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May Newsletter-His Love

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(I originally posted this letter on our website and Facebook the last week of March. Found a few mistakes in that one, restated a few things differently in this one. The first was spontaneous, this one had a bit more time to express a few things more clearly. I have made changes to the text but the context is only slightly different…ken)

Well, as grandma would say, “We’re in quite a pickle.” Covid-19 is certainly enough to deal with, thank you, but I recently saw an interview from some celebrity about him being angry at God. It’s always fascinated me what unbelievers must think about some of the things we believers attribute to God in times like these. Sometimes, I can see why many are ‘put off’ by such talk rather than being drawn to God. During a major crisis it seems we often take every opportunity for the self-described defenders of our Faith to ‘tag God’ as leaving His fingerprints on the crisis, maybe even suggesting He caused it. So, let’s see, let’s put weight to this point of being angry at God. Should anyone think it’s logical or appropriate to be angry at God for any reason? Who among us is willing to give a Loving God the glory for this virus and for it having such a negative impact on human lives? Seems to me you can only come up with some reason to be angry at God if you either have misinformation, maybe fake news about God, or you simply parrot the traditional things that have been said for centuries about Him. In that traditional world, nothing changed very much with the cross and resurrection. We just simply moved on with our story about an angry God and a foolish or stiff-necked people. I get it; we’ve been saying things like that so long that sometimes it’s our first response in these terrible situations. We teach it, we say it, we print it and when this is all over we will pack it away to be used again in a future crisis.

My point, this God we so easily believe deserves anger and maybe our accusations, this is the same God that has come from the other side of Genesis, before the foundation of the world to be with us, this Emmanuel God. This God Who physically stepped into our world, took on flesh, did that to be with us in times like these, to be included with us during these times–are we to be believe He had something to do with actually doing this to us? This God, our God, Who sent His Son to be harassed by the very creatures He Himself created, creatures that humiliated Him, those very same creatures flogged Him, spat on Him, hated and despised Him, nailed Him to a tree, and separated themselves from Him as He took His last breath. To me, that’s not the kind of God that deserves any anger from His believers. To look at Love that way, we certainly are an interesting bunch! Jesus tried to show us the heart of the Father in Luke 11:11/Matt. 5:21: ‘If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father will he give him a stone?…If you then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.’ That’s God’s position in this whole thing for all those that will receive Him. Some may suggest that God is holding back something from us to teach us something. While Covid-19 is happening both believers and unbelievers perish. A God that is Love isn’t holding back from loving people. A God like ours is the remedy. Not to be confused with anything else we might imagine. The God that was the kind of God that was holding out, holding back, was the initial accusation of the serpent to Adam. God seeks us out, doesn’t hide and wait. The serpent’s lie was the first lie and it’s still a lie today. That’s a whisper we should not believe.

Jesus came to be with us for two reasons: first, to die on our behalf, to forgive us for our sins even while we were sinners. Second, and this is found throughout the New Testament writings of Paul and John, Jesus came to give you a New Life, a new way to live life, a new covenant. A New Covenant! Not to establish the old one but to introduce a New One. Would Jesus have come even if Adam had not fallen? I think He would have in order to establish that adoption relationship between God and creature:
‘But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because we are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant but a son; and if a son, then heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7)
There is so much to say in that verse but let me narrow it down to just one thing: We, the church, are sons. Each of us has been adopted to the Father, Son and Spirit’s life as ‘belongers’ there. Yes, Jesus came to die for our sins but also to adopt believers into the family of God. We are His. Knowing that, is there anything that we should be angry at God about? Is there anything that deserves that kind of thinking from us? Is God’s hand responsible for this mess we’re in, even just a little bit? Should we accuse Him of such? In times like these just the opposite is actually going on. God does not move away, He is in our hearts for goodness sake; how far can He go? He does not abandon the world. God does exactly what He did with Adam when Adam was such a jerk, He seeks us out, looks for us behind every bush until he finds us and embraces, does not scold or condemn. He simply cannot be separated from us; nothing can separate Him from us. Actually, if God pulled away, left us alone for one second, the whole thing would blow up and return to cosmic dust. (Col. 1:15-16) He’s holding all things together; He’s the only glue we have that stabilizes the whole world in a time like this. God’s hand is stretched out, not pulled back. The Father, the Son and the Spirit all agree, never a difference of opinion but they are One. Each, all, are for you not against.

One last thing, the Gospel is a response to a response. It’s first, God’s response to us. That’s the Father, the Son and the Spirit’s language to say post Adam, ‘No way, I’m not leaving them to themselves, I’m not giving up on them. Let us, Father, Son and Spirit, step into the whole mess and bring them from fear to Faith, from darkness into Light. God responded to us by redemption and adoption. Now we can respond to their response. Repentance is not our persuading our God to graciousness. His graciousness and forgiveness have already been established. His Mercies are new every day. They are a part of His character. This God is not like any other god. God doesn’t need His mind to be changed about us or be persuaded for favor (as though you thought you really could). It’s our minds that need to be rearranged. We must rearrange our minds to comprehend His first response: His Love. Psalm 136:11-12 reaffirms that God’s arm is constantly reaching out because His Mercy endures forever. That is His response to us; what will we do about that, what will we say and share about that? What will we say about Him to believers and unbelievers in times like these? Days like these should be evangelical moments, share His Love moments, sometimes I think we do the opposite of that.

There is a warning against apostasy found in Hebrews chapter 5. Verse 12 refers to elementary things, basic things, to which we should return. Knowing the following is elementary in times like these and really sufficient enough for us, this should be our first thought instead of some of the ones I’ve heard: ‘Jesus loves me this I know, the Bible tells me so….’ It’s not possible for me to be angry at God. My knowing the Love of God doesn’t permit me to think God is holding back stuff, because Jesus said His heavenly Father doesn’t hand out stones. These kinds of days are when the Church should be in season, bear the most fruit, and make the most effort to celebrate God’s Love, not be defined by someone that’s a bit angry.

April Newsletter: Changes

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Recently, I was standing in the studio, the studio that’s been our home for over a dozen years now. I looked around at the CD’s on the wall, the computers, looked at the yellow and blue wiring running every direction, knots of wires actually, observed the needles vibrating on the audio board indicating another song about the Gospel being shared with thousands of listeners. What started out fairly organized 10-12 years ago, well, can’t call it organized today.  We’ve been forced simply by ‘wear and tear’ to ‘freshen’ the basic framework of the broadcast studios.  Though delayed a bit, the upgrades we mentioned during the past two celebrations we’ve finally begun to make. Those people that donated for the specific purpose of those changes, thank you and here we go. As with most things, it seems one thing leads to another. Re-doing that system identified other issues that have had to be addressed as well. The benefits of upgrading to current standards will make long-term differences that are necessary for the future of the station.  Submitting to change always brings a bit of ‘tension’.  Being a broadcaster, most of the improvements will not be seen, but each will be heard.  We’re excited about ‘dressing up’ the broadcast with better digital sound and programming options on the radio and in your car.  The old dogs will have to learn new tricks, but we’ll work hard to make it as ‘seamless’ as possible.

Standing there, looking at the ‘knots of wires’ reminded me of the memories held in this building.  There are so many stories about what has happened here and memories from our first studio location. At the same time, I remembered how necessary it is for people to take new steps and not be encumbered by holding on to yesterday too firmly. I’m often reminded when facing new things that God is a ‘mover’ and, as His people, wehave to ‘follow’ Him on our journey of faith. By its very nature, Faith is not stagnant but flows.  In the very first verse of Scripture, God moved on the face of the earth.  As far as I can tell He’s still moving on it today. He told Abraham to change, to move, or better said, simply to Go! Telling him very little about ‘go where.’ One of my favorite biblical teachings is about Jacob. If you remember, Jacob ran in fear after receiving (actually by deceiving his father and cheating his brother Esau) the blessing from his father. He stopped running at Beth-el, literally meaning ‘God’s house.’ That was the first place he met God (Jacob’s ladder). It was a bit bumpy here and there, but Jacob’s journey ended in a place of peace. As was traditional in that time, Jacob built an altar of stones at Beth-el to mark the place ‘where God was’ found. Jacob could have stopped there. We sometimes act the same way when we first meet God. We get stuck in thatplace thinking all that God has for us is in that one location. We enjoyed our journey to find Him, enjoyed meeting Him, and we get comfortable thinking we’ve arrived at our final destination. In a subtle way, we quit seeking Him. Oh, when we get in trouble or need God to show up, we go back to those original stones we use to ‘mark the place where God is.’ We go back there because we want what happened the first time there to happen again there. But God has moved and calls us to follow! Simply, we will need to find our ‘manna’ at the next location!

Jacob did that; he packed up his family and re-located, this time to a place named ‘El-Bethel,’ literally, ‘God of the House.’ Jacob now had two experiences with God. First, he had found where God was, and in the second, he had found who God was. Jacob had ‘located’ Him in the first and had come to ‘know’ Him in the second. That’s very much like our lives. Hopefully, we find Him one day and over time we continue to learn of Him. However, just as with Jacob, there’s another journey to take. That third journey is the purpose and fulfillment of the first two journeys. For believers, God’s prepared a place for us. It’s not just the Heavenly one He’s promised, but also promised an earthly one. In Jacob’s case it was called Ephrath.  In Ephrath, Jacob’s purpose for all his journey was found.  As you read the Scripture you discover that Jacob had no idea why he was to go there. In fact, he had opposition to going there. All that Jacob knew was he was to go and simply followed God to a new place. Jacob never realized why he needed to go there, why put down roots there. At that time, the town of Ephrath was of no real consequence. Generations later, Ephrath came to be calledBethlehem. Do you know why Jacob needed to go to Ephrath? On the journey Rachel died in child-birth, but a son was born to Jacob and Rachel: a son Jacob named Benjamin. Benjamin would raise his sons in Ephrath, and his son’s sons would be born there, and their sons would live there. Jacob’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandson, Boaz, would be born there.Boaz would meet Ruth there and they would have a son, Obed. Obed had a son Jesse and Jesse had a son David and out of Bethlehem, out of David, would come a future ‘son’ named Jesus. Jacob’s changing locations had a purpose beyond what he could see. God had a plan for all the earth and it would be located in the last move of God in Jacob’s journeys.

Some 30 years ago, each having found God years earlier, Jane and I moved from our comfortable spot. It was a spot marked with wonderful experiences.  But knowing we needed to follow rather than stay in that place, we changed our journey location,we started WBVN.  In that new place, we discovered more fully the provision and the very nature of God. In this place we discovered ‘El-Bethel’ or God of the house. Here, we learned of who He was, not just where He was. Here, we experienced newmiracles of God. Here, we grew confident in Him. Now, in our 31st year of this journey, we have found Him always trustworthy! His Grace has been sufficient here. His provision has been manifested here. We’re comfortable here! But we know it’s necessary to make these changes even though it makes us feel a bit vulnerable. It’s time. I look around and want to pile stones here in my office, in the studio and at the front door and just ‘park there’. In our flesh, we want to stay comfortable and do this ministry in the way we’ve done it for the past dozen years. This is the second time in 30 years we’ve kind of ‘torn up everything’ and remodeled the ‘how’ of doing FM 104.5.

I remember reading a book years ago on the ‘secrets for living from the Lord’s language.’ In it, the Hebrew word “DOR” was discussed. It’s the word for generation and is most importantly the essence of DOR to DOR, meaning from generation to generation. In the Hebrew language, the continuity from generation to generation is of primary importance. One generation doesn’t stand alone to be looked at as independent from the one before it or the one after it. A clue to DOR to DOR is found in the Hebrew spelling of DOR. Reading forward brings the message of generation; however DOR read backwards reveals the meaning of “to decline.” In the Hebrew language for generation to generation there is no ‘stagnation.’ We are either growing from generation to generation or we’re shrinking away from the continuity needed in our and our children’s lives. We’re not going to stand still; we will either move forward or we will be destined to decline. This next generation will either build on the shoulders of the last, or as has been the recent trend, this generation will continue to see a ‘falling away’ in the next DOR. 

I’m not sure what tomorrow holds for WBVN. After 30 years I get that kind of question a lot.  Ministry to me is about people. It’s not the building, the tangled wires and equipment; it’s not show business, or not even simply the music. It’s more about changing people’s attitude about their God, truly their Father. One of things I like to share with people is about the monthsJane spent in the hospital in Chicago.  In 2012 she was completely paralyzed head to toe.  She was in ‘total body’ failure if I can say it like that.  She was in crisis health treatment and under medical care for many months.  It was a long story and a complex story, but the shortest version of that story is summarized by this: she went to Chicago a believer and came out of Chicago a knower. She and I both encountered, probably more than any other time in our lives, the God of the House, Who He is, what He does. WBVN, its programming, music and concerts is about encouraging people, helping them to find the house where God is and about finding the God of the house in their lives. It’s about changing from knowing there is a God andarriving in their journey at the place of knowing the very nature and character of Our Father, not only discovering what He is to us but who we are to Him.

Mark Schultz-his 20th BVN concert!

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