It was 1987—ancient history to some of you—but a time when I was very much alive.
I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade, getting ready to become a sixth grader, aka the top dogs of New Richmond Elementary School. I had earned enough report card money over the past year to buy a radio of my own, and was now beginning to discover music. Of course, I was already very familiar with the theme songs to all my favorite cartoon shows like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. (I have the power!!!!!!) But my musical interests were beginning to expand beyond the catchy tunes that accompanied my favorite TV shows. I began listening to the lyrics of music and identifying with the message that was being conveyed. In short, it was music that made me think. It was music of my own.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears was a popular tune of the day. The title of the song says it all: If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us—from time to time—want to rule the world. That is to say, we have a tendency to want everything to work out the way we want it to. At 11, I might not have been the world’s foremost philosopher, but I could identify with that concept. We all want what we want, when we want it and how we want it. Human nature at its finest.
Then there was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” This really spoke to me as a Gen-Xer. The world is crashing down around us, and how do we feel? As long as I have my Walkman (forerunner to the iPod) and a bag of Doritos, I’m good.
Perhaps the most famous album to drop in 1987 was U2’s Joshua Tree. There were several great hits from that album, but one sticks out to me: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” A great beat, a spine-chilling rhythm and Bono’s heart-filled, soulful voice pouring lyrics into my ears like some sort of audible medicine. One line in particular from that song really stuck out to me: “I believe in the kingdom come . . .”
Now, I won’t pretend to know exactly what the singer was thinking when he sang these lyrics, but I can tell you what they meant to me and my life. Even if he didn’t have exactly the same concept of the Kingdom that I or my Church had, it was revolutionary to me to hear a rock singer mention a concept as deep and real as the Kingdom of God in his music. Not that we should look to celebrities as our moral compass, but if an international rock icon could believe and wonder about a concept such as the Kingdom of God, then maybe I could too.
While we both believed in the coming Kingdom of God, there was a bigger question in these lyrics that needed to be answered. How did this “kingdom come” relate to what I was looking for? You see, the singer of the song sought deeper meaning and was struggling to answer fundamental questions of life. But what about me? Little ol’, not-a-pop-star, cheap-sunglass-wearing me. Did I struggle with the answers to life’s deep questions too? I, of course, had questions about life and God. If God loves people, why does He allow bad things to happen to them? If I am to love my brother and sister, why do they make me so mad sometimes? If God knows everything, why did He allow Satan the chance to rebel? These are some tough questions and, to be honest, I still ask them sometimes today. I do understand that God allows all things to work for good (Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×), but sometimes I just don’t see how that is happening at a particular moment.
How could I reconcile all the hardships in life with a God who is creating a Kingdom that He wants me to be a part of? The answer to this question can begin to be found in a saying by Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:7-8 Matthew 7:7-8  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you:
 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
American King James Version×: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
I don’t recall if I read this scripture after first listening to that U2 album, but I know now that it describes exactly what was going on then. From an early age, I had been taught that my life had purpose. That, even though time and chance happen to everyone, my life wasn’t all made up of random events. My parents had shown me from childhood that, despite the difficult questions that life might hand us, there is something bigger going on (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Deuteronomy 6:6-7  And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
 And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×, Psalms 71:17 Psalms 71:17O God, you have taught me from my youth: and till now have I declared your wondrous works.
American King James Version×). Life isn’t random—it has meaning. Somehow, it all added up to something much bigger than what I could see right in front of me, or in the news headlines I saw every day that caused me to worry about the world I lived in. Daily, as I went about the activities that add up to what we call life, I had begun to knock, seek and find—just as Jesus described—what life was all about. God had shown me—had helped me to find—that my whole life is a journey toward the Kingdom of God.
As I got older, this picture became clearer. I had—I have—purpose and meaning. I am to be part of an eternal spiritual family (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×), and this family has a big job ahead of it (Revelation 5:10 Revelation 5:10And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
American King James Version×). The time will come when people who have lived, suffered and died in a miserable human existence will receive a chance for a better life. Isaiah 30:20-21 Isaiah 30:20-21  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not your teachers be removed into a corner any more, but your eyes shall see your teachers:  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×gives us some insight: “And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” While I might not be able to answer all of life’s questions today, I know that a time will come when those questions will be answered. Through my experiences today—good and bad—I will help others one day by giving them good advice, telling them, “This is the way, walk in it.”
At age 11 I began to realize that, while music might be good or might be bad, it has a powerful effect on people’s lives. It has the power to make people think. I know, because that is precisely what it did to me. It was also at this time that I began to find what it was I was looking for—whether I knew I had been looking for it or not. I realized my relationship with God wasn’t the reciting of the Ten Commandments or the putting of an offering in a little green envelope. I was realizing that He wanted a relationship with me, and that my life had purpose. He wanted me to be a part of His family and, more than that, He had plans for me to serve Him by helping others come to the same understanding.
Fun fact: A few years later, I was able to visit the Joshua Tree National Forest (referenced in the name of the U2 album) with my brother, my sister and our parents. It was during the Feast of Tabernacles, which we were keeping in Palm Springs in the autumn of 1990. It was a moment that will live in my mind forever as if it were yesterday. As I stood there staring out over the landscape, I was a different person than I had been three years earlier when I first heard that album. I had matured a bit in that time, and God had showed me something critical at that point in my life. Although I didn’t know the answers to all of life’s questions, I was starting to see that it was the peace and comfort of His mind, His plans and His way of thinking that I had been looking for all along.