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April Newsletter-John 13:14

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John 13:36 Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, where goest thou? Jesus answered, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shall follow afterwards.
John 13:37 Peter said to him, Lord, why cannot I follow you even now? I will lay down my life for you.
John 13:38 Jesus answered, Will you lay down thy life for me? Verily, verily, I say to you, The cock shall not crow, till you have denied me three times.

Chapter 14
John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.
John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
John 14:4 And whither I go, ye know the way.

If you remember, the Jewish leaders marveled at Jesus as a young boy when he entered into the sanctuary and quoted scripture and said mysteries to them. Those present were well versed in the Torah and Prophets of old. Some of them could probably be characterized like the description given Nicodemus: a teacher or rabbi, an overseer of the Jewish Faith, the learned, masters, and the elite. Yet Jesus amazed them. I think the Biblical word used was ‘astonished’ and described as filled with Wisdom and Grace. (Luke 2: 41-52) I’ve heard people ask, ‘Do you think Jesus always knew he was Messiah or just discovered that at 30 years old?’ After this temple incident, when he was 12 years old, Jesus responded that he was ‘about His Father’s business’; he knew. The reason for the 30 year mark in Jesus ministry is that in the Jewish tradition, priests could not perform their religious duties until their 30th birthday, therefore Jesus was simply fulfilling that Jewish Law.

The words Wisdom and Grace are to be noticed in their response. Both those characteristics are evident in the exchange between Peter and Jesus found in the Scripture at the top of this letter. Jesus was wise in seeing Peter’s fleshly characteristics and he was gracious even when identifying and raising that issue to Peter. The context of John’s text is amazing and it’s one of the characteristics of God that I ‘hang my hat on.’ Jesus and the disciples were in a meeting. Judas leaves. Peter was a very enthusiastic disciple, very aggressive, and even in the conversation saying he would lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus’ response was that, in spite of all the enthusiasm, all the things Peter had seen and heard from Jesus, Peter would deny Jesus three times. You can imagine Peter’s thoughts at hearing those words. What’s interesting, and this is the Grace part, Jesus’ next words to Peter were: ‘Let not your heart be troubled…’ We know context of that moment because, without moving away, without identifying a different day or any such thing, Jesus turns to Thomas and addresses that disciple. The ‘Chapter 14’ break was added much later by the King James folks. Chapter breaks are not in the original text. Jesus’ statement to Peter was immediately followed by Jesus’ statement of Grace and encouragement. Imagine how Peter must have felt after Jesus told him that he would deny Jesus three times. Imagine also how Peter must have felt when Jesus simply said not to let his heart be troubled. I’ve often told people in many discussions that one of my favorite expressions seen in the Biblical Text is Jesus’ statement after his resurrection. Included in Jesus’ first words following being raised from the dead, he told those present to go tell the disciples and Peter, Peter mentioned by name. Why? I believe Jesus was aware of the devastation that Peter must be experiencing having denied him those three times and having heard of Jesus’ death and burial. Even the disciples not present at the crucifixion (only one was), those seemingly having abandoned the Lord at that crucial hour, were subject to the thoughtfulness of the risen Jesus. That’s the God I trust, the One I believe, the Heart of God that I embrace.

To many leaders of that day, Jesus was demon possessed, he was a rebel, a crazy person, an illegitimate baby born to a young Jewish girl, a law breaker, an associate of prostitutes, tax collectors, and the unclean. I’ve often expressed that the origins of most of the war about our Faith begins between our ears. As believers, it’s critical to establish who Christ is in our hearts before we experience him in our heads. Our brains are a bit like our eyesight, they need prescription glasses to focus and see Christ for who He really is. Our thoughts need to be renewed, transformed (Romans 12:2: transformed literally meaning ‘metamorphose’ changed like a butterfly). Brain washed I suppose is okay to use for illustration, washed by the Word. I’ve expressed this in letters for 33 years: Adam and Eve didn’t fall away from God by the apple eating, they fell because they were deceived, they were thinking incorrectly, they were simply following the whisper to eat and suffered the consequences of that mental decision prior to the first bite.

Remember how Satan accomplished that? Being the angel of light, according to scripture, Satan was more subtle than any other creation in the field. He didn’t raise cain with Adam and Eve, he raised doubt. He misquoted scripture to deceive, asking Eve ‘Has God said you shall not eat of every tree in the garden?’ That was the first recorded lie in history. Eve corrected it by saying that they could eat the fruit of all the trees but the tree of good and evil. Satan whispers again but if you eat of that tree you will be as gods, knowing good and evil. That’s still the Anti-Christ M. O. (modus operandi) today. The temptation was: we can determine good and evil, not God. We can be god over ourselves. We can become our own master and create our own pride of life. Sound familiar? So much of today is about culture determining its own definition of good and evil, it’s ours to decide, it’s eating off that same old tree of Adam and Eve’s. Eve’s description of that event discloses her thinking about that fruit tree: good for food, pleasant to the eyes and made them wise. (Gen. 3:6) That was Moses writing some 6000 years ago, and still today the world pretty much offers the same temptations to us. Satan didn’t physically make Adam and Eve eat-he simply put the idea into their minds. He did the same thing to Jesus, tempted him by the same things in the same way. Matthew 4:1 expresses it: food, eyes, and pride. Adam and Eve failed, Jesus did not. (1John 2:15-16)

It’s important that Christians be aware of the heart of God in order to experience the intent and blessings of God. Important that we not fall for the same, original suggestion and sin expressed in the Garden of Eden. Eve was persuaded to believe that God was holding out on her and Adam; Truth is God was sharing Wisdom.

God does not play hide and seek, Jesus came to be seen and heard. He did not simply come to teach but also to be present, then and now. Jesus revealing the Father’s heart was central to His coming. But after His sacrifice, after the Cross, after the resurrection, Jesus was raised again to a New Life and one that is here, right now, and present within us. Ephesians 1:13-14 whispers the Gospel to us, making three distinctions: Hear the Word for salvation, believe and be sealed, the Spirit delivers that promise.

We’re living in tough times. Stress seems to be spoken in the days of most the people I know. In the DVD The Chosen there’s a line where Jesus says that he was doing God’s Will but that didn’t make life easy. Today the same opposition exists that existed back then. Traditional writings indicate that all Christ’s disciples were killed except John. Why were 11 of those Apostles killed? Why was Jesus killed? It was not because he or they were preaching traditional Jewish Law. Their offense, offense taken by the Jewish elite and the Roman rulers, was in preaching about a New Life, about liberty, peace and joy in Jesus Christ. That message is still offensive today.

March Newsletter-Angel Rebellion

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WBVN has always expressed its ministry as a ministry of encouragement. For us encouragement is a given characteristic of Faith. We can actually be in the middle of trouble, perhaps even discouraging circumstances, but not be moved off of how encouraging the Gospel is in spite of those things. For that reason, I’m writing this letter to mix in peace and encouragement with the world which has little of either one. There’s bad news in it, and good news in it, depends on how you look at it I suppose. To simplify it a bit, I think the bad news reinforces the believed good news we all share. What we are seeing around the world today hints at the truth of prophesy. Jesus Christ is still the answer, the Light of the world, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Savior, the Lord, the Messiah Deliverer, and much more in spite of the things we hear and see each day. It’s encouraging to know that. We don’t make Him any of those things; they are given things to us, not ones we create. Apparently, some of the future is going to be ugly- then eventually glorious. While the ugly may get to our brains, we should not let the ugly get to our hearts. No one knows the exact timeline of God’s moves, but this moment seems like a crossroads moment of the Gospel message.

In some sense, I don’t believe you can find peace if you can’t find the cause of all this trouble. I think the Bible foretold of a time like this. Forty years ago I remember a biblical teacher expressing days similar to these in our future. He characterized them as a time of ‘separation for clarification’. We are by all accounts being forced by the cultures we live in to choose sides on so many events. Today, much of what we are confronted with in this world, things seemingly delivered to our doorstep, is simply man establishing his/her own morality and ethic, pushing out the Creator’s morality and ethic. We’re seeing a lot of dividing these days, and division causes two things: it creates havoc and it creates a clear picture on which side of the fence you’re standing. It’s a marker to give us easy choices. It’s going to be our choice one or the other: be in the Light or stay in the darkness. Darkness simply by default is the absence of The Light. That absence is the only thing that gives darkness its power, but darkness is powerful without Jesus.

There’s a little something to remember in order to be encouraged in times like these: God is not mocked, what man sows, he will also reap. (Gal. 6:7) I might add in His timing. not necessarily our timing. In Acts 2, Pentecost was God’s beginning of this warfare into the entire world; reclaiming all the nations, Gentile and Jew. That continues today. I never forget that God is consistent and patient. And, I’m always aware this is a big picture project. God’s purpose for creation was simple, is still simple: relationship with the creature of His creation. First attempt ended with the failure of Adam and Eve. Second attempt Noah and his family. Third attempt Abraham. Next time, the nation of Israel is chosen. All ended in not producing the family response. Finally Jesus, and he acknowledged ‘It is finished”; he did it. By being in Christ we enter into the Father, Son and Spirit’s relationship through Jesus. Now, a new creation is set in place, one that begins with the birth, death and resurrection, this time an attempt to bring in the whole world of people, the Jewish people and the Gentiles. In spite of what it looks like today, Jesus has a kingdom and it’s in place. You’re invited to be a citizen. In Isaiah 61:1-11 we find the purpose and the heart of God for Jew and Gentile. (…preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to the bound; …)

Historically: 1Cor 2:7-8, lets us in on a mystery, something hidden from the foundation of the world. There we learn that, had evil known the whole story, it would not have crucified Jesus. If they had been aware enough to know what was happening, no way would they have killed him. What’s revealed there is that Jesus actually ‘duped’ them into killing him, manipulated them into killing him. When he went to Jerusalem it was his setting the trap, a trap that actually had the spirit of anti-Christ making Salvation possible! That hidden knowledge, a mystery, not even the 12 disciples knew it. Peter put on a pretty good show of how the disciples felt. He raised Cain when confronted with Jesus’ announcement that he was going to die. The disciples had planned on an earthly rule. They were part of an Old Testament vision of Messiah. An idea that Messiah would throw out the Romans and abolish the religious corruption. The New Testament vision in the heart of God and Jesus was quite different. The OT people understood Messiah, descendent of King David; they had no idea of Messiah, Savior of the world. They opposed Jesus dying, that was not in their plans for the future king of Israel. However, in God’s plan the spirit of anti-Christ would kill Jesus and, in effect, they would create the future kingdom of God for all mankind, all nations. The spirit of anti-Christ is in the middle of creating Jesus’ return, they do not see that but it’s true; it’s going to usher in a second coming.

Today we are left scratching our heads about how so much spirit of anti-Christ can be seemingly everywhere and in everything. How can there be so much unity against Life as the Father would have it for us? It seems that every day a new and more anti-Christ world emerges. The simple answer is that as the spirit of anti-Christ becomes more bold, more aggressive, its purpose is revealed proportionally as well. Its resistance to that Life as the Father would have it for you swells bigger and bigger. That’s the head scratching part, it’s so huge and seemingly organized we can’t explain with logic or obvious cause where it comes from except in terms of an all-out rebellion of man with the influence of the spirit of anti-Christ. Paul reminded us that resistance of that type can’t be defeated with only our power alone. The anti-Christ spirit wants us fighting in our flesh not the spiritual, whereas God instructs us to fight on our knees and by listening, following and expressing Him. Paul reminds us we’re not required to confront principalities and powers directly; our war must contain the spiritual, not just the physical battle. (Eph 6:12) (I have a pastor friend that says ‘don’t hear what I’m not saying.’) That doesn’t mean we don’t do everything we can to share this Gospel or to oppose the destruction of the Gospel message and the culture. We should certainly be active in doing so. (We’ve spent 33 years doing just that through our private home life and the public ministry life at the station. So you know I believe in effort and hard work to hold on to the treasure of this Gospel in a very practical way. I’ve had a couple friends just recently tell me they think the station ministry is more important to be shared today than any time in those 33 years.)

Personally, I expect a repeat performance similar to what they did to Jesus’ physical life in his first coming. This time, the end will be played out to His spiritual life right in front of our eyes. Today, and I think especially today, much of the world is yelling ‘crucify him’ again. More than any time in my lifetime it appears more people and cultures than ever are opposed to God’s will on earth and His will for man. Today is similar to the days of Calvary. I’m just super aware that He personally will win this battle when it is won. Just as Israel will know in the end (Armageddon) what preserves them in the final battle, I think Christians will recognize the same hand of God exposed at the end of this age.

I consider this a biblical truth: God created angels but He did not create angels to be evil. Jesus, Peter and Paul took that very seriously. We are expected to do the same. In Scripture we can see that some angels rebelled. I don’t think they were predestined to do so but they did. Angels, and we, have God-given free will. It’s possible for God to know something will happen without causing it to happen. (Isa. 14, 2Peter 2:4-6, Rev. 12: 7-12) In some ways, that knowledge of an angelic anti-Christ spirit overlays our interpretation of our daily life. I remember years ago realizing that we are the invading army here. Fallen angels had been dumped here and the original earth became void (Gen. 1:2), then God created man and gave him dominion of Eden, that resulted in the current conflict and struggle we are experiencing today.

As part of that rebellion, part of the spirit of anti-Christ stopping Life as the Father would have it for us, Jesus was offered all the worldly kingdoms (Math 4:8), everything as far as the eye could see. That sounds like today’s siren call to mankind. ‘Just do this, get rid of that God guy and trust in our thing and you can have it all. You will be moral when you accept our morality and reject that God stuff.’ Jesus had a secret, a mystery, a hidden plan. Back then, and now, what God wanted was not anything more than family, a relationship with His creation. Remember again all those attempts to do so in the Old Testament. Look at the descriptions used so frequently in Paul’s writing about God’s purpose, words: sons, children, bride, bridegroom, heirs, and adopted, i.e. family. Revelation 21:4 is where we are headed, what Jesus has prepared for us.
I’m writing this to encourage us not to get discouraged or overwhelmed with what we see and hear each day. It didn’t look good at Calvary and it doesn’t look good now. But that’s not the measure of what is going on or what the results will be. The Bible expresses the true results. We can get on board with that or cave to the stress and pressure not to believe. This thing we are seeing played out in front of us is bigger than economics or politics. We are observing spiritual warfare. Who wins? The same One that won on a dark, discouraging, bloody day at Calvary. They thought they had Him, and that anti-Christ spirit thinks it has Him now!

February newsletter-Big Picture

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*“For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.” Rom 1:20

This is a ‘Big Picture/little picture’ letter. What I mean is it’s about the Big Picture of God and His purpose and how He illustrated that in little pictures of our lives. Throughout the Bible are illustrations called ‘types’ that are parables, stories or symbols that are used to express another truth in the Gospel. God’s desire, from before the foundation of the world, was/is to share. Many little daily things we experience give us clues to help see the Big Picture. God’s so eager to express Who He is that, through Christ, He stepped right into the middle of our fallen world. Jesus came to explain and reveal God to us, came to give sight to a blind world.

I like to think that God’s made it easy to believe by placing ‘types’ in our lives to suggest His bigger purpose. His Creation alone shouts His existence. (Romans 1:20: For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity…) Creation is evidence enough that there’s no excuse for not believing. Man in his attempt to be independent of God creates his own story of creation, pushing God aside, and laughing at the thought of a Creator. They sell their story declaring Life began by chance. They imply that man’s great logic and wisdom is moving us to an ever improving world. (However, just read the headlines. It’s sad, even somewhat laughable, to think that we’re on a glide course to a manmade Utopia) Today science is used in an attempt to kill God. In reality, science declares order, providing amazingly ‘breath taking’ evidence of God. How many heart beats will you experience in your lifetime? How many of those do you think about to get them to happen? Amazingly, your eye structurally envisions everything upside down and the brain converts it to right side up. What does your DNA say about the possibility of life being created by chance? How many unique fingerprints are there? Even bumble bees can fly. God made it easy, in our rebellion, we make it hard.

I’ll illustrate Big Picture/little picture by visiting some of the daily expressions and experiences we have in our lives and comparing those with His Big Picture. I’ll start with this: God created Life, birthed humans, birthed the whole world. Genesis, and Colossians (the New Testament’s book of Genesis), confirm that. In Creation, God’s establishment of family relationships is a small picture of our lives mimicking His Life. God created male and female with the ability to experience the same kind of joy He had in creating life; gave us an ability to create life as well. Having children, parents get a hint of the blessing of creating life and natural love that’s the result of childbirth. Jane and I experienced that three times with the birth of three daughters. We never had to muster up love, never had to work on it; the simple act of giving life created love for them as a ‘given’ experience.

God also created humans with both the need and the capacity to choose Him and experience a personal, intimate relationship. Some do acknowledge Him as Father, some do not. Some simply say ‘no’ to a relationship with Him. Recently, (actually at the same time I was writing this letter), I received a phone call. It was a mother who was struggling with the fact that her children seemed to be rejecting her love for them, turning away from it. I expressed how similar that experience was to our Father’s experience. Similarly, the lives that He, and we, give birth to, can respond with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to parents’ love, that love can be unperceived love. That experience creates an environment for us much like the one God experiences from life He has given. Loving so much but that love not recognized is a big/little picture of God’s world. It’s His desire that all people would recognize God’s Love for them; choose to have a relationship with Him. I think our ability to Hope is given to us so we might discover the kind of Hope God has about us. It’s His Hope that all will be saved, say ‘yes’. Children of God have to make a kind of choice relationship about Him. This lady seemed like a very thoughtful and nice lady, a Christian lady for sure, but misunderstood by her children. That sounds a lot like God’s experience with mankind. I mentioned to her, God the Father fully knows how that feels Himself and how it feels to us. He’s experienced that for thousands of years.

Marriage, established by God, teaches us as well. God described it as a partnership where two become one. That’s God’s little touch of us understanding how The Father, Son and Spirit can be One. Each party, in both God and marriage, retains their uniqueness, not absorbing one another, but also blending into one, even though unique. I used to express to friends that Father, Son and Spirit’s unique, individual characteristics can be illustrated by thinking about a musical chord. A chord is made up of three notes, it does not exist without all three, each note is unique, they functions differently in their expression, but blended together: one purpose. Father, Son and Spirit have unique characteristics but all are purposed to share one thing-the Gospel.

Praise/Worship. The angels praise and worship, a focused picture of that’s described in the Book of Revelation. We’re taught in 1Corinthians 13 that God doesn’t seek His own. I don’t think the angels are praising God for God’s own self-satisfaction; they can’t help but praise Him and they greatly benefit from doing so. Not only worshiping Him but also in worship they experience Him. I like to think worship is a gift to us.

Faith is another attempt by God to share something of Himself; permitting us to feel the same kind of Trust Jesus must have had while hanging on the Cross; trusting that the arms of the Father were waiting for Him. It’s a clue into how powerful and glorious the Spirit’s ability to be evident in our lives. Anointing is an expression of how the Spirit works.

Another little picture of the Big Picture of God is found in my garden. That little thing I put in the ground doesn’t look very promising. Looks dead, dry, wrinkly, a hard shell but put it in the right environment: boom! Fruit! Just a little water seems to trigger the whole thing. Living water does the same for us, bring dead things to life. I remember the day that kind of experience hit my life on April 16th some years ago. The miracle of childbirth is a seed and garden picture; it’s a profound image of the birth of Creation itself, a miracle in science and in our hearts. Giving life to our children bears a Fruit we call Love. In Luke Chapter 8, Christ is described as a seed sower, some on good ground and some on bad. True, some of that seed never sprouts. That seed story is a picture of sharing the Gospel still today. We have seasons, 4 of them for most of us, that can be seen as a little picture of God saying “I got this.” Be calm, be at peace, rest, even winter has the promise of spring in it.

The sun and the moon are a whisper from God of Bigger Things of God. The sun is the source of Light/Life, and the moon a reflection of that Life. In creation, the moon shines into the darkness of night and reflects the sun’s radiant light. Jesus provides the light to be reflected into the dark night. Jesus is the Light. We can reflect Him into our present darkness as Christians. Again, so many little pictures can help us understand and see the Big Picture. In essence making believing easier.

Today, with what’s happening and seemingly what’s about to come, we simply won’t be able to fake Faith. We might be able to imitate it; we can flesh it out physically, but we can’t fake believing in our hearts. Another way Jane expresses it, ‘When your cup gets bumped what’s on the inside will spill and be exposed.’ That’s what today’s world is doing, bumping our cup. What’s going to be exposed about your Faith?

We all have single scriptures that are favorites. I have a whole New Testament chapter (John 17) that I consider my favorite, the most optimistic. It’s Hope expressed by Jesus. In those scriptures, we hear the heart of the Trinity of God before the creation of His world. It’s a prayer and in it I think Jesus stated the exact purpose of Christ and the heart of the Trinity for coming to us (read each sentence very slowly, letting the Spirit reveal what’s expressed): “…then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent me. The same Glory You gave me, I gave to them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are. I in them and You in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent me and loved them in the same way You have loved me. Father, I want those you gave me to be with me, right here, where I am, so they can see my glory, and the splendor You gave me, having loved me long before there ever was a world. Righteous Father, the world has never known You, but I have known You and these disciples know that You sent me on this mission. I have made Your very being known to them, Who You are and What You do and continue to make it known, so that Your Love for me might be in them, exactly as I am in them.” (John 17:20-26, The Message Bible) I heard someone once define religion as what we do when we don’t know that Christ is in us. Religion will not hold us up. Knowing that He is in us and we’re in Him will. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the knowledge of the Father except by Christ.

That’s the Big Picture, the picture we’re to see and it’s experienced in little things we discover in our daily lives. The sacrifice, the blood, the resurrection was God drawing us a picture of how serious God is to share His Love with us…that we might easy see! And we might easy believe!