Some of you have been asking if HBC's sermons could be posted online. We are working on an easier solution, but for now, yesterday's sermon titled, "The Beginning...Rescuing It," is below.
I am the father of a beautiful six year old girl and a bulldozer of a two-year-old boy. On occasion, I take them to the office with me and they proceed to rearrange my books, play with my souveniors, and scribble on my desk. When we leave my office at the end of the day, it looks as if Hurricanes Natalie and Isaac have blown through with gale force winds. My office is a mess, but totally worth the time together.
There was another time I took my family to work and did not realize it. I was 24 years old and had started to experience anxiety attacks. I had been juggling too many responsibilities as a youth/college pastor, seminary student, basketball coach, and husband. I found myself experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, feelings of impending death, and heart palpatations. I was falling apart. Literally.
Thankfully, I believe God intervened and worked out a transition for me and Tara (my wife) to move to Chicago. Long story short, I entered into counseling where my counselor one day asked me, “Why do you think you’re struggling so much with anxiety?” I had no idea, but like any good counselor, he began to help me peel back the metaphorical layers of my heart. Eventually we arrived at a core issue, not the only core issue, but a core issue nonetheless. (There were many core issues I had to process before healing. The expectations of my family were only a small piece of the process.) The core issue was my name, Paul B. Gibson II. I am named after my grandfather who was a prominent minister in my hometown. And, growing up, there was an expectation for me to follow in his footsteps; to be the next great preacher.
I carried that expectation with me throughout my young adulthood. As I worked as a pastor and seminary student, I waffled between fulfilling a calling God had placed on my life and a calling my family had wanted me to fulfill. I could not let God down, but deep down, I had a greater fear of letting my family down. In essence, every day that I worked as a pastor, I was taking my family’s expectations with me to work. It was a heck of a burden to carry and at the age of 24, the burden got to me.
Disclaimer: Now, at this point, I could easily point the finger at my family. Not going to happen. At times, they were overzealous, but they wanted what they thought was best for me. I am learning that one of the major challenges of parenthood is desiring what is best for your children and not necessarily what you think is best for your children. And, as a Christ-follower, I believe what is best for my children is what Jesus wants for their lives. So, as I am growing as a parent, I am learning to give my own parents much grace in regards to my own upbringing. But, that’s another post…Back to taking my family to work.
I started to heal from my anxiety once I began to focus on what God wanted for my life. And, after much searching, the answer came in three simple words; Abide…In…Me. I shifted my focus from wanting to ultimately please my family to ultimately fulfilling the calling God had placed on my life. And, before preaching, teaching, pastoring, learning, coaching, and making the donuts (any old school Dunkin Donut fans out there???), I learned that my ultimate calling was to abide in Jesus or simply…to follow him. The words of Matthew 11.28 from the Message version called out at me in a soothing voice, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
Are you taking your family to work with you through family stress or family expectations? If so, I encourage you to take a deep breath, pray a prayer of release to God, and focus on following him through simple actions of love and service towards others. You are not your job, any person’s expectations, or what anyone says about you. You are a treasured child of the Most High God. And he calls you to get away and rest. So, rest well and leave your family at home, unless they are cute and giggle an infectious giggle.
I vividly remember the first time I broke the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” I was four or five years old, in my grandmother’s guest bedroom, when I noticed a pack of gum sitting on a dresser. My first thought was, “I should ask my grandmother if I can have a piece.” My second thought was, “The heck with asking. It’s just a piece of gum. What my grandmother doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” I took the gum out of the wrapper and started chewing. I remember the gum tasting great, but I also remember feeling a little twinge of guilt. I had just stolen from my grandmother. I somehow, some way, as a little four or five year old, felt like I had disrespected my grandmother.
If you are like me, the news of Robin William’s death left you momentarily motionless. It just does not seem fair or right that someone with so much talent or humor has been snatched away from us. Williams helped us laugh, cry, and think. I am still deeply moved whenever I think of the character, Patch Adams. Williams, playing the role of a real life hero, exhibited joy, the drive to make a difference, and heartache. Today, we feel those some emotions when we think of him.
What makes Williams’ death all the more unfair or unthinkable is that reports have been published that Williams died from suicide; an action most likely driven by a dark battle with depression. Let’s clear something up right now…Mental Illness is real and depression is real. And, if you are depressed, I am sorry that you are in the midst of the struggle. The dark hole of depression can often feel unescapable and hopeless. But please, allow me to make one request…Please do not feel any shame about your depression. You are sick. You are not unlovable. You are in the midst of a battle, but a battle that is not hopeless. You are not your sickness or struggle, but instead you are a person made in the image of a creative God who deeply loves you.
Jesus often got the rap of hanging out with people he should not hang out with; sinners, cheaters, prostitutes, unhealthy people. Shockingly and thankfully, Jesus told a group of religious elites, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” If you are suffering from depression, you are sick. The causes of depression are many and it is a very powerful manifestation of our broken world. Sickness happens. But thankfully, so did Jesus. And guess what, Jesus boldly stated, “I have come for the sick.”
If you are suffering from depression, please know that you are not alone. Also, please know that there are many churches out there that will not judge you because of your illness, but will instead embrace you, comfort you, and love you through the darkness. No shame, either. I hope my church will be a no shame zone for those who are suffering from any type of mental illness. After all, Jesus did not come for the healthy, he came for the sick.
(Need help? Reach out to a local congregation, a help center, or the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. If you are in Hardinsburg, you can call HBC for help at 270-756-5230.)
What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
Growing up, I would reverse the answer to this question by thinking, "Well, if I have two ears, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, then God must have two ears, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth." Being made in God's image ultimately meant that God must look like me. God must have the ability to hear, see, smell, and talk.
God Exists In Community
I still believe that Scripture teaches that God has these attributes, but I also believe that by focusing on whether or not God has human senses, I missed an even greater truth about God; God exists in community. God exists as three persons-in-one -being; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians call this idea of God the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is introduced in Scripture at the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters, and the Son (according to John 1.3) said, “Let there be light.” God, three persons-in-one-being, was from the very beginning.
What Does Being Made in the Image of A Communal God Mean for Us?
It means that at the very core of being made in God’s image is the truth that we are made or hard-wired for community. More specifically, we are hard-wired to be in community with God and community with one another. In John 15, Jesus told his disciples to “remain in my love” (community with God) and to also “love one another as I have loved you” (community with one another). We cannot and will not reflect the image of God unless we are dwelling or being in community with God and others.
What Happens When We Do Not Dwell in Community?
When we do not dwell in community with others, we live a life that is off. Think about the great theological movie, Toy Story. Toy Story is all about community; Woody must wrestle to understand what it means to unconditionally accept others and Buzz Lightyear must learn to live in the reality of being a toy. As Woody wrestles to accept Buzz, he loses his community. As Buzz wrestles with what it means to be a toy, he learns the value of community. The movie poetically ends with Woody and Buzz being reunited with Andy and that great song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” playing in the background. Community for Woody was regained and community for Buzz was embraced.
When we do not live in community, we find ourselves like Woody or Buzz, feeling lonely or disconnected from God and one another. Where are you communally? Are you remaining in Jesus’ love? Are you in community with others? If not, take an extra minute today to say a prayer to God or walk across the yard and say “hello” to your neighbor. You are hard-wired for community. Live in it!
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.