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Chris August

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July Newsletter-Morning Star

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‘The morning star often appears between two and three at night, when the darkness is complete and the faintest sign of morning is not yet visible.  So small that it threatens to vanish, the star seems unable to vanquish the overpowering darkness.  Yet when you see the morning star, you know that the night has been defeated.  For the morning star pulls the morning in behind it, just as certainly as Jesus pulls the Kingdom in behind Him.’  …Bob Goudzwaard

This letter is about Hope and Promise.  I remember a favorite sunrise many years ago that caught my attention so much that I had to stop driving long enough to take a photograph.  It still sits framed on the shelf of our family room.  It happened in Kearney, Nebraska, at least 20 years ago but was so memorable for its unique beauty.  However, this letter is about another sunrise, a sunrise that I will never forget but for a completely different reason.  This time we were traveling through Topeka, Kansas, just before sunrise.  That’s the darkest part of night; the moon had descended and except for Topeka’s artificial light, seemed the whole world was dark.  Darkness had overpowered the day and everything was hidden in the deep black of that night.  There it was.  Unexpectedly for me.  I hadn’t seen the morning star in many years, not that they’re so rare, it’s just that I usually like sleeping a bit longer than getting up at dawn.  When I saw it a story went off in my mind.  It was a story that came from an experience years ago that features a Promise.

It first began in the ‘belly’ of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  On a tour of that cave with our family, the guide turned off all the lights and complete and total darkness wrapped everyone in that cave.  In that cave it was darkness unmatched by any previous experience. Then the guide lit a match and suddenly all things in that cavern were revealed.  Every person and thing could be seen from that single small light.  Just a small match shined enough light to reveal hundreds of square feet of cave; nothing was left unseen.  That experience prompted me to do a little research about light and its unique relationship, or properties, in relationship to darkness.  That led me to look at the story of the Morning Star mentioned in Revelation.  Jesus the Messiah is that Morning Star in Chapters 2 and 22 and that’s what came flooding back into my mind on that early morning in Kansas.

Many times God reveals much of His heart through things seen and not just things written.  In a baby’s birth we see an explosion of Life as the Father gives it, in family we see the Father’s bend toward personal relationship and unconditional love.  In the sky we see the simple and profound creativity of a Creator.  That kind of seeing helps our hearing many times.  Actually, it’s said that 80% of our memories come from what we see.  Physically seeing that star created a renewed awareness of Promise.

The very last thing that Christ called Himself, the last description of Himself, was the ‘Morning Star’ (Rev. 22).  Christ did not repeat the familiar titles used in earlier scripture (ones we’re all familiar with at Christmas or Easter) but chose this final time to reveal Himself in a new and unique way.  It’s a picture of Hope and Promise at a most unlikely time.  The morning star appears when the sky is most dark, when our future is the hardest to see, a time perhaps that appears we are the most lost, without hope of where we are or what direction to take.  Could be a time when the world is most discouraging.  Then, in that deep darkness (perhaps not unlike today) when the Morning Star appears (and He has) we know that the dawn has began.  It triggers the promise of a new day in our eyes, in our minds.  It’s in the darkness when we can’t see that we get to trust the most.  The morning star in that real Kansas sky was about to raise the curtain on a gorgeous sunrise.  That small flicker of light in the total darkness of that morning was announcing the approach of a light that would dispel all that darkness; all that was hidden, all that had not been revealed was about to be made known.  All the deep darkness of the night was going to be replaced with a brilliant dawn that would overpower all the darkness of the night.

Jesus Christ calls Himself that star.  Any mystery that had been hidden before was revealed in Him.  The power of a Kingdom came with the entry of this Morning Star.  Its Promise of a New Day was fulfilled with the rising of the Son.  When I saw that single star in the Kansas sky it reminded me that even in this present darkness, a darkness that confuses and blinds, there is a Hope and a Promise of a New Day that’s set before us.  His new day can’t be stopped by politics, or hatefulness or ignorance.  This star of promise has come and rules the day, no matter how much darkness ‘grunts’ to beat it down, beat it out.  I can get pretty distracted and concerned about the condition of the world and our apparent voyage away from the Love of God that I see the world taking.  It’s overwhelming to sit and think about the consequences of our choices over the past many years.  We know from Scripture that all our actions create consequences, all things sow and reap, and it’s most concerning to think of our future founded on the rejection of the Love of God.  But, God is not wringing His hands about His future.  That star reminded me that in the middle of that total darkness, our hope is not in men, not armies and chariots, but in the Words and Heart of God.  It was most dark on the Cross of Christ.  For a moment all looked lost.  Everything that ‘believers’ had put their hope in was hanging on that Cross, dead on that Cross.  All that they had hoped for, all that they believed to be true about ‘their king’ was killed on the hill of Jerusalem.  Hopelessness weighed heavy on not only the people of Calvary, but all of mankind.   A deep darkness dropped as Jesus took his last breath.  Yet, there was a Promise hanging on the lips of Jesus.  What those people saw was not the story of the day.  They did not know that the darkness there at the death of the King of Glory embraced a new hope.  A new Light was about to appear and all that they had put their trust in, all the hopes of a political kingdom, was being converted into a Heavenly Kingdom.  Not a Kingdom of meat or drink (fleshly) but a Heavenly Kingdom that ran in opposition to what they were experiencing and interpreting.  He would come back, He would rise again, His Light would kindle again. And when that happened He would reveal all things, and every man could see the hidden things of that night.

That Kansas black turned into a beautiful golden light and everything that the darkness had hidden was suddenly exposed.  As hard and weighty as our circumstances become, no matter how bleak the world’s condition looks, we can keep going forward because Jesus Christ, our Morning Star of Promise, has already come.  We know that in spite of how dark our eyes see the world around us, our hearts know that the darkness of our lives, of the world, have been defeated with the rising of the dawn of Christ’s resurrection.  Jesus revealed a Kingdom that was attached to this Star.  Because of Jesus’ life, because of Christ’s resurrection, there will never be a total darkness in our lives again.  The Morning Star of Promise is in every dawn for us.  Each day is a new day with the Promise of a Kingdom.

Look, we need not fear anything.  Surely, Life as we experience it every day can be tough.  We, being incomplete in our understanding of all that God has given to us, live with a bit of darkness lingering in our lives each day.  The full disclosure of The Revelation of Jesus Christ still gradually works its way through us.  That doesn’t totally happen in an hour, a day or years; however, we gradually come to know Him, just as each day comes with a star, a dawn and a full day of sun.  Christ has been given to us uniquely and expressively to reveal all things in the Light of God, Son and Spirit.  Daily, He stands and knocks (Rev. 3-20) for entry into our earthly lives.  His resurrection changed everything.  Now, just as that dawn progressed across that Topeka sky, we can, if willing, see more and more of God revealed in our lives.  Jesus Christ has announced the dawn of a new day for us.

June Newsletter-Future

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The past few months I’ve written about Prayer, Revelation, Hope, Incarnation, and Miracles, all of which I’ve never written about before during the 27 years of WBVN.  This month: the Future, well kind of.

I don’t really mean the kind of future we see on a calendar or think of as our future dwelling place in the Heaven of God.  In some unique way, only a great God could pull off the future that I’m writing about. That’s because not only is our future coming, it’s already come.  This future is both here and yet it has not come into full view just yet.   But, it’s a future that (wrap your brain around this), in Jesus’ own words, is neither in waiting or in hiding.  Actually, his words suggest the future is already present –that the ‘the Kingdom of God is come’ and is coming all at the same time. Perhaps a hint of it can be found in Paul’s implication that believers have already died, not to die again.

Let’s start here with these two points: With God it’s possible for the glorious to co-exist within the deplorable.  Also, God is able to be present here and yet never leave the realm of Heaven.  God, through Christ, has made it possible for us to experience the Wonderful while living in the rebellious, the peaceful inside the chaotic.  Jesus started something that was never present before on earth.  He did not change the politic, the economic, or even the flesh, but nonetheless, His Life, Burial and Resurrection left this world in the middle of a new future. Not a future that would simply come someday down the road, but one that has already begun and continues on its way to the fruition of the manifestation of the Son of Man.  The Kingdom of God is simply any place that He is present and He is present everywhere in the form of the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit of the Father.  Now, this future, the one already present, is God’s (Father, Son and Spirit’s) way of living in our lives while we live in this messed up world.  They’re not absent to be joined with us later, they’re present and to be experienced now. God so loved the world that he gave and stayed in it.  Stayed in an intimate relationship with it.  The future came to us, stepped into our creation and corruption; His Name was Jesus Christ.

I heard a story once about a woodcarver who was being interviewed about the beauty of his work.  When asked how he could possibly take a block of wood and carve such an inspiring eagle, his response was that he just cuts away everything that’s not eagle.  Inside that wood block was something that, while we could not see it, was present just the same.  Something about what Christ has done can be revealed by peeling away the layers of earth that are simply not the Gospel.  After the crucifixion, Jesus definitely affirmed that those people standing beside him were standing in the Kingdom of God.  Said that in the bleakness of having been rejected, alienated and crucified.  Yet, right in the middle of the very air they breathed was air of the Kingdom.  Only God can make that possible, make it true.  That day, their senses surely told them something different; their fleshly experiences surely seemed to make Jesus appear as the most unknowing or at the worst most ignorant man that had ever walked the earth.  But, somehow, Jesus knew that a cosmic turning had taken place.  A turning that, yes, had a future hope but also a present purpose.  The Kingdom of God surrounded them in that very moment!

Surely, we’ve become suspicious that doing anything about the past or the future is pretty much impossible.  I know we try to control both but to little avail.  However, if we could whittle away both the past and our attempt to do life our way (our plans), we’re really only left with today.  Today is what Jesus taught us to take thought of.  Reality is now.  The future imaged by our flesh has no guarantee of ever being real.  The Kingdom of God is today, it’s placed within our moment and we’re encouraged to take no thought of tomorrow.  That’s exactly the opposite of everything we’re taught as children, as students at school and as professionals of whatever career we choose.  We can, in small steps I think, learn to trust in today, just get through this moment, and learn that tomorrow will take care of itself.  I know that’s too much to accomplish in one newsletter or perhaps even months of conversation, but something about it is validated by the very fact that it was the Spirit of Christ who said it.  It’s taken me years to experience in any consistent form. Many times I think if I could have only started ‘in my future’ not my past or my present, how much easier life would have been.

Most of our time thinking about our future is mixed with a good dose of fear for the unknown.  I think what ‘cooks’ that into our hearts is because our futures are almost always imaged as being alone and without Father, Son and Spirit.  In our thinking, most of our futures are imagined as bleak.  However, even if we could look far into tomorrow and beyond, the one truth above all truths is: God is there, He’s in the middle of all that.  He’s been here with you in the past and He’s going to be with you in what we call a future (if that’s what you prefer to call it).  Actually, he doesn’t call it that, God calls it all ‘today’.  Now is the appointed day for God.  When we step from this life into the next, we will simply step into an eternal day, not night or day, no sun or moon, simply one very eternal day. That will be true tomorrow and forever.  Let me just say this at the risk of the guys with the white coats coming in and grabbing me as I type.  A new creation has already begun. Something new was added to the old.  Just because we don’t see the fullness of it doesn’t mean that we’re not right in the middle of it.

Until the fullness of His manifestation comes, as believers, we’re put to service to make more ‘bits’ of the new creation happen within the world as it still is.  We live in a future that’s already ticking away, an eternity that has already taken root, live in a victory in a war that’s already been won.

The future has come to us in Christ, now we can step into that future.  For sure the world is still doing all the things it did before, but there’s one added ingredient– a new creation sits within it.  We may not, in fact it appears in scripture as though we won’t, get our act together to bring Heaven to earth.  He has already and will always do that.  There’s a commercial that says, “I got your six.”  In the military, “Got your six” means I’ve got your back. It originated with World War I fighter pilots referencing a pilot’s rear side as the six o’clock position.  Let me assure you, He has our six.  If it depended on me or you, this Gospel and its future would be in trouble.  God is going to see this through; He will see that the end is exactly as He promised.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus secured and delivered to us is not hidden behind a planet in the Milky Way, not on another ‘earth environment’ somewhere.  The Son of God actually came from outside the stars, separated from all the universes, to be born of a woman, in a manger, in a not so sterile environment, stepped into an earth suit, patiently sat around a fire talking to his disciples, volunteered to suffer a most cruel and unjust death, just to be with you.  God, for the first time since Eden, walked and talked with His creatures.  Shared with them, gave vision to them and placed in this world the opportunity for us to Live in His Life in the middle of this earthly life.

He stands at the door of our world encouraging us to let Him step into our day to day.  He didn’t die that we might only go to Heaven some day, he died so that we might have Life, experience that more abundantly and do that now.  Living with Him is the future and that has not been delayed.  I’ve heard that Life in songs and poems, felt it in embraces, in kindnesses, in the look of a mother and child, in a father and a son.  I’ve seen that Life at reunions of family or friends, at hospitals and cemeteries.  His Kingdom is something stronger than this breath. It lays itself on top of the hurts and heals when healing seems so far away.  A new creation has been ushered into this creation and sits, today, inside this experience.

In 2012 when Jane was paralyzed head to toe, unable to speak, all her organs had failed; in a very practical sense Jane had no physical life except pain.  Months after her recovery, her expression to me was that the distance between this world and His world was as thin as a breath.  Actually, there was no distance in that moment.  In that environment, all Fear was cast away.  All Peace came right in the middle of Chicago, of all places, right there in an IC unit in a hospital, of all places, there in a cold, dark, painful paralysis. The Kingdom of God was present in the presence of a personal Jesus Christ.  No person can produce that by human will.  No person can fool themselves or con themselves into experiencing the presence of God.  Only a real place, only Heaven in the real world, can produce that kind of Calm.  Only a great God could pull off our future and place it in our now and chaotic world.