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March Newsletter-Easter

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Easter April 1, 2018: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…’  John 3:16

We need to slow that down a bit.  It’s an amazing statement that I think we can so easily rush through because of its familiarity.  Image the character and heart of God revealed in that statement.  Sometimes I’m not sure that we hear the depth of its implications.  If we’re not careful, we sometimes let our unbridled subconscious talk to us, letting human logic define what happened in the Garden of Eden.  We can come up with the idea that God’s response to Adam and Eve was an angry response rather than the actual response mentioned in that scripture. We can turn that into thinking that God needed to fulfill a heated temperament toward His Creation in order to get even for that little apple dessert those two had enjoyed.  God’s motivation is bigger and better than anger and restitution.  Rather, His fingerprint as a Giver is all over how He responded to that tragic moment.  It helps to remember that Jesus was coming long before Adam; Jesus was not plan B.  Jesus was coming in the heart of God from the very foundation of the world.  (Eph. 1: 4-5)

It’s Easter.  Roughly 2020 years ago a child was born who, while a surprise to Joseph and Mary, had been prophesied to bless the whole world, at least those that would choose to have it so.  Easter focuses us on the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth just as the Christmas story focuses us on His birth.  For sure the Cross is an appropriate place for Christians to annually pause and think about why and even how this Story came about.   It’s a place for us to wonder about, evaluate, and discover what really happened on that Cross which some 2000 years later still repels some and attracts the human heart of others.  No one has all the fullness of that story to tell, and certainly, my letter is only a part of a bigger picture of God’s Creation and the fix required to ‘fine tune’ it.  But, since we’re playing a lot of resurrection music and most of us will be celebrating that Cross this month, let me just pour out a bit of my thinking about this celebration we call Easter.

First of all, why was this Cross necessary?  Why was this Jesus buried and raised from death?  Big questions and probably too big for this letter.  However, let’s touch the surface by starting here: the fall of Adam.  We’ll start there because most everyone starts there. After all it’s the first subject of Genesis, and that’s where our ancestor’s poor decision-making started all this mess.

One of the things that the Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane remind me of is that we have to go back even further than either of those gardens to understand that bigger picture of God the Father, Son and Spirit.  And, because I always seem to get to this point every few letters, let me shorthand the picture of pre-Eden by just saying God; all three manifestations of God if you will, were from the foundation of the Cosmos together and involved in the dream of Creation and the fellowship that was to follow from the first breath of man.  All three buried themselves into the ‘Yes!’ that emphatically proves that Creation (and its humans) is worth everything that has happened in and to that Creation.  All three persons of the Godhead agreed ‘in One’ that any price They needed to pay would be paid to experience the givingness of Life and fellowship of God and His creature: man.  That any price part is to be emphasized here, before the Creator created, Jesus was coming!  Or, more appropriately, Jesus was not just coming but the Father has said over and over again in New Testament scripture:  He was sending Jesus, with a purpose and on purpose.

It’s here that I like to separate my thinking a bit: dividing the Why He came from the How He came.  It’s really one coin with two different sides to it.  But, that difference helps me clarify some the early questions I have had about this whole Story of the Gospel.  Let me say it like this.  Why He came was to build a bridge between His creature and Himself.  How He came (the story of the Cross) was chosen to convince us that something huge had to be done to build that bridge. The how He came was chosen to help us reconcile in our weak and feeble minds to thinking like He thinks.  The only way to do that was to pay a price so big that it would, in context, overwhelm our thinking. How He did that helps us solve the problem we have about how can we ever have a relationship with God again after the horticultural failure of those famous ancestors of ours.   I know there’s too much to say about all this to examine it in full, the Bible uses 39 chapters in the Old Testament and another 26 in the New to try and convince us of both the need and the remedy, this letter won’t be able to by a few lines of writing here.  But, I think it’s something for us to begin to think about during this special holiday.  Why He did it, How He did it, medicates our alienated minds.  Imagine God desiring so deeply to reconcile with us, even to the point of doing that for us.  That’s a profound Truth.  All other gods pretty much leave it up to the other fella to make up the gap, to build the bridge.  Our God came and did the construction project for us.

Simply, Why God created all this was for relationship. It wasn’t because They were bored; not because They needed anything.  They were three in One and that closeness, Their ‘agreementness’ was so beautiful that They could not help but create something outside themselves to share in Their relationship.  God is Love and in His (Their) very nature, God is aggressive to share, to care and to give.  That Love has never had a shadow of turning, never changed and never will.  The fact that Love is what caused Jesus to step into our world, take on the violence from the men of His own Creation, die and be raised is the center of this Celebration we are now expressing.  It’s the same Love that caused God to seek out Adam and Eve rather than destroy Adam and Eve.  It’s that Love for His Creation that, after the Fall said, ‘No, I will not give up on you, I will not abandon you, We will pay the price to redeem, a heavy price to gather you back to Ourselves.’  That’s the Why: to re-embrace humanity and to pick up the pieces of the Garden of Eden.

The how to do that so that it’s manageable for humanity’s wee little brains meant a grand, huge action by God would be required.  So grand as to overcome our knowledge that we are jerks and really don’t have a reasonable way to get back into relationship with God.  Our natural minds are alienated and darkened.  What could we really do to repair this mess?  We’re so aware of our dire predicament that we just can’t reason our way through it.  And, that was exactly the deal, the plan.  God did something so huge, so unreasonable, His remedy left nothing to doubt as to the passion and will of God to redeem His people.  Something that would grant you access to the fellowship of God, that had to be a biggy.  Had to be something so necessary that only a God could do it.  Something that would overpower our intellect and break our hearts.  Now the world’s religions will tell you that you, by yourself, can do that by either hundreds of actions or perhaps thousands of formulas.  In reality, only God could build that bridge back to fellowship.    It’s His remarkable Story that’s declared simply in Habakkuk 2:4, Hebrews 10:38, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11; the just shall live by Faith.  Faith that Christ did what He said He would do, Faith in His bridge back through reconciling our problem by His Life, Death and Resurrection.  God had to do something so obviously astonishing so that we ‘might’ let down our guard, might not run off into the bushes as our ancestors did.  Dying for us was the way He got our attention and hopefully and justifiably our hearts.

The Way, the Truth and the Light of Life came, died on the cross to show us His determination to be with us and convince us of His willingness to make a way for us.  Jesus died on the cross but He did not stop there.  By the Spirit He was raised to a New Life and by that same Spirit raised us with Him.  All barriers have been removed except in our head.  Our awareness of our shortcoming, the alienation in our minds, those kinds of thoughts will have to be taken captive and changed to His thoughts.  It was completely unreasonable for God to do such a thing, actually illogical.  To make us acceptable and worthy through the death of His Son, that’s unimaginable, but it’s true.  That’s exactly how He did it!  Performed a profoundly unreasonable event so that we might come to understand why He did it.

That’s Easter for me.  Yes, it’s about a man on a cross, but it’s also a picture of what Father, Son and Spirit were willing to do, willing to pay to persuade our brains to imagine how determined They were to be with us in this new garden called the Kingdom of His Dear Son.

February Newsletter-Vision

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

When questioned by his mother what he learned in Sunday School, eight-year-old Justin answered, ‘We learned about when God sent Moses behind the enemy lines to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians.  The teacher said that when they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for the engineers to build a pontoon bridge and they all barely got across it in time, because the Egyptians were right behind them, coming in tanks and Moses radioed headquarters on the walkie-talkie to send bombers to blow up the bridge and they did and all the Egyptians were stuck and that’s how Moses saved the Israelites.’  The mother asked, ‘Justin, is that really the way the teacher told the story?’  Justin confessed, ‘Well, not exactly, but if I told it in her way, you’d never believe it.’

At this time or perhaps for all time, that’s exactly where we are at in this world.  When we tell our Story of Christ, I sometimes think it’s just too much for the world to take in.  Actually, it may be too much for some in the church to absorb as well.  For sure, when pausing to analyze our Story in the big picture, very simply, it can be a wild ride trying to explain His Truths.  But then, that’s exactly the kind of story we have and it’s exactly the Story we must share.  Taking the edges off it a bit like Justin tried to do, sounds like a good idea, but anything short of the full-out Truth only makes our position more unstable.  Ours isn’t a logical Story, not even a believable Story in so many ways; we’re really left with a Faith Story.  A profound Story, a Story with rough edges that can irritate at times and confuses us other times.  It’s a Story that not only ‘puts-off’ much of the world but also has divided its own Church into hundreds of varied denominations.

That said, I’d like to funnel down this month’s letter to the simple conversation of Proverbs 29:18.  It’s often used as an illustration for spiritual gifting, but I’d like to look at the other side of the coin.  It’s a side of that coin that I’ve found to be very important in our Jesus Life experience.  I do believe that all teaching is incomplete.  No one has a corner on everything true about the Gospel.  However, this side of the coin is for sure only part of our Story, but I think an important part, that can be added to other parts of our Story as well.  Any one teaching is always subject to the addition of other concepts to create the ‘whole’.  I’m a firm believer in the wisdom of Isaiah (I’ll paraphrase): the Gospel is line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.

Now, much of the world’s culture is violently opposed to any suggestion that Christ was, well, Christ.  Oh, some of the world culture will permit us to call him a great seer, perhaps a profound teacher or wise philosopher, but when we tell the Story in Jason’s teacher’s way, just like Jason said, most will never believe it.  Being The Way, The Truth and The Life is a bit much for many, and yet our Story must be told in that exact fashion to be real.  Not only told in that profound Truth, but our Story must also have that Proverbs vision of Christ.  Why’s that so important on my important list?  For this: Proverbs 29:18 teaches us that without a vision His people perish.  It’s not simply just a vision for some future career or event, this vision is a ‘Wisdom’ statement by the Spirit of God that holds a much bigger, powerful role.  My concern is not that we lack imagination about our careers or future ministry roles, my concern is that we have a vision of Christ that comes up short on seeing Christ for Who He really is and what He has done.  Sometimes we kind of tell it like Jason did his story.  Only the Spirit of God can turn on the Light to the Truth.  Simply, without that Vision of the hugeness of what Christ did, why He did it and how He did it, people will perish.  In a big picture sense, a lack of that Vision pertains to all people, not just His people, but all people.  If His people perish without this Vision, surely those outside that group face a similar fate.

For sure, in the Proverb, the emphasis on the word ‘without’ is appropriate.  Looking up the meaning of that word in the original text, it could not be more emphatic: no, none, never, neither, nor, not, nothing.  Maybe a good New Testament substitute would be to say ‘guaranteed to fail’.  So in some sense of the text, without a Vision there is a guarantee to perish.  I’m pretty comfortable with that, well not really comfortable because that’s scary stuff, but comfortable in that it pretty well describes the necessity of the whole Story’s Vision of who Christ is, what He has done.

Now let’s take a look at 1Cor. 15:52.  We generally apply that particular scripture to the returning Christ; for in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed.  Now, what’s true about that scripture and His Coming can also, I think, be true about each and every time we see Him for who He really is and each time we see Him in His fullness.  Anytime we add line upon line and see a new Gospel Truth.  That’s the profound nature of what we call the new birth or, for that matter, any manifestation of the Spirit of God.  In those moments we’re left different, we’re not the same, but new, unlike what we were before.  That can happen multiple times in our lives.  When we see Him for who He really is, all that He’s done, it’s a new Vision of the Freedom, Love, Joy Christ’s Life made for us.  Paul and the other New Testament writers were drawing a picture a brush stroke at a time, here a little color and there a little color, ending in a portrait of Christ.  They wrote as a ‘committee’ in order to enable us to see that Vision of Christ.

Without a Vision of the Messiah, the New Testament Christ, and the bigness of what He has done– without that, His people will perish.  That perishing is not a legal sentence placed on us as discipline, it’s a statement of Wisdom placed on us in His Love.  The Spirit alarming and alerting us to ‘see Him’ for all that He is, given so that we might flourish.  Every time we catch a new Vision of Him we step nearer to fullness of our Story.  We need to see a Vision of His Vision, the Vision He had before the foundation of the world.  His Vision of all He has done, His Vision of the cost, His Vision of the finished work of Christ.  How important is that perspective?  Do you remember the conversation between Peter and Christ found in Mark 8?  On the road to Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked, ‘Whom do you say that I am?’  Peter responded that some call you a prophet (Elias), some a revelator (John the Baptist).  Jesus again asked, ‘But! Peter whom do you say I am?’  (I’ll jump into the conversation here enough to interpret it a bit.) I imagine Jesus saying: Never mind what the world says or others around you say!  The significance of my question to you is who YOU say I am.  What was Peter’s vision of Christ.  That’s what empowers and impacts the results of what we experience in the Christian Life.  Something had to be significant and important for Christ to draw that subtle difference in Peter’s answer.

I know it’s a weird thing to say, but let me get away with just a little weirdness.  Jesus came and opened up the heart of the Father and Spirit right in front of our eyes specifically to reveal God, to make an undisputed declaration of Him and expose to people that Vision of Him for all to see.  Christ did that for the exact purpose of showing us, manifesting to us, the God we are to see and know.  Jesus had that final say about God in order that we might be changed in a moment’s time.  His is the final word on the nature and character of his Father through His Vision of His Father.  Those that come to know that will not perish but, according to John 3:16, not only have an eternal life in our future but an everlasting life full of His Spirit from that singular moment of acceptance forward.  And, although a bit unbelievable in its truest form, that’s the amazing Story Justin and we are to tell.  We might even put it like this: no one in their right mind would have made up such a story, would ever have even dreamed of this kind of story.  That God would send a Son, that that Son would live and die as a man, that He would rise from the dead and that the Spirit of God would  move into people’s hearts and lives, walk and talk to them– now some will say that’s a whopper.  But, as hard as it is to believe, that’s our Story to share, and we’re gonna have to stick to it.

January Newsletter-Another WBVN Birthday

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

WBVN:     ‘Birthed’ on January 8th, 1990

“Can the rush grow up without the mire?”  I wrote that sentence in a newsletter back in 2004.  It was Bildad the Shuhite’s question to Job in Chapter 8.  Bildad’s purpose for that question was to be revealed in a later verse: for “out of the earth others shall grow.”  I want to talk about that mire a bit more and compare it to what we’ve just expected during our last few concerts with Iron Bell, Big Daddy Weave, Darren Mulligan and We Are Messengers, Micah Tyler and of course the most recent, NewSong, Sarah Reeves and Crowder.  Those nights were perfect ‘mire’.  But first, let me give that mire a bit of scrubbing so that you’re not left with just the goo, the stink, in your brain.

Bildad was referring to the rushes that were papyrus reeds which grew along the Nile River bank.  Just to look at them, they wouldn’t give you a clue as to what an important role they played in that people’s culture.  However, they carried significant value because of their many uses.  Papyrus reeds were woven and used for clothing, their roots were burned for warmth, the rushes were woven to make sails for their boats, poor people had to eat the plant occasionally, and most significantly, rushes were crushed and made into papyrus paper.  Moses used papyrus to write the first five books of the Bible.  Significantly to Bildad’s point, there wouldn’t have been any rushes without the “muck” in the bottom of the Nile River bank.  That mire turned out to be pretty important stuff.  It was located about 6 feet below the rushes.  In its own way it was miracle stuff.  It was a coagulation of dead things that produced life.  Today it could be compared to the stuff you’ve felt between your toes if you have ever been brave enough to step out into a farm pond, an ugly, smelly thing.  Without the mire the rushes that benefited those people would not have been possible.  That stuff under water, out of sight and seemingly insignificant, was the foundation to what was seen above the water.  To have good reeds you have to have good “muck.”  It was that relationship between the plant and that murky soil that caught my imagination as I thought about our 2018 concerts.

I’ve always imaged the ministry we do as similar to the spring tilling I do in the garden.  Tilling the garden takes “plain old” dirt and makes it into “special soil.”  I don’t know if you’ve ever used a garden tiller, but what you start out with is nothing like what you end up with.  What is hard as clay and full of clods, with a little tilling becomes this stuff you can really enjoy walking bare-footed in.  It changes the nature of the dirt into something useable and actually attractive and sweet to smell.  At this radio station we chum the soil, mixing in CCM and Programming.  WBVN is purposed to inspire spiritual growth.  Soil needs to be loosened for the plants to grow, people need to be enriched with hope and love to bear fruit.  If you simply throw seed on ground that hasn’t been worked, if you toss them out onto your lawn, you’ll get no fruit.  This next concert is an example of preparing the ground for seed to be sown and growth to take place in our listeners’ lives.

Perhaps we can think about it like this: there’s a difference between doing a “work” and working for God.  An Old Testament illustration of this is found in the earliest scripture. Abel offered a lamb as a sacrifice while Cain offered what he had produced from the ground that was cursed.  Cain’s offering symbolized “working for God,” the work of Cain’s own labors and hands.  Abel’s lamb embodied what God had done for mankind, God providing the sacrifice, compared to Cain offering what he did, his religious work for God.  It wasn’t just a lamb and vegetable comparison, God judged each for their approach to ministry.  For us, success cannot be measured in financial terms but in the terms identified with the life of Noah, who did the work of God “according to all that God commanded him, so he did.”  God establishes visions in His church and each member is directed in ministry toward accomplishing that particular vision.  If we don’t make that vision our number one priority for functioning in ministry, then the thoughts and intents of our hearts are not God-ward but self-serving.  For me the most profound thing that Jesus ever said, something that incorporates all the meaning of the Gospel was: “Follow Me,” implying, come, stand with Me and watch what I’m about to do, you will be amazed.  For 28 years we’ve been amazed.

As a ministry we can’t walk away from ministry.  Our promise to do ministry 28 years ago meant doing it in the many ways we felt God leading us to move.  Many of you know the unique relationships that have developed over the years with Mark Schultz, NewSong, and Big Daddy Weave.  There are others that could be named, but these three are the most obvious to illustrate what has happened here over the years.  This is a place artists can pour out their hearts; be themselves in their ministry because they have grown to trust the integrity of our concert audience.  (You could easily add Darren Mulligan to that list after his May and November concerts).  There are other artists that do that for us but these three express so perfectly the special moments we’ve had at the Civic Center.  We came over 28 years ago to do the things that make a difference in people’s lives.  Yes, we’re about entertaining (we love to entertain people with CCM), but more intensely we are about building a fertile ground for ministry to take place.  Again in 2018, as we have for 28 years, we’ll see God do so many things at these events.  Do that when we really have had no part in them other than create the environment for them to happen.  Concerts are a part of our garden.  We’ve grown to trust that God is capable, without our ‘works’, to do a work.  And yes, we’re aware of how many times some of these artists have been here, and yes we actually do understand that that can be brought up in a conversation and perhaps even criticized, but with an even bigger yes, we’re obligated to follow our hearts permitting the Spirit of God to embrace an artist to share here often and God embrace our listeners each and every time they gather together.

Ministry through WBVN is the beginning of something rather than the end of something.  Just as a garden full of “living things” begins with soil preparation, “tilling” is the first thing that leads to many other things.  We believe that “out of good soil others shall grow.”  That can happen on the radio or at our concerts, both designed to act as a place the Spirit of God can mingle into people’s lives.  We’re a ministry that “sets the table” for other ministries, making it possible for sowing, tending and harvest.  We prepare the environment, create potential for the miracles we call the Christian Life.  With the partnership of our listeners for 28 years, we’ve invested in that preparation so that the Word of God will have a place to manifest and become relevant in believers’ lives.  We spend 24 hours a day encouraging our listeners, tilling the soil we’ve been given to care for.  The Bible says of His return, “will He find us Faithful”… Since our beginning on January 8th, 1990, we’re a ministry that tries to help encourage that in all of us.  Hope we can gather together with you again in 2018, either each day on the radio or occasionally at the Marion Civic Center for a great night of encouragement through Contemporary Christian Music.  Thank you for so many wonderful years and experiences…..