Thoughts and Meditations from verses and stories through one guy's head and heart... Psalm 124:7
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Some of our high school folks hiking in a cave way back in April 2004...
Man, our weather here in East Tennessee has been so crazy lately! It feels as though the only thing consistent about it is its inconsistency… There have been outrageous storms and tons of rain out of nowhere for days at a time. You never know when you can do yard work, when you can leave the windows down, and you never know when you can go out and enjoy the day with a nice walk without getting caught in a deluge! Although, did you know that there is one outdoor place you can go and hike anytime… rain, snow, sun, hail, thunder and lightning, hot or cold? Know what it is? A cave.
You can go hiking in a cave in any weather at anytime of the year and it will always be around 58 degrees, dry and dark. About two years ago my boy Joe was our guide as we took the high school folks here at church hiking in a cave in Sparta. It was huge, dark and around 58 degrees even though it was fairly warm and rainy outside. When we were pretty deep into that cave I realized that if anything happened to Joe, we were toast! We had already gone through several tunnels and into and through different “rooms” so that I had lost all bearings. I had no idea where we were or where to find light. The good thing was that the quiet dude in the front with the light on his helmet was there, guiding us. He knew where we were, he knew where we were going (well, most of the time) and he was with us.
Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Sometimes walking through life is like walking through that cave… it’s dark, cold and full of creepy bats! We don’t always know where we are and we pretty much never know what’s coming. This can lead to confusion, anxiety and all kinds of fears, but we don’t have to feel that stuff! We have a Guide, and our Guide is the Lord Himself! This verse tells us two things not to feel and it gives us two great reasons not to feel them.
It says that we don’t have to be afraid and we don’t have to be discouraged, and the reason is because we are promised two things about our Guide: He goes before us and He will be with us. He goes before us… He is outside time and sees everything in the next five seconds and the next five years. That is called providence. He holds the future! I shouldn’t be discouraged, I should be encouraged because He’s already seen what’s coming and knows everything about it… not only that, He’s in control over everything that’s coming. But not only does He go before us, He promises to be with us! No matter where I go or what happens to me, God is with me! How can I be afraid if God is in my corner! You see, not only does He hold the future, He holds you! He’s with you. He knows where you are and He knows what’s in store. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged because our Guide, our God has promised us His providence and His presence.
I just got a new nephew… his name is Josiah and he is beautiful. He is the son of two of my heroes: my wife’s sister, Patty and her husband, Patrick. Before they got Josiah they had Abby, who was born almost four months too early and spent six months in the hospital before she was able to go home. Patrick and Patty are everyday and all day long the most incredible example of trust in our Father and faithfulness in the midst of outrageous difficulties, confusion and trials. When I think about what a scary world this is to bring children into I rejoice for Abby and Josiah because they get to grow up in a home full of faith in and love for Jesus no matter what the world outside is doing.
I love the name Josiah. It reminds me of the Civil War… Josiah was a popular name back in those days, in fact; I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War who had that name. I think the reason ‘Josiah’ was a such a popular name back then was that people read their Bibles more and watched Fox News less (or rather, not at all). See, Josiah was the name of one of the Kings of Judah in the Old Testament. You remember your Old Testament kings, right? First there was Saul, then David and after him Solomon. Then the nation of Israel had their own Civil War and split into two kingdoms. There was Israel, (in the North) and Judah (in the South). Israel had nineteen kings who were all total disasters. If they had been graded, they would have all gotten “F’s”. Judah was different. They had their share of “F’s” as well, but they had a few “C’s” and even a couple of “B’s”. There were only two solid “A’s”. One was Hezekiah and the other was possibly the only “A+”… Josiah.
It says in the book of 2 Kings 22 that Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.” There was absolutely no one like him! He became king of Judah at the age of 8. He had responsibility and leadership before some kids lose their front two teeth. He turned the nation’s heart back to the Lord, destroying their idols and celebrating Passover for the first time in centuries. He didn’t learn it from his dad either… See, Josiah had a granddad named Manasseh who was described as one of the worst people who ever lived… and Josiah’s dad, Amon wasn’t any better. So, how did he become so awesome? I don’t really know. It was probably some mystical and unknowable combination of God working in his heart, him loving the Lord, some advisors and counselors who had a heart for God, and some great Aunt Lulu who prayed for him everyday. Paul says none of us really knows how growth happens… we plant, they water, and God makes things grow. Somehow Josiah grew strong in the Lord.
Then when he was 26 (my age as I sit here and type this out) something happened. He ordered that the temple of God be restored and renovated. It was a huge project to restore the beauty and grandeur of God’s house, and it was going great when Josiah’s secretary ran into the throne room breathless… “My Lord,” he said, “We were cleaning out this closet up at the temple, and I found something…” “What?” The secretary looked at Josiah and said, “I found the Bible.” See, it turns out that for years and years (who knows how long) the entire nation was going about its business as usual while no one was reading God’s word! The Bible was covered in cobwebs in some closet! When Josiah heard this he said, “Well, come on… read it.” When they read the words of God to this young man, he lost it. He was completely distraught. That was the moment when all of God’s groundwork in his heart and his advisor’s godly counsel and Aunt Lulu’s prayers came to a head when combined with the word and Josiah became God’s man to cleanse the nation and lead them into repentance and worship. He was awesome!
I just got a new nephew… did I tell you? And his name is Josiah. I think he’s going to be awesome too… just like his namesake. But this Josiah has amazing parents living beautiful lives and he has sweet and godly grandparents as well. And he might not have Lulu, but he has Aunt Christy and Aunt Connie and Uncle Lee and we’re all praying. And this Josiah will never have to dig in some closet to find the words of His God, for they are written on the walls of his house and they are alive in the music on his Mommy’s lips and they are hidden in his Daddy’s heart. I don’t know what all it takes to grow, but God does, and I think this kid is gonna be awesome!
Last night Ryan Long played a concert here at Christ Community and as always it was great. I have always liked Ryan’s songwriting ever since I first heard the CD that Aaron Jenkins brought over to my house three years ago, but there is nothing like seeing one of Ryan’s shows. There is an intimacy and genuine yearning to his songs and heart when you get to watch him play and sing one of his songs. Last night’s show was great, but I was pretty discouraged by the number of people who showed up. I think we ended up having a little over 75 people, which isn’t bad unless you’re sitting in a room that can hold 220…
It turned out that the reason we had so few folks there was that there was a huge storm, (complete with tornados) tearing through Middle Tennessee and heading our way yesterday evening. Some family and friends out there actually had the siding ripped off of their homes and their cars slammed with hail damage as they hid in their bath tub… Well, that storm system, which had already claimed lives in Middle Tennessee was headed straight for us at 7:34 P.M., and the concert was supposed to start at 7:30. Now, in the past couple of weeks, the buzz about the concert has been great! Everyone and their hamster was planning on being there, but as the storm rolled in, the people did not.
We waited the worst out and started the concert a little late and it was everything you want out of a Ryan show… Everything from subtle to slammin’ guitar, flawless, scratchy and sweet vocals and the wide open heart of a guy who loves Christ. It was awesome. My favorite moment though was right at the end … The rain was beating down hard on the roof, the thunder was rolling heavy and deep outside and Ryan was leading us into deeper trust in our sovereign Father with a lullaby…
He clothes the flowers of the field The fortune of the sparrow’s sealed No worry, no vain care have I That escapes His guardian eye
From a distance, and from very near Yesterday, today, and tomorrow never fear No need for me to fret or cry, Safe beneath His wings am I
‘Cause He watches over me, Every night while I’m asleep And He watches over me, Yes, He watches over me
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms Leaning, leaning, on the everlasting arms