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Newsletters

September Newsletter: Life Zoe

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“But 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.” Isaiah 40:31

Just prior to making this statement God had asked Israel, “Why would you complain, O Jacob, or whine, Israel, saying, ‘God has lost track of me.  He doesn’t care what happens to me’?  Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?  God doesn’t come and go.  God lasts!  He’s creator of all you can see or imagine.  He doesn’t get tired out.  He doesn’t pause to catch His breath.  He knows everything inside and out.  He energizes those that get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts, even young folks in their prime stumble and fall.  But those who wait (braid) upon God get fresh strength.  They spread their wings and soar like eagles.  They run and don’t get tired; they walk and don’t lag behind.” (The Message Bible) God’s chosen had come to believe God no longer cared, no longer listened, and they had grown tired and exhausted. Does that sound familiar?  The reference to ‘youth’ referred to the strongest- the ones prepared for the challenge -the best trained of all. They were referenced because they would have been selected ‘to run the race’ because of their ability to endure. But even the elite ran out of strength and grew weary significantly because they ran in their own ability, their natural strength. And today, as with Israel, we sometimes can feel the same way, we think God has abandoned us, left us all alone, abandoned us to do this all in our own strength.

From our experience, we know the most significant part of WBVN’s purpose is to encourage people in faith; to remind our listeners that when we received the new birth we were strong in the Lord and it seemed that nothing could take our vigor for the Christian Life away.  But with time it seems we all find ourselves ‘weary’; hoping for the return of that ‘first love’- longing for the invigorating, original experience of Christ.  With all the pressures and stresses of daily life we can become discouraged just like Israel did all those ages ago.

I think part of being ‘tired’ comes from the confusion between remembering the Good News is a person, not a religion. What was born one winter’s night in Bethlehem was both a Jewish boy and a new way to live, a way to live that had not been available since the earliest days of Adam. The Love of God was made flesh and His Love still pursues today. Religion is a formula: know the rules, keep the rules. Religious people declare they have the best religion in town because they are more disciplined than the other religious people down the street. After all, they have more rules than the others do and they strive harder to keep them. But what happened on that cold night in a manger was not the birth of a doctrine, or a formula for behavior modification, but a new kind of Life.

The Greek text separates the English word ‘life’ into two very distinct meanings: Bios-meaning manner of life and Zoe-meaning Life as the Father has it for you. To simply lump who we are in the one basket of earthly life is to miss the opportunity for the separate and unique power of God to be manifested inside this earthly experience.  To move on to a more obvious spiritual experience we’ll be required to recognize that Spiritual Life is given in Christ in order to dominate our biology.  The world reverses that Wisdom.  The world’s done a very good job convincing us we’re just a higher form of animal.  We’re Darwin’s pride and joy!  Most of our ‘rights to’ arguments are simply excuses to act out those simple ‘animal’ characteristics and demote any thought of us having any responsibility to either filter or modify our human behavior to a higher expression.  Jesus would dispute those ‘animal’ arguments with a great understanding of the human soul.  Jesus knew that inside we’re more than that.  The world sells us on how wretched we are and for us to expect to immerse ourselves in fleshly behavior.  The world’s agenda is opposed to discipline and especially opposes Christ’s expressed discipline.  Jesus says we can change that and experience Life as He would have it for us right in the middle of the wretchedness! The world says don’t change, in fact increase in those things that Jesus says are not healthy or wise.  Jesus says we are more than what the world says, the world offers little hope of change, just self indulgence, achievement or destruction.  The world refuses to recognize, and for the most part, psychologists oppose the idea that our biology is separate from a God given Life.   Bios is made up of what you do and what you don’t do. Religions of all kinds add and subtract from Bios, but it has nothing to do with Zoe (the Life of God).  With the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, Zoe swallowed up Bios (2 Cor. 5:4). Yet, religion keeps trying to convince us that all we need to do is modify Bios (flesh), selling us on the idea that doing that will produce Zoe (Life). When Jesus was born he was LifeHe was the narrow way that Scripture says few would find. (Math. 7:14)  Zoe was found in Christ. (John 1:4)  With His Life we would never hunger or thirst again. (John 6:35)  Profoundly, His Life is abundant, but for many reasons hard for us to embrace. (John 10:10) Jesus is the way, the truth and the Zoe. (John 14:6) This Life was in the Son. (1 John 5:11) Finding Him finds Life itself.  That in Him is an all fulfilling Life and that his Life causes our Bios to pass away and a new way of living would become obvious and present in us. (John 5:24) This Zoe, this ‘newness of Life’, is freely given to each of us by Christ. (Rev 21:6)  In Him, we can live, move and have our being; that’s a real thing, a possible thing.

Religion says change your behavior, change your Bios, and you will be like Jesus. Jesus said know who you are in Christ and your Bios will change and will be dominated with the entry of the Love of God inside you. He didn’t come to create a ‘Holy Bios’, more correctly, He came to create a Holy Life.  From the Message Bible: Galatians 3 says, ‘You crazy Galatians did someone put a hex on you?  Have you taken leave of your senses?  Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.  His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.  Let me put this question to you: How did your new Life begin?  Was it by working your heads off to please God?  Or, was it by responding to God’s Message to you?  Are you going to continue this craziness?  For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.  If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?…Does the God who lavishly provides you with His own presence, His Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do yourselves, does He do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust Him to do them in you?’

His purpose was not to simply change your manner of life, but rather to exchange your life (Bios) for His Life (Zoe).  Sure, there’s a bit of fear on our part that it won’t work.  Turning over our way of living to something we call the Sprit of God just is too risky.   It’s too unpredictable unless we master our behavior.  But, Jesus encouraged us, even more than that, demanded of us, to trust the Spirit; He encouraged us to watch the power of His Spirit change the way we think, the way we behave.  He described this Life as a Treasure hidden in earthen vessels. He is that Treasure and our ‘earthsuits’ are those vessels, nothing more. No matter how hard we try, our earthsuit will not become the Treasure!  It’s what’s inside the ‘pot’ that’s Precious, not the ‘pot’ itself. Christ in us is the hope of Glory. It’s not us changing us, its Zoe present in us; Him being Him through us.  This is Life (Zoe) eternal, that they might know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.’ (John 17:3)

With Christ’s birth Life came from the Creator and It knocked on the doors of our hearts asking to come into our earthly lives and live Heaven out in our hearts. His presence not only kindles afresh the opportunity to experience a new way of living in this world but also a way to experience things not of this world.

I’ve always loved the first verse of Isaiah 41: ‘Quiet down…listen!  Sit down and rest everyone.  Recover your strength.  Gather round Me.  Say what’s on your heart.  Together let’s decide what’s right.’ (The Message Bible)  From my perspective what I think God is suggesting is this: come let’s discuss these things and let me be the umpire, let me call the good and the bad, the valuable and the waste of time.  While hard, let me make this life easier by being a companion and partner in your journey.

These are tough times, but times have always been tough since the apple-tree problem. However, applying our own efforts and strength to fix that is not the solution.  Every generation of believers has been tested by the world around them and each must come to the knowing that Christ is both our remedy and our confidence.  Our ‘Father’ cannot faint and does not grow weary. And for those that grow faint, He gives power, and to them that grow weary He increases their strength. Zoe does that. The Hebrew word ‘wait’ in verse 31 of Isaiah 40 refers to ‘braiding’. If you take three strands of flax and braided them together you could produce a rope that becomes stronger than any single strand would be by itself. With this Zoe kind of Life we create a stronghold and braided with the Lord we are renewed. The tree of Zoe has been set in the garden of our lives as a source of the very Life of God. Religions everywhere celebrate their philosophy or their list of ordinances and ethics.  More than anything else, we celebrate a person: Jesus.

August Newsletter: Is He Worthy?

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God)

Let’s go back to Genesis for a bit and revisit something that is still playing out in our world today.  Then in the same breath we’ll end up in the Book of Revelation.  It’s a long trip for sure, but here we go.   All creation has always been based on separation and that separation is for one purpose: clarification.  God created separation to put room between two contrasting things in order to show their difference, to help make our choices obvious so that, consequently, they should be easier to make.   That clarification shows us Reality, or more specifically- The Way, The Truth and the Light.

Fact is, the first thing God did in Creation was to separate.  In the first words of Genesis, God created the heaven and the earth and divided them from one another.  He separated light from the darkness, separated the day and the night, divided the waters from the waters and created heaven, and then God separated the water from the dry land, created plants and then separated an animal kingdom out of the waters.   And finally, they said ‘let Us make man’ out of the dust of the earth and proceeded to separate man in the Creation of Adam and Eve.  He even divided man and woman again being made of Body, Soul and Spirit.  Later, God found it purposeful to separate the Tree of Good and Evil and set a second tree in the Garden and called it the Tree of Life.  Separation is God’s plan for clarification: contrasting one to express, or make obvious, the other.  In God’s desire for us to see clearly what was best, he made light and dark, good and evil, Love and hate, all recognizable by their proximity.  And again, God separated our Story into two testaments to clarify further the purpose of God.   And now, these thousands of years later we read of the necessity to ‘rightly divide the Word of God’ (2Tim. 2:15), once again to contrast and reveal.  Today, Jesus Christ is that dividing line; He is that clarification of the purpose and character of God.  Jesus came to reveal and to change our understanding of The Father.  As Jesus reminded, no one knows the Father but the Son. (Luke 10:22, John 1:18, John 6:46)  Jesus came with a final authority on the Character and Will of God.  That’s a short Genesis narrative, and now the Revelation look.

For emphasis here, I’d like to use the lyrics to the new Andrew Peterson song. 

That song’s suggestive of the Book of Revelation, chapter 5, where all of creation focuses on one point in time, one man, One Son.  Jesus is/was the greatest of all men, the good Master, the most Wise.   He alone stands as Worthy of all men.  He alone is set apart by God to be seen as Worthy.   Sparing no one- Abraham, Moses, David, all the prophets, and the best of the disciples-He alone is Worthy.  All the other men and women called of God were announcers, pointing to this one man who would be the Way, the only Way.  All those other people surely are in our Hall of Fame, but Jesus Christ exists as the single reference of Faith.  This is the one man that we can never over exaggerate, and almost all the things we say concerning him under exaggerate him.  Our confession, our Life purpose, should be to say and believe those things about Jesus Christ without reservation, without constriction, that the Father says about him.  Measuring him or what he has done by anything we hear or see in the earth is simply shrinking back from the very Creator of all things, shrinking the influence of the One that holds the whole thing together.

This quote’s from The Message Bible, Colossians Chapter 1: ‘We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.  We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.  For 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 was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.  And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together… He was supreme in the beginning—and leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end.’

‘His people’ were looking for a powerful King; what they got was a Lamb led to slaughter.  They didn’t recognize him because he didn’t come as they imagined.  However, He has done perfectly and exactly what He came to do.  Now the only question is (it’s the same one those people had to answer) what are we to do with Him?  That seems to be the most forgotten question in our journey.  Not simply what’s the world going to do about him, but simply what will we do with him individually.  He may have not, in his death, appeared to do so, but did this Jesus reconciled the whole cosmos to himself and reclaimed the Garden again for believers to walk and talk with God.  Is he alone worthy of such an accomplishment?

Look all around the world or scan the pages of history and no other man stands out as tried and true like this one does.  This is the Light of man, the Way, the one who offers all Truth to us.  He alone is the singular Hope for our futures, either on earth or after earth.  Simply let us trust in Him.  That’s the Gospel.  There will be no written test in the end, no required number of scriptures memorized, no hidden message that has not been revealed; the end will only find us Faithful to Who He was or unfaithful to all He was.  Who we say Jesus is challenges us each day to make Him the center of our belief system, the center of our Trust.   I’ve learned, at least from Jane’s and my experience, that knowing God’s more a matter of subtraction rather than addition.  By that I mean that the more I learn of Him the more I discover the simplicity of Him, the simple Love, the simple Hope.  Complications fall away, mysteries shrink, the accumulation of more and more facts and histories evaporate and I’m left with the simple: ‘Jesus Loves Me This I Know, because the Bible told me so.’

‘“I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One Seated on the Throne.  It was written on both sides, fastened with seven seals.  I also saw a powerful Angel, calling out in a voice like thunder, “Is there anyone who can open the scroll, who can break its seals?”  There was no one–no one in Heaven, no one on earth, no one from the underworld–able to break open the scroll and read it.  I wept and wept and wept that no one was found able to open the scroll, able to read it.  One of the Elders said, “Don’t weep.  Look- the Lion from Judah, the Root of David’s Tree has conquered.  He can open the scroll; can rip through the seven seals.”’ (Revelation Chapter 5)

Yes, there is but one worthy.   He is the one we call Christ, Lord, Savior, King.  The one with the only authority to say He’s the Son of God and at the same time be at home in our hearts.  He uniquely knows The Father and came specifically to share Him with us.

 

 

July Newsletter-Our Story

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”  (Malcom Muggeridge’s quote written some 40 years ago)

We’re some kind of people aren’t we?  Rot, perhaps that’s the word I’m looking for.  I don’t want to be too negative or morbid but then Rot is predictable.  Rust and rot is real in that everything is on the clock except the eternal.  Everything eventually comes, stays awhile and goes away.   And even though I look around and see this mess we call life, rather than being dismayed, I’m not surprised or discouraged by what I see.  Yes, it’s terrible, heartbreaking really, but being children of God, we need to pause long enough to get a grip and know that the King, actually the King of the cosmos, is not dead, is not silent, is not powerless even in times such as these.

Now, just suppose you’re setting out to convince the world that God is real and Jesus was who he said he was.  We get our guys together, have a meeting and decide this will be our story, this is how we’re going to go for it.

First, our team will be seen as strong in celebrating the physical beating, piercing, torture of our hero, our movement leader.  To the average observer we appear to be celebrating a great defeat, one that we somehow call a Victory.  For sure that death was a failure in the eyes of many then and still today, but somehow it’s a success to us.  This Christian hero is going to be put to death by the unredeemed world, the lost, and the corrupt.  In our story, we’ll make his execution a necessary thing in order for us to live.  Actually, in our story, he and we both must die in this deal.  We’re going to take that to the streets and get people to believe that.  Likely?  Well, add to that, rather than organizing a mob of us seeking  revenge for that killing, our leader orders us to forgive them who enforced that penalty.  On top of that we come up with this idea that our team will tell a glorious story of how this Roman killing of Jesus somehow fits perfectly into a greater plan by Father, Son and Spirit.  And for our logo, (after all, all causes have logos) we choose the cross, the actual killing machine, symbolic of a great suffering and injustice as a representation of our confidence and faith.  And, while it appears that the apostles looked for Jesus’ Second Coming immediately, today Christians still long and anticipate that event, are still looking for His return after 2000 years of waiting.  Amazingly, his death raised no army, no political revolt that succeeded.  His death was, from a Roman point of view, just another ‘one of those Jewish pretenders’ to their Caesar’s rule. Caesar, having been declared a god by the Roman powers, continued to rule and reign throughout Jesus’ ministry life and even after Jesus was gone.  (It’s ironic that today Jesus is referred to as Lord of all and Caesar is simply a footnote in history.)

Significantly, there was but a handful of followers left as is evidenced by the list of those attending at the crucifixion.  A few bored Roman guards ‘messin’ with the King of the Jews and a few women followers and John.  Probably had a few of those today’s types that just showed up to see the show.   Logically, there’s really no good story to tell here unless you get people to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.  That needs to be a big part of our deal that our leader died and came back to life; that would be BIG.   I mean, none of the other gods of that time or any other time claimed that unique story.   How would you like the odds of that circling the world, especially in a day without the technology to take it around the world?   And, let’s also do this the hard way, a way totally opposite of every other religion in the world.  Instead of telling people they can reach a certain level of spirituality and then maybe make it to their God, what if our story was that God came to us.  And instead of us sacrificing our lives, let’s tell them that God sacrificed His.  And add to that, instead of our all knowing God waiting until 2018 so that technology would  increase the chances of success, we start our story without television, without a book deal, without an interview on 60 Minutes, no Facebook, but just simply tell people our story.  Let’s do that from a desert, barren land and let’s use an enslaved people instead of the elite, the authorities.  How does that work for us?  Would that story likely go ’round the world?   And yet today we still hear that Story; hear His Name spoken and argued around the world.

Let’s try this, we tell people we have a Kingdom but our King has been killed by Roman guards, or more accurately, at the hands of all humanity.  And this: His Kingdom exists but we can’t show the people of the Kingdom, can’t take you to its capital, can’t show you its spokesman or its leader, but it’s a Kingdom just the same.  And as a part of our story, God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom where our God lives far away and somehow imposes His will upon His creation; rather our story says that God has set up his workshop right here on earth in the form of Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Christ in you.  How’s our story doing so far?  Do you think it’s likely to succeed?  What are the odds?  Would you like to buy stock in our deal?  Well it does succeed, and to have succeeded something miraculous must be required to have made it so.  Let’s see, maybe The Holy Ghost… Oh, my goodness, we have to add that to our story as well!  You get the picture.

God’s not un-aware of the condition of His creation.  Actually, He predicted it.  The good news is that the Kingdom of God is activated right in the middle of all the things that Malcom Muggeridge mentioned in that opening paragraph.  God doesn’t need a pristine environment to flourish, only a willing environment to work in.  Sometimes Kingdom of God works best in the worst of times, in the most upside down moments.  We should not be wringing our hands about tomorrow.  The apostle Paul, even while living in Rome, had a hope and a peace right in the middle of a culture as corrupt and divorced from the Love of God as ours.  God is not un-prepared or surprised by the world’s foolishness.  He has made a way for us to experience the exceptional inside the corrupt. According to His Word, we simply must admit that He is in us and we are in Him.

There’s a tilling, a churning, going on and should be going on when people separate themselves from the eternal offer of the Love of God.  The world is not teaching that there are consequences for our rejection of the Love of God.  And even more accurately, it actually embraces that rejection.   It should come as no surprise to believers that the world is spiraling into chaos.  The cultures, politics, religions of the world, its monetary policy are all being stressed.  That’s happened thousands of times before and simply continues again today.   I have hope even in all this disarray, all the harsh words, the divisions, someday it will come to the end and people will realize that all the earthly hope, its solutions and its promises of utopia created by the hand of man, will all be found lacking.   I’m hopeful that a re-discovery of the Grace of God will become a possible alternative to the wisdom of man and his foolishness.  This generation or the next may not come to their senses, but sometime in the future the world will hear the whisper of Grace again or it will perish.  It was in the bankruptcy of Rome that Christ came and set a fire in the hearts of a few men and women to take this message again throughout the world.  Sound impossible?  It is until you remember that a man, born of one of the poorest of places on earth, born at a time of no real public communication, born in the middle of male-child genocide, a man that never traveled more than a few miles from his home town, a man who had ‘no form nor comeliness; and when we saw him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.’ (Isa.53:3)  What could a man like that achieve?  That man, in a world just as lost as this one, that man changed the whole world.  I really believe that by His Spirit it can be changed by that same man again.  I’ll quote Malcolm again: ‘In the Holy Land today one is confronted on every hand with debris of the great Roman Empire and world order, which in Christ’s time seemed so strong, widespread and dominant.  Who would have foreseen in those days that the words of an obscure teacher in a remote outpost of the empire would provide the basis for a new and most glorious civilization?’  And, that happened in such a hopeless time, a world as hopeless as this present one.  The world was pregnant with the need for a New Life then; hopefully we’re becoming desperate for a New Life again.