We have had such good times lately. I’m talking primarily about the gatherings that take place where anywhere from five hundred to a thousand believers come together. I know everyone here gets excited about meeting our listeners and seeing everyone having such a great evening. It has been the succession of concerts and our recent Celebration that I am basing that ‘good times’ on. It seems to have carried on and on from the 33 Miles concert this summer through Big Daddy Weave (just a great concert from my perspective), to our Celebration this month, which was great fun. Celebration permits us not only to raise the financial funds to meet this ministry’s daily needs, it also fills our hearts just getting together in the studios and gathering ‘on’ the radio with our listeners. It’s tough right now finding things that are good times. So many families are troubled, truly troubled by the news and their everyday experience. I sometimes get to feeling ‘goofy’ having a ministry of encouragement, plain and simple. However, while there seems to be so many things we could do, God truly has sovereignly sent us as WBVN to root-on other Christians as the daily expression of our faith. The world seems to be whistling in the dark on its way to some pretty serious problems, many caused by the rebellion of trying in every way imaginable to leave God behind and venture out in its own independence. We certainly need a good dose of prayer and Word study to work through what the world has thrown at us. While we evaluate our purpose and expression at WBVN, we still believe a spoonful of Joy and laughter can be a valuable thing for believers. Staying centered and consistent in our vision is necessary for us to accomplish the modest service we provide to believers.
During these trying times, Joy is so hard to come by. Now I’m not suggesting that we hide our head in the sand and pretend that everything is ok, and we’re just going to party our way through this stuff. But I am suggesting that the light-hearted can have a place in the remedy of what we all face daily, especially Joy mixed with prayer and scripture. An artist in concert once said that music is not a necessity, but it is an enhancement to our Faith–it increases the experience of our Faith. In Jesus, it is possible that our mourning can be turned into laughter. The simple fact that we can find laughter and a smile in these times can be a sign of true spiritual Joy provided by the Spirit of God.
We have had a couple of people suggest over the years that our ‘good times’ at WBVN are not appropriate Christian events somehow. Seems that they are not solemn enough or something like that. Now, I’m all for the solemn gathering, but it’s just that as believers in Christ we can have both as an option. It’s not that one of those expressions is more sacred than the other, it’s that they are both valuable for us. The Gospel of Christ should be wide and deep and not made up of the ‘just my way or no way’ pattern. For myself, I really don’t want people to believe just like me. I don’t want to make them do only what I do, how I do it and when I do it. I don’t want to take on that responsibility. It’s a serious thing to demand that everyone has to express their love of God in one and only one way. I’m not sure I’m right about every opinion I’ve developed from Scripture. Believers need, as Charlie Peacock once said, a personal revolution, not copycat faith. They need to have found God and His Love in their life, not look to mine for evidence of God.
I’m tickled when believers can get together and find ways of celebrating the ‘family reunion’ they are attending. It’s a joy for us to come together to cry sometimes, sometimes celebrate and sometimes laugh. I don’t think Christians should have to give ground to secular fun. The things they laugh at any more, for the most part, are not funny. It’s laughing akin to embarrassment rather than at something being truly funny. Anyway, fun is not the same as Joy. Happy will not cut it for this life. Joy is a spiritual gift and should be valued with all the other spiritual gifts. After all, who should be the most joyful (truly, full of Joy), Christians or lost folks? It doesn’t mean we go around happy all the time, but we can have a smile in our hearts and Joy no matter our circumstances. I’ve been reading a couple of books lately by Christian author Walter Wangerin. He is a prolific writer, penning many children’s books and clever books for adults as well. He is most noteworthy for the novel, The Book Of God and a work titled Paul, the disciple’s life in novel form. In his book Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? Wangerin offers the following, and I thought all of us that are parents might benefit from reading it: “Let the children laugh and be glad. They haven’t long before the world assaults them. Allow them genuine laughter now. Laugh with them, till tears run down your faces – till a memory of pure delight and precious relationship is established within them, indestructible, personal and forever.
Soon enough they’ll meet faces unreasonably enraged. Soon enough they’ll be accused of things they did not do. Soon enough they will suffer guilt at the hands of powerful people who can’t accept their own guilt and who must dump it, therefore, on the weak. In that day the children must be strengthened by self-confidence so they can resist the criticism of fools. But self-confidence begins in the experience of childhood.
So give your children (your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, the dear ones, children of your neighbors and your community) – give them golden days, their own pure days, in which they are so clearly and dearly beloved that they believe in love and in their own particular worth when love shall seem in short supply hereafter. Give them laughter.
Observe each child with individual attention to learn what triggers the guileless laugh in each. Is it a story? A game? Certain family traditions? Excursions? Elaborate fantasies? Simple winks? What?
Do that thing. Because laughter that is so easy in childhood must echo its encouragement a long, long time. A lifetime.”
I agree, if we can give enough laughter to our children it lasts longer than just that one moment. Our childhood provides a fertile field for the seeds of Joy that the Spirit of God can provide in our lives as an adult. Sometimes I get to feeling guilty for having been given the singular ministry of encouragement. I see others minister in other ways and marvel at the simple thing that God has sent WBVN to do. However, without hesitation, I am certain that God asks us to just be singular minded about what we do here. We gather together to edify the Body of Christ, gather in concerts and each day on the radio. Being one if you will at the moments we share with one another. And, if we smile a little, if we feel encouraged after doing so, Praise God!
A few years ago I remember writing a newsletter about the ‘rhythm’ of the Gospel. Recently, I watched a video about how God’s presence in the earth is like a song that just keeps playing and playing and playing. It’s a song uninterrupted by what goes on in the world. It is steady, unchanging and seemingly able to be played without being ‘drowned out’ by all the things going on around it.
Not long ago, if you were the parents of girls, you would have had to learn a few things about jumping rope. It used to be a ritual for little girls. Even the schools they attended had large, grass jumping ropes. We had three little girls. All three jumped rope. I even tried it a couple times. I still remember some of the lingo: hot peppers and double Dutch. I also remember that the secret to jumping rope was the timing. The rope, or in some cases ropes, were ‘whirlwinds’ of rope! I can still see one of our daughters standing at the side, ‘semi-stepping’ (timing) into the rope, waiting for just the right moment to ‘step in’. They needed to get into the rhythm of the thing in order to get into the thing! That image reminded me of getting into the Life as the Father would have it for us.
Our lives are like those whirlwinds. We are so busy. We’re trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. We’re attempting to become financially secure. Most everyone is trying to ‘get theirs’ before someone else comes along and takes ‘theirs’ from them. Many are searching for a fountain of youth. We’re dieting. We’re exercising. In all this business, we look for purpose. On top of that, we ‘gotta’ have transportation, got to get some health insurance, got bills to pay, gas is going up to $4 a gallon, got to eat, have to mow the grass before it rains, and when’s that soccer game? There is this meeting and that meeting. Don’t forget the braces for ‘Sally’s smile’, for some people the pool needs shocking, there’s the wedding to get organized and pay for, need to back up the computer just in case some virus comes along and destroys all that important information on the hard drive. Got to re-schedule the dentist appointment. Supposed to meet the wife downtown at 6pm, deliver the girls at 7pm. When is there ever going to be time to water the flowers? You know the drill.
I remember a story told by Max Lucado. It was about a 60 year old man that had just finished running in his 50th iron-man contest. Max asked him how he did it at that age and at that pace. The man’s reply was, “I start out very slow and taper off after that.” That’s a pretty good formula for the Christian life, I think. We have to slow down enough from the hustle and bustle to hear the heart of God. We need to taper off enough to make quality decisions about how to spend our time. Any time we are in fear or in a hurry it’s very difficult to hear the voice of God.
That’s why it’s so critical for believers to ‘enter into His Rest.’ Doing that is very much like entering that jump rope. Having been born again, we, as a second step of our choosing, can enter into the life-style of the Gospel. The Christian Life is like a dance- you can get into the ‘pattern’ of it and it becomes a lot easier to get into the 1-2-3/1-2-3 of it. Good baseball pitchers have been said to get into a rhythm with their pitches. Wonderful musicians have to get with the beat of their song. Gifted artists seem to get into a rhythm with their works. As successful Christians, we will have to get into the rhythm of giving, of forgiving, of loving, of caring, of hoping, and of listening. It’s not like a chess game where we make a single move and then stop and watch to see if God is going to make the next move or not. It’s more like stacking boxes one on top of another. It’s an accumulation of making moves without stopping to evaluate their individual results. It becomes a life-style of living the Gospel, knowing what to do and doing it without evaluating each move. Finding our rhythm is like jumping rope- once in, it’s not nearly as difficult as finding the timing for ‘getting’ into it. That first step is the hardest part of jumping rope. You know that if you have tried to get in without getting into the rhythm, you get rope all around your head and shoulders.
A couple days ago, one of our daughters sent me a picture taken from the latest space shuttle trip. It’s a picture of hurricane Dean. It shows the very center of that storm, the ‘eye of the hurricane.’ In the center of a terrible storm like that, with winds and destruction all around, there’s a place that’s relatively calm. You can actually stand in the ‘eye’, right in the middle of that storm, and be perfectly safe. Entering into the rhythm of the Christian Life is like standing in the ‘eye’ with the world whirling all round. Right in the middle of the war on terror, in the middle of our financial pressure, in the heat of a medical crisis, there is a peaceful place! But, we’re not going to be able to enter into it by just ‘talking about it.’ We will have to get into the rhythm of the ‘God life.’ We’ll have to take a first step to get in there! Getting into rhythm with the Life of God puts us into the center of the ‘whirlwinds’ of this life. There will be things going on all around you but you will not have to struggle each day just to stand. You will not ‘pull your hair out’ trying to come up with every solution. You will enter into ‘trusting’ God in a way that you have not been able to do thus far. To experience that, we will have to do our part first. We will have to begin to time the thing, get into that Life of God. His Life is a system of living that changes us and sometimes the things around us. Once we step inside the whirlwind we need to keep doing the giving, the loving, the forgiving and the hoping over and over again. We can’t stop and look around to see if we are doing OK. We will just need to keep ‘doing’ the things that God told us would work for us, even if they appear, at any given moment, as though they are not working for us. After all, isn’t that the very nature of Faith, hoping for those things not seen? Man, once I was inside that whirlwind of rope, it was easy to jump the rope. Inside the Life of God, there are blessings to be discovered! Getting into the ‘rhythm of God’ sets in motion a life-style of God. Will everything be perfect? No! Will it always go well? Probably not! Is every day a ‘picnic’? No, might be a war that day! Can we be blessed in spite of that? Yes!
There’s a special meaning to the Hebrew word for blessing, R’RaCha. In the Hebrew language words are either male or female. In this case, the word R’RaCha is female. Its essence is that one blessing becomes two blessings, and so on. You see, R’RaCha has the ability and the nature to multiply itself! One blessing produces many more! We will have to become like Radar O’Reilly on Mash, ‘wait for it!’ Some days we will not be able to see it, but Radar O’Reilly could always anticipate something happening long before anyone else. It will come if we are in that center place, that secret place that God has prepared for us. Give and expect it to grow. Love and expect it to multiply. Trust and watch the Father be trustworthy. That’s being in the rhythm of God. Keep doing even when things don’t seem to be working for you. You need to stop looking back to see if it’s working for you. Going back is to step back into the whirlwind. According to Scripture, going back is seven times worse! Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Just do it! Over and over, do it!
That video I mentioned referred to the Life of God being like a song and we can either enter into it ‘in tune’ with His heart and purpose, or we can go through this life ‘out of tune’ with it. Entering in tune, while on frequency, will make the Christian Life enjoyable no matter what comes along. However, just like an orchestra playing, being out of tune with God, doesn’t create a very pleasant ‘sound’ at all in your life. Getting in rhythm with the orchestra leader makes for a wonderful, beautiful song. And don’t forget, God’s song goes on and on even when the noise around us seems so very loud. Listen close and you can still hear that still, small voice of God.