Monthly Archives: April 2007

A Deeper Healing

When we don’t feel well or are sick, nothing seems to be a bigger deal than getting better. Returning to full health can preoccupy our mind. This is especially true for anyone facing a terminal illness. I would feel much the same way and have been blessed to not have any major disease in my life.

The other day I was thinking about divine healing. I asked God some tough questions because healing remains a mystery to me. Recently, a number of people in my church have experienced healing miracles.

 I am overjoyed to see what the Lord has done. Yet I struggle with how to pray and help those who are close to me that have not been healed. This is a classic question that has been around for a very long time.

I want people to be healed and restored, but I also realize that God may have something better in mind than what I think is best. I am also concerned about people getting so excited about miracles that we focus on healing and not Jesus or His mission. Jesus warned about the dangers of seeking signs and wonders. He said, “It is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks a sign.”

While thinking and praying about these things, I believe that the Holy Spirit impressed on me that there is a big difference between seeking a healing to be restored and looking for miraculous works so that we can see the spiritual fireworks. One is based on faith and a godly desire to allow God to redeem all of us. The other is faithless. It treats God like He is a puppet to perform for us. Sign seekers want something to brag about or to make them feel spiritual. Our motive and asking for a move of God can make all the difference.

Going even deeper into the issue of healing, I sensed that the Spirit wasn’t done with His message. I was reminded of how Jesus did more than just heal the body. Consider the following story:

Mark 2:1-7 (NIV) – “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.

Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’

“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'”

Jesus did more than just heal the man’s legs. He healed the man’s heart too. Many times God does a physical healing and then goes deeper to fix the things on the inside that others do not see. If all we go for is the physical healing and then stop, we may walk away from the operating table before God can do the more important work of inner healing.

Just like He did with the man in the story, Jesus can set us free from sin and the things that have caused us to rot on the inside. We have to let Him work though because God respects our free will.

Physical healings like what has happened at my church lately are precursors to a great move of God. The question is, “Do we have the faith to trust God for a deeper healing?”

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Imus Controversy

For the record, I am a white male. But I do have a number of African American friends, and I don’t like the use of derogatory language no matter who uses it. That is why it seems like the whole Don Imus debacle misses the point.

Sure, what Imus said was uncalled for and inappropriate. These women appear to be smart as well as athletic. They certainly don’t deserve the negative statement that Imus made.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with Imus’ words is not that he said those offensive remarks. The larger issue is that these women didn’t fit the slang words at all. They are the antithesis of what he said.

Senator Hillary Clinton said that Imus “crossed the line.” I agree with her. But it is no different than much of what classifies as “entertainment” any more. From shock jocks to crass comedians to extremely inappropriate rap and hip-hop lyrics and videos, the public airwaves are filled with tons of stuff a lot worse than Imus’ comments.

I believe if the word is offensive. It shouldn’t be used or condoned by anyone. It is kind of like the “N” word being use by African Americans.  In college, some of my black friends used this word or derivations of it to talk to each other. I asked why they used it. They said it was slang. I asked why I couldn’t use it. They said because I was white. Now, I had no desire to use the “N”word. But I feel like it seems disingenuous to make a big deal about words and then use those words just because you are a woman or a minority.

I am no Don Imus apologists. He has never seemed to be a great radio host or TV personality from my perspective. But he is a shock jock who is paid to be edgy and try to be funny. Some people find his brand of “entertainment” to be funny. I have never listened to him for more than a couple of minutes. 

All of the media attention seems unwarranted since there are so many more important issues going on in the world than the rants of one shock jock. Yet major media outlets have made it a big deal. What about Darfur, proliferation of nuclear weapons, environmental issues, pandemic diseases, human right violations around the globe, etc. Words can hurt. But that is nothing compared to the number of people who are abused, assaulted and even killed around the world every year due to their faith, race, age, social class, etc.

Don Imus is not the cause of America’s obsession with lude and inappropriate humor. He is merely a sample of what is wrong with our society. This has brought attention to the fact that much of our entertainment demeans women as nothing more than sex objects.

There does appear to be a double standard when it comes to things like rap and hip-hop. Cussing to a beat is not art no matter what the “artists” have to say about it.

CNN recently carried a piece on the apparent double standard over offensive words and depictions. Time covered this angle too. In a speech after CBS fired Imus, Sharpton admitted that Imus was not the only one guilty of this improper speech. He called on black artists to consider how their lyrics depict women. So at least that’s a start.  

The simple lesson is that we should be careful what we say. This is especially true for public celebrities. The Bible identifies that life and death exist in the power of the tongue. We should all be careful what we say just to try to get a cheap laugh or impress someone else.

On the other side of the issue, none of us are ever going to be perfect in what we say. This includes the Rev. Al Sharpton.

As a result, we should be apt to forgive and let things go when people apologize. I don’t think that Jesus would have called for Imusto be fired as much as He would have tried to restore him. Jesus didn’t call Zacchaeus to resign. He inspired him to make amends and live a God-fearing, people loving life. That’s a better end to the story.

Recent Thoughts

  • CNN recently carried a show about Christianity. It was titled, “What is a Christian?” I have recently thought that a better title is “Who is Jesus?” Too often people focus on people of a faith not the God that they worship. For Christians, we worship Jesus. He is the center of the faith. The people are only fragile vessels.
  • Today a co-worker talked about a godly women who told her the following wise saying, “Expectations are usually a premeditated resentment.” I am still thinking about that gem of insight.
  • Last weekend, Jim Patterson gave a great comment about formulas and Christianity. He said, “It’s only a formula if you try to repeat it.”
  • Jim Pociluyko talked recently about meditating on the concept of what it was like in the world in the days of Noah. Everyone was feasting, doing what they wanted to know, there was no sense of morality or fear of judgement. People mocked Noah and did not believe God’s warning of sudden doom. Most people lived faithless lives. Then the rains came. Jim mentioned this concept and connected it with prophecy that warns in the later days people will be like it was during the time of Noah. That’s a scary thought. There always does seem to be a calm before the killer storm.
  • “There are two essential problems with believing God is somebody He isn’t. The first problem is that it wrecks your life, and the second is that it makes God look like an idiot.” – Donald Miller from Searching For God Knows What
  • Thoughts from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – Prayers which have no reference point in the real world are just words. We can easily put spiritual practices, such as prayer, in one compartment, and never let them influence our ordinary lives. This creates disconnect because everything is spiritual. For example, peace on earth begins with patience toward the annoying tone or look of someone else at our job or in our household. 
  • More thoughts from Screwtape, prayer is not about emotion. Prayer is simply wasting time with God. It doesn’t always produce easily measurable results. It’s true value can seem elusive, especially if we don’t get what we want. Prayer is not always pleasant because sometimes we see through prayer the truth that we have been working hard to avoid. It can puncture our illusion of control.

Memorable Messages

Sticking with the memory theme. I have heard probably thousands of sermons in my life. Or at least it seems like that many. Yet I remember only a few. Sure, a lot of the messages are in my heart and head somewhere. And the information comes out when I really need it.

The sermons that I remember usually hit a deep connection with me, were very novel, had a memorable illustration or stuck out for some other quirky reason. I have doubted the real significance of sermons as a communication method for a number of years.

While sermons have their place, I believe too many people put too much significance on them. People learn best through interaction. Sermons typically engage only two of your five senses. Jesus taught through a variety of methods. Sermons were only one tool that He used, but they have become the predominant teaching method in most churches today.

People can come in and out of churches for years and experience very little transformation. This can be the case even if you have a great preacher in the pulpit. The best way to communicate God’s message is through a variety of teaching methods. And even then, it takes a willingness to hear for anything significant to happen.

Here are a few of the sermons/teachings that I remember the best:

  • Nothing really from my childhood years. I remember a lot of Bible stories. 
  • Carter Gate’s teaching on James 3 – the tongue is a restless evil full of deadly poison. Wow! That’s some powerful truth for a middle school boy to hear.
  • None from my high school years.
  • In college, Pastor Bill Moore’s preaching on the genealogy of Jesus. It took guts to preach something that boring. Yet he made it come alive.
  • Rev. Billy Dempsey, my college campus minister, preached on Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. The first thing that Nehemiah did was pray and intercede for others.
  • Rev. Billy Dempsey preaching on Hebrews – especially chapters 10-11.
  • Pastor Don Coleman speaking at Commonwealth Chapel on racial reconciliation. He said it must first be about Jesus and not people in order to work.
  • Pastor Don frequently spoke about Christians needing to “receive God’s love.”
  • My message about God’s glory being everywhere and using pictures to facilitate the youth group discussion.
  • Paris Reidhead’s sermon about humanistic ministry titled, “Ten Shekels & a Shirt.”
  • Zack Poonen’s “Real Jesus” sermon series. Visit www.sermonindex.net.
  • Pastor Don’s  ‘famous’ Biblical quote, “The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.” 
  • My message on negative thoughts and bad influences where I shredded magazines and destroyed a TV with a metal baseball bat.
  • Dr. Michael Brown’s “Go & Sin No More” message. 
  • Rob Bell’s “Dust teaching from the Nooma video series.
  • Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Sabbath.  
  • Pastor Fred Michaux’s talk about healing. Faith and hope are the two wheels on the bicycle. He was very real about his process of doubt even as a man of God. That made this message a memorable conversation.
  • Pastor Dave Simiele’s illustration of the hole in the wall covered by the poster. It made me  think about what in our lives do we like to keep hidden even though it is still there.

Trying to Remember

Have you ever stopped and tried to think about what you can remember from childhood? It’s kind of strange the things that we can remember. Some things just seem to linger either because they were novel, scary, exciting, unpleasant, really good or just downright weird.

If you have never tried this experiment, it’s fun. See what you can come up with.

Here are some of my memories… for better or for worse:

  • Trying to kiss Jennifer Valent in kindergarten and getting in trouble for it.
  • The day in kindergarten that the teacher told me that I could sing. I never thought I could until that moment.
  • Speech therapy classes and my fight to overcome a bad stuttering problem. My parents prayed for me and I got better. For a while, it was horrible because kids made fun of me a lot. 
  • My mother’s incredible cooking. Her constant prayers for me. 
  • When I discovered that I couldn’t see the blackboard clearly, I knew it meant one thing – glasses. Oh, the horror! 
  • The day my dad mistakingly gave me vinegar to drink for lunch. He thought it was apple juice.
  • Playing on the bunker in the woods. We had great battles back near the creek.
  • Getting attacked by a drug-crazed motorcyclist who assaulted me, my mom and my grandmother.
  • Leroy – my imaginary friend in second grade. He was a big black guy who I thought was my guardian angel.
  • The night that I went downstairs and saw my brother smashing all of his records. I think he re-dedicated his life to Jesus that night. 
  • Taking a dump in my back yard and then getting a spanking for it.
  • The day that I asked Jesus into my heart at GABC.
  • Winning the Christian character award at school and then feeling jealous of another student. 
  • Getting “10 thousand yuan” from my parents after a trip. I thought that I was rich and was planning what I would buy with my wealth. I was devasted when my parents told me it was worth about two bucks.
  • Going to Bush Gardens with Granny and Gramps.
  • Playing capture the flag in recess.
  • A major fight with my dad that caused him to lock himself in his room and cry. I had never felt so bad in my entire life.
  • Getting kicked in the privates during a recess soccer game. To this day, I hate soccer. It took me minutes to catch my breath.
  • Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Carter, Mr. Shelar, Mr. Sawaya – my best teachers growing up.
  • Carter Gate’s sermon on James 3. The only sermon that I remember from my childhood because I thought God had written the chapter just for me.
  • Running away from home because my parents wouldn’t let me watch TV. I didn’t get very far, just the neighbor’s dog house. I talked to their dog for hours and then went home when I got cold.
  • The day that I was baptized in church. That was my first sermon.
  • Trading baseball cards and getting a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie.
  • Using the word “Pussy” at my “Christian” school and getting in trouble for it.
  • Snoopie – my dog. He stank all the time. But he was lovable.
  • Wining my first Ranger of the Year competition in Royal Rangers.
  • Playing bed football with my dad.
  • My mother telling me that God would make sure that I always get caught when I lie after getting caught cheating on a test. I never cheated again.
  • Getting attacked by a ravenous dog, and my brother coming to the rescue.
  • Playing sick when my parents were out of town and getting out of school for one day. Sorry Hazie. I shouldn’t have done that.
  • Getting mono and being out of school for two weeks in middle school.
  • Numerous crushes on girls throughout middle school. Names withheld to protect the innocent.
  • Incredible Christmas mornings thanks to my mom.
  • As a child being in the Master’s Plan, a major theatrical production put on at the Carpenter Center.
  • My brother’s green camaro. He let me ride in it once I think. That was the bomb!  
  • Sleep walking and ending up downstairs with a class of milk and half eaten sandwich. Honest, I don’t remember a thing between going to bed and waking up downstairs.
  • Hiking trips with Royal Ranger outpost, especially the long trips. 
  • Going to my first concert with my big brother. It was Degarmo and Key, the ultimate 1980s rock experience.
  • Backyard football at Eric’s house.
  • The day my brother cut his finger off. My mother and I prayed while my dad took Scott to the ER.
  • Gary Redus of the Pirates signing autographs for ALL of the fans at the Diamond.
  • Faking speaking in tongues at a Royal Ranger camp.
  • Meeting Ozzie Smith, my baseball hero.

High school…. some things I try not to remember. 🙂

Neurotheology: Are Humans Hardwired for Faith in God?

CNN has carried a number of religious-oriented articles of late. This one was kind of interesting about scientists studying the human brain and its connection with a person’s faith in God. It seems that there is a new field emerging called neurotheology.  

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/04/04/neurotheology/index.html

I believe the answer to the question posed in the subject head of this post is “Yes.” We all have faith in something, someone or some ideology. We are all worshippers. This is true even for those who don’t believe in God. It’s just that they are their own god.

Great Little Devo Site

Here is a great devotional site that I came across the other day. It has excerpts from My Utmost for His Highest, daily Bible readings, some audio teachings, inspirational thoughts, etc. If you are looking for a great way to start you day, a visit here would be a good idea.

http://www.rbc.org/utmost/index.php