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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Me and my boats

  I’m in a local Chinese restaurant having lunch with a friend and engaging in our normal conversations of enlightenment, spirituality and matters of the cosmos. As we are chatting about the baggage that people haul around with them….you know the stuff that weigh us down as we work, play and attempt to sleep; consuming our thoughts, minds and keeping us from living to our fullest potential. We are still dwelling on things in our past and trying to relive those moments and, somehow, “fix” them so we can be happier. Needless to say, my normal conversations center around things more like puppies and kittens and birds and shiny objects, so I find myself stretching my brain power to keep up with our discussion.

  The Mongolian Beef is good and filling, the day is warm and sunny, and before long I find myself staring out the window and drifting off into my thoughts (which as you and I both know can be a scary place). As I’m drifting, my vision blurs and the colors of all the vehicles in the parking lot begin moving around and, to my amazement, become Junk ships floating in Bohai Bay off the coast of China. The Junks are of all different sizes and the colors of their flags and canopies are amazingly brilliant. I also notice in the midst of this flotilla, that many of the Junks are attached by rope and are pulling a whole string of smaller boats behind.

  I once read a book that was entitled, “That’s Outside My Boat: Letting Go of What You Can’t Control.” I heard the authors on a television talk show discussing how we try to take on more and more things in our lives until our lives (our boats) become so full that we begin to sink. We let so many things into our daily world that our ability to achieve anything is seriously hindered. Through the stories of many athletes and business leaders, the book gives us tips on how to determine “that is not in my boat.” And, you don’t let it into your boat. Period.

  However, in my case, I take things out of my boat, but then put them in another boat that I tie to and still drag around with me. Does anyone else do that? What are in these small boats we pull, you might ask? Past relationships, failed jobs, lack of finances, worries about illnesses that may never happen, concern over the status of the world (which we really cannot control), am I a “good” enough Christian, and on it goes. We don’t sleep well, perform our jobs well, interact with our families and friends well, and we realize we don’t get much out of our relationship with God. He’s not as close as He once seemed. We don’t see God working in our lives as clearly as we once did. And we wonder why.

  Well, my friends, it’s all because of all those boats we(me) are hauling around. We are told very clearly in the Scriptures to

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) and

 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). 

  I am the world’s worst about turning things over to God…but, then picking them back up for worrying after about, oh, ten minutes. We can truly take God at His promise that He will give us peace of mind and heart…because… He. Cares. For Us.

  As my mind drifted back to my lunch and as we headed back to the office, I know that I have to be more faithful to what I write. And, I will. That’s what is in my boat.

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Resurrection Day

“The Lord is risen, He is risen, indeed!” (Luke 24:34)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

  Sunday has dawned. The rock is rolled away. The tomb is empty. Jesus is gone. The power of God has won the final battle. He defeated the power of death and the grave. From this day on, the world will never again be the same. A new meaning of the word faith is entering the vocabulary of the disciples and followers of Jesus….they, and those to follow for generations to come, will now believe through faith and not through sight. In a short period of time, Jesus will return to His heavenly home to be with His Father and those of us here in 2014, must now trust and believe not in having Jesus physically with us, but in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and through the evidence we have of His continued existence.

  Christ is risen! I told my family today that one of my favorite Easter memories is of the community Sunrise services we had at my home church (Bouldercrest Baptist) and the Cedar Grove Methodist Minister, Reverend Martha Forrest, would begin with the bold and confident statement – “The Lord is risen, He is risen, indeed!” Her voice would ring through the sanctuary and cause me to believe once again that the Lord is now risen and alive in our lives.

  Christ is risen! His last instructions will come to us in the verse above which we call The Great Commission. It is our responsibility, our obligation, our job to make sure that our neighborhoods, communities, country and world knows of Jesus. Folks, it isn’t a suggestion to us, it is a commandment. We are to go, to train up disciples (followers) of Jesus and teach them of the ways of God and how they should live.

  Christ is risen! Christians all over the world are celebrating today over this fact. But, what happens tomorrow? Do we go back to our normal lives, eating leftover easter eggs and jellybeans, ham, potato salad and put the ‘nice’ clothes back into the closet? Do we continue to remember the story of Jesus and the wonders, tragedies and miracles of the past season? Or do we just put it aside for another year (or at least until Christmas when many head back to church again)
  As for me, I have changed so much during my journey through the Lenten season. As I’ve said before, I never anticipated the results in my life when I began this way back on Ash Wednesday. The process of writing each day has opened my eyes to many changes that needed to happen in my life and I thank God for that and for giving me the strength to do so. I’ve also received many positive comments from you, my friends, which continue to bless me more than you’ll know. You see, I don’t see myself as a particularly good writer; I just put down what’s in my mind and heart. It’s my therapy. But, if folks are touched by something I say or write, then to God goes all the Glory. He is the one who does it through me.

  So, my friends, I am kinda sad for the ending of this period of journaling, but I also know it is not an end of my journey and I hope that it isn’t the end of yours. I am looking forward to the coming days and weeks with expectation and excitement to see what God continues to do in my life and in yours. Please let me know, I’d love to share in your walk! Continue to study God’s word, follow His instructions, and above all….LOVE!

   Thank you all for sharing these days with me. Please remember that these are my thoughts and subject to your opinion, as they are mine. Check in on my webpage occasionally, www.beinggods.blogspot.com and see what I’m up to. It’s been my baby since 2004 and there’s a ton of stuff on there for you to read and learn more about my journey with God.

Thank you again for hanging with me and letting me invade your life for this season.

The LORD is risen! He is risen, indeed! Thanks be to GOD!

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

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week Day 7 - The Sabbath

“And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:55-56)

Saturday. The Sabbath. The day of rest. And the whole world is holding its breath from the events of the past week. The one who claimed to be the Son of God, who taught about God and His LOVE for all people, who healed and performed miracles was dead. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph was dead. The one who was the advocate for children, for sinners, and the downtrodden, the one who dared to stand up to the Pharisees was dead. And by a cruel, inhumane, torturous means….crucifixion. Beaten, humiliated, spat upon, and killed. Dead. Buried.

  Depending upon which theological track you might go for, during this time in the tomb Jesus either descended into Hell where he preached to the saints from the Old Testament days….or, he was simply dead. Either way, the point is that Jesus defeated Death. Giving the disciples and followers a chance to think upon what had happened. Was it all a mistake or a dream? A time to ponder all the teachings of Jesus during the three years they were together. A time to wonder what they had gotten themselves into. Just because Jesus was dead did not get them off the hook for being followers and associates. They were afraid of the Pharisees and religious leaders coming after them, so what did they do? They hid. Wouldn’t you? I feel pretty sure I would be behind locked doors and under my sofa. Quivering with fear.

  These days also gave those who put Jesus to death a chance to (possibly) gloat a bit. A chance to catch their breath and look forward to getting “their” religion back to normal and under their control. A chance to try and forget this man and the trouble he had caused them for the past few years. A chance to just start to feel pretty smug before, well, before tomorrow morning comes.

  But, most importantly to me, all the key players observed the Sabbath. Whether in grief or in joy, the Sabbath was observed. Can you imagine the silence of Jerusalem and surrounding areas on that Saturday? The quiet glances during their synagogue services. The whispers on the street. The talk around the dinner table? That feeling you have when something has gone so very wrong, but you don’t know what to do because you can’t really believe it happened? The silence and the heaviness that clouded the Holy City of Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. The Law that commanded observance of the Sabbath was being obeyed because, well, it was the Law. Not realizing that all these Laws were about to be burst wide open and would never ever be the same. But, for today, silence. Remembering.

  It’s so important for all of us to remember that Good Friday and Easter are not just dates on a calendar with a seemingly non-important Saturday in the middle. Don’t go back to business and fun as usual today after remembering the events of Thursday and Friday. Sure, Sunday is coming, but this day is a day to reflect and ponder and examine ourselves. A day of silence and rest. It’s Saturday.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jesus. Thanks be to GOD!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week Day 6 - The Friday of Darkness

“And Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And He answered by saying, ‘You have said so.’…..but after this, Jesus answered no more questions so that even Pilate was amazed.“ (Mark 15:2, 5)

  Friday has come. After the Passover meal last night, the plans unfolded for the death of Jesus. He and a few disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer and while there, Judas brought the officials to arrest Jesus. In the early morning hours, as the disciples and other followers tried to see what was happening, Simon Peter found himself denying (even with a curse) that he had no idea who this man was that was being held. Trials began to be held during the day in front of various officials, all of which ended with Pilate turning Jesus over for death by crucifixion. He was abused, tortured and humiliated for hours, finally breathing His last breath in the mid-afternoon of Friday. Today. After Jesus’ death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body to be buried in his own family tomb. Joseph was believed to be a member of the elite Sanhedrin and also possibly a secret follower of Jesus. The reason is not important, but here is a leading member of the Jewish legal system burying the body of this criminal of the Jews in his own tomb.

  So many of the events this day are important, but none as important as the fact that Jesus was killed in order that my sins might be forgiven by God and provide an eternal life for me. I like the definition of ‘sin’ as given in the book of James….’knowing what is right to do, and not doing it, that is sin.’ (James 4:17)

  And not only was Jesus killed, but God allowed it to happen because it was part of His plan for me and for you. Again, God allowed His only Son to be killed as part of His plan. Can you imagine more LOVE? That is beyond any of our human capabilities. Plus, Jesus accepted it. He didn’t go kicking and screaming to the cross of death, He went obediently, with acceptance of His Father’s plan and of His role in that plan. Yes, as Jesus, God the Son, He could have called down legions of angels to stop this. He could have caused anything to happen so that He wouldn’t have to die. He could have said, “No!” When Pilate asked Him about the claim to be King of the Jews, Jesus could have shouted out the answer, “YES!” and claimed His rightful Kingdom, but He merely turned the answer back to Pilate by answering “you are the one saying so.”

  As I think about this sacrifice of our Lord today, I try to keep the squizillions of people in the past and in the future out of my thoughts. I am trying to stay focused on the fact that this act of greatest LOVE was done for me. Just me. With all my faults, failures, quirks and problems. He died for ME. And….for YOU. Do we deserve it? No way. We just need to accept it.

Thanks be to GOD!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week Day 5 - Thursday

And Jesus said…”Take this and eat it because this is my body…..take this and each of you drink from it for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.”  (Matthew   26:26-27)

  On Thursday, the final actions began for Jesus’ death. The Passover meal was served by Jesus to His disciples, Judas completed his act of betrayal in leading the Pharisees and other religious leaders to the Mount of Olives so Jesus could be arrested, Jesus prayed for His Father’s will to be done and the disciples could not stay awake. This evening’s observance is what we now, in the Christian church, know as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. On the front of many altar tables is inscribed, “This Do In Remembrance Of Me,” which is to remind us of the last meal shared between Jesus and His group of ragtag men who would be responsible for spreading the message of God, Jesus and their LOVE for all people to future generations.

  I’ve been fortunate to experience Holy Communion in many different settings. From mainline Baptist/Protestant where plates of crackers and grape juice is passed down the rows by deacons; somewhat more casual settings where a chunk of bread is passed around where folks tear off a piece and then drink from a common cup/mug/glass; and in more liturgical settings where the congregants are served by a minister or priest, you have the choice of intinction, using real wine and blessed wafers, and kneeling at the altar to receive. They are all symbolic of this last meal regardless of the method, the music played or who officiates… in jeans, in a suit or in robes.

  What do we do in remembrance of Jesus? Stop for awhile on this day, Maundy Thursday, to think of this. Do we remember Jesus in our family’s daily routines? Do we remember Jesus while we are on our jobs? When the good times are happening? When the stress and heartache hits? When we are at church (you may be surprised at the number of folks who honestly don’t think about Jesus while they are in church….scary, huh?)? Do we remember Jesus as we drive along the highways, in the books and magazines we read, in the movies and television shows we watch? In the language we use?

  Jesus is about to give His life for me. For you. For our family, friends and neighbors. Do we stay aware of this? Do we do anything at all in remembrance of Him? At times like this, I feel so inadequate because I know that I do not remember Jesus in my “all things.” And I feel so sad that I have to admit this. I mean, here I sit in a nice home writing all these words each day, and I have yet to live up to my own writings. This year’s season of Lent for me has been quite emotional. It always has been, but somehow this year is different. And for some reason, I feel tears welling up. I think this is why God led me on this Lenten journey….to make me more aware of where I am and where I should be. Looking inside myself, putting my thoughts and discoveries into words, sending them out to all of you who may read these, and hold me accountable. Because I know now that you are watching me and I appreciate it. From your comments, emails and conversations. It has been a good journey, I’ve learned much, but I also realize how far I have to go.

  I have prayed for you folks every day since Ash Wednesday and will continue to long after the end of this journal in a few short days. I pray that you will remember Jesus in all you do, as I will be praying the same for me.

  “Take this bread, take this cup, and remember Me. Show your Remembrance by your actions and your LOVE.”

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Thanks be to GOD for His incredible GIFT!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week Day 4 - Wednesday

“And the disciples were indignant when they saw what had happened. ‘What a waste,’ they said. ‘This could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.’ (Matthew 26:8)

  On Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning of this Holy Week, Jesus experienced a gift of LOVE. He was once again staying in Bethany and you know the story of how a woman came in and broke open an alabaster jar of humongously expensive perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head and feet, then wiped them with her own hair. The disciples were absolutely flabbergasted and some were furious that she had wasted such an expensive item that could have been sold and helped out the poor. How sweet and thoughtful of them. Based on some of the past history around the disciples, I wonder how much they actually were thinking of the poor and how much they were considering their own Disciple Treasury Box. In fact, Judas, as treasurer, was one of the more vocal objectors. That money could have bought a nice camel down at “Abdul’s Used Camels Lot.” You know the commercials, “Come on in….check his teeth, kick his hooves, thump his hump!” (sorry…got a bit carried away).

  Jesus answered their ranting with the calm answer that ‘…the poor will always be here, but I won’t be here much longer. This lady has come and given a gift that is preparing me for my burial…’  Again, an offering, a task, a contribution given out of pure, true, no-strings-attached LOVE.

  Every church has them. Complainers. Those who find fault in what is being done….regardless.  Those people who just don’t get the point of a ministry of LOVE. Such is the case above. Complaining followers of Jesus. Complaining followers of Jesus about a church staff member. Complainers can’t see the ministry opportunities because of their focus on money and themselves. It doesn’t matter what is being done to honor Jesus, they know of a better way to do it. We’ve never done things like THAT before. From my own experience in ministry, both as clergy and as a lay-worker, nothing can hinder and harm a church more than the complainers. Because, usually the complainers go hand in hand with the…..gossipers (gasp!). Oh yes, I said it.

  And yeah, I’ve done my fair share of church complaining in years past, but thank goodness, I was convicted of this fault years ago, corrected this serious sin and learned to trust my church leaders to do God’s leading for the church. If they are not following God’s leading, then that is their responsibility and they will be accountable; but as a Christian, I have learned that my role is to support and encourage my leaders and not complain or gossip, especially if I have not spoken to those for whom I might have concerns.

  This day, when the disciples continued to struggle with each other during the most critical week of their lives, I pray that we will all stop and think about the greater good of our ministry. Going back to earlier weeks…. examine your own heart for sin, watch your tongue and do all you can to keep yourself, your church leaders  and your church from being harmed and to work together in unity to share God’s message. In LOVE.

  And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Blessed be the Name of the LORD!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week Day 3 - Tuesday

“And Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire Law and demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.’ “ (Matthew 22:37-40)

  This is it, folks. The summation of Jesus…LOVE. Here is a reason behind His statement of ‘not coming to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.’ During the Tuesday of His last week, Jesus spent time teaching anyone who would listen and continued to challenge the Pharisees and other religious leaders at every opportunity. He worked so hard to make them think about their Laws and the futility of strict obedience and that only through belief in Jesus and God, in the greatest sacrifice about to be made in only a few days, would they be able to enter Heaven. Just being very good and doing good things for others will not get you into heaven. You. Must. Believe. An eternal life of being in God’s presence in the Home being prepared. I’m sure the urgency of Jesus’ teachings wasn’t fully understood by even His disciples. He had already begun to prepare them for His death, and His resurrection, but they just had not caught on yet. They hadn’t even caught onto the whole concept of God’s Love, at least not yet.

  We are taught in the Old Testament that the greatest law was to ‘love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.’ This is the Shema, the highest Law for the Jewish people. Jesus has now added a second ‘most important’ commandment; ‘to love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

  Who is your neighbor? The person living next door to you or across the street? True, but your neighbor is, literally, all those who live on the earth with you. Therefore, we should love all people as we love ourselves. As I sat on the podium at church this past Sunday and looked over the congregation, I was struck to realize (again) what a diverse church I am attending. And, how wonderful that diversity is. The verse about the gospel being spread to ‘every nation, every tribe, every tongue’ came to mind as I looked at how many cultures and ethnic groups are represented in our sanctuary on any given Sunday. Well, even more importantly, all these groups are represented each day of the week through our work in the community, state, nation and world. I think that this is what Jesus is trying to teach us. If we truly love our neighbors, then they are welcomed into our churches – NOT because we are of different cultures, but welcomed BECAUSE we are all neighbors and children of God. In my thinking, the church today must welcome diversity if they are going to do God’s work. Diversity in people, in preaching, in music, in staffing, in programs and ministries, in outreach, in mission work, in all areas of the church.  Again, I think this is what Jesus would want us to draw from the above verse.

  On this third day of the Holiest Week, I am examining my thoughts and actions toward all those around me….my neighbors…..God’s children. I would encourage you to do the same, if you agree. Just saying….my opinion and thoughts. If I am able to do even a part of what I have been writing about these past 40 days, may this be the one I embrace the hardest. It’s too important.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy. Thanks be to GOD!