Thoughts and Meditations from verses and stories through one guy's head and heart... Psalm 124:7
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Throwing the CCC Gang Sign at the '06 Retreat
Is That You?
Last weekend we took our annual high school Bible study retreat and it was a stinkin’ blast! Our old Young Life guy, Bill Reazer came all the way out from St. Louis to bring our kids some sweet and hard-hitting talks about why we do the things we do and how to really change from Romans 7. We stayed at Don and Judy Sharp’s outrageously beautiful lake house while Kim Reid fed us amazing food until we busted and her son Nater took everyone skiing and tubing on their boat. It was a ton of fun and a great time for our high school friends to be away from the normal routine and focus on being together and hopefully growing closer to the Maker of that beautiful place.
We spent the weekend living inside this question, (and I’ll never again see or say these words without thinking of Reazer’s face) “What are you doing… I mean what…what are you doing?” The Apostle Paul nails us all with his penetrating and transparent self-examination of this person who knows what’s right, wants to do it, and yet doesn’t… whoa. Why do we do the very things we hate? Doesn’t it just feel like being trapped? Reazer guided us through Paul’s thesis about the sin inside us dismantling our desire to do God’s will and took us to that last plea at the end of the chapter, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
See, our only hope is in Christ. This isn’t behavior modification. It’s all about relationship. It’s not that we’re supposed to try, try again… it’s that we need to be rescued, and we need the Rescuer everyday. Bill ended on Sunday talking about Jesus healing the man who was blind from birth in John 9. He pointed out that when the man returned with his sight to his home, no one recognized him. Being rescued by Jesus made him totally unrecognizable and all his friends were saying, “Is that really you? Are you the one who used to sit here and beg? No way… what happened to you?”
That’s what I want in my life… I want to be rescued everyday from myself and my own heart and I want to be changed by Him. I want to be unrecognizably different so that people look at me and say, “Lee? Is that really you? No way… what happened to you?”
So yesterday was one of the greatest days ever! It was a Thursday, which meant the day was already full of promise because Thursday is my one full day off in the week… 24 hours with just my wife and daughters. I slept in like crazy, slammed some delicious homemade banana bread for breakfast and ran errands with the girls. After lunch everyone had a nap and then for dinner we went to our favorite restaurant, The Stir Fry Café on someone else’s nickel (praise the Lord for gift cards). After dinner we got Anna some strawberry ice cream and took her to look at a fountain, which she thinks is more fun than just about anything. It was such a great night… the food was great, and the girls were perfect angels at the restaurant… we are so blessed!
Well, on the way home we were listening to this awesome John Williams CD of film score highlights that Patrick and Patty gave me for my birthday, and the piece, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from the movie Amistad was playing. When the song first came on, Christy and I were instantly transported by that melody back into that unbelievably poignant true story. Anna asked Christy if she was sad, to which Chris said, “Some very bad things happened to a lot of people in Africa and it makes me sad.” Then I told Anna that all those bad things were the reason Jesus came, and that one day He would come again to make everything right in the end. Well, as we kept driving, that song kept crawling deeper and deeper inside me and breaking my heart over the wickedness and evil of slavery… I could just see Djimon Hounsou’s character standing in that courtroom with shackled hands screaming, “Give us Free!”
Before the song ended, I had tears of my own to dry… that’s when the coolest thing happened. My little two and a half year-old asked me from her car seat, “Dad, are you sad? Are you crying?” And I said, “Yeah babe, I am.” Then my little girl said, “Its okay, Dad. Jesus is coming back.” Whoa… I can’t describe what that moment did for me. This little keyboard doesn’t have the keys… to be comforted by your child, to have your faith strengthened by the words coming from that little heart… it was awesome. Later that night before we drifted off into sleep, closing our eyes on the most awesome of days, I thanked God for comforting me with my own words… for letting me hear the simplest and deepest truth in the sweet timbre of my toddler.
A few weeks ago I got a CD out of the library of Itzach Perlman’s greatest hits. It was absolutely ridiculous to hear the music that dude can make. People often say that the violin is the closest sounding instrument to the human voice, but there is no voice that could ever do the things Perlman can do with that violin. He can play so fast and so high that your brain can’t even keep up with the stream of sonorities he produces… but he can also play so heartbreakingly slow and with such depth of feeling that you have to pull the car over and just let it get inside you. Contained in the liner notes of the CD is an interview of Perlman where he explains the different pieces of music he chose for the record and why he chose them. After discussing all of the music, the interviewer asks Perlman to talk about his violin. He said that he plays a Stradivarius violin that was handcrafted in 1714. He ends by saying, “What I can tell you is, it’s a great fiddle!”
In his description of this 292 year-old instrument, Perlman said that he considers himself very lucky to have acquired it. I have to disagree. That violin is lucky to be in such gifted and capable hands! Although it is true that there is no violin quite like a Strad, it is also true that many of the ones that are still around these days are in glass cases in museums or owned by outrageously wealthy people who can’t play a single musical note. Violins were made to make beautiful music, and no matter how good the instrument is, sitting in a case or in tone deaf hands is not where they should be. Ah, but to belong to Itzach Perlman… to be owned by a musician like him… if violins could dream, they would dream of Perlman.
Psalm 107 says, “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say this…” The word redeemed means ‘purchased’ or ‘bought back.’ People who have believed in Christ and received His free gift of life were bought by Him and the price He paid was His own precious blood. Paul says that because of this purchase, we no longer belong to ourselves, but to Him. He owns us because He paid for us with His very life. Sometimes that idea causes people trouble because they believe true freedom means belonging to no one and having control over your own life, but the truth is that no one belongs to themselves or has any real control. The Bible says that people are either owned by sin which causes misery and despair and ends in destruction; or they are owned by Christ… the tender and Good Shepherd whose “love endures forever.”
Before Perlman’s Stradivarius was a violin, it was a spruce tree, a maple tree and some random pieces of metal. Then it was crafted into something with the potential to make beautiful music; and in the right hands, it has made some of the most stunning and gorgeous music ever imagined. We have been redeemed and now belong to the most skillful hands there are… the hands that crafted us and the hands that were wounded for us. They are the hands of Christ, who is able to create with us the beautiful music we were made to make. It is good to belong to Him, for He is good and His love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say this!
Can you feel it? June 30 is coming! Are you pumped? Wait… you do know what happens on June 30, right? The new Superman movie is coming out! I’m pretty sure it’s going to rock all of our faces off! You know, as far back as I can remember, I have loved superheroes… in fact, I bet that’s true of most guys. Jerry Seinfeld said that one huge key to understanding men is just to realize that most of the time we are trying to be superheroes… and that when men think about superheroes, these are not stories; these are options. Really, that’s kind of true of people throughout humanity. Comic books were not the start of superheroes. They have been around since the dawn of time. The Greeks talked bout the Titans and Hercules and every culture has tales of heroes of great strength, power and ability.
So why is this? Why do we love to create, listen to and tell tales of these extraordinary people? I think the reason is that we all want to be more than we are… I know this is true for me; I have always wanted to be a person that’s off the charts. As a kid I would climb trees or stand on really high things and just talk myself into being able to fly. The reason is that I didn’t want to be just regular old ‘me’ anymore. I know it’s nerdy to want to be a superhero, but this desire to be something more than ordinary is not. In fact, I think this is a desire that God has put into every human heart. One thing that I am starting to understand more and more as I walk with Christ is that the Gospel fulfills this desire… Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that if you believe in Jesus you become bulletproof or have heat vision or anything like that… but an incredible change does take place.
When a person believes that Christ died for them, the Bible says that a lot of cool things happen… they are born all over again and born from above. That person is completely cleansed from all unrighteousness and seated in the heavenly places with Christ. When you believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside your heart as a down payment guaranteeing God’s promise. You get a whole new heart, new affections and a new power. It actually says in Ephesians 1 that the same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead is coursing through your veins if you are in Christ! Whoa! If you know Jesus, you really are extraordinary! You are brand new, and actually have new strength, real power and amazing abilities. In fact, when the believers in Corinth weren’t really living up to their new selves, Paul confronted them by saying, “Are you not acting like mere men?” -1 Corinthians 1:3
Now, it’s not that you can all of a sudden leap over buildings in a single bound, (who says ‘bound’ anyway?) but now you have the ability to please God with your life, whereas people who don’t know Jesus absolutely cannot. You can now face trials and suffering full of joy and trust. You can go through frustrating and difficult situations with mean and hurtful people and actually not complain! You can face devastation and tragedy with a heart absolutely full of peace! And the great this is this: that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the things you can do if you know Him! If you are in Christ and He is in you, you are extraordinary and there’s no one quite like you… Check out this beautiful verse in Deuteronomy 33… “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?”