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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.

Sick Twisted Souls

With some new, potentially lifesaving cancer drugs costing up to $138,000 a year, yahoo news reports about 120 leading cancer specialists have joined forces in an unusual protest aimed at getting pharmaceutical companies to cut prices.

Profiteering with medicine makes me wonder who the sick people really are versus those that are sick in their twisted souls.

In the Old Testament, we see this phrase the Balm of Gilead taken directly from Jeremiah chapter 8 v. 22: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my [God’s] people?”

Even in Old Testament times, God’s people struggled with how medicine wasn’t available and serious wounds were only being treated with band aids. God used that picture to show mankind and even his people, the children of Israel, were not considering their sick spiritual conditions. He was pointing to the only Balm in Gilead that could cure both the body and the soul—Jesus Christ.

When James writes about being sick in chapter 5 of his letter, I believe it’s about life threatening illnesses. He’s not talking about migraine headaches, or hurt knees, or kidney stones. There are a couple of reasons that I say this.

For one, in I Timothy 5:23, Paul prescribes a course of treatment for stomach ailments that Tim was having. He did not tell him to go to the elders and seek healing; he told him to drink a little wine.

The second reason is because of the phrase of verse 15 where James says, “…the Lord will raise Him up.”

Almost every time raising someone up is spoken of in the New Testament, it’s talking about raising someone from the dead or rescuing someone from a situation in which they were about to face death. Even though it’s not necessarily true that all sickness is a result of sinning, the truth is that there are times it can be, and so he addresses the issue in verse 15 and 16.

 15 “….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.

Like I said in my last blog, God can heal anyone by using medicine but all healing is a blessing from God. And the most important healing, to me, is when the Balm in Gilead (Jesus Christ) can be applied to a sick twisted soul, renew the mind, restore broken relationships and reconcile us to God.

As important as cancer medicine is, no cancer treatment can do that and the pharmaceutical companies who are using the need for medicine and guilty of profiteering will lose. I like that!

It’s amazing to see in scripture how a healthy spiritual condition can make life and living more rewarding, all because it starts with a relationship with the Balm of Gilead.

But what do we do when there is a life threatening illness that seems to be the consequences of sinning. In my next Mind The Gap, I will talk about the procedure that has been abused for years in Christian culture. And I want to show how communities of believers, homes, and marriages can enjoy real spiritual health.

Our study in the book of James is coming to a close and I believe we desperately need to see this kind of health in our world today. Join me next time, would you, as we wrap up this series on Modus Operandi to see how the Balm in Gilead heals sick twisted souls.

Sicknesses and Spiritual Conditions

Did you know anyone today could buy Sports Oxygen in a can? It’s 8 liters of oxygen in a high-pressure can and ideal for high elevation travel, seniors or sports activities. I like that seniors part.

No, I’m not trying to do an info commercial with this Mind the Gap. But in the day and age we live in, at least in the USA, there’s all kinds of stuff to help people who are sick. Whether it’s mountain sickness to valley sickness to flu bugs, we’re living in a wonderful age. There’s been traction with many kinds of cancers where healing is now expected. Even with skin cancer, most dermatologists have a can of freeze or liquid nitrogen to fight the disease and we’re out of that office is less than twenty minutes! Who would have thunk?

I’m not a believer that all sickness is a result of sinning which is a major teaching error some people in my lifetime have tried to sell Christian cultures. Sure, some sickness could be but not all sickness. We read about that in John 9:1-3 where Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind.

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (emphasis mine)

I believe all healing comes from God and yes, he uses medicine to get the job done too. Jesus himself said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Matt. 9:12 NLT

But you’ll notice with the man born blind, Jesus didn’t use a can of oxygen or liquid nitrogen or some other modern-day wonder on this fellow. None of that would have worked. And it was clear how the only way this man would be healed was to go beyond the medical approach and what man could offer – ingenious as man can be. Why? So that the work of God might be displayed in his life. James wrote about that in the last chapter of his letter to believers in his day.

There were 17 different sins throughout James (most involving the use of the tongue/destructive speech.) Now as we come to chapter 5, we see it’s possible to have a Spiritual Condition that’s not organic or physical, where it can eventually lead to the physical problems.

The interpretation of this passage has been at the core of major divisions in churches throughout this country. The way we approach what James is saying can move toward spiritual, relational and yes, physical health. But twist it out of context and we will fail to mind the gap for spiritual renewal and restoring fallen believers in the way he’s been showing us throughout his letter.

I don’t need a can of oxygen for that. I need Jesus.

Don’t Worry Be Happy! Really?

Do you remember Bob Marley’s Don’t Worry-Be Happy song?

In every life we have some trouble When you worry you make it double Don’t worry, be happy    Ain’t got no place to lay your head Somebody came and took your bed Don’t worry, be happy

In James’ letter to believers he asked the question “Is any one of you in trouble?” Then he goes to the best place possible to deal with it first. Don’t worry be happy isn’t necessarily wrong. It just that it doesn’t really get to the inner soul issues we face when we’re in trouble.  I mean, do we think the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary children think don’t worry be happy will help them?

Here’s what James actually said.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. James 5:13 NIV

Now this is the only place in the entire NT where this word for trouble is used. It means “suffering through tough times, not related to physical problems.” This is the time when there isn’t enough money to pay the bills. When the storm rolls through and throws your car all over the parking lot or destroys your home or business, James says pray.

Even when our friends are acting like jerks and destroying the friendship, he’s encouraging us to pray. Later on, he’ll talk about having physical problems in our lives. But, whatever the trouble, James urges us to face God in that time of trouble.

Songs are good and can be fun and I’m not trying to put Bob down, but dealing with trouble isn’t that shallow. James is teaching we don’t have to handle it on our own with a song, or a stiff upper lip, as the English would say.

When the rug is being pulled out from under our lives, pray! That’s not too difficult to understand, but notice what is not said.

We can look all over the page, even all over the Bible, and we will not find the verse we would like to be there. “Is any of you in trouble? Pray and God will take that trouble away!” It simply isn’t there. As a matter of fact, in James 1:2-4, he says trouble is part of life, but in the midst of it, we have a choice.

We can allow God to use it (however he does that) to mold us into who He wants us to be, or we can allow it to beat us down into something less.

What thoughts do you have on including God in our troubles—something of which Paul writes that many of his readers didn’t do? For me, I love how God is right there in the trouble with me. I’ve got company and so do you! We’re not alone or abandoned in our trouble.

Just Saying

I swear to God…Cross my heart and hope to die…I really mean it this time…I promise…May lightening strike me dead if…

A fireworks display ends with a grand finale and so does James’ letter to struggling Christians. His finale will be about a revival of soul and spirit for struggling Christians in Jerusalem. Does that sound exciting to anyone?

Have you noticed how that word revival hasn’t been heard much in the last few decades of Christian Culture? It used to apply to a spiritual awakening that was happening throughout the USA or other parts of the world. Now, it’s only a language used in pockets of Christian Culture—anywhere.

I know there are ideas out there about how to get a spiritual revival going or worked up organizationally, but James’ doesn’t approach it that way. He starts much simpler, which is why I like his modus operandi. His starting point isn’t what many would think should be the place to start, but I like it. Let me explain.

Relational accountability is central to deep changes in our lives and that’s where James begins, if we’re going to have a revival in our soul and spirit.

Here’s what he said:

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. James 5:12 NIV

There’s a very serious ailment that affects the Christian community today, as it did in James’ day, and it is this: What we have in mind and what we actually say can be quite different. Afraid to say what was really on their minds, even though at times that can be a good thing, he declares that honesty is a necessity and not an option for Christ followers.

I often hear the phrase “Just saying.” I know that phrase is cultural and supposed to be a cool thing, but James doesn’t talk like that. People can go to great lengths to convince others they are being honest by sending messages like you saw used in the beginning of this blog.

But put simply, the revival of our soul and spirit begins by saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Now that’s a pattern of responsibility that could move hearts and minds. No hiding! What a great place to begin a spiritual revival of yours or my soul and spirit. What do you think?

Stop The World, I Want To Get Off

Calvin’s boss caught him sitting at his desk gazing out the window. ‘Why Aren’t you working, Calvin?’ Without much thought Calvin confessed to his boss, ‘Because I didn’t see you coming.’ (The Saturday Evening Post, Jan/Feb 1994, p.32)

In James 5, the writer reminds us that even though we don’t see Jesus now, the resurrected Lord is coming!

In my last blog, we saw how the earlier verses of James chapter 5 were an indictment of those who were misusing their poverty or their wealth—as a pretext for sin.

Now, he speaks to the abused in the last part of chapter 5. Read where he cuts to the chase for Christians who struggle in their growth, whether they’re the abuser or the abused.

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming… Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:7a, 10-11 NIV

There will be moments when we ache for Jesus to return and give us the new world the way it was designed to be. Imagine a world where there is no need for guns or weapons of mass destruction; where there is no need for pharmaceuticals because there are no diseases to cure. Often times we can get impatient for ourselves—as our bodies breakdown, as disease takes over, as we watch loved ones suffer for any reason.

The idea of having a new body right now, which doesn’t break down and functions perfectly—forever—sounds awfully good to me.

Yet, on this side of heaven, we struggle with our sin, our inability to get over past hurts and our inability to show the grace of God. We can get impatient by wanting Jesus to return, right now, to transform us into the people that we should be! It may not be peace in the Middle East we are so concerned about, as much as peace in our home or in the work place, and even in our own minds.

Frankly, to have a desire for the immediate return of Christ can often be the Christian equivalent of “stop the world, I want to get off!”

If you’ve ever been abused as a Christian, whether by other believers or unbelievers, it’s tough to get beyond the abuse. There’s a whole grieving process that has to deal with what happened, how it happened, and what to do after it happened.

Many of these believers, in James’ day, were desperate for rescue from their situation by the return of Christ. Don’t hear me blaming them. I understand. But, James calls upon his readers to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord.

What tests your patience? 1) Bible teachers who talk too long 2) Long lines at Costco. 3) Working with computers. 4) Telemarketers at 5:00 P.M. 5) Injustice on any level?

Even though James writes to many abused believers, there was something they could be in control of. They could be in control of not quitting under the pressure, or of holding grudges, or grumbling when they face an injustice.

He’s saying you’re not alone. And remember, the Lord is at the Door.  He’s coming back.

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