Go Ahead, Make My Day

20151121_005336The catchy phrase, “Go ahead, make my day”, usually conjures up images of Clint Eastwood in a shoot-out scene, or maybe even the same actor during a recent political speech he made. Someone else actually first came up with that phrase, but it was popularized by Eastwood. However, as we know that, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), we can look further backward to realize our Father has shown us that He has in a way told His children the same concept. Too often, we don’t take Him at His Word in this, but we most assuredly should because we really are His children.

“What?”, you may be thinking, “Are you trying to say that God wants to make my day?” Well, “Yes!” First of all, you have to accept the life-changing, (no, scratch that – change it to eternity-changing) fact that if you have accepted in faith Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your Savior, then you are, without a doubt, adopted as God’s child. Has that sunk in yet? You are a child of the King and you have  access to the great throne room above. It is where you don’t cower down, groveling on the floor, in front of someone who you fear will sentence you to death if you say the wrong thing, such as it is in front of some earthly kings. This King invites you to come and sit in His lap. He invites you to come and have a chat with Him, to be held in His arms, to receive His love for you, to lean on His chest while He holds you as you cry, to watch His smile as you tell Him the successes you have had, to see His loving concern when you tell Him your failures. You see, this King is not like any other earthly King, this King of Kings is also our Father. He wants to make your day! He wants to make your eternity!

While speaking with someone recently in my medical practice, he told me that when he prays he doesn’t ask God for anything, but is just thankful for what he has. That sounds very humble and it is certainly a great and Godly thing to learn to be content with what one has. However, I asked the young man, who is a father, does he expect his own children to be content with what they have to the point of never coming to him to ask for anything? He just looked at me for a second and then admitted that he certainly did not expect them to think that way. He wanted them to come to him if they wanted something. He took joy in hearing their heart’s desires and in being able to then decide what would be best for them at that point. He wanted to see them with joy in their heart and growing up to be mature one day. He wanted to see them not being him, but like him one day. This young father then realized that he needed to expand his concept of who God is to him.

To some right now, you may be thinking, “Well, this sounds like prosperity preaching.” To those who would think that based upon just what is written thus far, I want to remind you again to think of the relationship with your own children or grandchildren. I would imagine you don’t grant every request that is brought to you by them because if you did, you would spoil them, but you surely do want to hear what is on their heart. Sometimes you can just look at them and you already know what they are thinking without them even telling you, but you still would like for them to speak it to you anyway as you listen with understanding and love them in a way that you want to always help them in any way that a good father would want to do. That is not prosperity preaching, it is just fatherly love. No child who is raised properly and with good character is going to come to his earthly parents with greedy intentions, but surely should feel welcome to come to them with whatever is on their mind. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

The phrase, “Go ahead, make my day” is actually credited not to Clint Eastwood first, but to Charles B. Pierce, an independent filmmaker who wrote this in the 1983 film Sudden Impact. While Eastwood was the actor in the film who spoke it, it was Pierce who wrote it and Pierce’s father, Mack, gave him the idea based on what he had said to him when he was a child. Prior to Mr. Pierce although, I think we can see that our Creator came up with this idea first and not so someone could be shot, but because a Father wants to bless His children. It is just a matter of whether we want to believe it or not. It is written, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15). Also, we can read in other scriptures, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5) and further that “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:5). He wants us to come to Him.

We should not buy a trick of the enemy to think that we need to sheepishly hide in the corner of our little space and timidly poke out our head to receive our rations like we are in jail. We are free! We should act like it. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). He is patiently waiting. Go ahead, make His day.

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Who Will Want Your Chair?

ImageAs I sat listening to my pastor’s Sunday morning message, he spoke of an old recliner that he used for many years and had seen its days of burping babies, kids piling up in it, and all of the usual relaxing moments that most people have in their recliner that becomes a reflection and somewhat of a commentary about its main occupant.  Pondering that example, I could not help remembering special chairs in my own life.   My own father’s chair is one that I remember climbing into with Dad and my brothers.  I do not have that chair, but I wish I did.  I have the first recliner I ever bought when I was just starting medical school and I spent untold hours in that chair reading and studying; it is now in my office at work.

Another chair that came to my mind is this old greenish colored La-Z-Boy that sits in my library at home.  The arms have been reupholstered to match the original color as much as possible.  This particular chair was the first recliner that a very special pastor in my life many years ago had given to him by a church he pastored.  He had kept that old chair for many years until the arms had been worn thin and there were holes in the arms from what was undoubtedly many years of time spent with studying, family, and even counseling his flock.  The times witnessed by that chair were innumerable and special.  Since that old chair had gotten into such bad shape, it was about to be discarded because a new chair was about to be bought.  When I saw that old worn out chair, I hated to see something like that not be repaired and then used again.  After getting agreement with the pastor’s wife to let me have it, I took that chair to get it fixed and have had it ever since then.  What was valued and special to this pastor was even more valued and special to me because of who owned it, used it, and even wore it out so much it has a mild tilt to it.

I’ve got a chair that is conforming itself to me over time and gets a lot of use.  As I started thinking about my own chair in my living room, I could not help wondering if anyone would ever think of a chair I used as being something they would want.  Am I making enough of a positive difference in the lives of others that what I might see as just a chair would be cherished and thought of as being inspiring, like I think of that previous pastor’s chair every time I sit in it?  I know this humble man thought no one would want his old chair, but I did.  Do I inspire others enough that there might be a similar thought in someone else’s mind one day?

Another direction in this vein is to think about the chair itself.  The chair which conforms itself to my form, my image if you will, could be thought of as the life of each individual whom God Himself wants to use.  If I allow myself to be used by Him, I am then transformed into His image.  In the process of being used, I’ll get to squeaking as time passes, my arms will get thin and worn out, and I just will not move as quickly as I used to move.  However, just as an old chair that is made well, it will keep fulfilling its initial purpose.  Each chair is made with a specific function in mind just as each human is also.  We all will eventually reflect our owner and whom we choose to be owned by is really only between two choices.

The Elephant and Gunkin Troll

elephant gazing

You would have to have your head in the sand lately to have not read about the horrible acts committed this last week in the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, elementary school.  Every time we have a tragedy, the public mourning and prayer of the politicians and public figures dies down quite rapidly to be replaced by the almost never ending blame game by those who want to have an opportunity to unveil, and hope to use, their own ax they have been grinding since the last incident.  The same folks who have been publicly crying the loudest over these innocent lives lost think it is fine to kill the little ones as long as the mother chooses this awful fate before birth happens.  This is a fallacious, hollow, and illogical position to have.  Valuing human life should not start just at birth.

After putting aside their public displays of grief, those who refuse to recognize the need for change of the sinful heart of man by God, instead turn aside from that obvious elephant in the room which hardly anyone in public office will even acknowledge any more.  They look around and ignore the completely conspicuous problem while wringing their hands, fretting, and manipulating anything else they can find in the room to blame for the collapsing foundation instead of what is so clear to many.  Therefore, we have the usual whipping boy rear his head again; his name is Gunkin Troll.  He looks like to a troll to those who like whipping him all the time and they keep at it while he screams louder and louder.  Poor Gunkin Troll.  He just will not behave and learn from the mistakes of himself and others.  He cannot have it his way, so he hopes that if everyone around him felt sorry for him enough, then he could have his way. 

There are those who want physicians to get involved in the debate regarding gun control and expect them to start advising on that on a proactive basis as if physicians do not already have enough on their plates to consider with patients.  If the patient brings it up and seeks advice, certainly physicians would seek to help when presented with a problem.  However, ignoring the elephant in the room and turning to gun control isn’t the answer for what ails our society.  A study in Volume 30, Number 2 of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (pp. 649-694), answered the question in its title: “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence.”  The answer is that as gun ownership goes up, murder and suicide rates go down.  Two criminologists, Prof. Don Kates and Prof. Gary Mauser, did an exhaustive study of American and European gun laws and violence rates.  They found that nations with stringent anti-gun laws generally have substantially higher murder rates than those that do not. In comparing the nine European nations with the lowest rates of gun ownership (5,000 or fewer guns per 100,000 population) to the nine nations with the highest rates of gun ownership (at least 15,000 guns per 100,000 population), those with lowest rates have a combined murder rate three times higher.  In Western Europe, for example, Norway has the highest rate of gun ownership and has the lowest murder rate.  However, Holland has the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe, but has almost the highest murder rate; Sweden and Denmark  also have high murder rates, but few guns. The study’s authors wrote in the report: “If the mantra ‘more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death’ were true, broad cross-national comparisons should show that nations with higher gun ownership per capita consistently have more death. Nations with higher gun ownership rates, however, do not have higher murder or suicide rates than those with lower gun ownership. Indeed many high gun ownership nations have much lower murder rates. (p. 661)”.  In Russia, the murder rate is four times higher than the U.S. and more than 20 times higher than Norway; private gun ownership is very low after decades of totalitarian rule.  Very few Russian murders involve guns, but the overall murder rate is explained in the study, “[P]er capita murder overall is only half as frequent in the United States as in several other nations where gun murder is rarer, but murder by strangling, stabbing, or beating is much more frequent.”

Getting back to the aforementioned metaphorical example, the elephant in the room looks on the scene in complete amazement as to why so many seem to not even see him, but grab on to Gunkin Troll instead, to blame him for their house falling apart in front of their eyes.  While Gunkin Troll is hollering, the house continues to deteriorate, but at least they feel better because they are “doing something.”  Maybe one day, Gunkin Troll will grow up, turn around, and direct his attention at the elephant in the room before the house is completely demolished.

Conservative Backlash or Bow Down

The major media talking heads have been all jockeying to couch Romney’s loss in terms that are the most favorable to their own biases.  There is an array of attitudes from downright depressed and despondent to outright maddening rage.  It is the usual display of emotions that we all experience when there is a loss: (1) denial, followed by (2) anger, (3) bargaining, and then finally, (4) acceptance; there is wide variability in how long individuals remain in each of these stages and some stay in some of these stages quite a while.  Depending upon how long the stage of anger remains, there will certainly be conservative backlash, and then the latter stages’ prevalence will dictate how much bowing down occurs to what liberals think they deserve in return for the retaining of the presidency.

This week we have seen several stories of employers immediately laying off employees after the election and the stock market certainly has nose-dived as well.  Elections have consequences for sure.  Many feel that they are being forced to work hard to pay for those who choose to not do so and know how to bilk the government for what they need.  What is happening is terrible for our country and is exactly what happens in any socialistic country when people begin losing their incentives for hard work.  It will be hard to stop this trend from continuing given the current administration’s ideals of take from those who can and do, to give to those who could and won’t.  There is a certain level of acceptance in this approach to dealing with the current dire economic forecast and not just anger here.  Many employers held out hoping that policies would change and enable them to expand again with some economic certainty, but with those hopes dashed by the gimme crowds, they have adopted a defensive strategy to enable them to ride out what is seen as the coming storms.

A different level of acceptance is seen in those who think all is lost and want to turn conservative truth into half-baked, libservative pie that no one is going to want to eat because it’s just readily apparent that it’s a desperate attempt to masquerade as a partial liberal just long enough to get elected or stay elected.   We have always gotten bad legislation each time conservatives get into power and then decide to put forth liberal ideas because they think it’ll make them popular enough to stay in office.  This bowing down does nothing more than brings contempt and disrespect.  The bad ideas of the liberals are doomed to fail and conservatives don’t need to despair and change, but be patient and the opportunity for making progress again will most certainly present itself with enough time.

This American ship is seen by many as sinking right now and the life boats are being lowered by those who are already jumping ship in mass numbers to protect what they deem is theirs.  For those who don’t have a life boat, many of them are demanding all of the stuff that they can get before the collapse occurs.  Some say that what will be is just meant to be, but I don’t agree.  God’s will is always that He be lifted up and that all people would come to know Him.  God lets us have free will to make good and bad choices while being blessed, or cursed, depending upon those choices made.  This ship doesn’t have to sink, but we must do some better choosing as a nation soon with everyone grabbing a bucket and throwing the water back out of the hull.  From the way it’s looking now, many of those who are doing that are giving up now.  This is not the time for that kind of thought.  This is the time for those who will “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  This is the time for those who will go forth “as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).  God’s wisdom is there for the asking if we will ask Him, and then act on what He tells us in His Word and through our prayers.

Let’s Preserve Freedom, Not Give It Up

My wife and I had a quick trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this last weekend for a medical convention and while there had several hours of time on Saturday to do some sight-seeing.  We walked so many blocks from the hotel where we stayed that we were wore out by nightfall, but saw many good people and places.  Visiting Independence Hall and standing in the same room where the signers of Declaration of Independence committed their lives toward the pursuit of freedom that has now influenced the whole world is nothing short of inspirational. Studying the history of our U.S. Constitution in the Constitution Center across from Independence Hall provides a sense of just how great our American history really is.  In between those two places is the home of the Liberty Bell inscribed with a scripture from Leviticus 25:10, “…Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.”  As I walked down a sidewalk directly in front of Independence Hall, there were brilliant trees changing their colorful displays while a lone bird hidden in the leaves chirped out some music that sounded like a song of freedom.  Just a few blocks away is a Quaker church building into which visitors are welcome and where the unpolished, plain, wood floor from the early 1800’s is still trod upon by those present day adherents to a way of life which greatly influenced many movements toward freedom in our country including ending slavery and recognition of the rights of women.  While these several blocks stand to testify to the power of the message of freedom, only several blocks away there were those sitting alongside the streets who certainly appeared to not be very free, but bound by the chains of addiction.  Freedom isn’t free, can’t be taken for granted, and must be protected by living responsibly.

In these final weeks before our upcoming elections, I think everyone needs to consider what freedom really means.  Many people think that they will have freedom by giving up their freedoms for what they perceive as greater protection and security of greater government control of our lives.  There are many who want the government to handle everything in their lives.  They are willing to give up their guns and depend upon the government to fully protect them while neglecting the fact that only criminals will have guns then.  They want to give up trying to provide for their health and want to turn over their entire healthcare to the ultimate control of the government also while accepting a lower level of possible care available to them.  They want to allow greater control of the federal government over our schools and can’t see that it doesn’t help; our graduates are less competitive now than in many decades.  If one likes the way our schools are going, then allow the government to control more of our healthcare and we will get a similar system that doesn’t work.  Centralized government with tremendous power is what our forefathers fled to avoid and sought independence to leave.  The well-intentioned desire by many to make government the god of our lives is doomed for failure.

“The greatest temptation to evil that humanity ever suffers is the temptation to make a “Jerusalem” happen by human means.  Human means are absolutely indispensable in the world as it is.  This is God’s intention.  We are supposed to act, and our actions are to count.  But there is a limit on what human arrangements can accomplish.  They alone cannot change the heart and spirit of the human being.  Because of this, the instrumentalities invoked to make “Jerusalem” happen always wind up eliminating truth, or mercy, or both.  World history as well as small-scale decision making demonstrates this.  It is seen in the ravages of dictatorial power, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the death by minutiae that a bureaucracy tends to impose.  It is well known how hard it is to provide a benign order with human means.  For the problem, once again, is in the human heart.  Until it fully engages with the rule of God, the good that we feel must be cannot come.  It will at a certain point be defeated by the very means implemented to produce it” (The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, 1997, Harper Collins).

Physician-Patient Prayer

In this era of healthcare reform, there are many questions floating around on many different topics.  It was encouraging to recently see on the front page of American Medical News (a newspaper published by the American Medical Association) an article entitled, “When patient visit includes request for prayer” (June 18, 2012; volume 55, number 12).  The article discusses a survey of almost 500 adults from Florida, North Carolina, and Vermont in which “one in five patients likes the idea of praying with the doctor during a routine office visit, while nearly 30% want to do so during a hospital stay.”  The article continues to note that, “75% of physicians say patients sometimes or often mention spiritual issues such as God, prayer, meditation or the Bible”.  Also, according to a May 2006 study in Medical Care of 1,200 physicians, 53% of those surveyed pray with patients when patients ask for prayer.  Only 10% of physicians have no religious affiliation and 60% of hospitals have chaplains on staff, according to the American Hospital Association.  While the article doesn’t address geographical differences, I would certainly think that the percentages are much higher in the Bible belt and lower in other areas of the country, but the general statistics reveal how important that prayer is for patients.

The article wasn’t all rosy for physician-patient prayer because it also noted that “only 6% of physicians believe religion and spirituality often help to prevent negative clinical outcomes.”  In addition, the article more greatly promoted the feelings of some that physicians should not initiate prayer with patients, but should let the patient be the initiator and the physician should be silent.  Well, I guess that I am in the 6% category because I have definitely seen with my own eyes, felt with my own hands, and heard in my own ears the positive outcomes associated with patients having faith in Jesus Christ to heal them.  Physicians who do not feel comfortable with praying with patients or initiating prayer with patients should certainly not do so, but those who do actively pray with their patients and may even initiate prayer with their patients, as I do, should not be made out to be unscientific, as one physician in the article is quoted as saying.  If everything could be explained about faith, then it would not be called faith anymore; that is where the rub is for some who want proof of everything.  God has no obligation to prove anything to anyone, as He has revealed Himself abundantly already to those who want to see Him as the Creator as He is (Romans 1). 

I have prayed for miracles with patients and have seen miracles performed by God for patients.  If someone doesn’t believe that occurs, I can’t help that unbelief, but those patients who were healed know that God worked a miracle for them because of their faith in Him and because it was His will for them.  Without getting too specific due to privacy concerns, I have all the proof I need in medical records for dramatic changes in patients’ health I have seen take place over the almost twenty years of treating patients now.  Prayer and faith are extremely important in medical practice and when physicians feel led to ask a patient about praying for them, that physician should certainly ask the patient for permission to do so.  I’ve never had one patient refuse an offer to pray for them.  In my clinic, there is a locked, private box in the waiting room for patients to write out and leave prayer requests.  Allowing patients to express their faith is great for their health and should be encouraged.

Physicians shouldn’t let the possibility of a prayer not being answered in the way that we all like to see keep them from praying for someone.  We all know that God doesn’t provide physical healing for all prayers for healing and that doesn’t mean that there was necessarily a lack of faith, but a lack of God’s will to answer that prayer for physical healing.  Even Lazarus, who was brought back from the dead by Jesus, also later died again.  God has a plan for each of our lives and when we are in step with what He wants, He will help keep us here to accomplish what He wants.  There isn’t an answer for every thing that happens we don’t understand, although.  Dr. James Dobson’s book, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” answers many questions that we all have on this topic; the general answer is that we certainly don’t have all of the answers about why, and we don’t have to have the answers.  When we are submitted to God, we learn that it isn’t up to us anyway; it’s up to Him.  Here again, God does not answer to man and we should have no expectation of any obligation on His part to answer our questions.  Just read the book of Job to discover that. 

The Bible is clear about the great value God places upon even small faith; He doesn’t expect us to have a great faith.  Great faith starts with small faith.  Trust God in spite of what is seen and when nothing makes any sense.  He will bless you with a greater faith in Him.  Any physician who has such a faith certainly cannot keep silent and when a patient can cling to nothing else but their faith, the greatest thing a physician can then do is to point them to the Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12) of their faith through praying with them and for them.