Sunday, February 19, 2006

In my best interest

I am a two-time cancer survivor; once when I was 29 and now again when I am 58. People have asked “Have you learned anything because of your cancer experiences?” My answer is a resounding yes. I will share some thoughts with you over the next few weeks.

Questions--many asked, many not asked but all of them pondered. Jerry Bridges in his book The Joy of Fearing God asked one question which has really made me take account of my own life. It has also driven me to confession and ultimately forgiveness from Christ. The question is this: Do I wholeheartedly acknowledge God’s authority both in His precepts and His providences in my life? Do I resent or question any of His providential circumstances in my life?

I asked why I had to get cancer again. Isn’t once enough? Bottom line is this—God wanted to teach me something and get my attention. God wants the best for us but we, as His children, can become ungrateful and distracted. I was distracted--distracted by a myriad of mush. Busy, active, doing, but some of it was useless. Because we are God’s children He will get our attention because He loves us and He will get our attention. He will use cancer a second time if He needs to.

What I have learned is this—Use the gifts God has given me. I must do what God wants and has prepared me to do. God has prepared me for this moment by bringing many different “providential circumstances” into my life. Many of these “circumstances” I had judged at one time NOT to be in my best interest.

The truth of the matter is this, “my best interest” attitude just reveals when I want to be the center of the world rather than God. This attitude cuts open my desire to “run” my ship the way I want it. Notice words I have underlined--my and I. It’s not about me; never has been, never will be. The quicker I learn that lesson, the easier life will be.

I learned this lesson early in life; I needed to relearn it again a second time. God is not a hard Master; He has graciously taught me this and much more. I’m a slow and forgetful learner who is forgiven.

What has God prepared you to do? Do it!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How are you waiting for Christ's return?

Let me tell you a story with two slightly different scenarios.

It was late October, a Saturday afternoon. We are cleaning up the yard when we look towards the evergreens next to John Nyquist’s place and notice a big silver car with black tinted windows coming down the road. We don’t see this type of car in Winfield Township very often if ever. The car moves slowly down the road. We pay more attention when it turns onto our road. We observe it, wondering who this could be. Then we notice it begins to slow down and turn up our driveway. The mystery car spins its wheels; spewing gravel, it speeds down our driveway, passes us with our rakes in our hands, and our mouths open. Because of the black tinted windows, we cannot see who is inside. The car speeds into our rear yard (back driveway) doing donuts with rocks spewing against the shop and garage. The car then races toward us, slams on the brakes and the doors fly open! How do you think we were feeling? – Very afraid.

Same story, Scenario #2—

It’s the same October afternoon; we finish eating lunch when the phone rings. It is Cindy, our best friend, and she is crying. She tells my wife “You are not going to believe what has happened to us. You know we have been having trouble with our car and the engine finally blew up. We are short of money and wondered what we were going to do for a different car.” Cindy continues, “A couple of years ago we helped out our friend Steve start a new business in Minneapolis. We gave him $5,000 with no strings attached; we just wanted to help. We didn’t expect any repayment. Well, the business has gone very well and he heard through friends that we needed a car. So he gave us his two year old silver Lexus with black tinted windows.” “Can you believe it?” she says. “We are going to call our parents and our brothers and sisters and then we will come over and give you the first ride in our new car.

We go outside to resume raking the yard but keep our eyes watchful to the evergreens next to John Nyquist’s place—just waiting to see that big silver car with the black tinted windows.

Time seems to drag on. “How long does it take to call your parents and brothers and sisters?” I comment. We keep working and waiting.

Finally we see a glitter of light by the evergreens. Yes, it looks like a silver car or is it Charlie Molenaar’s pickup? No, it is a big silver car with black tinted windows! The car moves slowly down the road, it slows for the corner and turns on our road and moves slowly up the road. We are amazed to see how big this car is. It slows. Yes, it is Cindy & Bob’s new car! It turns on to our drive, it spits gravel, and he spins the tires as it comes down our driveway and flies passed us into the rear driveway spitting gravel over the shop and garage. Then the car comes toward us, slams on the brakes and the doors fly open! Cindy & Bob come out of the car and we embrace. We all have tears in our eyes.

What was different about the second scenario? We knew who was coming. We knew why they were coming. We knew approximately when they would come.

How are you waiting for Christ’s return? Are you waiting with fear, not really knowing who is coming and why he is coming? Or, are you waiting for Christ with joyful expectation because you know who is coming, you know why He is coming and approximately when He is going to come remembering all along that He holds the future in His hands.

Are you waiting in fear or in joyful expectation? Brothers and sisters, the choice is yours.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Prayer and Healing by Kristine A. Haig

I would like to share an article that I came across recently that came from Presbyterians Today, September 2001 by Kristine A. Haig, coordinator for spiritual foundation in the PCUSA Congregational Ministries Division entitled Healing and Prayer.

"The next time you find a group of Presbyterians gathered around the coffee pot after worship, ask them to brainstorm Biblical references that deal with healing. Probably they will mention the many people Jesus heals in the four Gospels: the paralytic lowered through the roof of the house, the woman “with the flow of blood,” the blind men. Someone may bring up Naaman the leper, from the Old Testament.

It is less likely, however, that anyone will refer to the short but powerful message found in the New Testament at the end of the Letter of James, a text that almost reads like a manual of operations for the early church:

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray…Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick,…and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (5:13-16).

In this text healing is not confined to the realm of miracles—the signs and wonders that persuaded people that Jesus was Messiah. Rather, healing is an ordinary part of what the church does. It is a ministry of all the elders, not just extraordinary miracle workers.

More than that, healing is inseparably linked to confession. The health of the body depends on the health of the spirit, and the health of the spirit depends on the ability to be honest about our sins and shortcomings, our fears and our resentments, and to have the courage to speak this truth to another human being.

How often have you dared to be this open about the troubling aspects of your life? Does your congregation encourage this kind of honest sharing, or does it perhaps unconsciously encourage people to always “put on a good face” and hide their darker, messier realities? If we take seriously the Letter of James, it is precisely in the experience of revealing our troubling secrets and asking for prayer that we open a space into which Christ can enter and healing can occur—healing of spirit and of emotions, of old wounds, of unhealthy and unholy behavior, and of our very bodies.

Which, come to think of it, sounds like no small miracle."

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is fear contagious? Deuteronomy 20:1-8

Our moods are contagious for good or for bad.

The Israelite army is going to war; Moses writes instructions to the priests to prepare for battle. Moses does what I call “thinning the herd”. When you raise cattle for commercial purposes and you need to remain profitable, you need to thin out the animals who under- perform; it’s called thinning the herd.

In verses 5-7, the officers allow those who are distracted to go home. Then in verse 8 Moses writes under the inspiration of God, “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.” Our moods are contagious and can be destructive.

God does not need us to accomplish His purposes. That should humble us; but He chooses to use us to bring victory and glory to Himself.

For Mom’s and Dad’s how often does our moodiness set the tone for our homes and business? How often we hold other people hostage to our potential eruptions of anger and fear. Most of the times when we are afraid, we are worried about the future to come or we anguish with regret over the past.

In Mark 5, Jairus, a synagogue ruler, came to Jesus because his daughter was dying. Before Jesus left to see her, verse 35 says some men came from the house of Jairus and said your daughter is dead. They said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Verse 36: “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Jesus is never too busy to be bothered with our fears, hurts, pains and frustrations no matter how large or small. Take all these things to the Lord in prayer. (I Peter 5:7) Do it!

In the meantime, don’t be afraid and also don’t infect your brothers and sisters with a spirit of “faintheartedness” or fear (Deut. 20:8). Prepare to battle evil in every day life with prayer and a proper attitude. The world may laugh at you in your struggles (Mark 5:40) but entrust them to Jesus and He will heal you. Our attitude affects not only us but everyone around us.

Take heart for the Lord is with you.

Read: Deuteronomy 20:1-8; Mark 5:22-43; I John 4:18-21

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fighting Every Day Demons

When some of you read the title, you rolled your eyes back in your head and probably said, “The pain killers are getting to Jerry”.

Last Thursday, I received a call from a friend I’ll call, Tom, a businessman. He said Jerry, “I’ve had a rough night and something came into me. Into my head and my stomach, etc.—different than anything I’ve experienced before.” Cautiously he asked, “Do you think it could be demons?” He was afraid to ask he said, because he feared being labeled weird. It’s a topic we seldom talk about in church. I believe we should learn about them but not dwell on them. We need to dwell on the power of the One and only true God, His Son Jesus, the Holy Spirit and His mighty power to overcome the evil one and his associates.

“What should I do?” he asked. I said the one thing you do is pray God’s word; use God’s word to forge off the demons. In Luke chapter 4 Jesus was being tempted—how did He respond? He challenged the devil with God’s word. He said, “It is written”; “It is written”. He used God’s word against the devil and the devil left Him.

Tom asked what scriptures he should use. (I will list some more at the end.) I led Tom to Luke 4 and then to John 17 where Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, prays that His followers and all who believe because of them (us), would be protected from the “evil one”. Of all the prayers He could have prayed for us that night, He prayed we would be protected from the evil one. The devil and his associates shudder at the reality of Jesus. (James 2:19) Remind the devil of Jesus’ prayer and God’s power to protect us. The only thing which is truly safe is what God protects.

We then proceeded to Ephesians 6:10-18, the powerful part of scripture about the Armor of God. I pointed out to Tom verse 11 “Put your God issued armor on. Put it on. (Is your armor being used or is it laying in your closet of life all rusty? Or is it that you never bother to fight any thing evil with God’s word and His armor?) In verse 12 Paul points out our true enemy, not one another but in part… “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” “I guess demons do exist” Tom said.

In verse 13, in case we didn’t get it earlier before, “put on”, make a conscious choice to put on God’s armor. Verse 15 continues “so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground.” Not if a day of evil comes but when the day of evil comes. Be ready.

Paul goes on to list the armor, what it is and its purpose. In verse 16 he states in part…”with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows (not arrow) of the evil one.” The reality is this: the devil keeps firing his arrows at us, trying to make us fall. We need to keep “putting on” the armor and use the only offensive weapon (verse 17… “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. When evil comes, keep putting on the armor, keep using God’s word and keep on praying verse 18.

Tom’s friends came and prayed with him into the night. They left around midnight but he couldn’t sleep so he kept on praying. Around 2:30 a.m. the Holy Spirit touched him. He told me he never felt anything like it. He was freed. He was at peace. (Notice benediction at the end of Ephesians.)

This is what I love about Tom—He said “Jerry, if anyone else needs help with this, I will come any time, any place”--evidence of a grateful, humble servant, ready anytime to minister to someone else’s needs.

Please pray through these scriptures with a trusted Christian friend claiming the promises and the power of Christ: Luke 4, Ephesians 6:10-18; Psalm 91; Psalm 34; Ephesians 3:14-21; Philippians 4:4-9; Colossians 1:9-14. Send me additional scriptures which encourage you.

Our Pastor, Jim Lemmenes, had a sermon on the same topic. I appreciated his sermon since it brought into the open the reality of evil and demons. If you are suffering, don’t suffer alone; call a trusted Christian friend and pray together through these scriptures. God is faithful. Paul was right, “The sword of the spirit” is the word of God, and the devil shudders.