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May Newsletter-Real Jesus

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Have you ever noticed the parallel that what the culture/the world system offers to its ‘believers’ are the same things the Gospel offers to its believers? It’s not really profound. That’s how this mess all started in the first place. Satan whispered into the ears of the first man and woman that they could be as gods and create their own way of living separated from God. It’s an old whisper that still echoes today. Success, happiness, comfort, and being pleased are thrown at us in almost every commercial and political promise. True purposed life, Joy, Peace, Rest come with the Gospel faith. The world’s ‘just around the corner’ talk of fountains of youth, seeking genetic perfections and eliminating diseases are declared as possible, they’re just on the horizon, or sometimes just an order or phone call away. Man-made eternal life is just over the next hill and man is well on their way to discovering it. What the Gospel promises, culture counterfeits into its own whispers. The spirit of anti-Christ efficiently mimics Truth, steals Truth’s vocabulary, shuffles the Gospel’s good and evil. The declaration today is that the Bible is a story of myth, implying God’s story evolutionized as man evolutionized. That creation happened randomly and the Christian Creator myth simply developed, not as the first thing but as a later thing. It identifies God as a crutch for those people that struggle with the realities of the world. Simply, man can create his own utopia, God not needed. Man can cure all things, can create peace, can give you, with his ability, anything that you desire. Its promise is a sweet existence after we get rid of God. God’s promise is an eternal existence, those are not the same. We can live as long, exist as long, as medicine will provide, but man cannot ever offer eternal life, life everlasting. Only Jesus can do that.

Jesus came to give us Himself, a changed life that only He can give– nothing else can. Technology, information, and manmade solutions can’t give us what Jesus can give: relationship. Friends on Facebook, large bank accounts, titles, and…..can’t duplicate what Christ brings to our lives. At the current stage of events, one of the biggest hurdles for culture seems to be that Christianity and Jewish cultures stand in the way of a grand new day, a new order, a worry and carefree life that is just around the corner. Happy is going global. Those two religious groups seem to be the target for those that, on the whole, proclaim tolerance and love yet somehow avoid applying either to these two religious persuasions.

As we see and experience the world stage, our focus is required to become even more in focus. Honing in on Jesus, who he is and what he does, has become the most central daily ‘check off’ as we awaken to us each day. As we take our first deep breath to step into the world man prepares for us, a first thing to address is: Jesus is real! You can believe whatever you believe about this life and its purpose but your opinion will not affect the fact that through Jesus, a Kingdom has come that’s more real than your profession of reality. He rules, He reigns even if the world news each day doesn’t seem to support that. What the world thinks about Him will not overpower His ability to change people’s heart and lives of whosoever will.

Jesus is fact and he doesn’t need us to make it true or make it so! Fact, Jesus changes lives no matter the world’s response. The world over, people are looking for Peace, Hope and Healing. Christ gives those. The world tries to give them through logic and reasoning, Jesus gives them through the Spirit. Jesus gives the original versions, and the world can only hand out counterfeits.

Significantly, our believing doesn’t empower Him. He is power, period. He’s holding all things together. (Colossians 1) He’s not dependent on whether we endorse Him or not. Wars and rumor of wars, gas prices, cultural upheaval, while appearing to dominate and grab our attention generally distract from one simple truth: the world system is not going to destroy or get rid of Him. He can’t be silenced, won’t be ruled out, can’t lock Him away- can’t be snatched out of our hearts. He is not puzzled, worried, or discouraged about this creation; He knows the end and has voiced that to us for our comfort. Jesus put a quest in each of us. It’s a knowing that we are made for a better life than the one we typically are experiencing. The secular world gives us formulas for that through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1John2:16). It has its belief system, the Gospel offers another. Jesus gives us Faith, Hope and Love through our spiritual hearts.

As I’ve written so many times before, part of that focus is to realize, and especially accept, that He is with us. That’s not just a scripture in Isaiah but a truth underlined with His resurrection. No matter our circumstances, He is in believers’ hearts. And, most importantly, He’s not just in the room with us observing our daily deeds; He’s in the middle of our mess and actively participating with us. Jesus didn’t just become flesh and then entered into the world, mission accomplished. He went further than even that, the actual purpose of doing that was to eventually enter into you. Jesus’ simple message to us is ‘see me’. Let me share who the Father and Spirit are and I will whisper that to you each day.

One of the most pleasing and valued things that has happened in the 32 years of ministry at WBVN has been the relationships we experienced with our listeners, our concert attendees, many artists and many artist agency folks. I think, as one of the primary purposes of Jesus coming to us, sharing with us and experiencing the rejection of us, was to introduce us to what we were intended, as being His creation, to experience some things similar to the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. Hoping for us to experience and discover personal and caring relationships with Him and with others. No matter what the future holds, this ministry has experienced those kind of relationships with you and they will always be imprinted in our hearts. What makes man’s creation on the 6th day of Genesis special and separated from all other life created was the unique ability to communicate and care about others.

Ok, so we’re on a scavenger hunt for all the things the world dangles in front of us. We search for what largely seems unattainable but is just a promise away if we will just continue to pursue the world system. Most fascinating is that the original whisper of Eden was to draw away from the reality and promises of God and replace them with the promises of men. Satan’s voice suggested come over here and we, you and I, can work this out ourselves. God is holding out on you and in our efforts we can do so much better. In the temptation of Jesus: to turn stones into bread, use your power over the angels, look at all you see; all that can be yours simply in our efforts and abilities, you have the power to do it apart from ‘your Father’. (Matthew and Luke 4:4)

Truth was then and the Truth is now that the Father, the Son and the Spirit has already done what we are trying to do ourselves. Adam and Eve’s problem was in not recognizing who God really was and what He had provided for them in that garden. They did not recognize God’s gift to them. That can be true for us today, misunderstanding that it’s in God’s purpose and gift that we should experience more to this life than simple existence. Eternal life begins with simply seeing Jesus and recognizing what He has done for whosoever believes.

God’s gifts are universal in the sense that what he offers is available and relevant to rich or poor. All classes of people receive Him. People of all countries and cultures have been changed by Him. All ages can respond to Him. Common to all of His creatures is the quest of knowing and being known by God. He fills, and what He fills, He seals into a personal unbroken relationship, un-separatable.

I started this letter mentioning the similarities between the Life God offers to us and those offered, in contrast with God, by ignorant darkness. God, has from the beginning, divided His creation in such ways as to contrast and illustrate the wisdom of choosing Him as our source of real Life versus any other. Life began in Genesis with choices. There were two trees, one of good and evil and another a tree of Life, a choice of listening to a Loving God or a death salesman, a tempter spirit. Day and night were separated. Adam and Eve were given a choice between Life as the Father would have it for them and life that leads to chaos and spiritual death. Life is always made up of choices characterized by separation for clarity as to which choice is wise. I think the word choose is used some 25 times in the scripture written by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. Most frequently quoted in verse 30:19 referencing Life and death, Blessing and cursing. In the New Testament, a reference is made to the Word of God being a Sword able to divide and separate the soul and spirit. Simply, it identifies the road to choose in following Him. The New Testament obligates to another division with two choices, boils down to saying yes or no to the Christ. Choosing which one is our responsibility. Choosing Him each day is our journey.

Phil Joel

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April Newsletter- Above Ability

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C.S. Lewis once said: ‘If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite Joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.’ I suppose we could express it as the need to evaluate what the world offers and compare those to love, peace, joy, freedom, and everlasting life. You can’t get those just anywhere; they’re only available in knowing Christ. That knowing is personal, not simply a logical opinion thing, but absorption has to take place. What exists about God externally needs to be applied inside us.

It’s been said that we are souls carrying around a body, emphasizing the priority of our souls over the flesh. If we are willing, it is our souls that are changed day by day and reflect the image of Christ we all hope for. It’s our souls that must become unsatisfied with the present life and seek a change. It’s our souls that long for something to fill the holes in our lives. Matthew 5:48 refers to being perfect. How many of us are going to pass that test? Actually, that scripture actually focuses on the process of saving the soul to the point of moving into completeness of God’s divine purpose in each of our lives. The Christian journey is about discovering the path that permits us to express the Spirit of Christ into other people’s lives. Bottom line, it’s our insides that can know God, our hearts. Once Christ is absorbed then the Life inside a believer can be expressed externally as Christ to those around us.

It’s not a rational, mental argument that takes place in our lives that creates Faith in Christ. I have seen the logical presented expertly and I’ve seen very intelligent and mature people, kind people, just walk away from that. The Spirit doesn’t change our minds, the Spirit changes our hearts. John 8:32 refers to a Truth that will be known and make us free, but it’s not an intellectual conversion, it’s an intimate, personal experience. It’s a bit more than just seeing a billboard and saying I agree with that. The Gospel is meant to be consumed–more about that later in this letter. It’s Jesus’ words finding a dwelling place. That requires that our hearts be open to and penetrated by the Holy Spirit of God. Belief cannot be willed; it must come from the heart. (Gal. 2:20, Eph 3:16, 1Cor. 3:16) Love and Faith are not logically attainable, they’re heart driven. When we accept Christ into our lives The Spirit dwells in our heart, not our brain. A relationship with Christ is personal; it’s much more than a cultural movement. (I’ve often wondered in my brain, which is greater- a culture that passes laws and gets the people to follow those or is the greater wonder the Spirit’s ability to change a heart. One forces behavior to change, the other changes the whole person: body, soul and spirit.)

It’s interesting reading scriptures that refer to the Pharisees’ behavior during crucifixion week. Those verses show people witnessing great deeds and powerful words. Jesus attempted to convince them of the presence of their long awaited Messiah, yet they opposed Him. They, like so much of the world today, couldn’t see or hear the obvious. Messiah giving wise advice and doing things no other man had ever done, and yet the Pharisees’ brains simply could not comprehend. Their eyes and ears were working, but they were blind and deaf in their hearts.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” in another verse, “I am the resurrection.” He stated that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. He’s referred to as the True Vine. He’s the Bread of Life. He’s described as the Door and uniquely called ‘the Good Shepherd’. In John 8:12, he’s declared the Light of Life. He is Living Water. Even simplifying it further, when asked by the women at the well if he was the Messiah, he tells us, ‘I am he.’ (We should always notice that the article ‘the’ used in biblical text always sets the expression as unique and exclusive to the subject of that conversation. It’s associated to the English word absolute. When ‘the’ is used it emphatically means he is the only one that is ‘the’.)

I wrote earlier of the necessity of having to consume the Gospel, not just observe and intellectually agree with it. Jesus tried to make that a pretty simple, natural process for us. As referenced above, he talked of being the bread, light, living water, and a communion of bread and wine; all are pretty common understandable examples of the necessity of Christ in our lives. We need daily bread to survive, we thirst, and we hunger. Eating of, drinking in, consuming Jesus’ Life was one of his best ways to illustrate the significance of choosing his teachings and burying them in our heart. All the above references require that the external has to be consumed internally to receive its benefit. The Gospel is the same. Christ lives within us, not simply around us.

Life is made up and explained in scripture using two Greek words: bio (we refer to that as biology) and zoe (life to the full, God-filled life). All bio life needs light. Plants die without it, men stumble like a blind man without it. Adam and Eve’s dying referenced in Genesis was not a physical death but a soulish one. Their dying occurred when they stepped into the darkness or simply the ignorance of God’s Love and Care. They believed a lie, stepped into foolishness about the Father and began a journey that man still takes today. Jesus came to bring Light to that ignorance and show the Truth to God’s creation once again. He came to up-root the Garden of Eden mistake.

Today, as with the Pharisees, opposition to Christ brings about a crisis. Proverbs 8:35, ‘those who find me find Life.’ (The reciprocal of that is simply the opposite of that scripture, without Jesus we will not find Life.) How do we do that Life? The closest thing I’ve been able to say that expresses the answer is simply to develop an attitude that we can’t do that, only the Spirit can do that. I have some friends and acquaintances that are not convinced the Spirit will do that. And some are afraid that He might. It’s similar to giving up control. Since we were crying in our cribs, we’ve been enticed to remain in control of every detail of our lives. The Gospel, to be experienced to the full, requires leaving a gap in our life for God to fill that gap. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. Sometimes we can ask for God to do things that might not be wise or appropriate, and we do that ‘in Jesus name’ but in our hearts it’s really asking in our name. Our prayers sometimes can be an architectural blue print of our plans and purpose rather than His. The promises of God for rest, freedom, joy, and peace are found in His plans, His reality more than in our own. My Prayer is to live life above my ability; to experience things that I cannot find on my own without God’s fingerprints on them.

It boils down to, can we know God? Jesus answered that in a conversation with Phillip. (John 14:8-9) The word for know that Phillip used was a Greek word related to seeing God. Jesus answered using the Greek word ginosko, meaning experiencing Him. According to Jesus words, The Father actually can be made known to us by seeing Christ Jesus, and experiencing Christ Life. Jesus indicated that he and the Father were One. To see one was to see the other. Jesus was the exact image of God. Observe his life, consume his words, and we experience the Father. Jesus came to do a remodel. He came to re-do the effect Adam had on our world. His effort to accomplish that is recorded in the way we express his purpose: re-deem, re-new, re-birth, re-create, doing that in our hearts.

HAPPY EASTER! HE IS RISEN!