Archive for November, 2009

How to Get Your Prayers Answered

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

You’ve probably had the same frustrations in your prayer, life that I have.  I know that prayer is a powerful tool, but I’ve never been able to master it.  I’ve claimed Christ’s promises in Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 21:22, and still my prayers haven’t been answered.  Years ago I began a prayer journal where I record the things I’ve prayed about, as well as how the prayers were answered.  After years and years of prayer records, I believe that I’ve finally figured out the key to prayer.

You’re probably like me, in that most of the things that I have asked for in my prayers relate to my family, my friends, my job, my church, my daily walk with God, etc.  Well, look at the number of times that I used the word “my” in the previous sentence.  Most of my prayers have been about me.  That’s the problem.  The Christian life is about grace, humility, and love, and, love implies a willingness for self-sacrifice for others.  My prayers should probably be more about others than myself (Philippians 2:3).

Furthermore, my prayer records bear this out.  Here’s a profound reality:  The further that I am removed from a situation, the more effective my prayers are.  When my mother was deathly ill, I spent countless hours in praying for her healing, only to see her die after five years of suffering.  On the other hand, I have had the experience of praying for the health of someone who I hardly knew, and my prayer was immediately answered with healing.

In other words, when I have had a personal stake in a prayer, and I was going to personally benefit from an answer to that prayer, then the prayer has generally not been too effective.  However, when I take myself out of the equation, my prayers have been much more effective.

As another example, when I’ve prayed about financial situations for myself, my prayers haven’t been answered as well as when I’ve prayed about someone else’s financial needs.

Unfortunately, this also means that sometimes, when I am indeed very far removed from the situation, I may not even know how the prayer was answered.  I’ve taken international trips where I’ve met people and prayed for them, then I’ve come home and never seen them again.  I will never know how those prayers were answered.  However, according to this principle of removing myself from my supplications, I have to believe in faith that God indeed answered those prayers.

So, I believe that the most effective prayer is selfless (intercessory) prayer.  If I can stop being so selfish, I can have much more success in having my prayers answered.

Does Communion Really Need to be Sanitized?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Throughout the centuries, there have been many different trains of thought concerning communion services.  Some churches serve wine, for those offended by the insinuation that the drink served at the Last Supper was not simply unfermented grape juice.  Other churches serve grape juice, for those offended by the alcohol content in wine.  Of course, some churches, such as the Catholic Church, believe in transubstantiation (that the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ), while other churches do not.

However, churches today attempt to accommodate the needs of each individual believer by taking many precautions, and providing multiple options, for administering their communion services.  Here are a few examples:

– Some churches serve crackers or wheat bread.  Other churches serve gluten-free bread, for those on a gluten-free diet.  Still other churches provide each member with a choice of wheat bread or gluten-free bread.

– Some churches have the church members drink from the same cup, but provide an option for dipping the bread in the cup, in order to minimize the spreading of germs among the congregation.  Still others provide a separate cup for each believer.

– Some churches offer hand sanitizer to keep from spreading germs among the congregation.

We are to approach the communion table with humility, and a pure heart, in true temporal fellowship with the Holy Spirit (through the confession of sins).  If we do so, do we really need to worry about the mechanics and logistics of the methods used to administer the communion service?  Would God allow a spirit-filled believer to suffer adverse effects from the gluten in the bread?  Would He allow the passing of the H1N1 virus throughout the congregation?  Even if He would, does that change the way that we are to approach His table?

This wide range of man-made options and precautions takes the focus off of the body and blood of Christ, and places it upon the wants and needs of each individual (and relatively unimportant) believer.  If we’re worried about allergic reactions from the bread or contracting the flu from our fellow believers, then we’re probably not in an appropriate state of spirituality to even be partaking of the communion service.

How to Win the Lottery – Philippians 2:3

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Some people buy lottery tickets with hopes (against long odds) of striking it rich, while other people don’t play the lottery due to moral convictions.  However, for many of us, these two worlds can collide.  Have you ever prayed to win the lottery, and maybe even promised God a piece of the action if He would only let you pick the winning numbers?

I have to admit that I’ve done this.  After all, why would God allow some heathen to win the lottery when He could let me win, and, using my Christian morals and good judgment, I could take a portion of the winnings (say, 10%) and do so much for the Kingdom of God?  Although God has never answered my prayers on this, I think that He has taught me something in the process–namely, how to actually win the lottery.

Yes, I believe that I do know how to win the lottery.  You might ask why I haven’t done so then.  Well, it’s not necessarily an easy process; one which might even be called self-defeating.  The key component to all of this is why I might want to win the lottery.  Most of us would like to have financial independence, and we believe this would do much to lift the heavy burden of stress from our lives.  However, lottery winners usually just squander their money rather quickly, winding up even further in debt than before.  Of course, you and I would be different, right?

I believe that the key to winning the lottery is to remove the selfish desire that we have for all of that money (Philippians 2:3).  In other words, maybe we’ve been asking amiss (James 4:4).  Sure, we would be generous with our new wealth, but suppose that we didn’t keep any of it for ourselves.  Furthermore, since we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 19:19), and love implies self-sacrifice, suppose we even committed to such sacrifice.  Here’s my plan:

Pray fervently that God would allow you to win the lottery, but make Him a better deal.  Instead of using a generous percentage of the winnings for His Kingdom, promise Him that you will use it all for His glory.  Then, on top of that, commit to chipping in some more, out of what He has already blessed you with.  Here’s an example:

Pray to win one million dollars, and promise God that you will give it all away–to the poor, to the Church, to mission work, etc.  (I think that an after-taxes amount would still be fair.)  Then, also promise Him that you will give an additional amount of money away; something that hurts a little–maybe 10% of next year’s income, on top of what you might already be investing in His Kingdom.  Then just trust God that He will continue to provide for you, just like He has always done.

There now:  That’s how to win the lottery.  Obviously, the self-defeating aspect plays into this equation only if you have included that selfish part about keeping some or most of the money for yourself.  With my plan, you not only don’t get extra money, but you’re sacrificing even more, ending up with a net loss (financially speaking).  You’re ending up with less than if you hadn’t won the lottery.

Now, if we only had the courage to step out in faith and exercise this plan.  My faith has never been strong enough to do so, and I’m not sure that anyone’s ever has.  Is your faith strong enough to prove my plan wrong?

Do We Really Have the Best Health Care System in the World?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Personal Experience

Medical professionals really haven’t helped me too much.  Doctors still have so much to learn, and they do so by experimenting on us.  They haven’t helped my backache, and they can’t seem to do anything about my Raynaud’s Syndrome (a condition which causes my hands to become cold and painful).  Dentist can’t even stop my toothache in a particular tooth, but they charged me $6K for “fixing” six others that weren’t bothering me.

Wrong Information

Doctors are forever telling us that certain diseases are caused by certain foods and nutrients in our diet, and then a few years later they inform us that avoiding those foods and nutrients caused an even worse health problem.  We should realize that doctors are just, ever so slowly, increasing their knowledge base (by using us as test subjects).

Wrong Treatment

I’ve seen doctors “treat” bursitis with useless physical therapy, and I’ve seen surgeons “heal” cancer by amputating limbs.

Surgical Mistakes

One of the cable news channels recently did some research about how often surgeons make mistakes during surgery.  The most common mistakes are to operate on the wrong patient and operating on the wrong part of the body; i.e., the wrong side of the body (even the wrong side of the brain!), the wrong finger, etc.  I’ve known men who have died during an angiogram (“test”), even before he was given a chance for bypass surgery.  I’ve known other men who have been given high hopes to endure this grueling bypass surgery, which led only to fluid on his lungs, atrial fibrillation, and depression.  I’ve known women with congestive heart failure, and doctors could only watch as she died a painful death.  I’ve known many people with diabetes who are “treated” with insulin shots and a strict diet, but who still died quite prematurely.  How many people do you know who have had repeated (and unsuccessful) surgeries for the same ailment, such as back problems?

Unnecessary Tests

Unfortunately, doctors often hinder rather than help.  They perform unnecessary tests or surgical procedures, and sometimes the patient dies.  Sometimes this happens because they underestimated a risk factor, they made a surgical error, or the patient contracted a staph infection in the hospital.

Death by Screening

Consider the doctor who administers an unnecessary screening for cancer.  Upon a positive result, he then treats the patient for a cancer that never would have caused a problem.  However, the treatment itself causes the patient to die, due to an infection or an innocent mistake during treatment.  How much good has that doctor done for that patient?  Without the doctor, the patient would still be alive and well, but with the doctor, the patient died and his family suffered.

Despite what we want to think, doctors are not healers, and they’re often wrong.  They simply do the things that they know how to do, regardless of whether it helps us or not.

For a more in depth article on this subject, please see Is Our Health Care System Really That Good?

Racism – A Double-Standard?

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

For those who followed Rush Limbaugh’s failed attempt to purchase the St. Louis Rams NFL team, you know that a major factor was the outcry of allegations of racism from members of the St. Louis Rams, dignitaries within the NFL, and activists such as Al Sharpton.  I’m here neither to accuse nor defend Rush Limbaugh.  I simply think that it’s important to make an observation that seems to lay slightly below the surface of this controversy.

Al Sharpton noted that one of the arguments working against Mr. Limbaugh was one of perception.  This argument said that whether or not the famous talk radio host was guilty of racism, it might be best to thwart his efforts, since many shared this perception.  Rev. Sharpton went on to point out that, after all, two-thirds of all NFL football players are African-Americans.

Doesn’t this simple statement suggests a double standard?  During the past 45 years, civil rights issues have been greatly improved, thanks to the efforts of both black and white activists.  Where African-Americans were denied such basic rights as voting and being served in business establishments, we have rectified the majority of these injustices.  Most African-Americans now share equal rights, including equal pay for equal work, etc.  Perhaps a more important truth is that most people now understand that, while the just concept of equal rights doesn’t imply that everyone has the same and equal abilities, it does mean that we must all be allowed to demonstrate the diversities of our varying abilities.  Once these inequalities began to be corrected, beginning with unskilled labor, then the attention of the civil right movement turned to skilled labor, and higher-paid positions including management and executive positions.  Today, many leaders are African-American, including those in such positions as owners of their own businesses, CEOs of large corporations, and elected and appointed officials, including, of course, our own President.

Throughout this struggle, one of the primary arguments that kept yielding successes was that African-Americans should be represented in our work force and in positions of leadership, in a ratio that closely followed that of the country at large.  For example, if 12% of the population of the country was African-American, then it would follow that, given equal opportunities, approximately 12% of the CEOs should be African-American.  Although it takes time to make these changes, great strides have been made in this area, and activists continue to work to make things right where inequalities still exist.

However, here comes the rub for Rev. Sharpton.  As he noted, two-thirds of the players in the NFL are African-American, even though only about 12% of the U.S. population consists of African-Americans.  Isn’t this a double-standard?  In the corporate world, we have implemented such programs as Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action in order to ensure equality, even in the higher-paid management and executive positions.  So, how can we justify 66% of the highly paid-paid members of the NFL being African-American?  Is this not demonstrating discrimination against non-African-Americans?  Are we to accept this distorted ratio based simply on the abilities exhibited by the players?  Just because an African-American is better qualified as an NFL player, are we to accept that he gets priority over a lesser qualified non-African-American, even when such priority would further distort the percentages?

The answer, of course, is that, yes, we should indeed respect individual achievement–for NFL players, as well as for union workers, managers, CEOs, etc.  Let’s stop this argument about ratios altogether, and start respecting the unequal and diverse abilities of individuals.  Let’s get back to the basics definition of equal opportunity:  ensuring equal opportunity to demonstrate our inequalities.