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

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Jimmy and the Sock-hat Girl

Do you remember the scene in “On Golden Pond” when Norman got lost in the woods and couldn’t find the way home? Or, the scene in “Blair Witch Project” when the sock-hat girl was hugging the tree and crying about how scared she was? Norman was lost and afraid in the middle of a sunny day and sock-hat girl was lost and afraid in the dark of night. Norman could see what was around him; he just didn’t know which direction to go. Sock-hat girl could not see anything around her and didn’t have a clue where to go. I became these people last weekend.

A group of friends and I rented a couple houses up in the north Georgia mountains last weekend and went up for a few days of just relaxing, eating, and to just have a kick back weekend and escape the stress of everyday living. The first night there, I left one house to walk back to the house where I was staying about 11:00pm and told the others, “Nah, I’ll just walk. All I have to do is go down this driveway to the road, take a left and the other house is just in the cul-de-sac.” So, off I go in the pitch-black darkness of the north Georgia mountains with no flashlight because I knew the way to go. It was an easy shot. Or, it was easy until I wandered off the driveway into the woods and after a minute had no idea where I was. Stumbling over logs and other mysterious objects on the ground (thinking they were surely human remains), running into branches and other alien plant and tree appendages, I finally realized I was heading quickly downhill toward the river. I grabbed the closest tree and hugged it for dear life (hence my familiarity with sock-hat girl) just as my cell phone rang. It was the rest of my house guys wondering where I was with the key. My macho, prideful self disappeared and I became the true-life combination of Norman Thayer and sock-hat girl.

“I don’t know where I am,” I croaked, “I lost the road and am off in the woods heading downhill toward the river.” Choking back all my manhood, I managed to squeak out a pleading “please come find me.” Now, it is simply embarrassing; then it was life and death because all manner of serial killers and movie creatures were beginning to emerge from the darkness. After a couple short minutes, I saw some flashlights and heard my name being called and was back in my house with a warm beverage, rice krispy treats and trying to convince the other guys that I was really not all that scared.

Do you ever feel totally lost and afraid in situations of life? A job loss, a serious illness in your family, divorce or separation or any time when you were at a loss as to which direction to turn to get back to your place of comfort and safety. In Isaiah 43:2-3, the prophet tells us “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers you will not drown. When you walk through the fires of life, you will not be scorched and the flames will not consume you for I am the Lord your God.”

My friends helped me out of a temporary scary place, but God can bring you through the rough and tough times of life if you only trust Him and follow His leading.

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Do You Know Your God?

Sometimes when I hear young pastors and students talking about God, I become kinda disturbed. Sometimes when I read the lyrics to our newer Praise & Worship songs, I become kinda disturbed. Sometimes I hear television preachers talk about God and become kinda disturbed. I hear so much and read so much these days about our Abba Father, our Daddy, our loving and caring Father who only wants the best for us and leads us along our paths during good times and in bad times. We talk to God in our prayers in the most familiar terms as if our Dad were standing right there and we are just chatting about our lives, our desires, our needs and our love for Him.

Why could this possibly disturb me? I believe in God as our loving Father who wants the best for us and wants us to love Him and follow His way for our lives. I have a personal and (usually) very close relationship with God and feel His arms around me when I need comfort and gently nudging me when I need direction. Well, friends, it disturbs me because I wonder what has become of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other prophets? The God who destroyed nations who stood in the way of His people and even punished His own chosen people when they were disobedient. Where is the God who demanded answers from Job in the last section of that book when Job was beginning to question Him? We sing "I am a friend of God, and He is a friend to me." Does the God of all creation really need 'friends'? This seems to personalize and humanize God a bit too much, and last I checked the scriptures, God was not to be humanized but praised, glorified and bowed down to in majesty.

Have we lost the God who deserves our Awe, our Respect and our Reverence? Have we tried too hard to win the lost by making God sounds like a cool Dad who loves us and never mention the God of wrath and judgement for those who deny and disobey Him? Folks, I cannot sell the God I serve short if I do not believe and share the majesty and awe that He should inspire in all of us. If He would not allow Moses to see His face because it would kill him, how can we make God as familiar as someone who sits at the dinner table with us each night and tucks us into bed with a good story.

One of the most powerful verses to me is found in Jude 24, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His Glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

Now THAT is a God of power! THAT is a God who demands, yes, demands respect and awe. THAT is a God before whom we should lay prostrate before and give praise and honor and seek forgiveness for our shortcomings.

I Love God with all my heart, soul, mind and body. I love the fact that He is my Heavenly Creator Father and that he nurtures me as an earthly father does. I love the fact that He is concerned with every single tiny thing that worries me. However, I also believe in the God who created this universe with only a word spoken with authority. The God who destroyed entire nations who stood in the way of His people and His plans. This is the God I feel the need to serve and share, the God who will be judging me in the end times and has the authority to, at the proper time, bind Satan and his angels forever. Let's make sure we don't lose sight of the full being of God and only teach one aspect.

As the children's song goes: "Our God is so good, so strong and so mighty, there's NOTHING that He cannot do." (whoo-hoo)

And for now folks, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Discuss.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Is Your Kitchen Table More Level Than Your Life?

The desk in my office is level. The walls of my office are level. The doorplates are level; so are the windows, floors, ceilings, pews and piano lid. Knowing this fact has given me many nights of peaceful sleep and a number of productive days. How do I know all this? I have a new level that I brought to work and is sitting on my desk so that I see it all day as I sit and work. One day, I decided to see how well our church and church offices were built, so I went on a ‘leveling adventure.”

I may have misspoken a bit when I said it was a new level, but it is a new level to me. In actuality, it is very old and apparently a hard to find item these days. It is made of wood and shaped like a small submarine or torpedo and has the little holes and windows in various places to show the leveling bubble. When my mom and I were cleaning out the garage after my dad’s death, we found it in a box with a lot of other size levels and various tool-like things which we had no clue as to their use. I picked up this small level and noticed on a piece of metal attached that my dad had scratched his initials at some point so that it would not get lost as he carried it with him on various building projects. So, this item is special to me not only because things like levels fascinate me and the size was unique, but also it had my dad’s initials on it. He had used it, loaned it out and thought enough about it to signify it as his property.

Everyday when I am working I glance occasionally at this level and it occurs to me the importance of things being level. If my desk were a little off-kilter, then pens and pencils would roll off; my stress ball would be continually cruising off the side and it would be a bit more difficult to take that afternoon nap when my head could lay evenly on the surface.

This led me to think about lives, my life in particular. Should lives have a degree of levelness about them? I have plenty of friends who seem to operate just a bit off-center, as do I on most occasions, however, I think we should all have an even and level keel to guide us through the day. Look in Micah 6:8 and find out how God expects us to live a level life. “And what does the Lord ask of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Now look at Isaiah 1:16b – 17a. “Stop doing evil things and learn to do good.” There is not a lot of wiggle room in there. Both words “stop” and “learn” are pretty clear orders for an action.

These are just a few simple things to help us live a life of level headedness and keep ourselves on track when things are crashing all about us. Basically, treat others with justice, be kind, walk with humbleness (don’t be an arrogant snob), stop doing bad things and learn to do good things.

Is it easy? Heck, no. Have I arrived at this point? Heck, no once again. Yet, I still try to do my best. That’s all we are expected to do.

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