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February Newsletter-Raspberries

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

When I write these newsletters, there’s a sense I’m writing them to myself, while, at the same time I know I have you reading over my shoulder. When I write them, I always learn as much about the Gospel as I share with you. So many times the result of writing them is I feel like ‘I didn’t know I knew that.’ This one comes from standing in the middle of my briar patch, doing one of the routine things I have to do to get ready for a deep winter and prepare for spring. I have to cut my black raspberry bushes back to about 12-18 inches long, leaving just ugly sticks pointing to the blue sky. Before that cutting, some of them will stretch out to maybe 15-20 feet after a full summer of growth. Pruning them made me think of John’s Gospel chapter 15. There Jesus teaches that the Father is the true Vine and how we have been grafted into Him; meaning, there’s a source of Life that comes from simply being connected to Him. Human life, for the most part, is a life of sorrow and confusion, but the Life of God is nothing like that. He is the root from which all true Life springs, all meaning is revealed, and He has invited us to be gathered into that Life with Him. In the winter, if you looked at my raspberry plants you would think there’re probably 40 individual plants; however, if you looked carefully you’d see that they are all coming from another plant, a root supplying life for the start of all the rest. That’s Gospel.

feb16 copyWhen I first start trimming, the berry vines are a tangled mess. Being busy all summer long with all the other ‘around the house’ jobs, I always seem to let them run too far, so I inherit a ball of twisted, mingled, out of control bushes. A jungle of briars. (Something’s romantic and fair about having to wade into that thicket and getting scratched up real good. Somehow you know you should always have to pay that kind of price for the berries you’ve gotten the season before.) Left unattended, they wouldn’t produce the crop of black raspberries I’m expecting next spring. I not only cut them, I also lift the shoots that lay on the ground. I tie them to a wire string, knowing that they have less of a chance of producing fruit if left on the ground. They will also root in the wrong place without training them to stand up. They seem not to like that training very much. They don’t like not being able to do as they wish, but in the long run they will produce more berries and have an easier job doing so than if I permitted them to stay on the ground. I also have to tend the ground around the patch to both protect them from a freeze and organize them for picking the fruit the following July. In the spring I will also ‘tip’ the new vines, in effect, doubling the amount of fruit that’s produced. They take quite a bit of care, black raspberries do!

There’s Gospel to be found in that patch. It’s subtle, but God doesn’t just stand by our side and watch from afar, offering to do something about our lives only when we ask correctly or only when we stumble into getting something right about the Gospel. He actually enters into the patch, grafts us into His Life. Our tears, our smiles, are a part of our experience, and His, with us. Like those berry vines, we sometimes go through the winters of our lives being strengthened and rested for the coming summer to bear much fruit. He doesn’t leave us in the tangle, but shows us, helps us to improve the fruitfulness of our lives. Scripture identifies only one fruit that the Father is seeking from us, Fruit of the Spirit. That’s what He’s looking to be expressed in Life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness and Self Control. All those come out of our character, not our labor– not what we might do in a moment, but what we are doing in a lifetime.

Many times it’s interesting to look at scripture’s original language to redefine how we see texts like John 15:2. In that verse, the words ‘take away’ in the Greek language is airo. Specifically, it means to lift up, it does not mean to cut off. It’s very much like when I lift those berry shoots off the ground to give them a chance to mature. The word translated pruned/purged in that verse is the Greek word kahairo uniquely meaning to cleanse from filth. (In the dry climate of Israel, with little rain, the vine leaves had to have the dust washed so that photosynthesis could take place.) Thafeb16a copyt’s a different spin on the nature and character of God with those Greek meanings exposed. There’re four or five verses in the scripture that have been pillars of my trust and understanding of the Father. Isaiah 42:3 is one of those: a bruised reed He will not break and a smoking flax He will not quench. (For me) He will mend the broken, He will blow the Breath of His life on the smallest ember to bring both to Life. That’s my Trust, my Hope. (And, yes, I’m aware of the next thought ‘until He has set Judgment’. He has done that having placed all judgment on Jesus Christ.)

Serendipity is the effect by which someone accidently discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. In this Christian journey I began looking for the best religion I could find. I wanted to know the truth about which one was the most correct, most moral, best ethical argument. I searched books, cassettes and lectures looking for the perfect religion to believe in. I looked for the ‘good life’. Amazingly, along the way what I discovered was not a religion at all but a True and Living Way. Not just a good way to live but I found the Giver of a powerful Life, a Life that left you without a thirst for anything else but The Life. A Life that isn’t simply about Right and Wrong, but a Life blended with His creative, exciting, spontaneous Life of the Trinity of God. On the Vine of John 15, you cannot tell where the Vine and the branches join one another. The Vine’s rooted self and the grafted branch’s beginnings look as one. Isaiah 40:31 says that those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, the original text refers to those that braid together much like a rope is braided, will be strong. Instead of finding a religious God, I discovered the True God Who embraces us into His Life, gets us tangled in the things of His Life, leads us into a new and living Way.

If we permit Him to do so, God is the husbandman of our Lives. He is busy lifting us up, rather than holding us down. There’s no pleasure in God to destroy His children, but He is all about teaching, leading, encouraging. When we fall, He grabs our hand and helps us recover our walk. He cleanses us as He forgives. We should not be surprised that this and the next generation are struggling to make sense of life, so many have not been promised or had expressed to them any Hope of His Life. If fact, we’ve been taught by the world and have taught our children that God might no longer exist or at the very least is not to be trusted. We only know the reward of self-effort, self accomplishment, a life of making our own way and have not been exposed to the shared Life of Christ with the Father and Spirit, Life on the Vine. Many have no confidence that there’s even a Life that competes with their own self-sufficiency.

We were never created to grow up and be independent and self sufficient; just the opposite, we were created to grow up in Him, be dependent upon Him, mingled with Him. Things that the Spirit bears cannot be found any other way than partnering with His Life. He is the Way, the Truth and Life and no one yields that fruit except by Him. We can do very well financially, create positive self images, we can go our own way and survive with what the world promises, but we cannot experience Life separated from God. That’s the real story of Genesis; when men chose to be independent, the internal and the eternal part of them died to that Vine. Jesus came to graft (atonement) us back into the Life of God, give us at-one-ness with Father Son and Spirit. As we yield to the Husbandman and His care, we discover that we bear more Fruit of the Spirit and are able to come closer to reaching the full potential that was Hoped for us in God’s heart before Genesis.

January Newsletter-This Baby

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Well, He cried when He was hungry,
Did all the things that babies do;
He rocked and He napped on His mother’s lap,
And He wiggled and giggled and cooed.
There were the cheers when He took His first step,
And the tears when He got His first teeth;
Almost everything about this little baby
Seemed as natural as it could be.

And this Baby grew into a young boy,
Who learned to read and write and wrestle with dad;
There was the climbing of trees and the scraping of knees,
And all the fun that a boy’s born to have.
He grew taller and some things started changing,
Like His complexion and the sound of His voice;
There was work to be done as a carpenter’s son
And all the neighbors said He’s such a fine boy.
And love made Him laugh and death made Him cry.
With the life that He lived and the death that He died,
He showed us Heaven with His hands and His heart,
‘Cause this man was God’s own son.
This man was like no other one,
Holy and human right from the start.
But this Baby made the angels sing,
And this Baby made a new star shine in the sky.
This Baby had come to change the world.
This Baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.
This Baby was God with us, this baby, this baby was Jesus;
This Baby was Jesus, this baby was Jesus.

(Steven Curtis Chapman’s “This Baby” from The Music of Christmas)

Christ’s birth. Here it is after Christmas and I’m writing about what might have been more timely last month. But starting a new year is a new beginning in so many ways that perhaps you’ll let me Christmas talk a little more in January. Actually, on January 8th we will begin our 27th year of ministry. That’s a lot of songs over that time that declare the Gospel; in fact just a simple estimate is about 3 million ‘spins’ and over 11 million minutes of the message of Christ being shared. Over the years we’ve received thousands of notes and calls of gratitude for having come in 1990 to encourage the Church. Your financial and prayerful support has only been rivaled by your grace to us. When I read those notes, I’m always reminded of how the Sprit of God has always been invited to do ‘His Will’ through this station. Frankly, without His presence, nothing much would get done here. I think WBVN has become a resting place for most of us over the years. We’ve found a home here that’s reflective of being home in the Comfort of God’s Grace and Love.

Wisely, Paul taught us to teach one another with the music of psalms and hymns. We’ve experienced the potential of music ministry/worship by doing so for all those 25 years. Each Christmas season, we only have a slight change in the music rotation we play because the songs, while changing to a different subject in the Gospel Story, still tells the Story of Christ much like we do all year long. All 365 days each year, our concentration has always been on that baby that Steven sings about. It is amazing that that baby wiggled and giggled and cooed and that baby’s incarnation gives us hope that our Savior was fully the Son of Man and the Son of God. We know from the pre-Genesis story that Jesus was always coming, was always aware of his coming and always eager to come. It was in the heart of God Father, Son and Spirit for Him to come, not because of Who they are but because of What they are. Three in One, loving, all three in relationship, cooperative with one another, excited and willing to do whatever it took to open their relationship to us. (I remember hearing a teacher once smilingly make a point: the goal of the Trinity was not to create a creature to take in as a pet that might, once in a while, need some attention but that was pretty much on its own most of the time. They did not create man just to be a pain in Their side, an irritation, or to frustrate them from time to time. What They did intend was for a creature to enter into the fellowship of Their Life, share Their Hope and intimate fellowship. A creature to be with and to share the embrace of their Oneness. The decision to create that kind of creature was made long before Adam, long before the creature had pleased or disappointed. That decision of sharing Their Life was before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:4, 2Tim. 1:9, John 17:24)

I heard a poem once that was called ‘Does God Have A Clue What It’s Like To Be You?’ Could God imagine or understand exactly what it’s like to be you? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, became like us and experienced the human life at the same level we do. Being born of a woman and living a normal human life for most of his life. Born into a simple carpenter’s house that depended upon selling tables and chairs to survive. (Rich Mullins’ ‘Boy Like Me, Man Like You’ might be appropriate here.) The Scriptures say that he grew in knowledge and wisdom as any boy would do. Did Jesus know exactly what it’s like to live by Faith and not by sight? Yes. Does God know what it’s like to live in the middle of life’s confusion and confrontations? Absolutely. Did the nails hurt Jesus just like any other man? What do you think? (John Cox’s song ‘Tell Me’ helps here.) He was ridiculed, cursed, falsely accused, misunderstood by family and his closest friends, suffered injustice, arrested and beaten by the government, declared guilty when he was completely innocent, tortured, he was wounded and murdered by his own religious community. We know he suffered heartbrokenness, pain, temptation, hunger, tears, and faced the emotional loneliness of his own death. Does God have a clue what it’s like to be you?

That baby, that one that wiggled, giggled and cooed, ‘was you a boy like I was once, was you a boy like me?’ (Mullins), that baby, ‘did it hurt when they drove the nails in your hands, did they get to see a grown man cry?’ (Cox) that baby was tempted in every way as we are: God became flesh and knew the same human life that we experience. This baby in his birth, death and resurrection changed the world: If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by (this baby) Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation… that God was in (this baby) Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2Co 5:17-19)
… this Baby made the angels sing, and this Baby made a new star shine in the sky. This Baby had come to change the world. This Baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.
This Baby was God with us, this baby, this baby was Jesus.


December Newsletter-Elijah

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

1Ki 18:31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 1Ki 18:38

It was back in the 1960’s. A sunny warm Saturday, and if you remember the times you know what a teenage boy was doing on a Saturday afternoon. Of course, he was washing his Chevy. My two door, 1957, white top and plum body, 283 engine, hardtop Impala Chevy! That Saturday I was almost in tears. I knew that night instead of cruising the streets and Dec15newsletterenjoying the A&W root beer delivered to your car on an aluminum tray, I was going to a little country church. Something was already working inside me. It was not any one thing, just something churning in my heart. These were not sad tears but tears of relief, tears of Peace and Thanksgiving. I knew that ‘preacher’ L. G. Hartley was not going to be saying anything that was going to increase or decrease what was churning in me, but I knew that when I went to that meeting I was about to explode, come apart in some way that I had never come apart before. I had already been caught but it was a good caught that you want to be captured by. Sure enough, L.G. Hartley spoke and somewhere in that moment, Dale Beasley laid his hand on my shoulder and from then on I only recall the first step of being down front standing/falling in front of preacher Hartley and finally ‘I’m in’, all in, buying the whole farm in, lock, stock and barrel, in!

Now, it’s more than 50 years later and I’m still in. It was a powerful moment for it to hold on to me all those years. I’ve gone through, like most of you, days that stretched it, cracked it, bruised it, wounded it, crushed it, discouraged it, stressed it (well you get the idea). But you see, everyone ‘in’ faces challenges to being ‘in’. Trouble’s always been a part of the deal. The world has tried to take it away, kill it, and for 6000 years, has put all its effort into defeating it. Sometimes violently, sometimes with subtlety. They have humanized it (His Kingdom is of this world, that man can live by bread alone and we should lay up treasures of our own, bolstered by a bit of Wall Street), mixed it with politics (making Jesus a radical freedom fighter) and even pronounced it dead on arrival. It is the Gospel. Yet, for all those years it has out survived its critics, outlived all its accusers. In these days especially, it seems the more we know about Jesus, the less we know of him. We’ve become a generation who are like grandchildren who know about the Faith of their grandparents but possess none of that kind of Faith ourselves, coasting along on the current of their past Church but struggling to assimilate that into our own lives.

It seems to me we’re living in the days of Elijah. The world is pouring everything it has on our Sacrifice to try and destroy our Sacrifice. Yet, Elijah showed no fear; rather ‘bring it on’ might be his call of the day. ‘Pour more, bring more, do it again, my God is able’ was in his heart. This is a day when to believe in a virgin birth is to be considered an idiot, to not believe in the unproven science of human evolution is to be an imbecile. We have a generation that desperately needs a Savior but will not permit the Light of the world to be in our darkness, even as that darkness oppresses Christians to a greater and greater extent. This is a time when the story of Christ’s birth is obviously offensive to the local Family Planning Center, who probably would today simply refer Mary to a local psychiatrist. The world system is eager to crucify this Christ again today in the name of political correctness and tolerance. These are also the days of Elijah because, as I hope we do, Elijah knew and trusted his Lord completely. He was so confident he told them to bring water, lots of water, enough for sure to drown a fire, at the same time knowing that a fire was coming. For Elijah, God was not dead!

No, this Savior did not come to suffer and be raised from the dead to be beaten on the battlefield of the world system. He did not come to be discouraged by the things we see and hear. He did not come to eventually be erased from His-tory. This Creator will not be destroyed by His creation. God is not going away, not going to lose. He is not wringing his hands in fear, not in doubt of what the future might hold.

It has been over 50 years since that Saturday car wash but with all that has come to pass, I’m more excited and more encouraged about the future of Father, Son and Spirit: about the Gospel. I can’t predict the exact future using men as the evidence of that future, but I can predict the future using the Father, Son and Spirit, and I’m convinced they will see this Message through and we will see the manifestation of the Sons of God over all the earth. This world system has always produced bleak stories in people’s lives but there’s a Red Sea in our future. God has not changed. There is a man in a tent sitting in a desert land that will lead us someday, right after his 100 year old wife has a child. There’s a widow with only a mite. It’s always been bleak, always seemingly impossible for God to win. There is a Moses, a Rachel, and a David. There is a Joseph somewhere with a child that appears to not be his own, caring for and preparing for a birth in which he played no part. There is a Mary that simply said ‘let it be unto me as You say’; in today’s ethic she’s a great candidate for a little Planned Parenthood counseling. Jesus was ‘deader than a door nail’, the leader of the new Church was done, the King of the Jews was crucified, the apostles were martyred, but God did not flinch, will not flinch now. We are not losing, but we are winning in the middle of a loser of a world.

I have no hope in men, their hearts are not up to the task to lead us, won’t bring justice, unable to only do good, unable to Love their God, but God is able to do all that and do that in the middle of this mess. In spite of what we see and hear, tomorrow is moving toward a glorious tomorrow. The road is rough and the road is long, but Christ came to make the mountains and valleys level and the roads straight. (Luke 3:5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.) ‘Do not fear, I have come to over-come’ is the Wisdom of God. When Moses asked who shall I tell Pharaoh sent me, God replied, ‘My name is I Am, tell him I Am sent you.’ He is not a God that used to be or will be some day, but a God that is now. He is I Am with us right now.

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