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July Newsletter-Church Future

Posted on by Laura Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ok, we have this Saul fella. In today’s terms we might call him a troublemaker. A persecutor; doing what he thought was the God of Abraham’s work by persecuting an upstart faith about a teacher/rabbi named Jesus; you know, Joseph and Mary’s boy. Saul, who comfortably watched as Steven was stoned to death. Saul, who after Steven’s death took the lead in hunting Jesus’ followers to put the ‘hurt’ on them, throwing many of those ‘Jesus People’ in prison. Saul, the chief leader of the anti-Way group, was seeking to find and destroy the Jesus movement of that day; a rough, tough dude. Yet, this Saul, who was returning from one of his ‘hunting’ trips, was to discover that very same Christ in his heart. His story always reminds me of the Scripture found in Jeremiah 1:5. It’s a Scripture about God knowing everything about you while you were in your mother’s womb. Actually, the closest meaning to that expression is that God appointed us while in our mother’s womb. Before he was born, God saw who Saul really was. An amazing thing happened on the road to Damascus; Saul refers to the One who interrupts him immediately as ‘Lord’.

That’s in some small way a picture of what our lives are about. The Gospel is, in its simplest form, God attempting to reveal who we really are (in Him). Jesus didn’t come to save us from an angry God, but came to reveal our Father as God that loves us. Inside, God whispers to us who we are intended to be. One of my favorite scriptures is found in the book of Revelation 2:17, ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him that overcomes, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he that receives it.’ You have an identity with God that goes beyond natural birth and flesh. It will be a joyful moment when each believer will be given a stone engraved with the name that only Christ knows them by. He alone knows them that uniquely and intimately. A name associated with their purpose in life even before they were born.

In His effort to reveal the Father to us, the Spirit of Christ places Himself in our hearts. He’s not in outer space somewhere, He tabernacles in you. (Luke 17:21, 2 Cor 4:7) He lives, He is present, and we are inner sanctuaries of the Living Spirit of Christ. That’s different than Old Testament life where the anointing fell upon believers occasionally. The New Life that Jesus provided in the incarnation is now shed abroad in believers’ lives. He never leaves, never separates Himself from us. (Hopefully there’s an ‘Amen’ that’s appropriate right there.)

Look, I get it. We live in a hard, disappointing, frustrating, heartbreaking, and challenging time. I don’t know if this is true in your thinking or not, but it seems to me to be a time when those that know the least about ‘Life as the Father would have it for you’ seem to be making the most noise, disturbing our peace. I sometimes wonder if we’re experiencing Revelation 13:5-9. In those verses Satan is given, through the beast, 42 months to tempt and to blaspheme God, wooing the whole world away from the One True God. The New Testament references a moment characterized as ‘in the days of Noah.’ (Mathew 24/Luke 17) Jesus, now (and just as when he walked the earth), is a Light in a very dark place. He did not come because all of a sudden there was a great enlightenment in Bethlehem when all would celebrate and cheer him. He came in a moment of chaos and tribulation for Messiah. In Revelation 4, the instructions are to ‘come up here,’ step up out of the trouble of the current system and experience a New Life. That’s similar to God’s offer to Noah, only this time Jesus is the ark, an ark created by knowing him for who He really is. In my opinion, Jesus’ re-appearance seems more likely to happen in a time of evolution, but not an evolution of progress by man, but a downward evolution that requires a reappearing to save man from himself.

Historically, Israel was always greatly successful at destroying itself. Their history is a great example of the unique ability to fail; a failure common to all men who choose to be ‘without’ the God of Abraham. (Hosea 13:9) I once read a book, can’t remember which book, but the author made a statement that I’ve never forgotten, ‘refined sinners or vulgar sinners are equally far from God.’ As in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, head knowledge of him by the Pharisees, Scribes and leaders such as Saul are contrasted by simple heartfelt faith of shepherds who could not rest until they arrived at a simple manger and in the presence of a simple Jewish family. Head knowledge can lead you down the road of self-improvement and that eventually makes us feel guilty for not being unable to make much headway with those improvements. But Jesus came to reveal to us our real, true identity in Christ, what was true about you before you were ever born. In some ways, our journey in Christ is not about a glorious thing that’s out in front of us, that’s never been seen before. It’s more of a journey in Christ back to our original ‘image’ of our creation, our identity in Christ, originally, man being made in the image of God.

Tough times! Not new, not surprising to God. Jesus came for tough times. Actually, we’re not quite to the point that Christians faced in Roman Israel during Jesus’ time with prison and lion games. However, today, we very much need to remember, ‘I was, I am, I am to come.’ That’s our blessed hope. We’re to remember that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Him. (Isa. 51:1) Today, yesterday and tomorrow, our understanding should be held captive by:

‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’ (Isa 9:6-7)

Even as we see so much that’s challenging our scriptures, we’re not to doubt the Prophet Isaiah’s words simply because of what we see and hear. What God says is more True than what the world’s stage displays to us. There’s a single truth about the world: it is at enmity against God. (Rom. 8:7) We need to be careful to not let the world condition dictate the Spiritual, but rather make the Spiritual dictate the real truths. We must also remember that it was for no simple reason that God called the evil one ‘the father of lies,’ an accuser. He lied to Eve to start this thing and continues to lie and lie even more intently as he sees the day approaching of his destruction. Whose words are we to listen to for Truth: The Father’s/Jesus/Spirit or the world’s interpretation?

In simple terms, Jesus didn’t come to prove deity, he came for deity to embrace you. Today, the Jewish community is still waiting on Messiah. If we doubt his coming, his accomplishments, and his future, doubt in His ‘It Is Finished,’ we join them in that wait. There were over 100 Old Testament prophecies about Messiah and every one of them literally came to pass. Each and every one from birth in Bethlehem, death and crucifixion and his resurrection historically recorded and witnessed. There are over a hundred New Testament prophecies about the believers’ Church and its future. That future is about His presence and His victory: ‘to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’ This zeal is based on a great passion for the Church.

Today, we will come to the place we trust not to live by sight (2Cor. 5: ); not to live by emotions; not to live by the chatter of people who it seems, know more about the father of lies than the true God of Creation. Life can be tough but it can be Peaceful because of Christ. I like a Rich Mullins quote that goes something like this: ‘it’s not hold on for dear life….rather, it’s more like let go for dear life.’

September Newsletter-McDonald

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Occasionally, someone will ask me: historically, where do you think we are? There’s no exact answer to that as no one possesses the timetable of God. I do believe in scriptural seasons. And, there’s a super argument for this being ‘the season’ that’s been prophesied and anticipated for thousands of years. (One thing I do know is it’s my and your last generation so we can live it with that in mind each day.) For me personally, knowing the exact moment is not what stabilizes my daily Christian walk. What does cause me to stand firm is a simple expression found in Luke 21:9 (paraphrased) ‘Don’t panic or give into fear, these thing are bound to happen, but the end is not immediate.’ I’m not always watching or using what I’m seeing as a calculator of what is real in our big picture called Faith. Example, what did it look like when our King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to be killed? It wasn’t going well for his band of believers at that moment. It looked like Jesus’ message was done, cut off, finished. Roman rule then was very similar to rulers in the world now; then and now, not very comforting times for the Christian faithful. Back then their world was characterized by the humiliation of Jesus. Roman rule guarded against suspicions and required guards at the tomb to guarantee no shenanigans. At that time, His followers were considered terrorists by the Romans. And the embalming, the tomb, and Jesus’ criminal public death married stress and doubt. For many reasons it looked to be the worst of seasons for believers. The humiliation of Jesus continues today.

One of the whimsical expressions I’ve used before in these letters is one a friend stated to me over 40 years ago, ‘You can’t snow the snowman.’ It stuck in my mind years ago and it’s a phrase that plays a big role in my life today. I think that’s the case because he followed with this statement: ‘Because He knows all about snow.’ In a worldly sense – you can fool folks, camouflage the realities of the world system, but in the long run, you can’t snow the Creator of the world. God is not in Heaven pacing the floor, rubbing His hands together in uncertainty, He is confident, He’s sitting; a pose that translates He is at Peace. He is not distressed; He knows the future and very importantly, how to bring it about. He knows much more than what may be being expressed in front of our eyes. We have a tendency to focus on the magician on the world stage and look amazed. He knows the magician’s tricks and He’s not impressed.

I think my personal stability about ‘today’ is expressed pretty well in Psalm 2. (It was written around 1044 B.C.) It’s not necessary that this prophecy be about today specifically, however it does express the behind the curtain reality of God’s certainty very well.

‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break God’s bands asunder, and cast away God’s cords from us.
He that sits in the heavens shall laugh (I think defined in this case, mock or scorn): the Lord shall have them in derision (in the original language, have them speaking unintelligently, stammering).’

Eugene Peterson in his The Message Bible paraphrases it like this: ‘Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, the God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah. Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first He’s amused at their presumption…’ Psalm 2 is as relevant today as the day it was written 3000 years ago. In Jesus’ time the Roman Empire ruled, had dreams of world domination; today that empire is gone. Personally, I have no delusions about how this will all turn out. We are to follow scripture: ‘do not embrace worry.’ That’s not to say I don’t see the obvious, the drama being played out before my eyes. I just know that behind the curtain of the world stage is God in Heaven that observes the kings of the earth and their counseling and scheming to cast God away. The world plots, snickers, glees in its self-centeredness, boasts in its hatefulness. Doing that, it has the same assured results as before: chaos and curse. You just can’t snow the snowman. Many times I know we don’t act like it but God is present everywhere. He holds all things together; if He was not present, it would fly apart and be destroyed (Col. 1:15-17). It would be as void as Genesis 1:1

Maybe we’ll correct the wrongs of today or perhaps we will not. One thing we do know, God, in every generation of men has, and always will, accomplish His purpose no matter what it looks like. My overwhelming confidence is in Him doing that today as well. Luke 21 is a pretty earth crushing picture of someone’s culture. Some attribute it to referencing Jerusalem’s fall in 70 AD and others stamp it on today. I do think that the latter part of that scripture describes the past but likely whispers of a future manifestation of Messiah.

Some folks mention, why so positive in your BVN letters in the middle of such a negative moment in our country and in the world? Again, the letters here are about Gospel/New Life living and not a cultural statement. Plenty can be written about and should be done on the subject of our culture and norms. The subjects of our education system and media might take a few hundred pages to address in themselves. As for me, I think the media is the most guilty, empowering evil as good and good as evil. They’re enabling things that we might normally reject, making them the norm.

That said, WBVN’s thirty-two year journey has been to center in on Christ, to share His love and to focus on the Gospel. There are many great speakers and writers better at discussions about the cultural experience that we’re all having in these unique times. I mentioned at a recent concert, WBVN didn’t come to be successful, it came to share Hope. Seeing all that’s going on in the earth, being aware of its catastrophic effect on our lives, and most importantly our children’s lives, doesn’t pull our focus to the magician standing on the stage. We continue to look backstage to the Director of Grace and trust in Him.

I had a conversation recently with my friend Mike Middleton. The subject was how many faithful, having to deal so much of the worldly systems, are just simply fatigued. However, we should remember there are many believers still confident. There’s a different reality to those that choose Him. I always enjoyed reading the following quote from author George McDonald. It settles me down, gives confidence in the Heart of God and it re-establishes the embrace that I understand each and every day from the God of the Cosmos.

‘Nearly all of them (theologians) represent him as a great King on a grand throne, thinking how grand he is, and making it the business of his being and the end of his universe to keep up his glory, wielding the bolts of a Jupiter against them that take his name in vain. They would not allow this, but follow out what they say, and it comes much to this. Brothers, have you found our king? There he is, kissing little children and saying they are like God. There he is at table with the head of a fisherman lying on his bosom, and somewhat heavy at heart that even he, the beloved disciple, cannot yet understand him well. The simplest peasant who loves his children and his sheep were… a true type of our God beside that monstrosity of a monarch.’ (George MacDonald from “The Child In The Midst” in Unspoken Sermons)

That God, His Gospel, is that personal, that caring, that present, right here, right now.

Each image will link to each story.

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