Why does God allow sickness?

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We all know that poor diet, lack of exercise and a poor life style will have an impact upon our bodies. We are also aware that worry, stress and bad thinking patterns will also have a detrimental effect upon our health. If we can choose a healthy lifestyle physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually our bodies will for the most part remain healthy. All of these are to some degree a matter of our own choice.

God said to Adam and Eve (1) that when they have an understanding of what is right and wrong, then this knowledge will cause them to die (2 ) prematurely. So what caused them to die before their allotted time?

Physiologically we know that the hypothalamus regulates the endocrine system of the body. So if a lion were to spring out at us, we will experience fear. This fear triggers the hypothalamus to send out messages to the correct glands to produce adrenalin for the body to spring into action and escape. But when fear is triggered by psychological reactions (something unreal) the body cannot use the adrenalin because there is nothing physically we can run from. This begins to take its toll on the body and causes the body to break down.

Likewise, we have an understanding of what is right and wrong, and when we begin to live in fear, guilt, shame, disgust, mistrust, bitterness etc., these emotions trigger the hypothalamus causing an imbalance that affects various parts of the body. These parts of the body then start to break down, become less resistant to germs and we experience sickness. Pastor Henry Wright has done some excellent work on the psychosomatic roots of diseases, all stemming from negative thoughts and beliefs (3). Unfortunately we all live in a world that is full of stress and fear.

God in his wisdom has given us guidelines on how to live, how to think and how to behave. He has chosen not to control our thinking. He has given us the freedom to choose. The choice is ours and if we could do it his way, our bodies would be less likely to become sick and secondly, when we do become ill we will have the ability to recover quickly.

When we are sick we quickly realise that something is wrong. We will then set out to correct it by firstly going to the doctor. Often only the symptoms are address. Medication may help to manage the sickness but what is needed is that the underlying reasons should also be addressed.

Sickness is the result of how we live; it is not God’s fault. It is our mismanagement of that which we have been given to look after. It is the result of living in a broken world.


1 Genesis 2:17

2 From the Hebrew word ‘mûth’ meaning ‘to cause to die before its time’

3 “A More Excellent Way” by Pastor Henry Wright

 

God and sickness

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The topic of God and sickness causes much consternation. This is one of the biggest quandaries for believers; especially those who have seen God miraculously heal someone. The question then is, ‘why are not all believers who have faith, healed?’ We know that the Apostle Paul experienced people being healed but yet why did not God heal his eyes? Is God unfair or just whimsical? Is there something we can do about it or should we just tolerate our pain or condition until we die?

The first question to ask is, ‘what is God’s heart regarding sickness?’ and then to get a bigger understanding why we get sick.

Let me answer the first part: ‘what is God’s heart regarding sickness?’

It is vitally important that we know that God wants us to be healthy. He does not want us to be sick. How can we live life to the full or abundantly (1) when we are sick? How can we be the head and not the tail (2) if we are sick? Healing is the children’s bread (3); in other words, healing and deliverance is what God’s children should be ‘eating as a staple diet’.

The most disappointing proclamation I hear is of a person, who has been sick for a while and not experienced healing, say, ‘God wants me to be sick so that I can be a witness for Him in my sickness.’ That is the biggest lie we can ever believe. Such a statement is the result of trying to fit the experience into our doctrine. Doctrine is bigger than our experiences. God wants us well; he does not want us sick.

The result of such a false doctrine is that we give up looking for healing. We settle for second best and in fact, we have lost our faith in God’s ability to heal. The starting point of getting healed is that we must believe that God wants us well irrespective of what we are experiencing. We must also believe God has the power to heal.

The next step is we need to understand why we have become sick and what we need to do to allow God to bring healing into our time-space continuum.

I will talk more about that in my next blog.


1 John 10:10

2 Deuteronomy 28:13,44

3 Mark 7:25-27

Is God in control of the weather?

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In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The Washington Post published an article on September 4, 2005 citing the opinions of some that this is an act of God[1].

It is very clear from Scripture that it is Satan that does evil. It is also clear that God’s anger towards mankind has been satisfied by the atoning work of Jesus. We know that it is the law that brought God’s judgement but we also know that the law has been fulfilled. Therefore we are no longer under the punishment of the law, but live under grace, which is God’s favour despite our wayward behaviour (Romans 6:14-15). What is even more wonderful is that Jesus’ atonement was for the whole world (1John 2:2). A better word for atonement is propitiation, which means Jesus’ sacrifice turned away the wrath of God towards us and took it upon himself.

It is therefore obvious that God is not out to destroy us because we go astray. The heart of the Father is towards people that they should be redeemed, not destroyed or punish. God’s heart is that we should have fellowship with Him and prosper in life.

Now to the question: Is God in control of the weather? My personal belief is ‘no’.

It cannot be attributed as an act of God if a person with free will, sets fire to a large forest with the result that the intense heat disturbs the weather patterns. Nor can it be an act of God if we continue to burn fossil fuels that emit carbons to the extent that we have global warming. Our commission from the beginning of time was and is to look after the earth. The sun, the moon and how we live life influences our weather.

Lastly, in Matthew Chapter 8, we read the account of Jesus rebuking the storm. It is the same Greek word that is used when we rebuke an evil spirit. Now, if Father God sent the storm how could Jesus act in a manner contrary to God? He himself said that he and the Father are one.

So has God taken his hands off? No. He has left us in charge, in a position that we can call on Him intervene. During drought we can pray for rain. Elijah did and so can we also ask God to change the weather.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/03/AR2005090301408.html

Where does Theology and Reality meet?

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One of our greatest difficulties as Christians is when, what we read in the Bible does not match what we are experiencing in our daily lives. We may sincerely believe but because it does not happen we may wonder is this stuff real? Does God really care? Is the Bible true or is it a delusion?

As we experience this dichotomy, we may feel we are not good enough or that we do not have sufficient faith. We may look at our own abilities and become disheartened and disappointed. We may even give up and walk away.

Modernist and post-modernist thinking is born out these experiences. So where does theology and reality meet? Do they ever meet somewhere?

Over the next couple of months, I want to tackle some of these issues in small bite size pieces. To that point I want to suggest that we treat the upcoming blogs as a series and not look at them individually. Maybe you have some particular questions you are wrestling with. Please mail them to me and I will attempt to answer them in the blogs.

Today, I want to deal with a fundamental issue of who is to blame when things go wrong. Many insurance policies have a clause in them that avoids them from paying out a claim when it is an ‘act of God’. This lie has so permeated our thinking that we may blame God for everything that goes wrong. This may include natural disasters, children being raped and even untimely deaths. I have often heard the statement, ‘If God is a God of love, why doesn’t He do something about it’.

The foundational truth is God is good and can only do good. Satan is evil and can only do bad. If we can get a hold of this truth we will start putting our energies and effort into the correct areas. If we are hoodwinked into believing the lie that it is God’s punishment on a sinful people how can we ever approaching Him to rescue us. If we don’t call on Him for help we don’t initiate the process for help to come.

Secondly, God is not mad at us. All He wants is to help us if we will call on Him. His dissatisfaction with a ‘sinful people who can’t get it right’ has been satisfied 2000 years ago. He knows our brokenness and the reason we mess up. None of us will ever expect a person with a broken leg to run 100 yards in 10 seconds. Well, neither does He.

Maybe we have been told some stuff that has caused us to be fearful of God. Well it is time to flush those lies down the drain and approach God in a new and different way.

A lesson from the shepherd

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A long time ago I heard the following story:

A man was visiting a friend who lives in the rural region of a Middle Eastern country. He would go out for walks each day where he would watch the shepherds and their flocks. He was fascinated how the sheep would follow their shepherd when the shepherd called them. In this manner the shepherd would lead his sheep out to pasture and lead them back to the safety of their enclosure in the evening. He remarked upon this to his friend who explained that the sheep know their shepherd’s voice and will not follow another.

A short while later he was walking through a small village where he noticed that an owner of a flock of sheep was driving them. That evening he remarked upon this experience to his friend. His friend smiled broadly as he explain that the owner was not a shepherd but the butcher.

The lesson for us today is, do we follow the voice of the one who calls us or are we driven by something we fear.

 

Changing our habits

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All habits have different conditions and constructs that keep them in place. In changing our habits it would be impossible for us to treat all our foibles identically. What I am proposing is an overall tactic to help us initiate change.

We frequently think that if we choose to change, then change will happen automatically. This is not true. Most of the time it takes a lot of effort and determination. We need to plan the changes.

For change to occur there has to be substantial, recognisable, meaningful benefit and reward. Most of the time we may want to stop a habit like smoking or cut out cream cakes but the long-term benefit cannot initially be seen as worth the effort. Only when we hit a crisis point (like being diagnosed with lung cancer) do we take drastic action. Most of us would like to think, ‘that will never happen to me’, but we all know it would be better to do something earlier.

We cannot just hope or wish for change to occur. We have to grasp the gravity of our current situation. To help us grasp the seriousness of a poor habit it is helpful to spend time with someone who is struggling with, as example, lung cancer. To see the consequences and to empathetically experience their loss of quality of life is a great boost to help us take a positive action. We can then consider, ‘do I want to live like that?’ It is useful to constantly remind ourselves what it is we want to avoid.

Having gasped the consequences, the next thing we need to realise that it is not a quick fix. The extra kilograms we are carrying around our middle, for most part, were created over many years of indulgence. It will require a sustained effort of many months to achieve our goals. What we need is perseverance and we can only persevere if we keep our eye on the goal.

It is important to set realistic and achievable goals. If our goal is not achievable over a set time frame we will quickly give up. To reduce our weight by 1 kilogram we first need to loose 100 grams. To give up smoking we need to begin with not smoking for one day. Setting small achievable steps is important.

We need to plan how we will achieve our goal. There is a saying that goes, ‘if we fail to plan, we plan to fail’. We need to plan a start day. We need to plan specifically what we will do, who we will be with and in what environment will we be. It is silly to begin reducing your drinking when you are meeting your friends at the pub.  This will also require some mental preparation. We need to ask the question, ‘Am I ready for this and what recourses do I have to implement my plan?’

The most important aspect of the plan is that we talk to someone about what we are planning to do. We should share our goals and listen to their ideas. Ask them to check up on us at the end of the day to see how we did. Very few of us will achieve it on our own. All great sports people have a coach because they need that encouragement and guidance; we are no different. Also it is simply no fun doing it on your own.

The Bible says ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour, for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up’. Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

So, let us write down our goal, break it up into achievable steps, form a plan of action, share it with someone and set a start date.

Looking at nature to find answers to life

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Often the answers are right before our eyes
Sometimes we need to stop and realise
To stop and think and meditate awhile
And maybe to copy nature’s living style
Click on Ask_the_Geese

A time to change – how to keep those resolutions

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I wonder how many of us have made New Year Resolutions? And how many have already been forgotten by the end of the fist week?

All of us, deep inside, have some idea of what good habits should look like. Deep inside we have a desire to fulfill those ideals. Because our ‘normal’ routine is slightly different over the New Year and we are a bit more relaxed, we have time to think more deeply about life. The break at the end of the year is always a good time to reflect on our lifestyle.

Also in the gaiety of the celebrations we may over indulge. This brings home the awareness of the toll we are putting on our bodies. As we ‘suffer’ from our excesses, we realise we should do something about our lifestyle or attitudes. And so we make our New Year resolutions: ‘I am going to cut down on my smoking or drinking’, ‘I am going to eat better’, ‘I am going to exercise more’.

But why do they get forgotten so quickly? Why are they so difficult to implement?

There are a whole host of reasons but I will just mention a few here:

  1. Firstly there is the pressure of life. The moment the demands of work, school and our normal life cycle kick in, we run out of time.
  2. Often our poor habits are a result of deeper influences. We may be worried about our financial situation or may have other unresolved fears or pressures.
  3. Our goal may seem unattainable because we don’t see quick results.
  4. We have not done any planning to achieve it.
  5. We don’t keep the goal and desire alive.

The resolve to do something that will bring long-term benefit is always good. Our decision is just the first step.  What we need to understand is that our current behaviour, the thing we want to alter, is an ingrained habit born out of experiences and beliefs. Most of these are subliminal that we don’t think to counter them. An example of this is social drinking: a lot of people think they cannot have an enjoyable time without alcohol. Test yourself in this by going to a party with the intention of enjoying yourself without drinking alcohol. So if we are on a weight-loss regime we may find it extremely difficult to cut out alcohol.

We are all different and there may be many concepts, beliefs or attitudes that we may first need to be changed in order to achieve our goal.

Good on you that you have set a goal! Now, may I suggest that you write out that goal on some stiff paper. Cut it out into the shape of a medal and hang it on your mirror with some ribbon. Everyday as you look at the mirror you will be reminded of your goal and will be keeping the vision alive.

Over the next few weeks I will be giving a series of tips, strategies and ways in which we will be able to achieve our goals. Then, one day we will be able to hang our ‘medal’ around our neck and not just on the mirror.

Keeping our personal relationships fresh.

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When couples approach me for counselling regarding their marriage or relationships, their solutions can only be found though good communication. Our communication goes way beyond talking but includes our facial expressions, our body posture, our senses and most importantly, our ability to listen.

Relational communication is the process by which information about ideas, emotions, observations, thoughts, and opinions are conveyed to another person. Communication has two parts. The first part is how we communicate this information, which needs to be presented on an open and simulating manner. The second part requires that we don’t only listen to the words but we also ‘listen’ to what they are saying with their facial expressions and body language. We can also ‘listen’ with our other senses of touch, smell and even taste. In sever stress situations people often say that they could taste the fear.

Here are a few tips that we can use to improve our personal communication:

  1. We need to look at the person as we speak. This will help us gauge how the information is being received. Good eye contact without staring can help convey sincerity, openness, honesty and authenticity.
  2. Try not make closed statements or state facts as this closes the conversation. Rather than saying, ‘I don’t like him’ rather say, ‘I am struggling to like him. Do you also find him unpleasant?’ By ending with a question it leaves the conversation open for an exchange of ideas, opinions and thoughts.
  3. Where ever possible we should not use ‘you’ statements. A ‘you’ statement provokes arguments and what we need is communication. Rather than saying, ‘you make me mad’, try using an ‘I’ statement. ‘I am beginning to feel cross’. The ‘I’ statement allows the other person to evaluate and respond rather than having to defend themselves.
  4. There is always vulnerability with deep level conversation because we are expressing emotion. We can make statements like ‘I feel unhappy about …..’  ‘I am struggling to understand …’ The ‘I’ statement draws to other person towards us rather than cause the listener set up defensive barriers.
  5. I have often heard a parent reprimand a child by saying, ‘Stop that!’  What is that? We often assume they know what we are talking about. Be specific about what you are referring to. As example say, ‘Stop hanging onto me. It makes me feel uncomfortable’
  6. When they are unable to catch our meaning, we should rephrase rather than repeat what we have just said.

So how should we be listening? Here are a few ideas.

  1. We should stop what we are dong and look at the person talking to us. We need to look at their facial expression, their body language, sense with all our senses and ‘listen to the meaning’ of what they are trying to say, not just the words.
  2. We need to guard against jumping to conclusion of what we think they are thinking.
  3. To the degree that we are involved with our own internal dialogue is the degree to which we stop listening to what others are saying. The person talking will sense this and feel ‘unheard’.
  4. We have a tendency to receive every new idea negatively. We take all new ideas and we process it against what we believe to be true. If it does not fit with what we believe we tend to dismiss it.  We should rather explore their point of view before rejecting it. Maybe they are seeing something we are not seeing.
  5. We can create curiosity and interest by exploring why do they think that way. We should ask the question, ‘what have they experienced to see it that way?’
  6. Explore new ideas or concepts. So they come up with the idea of eating condensed milk on toast with cheese. Rather than rejecting the idea, wonder what it will taste like and maybe try it. Then express your opinion.
  7. Answer a question with a question. This will draw out ideas, opinions and thoughts.

To keep our relationships fresh, exciting and simulating we need to talk and listen. Good communication is not about one-upmanship. Good communication that keeps our personal relationships fresh produces something new and exciting. Good communication develops a deepening and fulfilling relationship.

What message are our children receiving?

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I was in a shopping mall the other day and I overheard a father telling his child, “I have bought you 2 presents, so now you have got to be good”. I found myself wondering what message was the child receiving? Did the child interpret it as, ‘you don’t have to be good unless you get a present?’ or ‘you will only get a present if you are good?’

Good behaviour should not be directly linked to a present or a gift. As parents we must teach our children how to behave correctly because it is the right thing and not to do it to receive a reward. We need to be teaching correct morals, not conditioning behaviour.

A couple of years ago I read the findings of a research conducted regarding the question, ‘why we should not steal’. In the fifties the answer given by children was, ‘because it is wrong’. In the eighties the children answered, ‘because you might get caught’. I often wonder what the answer would be today?

Bad behaviour must be linked with consequences and we should not shield them from those consequences. Similarly good behaviour should be linked to the outcome it will have upon us, such as harmony, peace, feeling secure and safe. It should also be linked to the impact it will have upon our family, our community and the environment. At no time do I believe that good behaviour should be linked to the concept of ‘now you should get something’. This makes behaviour performance based, whereas it should be based on good morals.

I don’t think we should use gifts and presents as a ‘bribe’ to create good behaviour. We give gifts and presents as an appreciation of who people are not because they behaved in the way we want them to. We give presents because we love them. Our Father in heaven gives us good gifts because He loves us not because we have performed correctly.

As parents, we should make a clear distinction between receiving a present and behaving correctly. A clear connection should also be made between love and receiving a gift. All behaviour has consequences but we love despite the behaviour of the person.

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