By a Great Affection
»I felt something like a camel at an
oasis a year ago, August, when I had the opportunity to hang out a few
days at White House Studios where Peter and his band, Newsboys, were
It was a season when my soul was weary. Peter and Phil (the longhaired
mate) offered me refreshmentlitterally and spirituallyand
we became friends.
Peter is adventurosa risk takerwhich is an element of his
strong faith. He's willing to lead the way through the brush, swinging
a machete. And he's following Jesus-who has made Peter a fisher of men.«
~ Steve Hindalong
I guess you would say I am a fan of music. Some of my earliest memories
are as an eight-year-old living in South Australia when, unbeknownst
to my father, I grasped for the family car keys, perched high on top
of our kitchen counter. I would then proceed out the front door to the
driveway, open the door of our late 60s FB Holden (Australian made),
and slide across the blue and white metallic sparkle bench seat, being
very careful not to touch the gear stick, the parking brake, or any
foot levers along the way.
Next as my attempt at my first-ever big leap of faithputting
the keys in the ignition and being very careful to turn the key just
halfway, so that the motor wouldn't turn over (and put me in the Guinness
Book of Records as the first eight-year-old Australian kid to die
of a heart attack). With the key in this position I could listen to
Front cover of the booksee
bigger version of it here...
» Info: That book includes more spiritual journeys
written by Derek Webb, Leigh Nash, Dan Haseltine (of Jars Of Clay),
Rick Heil (of Sonicflood), Mac Powell (of Third Day), Charlie Peacock
I had finally discovered the good life, the hot Aussie afternoon sun
warming my face as I searched the AM radio airwaves for my favorite
station. I don't remember the first time music caught my ears, eventually
leading me to the family car radio. Maybe my love for music came from
growing up with older sisters, whose music blasted from the duty-free
Walkmans my parents picked up for them on their most recent missions
trip. (I too was awarded one of these after the first car battery went
Twenty-five years later, I am no scholar of musicit would be
a strain for me to tell you the difference between a Hungarian Minor
and an EMG pickup. Or, if asked to comment on "the classics,"
I would probably start with Brian
Sounds and end up at Bowie's
Oddity, or perhabs something from that other great BrianEno.
This love affair did not start as a quest for knowledge about musicits
beginnings, major composers, instruments, or even its present state.
Rather, it started with how music affected me, where it took me, how
it made me feel. It's been quite a road from those sunny afternoons
in the front sear of the Holden to my first tour with the Newsboys (1989)
in our non airconditioned, un-heated, un-reliable and altogether un-conventional
I remember sleeping in that van, sweating until I stuck to the vinyl
seat, traveling across Death Valley, California in the height of summer.
I remember freezing in that van, wiping the ice off the inside of the
windows during a cold New York winter. During this period there was
alway the music, unexplainably affecting me just as if I were still
eight years old. Whether it was performing live each night with unbridled
passion, until my fingers bled just a little bit, or sitting with my
Walkman, wearing out the second cassette of Midnight
Sky Mining, the music had its impact on me. It would kill time,
soften the feelings of homesickness, or banish my frustrations about
the heat and cold.
I didn't know the names of all the band members of Midnight Oil, nor
did I know the chords/time signatures/names of songsor even what
some of the lyrics on that record were about. I didn't need to know
anything about music for it to lighten my burdens, stir my emotions,
or raise my thoughts to a better time or a better place.
My earliest memories of my faith in God have some similarities to my
love of music. I never understood the Trinity, the Bible, Christians,
Church, Baptism, Repentance, Faith, Reason, Conscience, Worship, or
even grasped the fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the authors
of their respective booksI just thought they were disciples. I
guess I preffered to believe than to know. I believed
that God created the Heavens and the Earth and that He sent His Son
because of our fallenness. Even though I did not understand how or whyI
still believed this to be true.
Gradually however, this simple but beautiful view of the worldwhich
many are blessed to carry from the cradle to the gravegrew dim
for me in my teenage years. I found myself beginning to question the
origins of this faith. Did I just believe because I was the son of preachers?
Or was it because of countless Sunday school lessons, prayer meetings,
and Bible studies? Had I been brainwashed? And these moral standards
that I felt pressing in on me daily, did they come from a great Divine
Intelligence, or just from my parents?
Because of all these questions, my next few years were filled with
fear and confusion. One of my deepest fears was that I had been missing
out on something, probably arising from hearing one to many over-glamorized,
over-glorified church testimonies, many of which sounded a little more
excited about how "lost" they had been than with how "found"
they were now. I began to pursue as many manmade and earthly vices as
I could find. Then there was the confusion caused by my conscience which,
whether I knew where it came from or not, was still whipping me relentlessly,
either rudely interrupting my daydreams or inviting itself into my thoughts
in the early hours of the morning as I staggered home. Finally, there
remained that grand old fear of eternal hell and its burning lake, which
brought forth more pleas for forgiveness than there are sheep in New
I finally came to the realization that I had no personal God, but instead
the God of my parents. I realized as well that many elements of my conscience
and my moral standard did indeed come from them. But I could not reject
the truth that I saw them denying themselves what many their same age
had accumulated or even what society said was needed, putting these
things aside to carry the cross of Christ into all the world. I had
to take a serious look for myself. I probably didn't realize it until
a few years later, but at that time they were (and still are) that "city
on a hill" for me, shining forth an example of the gospel, unknowingly
challenging me to a search for a deeper unterstanding of this life and
of things eternal.
So I sit here today in yet another bookstore/cafe in the middle of
a very "taxing" tour (to say the least), and I can only attempt
to do what (at this point in time) seems to be one of the most difficult
things in the world for me to dogive an account of my faith, making
sense of it with pen and paper. When we attempt this sort of thing,
truly sorting through "that present wreckage" in our heads
with the help of pen, paper, and maybe a little too much caffeine, it
might be that it could get personala story filled with loneliness,
insecurity, anxiety, lust, jealousy, temptation, failure, worry, and
communication breakdowns with others, along with unexplained "glitches"
in memory that can frequently overwhelm us to the point of losing the
However, in the last few years I have come to the realization that
it became personal for God toothe great Author of life writing
Himself into the pages of history through His Son, Jesus Christ. For
33 years Jesus walked the earth, experiencing what it means to suffer,
to be lonely, to be tempted, rejected, abused (physically and verbally),
and betrayed, even feeling the absence of God when His presence was
needed most. "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
(Matthew 27:46 KJV).
In the words of Philip
Indeed, the suffering endured on Earth served as kind of a "learning
experience for God." Such words sound faintly heretical, but
I am merely following Hebrews: "Although He was a Son, He learned
obedience from what He suffered elsewhere," that book tells us
that the Author of our salvation was "made perfect" through
God took on human flesh and encountered and its effects in a different
way than perfect deity had ever encountered it before. Then He brought
forgiveness by taking on our sin. He defeated death by dying. He learned
sympathy for human beings by becoming one. The author of Hebrews reports
that Jesus became a sympathetic advocate for us. There is only one way
to learn sympathy, which can be seen in the Greek root of the word that
the writer of Hebrews used: syn pathosto feel or to suffer
The book of Hebrews implies that because of the incarnation God hears
our prayers in a new way, having lived among us and prayed among us
as a vulnerable human being. In one of His last statements before dying,
Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34 KJV). His
prayer was on behalf of us allthe Roman soldiers, the religious
leaders, the disciples who had fled in darkness, you, meall of
us who have denied Him in so many ways. "Forgive them, for they
do not know what they are doing." Only by His experience of becoming
a human beeing could the Son of God truly say with such understanding,
"They do not know what they are doing." He had lived among
us now...He understood.
I am seized by the power of this great affectionthe Creator trying
to win His creation back. I cannot be saved by any of my works or deeds.
There is nothing I can do to make this Creator love me more, and there
is nothing I can do to make Him love me less. I can only be made righteous
through my beliefmy faithin this act of great affection.
This doesn't mean that I have answers to all my questions. If I did,
perhaps I would have no room left for faith. And I refuse to blame God
for the bad things that happen in this life. Things didn't go that smoothly
for Jesus while He walked the earth, either! Instead of constantly asking
"why" things happen, maybe the wiser question would be, "What
will I make of this?" As A.W.
Tozer reminds us, "the living God is everything. Not success,
not victorybut God. Not winning, not losingbut God."
I AM SEIZED BY THE POWER
OF THIS GREAT AFFECTIONTHE CREATOR TRYING TO WIN HIS CREATION
BACK. I CANNOT BE SAVED BY ANY OF MY WORKS OR DEEDS. THERE IS NOTHING
I CAN DO TO MAKE THIS CREATOR LOVE ME MORE, AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN
DO TO MAKE HIM LOVE ME LESS.
Of course I still struggle with some of the same thorny issues about
morality and conscience and the part God plays in it all, but as C.S.
Lewis has so eloquently emphasized, everybody really knows there
is a right and a wrong:
I know that some people say the Idea of a Law of Nature or decent
behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations
and different ages have had quite different moralities, but they haven't.
They have had only "slightly" different moralities. Just
think of what a "quite" different morality would mean. Think
of a country where people were admired for running away in battle,
or where a man felt proud for double- crossing all the people who
had been kindest to him. You might as well try to imagine a country
where two and two made five.
It is certainly worthwhile to take the time to explore the intellectual
basis for faith. I can personally recommend some authors who have been
spiritual heroes of mine in this area: G.K.
Tozer. Writers like these help us to make sense of what we believe.
But we must remember the limitations of a merely intellectual faith.
All the evidence for Christianity can be just words until they are carried
by the Holy Spirit from the book of apologetics into the human heart.
Philip Yancey reminds us so well of what it is really all about:
I must admit that Jesus has revised in flesh many of my harsh and
unpalatable notions about God. Why am I a Christian? I sometimes ask
myself, and to be perfectly honest the reasons reduce to two:
1. The Lack of Good Alternatives.
Brilliant, untamed, tender, creative, slippery, irreducible, paradoxically
humble. Jesus stands up to scrutiny. He's who I want my God to be.
~ Peter Furler, 2000