Choices
The Answer is Sometimes No It’s the middle of the night, it’s a cold, snowy winter night, I should be sleeping, and I want to be. But I have to do battle, I’ve put it off for days but it has to be done because too much is at stake. So here I sit, bible software started up, a warm bowl of oatmeal and cold glass of milk, ready for the battle, with my daughter. She isn’t my biological daughter, she isn’t even my legally adopted daughter; it’s a verbal agreement between her and I. She is the only female other than my biological daughter that  I can say “I love you dearly” to and retain my life and body parts because my wife understands what I mean. Maybe this is a hint of how God feels when He sees His children wandering astray, if so, I’m glad I’m not Him, to watch one adopt a wrong mindset is bad enough, to see millions do it would be too much for me. There is a school of thought these days called the word of faith movement, its also called ‘name it claim it’ by people who don’t accept it. I fall into the second group, she falls into the first group. It’s a very dangerous mindset, a potentially fatal one both physically and spiritually; it has the power to crush bodies and faiths, leaving people hurt and broken. It’s based mainly on one single verse in the bible that a lot of TV evangelists have grabbed onto because it makes them money. My concern is for the people who buy into this misinterpretation. The root of the name ot claim it philosophy is this: You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. (John 14:13 NLT) These words were spoken by Yeshua (Jesus) Himself. This leads people to think that all they have to do is name their desires and poof, wishes granted. ‘Well, you might be thinking, Jesus said it so it must be true!’ Name it claim it. But Jesus also said: "You fathers--if your children ask for bread, do you give them a stone? Or if they ask  for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! (Luke 11:11-12 NLT) The answer is sometimes no. This was addressed to fathers, but it applies to mothers too, and I think it takes a decent, caring parent to understand it. Let me ask it in more current terms. If your 4 year old son wants a real sword would you give it to him? If your 11 year old daughter asked for silicone implants would you sign the medical releases? Of course not. No good parent would give their kids something bad for them, and neither will God. ‘but but but’ you can stammer, ‘its right there in the bible, it says so!’ and I can counter it with Luke 11:11 and we can go one like this until we both die and God settles it in person OR, we can use Luke 11:11, powers of observation, and good old common sense. God gave us common sense (at least most of us) so we could reason things out. Now, I can assure you that I’ve tried several times to reason this out with my daughter but she’s at the age where she knows all the answers to all the questions and there is no chance of her being wrong. If you’re old enough you’ll remember those days, and great days they were too, we didn’t have to worry about anything because we already had it figured out. I used to be just like her that way. Getting old is rough for some people because they dread their health and minds going. I dreaded it because the older I got the dumber I got. I found that as time passed, I wasn’t quite as sure of what I was sure of a few years back. I figure by the time I reach 80, I should be a complete idiot and thus ready to start learning the Word properly. Nevertheless I have to deal with this now. Oh, I don’t care about people not winning a lottery because they asked for it, and I don’t really care about people who pray for a bigger house because the neighbors have one and I care about the TV preachers brainwashing people into thinking they can ask for money (which they can send to the TV preachers out of gratitude) because suckers will always be with us. You see, the really nasty part of the name it claim it mentality is that they apply it to health, and that’s where I draw the line. Why? Well I’m glad you asked. (I know you were going to) The thinking in some people’s minds goes like this: Bob has cancer, Bob prays to be cured, Bob is either cured or not cured. If Bob is cured, that’s great, he has enough faith to believe. But if Bob isn’t cured, oh dear, poor Bob must not have enough faith. Are you starting to see the trap here? If Bob is a mature Christian then clearly he didn’t have enough faith so he has to pray harder, do more good works, drop a bigger check in the offering plate, and be a better Christian. Then after all that Bob still isn’t cured, he’s forced to rethink everything he’s believed in the past. But the cancer might not wait, Bob might die in doubt. If Bob was a new Christian the consequences might be much graver. He prayed for healing but is still in pain, edging closer to the abyss by the day, sometimes by the hour. What was wrong? Was his faith not strong enough? Was he not saved even though he thought he was? He dies, his faith and soul shattered and lost. What if Bob’s child has cancer and he prays day in and day out, he’s cried all the tears there are to cry, made all the calls to the pastor he can make, dropped his entire bank account into the collection plate, and yet his child withers away right before his eyes and later dies in his arms. Bob walks away from God, broken and bitter, possibly never to return. All because someone told him that he could have whatever he really wanted if he asked, and hopefully didn’t lecture him while his child was dying that his faith wasn’t strong enough. I seriously would like to slap those people several times and maybe kick them once or twice. When we pray, the answer is yes or its no, and if its yes it might not happen in the time or way that we expect or want. ‘But but but’ you can stammer, ‘its in the bible!’ I ask you then, what about the millions of Christians, strong, mature, Christians who have prayed with all their hearts for themselves or loved ones to be made healthy only to be still sick when they open their eyes? Is their faith not strong enough? All of those millions of Christians? Now I’m starting to get mad and I made up my mind not to. I’ve had multiple strokes, I have arthritis, arthritis of the spine, 4 missing discs, 3 ruptured ones, diabetes, and high blood pressure and you name it claim it people have the nerve to declare that MY faith weak? My wife has arthritis and fibromyalgia and you think YOU can declare that her faith is weak? And then there is my best friend, one of the more  mature Christians I know whose faith is greater than most people’s. He has agent orange disease and consequently is a physical wreck; and YOU presume to declare his faith weak? The answer is sometimes no. What about the disciples? Are you self righteous enough to proclaim their faith weak? Timothy, the disciple that Paul loved so much he called him his son had health issues, so I ask you was Timothy weak of faith? I know that someone will question that Timothy has health issues because it will seriously challenge their name it claim it mentality so here: Don't drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often. (1 Timothy 5:23 NLT)  The answer is sometimes no. Our pastor has been addressing this issue lately and has been doing a pretty good job of it but I disagree with him in one point. He preaches that sickness and suffering is in the world because of sin, either ours or someone else’s. He’s right insofar as what he said but he left out one other reason, bad choices. Bad choices don’t necessarily mean sinful choices, just dumb ones. The arthritis in my spine isn’t because of sin, it’s caused by stupidity. It’s because I carried 200 pound wrenches up 75 foot ladders with one arm, it’s from lifting the back of Volkswagens when I was 18. It’s because I lifted 500 pounds in the weight room in high school. Not sin, just stupid. My mother in law’s health problems are more than I have room to enumerate but just understand that hers are considerable, most of which are because of her bad choices or someone else in her life’s bad choices. Bad choices don’t always equate to sin. Sickness and suffering are also, as Ben (the pastor) teaches, because of sin. The baby born with aids or addicted, the mother crippled in a car accident with a drunk driver, the list could go on forever. And last and most unfair of all is that sickness is here because we live in a fallen corrupt creation. If you have to blame someone, blame Eve, as soon as she bit in, your cancer was forged, your child’s down’s syndrome was assured. Bu understand that blaming her won’t accomplish anything but to make you bitter. No one ever said the world was fair. It will all be made right someday, but until then, it’s a fallen world and bad things will happen to good people. Ok, so why does God not cure the sick every time? I wish I knew the answer to that, I’d gladly share it, but I don’t. There is one thing that I hang onto like a life preserver when I’m laying in bed late at night and I hear my wife crying quietly yet trying to hide it from me, because she hurts so badly, and that is Theos Agape esti which is Greek for God is Love. There are times when I don’t understand and can only KNOW that God hates suffering more than I do and only allows when it serves a purpose that makes it worth the suffering. Case in point, my mother in law again. She is legendary in the local hospitals, she has more wrong than most of the small town doctors here can deal with, the nurses know her by sight, every time she goes into a hospital she proceeds to tell the staff what God has done for her, whether they ask or not and whether they want to hear it or not. More than not they do want to hear it and are interested. Usually I’m sitting there thinking ‘ok stop already, you’re being a nuisance!’ (Betty, I know you’ll read this and you keep right on doing what you do because you’re right and I’m wrong.) She relates to people who are sick, she has a ministry that I wish I had. If she was a picture of health she would never meet these people or share the Word with them. It comes down to this; God cares about our physical wellbeing, but these bodies only last a microsecond in eternity and He’s more concerned about our spiritual wellbeing so if we have to endure some suffering to bring people home then its not only worth it but a small price to pay. Now of course this doesn’t account for every sick Christian in the world and God does heal every day; don’t think He doesn’t. Jesus suffered, the disciples suffered, terribly, Christians have suffered through out our history, who are we to think we deserve better? One final comment to the name it claim it people, What about all of those millions of Christians that Rome massacred and tortured? Are you righteous enough to declare their faith lacking? I pray that God is merciful in dealing with you. The answer is sometimes no.
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