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Blindness, Disease and Healing

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Question #1: 

Good morning Bob.

I was hoping you could shed some insight: As I was reading my morning devotions, I read the following and was curious what you feel JESUS wants us to get from this passage.

What I see is Jesus healing the blind. The blind were so overwhelmed with His healing them that they couldn't help but "go tell others" - even though Jesus sternly warned them not to. I guess I am confused, because The BIBLE speaks often about the utmost importance of obedience. Yet these scriptures end with "radical disobedience". What appears to be a happy story of a miraculous healing ... has a surprise ending (disobedience.)

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men:

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, "See that no one knows about it." 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Matt.9:27-31

Response #1: 

If our Lord gives us a command – especially if He were to give us one personally about some particular matter – we certainly ought to do as He says. It's perhaps understandable that someone who has been given such an amazing gift would wish to tell everyone about it, even if they had received a clear command not to do so. These men were clearly in the wrong, however. The best that could be said for them was that perhaps they didn't understand the "why?" behind the command and so ignored it. This is a good lesson for us all. Christians are always wanting to know "why?" about a great many things, and in the absence of an immediate answer from the Lord – or one that is to their satisfaction – all too often go their own way when they don't receive the answer or find what they receive unsatisfactory. This is the height of arrogance, of course, but it is all too typical. Jesus did not tell them "why", but there was a clear enough reason – though one that these men, just healed, and possibly not even believers to judge from their conduct, were not ready to hear and probably wouldn't not have understood. Our Lord's ministry was absolutely unique, and so were the miracles He performed. And it all had a very definite purpose with a very definite timetable. The cross was the end of His earthly life where He died for the sins of us all. But His ministry prior to the cross lasted some three and a half year. Everything He did He did perfectly, and in proper measure to fulfill the mandate of offering the kingdom to Israel without at the same time creating the crisis that erupted during His last year of ministry, the so-called "year of opposition". Healing the blind was an unheard of miracle – along the lines of raising the dead (Jn.9:32). Before that last year, these miracles were engaged in by our Lord very carefully, both to avoid undue opposition from the authorities in Jerusalem and also to allow Him sufficient freedom of movement to accomplish what He had been sent to do. Even so, the "celebrity factor" militated against His movement and God-given timetable, so much so that after one such similar instance, as Mark tells us,

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
Mark 1:45 NIV

So what these men did worked at cross-purposes to what our Lord had to do on the one hand, and threatened to arouse the ire of those in power in Jerusalem who would soon try to eliminate Him for what He was doing on the other. In terms of the latter, John's celebrity was a great help until he was executed by Herod Antipas at the beginning of our Lord's final year.

Clearly, God can do anything. But it says a great deal about how we should be living our own lives that our Lord followed all the earthly "ground rules" in such a perfect way, not taking advantage of the deity that is truly His. There is more about this at the link:

The course of our Lord's earthly ministry (in BB 4A)

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Good Morning Bob, and happy day after Fathers Day to you. As I was reading this morning, this verse gave me pause (as often happens) and I will meditate on this, but also ask you if there is any significance you could share with me.

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Mark 8:23-25

Thanks, and have a day of victory in Him.

Response #2: 

We certainly know from modern medicine that vision is not only a physical thing but also a perceptual and mental thing. So in rare cases where blindness has been restored or alleviated, it seems that often the individual in question has to be trained "how" to see (how to interpret the visual information flooding into his/her brain which has never been there before). The translations of this verse "Do you see anything?" are not bad, but the Greek indefinite pronoun is not an exact equivalent to our English one; also possible here is "He asked him what/how/in what respect he was seeing" – meaning not that our Lord was unaware of whether the man's physical vision had been healed (He certainly knew that it had), but that He was also aware that the physical healing would also require a perceptual adjustment. Certainly, the Lord could have done this in one step; certainly, He did not have to "make mud" or apply it to the man's eyes to completely restore vision and perception; certainly Jesus did not even have to be present to answer the man's prayers. Things were done the way there were done for our benefit, so that we might in this instance have a deeper appreciation of how dramatic a miracle healing from blindness truly is. A God who can do that, can do anything – as we know, but internalizing that completely is often analogous to needing the "perceptual adjustment" miracle on top of the healing miracle this man experienced: we see that truth sometimes, any yet we don't see it . . . without taking the additional step of completely believing it.

A couple of links:

Blindness

The man born blind

God heals His way.

Healing, Miracles, and Dreams

Christology Questions IV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Good Morning Bob. My interest was in verse 23, specifically going outside of town, and I did a little more looking online. This explained it well to me. See what you think-

And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.

Note 2 at Mr 8:23: Jesus did "nothing of himself" but only what He saw His Father do (Joh 5:19). There was a purpose for leading this man out of the town. Bethsaida was one of the cities that received Jesus' harshest rebuke because of the people's hardened hearts of unbelief (Mt 11:20-22 and Lu 10:13-14). As revealed in Mr 6:5-6, the unbelief of others can hinder the manifestation of God's will (see note 2 at Mr 6:5). Therefore, it is probable that Jesus led this man away from the crowd to separate him from the unbelief of others, just as He did on other occasions (see note 2 at Lu 8:51).

Note 3 at Mr 8:23: This was very unusual for Jesus to minister healing and then ask what the results were. We can rule out the possibility that Jesus didn't know what the will of the Father was in this case (Joh 5:19) and was therefore asking this man if he could see to find out if God had heard and answered His prayer (Joh 11:41-42). Jesus didn't doubt God, but rather He knew that manifestations of God's power could be hindered by the unbelief of others (see note 2 at Mr 6:5 and note 2 at Lu 8:51).

Although He had taken the man out of the town (see note 2 at Mr 8:23), He knew He hadn't removed all of the "town" out of the man (i.e., the unbelief of those in the town of Bethsaida). Therefore, rather than release the power of God into this man and then leave him to struggle with the manifestation of that healing, Jesus helped this man with his unbelief until the healing was complete (see note 4 at Mr 8:25).

This establishes the principle that not all healings (or other answers to prayer) are manifested instantly (see note 5 at Lu 5:25). Satan can hinder God's power even after it has been released. In Da 10:1-13, God answered Daniel's prayer instantly (Da 10:12), yet it took twenty-one days (Da 10:2) for Daniel to see the answer of God, because the prince of Persia (a demonic power) withstood his manifestation. God answers many prayers (Mt 7:7-8) that never come into manifestation, because those praying fail to stand as Daniel did (Mr 11:24 and Ga 6:9).

Response #3: 

In respect of that concern, I think it's more likely that the "outside of the village" part is to be explained by the concluding verse, since this distancing from the village continues after the healing:

Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don’t even go into the village."
Mark 8:26

The reason for doing this miracle in private and for telling the man healed not to go back into the village was to avoid an unwanted, excessive response which would only complicate our Lord's ministry efforts without at the same time producing a positive effect. While most "Christian" ministries today go to great lengths to garner attention operating on the principle that "there's no such thing as bad publicity", our Lord often avoided it. His miracles demonstrated that He was the Son of God, but He also was concerned to carry out the perfect ministry in the perfect way. Too much attention before the time would have resulted in too early opposition from those in power in Jerusalem. It also made the ministry itself more difficult on occasion. Here is the operative paragraph on that from "The Earthly Ministry of Jesus Christ" in BB 4A: "Christology":

(14) After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." (15) Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
John 6:14-15 NIV

Akin to the need to show perfect self-restraint in regard to rendering judgment was the similar necessity not to be swept up in the popular enthusiasm which came His way as a result of His miracles. Even Herod desired to see Him because "he hoped to see him perform some miracle" (Lk.23:8). Rather than craving celebrity as the rest of the human race does almost without exception, our Lord eschewed it as the passage above shows, and went to great lengths to avoid it as far as He possibly could (Matt.8:4; 9:30-31; 12:16; 14:13-14; Mk.1:43-45; 3:20; 8:26; 9:30; Lk.4:42-44; 5:15-16; 5:19). For Jesus knew full well that the approbation of human beings is about as stable as the wind; He was looking not for human approval but to please His heavenly Father (e.g., Matt.26:42; Lk.11:2; Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

(1) Behold my Servant – I will support Him. My chosen One – my soul (i.e., heart) takes pleasure in Him. I have placed my Spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice for the nations. (2) He will not cry out nor will He lift up His voice in the street.
Isaiah 42:1-2

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello,

[details omitted]. I truly believe this is an evil thing which has come upon me and I need your help with how to pray and fight this. I believe it is from Satan but that God is allowing it to happen for whatever reason. I am constantly praying for God to heal me but am as sick today as when it all began. I am in terrible pain.

I have learned so much from you and have visited this website for many years and I thank you for all you do to help others by teaching the bible to so many and leading people including me to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I am not sure if this is punishment for my past sins or satanic attack or both but any help you can give especially your prayers, would be most graciously appreciated.

Response #4:

Good to make you acquaintance – although I am distressed to hear of your troubles. I do promise to keep you in prayer for your healing and victory over this condition/disease. It is certainly true that the evil one and his followers attack believers in all manner of ways. As those who follow Jesus Christ we can expect opposition. However, we can also be confident that nothing that happens in this life is unknown to our Lord, and that if we are not under discipline, then bad things such as this are meant for our growth and His glory (and even if under discipline, after repentance and confession the same is true). As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that God is working everything out for the good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28), and that with whatever testing we are called upon to endure, our Lord has made a path through the trouble and will bring us safe to the other side if we but trust Him to do so (1Cor.10:13). Physical ailments such as this are among the most difficult tests to endure (Satan left this for last in his attacks on Job, after all), but we know that nothing is impossible for our Lord, and that He is the God who heals us (Ps.103:3).

Please also know that your faith in handling this pressure is already bearing fruit: you are an encouragement and a witness to me (and I am sure also to all who know you).

Keep fighting this fight with strong faith, and I will stand with you in prayer to the end.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

Hi Bob, so glad to meet you in email too and Ty so much for your prayers and words of encouragement. I am praying so hard and I believe God will heal me if it is His will and I am reading your Peter series now which is helping me immensely! Please keep me in your prayers and Ty so much for your reply! You are so right about Job....I read that particular book when this began.

God Bless,

Response #5: 

You're most welcome.

I will be praying for your healing. Nothing is impossible for God.

In Jesus Christ who died for us that we might have life eternal with Him.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Robert,

[details omitted]. I thought I would let you know where things are at the moment and I do feel discouraged but one thing I have learned about this illness is that it's the people who fight every step of the way who live, and the ones who give up all hope or do not have the $ usually do not make it. I must stay in faith and trust in God to know what He is doing and how this will all play out but even if I do not make it Robert, I know this is His will and that I tried everything I possibly could to help myself. I think of you often and keep you in my prayers daily. I hope all is well with you my friend. Please keep in touch!

Your friend in Christ,

Response #6: 

I'm very sorry to hear that this hasn't worked out the way we had hoped. I was happy when you told me the news about getting on with this doctor, but a bit emotionally reserved because of my own past experiences with the medical profession. To put the nicest possible spin on it, they are great when a person has something very obviously wrong and traditional. When I was a young Marine officer my left ankle was crushed by a tank, and if not for the Army docs at Ft. Knox, I would probably have been hobbled for life. But they did a great job fixing me up. On the other hand, the problem I've had with my lungs for years they can't find and so I've given up on pulmonologists. Recently I've also had a bad infection on my face which was spreading disturbingly; the only thing that seemed to help was some antibiotics I got at an immediate care clinic, but my own doc won't continue them even though they were helping. Whenever the problem is not obvious, I think they worry about the solution out of fear. So it's wrong to put them on a pedestal. They're just fallible human beings who in their field know more than us but they don't know everything. I'm trying to deal with my problem as best I can "over the counter" but will probably get in to see a dermatologist in a couple of weeks (for fear of scaring my students away on the first day of classes in about a month). Not that my little problem is anything on the magnitude of yours; just trying to say I understand that getting help – finding someone really willing to help – is often more than half the battle. Blessedly, God is our help, an "ever present help in times of trouble" (Ps.46:1). So I take great encouragement from your wonderful attitude and from your trust in the Lord. We don't know the day or the manner of victory, but with our dear Lord Jesus, we can be confident that He will always bring forth the rainbow of deliverance. Our part is to match His perfect faithfulness with a tiny mustard seed of faith until that glorious day arrives.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities / and bore our diseases.' " (Matthew 8:17)

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4)

Do you see a connection here between the suffering for our sins Christ did and the healing of diseases he preformed? Matthew apparently did, although he used the LXX's translation of Isaiah 53:4 to back this up. Do you have any observations?

Sincerely,

Response #7: 

Physical disease (often attributed to sin even when that is not the case; cf. Job), is a visible counterpart of sin (we only die physically, after all, because of Adam and Eve's transgression). So healing disease is analogous to and in our Lord's case prophetic of His taking away of the entire "sin problem" by dying in our place for every sin.

Whatever we have to suffer in this life, we know that on the other side – because Christ has borne all of our sins on the cross – we will have no more pain or trouble of any kind (Rev.7:17; 21:4). So whenever we are sick or suffering, that is what we believers who are people of hope should be focusing on, not the sin and sickness of this world, but the joy and deliverance of the next.

(18) For I do not consider these present hardships in any way comparable to the glory destined to be revealed for us [at the 2nd Advent]. (19) For all creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God. (20) For the created world is now subject to futility – not of its own choosing, but because of Him who subjected it [as a consequence of Adam's sin] – but not without hope. (21) For [at the 2nd Advent] the created world will be liberated from its enslavement to decay at the glorious liberation of the sons of God (i.e. our resurrection). (22) For we know that the whole creation has been experiencing intense pain and agony right up until this present time. (23) And not only the created world, but we too who have received the Holy Spirit as a foretaste [of the good things to come] agonize within ourselves as we eagerly await our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body (i.e. resurrection). (24) This is the hope with which we were saved.
Romans 8:18-24a

For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. And [even] if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dr. Lunginbill,

I have several questions. I would greatly appreciate your response. See the following scripture verses:

Matthew 8:
16When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Jesus, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took on our infirmities, and carried our diseases." 18When Jesus saw a large crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side.…

Isaiah 53:4
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

The Scripture in Matthew 8 says that "Jesus took our infirmities, and carried our diseases." Now I realize that we live in a sinful world, and we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam, but other than then, My question is: Why do we carry our infirmities, and our diseases when if fact Jesus took them on the cross?

John 15 verse 24 says:

24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father.

I really don't understand that just because Jesus had not done the works that He did among them,

Question: How does this correlate with Romans 3:23 - "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God? Everyone has sinned at one time or another, correct?

I know that these are very basic questions, but I am not seeing something I should be. Thanks always for you kindness and great help.

Enduring until the end by the Grace of God.

Response #8: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

As to our Lord "taking on our infirmities and carrying our diseases", first, He did do extensive and miraculous healing of the sick during His earthly ministry – as a sign that He was the Messiah who would take away our sins. Disease in scripture while clearly not the same as sin would never have happened in the first place without Adam's sin and can be the result in divine discipline of sinning (e.g., Num.12:10; Jn.5:14; 1Cor.11:30; Jas.5:14-16), although that is clearly not always the case (as in the case of Job; cf. also Jn.9:2-3); we all sin and we all get sick, but the two are not necessarily related by cause and effect. But since there is the obvious connection between the two just noted, disease in scripture is often symbolic of sin, and that is what Isaiah 53:4 means in the first instance in terms of its basic interpretation: our "sicknesses and weaknesses" are reflective of our mortal status which is in turn due to our inherent sinfulness. So when Jesus healed the sick it was a demonstration of His power to take away also the sin that underlies it – and that connection is also obvious throughout Isaiah 53:4-12:

(4) For He bore our sicknesses and He carried our weaknesses. And yet we considered Him as [the One who had been] punished, smitten and afflicted by God. (5) But [in fact] He was made subject to torment on account of our transgressions, and He was crushed because of our collective guilt (lit., "guilts"). The punishment [required] for making peace [with God] on our behalf [fell] upon Him. Because of His wounding, we have been healed. (6) We have all gone astray like sheep. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord caused the guilt of us all to strike Him. (7) Though He was oppressed and afflicted, like a lamb led to slaughter He did not open His mouth, and like a ewe before her shearers He did not open His mouth. (8) By repressive judgment He was taken away, and who gave any thought to His posterity? For He was cut off from the land of the living. He was punished for the transgression of my people. (9) And they assigned Him a grave with the wicked (pl.) and with a rich [man] in His deaths (sic). Not for any violence that He had done. Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. (10) For it was the Lord's good pleasure (i.e., "will") to crush Him, to subject Him to torment. But though you make His life a guilt offering, He will see His seed, He will lengthen His days, and the good pleasure (i.e., "will") of the Lord will prosper in His hand. (11) [Released] from the trouble [inflicted] upon His life, He will [again] see [the light of life] and be satisfied (i.e., in resurrection). My righteous Servant will provide righteousness for the great [of heart] (i.e., believers) through the[ir] acknowledgment of Him, and He Himself will carry their guilt (lit., "guilts"). (12) Therefore I will allot to Him [the plunder] among [His] many [brothers], and He will apportion plunder to the mighty [among them]. Because He lay bare His life unto death, and was dealt with as transgressors [are], so that He bore the sin of the many, and substituted [Himself] for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:4-12

That said, it is much easier for God to heal someone than to take away their sin, because the former is a matter of power, but the latter required the sacrifice above all sacrifices, the most significant thing that has ever happened or ever could, the foundation of all creation: our Lord's spiritual death on the cross.

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "Get up, take your mat and go home." Then the man got up and went home.
Matthew 9:2-7 NIV

The fact that we have now been forgiven our sins is beyond wonderful, but it does not mean that our bodies have yet been transformed. They have not been. We still have sin natures and are thus still capable of sinning; and we are still mortal and still subject to disease. That part of the prophecy, sinlessness coupled with absolute health forever, has to await the resurrection and our ultimate sanctification:

For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens (i.e., the resurrection body). For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. And [even] if we do put off this present one, at any rate, we (i.e., our spirits) will not be found naked (i.e., "body-less"; for we will enjoy an interim body in the meantime: cf. Lk.16:19-31; Rev.6:9-10; Rev.7:9-17).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:23 NIV

" ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4 NIV

As to John 15:24, the interpretation of that passage is really a different matter (not in conflict with any of the above or with your correct assessment of the universal nature of sin as seen in Rom.3:23). Here is something recently written though not yet posted:

Yes, I believe you are correct. "All sin" (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:5-10), as anyone who has read the Law – or indeed as anyone who has observed human nature for even a short length of time knows very well. So our Lord is not saying that these men had no sin nature, nor that they hadn't sinned "at all". The second half of the statement in John 15:22, "but as things actually stand now they have no excuse" is referring back to the previous context where the hatred of the world towards our Lord and its persecution of believers are in view, and that is the point of emphasis, not the preceding part of the verse which is a hypothetical. To put this into present day English vernacular we would be justified in translating thus: "I suppose they might have been able to argue that their opposition to the truth and their persecution of you was somehow justified – If I hadn't told them the truth which they have indeed heard and heartily ignored". The hypothetical merely serves to underscore the fact that these persecutors, present and future, have no excuse before God because God has made the truth about His Son known to them – they have (and still do) insist on rejecting and ignoring the Word of God.

To return briefly also to Matthew 9:2-7, the reaction of the crowd – and probably that of most Christians who read this passage – namely, to be more amazed at a miracle than at the forgiveness of our sins merely serves to underline how far out of line the spiritual understanding of those who have this reaction is. As those who are presently in the world we can be forgiven for leaning in this direction, but it would be good whenever we read this passage to remember that the spiritual things the Lord has done – the spiritual healing in forgiving our sins – is so far above any material healing we might receive as to render the latter absolutely insignificant. Obviously, when we are in pain or trouble that is a hard perspective to maintain, but we know in our heart of hearts that it is the truth. We desire to be healthy and to be healed when we are in pain or trouble, but we need to remember that what we have now in Jesus Christ is far superior to any material benefit we might receive, even needful healing – and is certainly eclipsed by the perfect resurrection body, our inheritance in New Jerusalem, and the eternity with our dear Lord which we are going to enjoy forever without pain or trouble forevermore.

So when our Lord said "your sins are forgiven", He was doing and promising much more to this man – and to us by application – than any miracle or healing or blessing could ever do. For the latter are "good" for our limited time in this world, but the former springs up unto life eternal.

Feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob.....sorry to hear that you know people who have had difficulties with the medical community. I am placing all my trust in God right now. I saw a story yesterday about a man from Arizona who had a tumor on his chest the size of 2 grape fruits and he kept praying for God to heal him. He watched a show where the pastor was saying you must already believe you have been healed and thank Jesus for healing you. He began to pray in such a way and completely ignored the tumor although his wife who had to clean the tumor and dress it said she was not so faithful and each time he went to his doctor the tumor would be smaller than the time before until it completely disappeared. He now works and volunteers for the pastor and his ministry who is very well known on tv. I cannot remember his name but he is on quite a bit. I am encouraged by this man and his story.

How do you feel about believing the healing has already taken place Robert?

Yours in Christ,

Response #9: 

I believe that God can do absolutely anything. I also believe that He is good, that He is gracious, that He is merciful, that He is loving, that He is forgiving, and that He is working everything out for the good for those who love Him. He gave us His Son to die in our place – what more could He do for us than that? And having done the most, how will He not then do everything else – everything that truly is good and is in His best-case plan for us (Rom.5:8-10)?

I do not believe that God requires us to "guess His interpretation" of scripture in order to be saved or blessed, or that we can do anything for Him or do or say anything to receive such blessing and deliverance . . . except to trust in Him. I know of examples in scripture of believers who had to wait a long, long time for deliverance (Abraham waited decades); I know of examples in scripture of believers whose situation went from bad to worse before it got better (Job, for instance); and I know of examples in scripture where in spite of prayer there was no healing – because that was not the will of God – but there was blessing to overcome:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-9 NKJV

What we can say with certainty is that the Lord always hears our prayers, that if they are not instantly answered it is for some higher purpose involving our witness to others and our own spiritual growth, and that whether we are healed or not He will give us a way to get through and to accomplish what He has for us in this life regardless of trouble.

I am grateful to the Lord for His healing of any and all believers who have been healed. And I rejoice with them and for them. But I do know that it was God who healed them, and that He did so according to His just and beneficent appreciation of their situation, not because of anything they did or said or because of anything else anyone else did or said. God answers prayer – in His perfect way; but He is not a puzzle where one only has to turn the pieces the right way to get what one wants. So I do have problems with anecdotes such as this, at least in the way they are framed by the people who report them. First, "already believe" is like some sort of magic incantation, with the implication that if you don't use this particular "abracadabra" then nothing will happen; God is not like that. Second, it is true that our Lord says in Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 that if you believe, you will receive. But what that means is not engaging in some odd mental gyrations but rather not doubting the Lord when you ask Him for something. It is important to remember that the issue is the Lord, not us; our part is merely to ask in faith and trust Him – and that is no different from any other aspect of the Christian life which we live in faith. After all, we live our lives in the light of eternity, confident in the resurrection of this mortal body, confident of being rewarded for all our growth, progress and production for the Church of Jesus Christ, and confident that we will be with our dear Lord and each other in the New Jerusalem on that wonderful day to come. We walk by faith. So it is no different when it comes to prayer. We pray in faith.

It is important to note well the examples our Lord uses just prior to His statements about "believe you will receive" in Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, that is, "if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them" (Mk.11:23 NIV). This is true. It is in the Bible. Our Lord said it (at least twice). However, in the history of the world since Jesus spoke these words, I don't know of a single instance where this has actually happened. And that makes sense too. John tells us that "if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (1Jn.5:14). There doubtless have not been many if any times in the history of the Church thus far where moving mountains – literally – was in the will of God as something necessary for the promotion of His plan (there will be: Zech.14:4). So our part is not to decide the details of the plan of God; our part is to trust Him in all He is doing for us. When we run into trouble along the lines of what you are experiencing, our part is to put the matter in His hands in full and complete confidence that He both can heal us and that in fact He will do so – if and when that is in His will.

Now it is admittedly hard for us to imagine any instance whatsoever where being healed of some physical malady would not be in the will or God or our best interest. This is an area where we have a hard time seeing where there might be a sliver of daylight between the will of God and our personal will. But that is obviously not the whole story since so many Christians suffer from all manner of diseases and conditions, and continue to do so even though they along with friends and families pray for them continuously. What then? Do they all lack enough faith? God forbid! It is in fact insulting, to my mind, for ministries and "ministers" such as those referenced to suggest anything of the kind. We don't pray because we lack faith; we pray because we have faith. And we know that God's will may not, in fact, be for our immediate relief. Job suffered for a long time. He couldn't imagine why. But God was using him as a witness for the ages, and what Christian has not received great spiritual benefit from reading his story? None that have made any spiritual advance. Paul was not healed of his "thorn in the flesh", and he was given the reason for it. We don't know why we suffer, but if we look back on prior incidents of suffering we may begin to see the answers to those troubles in retrospect, to understand that the experiences brought us closer to the Lord through forcing us to rely on Him and not on ourselves of the resources of this world. When we do see, it builds up our faith, because we have an even stronger belief than before that "God knows what He is doing" in our lives, even if we are having a hard time understanding our present misfortunes. Suffering, of any kind, forces us to rely more on Him and less on us, and that forced reliance is in direct proportion to the hopelessness of the situation from the human point of view. So anytime we have a medical problem that seems impossible for the medicos to fix, that is a good test of our faith, a test which not only demonstrates the depth of our faith to ourselves and others, men and angels both, but which also strengthens it for things to come – future tests about which we have no clue at present . . . but God knows.

We know that God has a plan for us all. We know that He conceived that perfect, all-comprehensive plan in eternity past. And we know that it contains all the answers to all of our problems meted out in the perfect way. If we are walking with Jesus, if we are pursuing spiritual growth and sanctification, if, in short, we are really doing things His way, then we can be absolutely confident that whatever we suffer is for God's glory and our blessing, blessing, that is, in the strengthening of the faith of others and ourselves, in the witness to the power of the truth, and in our preparation for future spiritual battles. If all we had to do was to imagine something that wasn't true and like magic all our problems would melt away, well, there wouldn't be any faith or faith-building in that. Building faith takes time, patience persevering under pressure.

Jesus tells us to have confidence that what we pray will take place (Matt.21:22), not that it has actually already taken place when it has not in fact taken place yet. That is a misinterpretation of Mark 11:24. When that verse says (NIV) "whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours", it means, believe that God has answered your prayer. That does not mean, obviously, that He will heal you today or even tomorrow. It does not mean that He will answer the prayer in the way you or I want. But it does mean that He both hears you and also that He will do for you just exactly what it the very best thing, that is, just what He in His matchless grace and mercy has already planned for you, taking into account the prayers He knew we would all offer. But to suggest that if we don't get just what we want just when we want because we are not believing in something that is definitely not true is dangerous nonsense – and, unfortunately, typical of what passes for teaching in our Laodicean day and age.

"I am placing all my trust in God right now."

Amen! That says it all. We can't know all we want to know about the why, and we don't know the when or exactly the what or the how, but we can and should have absolute faith in the Lord that He is working it all out together for us for good for us who truly love Him. There's nothing better than that. Proclaiming that we can circumvent the plan of God, the biblical statements about the suffering which all in the Church must undergo, spiritual growth, the truth of the Bible, the many examples of believers who have suffered much and overcome through faith – simply by "believing something is" that isn't – is a grave mistake.

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend. I know that God is working this out for you for good, and I am confident that He hears our prayers. I look forward to hearing a good report from you soon.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Robert,

Thanks for taking the time to explain and share all of this with me.....as usual I am made to see things in a whole new light with your words of wisdom and spiritual truth! I did feel as though I were telling untruths by praying in this way....it did not feel comfortable or right and now I know why. How can I help others by what I am experiencing? What can I do right now to make a difference in the lives of others? Thank you my friend and may God Bless you today and every day!

Yours in Christ,

Response #10: 

I'm glad to be able to be of some comfort and encouragement as we wait on your deliverance. As to helping others, first, we do that by showing them our faith in the midst of the fiery trial. Second, we grow in our own faith by applying truth to our own experience as we fight our way forward with the Lord, and in that way become all the more prepared to minister according to the gifts we have been given and the ministries to which we have been severally called. So do keep on growing, and do keep on fighting the good fight of faith. Probably every believer I have ever known who took their Christianity seriously has had questions about their own gifts and eventual ministries. But none of us can minster effectively until the Lord prepares us for that. Growth to maturity comes first; hardening in the fires of testing comes next; then when we are "spiritual-combat veterans" the Lord will lead us into just the right ministry for us according to the gifts we have been given by the Spirit for precisely the effects the Father has planned – that is precisely the way to win the three crowns.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hello Bob,

I want you to know that I’ve been keeping you and yours in my prayers. I hope the work situation and the family health problems have been resolved for the best.

May I ask to my family put on your prayer request list? [details omitted] It seems like I’ve been having one thing after another for the last 4-5 months...like I can’t even catch my breath and something else starts. Sometimes I have more than a couple things happening at the same time. I know this is another trial that He has entrusted me with and I pray that I can bring Him glory in it. I just want to do right by my heavenly Father and my earthly father.

Thank you Bob for letting me take up a few minutes of your time and get some things off my heart. Thank you also for your continued prayers and I will continue to pray for you and yours, as well.

In our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

Response #11: 

I have put this on the Ichthys prayer list and promise to keep you and your family in my personal prayers as well.

On (seemingly) never-ending testing, these sorts of experiences rarely come except to believers who are genuinely making strides for the Lord in spiritual growth, progress and production. So keep up the good work! An old saw which I am (too) found of quoting: "When you're getting a lot of flak, it means you're getting close to the target". So keep on course. The Lord will work it out for good, and days of rest and refreshment will come. They always seem to be farther out there than any of us would prefer – but otherwise it wouldn't be a good test that really built up our faith, perseverance and dedication to the Lord.

Your wonderful attitude and persistence in all things good are a witness to me and I am sure to many others! You can handle this because it is clear you are already handling this, which means "I can handle this too!" – through the power of the Spirit in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Yours in the dear Savior who died for all of our sins in Calvary's darkness, the Light of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Bob,

Thank you for adding us.

Thank you, too, for the encouraging words. Lately I don’t feel like I’m making any strides at all with everything going on. I’ve been trying to put into action something you wrote me last month about accepting the test and the result with an inner smile, even if it comes amidst with outward tears. The tears part is easy! I keep telling myself that the testing is making me stronger for what I’ll need to do in the future and that it will all work out in the end. I usually worry and other stuff at the same time but always come back to that truth. And it’s always a wonderful payoff, if you will, when we get through the storm and see His work in it even if we didn’t notice at the time.

So far I’m experiencing real peace with what is going on. He has given me peace and clarity and I try to focus on "today" and not "tomorrow" or "next month", etc. Hopefully I can maintain this attitude and not look to the left or right but continue to focus on the Lord and His work. I had a moment today when I prayed about things to come. Later during some quite time I had I heard, "Don’t you think I can take care of things just as good as you?" Pretty humbling and a good lesson. I can do nothing—it’s all Him. For whenever I am weak, then I am strong!! (2 Cor 12:10) I thank you so much for explaining that verse to me. I has really opened my eyes and given me comfort.

What is a good way to put how we hear from the Holy Spirit? For instance, I just told you that I "heard" the Holy Spirit. I try to stay away from the phrase "God spoke to me" or "The Holy Spirit said", etc. because of all the TV "preachers" who have said it. When something like that comes to mind I believe it’s the Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit. Is this correct? I’m not hearing an audible voice or anything like that. It’s just something that comes to my mind.

Thanks again for adding us and the prayers. We will continue to keep you and yours in ours. And thank you for your hard work and dedication to our Lord and sharing his Word with us.

Yours in Christ,

Response #12: 

You seem to me to be fighting a wonderful fight. Obviously, we can't move forward as fast when we are under severe fire – we may have to crawl – but that is all a part of our growth which is impossible without testing. Keep fighting a good fight!

Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30b NIV

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 126:25-26 NIV

Your testimony is wonderful. And the message from the Spirit is precisely what I expect in the case of mature believers who are rallying their hearts in the face of pressure. With the Spirit's help we draw upon the truth that is in our hearts by faith and apply it courageously to the problems at hand. As to the question of "voice", as has been said before, the "still, small voice" of the Spirit to us who believe is inaudible yet thunderous and unmistakable (1Ki.19:12).

I will be keeping you and your family in my prayers – and thanks so much for yours as well!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

Hope you and yours are well. Things are going better. Thanking and praising God for hearing our prayers...no matter what happens!

Do you think a believer should have a living will? I know I mentioned a DNR and know your position on that. Some well-meaning believers say that living wills are basically permission for euthanasia. As someone who worked for a veterinarian, euthanasia involved a drug that was administered. To me, if you are dying and there is no hope, and you don’t want a breathing tube or any nourishment, I wouldn’t consider it euthanasia. I’m not too sure it would count as suicide, either. I hear the argument, "well, food would have kept you alive three days longer!". Yes, but in what state? You are so right when you say that modern medicine has made medical decisions harder. We just don’t want to die and find out we did something we shouldn’t have. And, I guess for selfish reasons, I’ve told my parents and loved ones who want to make me power of attorney for them, to have some sort of medical directive and not to put me in a position to make that life or death decision for them. We pray and consider what we feel we’ve been told in prayer. We rely on Him and hope we don’t mess it up! ha!

Keeping you and yours in prayer.

Response #13: 

Thanks for you wonderful news! I'll be keeping you and your family in my prayers in any case.

As to the question, I think you have this exactly right. I would have to say that this is more a matter of application that it is of biblical principle. Clearly, no such situations are directly addressed in scripture inasmuch as the technology or "magic" the world worships today was unable to create such problematic circumstances when the Bible was written. It is difficult to come down completely on one side or the other of many of these "tech" issues. It would be easy to say that making use of anything stemming from technical advance is wrong, but that would clearly be a gross over-simplification. They didn't have aspirin in the ancient world. That doesn't mean it's wrong to take a couple when you have a headache. On the other hand, if I had chronic headaches I'm not sure I could ever consent to some chip being implanted in my head to relieve the problem.

It seems to me that life is hard at all times – for serious Christians. Being given a long life sounds like a blessing, but mature Christians understand that old age has additional challenges. It's often said that "gettin' old ain't for sissies", and that is certainly true in my interaction with those who have outlived the "seventy years, or eighty if by reason of strength" (Ps.90:10). The challenges grow by the year, month, and sometimes by the day. From what I can see (and have been told more than once), there is often no great blessing in such artificially extra "golden years". But as Christians, we are determined to endure with the best attitude we can whatever the Lord brings our way. Getting old in this country with this technology is perhaps the ultimate test of faith. For those of us with loved ones who are facing their final years, honoring their (legitimate) wishes as long as we can do so with clear consciences would seem to be the best approach. I can't condone euthanasia in the true sense. On the other hand, heroic medical measures which are clearly not going to do anything more than postpone the inevitable for a short time while making the loved one suffer unnecessarily are also clearly (to me at least) to be avoided. There is a lot of room in-between these fairly clear guideposts. And as with all "in-between" judgment-call situations, these are best left to the Christians themselves to whom the decision falls, with the rest of us supporting them with our prayers and loving concern.

Here are some related links:

Economics and Technology (in Satan's system)

Christians and medical care

Heroic medical actions

Drugs and medicine

A verse in Proverbs (Prov.18:9)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the words of wisdom. Sometimes I think well-meaning believers are just here to test our faith!

I had a friend tell me recently that he was driving to a hospital a couple of hours away and was drinking pop the whole trip. When he got to the specialist, they wanted a blood sample. A little while later the doctor came rushing in saying that his blood sugar was 1200! My friend asked if that was good and the doctor said, "YOU SHOULD BE DEAD!!". My friend told him that he wasn’t going to die by hanging if he was born to drown. The doctor was mad but it’s the truth. We do suffer for things we do to our bodies (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) but we’re going to go the way God has planned when He has planned it. Someone said they wanted to live as long as Moses. Not me! I don’t care anything about staying or growing older. I thank Him daily for my good health but I won’t say no if He calls me home. If Jesus tarries and I live to be 90, I hope He gives me the grace to do it.

So as far as the "in-between" areas...I guess I’m looking for clarification. Are we covered by His grace in the "in-between" or gray areas? I believe we are but now I have doubts. I believe that if you die as a believer you will go to heaven. Our sins are forgiven and our repenting of daily sin is the way we remain in good fellowship with God. If I pray and do something in faith, and it turns out to be wrong, I’m still covered by grace. For instance, I have a living will that says I don’t want nourishment at the end to prolong the inevitable, I wouldn’t consider this suicide because I would, hopefully, be on the way out. But what would happen if God sees it as suicide? Maybe He wanted me to live three more days and have a filing cabinet drop on me. Or the doctor says you have less than a week, you do nothing and live another 3 years! I guess that’s where faith comes in.

I’m sorry if I’m beating this dead horse from a different angle. God will take care of us all and I certainly don’t want to do anything on my end to cause any undue grief. I appreciate you listening to me. It’s nice to talk to a truly godly person who knows the word and One who wrote it and not just a feel-good, lukewarm Christian. Also, as someone who isn’t directly involved. Too many emotions for sure.

In Him,

Response #14:

It's always good to hear from you, my friend. As to the latest, the same principle applies. Somewhere between, "God will do His will no matter what so I don't have to actually do anything like live responsibly" and "every single little thing I do is so important so I absolutely must get it right" there is a sweet spot of trusting God and doing our best. If we are doing our best but not trusting God, we will never have peace (and our best will no doubt not be empowered by Him as it otherwise might have been); if we are trusting God but not doing our best, that is not a very good witness and will have predictable results (even if God does "bail us out" from the worst possible consequences of our inaction). Paul trusted the Lord absolutely, but He still "worked harder than all of them" while being peaceful and humble enough to admit that the results were not really from him at all: "yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (1Cor.15:10 NIV).

The other important principle here is that "life is not a game of chess" where the moves may be considered endlessly, and where, however complex, we have complete information about the "board". Life, for Christians involved in deadly combat with the adversary, is more like war. In war, there are no second chances. The unexpected is normal. And even in the "perfect attack" there will be casualties. Blood will flow. No one will get out clean. If we are sitting still, we can perhaps convince ourselves of the chess analogy. But when we do finally get down to aggressively studying and believing the truths of the Word, we will start to get serious opposition from the evil one. Things will happen fast and the combat will be intense. We will face all manner of situations where navigation is to some extent guesswork. So how do we navigate? 1) If we have learned much truth, that truth will be our guiding star; 2) the Spirit will use that truth, when we respond to His guidance in faith and with prayer, to help us choose the way; 3) our consciences, informed by the Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit will be accurate guides to determining "good from bad" even in small things, even in difficult things, to do as much "fine tuning" as may be necessary.

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Don't worry (Matt.6:34). Trust the Lord. Ask Him for guidance in any matter that is not spelled out in scripture and about which you are concerned (Jas.1:5). Keep studying the Bible. Keep taking in the truth through solid Bible teaching. Keep believing the truth and meditating on it night and day. You will continue to grow in Jesus Christ and all your questions will be answered, even those that have yet to occur to you – and you will be able to navigate all such situations in a way well-pleasing to our Master.

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

In the One who is the very Truth, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello Bob,

It's" so good " to hear from you!

During these past few months, I have been afflicted with a couple of physical issues (here we go again), which [details omitted]. It was a biggie! It seems to be one issue after another. I was wondering if someone changed my name to Job, lol. But – Thanks be to the author and finisher of our faith who, once again, proved Himself faithful! I am so overwhelmed by His faithfulness and His loving kindness and His healing hand. This was extended to me! I myself, bear witness to His loving everlasting arms!

Bob, I can't help but tell people (believers & unbelievers) about His never-failing mercy and amazing grace! What a mighty, faithful, and loving God we serve!

I trust all is well with you? My brother, is there anything specific that I can stand with you in prayer? Know that I will always be here for you. I thank you for being there for me and standing with me.

I appreciate you notifying me about the study on Bible Basics, "Eschatology ." I believe it will be very worth my while to spend time reading the Scriptures in this area, like you've mentioned. My brother Bob, may you have a blessed week. May the Lord cause His face to shine upon you so good, that you keep falling in love with Him over and over again. When we are called home to glory, what do you say we meet on His lap for a few million millenia (I can only express this in finite terms), and let those wonderful everlasting wrap around us!

Your brother,

Response #15: 

Sorry to hear of your rough patch of road, my friend, but I'm delighted to hear that you are doing better AND that you came through this test with flags flying! This is a testimony to the power of the truth and the Spirit . . . for those who give attention to and believe the truth and bother to listen for the Spirit's still, small voice of guidance. Good for you! I know that this redounds to the Lord's glory and also to your reward before the judgment seat of Christ on that great day to come.

Thank you so much for your good words and prayers, my friend. After a long, long road of testing, things are going very well, at present. You might say a prayer for my 95 year old mother who is going through a lot of difficulties at present (I would certainly appreciate that).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hello, and thanks for your Easter study in Mark which is as always very encouraging, and I like the format of the study. I am emailing to wish you a blessed Good Friday and Easter, but also to mention a book that you may find of interest. A while back, I wrote a blog series with a radical thesis – that if we believe in the doctrine of the Resurrection, then we should not share organs (etc). I tried to get some people to read it who have good educations in theology but they did not have time, which was understandable in both cases. So, I am not POSITIVE that I agree with my thesis and was hoping a theologian would provide an expert opinion. I would never ask you to read it, but if you had an interest in the topic, and did read it, I would like to know if you agree with the thesis or not, and if not, why you do not.

Have a blessed and wonder-filled Easter weekend.

Response #16: 

Good to hear from you. It's an interesting question, and like so many technology induced questions, not an easy one to answer in a dogmatic way. My gut instinct is to side with you on this; whether or not I could/would state this as a strict interpretation of scripture is another matter (interested to see your development of this from the Bible). Where to draw the line is another question. For example, what about blood transfusions? I know that there are some groups that are opposed to this on religious grounds as well. Having served in the military (never was shot at, though) and being a student of military history, it would hard for me to tell young men going into combat to refuse transfusions since in many cases this is the difference between life and death where there is serious loss of blood (but you probably address this one as well).

Keeping you in my prayers day by day.

And wishing you a very happy Easter holiday as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

You are a kind person which is so evident in your website articles and interactions.

This morning it came to my mind that my question would fit or may fit in your email postings. When you take another round of questions from emailers, if you would like to include mine, it could be worded:

What is your opinion of organ sharing? Have you ever considered this common medical practice in light of the Resurrection, in that it violates the integrity of an individual's body? Or, you could word my question is the best way for your readers to understand what information I seek.

Happy Easter,

Response #17: 

I've now had a chance to do a quick review of your book. I want to congratulate you on producing something which is very well-organized, well-written and attractive. It is also not to much to say that what you have here provides a wealth of intelligently thought out and thought-provoking topics of discussion. I also think that the general thrust of the book tends towards a godly and biblical appreciation of these complicated matters – and that is a very welcome thing. I think any Christian who is truly interested in or concerned about this subject (really, complex of subjects) would be well advised to give your book serious attention (whether or not you get around to updating it).

I do have a few comments and observations which come from my theological and Bible-teaching perspective – and you are certainly free to dispose of them as you see fit (few authors, particularly those who dare to go against the grain in any way, ever receive reviews like "I agree with everything in this book!" – usually precisely the opposite).

First, there are some very complicated issues treated here, and as you understand many of them are not addressed directly (or even tangentially) in scripture – often for the obvious reason that there were no such things possible in biblical times – so that we are left to draw inferences from scripture in many of these cases. For some things it may be possible or permissible to say with some degree of dogmatism that a certain practice is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. If nothing else, our consciences informed by the Holy Spirit will guide us to that conclusion. Abortion is one practice that in my personal opinion falls into the "wrong" category (more on other facets of that issue below), but even here I have to note that it isn't discussed in scripture. From that I glean, since of course there was abortion and infanticide in biblical times, that no such condemnation was necessary simply because the answer is so obvious. One's conscience has to be one's guide, however, and that is one caveat (if that's even the right word) I would add to all such discussions. You resist the temptation throughout of making these insights prescriptive or proscriptive. But you are the exception. It is very easy to fall into the guilt-trap on an individual basis or the political action trap on a collective basis, and that is in fact the end result of most such discussions. So while the discipline to avoid that sort of thing is a positive for your book, as a Bible teacher I am always trying to be on the look out to head off anything that might be taken wrong by those for whom I have some pastoral responsibility. The very fact that most of these issues can't be absolutely linked to scripture means that delving deep into these subjects is probably not for everyone (not for immature Christians, that is to say).

Second, while I applaud what I see to be the general theme of your book, that is, a godly respect for the human body as something that comes from God and also something that cannot be divorced from the spiritual side of the human being, I would personally be reluctant to oppose all scientific uses of our physical side. On the one hand, I too am by nature (and by scripture) inclined against any such use, but as in the example I gave you of blood and plasma transfusions for battlefield injuries, while the inclination may be correct, I'm not sure that it can be worked into any sort of absolute rule (not saying that this is what you are doing but I am saying that this is what some may take away). These are important issues, and I deeply appreciate what I see you to be saying, namely, that nowadays the inclination is to see the body as a mere commodity and that this has become the "absolute rule" – with any qualms seen as reactionary, stupid, and superstitious. Getting people to think about that is a good thing. As Christians, we should focus on spiritual things, not material things. Buying into the secular world's materialism in terms of the human body is going to hurt that spirituality; but I worry that a completely contrary point of view may also put an undue emphasis on the body when it is the spirit that is truly important. That is the principle of balance that the mature believer needs to achieve, and that proper, biblical point of view will then inform all these sorts of difficult decisions (which are by the nature of the changing technology going to present ever new and changing challenges going forward). There is no doubt that what science and technology is "achieving" is scary and worrisome. To my mind, this is yet another indication that things will not go on much longer - - because they cannot go on like this much longer, just as in an earlier, similar situation:

"Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them."
Genesis 11:6 NKJV

Third, I can't affirm any support for Roman Catholicism. Even when this group seems to be "doing the right thing", they are inevitably doing it for the wrong reasons. Case in point is abortion. R.C. opposition to abortion seems to me to be a primary cause for many Protestants getting some key doctrines of scripture wrong (or at least persevering in the wrong view they received from the R.C. church in spite of the clear teachings of scripture). Human life does not begin at conception. At least not in the sense of the creation of a unique human being possessed of the image of God. That happens at birth when God creates a human spirit within the newly born person (human beings are dichotomous: body and spirit; the "soul" is the biblical "heart" where the two interact). Life, human life possessed of free will, comes directly and individually from God. Not indirectly from physical procreation. That is the spiritual view (and the biblical one); the other view is necessarily materialistic because God is only part of the process at its first and original origin. But Protestants, even groups that ought to know better, have embraced this false, materialistic view simply because it is a potent political argument against abortion. That is getting things entirely backward. We are all, I would hope, appalled by abortion. But claiming things that are not true in order to secure a political advantage is contrary to all biblically correct procedure. Please see the link for a more full discussion of this very detailed but important point: "The Creation of Man" (in BB 3A).

To conclude, I'm very impressed with your work. Also, I apologize for not giving it all the time it really deserved (and apologies also if you feel that any of the above is a result of not reading carefully enough in one section or another). These are very important issues and, as I say, I think that any Christian interested in them would do well to give your book serious consideration (provided they are spiritually mature enough to handle it).

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Bob,

Thank you for the rich response. There are not many people, even Christians, who would unselfishly offer such a lot of time and expertise. Needless to say, there are not a lot of Christians that have the amount of expertise that you have.

Here are a few comments, but of course, I know your time is limited, and you have spent a lot of time already, and please don't feel you need to email back.

1. Thank you for stating that people could benefit by reading the book. Yes, it is important for people to think about these things, yet even my own family did not want to "go there." They did not read it all, and did not agree with much of what they read, and I know they have already signed their driver's licenses as organ donors.

2. I, too, do not oppose all scientific uses of our bodies, as I noted in chapters 15 and 16. Medical students and researchers, whether in a university setting or private lab, are fine to have corpses--for study and experiments, unless their use is to mix the created kinds (animal and human [rDNA]) or to invent a therapy or product that is not godly such as using aborted fetus remains in skincare products. If they are privileged to be willed a body after death, the Christian who willed it should require in writing that it will not be used for ungodly or unbiblical ends, and that it should be disposed of in the right way.

I do think that there are good, scripturally-related reasons not to do IVF, but most Christians do not realize that IVF is unethical and even RTL has been advised (from the top) not to "go there."

3. I agree we need to encourage people to focus on the spiritual not the physical. A real danger today is that Christians are viewed by non-Christians as extremists, and extremists are viewed as dangerous and undesirable. This can prevent effective evangelism. I think my book would be viewed as extremist by most people, yet there is a need among Christians to be ready when such dilemmas and questions arise, and I do think the Protestant church is in need of more discussion on these things.

4. Yes, I agree that our current scientific pace shows we cannot go on much longer before the Lord will return.

5. I have many Catholic friends. I even graduated from a Catholic high school though at that time I was a Presbyterian. My mom, however, warned me at an early age never to marry a Catholic, so though a few had interest, I kept a distance.

The Catholics that I am associated with as a member of the board of Right to Life are wonderful people. In any case, many Catholic leaders spend great amounts of time in studying the Life issues and defending life as a God-given wonder. Sadly, their writings are subject to overall jurisdiction by church doctrine, and they cannot defend creation but must go along with the theory of evolution, so they are not really free to think as they could. Realistically, this means their defense of life is rooted in the concept that God was a bumbler and it took him millions of failed experiments to finally come up with his created kinds. Yet, like most of us, we do not connect every dot, but have a reverence for what God has wrought.

I recall one Catholic friend telling me of a co-worker who needed a kidney and everyone in the office (of a Catholic organization) volunteered to donate a kidney, and I do know the Catholic church has a stance on such donations, based on certain criteria, but I do not believe that protestant churches do.

I guess I still believe that scientific permissions should not offend or destroy biblical doctrines, and I am pretty sure you are in agreement on this, and I thank you for your kind encouragement. I did read your "Creation of Man" quite some time back, but I don't recall all its points, and like you, I have limited time presently. I guess I felt the Scriptures provided were good proofs that God will use our bodies in the Resurrection, and they suggest an unbreakable link between body and spirit. But particularly, the statements by the theologians were very helpful in thinking about the topic.

I hope you are enjoying a nice weekend in the Lord.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #18: 

Thanks for the quick response.

I do recognize that your overall position is not 100% anti-science, and I share the same essential bias you do on this – which I feel is a godly one. For example, I have not agreed on my DL to be a donor, but on the other hand I would be reluctant to tell others not to do it. I don't agree with cremation, but on the other hand, I know that it does not affect the resurrection in any way, even if it is not the best of witnesses (the morbid funeral industry and the weird ideas people have about these things is also a rotten witness).

Direct manipulations of human life (DNA et al.) are really questionable and hard to defend. Organ donation for me falls somewhere in the middle. I don't think I would agree to one personally.

I know plenty of R.C.'s who are great people – and also people of other religions too. It's just that they're not saved. And in the case of the R.C.'s, their false doctrines are in many cases close enough to the truth that they can do much more damage than things which are obviously "out to lunch". The "life at conception" one is a prime example.

Thanks again for a thoughtful discussion and for sharing your work (that's never easy to do, I know).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Hi Bob,

In various conversations with acquaintances, the issues of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and organic foods have come up. After poking around on the internet, it appears that these things are just about as hotly debated and mutually contradictory as diet advice, global warming, and so on.

Observations regarding GMO foods:

- For hundreds/thousands of years, human beings have been "genetically modifying" foods through selective breeding absent any manipulation at the molecular level.

- No rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have conclusively proven that there are adverse health or environmental effects from GMO foods that have been approved. Most corn, soy, and cotton crops are now genetically modified.

- GMO foods have obvious and direct benefits, such as improved crop yields due to resistance to drought and pests. Critics point out that adverse effects may be difficult or impossible to isolate, and that we may not have any idea about what we are getting into.

- So called "big agriculture" (e.g., Monsanto) has an axe to grind by pushing GMO foods (they can "patent" the crops and force farmers to buy seeds every year instead of saving and replanting).

- Anti-GMO people also have an axe to grind: if they can convince enough people through scaremongering that most commercial agriculture is "tainted" or "dangerous", they can increase their own sales and mark up prices indiscriminately.

- Much of the political battle regarding GMOs revolves around whether or not companies should be required to label products that contain GMOs.

Observations regarding organic foods:

- In principle, reducing the number of pesticides and other chemical used in the growing process is good (both for humans and the environment).

- Organic foods, due the basic economics of demand driving supply, are generally more expensive than their normal counterparts, sometimes drastically so.

- A disproportionately large percentage of organic food is grown by local farmers (rather than the transnational corporations that control much of the rest of the agricultural industry). Thus, at least to some extent, the issue revolves around sourcing concerns just as much as food.

Theological and ethical observations:

- The Bible is entirely silent on these things. We are called to be stewards of creation, which would seem to imply not destroying it for greed and economic gain, but this does not translate into any clear position on these things, as far as I can tell.

- Better treatment of animal food sources (as in not locking cows up in their own manure and feeding them corn rather than grass, letting chickens roam free, etc.), may be looked at as ethically positive. This better treatment tends to be associated with non-GMO and organic foods, but is not a direct consequence.

- Oftentimes scientists are a bit arrogant about the true extent of their knowledge about the nature of things, especially if there are funding and political considerations in play. An argument can be made that there is still much that we do not know about GMO foods, and therefore they should be avoided.

- The Christian life does not hinge on these things: they are far on the side of application (i.e., there is no room to get dogmatic about any of this, whatever one decides).

- A certain contingent of people denounces genetic engineering, claiming that it is akin to humans "playing God". I don't see much clear Biblical support for this position, although I do agree that we ought to have a sanctified respect of God's creative superiority, as well as humility when claiming that we are "improving things".

I'm just curious if any of this has come up in your correspondence with other folks in the past, or whether there's anything helpful I can pass on to those seeking my opinion. So far, I've tried to frame the issue as a personal choice of no spiritual significance. Is this how you view these things as well?

In Him,

Response #19: 

Good to hear from you, my friend!

A thoughtful email on your part (as always). Apologies in advance for a somewhat short response (and, as always, please feel free to write back).

I have had some emails which deal with this and related issues tangentially. It seems that the more hotly debated such things are the less importance they have. "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (1Cor.10:26) so "eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience" (1Cor.10:27). If Paul can say that about food offered to idols, in my opinion genetically modified food would cause him no particular problem. We know from scripture that "purity" of food will be one of the means antichrist's religious movement uses to advance his cause (see the link).

That said, if it were up to me I wouldn't approve the creation of these sorts of things (e.g., Lev.19:19; Deut.22:9) – but it's not up to me or you. And that is the point. We are in the world and not of it. We make use of the necessary things of the world to accomplish what Christ has for us without getting wrapped up in ancillary issues. I think if Christians who are all het up about such stuff (and there a lot of such things that fall into this category, the whole "eco-religion") would spend half that time reading the Bible or a quarter of it accessing orthodox teaching we'd all be better off.

Question #20: 

Hi Bob,

This was exactly the sort of response I was looking for – I just wanted to "double check" to make sure what I thought was reasonable.

That said, if it were up to me I wouldn't approve these sorts of things (e.g., Lev.19:19; Deut.22:9) – but it's not up to me or you.

Could you explain this sentence and how the verses come into play? What exactly do you mean by "not up to me or you"? (If I see both non-GMO/organic foods and GMO foods at the grocery store, that would seem to be something I have control over – which variety to buy).

In Him,

Response #20: 

On "it's not up to me", it's really not up to me. While it is in my power to "render unto God" the things I should render, when it comes to Caesar my options are limited.  Cargill and Monsanto are not in the habit of running their corporate decisions in this regard by me nor is the FDA, et al. Analogously, if our next screaming president (either way it seems we will have a screaming president) decides somebody needs to be bombed or embraced, they're not going to run that by me. Sure, I can have an opinion. I can call my congressman. I can vote. I can protest. I can take any number of token steps – any and all of which will only serve to raise my blood pressure (which is way high enough already) and reduce my time spent in the Word of God (and probably the quality of the time I do still spend in it as well in that hypothetical). There are plenty of things to worry about in this world; virtually every decision we make might has, liberally considered, an ethical dimension. If we worry about this too much it is only likely to suck us down into political thinking and political action. Because if I decide to boycott Haifa oranges or pistachio nuts from Iran, I am getting concerned, or angry, or involved in the debate on one side or the other.

Now if you are worried about your health, feel free to buy chicken X instead of chicken Y. This might be prudent, but I would recommend not worrying about it too much. We have all probably eaten things that should have killed us – but God protected us. As with all matters of application, as I often say, there is a sweet-spot which avoids extremes. Somewhere between eating things that are clearly unhealthy and even dangerous on the one hand and becoming compulsive over things which are largely beyond our reasonable control on the other we have what I would consider godly conduct. We do the best we can with the information we have (don't buy the chicken that's turning green just because it's 50% off). We leave it to God to protect us (even if we can't find on the label whether or not it's GMO or non-GMO).

Enjoy the rest of the summer, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks for clarifying. After this exchange, here is what I plan to keep in mind moving forward (if something looks off, please do point it out):

Personal Application

If I have the option between labeled varieties I'll try to stick with organic non-GMO foods, and if things aren't labeled, I just won't worry about it at all, trusting that God knows what he's doing in providing for us (Matthew 6:25ff). It seems to me that gene splicing characteristics into foods is tacitly implying that we are improving God's creation -- that somehow the things God has provided are not good enough. For this reason (out of respect for God), when possible, I will attempt to purchase the foods that have not been tinkered with by mankind.

Talking To Others

Because this is an issue of application, if questioned, I will simply state what I do and why, without implying that everyone else must do likewise or that they even ought to think about it at all unless they are led to by the Spirit. I will not go around trying to convince people that disagree with me, or spend time forming very complicated opinions on the matter save for the simple, intuitive observation above (i.e., that God could have created things differently, but He didn't -- therefore what He has created is enough to give us all the sustenance we need; it doesn't need to be "improved").

One other thing: Ichthys has been unavailable to me for the last two days or so. Other websites appear to be working normally (it's not my internet connection), so I think it is probably on your end. Just wanted to make sure you knew.

Yours in Christ,

Response #21: 

Sounds like a reasonable application to me!

*Can I ask you to let me know if the site is now working correctly? I've been experiencing an intermittent lag here and have been complaining to my hosting company about this. This evening things appear to be working better – for now from here. But I'd really like to know about your end.

Thanks!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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