This is the first of 31 weekly columns regarding "The Story" that thousands of people, right here in Lodi, will be journeying through, and you are welcome to join in. The following churches are opening their doors for you: First Baptist of Lodi, Vinewood Community Church, Ham Lane Church of Christ, Temple Baptist Church and Emanuel Lutheran.
Our kick-off is Sunday, and you are invited to feel welcome to check us out at www.thestorylodi.com.
Here is just a small picture into the first chapter of "The Story" that all of the above churches will be focusing on Sunday.
Chapter 1: God's great passion is to be with you!
Some movies start at warp speed. Cases in point: "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Dark Knight," "Lord of the Rings," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Avengers," "The Matrix," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or even "Casablanca." From the opening scene to the end, the movie barely lets you breathe. If you were at our own Stadium 12 and slipped out for popcorn, you were sure to miss something important. And yet, people did and do.
This disturbs me since I am a self-admitted movie snob. I think the way to maximize the movie-going experience is to be in your seat early. Never done that? Then next time you go to a movie, look around and spot the person who is in the prime seat — dead middle, eye level with the center of the screen. That's what getting there early gets you. Popcorn at the ready, the drink in hand, nothing will move this person from their secured spot for the duration of the movie.
That's where you need to be for God's story. Its opening scene also starts with a relentless pace that doesn't let up. The first line reads, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
Right off the bat we find the main character in "The Story" is not you or me. It's God. And the rest of "The Story" will unfold out of the nature and person of this character. Just 10 words in, and there is enough action to leave you breathless.
It doesn't take long to find out what God's great passion is. Birds? Nope. Animals? Not quite. Sun, moon or stars? Bright guess. No, in Genesis 3:8 we find that God is walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve in the "cool of the day."
Sounds nice if you are in the middle of a hot day in Lodi, doesn't it? And yet the "cool of the day" is not the focus. God is, and He is near. He is right with Adam and Eve. And He is right here with us. His simple vision for His creation was to spend time with them every day, to take a walk with them. God's supreme passion is to be with us.
Some of you have lived your life with the idea that God is some angry cosmic kill-joy who sits in the heavens and watches you, waiting for you to make a mistake so he can zap you. Or you feel He is distant and doesn't care or has simply forgotten you.
But from the beginning He has shown us this is not the case. God wants to be with you! He has not forgotten you. In fact, this might be the perfect time for you to go for a walk in His creation. Take a journey around our wonderful Lodi Lake. Enjoy all that God has to offer. Spend some time with the God who created the universe and also created you in His image!
Looking forward to seeing you at one of the great churches sharing "The Story" ministry starting Sunday. Come early, get a great seat, and if you like, bring some popcorn!