Archive | June 2013

A Deliberate Warning

On June 20, 2013, Erika Riggs of Zillow wrote the following: One of America’s most notorious gangsters didn’t go down in a gunfight, but died of heart failure in his luxurious Miami Beach mansion.

Listed as one of America’s Most Wanted criminals, Capone had reason to add numerous guards, but the mobster also suffered from syphilis in his later years and was reportedly paranoid that he would be arrested or attacked at any moment.

He spent his final days in the guest bedroom in the front of the house where he could always see who was coming and going.

In Proverbs 1, the writer spoke of a warning from God toward those who delight in mockery and hate knowledge by using storms to bring the warning. It’s a warning that comes out of concern.

He said, “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simple-minded?
How long will you mockers relish your mocking?
How long will you fools hate knowledge? Come and listen to my counsel.
 I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice 
and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone,
and anguish and distress overwhelm you. But all who listen to me will live in peace,
untroubled by fear of harm.” Proverbs 1:22-27, 31 NLT

The Cross of Christ certainly expresses God’s ultimate love for everyone—even Al Capone. Yet, God’s love also uses storms to warn anyone of the impending danger of foolishness when mocking Him.

Psalm 107 is another example where God uses storms to bring mankind to himself.

Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper 
and stilled the waves. Let them praise the Lord for his great love 
and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Psalm 107:23-26; 28-29; 31 NLT

God always responds to a “Lord, help!” when we’re in the storm. That’s not a Co-Dependency but a dependency on the only one who can be depended upon, when we’re overwhelmed by storms. Sadly, that didn’t seem to happen for a man like Al Capone.

Like a sailor cringing in terror as he goes down to the deep and calls for a rescue that only God can do, storms from Him can be a Disruptive Love, a Discipline Lesson and a Deliberate Warning. I believe that and have experienced it.

In hindsight, I’m grateful for storms serving as a compass to send me in the right direction—toward HIM!

Discipline Lesson

I was reading Yahoo today and saw how Sergio Garcia got heckled at the US Open. About a month ago he made a remark about Tiger Woods that he’d serve him some “Fried Chicken.” Well since then, Sergio has suffered the consequences of his public remark and apologized for it. But as he was about ready to tee off on the eleventh tee, someone in the crowd yells “Fried Chicken!”

The guy in Philly who said that was questioned. Sergio says he feels real bad about his remarks to Tiger but the Philadelphian man stated, “You got to let him know.” How about that for being in the city of Love?

Whatever you think about Sergio’s remark and this fan’s statement, there’s no question in my mind that Sergio being disciplined, by this man, isn’t about redemption or love. It’s about “payback.” And apparently it has disrupted his game.

Personal storms can be like the rain falling on the just and the unjust. They’re a part of shaping us and everyone will face them. But there can be personal storms that aren’t of our doing—not like Sergio Garcia’s to say the least—which make us wonder why in the heck we’re in them. Ever been there? I have.

Job was in one like that. Without going into the story most of us, if not all know, he finally got to the place where he questioned God. Why? What’s going on? It hurts! I don’t get it!

Listen to the LORD answering Job.

“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:1-5

“Brace yourself like a man….!” Job is going to understand this discipline is coming from God and is redemptive; not punitive. Simply and clearly, he’ll learn that real men, embrace and go into the chaos and uncertainty of pain which comes our way—without any of our doing.

As hard as it is when we figure out that God is the one disciplining, he’s still a good father who redemptively disciplines those he loves. Even Jesus had a moment when on the cross he said, “My God, why have you forsaken me.” Only, his storm wasn’t about being disciplined. It was about loving you and me by being willing to die for our sins. Yet, even on that cross, Jesus had to trust the Father.

Minding the gap, in a storm of not our doing, is to trust God because he is in control. Job learned this and here’s his reply.

“I know that you can do all things, no plan of yours can be thwarted. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. After this, Job lived 140 years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years.” Job 42:2,6, 16,17

No man can manage God, even if we question his love. Job got that, and learned in time to remain faithful because God is faithful. I think our hope is to come out of the storm like Job did, but sometimes, let’s face it; that might not happen until heaven.

The hope! There’s an eternity of no storms ahead of us in the presence of Jesus.

Disruptive Love

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Men like to manage things and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes we men try to manage or fix things, so we don’t have to deal with uncertainty and there’s plenty wrong with that. This habit will often reflect how we approach relationships, which are inherently messy.

For instance, my seven-year-old grandson asked me if he could have a chocolate covered sugar free wafer cookie; something old people are suppose to eat when they watch calories and carbohydrates. Only when he asked, he already had the cookie in toll, right between two of his fingers. He smiled and did asked politely, but there is a problem here. Do you see it coming?

I felt managed and then said, “No, if you are going to ask me for a cookie, then ask me first, without having the cookie already between you grimmy fingers—as if I can’t turn you down.” He looked shocked! Like how was I supposed to know he was doing this? Then I said, “I’m being manipulated (another word for ‘managed’) by you and that bugs me.”

Later, my grandson comes to me and asked for the cookie again. This time, he doesn’t have it between his fingers and I say, “Yes.” After eating the cookie, he said, “Grampa, I asked first without holding the cookie in my hand.” There was a little smile of pride. I thought, “How come I’m still feeling managed?”

Whether my grandson asked in the right way or not, his focus was more on the cookie, which still seemed like he was demanding it. In other words, rather than enter into the uncertainty of possibly not getting the cookie, his goal is to find a way to eliminate that uncertainty, so he can in fact have that cookie. Hence, even asking in the right way was twisted, because his politeness is possessiveness.

This longer introduction into the subject of God and storms is to make the point that sometimes we men will do anything we can, just to get some proverbial cookie. It doesn’t matter what the cookie is and by the way, all of humanity is included in this scenario too.

Last week, when I mentioned Jonah’s story, it was to reveal how God can and will use personal storms to show us he’s soverign. And sometimes, it will come across as a disruptive love. I’m not talking tough love but disruptive love.

Storms shake us up and like it did with Peter in Matthew 14, the storm was used to impress upon him that trying to manage or manipulate his faith is considered “Little Faith.” Whatever it was, it seemed like Peter was going for a cookie of personal satisfaction. It looked good and what he did was bold, but as the waves continued to roll, he began to sink. God’s disruptive love brought Peter to this moment.

That moment was to trust Jesus, even in the uncertainty, without trying to guarantee he’d get whatever proverbial cookie he was demanding, which I think Jesus knew was happening—my bias.

It’s not that cookies aren’t good, but Jesus is enough. When I make the cookie the focus, I’m sinking. That’s true for Jonah, Peter, my grandson, and me too. How about you?

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