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

Monday, June 24, 2013

I believe in the Church

I believe in the Church. The organized, traditional church that has been around for a couple thousand years and will be around for thousands more. I know that at times, my writing and words may give you cause to think I am against the church as an institution, but that is not true.

  Does the Church have problems? Sure! That's the basis for many things that I write and speak of. I want the Church to be focused outward as much as inward. Go hand out cool water on a hot summer day in the neighborhoods at 11 am on a Sunday morning when folks are doing yard work. They sure don't expect a church person to visit them at THAT time. Don't start off witnessing...just give the water, a smile and let them know God loves them. Sow the seed. Send a group to the grocery store on a Sunday morning during the Christmas season to sing Christmas Carols for the shoppers. Do a worship service on a Sunday morning at local nursing homes and assisted living homes. Reach out to people where they are and, definitely, think outside the box. It's no secret that I frequent a Bar Church on Tybee Island. Not just because it's at the beach, but because (in my opinion), it is what a true church in that area should be. Reaching people outside the steepled buildings where they feel looked down upon and uncomfortable. Meeting in a bar, providing breakfast and lunch for whoever comes by, delivering meals during the week, nursing home ministries, weekday praise music under the pier. Whatever it takes, folks.

  The Church is the best thing we have going for us today. In this country, it is a place of safety to worship the God in which we believe without worries of government intervention. It is a place where we can meet with fellow believers for study, companionship and worship. The Church is a place that is universally recognized as being a place that you can go if you need to find God or to share Him with others. It is a place (for me) of music. The music of God and of believers. Being the unashamed traditionalist, I like the quietness of a soft organ prelude to prepare my spirit and my heart to meet God; a few strong hymns of faith (yes, hymns) that help me to praise God with my voice with words of old and new composers and authors; special music by instruments, soloists or groups that help me focus on God before I hear the spoken word of the Pastor. And then...the wonderful hymns of invitation to rededicate myself to service or for others to ask Jesus into their lives. I Surrender All, Out of My Bondage, Only Trust Him, Just As I Am, Oh, Why Not Tonight....so many of them that are no longer sung, but are greatly missed.

  Oh sure...it's okay to throw in some of the more contemporary songs like "Here I Am to Worship," "Shout to the Lord," "How Great is Our God" on occasion, but keep the repeats to a minimum and let the words stand for themselves. And, keep the screeching instruments to a minimum so that I can hear the words and worship....not feeling like I'm at a rock concert and need ear plugs. And...never, ever...never ever...bring a smoke machine and flashing lights into a church where I am for a service. But, then again....this is me. Maybe not you.

  The Church is where you can begin again....a new start....a new fellowship of believers. The Church is having growing pains as it tries to figure out how to meet the challenges of a 2013 world of technology and other entertainment options. But, the Church does not need and should not feel compelled to change the message in order to reach people. The message of Jesus is the same....yesterday, today and forever. It never changes. Love God, Believe in Him, Love and Tell Others.

  I believe in the Church. I believe in a Church full of human beings. Human beings that sin and make mistakes and get angry and sometimes don't act so nicely. But, God forgives and the only way we can feel that is to gather with our fellow believers....and God. Sure, I can feel God on a mountain top or on a beach, but I draw my strength and purpose from the Church. The community of believers. So, that when I drive down the road and see a church where I have attended, I can happily say, "Hey! That's my Church!" 
"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25) 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sometimes I think my life is a mess

  It was a marvelous piece of architecture. No visible flaws in the design as each tier graduated in equal distances from the central sections. The structure could bend with the wind, yet it was as delicate as the finest thread. And, it all started with a simple, tiny spider.

  My family and I had been sitting on the deck one sunny morning and were talking about how amazing this huge spider web was. It stretched between the wind chimes hanging from the ceiling, to the deck rail and to several flower pots along the railing. Just as we thought about misting the web for a good picture, the tiny spider run full speed from inside the chime to the bottom rail and back up to the center where it perched very still. A few minutes later with the same burst of speed, the spider raced to one of the flower pots, turned, and began gathering the large web in as it scooted from sides to center to top and in less than ten seconds, the web was gone. Except for one remaining strand on which to build a future web, there was no evidence of this beautiful work of engineering. From the instinct of a tiny spider. I could not have built something this detailed with my Leggo set when I was a boy….or, even as an adult. And I, supposedly, have a much larger brain and analytical abilities than a spider.

  Living in the edge of a wooded section along Camp Creek, we have a lot of web-building spiders around the outside of the house. Some build webs of beauty; some build webs that appear to be a drug-induced effort. Life is kind of like those webs. Some people have lives that appear so beautiful, organized and perfect. Others just seem to muddle along through life losing their car keys, taco stains on their shirts and chewing gum stuck on their shoes.

  There are many people who think that Christians should be the living in the Type A web, the beautiful, organized, perfectly holy web. Never making mistakes, losing their temper and uttering a questionable word, singing psalms and hymns as they go their perfect hair-in-place daily life. As for me, I’ve usually got patches of stubble where my razor missed, my sunglasses hanging from one ear, an unidentified smudge on my pants and a painful bruise that I don’t remember getting which probably caused me to say something more than, “oh, pooh, that sure hurt.” This isn’t an intentional way of life for me, but it is just how it is. I struggle.

  Let me let you in on a little secret. Christians do not have that perfectly ordered holy life. We struggle with carpool lines and dead car batteries just like everyone else. We get angry and we feel the same grief when a dream or a loved one dies. We are human. We make mistakes. We get angry. We get happy. If the Christian is a wise Christian, he or she doesn’t try to give others the impression of being “better than” or “holier than” others. We let the world see us as we are. The only way that an unbeliever can see Christians as we really are is by our showing the difference God makes in our lives. The difference is love, forgiveness and hope. He gives us strength, if we only believe and accept Him as a part of our life.

  As much as I would like for my web to be nice and pretty, it is usually a jumbled, scrambled mess. But, that’s okay because God can still use me….and you.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy (and the tiny spider).

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Refuge from the storm

Our area has been buffeted by severe storms over the past couple weeks. Heavy rain, lightning, thunder and even hail has swept through my part of the county, sometimes with almost no warning. Blue skies overhead one minute, then CRACK! the sky is dark, the thunder rolls and the deluge begins. As long as I am inside, the storms don't usually cause me great alarm, however, I was caught on the golf course once when one of these storms arose and the four of us were quite concerned for a few moments. How many odds were against us? Standing in the middle of an open fairway, almost underneath a set of power lines with metal golf clubs in our hands. When we saw the first lightning bolt strike in a yard adjacent to our location, all we remember doing was throwing our clubs up in the air and falling to the ground screaming like a bunch of school girls. Finally, it occurred to us that perhaps we should look for shelter. Even though I was with three good friends, I really didn't relish the thought of being flash-fried with them. My idea of death was much more warm and fuzzy and involves being surrounded by nice music, family and friends.
  What is your reaction when the storms of life begin to buffet you? Are you like my dog, Murphy, was and try to bury himself under me and anything else available? Are you like me and fall face down on the ground screaming like a banshee? Or, as the scriptures suggest, do we take refuge in God, our Stronghold and our Shelter? We face so much these days with illnesses, deaths, job loss, divorces, drugs and crime that there is no place to hide and we cannot ignore these storms. Our human capabilities are not able to weather everything life throws at us, nor are we able to fully comfort those who are going through the trials. Only God can do this. Only God can provide us with shelter and comfort. Only God can speak the words which can take away the pain and fear. Only God can provide the power of Love to protect us. Many times we do not feel His presence, and that is normal and expected, however that does not mean He is not there guiding and guarding us all the way through. Then, when we finally come through and awake into the day of sunlight once again, we can look back and see God never left our side.

  My closing thoughts? It was a very stupid thing to be on a golf course during a thunderstorm, and I wish I could say it would never happen again, except that my friends and I are rather dense. But, this I can say, God will always be my protector and stronghold in the thunderstorms of my life. He has done it faithfully for many years and I have the faith to know that He will continue for years to come (well, unless I insist on playing golf in the rain with friends who have no common sense).

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fires of life, you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43:2-3)

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