God and our suffering

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There is noting in the Bible that tells us that God will prevent us experiencing pain and suffering. But there is a lot that tells us that He will be with us in our pain and suffering. God is not there to get us out of our mess so that we remain irresponsible and make the same mistakes again. What He wants is for us to grow and mature, become wise and responsible.

While we are in our mess, He is able to show us much about Himself, His character, His faithfulness and His love. Not only is He able to show us stuff about Himself, He is also able to show us stuff about ourselves, like bad attitudes, inappropriate behaviour and our unresolved hurts.

If we will not listen nor learn after He has shown us how to live, He will continue to allow us to experience the consequences of our actions. We cannot blame God if we choose not to listen nor learn from our experiences. This is what He calls His discipline (1). This discipline is not punishment but training towards maturity.

God wants us to become responsible and think through the consequence of our actions (2). If we don’t do this we cannot blame God for the consequences. God has given us an intelligent brain to think and intelligence enough to reason that we cannot out think Him. We need to learn that His plans are always better than our plans (3) even thought it might not be what we would like or that there may be some discomfort. We need to learn to call on Him, ask for His advice and commit our plans to him(4) before we do something. Most immature people do it the other way round: they plunge ahead with their plan and when it goes wrong, call on God to bail them out. He won’t bail us out (5) because if He does, we will never learn to rely and work with Him.

God wants us to be mature. If we are not He will teach us. If we don’t learn we will experience pain and suffering. But rest assured, He is with us in our mess even if it feels like He is not there (6).


1 Hebrews 12:7

2 Luke 14:28

3 Isaiah 55:9

4 Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Isaiah 50:11

6 Deuteronomy 31:6

God, where were you when things went wrong?

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In my previous blog we learnt that sickness is the result of how we live and it is our responsibility to live correctly. But, we may become confused when we pray to God to protect us and an accident happens. Or maybe we are asking for a successful medical operation and there are complications.

The question is: ‘God, why did you not prevent this?’

Most of us accept that God created the universe. He created the earth and he also created all the natural and scientific laws that govern the earth and our universe. Science is a wonderful thing. It tells us how stuff works, the deflection when two objects collide or the breaking strain of a material. When we know how and why, we can manage our lives appropriately. We know that if we place metal in salt water that corrosion will take place. We know that if we ingest chemicals that are poisonous we will get sick. We also know that if we fall badly we could break our bones. But we also know that if we reset the broken bones they will heal. These are the natural and scientific laws working as God intended them to.

I believe that God intended us to live in cooperation and in harmony with these laws. I don’t think that he intended that we should try to defy them. So when we get hurt defying scientific laws, we shouldn’t behave like petulant children, moaning or blaming Him for our own decisions. God wants us to be mature, act wisely and manage what he has given us to manage.

While Jesus was here on earth, he demonstrated that God is bigger than the natural and scientific laws of our time-space continuum. We know that Jesus healed the sick, changed substances, walked on water, multiplied food and moved through walls. What is even more amazing is that he said that we would also be able to do this stuff through the Holy Spirit (1). I believe there is a proviso. It will not happen while we remain immature, full of ego, pride or arrogance (2). We need to be wise, understand and live within the parameters of the scientific laws of universe while at the same time intervene through the direction of the Holy Spirit.

I know that God is intimately involved with each of us and interested in what we are doing. He will not intervene while our unwise actions will bring us to maturity, despite how painful that experience might be. We will never learn to aim carefully while hitting a nail with a hammer if we are immune to the pain of hitting our thumb. This is how we learn. This is how we mature. This is how we gain wisdom. All for the purpose of us one day being beneficiaries of the kingdom (3).

So, where was God when things went wrong?’ I believe He is there and making sure that things do not get so out of hand that something more than we can endure will happen to us (4).


1 John 14:12-16

2 I Corinthians 14:20, Colossians 4:12, Hebrews 5:14

3 Matthew 25:34, James 2:5

4 I Corinthians 10:30

 

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

Is God in control?

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Most people when confronted with the question, ‘Is God in control over the events of our life here on earth?’ will probably answer ‘yes’. Often they will qualify it with some explanation why bad stuff happens. They may say that God allows it, it is His permissive will or even, it is His punishment.

So to the question: ‘Is God in control of the events in our time-space continuum – our life here on earth?’

Let us ask ourselves the following questions:

‘Do we have a free will?’

‘Does God interfere with our free will?’

The answer to that is we have a free will and God does not stop anybody using their free will in any manner they choose. He has taken His hands off and has allowed us to do what ever we please. Therefore He cannot be in control here on earth. He will not stop any person from committing an atrocious crime no matter how vulnerable or innocent the victim is. History is testament to that.

The only way God can influence the events taking place in our time-space continuum is when we invite Him in through prayer. The key to our invitation to Him to intervene in the affairs of mankind, is that it must be in line with His perfect will. Our prayers must be born out of our own correct motivation and belief. Scripture says we can pray incorrectly or with the wrong attitudes (James 4:3).  The person being prayed for also needs to have the correct heart attitude and faith.

Our prayers also need to be focused towards the problem and not the fruit of the problem. For example if the person we are praying for has a stomach ulcer and this is caused by worry, God may not heal the ulcer but might want the person to trust Him and deal with the reasons that he has developed anxiety. Our body may then heal itself. In many ways our bodies are created to heal themselves.

My personal belief is that outside our time-space continuum, God is totally in control. The moment we leave our earthly bodies and enter His realm, His will be done. Scripture clearly states that every knee will bow and there is no freedom of choice in that statement.

In summary, God can only be in control of the events in our lives when we invite Him to take control and His response may not be in the manner that we may want because we cannot always see the ‘big picture’.

 

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.

 

Maintaining change in altering habits

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Often having embarked on a program to alter our undesirable habits, we relapse. By way of an example: if we are altering our habit of smoking, we apply all the suggestions that we have talked about in my previous blogs. We have planned everything, started, and then, after a month we find we have started smoking again. It is at this point that we may feel a number of negative emotions. We may be disappointed, feel helpless, worthless and want to give up.

This is why it is so important to have a support group around us. With them we need to evaluate what has happened. We need to realise that we had given up smoking for a whole month. This is a great accomplishment. A whole month without smoking! Well, if we can do it for a month, then we can do it again for another month. All we need to do is go back and re-implement everything that we did before. Set the goal, do the planning, look at the resources and set the plan in motion.

But now we have even more resources – we know we can do it for a month!

With this approach we can easily string a whole heap of ‘no smoking’ months together. At the end of the year we may have gone 9 months in total without smoking. That is a whole heap better than the year before.

The main keys are to have achievable goals, do some more planning and restart. It is useful to avoid focusing on what we are trying to stop but we need to create an image of what we want to be in our mind. We always need to evaluate our successes.

There, we have done it!

 

Planning to change our habits

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As I said in a previous blog, if we want to change a habit it is important to formulate a plan to manage the change. This blog will set out how to plan for change.

Obviously the first step in change is the realisation that change is necessary and that we want to change. Before this happens many of us may think that our habit is not a problem or that we can see no reason why we should change. Only after the realisation of the gravity of our habits, the long-term consequences and how it is affecting those around us, do we think about change.

As we begin to consider changing a habit we may be faced with the feeling that it is almost impossible to change. This is often true when we have tried before and failed. We may need to talk to someone about our feelings of hopelessness, despondency and depression.

Having reached the point where we know we want to change, we need to decided what we are going to do. This may be joining a gym, an exercise group, attending therapy sessions, eating differently etc. What we are going to do needs to be practical. It should be within our physical and mental capability. It is not beneficial to choose an activity that we are physically incapable of doing or have an unrealistic expectation that will leave us despondent. If we are going to diet, do we have the knowledge to develop a healthy diet plan or the skills to cook fat-free meals?  It will also be important to seek professional help and opinion especially if the habit has an addictive aspect.

The next step is to look at the resources we have.

  1. The most important resource is our support group. The support group will be there to encourage us when we become disheartened. The professional consultants are also part of the support group.
  2. Time is another important resource and will need to be managed to allow for exercise, therapy or time to prepare different meals (depending on the habit we wish to change).
  3. There may be a financial implication. This may impact our lifestyle in that we can no longer afford to do some of the things we enjoy.

There are a number of other considerations before we start. How will it affect those around me? Are they happy to change their lifestyle to accommodate me? As example, if we want to eat fat-free meals but we are not the person that usually prepares the meals, we will first need to talk about it with them.  Do we have the space or place – especially if we are starting an exercise regime? Are there transport implications – getting to the gym or therapy sessions?

Having planned the above, we now have to set a start date. It would be ineffective to start a diet when we are going on a luxury holiday, or sign up for an exercise class when we are going to be away on business. It is recommended that we plan ahead for at least 3 months. What we are trying to achieve is a new habit to replace the old. It is considered that to establish a habit or have a long-term memory regarding something, it requires repeating it daily for 3 months.

Now we are at the stage to get up and do it. Next week we will talk about maintaining the plan of change.

 

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