Thoughts and Meditations from verses and stories through one guy's head and heart... Psalm 124:7
Monday, July 31, 2006
me and my girls
Have you ever been pulled over? Ever gotten a traffic ticket? If you have, you know the feeling I’m about to describe… you know, when you’re driving too fast around a curve and then out of nowhere coming toward you in the opposite lane is a cop… Isn’t that one of the worst feelings ever? As soon as you see that black and white car, you know you’re driving too fast, you know you probably deserve a ticket and your stomach flies into your throat as you attempt a discreet reduction in speed without looking too obvious. As the police officer drives past you, what do you do? You check the rear-view mirror to see if those brake lights come on… is he going to stop? Is he going to turn around? Just keep going, just keep on going…
I remember the first time I was sent to the Principal’s office in school. I was in seventh grade life science and I was acting like a total stooge. I was always loud, but this particular day I was in rare form. I interrupted the lesson again and again and was doing anything and everything to make the other kids in the class laugh at me. My teacher had put up with my ridiculousness all year long and was now over it. She sent me out of her class and to the Principal… Whoa. I had always heard of this form of punishment, but didn’t know it actually existed. That walk down the hall was one of the longest I’ve ever taken. I had been an idiot and I was on my way to the school’s ultimate authority figure. Once again, my stomach was in my throat.
I think the thing that seemed so scary about facing the police officer and the principal was that I was guilty. I wouldn’t have any problem facing some authority figure if I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I had! I was in trouble and I was going to get what I deserved! I was thinking about worship and reading God’s word and how, if you think about it, those could be the scariest things to do in the world… You see, worship and reading the word are basically all about meeting with God. When you worship, you are meeting with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to show up. When you spend time in God’s word, you are facing Him… facing His very words to you. Is there anything more frightening than that? Getting a ticket is one thing, and going to the principal’s office is another, but to face the Holy God… the Creator and King of the universe... who can stand this?
Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t guilty, but we are! Every one of us has an immeasurable debt of rebellion and disobedience that we can’t pay. To meet with God ought to be the scariest thing we could ever do in our whole lives! I was thinking about this the other day when I read something Paul said in Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship and by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” What Paul is saying is that although we are guilty, God has done something about it… He sent His own Son to pay for our guilt with His death, giving us the right (by faith) to become God’s own children! We are not facing some angry, spiteful God full of fiery vengeance, but our very own Daddy. When we meet with God, we meet with one who loves us like a Father, but like no father we’ve ever known, because this Father has perfect, infinite love and He governs and guides our lives with perfect, infinite wisdom. His Son has taken on, paid for and removed our guilt. There’s no need to fear. He’s not a cop or the principal, He’s our Dad.
Eight years ago I took an insurance check from a car wreck (not my fault) and cashed it. It was for a thousand dollars. I was nineteen and about to start college, so I probably should have saved it, but instead I took the money to Ciderville Music and bought a Martin guitar. It wasn’t very flashy, but it was a good, solid, handmade guitar that was perfectly intonated and had a great sound. It was the first really nice instrument I had ever owned. I was in a band at the time and after playing my new guitar, the other songwriter/singer in the band went down to Ciderville the next day and used his savings to buy the exact same model Martin, two serial numbers away from mine. These two guitars were like twins in every way. They looked, played and sounded exactly alike. It was awesome. Now, our guitars may have been the same, but we were not. This friend of mine plays with incredible finesse and a soft touch, bringing the sweetest tones out of the instrument; while I play my guitar like a hammer, slamming a strong, low end.
Two years ago I got together with that friend after not seeing him in around five years to play some music. The really interesting thing is that after six years of being played by two completely different types of guitarists, these two instruments didn’t sound anything alike. I have always heard that a Martin guitar ages and changes with its owner, but its really true! It’s almost like my guitar was made for me and only for me, and it may have taken a few years, but you can tell it was made for me just by the sound of it. It was made for me and it was made that way by me.
I was reading the other day in 1 Chronicles 23 about when David was old and ready to die. He appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel, and he was getting Solomon all set up for office by making sure that everyone was in the right place doing what they were supposed to. He was telling all the Levites their jobs and in verse 5 he said, “Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.” David had specifically ordered the building of musical instruments for the purpose of praising God… that’s the only reason they were made. Did you know that you are like those instruments? You were made for praise! Isaiah 43:21 says that God formed you so that you would proclaim His praise… that’s why you exist!
I think God is building a symphony orchestra to proclaim His praise, full of all kinds of different sounding instruments. Now, everyone is different, with different personalities, gifts and abilities, and as we go through life, God takes us all through different things. Your life may be harder than another person’s but maybe that’s because God is looking for a certain timbre of praise that can only come from you… you trusting Him and praising Him through the tough things in your life. When it’s all over, we’ll all be there together joining our praise to the praises of those who have gone before us and we will all be His opus… His work of praise. When your heart is full of praise no matter what you’re going through, He has the instrument He wanted… made for Him and made by Him.
Have you ever done that thing where you really thought you knew something for sure, (I mean, you would take it to the bank) but then, something out of nowhere made you doubt it? You know, like driving the same road to work or school every single day for years, and then one day the road sign’s been knocked down or blocked by some unruly tree branch and you just miss the street… you know where it is, but you just drive right past… Or picking up the phone to dial that number you’ve called seven hundred, ninety thousand times, hearing the radio station call numbers or something and then drawing a blank on the phone… ever done anything like that?
The other day, I did… but it wasn’t missing a street sign or forgetting a phone number. I had a friend who died at age fifty from brain cancer and many of us around here cried from missing him and celebrated the fact that he is now at home in heaven. I couldn’t stop thinking about how jealous I was that he was in a place of no more sorrows, sins, tears, worries or cares… jealous that he has now seen Jesus face to face. I have been waiting on that moment for years, and I’ve always been sure about it. From the moment I understood the message of the Gospel and trusted Christ, I have been ready to go home. I was always so sure about where I was going. Then I read Psalm 15…
It hit me like a Mack truck. The Message says it like this: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on Your guest list?” Do you know what the answer is? Check this… “He whose walk is blameless and does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue…” It goes on and on about this person who does everything right and keeps all his promises even when it hurts… who gets to go to heaven? Only some perfect guy! When I read it, I freaked for a second, because I’m not like that and by the way, neither is anyone else! If that’s the requirement for getting on this guest list, then not even David (the guy who wrote Psalm 15) is going to be there! I was so sure about heaven, but according to this, only a perfect person gets to go… it seems as if the only person with an invitation is Jesus.
Then something else hit me… He’s the only one righteous enough to go to the party and that’s why He left heaven, became a human being, and died for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” God put our sin on Jesus and Jesus died to pay our penalty so that He could put Jesus’ righteousness on us. That means that if you believe in Him, it is as if you have lived a life that is just as righteous as Jesus’ perfect life, which means that you are on the list… you have an invitation to that heavenly banquet with your name on it! For a second there I was losing it, but then I remembered Jesus and what He went through to get me on that guest list… Who gets invited to dinner at God’s place? I do!
Men in Black... me and charlie at the Young Life Halloween party
When I was in college, my friend Charlie and I not only roomed together, but ate every meal together. We took Tae Kwon Do together, worked at the same grocery store (for a while) and even had a class together. We watched, and were in to all the same dorky comic book stuff together. We even had the same haircut and facial hair most of the time… maybe it sounds a little weird, but it was one of the best times in my life. It was the first time I had ever had a best friend who knew, could understand and help me in my walk with Christ.
Everyone we knew in college thought we were brothers. For me, that was the highest compliment. The only thing better would be if that were actually true. I don’t have a mansion, ‘phat’ cars, a bloated bank account or a ton of investments, stocks or securities, but I am filthy rich… in friends. I have friends that would do anything for me (and have)! I have my wife who has been my sweetest and dearest friend for the past nine years. I have countless high school friends and graduates who support and encourage me in ministry. I have a church-full of sweet brothers and sisters who have loved and accepted me since I was in high school. I have my dad, with whom I have walked through the toughest moments of either of our lives, and the list could go on and on.
When I first started dating Christy, I lived in Knoxville and she lived in Cookeville (an hour and a half apart). During that two years, Christy’s sister’s boyfriend let this young punk come crash his apartment every weekend so that I could spend the weekends with Christy. Once, when Christy and I were driving from Cookeville to Oak Ridge on a Sunday morning for church, my car broke down in Crossville. My friend Tom (also the pastor of the church) drove over 50 miles to come get us and 50 miles back so that we wouldn’t miss church. One time Charlie stayed up till 4:00 AM putting a CD player in my old car just so that I would have some tunes. Now, 5 years later, he stole my car and (in secret) installed an unbelievable system in it! He has spent countless days off building and plumbing our bathroom, leveling and tiling our floors, installing light fixtures and helping me chop down and haul off unwanted holly bushes.
Everyone needs good friends, and I am rich in them, but more than that, I have friends like my boy Charlie that I can talk to. I have friends that are there when I need them, there when I’m struggling. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I have friends that love me at all times… who are there when my car is making weird sounds and my ceiling is cracking and falling down. But more than that, I have brothers who were born for adversity… so that when hard times come up and I really need someone to help me see God and keep me encouraged, they are there in those tough moments saying, “I’m here man, I was born for this.”
In 1798, Ludwig Van Beethoven began to notice a drastic decline in his ability to hear. Over the next couple of years he struggled to come to terms with the fact that he would soon be deaf. By 1802 he was. He kept notebooks with him at all times so that people could write down their half of the conversation. Can you imagine a composer of music who can’t hear? That’s like Tiger Woods losing an arm and still being among the world’s greatest golf pros. Almost every piece of music written by Beethoven that you could name or sing along to off the top of your head was written after he lost his hearing… Included in this list is Beethoven’s ground-breaking 3rd symphony (Eroica), his enchanting 14th piano sonata (Moonlight) as well as the incredible 5th and 9th symphonies.
In 1806 Beethoven published three string quartets as Opus 59 that he dedicated to the Russian ambassador in Vienna named Count Rasumovsky. Two years later they were premiered in Vienna and audiences were appalled! The critics called it “music by a madman.” The pieces were unlike anything ever written for a string quartet and the listening public rejected them outright. But Beethoven didn’t care. When confronted with the unpopularity of the Opus 59 quartets, the composer responded by saying, “It’s not meant you, but for times to come.” This deaf man was actually so far ahead of his time, that anticipating where the art form would go, he wrote pieces that would appeal to the future listeners and performers of music… And by the way, he was right! Beethoven’s Razumovsky quartets are among the most beloved pieces in the genre and are still performed worldwide.
Tons of things that were written in ages past are still beloved today, but Opus 59 was written with the future in mind… almost as if he was composing them for us. Did you know that the Bible is like that? In Romans 15:4 Paul said that “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The Bible is unlike every other book in the world because it contains the actual words of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe! These words written thousands of years ago were written for those who first heard them and they were written for us. God had you in mind when He breathed His words into Scripture.
When you read Shakespeare, Chaucer or Dickens you can learn a lot about the times in which those guys lived and you might even learn some cool things about human beings in general or society in general, but when you turn to the Scriptures, God Himself is speaking to you. He is speaking directly to you, right now, in your situation about the condition of your heart and what He is doing in your life. Isn’t that amazing? That means that when Jesus said God has numbered the hairs of your head, He was talking to Peter, James and John 2,000 years ago in Palestine, but He has also numbered the hairs on my head, right here in Oak Ridge Tennessee in July of 2006! G. Campbell Morgan said, “We come not simply to delve among parchments and musty history, but to the consideration of truths that are fresh as spring; new, as God is new.” When you go to the Scriptures, you are not just reading a book, but meeting with the Living God!