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August Newsletter: Focus

Dan 7:14-And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom which shall not be destroyed.

It was 1985. Saturday afternoon. I was sitting at my work desk at the time. It was a slow afternoon customer wise with only an occasional person coming into the business that day. And, as I did sometimes when business was slow, I began to read a book. This Saturday, it was a C.S. Lewis book, titled God In The Dock. It was my practice back then, when alone, to read out loud because I seemed to remember the material better. As I was reading a paragraph, out of my mouth (I know this sounds a bit different than most of our general life experiences) came the words, ‘You shall……”. I’m going to leave the rest of that blank. Those were words not written on the page of that book. The words were unrelated to the subject of the book material. It was personal and private. Words that didn’t relate to anything I had been thinking about. The truth is, it was so astounding to me I’ve only shared the exact words that came out of my mouth with Jane. No need for the detail here but it was a spontaneous, significant moment. Recently, I was texting someone and giving them the usual generic, business as usual information, and at the end I typed: ‘I see Jesus in you’. As I hit the send button it was almost like watching me do that rather than me being in control of doing it. People that know me well know I seldom express myself like that in an email or actually any time. I hit the send almost in a hurry, knowing that if I paused very long I’d probably erase that thought. It literally was like I watched myself say that, observed the process rather than planned it. Similarly, while on the phone I recently expressed how much ‘we’ loved them. That, to a man I only know by the heart; not the flesh. Those are samples of things that I didn’t generate in my brain, they came from someplace in my heart. I believe that the Spirit of Christ is buried in there and He speaks through us sometimes. I use those illustrations to simply mention a few of many hundreds of little things that I’ve experience in my Faith Journey that has created ‘steadfastness’ about the Love of God and the personal interest He has in our personal lives.

I hear many people saying that we’re in a special time, special brokenness and hurt. When I hear that I’m reminded of the things my father and mother went through in World War II, being separated for almost 3 years and life threatening day by day danger that my father lived with while landing on Utah Beach in France and marching for 26 months to Yugoslavia. In crises like those and the ones we face today, Faith in Christ is a necessity focus for us. Today, rather than growing less secure, less confident of God’s presence, I’m strengthened and more aware of His presence than at any other time in my life. In March, 2012, when Jane was paralyzed head to toe, when we spent 11 weeks in Chicago, her in a hospital bed on a ventilator and me sleeping and snacking in a chair next to her, the one characteristic we both experienced was the very presence of God and His willingness to be there with us. In some sense we were the center of His focus. Those days we do not live by sight but by Faith. Everyday looked terrible and even hopeless by most definitions. But, we were in the middle of a Kingdom that seemed to surround the terrible with Comfort.

When I type that, I’m aware of how that must sound to unbelievers and perhaps some believers that just find it that hard to understand such an expression. God with us, in our hospital room, paying attention to our problem? And at the same time, God, by His Spirit, everywhere else and involved around the world. But, it was true.

In the days we’re now experiencing, there seems to be days when there simply are no words to express our hearts. I recently said on the radio that sometimes our silent prayers are more powerful than our screaming them. I hesitated when I said it because I didn’t want to give the wrong impression with those words. The silent prayers I was referring to were prayers of confidence, hope and peace. They’re things that are on the inside of us that might just need to stay there instead of being spoken. In the middle of the loud, in the presence of even this worldly demonstration of anger and strife, silence does not always mean voiceless. I’m reminded of the simplicity of Jesus’ response to the questioning of Pilate. Jesus being pushed to declare His authority as King of the Jews simply answered: thou sayest. (Mark 15:2) Few words, two words! Said it all. Matthew (12:17-19) described how Jesus refused to raise his voice in the street. Zechariah 4:6 comes to mind, ‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.’ That’s a confidence abiding inside Christ and now in us that does not necessarily need expression.

Silence can be the voice of: I know something, something that doesn’t show up in the newspapers, on television and on social media. God is alive, not dead. God is eagerly focused on me and my life, aware of my life. Christ, according to Rev. 1, is King in a present Kingdom not seen with our eyes. Worldly success, political power, and self-righteous behavior modification are not the showcases of His Kingdom. Paul teaches that the Kingdom of God is not fleshly or a physical kingdom but is Righteousness, Peace and Joy all in the Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

It’s a journey to get to that point. Sometimes finding freshness to God’s Gospel means we have to subtract some of what we’ve focused on previously on our journey. We grow, we increase in understanding, and we simply discover that Jesus’ ministry focus changed from the early Gospels chapters to the later Gospels chapters. He moved from sharing and healing into a concentration of parables on eternal/everlasting life and the Kingdom that had come.

I think this is a profound and necessary discovery on our part. In John 10:10, Jesus simplified the Gospel into just a few assuring words: I have come so that you might have Life and have it more abundantly. That was the purpose of the pre-genesis action of God before creation. He came so that you, and you is everyone whosoever, will accept God’s explanation of why! It’s not political, not economic, not simply religious law that caused Him, the Father and the Spirit (They all were present during Jesus’ ministry.) to come across the other side of Genesis to earth. It is simply He came that you might have what Life the Father, Son and Spirit would have for you. It’s encompassed in the words Peace, Joy, Free, and Love. That kind of Life is present in moments of cultural upheaval, during hospital visits, on bad news days, actually all the time. The leaving Heaven, the suffering, the whole incarnation was for you to experience their kind of Life. Not just human life but Life as God experiences: mutual caring, mutual sharing and relationship.

So much of the time we’re focused on trying to be like Jesus. And, we should be like Jesus. However, there’s a bit of a caveat on how to get that result. Much of the time, what we believe is that the Gospel is designed to change who we are and make us Messiah version 2.0. My little caveat is that we actually fail at being like He is. It’s not that we’re turned into little ‘Jesuses’; rather, the Gospel was designed to let Him live through us. The destination to be as He is is real; just the mode to get there is a bit different. It’s not that we become perfect like Him but that we permit Him to pour out His Spirit (through us) on people around us. It’s similar to my email and phone conversation mentioned early on in this letter. He used my typing and my voice to tell someone a message for their hearts. If I had been thinking about it I don’t know that I would have expressed it in that way. But having it come through me was as real as real can be from me. Sometimes I’ve used the expression ‘I didn’t know I knew that’, but what resides in us is resident there and eager to express itself through us.

The Spirit of God came to live in you so that He could ‘leak’ out and change the world around you. ‘I see Jesus in you’, ‘we love you’ after I thought about it was very appropriate to be said to each of those people, not because they’re pristine or perfect but because they, as much as anyone I know, let Jesus flow out of their sharing as well. I don’t see them as being made into Jesus 2.0, but I see the evidence of Jesus coming from out of their human ‘being’. When Jesus said that he was going away to prepare a place for you, that does not have to be limited to just places in Heaven. Jesus was also preparing a place for us to live now, in a new ‘kingdom come’ He established. To be free in Christ, to experience rivers of living water, to learn to trust, to permit our hearts to become vulnerable permitting us to care deeply, to be fearless, to walk in hope, are places prepared for us by the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus. This life and the next are characterized by His Kingdom of Righteousness, Peace and Joy, now in this mess and forever more. As Daniel prophesied, His Kingdom will never be destroyed. The Love of God cast out all fear that we can experience the Kingdom of God right in the middle of this mess.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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