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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!

August Newsletter-Paper Route

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Pro_9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One, understanding.  

Or my version with a bit of Col. 1-16 mixed in:  the recognition of the awesomeness of what He has done, that God is with us, that the Father, the Son, and Spirit created all things, are in all things, are present at all times, is the beginning of knowing Him, i.e., understanding.

I never had a paper route.  But my neighbor Mike Hickey had one.  He had one of those big cotton bags that hung on the front of his bike with those special hooks added on the handlebars. If I remember correctly, Mike delivered about 70-80 newspapers each day around our neighborhood.  As part of our friendship it was agreed that some days he and I would sit on the front porch and I’d help Mike fold the papers, stuff them into the bag and off he’d go.  The papers were folded into thirds and into thirds again, and one third was tucked into another third to make perfect square paper.  Today, I catch myself occasionally folding papers just like I did many years ago just for old time sake.  Now the key to being a good paperboy (besides the obvious of being on time and showing up to work your route every day), was the obligation to throw those folded papers while riding your bike down the sidewalk, and make those babies land on people’s front porches.  Landing it in the bushes, wet grass or banging the windows was not part of the acceptable, professional description of a good paperboy.  If that newspaper was folded just right, if you held it just right, you could throw a slow curve and lay the news on a 6 foot by 6 foot front stoop.  Mike let me help a few times and I soon learned ‘the toss’.  It was like Wainwright’s strike to Beltran–a beautiful thing to behold.  But, if you landed it into the gutter’s water puddle, or tossed it on the roof: job not done!

Now I mention that to say a few things about the Gospel.  I tease a lot about Faith but in reality I’m very serious about it, maybe even too serious sometimes.  But I believe each day is a package of Life to be opened and discovered in the light of that Faith.  I haven’t found a day when there’s not, at some point, a need for the application of the Gospel of Grace into our lives.  After all, Christ has made all things and is present with us at all times. So, except in our brains, aloneness is not something that ever really takes place.  Each day is filled with opportunity to follow Him in our mundane! (You’re supposed to smile there, not frown.)  Whether at a ball game, shopping, work, driving, and even sleeping, He is with us.  That’s His name: I Am!  Moses was told to just tell Pharaoh, if Pharaoh asked, ‘I Am’ sent him.  That’s really one of the first things we need to know about Him-always present, on duty with us.  I Am is standing with us, at hospitals, at funerals, at doctor’s offices and yes, He’s with us at Kroger, Busch Stadium or at Bald Knob Cross on Easter morning.  He just simply is, always is.  Knowing that takes away the I was, the I will be or the I might be about Him.

I don’t know for how many times now, but I’m going to bring up Jane’s Chicago experience again.  So many things were evident there, observed there.  Allow me to refresh your memory about Jane being rushed to a Chicago hospital in the spring of 2012.  For those that don’t know, my wife was paralyzed for about 6 months due to a condition known as GBS.  For this newsletter purpose let me jump through a long story into this short statement: The one thing, and the only thing, either she or I knew was that God was (Emanuel) with us.  His I Am filled in all the gaps in what we did not know, what we could not see, salved the hurt and chased all our fears.  Fortunately, we, while not really being aware of it, I suppose were pre-prepared for such an event.  The seeking and searching to know the heart of God years before suddenly became His embrace in her critical health condition.  We didn’t have to go looking for help, Help was standing right there with us.  We didn’t have to plead for compassion, Compassion was all around us. We had spent years preparing our hearts with this single fact: that God wants to be with us, desires above all to have a relationship with us.  That knowledge made trusting in His companionship easy.  That’s the slighted story of Genesis; that Father, Son and Spirit, because of their natural character, were determined to re-unite with man. God sought Adam out in the bushes, not the other way round.  He’s a lighthouse so that we can find our way to Him in every situation we face.

Jesus taught that the best way to live is to maintain your house in the good times so that you’re pre-prepared for the storms.  When storms come, a foundation made of the Cornerstone of our Faith will get us through.  The world is betting that this Jesus thing is a hoax, wants you to believe that Jesus’ friends robbed the grave, took the body, faked the deal.  They’re betting that this creation thing was just a mixture of accident and time, trusting in their intellect over their heart.  Believers, on the other hand, find Jesus as a door to huge things prepared by God before the foundation of the world.  We find Jesus personal, and personally involved with our daily lives.

Here’s the big picture of pre-preparation:  God wants to be with you, wants to partner with you, wants to have a personal one-on-One relationship with you.  Settle that!  I remember having conversations over the years with people about the most important thing I’ve ever learned in my Faith. It’s always been such a simple, short answer:  ‘Dad ain’t mad.’  Instead of trying to keep us out of His presence, He’s worked and is working on ways to woo us in.  Try walking in that kind of knowledge about our Father for a year and see if it doesn’t change your sensitivity to His presence with you.  The problem, since Adam, has been that the knowledge of our failures, or Sin, has separated us from the Love of God, just like it did with Adam and Eve.  We’re infected with that belief.  God’s take, He’s seeking after us to bless and turn us away from Sin and that wrong headedness.  God (Father, Son and Spirit) in Wisdom decided to heal that separation with the death of Jesus.  His blood and the cross tore open the veil of separation, and Forgiveness opened a way for us to stand at the throne of His Grace.  Therefore, the Word of God rings true- you shall be My people and I shall be your God.  That was a promise to Israel and it’s reality to us.

The most important part of my newspaper boy story was the fold.  Let me say it like this, it was the necessary thing before the thing.  That fold made the paper manageable and prepared it to be thrown with such accuracy as to hit the porch.  That preparation meant ‘job done’.  Our Christian life is much like that.  How we prepare our hearts about God’s Purpose and Love makes all the difference when we deal with all that life can bring.  Pre-preparation (making up our mind about the character and nature of God) before the weight of the world comes heavy on us affects the outcome of that pressure.  Job done is in walking a journey of personal relationship with God.  That’s the end game.  He came to put away Sin so that we could again do as Adam and Eve did before the fall– walk and talk with God.  Taking away the barrier between you and Him at the Cross was what He did, but why He did it was so that you could step into a life embraced by the One who created and Loves you.  Now we get to finish His Purpose.  Just as Mike was gratified when we hit the porch, we can know the gratification that comes when you yield to the invitation of a personal, intimate relationship with Father.  In the heart of God, that was worth the price He paid to be with us. Worth His Son so that They could step into this world and seek us out, stand at your door and knock with their invitation to a new Life.