Jim McGuiggan is a friend, an old friend more than a current friend, but an important friend. Jim taught for a number of years at the Sunset School of Preaching training ministers. During some of those years, I was teaching at the Preston Road School of Preaching, a very similar training program. During that time and shortly thereafter, Jim and I spent a few very enjoyable times together, to me very memorable times. With his combination of wit and Irish brogue, I thought him to be a most captivating speaker. In fact, he was one of my favorites during those years when our lives overlapped.
I was also a fan of his books. He wrote much like he spoke, thus also in captivating ways. He delved into several genres of spiritual writing as he penned a large number of books. One, he wrote of doctrinal matters, much of it about the end times. Several of his books absolutely destroy the now popular premillennial views. One of the early promotors of this heresy was Hal Lindsey, and Jim addressed Lindsey’s teaching very directly and very effectively. Anyone willing to follow Jim’s arguments with Bible in hand would agree with my statement that he decimated the views of Lindsey and all others who followed in his steps. Just to clarify, that would include the popular “Left Behind” books and movie, based on a false doctrine of the “Rapture.” (You can read my material addressing the same issues on my website, gordonferguson.org.)
Another genre Jim pursued was that of biblical expositions. He wrote a number of commentaries on both Old Testament and New Testament books. His commentaries on the Prophets were to me invaluable. Knowing that he wasn’t going to be caught up in speculative teaching when interpreting difficult passages and books, like Ezekiel, gave me comfort when studying the prophets. I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, but as is accurately said of scholars, even if you don’t end up agreeing with them on a given point, you will never look at that point in quite the same way again.
The third genre of Jim’s writing falls into the realm of devotional books. Presently, I am rereading his “The God of the Towel,” with the subtitle “Knowing the Tender Heart of God.” He has written a series of books like this one containing short chapters, most of them two or three pages each, that are almost unique in their ability to reach the heart. I begin most of my days reading one of the short chapters in one of these books. I will end this post with one of these little golden nuggets, their value lying in both the content and the way it is presented. The man is a captivating writer, at least to me. I also read similar pieces on his blog, “Spending Time with Jim McGuiggan” (https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/).
Perhaps his longest book in this genre is “Celebrating the Wrath of God.” Although the title is scary, I think overly so, the book is similar to my most popular book, “The Victory of Surrender.” When I am on a personal spiritual retreat, I read several books in addition to spending much time in prayer and listening to spiritual music. I always read my own “Surrender” book and have read Jim’s “Celebration” book at least five times through the years. I obviously value the potential of its spiritual impact immensely.
In all of his writing, Jim is clearly an independent thinker. He has, and does, read very widely and quotes or references other writers of all types, an interesting number of them atheists. He is not a narrow thinker, confined within the walls of spiritual orthodoxy. Most writers in any genre are often called “Me Too” authors. In other words, they express about the same things others have already expressed. They just look for new ways to say them. Jim is decidedly not one of these types. He often goes in directions I’ve never read about or thought about, and therein lies a significant part of the value of reading JM. You are forced to keep thinking and keep learning.
There you have it – my appreciation for an old friend and his contribution to my spiritual knowledge, and more importantly, to my spiritual life. When I was young, it was his doctrinal and expositional writing that most intrigued me. Now that I am old, it is his devotional material that warms my heart. Many of the heart-warming nuggets are introduced with a sharp edge that first opens the heart to let the other in. He is a master at the technique, almost in a class by himself as far as I’m concerned.
Jim is now in his 80’s, a few years older than me. He lost his dearly loved wife, Ethel, some years back, and I suspect a part of Jim died with her. But she still lives in his writing, appearing at unsuspected times in unsuspected ways. My old friend and I are obviously in our last phase of life on planet earth. My most important pursuit in this phase of life is simply to seek the heart of God and walk with him. Jim, thank you for being such a help to me for so many decades, and especially in this present one. And now the quote from the last paragraph of a little chapter from “The God of the Towel,” entitled “More Than Pardon.”
But there is one thing we need to be clear about – it must be holiness we want and not mere pardon; it must be holiness we want and not merely the sugary sweet “love” we hear so much of. And if it is holiness we want, God will go after it in us and will not ask us if we’re happy about the way he pursues it.
NOTE: this article originated as a Facebook post on both of my FB pages.