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July Newsletter-Tomorrow

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In my previous newsletters I’ve emphasized how the Spirit of God is inside believers. I would also suggest, many times believers live like they question that a bit. We can easily assume that God must be called into our lives from far away in order to enter into our particular world or circumstances. Over the 30 plus years I’ve written these letters, if I had to pick out one theme that overlaid almost everything I say in them, it’s ‘God is with us’– not in another dimension. He doesn’t have to be whistled into ours. When Adam and Eve failed, the result was they lost their knowledge of Grace of God, of His Love. What was initially a wonderful grace experience between them and God became suspicious in their minds. Wandering around life without that Grace knowledge became mankind’s universal curse. Post-Eden searching for that specific knowledge is the journey each person is required to walk. However, God never gives up on us discovering He’s Love. God sent prophets, priests and kings and He placed evidence of Himself in the creation so that we might find Him. His desire is that all men find that knowledge of Grace. How else do you explain that the Creator of the cosmos sent His Son to be brutalized and killed and then sent The Comforter to stay in each believer’s heart. That’s pretty personal, pretty one on one.

While thinking about that Grace, and being aware of the Peace it brings, I was thinking about how that knowledge fits into our today, and especially into our tomorrow. The changes we see in our community, our culture and actually the whole world, create a tension between our Christ filled hearts, what we hope for and dream of, and the world systems. Believers’ hearts naturally oppose what we are seeing and hearing many times. In scripture, we’re encouraged to become as children about the Gospel because children actually, usually only see reality. Jesus himself, the wisest of all men, encouraged us to become such as that. Unfortunately, as children grow older they typically change into looking at the world as adults express it. Truth is, the Gospel is reality; the world’s system is sleight of hand, offering much it cannot deliver.

After walking around the earth for a few decades, I’m aware of the responsibility of Christians to be ‘salt of the earth’. We’re to be a shining light in a dark place, doing so by reflecting His radiance and not our own. We’re to share the Gospel and create a place for its expression to be life changing for others. Believers are to bring Hope where there is no Hope. That’s one of the purposes of the Church in the earth. Today and tomorrow, if the fields are really white for harvest, believers have a great opportunity to share the Love of God. Ours is to not match hate for hate, but bring Hope and Good News. The introduction of chaos, confusion, anxiety and rebellion takes its toll on all of us, both the ones creating it and the ones having to observe it. I once heard it said that our lives will be significantly different if we don’t simply evaluate it by what we see but more by how we see it. A world view in competition with the heart of God might be another way to say it. Christ in us is why believers have the ability to Hope in times like these. We are not to be overwhelmed by the world but have a confidence that Christ within us makes it possible to overcome a world of trouble. In the midst of that, we can Rest and, as I mentioned in a previous letter, pray. Author Eugene Peterson once wrote that ‘waiting in prayer is the disciplined refusal to act before God acts.’ Isaiah 40:31 says, ‘They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ You and I have heard that many times and each time I read it I’m reminded that to ‘wait upon’ in the original text refers to braiding (similar to a rope) ourselves with God. That word implies God adds and strengthens when we join with Him, in this case, in prayer. It’s interesting to notice that when Jesus was told of Lazarus’ death, he waited two more days before going to the site. Confidence in what the Father was doing might have created that response. With the pace of this world, waiting can be pretty tough and pretty out of step with what’s going on around us. However, if we look at the life of Jesus, instead of just simply showing up as adult Jesus and walking into Jerusalem and in a just a few hours permitting the leaders to crucify him, problem solved, Jesus actually waited until he saw what the Father was doing. It took 33 years to accomplish his purpose. For all those years, Jesus waited, trusted and believed.

It’s interesting to look back and see the similarity of the early scripture of the Old Testament and the New. Adam and Eve failed to believe God and the apple became a problem. Abraham did believe and it was counted unto him as righteousness. (Gen 15) Moses followed and led the Hebrews out of Egypt because he believed. Later he would not enter into the Promised Land because he and they doubted God’s promise to go in. Today, and tomorrow, we face that same kind of moment. Do we trust, do we hold steadfast because of the witness in our hearts, or get captured by the world system through their manipulation of our mind and imagination?

One of the things I have grown patient with over the years is not measuring the ‘ways of God’ by what’s going on around me. ‘Judge nothing before its time’ has been a catch phrase for me over the years. In reality, I can only get into a Peaceful place by having a perspective of what’s happening in God’s ‘cosmos’. What is going on in His Kingdom is not the same as what we see and hear, here. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, which had never been done before, no past experiences of that existed. Yet, Jesus did what is real in his world of influence right in the middle of our world of crisis. What we have seen and heard, sickness and war, for the past few years creates fear, division and some very hateful environments. I still have a confidence that as in the Lord’s Prayer (Mathew 6:1) someday ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’ will come to pass. Even as the world’s anti-Lord’s prayers manifest themselves, God’s dream for the earth is still active and true, no matter what we see and hear. The ‘birth pangs’ we currently see and hear are not unreal; they’re actually described in scripture, but they will eventually be destroyed. The Promise of the whole Word of God is that He is advancing toward a re-model; we’re on the road to that happening in some tomorrow. I’m reminded of a quote I heard years ago, ‘Prophecy is a history of the future.’ That’s interesting to think about, considering prophesies we’ve been given for our future. This is our bottom line. There is a voice that might be quiet and subtle but is louder than all the other voices we hear here on earth- the voice of the Father, Son and the Spirit speak and overshadow all other voices.

God is with us. We are not in this alone, we’re not ‘heavy lifting’ it all by ourselves. Ephesians 2:22 reminds us of the Spirit’s habitation, literally dwelling place, in believers’ hearts. With all the distractions, terror, fear, and aggressiveness we still can have Peace dwelling in our hearts because the Spirit of God lives there. Our task is to tap into that, let it dominate our daily lives; pause long enough to consider it. You can’t outlaw ‘indwelling’. I had minor surgery years ago and the doctor didn’t use stitches on the wound; his explanation was that with physical wounds such as that, they heal from the inside outward. The Spirit of Christ heals the same way; He’s in our hearts. That’s where our true healing comes from.

Andrew Peterson came out with a song we’ve rotated for about 3 years now: Is He Worthy? Andrew’s answer is ‘He Is’. It’s a reference back to the Book of Revelation. That question can find a place in our hearts to where we constantly answer, ‘He is’. As such He is worthy of our awe, our praise, our affection and worthy of our trust. Today and tomorrow, He is with us, does not forsake us, does not abandon or give up on His vision of our future. I often remember how Paul, in his writing prior to crucifixion referred to our Savior as Jesus Christ. After resurrection, Paul referred to him as Christ Jesus. Each was appropriate because Jesus Christ represents what man could do through God. Christ Jesus represents what God could do through man. That’s a nice gift package for us.

Taylor Mason

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June Newsletter- Two Trees

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These are interesting times for sure. Stressful times? For sure. Unusual? For sure. Frightening? Can be. As a society, here we challenge our country’s slogan: In God We Trust. We challenge biology/science and the Word of God defining male and female. So much of what is good gets painted as evil and many evil things are sold as good. Marriage becomes un-definable. Parenting becomes unwanted; politically, some describe parents as terrorists. Wisdom gets thrown out and is replaced by what the Bible colors as foolishness. God is dead is today’s whisper; it’s the quiet but intended motive heard in many of our movies, books, newscasts, political actions. That’s a lot on the table to deal with. Let me add one more concern. It’s something that’s caught my attention for awhile; in fact, I first wrote about it in a letter in 1996. Simply put, it might be questioned as ‘where’s the Gospel’, more directly where is Jesus in the Gospel. We have many persuasions simplifying that just doing good is the Gospel. All religions have that equation in some form or another. In our faith, the Gospel is not just about what is right, but Who is right. Jesus is the deal! He didn’t come just to create a good religion or a new culture– he came to save, deliver, redeem.

Let’s step back to the Garden of Eden. ‘…of every tree of the Garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you may not eat of it, for in that day you eat it, you will surely die.’ That was not prophesying a physical death but a spiritual one. Eve’s reasoning was, ‘the tree was good for food and it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise.’ Sounds a lot like the world’s thinking today. (Gen. 3:6)) (Thinking themselves wise they became fools.) There were two trees in the Garden: the tree of Life and the tree of Good and Evil. The tree of good and evil was actually just one tree. Adam and Eve were instructed to choose from one of those trees but not both. After the fall, God removed the Tree of Life so that they could not eat of it and live forever perpetuating their fallen state. Today, it seems so much of what ends up hurting us is clothed in the wrap of ‘good’. So much of the things opposed to God are couched in man’s own definitions of Right and Good words and deeds. Today we can make that same choice they did, separating ourselves from the Tree of Life, (Jesus is that tree. It was ‘planted’ in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we might have access to Life again.) The anti-Christ spirit is a happy camper when either our good or evil efforts keep us alienated from dependency upon the Father, Son and Spirit. And, just as in the past, the spirit of anti-Christ can whisper of doing good things, separating ourselves from Christ by depending upon what we call right in our own eyes to hold us up rather than the Trinity to sustain us. The finished product of that is self-righteousness matured. A rightness obtained by our definitions and effort, something Isaiah 64:6 (a post crucifixion scripture) prophesied was as filthy rags when laid up next to Christ’s gift of Righteousness. Our Righteousness, as with Abraham, comes from not being like God but being in awe of what God has done for us.

If we’re tempted to hand down a ‘social gospel’, where right and wrong are the definitive language of our Gospel, what tree is that? As believers, ours is not to live a life characterized by saying we are right and good, but a life that says He is Right and Good. Jesus said there was none Good but the Father. (Mark 10:18) The apostle Paul left little doubt: ‘being justified freely by His Grace…propitiation through His blood to declare His Righteousness for the remission of our sin…we conclude then that a man is justified by Faith without the deeds of the Law.’ (Romans 3:20) Trusting in Him will lead us to a more ethical and moral life than the culture’s definitions of right and wrong. Father, Son and Spirit are Good and their Spirit lives inside us; that Spirit can guide and lead us into what is good, by revealing what’s been placed in our hearts. What we will find there is defined in 1Cor. Chapter 13, ‘Love is…’ When we hear Their Voice, Love can be discovered and experienced, and it can pour out into other’s lives.

The Wisdom of God declares that there’s a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12) If we turn to only the tree of good and evil, or right and wrong, we will ourselves (and we will teach our children), to rely on the wrong source for real life. One tree gives us knowledge of right and wrong but the Tree of Life gives us a Life only the Father can give, unique only to Him.

Having an allegiance to something we think is true doesn’t guarantee it is The Truth. Jesus said he was the Truth, the Way and the Life. That’s the tree we’re to access and depend upon. He’s the One that provides all things pertaining to Life and Godliness. Today’s temptation is similar to the first temptation in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were not tempted away from God to do drugs or to immorality; they were lured away by the temptation of living lives independent of the Father, not trusting Him to meet their needs. They would be their own source of leading good lives. Simplified, theirs was a choice of living in His Kingdom or one they themselves created. The ability to define, to separate, between the two trees requires the partnership with The Spirit. There is no other way to distinguish and rightly divide one from the other without that Wisdom of God.

The Gospel is not simply a journey to find out what is right or wrong, good or evil. It’s not simply legislating good things. I remember years ago reading a quote from Chuck Colson given at a Promise Keepers meeting back in the 1990’s: ‘We think we’re going to win this culture back by our political movements. Now, political movements are important, we should all be involved in politics, fighting for the rights of the unborn and for justice in our country, and against some of the ridiculous, absurd things that are trying to be done in this country. We’ve got to be fighting for these politically. But, ultimately, nothing we do will make any difference unless it flows out of the Body of Christ. Men and women committed to one another…being precedes doing. We’ll never be able to accomplish anything in America until we are the people of God, then He will use us to the work because we will be the people of God.’ Colson’s simple advice was a life dependent upon Christ will make a difference in our home, our community, our state and our country. We do the things mentioned in that quote because we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice more than just our being right and wrong. Generally, people don’t always make a conscious decision to be independent of Him, yet we’re subtly moved toward a life that depends more upon our efforts than to trust in the sufficiency of His.

We need to be active in the political and cultural directions this country is taking. Being vocal and active is appropriate, vital. That said, my heart, my attitude, my hope, isn’t measured by simply the success of those efforts. My confidence is anchored in a trust that the Gospel is True. WBVN is a ministry of Grace, has been all of the 32 years of broadcasting. There are other focuses and concentrations in ministry that others are anointed to do, but for our ministry purposes in the Church, we point to Jesus’ works as our emphasis. Hopefully we present the Gospel of Reconciliation described in 2 Cor. 5:18. That’s why we quote: the power of God, the Life of God, is not to be found from the good or evil tree, it’s found in the Life of Christ. (Gal. 3:11) That God kind of Life is found in the knowledge of His Grace and Mercy, not only what is good or evil. In our present world, good can be evil and evil can be good. Saul, who became Paul, had a name change because of his revelation of the Gospel. As Saul he was the overseer, the authority, to enforce traditional Jewish good and evil in Jerusalem. On the road to Damascus, he discovered he was the chief sinner. (See Paul’s description in Phil. 3:6-9) Paul goes so far as to declare that if our righteousness came by the Law, Christ died in vain. (Gal. 2:19-21)

The spirit that persuades so much of the world now is one that does not believe there is evil, convincing the world generally that what is true in our own eyes is true. It doesn’t believe that anyone is evil-they just think differently….I have a set of porcelain monkeys that my grandfather gave me when I was a young boy. They were from his birthplace, England. They are named hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil. Today, they would be gods in many of the cultures of men.

For me, one of the most crushing things I see are people in positions of trust taking away childhood and peace from children, purposely doing so to meet the adult’s world view. Parenting is about giving our children the best chance to discover, not only the Gospel, but providing them to grow up in an environment of peace, happiness; becoming what God intended them to be from the foundation of the cosmos. Today, we think nothing of destroying children’s lives at age 10 on some selfish purpose, torching children’s futures. What would have been considered criminal just a few years ago is now considered by some as education. I have confidence that in the end, people who sting children’s lives, push catastrophe, will answer for that aggressive attitude.

We need a powerful Gospel in order to live peacefully in this present culture, actually it’s needed in every culture, all histories. That Peace is only associated with the Tree of Life: Christ Jesus. The Tree of Life was removed from the Garden of Eden and re-planted in the Garden of Gethsemane to be accessed once again from then until Jesus comes again.