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September Newsletter: Angel Of Light

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(It’s not enough to know there is God; it did the demons the fallen angels or Lucifer no good to know that. The Gospel is offered to us so that we may know, not just about, but personally know God. We must ‘…believe on him whom He has sent.’ John 6:29)

I think, but I’m not certain, that Scottish author and theologian George McDonald once said that Satan is a trickster: he tells us before we sin that ‘it won’t really matter’ and he tells us afterward that now that you’ve done that ‘it’s hopeless.’ He gets the world to believe he doesn’t exist and then whispers into the world’s ear to blame God for the stuff that he does. I’m going to take a look at the character of Satan in the next few paragraphs, but in doing so, I’ll also try and reveal, at the very same time, the character of God. Over the years I’ve come to trust that Salvation/the Gospel is not about going forward to something new, but is about going back, way back, to the original: the same kind of relationship God and Adam and Eve had before the fall.

As I have written often, original Sin was not a snake talking to Eve and not an apple problem. No apple is mentioned in the Bible, and Satan, often depicted as a snake because of our translations, was more probably an angel (Ezekiel 28: 12-17). In the original language of Genesis 3, the true word found there for serpent was ‘nachash’ or translated from the original: shining one. That traditional serpent image we’ve used had to do with the characteristic of the nachash’s bite on humanity as burning similar to a snake’s bite. However the detailed account of Ezekiel gives a much different look into the whisper of Genesis 3. Eve did not have a conversation with a viper but an angel, a fallen angel to boot. Ezekiel’s summary refers to Satan as wise but having a corrupt wisdom, he being perfect in beauty, a gorgeous shining creature. In scripture, Satan always related to being enchanting, fascinating and bewitching. That was true then, it’s true now. His skill is the ability to hide away his agenda. He camouflages his evil in good many times. His purpose is to whisper a lie and get you to believe it. To distract away from God’s Truth. The other way to say it is he constantly challenges the Truth. Isaiah teaches about Satan’s skill in Chapter 5:20, identifying: ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!’ Paul calls him an angel of light in 2Cor. 11:14 and goes on to say that he and his ministers (there are some of those you know) of that darkness are described as light, and their end shall be according to their works. Simply put, being apparent ever so slowly sometimes, in reality no one’s getting away with anything. John mentions in his Gospel that Satan is the author of lies, the father of them! The very first thing we see him doing is lying to Eve (John 8:44).

An interesting picture of his technique is found when tempting Jesus. Just after the Father said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased,’ the tempter attacked the words of God saying, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ and challenging again what God had just said. The first words out of Jesus’ mouth was, ‘It is written.’ In other words, Jesus’ response to any question you throw at him is to point out what God has said, what has been written. (If you read some of my earlier letters you know how much the number three means to me, in this temptation, Jesus said those same words three times.)

Where does that take us? Today I think we all can characterize the moment as ‘I don’t know what or who to believe.’ Lying has a universal appeal and presence. It’s constantly being worked in the system. Opposing God, opposing you and causing us to oppose each other. In many ways we live in a time that’s not totally unexpected. Historically it’s always been tough, people are always walking through a cursed earth; however, because of Jesus, children of God have been given an emergency repair kit to make it through. In this moment of intense pressure and sadness, ours is to say the same thing that the Father says about us. In our temptation to be moved away from Peace our words are to be ‘it is written.’ Times like these are not surprising to Father, Son and Spirit. Times like these are moments of rescue, redemption, and restoration through God’s remedy: Faith in Him. Anxiety, fear, heartache, and many more of our experiences were addressed in the following: ‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.’ (2Cor. 4:7-9)

I recall coming out of the Big Daddy Weave concert held on July 9th and appreciating so many things that I saw and heard that night. A friend of Laura’s actually called and heard there was a revival that took place that night. Remembering that night was very much looking back upon a moment experiencing a heavenly expression, experiencing a heavenly touch. Driving to work the next morning I was still imagining that event with the band and our radio listeners. At that moment I remembered one of Jane’s favorite scriptures: ‘…do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as we see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

The text there refers to an exhorting that inspires every kind of speaking to encourage and comfort. I remembered recently reading that same scripture translated by Eugene Peterson in his Bible composition called The Message. I have literally a dozen Bible translations and The Message is just one that I visit occasionally to just get a feel of its expression. It’s a translation that attempts to take the original language of Jesus’ day and put those words into our language of today. This scripture was pretty confirming to me about the concerts we do, encouraging believers to celebrate this Gospel. In today’s world, they not only encourage, they comfort as well. It also created a grin on my face when I got to the last few words of Peterson’s translation: ‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.’

Part of the reason for that being one of my wife Jane’s favorite scriptures is her experience of the past 31 years of gathering with our listeners at our concerts. Those listeners have become friends and acquaintances just simply by gathering and worshiping all in one place. It’s friendship not based on how much we get to see each other. It’s a friendship based upon how much time we all spend being encouraged through CCM and a small radio ministry named WBVN.

We’ve just experienced 3 events in 3 months at the Marion Cultural and Civic center. Once the lockdown was lifted it was full steam ahead for us with Mark Schultz, Big Daddy Weave, We Are Messengers. That’s makes the 216th time we’ve had the pleasure of doing that. Add that to your personal study, your church attendance and probably a library of books, tapes and video and we can remain strong in Faith even as we see so much of the world around us challenge what we believe in our hearts.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Lucifer is his given name and Lucifer and his ministers are still roaming around the earth lying to as many folks as possible. But, it is written by God that he has been defeated! How we enforce that is to believe that. Yelling and screaming may seem like the most efficient way to run him off, but Jesus simply reminded him that the party’s over for him and his kind. Do they have influence? Yes, at least as much as the world gives them. That, however, does not change the status of him in believer’s lives. The simple version of a very long story is that Satan was a created being, an angel. He was the wisest and most beautiful creation at some point long, long ago. His was a chief worshiper of God, however iniquity was found in him and he was cast out of God’s presence and fell to earth. Some Bible teachers teach that, being cast to earth, Lucifer’s works produced a great void and destruction on the planet. Their teaching suggests God did not create the earth void initially. To restore the earth, and doing that in the six days of Genesis, God moved on the earth to redeem it by creating Adam and Eve, asking them specifically to replenish the earth; they failed to hold on to the dominion they were given and believed a lie, ate of the tree of good and evil. In their minds, they became like God determining good and evil (sound familiar?). (Gen.1:2, Isa. 14:12-14, Jer. 4:23-26, Ezek. 28:11-17, 2Pet. 3:5-6)

Jesus was the second Adam and never failed any temptation or test by the spirit of anti-Christ that still roams the earth. With Christ’s death, burial and resurrection the power to live a life as the Father would have it for you became possible and set that life apart from Mr. Lucifer. In this day and time most of what we are fearful of, most of what offends, most of what comes to us and makes us uncomfortable is caused by what we see or what we hear. That’s perfectly understandable and actually predictable. However, the Wisdom of God teaches us not to live by sight or even what you fleshly hear, but to live by Faith in Christ Jesus. God is not the author of confusion but is the author of Peace. (1Cor. 14:33) It is written, Faith in what God says casts out fear.

We Are Messengers

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August newsletter: Who teaches a canary to sing?

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Who Teaches A Canary To Sing?

What do you think? As believers, has God given such a tough burden to perform in living the Christian Life that we simply cannot accomplish it? Sometimes re-evaluating the purpose of our Faith performances will help us not to burnout, crash, give up or get discouraged. After all, Jesus taught us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Does that Scripture (Matthew 11:30) sink in? Apostle Paul teaches that if we take up Christ’s yoke we will find rest, not stress! Is that our experience? It’s true that Jesus indicated we would have much to deal with in this life. (John 16:33) Some parts of our natural lives will be heavy and cumbersome. But, just as importantly, He indicated that one of His purposes in coming was to help us through tough times that would come our way, and also the tough times that we create for ourselves.

Scripture reveals that Jesus is the true vine and without him nothing, including our best human performances, could produce the Christian Life. (John 15:1…) Our role is to bear much fruit, significantly, His Fruit. Sometimes, it gets ‘heavy’ trying to do the Christian thing with only our ability. When we began the Christian walk, Christ became the author and finisher of our new Faith. Being made alive unto God, He started a process in each of us. He alone will be able to complete it. Sometimes along the way we quietly, casually, have picked up more than we can bear or our human attempts can change.

How many trees do you know that think to themselves, “Um, I’m a tree and trees have to bear fruit.” Nothing is needed on their part other than simply being created a tree. When we are ‘created’ anew, the Life we bring forth can come from simply becoming what God intended us to be all along. Years ago in a conversation I had with a friend, he simply asked me, ‘Who teaches a canary to sing? It just sings because it’s a canary!” They just do what canaries do best. It does that because of what God made it to be; it doesn’t do anything to become a singing canary. Christians don’t perform nor do they bear much fruit to be Christians; they bear much fruit because they are Christians. Fruit bearing ability is located on the inside, they are Spirit carriers, and the Spirit bears the fruit. Jesus gave us a simple clue about that when mentioning that he only did what he saw the Father doing. (John 5:19) Being made alive unto God, being created anew at that moment, deposited the ability to become what the dream of God before the foundation of the world was about you.

Resting in Christ gives us the opportunity to relax, trust and believe that God will live through us. There’s a chorus in the song from the band Cain that says, ‘Sometimes I wonder, is He faithful? Does He see me in my trouble? Does He understand? Sometimes I question if He’s able. Can He rescue? Can He save me? Yes He did, Yes He can.’ What God has done in the past, He can do today in and through our lives. We can serve God by yielding our lives to His ‘Living’ through us. I know that sounds ‘goofy’ compared to how we usually talk about serving God. Laying down our life can simply mean, laying down our agenda and letting His Spirit come forth. It can mean making our life at Peace and Rest so that God can use it for His purpose.

I remember a teaching by the author of the Lifetime Guarantee book, Bill Gillham. Bill taught that ground is just dirt unless God is present. With the presence of God it becomes Holy ground. God’s presence in our lives is what makes anything we do Holy. Even the very best we can do is not Holy without His initiation and presence in it. Bill was illustrating scripture found in Exodus 3. It was a discussion between God and Moses. You know the story, God asked Moses to go to Pharaoh but Moses wanted just a bit more confirmation. In the exchange God tells Moses: I have seen, I have heard, I have come, and I will do something. Moses was not the people’s savior, he was simply the one to deliver the Message from God. God would perform it. Of course Moses being Moses sulks a bit but God states, ‘Moses, Who Am I?’ He gave Moses this answer: ‘I will be with you.’ God said to tell Pharaoh that I Am who I Am, tell them I Am sent you. It’s a name that implies present tense and an active form of the verb to be. God was telling Moses He was unchanging, constant, unending, always present, always God. God is that forever and is that right now in our life. **(Check out the extra post at the bottom of this newsletter.)

Years and years ago, during one of our Celebrations, Mike Middleton and I were talking about how to live the Christian Life. We were discussing the necessity of reading scripture and keeping our minds on Christ. We both agreed study is very important. However, Mike noted that study alone would not permit us to experience the Christian Life in full. He suggested that the Christian Life is similar to many of the artists that we bring in concert. Once they’ve written the song, learned the lyrics, they no longer need to read the words off a page to sing that song. They sing them effortlessly, without having to even think about the lyrics. They’ve placed those lyrics in their hearts and perform them without having to have a sheet of paper with the words on it. That’s not to say that we should not read the Word of God-obviously we should. There is no substitute for reading the Word of God. Hearing the Word of God is exactly what turned so many of our lives around. Jesus taught that a believer who hears the Word and does the Word will be blessed. Doing the Word actually became possible when the Spirit of God came and ‘alived’ us. At that moment, everything we needed to empower us to live the Christian life was placed at our disposal. According to His divine power He has given unto us all things that pertain unto Life (Gk: zoe, life as the Father would have it for us) and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2Peter1:3) Jesus revealed a mystery in John 14:20, the mystery of Christ in you! (The Word lives there, Worship lives there, the Spirit of Christ inhabits there. It’s Good News, but it’s so amazing it’s hard for us to believe.)

Just like that canary singing without ever being taught to sing, we can live a Life that’s God-guided and made possible unlike the life we experience without Him. We can sing a new song; we can live a new Life; being God’s new creation, we can experience a new way to live that’s natural and designed for us from the first imaginings of God, Son and Spirit for creation.

Most of us have read stacks of books, perhaps listened to hundreds of teachings on YouTube, or attended church for decades and still ask what is the Will of God for us. We can seem stumped about what we think God wants us to do next. However, over time, some of the teachings in the Gospel should have become natural for us to do. Just like those artists’ song lyrics, Life things should be so imprinted in our hearts that we do them instinctively; we hardly think of them at all. There should be progressing in things that let us do the Gospel as easy as that canary singing. Occasionally I’ve mentioned to friends: I sometimes watch myself do things. What I mean by that statement is that many times I do things that emotionally I’m kind of opposed to. I do them because they are simply things I know are appropriate to do because Christ said so. I do those even when I don’t necessarily want to do them. Jesus taught that there were people who were always learning but never coming to the Truth. Always memorizing and quoting but never living like the Scripture they had memorized. I believe the knowledge of God is in the reading, but the preservation and the experiencing the God kind of Life is in the doing. Christ wants us to take up His ‘burdens’ and discover they are easy because He is there. He is I Am in every moment. Those things He asks us to do are possible because He is the one who will accomplish them. Canaries don’t go to canary school– they just draw on the song God put inside them to sing. We can experience Him in the very same way.

**

God said to tell Pharaoh that I Am who I Am, tell them I Am sent you.  It’s a name that implies present tense and an active form of the verb to be.  God was telling Moses He was unchanging, constant, unending, always present, always God. God was telling Moses I Am the center of everything, I Am running the show, I Am the same every day, forever, I Am the owner of everything, I Am the Lord, I Am the Creator and Sustainer of Life, I Am the Savior, I Am more than enough, I Am inexhaustible and immeasurable, I Am God.  If God’s name is I Am, Moses’ name must be I am not.  I am not the center of everything, I am not in control, I am not the solution, I am not all-powerful, I am not calling the shots, I am not the owner of anything, I am not the Lord…I am not running anything, I am not head of anything, I am not in charge of anything, I am not the maker, I am not the savior, I am not holding it all together, I am not all-knowing, I am not God.  God: ‘This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation. His name would endure to every generation that would inhabit earth-even to our generations, mine and yours.

In short, the translation I Am is simply ‘Be’.  What we do not understand, He makes up for being with us.  What we do not do, He makes up for being always present.  What we get wrong; He makes a way for never leaving us.  What we do not see; He makes up because we know He is our Light in any darkness.  When we do not have enough; He is enough.  What we do not know, we have I Am to trust in.  What does not feel good, I Amstill has His hand out to grab ours and lead the way.”

(Material taken from the book i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio)

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