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October Newsletter-Culture

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Culture (While writing this letter I thought of how it reminds me of a car battery. I start out touching the negative terminal and end up clamping on to the positive terminal. Here we go.)
‘Education is the soul of society as it passes from one generation to another… Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.’ (British Christian author G.K Chesterton 1874-1936)

It is likely that: ‘…it is improbable that Jesus would have been permitted to be born at all. Mary’s pregnancy, in poor circumstances, and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived as a result of the intervention of the Holy Ghost would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Thus our generation, needing a Savior more, perhaps, than any that ever existed, would be too humane to allow one (a Savior) to be born; too enlightened to permit the Light of the World to shine in a darkness that grows ever more oppressive.’ (Malcolm Muggeridge, in Seeing Through The Eye, 2005)

The image we paint of God in our minds is a big deal; in some ways it can be a deal breaker. How we perceive Him affects every thought, idea, word, prayer, sharing and our own consciousness of God. Everything hinges, first of all, upon our own definition of who He is. Sometimes, the concepts we grow in our minds (imagination) covers over what our heart’s message to us is. If not careful, we can plaster our own image of God over Jesus’ declared image. We can see Him in the context of ‘how He must be’ rather than accepting the Jesus definition of Who He is. We can bake in fears, guilt, even our weaknesses and use the logic of those truths about ourselves to transform our own thinking about Him. We simply are guilty of what psychologists define as projection, in this case, attributing our own characteristics as His characteristics. If we are angry, He must be angry! If we are compassionate about something, surely He feels the same way. I try and stay aware of this: whatever you believe about, whatever you say about God, you will have to sell it to God, face to face, in the next life. He will, I’m sure, be listening very intently.

Today, to remain calm and peaceful in this world, we must believe that the Father behind our Gospel is incredibly trustworthy. We’re to be assured that His Love is bigger than anything this world can deal out to us. That He will sort out all things in ways we can’t even imagine. We, many times, are trying to use human-sized brains in a God-sized reality. That He can comfort us until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God!

There’s something about free will on earth that makes us victims of the free will of others. It’s the source of evil in the world, and evil does have consequences, even for innocent victims. Sometimes people bear a disproportionate weight of that pain. Jesus was motivated by his vision of the end of his story, his earthly journey wasn’t comfortable or pleasant. When Christ was crucified on that Cross, only one disciple was present, only one loyal. All the others looked at Jesus’ killing as the end and they disappeared. They disregarded all that had taken place for 33 years. Miracles, words, relationships, purposes, all were abandoned. Jesus was dead. Realistically, it took a miracle resurrection to spark new life. And today, a day that looks pretty disheartening much of the time, Jesus still has a word to be spoken, another redemption coming. Someday, Jesus will get the last word on everyone and everything. That just hasn’t happened yet.

Negative post: The headlines today are suggestive of endorsing what can be called ‘strange-therapy’ for grade school children, on issues that have never been raised before in human history, raised by this culture alone. We justify abortion for full term babies and ‘righteous’ lawlessness now is superior to actual law. Just imagine that in the context of the next generation, let alone this one. To me personally, what we’re willing to subject our children to, what we do to them in the name of human progress identifies the true reality of this culture’s heart; nothing screams louder of destroying human life than what is being forced upon our kids. You tell me, do you think it is possible that in today’s world morality can become, by current worldly standards, immorality? Is that happening? It was G.K. Chesterton who suggested that a society that gives in to the fiction of using politics to define our words/vocabulary will end up not being able to define anything. It feels like much of the things the world promotes today as progress is regressing back into ancient ideas rather than real progress, ethically and politically; recapturing the heart of Cain and Abel, not Jesus’ heart. It appears to be more of a backward journey than a growth in intellect or the human heart. (In point of fact, even stepping aside from the biblical arguments, killing babies is kind of a pagan idea, yet every time it’s defended as one of the highest humanitarian motives that are common to every generation that practices it.)

Perhaps these are special times, but they’re very much like the Old Testament cultures as well. The only difference: the Life of Jesus. That’s the ‘game changer’ that no other pre-cross people possessed. For me personally, Jesus is what makes mankind human. I don’t think sharing God with the world through fear will ever win people away from their blinded hearts and lead them to His heart. Notice, Jesus didn’t do anything like that when he was here. He stayed in one relatively small area; sharing with those God had given him to share with. That was efficient enough (through the Spirit) to create a worldwide Faith. Those that can rest in His Love and be confident in His work are in the best place to present the Gospel to others around them.
I was talking to someone the other day about the original language used in Genesis 1. How Elohim (God) used currently existing materials when He created Earth and all that followed. He took a place/material that had become VOID and He re-designed it. If you will, He redeemed it. That was the first thing he did in creation, it’s what He did with the Cross and it’s still what He does today.

Of course the world would hate Jesus! He taught Peace, taught of inner Joy, not retail joy. His teaching creates the experience of a natural-beautiful ‘high’ from knowing the Father and Spirit, not the substitute highs the cultures offer. Today, as back then, the blinded heart yells crucify him: Jesus, who healed, raised the dead, set people free, preached love not hate.

Following Jesus does not save us from the chaos of a broken creation. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that the sun and rain comes upon the just and the unjust. God’s goodness and the world’s chaos fall on those who follow him and those who don’t. The difference between the two is His presence in our lives, His blessing allows us to navigate the chaos and allow his glory to be more fully formed in us.

I once read someone’s writing, I don’t remember whose: When the night begins to surround us, it’s easy to chase after the dimming, fading light hoping to catch it. Think of trying to do that with a sunset. You can pursue the sun westward all you want, but you’ll never catch it. The fastest way through the darkness is to turn east and run toward the rising sun (Son) you can’t see yet. Jesus is the one that can show us how to do that in the middle of our darkest moments.

Positive post: Believers are encouraged with a few simple truths from the heart of God: Fear not, be of good cheer, don’t be anxious and comfort one another. What are we to do given the realities of what the Church currently faces? In Galatians 6-9 Paul encourages us not to grow weary (literally, lose courage, lose heart in trials and evils). That may not be easy but it’s our Good News remedy ‘in Jesus Name.’ Hebrews 12-2: …looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ That Joy is defined as ‘calm delight.’ Jesus looked past the present suffering, the disappointments and stared at the future which was coming at the appropriate time and season. We all have a future, as a believer it’s a future bracketed by Hope. With His resurrection, He gave us the ability to do that each moment as well…..I have a simple expression about Faith: What I can’t change, I can, in Christ, overcome.

I’m going to repeat this comment three times, once in each of the next three newsletters. Don’t get discouraged; don’t be like the disciples that ran away leaving one with Jesus on crucifixion day. Luke 18:8… when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Will we be celebrating or wrapped in fear?

David Leonard

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September Newsletter-McDonald

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Occasionally, someone will ask me: historically, where do you think we are? There’s no exact answer to that as no one possesses the timetable of God. I do believe in scriptural seasons. And, there’s a super argument for this being ‘the season’ that’s been prophesied and anticipated for thousands of years. (One thing I do know is it’s my and your last generation so we can live it with that in mind each day.) For me personally, knowing the exact moment is not what stabilizes my daily Christian walk. What does cause me to stand firm is a simple expression found in Luke 21:9 (paraphrased) ‘Don’t panic or give into fear, these thing are bound to happen, but the end is not immediate.’ I’m not always watching or using what I’m seeing as a calculator of what is real in our big picture called Faith. Example, what did it look like when our King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to be killed? It wasn’t going well for his band of believers at that moment. It looked like Jesus’ message was done, cut off, finished. Roman rule then was very similar to rulers in the world now; then and now, not very comforting times for the Christian faithful. Back then their world was characterized by the humiliation of Jesus. Roman rule guarded against suspicions and required guards at the tomb to guarantee no shenanigans. At that time, His followers were considered terrorists by the Romans. And the embalming, the tomb, and Jesus’ criminal public death married stress and doubt. For many reasons it looked to be the worst of seasons for believers. The humiliation of Jesus continues today.

One of the whimsical expressions I’ve used before in these letters is one a friend stated to me over 40 years ago, ‘You can’t snow the snowman.’ It stuck in my mind years ago and it’s a phrase that plays a big role in my life today. I think that’s the case because he followed with this statement: ‘Because He knows all about snow.’ In a worldly sense – you can fool folks, camouflage the realities of the world system, but in the long run, you can’t snow the Creator of the world. God is not in Heaven pacing the floor, rubbing His hands together in uncertainty, He is confident, He’s sitting; a pose that translates He is at Peace. He is not distressed; He knows the future and very importantly, how to bring it about. He knows much more than what may be being expressed in front of our eyes. We have a tendency to focus on the magician on the world stage and look amazed. He knows the magician’s tricks and He’s not impressed.

I think my personal stability about ‘today’ is expressed pretty well in Psalm 2. (It was written around 1044 B.C.) It’s not necessary that this prophecy be about today specifically, however it does express the behind the curtain reality of God’s certainty very well.

‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break God’s bands asunder, and cast away God’s cords from us.
He that sits in the heavens shall laugh (I think defined in this case, mock or scorn): the Lord shall have them in derision (in the original language, have them speaking unintelligently, stammering).’

Eugene Peterson in his The Message Bible paraphrases it like this: ‘Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, the God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah. Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first He’s amused at their presumption…’ Psalm 2 is as relevant today as the day it was written 3000 years ago. In Jesus’ time the Roman Empire ruled, had dreams of world domination; today that empire is gone. Personally, I have no delusions about how this will all turn out. We are to follow scripture: ‘do not embrace worry.’ That’s not to say I don’t see the obvious, the drama being played out before my eyes. I just know that behind the curtain of the world stage is God in Heaven that observes the kings of the earth and their counseling and scheming to cast God away. The world plots, snickers, glees in its self-centeredness, boasts in its hatefulness. Doing that, it has the same assured results as before: chaos and curse. You just can’t snow the snowman. Many times I know we don’t act like it but God is present everywhere. He holds all things together; if He was not present, it would fly apart and be destroyed (Col. 1:15-17). It would be as void as Genesis 1:1

Maybe we’ll correct the wrongs of today or perhaps we will not. One thing we do know, God, in every generation of men has, and always will, accomplish His purpose no matter what it looks like. My overwhelming confidence is in Him doing that today as well. Luke 21 is a pretty earth crushing picture of someone’s culture. Some attribute it to referencing Jerusalem’s fall in 70 AD and others stamp it on today. I do think that the latter part of that scripture describes the past but likely whispers of a future manifestation of Messiah.

Some folks mention, why so positive in your BVN letters in the middle of such a negative moment in our country and in the world? Again, the letters here are about Gospel/New Life living and not a cultural statement. Plenty can be written about and should be done on the subject of our culture and norms. The subjects of our education system and media might take a few hundred pages to address in themselves. As for me, I think the media is the most guilty, empowering evil as good and good as evil. They’re enabling things that we might normally reject, making them the norm.

That said, WBVN’s thirty-two year journey has been to center in on Christ, to share His love and to focus on the Gospel. There are many great speakers and writers better at discussions about the cultural experience that we’re all having in these unique times. I mentioned at a recent concert, WBVN didn’t come to be successful, it came to share Hope. Seeing all that’s going on in the earth, being aware of its catastrophic effect on our lives, and most importantly our children’s lives, doesn’t pull our focus to the magician standing on the stage. We continue to look backstage to the Director of Grace and trust in Him.

I had a conversation recently with my friend Mike Middleton. The subject was how many faithful, having to deal so much of the worldly systems, are just simply fatigued. However, we should remember there are many believers still confident. There’s a different reality to those that choose Him. I always enjoyed reading the following quote from author George McDonald. It settles me down, gives confidence in the Heart of God and it re-establishes the embrace that I understand each and every day from the God of the Cosmos.

‘Nearly all of them (theologians) represent him as a great King on a grand throne, thinking how grand he is, and making it the business of his being and the end of his universe to keep up his glory, wielding the bolts of a Jupiter against them that take his name in vain. They would not allow this, but follow out what they say, and it comes much to this. Brothers, have you found our king? There he is, kissing little children and saying they are like God. There he is at table with the head of a fisherman lying on his bosom, and somewhat heavy at heart that even he, the beloved disciple, cannot yet understand him well. The simplest peasant who loves his children and his sheep were… a true type of our God beside that monstrosity of a monarch.’ (George MacDonald from “The Child In The Midst” in Unspoken Sermons)

That God, His Gospel, is that personal, that caring, that present, right here, right now.

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