|RPM, Volume 15, Number 11, March 10 to March 16, 2013|
Though this article is not about the literal sub-title of a great hymn, it is about the experiential truth of this song in my own personal life. So, please indulge me for a moment as I comment in one brief space about this hymn before I get to 'the rest of the story,' about a cop who became a Christian.
This blessed Christian hymn was set to words by Anna Bartlett Warner and the refrain by William Bradbury. The hymn first appeared in the novel Say and Seal, by Anna's sister Susan.
She desired a song for a Sunday School teacher to sing to a dying
What a loving heart. Why is this important? The Bible teaches us that not only are we going to die (Heb. 9:27), but we are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Personally this means I am not only dying physically -everyday is one day closer to physical death - but before I came to Christ, I was already dead spiritually before God.
I was dead and dying. I needed a song. Here is the story about "my song" given to me. It was not deserved - it still isn't. But, see that is the only way God will have it; "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
Thanks to my mom who is a Christian, I had the opportunity to grow up in Church. My father was in the military so we moved from place to place often. This contributed to the fact that we wandered not only from Church to Church, but denomination to denomination as well. I was baptized in a Presbyterian Church in England, and except for the brief period of time my father attempted to involve us in a cult - the Mormon church, the church of Later Day Saints - we attended Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist Churches. On one occasion I even went forward during an Altar Call in a Baptist Church, but I left as dead as entered; I was not saved.
I graduated from High School and entered a Military College trying to somewhat please my father who had spent years attempting to get me into the U.S. Air Force Academy. While he was successful in obtaining for me a Presidential Appointment to the Academy, in my youthful rebellion I turned it down, opting for Georgia Military College instead. I look back now and just shake my head; dumb and dumber - the dumbest mistake in my secular life! However, I did not know it at the time, God had other plans for me.
Georgia Military College was a good school and from there I attended what was then called Georgia College and received a Bachelor's Degree. Immediately upon graduation I had to meet my military commitment, so in the Army I went. While I went in as an officer and would have had a great career, I still had another desire; I wanted to be a cop. However, just not 'a cop', but 'the Detective of Detectives.'
I had grown up on Television and was greatly influenced by it. I enjoyed all the cop hype/type shows; Magnum, Starsky and Hutch, Cagney & Lacey, Banacek, Mannix. By far my favorite at the time though was Hawaii Five-O. I desired to be the next Steve McGarrett - "book 'em Danno." So, I applied for and received employment as a 'cop.' I graduated 1st in academics, but only 3rd in firearms (literally by one bullet, but that is all it takes) from the Policy Academy. I thought I had arrived. I was well on my way to fulfilling my 'Five-O' status.
As a Police officer - as a beat cop - I had several exciting moments. Initially, out of the Police Academy I was placed on an Armed Robbery Task Force. Why such a prestigious position just out of the Academy? Well, barely anyone knew me, so I could blend in better. Additionally, I had not yet picked up a lot of police mannerisms, which could give me away! We staked out different locations for would-be robbers. It was fun work catching bad guys!
I finished that assignment, and from there I went on the street. While I worked several traffic accidents and made several drug and DUI arrests, I still desired to be a Detective - off the street in plain cloths. However, on the street I was learning needed skills for working as a Detective and even as a Hostage Negotiator and a member of SWAT Team latter on.
One call I received came from out of state to one of our 911 operators. It was a possible suicide in progress. It was relayed to me that the caller stated that they believed a friend of theirs had a gun and was going to commit suicide. 911 traced the "calls" and gave us - another car was dispatched too - the address of a motel. The 'victim' was in a room on the second floor. As I left my patrol car, I heard dispatcher say that he was "about ready to pull the trigger."
I was still rather young and in excellent shape. I ran six miles, did 400 push-ups, and 400 sit-ups just to begin my day. So, while the other officer went around to the staircase, I jumped on the hood of my vehicle and hoisted myself up to the second floor balcony and was at the 'victims' door in seconds. I heard dispatch say again - "he's about to pull the trigger." Immediately thereafter I heard 'a shot.' Feeling I could not wait for my partner, gun drawn, I kicked in the door. There on the floor before me was a man dying. He had just shot himself in the head. Blood spewing from his temple, I watched as he closed his eyes. He died seconds later. This was the first time death ever starred at me in the face. I literally saw life leave him.
The detectives and crime scene units arrived. Though I was excited about being a part of something 'big', I was also deeply saddened. Is there something I could have done better to help this person? Could I have done more; arrived faster, responded differently? All types of questions crossed my mind. I wondered what would have caused someone to take his or her own life. Can things really get that bad? Then it became personal. How would I go out? Would I get shot on the street, or would I get so desperate too that I would one day eat my own gun? Would I get cancer, get run over by a drunk driver? I did not know it at the time, but God was working in my life.
I continued to work on the street. I was a responding officer on several violent felonies; murders, robberies, and rapes. On one occasion a mother had attempted to kill her own baby, but the gun had misfired and then she shot herself - the gun did not misfire the second time. I was given a new assignment on a Rape Task Force, where we rode around on bicycles, seeking a rapist that was disrobing himself outside of residences and entering windows completely nude and assaulting his victims. We caught him too. Violent crime was alive and well on the streets. I was making plenty of arrests, taking guns off 'perps', recovering stolen vehicles, etc. I was enjoying my work.
Things were going well for my career; I had attended an Organized Crime School; yet another step to becoming a Detective. But I continued to ponder the above questions. When would I get it? How would I get it? When would it happen to me? We are all dying. Though we do not necessarily know the how or when, we all finally die!
The word "crime" above refers to unlawful, as regards to God's law; sin is crime against God and our neighbors. I was living a rather lavish life-style. I had a top of the line TV - couldn't miss my cop shows. A sectional couch and intimate lighting set off the rest of my living room along with a great audio system. I enjoyed listening to my Rock 'n' Roll; KISS, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Marvin Gaye, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, The Temptations, etc.
Speaking of temptation, I fell into it often and greatly. Though I no longer experimented with marijuana as I had earlier in college, I still drank a lot (don't drink two pitchers of beer after running a full marathon - another dumb and dumber moment). I was experimenting with women too. This life-style though was not making me truly happy. Many nights I would sit up wondering about my activities. See I had been taught to do better in Church and home. On one occasion after I had sex with a woman, I literally turned over and began cry. She asked what was wrong and I lied and said "nothing;" quickly putting my face into the pillow to remove my tears. It was dark, as the works of sins are, and so she did not see my tears. Yes, God was at work - in both her and I - more about this later.
Back to the street. I received a rather mundane call to a theft at a local park. Someone had broken in and stole a few dollars from the petty cash fund. It was here that I met a young lady. I liked meeting pretty young ladies. After we talked briefly about what was stolen, I asked her out for a date. She accepted. Prettiest case I had ever solved. (Yes, I am being crude, as this is who I was).
We had set a date for the following Saturday. As the time approached, I noticed that my funds were really low. I tried everything, even borrowing the cash, but it was a no-go. 'Man I was going to have to cancel this date.' I called her up on Friday and shared that I was short on funds and asked if we could postpone the date. She said 'No way.' I briefly thought to myself 'I lost this one.' However, she continued and said she would pack a lunch and we could go to the Park for the day. I thought to myself, 'man I really made an impression.' I like her. See it was all about me; my job, my TV, my stereo, my girl, my life.
So, I went over to her apartment and picked her up for our date. Lunch was good. The conversation was really pleasant, different than what I was use to. No cussing, a respectful attitude, etc. Something was different about this girl. I was liking her more and more.
During our conversation, she said something that rather stunned me. She asked if I knew what would happen when I died? There was that word, that thought, that reality that had been haunting me. That word "die", "death", etc. such haunting words.
I began to share with her what I knew about death - I could talk about suicides and homicides. But she gently pressed and said, 'but what about you?' I said I often wondered how I would go and wondered about when I would go. Thinking it would impress her; I told her that the street was dangerous. But she pressed and asked again, but rephrased it just slightly, saying, "I am not asking you how or when, but Who you will meet upon death and what you will say to Him?"
My religious side kicked in (and I learned if it has to kick in, then one is still lost …) and I told her I walked down an isle of my Baptist Church and was saved. She said, "Really?" 'How did your life change when you accepted Christ?' I said something to the extent, 'Well not very much. I read the Bible some and feel really bad at times when I mess up, but to be honest I was still the same old guy I was.' She said 'there is a difference in just feeling bad and being able to turn from sin.' She shared the Gospel with me and that day I accepted Christ. We dated a couple more times after that, but I was now more interested in Church and learning about God than dating. But what a saint of God!
This experience was different than when I had previously walked down the aisle. See, I had not walked to God until he first walked into that Park and met me (John 15:16) through this young lady. I did not walk into that Park that day seeking Christ, but something else. I was like a man named Adam in a Garden that hid from God until he was surprised by His goodness (Gen. 3). Christ overtook me. He changed me. I was a new person (2 Cor. 5:17). I am a Christian (Acts 11:26).
I began attending Church. Though I did not know what I was doing or quite frankly what I was talking about at times, I had to do something! I had to tell others about Jesus. I looked for any place and anybody that would listen. Though I often had a captive audience in my back seat, I began a nursing home and jail ministry. I just had to tell others what Jesus had done for me (John 4:1-42).
Remember the girl above - the one whose bed I wept in? Our paths crossed again. I met her in a rainstorm one day downtown (a fitting setting, rain and tears). I told her what had happened to me. She said, 'I heard, it's all over town.' I apologized to her for my previous conduct. She began to weep and walked away. Months later though she was in Church too. I had heard she accepted Christ. See, God was not finished with her yet either.
While I still desired to be a Detective, I changed jobs, so I could get out of debt. I was preaching as a lay preacher everywhere I could. I began speaking at my Reserve Unit - and the Commander, a Christian too, instigated Sunday services for any that would attend on drill weekends. The congregation grew to almost the entire unit. Then I was preaching at Division, even in Germany before a whole base, etc. However, I was still missing law enforcement, so while keeping my Reserve commitments, I went back to being a cop.
I was attending my first seminary and policing at the same time. A fellow-police officer, then my sergeant, and I use to speak on night shift. He and his wife were into swapping sex with other couples. However, he and his wife gave their lives to Christ later on in my career. Oh, precious Jesus.
After just a little more time on the street I finally made it into Detectives. I even made it on SWAT Team and became a Hostage Negotiator. I was graced that I never lost another person in a suicide attempt and of course was able to prevent some potentially bad situations from erupting and becoming even worse. I was successful making the papers, TV, etc. after solving numerous crimes. Officer of the Year, Detective of the Year, this and that. Secret Service School, etc. I had the highest arrest record of all time in the department. I made Sgt of Detectives and finally Division Commander. During this time I assisted in running a youth facility for teens that had been arrested for misdemeanors, etc. I became the facilities Chaplin and shared Christ every Sunday - if there was not a murder or other major crime to investigate. Later I became a Youth Pastor and then a Pastor at a local Church.
Though I enjoyed it, I finally left law enforcement. I decided that I needed a better education in theological studies so I applied to and was accepted at Reformed Theological Seminary. Though God paved the way for my wife and me to go to seminary, I became very sick during those years. Though I finished my Master's degree well, I could not even attend my own graduation when it came time.
Being so ill meant no work in a Church after graduation. But God was there. He was listening. God had a different plan in mind. I met one of my previous seminary professors at the school one day; Dr. Richard Pratt. I was in bad shape. I needed a job; but who in their right mind would hire a person that could not show up for work? Well …. Richard has a "right mind" and after I trained for a few weeks in the offices of Third Millennium Ministries he graciously allowed me to begin working from home. I have been blessed beyond measure - that such good people would put up with the likes of me.
If I ever have the opportunity to meet you, please do not be surprised if I still talk about death. It is a reality for every one of us. It's going to happen to all of us - even you. As a former homicide detective, I observed and had to study decomposing corpses. Briefly, once the heart stops beating, blood begins to collect in the most dependent parts of the body (livor mortis), the body stiffens (rigor mortis), and the body begins to cool (algor mortis). As decomposition continues stages set in: (1) Fresh, (2) Bloat, (3) Active Decay, (4) Advanced or Post-Decay, and (5) Dry Remains. In layman terms, it is really an ugly, gross, messy, smelly process.
In a manner of speaking, before Christ we are all in a state of spiritual decomposition. We are dead and actively decaying. We do not even know what real life is, because we are rotting, bloating, and have the stench of many a sin. Trust me here, seeing a dead corpse is not a pleasant experience; but being one is much, much worse. But spiritually speaking unless you know Christ you are already dead and decaying (Eph 2:1). It is really an ugly, gross, messy, smelly process, as you are lost, without God (Eph. 2:12).
The only remedy for ongoing death is ongoing life. Jesus says, "… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). There is true life only in One - "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He says, "WE MUST be born again" (John 3:1-8).
Little investigation is needed to know whom you will meet the day you die - Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:27). See, he is the Judge. While all of us will meet Him, I am happy that I met Him earlier rather than later. See, once you are grave, it is too late. There are no second chances. "Stiffs" do not live in Heaven; they rather die forever in an eternal Hell (Matt. 18:8; 25:46). See, I still believe bad guys belong in prison. Only now I have learned that there are temporary prisons in this life and an eternal one in the one to come. By the way, I am not in this statement saying I am a good guy, far from it - go back and read above - the only good I have is Jesus "in me" the hope of glory (Col. 1:27; cf. Gal. 2:20). So, I am not better than you - probably far worse, but I have been forgiven, which is far, far, better.
Has God been revealing himself to you? Have you been pondering some questions? How would you answer the question, "Why should God let you in His Heaven?" If you answer or even briefly hesitate with any thought other than, "Jesus lived for me, He died for me, He gave himself for me, He rose again for me", then you still do not know Him. He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). Ask God to surprise you with His goodness. Ask Him to give you His grace and faith (Eph. 2:8-10) to believe that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you (John 3:16).
Christ caught a cop. He was arrested and handcuffed to the Cross. Risen from the dead, given a new life, a new beginning, and real life. I consider myself 'a chief among sinners' (1 Tim. 1:5), but a recipient of grace beyond measure (1 Tim. 1:14, cf. Rom. 5:20).
I am not going to say life is easy; it wasn't and isn't! I still get sick at times; such as now as I pen this article. The pain at times seems unbearable, but then, as today, I remember what He did for me. Life is hard; then you die. But, see "Jesus loves me this I know." It has been sung over and over to this dying boy. As one dying man to another, "Ask God to sing it you to!"
|This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor. If you would like to discuss this article in our online community, please visit the RPM Forum.|
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