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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Handling Explosions

A good number of years ago I was in a music competition along with a friend of mine. We were to play a cello duet and were competing for the top spot in our district. Ironically, my friend and I were always in competition against each other in Orchestra for first chair—but now we had this unique opportunity to actually work together in competition.

We entered the room with our instruments, greeted the judges, placed our stands, sat down, arranged our music and waited for the signal to begin. Our music was not memorized (this competition did not demand it) and was originally printed on individual sheets. My friend and I had decided early on to tape our music together into a booklet so we would not have any “accidents” during performance (one of us would actually have to shuffle the music while still playing).

I don’t remember at which point it happened, but it happened. For some reason, as we were both playing the piece, the competition fully underway, friend and me sawing away on our cellos, one of us reached up to flip the page and the music just exploded off the stand. It’s like someone had loaded a spring packed under our music because it just shot off the stand and the pages (all neatly taped together) cascaded to the floor.

We stumbled, faltered, the judges all looked up, friend and I looked at each other . . . and took up right where we left off. Good thing we had played the piece enough to memorize it. I don’t remember what our score was. I don’t even remember how we placed in the competition. The only report we could give was “it just exploded off the stand . . .”

Another musically related incident, our Orchestra placed First in the State of Texas (Remember the Alamo!) and we were selected to premier an Orchestral Suite on the campus of Baylor University. We were in our tuxes, ladies in gowns, decked to the hilt for this premier. I had first chair that quarter, my friend second. Halfway through the warm-up backstage, my bow decided to fall apart. The tip separated from the bow and horsehair flew everywhere, somehow managing to get tangled up in the strings. It was so bad we had to cut it out with scissors (it was an intense suite).

The problem lie primarily in the fact that I only brought one bow and my friend was gladly volunteering to fill in first chair as I (obviously) could not play and had to sit out the entire performance. Like that was about to happen! Some Baylor student with a very loud bowtie sprinted to his dorm and brought a bow for me to use. Chair secured, performance saved.

These are not the biggest trials I ever faced. I could easily have faced some real explosions when I worked at an Oil Recycling plant around all those solvents and goodies with folk who just didn’t know when to put cigarette butts out. Or gotten my head blown off by a guy who used to work in the underground mines and didn’t watch the fact that when the gauge says “full”, it’s time to shut off the pump (you can always squeeze just a little more compressed gas into a cylinder before the safety blows, don’t you know).

When I review all the stuff I have been through, thought those highlights would be the most entertaining. The point of the reflection is that, no matter what the trial or circumstance in life that brings, there is always a moving-on. Something else eventually happens that takes one the next step in life. 9 ½ times out of 10 there will be a trial at the next step, but there is always a moving on. Or there should be, at least.

Having a brass safety cap blowing by your head at the speed of a bullet (and through the wall into the next room) is right up there with “almost getting killed.” Nearly having a generator/welder dropped on your head is another. So is working with people who light open flames around barrels of solvent. Then there are times when I actually contributed to my own “almost” demise: overdosing on drugs was one. Being in a car accident without a seat-belt and nearly going off into a ravine is another high on my list. Once things like that happen, you just don’t look forward to doing it again. But generally speaking, one’s walk with God suddenly changes. You start talking to Him more and getting interested in the things that interest Him more. Got uses these cattle prods to get you back on track.

We could, of course, talk about other neat things like, “our most embarrassing moments” and “most stupid things ever said”, or “the longest I’ve ever had to wait for something.” But it would be better to get right to the heart of my thoughts here.

David had been anointed king. Problem was, there was this guy on the throne who likes to throw things at him and liked to hunt him down so as to kill him. I don’t know about you, but if someone actually tries to kill me, I can’t see myself hanging around him too much. Not only was David waiting for the throne, but he was trying to do it while still alive . . . and for some reason, he keeps going back to sit in the presence of the very person who tries to kill him! God made it clear that David was His man for the job . . . but didn’t say how easy the wait was going to be. I know the miner guy who worked with me was not out to kill me (he was my Sunday School teacher, for crying out loud!) but there were times where distance really makes the heart grow fonder.

1 Samuel 18-20 show us a great contrast in people. Saul is on a steady downward slope. David rids Saul of his worse enemy (the Philistine, Goliath) and takes him into his home. When the people begin giving David more laud than Saul, he is suddenly displeased with David, then becomes angry and suspicious. Could it be that David is after his precious throne?


Saul hurls spears at David, tries to put him into battle that the Philistines would kill him, sends people out to hunt him down and bring him back dead. I mean, what was Saul thinking? This kid just put down a 9 foot 9 inch dude with a stone . . . hello! Saul just could not succeed. Saul totally missed it: David mentioned to Goliath that it was the LORD who would give victory. Saul even said that David would fight the LORD’s battles. But Saul missed the part where the enemy is the LORD’s problem. This is why David could get away. He just slipped in and slipped out. God protected His man in very special ways.

Check this out: Saul sends servants to go fetch David from his own bed and bring him back dead. His wife Michal helps him escape and sets up a decoy for the men to find. David does something interesting during this event and we don’t actually find what he did mentioned here. He was inspired through this near-death experience to write (of all things) a song! Look at Psalm 59. This is a song written for the choir director and is to be played to the tune of “Do not Destroy” (I think that is much like the tunes, “No Open Flames” and “Slippery when Wet”). Here is a song plainly written when Saul sent men and they watched the house in order to kill him. He was inspired to write and sing this song to the LORD of the armies! This psalm reveals some very specific things:
  • David calls his enemies: “those who rise up”; “workers of iniquity”; “bloodthirsty men”; “they lie in wait”; “dogs”; belching-swords [my wording]; sinful, prideful, cursed liars; wanderers; not satisfied.
  • David calls God: Deliverer; Defender; Saviour; Helper; LORD God of Hosts [armies]; God of Israel; laugher, derider; Strength; God of mercy; Revealer; Scatterer; Shield; Consumer; Ruler; Powerful.
  • David calls himself [implied]: in need of deliverance, defense; righteous; without fault; patient; weak; desirous; truthful; joyful; seeking peace.

Here is David, anointed king of Israel, waiting for the throne and running for his life. I can’t adequately put into words how David must have felt because there is such a tension. To say “gee, life must have been hard” is too trite. What does one say to David, “Hang in there?” Rather, we need to pull up alongside and listen closely to what David would say to us (see Psalm 59).

Think about what Jesus said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you
.”[1]

Did Jesus really mean it? Do these principles really work out? I am certain that if you listened (and not too hard) you would have heard the echo of Psalm 59 in His words. Paul took Jesus pretty seriously. Look at what he had to say [bold emphasis mine]:

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” [2]

And,

“Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.”[3]

Application:

What we need to watch out for is the temptation to get so wrapped up in what is happening to us that we find ourselves in two minds concerning God’s faithfulness. On the one hand, we know and understand and believe that God is in control; on the other hand, we think we know a better way this can be done and have animosity toward God concerning what is happening to us. Simply put, this is called “doubt.”

In the fashion of Richard Baxter and Jonathan Edwards, here are some Directs for Handling Explosions: [4]

  1. Recognize that He is indeed in control and He is working all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28);
  2. DON’T worry. Jesus instructs us not to worry about tomorrow; about food, clothing, etc. (Matt. 6:25–34).
  3. Take one day at a time, and don’t borrow trouble. (Matt. 6:34. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”)
  4. Pray. (Phil. 4:6–7. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”)
  5. Cast all your anxiety on the Lord. (1 Peter 5:6–7. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.")
  6. Trust/Delight/Rest in the LORD. (Ps. 37:3-5, 7 "Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. . . .Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.")
  7. Don’t allow anxiety to weigh you down.
    (Prov. 12:25. "Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad."
    Prov. 14:30. "A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones."
    Prov. 17:22. "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.")
  8. Identify who God has placed around you (like David’s Michal and Jonathan) to help you through your stuff. Who has God given you to lean on?

************

[1]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Mt 5:2. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[2]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, 1 Co 4:9. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[3]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, 2 Co 11:23. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[4]Kruis, John, G. Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling. Includes index. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997, c1994.

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