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Newsletters

Wide Awake

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Ok, I’m literally awake right now.  It’s 4:09 AM and I’m making these notes.  Well, I’m not necessarily awake when you read this BVN letter.  But as I’m writing it, it’s still very dark and very quiet at my home.  Do you have trouble sleeping?  If so this letter is to you.  If you’re one of those people that sleeps all night–you know, sleeps like a baby– then you won’t necessarily understand my point and might even think I’m a bit crazy to even bring it up.  But for us others, well, I’ve been up since 2:18 AM.  Over the past twenty-one years, I have written roughly 252 newsletters and, amazingly to me, more than a few have happened just like this one, at 2:30 in the morning.  Oh, I love to sleep as much as the next person.  Actually, when I go to sleep every night I always hope to sleep all night long, but I don’t have that happen very often.  I just seem to wake up many nights in the middle of the night, and one of two things will happen.  I will check the clock to see what time it is and roll over, and within five minutes I’m out like a light.  Not every time but many times, I lay there for my IST (interrupted sleep time).  I used to ‘curse the darkness’, well not literally, but I got frustrated trying to get back to sleep.  Working at going back to sleep is infinitely hard to do.  I used to try, but the harder I tried the more awake Ibecame.  Then, years ago I started to change my behavior.  I began to just relax and if anything, enjoy those times.  I guess the thing that made me calm down so much was that I have had a few really wonderful experiences ‘in God’ as I lay quietly in the dark.  If we’re not careful, we will eliminate half of a twenty-four hour day just because it’s night time. Night time with Him can often be rich with meaning.

Actually, I realized that many things associated with the Gospel happened at night; it didn’t seem to be just a day job for God.  He’s not a 9 to 5 kind of God.  Jesus was probably born at night, thus the star.  Moses followed a pillar of fire by night as God led him out of Egypt.  Nicodemus came to Jesus at midnight.  The angel appeared to Mary in the middle of the night.  Jesus prayed late into the late evening or very early morning just prior to his crucifixion.  Many years ago, I had a terrific ‘awakening’ in the middle of the night. With that experience, I learned a new appreciation for being awake at night.  You see, our sense of hearing, both the physical and the spiritual, can be keener in the night time.  People that have lost their physical sight have an intensified hearing compared to other folks.  They can hear things we just ignore or never take notice of.  Likewise spiritually, late at night we seem to be able to hear more intently than during our busy daytime.  Some of it is just the unique quiet at night.  All day long we hear so many things, some loud, some soft, but all kinds of sounds and we blend them into our daily lives. But at night, quiet! (Well, except for the snoring of our dog Ivy or the fan on that contraption that my wife uses to put herself to sleep…the ever present bedroom humidifier).

I’ve learned to ‘roll with it’ in the middle of the night.  If I should fall back to sleep quickly, that’s great.  If I don’t, well I just begin to think, pray or ask questions of Someone I believe is listening.  Just this morning I had that kind of night that leads me to Biblical questions.  Just as ships use the stars to guide them at night, I believe God uses the night sometimes to guide us.  I mean, I can hear better at night, I can get in touch with my heart so much easier than in the middle of the business of the daytime.  Many times I discover what’s really bothering me.  Sometimes I think about what’s interesting to me. Or, I might discover something that I had not paid much attention to before but something that needed my attention for sure.  Now, I’m capable of letting my imagination wonder in the middle of the night, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about a quiet time that is inspired by my heart.  Many times I believe God speaks to my heart at 3 AM in ways that I don’t usually have happen any other time of the day.  Fact is, God does not take naps at night, does not sleep in the early morning hours.  I’m sure He is still present and accessible for us in the middle of any night.

In the Bible, we read about a fire that does not consume.  Many times our frustration about not getting back to sleep exasperates us.  We wrestleand fight the ‘awakeness’ to the point of exhaustion.  However, the Father’s ministry at night does not exhaust.  The next morning after a night of peaceful reflection, we’ll not be consumed, but rather we’ll be restored, refreshed.  Now, I’m no longer afraid of being awake in the middle of the night, not afraid that I might lose too much sleep.  I use the time to be sensitive to the voice of God, and often during that time God will use that opportunity to drop something on me.  Many times after a night like that, the next night is one of the most satisfyingly sound sleeps I get to enjoy.

I’m not implying that I go to bed each night hoping to be interrupted and restless. But taking advantage of that interruption and restlessness has proven to be pretty rewarding.  If there’s nothing being whispered to your heart, at the very least you can worship or praise Him.  Sometimes I do that and I immediately fall to sleep.  I feel a bit guilty when that happens.  But if you do worship, just don’t get so carried away that you wake the neighbor and especially the wife!  And remember, when we worship, it’s not about where but Who we worship.  The middle of the night is as good a time as any, what else is there to do any way, you already watched TV all night long.  Don’t underestimate the opportunity to be ‘quiet before the Lord’ in the middle of the night.  I haven’t spent one night in many, many years pacing the floor or getting angry for not being able to fall back asleep.  Instead, I just lay and enjoy the moment.  I anticipate a meeting and a peace that is not available for most of us during our hurried daily schedule. The night time is not as distracting since I can’t see anything but dark, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face!

Slow down, take a break, quit struggling, don’t judge the time, just relax.  And instead of counting sheep and getting lost in the count or frustrated after counting 856 of those critters, just know that God is a 24 hour a day God and He probably has been looking for a place where you will slow down enough to hear His voice and your heart. 2:48 AM might just be the only time He gets access to you all day long.  Chill!

A Kingdom Upside Down

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

OK, going out on a limb here!  It’s not like you have not had enough Christmas stories, songs, and the like.  And, I do feel a bit uncomfortable talking about this subject again since we just finished the Christmas Season that most often identifies itself by the birth of our Christ.  And, after 45 days of being reminded often, sang to with songs about that subject, and a December newsletter about ‘that baby’, I find myself putting in my two cents worth again about Jesus’ birth.  On the radio, we’ve rotated over 50 new songs in the past 6 weeks; each of those songs about the celebration of that Bethlehem morning.  Near the end of this Christmas season, we started a song rotation that included an ‘old favorite’ of mine. The song ‘Strange Way To Save The World’ pushed me, once again, to think about the story of our Faith.  That song’s lyrics still catch my attention since the song first showed up at the station on a 4 Him Christmas disc back in 1993.  It points out so well the really strange way God chose to make the most important question and the most necessary answer conform to the simplicity of the heart of God through our Gospel.  And after 7 weeks of Christmas rotation, I’m reminded again of our great ability to take the most profound thing in the world and not really think very much about it, boiling it down into a couple responses during December: (1) making it a season of kindness to our friends, relatives and acquaintances, and (2) summarizing it as a season measured in large part by trips to the mall.

Think about it:  In His story of redemption, where the smallest, the strangest and sometimes the most illogical are presented to us as Truth.  In the seemingly unbelievable, comes the believable for us.  Example, this Savior was born in a barren desert land, instead of Babylon and its splendor. He was born to a carpenter 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 synagogue.  This Savior would be King without an army, or title, without wealth, had no book deal to fund his movement, no television program to establish a foothold, no handlers to manage his image.  In fact, this Savior did not have a place to lay his head.  This Savior seemed to be pushed forward as he voluntarily kept stepping back from anything that promoted himself.  He became our Leader of Truth in a world set on believing the Lie.

Amazingly, the Faith we proclaim is not about simple 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 reputations.  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 we would have to decrease in order to see the presence of God increase in our lives.  That if we gave away, we would then find people giving unto us.  Going so far as to suggest, that we must die to live; we must be meek to inherit the earth.

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, this Savior, this life meant to save the world, was done.  Did everything he needed to do about saving the world in 36 months.  Now that surely is a strange way to save the world.

Now, we are left some 2000 years later to put our trust, our faith, in a system that seems so illogical and to many a fable, to most a myth.  In this story the ‘strangeness’ continues.  People that are not perfect have been made perfect by the blood of this Savior.  The unsaintly 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 is hope in our patience, and peace in our steadfastness in times of trouble.  It’s a life not fueled by power 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.  We are free because we have been made a slave unto Christ.  It’s a strange way to save the world.  We have to discover that we have more life because we do not try and preserve our life.  We must learn that the cultural creed of ‘finding ourselves’ only leaves 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 ourselves.  We will be most mature when we come as little children and trust in our Father.  All that strangeness causes me to still think and consider the birth of Christ even after our Christmas, probably all the way until at least June!

 

‘I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him, ‘cause never in a million years 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. (Strange Way To Save The World, 1993)

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.’

 

 (As 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.”)

This Baby

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

“THIS BABY”

Well, He cried when He was hungry, did all the things that babies do;

He rocked and He napped on His mother’s lap, and He wiggled and giggled and cooed.

There were the cheers when He took His first step, and the tears when He got His first teeth;

Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as it could be.

But this baby made the angels sing, and this baby made a new star shine in the sky.

This baby had come to change the world, this baby was God’s own son, this baby was like no other one.

This baby was God with us, this baby was Jesus.

And this baby grew into a young boy who learned to read and write and wrestle with dad;

There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees, and all fun that a boy’s born to have.

He grew taller and some things started changing, like His complexion and the sound of His voice;

There was work to be done as a carpenter’s son and all the neighbors said He’s such a fine boy.

And love made Him laugh and death made Him cry. With the life that He lived and the death that He died

He showed us heaven with His hands and His heart, ‘cause this man was God’s own son.

This man was like no other one, Holy and human right from the start.

….Steven Curtis Chapman

If we can I’d like to slow it down a bit. Even on one of our regular, slow, common, lazy days we seem so busy in our minds. We think about the things we’ve done, the things we are doing and much of the time already into tomorrow’s obligations and expectations. As believers, some of the things we just say and take for granted, if we would just stop and think about them, are so profound– they are in need of being thought about for awhile and dissected layer by layer. Lately, in fact much of the time, that happens when I read just a couple scriptures and find myself putting much more thought into them. God has such a terrific way of saying so much with so little. A scripture that always caught my attention for that very reason is: Jesus wept. Really! How is that possible, he knew the beginning and the end. He understood all things. The Spirit of God housed in this person created the whole world out of His breath, and yet Christ, the Creator, wept with the loving emotions of the created. Another scripture that always stopped me cold was when Jesus walked out of the tomb and told Mary: Go and tell Peter! Those were the first words he said. Imagine, Jesus at that very moment accomplishing what must be accomplished from the foundation of the world, and he responds to that intense, triumphant moment by concerning himself with the broken heart of Peter.

We’ve been doing this ministry at WBVN for 20 years now. During the Christmas season, I’m always reminded of how much the Spirit of God has proven Himself to us, shown Himself to us so many times. I’m also aware of the contributors to this ministry that have provided the opportunity for us to stay here and the opportunity for Him to work through the ministry here. Our listeners’ generosity is only rivaled by the great Grace and the provision of God to WBVN.

At this radio station, we’re doing what we believe Scripture encourages us to do, ‘teach one another with the music of psalms and hymns’. Now, for the 20th time we celebrate the Christmas season. In some way, it’s Christmas all year long through this ministry. The reason I say that is our concentration and focus has, from the beginning in 1990, been on ‘that baby’. We can, if we slow down our thoughts, actually imagine the amazing truth that the Savior of the world ‘wiggled and giggled and cooed’. That this baby did nothing because of who he was, but rather, did everything because of what he was. It would not be profound if a god (The God) did the miraculous, but what if this baby, under the hand of God, performed the profound. Would it even be a miracle if a god did the impossible, or would it be more of a miracle if this baby, under the anointing of God, if this baby did what he only saw the Father doing. What if that were true? Now, that would be more than we might ever imagine. This baby, this one single life that separated (emptied) himself of all deity. Slow that down, think about the possibility that this baby would be able to take 12 men and change the world, would be the center of contention even today. Imagine the significance of that. This baby, who chose the isolation of giving up the godly power that was his, for the weakness and pain of humanity. He could have called 10,000 angels but simply isolated himself from the Word of His Power and humbled himself to come in the likeness of man, and simply said follow me. Well, millions, perhaps billions have done just that.

And, he did that in an extraordinary way. He did not raise his voice in the streets to declare a kingship, though he was King. He did not draw attention to being the Son of Man, actually only confirming that men called him that. Of himself, he said he did not do the very works that were evident but pointed rather to the Father working through him. Slow it down to a very slow thought. This baby whimpered when he was hungry, cut teeth, scraped his knees, and this baby made the angels sing. With this baby, love made him laugh and death made him cry.

I sometimes think we try too hard to find the profound and in doing so overlook the wonderful right before our eyes. There is so much to be in awe of without chasing thousands of details. I’m pretty un-demanding about Faith. I like to simplify the Gospel into small bites, easy to swallow that way. I prefer the uncomplicated to the complicated. This baby’s story is in some ways enough to fill any of our cups to overflowing with reason to believe. The simple story of Christ is so ‘wow’ that I’m amazed how we can find so many things to divide us, waste our time on and overlook the wonderful things we can agree on and be amazed about.

As we celebrate this season, this past year, and look to the New Year, we want to be sure and acknowledge His presence and your help. Thank you for 20 years. We stand amazed at His story and the kindness you have shown to this ministry…..Blessings and Merry Christmas!

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