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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…..

December Newsletter-Eyes

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I have either a relative, a friend, or perhaps just an acquaintance (I’ll keep that secret) that’s always fascinated me.  From my perspective I see the gifting of God in him, and at the same time I see him sometimes struggle to reason or evaluate whether God even exists.  Looking the other way serves him well for the most part in his corner of the world, but it hasn’t ‘bloomed’ or matured to all that I think God has prepared for him in his giftedness.  Looking the other way sometimes lets us walk right up to the edge of belief but stepping into the other side of that can be pretty difficult.  Because we all seemingly hold back something from that step, we miss many of the things that God has hoped for us in His Love.  It’s not God holding out on us, but rather us struggling to truly investigate what is only experienced by adding the wonder of God into our life equation.

Many times at Thanksgiving dinner I get around to staring into my dinner spoon. Maybe because it’s the only time I see a real silver spoon and maybe that’s what draws my attention. But anyway, I’m always trying to figure out why, if I look at one side of the spoon, I see my image upside-down and if I turn that spoon around, the image is right-side up.  That little maneuver makes me think of the miracle of the human eye. Now, if I could convince this mystery person to just think about one thing, some uninterrupted thinking for, let’s say, 3 days, contemplating the human eye (or for that matter any one of these: our heart- 86,000 beats a day, 3,363,840,000 in a lifetime, or DNA- 2.1 billion bits of information in one strand, 600,000 pages of information in just one fertilized ovum, 50 times the amount of information contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica) would present some of the most convincing arguments for the existence of God.  I many times feel if people would think about it for very long, believing the possibility of anything with the complexity of the human body evolving accidentally would be a very tough position to take.  That our eye evolved simply because of the advantage of time–that’s pretty tough for me to accept.  Now, I guess it’s common sometimes for us to wonder to ourselves: is this Gospel true; is there a Creator God?  Maybe on a weak day it’s ok, I know a few times in my life I’ve found a reason to at least bring the question up when I look around at all the bad stuff going on in this world.  When I do that, I come back to the human eye, the heart, the DNA, and I find it hard to deny that it takes more faith to doubt God as Creator than Faith to believe God as Creator.  I think I mentioned in another newsletter recently that atheists are not unbelievers; they’re simply believers who just believe in a different thing.  Being an atheist doesn’t make you simply an unbeliever in God, atheists and Christians both take positions of Faith, just opposite faiths. An atheist is just as much a believer in something as the Christian is a believer in Christ.

Let’s focus a bit on this eye thing.  The human eye is composed of more than 2 million working parts.  Eighty percent of our memories are determined by what we see.  On a flat surface with complete darkness the human eye has the capacity to see a candle flame burning 30 miles away.  The eye can distinguish 10 million colors.  Here’s an example of the complexity of the eye from the book, Does God Believe in Atheists? by John Blanchard: “Although accounting for just one fourth-thousandth of an adult’s weight, it is the medium which processes some 80% of the information received by its owner from the outside world. The tiny retina contains about 130 million rod-shaped cells, which detect light intensity and transmit impulses to the visual cortex of the brain by means of some one million nerve fibres, while nearly six million cone-shaped cells do the same job, but respond specifically to color variation. The eyes can handle 500,000 messages simultaneously, and are kept clear by ducts producing just the right amount of fluid with which the lids clean both eyes simultaneously in one five-thousandth of a second (page 313).”

I heard it said once that for the human body to be an ‘accident’, which is what you must believe to believe in evolution, it would be like taking the individual parts of a pocket watch, putting them in a clothes dryer and expect (after tumbling them for however long you wished) a watch to be produced in that dryer.  I’m going to grab another quote, and while there is so much more information, amazing stuff about the human eye, for the sake of space I’ll quote from Body By Design, written by Alan Gillen.

“The most amazing component of the eye is the ‘film,’ which is the retina. This light-sensitive layer at the back of the eyeball is thinner than a sheet of plastic wrap and is more sensitive to light than any man-made film. The best camera film can handle a ratio of 1000-to-1 photons in terms of light intensity. By comparison, human retinal cells can handle a ratio of 10 billion-to-1 over the dynamic range of light wavelengths of 380 to 750 nanometers. The human eye can sense as little as a single photon of light in the dark! In bright daylight, the retina can bleach out, turning its “volume control” way down so as not to overload. The light-sensitive cells of the retina are like an extremely complex high-gain amplifier that is able to magnify sounds more than one million times (pages 97-98).”

Back to my looking into that spoon.  I looked that up some time ago and learned that the image that’s created in our eye is actually created upside-down and miniaturized, our brains and components of the eye sense the color and redirect the image to right-side up in our brains.  Not only are the images produced upside-down, they are also left-right inverted as well.  That is, the left-side of our vision is received by the right-side of our eye and vise versa.  That means that the nerves in both eyes split up and cross each other in a way that the left halves of each eye is received by the right hemisphere of the brain and united into a seamless vision in our brains.  Strange?  And this: eyes wash themselves with their self-contained system of eye lashes, eye lids and glands.  Tears contain an anti-microbial agent that destroys bacteria, viruses, etc.  Blinking up to 6 times a minutes refreshes the lens.  The cornea acts like a watch face to protect the internals. A lens focuses the image, the iris and pupil adjust the amount of light, muscle groups move and adjust the angles of the light entering the eye.  On a single millimeter of the retina there are about 400,000 optical sensors.

That’s a lot of confusing stuff but then that’s whole the point.  Seems to me that a fair examination of the world around us leaves us with few excuses to not have a Faith in Father, Son and Spirit and the Breath that created all things.  And, while we may be excuseless, the human brain has found a way to easily do just that.  Reason alone should cause people at the very least to pause long enough to weigh and think about the probabilities.  We should at least have a conversation, but we do not.  I think the biggest obstacle is not our logic but our objection.  To me, there’re more people that won’t believe than there are people that can’t.

Here’s where I don’t get the accident thing:  I think I’m suppose to believe that ‘need’ was the driving force for evolution’s progressive theory.  That this something needed something better, just add a bit of time to that need, and poof: evolution proven!  So it must be that human eyes came about because we simply needed better eyes, and add a long time interval, and abracadabra- the complexity of our eyes.  If need were the driver, and a change did take place, what propelled the next stage, need again?  Seems the first need would be satisfied with the first change and set down and just relax.  If not need, where is the inertia for this progressive evolution. Seems to me if you take dirt and lets say protein from somewhere (I don’t know what all) put all that in a jar, if I sit and watched it 3 billion-trillion years, if I turned them, rolled them, heated them, chilled them, or talked to them, I’m guessing I would still have a jar of dirt, protein or whatever at the end of any length of time.  Without something planning the process, I just can’t get to where I need to believe in accidental life.  Without a start, a continuation, and a choosing taking place, an accident is just too much of a miracle for me, yet people buy it hook, line and sinker.  Just seems their religion (faith story) is a whole lot less likely than our Faith story.

I don’t know about you but I often get tired of being bombarded by the world’s constant pressure on our Faith in God.  Often when I feel that way, I simply retreat into the profound nature of the complexity of our eye, the heart and all that little DNA data.  Look, the only way to know God is through the spirit, not the mind– the only way!  But, using our brains once in awhile to observe Creation is encouraged in Scripture in such a way as to suggest ‘at the very least observe these miracles’!  The things that just make no sense in the hands of an atheist, those things establish a Peace in me!