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September Newsletter-Bookmark

Posted on by RadioStaff Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

One of my many flaws is how weak I am about buying books.  I just had one land on my desk this morning. I literally have hundreds of books on shelves, in boxes, in the closet, stacked on my desk, and some have migrated to my office shelves.  Most of them have bookmarks in them because I have a hard time finishing a book before I go out and buy a different one.  I recently bought three books that I’m reading all at the same time.  However, it’s the bookmarks I want to talk about.  Bookmarks tell us where we’re at in a book so we don’t have to rely on our memory.  I don’t have many ‘authorized’ or ‘certified’ bookmarks.  I inherited that from my mother who had the knack of using little everyday items for bookmarks: maybe a newspaper clipping, a business card, pictures, birthday cards, or postcards from places she’d visited.  An old concert ticket is one of my favorites.

Thinking about the Gospel this past week I was reminded of how much our lives are like a novel.  We all have an introduction and the end.  We live our journey much like we read a book, a page at a time.  We move through joyful moments into some sadness sometimes and back again.  We can remember the past and we know what’s on the page today but we don’t have the ability to know the future in our unique novel.  In our lives we may be on page 103 and we won’t know what happens on page 104 until we get there.  A really good novel carries us through a lengthy process of discovery.  We read them hoping we can’t figure out what happens next so that our interest remains in the book, keeps us coming back for more.  I thought, given the condition of the culture and the Church, it would be good to look for the bookmark of where we are along the timeline of this Story, the big novel we each live in.

Being in radio ministry, rarely, but occasionally, people will ask me if I think we’re near the ‘end of the age’.  And while, like a good novel, no one can really know the future, we all tend to guess at the meaning of today and tomorrow.  I must admit –and remember this is just me speculating– I’m not so sure that we’re not at a tipping point on the human time line.  By that I mean the culture (just choose any of them you please) seems to be set on crucifying Jesus again.  Crucified this time, not as a sacrifice for Sin, but rather motivated by hate, jealousy or greed for power over other people’s lives.  To know what page we’re on, where to place the bookmark, it might be useful to look for patterns of the past.

For me, ‘the end of the age’ has many meanings, many references.  Noah represented an end of the age.  Noah actually represents a second end as we discover in Genesis 1.  There, we find that the earth already existed when God moved on the face of the earth and created all things Adam.  At that time, the original earth had become uninhabitable, made void, a great darkness covered the earth. (Genesis 1:2)  The original language here is ‘choshek’: misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow and wickedness.  That pre-Adamite age has commonly been call the Dispensation of Angels, and that dominion of angels had fallen into a state of formlessness. (Referenced seemingly in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.)   In the beginning Elohim (plural Gods: Father Son and Spirit) created Heaven and Earth.  Step two, it became chaotic and God, in Genesis 1:2, remodeled it by taking the original material, redesigned it and set Adam and Eve in the middle of it.  The word translated for made in that Genesis text is ‘asah’: to make something new out of already existing material.  God moved and created the world of Adam or pre-Noah.  Over time and essentially during Noah’s generation, the earth again had become uninhabitable, a mess, maybe even more than a mess.  By Genesis 6 the generations of Adam had ‘mastered’ the destruction of God’s Creation to the point of ‘no hope’. (Genesis 6:5) God, grieved at the state of His Creation’s chaos, provided Grace to Noah and erased everything with a great flood, the second end of the age.  From Noah until The Promise (Jesus) humans again struggled in the earth, moving further away from God’s purpose for creation.  With Christ’s incarnation, a new Life was created.  Old things passed away.  For the third time an end of an age had come.  (Heb. 9:26)  In Christ, God erased the past and a new way to live was established.  In this new Life, humanity was invited to participate in His Kingdom Come, here, now.  In this new Life, we can choose the Light or walk in the dark.  From the very beginning, in the first verses of Genesis, God has purposed to separate Light from Dark.  In Christ, a separation between the two, a final clarity, had come.


Isa 45:7-  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. 

The Message Bible says it like this: I am God, the only God there is.  I form light and create darkness; I make harmonies and create discords…Open up, heavens, and rain.  Clouds pour out buckets of Goodness.  Loosen up earth and bloom salvation; sprout right living.

In Genesis, when God ‘asah’ this Creation He created Light.  Darkness is simply the result of Light’s absence.  God creates Peace, in doing so; calamity appears in the absence of Peace.  God is good and the contrast of that Goodness creates evil.  Example: Your shadow only exists when light is present.  The shadow is not real, but the presence of light creates that image in our eye.  Take away the light and the shadow doesn’t exist. The angels rebelled resulting in Genesis 1-1.  Humans rebelled and lost their way, resulting in the chaos of Noah.  There’s a right living that God created for us to walk in, and refusing to do so creates havoc. The Joy is that God has set a way for us to come into the Light: Jesus Christ.  We all come out of darkness into the Light, we are all like Nicodemus who came at midnight, we all come out of midnight to a great Light.

Looking back at past experiences, God erased and started over in the pre-Adamite world after it became void and without form: uninhabitable.  God erased and started over with Noah after the constant wickedness and destruction by humans and their refusal to have God-Life relationships.  God, after ‘His chosen’ arrived into the pharisaical partnership with Rome, erased and started over, this time with the new creation in Christ.  So here’s where I’ve placed my bookmark.  Certainly, at the very least, we’re at a cross-road. There are only two possibilities going forward.  Either the Gospel will ‘bloom’ again and Goodness will flourish.  Just as with Abraham, it will come out of the desert of our separation and it will re-establish Faith in Christ and His Gospel. Or, the other option, God will be using His eraser again.  (Not to worry!  If the eraser is soon a millennial experience awaits believers.)

Uninhabitable earths haven’t succeeded before and won’t succeed this time either.  Uninhabitable was always and still is associated with the rejection of the necessity for God-like human relationships.  In the past, as the world degenerated into conditions where no Love of God was possible, the Potter re-threw His clay.  Previously, because the God Who is Love could no longer see an expression of Himself in that world, God erased!  It’s important that we understand this in the context of end of an age: each erasing was an act of compassion, not hate.  God endures all things for the Joy set before Him, and then in Season He erases the board and begins again, offers Himself again.  With either possibility, one thing’s for sure; a glorious beginning is coming in the future.

As believers, we shouldn’t give up simply because of what we are seeing and hearing daily.  God is a God of re-birth, renewal, restoration and always enters the scene as He wills.  Looking at the tone of this present earth, Light and dark collide, and that contrast/conflict can systematically wear us down.  But God, knowing that’s a natural response from believers, still never encouraged any of us to quit.  Actually, His encouragement in times like these is to not grow weary but be of good cheer, to look up not down. God created this Heaven and Earth for one reason: to reveal Himself to His creation.  He will keep that eraser in His pocket as long as there’s any hope of the Gospel being shared around the world.

Take heart, it’s good news either way.  There will either be the end and a union with God, or there will be  a revival. Either way a new refreshing has always been God’s plan in the past and will continue to be His plan until The End of His Story.  We should not be dismayed but should know that He was present and  was active in the first, the second and third mess, and He is active in this one.  Paul’s words are to: Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with Grace in your hearts to the Lord.  Colossians 3:16

That’s a bit of what keeps us going here at WBVN.  Believers in every generation have been uncomfortable and pressured no matter what generation you examine.  Uncomfortable and stressed are the common not the uncommon when it comes to people who are not really citizens of this world.  In the middle of that environment, the station has been a tool to encourage the Church in good and tough times.  I read the other day that 93 percent of the entire population of North America is covered by radio.  Our part here is to declare this Gospel again for what will soon be 16 million minutes.  So until that eraser is used and either a New Millennium comes or a Gospel renewal blooms (probably at a time we think not, probably out of a place we had not considered) we should not grow weary.  As for WBVN, we will share His Spirit with our listeners as long as we have breath and are relevant to our listeners.  No question, you and we are to do that until the end comes, no matter what is feels or looks like in the world.

Russ & Tori Taff

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August Newsletter-John 2

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John 2

I have been re-reading a novel about the Apostle John.  I’m not sure if it’s a good book or not, but I know its format appeals to me.  It’s not really a Christian book but the author is a Christian.  The book is set on the isle of Patmos; John is in his 90’s, blind, having a few hearing problems.  But the memories, lots of memories, flood John’s mind.  In the novel it’s been years since he witnessed the miracles, many years since first being with Messiah, the One he had put all his confidence in, now long ago crucified.  Much of the script is John re-living those moments, remembering when he and his brother were a part of the twelve, the joy of those moments still vividly alive in John’s heart and mind. As you might assume, exiled, the setting on the isle is bleak, mostly gray rock and gray sky.  John is surrounded by a few friends who ‘serve the Apostle.’  If our Gospel story is true then it’s necessarily true that the people referred to and used in the text be remembered as real, normal people just exactly like we are, regular people with a super story, not the other way round.  People, not with special capacities, but people just like you and me.

There’s a line in the book that says, ‘How can this have been where such faith was?’  Those words rang true then and sometimes I hear them now, in this culture, at this time. There was no physical or emotional reason for faith to thrive on Patmos, no logical way that faith should find a home there.  That question is one that comes into John’s mind throughout the book.  How can this have been where such faith was?  Perhaps you’ve felt like you’re in a place that’s not friendly to faith, a place maybe even opposed to faith?  Where did John’s steadfastness come from?  Today, can it hide in our hearts, only to reappear when we need it most?  Increasingly, it seems we need that faith desperately right now!

Faith is akin to a covenant of trust.  Every person is a person of faith.  They believe something that fits their world view.  Each has decided to trust in some image of the world and its purpose.  The atheist has faith in no God, and bets his or her life on it.  I believe that faith held John to the heart of God, and that same faith is available to believers today.  John’s kind of faith did not solve every physical or mental problem on the island but remained strong in spite of that.  Many criticize that Christian faith is just our imagination used to make our life easier, something Christians need to believe just to keep us sane in a troubled world, a crutch.  (I would not suggest that thought to John, or Paul, or the martyred believers of the past or today.)  I don’t think the faith I experience does that at all– it is not generated out of that kind of psychological desert.   I don’t think Christians use their faith as a balm for the pressures of this world.  Please! A quiet Christian faith is much more than that.  Indeed, the powerful faith that remained in John’s life after his political banishment and physical deterioration held fast all those years because something changed in him after meeting the Master that couldn’t be denied (and that same change has happened to us).  It’s not that it is simply convenient to believe, it’s that it’s become impossible not to believe.

Some people have said that the Gospel came from Paul, that he invented it. Some say it came from a group of old dudes that made it up just to control the masses.  Paul answered such suggestions like this, ‘I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I preached is not something that man made up.’ (Gal.1:11)  Going a step further Paul suggested that it was not received from any man. (Gal.1:12)  The Gospel message itself is not a bunch of traditions built out of an ethical system either.  It is more than ethics and morals.  It is a living life!  The gospel, boiled down, is not about Adam, Moses, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  The Gospel boiled down is Jesus Christ and him crucified!  That gospel is bigger than the problems, both internal and external, in our lives.  It’s not about a belief system that simply gives us confidence and overcomes our fears.  John didn’t hold on to something all his life because of some psychological need for ‘mind salve.’  Jesus said it simplest of all:  I am the Truth!  Not a truth, not something that added to would become the Truth, He is the Truth. That’s the first knowing Him; everything else gets added after that.

When John was exiled to Patmos, upon his arrival he had a great vision, a Revelation!  That vision was mixed with tension, hunger, storms, cold, sickness, fear and threats.  No Holiday Inn there.  His were hard times, a cold barren cave, gray and bleak skies.  There were messages received of the martyring of the other eleven, even the death of his own brother.  Under those conditions it would take more than a feel good story to keep John’s heart steadfast.  It would take something so profound, so overpowering, to overcome those moments; something so strong that it easily withstood the wind, the hunger, and loneliness.  That’s how today, if we’ve met that same Master, our stresses melt in the face of His Presence.  OK, some days I’d like to lay it down and just give in to the pressure, disappointment and frustration this life brings. But just like John, I can’t forget a spring evening in April when I was 16 years old, meeting that Master for myself.  I can’t forget the miracles I have seen, can’t get over the tenderhearted moments where the Spirit of God was so present that I thought He was standing behind me.  Like John, I can’t forget!  Too powerful.  Too wonderful.

Listening to the radio most the time you’d never guess that there are literally hundreds of things that have to happen to play your favorite song.  And trust me, declaring this Gospel 24 hours a day is no guarantee of being isolated from disappointment or pressure.  However, the things that I can’t get over, the things I can’t forget, push us to tomorrow.  This faith has become involuntary!  I don’t turn it off and on.  I’ve become that faith.  Rather than trying to work hard to believe, I now have to work hard to get frustrated with it.  That kind of faith is promised to us.  I think someone famous called it ‘the good fight of faith’.  Like John demonstrates, the Christian Life can become, not a fight to possess faith, but the very tool in our fight to overcome the world.

The book, while a novel, is based on many commentaries.   At the end of the book, John, the last surviving Apostle, is weary.  The Romans have finally permitted him to return to Ephesus and come away from the island of Patmos.  He has lived long enough to have experienced rebellion within his friends and companions, some suggesting his vision of the Revelation of Christ was just a dream, a figment of imagination.  He’s seen the street ‘barkers’ hustling scrolls supposedly of the crucifixion from people that were not there, as he was.  His companions that walked with Jesus have been killed; only he remains of those who were eyewitnesses to the Christ.  And as his life ebbs ever so slowly away the memories still drive him to the next day.  In the book John always believed Messiah would return within his lifetime.  At the end of the book, at his last day John has a vision of being at the beginning of something rather than at the end as he thought before.  He sees a horizon full of people coming, a church coming, and ‘he knows the world will not finish here, only his is ending.  He himself is already disappearing.  He tells on.  His spirit soars.  He sees what is to come.  He sees the number of Christians grow.  He sees the churches and therefore the great cathedrals, the psalms, the songs, the composed Masses, the rapture and revelations of centuries of art divine yet to come.’  John’s faith allowed him to see not only the Revelation of the Christ and the love of God but also the revelation of the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise from God of a Church with believers outnumbering the stars.

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