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January Newsletter- Jeep

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I drive a Jeep.  In some ways I’m not really a Jeep person because, while I drive a Jeep, I drive only up and down the highway or street.  The people I know that really ‘drive’ Jeeps for all they’re worth – the hardcore – they drive Jeeps in ditches, through creeks, over rocks, on mountain switch-backs, up things, down things, in things; me, I’m just on pavement!  That said, I’ve owned four Jeep Wranglers beginning with a 1983 CJ, and currently a 2010.   I bring that up because in a sense I’ll be going off road a bit in this letter.  I’ll be away from the generally traveled pavement and on to some perhaps bumpy territory, or at the very least a little different way of thinking.  (Let me also say this, I’m not hard or pushy about all the stuff in this letter.  Actually, it’s only a different perspective, and I’m completely okay with it only being what I hope is simply another way to encourage people.)  In some sense I’m not trying to change things but, more accurately, adding to what we all do in the hard situations in which we occasionally find ourselves.  I’m not subtracting from how we commonly talk about Faith (what I will in this letter call ‘the Hand of God in our lives’).  It’s simply an attempt  to relieve some of the pressure I see on some people’s lives as they try, try, try to experience ‘Life as the Father would have it for them’.

Because we’re involved with daily radio ministry, occasionally Jane and I hear of many people struggling with either (1) trying to figure out what they can do that they’ve not been doing or (2) they’re trying to assess what went wrong with the things they have been doing.  Many times we hear of believers struggling with self-imposed pressure.  We hear of others experiencing pressure from their friends’ and family’s good intentions.  Put simply, we can let the Gospel become full of stress rather than the remedy that Jesus taught.  Jesus’ Gospel was about a Rest, an easy burden, a relief valve from rather than an ascent into greater pressure.

What did Jesus teach about experiencing more of His Gospel?  That was a question his followers asked in John 6:28.   Jesus answered:  ‘believe on Him whom He has sent.’  His answer was simple, direct and, most importantly, sufficient.  They pushed it a bit further by questioning, Jesus, you want us to believe, and we get the Moses and manna thing, is that what we must do, believe the stories about You handed down in our history?  Jesus clarified that the manna story, while true, was not exactly what he was referring to.  His answer to their question was an answer clearly about Himself.  Jesus instructed them to believe in the True Bread (Manna) from Heaven.  That Bread would give them not just physical life, but give them The Life, ‘Life as the Father would have it for them.’   Now here might be our first boulder along this off-road experience.  Throughout the New Testament, Jesus described specifically that he came to deliver to whosoever will, something called Life.  This Life was meant to distinguish between our biological life and our Eternal Life.   Jesus didn’t, by name, stress miracles as such but emphasized a new way of Living; a Way that would produce a new experience with the Hand of God in our lives.  Those things that we call miracles are really a moment contained within something much bigger than that.  Jesus’ new Way of Life was not about us persuading God, as though this new Life depended upon us to persuade our Father to do things for us.  It was not about any bargaining that could take place, as though we’ve reached such a level of Faith that we had anything to bargain with in ourselves.  In fact, Jesus implied that the Father is actually eager to be in the middle of our lives in this New Life.  Our Father isn’t looking for us to come up with some secret before opening the door of Heaven to us.  The only key, the only thing, that Jesus identified that would work for us to experience a Life similar to the one He lived here, was simply believe.   Personally, I don’t think about a miracle here and a miracle there.  Rather, I prefer to look at this Gospel as a whole Life of miracle after miracle.  In my thinking, the Hand of God consistently brings us Life as the Father would have it for us.  Miracles not rare, but miracles common!

Now here comes another rough area to travel in this little off the highway adventure.  Okay, believe, I get that, but ‘believe what?’  If believing is paramount in Jesus answer in John 6, what are we to believe about him must be our starting point.  Are we to believe God heals– I do.  Are we to believe God wants His people to prosper– I’m sure a loving God wants that.  How about believing that our family could heal its broken relationships?  You know He wants that for sure–one of the obvious things God sent Jesus to do was to reconcile.  All those things and many more things are included in what God wants us to know, wants us to believe; they are in His purpose and goals for us.  However, while they’re things prayed for, things hoped for, the operative Faith that will activate those possibilities takes us back to Jesus’ answer: ‘believe in Him whom He has sent.’

Jesus is saying that if we are to see the Hand of God in our lives, if we’re to experience the Life as the Father would have it for us, we’ll have to obviously believe something first!  Here I think he’s implying – ‘look this is going to be a full time, an all encompassing job.  As such, the hardest thing (also the thing that will work the most for you and the thing that will be challenged the most) is to believe, and specifically believe on, whom He has sent!’  Jesus wasn’t suggesting believe things; but believe this One Thing.  This One, He is the Way, the only Way, all things come by Him and through Him.  Prayer contains two elements: First, how to pray and secondly, most importantly I think, Who it is we pray to.  By that I mean what’s the character and nature to Whom we pray.  What picture of God is in our imagination when we pray?  Must He be talked off the sidelines into our lives? Do we need to trade Him something in exchange for Him to respond?   Is He hesitant or eager to do for us?   Much of our stress comes from believing that this entire Hand of God thing depends upon how strong we are, perhaps the volume of Faith we have.   And, if we don’t meet the measure of Faith required, we must work harder on things or have more specific requests in order to activate the Compassion of God.   Maybe memorize more, say more, plead more.  I think realistically, those are not used to test our faith as much as it’s a test of do we believe on His Faith, His Way, His Love, His Compassion, His Interest in our lives.   Is it possible that this Gospel, this New Life, is somehow more about you entering His Life rather than Him entering yours?  Is His abundant Life about getting our life, this earthly one,  like His or is it more about an abundant Life that’s  available and accessible inside this hard world system?

Many times I think we find it easy to know what to pray for but forget how Jesus taught us to pray.  We can list all the things we’re praying for and forget the Who we’re praying to.  Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that without Faith, in every case without knowing Who Christ is, it’s impossible to discover this ‘Hand of God moment’ unless we know ‘that He is and that He’s a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.’  That’s the first step in prayer.

That’s the ground for prayer to grow.  That’s the preparation for Hand of God in our lives to be manifested.  Yes, the things we call miracles are the fingerprints of the Life of God.  Significantly, they’re also part of a much larger ‘New-Life’ mentioned in Romans 6:4.  This new-life was always designed, purposed, to be natural for believers.   I don’t think God creates miracles as a surprise, I think He’s always wanted us to live in such a way that we expect them consistently.   Actually I think many Hand of God things happen all the time.  If anything, we’re just not sensitive to them at the moment they occur.  It’s not supernatural when we see the Hand of God manifested; it’s the most natural, a by-product of His Kingdom come on earth.  We should expect that what we call the unusual to become usual.  For sure they are super but they’re as natural to the God Kind of Life as anything can be.

Let me just mention a couple short examples and these are examples pulled from hundreds/thousands of other things that stand out as Hand of God in our lives.  When we started the ministry of WBVN we didn’t talk our way into it.  We believed our way into it.  We knew the Love of God, trusted our understanding of His Compassion, and assumed that He was with us.   Again, in Jane’s medical crisis 5 years ago, we didn’t become spiritual specialists so we would know how to pray, we didn’t take a quick bible course or memorize scripture, we didn’t try to persuade Father, Son and Spirit to rescue us, we didn’t re-dedicate anything or expand our promises if God would do something.  We trusted and assumed that what we believed about Him, what we knew to be true about Him, was actually true in a very huge way.

Let me leave you with this thought.  Have you ever thought it strange that when they came and announced to Jesus that his dear friend Lazarus was sick, Jesus abided two more days before going to him?  Jesus took his time, ministered along the way and arrived in plenty of time to raise Lazarus from the dead.  No rush, no panic, no hurry, just a confidence that the Father and Spirit would join him in doing the Father’s business.  That’s the faith that we need in every instance, not only that He is able but that He is eager to have us live in such a way that we experience ‘life as the Father would have it for us’ right in the middle of this mess.

NewSong/Colton Dixon/Unspoken/Bethany Cruz

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December Newsletter- Strange Way To Save The World

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

(C. S Lewis noted in his book Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”)

Let’s see, about 6 weeks of Christmas songs, messages and greetings.   That’s the general span of what we do beginning the day after Thanksgiving through December 25th.  Our library has hundreds of this season’s songs and each of those in some way is about the celebration of that one, unique Bethlehem morning.  Near the end of this Christmas season, we will bring out our classic Christmas music and one of the songs that catches my ear each season is the 1993 4Him release, ‘A Strange Way To Save the World’.  It reminds me of our great ability as human beings to take the most profound thing in the world and not really think very much about it.  Oh, we give it a glancing mention in December of each year and then go on about our business. We do a couple of predictable things each Christmas season: (1) make it a season of kindness to our friends, relatives and acquaintances, and (2) summarize it as a season measured in large part by trips to the mall or Amazon.  Seldom do we stop long enough to concentrate on our salvation story and the real meaning of Jesus’ birth.  Think about it– in His story of redemption, many times the smallest, the strangest and the most illogical, are presented to us as Truth.  The seemingly unbelievable becomes the believable for us.  For example, this Savior was born in a barren desert land, instead of Babylon with its splendor.  Jesus was born to a cabinet maker rather than to royalty, the son of an unwed Jewish girl instead of a well established family.  Born in Bethlehem, rather than what was the cultural center of Joseph’s world, Jerusalem.  This miracle baby cried his first cry in a manger rather than a bed, in a barn rather than a synagogue.  This Savior would be King without an army, or title, without wealth, had no handlers to manage his image.  In fact, this Savior did not have a place to lay his head.  This Savior always seemed to be pushed forward as he voluntarily kept stepping back from anything that promoted himself.  He became our Leader of the only Truth and did that in a world set on believing a Lie.

The Faith we proclaim is not simply about personal improvement, not just about good and evil, but about the possibility, the power, to be transformed from one creature into a new creature.  It’s a strange way to save the world for sure.  This King associated himself with tax-collectors, thieves and a few women of poor reputation.  This King gathered his friends from the local fishermen and the like, telling them (and in turn telling us) that they would have to lose themselves in order to find themselves; that by decreasing they would be increasing, thereby seeing the presence of God increase in their lives.  That if we gave away, we’d then find things we hoped for coming back into our lives.  Going so far as to suggest that we must die to live, we must be meek in order to inherit the earth.  C. S. was so right, this Gospel is too profound to be founded by a seer, a mere prophet; it’s either the answer or the great fraud.

With this Son, Life just kept squeezing him to the top.  He amazed the scholars at 12 years old, yet did no miracles until the age of thirty.  His early ministry lasted just three years, having been judged, crucified and buried by the age of thirty-three.  His followers were scattered and all killed except one: John.  In three years, 36 months, this Savior, this Life, this man had proposed to have saved the whole cosmos.  His ministry was done.  Now that’s a weird way to save the world.  Now, we’re left some 2000 years later to put our trust, our faith, in a system that seems so illogical and to many a fable, probably to most a myth.

And, in this story the ‘strangeness’ continues.  People that are not perfect have been made perfect by the blood of this Savior.  The un-saintly have been declared saints by this Gospel.  The unholy are holy because He was holy.  In this story, the Joy of the Lord is our strength, not good self-esteem.  There’s hope in our patience and peace in our steadfastness in times of trouble.  We’re told to hold fast and ‘judge no thing before its time’ because we are a people that live by Faith, not by sight.  Here’s a Life not fueled by power, not by our might, but by His Spirit.  It’s a Trust that the more we get out of the way the more of His presence is revealed in our lives.  There’s more.  We’re free because we’ve been made a slave unto Christ.  We have to discover, and truly believe, that we have more Life because we don’t try to preserve our life.  We must learn that the modern cultural creed of ‘finding ourselves’ and our personal efforts to pursue our own happiness in the end leave us lonely, frustrated and disappointed.  Finding Him leaves us fulfilled; find Him and everything wonderful gets thrown in.  We learn that praying for our enemies and loving our neighbors have a profound effect on our lives as well as theirs.  In this deal, we will be the most mature when we come as little children and trust in our Father.

The song’s lyrics concerning Joseph’s point of view take it further.

‘I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him, ‘cause never in a million lives would he have dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes the message from the angel come to life.  And Joseph said:  Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade?  Why Him, with all the rulers of the world?  Why here inside this stable filled with hay?  Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl?

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say.  But this is such a strange way to save the world.

To think of how it could have been if Jesus had come as He deserved.  There would have been no Bethlehem, no lowly shepherds at his birth.  But Joseph knew the reason love had to reach so far.  And, as he held the Savior in his arms he must have thought…this is such a strange way to save the world.’

Now that’s our Christmas story.  Strange story!  This Redeemer came to a people that had been, and still are, considered the least, the last and the lost.  Those people had failed, multiple times turned away from God, been enslaved, made outcast; they were simple people in a simple time.  Why them, why then?  That’s such a strange people for a God to care about.  Some would believe, and it’s an easier sell perhaps, that He would come for the elite, the most, the strong.   While He did make us that by His Grace, He came for us as we were when we all were wrong and alone.   All other faiths come for a people that have earned a passage, a meet and greet experience with their god.  With Father, Son and Spirit, no one has earned anything.  God came to heal those that were lame, lift up those that had fallen, encourage those that were downcast, give hope to the hopeless, forgive those that deserved harshness.  God simply did what He asks us to do, believe things that are many times not true about us.  We’re to examine our hearts and not our weakness in order to find our place in this world.  Folks, that’s a strange way to save the world!  As Lewis implied, this is so strange, so outrageous that we cannot simply put it off as an odd but wonderful story.  No, this is such a strange way that we are only left with ‘I believe’ or ‘I don’t believe’!  I once read a quote from someone that went something like this: The answer to Sin is not human virtue (our goodness); the answer to Sin is Faith.  That statement wraps up so much of the upside-downiness of our Gospel.  We don’t have a simple ethic, or a superior morality.  We have a pretty unbelievable and strange story to believe.  Ours is to get it, get comfortable with it, embrace it, and trust it.

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