God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
- Psalm 46:1-3
Yet you are near, Lord,
and all your commands are true.
Long ago I learned from your statutes
that you established them to last forever.
Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
Your compassion, Lord, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
- Psalm 119:151-156
“Look at your arm. If you place it around someone’s shoulder, why do they feel something different than when you merely stand next to them with that same arm dangling at your side? It’s hard to wrap words around what it means to experience another’s presence.
“One of the great gifts God gives to His followers is His attendance. The psalmists and prophets speak often of the comfort found in the nearness of God. To the analytical mind that means God moves from somewhere over there to someplace else, over here, to be close by. But that is not what it means at all. Experiencing the nearness of God is about YOU becoming aware of His continual abiding closeness.
“Most people travel their days missing God in their moments. But be assured He is there for every one of them. He celebrates your joys as you embrace life’s blessings, and He grieves your losses as you struggle to comprehend the pain. Even when you are wondering where He is – He is right there, knee deep in your life!
“To know God and experience His consoling touch you must honestly seek Him. His companionship starts in your heart. ‘The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18).”
- Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
Let’s start with the song that matches the blog post title. This is the Gaither Vocal Band Reunion version. Pay close attention as David Phelps sings his echo refrain. Just three words, but powerfully sung.
Now, before we get to the serious stuff, picture me (yourself in my shoes if you will). I’m driving a large conversion van. My wife is beside me in the front. The two boys are in the next row. Each of us has our own captain’s chair. We each have our little kingdom, all to ourselves. Even holding hands is difficult as the chairs are far apart. I am driving down the interstate at the posted speed of 65mph (about 105kph). I have it in cruise control, with hardly any other traffic. My mind wanders to pastures of green, to cows grazing, to birds chirping. There is absolute quiet in the car, and then…
In the recording above, remember when David Phelps (the tenor with the curly hair) belts out the echo refrain?
Now back to the pastoral scene in my brain as I drive down the highway, then in perfect pitch with Phelps’ echo refrain, “HE TOUCHED ME!!!!!” Same pitch. Same notes. Same intensity, but maybe not the same emotion. Maybe a little louder, even with David Phelps having a microphone. But it’s just my elder son, from the back seat, who doesn’t like physical contact. And we still have no idea what prompted the physical contact, thirty years later.
As I steer the car back onto the highway, after the shock of the scream caused me to lose control of the van and visit a ditch and nearly visit a pasture beyond the ditch at highway speed, I yell at the elder son for scaring us to the point of near death to the entire family. Then I calmly tell our younger son not to touch his older brother. “You know he doesn’t like that.” Then I wonder if he had a stick so that he could reach that far.
Then my wife nags me for the next 50 miles about how she saw a fencepost coming straight at her at a hundred miles per hour (an exaggeration), and how I should know that the boys would eventually do that (guilty there), and I should not have lost control of the van (obviously)!
This happened more than once, not the going into the ditch and visiting the cows part – not every time, but far too often, and seemed to get worse in the teen years.
Now, if I haven’t ruined the song for you forever, one of my favorites, we can get serious.
This song was written by Bill Gaither in 1964 for a Dale Oldham evangelistic crusade. Oldham’s son recorded it a year later. Then the Gaither trio recorded it the following year. Then the Southern Gospel groups picked it up, first the Blackwoods, then the Cathedral Quartet, the Stamps, and the Statesmen recorded it. It became famous when Elvis (honestly, no last name needed) had Jake Hess and the Imperials sing it with him on an album of the same name that won a Grammy in 1972. As Mark Lowry would say years later, the song that bought the bus.
It was about the time of the late 60s Gospel group recordings that I was struggling with God, convicted of my sins, but not ready to surrender to Him. It was then that I heard a returning soloist at our church, one of those grown children that visits their parents and decides to sing a solo. She sang “He Touched Me.” Having only three radio stations in the listening area and two were Country-Western, I had never heard the song. The words ending the first verse haunted me: “Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same.” I wanted that. I wanted to be touched by the eternal God. It took much longer, a few more months, for me to surrender.
Thinking of surrendering, I watched a Torry Martin interview recently on Youtube, from maybe 2015-16, with Jason Crabb. At one point, Torry stops the conversation to say something to the audience. If you have ever heard a Torry Martin interview, it is nothing other than constant interruptions, usually Martin interrupting one train of thought with another, all on his own, absolutely hilarious. Jason Crabb really has no choice, thinking this will be another side-splitting story. Then Torry Martin said that he wasn’t perfect at anything unless you could call him a perfect sinner, but God doesn’t want you to look perfect, act perfect, or be perfect. All God cares about is your perfect surrender.
When I first heard “He Touched Me,” I wasn’t ready for that perfect surrender, but it was one of the largest shoves in that direction. And once I made that surrender, the song came rushing back to me. Jesus actually touched me, and He made me whole.
As Gloria Gaither said in an interview that the thought that God would touch an individual is an intimate thing. It shows that God cares and that He loves us a great deal. And it rocks your world just to think that He does, but He does.
Imagine, God wants your perfect surrender, not holding anything back. When that happens, He touches you. He enters into your heart. You have an intimate relationship with God, who used that hand that He touched you with to make worlds and stars and animals and trees. And don’t worry, God is holy. His hands are the ultimate in clean.
And to think, when we remain in communion with God through prayer and Bible study, trusting God in everything, God continues to touch us. He has this whole universe to run, but He takes the time to touch those who seek Him.
What is the “word” for your generation for the ultimate compliment? Might it be “Cool”, “Gnarly”, “Great”, “Terrific”, “Wow”, “Totally Excellent, Dude”, “Right on, Brother”? Okay, I might be dated a bit.
The thought of God touching me and then sticking around to give me a poke now and then? That is all those words and more. Yes, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for His friends. Jesus did that, but He goes the next step. He stays with us, too.
Shackled by a heavy burden
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me
And now I am no longer the same
He touched, oh, he touched me
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened, and now I know
He touched me, and made me whole
Since I’ve met this blessed savior
Since he’s cleansed and made me whole
I’ll never cease to praise him
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
Oh! he touched me! Oh! he touched me!
He touched me! And Oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened, and now I know
He touched me, and made me whole
- Bill Gaither, He Touched Me
And the Elvis version?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.