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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.

April Newsletter: Living From Our Hearts

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Living from our hearts:

Someone recently asked me my thoughts on the difference in a believer’s expression of ‘living out of our heart’ and contrast that with the more secular expression of ‘following our heart’.  That, folks, cuts to the chase.  That might just be, after coming to the knowledge of Christ, the most important question we’ll ever have to answer.  Everything hangs on the presupposition of ‘living out of our hearts’.  That’s the center of our relationship with Christ.  Our praying, our choice of careers, parenting, health, relationships with people, and a whole lot more, depend on our sensitivity to our hearts.

If I had to use a couple of sentences to express the difference, I’d say it like this:  Living out of your heart is hearing the whisper of God from inside us where the Spirit of God is.  That indwelling was His promise to us and we shouldn’t feel ‘weird’ about believing that.  The more secular expression, following your heart, is more akin to being led by our brain or thinking machine.  As a believer, the word ‘heart’ refers to what’s attributable to what we call the Breath of Life.  It’s what God breathed into Adam that uniquely made Adam, well, Adam.  Our heart is God’s fingerprint on us.  It’s one person’s, and only that person’s, life track, their gift from God.  I think we each have that personal Breath from God.  Finding it in the post-Adam world is the key to experiencing the most of our Christian Life.  Absent that, it’s like a man that walks in darkness.   He stumbles.  He falls.  He struggles through life.  Living out of our hearts is discovering and walking by that eternal part of us, not walking after the momentary whims from our brains.  That stabilizes us.  From a secular point of view, following our heart (our feelings, will, and emotions) bewilders us much of the time.  I might add that what we think isn’t necessarily from our heart.  If living the Christian life was simply a thinking thing The Bible would have been enough for us to follow, no need for the Spirit to come.  We could digest the book, memorize it and boom, we’re done. However, the Christian life’s bigger than that.  We need to add to The Book relationship and trust His Spirit.  Our Christian heart is not simply made up of how we feel, what we think, or our opinions.  Everyone can easily follow those.  Rather, ‘living out of where the Spirit of Christ is present’ is unique to each believer.  In that heart, the Spirit of God’s there to guide, whisper, hold and light our way.  One comes from Christ inside, the other is generally created by the environment we find around us. Actually, the Christian Life may be more of learning that our feelings are not to be trusted, but that He is.

That’s tricky.  The secular can mimic the Spiritual rather easily.  I think everything spiritual has a counterfeit that keeps us from finding the real.  We need a witness, a knowing, that blends with what we are experiencing, seeing, feeling, etc.  What we’re experiencing and what we’re witnessing in our brain, must marry into one unction.  Unction is something that we can’t shake.   Sometimes, people get an idea, even a good idea, and ‘think’ that idea comes from God.  I used to explain to people years ago that WBVN was not a good idea I had.  Actually, the idea was more scary than comforting.  It wasn’t something that I hoped for or something just to go try.  WBVN happened to us out of a strong desire to share a message, an unction to share a message: ‘Dad ain’t mad’.   WBVN came from behind me instead of out in front of me.  It came running up my back; that’s different than having a good idea.  With a good idea you’re looking down the road with expectation, unction rides your heart so much that you just look for relief.  With unction there’s a calm ‘beside the still waters’ place even when in the middle of something uncomfortable.  Jane and I simply stepped into His invitation to follow; I let Him be our Light into our ‘not knowing where that might lead’ place. God doesn’t necessarily tell us the specifics as He embraces us and holds our hand as we move forward.

For the most part, the whole pre-Heaven Gospel’s about following Christ.  It’s not necessarily the result we get that defines obedience; it’s the motion of following Him that defines it.  Perhaps the question for believers is not what do I need to do to be perfect, but rather, how do I get to know Christ?  In some sense, Jane and I risked everything for the simple Joy of following His whisper.  In a way, we’ve all been wired to follow Him, perhaps more that than to celebrate our arrival at any destination.  Abraham was simply told to go!  Like Abraham, we might not know the destination, but following with our hearts no matter where it leads is part of why He sent His Spirit.  God’s job description on our journey can be described as ‘a heart looker on-er’.  I think God has His most pleased smile when we’re on the road between two places, following Him along our way, rather than at the end of our journey.  It’s not about having a map that shows us all the detail as much as having a hint of the direction to go and trust with simply a pillar of smoke by day and a fire by night.  What if the Will of God is about relationship rather than location? What if it’s about the journey, His embrace to trust, rather than a certain end?

God has a pleased nature about Him because of what Christ has done.  Living out of your heart is about God leading us to greener pastures, places of rest and places that will bring our life into His Life.  It’s about places that, to us, might look bleak and barren but that God sees as gardens full of potential to bring Life.  God’s whole purpose of Christ in us is that we might prosper in the Life He, His Son and Spirit have made for us.

Secondarily, in our walk, why is greater than how.  Simplified, heart attitude trumps knowledge.  Why we do something is on God’s radar as much as did we do it perfectly.   If we act on whatever understanding we do have about the Gospel, God seems to see the intentions of our heart as good.  In God’s Gospel economy, it’s not so much what we know, it’s Who we know.   Even when other people don’t perceive our purpose, God knows the why all along.  God knowing our hearts can be a scary thought, but that’s the safe place in all this living from the heart.  Did we abide with Him, did we live in the shadow of the Most High, and did we permit the embrace of His invitation to let Him be our God?  Or, did we shake off that invitation and simply say, ‘I got this’?  Religion is ‘I got this’.  Sometimes we’re better at knowing the Law rather than knowing the Lawgiver.

The first step in living out of your heart is to agree with Jesus.  There really is a place in you that His Spirit occupies.  Because of all of the clutter in our lives, that place may not be obvious.  But because He said it, it’s there in you just the same.  That special place is to be discovered through prayer and relationship.  It’s there and we’re designed to learn to recognize and trust It.  Ours is a God that wants to be called Father.  It’s about a Dad that loves anyway; a God that picks us up rather than knocks us down.

In so many words this Gospel’s about Him rather than us.   Living out of your heart is about trusting more than prophesying.  If we’re following Him we have no need to be fearful.  Even with a wrong turn, we’ll find Him standing at the next crossroad with an open hand.

There’s a very slight separation between our hearts and our thinking.  It’s a choice between what our brains make easy for us to do or what our Spirit filled hearts know will actually bring His Life to our life.  There were two trees in Eden:  one tree of good and evil and the other the Tree of Life.  Our ancestors chose the first tree; they started thinking God was holding out on them, wasn’t interested in their best interest.  That kind of thinking started the problem.  How many of us, if we’re not careful, still get to believing that today?

Secularly, following our hearts can come from that first tree either for good or bad reasons.  Jesus’ purpose for coming into this broken world, suffer its punishment, was to re-establish and  to restore  the Tree removed Eden, the Tree of Life.  He set the Tree of Life back into our gardens (lives) with His death, burial and resurrection.  Our current life is about accessing that second tree.  That Tree is Christ, He is Life.  The ability to access that Life lives inside us.  The Spirit of the Living God has made a home in you.  For Christians, living out of our hearts has an assumption in it.  Our heart is where He is present, not just a place where we’re alone.  I believe there’s only one door into our Christ-filled heart: knowing Him.  Our concept of Who He is can bias our ability to access His Life.  Are we still thinking He’s holding out on us?  The essence of God’s great question to Adam, Abraham and Moses was summed up in His question to Peter: ‘Who do you say I am?’  The answer to that question is the key to hearing what He might have to say inside you.