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Newsletters

November Newsletter- Debbie’s picture

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I was looking at a photograph the other day of Debbie’s grandchildren that acts as the desktop background on her office computer.  It’s a photograph of a very young brother and sister; he embracing her, the ‘her’ is pre-occupied or at least focused on a tree leaf she is holding in her hand.  One is holding the other and the second is well, many things: not responding, not aware, not paying attention, could care less, and probably a lot more.  Staring at it, it struck me that that picture is a pretty good representation of the Gospel and man’s response to it.  God reaches for his creation, embraces, protects, cares, hopes, displays great Love, but His creation seems focused on something else, perhaps a thousand other things, and is pretty much entirely indifferent to the much bigger picture that’s going on between them and Him.

I think it doesn’t help that we’ve drawn our own image of god, created in our imagination for the most part, rather than actually knowing the intimacy of His presence in and around us.  Too much of the time, we’ve painted a picture of God using religious brushes and colors, building from traditions rather than revelations.  We compare and contrast the Gospel to all the other world’s religions and argue about who’s right, who’s wrong. We think the argument itself can win over others of different faiths or people of no faith at all.  And that atheist thing– it’s not real.  There’s no such thing.  What there is are people of different beliefs, but everyone still believes something.  Atheists simply have faith in not believing.  To not believe in the God of Israel, the Christ of the New Testament or any god is based on possessing just as much faith in not believing as Christians have in believing.  There’re no proofs for atheists any more than Christians can force a proof in their belief.  They and we trust in the unseen, interpreting and trusting in things that are convincing to each other but not to one another.  The very statement of ‘I don’t believe’ is in effect saying I have faith in something else.

To me, I boil believing down to a simple conclusion about Jesus Christ.  Jesus did not come to establish an alternative religion, a new morality or some streamlined ethical system.  He came, very simply, to deliver us from our old, stale and distorted current definition of God.  Our definition over time had become narrowed, too complex and had more than not turned the Love of God that was first declared in the Garden of Eden, into a God who had become pre-occupied with a judge’s bench rather than a redeemer-rescuer of people.  Simply, our vision of God had become smaller and smaller.  In fact by the time Jesus came, the concept of the God of Israel had come down to this:  the whole of the Jewish Messiah’s purpose was to simply overthrow Rome, set up an earthly kingdom of Jewish believers and get on with it.  That’s what was so devastating to Jesus’ followers – their hope became a lost cause right before their very eyes.  Not only had their so called leader been tried and killed but the rebellion against Roman rule had died as well.  At that point their image of the God of Israel had bottomed out. They were left leaderless and without hope of ever establishing the long hoped for political rule over Jerusalem.  They didn’t know that their essence of Jesus’ death was fake news.

From the very beginning, Jesus, rather than seeking a political victory or establishing a new ruling religious leadership, in Matthew 11:25-30 reveals exactly why He came: to reveal Him who takes on our heavy burdens and sets an easy yoke and gives rest to the weary.  The old ways had resulted (these are Jesus’ words, John 5:37-39) in the leaders not seeing God’s shape or hearing His voice; did not see who He was or what He was saying.  And, even though they searched and quoted the scripture, they failed to find the essence of the Words of Jesus.  Even then, with Jesus standing right there in the midst of them, they would not yield to his instruction and never learned or accepted the Life of God shared in Jesus’ Word of Life.  Amazingly we know from Scripture that before the foundation of the world Jesus Christ ‘was’.  And, that Jesus’ incarnation was tucked away in Scripture and indeed present from Genesis to Revelation.  Jesus came to give the final word about God.   He alone was the one given authority to show us the complete revealing of God the Father, Son and Spirit.

In that revealing, we find that God’s (Father, Son and Spirit) nature is centered on being a blessing God.  The first thing that Adam knew of God, the first thing he learned of God, is that ‘God blessed’, giving Adam dominion over all the things of His hand.  Something very similar happened in the parable attributable to the prodigal son.  If you remember, the prodigal son remembered his father!  That’s a very big and important part of the story.  He remembered what was true about his father.  He remembered his life would be so much better off at home with a father that loved him.  The son knew his dad intimately the whole time, but when he remembered who he was, only that remembering changed everything.  Jesus stepped into our world to remind us of who Dad is.  In some way, moving us away from what we were saying about Him before.  For sure, he stepped in to provide a way for the broken relationship between God and man to be restored.  He was a sacrifice for us, but additionally stepped in to reveal a God that Loved so much that He provided the mechanism of rescue through Christ Jesus.  Knowing that Dad, knowing Who is True, was designed to also reveal what is true.  We start out in the pig pen, wrongheaded, hardhearted and self-centered.  Jesus came to help us remember Who our Father is and place a robe of Grace on our lives.

Debbie’s picture of those two grandchildren is a picture of how it is much of the time, but it’s not a picture of how it has to be.  It’s a very aggressive move for God to step into our world.  That alone is a huge, incredibly profound thought.  Imagine God being concerned enough about all people to come and do some pro-active pursuing of, well, you.  And, I might even go so far as to suggest that if that history is true, you would think it would be almost impossible to ignore or dispute.  But guess what, for the most part that’s exactly what the world does.  Oh, we’ll take the time to argue about right and wrong, we’ll evaluate spiritual versus secular, and scream politics and religion.  We’ll have those conversations.  But, did the Son actually take on flesh and live among us?  That discussion, for the most part is off limits.  We’re rapidly moving to where it might even, if not already, be illegal to have a debate about such a thing.  Imagine if there was just a mustard seed of, a hint of, this story being true.  Wouldn’t you think there would just a grain of hope in men’s response?  Logically, surely you would hope men would be looking for that to be true.  Logically, you would think they’d be overjoyed at the thought.  Can you imagine if only a glimmer of this got into the heart of people.   You’d think that they’d rush to it, even pray for it to be real.  But, they do not.   Actually, because of the Lie of the anti-Christ and the darkness of men’s hearts, many, and seemingly the majority, are rooting for this to be false.  Can we imagine that being man’s most common response to this story?

Jesus suffered the most unjust moment ever imposed on an innocent person. He did that for the world (people) amazingly, and especially the kind of imperfect, violent world you and I so very well know.  Some are uncomfortable even thinking that people, human life or simply any scoundrel’s life, could mean that much to God.  An amazing story isn’t it?  One to grab our attention for sure.  Yet, here we sit, for the most part contemplating that leaf from a sweet-gum tree, oblivious to the hold, the tug, the embrace of God’s Great Grace.

October Newsletter-Jesus Life

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

‘Christianity has been reduced to a set of mental beliefs and recitation of facts. So, we study about God, we study about Jesus, we study about salvation. We reduce everything to a formula: Ten steps to overcome temptation, you know five ways to…four ways to have healing. What are we dealing with? The heart of what we’re talking about is that the Jesus who rose from the dead, ascended to the right Hand of the Father and has poured out the presence, the person, the Holy Spirit, Who is among us. He’s not merely alive as a fact to be used to prove something. He’s not merely alive so that we can pass an exam on the Resurrection; He’s alive in that He’s here and He’s now and Christianity is the religion, if you can call it that, of persons who are intimately connected with God, and talk to Him and hear Him and behold Him and He works in them, through them and by them. That’s Christianity!’ …Malcolm Smith

Tammy and I were talking the other day about artists: the paintings kind and music kind.  I mentioned that, in my opinion, with painting it’s not the hand it’s the eye, in music it’s not the voice it’s the ear.  I could have added to the conversation, in the Gospel it’s not the brain it’s the heart.  As believers it’s common and actually expected that we’ll have questions about our Gospel experience.  Everywhere Jesus went there were questions.  I believe it’s necessary to ‘hunger and thirst’ for more of God in order to: one- keep our Peace, two- to increase in the intimate relationship with His Spirit. Having questions is healthy and hopefully provoked by our hearts.  However, sometimes we simply ask questions that only our brains have any interest in.  Just prior to Jesus’ ascension, the disciples asked when would they see the kingdom?  What they were really asking was when will we see Israel’s kingdom replace Rome’s rule, when will the ancient promise of God’s Kingdom finally establish itself in their land.  What they didn’t understand was that wasn’t the reason Jesus came to earth or even why he chose them to be His people.  It was in some sense an illegal question.  That question came from their mind and had little to do with the Kingdom that Jesus was establishing.  As it goes, Jesus didn’t directly answer that question.  In fact, Jesus often routinely refused to answer ‘illegal’ questions; he simply answered the ones that should have been asked by those following him.  Many questions had, and still do, have to do with our Adamic nature (flesh) and little to do with the new nature that Christ was introducing.  C.S. Lewis pointed out that our questions to Jesus so much of the time are like asking him ‘is yellow square or round’ or ‘how many hours are there in a mile’.  Jesus’ answer concerning their kingdom question was: it’s not for you to know the time of that.  A few years ago I remember reading a quote, I don’t remember who said it, but it went like this: ‘… be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions.’  Someday, and hopefully before we die, we’ll come face to face in our own personal press conference with the Spirit of Christ.   When that happens, maybe we will put down our fleshy questions and began asking the profound.  At that time, we’ll have to embrace Faith and not try to overdose on unnecessary information about either the past or future.  In that moment, Christ will simply be our daily manna, meeting today’s needs and preparing us for any future by preparing us for the present.

Jesus came to enable us, to bridge the gap between earth and Heaven.  He didn’t come to prove He was God, simply, he came to rescue people.  His rescue not only provided an eternal way of living but also a way to experience God’s Kingdom right now.  His Kingdom was established to work within our every day toil, not blowing away the world physically but Heavenly.  His Kingdom is for this world but not from it, a gift to the world but the world for the most part rejects it.  This Kingdom of God is not about the world becoming perfect, it’s more about finding God in the middle of this imperfect one. The Spirit of God has specially come to rest upon our hearts and comfort us in all things.  Sometimes our Spiritual Life becomes like a visit to Graceland, an experience that charges us up for a few days but we almost immediately begin looking for another experience to respond to emotionally.  We become comfortable living from miracle to miracle with little of the true Comfort of God in our daily lives. Perhaps, we too easily refer to the blending of Heaven and earth as miracles rather than the natural meeting place between God and humanity.  I’m not saying we’re in error identifying events as miracles.  What I am saying is that we can expect those and even more, we can expect the subtle Comfort of God each day plus those miracle moments.  Only seeing Him in the glorious, in the spontaneous, I’m just not sure that’s the pattern of Life that Christ expected for us or provided for us.

The role of the Spirit is to guide us and, if we permit it, He can do that daily.  He’s a Lamp unto us every day not just some days.  If that’s not true seems to me we’re all in big trouble.  The church is designed to work with the Spirit not for the Spirit.  Many times I feel as though we think God gave us the gift of salvation and now expects us to go sell it to people.  But if you look at the life of Christ you see him following the Spirit, doing nothing apart from It.  Then and still today, it’s that relationship that’s powerful in people’s lives.  Jesus was in a relationship with the Spirit, with the Father, and that cooperation created the biblical results we see in His life and potentially in ours.  It can’t be that he was just simply God and walked around on earth doing ‘because I’m God’ things.  While he was fully earthly and fully Heavenly, Jesus still depended upon ‘seeing’ what the Father was doing in order to finish the task set before him.  Our lives can resemble that kind of dependency as well.   Many times I think we get in too big a hurry, become impatient, and simply set out on our own, doing things our way and then frantically calling for God’s blessing on our mess. (I did type that with a smile.  But there’s truth there I think.)

Our relationship with the Spirit has His watermark on it.  Some of our paper currency and in many antique postage stamps, if held up to the light, have a hidden watermark that can be seen.  It’s an image buried in the paper that identifies that item as real, authentic, not counterfeit.   It validates that money or stamp as official, authorized by a higher authority.  Believers are watermarked as well.  There’s an image hidden in us.  Something that authorizes and identifies our Faith.  That watermark’s revealed in the light of our purpose and deeds.  Historically, just prior to Jesus appearing in Earth, the Herod family took upon themselves the re-furbishing of the Jewish Temple for one reason and one reason only: to validate Herod’s claim to be the true king of the Jews.  After all, prophesy had promised for centuries that someday a King would come and restore Israel, establish the Jewish kingdom forever.  In Herod’s mind, by simply doing the things of the prophesy he would receive the reward of the prophesy, i.e. be king.  But there was no God there, no authority to be king.  No watermark to authenticate, only his fleshly activity to ‘show’ himself as king.  You can see why Jesus was a very real political threat to the Roman system because Jesus was the true Royal.  The Spirit of God rested upon his shoulders, guided him in all authority and watermarked him for us to see him as the one true Messiah.

On a trip to Colorado a few years back I was taking pictures inside an old gold mining shack.  The shack had one small glass window. As I was taking a picture of the mountain thru that window I noticed that when I moved closer to the window my vision of the landscape improve drastically.  By moving closer that red mountain took on the green of the cedars and the extraordinarily hue of blue sky.  Much the same, as we move closer to God’s purpose of rescuing us, His moving toward us to bless us, we begin to see even more of the His beauty; the full landscape of His Grace.  Simply, Christ came to be with us.  Stepped into our world to grab hands with us as we travel some 80-90 years.  The Bible gives us the story of our beginning, and also there, we can read of a precise end.  But the middle of our story is by invitation.  Will you come and step into His world as He once stepped into yours?  That’s the choice. We can wrestle with all this life’s experience seemingly alone (or at the best with a few companions) or we can step into a place provided for us by the Love of God, called the Kingdom of God, step into a place that eye has not seen nor have we ever imagined all that Father, Son and Spirit have prepared for us even now and in our future.

September Newsletter- CCM

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Celebrating over 27 Years of WBVN’s Contemporary Christian Music…  Contemporary Christian Music!  That’s the moniker we’ve hung our hat on for over 27 years now.  We’ve described how Keith Green, Phil Keaggy, and Randy Stonehill might be considered the founding fathers of CCM.  I’m OK with that, but let me add an asterisk and, at least with a smile, suggest another way to look at the purpose of the music we play.  It’s a short quote from Katharina Schütz Zell recorded almost 500 years ago.  Remember that Christian music has been discussed for such a long time, actually as far back as the Song of Moses.  Here’s Katharina’s statement:

‘God is glad when the craftsman at his bench, the maid at the sink, the farmer at the plough, the dresser at the vines, the mother at the cradle break forth in hymns of prayer, praise and instruction.’

Katharina was a convert during the Luther Reformation, wife of a priest, and pamphleteer with a highly intense concern for the spiritual life of, what we might call today, everyday folks. As a result she began to publish hymns in pamphlet form, thereby encouraging people to participate in a musical experience with God, not just on Sundays but every day of the week.  Martin Luther has been quoted as saying music was “a gift of God to be nurtured and used by man for his delight and edification, as a means for giving praise of the Creator, and as a vehicle for the proclamation of God’s Word.”  So maybe Keith, Phil and Randy will forgive us for looking back a little earlier for the early roots of that every day, ‘at the sink’ music which we trust holds an important place in believers’ lives.

It was for that very reason that we started this radio ministry all those year ago.  Music is relevant to people’s everyday lives and helps put them in contact with a stepped up Worship.  WBVN music can encourage and help all of us focus on Christ. Way to go Katharina!  And, thank you.  Simply put, WBVN is here to declare Good News, Superior News, to the daily grind of today’s world.  We’re here to give an alternative perspective of what the world systems have to offer.  That said, I’d like to ask you a question: do you think God is in trouble?  Is it possible He’s grown a little too old, maybe a bit tired, weary?  How ’bout He’s slowed down a bit or that all the pressure of the world’s problems have become just a little too much for Him to stay on top of.  Just can’t keep up with it anymore.  I mean, more people, more problems, more anger, and more unbelief.  Or, rather, are you one of those believers that in your heart knows that He’s perfectly OK and fully capable, and that image of that old gray-haired man of our imagination might be a bit off course.

WBVN came into being, was commissioned in my and Jane’s hearts and minds, to do one thing and one only: encourage the Body of Christ, the believing Church of Christ.  That’s all we’re about.  It’s all we intend to do.  We’re not about doctrine or denomination, that’s for you to work out individually.  We did not make a mental decision to do this ministry; it was a heart-felt, believed calling for us.  What we’ve discovered is this music is far better than the people that create it or those that produce it or even those of us that share it.  It has a Heavenly purpose, stepped up from the talent and skill of the people that deliver its message; sometimes it’s above a simple lyric or tune.  Worship, even in its lowest form, which this might be, is still a powerful tool chiseled by the Spirit of God.  Here’s why I make that statement.

I think God has built an optimism into the creation. Celebrating that optimism in song sustains optimism in us. No matter the amount of decay in our lives, a new shoot can come forward to bloom again, an infant tree appears, matures to bear fruit.  Over and over again we can see that patterned in the history of the Gospel.  Historically, this Word is seemingly always defeated and being passed off for dead.  Yet even today, a day of so much confusion and stress in our daily lives, the most obviously needed discussion that humans need to address continues to center on: is God dead or is God King of all.  For six thousand years we’re still debating that issue as though this was a brand new challenge.  It is not; this story has been repeated thousands of times over the history of mankind.

For my two cents’ worth, God, in His Wisdom, loaded this creation so that He wins, comes out on top, makes the final decision. I keep scratching my head trying to figure out, it’s crazy really, what makes humans applaud what seems like the best liars in our politics, the anti-heroes in our novels, movies and television.  What makes us so easily take innocent lives before birth, and defend that practice passionately.  What makes many so violent when they’re confronted by the foolishness of their arguments about taking those innocent lives.  Why does the creature hate Truth so much.  In spite of all that, God still overcomes evil with good, and even more importantly, the secular with the Spirit.  I’m relaxed about that, made up my mind about that.  Can’t be moved by what I see or hear about that.

As Katharina believed, professionals, maids, farmers, gardeners, mothers, fathers, all need ‘breaks’ of prayer, praise and instruction.  CCM plays a role in creating a perspective in a world that, left to its own, will debase rather than encourage.  There’s Wisdom in the 23 Proverb, ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.’  What we think about, how we think about it, is of primary importance.  Left to the world’s default, the heart of man drives man to negative conclusions.  With hymns and psalms, the world steps to a different beat and comes to different, more positive conclusions.  Universally, our perception of what we see, hear and believe clouds our vision of any present or future.  We’re instructed, not so much as a suggestion but as a necessity, to think on these things: whatever is True, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these. (Phil. 4:8)  (I think the shortcut to doing that might be to simply think on Jesus Christ, He’s all those mentioned.)

Someday (it’s happened over and over before) we’ll again run out of things to substitute for the One thing that’s real, The Gospel.  I don’t know when, or how, or where, but I’m undoubting that that will happen.  Or, I guess we really will come to an End.  God has rigged the table, stacked the deck in His favor.  That’s a measure of His Love for His creation rather than a domination over the creation.  He just will not let go of us, will not retreat in spite of our rejection.  We’ll run our course and then at the end of that, He’ll appear to us again.  If not physically then He’ll appear again at least in Spirit and Truth as has been done so many times past.  Just as Israel did, who was companioned with Him for thousands of years, the world will come to its end and Christ will appear to reset the priorities once again.  Again, if not in an appearing, at least in a new and fresh revealing.  At least this much is true, according to Scripture, even the last falling away has a glorious end and a triumphant beginning of something new.  Not something where God is diminished or defeated, but where He is made obvious.  I believe that, in spite of our individual wins and losses, the big picture shows us a glorious future separated from this current stress.  He is a strong, dynamic God, excited about you, and He definitely  has not grown too old or tired to be triumphant in the world and in you.

While super important, it’s not only our study that enlightens us about the Father.   Much of the time our heart attitude helps build a place for the Spirit of God to grow, develop and enhance our coming to know Him.  So, I’m saying that to cut a bit of a niche for Contemporary Christian Music in the Church today.  It’s not perfect, as though anything ever is, but it helps set a tone for our daily walk with Christ in this world.  It can build an environment of fertile soil for the seed of God’s Word to grow.  So as Katharina would say, sing along, at the sink, in the car, at work!  Maybe you could even help us encourage that singing along by helping us financially during our next WBVN Celebration on Sept 27, 28 and 29th.  Thank you for 27 great years!

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