Why is God Allowing Beheading?

beheadingWith the recent news of Christians, including children, being beheaded by Islamic jihadists, there comes to mind questions of why the God we serve is allowing this to occur. To acknowledge that God is allowing children to be beheaded in front of their Christian parents in Iraq brings a certain level of discomfort dependent upon our worldview. To those who have not acknowledged God, the horrific actions of these people are explained only as being cruel actions by cruel people. However, for those of us who do recognize that we have a Creator who is the God of the Bible, thinking about these actions in the context of the God we know from His Word brings more to mind than these being plainly cruel actions. We must acknowledge that God had foreknowledge of this happening to His children and did not choose to intervene. Our questions inevitably lead to us wondering why and the answers are not easy to find, if they can be found.

Scriptures that relate to God rescuing us are the first that come to mind when we are in trouble. “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:8). Psalm 144 speaks of God prospering and preserving His people, “Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood– That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (verses 11-15). That sounds great! We all want to serve a God like that. Think of Exodus 14:13-14, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” That is another great one that we love to remember and quote. If that is all there were to it, it would be easy to decide to follow Christ.

However, we may tend to suppress other scriptures which are equally relevant and point us toward walking down a road that none of us who are sane want to travel—the path of suffering. Paul certainly learned this; “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). In Second Timothy 2:12, we find that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” Obviously, there is more to God than just wanting to rescue us from everything so that it all goes our way all the time. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Peter 2:20). God wants us to learn from suffering and He wants to strengthen us through it. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” (1 Peter 3:14). Our attitude is supposed to change from one of fear and avoidance to that of embracing the suffering before us.

As Christians, God does not promise to preserve our physical bodies during our earthly lives unless it serves His purposes and allows us to accomplish His will for us. The suffering in our paths can only hurt us so much. We may die physically, but only God has charge over our soul and He has promised to preserve our souls. Therefore, when suffering is in front of us, we naturally are going to look for a way out of it, but if we learn that there is no way out, we are actually to run toward it and accept it as part of His plan for us. That is where it is hard to understand again –to accept that God allows us to be killed, beheaded even. However, Christ went down that road, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18). We are good at proclaiming that we want to be Christ-like, but most of the time that means only in ways we agree with or want.

Christ made it clear although that if we want to be like Him, we will have suffering, not possibly, but will. That just goes against the grain of what many Christian churches in America teach nowadays. Jesus Christ explained to those who said they were following Him that He was their food and they did not understand because they did not want to understand. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:61-67). It is easy to follow Him when the miracles are performed which sustain us physically in some way or make life comfortable for us, but it becomes hard when it is learned that this is not really what Christ is ultimately after in dying for us. We also are called to the same in our lives here. “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (1 Thessalonians 3:4). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It is not easy, but it is part of the Christian walk. Christ was in anguish so much that He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and sought another way if it would be God’s will for Him, but in the end accepted what He had to do for us.

Sometimes God chooses to use us in ways we will not like either and we will be in anguish, too, during those times, but we can know that it is to work a greater purpose than what we can understand. God rewards those who suffer for Him and those parents who lost their children, or whomever is missing someone due to such cruelty, can know that those who died are now comforted and will never die again after they physically die in Christ. In America, it usually does not come to that. We should seek God’s face to know if that came to us, would we seek to continue with Him, or would we turn and go another way. May God help us to know Him and His way fully in these perilous days in which we are now living.


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.  

Evolution and Christianity Compatible?

On Friday of this last week, The Church of England’s governing body “approved a motion that emphasizes the compatibility of belief in both God and science.” This certainly sounds benign because science is something we usually trust and we live with the benefits of it on a daily basis. However, the article goes on to state that “Dr. Peter Capon, a former computer science lecturer,… urged Christians to take scientific evidence seriously and avoid prejudging science for theological reasons.” That sounds like the discussion has drifted too far for me right there. How can one even say that their faith is their faith if it doesn’t influence how you think and behave? If it doesn’t do so, then it certainly doesn’t have the faith of the one who claims it.

The congregants of The Church of England are reportedly celebrating Evolution Weekend along with other liberal denominations. The weekend occurs in conjunction with Charles Darwin’s birthday and the anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species. The author of the article from The Christian Post paints conservative Christians as narrow-minded people who refuse to accept the well-recognized, scientifically-based, facts of evolution, as he sees it. What the writer and those who accept evolution do not seem to understand is that their acceptance of evolution is based on more faith than fact. Actually, it takes more faith, based upon the evidence available, to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creationism as it is accounted in Genesis in the Bible. Further, acceptance of evolution undermines the entire foundation of the Bible and nullifies the rest of the Bible. The coexistence of the two is incompatible. For further study on the topic, check out Answers in Genesis.

The Church of England has one thing right here: science and faith are compatible. The fact of it is that science offers more to reject the hypothesis of evolution than to support it among those who are open-minded enough to consider everything that science has to offer and not just what backs up their desire to not have to acknowledge that there is a Creator. To have to acknowledge that there is a Creator means that one also has to accept that there is an authority higher than ourselves and that is too much for some to have to admit. The creation itself does teach us that there is a Creator (see Romans 1) who created as is written in Genesis.