping an eye on anything in the East, West, North or South is not the center of God’s plan. Israel’s little strip of land is ‘My people, I’m their God.’ No one else holds that place in His-story. Actually, the world’s quarrel is not with Israel, the argument is with the Love of God. Look at the recent rise in anti-Semitism. Whenever the movement of a culture is away from God there’s also a political movement against His Chosen. The world, like the Jews of His-story, does not like being in the same room with God, the intimacy of God (Emmanuel, God With Us) generates uncomfortable conditions for most, and actual rebellion by many.
That brings me back to my beginning; where are we? Well, it could obviously be the end, but I’ve lived through the so called ‘end’ before so I’m more comfortable just saying this: it could be over, may not be over. A couple of things I believe for sure. If this is the end then Israel is in for one ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight that necessarily requires the intervention of God. They will be the scourge of all the world, hated by all, abandoned, alienated, but a glorious end is in sight because His-story is tied to their story. Or, this may not be the end. Either way, Israel is in for a ‘horrific’ fight, but a fight again that necessarily brings in the ‘super-natural’ for the Chosen to stand. Whether we go on or if this is the end, a revealing will take place where there will be no mistaking the evident Hand of God. All the world will see once again: ‘I will walk among you, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ (Lev: 26-12) In either case, God will be revealed! The Chosen were scattered throughout the entire world, persecuted in very severe and inhumane ways, stripped of all possessions and identity, remarkably to be gathered together, surrounded by millions of enemies on all sides, placed in a land about the size of New Jersey, and they are surely in the bull’s-eye of the whole world of Anti-Christ. This people, Chosen, of all people, were placed in the pressure cooker of His plan to bring final reconciliation, Chosen to be in the ever so slow process of revealing His Son, and now Chosen again to be a witness to all the world of the Grace Covenant power of God. And, by that, Chosen to be the ridicule of the whole world. Now we will watch and see; we’ll be amazed, for this Chosen have a promise of not being allowed to go away, not permitted to leave the room occupied by them and God!