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October Newsletter: Comfort

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Well, we’ve got a bit of work to do. Yep, Faith is work. Jesus, when asked by the disciples what work they should do, replied: believe. Specifically, Jesus said, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent (John 6-28). Believe is an action word. John uses the verb (pistebo) translation (action) of it 98 times in his Gospel. More times than all three of the other N.T. Gospel writers combined. In that question to Jesus, the Greek text used for the word work is also associated with the English word occupation. From my personal perspective, Faith and Trust are part of my occupation because I try to do those 7 days a week; they’re a part of my daily routine, never just occasionally. How should we live, how should we act, was the essence of their question. Jesus, as was often the case, simplified his answer: believe. And, he went a bit further. They could have asked, ‘Believe what?’ But Jesus beat them to the punch and answered that immediately, ‘Believe on him whom He has sent.’ The word ‘on’ in that scripture goes even deeper into the mind of Jesus in that it literally meant, not just on the Son, but implied movement into the Son. To me Jesus was emphasizing stepping into trust and confidence no matter what we see, what we hear, what we are experiencing.

I recently had a conversation with a pastor friend of mine and I expressed some of the things I think WBVN does differently than it did back in its beginning in 1990. First of all, we’ve always identified ourselves as a ministry of encouragement. We’ve spent 31 years of being very accepting with that expression. We still believe that was the beginning unction of this ministry and still holds the center purpose of the things we do and say. The word encourage in biblical language literally means to seize, to be courageous, to help, to repair, to bind, to strengthen, and to cleave. So that fits pretty well with our Gospel mission to offer an opportunity for all those things to happen through our music, programming and concerts. Ours is a ministry centered on trust and sharing our trust with our flock of listeners. I have to say that it’s been a 31 year pleasure to care about the people that, we believe, God has given us to ‘encourage’ daily. We will continue to do that as long as you wish. It’s your wishing that makes it our wish to serve our listeners in that manner. We want to do it as long as it’s relevant in believers’ daily lives.

However, in that conversation I expressed WBVN in another way. The world has changed so very much and we’re seeing a whole new environment we live in, all around the world. I referred to my friend that at the moment not only do we encourage but in some way we have also become a comfort for this unique day and time. There is no substitute for the necessity of The Comforter, but we trust The Spirit comforts through this ministry. Listening to the news, reading the blogs, checking the media, I need comforting sometimes, and I bet you probably feel the same way. As I said that to my friend, I was thinking about why I even said it that particular way at all. Swirling in my brain was the thought: Comfort brings Peace, Peace bring Rest. I love the expressions in scripture that emphasize the Word of God by using three expressions to complete the thought found on a written page. I see so much of what we need to be doing daily as progressive in the Gospel. Giving comfort to others is the beginning of finding Peace in Christ in our lives. Giving that to others creates that Peace in you simply in the giving. Our comfort is empowered by gathering together and celebrating Christ each day on the radio or perhaps at a concert. Jesus’ use of the word comfort would be expressed as a ‘calling near for exhortation.’ That was part of His ministry; it’s part of ours as well.

Thinking further about Christ’s Peace, comfort is extremely important as a first step when, let’s just call it, ‘stuff’ is going on. We need immediate exhortation in those times. My wife, Jane, has a calloused ear from all the phone calls she gets from people gathering on her phone (actually she uses the buds now). Generally, Peace is produced with those calls. Let me quote from E.W. Bullinger’s Lexicon: ‘Peace- a state of health or well being, it denotes a state of untroubled, undisturbed well being. The Peace which is the result of forgiveness enjoyed, and must not be confounded with the Peace Christ has made by the blood of His cross.’ That Peace, is possible because of the Peace the angels had declared at Jesus’ birth. The angels’ is eternal and the Peace found in the comfort of God is accessible in whatever’s going on around us right now.

That brings me to the third characteristic of God’s Comfort and Peace: Rest. Rest is a location, a dwelling place. Paul in his Hebrews writing refers to it as an abode. It’s a journey’s end kind of place. Once you arrive at Rest, you can relax in Jesus’ Name. Rest is comfort and peace married, combined to trust in Christ. It’s a place that the Pharisees would not enter into and actually obstructed others from entering in as well. It’s the same place where the Hebrews fleeing Egypt would not cross the river to enter. Rest is God’s goal for us, His purpose for us. And, He made it possible to find that Rest.

The apostle that writes the most scripture about Rest is Paul; the apostle that God set aside for 3 years and taught him the Gospel. Paul’s story is full of things that show no rest, persecuting the Christians, shipwrecks, physical problems and much more, but he ‘knows Rest.’ He knows that entering into Rest is a priority in this life if we are to experience all that Christ has prepared for us here, now. Hebrews chapters three and four are laced with teaching about Rest. Those are highlighted by Hebrews 3:18-19 telling us only those that believe will find that Rest. Some people, religious and secular may have alternative or variations of how to get calm, peaceful and relaxed but Christ and believing in Christ is the only way to find what the world seeks but continually rejects. In that scripture, Paul teaches of ‘labour’ to find it. ‘Let us labour therefore to enter into that Rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.’ In context, that Greek word refers most appropriately to: with speed, make effort, study.

What will this Rest give? In some scripture it’s referred to as pitching a tent and settling into its protection. Some teachings imply entering into a liberty from fear, some relief and some loosing or relaxing of tightly stretched strings or chords. All those freedoms emphasize a relaxation from endurance and soulish (my word) expectations. The Gospel, the Love of God, is an oasis in the earth. It’s a spiritual Rest, not usually a fleshly one. It’s an ark. It’s a Holy of Holies. It’s not of our understanding but of His. It’s not reached on the highway of logic or material success. It’s as near as the Spirit, not far away. It’s a gift, not something earned. It’s solid, yet can’t be seen. It’s able to be grasped and not mysteriously hidden away. It’s a Jubilee of freedom! It’s a treasure, yet free. In what we see going on around us today it’s necessary!

In this letter is information about Rich Mullins and his legacy in CCM. Rich sometimes liked to quote Catholic monk Thomas Merton: ‘How does a horse bring glory to God? By being a horse. How does a tree bring glory to God? By being a tree.’ How do we bring glory to God? By being what he designed us to be, being whom we genuinely are in Christ. His creation is meant to be in direct relationship with Him and was created to discover His Comfort, Peace and Rest by Christ Jesus.

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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