Saturday, June 25, 2011

God Is Love. Are We?

A Love Letter from God
by David River

My Dearest Child,

When I created the heavens and the earth, I spoke them into being. When I created man, I formed him from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils. But you, woman I did not create from the dirt. I made you from man as a symbol that you are “within” man, just as my bride is “within” me.

I fashioned you after I breathed the breath of life into man because you are too delicate. I allowed a deep sleep to come over him so I could patiently and perfectly form you. As a surgeon would put a patient under anesthesia, man was put to sleep so that he could not interfere with my creativity. From man’s one bone, I fashioned you. I chose the bone that protects his very life. I chose the rib; that which protects his heart and lungs and supports him as you are meant to do. Around this one bone I shaped you... I molded you. I created you tenderly, beautifully, and perfectly.

Your characteristics are as the rib; strong yet delicate and fragile. You provide protection for the most delicate organ within man, his heart. His heart is the center of his being; his lungs hold the breath of life. The rib cage will allow itself to be broken before it will allow damage to the heart. I created you to support man as the rib cage supports the body. You were not taken from his feet, to be under him, nor were you taken from his head, to be above him. You were taken from his side closest to his heart, to stand beside him and be held close to his side and dear to his heart.

You woman are my perfect creation. You are my beautiful little girl. You have grown to be a splendid woman of excellence, and my eyes fill when I see the virtues in your heart. Your eyes are as beautiful as a golden sunset. Your lips; how lovely when they part in prayer. Your nose; so perfect in form. Your hands so gentle to touch. I’ve caressed your face in your deepest sleep. I’ve whispered tender words of love in your ear. I hold your heart here within mine. Of all that lives and breathes, you are most like me. Your pure heart is most like mine. You my precious angel are the climax of my creation. You are a representation of my pure and spotless bride. When man loves you, he loves me, and the more deeply he loves you, the more deeply he loves me.
Adam walked with me in the cool of the day, yet he was lonely. So everything I wanted Adam to share and experience with me, I fashioned in you as a physical representation of myself upon the earth. You possess my holiness, my strength, my purity, my beauty, my love, my protection and my support.

So man... treat woman well. Love her extravagantly; treasure her royally, for she is fragile. In hurting her, you only hurt me. What you do to her, you do to me. In crushing her, you only damage your own heart; her heart, and also my heart.

Woman, support man. In humility, show him the power of emotion I have given you. In gentle quietness, show your strength. In love, show him that you are the rib that protects his very life; that you the bone that shelters his very heart.

The One Who Created and Loves You

Be Children of Love
by Brotha DC

34I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.
35By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].
36Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, where are You going? Jesus answered, You are not able to follow Me now where I am going, but you shall follow Me afterwards.
John 13:34-36 [AMP]

I find it interesting that, in the world, people rarely argue about what Christians would refer to as their sin.  What do I mean by that?

Well, for example, you dont find beer drinkers battling over whether to get drunk off of stout, a pilsner, or ale.  Regardless of what type of beer they prefer... they will raise their glasses together and, as the song says, “Drink!  Drink!  Drink!”

For that matter... you don’t see winos fighting over whether it is better to get drunk off of red wine versus white wine.  Neither will sneer over those who prefer to drink a wine cooler. And you will never hear drinkers of clear liquor battling with those who use brown liquor.

Do heroin addicts protest in front of crack houses?

The point that I am making is... people in the world just enjoy their lives. Those who go to disco nightclubs dont fight those who go to rave clubs. They just want to party... and if someone wants to party differently... then no biggie, right?

So then, why is it Christians will cut each others’ throats over doctrinal differences while ignoring the weightier matters?

We have fights over doctrine and dogma... over musical styles and “acceptable” instruments... whether the church supper should include potatoes or Stove Top stuffing...

Look at those who fight against a woman being in ministry, rather asking themselves if she is being used by God? Is she bringing souls into the kingdom?

I hope we can take the above scripture to heart and truly love one another... rather than to be so quick to tear one another down. If a brother or sister is caught in a sin, a fault, or an error... pray for them... and then make sure you aren’t walking around with a beam in your eye while criticising the splinter in their eye.
Jesus died so that we might have and enjoy life (John 10:10).

Don’t be a curmudgeonly sourpuss, only interested in finding fault. But seek and even believe for good in the lives of your fellow believers.

A Lifetime Filled With the Father’s Love
by Judy Ann

Father, I thank You for the great love You have bestowed upon me, that I should be called a child of God! I submit to Your Word that is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of my heart. In the name of Jesus I repent and renounce anger, bitterness and depression. In the name of Jesus, I look inside that I might experience Your love that is imparted to me. Amen.

1What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.
2-3But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we'll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own.
1 John 1-3 [MSG]

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 [AMP]

Father, I pray that I may be filled with the love of God. You are able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work within me. To you goes all the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

   Glory to God in the church!
   Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
   Glory down all the generations!
   Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Ephesians 3:14-21 [MSG]

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world..”  Philippians 2:14-15

Father, thank You for the Holy Spirit who helps me pray when I don’t know how or what to pray for. I affectionately and gratefully praise your name, thanking you for answered prayer. The Holy Spirit helps me love without hypocrisy. I abhor what is evil, and cling to what is good. I will be kindly affectionate to others with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to others, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. I rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, and will continue steadfast in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit Who takes hold together with me against my weaknesses. In Jesus name. Amen.

9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Romans 12:9-13 [MSG]

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The 2nd Chapter of Acts

The 2nd Chapter of Acts was one of my favorite “Classic” Contemporary Christian bands.  Their story, thanks to Judypie, was a great inspiration to us.


The 2nd Chapter of Acts Story
Part 1

The blinding North Dakota blizzard blasted against Elizabeth Irmen as the young schoolteacher and her troupe of students trudged through the knee-deep snow. The lane that led from their rural North Dakota schoolhouse to the main road was already obscured. They must move quickly before the whirling winds heaped the snow into mountainous drifts. Otherwise, it could be disastrous.

From behind her, came the drone of a truck engine and turning her facing into the whipping wind, she saw the welcome sight of headlights approaching. Hastily, she huddled her students off the highway and watched as the huge truck slid to a stop near the spot where the children had been walking only a few moments earlier. The door flew open, and the driver, Walter Ward, called to them through the storm. “Come on, kids! Pile in. I’ll get you home.”

Gratefully, with teeth chattering, the children clambered aboard the warm vehicle. As Walter assisted the children, he asked the teacher “And where do you live, honey?” It was an innocent question. She was so young he’d mistaken her as one of the students.

”Well, honey-” she replied with a twinkle in her eye, ”-I just live around the corner. I’m the teacher.” It didn’t escape her attention that this thoughtful “rescuer” was strong and good-looking.

An awkward introduction, but it was a beginning. Walter and Elizabeth fell in love and married. Soon their lives revolved almost entirely around children. They had nine of their own. Three of those children - Annie, Nelly, and Matthew - grew up to become the “2nd Chapter of Acts,” one of the pioneering groups in contemporary Christian music. Much of what they set in motion continues to influence Christian music today.

To understand the impact of the 2nd Chapter of Acts’ music and ministry, it helps to reflect upon how God called them into relationship with Himself, how He filled them with His presence, and how He has worked in and through the lives of three shy, unassuming kids from North Dakota and a big guy named Buck Herring. Where did they come from? How did they get to where they are today? What was God saying through them in the ’70s and ’80s, and what is He saying through them today? Let’s go back to the beginning.

The Early Days

In the 1950s, Walter Ward worked hard as an itinerant farmer to provide a sparse living for his sprawling family. He was a happy man who loved to dance, sing, and play the harmonica. Though poor, the Wards were rich in love, fun and music. “There were many things we did not have,” Annie recalls. “Things such as indoor plumbing and other ’luxuries.’ But the one thing we did have was love. No matter what, we always knew Mom and Dad loved us.”

”I never heard my parents argue,” recalls Annie. ”They were always very kind to each other, and to us.”

Music was a major part of the Wards’ life. Annie began singing publicly at five years of age, with her older sister, Kathryn and Stephanie. They performed favorites like, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,” while their mom accompanied them on piano. “The Ward Sisters” sang for all sorts of rural festivities: farm co-op meetings, the dedication of a new train engine, school openings, and country church picnics.

The Catholic Church also had a great impact on Annie. It was there when says she first encountered the majesty of God. “I loved the Church,” says Annie. ”I loved to sing in the choir and to sing those Latin masses. It filled me with a tremendous sense of awe. I didn’t understand much about God, but I loved the liturgy. I loved taking communion. The only thing I didn’t love about the church was going to confession. That was a scary thing. I didn’t always tell the truth in confession, because I was too embarrassed.”

By the tenth grade, Annie knew she wanted to be a nun. A wise “sister” explained to her that to serve the Lord in that capacity required a special calling. ”Annie, unless Jesus tells you to be a nun, don’t go into the convent. In fact, you shouldn’t do anything unless the Lord tells you to do it.” Annie couldn’t fully comprehend her mentor’s words. But the message seemed important.

It was late in 1950 that Elizabeth began to complain of chronic headaches and constant physical weakness. Doctors diagnosed her as having epilepsy. Despite their best efforts, Elizabeth’s condition grew worse year after year. The family moved to California to be closer to relatives who could help in the face of Elizabeth’s deteriorating health.

In 1968, Elizabeth Ward died of a brain tumor. She had been misdiagnosed for more than a decade.

Annie was left reeling at her mother’s death. She was dabbling in drugs, searching for the meaning to life in Eastern mysticism and in New Age type religions. Nothing satisfied the inner longings of her heart. The loss of her mother intensified Annie’s sense of loneliness and meaninglessness-and it forced her to face the fleeting, fragile, nature of life.

About this time, Annie’s boyfriend, Buck Herring, committed his life to Jesus Christ. His new faith was about to make Annie face another confrontation.

A “New” Boyfriend

Buck Herring had hopes of steering a rock band into the big-time. One day, while working as a deejay at a Top-40 station, Buck received a frantic phone call from one of his band members. In a panic-stricken voice, he informed Buck that their drug supplier had “gotten religion” and was refusing to deal drugs any more! Buck was intrigued.

The deal told Buck that he’d been “filled with the Spirit,” and it was true, there was an undeniable change. To his own amazement, Buck asked if they could go to church together some time. The moment Buck walked into the church, he realized that these people were Spirit-filled, with a capital “S”. The worshippers were raising their hands to the Lord singing and speaking praise to him…out loud!

Oh! No! Buck thought. These people are nuts!

As he stood there, fighting an urge to leave, Buck also experienced a powerful stirring in his heart. The searching question came to him: Are you willing to be foolish in your own eyes-for My sake?

He pondered the implications of this query for less than a minute. Then by a simple act of his will, Buck raised his hands in the air and began to speak words of praise to Jesus.

Shortly after surrendering his life to the Lord, Buck began to sense a conflict between his faith in Christ and the lyrics of the songs that he played as a Top-40 deejay. He resigned his position at the radio station, even though he had no idea where he’d find work.

He also parted company with the rock band. He’d purchased some used recording equipment two years before, in hopes of producing demo tapes of the band. Following his commitment to Christ, he packed up the equipment and donated it all- microphones, tape deck, control board, everything- to the church where he’d given his life to Jesus.

As he was packing the equipment, Buck found himself saying out loud: “Father, I would love to produce records for Your kingdom.”

In the years to follow, God would honor Buck’s obedience by allowing him to produce all of the “2nd Chapter of Acts” albums, as well as recordings by Barry McGuire, Phil Keaggy, Matthew Ward, Annie Herring, Terry Talbot, Mike Deasy and Michael and Stormie Omartian. He also served as concert sound engineer, manager and primary spokesperson for 2nd Chapter throughout their ministry.

One of the first people Buck wanted to tell about his new commitment to Jesus was Annie Ward. They have been involved with each other previously, but the relationship had soured. By now, Annie was living in Los Angeles, working with a singing group and on the verge of breaking into a successful pop music career. Although she considered herself a “seeker of truth,” she really wasn’t interested in “Jesus stuff”. But since the death of her mom, Annie had continued searching for something to take away the haunting pain and emptiness.

For two weeks following his spiritual rebirth, Buck prayed for Annie regularly-not about a potential relationship, but out of concern for the fact that she was lost without Christ. One day, he sensed the Lord saying, “Go find her.” He drove to LA and eventually, found Annie living with the members of her singing group at the home of a famous songwriter, who was hoping to launch the group onto the charts.

Buck zealously shared his newfound faith with Annie. He briefly told her that she needed to be “born again.” Although Annie didn’t understand what he meant, she was willing to listen. He also thrust into her hands a copy of the Modern English New Testament, Good News for Modern Man. “Read this,” he said. And after praying, he left her stunned.

For more than a week, the book remained untouched. But there was something about Buck’s prayer…Annie felt as if something profound was happening deep within. Nothing in her life seemed worthwhile-not the drugs, not even the promise of fame.

Several days after Buck’s visit, Annie finally picked up the book he’d left and decided to read it-from the back! The Book of Revelation, amazingly, made sense to her. Perhaps it was the sense of majesty she’d felt as a little girl, but she saw Jesus for who He is-King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Still pondering this Jesus of Revelation, Annie sat down at the piano and started fooling with the keys. She didn’t really know how to play, but as a child she’d learned a few basics by watching her mother play. To her surprise, she began playing and the words to a song rushed in.

Puzzled, Annie stared at the keyboard. Okay, she thought. This song did not come from me. Where did this song come from? In her mind’s eye, she pictured Jesus. He was walking toward her, and Annie had the conviction that the song had come from Him. What did this mean? Then Jesus spoke to Annie and His words seared into her heart: The only thing I am asking of you is to give your life to Me and let Me live through you.

From this unusual event, Annie was convinced of two things Jesus had given her the song, and He wanted to live through her. Meanwhile, Buck continued to pray for Annie. During the next two weeks, he also hungered for a deeper relationship with Christ. When he sought counsel from his pastor, he was told to come for prayer on Sunday morning. That Sunday, Buck experienced a deeper touch from the Holy Spirit.

The Wild Weekend

The next time Annie saw Buck, something was different about him. She was fascinated when he explained that he’d been filled with the Holy Spirit. What kind of spiritual power could change a guy like Buck? She wondered.

That night, Buck asked if he could pray for her. When she consented, he took her hand, and prayed a simple prayer.

The next morning, when Annie got up, she knew she had two items of business to take care of: She quit the singing group, and committed her life to Jesus Christ.

Annie’s commitment to Christ was total, even though it meant losing all that she had ever wanted in the music business. “Nobody told me that I had to quit everything in order to become a Christian,” Annie recalls, “but once I had made a decision to follow Christ, it seemed like the only logical choice. It was so clear: I could choose everything that I thought I ever wanted…or I could choose Jesus.”

That night, Buck and Annie went to the home of some folks Buck knew, “Jesus people” who claimed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Annie wanted the same Spirit that had changed Buck to fill her life. A group of “Jesus people” gathered around Annie as she sat on a chair in the center of the group. They began praying for her and singing in the Spirit. Suddenly, Annie experienced a vision of heaven. She describes it like this:

”There was a myriad of people around the throne of God. The dimension was different than anything I had ever seen in this world. I saw myself in front of the twenty-four elders-though I didn’t know who or what they were then. I smelled the incense around the altar. I sensed incredible power… .

Suddenly, I saw Jesus. I loved Him so much! I started toward Him, to kiss Him, but I stopped short. Every sin I’d ever committed seemed so real. I just stood there. I could not touch Him. I couldn’t touch Him because of my dirt, my filth, my sin. Instantly-without ever being taught this-I knew that there was no way that I could ever earn His good favor. There was nothing I could do on my own in order to be acceptable in His sight. I was covered with sin and I kept thinking, How could He love me?”

To everyone’s surprise, Annie bolted from the room. Outside, she ran into an open field, where she sat down and wept. “I felt God could never love me,” she recalls, “because I had disobeyed Him and hurt Him so deeply.” At home that night, she fell asleep still asking, “How could He love me? How could He love me?” Somehow, during the night, something changed inside. ”The Lord ministered to me so beautifully and gently, that I woke up asking, ’How could He love me so much?’”

The next night, Buck and Annie attended a Bible study and prayer meeting where the leader asked them to stand and give a testimony. Buck shared a few facts about his and Annie’s spiritual journey. “All I know,” said Annie, when it was her turn, “is that I love Jesus. And Jesus loves me.” It was her first public testimony. Simple words of a new faith.

Dying to Past Loves

The Monday morning following Annie’s spiritual renaissance, she met with one of the top movers and shakers in LA’s music industry. His offer was a stunner-everything that Annie had ever wanted as a performer: a package-deal contract, and the promise that he would groom her to be a star in the entertainment industry. Annie saw her choices clearly: ”Inside I heard the Lord say, ’He’s right. You can have everything you’ve ever wanted-or, you can have Me.’

”But, because I had ’seen’ the Lord, what choice did I have? In my heart I said, Lord, I’ll take you.”

When Annie refused the offer, the man was confused. ”Let me know if you ever change your mind,” he said as he rose to leave. “I won’t,”: Annie replied, “but thanks just the same.”

Two days later, she found herself reading the psalmist’s words: “I have been young, and now I am old: Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). A short time later, she got a call from the president of one of the largest secular record companies in the world. “Annie, we’d really like to do an album with you,” he said. ”Thank you,” Annie replied sweetly, “but I’m not going to be singing that kind of music any more. I’ve given my life to the Lord. I’m going to be singing for Jesus.”

The man was incredulous. “Oh, sure. I’ve heard that before. You’ll come running back. And when you do, I will not even mention this to you. You just come back.” ”No,” Annie said politely, “I just read today that the Lord will provide for those who trust in Him, and I believe it. But thank you.” When Annie hung up, she was only vaguely aware of what she had begun. Through a series of deliberate choices, Annie Ward was dying to herself and was beginning to live for Jesus.


It was a simple wedding, held in a backyard with only a few people attending. Buck and Annie married in February of 1969. Annie made her own Irish-linen wedding gown, with white embroidered crosses on the sleeves. Annie’s sister Kathryn was the Maid of honor, and Buck’s friend Noel Paul Stookey was the Best man.

The newlyweds became part of an informal prayer group that met regularly on Tuesday nights. They had no pastor or teacher to lead them, so the group shared a meal, sang, discussed scripture and prayed for each other. It was a fresh, free, spontaneous and energetic form of worship.

Soon they were running out of space. Buck and Annie found an old Hollywood mansion in need of repair. The rent was $500 a month. The place was huge-with an enormous living room, six bedrooms, and four-and-a-half baths. The Herrings furnished the house with discount furniture that Buck remembers as “seriously ugly, but comfortable.”

Buck had purchased an old upright piano for fifty dollars and had given it to Annie as a present in the first few months of their marriage. Although the keys were yellowed and nearly half the ivories were missing, when the Herrings moved into the Hollywood house, “Brother Bear,” as they later dubbed the piano, came along. “Buck and Annie’s place” became the gathering spot for the prayer group. Dozens of people came to know Jesus at those home meetings, launching the ministries of many musicians, pastors and missionaries.

Although they were living on a shoestring budget, the Herrings never asked for money to help support the meetings in their home. Nor did they ever inform anyone of their financial need. And somehow God always supplied. Frequently, just as the rent came due, they would unexpectedly find cash on the fireplace mantle following a Tuesday night fellowship.

Trouble At Home

In the summer of 1970, Buck and Annie’s lives suffered a serious blow. Two years earlier, as the grieving family stood around Elizabeth Ward’s gravesite, Annie’s dad had told her, “n two years time, I’ll be right beside her.” Nearly two years to the day, he died of leukemia.

Annie had visited him prior to his death, and as he sat up in bed, racked with pain, Walter Ward prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. Then in his first act as a newborn Christian, he prayed for the salvation of his family. He could not have imagined how his prayer would be answered.

Following their father’s funeral, the family agreed that the four youngest children should move in with their older brothers and sisters. Two went to live with Annie’s oldest brother. Nelly and Matthew, who were 14 and 12 at the time, moved in with Buck and Annie. The Herring’s had been married for less than a year-and-a-half.

The trauma of losing both their parents, combined with the pressures of being thrust into an “instant” family, took its toll on both the Wards and the Herrings.

From Nelly and Matthew’s perspective, Annie had moved away from home while they were small children. Their new “mother” was a 23-year old sister they hardly knew. Their father figure was a big, brusque, bear of a man whom they’d only just met. “I think we were both numb,” says Matthew of the decision to live with the Herrings. ”We had just buried Dad and it really didn’t matter after that… It didn’t make any difference where we moved.”1

Buck and Annie, however, had been praying for Matthew and Nelly long before their father’s death. Their welcome was a foregone conclusion. Although they had little money to provide for Nelly and Matthew the Herrings were excited. “I just knew that they would have a future, says Annie, “and I knew that Buck would be good for them.”

At first, Buck and Matthew weren’t so certain. Buck was a strict disciplinarian, “verging on legalism.” Matthew possessed an incredibly quick wit, and Buck too-often mistook his comments for insubordination. Actually, Matthew was merely relating in the only manner he knew. Buck and Matthew’s conflicting personalities made for a volatile mix. Buck’s sternness with Matthew negatively affected Nelly, as well. After all, Matt was her brother; she barely knew the brute who was badgering him. Her compassionate spirit caused her to rise up in sympathy for Matthew, while she inwardly bristled at Buck for being so overbearing.

Nelly and Matthew, as well as Annie and Buck, are quick to credit “the grace of God and the lubricating oil of the Holy Spirit” as their secret to surviving these family frictions. Moreover, the tensions began to ease after both Nelly and Matthew came into a personal relationship with Christ. Still, Buck was often baffled in his attempts to discipline Matthew. “I made innumerable mistakes in my early dealings with Matthew,” recalls Buck. “Finally, I told the Lord this was obviously not working and He gave me some wisdom in what to do.” The turning point in their relationship came when Matthew brought home a series of pink slips from school, indicating the he’d disrupted the class.

Spanking failed, and Buck felt at wit’s end. “How am I ever going to get through to this kid?” he lamented. He needed a new approach, and he prayed for wisdom.

After praying, he took Matthew outside the house and drew a three-foot by six-foot rectangle on the ground. ”I want you to dig a hole here,” he pointed to the rectangle, “six feet deep.” Matthew was shocked, but dutifully he began digging. Years later, Matthew recalled, “I thought of running away, but where would I go? I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I didn’t have any money. So I stayed there and dug.”

As Matthew was digging, the Lord revealed to Buck that the hole was to be a grave. Finally, Matthew finished. Buck inspected the plot and said, “You’ve done a good job. Now to into your room and write on a piece of paper all the things you want to ’die’ to. I don’t want to see the paper. I don’t need to know what’s on it. It’s between you and the Lord. Then bring it out and I’ll help you bury it.”

Matthew retreated to his room to write his “spiritual obituary”. Half an hour later, he and Buck shoveled dirt back into the hole, burying the paper. It was the beginning a healing process in their relationship.

The Gift of Music

One day, Annie sat on the piano stool in from of “Brother Bear,” wishing she could have learned to play when she was a child. With nine siblings, lessons were a luxury the family could ill afford. The best she could manage was to fool with the keys. And then, to her amazement Annie found herself playing a melody. But how? The chords and notes flowed out, as if the Lord was literally giving her a gift of music. “At first,” says Annie, “I’d get these beautiful melodies and I’d ask Buck to write the lyrics to go with them.” One day, Buck replied, “Annie don’t think about writing a song-just sing whatever’s in your heart.”

It was this encouragement that opened the way to Annie’s simple, and deeply intimate songs of praise and adoration. To this day, she continues to write in much the same way. “I’m not a songwriter,” she protests modestly. “I’m a song receiver. I start playing, and the music comes.”

When Nelly and Matthew came to live with Buck and Annie, they discovered a comfort and closeness in joining Annie around the piano after school. Their voices blended together in spontaneous, smooth harmonies, so tight, so natural. Was it just that the Ward kids had similar genes-or was there another explanation?

Matthew offers: “I used to listen to a lot of AM radio when I was a kid and I learned to do harmony by singing a different note than the guy on the radio. I’d sing with everything. I’d even sing with Mom’s vacuum cleaner as it whirred back and forth across the carpet, changing its pitch. I’d harmonize with anything that oscillated-washing machines, or whatever. You could say I learned to sing harmony from household appliances!”

In addition to Annie’s special gift and Matthew’s offbeat vocalizing, Nelly possessed an amazing ability to find the missing notes between her brother and sister. When this trio sang together, their sound was almost angelic.

The Wards and Herrings never intended to become a professional singing group. “We were just singing to the Lord,” says Matthew, “and it was a way of releasing our pain. We had gone through something tragic but we knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.”2

Annie agrees. “When we started singing together, there was such a healing, such a joy in our hearts, that we didn’t want to take it outside of our own living room. It was a healing balm to us. Precious. Personal. Something that was ours.” It would seem however, that the Lord had other plans.

A Fresh Start

One day as Annie, Nelly and Matthew were singing around the piano, they stopped to pray, which was a regular practice. As they prayed that day, they sensed that they were getting a personal message from the Lord.

As Annie remembers: “He said we were three small streams, but when we came together to sing we would be a mighty river. That river would uproot things in people’s hearts that had been buried—the way that rushing water uproots things-and cleans things out, and opens things up. He promised that we would sing as one voice.”

Yet, the trio remained shy about performing in public. They sang in church when called upon, and in local Christian coffeehouses at the insistence of friends. But that was the limit. “The last thing we wanted to do was to sing in front of people,” explains Annie. “We never thought ’Oh, boy! Let’s get out there and do concerts!’ It was always, ’Oh no! We’ve got to go out there’.’ We felt that way throughout our years of ministry together. We were scared, shy, and very aware of our inadequacies. The good part was that it forced us to rely upon the Lord.”

About this time, Eddie Overstreet, the Herring’s former housemate, wanted to record a song he’d written. Buck arranged for some excellent studio musicians, most of who were friends, and they went into the studio to record the music track for a song titled, “Jesus Is.” The track turned out so well that Eddie felt it was beyond his own vocal ability, and he agreed with Buck that they should find someone else to sing the song-but who?

Buck played the track for a number of their friends and all agreed that it was a “fun, happening” song. But who could they get to sing it? Then one day as Buck and Annie were driving along in their car, they looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, “Why don’t we have Matthew sing it!”

On Matthew’s 13th birthday, Matthew recorded the lead vocal. Annie and Nelly sang background vocals along with many of their friends. It was a “fun” song, and eventually it caught the attention of Pat Boone, who arranged a contract with MGM Records for the release of ”Jesus Is.” In 1972, the family’s recording career was officially born.

What Kind of Name Is That?

While working in the recording studio, editing a secular commercial, Buck heard a phrase go through his mind: The 2nd Chapter of Acts. Later, he described it as “the nearest I’ve ever come to hearing God speak in an audible voice. “It wasn’t like I should go read this chapter,” says Buck. “It was clearly to be the group’s name.” “I had read that passage of Scripture before, but I didn’t have a good idea of what it was about. I didn’t want to forget it, so I took a studio grease pencil and wrote ’The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ on the front of the tape machine.”

Buck couldn’t wait to get home from work that night to share the name with the family. Their reaction, however, was somewhat less than enthusiastic. “What?” they chorused. “What kind of a name is that?”

”That’s an awful name,” Annie lamented. ”It doesn’t even let anyone know we’re a family.” Matthew objected, ”People will think we are a play!”

But Buck was imperious. He knew he had heard from God. “Okay, go get your Bibles,” he suggested, ”and go to your rooms and let’s all read Acts, chapter two. Ask God about it. Then come back and let’s meet together in fifteen or twenty minutes.”

The family spread throughout the big house and began to study the passage. When they reappeared, their response was one of resignation rather than overwhelming enthusiasm. They reluctantly agreed, “Okay, if that’s what we’re supposed to be, that’s it. We’ll be the 2nd Chapter of Acts.”

Over the years, the name proved to be both a blessing and an obstacle. True, it had a fresh, contemporary sound. But it also barred them from singing for some of the largest, mainline denominations in America. “People were afraid we’d come in and start speaking in tongues or something,” laughs Buck.

”From our viewpoint, being called ’The 2nd Chapter of Acts’ didn’t have anything to do with speaking in tongues, or being filled with the Holy Spirit, or any other phenomena commonly perceived as ’Charismatic,’” Buck explains. “But it occurred to us, that if you were cast adrift and you had only Acts 2, you’d have it all. The prophecy of Jesus’ coming, the fulfillment of the prophecy, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Church, the activity of the early Church as it began to function-it’s all there in one chapter. It’s the ’Reader’s Digest’ version of the Bible. “It was never a banner we were waving, concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was meant to portray the whole life and ministry of the Church. And that’s what we felt we were about.”

If their new identity felt awkward to Annie, Nelly and Matthew, it was soon to become a household name to millions of Christian music lovers.


By the time Barry McGuire met “The 2nd Chapter of Acts,” he had tasted the best and the worst of the music business. His music had taken his group, “The New Christy Minstrels,” and their idyllic ballad “Green Green” to the top of the charts. And then his career skyrocketed with the 1965 solo hit, “Eve of Destruction.”

Unfortunately, Barry’s personal life was also on the precipice of destruction during this time. He later described his life as a “triple-X-rated horror story,” filled with alcohol and drugs.3

McGuire dropped out of the music scene, and spent the next two years with the Agape Force, a group of Jesus People who helped him become established in the Lord. Soon, with new songs to sing Barry began looking for a producer to help record the best, Christ-honoring album possible. His search boiled down to two individuals: one, a highly successful secular producer; the other Buck Herring. Though he’d become a respected studio engineer, Buck had yet to produce an album. Barry prayed, then called him.

Buck invited Barry to bring some songs over to the big house in Hollywood. After a few brief formalities, Barry explained how he felt that God had led him to seek Buck’s help in producing his next album. Buck asked Barry if he could hear some of the songs and Barry gladly got out his guitar and began singing.

Laughing, Buck recollects, “When Barry started singing, the house shook! He was banging his guitar and thumping out the beat with his foot as he sang, ’I don’t know what you come to do, but I come to praise the Lord!’. It was great.”

Before long, two pairs of eyes peeked around the corner of the stairway. Buck motioned for Nelly and Matthew to come down, as Barry sang several more songs. When Barry finished, Buck suggested, “Now that Matthew and Nelly are awake, why don’t you guys sing a song for Barry?”

Barry later confessed that he expected the worst. What have I gotten into? he thought. Now this little family is going to sing. Another can-we-have-our-kids-sing-for-you? How many times have I heard that line before? But as he looked at the skinny, bashful kids gathering around the beat-up piano, he though, ”Well, praise the Lord anyway.” He settled into a chair and attempted to appear as interested as possible.

Annie, Nelly and Matthew began to sing. Barry was stunned. He’d listened to thousands of singers, but he’d never heard anything like this before! Crystal clear harmonies. Lyrics that sounded inspired in heaven. When the trio finished, tears were streaming down his face.

That night, Barry invited them to sing background vocals on his new album. Seeds, was one of the groundbreaking recordings in contemporary Christian music.

Besides working together on the album, 2nd Chapter of Acts and Barry McGuire committed themselves to do a series of concerts. The logical place to start was Sacramento, where Buck had been a popular radio personality. It was also there the “Acts” achieved moderate success, as their second MGM single; “I’m So Happy” soared into the top five on the local charts. And of course, Barry was still well known because of his secular hits. The concert was sure to succeed. In fact, they lost money. Nevertheless, it was the start of something big.

Divine Appointments

In order to have enough material to do their part of the concert, “Acts” had to hire some musicians and rehearse a few songs. Annie had written several new songs, that she had received from the Lord, and afterwards some members of the band suggested to Buck that they record them. Buck shrugged, “I don’t have any money.”

When the band insisted, the whole troupe went into a studio. This recording session gave us some of the ”2nd Chapter’s” first classics-including “Love, Peace, Joy,” ”I Fall In Love,” and “Going Home.” One song from this session seemed to have a special quality. Annie had titled it, “Easter Song.” “Easter Song” was one of those that “just came out,” Annie recalls. “At first, I didn’t think it was much of a song. I loved it, but I didn’t think it was a song for us. I thought it was a choir song. I even said to the Lord, ’Oh Father, that sounds like a song that a lot of people should sing.’

”I was talking with our friends Jimmy and Carol Owens one day. We had been on tour with them in ’Come Together,’ a musical they’d written. I thought Jimmy might be interested and I said, ’I have this little song. You might not even like it,”

When Annie played “Easter Song,” Jimmy Owens was jubilant. “You don’t want to give that song to anybody. You need to record it!” Teeming with confidence, Annie took the song to the band members who, at first, did not share Jimmy’s enthusiasm. Drummer, David Kemper whined wistfully, “I don’t hear any drums on that song. I just can’t hear it.” “David!” Buck’s voice boomed. “You don’t hear any drums on it? Just play! Play something. Do it!” David did. He sat down and put a different drum pattern to the song, taking it out of the choir realm where Annie had first heard it and pulling it into a lilting rhythm that no only 2nd Chapter could sing, but the whole world could sing.

The song was to undergo a transformation from the way Annie first heard it. Drummer David Kemper added a rhythm and eventually Michael Omartian, another friend of the family, added the lively keyboard track that made the song unforgettable.

Omartian’s involvement on “Easter Song” began a long-term relationship. Throughout the early years of ”Acts” ministry, Annie roughed out the songs, and Michael wrote the charts for the musicians before going into the studio. Buck once said, “When the Lord gives Annie a song, it’s like a rough-hewn diamond, dug out of the ground. We give it to Michael, and he cuts it and polishes it and puts it in the right piece of jewelry.”

In Annie’s estimation, “Michael is such a musical genius. He has perfect pitch, and the ability to play almost any instrument. He’s really a virtuoso, and compared to him I could hardly play at all. Back then he’d get so tickled at me. He’d say, ’This song is wrong. You’re not supposed to be able to do these chords. But I love it! It’s wrong, but it’s great.’ He’d also say, ’You play the piano wrong, too. It’s wrong-but it’s fine…how do you do that?’”

Another person who was impressed by “Easter Song” was record executive, Billy Ray Hearn. Hearn had begun Myrrh, a new contemporary Christian record label owned by Word. When he first heard “Easter Song’” he said, ”Now that’s what Christian music is supposed to sound like!”

Growing Pains

When Buck sent a copy of the newly recorded Seeds album to Billy Ray Hearn, he immediately recognized the record’s enormous potential. When Billy Ray came out to the Herring home to discuss the deal, Buck played him some of the songs that 2nd Chapter had been working on. One of those songs was “Easter Song.”

Because of the difficulties “Acts” had experienced in doing Christian music for a secular record company, Buck had obtained their release from MGM. Within a few months, Hearn had signed them to do their first album for Myrrh. ”The 2nd Chapter of Acts” and Barry McGuire continued touring together, which was both exhilarating and frightening for the inexperienced trio. At first, the group merely stood on-stage and sang, rarely sharing anything from their hearts. Buck believed that in order to be “spiritual,” the music needed to be spontaneous. Consequently, he wanted to change the order of songs every night;, which kept them feeling even more unsure of themselves.

McGuire attempted to intercede, “But Buck, last night everything just felt so good .” “Sure,” Buck responded, ”but God may want to do something different tonight.”

Another factor that contributed to “Acts” early inhibitions was audience response. During Barry’s set, the audience sang along, clapped and cheered. When ”2nd Chapter” began singing-”Going Home” was their opener-the audience grew strangely silent. “We thought everybody had gone home!” Annie jokes. “That would really have shaken our confidence-if we’d had any.”

Several concerts into the tour, somebody approached Annie and said, “We’re really sorry we didn’t applaud-but we’ve never heard music like that before!” Many others expressed that they had never before experienced worship so keenly.

As Nelly reflects: “One of the reasons people didn’t applaud was because we weren’t singing songs about Jesus, we were singing to Him. When people recognized that, they sensed His Spirit. They could see Jesus, and they fell in love with Him.”

Despite the awkward beginnings, “Acts” and Barry McGuire continued to tour together intermittently for three years. Through his example, Barry taught the group how to communicate with an audience. “Just be yourselves,” he’d encourage them. “Be who God has called you to be.” Barry’s words fell upon fertile soil. “He taught us so much,” says Annie. ”He’s the best communicator I’ve ever known.”

Besides the spiritual power of their music, other factors catapulted “Acts” into the public spotlight. First, touring with Barry exposed them to a built-in audience each concert. Second, “Easter Song” was getting airplay on secular radio stations as well as the few contemporary Christian programs that existed them. Too, their album, With Footnotes had taken off. By 1973, they entered the music ministry full-time. For the next twenty years, they would travel across America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Western Europe singing about Jesus.

Today, aspiring Christian musicians often ask them how they too can “make it” in Christian music. Buck says, “I ask them, ’Do you feel you are to have a music ministry?’ If they say ’Yes,” I ask, ’Are you willing to have music ministry even if you never leave your own church, or your own home town?’ If they hedge here, I’ll ask, ’Are you looking for a music ministry or are you just looking for a career in music?’

”If you really want to have a music ministry, stay on your face before the Lord, and let God raise you up to use you the way He wants to.”

Bringing the Band Together

Early on, “Acts” felt the need to have their own band. Nelly’s close friend, Jamie Owens told them about a group of musicians at Church on the Way in Van Nuys. ”They practice a lot,” said Jamie, “but sometimes they don’t even play-they just pray.” That was good enough for Buck. He approached the band and asked them to pray about working with 2nd Chapter. “We already have,” they responded, “and the answer is ’Yes!’”

Since the members of 2nd Chapter also worshipped at the same church, the result was a spiritual unity between the singers and the band members. Later the Lord revealed to them a principle from the life of Abraham. Buck explains, “When Abraham went to rescue his nephew Lot from the enemy, he took members of his own household with him to help. Similarly, the Lord showed us that we were to go out against the enemy with a band called David.”

The result was a spiritual joining of forces between ”Acts” and “A Band Called David.” Perhaps the one person who influenced the “Acts” more profoundly than anyone else was the unassuming pastor of Church on the Way, Jack Hayford. The group began attending Church on the Way when the congregation was less than one hundred strong. (Today, the congregation numbers in the thousands.) “He helped us understand who we are, how to minister, and how to order our priorities,” says Buck. ”Jack Hayford taught us principles of spiritual integrity, and how to avoid the snares of the enemy.”

Indirectly, Jack Hayford also inspired one of 2nd Chapter’s most adventurous albums, The Roar of Love, based on C. S. Lewis’s classic stories, The Chronicles of Narnia. As Buck and Annie were driving to a camp where they were to minister together, Hayford suddenly said, “Annie, you need to read about Narnia!” Annie had read other works of C. S. Lewis, but was unfamiliar with the Chronicles. When she returned home, she immediately purchased a set and devoured all seven books in one sitting!

Over several years she collected enough songs for an album, centering around Lewis’s story, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It would be some time, however, before the album ever was released. But change was in the wind.

Stop, Look and Listen

In 1976, “The 2nd Chapter of Acts” arrived at a crossroads: “Should we or should we not continue?” was the question. Prior to this, the ministry of “Acts” had grown out of the Herring-Ward family relationships. Nelly and Matthew had been drawn into the ministry primarily because of those relationships, and they’d been happy to comply. They’d faithfully helped Annie and Buck pursue the vision God had given to them. Now, however, as they approached adulthood, Nelly and Matt felt it was time to discern what God’s will and call involved for themselves.

Furthermore, the family sensed that the “group” had in many ways become an entity of its own. They were no longer the Herrings and the Wards; they had become ”The 2nd Chapter of Acts.” As Nelly explains, ”It got to the point where we didn’t know if we were ’The 2nd Chapter of Acts,’ or if ’Acts’ was us. We were almost becoming a machine-the ministry was taking over the family, instead of being an extension of the family. It was like the tail wagging the dog.”3

Annie sensed the subtle shift, as well. “I felt I was becoming more of a part of a group, rather than Buck’s wife. Buck had been doing his best to be fair by treating each of us the same. But I said, ’Wait a minute! I’m not the drummer. I’m not Matthew or Nelly. I’m your wife, and you are damaging our relationship by trying to treat us all the same.’

Consequently, “Acts” took time off to seek God, to grow in their relationships with each other and to clarify the call upon their lives. This did not mean sitting idle, though. For several weeks, Annie, Buck, Nelly and Matthew toured as part of Jimmy and Carol Owens’s popular, bicentennial musical, “If My People.” After three weeks on the road, Buck returned home to produce Phil Keaggy’s album, Love Broke Through. A few weeks later, Annie and Matthew came home. Nelly decided to stay. While on the tour she met and got to know a young singer named Steve Greisen. They would marry in 1978.

It was during the ’76 sabbatical that “Acts” met another singer-songwriter who would profoundly influence their lives. Keith Green and “Acts” met while working together on a Terry Talbot album. Their friendship blossomed when Keith came to Matthew’s birthday party at the Herring’s new home in Burbank.

Buck recalls, “We had a rented harpsichord in the living room, and an antique, grand piano in the bedroom. Keith sat down at the harpsichord and began praising the Lord with some of his high-energy music. Before long, the whole party started doing a sort of spiritual ’bunny-hop,’ winding around the room. The line danced out the sliding doors of our living room, across the patio, then in through the sliding doors of our bedroom, down the hallway and back into the living room. Keith was playing in the living room, but as soon as the group would go through the sliding doors, he’d jump off the stool, race to the bedroom, and start pounding on the antique piano, just as the group came bouncing through the bedroom doors. He barely missed a measure. “That was Keith - high energy. He could just roll right over you…in love, of course.”

Later, Keith wanted Buck to produce his albums, but Buck declined. “Keith, if you and I went into the studio together, it would be a war.” “Hey, that’s alright,” said Keith. “There’s a lot of creative energy that comes out of that. You don’t have to agree all the time.” “No, Keith. I don’t want to do that. If I go into the studio, I want it to be a pleasant experience.”

Buck prayed about Keith’s album, though, and felt that he should recommend a producer to him. “Look, Keith, I know a guy named Bill Maxwell. He worked with Andraé Crouch. I’ll call him and introduce you to him. He’ll do a good job for you.” Buck’s introduction turned out to be a fantastic musical match. Bill produced all of Keith’s Christian albums, which became classics.

Back to Work

By the end of the 1976 break, “Acts” had redefined their ministry. Both questions, “Should we continue?” and “Do you feel that God has called you to this work?” were answered in the affirmative by everyone. Furthermore, by taking the year off from touring as a group, they’d learned a number of personal lessons: how to better appreciate each other, and how to allow each person freedom to be himself. Consequently, 1976 marked a major turning point in their ministry.

Following their recommitment, “Acts” went back into the studio to record The Roar of Love. Says Annie, “For the first time we had fun in the studio, and that came from a new sense of freedom and release.” Part of the fun could be attributed to the fact that the studio in which they recorded the vocals did not have a window through which Buck could see the singers. Normally, while recording, Matthew loved to ”cut up,” laughing and goofing off until the second the ”Record” mode was triggered. Yet because of his incredible vocal ability, he could still hit his notes. Meanwhile, Annie and Nelly would be convulsing in laughter, and Buck would be fuming in the control room. On The Roar of Love, since Buck couldn’t see the singers, he never knew what was going on behind the partition.

Although the album was completed, the release date of The Roar of Love would be long delayed by contractual and copyright problems. Yet, the detours proved to be providential.

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The 2nd Chapter of Acts Story
Part 2
Birds of a Feather

About that time, Billy Ray Hearn left Myrrh to begin building a new record company, intent upon ministry. He phoned Buck one day to ask him if he had any ideas for a name for this new company. “We’re thinking of ’Chalice Records,’” said Billy Ray. ”What do you think?”

Buck thought for a while before suggesting “Sparrow.” Why Sparrow? ”It’s a bird that can fly high, but there’s a humility in the sparrow, and simplicity,” Buck explains. ”The Bible says the Lord’s eye is on the sparrow.”

When Sparrow began, “Acts” was among the first of many artists to sign-on. The albums Through a Child’s Eyes (Annie’s first solo album), Mansion Builder, and The Roar of Love (which they were finally free to release) quickly followed.

Matthew also recorded his first solo album for Sparrow. The album was intended to be titled Matthew 18, a humorous “take-off” from the name, “2nd Chapter of Acts,” and referring to the fact that Matthew was then eighteen years old. A series of delays held up the album’s release, and it was finally re-titled, Toward Eternity.

Despite the delays, Matthew’s first solo project produced some powerful music, including songs like ”Hold On,” “It’s Alright,” ”Noah’s Song,” “Angels Unaware,” and ”Summer Snow.” Several songs on the album were written especially for Matthew by renowned songwriters such as Michael Omartian and Keith Green. Beyond that, the album was the first project on which Matthew enjoyed freedom to experiment with his wide-ranging vocal styles. “Some people say I sound like two different people between the “Acts” albums and my own solo work,” says Matthew. “In a sense, that’s true. In the “Acts” arrangements, I was always singing the third. And, I wrote very little of the material, especially in the early days. On my own projects, I do a lot of different things.”

Their relationship with the founders of Sparrow Records was one of the most influential factors in the “Acts” ministry. Annie and Buck readily acknowledged the impact of Billy Ray Hearn and his wife, Joan, both upon the group and in their personal lives. They’re one of the most sensitive couples we’ve ever met,” says Annie. “Our whole purpose was to minister, and the Hearns understood that. Billy Ray desired to start a record company of music ministries, not just Christian recording artists.”

Buck credits Bill Ray with teaching him the record business. ”The wonderful thing I quickly learned about Billy Ray was that I could trust him. When we first signed with him at Myrrh, I knew nothing about the record business, so I asked a lot of questions. And Billy Ray always gave me an honest answer. Even if the answer was not in his best interests, he always told me the truth.”

Radical Stands

Because they refused to “go with the flow,” “Acts” was often perceived as a “radical” group. Actually, much of their “stance” just ran counter to the direction they perceived Christian music to be heading, toward commercialism and to a focus on “Christian super-stars.” ”We created real problems for Sparrow in the early days, “Buck recalls, “because we didn’t want to be interviewed by certain magazines, or be on the cover. We didn’t want to do anything that smacked of self-promotion. We didn’t think it was right to use superlatives, because those drew comparisons. All we wanted our record company to do was to put out the information: ’The 2nd Chapter of Acts has a new album.’ That doesn’t make it easy for a company to promote a product. ”I would much prefer the days of our beginnings to what we have now,” Buck continues. “There wasn’t anybody clamoring to do what we did, or what ’Love Song’ or any of the other early ’Jesus Music’ groups did. There were no ’charts’ for us to be number one on. Contemporary Christian music charts didn’t exist. I think it’s sad that, today, Christian music has become an industry rather than a ministry. I don’t really know the answer to this—We used to fight against it continually, and we got ourselves into a lot of hot water. We tried to avoid those things that, in our view, were not edifying to the Body of Christ. “Now, we have so many magazines, music charts, and popularity contests, it all has the potential to put ministries in competition with each other, rather than coming alongside and working together for Jesus.”

For a similar reason, throughout their ministry, “Acts” usually shunned most of the major Christian music festivals. Besides being a sound-technician’s nightmare, the outdoor concerts did not lend themselves to their concept of their ministry. “We always felt that we were the strolling violinists walking by the table where the two lovers-Jesus and His Bride-were seated,” Buck reveals. “Our role was to encourage the romance. But it’s tough to be romantic with Frisbees whizzing by your head. Consequently, we felt our ministry was more effective indoors.”

An “Acts” concert was designed to usher the audience into a worship experience. Annie notes, “We believed God had called us to be a wooer of the Body of Christ, so they could come and be loved by Jesus and be healed.”

In the early years, the emphasis was primarily upon evangelism, but then the Lord led “Acts” into a broader ministry, building up believers. Buck contends, “One of the greatest revelations we received from the Lord was that we were not primarily called to preach people into the Kingdom-although we almost always provided some sort of opportunity to meet Him. In most every concert, people did. Bunt we felt He was telling us simply to let people see Him, and let them enjoy His love, and new believers would be born into the Kingdom of God.”

Annual Check-up

”Acts” sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading was not accidental or peripheral. Throughout their ministry, they would gather each January to pray and seek God’s priorities for that year’s ministry. Annie recalls: “Some years, He’d tell us, ’You are going to be planting. You will be harvesting in three years, but this year you are going to plant.’ Another year He’d say, ’This year you are going to be ushering people into the presence of the Holy Spirit,’ or “This year is going to be a year of deliverance.’”

One such “word” came to the family during a time of prayer in 1977. They sensed the Lord telling them that, starting in 1978, they should no longer depend upon ticket sales for support of the ministry, but that they were to return to doing “offering only” concerts. God promised that He would meet all of their needs if they would trust Him. This was no small step of faith, considering the enormous expense of putting twelve people and equipment on the road from city to city, plus supporting the groups members and families. In addition, ”Acts” determined that the offerings should be divided equally between the local concert sponsors and themselves. If a sponsor did not receive enough to pay expenses, 2nd Chapter would take money from their portion of the offering to reimburse the promoter.

That year, every need was met. ”Acts” ministered to more people than ever before-their audiences nearly doubled in number, and more people came to know Jesus than in any previous year of their ministry.

Spiritual Battles

Prayer was an important key to “Acts” success. Each morning while on tour, the group gathered in one of their hotel rooms to read a brief passage from the Bible, to share from their hearts, and to pray together. “One of the reasons we did this in the morning,” says Annie, “was because by the time we got to the concert hall, there was so much to do, too many distractions.”

Still, when the 2nd Chapter of Acts bus and truck arrived at the auditorium, prayer took priority over unloading. “We’d gather in a circle on stage and pray again. We’d asked for protection, so nobody would get hurt. We’d pray over the auditorium, too, to establish the Kingdom of God there,” Annie recounts. “Then right before the concert, we’d have one more short time of prayer-a ’flare prayer’ we called it. We’d always invite the stagehands to join us, and many of them did. Some of them came to know Jesus.”

Because of their emphasis upon worship and exalting the Name of Jesus, “Acts” often found themselves thrust into spiritual warfare, even before the concert began. Again, there were no “how-tos.” ”There were no pat formulas,” says Annie. ”We just attempted to stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit. When we encountered evil, we dealt with it by pleading the blood of Jesus.”

On one occasion, “Acts” was scheduled to minister in a movie theater. The same complex housed several other theaters, in which the owners where showing raunchy films. As Buck recalls, “As was our custom, we took time to seek the Lord before the concert. But as we prayed, we just felt slimy. Then the Lord spoke to us and told us to proclaim the blood of Jesus. “We began to pray-loudly, in the name of Jesus, against any evil principalities and powers in that place. As we did, a horrible odor permeated the auditorium. It had not been there before we began praying. But as we continued praying, the odor went away. That night, the largest number of people to date came to Jesus during the concert.”

Texas Transition

In 1981, “Acts” moved from California to Texas. The group had been seeking some space where they could build homes, as well as a central headquarters for their ministry. Also, they wanted a more central location, so they could redesign their touring schedule, hoping to cover the country in shorter tours. It would also enable Nelly and Steve Greisen, married three years now, to spend more time with their son, Andrew.

During the summer of 1980, the group visited their friends, Keith and Melody Green at the new headquarters of Last Days Ministries in Lindale, Texas. A piece of property next to Last Days was for sale, and before long the 2nd Chapter of Acts and Last Days were neighbors.

The group had been living in Texas slightly more than a year when tragedy struck. Their good friend, Keith Green, was killed in a plane crash, along with two of the Green’s children and nine others. “Acts” was in New York, ministering at a street crusade with evangelist, David Wilkerson, when they heard the news. “Keith’s death rocked us,” says Annie. “We all felt our vulnerability like we never had before. We just wanted to wrap our arms around Melody and the others at Last Days, to let them know how much we cared.”

Looking back, Buck believes a high standard for all of Christian music was lost at Keith’s death. ”I think Christian music would certainly be different,” Buck says, slowly and quietly. His love for his friend is obvious. “And probably it would be better had Keith not been killed. The music ministers would be better because Keith held up such a high standard. It required everyone else to raise their level of integrity, to measure up.”

Annie remembers a softer side of their friend. “In 1981, Buck and I lost a baby because of a tubal pregnancy. It was one of the toughest times of our lives. We had to fly home empty-handed, with heavy hearts. When we deplaned at the airport in Dallas, there were Keith and Melody and another friend. Winkey Pratney. They’d brought Keith’s bus to pick us up at the airport. When we arrived at our home, there were flowers all over the house, and a huge sign that said Welcome Home!

Restorative Surgery

In 1983, “Acts” took a full year off from touring, to seek new strength, new direction. This break was far different from the one they’d taken years before. They had no question about continuing as a group; it was a matter of stopping the hectic travel pace long enough for the Lord to do some restorative work.

As Buck recalls, “God told us, ’I have some surgery I want to do on you and you need to hold still.’ Holding still meant not running all over the country, but to be at home where He could communicate with us on a more personal level.”

Although they spent the time at home, 1983 was still a busy year. They built their own recording studio that year. The same morning the studio was finished, “Acts” began cutting tracts for the album Singer-Sower, which contained songs such as “Takin The Easy Way,” ”Spin Your Light,” and “Room Noise.”

For Matthew, 1983 was a very important year; he and Deanne Paul were married in September. For the Greisens, the rest allowed them time to enjoy parenting. As Nelly recalls, her family came to the forefront of her priority list. ”The Lord was showing me that He cares about every detail of my life. My ministry to God is not just standing in front of people singing. My ministry to Him is simply to have a heart filled with love and gratitude to Him, expressed in whatever task I’m doing. “God is far more concerned about who we are-our character-than what we’re doing. Far more concerned with our attitudes than our actions. ”I think wives and mothers especially need to understand this, because we deal so much with the mundane. Being a mother is very important to God and is a high position in His eyes. We are the hand of Jesus to our children. They learn about God by seeing our commitment to Him, lived out in our homes. We can be pillars of strength to our husbands as we help release the gifts God has placed in them. And we do this by being consistent and available with our love.”

Motivating Messages

When “Acts” returned to the road in 1984, they felt revived in every sense. “When we went back out in 1984, we were amazed that the arena of Christian music had changed so much since 1982,” says Annie.

Buck felt strongly that part of the explanation for the downward slide was Keith Green’s absence. ”It seemed as though once this incredibly powerful standard had been removed, the flood dikes were opened to all sorts of things. For whatever reason, Christian music began to be highly diluted from a spiritual standpoint.”

And it seemed that the Lord had a distinct message waiting for them. While ministering at an international missions conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Lord spoke to the group through the leaders of the gathering. His instructions were clear, and encouraging:

God will give you prophetic words to restore the foundations of holiness and purity in the church and in the world.

Make your plans large - God is your partner!

As you sing, I will bring new life into existence.

Move as one. Keep ’short accounts’ with God and with each other.

God will use the group to encourage Christian musicians and to release other musicians in ethics, love, and guidelines.

Keep your eyes open to the ’small people,’ stage hands, helpers, and others. Some of your most significant work will be done in these areas.

Pray that God would show you how to give the ’family unit’ time. He will provide time for the families.

Each one of these messages had a deeply personal impact upon the members of the 2nd Chapter of Acts. Interestingly, as their ministry moved into its final stages, every word that was revealed proved to be true.

Ending Up

”Acts” might never have recorded their best-selling album, had they not been sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction. During one of their last tours, three separate individuals approached them in three separate cities. Yet all three had the same message: “I believe God has a word for you-that you should do a hymns album.” “If one person had something such as this,” Buck said later, “we may have missed it. But when all three brought the exact message….”

Besides instructing them to produce one of their most inspiring albums, God was providing a financial resource for them in advance. When the last concert was sung, Hymns, Volumes One, and Two, would continue to sell briskly. “Acts was not the first contemporary group to do an album of great hymns from the past. Nevertheless, everyone involved with the project sensed a special anointing upon the Hymns albums. The arrangements were so fresh, so vital, so filled with life, love, praise, worship-and yes, majesty.

Buck sensed the Lord speaking to him as he and the family listened to the first rough vocal mix of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As Annie, Nelly and Matthew sat in the studio listening to their voices, Buck heard another. “The Lord spoke to my heart and said, ’I have chosen you to breathe life back into these songs for your generation.’”

All of the songs that “Acts” recorded had that “special touch,” or else they never made it onto an album. “Other than the Narnia album, in which the songs came over a period of five years, we’ve never written songs specifically for an album, says Annie. “We never said, ’We’ve got to do an album. Let’s write some songs!’ To me, that concept is backwards. That’s not why you do an album. Only when you have something to say, only if God has provided the music-then do an album.”

Nelly agrees, “Recording an album isn’t a goal, it is an end result. When I have something I feel that God wants me to say, I’ll say it, but not until.”

One example of the way such inspiration works is the song, “Fight the Fight,” an inspiring anthem that became a rallying cry for the pro-life movement in America. How did it happen? “Melody Green called and asked if we’d sing in Los Angeles for the kick-off of the Walk Across America Campaign in the effort to save unborn babies,” says Annie. “We were praying about whether we could attend. Our schedule was already packed full. One day I was sitting at the piano and “Fight the Fight” just came to me. We felt that was a clear indication from the Lord that we should go. Then we got the idea that we should get other concerned Christian artists to help. Steve [Greisen] coordinated the effort, and the artists donated their time to do the record.”

Calling It Quits

When “Acts” came together in January 1988, to seek the Lord’s direction for that year, they were stunned but not surprised by the Lord’s instructions to them. The guidance they received was this: ”Complete what you have committed to, but don’t take anything new. I have other things I want to do with all of you.” “We’d all felt for a while that a change was coming,” says Annie. “There’s always a stirring when the Lord is about to do something.”

Part of that stirring came several months prior to 1988, in the form of a message from the Lord through a friend. The words were simple: “I am going to do something new. Do not be afraid.”

At first, the members of “Acts” kept the news of their disbanding within the family. Then slowly, they began to share the information with their closest friends. “Once we understood what we were to do,” recalls Buck, “I presented it to Jack Hayford, our pastor and spiritual counselor. Jack confirmed what we were feeling. He said that he’d been feeling the same thing in his heart for some time, as well.” Hayford told Buck, “I was excited when you guys were honored with a Dove Award for the Hymns album, because I felt that you would be winding down soon.”

When “Acts” met in January, they had concerts booked through the middle of August 1988. They realized that each concert would be their last in that city. To prevent anyone from thinking that they were attempting to exploit or play upon their public’s emotions, they decided to avoid telling their audiences the news until the final tour was close to completion.

Pastor Jack didn’t agree. “If you came to my town and I didn’t get out to the concert, then later discovered that it was your last concert in my area and I had missed it, I would be extremely disappointed. You owe it to your audience to let them know. Otherwise, it’s not fair to all the people who’ve loved and supported you through the years.”

Once the “Acts” announced their final tour schedule, the response from friends was overwhelming. In every city, they sang to packed auditoriums, and the Spirit of God moved mightily in each concert. “That last time around was unbelievable,” says Buck. ”Such an incredible amount of love and support was poured out upon us by the Body.”

”It was heartbreaking, too,” adds Annie, “because we realized that we’d been a part of so many people’s lives.” While Pastor Jack’s reaction to the new of “Acts” break-up was positive, many others remained unconvinced. “Believe it or not, some people were angry that we were quitting,” says Annie demurely. “They’d say, ’This cannot be of God, because when we sang they could still sense the anointing. So they assumed that we should continue. But we knew. Most people who came, though, said, ’Hey, we just want to tell you how much your ministry has meant to us.’”

Nevertheless, knowing that they were doing what God had told them to do did not make the final concert-in Houston, Texas, on August 12-any easier.

As Matthew remembers it: “We finished the concert and the 7500 people attending rose to their feet, and clapped and clapped. Nelly and Annie were crying and I was losing it. I think it had finally dawned on us: This is our last concert. This is it!… We weren’t tired of ministering to people or anything. It was just God’s time for something new.”

Where Are They Now?

All of the members of “Acts” continue to be actively involved in ministry. They still live near to each other and remain in close contact.

Annie has done solo albums, and doors have opened for her to have a solo ministry in numerous churches. ”It’s a much more simply ministry,” says Annie. “In some ways, it is more intimate. It’s just me out there.” Is it difficult to sing without her brother and sister? “Sometimes it is,” Annie admits. ”I’m so used to them being there. I can hear what they would be singing. Nelly and Matthew sing with me on my albums, though. So in that sense, I still have them out there with me, but I really don’t think we’ll be doing any more tours together-not unless the Lord tells us to do something.”

Ironically, after 20 years of concert ministry, many people do not realize that Annie, Nelly and Matthew are family. People often ask Annie, “Do you know Matthew Ward?” or “Do you know Nelly Greisen?” ”Yes,” quips Annie, “I changed their diapers.” Changing diapers is something Nelly is quite experienced at herself. She is fully, happily involved in one of the most challenging ministries of all-raising a family. One of the Greisen’s deepest anxieties while on the road was having to leave their two boys, Andrew and Jesse, so frequently. Now they’re able to work at home, and they love it! Steve has developed Reel Productions, LLC, a video production company that produces powerful stories which they sell online at, and Nelly is a full-time mom, who “just happens” to have a great voice for singing.

Matthew has also recorded solo albums since “Acts” retirement, has faced and overcome a bout with cancer and also continues to be involved in full time touring and speaking.

Over the years, Matthew has received several offers for a secular music career, all of which he has refused. “I don’t want to sing dead music,” he says. ”Singing in front of people of the last things that I’ve ever wanted to do,” says Matt. “I was always scared to death, nervous and insecure. But that’s probably one of the things that has kept me honest with what I do and not allowed me to get puffed up. Because I realize where I’ve come from. All the while, I’ve known that God was calling me to use my gift for Him. I look at it as an honor.

Matthew and his wife, Deanne, are also busy parents. They have three delightful daughters: Megin, Morgan, and Mattie.

Simple Words

What was the enduring message that God gave to the “Acts” to share with the world? “Sometimes we feel like an old record being played over and over again,” says Annie. ”The message is the same: To see the Body of Christ healed, and to see people’s needs met. There is hope in Jesus. There is no situation too great that He cannot take care of.”

What does God want to say through music today? Buck and Annie answer almost in unison, “Jesus is Lord!” Jesus was never popular. We can’t make Him ’more palatable’ to our generation. He was despised and rejected. We cannot put him in 20th century trappings and expect that everybody is going to love Him. He is King of kings and He calls you to die to yourself-that will never be popular.”

”All we ever wanted,” Buck concludes, “was for people to see Jesus. If anything made us different, it was our fervent desire to please the Lord and to be obedient to Him, regardless of the costs. We only wanted to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.’”

When asked what burning words God has placed upon their hearts today, Annie and Buck are quick to respond simultaneously: “It’s gonna rain!”

Buck elaborates: “The Word of God says that we are to wait for the former and the latter rain, that in the last days God is going to pour out His Spirit. There is coming an outpouring of His Spirit and an ingathering that will make the ’Jesus Movement’ of the early ’70s pale by comparison. We can see that beginning already. It’s gonna rain!”

Some years ago, at the Christian Bookseller’s convention, “The 2nd Chapter of Acts” sang three songs and sat down. Their songs brought a sense of worship, holiness-a sense that, in the vehicle of three human voices, Jesus was exalted. To hear Annie, Nelly and Matthew sing of Him, their Risen Lord, was almost to see Him…almost to feel His touch.

Afterwards, a well-known and respected man of God approached them and said of their ministry, “The frame never out-did the picture.” ”That was our earnest desire in all we did,” Buck finishes. “That the frame would never out-do the picture. And the picture always had to be Jesus.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dig One Ditch, You Better Dig Two. The Trap You Set, It’s For You...

Reviewing our audio teaching, “Defender” reveals powerful forces available to those who are children of the Most High.

1-2 So the king and Haman went to dinner with Queen Esther. At this second dinner, while they were drinking wine the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what would you like? Half of my kingdom! Just ask and it’s yours.”
 3 Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your eyes, O King, and if it please the king, give me my life, and give my people their lives.
 4 “We’ve been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed—sold to be massacred, eliminated. If we had just been sold off into slavery, I wouldn’t even have brought it up; our troubles wouldn’t have been worth bothering the king over.”
 5 King Xerxes exploded, “Who? Where is he? This is monstrous!”
 6 “An enemy. An adversary. This evil Haman,” said Esther.
    Haman was terror-stricken before the king and queen.
 7-8 The king, raging, left his wine and stalked out into the palace garden.
    Haman stood there pleading with Queen Esther for his life—he could see that the king was finished with him and that he was doomed. As the king came back from the palace garden into the banquet hall, Haman was groveling at the couch on which Esther reclined. The king roared out, “Will he even molest the queen while I’m just around the corner?”
    When that word left the king’s mouth, all the blood drained from Haman’s face.
 9 Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, spoke up: “Look over there! There’s the gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai, who saved the king’s life. It’s right next to Haman’s house—seventy-five feet high!”
    The king said, “Hang him on it!”
 10 So Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai. And the king’s hot anger cooled.
Esther 7 [MSG]

Esther was a Jewish young woman who became the wife of the King of Persia. No one knew her ethnic heritage or lineage. So, when Haman (who thought himself to be in tight with the king) decided he wanted to kill all of the Jews, he came face to face with the reality that he had declared war against the King’s beloved bride.  Not only that... Haman wanted to kill Esther’s cousin, Mordecai.  He even built a 75-foot tall gallows to hang Mordecai on.  But Mordecai was not only the closest living relative to the Queen, he had previously saved the King from an assassination plot.  Haman built a gallows to hang Mordecai... but wound up being hung on his own gallows.

This is another indicator that the scriptures are true that say:

He who digs a pit [for others] will fall into it, and whoever breaks through a fence or a [stone] wall, a serpent will bite him.
Ecclesiastes 10:8 [AMP]

Whoever digs a pit [for another man's feet] shall fall into it himself, and he who rolls a stone [up a height to do mischief], it will return upon him.
Proverbs 26:27 [AMP]

God has promised to protect His children. God is your Defender. Don’t worry about people who try to persecute you. Keep an attitude of gratitude. Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength. You don’t need to fight your battles. God is your defender.  Thanks to Pastor Lon Solomon for his great teachings that inspire our work.

If you need reassurance of God as your defense, listen to our audio teaching, “Defender”.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Are You an Undercover Christian?

Back in the 1970’s, comedy troupe IIsaac Air Freight did a sketch about the “Undercover Christian,” someone who hides their light under a bushel.  Many of us (myself included) are tempted to be undercover Christians because we don’t want to encounter ridicule from unbelievers, or from churchgoers who may not believe the same way as we believe.

I recall offering a friend in the church I attended some gospel tracts. He had unsaved relatives and colleagues... and while a tract will not necessarily cause someone to fall on the ground, repent of their sins, and ask Jesus to come into their life... it can.  It was a tract that someone left on the seat of the Greyhound Bus I was riding on that caused me to ask Jesus to be the Lord of my life.  And so I do recognize the power of the printed word.

Unfortunately, my friend seemed intimidated by the possibility of handing out one of those leaflets.  I can understand.  Some people have taken tracts and ripped them to shreds... or simply tossed them into the waste bin.  One person figured they would respond to a tract I left in a common area of our apartment complex by putting a satanic tract on my doorstep.  Yep... those who follow the devil have tracts too!
But while there may be some discomfort or embarrassment about handing out tracts... in our society there is little opportunity to be executed for following Jesus’ commandment:

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 [MSG]

Pastor Lon Solomon reminded me of five young men who paid the ultimate price to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to a group of indigenous Ecuadoreans. Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and three other young men traveled to Ecuador to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the native people. This tribe had a history of hostility to outsiders. Oil workers looking to drill near their tribal land were summarily executed. One young woman from that tribe warned of their murderous ways.

Those warnings notwithstanding, these five young men went down into the jungles of Ecuador to bring the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Those young men were found murdered; their bodies pierced with spears that had their gospel tracts attached.  The natives who attacked and murdered these young men eventually realized they had committed a grave error (see biographical sketch) and when the wives of the slain men arrived offering love and forgiveness, the tribe was converted.

Such commitment to the gospel makes me ashamed of keeping silent to avoid ridicule.  It makes me want to be more bold in sharing the love of God to the world.  How does it affect you?

A motion picture entitled The End of the Spear dramatizes this story... showing how the sacrifice of five lives, and the love and compassion shown by their surviving spouses... lead to the complete evangelization of this tribe of people. We have embedded this 2006 motion picture below for your enjoyment: