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Newsletters

November Newsletter: Stress

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Nice world we find ourselves a part of, right? Feeling great about the political, the financial, and the health? Got it all together, right? Saying all the right things, showing people all the right expressions, livin’ the good life. I was having lunch with a friend the other day and much of our conversation was about the amount of stress that seems each family, community, the country and the world has to deal with. And, whether we want to admit it or not, we’re little suited to handle all that by ourselves. We were always intended to share those burdens by partnering with the Savior, our God, to manage through our life experiences. I think we’re all capable of telling each other ‘you don’t know what I go through each day.’ We need to remember those people we meet each day, on the inside, are probably saying the same thing. I told someone the other day we could do better at learning to respect other people’s lives whether we agree with them on issues or not. In fact, Jesus implied that the true measure of respect is to give respect to those we don’t agree with. Respect is, in some sense, to be given to or purposely bestowed on those who oppose us. (Mathew 5:44, Luke 6:28/33)

There was a day of max-stress, a stress like no other person had faced before- Jesus’ crucifixion. In the context of that moment, we come to what would be the last temptation of Jesus as Satan whispers (mixing that whisper with iron nails, lashings, thorns, blood and pain) ‘Finally, I win; you’re alone.’ It’s a whisper suggesting The Father had come only so far with Jesus, and now had abandoned the moment leaving the Son of God alone and beaten. Stressed! Whispers of ‘give up, despair, die, death is your reward for three years of ministry’! Whispers that God might have been the God of Abraham, but surely not the God of Jesus. Imagine, suggesting that the person that had worshiped God more appropriately than any man was now left by himself and defeated. This whisper suggests that Jesus had come to the place of carrying more than he could bear. (Psalm 22) The truth was, God was never more near. Never did Jesus, though apparently not being able to see or hear from God, draw on Him more. Jesus could and did trust. “My God, My God” was not a cry of desperation but of confidence referencing the Psalm that Jesus adopted for that moment declaring glory, not defeat. Everyone standing there didn’t misunderstand when they heard those words. They had heard the 22nd Psalm from childhood. Jesus quickened those present to the truth in his heart and soul by leading their minds into the next Psalm (23rd). (Actually, there’s no separation of those psalms in the original text.) The last words of Jesus were from knowing the victory of Faith found in that Psalm.

From his first and last words, Jesus’ confidence was not based on information but from having a relationship. He was not living from what he had heard about the Father, he was living by what he knew about the Father. That’s the same kind of ‘bright light’ conversion that revealed Christ to Saul, in Paul’s words, Christ revealing himself inside Paul. Saul was blind on the inside and God revealed himself to Paul in that dark place.

If we’re not careful, we can have a lot of information about God but very little if any relationship. We can have conversations about God and do that without ever knowing Him. We can have opinions without a personal relationship. Isaiah 50 declares, (to paraphrase) “Who’s granted you a divorce from Me, who has sold you off, who can diminish this work of the Redeemer?” Religious doctrine can be an attempt at relationship without the submission to the real thing. Information about God won’t hold us up while under great pressure. Jesus came to reveal that relationship to us; to confirm that the Spirit had come to impart that same relationship to us. By His Spirit we can know what Jesus knows, not in our brains but in our souls. The Holy Spirit of God is specifically poured out on flesh in order to make Him known. That’s the Gospel. The Gospel is not a lawyerly presentation of information we’re supposed to accumulate about God. Rather, it’s the witness that what God has said and done about us is true. We have a tendency in our efforts and fleshly natures to try and gain the whole world ‘in Jesus name’. Jesus said what good would it do to have everything but miss the most important thing: Him. We have a relationship with the Father because we’re in Christ. We don’t build our own relationship with God based on our good works; we can participate in Jesus and his works by His Grace, sharing in Their relationship.

Jesus establishes relationship with us on His own terms. The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to create a relationship but to reveal one. The Father is satisfied and impressed with Jesus’ works. By being in Their circle, we can enter into His Rest. We can come to know we’re gathered with Him, in Him, Him in us, by His workings. We discover that Jesus moves mountains, turns water into wine and heals bodies and hearts. He does that and He does that even if we have the faith of a mustard seed. The Gospel is ours to unfold and unpack, to discover what He’s established through Christ Jesus. In some sense, the Gospel is not a simple invitation, although we have to volunteer to participate, but it is more a declaration of Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. There’s an old saying- God can draw a straight line using a crooked stick. Believers are not perfect, but God using us, even while broken, makes things new, makes things perfect regardless.

When it’s the darkest, when God seems the farthest away from us, will we cry out My God with a confidence that He will catch us, embrace us? Will we be convinced He will touch our hearts and calm our fears, bring comfort to our souls? Jesus’ life could not have looked, felt or been any worse than at that crucifixion. At that moment there were two things, both present at the same time: the pressure sufficient enough for Jesus to ask, “Can this cup be passed from me?” and at the same time the Faith of “nevertheless Thy will be done.” In these times with their intensity of emotions, we don’t have to be overwhelmed in this present darkness. It’s easy to praise Him on the milk and honey days. Will we praise Him in the dungeons of Peter and Paul’s prisons?

Much of our Faith is simply discovering that the word God means (as Jesus expressed it) – Father! When our worldly cultures asked God to leave the room will we panic? The Gospel is: He is the same always; there’s no shadow or turning, no matter what it looks, sounds or feels like. We must come to know He is ever present with us. As pressure grows, some days crying out emotionally, ‘My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me,” in our hearts, we will know that our only true hope is to do exactly as Jesus did on the Cross– commend our spirits to a Loving God. In little and in much we are a blessed people. The Truth is this: the Lord is our Shepherd, we will not want. He will provide a place of Peace in a place where Peace may be hard to find, even in the tough times, the hard times, He will restore our confidence in Him. He will guide us away from stuff and lead us in the direction of His Wisdom. He will lead us to the best places. Though we always walk in the nearness of death, we do not have to fear because He has overcome fear and death. He comforts us even now, even in this. He prepares Rest for us even in the presence of our enemies, anoints us with Himself. Surely, surely! Goodness and Mercy companions us each day and we will dwell with God in this very place, even today! That’s the continuation of ‘My God, My God.’ Jesus wanted those present at His crucifixion. He wants us to be reminded of Psalm 23 today.

October Newsletter: Confirm

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

CS Lewis: 
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,
but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be
a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man
who says he is a poached egg — a madman or something worse. You can shut him up
for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his
feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing
nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to
us. He did not intend to.”

Sometimes I have to take an inventory of my thinking and redirect my brain if you will, realign the process by which I remain steadfast about Faith.  We must remember that from its very beginning this Message has always looked like a failure in process:  we suggest a virgin birth, a criminal’s death for our leader and add to that Jesus being raised from the dead.  That can be a tough sell.

The Bible, which was written over a period of 4000 years by dozens of authors, is composed into, what we believe to be, a living document.  Certainly, it takes the Spirit of God to convince anyone of such stories.  And there are Spiritual reasons to believe God that defy words to explain, however, they’re not included here. 
Here, simply are ‘types’ of things that lead us, show us the way to Him, confirm Him, and celebrate Him.   Each will be brief and I’d encourage further reading. 

I’ll begin in 2Samuel with what I’ll call the Blood Points in King David’s Temple.  2Samuel was written approximately 900 years before Christ, 900 years before any Roman symbols of death were practiced (i.e., a killing cross).   Scripture has us enter the Temple at the Brazen altar and the laver.  Sacrifice and washings are at the entry into that Temple and our Gospel, the blood of the cross and baptism welcomes our way into the Life of Christ.  On each side of the Temple is: 1-the candlestick and 2-table of showbread.  At the upper end of the temple was the Holy Place.  If you lay a cross (the Roman invention of capital punishment) down on the temple diagram you will find Christ’s cross lays specifically on the points where blood was shed on our behalf:  At the altar and laver, the nails driven into Christ feet, at the location of candlestick and showbread, the nails in His hands and at the Holy Place, the blood from His crown of thorns.  That cross lays down within that temple and prophesies the way to our future Messiah’s crucifixion.  Again, a Roman symbol unassociated with the time of King David described and pre-configured for us in the structure of the Temple hundreds of years before its physical manifestation.

(The first sacrifice was performed by God, the shedding of the blood of an animal, to cover (put skin on) Adam and Eve to hide their shame.  Jesus shed his blood to cover us, to hide us in Him.  A truth that was revealed in His last sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 10.) 

Another thing that intrigues is this consistency – One God with 3 unique functions, three persons, one God: Father, Son and Spirit.  It’s reinforced by these interesting characteristics.  The Seraphim cry Holy, Holy, Holy three times (Isa. 6:3)(Rev. 4:8)  Three times a blessing is given in Num. 6:23-26.  Three persons appear to Abraham, Abraham referring to them as three and at the same time as one (Lord) (Gen. 18:2).  We have three anointings: Prophet, Priest and King.  In Gen. 1:13 we have the earth raised up out of the water on the third day, symbolic of the later resurrection of Christ. There’s Jonah’s three day fish story.  Jesus rose on the third day, was crucified at the third hour, and for three hours darkness fell on the earth.  We have the Spirit, the water and the blood.  We have the good Shepherd, the great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd of John, Hebrews and Peter.  Progressively, we have faith, hope and love.  We are presented as body, soul and spirit.  The divine seal of covenant with Abraham was three 3- year-old animals (Gen 15).  Again, the Temple was made up of the outer court, inner court and holy place.  Temptation is summarized by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  God’s word was corrupted three times by Eve’s confession:  leaving out ‘freely’ in Genesis verse 2:16, making God less bountiful than He really was.  In verse 17 she added ‘neither shall you touch it’ making God more severe than He was, and in verse 3:17 she altered God’s character by changing surely to ‘lest you die,’ thus weakening the certainty of God.  Jesus was tempted by the Devil three times, each time stating accurately and specifically, ‘it is written,’ contrasting the Fall incident of Genesis. The book of Revelation is bracketed into that which was, is, and is to come.  The number of superior imperfection is symbolically given as 6-6-6.  Jesus appeared three times after His resurrection.  Jesus had a 3 year ministry.  The number three is always indicative of completeness and entirety.  It’s profound that a 4000 year old document written concisely by roughly 35 authors writing hundreds of years apart is amazingly held together.  In our story, imagine 35 people’s good idea would be to write that kind of document.  Were they really hearing from God or only hoping that some 4000 years later you would find a dude to volunteer to be crucified by the Romans?  That He would present himself for that killing and declare himself as Son of God.  And that as proof he was that Son, he would promise to reappear, alive, after his burial.  As the quote from C.S. Lewis suggests: lunatic or Son of God, no in-between!  

Here’s another thing with big implications to our Story: the re-naming of Abram.   Abram was a moon worshiper in the Chaldees.  He had no assignment from any god to do anything except provide for his family.  However, this very old man was spoken to by our God and was told his future descendants would be numbered as the stars.  Abram was re-named Abraham (Abram plus exhaled breath) re-named by God (the ancient tradition was not to say God’s name but to use the exhaled breath as a human expression of God).  Symbolic of God and man combined in action.  Similarly, the first thing Adam was given was breath, a foretelling of God with us/in us.  Just as God breathed on Adam and he became a spirit man, God joined with Abram-ham (breath) to carry His message, father the faithful, and partner in ministry with and through man.

Also to be considered is the possibility that a rag-tag group of local fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor and the chief persecutor of the early Christ movement were chosen to carry the Message.  It would not be endorsed by the ones chosen from early on in scripture, the Hebrews/Pharisees.  It was not endorsed by the ruling governing Roman Empire.  But common men and women were to pick it up and share it around the world for another 2000 years to be believed, acted on and died for.

Lastly, I’m always stunned with the unique, precise nature of the Creation.  It takes a different kind of faith to be an atheist and believe in unguided chance for the wonders we see on this one planet.  Earth has perfect temperatures for life, the perfect tilt and distance from the sun, the precise and on time rotation of the solar sky, the perfect atmosphere, the oceans and earth’s crust.   Consider: our atmosphere is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and .03% carbon dioxide.  Nitrogen is inactive for the most part or we would have oceans full of acid.  Argon is inactive.  The amount of oxygen is 2 times more than any other occurring atmospheres.  And the carbon dioxide, which is the most active of all, is yet perfectly set at .03%.  There’s never been found in any other planet a permanent supply of liquid water.  It’s a rare commodity.  While 27% of the earth is land, water dominates the planet.  The average depth of the oceans is 12,500 feet.  Land averages 2750 feet above sea level.  If you leveled the land masses and filled in the oceans with the dirt, the oceans would still average 8000 feet deep with no land above. Oh, lucky us that everything worked out so precisely, all that by unguided chance!   Truly, the sun, the moon, every star must run in its own created orbit, must run on time or all things would be thrown out of order. Have you ever read about ‘continental drift’ that seems to still be occurring?  It could very likely be that there was once one large land mass, broken apart in the flood and drifting in the oceans still today.  Psalm 19:1 speaks of El (Creator) and verse 7 of Jehovah (Spoken Word).  God is not only revealed by His Words but also by His works. (Rom. 1:20).  Psalm 147:4 declares that God calls the stars by name and we still call them those names today. (Job 9:9, Job 38:31)  Job 26:7 declares the earth is suspended over nothing.  Isa 40:22 defines the earth as a circle (or more literally correct a sphere); and that was a long time before telescopes, observatories and satellite cameras. 

And finally on my list, and probably the most profound of all, is the change in a person’s heart that you and I both have witnessed.  These are changes that we really cannot explain by suggesting some simple adjustment of their will.   How can you explain when a person does not just change their way of talking but makes a real difference in demeanor, attitude and compassion where no compassion existed before?   You may not see that every time, and yes, you may witness someone that says the right things but does not confirm their words.  However, many times you and I have seen people that simply are not the same people they once were.  

September Newsletter-Bookmark

Posted on by RadioStaff Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

One of my many flaws is how weak I am about buying books.  I just had one land on my desk this morning. I literally have hundreds of books on shelves, in boxes, in the closet, stacked on my desk, and some have migrated to my office shelves.  Most of them have bookmarks in them because I have a hard time finishing a book before I go out and buy a different one.  I recently bought three books that I’m reading all at the same time.  However, it’s the bookmarks I want to talk about.  Bookmarks tell us where we’re at in a book so we don’t have to rely on our memory.  I don’t have many ‘authorized’ or ‘certified’ bookmarks.  I inherited that from my mother who had the knack of using little everyday items for bookmarks: maybe a newspaper clipping, a business card, pictures, birthday cards, or postcards from places she’d visited.  An old concert ticket is one of my favorites.

Thinking about the Gospel this past week I was reminded of how much our lives are like a novel.  We all have an introduction and the end.  We live our journey much like we read a book, a page at a time.  We move through joyful moments into some sadness sometimes and back again.  We can remember the past and we know what’s on the page today but we don’t have the ability to know the future in our unique novel.  In our lives we may be on page 103 and we won’t know what happens on page 104 until we get there.  A really good novel carries us through a lengthy process of discovery.  We read them hoping we can’t figure out what happens next so that our interest remains in the book, keeps us coming back for more.  I thought, given the condition of the culture and the Church, it would be good to look for the bookmark of where we are along the timeline of this Story, the big novel we each live in.

Being in radio ministry, rarely, but occasionally, people will ask me if I think we’re near the ‘end of the age’.  And while, like a good novel, no one can really know the future, we all tend to guess at the meaning of today and tomorrow.  I must admit –and remember this is just me speculating– I’m not so sure that we’re not at a tipping point on the human time line.  By that I mean the culture (just choose any of them you please) seems to be set on crucifying Jesus again.  Crucified this time, not as a sacrifice for Sin, but rather motivated by hate, jealousy or greed for power over other people’s lives.  To know what page we’re on, where to place the bookmark, it might be useful to look for patterns of the past.

For me, ‘the end of the age’ has many meanings, many references.  Noah represented an end of the age.  Noah actually represents a second end as we discover in Genesis 1.  There, we find that the earth already existed when God moved on the face of the earth and created all things Adam.  At that time, the original earth had become uninhabitable, made void, a great darkness covered the earth. (Genesis 1:2)  The original language here is ‘choshek’: misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow and wickedness.  That pre-Adamite age has commonly been call the Dispensation of Angels, and that dominion of angels had fallen into a state of formlessness. (Referenced seemingly in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.)   In the beginning Elohim (plural Gods: Father Son and Spirit) created Heaven and Earth.  Step two, it became chaotic and God, in Genesis 1:2, remodeled it by taking the original material, redesigned it and set Adam and Eve in the middle of it.  The word translated for made in that Genesis text is ‘asah’: to make something new out of already existing material.  God moved and created the world of Adam or pre-Noah.  Over time and essentially during Noah’s generation, the earth again had become uninhabitable, a mess, maybe even more than a mess.  By Genesis 6 the generations of Adam had ‘mastered’ the destruction of God’s Creation to the point of ‘no hope’. (Genesis 6:5) God, grieved at the state of His Creation’s chaos, provided Grace to Noah and erased everything with a great flood, the second end of the age.  From Noah until The Promise (Jesus) humans again struggled in the earth, moving further away from God’s purpose for creation.  With Christ’s incarnation, a new Life was created.  Old things passed away.  For the third time an end of an age had come.  (Heb. 9:26)  In Christ, God erased the past and a new way to live was established.  In this new Life, humanity was invited to participate in His Kingdom Come, here, now.  In this new Life, we can choose the Light or walk in the dark.  From the very beginning, in the first verses of Genesis, God has purposed to separate Light from Dark.  In Christ, a separation between the two, a final clarity, had come.

****

Isa 45:7-  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. 

The Message Bible says it like this: I am God, the only God there is.  I form light and create darkness; I make harmonies and create discords…Open up, heavens, and rain.  Clouds pour out buckets of Goodness.  Loosen up earth and bloom salvation; sprout right living.

In Genesis, when God ‘asah’ this Creation He created Light.  Darkness is simply the result of Light’s absence.  God creates Peace, in doing so; calamity appears in the absence of Peace.  God is good and the contrast of that Goodness creates evil.  Example: Your shadow only exists when light is present.  The shadow is not real, but the presence of light creates that image in our eye.  Take away the light and the shadow doesn’t exist. The angels rebelled resulting in Genesis 1-1.  Humans rebelled and lost their way, resulting in the chaos of Noah.  There’s a right living that God created for us to walk in, and refusing to do so creates havoc. The Joy is that God has set a way for us to come into the Light: Jesus Christ.  We all come out of darkness into the Light, we are all like Nicodemus who came at midnight, we all come out of midnight to a great Light.

Looking back at past experiences, God erased and started over in the pre-Adamite world after it became void and without form: uninhabitable.  God erased and started over with Noah after the constant wickedness and destruction by humans and their refusal to have God-Life relationships.  God, after ‘His chosen’ arrived into the pharisaical partnership with Rome, erased and started over, this time with the new creation in Christ.  So here’s where I’ve placed my bookmark.  Certainly, at the very least, we’re at a cross-road. There are only two possibilities going forward.  Either the Gospel will ‘bloom’ again and Goodness will flourish.  Just as with Abraham, it will come out of the desert of our separation and it will re-establish Faith in Christ and His Gospel. Or, the other option, God will be using His eraser again.  (Not to worry!  If the eraser is soon a millennial experience awaits believers.)

Uninhabitable earths haven’t succeeded before and won’t succeed this time either.  Uninhabitable was always and still is associated with the rejection of the necessity for God-like human relationships.  In the past, as the world degenerated into conditions where no Love of God was possible, the Potter re-threw His clay.  Previously, because the God Who is Love could no longer see an expression of Himself in that world, God erased!  It’s important that we understand this in the context of end of an age: each erasing was an act of compassion, not hate.  God endures all things for the Joy set before Him, and then in Season He erases the board and begins again, offers Himself again.  With either possibility, one thing’s for sure; a glorious beginning is coming in the future.

As believers, we shouldn’t give up simply because of what we are seeing and hearing daily.  God is a God of re-birth, renewal, restoration and always enters the scene as He wills.  Looking at the tone of this present earth, Light and dark collide, and that contrast/conflict can systematically wear us down.  But God, knowing that’s a natural response from believers, still never encouraged any of us to quit.  Actually, His encouragement in times like these is to not grow weary but be of good cheer, to look up not down. God created this Heaven and Earth for one reason: to reveal Himself to His creation.  He will keep that eraser in His pocket as long as there’s any hope of the Gospel being shared around the world.

Take heart, it’s good news either way.  There will either be the end and a union with God, or there will be  a revival. Either way a new refreshing has always been God’s plan in the past and will continue to be His plan until The End of His Story.  We should not be dismayed but should know that He was present and  was active in the first, the second and third mess, and He is active in this one.  Paul’s words are to: Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with Grace in your hearts to the Lord.  Colossians 3:16

That’s a bit of what keeps us going here at WBVN.  Believers in every generation have been uncomfortable and pressured no matter what generation you examine.  Uncomfortable and stressed are the common not the uncommon when it comes to people who are not really citizens of this world.  In the middle of that environment, the station has been a tool to encourage the Church in good and tough times.  I read the other day that 93 percent of the entire population of North America is covered by radio.  Our part here is to declare this Gospel again for what will soon be 16 million minutes.  So until that eraser is used and either a New Millennium comes or a Gospel renewal blooms (probably at a time we think not, probably out of a place we had not considered) we should not grow weary.  As for WBVN, we will share His Spirit with our listeners as long as we have breath and are relevant to our listeners.  No question, you and we are to do that until the end comes, no matter what is feels or looks like in the world.