Archive | May 2013

God and Storms

To me, this thing about moving into mystery or the unpredictable is at the core of what it means to be a man. Men like to manage theirs affairs, sort of like what happens, when we go to major league baseball parks.

Everything is between the lines and definable, where players seek to perfect their game at the highest level. Yes, there is the mystery of what a pitcher might throw to get the batter out but, with statistics and scouting reports, about the only thing that is unexpected is when a player makes an error or something happens where there’s indecision right before multitudes! Oh, there are those occasions where umpires can surprise fans with a call and for sure the game presents drama, especially around the month of October.

Don’t hear me minimizing what grown men do in the game of pro baseball, because most sports like PGA Golf, NFL football, Soccer, Hockey, Baskeball—shoot even Ping Pong or Chess—have lines to define the reality and keep things in check. And there’s plenty of excitement to go around but, if I may say, it’s managed excitement and even though there’s unpredictability in the game, it’s about men finding a way to manage what they know or believe will happen to get the WIN!

That’s not the way it was with a guy name Jonah who goes AWOL while running away from God. Although it may be understandable to see from his personal point of view why he ran, it still seems Jonah displayed an attitude of self-protection and self centeredness. Instead of moving into his confusion about God’s direct order to go and preach against Nineveh, he runs the other way.

What I’d like to do is present a few blogs talking about God and how storms relate to my manhood and life. Why storms? Because we can all identify with being in an unpredictable storm. As a nation, we’ve just seen what a tornado, which ranks among EF5/F5 twisters in Oklahoma history, did to Moore, Oklahoma and its people.

There are many types of storms but storms more than anything else challenge my manhood. We can go to the National Severe Storms Laboratory Website and see the Study of Storms; Radar, Satellite, Software Development, Modeling, Study of Tornados, Thunderstorms, Damaging Winds, Lightning, Hail, Winter Whether, and Flooding. Nothing is said about the study of Supernatural Storms, which is what we see in Jonah’s account of running from God.

So come with me, would you, into Jonah’s supernatural storm to see how God uses the unpredictability of storms—personal and otherwise—to communicate His soveringty over the matters of life. Lets see how he longs to be involved with us and has the ability to care about us, even when we’ve run from him—whether the storm was natural or supernatural.

Twisted Thinking In A College Class

I was in a community college yesterday teaching about Twisted Thinking in a sociology class of a professor friend of mine. It will be sad to leave this because Judy and I are moving to the Phoenix AZ area in June. Well actually we land there in August with stops along the way to see people we love and our kids and grandchildren.

To start the class, the professor gave students the evaluation that’s in my book Transforming Twisted Thinking and told them that there was no need to report their score in the class. The evaluation reveals whether a test taker is a responsible, somewhat responsible, moderate twisted thinker or extreme twisted thinker.

As the students were finishing up, one older student asked the professor about closed thinking because he said he didn’t agree with what was on the evaluation. Then he immediately said, “I got a 19 on the evaluation and I’m not like that anymore.” The man had a criminal record.

I noticed some other students shuffling about – the majority of which were females. The man throughout the rest of the class hour kept trying to report about how much he knows.

I began talking about what’s really important in addressing Twisted Thinking. It was to go below the street to look at the motivations and the thinking before we’re to be impressed with behavior. That behavior should be seen as something that is consistent without outside assistance. In other words, the changes are internalizing.

Then I looked at the man who (proudly) reported on his score and said, “Twisted Thinking is sort of like when you reported your score before others in the class had finished theirs.” That may have been twisted regardless of a lower score. I kept thinking about one young student who inadvertently let out he had a 7 on closed thinking – not a good score. I thought about other students who took the evaluation who may have been shocked at their scores and could have felt pressure from this guy.

The rest of the class hour went well but for whatever reason, the guy toward the middle of the class hour got up and left, probably to another appointment. Okay I can’t jump to conclusions here, but even if we or I am changing from twisted to responsible thinking, it’s amazing how one irresponsible thoughtless decision can hurt others – and that guy announcing his score was self serving/twisted. Why? He had instructions from the professor not to do it. The dude came across as INFLATED!

Yes, motivation of the direction of our behavior and the thinking must match the behavior consistently before anyone can begin to say, that person is changing. Otherwise, what looks good and seems like growth – isn’t anything but twisted.


Honesty Healing Hope

I was in Newark this week and saw a newspaper article about Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey. He had surgery to limit the amount of food he can get into his stomach. It’s called Lap Band Surgery: Quite a procedure, where an inflatable silicone device is placed around the top portion of the stomach to treat obesity. The 40-minute surgery is intended to slow consumption of food and thus the amount of food consumed.

Christie says his decision to have weight loss surgery was a personal one made for his wife and children.

I applaud the governor for his choice and for his reason behind it—To be alive for their young children and to enjoy the years after turning 50.

It’s always tough to admit we have problems whether it’s physical, moral, emotional, relational or spiritual. In addition to that, it’s really tough to say our problem is because of sin in our lives.

I’m not saying Governor Christie is admitting he has an issue of sin. Rather, he is courageous to face his obesity and say “I’m obeast. I could die from this and that would be wrong for me to do because I love my wife and kids.”

As we close out this series of Mind The Gap on Modus Operandi, James talks about sick people in the Christian Culture of his day; people who claimed to be Christ followers. What’s interesting about their sicknesses was why they were sick.

Chris Christie has a physical condition and saw a cure in the surgery but some Christians in James’ day had sicknesses which came from deliberate choices to sin. Quite a bit of a difference in the circumstance. But what about being sick because of sin and what’s the procedure James offers to promote healing?

James wrote: Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14

Cutting to the chase, my understanding of the anointing of oil is that this oil was to be medicinal and not a religious rite. That would seem to mean James was saying—take what is behind the sickness; a spiritual condition of failure and sin and have elders pray over you. Then do what’s necessary medically to deal with the sickness.

Then, in verses 15-16, James said, something about a prayer of faith that gives us a clue as to why this person was sick.

15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Instead of offering a procedure like Lap Band Surgery, James’ talks about a procedure that extends to the soul of man and his relationship with God and others. So then, healing is different from a cure in this case.

Tony Compolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Compolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, “You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Compolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, “He died.” Compolo felt terrible.

But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God.

The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.

But the lady told Compolo, “After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung. We’ve laughed. We’ve read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.”

And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed.” (Tony Campolo, “Year of Jubilee,” Preaching Today Tape #212)

No wonder James ends his writing with the following words!

19 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20 Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

That is THE Modus Operandi of what James has been teaching us. What a wonderful way to end this series.

Honesty – Healing – Hope in Jesus. Thank you James.

On The Edge

Below is a note from a former client I had in counseling many years ago. I have been given permission to share it. I do so, as an interlude before I complete Modus Operandi in the book of James. I saw this note, while clearing things out, as Judy and I prepare for our move to Phoenix in August.

Someone recently told me they weren’t surprised that Jerry and Judy are on the move again. I mean our family does this! Craig and Jana Holland (our daughter) are constantly on the move with their ministry of music and community building, while traveling on their bus/home. Mindy, our other daughter lives in Colorado and Nathan, our son, lives in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin. Let me say before I introduce you to a former client’s note about being on the edge, that our family is one of tradition but it’s more the tradition of the heart and following Jesus. Even though we live on the edge, we are safe in the arms of God.

The Note:

Dear Jerry,

“I wanted to write this because I think it is important. I was thinking a lot about the pictures last time and what you had said about still being at the edge of the cliff instead of being away from the edge in a good area. I know I am in this place for a reason. I think about the times I feel like I could just go over the edge – I think that is where Satan wants me. I think that people in the world want me safely away from the edge (with good intentions), but by myself and in my own strength.

But I think it is okay to be at the edge. I am learning a lot in this place. I know we have talked at times about needing to accept things and places we are at. But, that was such a hard concept before because I had a mental picture of me being at the edge, and Jesus being over in the good area. He seemed to be waiting for me to go through all this and learn what I had to learn so that I could go back to Him in the good area as a better person. Kind of “support” from a distance – still feeling like I was really going through all this alone.

Then when I was driving home, I realized that that was the importance of the pictures I gave you, knowing that Jesus isn’t waiting for “over there.” Instead, He’s right here on the edge with me – going through everything with me and feeling everything with me! I could feel his presence so strongly.

I don’t think it is a matter anymore of needing to be in a “safe place” but rather to feel safe in any place I am in.”

Funny how a former client just counseled me, as I read the note. I am so glad Jesus is with us everywhere and anytime. Right there on or at the edge too. He is our safe place and he is the heart of my family. I love you Judy and kids as we move into the future God has for us. The hope I’d like to provide is this. No matter how old we become, we can still feel and be ALIVE at the edge with Jesus.

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