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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.

June Newsletter-Babies

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Oh, My!   Here’s my dilemma, I’m working in an office that has two ladies whose adult children are having their first child.  Yep, two of those at one time.   I mean where do you hide from that?  Or, should you hide from that?  It’s been over a decade since Jane and I went through those kinds of emotions.  Where does that ‘I already love them, but they’re not even here yet’ come from?   I’ve been thinking about that question and therefore this letter.  Are we just good people that are able to create that kind of devotion on our own or is there another story to that story?

My perspective is that that kind of love, that natural-quick response to love our children and grandchildren so easily, is actually a hint of the Spirit of God in the earth.  Much of the time I’m not sure we recognize some of the subtle ways God is in the middle of our experience.   Seems we’re always looking for the ‘super signs’ and perhaps missing the little signs in our lives.  We seem to be comfortable seeking miracles; but in limiting it to the miraculous we sometimes overlook the less obvious witnesses of God’s place in our everyday.   I like to think the Kingdom of God is pressing in on our lives in many different directions.  His Kingdom Life isn’t dormant and only working at our command, but is a vibrant, eager force in our lives, sometimes when we might not even be expecting it.  Occasionally, God merges His Kingdom into our worldly to try and convince us of His presence in little ways, not just the big stuff.

In some ways humanity is stuck in its teenage years.  You remember yours don’t you?  If not, at least you remember your kid’s.   Teens know it all.  They, like humanity, think they determine what’s right and wrong, create their own good and evil, or maybe no evil at all. For the most part they think they have the corner on the answers to the world’s problems.  When we were teens you could talk directly to us, look us right in the eye, yet seemingly we never heard a word.  Mark Twain is quoted as saying that when he was 15 years old he could not believe how stupid his father was; when he was 21 he couldn’t believe how much his dad had learned in 6 years.  That’s kind of our position with the Gospel.  Our Father is trying to get a message to us, sent His Son, wrote a book, and we still have a hard time listening.  Some of the time, He’s forced to go about His business just working the ‘Godly’ things into our lives as best He can while we stumble alone doing our thing.

Jesus’ attempt is to convince us that ‘Dad knows best’.  And just like Bud and Kathy of the TV show, we generally learn that the hard way.  God’s best way to convince us of that was to send Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to encourage us to see The Father like Jesus saw the Father.  It was His grand attempt to change humanity’s vantage point of looking at God.  Not only is what Jesus did of prime importance, but also his witness to the nature of the Father plays a vital part in learning to ‘Live’ the God kind of Life.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus actually told us that he alone knew the Father; in essence he was uniquely able to show us The Father’s nature and character.  Jesus came specifically, not to rule and reign in an earthly kingdom, but to show, to reveal, to unveil the heart of God.  From childhood to crucifixion Jesus showed us how we’re to relate to the Father, how to hear, to believe and to trust Him.

Part of that was to come to the cross and die for us, a profound step to show and prove God’s Love.  But, that death was not just an Easter moment, a holiday moment, not a page in the book of Jesus’ life story moment, it was the monumental moment.  Nothing is as it was after that moment.   No moment before that and no moment in the future will set out the whole of the Gospel like that day did.  It requires hesitation on our part to consider that Paul taught not only Christ’s life, death and resurrection, but just as significantly, about us being in Christ.  That was a profound change from before resurrection.  That day all believers died and all were raised again to a new life.  According to Scripture, that resurrection delivered to all that believe:  Justification, Salvation, Adoption, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness, and Holiness in Christ.  As believers we’ve entered into the relationship of Father and Son.  By ourselves, we can’t really stand alone in a relationship with God.  We don’t measure up to that, ever!  It’s our ‘in Christness’ that makes the way for us to enter into that relationship.  We’re unqualified except for being in Christ.

There’s a caveat to receive Justification, Salvation, Adoption, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness, and Holiness.  Jesus addressed it on the cross by saying to only one of the three crucified with him, (the one that believed) ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’   We’re summoned to believe and to repent of our hardheadedness toward the Father, Son and Spirit.   For His gifts to be in our lives, we must receive Jesus’ call to believe that those gifts are true in our lives.  Not believing that violates the whole purpose and plan of the Gospel.  To not believe that does great violence to our true identity; that we really are in Christ and receive the sacrifice it took to get those gifts to us.  When we resist ‘Father knows best’ and His invitation, just like the lessons we and our children learned in our teens, it hurts, it harms, it fails, it destroys.

Christ’s resurrection made huge differences in our lives that I think sometimes go unnoticed.  Truly, God works in our lives, and sometimes with miracles, but some of the times in His whispers and gentle touches.  God’s fingerprints in our everyday can appear without our being aware.  Our imaginations, our plans, our expectations interrupt our ability to see the hand of God that’s mingled into the loving of a grandchild and that even before that grandchild is here.  Where does that come from?  Is the creature (us) just wonderful that way?  I don’t buy that.  Jesus taught that there’s only One Good.  That Good One can produce that in people.  We’re not that wonderful, we’re not a people that can muster that up on our own.

God seems to do little things that go un-interpreted.  I’ve talked to a few artists about songwriting.  With only a few exceptions, where songs just flooded their hearts, they generally implied that their trash can is full of lyrics that just didn’t work.  How did they know that those lyrics were just not right?  Something inside us knows when something is right (a yes in us).  Actually, as far as I can tell, we have two knowledges.   We have head knowledge and heart knowledge.  Most of the time, we’re trained to respond to what we think, ignoring something buried deep inside that knows better.   That knowing, that ‘just in my heart’ knowledge is from God, it’s the stuff that tells them when the song is finished. It’s the ‘Christ in us and us in Christ’ knowledge.  I’ve had people ask me (some of them friends and family that have known me a long time and know my weaknesses) how do you know how to do ministry at WBVN?   How do you know what and when to do the things that can make a difference in people’s lives?  If I’m pushed into a corner about it, I’d say it like this:  I have a Friend that loves music, loves people, loves encouraging people.   Most of the time, He gives subtle advice in my insides.  That Friend, I believe, is the Heart of God that persuades us to care about our listeners.  I remember starting the two-year process of creating WBVN and ‘thinking’ this probably will never work.  Thinking it wouldn’t work because of how little knowledge I had in the science, the lack of talent or natural skills to do radio, a lack of financial resources, and yet something inside said, ‘Yes, We can do this.’

God’s in our living, not just in miracles and wonders but in the love for a grandchild.  I watch my wife with Parker and Zach (grandsons) and I see an un-natural love for them.  Except that it’s not un-natural at all, that’s the natural character of God.  The God in her that provides for them, it’s the Spirit of God in her that provides that through her.  I see it in the care she gives her mother and father, in her love for our three girls.  I see it in the support she gives to friends, even supporting her husband, and I see the enormous amount of money she spends on all them at Christmas (well that part is tongue-in-cheek a bit).  None of that’s because she’s super human, but because God’s a Super God.

Significantly, our Justification, Salvation, Adoption, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness and Holiness don’t produce our own relationship with God; they follow in us as a result of being connected to Christ.  God produces those in us because of the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  Faith, repentance, prayer, works, and obedience are a result of having believed that that first list of gifts are actually gifts through Christ.  Faith, repentance, prayer, works, and obedience are all very important in order that we experience the most of the Christian Life.   But, we don’t to strive for them to appear in our lives.  We’re to rest in what Jesus has done, that cross, the empty tomb, that new Life. We’re to believe, and as a natural sequence of knowing that, faith, repentance, prayer, works and obedience come about.  Jesus said knowing God is the beginning of knowledge.   He taught:  Believe that He is, believe what He did, and step into that newness of Life that He promised.  That Father: He really does know best.

May Newsletter: Resist

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

(This is not a catch-all formula for all events that believers may experience.  It’s just a conversation, a refreshing generated from some things Jane and I have had to face over the years, especially with spiritual pressure on our family or pressure on this WBVN ministry.  It’s simply an expression of what I try to do many times in these letters: just a different way of looking at moments when our Faith is being challenged.  It obviously is not the only way and I don’t presume to cover all bases.  It’s just a conversation about what Jane and I have come to trust about God that changed our lives for the good.  Years ago, J.B. Phillips wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small, and over the years Jane and I have learned that many times we were guilty of that in our lives.  Here, we’re attempting to enlarge our thinking about what Christ accomplished on the cross and with His resurrection.  We’ve learned you can never overestimate or exaggerate the greatness of God.)

Recently, in a conversation with friends, we were discussing some characteristics about having Faith in God.  In that conversation, a scripture came flying across my mind, almost like I could see it instead of thinking it.  It was unrelated to the discussion we were having.  ‘Resist the Devil and he will flee’ comes from James 4:7.  But, in this conversation, the central theme had been about God’s Rest.  When that happened, it was like where did that come from?  Rest in God and resist the devil both in the context of that moment!  It was an interesting contrast to me.  At first that appears to be two contradictory concepts.   Rest in our minds generally means do nothing.  Resist generally means give it all you got.  It occurred to me that those responses are not necessarily opposites at all.   From Jane’s and my experiences, Rest has become a powerful tool of Resistance.

As usual after such meetings, I picked up E.W. Bullinger’s New Testament Lexicon and revisited some of my thoughts during those conversations.  Apart from the Bible itself, that book has been one of the most important books that I’ve ever purchased.  As with all Greek Lexicons, Bullinger gives you a detailed breakdown of the original language of the New Testament.  In my opinion, it’s impossible to study the Bible without some look at the uniquely specific, accurate, definitely more complex, Greek word definitions.  For example, in 2Cor. 11:2, Paul writes of a jealousy for us.  The Greek word qualifies that with a kind of Godly jealousy.  Because of our human experience, we sometimes read Scripture and our minds default to thinking about our human jealousy that’s interpreted as an angry jealousy.  We can easily think God is jealous because of some slighting of our faithfulness or devotion.  But, looking closer, we learn from Bullinger that Paul’s jealousy is more correctly associated to God’s ‘eager vehement passion’.  That’s a bit different than our first response hearing about God being jealous. Actually, using the Greek definition, that’s the kind of God we want on our side.  It’s good news that our Father is aggressively passionate about us.  Profoundly, He’s so passionate that He sent His Son to be abused by His creation and topped that with the entrance and continuous presence of His Spirit into our darkness; a Holy companion to comfort and guide us in the middle of all this mess.  That’s by definition a vehemently passionate God for His people.

Smith Wigglesworth was an English plumber.  Because of the great witness of God in his life, Wigglesworth was forced to give up his plumbing business to do God’s business.  A healing evangelist who sometimes was controversial, he’s well known for his book called Smith Wigglesworth on the Holy Spirit.  There’s a story attributed to him that goes something like this.  Awakened out of a deep sleep, Wigglesworth sat up in bed and, according to the story, is to have seen the very presence of evil standing at the foot of his bed.  Wigglesworth is said to have simply addressed the image with these words,’ Oh, it’s only you’; and laid down and went back to sleep.  I know there’re many ways to approach trouble in our lives.  I know there are numerous suggestions on how we should act and do when we face crisis and grief.  But for this conversation, I’m going to think a little differently about resisting the devil.  Simply said, we don’t need to enforce the Gospel, we need to believe the Gospel.  For the most part believing it enforces it.  Believing, according to Jesus teaching, is the very work we’re to do.  We’re to labor to believe in Him and in His Victory.   Believe He has already won the necessary Victory. (John 6: 28-29)  Believing that, we find that Christ, not us, is The Enabler of the Gospel.

Could Rest be evidence of a steadfast Faith?  Instead of yelling, instead of raising our fist and mustering up all the energy we can, what if we remained in our chairs and simply told the darkness, ‘take that up with my brother, Jesus Christ.  He’s the sheriff here, He’s laid down the law here and He’s here to enforce your great defeat in my life’.  What if we acted like that?  I have to be a little careful here because to resist with calm is not about looking to physically show some imaginary confidence, but a real expression of having grown in confidence so much that we actually believe He’s The Enabler.    Being physically demonstrative isn’t necessarily the same as being convinced.   I’m not saying there aren’t times of joy and praise when we just can’t contain ourselves.  That’s very appropriate.  I am saying that there are times when just standing with a quiet affirmation, knowing God, is simple enough and is strong enough that just standing with assurance is to be appropriate.  A calm assurance can be a heavier weight, a more sufficient weight, to crush the kind of evil that visits most of us, most of the time.

Resisting doesn’t mean that we overcome evil with our ability but we simply have a confidence that he has already been overcome by Jesus Christ.  I’ve heard it said that we must win the victory, when in some sense, that Victory has already been enforced and established in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Ours is to believe that what Jesus teaches about that Victory is true.  That it’s true even when it might not look like it in our life at that moment. Sometimes, our physical warring is characteristic of trying with our ability to re-take or defend His Victory as though that Victory was ever at risk.  Rather the faithful, confident knowing that that Anti-Christ dude is a toothless lion is the simple place where we’re to dwell.  We’re not in the middle of a war between two gods that tear at each other’s kingdoms as much as we’re a people that have been given a Kingdom and we learn to live inside that Kingdom while at the very same time hear the roar of that lion.  No weapon formed against that Kingdom will prosper.  According to what Jesus believed, that devil has no stuff anymore, he’s been made powerless.   That resistance doesn’t require us to puff up or muster up a response.  We simply know that it’s Oh, it’s only him and roll over and go back to Rest.

Look at how Jesus responded in those kinds of situations.  He calmly quoted scripture.  He prays with a knowing Peace.  He does not raise his voice in the street or proclaims anything other than he knows exactly Who his Father is and He trusts Him for every minute.  Was that confidence established in knowing something about evil?  Did it come by establishing or leading a physical rebellion?  In his responses was Jesus teaching us how to resist or just simply being passive?  Was he at Rest because he was just that kind of person he was or did he really know deep in his heart that his foe was a defeated foe?

Again, let me assure you I didn’t write the letter to suggest that there’s only one way to think about Resisting and it just happens to be my way.  My intent is only to try and help believers relax and give them a new way to express their ‘believe’ in tough times.  There’s a Rest that should be common to people having come into Faith in Christ.  The serpent has no ‘voice’ in us, we have nothing to fear.   However, we can be confused and persuaded away from our confidence in Christ.  There’s a ‘calm down’ in knowing and believing in Christ’s Victory.  And, just as with Jesus in that boat, knowing that allows us to roll over and calmly snore away in the storm.  This is not a letter about ‘doing nothing’.  It’s an active, aggressive knowing when Jesus commanded the storm to be Peace.  That Peace is based on knowing something about Whose hands we are in, Whose passion for us is without a shadow or turning.  Possibly, Faith can be measured as much in that confidence as our effort at strength.  I think this is my shortened version:  ‘I agree with what Jesus said about you, your history in my life, you’re over in my life’.  Knowing that, believing that, stating that truth is resisting the devil.  In Ephesians 4:27, Paul taught us not to give place to the devil, encouraging us not to give him a place to dwell in our lives; darkness has no claim or any authority in our lives, not because we’re super Faith people, but because we are His people.  All authority has been given by the Father to the Son.  That’s a transformation of our minds required to begin thinking like Jesus thinks.