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Yearly Archives: 2006

Religion: NOT

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Celebrating the birth of Christ.  We should stop just there and think about that a moment. In our everyday hustle and bustle we tend to just meet the ‘holidays’ head on and not pay much attention to what specifically we might be celebrating.  The birth of Christ is so central to what we believe and hope for as Christians. It is one incident in a chain of events that, without it, the whole chain breaks apart.  Each section is unable to provide what only the whole can provide.  Our Faith depends on this: a chosen people, the small town of Nazareth, a young Jewish girl, one single winter’s night, a small stable and a bright shining star! That’s why this ministry spends all its time dedicated to keeping our thoughts and attention on the child born at that single moment. This ministry is not about denominations, we’re not about ‘we are right and you’re wrong and you need to get right.’ No, we are about the birth, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and keeping our mind on Him daily.


Here we are, seventeen years into this thing called WBVN.  Next month, on January 8th, we will begin the eighteen. The initial purpose of this ministry was to come and serve this community of believers.  Becoming a believer brought us great personal blessings, but just as rewarding, it offers all of us a chance to be a blessing as well. That in a nutshell is the desire of WBVN.



I guess we could have chosen a lot of things to come and serve. There are tons of religions in the world. Many of them have a more ‘lawful’ ethic or higher demand for morality than Christianity. Some have hundreds and hundreds of laws, observances and traditions. But in our Faith, believing in Christ is not an ethical or moral decision.  It is simply a faith question.  In our Faith, there is a morality; it contains an ethic, but the central theme is not our ‘perfect’ behavior.  It is His perfect behavior.  The question we all must ask is whether we believe His life was ‘perfect enough’ to cover what we do.  It is not morality that we adhere to; it’s a Faith in Him that we hold fast to.



The real test of religion, as Christ has taught, is does it make wings to lift people up or is it wings (as many religious groups are) that are dead weight that drag people down?  Very simply, does our Faith carry us or do we have the burden of carrying it? Jesus did not come to convict believers but rather to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment.  God’s Law reveals our sin, but in our Gospel, Mercy and Grace reveal Him. The Grace of God is powerful because it reveals how to live rather than revealing our how we ‘miss it’ some of the time.  Jesus said His yoke was easy and light.  It is the yoke of a finished work.  The very thing that empowers us is the thing that so many in the modern church are afraid of: Grace. We will at the first sign of trouble, at our first chance, depend on our works to get God to do something for us.  It becomes a ‘if You will do this I will promise to do that’ transaction. We have a tendency to look at ‘our walk’ and see that it is not what it should be all the time, perhaps most the time.  Our mistaken response is to set ourselves at work, mending it as best we can, improving it if possible, only to find ourselves back where we began: inadequate at best.  That process frustrates us and should frustrate us. That frustration should cause us to search out the Grace of God. Anything but that Grace is a strange doctrine according to Paul’s Spirit-inspired scripture.  Performance and works are strangers to grace and mercy.




Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians while in prison. However, each is a celebration of joy. Why was he joyous?  I think Paul answers that in Philippians: he had been found by God, come to know Him, experienced the power of His resurrection, suffered His sufferings (sufferings for his faith, more akin to persecutions because of his Faith, rather than having had a bad cold), died with Him, been raised with Him and was looking to Christ’s return.




Paul had come to know that, if there is any gain in this life it is to gain Christ. Christ was the central focus of Paul’s life. He should be the central figure of our Faith. It is Christ we must grasp.  It is a simple formula: keep Christ the center of our Faith, not you or your neighbor as the center of your Faith.  We will be tempted away from that simplicity. We can be turned and look at what others are doing as evidence of God or No God.  We can be enticed to try and solve our problems by making this Faith one of morality, turning our Faith into perfecting the flesh at the expense of the Spirit.  To discover Paul’s truth is to be empowered to live out the Christian life in practice.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks of being perfect, but he had no illusions about the flesh and it’s imperfection. Rather, to be perfect was to come to the place of maturity in ‘Christ learning.’  There is nowhere else to go from that truth.  That is not to say that if we read Paul’s teachings alone, and only those teachings, we need no other instruction. It is to say that as we read and study all the other scripture we will come to the conclusion that Christ is ‘all in all.’ He is the full deal, the finished work — we are not and never will be!

Assembling Ourselves

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“Don’t Forsake the Assembling of Ourselves Together”

It would appear that the first chapter of this ‘book’ is coming to its end. Soon this ministry will move to a new location, and uniquely in January we will began the next 100 WBVN concerts. The title of the first chapter of our book is based on the scripture found in Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us consider one another to provoke (or: incite) unto Love and to good (or: His) works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…exhorting (or encouraging) one another. That’s how we look at the opportunity to share with so many listeners each day. We ‘gather’ each day and have one heart about the Gospel message found in the CCM heard here. Likewise, our concerts have provided so many interesting ‘gatherings’ and so many wonderful stories of making differences in peoples lives.
Each week approximately twelve to fifteen thousand people tune into this station for that ‘exhortation.’ Even more literally, we have gathered together 100 times with 61,517 attendees having one purpose, one heart at WBVN concerts.

I mentioned in an earlier letter that it is almost impossible to know the exact beginning of anything. I know that in 1983 we attended a contemporary Christian concert in St. Louis and heard a song titled I Have Decided. It was that night that we began to hope ‘someone’ would do a contemporary Christian station in the area. We never thought that we would be directly involved. But that was one of the starting points for WBVN. We had no idea that going to that concert would ‘reap a harvest’ that affects thousands of other believers each day. We go back to that point because that evening ended up being the ‘spark’ for the establishment of WBVN seven years later. Today we continue to produce concerts because we ‘just never know’ what might be sparked out of the next one for some other generation of believers.

The first chapter of this book is full of great memories…

I remember the first check we got in the mail to help support this radio ministry. It was from a 76 year-old grandfather that had a heart for our purpose for the next generation of believers. I have that check framed at my desk.

A fella from Dallas came on cold January that first year and thought so much of this ministry and these people that he has returned every year for 17 years to share and help fund this ministry.
We have had the pleasure of introducing you to the ministries of many of the founders of CCM: Randy Stonehill, Margaret Becker. Bryan Duncan, Ray Boltz, Michael Card. We have also been permitted to share the more recent influences in CCM: Casting Crowns, Big Tent Revival, NewSong, Mercy Me, Natalie Grant, Nicole Nordeman, Big Daddy Weave and so many others. Sadly, on an autumn day in 1997, we all had to share in saying good-by to one of the WBVN favorites: Rich Mullins.

We have enjoyed a variety of types of music influenced by the Gaithers, a man named Peacock, and the college band out of Greenville, Illinois simply referred to as Jars of Clay. We have experienced Worship from the likes of Michael W. Smith, Selah, and Darlene Zschech. We have sang along and cried with Mercy Me in the song that I think is probably the number one song in our listeners’ minds for all the years we have broadcast: I Can Only Image. We have been comforted by Rich Mullins’s Hold Me Jesus. We’ve cranked it up with Audio Adrenaline’s Big House. Years ago, Third Day stopped by and spent a couple hours with us. That was before they had the big recording contract. In the last year many of us have been touched by the heart of an artist from Colby Kansas. He loves to give those ‘mini-backstage concerts.’ An artist that says this area is his second home and his favorite place to sing. He chose to
give us one moment in time– May 6th, 2005– frozen for the rest of our lives on a DVD, a DVD that would become platinum-selling, Dove Award winning CD by Mark Schultz.

We had a ‘sacred’ moment at the old Marion Civic Center a few years back where a lady named Carla spent one of her last evenings before ‘going home.’ She got to see, meet and be sung to by her favorite CCM artists Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig and Dan Dean.

We have had one artist get lost and end up in Mt. Vernon just prior to his Marion Civic Center concert. One got iced-in at the St. Louis airport and finally arrived at John A Logan about 9:30 one evening and still performed until well after midnight. Everyone had stayed and waited for him to arrive, and he did not disappoint.

And, oh, the Bryan Duncan stories!

As WBVN listeners, we have cried, laughed, prayed and hoped together for almost 18 years now. In this chapter, my dad died. Everything that we have said and sang about on this radio station came to a crossroad in my heart. The encouragement shared on WBVN was put to the test during that one November week.

Within the next 90 days WBVN will began Chapter Two in this story. Chapter Two has not been written yet. We do know a few things about it: we will pack up and move to a different building soon, and we are looking to expand our vision for the events we produce at the Civic Center. Recently we have been talking to a company that would partner with us to bring in an Off-Broadway Christian Musical this next spring (we’ll let you know if we can pull that off). We know we will begin our next concert series on January 13th. It will be a Contemporary Worship concert with a couple that are national worship leaders Christy and Nathan Nockels. With them will be old friends John Cox with his band mates Brett, Tom and Todd.

We also know that the next chapter will include much of the first. We will not let go of the songs that have been such a part of our past 17 years. You will still get ‘more music, more often.’ We will not forsake gathering together each day (and occasionally in concert). We will continue to exhort our listeners to His good works. I believe we all have Christ as the center of our faith and this ministry does not try and find out what are differences are but celebrates those things we have in common.

We won’t switch to a ‘new horse’ when it comes to financing the ministry. We have designed this ministry to be vulnerable. We depend entirely upon you to determine if we stay or go away. Simply, if we remain relevant to your Christian walk then we need you to help us remain. We have the financial philosophy that money should follow ministry not that ministry should follow money. We pledge to keep it in that order.

Amazingly, we have broadcast encouragement to our listeners for over 9 million minutes. We started that on January 8th, 1990. Now, the children that began with us as eight-year-olds are 26, and many of them have children of their own. They will have a role in writing Chapter Two.

Come join with us. This ‘gathering’ of the first chapter can continue and with you in it makes it even more enjoyable for all of us. If, as some suggest, this is the last days, we will all go out praising God with hymns and songs. If it’s not the last days, we will all still be praising Him ‘all the day long’ until we can praise no more. We are not dependent upon our understanding to praise Him; we are dependent only upon His being worthy of praise for us to continue bring you FM 104.5.

BVN Early Years

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Here we are. In the last few days before what we hope is the ‘often talked about, long anticipated’ announcement of our new studio location. As I write this letter we have progressed to the point of ‘getting pretty close’ to announcing the location but being unable to do so because of putting the finishing touches on the contracts. Hopefully, by the time you read this letter, we will be within days of making that announcement. It has been a unique and interesting process. We’ll ‘talk about it’ some day very soon.
Moving the studios will, as long as listeners partnership with us, secure the future broadcast of this ministry. It will permit us to grow, not only physically, but also to grow by being able to place this Gospel of Grace into the public market place in new and interesting ways. We have imaginations and visions of future events that we will increase the encouragement from WBVN and provide new services for our listeners. Recently, we have been working on bringing a Christian ‘off-Broadway’ musical to the area for the first time. We are excited about the possibilities.
As we continue that process, we are aware of the original purpose of this ministry. It is a singular vision. We started broadcasting on January 8th, 1990 as a ministry to the Body of Christ. However, the day we started broadcasting was not the true beginning. The start of something that God gives a vision for begins when that vision is placed in the heart. That started a couple years earlier on an October day when the first conversations were had about the faint possibility of a Contemporary Christian Music radio station in the area. An ‘idea’ that seemed impossible in the beginning. Now, some nineteen years later we have a ‘family’ of WBVN listeners that have been encouraged with the message found in CCM. The driving force behind what we’ve done is a confidence in the Grace of God as true ‘change-agent’ of God. The revelation of God’s Love never leaves anyone the same as they were before. When we see Him for who He really is we are changed, each and every revelation of Him.

That confidence comes from the knowledge that God does not abandon us because of our stupid acts and He is surprisingly not overly impressed with the acts we get right! God provides a Grace that over comes our errors. It is also a Grace that doesn’t depend on our self-righteousness to bridge the distance between a Holy God and man. It’s an unconditional Love not dependent upon our performance, on our good or bad, but depends on the blood and resurrection of Jesus. It does not ‘hinge’ on us being lovable; rather, it’s that He Love’s so much! This Grace is not earned; it’s granted, or activated, by our acceptance of His Love.

It has been a seventeen-year span of encouraging our listeners. We encourage them that it’s not what they’ve done for God that matters, but it’s what God has done for them that matters. I know we all want to do good and we want to be good; however, to do and be good, we need to realize that those are the results of God’s Grace, not the pre-requisite of God’s Grace. God is not responding to what we do. We should be responding to what He has done. That’s the Christian life. It’s a ‘Responsibility” granted through Grace. The ‘ability to respond’ to His Love has been granted to us. That ‘ability’ is the enabler for us to live that Christian life. That gift of Grace creates results we cannot expect from taming our flesh, but only by the living Spirit of God in us.

Paul, who learned of this Grace from no man but directly from the whisper of God, shocked the religious people around him by teaching a justification apart from performance. Performance should not be motivated by fear or shame, but by a Grace that transforms through a revelation of God’s Righteousness, the free gift of God. We should never ‘hope’ that our performance will motive God to give us what we deserve. Why? Because what we deserve, even the best of us, is separation from a Holy God. This Grace, this salvation, is through a Faith apart from our works. It is the great Wisdom of God that works follow Grace not the other way round. We will perform ‘better’ with a revelation of His Love rather than a revelation of right and wrong. That tree of right and wrong was the knowledge that got Adam and Eve in trouble. It was then and is now the tree of Life that provided a way of life apart from that knowledge tree. Most unbelievers I know already know they are wrong; they don’t need a revelation of that. Most just don’t see any way to ‘get’ right.

Paul was not teaching or promoting ‘ungodliness’ as some have accused. He was teaching that the way to escape ‘ungodliness’ is empowered by a revelation of His Love. That revelation will drive us toward God. Simply, if we are alienated in our minds from God because we do something stupid, we can’t find our way out of the problem. That’s the first thing Adam and Eve did. They ran and hid themselves from God because of their revelation of good and evil. Discovering themselves to be in error, their answer to the problem was to separate themselves from God. That was a mistake then and it is a mistake now. The ‘grace’ thing would be to run toward Him, not run away from Him. He’s the answer, not the problem!
If people ask me where to start reading the Bible, generally, I tell them to start in Colossians. It is a ‘past-tense’ book. There, we discover that Christ has already accomplished much of what we think we need to be accomplishing. The ‘victory’ has been won! It’s not ours to win, but ours to benefit from and enter into its ‘Peace’. Understanding what has happened already ‘in Christ’ pulls the teeth of that old lion and quiets (or at least mutes) the word of the accuser.

At WBVN, it’s a message that finds what we have in common in our listening community, not what are differences are. It’s a message obligated to the ‘captain of our Faith.’ Peter’s great mistake was not so much what he said but that he ‘looked away’ from Jesus, and the result was a great ‘sinking’ feeling in Peter’s life. This ministry is about keeping our eye on Christ and not looking to the right or the left. That’s what being ‘single-eyed’ was all about.

While our location will soon change, we still remember that original ‘vision’ from early on in 1988. Nothing about that purpose has or will change in the future. That new studio will not change our message. It will permit even more of that message to be proclaimed in new and exciting ways.

We pray that you will continue to join with us. That partnership shares our message with thousands of listeners each day. Each day we enjoy gathering together ‘over’ this radio station to encourage one another. We have found that encouraging someone else has the effect of encouraging ourselves at the same time. While the world political and economic conditions look bleak much of the time, we are encouraged and see a future for this radio station that gathers together believers in this area and celebrates that great victory of Christ. We’re very excited about the next few weeks and months. We look forward to spending the time together on FM 104.5 to ‘rejoice’ in the life and resurrection of Christ.