Sunday, October 03, 2004

A String on God's Guitar: What It Takes to Make The Pleasing Music God Wants From Each of Us.

A guitar string is attached to bridge of the guitar, stretched over the body, up the neck, and wrapped around a tuning peg. It’s then tightened it to the right tension to produce a particular tone when pressure is applied. It can either produce a series of solo notes or can combine with other strings to produce chords, either of which can be incredibly pleasing. On the other hand, it can fall out of tune, pleasing know one.

People are a lot like guitar strings and God is the virtuoso who plays them. Let’s see what we can learn from that.

Getting Attached
A guitar string does not come stretched out and attached to the guitar. Instead, it is an individual item, curled up in a shape that makes it useless for its intended purpose. Although it has the innate potential to fulfill that purpose, it’s simply incapable of doing so in its original state.

We are like that before we give our lives to Jesus. We have potential, but are unusable because, in our natural state, we are twisted around ourselves and detached from the things necessary to realize that promise. God must pick us up, straighten us out, and align us with Himself before we can even begin to receive, and give others, the good things He offers. Absent that, we remain twisted, separated, and wasted. The good news—the gospel—is that God is eager to lovingly straighten us out and put us to work by attaching us to his Church. But that’s just the start.

Getting Tuned: Being Attached and Stretched
Merely attaching a string to a guitar does not make it capable of producing pleasing music; it must be tuned. So how does that happen? By being both attached and stretched.

Although being attached is not enough by itself to make us ready to produce engaging sounds, it is essential. Just as a string can’t be stretched into tune unless it is firmly attached to the guitar, we can’t be prepared for what God intends unless we are firmly connected to His body, the Church, and biblical truth, the Church’s foundation.

And we must stay firmly in touch with God as he works in our day-to-day lives. It’s just like a string being fixed to the base of the guitar and wrapped around its tuning peg, following the peg's twists as they are made. Being connected is the only way we can get in tune; there's just no other way.

That results in our being stretched. A guitar string sounds terrible if it is not tightened beyond its natural state; we are inherently off key if we don’t let God tune us. It isn’t natural or easy, but it beats the alternative (wallowing in ineffectiveness) and the results are definitely worth it. It’s painful at times but, to mix metaphors, “no pain, no gain.”

Being Played
That’s not the end of the process because we’re not tuned just for tuning’s sake; we’re tuned so we can yield something beautiful. That only happens if we are played.

Being played requires us to yield to outside pressure. Whether it’s being gently strummed along with others, individually plucked, or really bent to reach a high note, strings only make music when they are struck by the musician. No pressure, no playing and, ultimately, no pleasure. Indeed, some of the most compelling notes are the result of the most extreme pressure.

There's no set pattern to how we are played so we have to be ready for whatever the Musician has in mind. He does not always play the same song so the notes, and hence the pressure, changes over time. And even if a song is reprised, it's rarely played the same way twice. But regardless of the song, God, the Master Musician, knows how much pressure we can take and does not press us beyond that limit; He never breaks a string. And no song goes on forever, giving us breaks between performances.

Playing With Others
We are also like guitar strings in that we have more value with others than by ourselves. A single string can produce a lot of music, but it has a relatively narrow range. But combined with others, it can form an almost infinite variety of chords, each of which can convey uniquely subtle shades of meaning. That only happens when strings are combined. To be sure, there are times when individual notes are best, but most music is based on chords, not single notes.

Chords only happens when multiple strings are combined; they are formed by collections of different notes, made by strings of different thicknesses, tuned to different degrees of tension. In other words, chords can only come out of the harmonious combination of different elements.

It’s the same with us. We can only yield the richness and variety God intends if we work together with others who are different from us.

Getting Out of Tune
Individual strings do get out of tune. That not only makes their solo notes off key, but also degrades any chords they contribute to. That can happen because their connections to their tuning pegs loosen, because they are subjected to vibrations from other noises, or because they have been played to long without a tuning.

Similar things happen to us. We go flat when we aren’t tightly connected to the God’s tuning key and start to revert to our old, discordant, nature. We can also get out of synch if we let other influences (media, unhealthy relationships, and habits, etc.) set us vibrating to their frequencies instead of the pure tone God designed us for. And we can innocently, but undeniably, fall out of tune if we spend so much time doing the work God calls us to that we are unable to spend time with Him in prayer, meditation on scripture, worship, and fellowship with other believers.

But the good news is that we can always be retuned. God is eager to tune us up if we will recognize our need for it by retightening our connection to His tuning peg and letting Him stretch us back into harmony with Him.

(Images about conforming/yielding to God were posted September 12a, 18a, 18b, 18d, and 23; October 3 and 3a, November 6; and 21, December 8, 12, and 15, 2004 and January 10d, February 18, May 11, June 18 and 27; August 21 and 27; and October 3, 2005.
Images about the process of growing/maturing in our walk with God were posted October 3a and 17, 2004; May 11, June 11 and 18; July 20, August 21 and 27; and October 3 2005.
Images about diligence/perseverance in doing God’s will were posted on October 1, 3a, 8, and 17 and November 7, 2004 and January 10c, June 11, 13, and 18; July 15 and August 27, 2005.
Images about the benefits of eliminating things that distract us from God/His purposes for us were posted September 18d, October 3a and 14, November 21, December 8, 2004 and February 28 and August 3, 2005.
Images about God providing things we need, but can’t provide for ourselves, were posted September 12a, 17a, and 18c, October 3a and 3b, November 6, 10, 21 and 27, 2004 and January 2, 10b, and 10c, June 13 and 27, 2005.
Images dealing with the need for connecting/working with other believers were posted September 18, 18.1 , October 3 and 8, 2004.)

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