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June Newsletter- Two Trees

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

These are interesting times for sure. Stressful times? For sure. Unusual? For sure. Frightening? Can be. As a society, here we challenge our country’s slogan: In God We Trust. We challenge biology/science and the Word of God defining male and female. So much of what is good gets painted as evil and many evil things are sold as good. Marriage becomes un-definable. Parenting becomes unwanted; politically, some describe parents as terrorists. Wisdom gets thrown out and is replaced by what the Bible colors as foolishness. God is dead is today’s whisper; it’s the quiet but intended motive heard in many of our movies, books, newscasts, political actions. That’s a lot on the table to deal with. Let me add one more concern. It’s something that’s caught my attention for awhile; in fact, I first wrote about it in a letter in 1996. Simply put, it might be questioned as ‘where’s the Gospel’, more directly where is Jesus in the Gospel. We have many persuasions simplifying that just doing good is the Gospel. All religions have that equation in some form or another. In our faith, the Gospel is not just about what is right, but Who is right. Jesus is the deal! He didn’t come just to create a good religion or a new culture– he came to save, deliver, redeem.

Let’s step back to the Garden of Eden. ‘…of every tree of the Garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you may not eat of it, for in that day you eat it, you will surely die.’ That was not prophesying a physical death but a spiritual one. Eve’s reasoning was, ‘the tree was good for food and it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise.’ Sounds a lot like the world’s thinking today. (Gen. 3:6)) (Thinking themselves wise they became fools.) There were two trees in the Garden: the tree of Life and the tree of Good and Evil. The tree of good and evil was actually just one tree. Adam and Eve were instructed to choose from one of those trees but not both. After the fall, God removed the Tree of Life so that they could not eat of it and live forever perpetuating their fallen state. Today, it seems so much of what ends up hurting us is clothed in the wrap of ‘good’. So much of the things opposed to God are couched in man’s own definitions of Right and Good words and deeds. Today we can make that same choice they did, separating ourselves from the Tree of Life, (Jesus is that tree. It was ‘planted’ in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we might have access to Life again.) The anti-Christ spirit is a happy camper when either our good or evil efforts keep us alienated from dependency upon the Father, Son and Spirit. And, just as in the past, the spirit of anti-Christ can whisper of doing good things, separating ourselves from Christ by depending upon what we call right in our own eyes to hold us up rather than the Trinity to sustain us. The finished product of that is self-righteousness matured. A rightness obtained by our definitions and effort, something Isaiah 64:6 (a post crucifixion scripture) prophesied was as filthy rags when laid up next to Christ’s gift of Righteousness. Our Righteousness, as with Abraham, comes from not being like God but being in awe of what God has done for us.

If we’re tempted to hand down a ‘social gospel’, where right and wrong are the definitive language of our Gospel, what tree is that? As believers, ours is not to live a life characterized by saying we are right and good, but a life that says He is Right and Good. Jesus said there was none Good but the Father. (Mark 10:18) The apostle Paul left little doubt: ‘being justified freely by His Grace…propitiation through His blood to declare His Righteousness for the remission of our sin…we conclude then that a man is justified by Faith without the deeds of the Law.’ (Romans 3:20) Trusting in Him will lead us to a more ethical and moral life than the culture’s definitions of right and wrong. Father, Son and Spirit are Good and their Spirit lives inside us; that Spirit can guide and lead us into what is good, by revealing what’s been placed in our hearts. What we will find there is defined in 1Cor. Chapter 13, ‘Love is…’ When we hear Their Voice, Love can be discovered and experienced, and it can pour out into other’s lives.

The Wisdom of God declares that there’s a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12) If we turn to only the tree of good and evil, or right and wrong, we will ourselves (and we will teach our children), to rely on the wrong source for real life. One tree gives us knowledge of right and wrong but the Tree of Life gives us a Life only the Father can give, unique only to Him.

Having an allegiance to something we think is true doesn’t guarantee it is The Truth. Jesus said he was the Truth, the Way and the Life. That’s the tree we’re to access and depend upon. He’s the One that provides all things pertaining to Life and Godliness. Today’s temptation is similar to the first temptation in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were not tempted away from God to do drugs or to immorality; they were lured away by the temptation of living lives independent of the Father, not trusting Him to meet their needs. They would be their own source of leading good lives. Simplified, theirs was a choice of living in His Kingdom or one they themselves created. The ability to define, to separate, between the two trees requires the partnership with The Spirit. There is no other way to distinguish and rightly divide one from the other without that Wisdom of God.

The Gospel is not simply a journey to find out what is right or wrong, good or evil. It’s not simply legislating good things. I remember years ago reading a quote from Chuck Colson given at a Promise Keepers meeting back in the 1990’s: ‘We think we’re going to win this culture back by our political movements. Now, political movements are important, we should all be involved in politics, fighting for the rights of the unborn and for justice in our country, and against some of the ridiculous, absurd things that are trying to be done in this country. We’ve got to be fighting for these politically. But, ultimately, nothing we do will make any difference unless it flows out of the Body of Christ. Men and women committed to one another…being precedes doing. We’ll never be able to accomplish anything in America until we are the people of God, then He will use us to the work because we will be the people of God.’ Colson’s simple advice was a life dependent upon Christ will make a difference in our home, our community, our state and our country. We do the things mentioned in that quote because we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice more than just our being right and wrong. Generally, people don’t always make a conscious decision to be independent of Him, yet we’re subtly moved toward a life that depends more upon our efforts than to trust in the sufficiency of His.

We need to be active in the political and cultural directions this country is taking. Being vocal and active is appropriate, vital. That said, my heart, my attitude, my hope, isn’t measured by simply the success of those efforts. My confidence is anchored in a trust that the Gospel is True. WBVN is a ministry of Grace, has been all of the 32 years of broadcasting. There are other focuses and concentrations in ministry that others are anointed to do, but for our ministry purposes in the Church, we point to Jesus’ works as our emphasis. Hopefully we present the Gospel of Reconciliation described in 2 Cor. 5:18. That’s why we quote: the power of God, the Life of God, is not to be found from the good or evil tree, it’s found in the Life of Christ. (Gal. 3:11) That God kind of Life is found in the knowledge of His Grace and Mercy, not only what is good or evil. In our present world, good can be evil and evil can be good. Saul, who became Paul, had a name change because of his revelation of the Gospel. As Saul he was the overseer, the authority, to enforce traditional Jewish good and evil in Jerusalem. On the road to Damascus, he discovered he was the chief sinner. (See Paul’s description in Phil. 3:6-9) Paul goes so far as to declare that if our righteousness came by the Law, Christ died in vain. (Gal. 2:19-21)

The spirit that persuades so much of the world now is one that does not believe there is evil, convincing the world generally that what is true in our own eyes is true. It doesn’t believe that anyone is evil-they just think differently….I have a set of porcelain monkeys that my grandfather gave me when I was a young boy. They were from his birthplace, England. They are named hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil. Today, they would be gods in many of the cultures of men.

For me, one of the most crushing things I see are people in positions of trust taking away childhood and peace from children, purposely doing so to meet the adult’s world view. Parenting is about giving our children the best chance to discover, not only the Gospel, but providing them to grow up in an environment of peace, happiness; becoming what God intended them to be from the foundation of the cosmos. Today, we think nothing of destroying children’s lives at age 10 on some selfish purpose, torching children’s futures. What would have been considered criminal just a few years ago is now considered by some as education. I have confidence that in the end, people who sting children’s lives, push catastrophe, will answer for that aggressive attitude.

We need a powerful Gospel in order to live peacefully in this present culture, actually it’s needed in every culture, all histories. That Peace is only associated with the Tree of Life: Christ Jesus. The Tree of Life was removed from the Garden of Eden and re-planted in the Garden of Gethsemane to be accessed once again from then until Jesus comes again.

May Newsletter-Real Jesus

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Have you ever noticed the parallel that what the culture/the world system offers to its ‘believers’ are the same things the Gospel offers to its believers? It’s not really profound. That’s how this mess all started in the first place. Satan whispered into the ears of the first man and woman that they could be as gods and create their own way of living separated from God. It’s an old whisper that still echoes today. Success, happiness, comfort, and being pleased are thrown at us in almost every commercial and political promise. True purposed life, Joy, Peace, Rest come with the Gospel faith. The world’s ‘just around the corner’ talk of fountains of youth, seeking genetic perfections and eliminating diseases are declared as possible, they’re just on the horizon, or sometimes just an order or phone call away. Man-made eternal life is just over the next hill and man is well on their way to discovering it. What the Gospel promises, culture counterfeits into its own whispers. The spirit of anti-Christ efficiently mimics Truth, steals Truth’s vocabulary, shuffles the Gospel’s good and evil. The declaration today is that the Bible is a story of myth, implying God’s story evolutionized as man evolutionized. That creation happened randomly and the Christian Creator myth simply developed, not as the first thing but as a later thing. It identifies God as a crutch for those people that struggle with the realities of the world. Simply, man can create his own utopia, God not needed. Man can cure all things, can create peace, can give you, with his ability, anything that you desire. Its promise is a sweet existence after we get rid of God. God’s promise is an eternal existence, those are not the same. We can live as long, exist as long, as medicine will provide, but man cannot ever offer eternal life, life everlasting. Only Jesus can do that.

Jesus came to give us Himself, a changed life that only He can give– nothing else can. Technology, information, and manmade solutions can’t give us what Jesus can give: relationship. Friends on Facebook, large bank accounts, titles, and…..can’t duplicate what Christ brings to our lives. At the current stage of events, one of the biggest hurdles for culture seems to be that Christianity and Jewish cultures stand in the way of a grand new day, a new order, a worry and carefree life that is just around the corner. Happy is going global. Those two religious groups seem to be the target for those that, on the whole, proclaim tolerance and love yet somehow avoid applying either to these two religious persuasions.

As we see and experience the world stage, our focus is required to become even more in focus. Honing in on Jesus, who he is and what he does, has become the most central daily ‘check off’ as we awaken to us each day. As we take our first deep breath to step into the world man prepares for us, a first thing to address is: Jesus is real! You can believe whatever you believe about this life and its purpose but your opinion will not affect the fact that through Jesus, a Kingdom has come that’s more real than your profession of reality. He rules, He reigns even if the world news each day doesn’t seem to support that. What the world thinks about Him will not overpower His ability to change people’s heart and lives of whosoever will.

Jesus is fact and he doesn’t need us to make it true or make it so! Fact, Jesus changes lives no matter the world’s response. The world over, people are looking for Peace, Hope and Healing. Christ gives those. The world tries to give them through logic and reasoning, Jesus gives them through the Spirit. Jesus gives the original versions, and the world can only hand out counterfeits.

Significantly, our believing doesn’t empower Him. He is power, period. He’s holding all things together. (Colossians 1) He’s not dependent on whether we endorse Him or not. Wars and rumor of wars, gas prices, cultural upheaval, while appearing to dominate and grab our attention generally distract from one simple truth: the world system is not going to destroy or get rid of Him. He can’t be silenced, won’t be ruled out, can’t lock Him away- can’t be snatched out of our hearts. He is not puzzled, worried, or discouraged about this creation; He knows the end and has voiced that to us for our comfort. Jesus put a quest in each of us. It’s a knowing that we are made for a better life than the one we typically are experiencing. The secular world gives us formulas for that through the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1John2:16). It has its belief system, the Gospel offers another. Jesus gives us Faith, Hope and Love through our spiritual hearts.

As I’ve written so many times before, part of that focus is to realize, and especially accept, that He is with us. That’s not just a scripture in Isaiah but a truth underlined with His resurrection. No matter our circumstances, He is in believers’ hearts. And, most importantly, He’s not just in the room with us observing our daily deeds; He’s in the middle of our mess and actively participating with us. Jesus didn’t just become flesh and then entered into the world, mission accomplished. He went further than even that, the actual purpose of doing that was to eventually enter into you. Jesus’ simple message to us is ‘see me’. Let me share who the Father and Spirit are and I will whisper that to you each day.

One of the most pleasing and valued things that has happened in the 32 years of ministry at WBVN has been the relationships we experienced with our listeners, our concert attendees, many artists and many artist agency folks. I think, as one of the primary purposes of Jesus coming to us, sharing with us and experiencing the rejection of us, was to introduce us to what we were intended, as being His creation, to experience some things similar to the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. Hoping for us to experience and discover personal and caring relationships with Him and with others. No matter what the future holds, this ministry has experienced those kind of relationships with you and they will always be imprinted in our hearts. What makes man’s creation on the 6th day of Genesis special and separated from all other life created was the unique ability to communicate and care about others.

Ok, so we’re on a scavenger hunt for all the things the world dangles in front of us. We search for what largely seems unattainable but is just a promise away if we will just continue to pursue the world system. Most fascinating is that the original whisper of Eden was to draw away from the reality and promises of God and replace them with the promises of men. Satan’s voice suggested come over here and we, you and I, can work this out ourselves. God is holding out on you and in our efforts we can do so much better. In the temptation of Jesus: to turn stones into bread, use your power over the angels, look at all you see; all that can be yours simply in our efforts and abilities, you have the power to do it apart from ‘your Father’. (Matthew and Luke 4:4)

Truth was then and the Truth is now that the Father, the Son and the Spirit has already done what we are trying to do ourselves. Adam and Eve’s problem was in not recognizing who God really was and what He had provided for them in that garden. They did not recognize God’s gift to them. That can be true for us today, misunderstanding that it’s in God’s purpose and gift that we should experience more to this life than simple existence. Eternal life begins with simply seeing Jesus and recognizing what He has done for whosoever believes.

God’s gifts are universal in the sense that what he offers is available and relevant to rich or poor. All classes of people receive Him. People of all countries and cultures have been changed by Him. All ages can respond to Him. Common to all of His creatures is the quest of knowing and being known by God. He fills, and what He fills, He seals into a personal unbroken relationship, un-separatable.

I started this letter mentioning the similarities between the Life God offers to us and those offered, in contrast with God, by ignorant darkness. God, has from the beginning, divided His creation in such ways as to contrast and illustrate the wisdom of choosing Him as our source of real Life versus any other. Life began in Genesis with choices. There were two trees, one of good and evil and another a tree of Life, a choice of listening to a Loving God or a death salesman, a tempter spirit. Day and night were separated. Adam and Eve were given a choice between Life as the Father would have it for them and life that leads to chaos and spiritual death. Life is always made up of choices characterized by separation for clarity as to which choice is wise. I think the word choose is used some 25 times in the scripture written by Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. Most frequently quoted in verse 30:19 referencing Life and death, Blessing and cursing. In the New Testament, a reference is made to the Word of God being a Sword able to divide and separate the soul and spirit. Simply, it identifies the road to choose in following Him. The New Testament obligates to another division with two choices, boils down to saying yes or no to the Christ. Choosing which one is our responsibility. Choosing Him each day is our journey.

April Newsletter- Above Ability

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

C.S. Lewis once said: ‘If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite Joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.’ I suppose we could express it as the need to evaluate what the world offers and compare those to love, peace, joy, freedom, and everlasting life. You can’t get those just anywhere; they’re only available in knowing Christ. That knowing is personal, not simply a logical opinion thing, but absorption has to take place. What exists about God externally needs to be applied inside us.

It’s been said that we are souls carrying around a body, emphasizing the priority of our souls over the flesh. If we are willing, it is our souls that are changed day by day and reflect the image of Christ we all hope for. It’s our souls that must become unsatisfied with the present life and seek a change. It’s our souls that long for something to fill the holes in our lives. Matthew 5:48 refers to being perfect. How many of us are going to pass that test? Actually, that scripture actually focuses on the process of saving the soul to the point of moving into completeness of God’s divine purpose in each of our lives. The Christian journey is about discovering the path that permits us to express the Spirit of Christ into other people’s lives. Bottom line, it’s our insides that can know God, our hearts. Once Christ is absorbed then the Life inside a believer can be expressed externally as Christ to those around us.

It’s not a rational, mental argument that takes place in our lives that creates Faith in Christ. I have seen the logical presented expertly and I’ve seen very intelligent and mature people, kind people, just walk away from that. The Spirit doesn’t change our minds, the Spirit changes our hearts. John 8:32 refers to a Truth that will be known and make us free, but it’s not an intellectual conversion, it’s an intimate, personal experience. It’s a bit more than just seeing a billboard and saying I agree with that. The Gospel is meant to be consumed–more about that later in this letter. It’s Jesus’ words finding a dwelling place. That requires that our hearts be open to and penetrated by the Holy Spirit of God. Belief cannot be willed; it must come from the heart. (Gal. 2:20, Eph 3:16, 1Cor. 3:16) Love and Faith are not logically attainable, they’re heart driven. When we accept Christ into our lives The Spirit dwells in our heart, not our brain. A relationship with Christ is personal; it’s much more than a cultural movement. (I’ve often wondered in my brain, which is greater- a culture that passes laws and gets the people to follow those or is the greater wonder the Spirit’s ability to change a heart. One forces behavior to change, the other changes the whole person: body, soul and spirit.)

It’s interesting reading scriptures that refer to the Pharisees’ behavior during crucifixion week. Those verses show people witnessing great deeds and powerful words. Jesus attempted to convince them of the presence of their long awaited Messiah, yet they opposed Him. They, like so much of the world today, couldn’t see or hear the obvious. Messiah giving wise advice and doing things no other man had ever done, and yet the Pharisees’ brains simply could not comprehend. Their eyes and ears were working, but they were blind and deaf in their hearts.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” in another verse, “I am the resurrection.” He stated that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. He’s referred to as the True Vine. He’s the Bread of Life. He’s described as the Door and uniquely called ‘the Good Shepherd’. In John 8:12, he’s declared the Light of Life. He is Living Water. Even simplifying it further, when asked by the women at the well if he was the Messiah, he tells us, ‘I am he.’ (We should always notice that the article ‘the’ used in biblical text always sets the expression as unique and exclusive to the subject of that conversation. It’s associated to the English word absolute. When ‘the’ is used it emphatically means he is the only one that is ‘the’.)

I wrote earlier of the necessity of having to consume the Gospel, not just observe and intellectually agree with it. Jesus tried to make that a pretty simple, natural process for us. As referenced above, he talked of being the bread, light, living water, and a communion of bread and wine; all are pretty common understandable examples of the necessity of Christ in our lives. We need daily bread to survive, we thirst, and we hunger. Eating of, drinking in, consuming Jesus’ Life was one of his best ways to illustrate the significance of choosing his teachings and burying them in our heart. All the above references require that the external has to be consumed internally to receive its benefit. The Gospel is the same. Christ lives within us, not simply around us.

Life is made up and explained in scripture using two Greek words: bio (we refer to that as biology) and zoe (life to the full, God-filled life). All bio life needs light. Plants die without it, men stumble like a blind man without it. Adam and Eve’s dying referenced in Genesis was not a physical death but a soulish one. Their dying occurred when they stepped into the darkness or simply the ignorance of God’s Love and Care. They believed a lie, stepped into foolishness about the Father and began a journey that man still takes today. Jesus came to bring Light to that ignorance and show the Truth to God’s creation once again. He came to up-root the Garden of Eden mistake.

Today, as with the Pharisees, opposition to Christ brings about a crisis. Proverbs 8:35, ‘those who find me find Life.’ (The reciprocal of that is simply the opposite of that scripture, without Jesus we will not find Life.) How do we do that Life? The closest thing I’ve been able to say that expresses the answer is simply to develop an attitude that we can’t do that, only the Spirit can do that. I have some friends and acquaintances that are not convinced the Spirit will do that. And some are afraid that He might. It’s similar to giving up control. Since we were crying in our cribs, we’ve been enticed to remain in control of every detail of our lives. The Gospel, to be experienced to the full, requires leaving a gap in our life for God to fill that gap. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. Sometimes we can ask for God to do things that might not be wise or appropriate, and we do that ‘in Jesus name’ but in our hearts it’s really asking in our name. Our prayers sometimes can be an architectural blue print of our plans and purpose rather than His. The promises of God for rest, freedom, joy, and peace are found in His plans, His reality more than in our own. My Prayer is to live life above my ability; to experience things that I cannot find on my own without God’s fingerprints on them.

It boils down to, can we know God? Jesus answered that in a conversation with Phillip. (John 14:8-9) The word for know that Phillip used was a Greek word related to seeing God. Jesus answered using the Greek word ginosko, meaning experiencing Him. According to Jesus words, The Father actually can be made known to us by seeing Christ Jesus, and experiencing Christ Life. Jesus indicated that he and the Father were One. To see one was to see the other. Jesus was the exact image of God. Observe his life, consume his words, and we experience the Father. Jesus came to do a remodel. He came to re-do the effect Adam had on our world. His effort to accomplish that is recorded in the way we express his purpose: re-deem, re-new, re-birth, re-create, doing that in our hearts.