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January Newsletter-Horse & 2 Burrows

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Jas 1:17

I have a horse and two burros. Duke, Jenny and Baby. Why I have two burros and a horse is one of the frequent questions I get from people. Over the years, that question’s actually rattled around in my brain as well. That’s especially true when it’s cold and icy-snowy-wet and the only reason at all I have to go outside and leave my wood burning stove is to hay that trio of animals. Every time I go to the barn they make all kinds of ‘happy’ noise (if you’ve ever heard two excited burros bray you know what I mean), so excited about the ‘feed’ that’s going to happen. They really don’t add anything positive by way of paying their way. They don’t jump up in my lap and watch TV with me. Duke will never win the purse at the race track. My burros are hardly beasts of burden. All three really don’t do anything but add a burden to my life. Truthfully, they haven’t had anyone ride them in a dozen years, so really they don’t have a practical application at our place. But standing in the barn loft, pitching hay one sloppy Saturday of about 20 degrees, it occurred to me what I enjoyed most about the moment, what gave value to them, was simply the pleasure of caring for and about them. I get to do that; I do that voluntarily, independently of their ‘worthlessness’. (You know where I’m going, don’t you?)

Now this is where it gets a bit goofy because many times I see little things like this through the prism of the Gospel. I recently had a conversation with a friend who was expressing the depth of emotion she experienced having lost her dog. I think what makes us care so deeply for pets, family, country is simply the presence of God in the world, or better said in people’s lives. Through the experiences of caring in our human relationships, whether friends, family, pets, trees, we in turn experience some of the God Kind of Love, some of the ways He, His Son and The Spirit experience with their creation. We actually learn more about Him in those moments. It may even be that it’s not the things we care for that are special; perhaps it’s God permitting us to experience the way He cares that’s special. Letting us see how He sees is a gift. The emotions we feel, the joy, the tears, the terrible and the wonderful, all are met with emotions and faith originally provided by the Father. He rushes into our calamity and embraces; He smiles and cheers with us in our great moments.

‘We are not alone.’ We sometimes say those words without the deep commitment they should imply. Being with us is a very strong promise by the Creator not to leave us to ourselves. He is with us, He is in us, and He is around us. God’s world is not a place that has holes in it where He’s not present. In fact, Colossians Chapter 1 emphasizes that it’s necessary for God to be with us: ‘For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels- everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.’ He holds all things together. (John 1:3) Simply, without Him nothing exists. The KJV says ‘by Him all things consist.’ In the original text, the word consist means ‘to stand near’. If He were not with us this whole thing would fly apart into infinity, having come from dust it would return back to dust. He spoke and the dust formed all of creation. All existence, everything that is, is only possible because of His presence.

According to Scripture, no one is completely qualified as good. Jesus emphasized only One is good. (Math. 19-17) Or, specifically, no-thing, man or any other thing is good. In our case, His good must rub off onto us for anything we do (or anything we are) to be considered good. By definition, good is measurable and attributable only to God. It has no human source but is formed and placed on the human heart by the Father Himself. Our hearts can reveal Him, express His heart, but they’re not uniquely good by themselves. In fact, according to Scripture, the simple human heart is full of evil, easily moved away from Him. Any good is Him and any of our goodness simply by being human is only attributable to the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives. (Again, James 1:17) Any good that’s exposed in our lives should be reflected back to the Father rather than absorbed by us. Our good is a light reflecting back on Him, not a sign of how wonderful we are. It’s not your ownership of good but your borrowing of good.

When we look over the crib and see our child for the first time we generally bond immediately; we’re seeing that child through His eyes and not our own. When that happens it’s the spirit of God that’s influencing you. And, just as that child has done nothing to deserve our response (we still Love it deeply), similarly the Father’s Love is set toward us. What we experience in the birth of a child, the love of a spouse, our family ties, the appreciation of a sunset, a deep blue sky, a starry night, yes, and the affection for our pets are His fingerprints in our lives that gift those experiences to us. When people say that there’s no proof that God exists, I see His evidence in each kindness, each occurrence of caring and compassion seen in our daily experiences. Our ability to experience the emotional, loving experiences is, in effect, testimony to Him. Even the occurrence of the terrible and the awful doesn’t prove there’s no God, they simply reinforce our inescapable need of Him. Man’s cruelty to man doesn’t prove the absence of God. Rather it confirms the nature of a creature that refuses to yield to the Spirit of God, the God of Peace present around them.

Because that horse and those burros are glad to be around me, excited that I’m a part of their lives, that in turn produces in me the freedom to care about, relate, and share moments with them. Even though they’re relatively useless, a waste of time, hopelessly unproductive, I still have a desire, after many years, to care for all three. That’s the kind of relationship God wants us to experience with Him; He likes being in our daily lives, wants to relate, care for us. And, even though we’re less than we should be to justify that care, God’s still glad to be a part. He likes caring for us in spite of us. Father, Son and Spirit are glad to have us around, eager to spend time with us. God’s attraction to having a relationship with us, in turn, permits us to freely relate, share and trust Him. Trusting Him creates a freedom to relax, to enter into the Rest that Jesus encouraged us to find. Yielded to that comfort, (and we don’t do that that much, or that often) we discover that the things we’ve worked so hard to create using our ability are in reality His gift to us. When I get out in the cold winter, the heat of summer, or go to the financial expense of keeping those animals, similarly, God is stepping into our world and voluntarily offering to meet your needs, and He enjoys every minute of it. It’s up to us to figure out how to enjoy every minute with Him.

My mother passed away in 2018. It’s too complex to express how the deaths of my father and mother emotionally affected my life. At each funeral I took a moment to dig deep into my heart to try and understand the presence of both sadness and peace. Sadness for the obvious reasons and the peace, well, I found it comforting just knowing and experiencing the gift of their love having been shared with me. In some way, the sadness was created by the very knowledge of having loved them. But at the same time knowing that love, in a more profound way, created the peace. Confusing? Let me say it like this. To have had God provide a flood of appreciation, to emotionally be gripped with such a thanksgiving for the two people that not only gave me life but provided an environment of character and grace. Their giving me the best chance of experiencing ‘Life’ caused tears of sadness and at the same time tears of joy. To experience the sadness of love also reinforces the value of having loved. Sometimes I feel like I’ve cheated at life by having experienced so many wonderful things simply because my parents gave me a strong example of how to discover those things. Those moments contained gifts that God placed in my heart to see the world from His perspective. The appreciation of all they had done and been to me was an immeasurable gift. Our compassion is not self-made but Him-created. I’ve often told people, those two days were the worst days of my life and the best days of my life.

God made us the kind of creature we are and empowered us to discover, through our experiences, the world He experiences. To see how He sees, to hear how He hears, to know how He Loves. The price of love is worth the cost of it. Profoundly, that’s exactly what the Father, Son and Spirit determined before the foundation of the world. That’s the kind of Love, the motivation that caused God to anoint the Son to come and die for us. He did that ‘for the joy set before them.’ (Heb. 12:2) That’s a God kind of Love, the good gift, that’s only available for us from above.

NewSong/Mac Powell/Citizen Way

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December Newletter-Birth

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It’s Christmas on the radio. This is our thirtieth Christmas on the radio at WBVN. It’s been interesting to me to go back and hear some of the early songs and programs and think about how much of a role they’ve played in the past and the role they continue to play now and what role they may play in the future. I just finished playing a song on the air that we started rotating back in our first year, 1990. Actually, I just pulled it to play because it perfectly timed out the programming so that when it ended Dr. Dobson could begin at its assigned time. Maybe it was just that simple, or maybe it was more important than that. You see, we’ve played thousands of songs since those early days. It’s always been interesting how a message given in music thirty years ago can still bury itself in our hearts all those years later, still be so relevant today. Take just a minute and read the lyric to David Mullen’s song ‘Hang My Head and Cry’. (cd: Revival, 1989)

I make my money, I take my pay
No time for family, no time to pray
And it comes as no big wonder that I’m suffering defeat…

I’m gonna hang my head and cry
For the times I’ve lived a lie
And cry, Father, forgive me
For I know just what I do

I take offense at the world (but I) take no stand
One man against the tide can never heal this land
Meanwhile liberty’s been wounded and justice is abused

I’m gonna hang my head and cry
For the part I’ve played in the lie
And cry, Father, forgive me
For I know just what I do

It’s time to put away the things of a child
‘Cause for too long I’ve neglected the things that are worthwhile
In my heart, my home, my world
Shape me with Your hands
Lord, make this boy Your man

Want more from livin’ than just living for today
Want more from sacrifice than just tithing to a plate
Wanna be more than healthy
More than wealthy or just wise
I wanna see the hunger in the third world’s eyes
And not write it off and wrap it up
In Christian talk and guise
Don’t let me become the man that I say that I despise
I wanna hang my head and cry

They call that a ‘golden oldie’ but I think it may just be golden. As we come to the end of 2019, I’m reminded of the thousands of messages we’ve shared for all the years and have plans to continue sharing as long as we possibly can. As we have the pleasure of celebrating our thirtieth Christmas I’m reminded of the privilege of having shared the same message the angels shouted at the birth of Christ, peace on earth, goodwill toward men. And, while scholars debate on the actual date of His birth, December 25th brings with it a Hallelujah sufficient for all time no matter what day we have chosen to celebrate His birth. It’s interesting to think about the actual day of Christ’s birth. Because shepherds and sheep are associated with it, we know the logical time would be a Bethlehem spring because that’s when the normal ‘lambing’ would be taking place and the shepherds would be guarding their sheep. By looking back at the ancient census schedules, and knowing Joseph and Mary (with child) were traveling to register for the census, most biblical historians place the actual year of Christ’s birth between 4 and 1 BC. Herod died between 4 and 1 BC and his declaration to kill all two years olds had to come very close to his own historical death date. Plus, the census was never taken during the harsh weather of winter time. That points us to more of a spring or summer event. Also interesting is the fact that the planets, Venus and Jupiter, lined up in the night sky in 2 BC, causing some people to point out that alignment was likely to have been the bright star that guided the wise men. Lastly, the Jewish New Year begins in spring (March-April) not in January, likely Christ birth coincided with the new life of Spring.

So, if December 25th is it for you, great and let’s celebrate! If you like a little mystery to the actual date of Christ’s birth, have at it. It really doesn’t matter so much as long as we celebrate the one birth that actually changed the way we date history (BC/AD) and changes our world one life at a time.

Another interesting thing about Christ’s birth is that He had a birth at all. I’m sure an angel could have helicoptered Him in undercover of some starless night, but no– human birth was the vehicle for delivering the Savior of the world. After 3 years teaching, that angel could just as easily have picked Him up in the same manner. But, no, there was teaching even in the event of His birth. (You know there’s a story there for me to bring that up don’t you? Well I don’t have room to tell it here, and anyway it’s a story that I would have to swipe from one Zola Levitt and his teaching ‘For Unto Us’. Search it.) Let me condense it to just a few thoughts. Zola, a Messianic Jew, uses the 8 festivals of the Jewish tradition to teach about the wonder of human birth, every human birth, and how the pattern of the human gestation is in sync with the 8 festivals: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and Chanukah. Zola teaches each through the eyes of a physician in this order: Egg, fertilization, implantation, new creature, hearing, blood, lungs, and birth. A short example, Unleavened Bread must be within 24 hours of Passover (fertilization takes place within 24 hours). First Fruits must take place within 7 days of Passover; implantation in the mother’s womb must be accomplished with in that same time span. Jumping to birth date, Chanukah, a celebration of new beginnings, comes exactly 280 days after Passover or approximately 9 months. It’s interesting to follow the festival scripted dates and the maturity scheduled dates of childbirth. It will take you every bit of 29 minutes to get the details and his video is much more interesting than if I were to attempt to type it.

I’ll close with the way most people close letters this time of year, Merry Christmas to you all. Merry Christmas to you in every possible way to celebrate the importance of that birth. As David Mullen says in his lyric, I want more from living than just living for today. I want more from sacrifice than just tithing to a plate. I want to be more than healthy, more that wealthy or wise. I want to see hunger in the third world’s eye and not just write it off in Christian talk and guise. I don’t want to become the man I say I despise. I hang my head in compassion, I want to experience the depth of feeling and knowing and seeing the world as Christ sees and experiences it. All of those wishes are only available because of the birth of our Christ we celebrate this December 25th. Blessing!