"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, February 23, 2006

People of Vision

Back in the spring of 1973, I was strolling along the sidewalks of Old Towne Augusta, Georgia while spending the weekend away from college with friends. Up ahead, we saw the neon flashing of "Ask Madame Lucia - She Knows Your Future." What college kid can avoid such an enticing thing as having your fortune read by some (gifted) woman on a hot Saturday afternoon along the riverfront in an old eastern Georgia town? So, we went in, plunked down a few dollars before Madame Lucia (who looked old enough to be qualified as "Crone Lucia"), and she began the process of looking at our palms and into her somewhat smudged crystal ball to determine the futures of three rather clueless college boys. Needless to say, I never met and married a hot girl named "something starting with an S", my bank account has never gotten into the six figures (even counting the decimal), and all my limbs are still attached. Did I think Madame Crone could really have a vision about me or my buddies? Nah, it was just something fun to do, but as we've kept in touch through the years, we always go back to the vision Lucia had for us and share a good laugh.

Is it possible for people to have visions? Certainly, it is. I think of people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of our country. Men like Lewis & Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates and even Donald Trump. Women like Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucille Ball and yes, Oprah. These people had visions for a better world and opportunities, then effected the changes to allow the process to begin. They did not allow the naysayers to stop them and they ignored gender and racial lines in order to make a more better society for us all (ed: yes, I know that more better isn't the most acceptable grammar, but it just seems to fit sometimes).

In Proverbs 29:18 we are told "Where there is no vision, the people perish." In his wisdom, the Teacher knew that people had to live and dream for a better tomorrow or else we would become stagnant and finally wither down to nothing and die. This is true of people, corporations and churches. We've all seen it happen and often try to place blame everywhere except for where and on whom it may be accurate.

I have been blessed over the past seven years to be part of a church with a visionary Pastor and Staff. I daresay that a day, or probably an hour, has not passed that Pastor Rick is not thinking of a new ministry and a more effective way for our church to reach our community for Christ. Never compromising the Scripture and never bowing to the current trends of "entertainment worship", our Pastor leads his staff and congregation with the integrity and transparency of a true man of God. Before you think that all is rosy and wonderful in the land of Salem, there are those who do not agree or do not understand the direction we may head. However, they are (usually) faithful enough to hang around, continue supporting the church and not do a lot of harm. I have learned that a true visionary always anticipates the negative aspects, keeps his or her ear tuned to the people and is willing to discuss and listen to those with concerns. A person with vision is also unafraid of positive confrontation in order to smooth the path for all peoples. As one of my heroes once said, "The needs of the many often outweigh the needs of the few."

Rick and his wife, Miriam, have just marked their tenth anniversary at Salem. It has been a period of unimaginable growth, both spritually and numerically. His belief in the importance of worship has grown so that we now offer three types Sunday morning worship services - one is Traditional, one is Contemporary and one is a Blending of the two. Rick's belief in the importance of discipleship, evangelism and missions has led to classes, training and trips in order to accomplish these tenets literally around the world. His wife Miriam has always been supportive of her husband and the church, working willingly to help raise their children while teaching in the public schools, leading Bible Study classes, taking part in various other programs and ministries of the church and being an example of the Godly woman that every man should pray to have. Thank you, Rick and Miriam, for giving of yourselves to our church and I pray for your continued leadership and yielding to God's plans for your life.

Now, I think that God has given us all a degree of vision. It may be for our family, our jobs, our hobbies and pastimes, our friendships or for our churches. If we are receptive to His vision for our lives, then we will have success. If we ignore or stifle the vision God has given us, then our spirit dies. I am the first to admit that I have not always been the most receptive to God's vision for my life and I've dealt with the consequences.

Whose vision should I follow - Madame Lucia or God? Not one thing that Madame Lucy told came true, plus she charged me $5. Everything God has told me has come true and His gift doesn't cost me a penny. He payed the price through His Son, Jesus. So, again......Lucia or God. It's up to you.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.


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