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WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Prayer and HealingWant to ruffle some feathers? Just call a press conference and thank God publicly for your healing. That’s what happened when both Nina Pham and Dr. Kent Brantly expressed gratitude to God and acknowledged the power of prayer for their recent recovery from the Ebola virus.

Apparently some people are upset, even downright hostile because the credit wasn’t given solely to their medical teams, even though they both thanked the doctors and nurses involved in their care. (Click on their names for the videos).

Now I’m no theologian, but I can see misconceptions about the whole subject of prayer and healing (or the lack thereof) scattered across social media like a virus itself. Here are just a couple:

Misconception #1 – Christians believe that all healing is due to prayer alone.

While there are some that hang on to this potentially dangerous theology, there’s nothing in the bible that supports it. In fact, there are many places in the Bible that illustrate using resources and people in healing:

  • Jesus healed the blind man with mud directly to his eyes. (John 9:6-7 )
  • Naaman, who suffered with leprosy, was healed after washing himself 7 times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5).
  • Paul tells Timothy to “drink a little wine” to help his stomach (1 Timothy 5:23)
  • Luke himself was a physician (Colossians 4:14)

Now here’s an important point: While He doesn’t do so as often, I believe that God can and does still heal miraculously, without the help of modern medicine. We’ve all heard of miracle recoveries…now I’m not talking about the out of control, faith healers on TV, but rather the cases that show lasting medical evidence that we see from time to time. Tumors have been known to disappear with no explanation. People who aren’t expected to live six months have been known to live for years, defying the odds.

Even so, God usually chooses to work through man and through natural means in healing. In fact, more often than not, this is God’s way of working His will in general. He gives ordinary (or very gifted) men and women the privilege to be the means of His work.

  • He doesn’t command angels to fly down and sing His praise; He gives musicians and singers the talent to create beautiful music to His glory.
  • He created the weather but decrees the farmer to till the harvest
  • He doesn’t shout from heaven for all to believe, but commissions His own to share the gospel.

And He gives doctors and nurses the special medical skill and wisdom to understand illness and bring patients to health.

Misconception #2 – All healing comes from science and medicine alone.

In a recent Facebook comment, someone said, “I was in a motorcycle accident, and not once did I pray, but here I am, completely healed”. My response to this is that there is such a thing as common grace, which is the overriding and unbiased grace of God poured out on everyone, whether they are righteous or not. Jesus expressed this when He said that God causes “his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45) and that God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). The very fact that He does heal at all is cause for praise to Him. The very fact that we have one more day to draw breath is due to His grace. We don’t start with a sense of entitlement and strength, we start first with an understanding that He isn’t obligated to help or heal us, but in His love, He does choose to heal many.

You know, I look around me and I’m amazed at the ingenuity of man. Really, what we’ve been able to do in the areas of science and technology is staggering. It’s so easy to take the credit when we forget that we are the created, not the Creator. God has already created the depths of what we can discover. With as much as we’ve done, we cannot add one iota to a life that is fading–we find that our abilities alone will always have a limit.

Conclusion – God heals as he sees fit

I don’t believe that God and modern medicine are incompatible. God heals as He sees fit. He is sovereign for the outcome. In other words, we do all we know to do medically but God knows the outcome of each illness.

Application

There is a comfort in knowing that life and death aren’t ultimately in our hands. Can you imagine the burden upon us if it was? Caregivers have such a burden upon them as it is, with so many decisions to make for the patient. If you cared for a loved one that passed away, the second-guessing can be overwhelming. This subject came up at a Bible Study I attended this last week. That’s when all kinds of questions came up:

“Should I have tried harder?”

“Should I have pursued another type of treatment?”

“Was there something I could have done differently to extend his/her life?”

Knowing that God is sovereign in healing releases us from any of this anxiety. His word clearly states that there’s an assigned time for each person to die. (Hebrews 9:27). This means that if someone is meant to recover, then God will bring about the circumstances of that healing, whatever that may be. This is in spite of any well-meaning, yet limited wisdom we may have. By the same token, if someone’s time on Earth is up, no human effort can stop that either. We don’t have to beat ourselves up for our shortcomings. We can pray continually and care for them to the best of our ability but we can also take comfort in knowing that life and death aren’t ultimately in our hands. Yet another reason to thank God.

Brantly quote

 

Why do you think that some people criticize prayer in healing?

Do you believe God uses man to accomplish His purpose? If so, where’s the balance?

WHO CAN YOU REALLY TRUST?

Sometimes I think it’s easier to trust God in situations that are most out of my control, because it is at those times that I simply have no other choice.

Stubborn as I am, I act like I don’t have to trust Him at ALL times anyway…it’s just that He has a way of using a crisis to remind me  of how fallible and frail we really are.

TrustFor Instance, I’ve seen a lot of uncertainty in light of this recent Ebola scare. Confidence in our protection was followed by either missteps and apologies, or media driven panic. As believers, we can’t put our trust solely on man, or as Psalm 146:3 puts it:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save”. (Psalm 146:3)

When things go well, we praise ourselves for ingenuity while never acknowledging the God who gave it to us in the first place. We strive to cure the predicament of a mortality and vunerability we ultimately can’t escape. I often have a sense of being trapped on Earth, lamenting as the Psalmist who cried, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest!” (Psalm 55:6) 

Consider the elements at play in our world today. The government has technology for surveillance and a healthcare system that can be manipulated. We are assaulted by madmen in the name of Islam. There are enemies outside of us and enemies within our own bodies that have the capacity towards the exact same end. Any combination of these gone amok or in the wrong hands could easily play out like a science fiction movie…except, I believe, for the grace of God.

Notice Colossians 1:17:

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Barnes Notes on the Bible comments on this passage, saying, “The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing. “

We may not understand the calamities that do happen, but if we give up on God’s sovereignty, where does that leave us?

It leaves us with no real answers, no eternal purpose for the sufferings of this world.

It leaves us with no comfort in knowing that His mercies are new every morning, that what He allows He will bring us through.

It leaves us with the burden of anxiety and helplessness.

Call me weak, but we all trust in something whether we admit it or not. I choose to believe in the God who is trustworthy to hear and answer prayer and who has shown Himself to be faithful time after time.

Perhaps He allows those times that are most out of our control to show us He is in control, and that’s a good thing.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Have any of you had the same thoughts or perhaps different spiritual insights during this national crisis? Have you ever had a time of hardship when you’ve had no where else  to look but up?

 

A JOURNAL ENTRY WRITTEN EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY

Dear Friends,

I don’t normally write posts like this, but this one just fell in my lap. I have to share it.

I was looking  through my journal from last year, and my eyes fell upon an entry.

Then I noticed that it was written exactly one year ago today.

January 7, 2013

I’m seeing something in Mom as I observe her these days.

I see peace.

She’s much more mellow; more calm.  I see it when she says that this is the suffering God wants for her.

I saw it the other day when she made reference to only being here for a little while…

“Right?” she asked.

“Yes, Mom”, I said, much to my shock and surprise.

My instinct was to say “Don’t say that, Mom! You’ll be here for a long time!”.

But I didn’t, because I know…I knew on some level…she is leaving us.

She is starting the first leg of her journey and we are seeing her fade…

*****

It’s been a whole year since that entry, but I look back and I see how God carried us in those days, and I see His grace with us still. Most of all, I look forward to the joy ahead.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

THOUGHTS AS I LAY ON THE DOCTOR’S TABLE

So I’m lying on the Dr.’s table waiting for my test results. I’ve had a mammogram every year but this is the first time they’ve ever called me back to take a closer look.

Earlier, as I looked up at the ultrasound monitor with the swooshy pattern moving with the wand across my skin, I thought of John Piper’s words in, “Don’t waste your cancer”:

******

Suffering really is meant to wean you from sin and strengthen your faith. If you are God-less, then suffering magnifies sin. Will you become more bitter, despairing, addictive, fearful, frenzied, avoidant, sentimental, godless in how you go about life? Will you pretend it’s business as usual? … But if you are God’s, then suffering in Christ’s hands will change you, always slowly, sometimes quickly.  You come to terms with life and death on his terms. He will gentle you, purify you, cleanse you of vanities. He will make you need him and love him. He rearranges your priorities, so first things come first more often. *

******

I thought of all the things that take attention and energy in my life .  Many of those things suddenly seemed silly and mundane.

Now here’s the really strange thing. Part of me (almost) wished for this life-changing diagnosis because I knew it would shake things up for my good.  I concluded that this odd thought could only come from an awareness that the soul is separate from the physical body, and in having experienced the comfort and peace of God in difficulty.  The dichotomy of the soul being renewed, even while the body declines is a strange thing to those who may not know the peace of Christ.

It comes from 2 Corin. 4:16:

Inner outer man

The Apostle Paul (the author of 2 Corinthians) is saying here that by the dying of one, (the outward, that is, the physical body), the life of the other (the inward, that is, the spirit) is actually furthered, that the hardships become food for our soul’s growth.

I braced myself for the possibility of illness. Knowing the real need for my own spiritual renewal, knowing my lack of discipline and inconsistent pattern of prayer, I had to ask, “why not me?”

What was so special about me that God would spare me when He hasn’t done so with others? What, in our finite way of thinking, makes us blind to His purposes for His children, for that matter?

When the specialist came in and gave me a clean bill of health, my reaction was both great relief and again, an odd sense of a missed opportunity to know and glorify God more deeply, more fully, with more of that spiritual spark that comes when the props of our lives are kicked aside.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great sense of His mercy and a wave of gratitude washed over me.

Yet I had to ask myself one more thing…why do I necessarily need a crisis to have such a fullness of His Spirit? Do I have to come to a crossroads to look at my spiritual well-being? What is keeping me from living more abundantly in fellowship with Christ?

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Have you ever come to a point that allows you to see the spiritual gain in adversity or even sensed a spiritual renewal, even in physical weakness?

*http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/dont-waste-your-cancer

CRY

Abba Father

Dear Friends,

I don’t think that it is any coincidence that the topic of this post happened to land at this point in time for me. Remember my last post about John Piper’s sermon on the evidences of being a child of God? The first evidence in the study text of Romans 8:12-16 is a desire to die to ourselves and our own agenda; it is seeking God’s will instead:

Romans 8 12-16

We know that we have the Holy Spirit (without which we cannot be saved, John 14:16-17), because it is He that gives us the power to overcome our own selfish desires and sin.

But the second part of this scripture has especially resonated on my heart this week, for it states, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”, The Spirit of himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

The word Abba is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated as “Daddy.” Like young children would address their fathers, the child of God is described as someone who has been adopted (by grace through faith in Christ, Ephesians 2:8) as His beloved, His own, his precious child. We are able to cry “Abba Father”, in times of need and find refuge in Him. Though God is mighty and holy, He embraces His child as a close, comforting, and loving parent.

This was made evident this week when we heard the unexpected and heartbreaking news that a friend had just been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

It’s news that has shaken me and left many of us with an “Abba Father” cry.

It is the cry and the trust you cling to when “the props” (as Piper said) we would stand on are knocked out from under us.

 It is the cry when doubts and fears abound and nothing makes sense but that we know our Abba Father is our one refuge,

 And that He will never leave us or forsake us.

And that is what she is doing. Crying out, yes, in questions and bewilderment as any of us would, but also in a stunning trust and confidence in His presence. Only a child of God can do that.

Can anyone relate to a time when words escape and all that’s left is your own “Abba, Father” cry?

A MATTER OF “JOINT” INTEREST

Xray

I woke up a few months ago with pain that felt like I was being stabbed in my shoulders and left wrist. It was joint pain like I’d never felt before.

When it continued for more than a week, I got myself to a doctor, who then prescribed some meds and a week of physical therapy.

Still hurts, though. I have a feeling it may take some time to heal if I take care of it, but I don’t have any guarantees that it will completely go away. I’m reminded of my condition every time I reach for something or move my hand at a wrong angle.

I’ve also noticed something else as time went on. I found myself subconsciously avoiding any type of movement that would cause the pain. It’s as if my body has been conditioned not to move in certain ways. Sometimes my back aches because it has to compensate for the weakness in my shoulders.

I’ve noticed that it’s affected my mood. I like to exercise, but I haven’t felt like it lately. This lingering pest of pain made me cranky and annoyed.

It occurred to me that it really is true what they say: When one part of your body hurts, the rest of the body is affected. For example, have you ever had a bad headache? Do you remember how hard is was to do much more than take a Tylenol and disappear into a dark room somewhere? Or think of how much a simple toothache can be miserable. If a tooth hurts, it may be hard to eat. If you don’t eat, you get weak. Think about emotional hardship. Anxiety can bring about a lot of physical reactions, like high blood pressure or insomnia.

The Apostle Paul made reference to the dynamics of the church in this way. He used the analogy of a physical body when he described how we should care for one another.

He said, “…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinth. 12:25-26)

In other words, He described how we should be so bonded in unity with one another that when one person is hurting, we all feel that pain.

In much the same way, if someone, or a part of the church is honored, then we should all share in that joy as if it happened to us personally.

I know that if my joints recover fully, I’ll grab a tennis racquet and jump for joy. What if my feet said, “Nah, I’m not gonna play. I really don’t care about how well the shoulders are now. We’re so far apart I don’t ever see them.”

But just like the old song about one bone being connected to the other, we are all connected with each other because we are all in the same body. We have a tendon, see to stay together (Pun intended, LOL).

And may I add that we are connected to Christ, who is the head. He leads, He governs, He guides with His mind and Spirit within us.

And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Col. 1:18)

Have you ever had an injury or illness in a small part of your body that made a big impact on your life?

Have you seen one person’s pain effectively consoled because others in the body of Christ took it upon themselves to nurture and heal?