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Newsletters

Little Foxes

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Do you ever feel like nothing that you are doing about the Gospel, even the simple everyday things, seems very necessary or important? And, when we think we are really ‘stretching ourselves for God’, many times our imaginations don’t match the way things turn out. They don’t have the big outcomes or the results we sometimes hope for. It seems the mundane, daily grind of life just takes the spiritual away and leaves us with empty actions. I don’t know how many times I’ve dismissed the little things, seemingly insignificant things, as not making much difference. Over the years, I think I’ve taken a second look at some of what we consider not to matter to God’s kingdom.

“Sarai, for her part, was even more anxious than her husband regarding the promises of God. Abraham had already entered his eighty-fifth year, and she herself was seventy-five.

And lo, O Lord: we are as childless as the day you first gave hope to my husband and me!

That hope had been planted a full ten years ago. Sarai was intensely aware of time. She had suffered the passage of every barren month since the coming of the promises of God. For the Lord had said to Abram, ‘I will make of you a great nation.’ But a nation begins with the birth of one child.

Where is this child? Often the old woman placed her hand upon her sunken belly and thought, Where is my child?”
(from The Book Of God by Walter Wangerin, Jr.)

The other day I was reading the book mentioned above and went through the story of Abram and Sarai. I was struck by how unique that moment in time was with them. Many times we read the Bible and only see the picture painted by the one single story or one specific person mentioned in the Scripture. As I continued to read about Abram it dawned on me that there were thousands, if not millions, of people on the earth at the very time God was speaking to this very old man. People were in tents and in the cities. Some were raising sheep, some were merchandizing, others worked their crafts, some were grandparents, some parents. Many were carrying on, doing their everyday experiences, with no awareness of what was going on between a simple herder and his wife and the Creator of the universe. Very likely millions of people were complaining of the life they were living, probably most thought the world would not change in any appreciable way from what it was that day. They were probably thinking that all would remain the same. Perhaps they thought that their children would do what they themselves were doing. They believed that their children’s children would do the same things in the next generation.

Yet, out in that sandy, dry desert, God was making a promise that would change the whole world. A single man getting up before daybreak, dividing the animals, cutting the sacrifice, making oaths of trust when no one else was even aware of what was going on. People would have been completely oblivious to what was taking place. Imagine the vastness of the whole world and all the population on earth. And, somewhere God is talking, directing and building a relationship with a tent dweller, promising the old man that he and his wife would be responsible for birthing a nation that would outnumber the stars. By just reading the story you can tell that Abram and his wife had no idea of what was to take place in the future. For Sarai it was a laughable situation. Who in the world could have guessed what God and Abram were up to? Abram didn’t need to take a vote of confidence and did not need to be cheered on by others. He just believed God. He and God were alone in this. It was between God and one obedient man. Who would have thought that what was taking place could and would be so profound, so relevant to the entire world? It was such a small thing, such a simple plan. That a man almost 100 years old and his wife nearly 90, would give birth to a son. Now that sounded ‘crazy’ enough, but that that child would be the first of a group of people called My People which would be a nation greater than the countless number of stars!

What about your small plans with God? Think that they can’t matter much? It is not a fact that if it’s not a big plan it’s no plan at all. We are talking about the birth of one child, one child in all the world to some isolated desert tent people! Who knows what is happening in some insignificant way right now will not be profound tomorrow. I think we give in to the big ministry idea and sometimes miss the potential of something small. We forget that being faithful in little creates the opportunity for being faithful in much. Abram believed, and look what happened. Of course we need a promise to believe in, but many people have had a promise only to give up because it did not come as soon as they preferred.

It’s the little things that make such a difference. Even in our own lives. Someone once asked Earnest Hemingway how he went bankrupt. His response was ‘a little at a time and then all at once.’ Little decisions and omissions created the environment for the huge failure that followed. Our lives can be the same. I remember an acquaintance of mine started pushing the limit of the secular life, just doing a little thing here and there that seemingly did not make a huge difference at the time, but in a few years those little omissions lead to a complete, catastrophic collapse of his life. He did not consciously choose to get as far away from God as he ended up but just gradually found himself isolated and completely separated from the Christian life. The little things we do to resist God and the little things we can do to follow Him contain potential. Don’t underestimate the little rebellions we make or the power of the little steps we take to follow God. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine. It’s the little things that spoil the big. Sometimes, when we don’t see something happen that we feel God has promised it’s because of some little decision, some decision that we put no value in, that cuts off the promise. Sometimes we act like we are hidden from God when really our hearts are open and exposed all the time. I’m reminded again of God addressing Adam, asking him ‘Where are you Adam?’ It was not that Adam was hidden from God after pulling off that apple trick, it was that God was saying to Adam: where’s your head at Adam…what are you thinking, where is your heart? Adam supposing he could hide from God!

What might be happening in your home, office, or family right now might be eternally significant. I know the news is bad. What you think is too simple and too small might be just what is needed to supply a difference to your world. Simple obedience and faith can make a significant difference around you even when you can’t see it or may not be aware of it. Just do the ‘thing’ of God. He will take care of the application.

I’m aware that some people are in outright opposition to the things of God. But I have a hope that God is talking to an Abram somewhere. Something is going on that I cannot see. God is doing something to prepare a way for those that are His to be preserved in all this mess. Somewhere God is whispering a promise to someone, someone we might think is insignificant at the moment, a whisper to confirm and deliver His People. We are a people who are not moved by what we see (or hear), but by what we believe. Somewhere, God is providing for His plan for the spiritual man, and secular man will not be ultimately successful at his rebellion. We know that somehow, God is the successful One in the earth. It can come from a single man, isolated in some room and holding a conversation with the Creator of the universe. I do know He is working it out as He wills. Let’s celebrate the opportunity to do the small things. If God works in the small, He certainly can work out the big. If we will take care of the little things, do what He has given us to do on a daily basis, He will take care of the big picture.

Living Life Backwards

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I guess I’ve heard my share of sermons on purpose. At least by now, they have all pretty much run together to give a kind of panoramic wall mural. I remember when we started the radio station, my sister-in-law told me I needed to write down the vision for this ministry so that I would not forget why we started it, why we were so ‘sold out to it.’ That was really good advice. Actually, like most of us, I don’t think I did that though. I did the next best thing. I thought about it daily, weekly, yearly. I never let it leave my mind. It’s not so hard to keep that in mind when you live like this ministry lives and survive month to month. That dependency on what you do and why you’re doing it is paramount in my heart.

If there’s a single idea I have isolated specifically to remember about purpose it is found in a statement from a Christian philosopher by the name of Kierkegaard. He expressed the idea when he talked of defining life backwards and living it forwards: starting from his destiny and redefining the journey. That to me has made the major difference in my life-choices from very early on. Now I was just ‘lucky’ for the early years. Never had heard of Kierkegaard until just a couple years ago. But, I think having knowledge of destiny can be trusted to direct the whole path of our lives.

I write these WBVN newsletters a little like that as well. I’ve told people for years that each month, while driving, or walking, or working, or doing something unrelated to the newsletter, I simply ‘discover’ a single line I want to write and I just follow the path through the newsletter to that line. I read of a poet that described his work as a process of writing the last line first and following the road back from there. I like that as a life-philosophy. Live life backwards. Sounds upside down, sounds like the Christian life!

If we have a purpose to live, we surely can find a way to live it. That’s what Christ is all about. Living out what is coming before it actually happens sometimes. Finding out what is true and making our lives fit the definition of that truth. The end makes the way for the journey. The problem with a materialistic world-view is that it leaves us bored, unfulfilled and therefore, as the old adage goes, ‘sex-drugs-and rock and roll’ to fill the boredom. Author Malcolm Muggeridge once said that “It has been said that when human beings stop believing in God they believe in nothing. The truth is much worse: they believe in anything.” Believing in God gives us destiny, a purpose and our beginning to life’s journey.

I recently read the following in a book by Ravi Zacharius “… they (the disciples) knew Jesus in the chronological sequence of His birth, life, death and resurrection. Paul encountered Him in the logical sequence of His resurrection, death, life and birth. Through the keyhole of the Resurrection, (Paul) argued backwards in time… C.S. Lewis, addressing this same theme in the allegorical form that appeals to all ages, effectively captures this powerful truth in his book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe…as the bewildered children hasten back to the scene, they are greeted by Aslan, triumphant over his death…the children yearn for an explanation: ‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.’”

Here we are finishing 19 years of ministry at WBVN and still our eye has not dimmed. Oh, my eye-sight needs more correction than it did then, but my vision for why and what is still as strong today as the day we started. I really never expected it to last this long. If you knew me very well you’d probably not be surprised to think that I might have a short-term plan to fail and no long-term plan if we succeeded. And, while I say that a little ‘tongue in cheek’ there is just a little bit of truth in it. We came to do this ministry as long as our lives and your partnership with us lasted. We’re still thinking that way today. Because we knew the end of where we were going, we could find out how to get there. We didn’t guess about it, we knew it ahead of time. Our personal lives, business life, family life can follow the same map. It’s like recognizing where we want to end up and live backwards from that, following whatever road it takes to get to where you’re already at in your heart.

19 years ago, WBVN came with a single purpose: to be an encourager; it has not been diverted from that purpose. The hard part is, that it’s so easy to add to the original purpose God has set out to accomplish. After a few years you can get to thinking about what you might do in order to do something new, fancy or expanded. And, you can image that ‘in the name of Jesus’. However, if you live life backwards from purpose you’re less likely to be persuaded away from destiny. But, the Christian life is always lived backwards. It’s the next life that we presently move and have our being for. It’s a future hope and destiny that we find purpose in today. That same Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “St. Teresa of Avila described our life in this world as like a night at a second-class hotel.” The trick is to live life knowing that the best hotel will be found tomorrow night, and we can live knowing that is our destination and live backwards knowing the end of the journey. We can find joy even in times when we are not happy. That’s because we know something about the future and we let that future affect the present. It’s not that we are trying to figure out everything; it’s that we have made up our minds about something. We know the purpose! We are not judged by our understanding; it’s our hearts that are revealed to God, not our brains.

Here we are at our 19th Fall Celebration. We really didn’t know it would last this long. What we did know is why we came, why we stay and what we are going to do about tomorrow, because we’ve seen the full purpose of the end. We’re asking you to join with us, needing you to join with us. All, and more than we could have imaged in the beginning, has happened to us. We have an anchor that will not let go unless we cut loose from it. Never leaving ‘why’ in anything we do at WBVN is an incredibly important ingredient in staying the course. We might have been able to be more successful financially but not without forgetting or changing the end, the purpose of WBVN. Your help is a significant part of having this message, this Christian encouragement here. We are glad to have come. This ministry’s testimony is the generous support of people just like you and the legacy of encouragement that we have been able to be a part of for all this time. Thank you for all you have done to make WBVN possible since our first day, January 8th, 1990. Every song, each message in our broadcast, is attributable to the faithfulness of our contributors and whatever has been accomplished through this radio station has been accomplished through your partnership with WBVN.

Unity

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Unity (…let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.) Phil. 2: 3-4

Went to a wedding this weekend. Cindy’s son got married. Cindy’s not a family member although she’s family. We attended the ceremony because of a friendship that’s developed over the years. Cindy’s a single mom. She’s raised three children (created a terrific environment to do that in) under the typical stress of being single and having three kids to care for and help guide them toward a day just like Saturday, the day of her oldest son’s marriage.
I can’t give you a list of the things that Cindy and I agree on concerning the specifics of what we believe about the Gospel. After a 19-year friendship, we still haven’t sat down and talked in detail about each and every thing we can agree on or have different opinions about. Jane and I have known Cindy for 19 years now. She has sold T-shirts and CD’s at WBVN concerts for all those years. We didn’t know her before she started helping at the concerts. For years, I’ve teased her that she’s one of my heroes. Well, I never tell her that with a serious face. I always say it kind of tongue in cheek. Really she is. Truth is, Cindy’s done something that I’m not sure I would have had the patience and trust to do. She’s maintained a great attitude in the middle of the stress of raising the kids and all the pressures the culture and the world can provide, stresses that the economic condition can bring, things that I probably would have been crushed by. I’ve watched her and she’s been an encouragement to both Jane and me, been an inspiration because of her tenacity for life, life with a smile on it. I’m not saying all that to score points with Cindy. Anyone that knows Cindy knows you don’t score points with Cindy. Heaven knows, I don’t want her to hear about any of this. She might get the ‘big head’ and actually think that I consider her a terrific friend. That of course would give her the upper hand in all the teasing we do with one another. Let’s just keep this little discussion between us. I’m saying all these things because I was sitting at that wedding watching all the folks do what folks do at weddings. Jane and I saw friends from 25 years ago. We don’t get to see them very often. Some of them have played significant roles in our lives, but you know you just move on to other places and other things in life. Somehow, people get separated from one another. People you used to spend a lot of time with, you don’t spend any time with anymore. Even though we don’t see them very often, Jane and I still care about and have a compassion for those people.

In this 19-year journey sharing WBVN with thousands of people, I’m still amazed by the care our listeners and we have for one another. It’s a caring we’ve all found in celebrating what we have in common rather than concentrating on our differences. Scripture tells us that the world would know us (believers) because of the love that we’d expressed toward one another. The world might not recognize right from wrong but the way believers relate to other believers is almost a ‘fail-safe barometer’ of the Love of God in their lives. There will always be differences in the way we express or share the Gospel. We shouldn’t leave or diminish those things we find so dear in our own hearts in our profession of our Faith. It’s necessary for us to hold onto and guard what has become precious in each of us. But, I don’t think we will all agree to believe one thing about the Gospel. However, we can still recognize and appreciate that we’re a family of God with differences. I don’t think we’ll ever see ‘unity’ come to the body of Christ because we finally get together and believe the same things, say the same things or act the same way. However, I think we can find unity in celebrating the things we all have in common. We all seem to be able to enjoy getting together for a concert or agree to praise God through a single song we’ve heard on the radio no matter what denomination we belong to. We can hope the best for one another. Believing in Christ is a common denominator between all of us. How powerful could it be to celebrate that common belief rather than concentrating on the things on which we might disagree?

Paul teaches that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. He follows that list with this bit of advice: ‘let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.’ Those are the characteristics of the Spirit. Those are the things we should be seeing in the Church. There can be a full expression of the Body of Christ. Hands and feet working together, hearts and arms functioning to a common purpose, even when they individually might be doing different things at the same time. I’m convinced that we can cheer each other on without having to agree or join in on the specifics of our different beliefs. We can encourage one another without obligating others to follow lock step in one expression. We can celebrate each other’s faith in Christ without doing the same things about that faith. I’m not sure how Cindy feels about Matthew Chapters 24 and 25, not sure of her take on Revelation, haven’t got a clue on her perspective on 1 Corinthians Chapters 12, 13 and 14, but Jane and I respect and care for her with a love provided by the author of Love. We do know that Cindy will be our neighbor forever (imagine the thought!) because we all believe in Christ and who He was and is.

In Cindy’s case, we’ve found so much that unites us, we’ve ‘forgotten’ to check out the things that might divide us. I watched at the wedding as she smiled and kidded about so many things and at the same time, for 19 years I’ve watched her make serious decision after important decision about raising those three children. By watching her, she’s taught me how to be a better friend to my friends. Oh sure, I’ve watched tender-heartedness masqueraded as a Marine sergeant, but that’s just Cindy. I’ve seen her sacrifice for her children daily. She has made a way for them, provided every opportunity for them to come to this moment. Each decision has been based on her faith and her love. To be able to cheer her on doesn’t obligate me to take a microscopic look at what Cindy believes. It only takes the knowledge of how much she believes and how much she lives out of her heart, trusting God to provide a way. It just looks like with the choices this country seems to be making, that in the future, believers are going to need one another more and more. We can start practicing that now if we want.

Scripture says: ‘wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits…. (James 3:17) That’s a pretty good way to live with one another. Now, Who would have come up with that!

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