Christian Music News
My grandfather, Parker Holmes, was the postmaster and owned a general store in Palzo, Illinois. There are no original buildings left in Palzo, although the Springhill Baptist Church is still located on its original location and there have been homes built around the area where the store and blacksmith shops once stood. One of the things I still have from my grandfather’s store is a half-dollar. Well, it’s a half-dollar but it’s not a half-dollar. It’s a counterfeit half-dollar. My grandmother gave it to me when I was just a small boy. It was made of lead and actually has knife cuts along the side because my grandfather was suspicious of it when it was handed to him as payment for goods. But, it was a pretty good counterfeit. It could fool someone who was not looking very close, and of course once taken he really did not have a real half-dollar, he had nothing. You know where I’m going, right? Life can be like that. Especially like that. Life (big L) and life (small l) are two different things and not to be thought of as the same. Life (big L) is the Life that God provides and life (small l) is biology. Little life is best described as the best man can do for man. Man is not sufficient to give Life, only God can do that. The Greek word for the Life of God is Zoe. Man’s life, in its boiled down meaning, is ‘life with the breath’. Life is ‘Life as the Father would have it for us’. The other life comes from just being born. Plants and animals have life. ‘Life as the Father would have it for us’ comes only from God and can’t be simplified to meat or drink only. It is Righteousness, Peace and the Spirit. Those characteristics of Life only come from God, can’t get them any other place. Life with the breath doesn’t have any of those to give, but it will tell you that it can. It will fool you into believing it has the answers to a satisfied life. And, life with the breath can give you ‘riches’ and ‘ease’, but it can’t give you what you need to have a real Life…Life as the Creator God would have you experience it.
This is a Rapala. It’s a beauty. I guess I’ve caught more bass on this lure than any other lure that I’ve tried. I actually got my first one when I was in college and working at Tempo Department store in Marion a few years ago, back in my brown hair days. That baby right there is a ‘for sure’ lure! Do you know why it’s so ‘for sure’? I’ll tell you in one word: mimic. Yep, fish try to eat that thing but it’s really a plastic fake.
This is a minnow. It’s a beauty. I’ve caught lots of fish with minnows as well. Minnows swim like minnows, they are shiny like minnows and fish love minnows. That’s the rub if you’re a fish. That plastic Rapala looks just like that minnow. Sounds like a minnow as it’s pulled through the water. But, if a fish falls for the fake, woe to that fish! Those two minnows produce two completely different results, just as Life and life produce two different results as well. In the water a minnow and Rapala appear pretty much the same in that environment. Even the plastic one, the one with the 6 hooks, is pretty harmless until you fall for it. There’s no real ‘sting’ with the plastic one until you try and consume it, try to use it to your advantage. Once a fish falls for that Rapala, it’s too late. Not only is there sting but usually it becomes a very complicated trap that not only hooks you with the first barb but ends up hooking you with all 6 of the barbs. Well, everyone knows what happens next. The result of that simple act of the fish grabbing on to that Rapala most the time cost it its life, or at the least injury.
Our problem is like the fish’s problem. So much of the time we can’t tell the real from the fake. Culture and society (i.e. man) offers a life that is attractive and it looks good. It’s usually shiny money, cars, women or men, or grand homes to make you complete. It swims like Life, but is life. It looks like Life, but its looks are deceiving. It’s a life that seems like the right way to live but its end leads to calamity. The life that men have created and offer mimics Life. Perhaps it offers a momentary reward just like that fish was thinking before it actually contacted the barb. But, in the end we get trapped into depression, discouraged, perhaps unhealthy, and usually filled with melancholy. Trapped into something we wish we had never ‘struck’ at, wish we had known better, wish we had been able to recognize it as a fake life, not the Life the Father had prepared for us. The Father’s Life will have us chase the contents of our heart and bite onto something real rather than the content of our head and its chase to simple existence.
Of course this all started in the first Garden. The literal translation for the words used to describe the serpent tempter in Genesis was ‘the shiny one’, the most beautiful thing in that Garden. It was attractive and what it had to offer was tempting to our ears and our flesh. It was a lure away from Life then, it is a lure that pulls away from Life today. Nothing has changed. Today, there’s always a tempter to persuade us away from the God kind of Life. A persuader wooing us to seek bio-experience only: appealing to our senses rather than our hearts. It’s a daily lure that swims by and it shows no favor to the unbelieving or believing fishes. Amazing, that lure never comes ugly! It swims by just like the real Life minnow. It appears often as an ‘angel of light’ not showing itself in darkness but rather as a shining. Much of the time it appears with authority as a roaring lion, but it’s only a roar, not much lion. It looks so much like the real that we follow it, slowly at first and more rapidly as we close in on it. And once entangled, well it’s very difficult to get off the hook. Youth and inexperience are its most likely targets, but every now and again a ‘lunker’ will bite. What’s amazing to me is that fish are for the most part smarter than humans once they’re caught. By that I mean fish put up a passionate fight, I might add to the joy of the fisherman. Humans seem to just get dragged along. Some of the most entangled never seem to acknowledge being entangled. I sometimes think if fish could talk they would say ‘my fault’. Humans, well for the most part, it’s never their fault. Many times they’re not even alarmed by the hook. That lure suggests to us there is another way that will be a successful alternative to the real minnow (the God Life). But, a successful fish never chases, never bites at that Rapala. Or, if it does move toward it, that fish quickly recognizes the craftiness of the plastic and stops its run up to the lure. Fish can be like people you know, or is it that people can be like fish? Some fish run up to the lure and suddenly turn away while others fall for it ‘hook, line and sinker’. People do the same thing.
There is a Tree that is a proper source of Life. There’s another tree, the tree of good and evil. Anything that separates us from the first Tree satisfies the second. You can be as bad as you want to be or you can be self-righteous to the point that your approach to the Father ‘is as filthy rags’. That tree promises you prestige through your money, position, education or power. The Tree of Life promises are much different, much more. To source the Tree of Life, who is Christ Jesus and has been placed back in our Garden, you again have to choose between those two trees. The more of the Tree of Life that we can consume into your life (bio) the more of His Life we can experience in this present darkness we call the World, its culture and its solutions for life. After going bankrupt, the famed author Ernest Hemingway was asked how that could happen to such a successful writer. Hemingway responded that it happened a little at a time and all at once. As we chase the wrong things, as we follow and increasingly approach the wrong source and solutions in our lives, as we bite onto the imitation, all at once we are entangled. We don’t know how we got there, but there we are. Everything seems ok on the way. We never did see any hooks, only minnow! Like Hemingway’s bankruptcy, it usually doesn’t happen all at once. Gradually and subtly we eventfully arrive at the entanglement. By then it’s usually very complicated and hard to untangle ourselves. One barb simply leads to another barb. It was shiny all the way, attractive. It promised to satisfy us and it disappoints in the end. We have no real excuse, it’s just our attempt for independence from God, swimming away from His Love and Way toward trouble, content along the way, but in many ways a frying pan awaits. We leave the safety of His presence for the terror of the fake.
The tree of good and evil is subtle. It so easily seems the right way. It seemed right in the first Garden. It is a tree, so it looks like The Tree. It is however a counterfeit. Just like that coin from my grandfather’s store, it will get you nothing in the end, certainly not what you needed or wanted in the end. As I mentioned earlier, it never comes ugly. Its dangers and tragedies may not be obvious at first but God had given us a manual on ‘Rapala’ recognition. Use it to identify the fakes, pull off before getting to the ‘all at once’ and choose Life as the Father has made it for us, rather than the sly and whispering mimic!
Well, this is a ‘post’ Celebration newsletter. Since Celebration, I’ve been thinking about the history of WBVN and about many of the things that have been ‘miracles’ for us over these twenty-two plus years of ministry. Because Celebration is about funding the ministry, I remembered starting out the application process for the station in 1988 with $5300 in the bank. It was not really a very good time to begin a listener ‘trusted’ ministry. Three national ministries had failed, making national headlines. One ended up in prison and the other two in disgrace and shame. At the time we felt like it might not be wise to attempt asking believers to trust so soon after those huge failures. But at the same time, our hearts and many circumstances seemed to be overtaking us and pointing us in this direction. We started WBVN by asking people to send in $5, $10, actually anything they could afford. Our first month of ministry we received $365 in contributions. Not an overwhelming vote of confidence, but a start. The first contribution to WBVN came from Rick and Laurie Chapman. Rick handed me their contribution one day while I was coming out of the post office. That gift came before the radio station was on the air or anyone knew for sure we were going to start the station. They just knew they wanted to be a part of it, and the Chapmans have now contributed to WBVN every month now for over 22 years. WOW! The first check we received in the mail was from a grandfather in Carterville. Charles Carter sent it with a letter about how supporting WBVN was supporting his grandchildren. I still have that check under glass on my desk and the grandchildren that still live here listen to WBVN, contribute to WBVN and their children are now listening to the station.
It took us three years to finally meet the annual budget needs of this ministry. We have met that budget each year since 1992. There is much about our history that could be put in the category of ‘having done everything wrong’. By that I mean we have not always done the most logical, most reasonable. We’ve lived by following our hearts for the most part and tried to subject our thinking to that heart attitude. Just recently an incident comes to mind. Last year, we were in such a bad way with our transmitter; it had not worked consistently for most of the year. We had spent 7 months fixing, repairing, fixing and repairing with little results except spending far too much money on keeping it going. Once we decided we had to approach our listeners about funding a new transmitter, we discovered that the only day that we could schedule for fund-raising was July 3rd. To a person, no one thought that that was a good day, and no one thought it would be wise to do that the day before July 4th. However, we not only raised the funds to pay for a new transmitter that day, we had raised sufficient funds early enough that we stopped the fund-raising two hours early and just celebrated with our listeners the joy of such a terrific response.
We operate with one full-time employee and 5 part-time employees to run the station 24/7. Of course we have volunteers all over the place that help us do the impossible things that must be done by others. We have telephone techs that help when needed, a computer tech-head that is at our beck and call, we have a crew of 13 ‘heavy-lifters’ that help us set up the concerts, we have people that help with mailings and concert tables, a contractor to keep the building and tower site in ‘shipshape’, a CPA that keeps us legal and two auditors that confirm all our decisions, a super cooperative civic center across the street, a deputy sheriff that has kept us on air for over 22 years acting as our engineer whenever we have an emergency. (Amazingly, we have done this for 22 years and never had a full-time engineer! That’s amazing because what we know around here about the technical you could place in a thimble.)
Truly, you and this ministry have met and exceeded all our expectations. Much of what has happened, we had never imagined at our beginning. Part of that is the concert series. We never thought they would be so much a part of our personality and ministry touch. We never imagined the response from our concert attendees, and the kindnesses of the employees at the Civic Center and this station’s purpose and attitude about ministry would develop such strong relationships with the artists. Now, many of our events have become annual re-unions at the concert hall. Amazingly to us, we’ve produced 146 events.
I say all that to say this. So much of what happens, and has happened here, is in many ways impossible! We are fragile technically. We’re always financially challenged. We voluntarily make ourselves vulnerable to our listeners for financial support and do that 100% of the time. This past year 695 different contributors did just that with one-time, monthly or annual financial gifts. Our testimony for all the years contains much too much about miracles and much too much about the impossible becoming possible for this letter to express, but truly it’s because of those, rather than ourselves, that WBVN exists. Many times people have asked me how they could start a radio station and I always tell them to do it differently than we do it. This is not the most successful way to run one. WBVN is not the text book formula to make that happen. The most I hope we can say is this is our history and in it we trust you will find His-story mingled into our daily expression of the Gospel. We simply live out of our hearts about both this station and this Message. This may be the least likely way to do this, but it’s been our unique expression of the Gospel. We obviously thank you again for your prayers, financial help and the enthusiasm that keeps us encouraged and joyful.
Before I quit, let me share about the most impossible of all. It’s certainly a story that if you were to ‘make up a tale’ of how to be successful, you might not follow this formula either. Suppose you wanted to create a story that would change the world and have it steeped in your traditions and your doctrines. Let’s say you wanted to create an everlasting story that even people not of your tradition would ‘buy’ as truth. Let’s assume you are Hebrew, of Jewish faith, and you want to create a story that would propel your traditions to the whole world and that because of your story, your traditions would grow in strength and length of time. If you wanted that to work for you, wanted it to have the most potential to succeed, then you might want your Messiah to be born in the Temple of the Most High God, certainly not a simple manger. You probably would want this Messiah’s father to be of the High Priestly fashion, not a poor carpenter. You would want Him to be from the Holy City of Jerusalem, the place your God lived, not a small town in Nazareth, never from Bethlehem. You might want Him to come through the throne of David’s kingdom, but Herod was king. If you wanted this story to succeed you might want to declare it loud and clear as it occurred, rather than having a ‘dumbed’ Zacharias made silent. You might, as a good idea, choose a married couple to have a child, not a betrothed Virgin. How’s that going to work for you. If you wanted to have the potential for the most success you would build your hero a legacy of kingship, a resume like Moses or David, not a quick three year ministry among the poor and outcast and an early, Roman death. But that is exactly what has produced the most successful story ever told. What would seem to be impossible has become possible. Just think of the likelihood of this story surviving with no Fox News, no book or movie deal, no PR firm, no political party.
Finally, there is a subtle hint of something here I want to bring out in plain language. All things God has prepared for us are possible with God. What we have to watch out for is that we do not convert that into all things that are our things are made possible. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. We had no guarantee that this ministry was possible; certainly, we never thought it would be possible with just our effort or just hanging it on our idea. We needed Him to make it possible. It had been revealed to our hearts to do but with no other guarantee. It was a signpost that pointed us to the next way to go on our journey through the Gospel, but it itself was not the destination. We still are moving through this experience. So much is beyond our imagination, so much more than we ever expected, but we followed that signpost and joyfully we found what lay beyond it. It was not that it was easy. Actually, there have been hard spots- financial, mechanical, crises of every sort- but it has been possible in Christ Jesus!