Twenty-two years 11 Months 25 Days 200 Thousand Hours 12 million minutes
That’s WBVN measured in time. It all began on January 8th, 1990. That was our first day broadcasting. The first song was Keith Green’s “The Victor.” The first concert was with someone you have long since forgotten about or someone you have never heard of: Bob and Jane Farrell. They were billed as Farrell and Farrell at the time and had many big hits and recognizable songs, but long gone now. Our most recent concert was with Mark (need I say more?) and 33 Miles and Finding Favour — the 143rd concert event over all those years. Soon we will exceed over 100 thousand concert attendees for those 22 plus years.
In this newsletter I’m ‘waxing historical’. Actually, I’m ‘moved historical’ this year end. I’m writing this letter after having just finished our Fall Celebration, and in so doing and in the process of writing a thank you letter to all the people that called in their pledges of support, all those facts about the radio station came flooding into my mind. And if you will permit, I’d like to do a bit of rambling with just a few thoughts about the past and the future. These are not profound by any means, but they are my personal thoughts about having had such pleasure in serving our listeners over these years.
It has been quite a run! So many songs, so many giveaways, all the words said over the station and lyrics sung declaring the Gospel. I must tell you, we did not have a 22 year plan! Our original plan (and still our plan) was to just do this ministry one day at a time and be here for as long as we were ‘relevant’ (my word) to the believers in our listening audience. And as amazing as all those numbers listed above are to us, we have an even more important number that we cherish. It is the number ‘1’. We have maintained and purposed ‘1’ message the whole time. The Grace and the Love of God is our personal Hope and also our purpose for sharing through this ministry. We have not been moved away from the desire of our heart beginning on that January day.
We have always had just ‘1’ vision for this ministry. It never included growing to become some huge radio group or even to be the most financially successful ministry in the area. We have not been moved to ‘try’ to be anything other than a good companion to our listeners and a good steward of the funds that they have provided for us to share this WBVN message. We have had the pleasure of painting a picture of the heart of God for people, using the music and message of WBVN. The most important thing has been to not only encourage, but to stay within the original context of why we believe God gave us a voice with this radio station in the first place. We are not easily moved by the thought of being anything other than being His. Sometimes I don’t know how we have guarded ourselves from any other purpose than our original, but I’m perfectly aware of why we have held on to it so tightly.
As we begin our 23rd year I’m having flash-backs of so many things that have happened to us. I’m reminded of all the miracles that we have seen happen to this ministry for us to continue these 23 years. The first step was taken when we only had $5300 dollars in our personal savings account and the first month’s contributions totaled just over 700 dollars. We remain vulnerable, a people with little skills and not much money but tons of purpose and appreciation for our listeners. Delicate is how I view this ministry. So much has been done and so much of it is attributable to His being a lamp unto our feet, and you have been the manna from Heaven to feed all the listeners that have chosen this ministry for encouragement.
Louie Giglio authored a book called I Am, and in it he points to the story of Moses. You know the story, God asked Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses wanted just a bit more information, just needed a little more of something to hold onto than just being asked to go. So God gives Moses the answer: ‘I will be with you’! Moses still looked for more. What would he tell Pharaoh about the God that was sending him? God said simply to tell Pharaoh that I Am who I Am, just ‘tell him I Am sent you’. I’m sure Moses must have paused and thought, Well Yeah, but! But for God, that was all Moses needed to know, it was enough. It’s a name that implies present tense and an active form of the verb ‘Be’. God was telling Moses He was unchanging, constant, unending, always present, always God. God was telling Moses, ‘I Am the center of everything, I Am running the show, I Am the same every day, forever, I Am the owner of everything, I Am the Lord, I Am the Creator and Sustainer of Life, I Am the Savior, I Am more than enough, I Am inexhaustible and immeasurable, I Am God’ (‘Look here Moses, I Am will be with you! You don’t need anything else!’) Giglio goes further, if God’s name is I Am, Moses’ name must be I am not. I am not the center of everything, I am not in control, I am not the solution, I am not all-powerful, I am not call the shots, I am not the owner of anything, I am not the Lord,…I am not running anything, I am not head of anything, I am not in charge of anything, I am not the Maker, I am not the Savior, I am not holding it all together, I am not all-knowing, I am not God… God continued, ‘This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation…’ God wanted Moses to know that not only would He remain the same, His name would endure to every generation that would inhabit the earth, even to our generation, mine and yours.
I believe God is with us. I believe, as Jesus taught us, that the Kingdom of God is present now and not just in the future. He’s in this mess with us and He is ‘Be’, and being a verb, he is ‘being’ right now. It is not sufficient for us to just think that God was and will be in the future, we need to believe that He is and is now. Faith and trust is more than a couple times a week experience. It’s always and it’s now. God was and is and is to come, always. It never changes and is current and here even now. Not because we get spiritual all of a sudden, but because the Spiritual is always present, always ready. I’m convinced that the reason God knows everything is because the Spirit of God has entered the earth and is always everywhere.
I don’t know if we are ready yet, but it sure feels like we are beginning to come into two new revelations of God. The first is that our present expectations and practices might not be all they have been promised to be, and secondly, that He is I Am in our every moment. We don’t really bring anything to the equation except our hearts minus our heads. We are like Moses. We are not sufficient, we are not super spiritual, we are not worthy of the many assignments that God sends us to do, but He is all those and all those present in our lives every moment of our lives. That’s where trust and obey comes from. That is where faith and hope come from.
Now we start a new year. We will laugh some of the time, but we will always be sober about the responsibility that God has treasured us with. Treasured us with responsibility, I intended to say it just that way. It is not a burden but a pearl that we would give anything for the opportunity and God has given this radio ministry just that– our hearts desire to share His story. Our hearts are full for the kindnesses and the partnership we have experienced with you. Our trust has always been in I Am but our hearts are always aware of the people that have trusted us and shared their lives with us for these 22 plus years.
In short, the translation I Am is simply ‘Be’. What we do not understand, He makes up for being with us. What we do not do, He makes up for being always present. What we get wrong, He makes a way for never leaving us. What we do not see, He makes up because we know He is our Light in any darkness. When we do not have enough, He is enough. That’s the definition of our Faith, I Am makes up the difference, I Am is the all in all. What we do not know we have I Am to trust in. What does not feel good, I Am still has His hand out to grab ours and lead the way.
From our Oct. 7th concert Mark Schultz:
Before the Earth (I Am) The universe (I Am) In every heart (I Am) Where you are (I Am) The Lord of lords (I Am)
The King of Kings (I Am) The Holy lamb (I Am) Above all things (I Am)
Yes, I Am almighty God your father The risen son of man The healer of the broken Who bore the sins of man
The author and perfecter Beginning and the end… I Am
Christmas is coming early this year! Well I don’t mean that it’s actually being moved or anything like that, but I’m going to do a Christmas letter in November. I don’t usually do ‘holiday’ letters. To me they are just too common, too predictable, and I usually shy away from being that routine. However, this time I’m making an exception. Why, you say? Well, I just heard a program on FOTF this week and someone hinted on the program that it’s been attributed that Oprah rejected the Gospel message of her childhood because she could not respect, could not understand the characteristic that God is a jealous God. She understood the word jealous to be a term that is considered by all to be a negative characteristic. I can’t blame her for that, we sure teach ourselves that message. Kind of one of those, ‘I’m jealous and you had better not even look the other way or I’ll blow my top kind of God’. Anyway, that caught my attention, and now somehow I’ve got to turn that into a Christmas letter in November for you. Here goes. But before we start I need you to slow down, relax, turn off television or the world, take a deep breath and then consider…..
Scripture is always a good way to do a Christmas letter: ‘a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel’, Isaiah 7:14. Christ’s birth the center of our story. Hey, I’m already into Christmas. The literal Hebrew text there is stating ‘with us God’! That’s not to be interpreted as a greeting but a very firm, meaningful declaration. The Hebrew word for with is IM and the word for God is EL. Im-manu-el! Now what if that scripture’s true! And what if Romans 8:35-39, ‘who can separate us? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword…I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, not things present or things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ were true? Have you ever really thought long about the fact that the Holy Spirit of God has come to comfort us, is present with us wherever we are, no matter what we are doing? ‘With us God’, (Immanuel) has a much ‘weightier’ meaning than we have given it credit for. God being with us was the Gospel plan all along, and it is something that carried the greatest importance for Him and for us. In the Old Testament, God was on the prophets, priests and kings. No one else experienced Him; they could only be told of Him by the three anointed positions of the Old System. That has changed and it has been changed because it was the will of God to change it. IM within this context is a heavy word. It’s not like someone is just in the same room with you, not someone only occupying the adjoining space with you. It’s not someone simply watching from across the room. In this word is a deep mingling of God and us. Jesus said that it was better that he went away and the Holy Spirit comes for us. Why? Simply, he could be in Jerusalem but not in Southern Illinois at the same time. That changed, it was better that Jesus, who was in contact with many, leave and ascend to the Father so that the Holy Spirit would come and could be in contact with all. All could be touched, not just those in Jerusalem! It was God’s desire to be with us anywhere and everywhere! Unlike the Old System, where God was ‘on them’, in the economy of Grace and the Spirit of God, He is ‘in them’.
Many years ago I had, for a very short time, too short a time actually, a double barreled shotgun. It was made of Damascus steel. That is very special steel. The way that original Damascus steel was forged has been lost, having been perfected in medieval times. Damascus steel was said to be the hardest steel created. It was used for ancient swords. It could hold an edge that was said to ‘cut through a rifle barrel’. It was tough. Somehow, Damascus steel, being ancient, took the impurities found in the forging and changed them molecularly and created a sword resistant to shattering. This process of forging mingled the minerals until you could not tell where one starts and the other ends. Damascus steel is one in that sense, yet you can clearly see in the steel itself the obvious mingling of the forger with its waves of steel. It was a nice antique and I still kind of kick myself for getting rid of it.
That mingling of Damascus steel is a lot like what the word with (‘im’) means. All such Bible words translated into the English (such as dwell and abide) are related to ‘im’. They are emotional, passionate words given with great feeling and hope. Remember Joseph, having been falsely accused and having been sold into slavery by his brothers, sitting in prison and telling his story at every turn, he remembered that ‘God was with Joseph’, mingled with his life, part of every moment. David also knew the joy of that. Read the 3rd, 23rd and 32nd Psalm for clues of how much David knew that God was with him. David wrote the 23rd Psalm while being chased by his own son whose purpose was to kill David– read that Psalm with that in mind! Obviously, it would take too long to express all the examples and all the passion of what ‘with us God’ means for us in this letter.
Now, what if He was with us at Walmart, the Civic Center, at work, at home, not just at church, but everywhere? Would that change your confidence? Would it make a difference knowing God was present with us all the time, in the good times and the hard times? Present in our celebrations and our mourning. Not just observing them but a part of actually going through them with us. Would that make a difference? Well, I believe He does just that.
That brings me back to Oprah. Apparently, she could not reconcile the thought of a jealous God, seeing that as a negative, angry, getting even kind of God. That’s not what the ancient word means at all. Jealous is not defined in the typical English fashion found in our traditions. The true meaning of that original word is to identify a ‘passionate, longing of love,’ Godly Love, for the object of that Love. Our Jealous God is a God consistent with the Gospel Good News, who because of His passion to be ‘with us’ eagerly seeks us out. That with us is not just a shopping trip to the store and hope we find a bargain on the trip. It’s a fire (fire like that forged steel sits in) that burns out of the coals of His Love for us, not a jealous God who is seeking His own way or His own purposes, but aggressively Loves us. He is jealous for us because He cares for us so much. In the original language, the world God so loved that he gave His only Son, that God is jealous, so much that His Love drove Him to Grace and Mercy for us. Made a way for us. Prepared a place for us. Sought us out. Became Sin for us. That’s something we need to permit to happen in us. This Gospel is Good News but it’s entirely up to us whether we accept and believe God Loved us that much that He did that much for us.
Now you have to be doing one of two things to come up with Oprah’s kind of objection about God. You either are too lazy to search out the truth and the real answer, or you are silly enough to use it as an excuse to justify what you wanted all along, hoping to find some reason not to believe. I have never, after searching and seeking out the heart of God, been disappointed in that chase. He is always much more grand, much more loving than I had imagined. His name will be called Immanuel…with us God! Can you let that happen? Can you let that be true? Can you not doubt that? This Gospel is not about how God was with us in the past, not about Him being with us in the future. While both of those are true, we must come to believe that God is with us now. His presence invites us to leave those things that are behind and not speculate about the future, but be in His presence now. It’s not a supernatural moment we need, it’s the reality of He is in every moment, super or not. The question is not whether He is present, the question is are you!
‘Glory to God in the highest, Peace, Good Will toward men.’ (Luke 2:14) Christmas in November.