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Beliefs Have Consequences Commentary #24
© 1999 Dorothy A. Miller

“Faith...But in What?”

      Whether the message comes from sidewalk philosophers, educators (public and private) the latest TV shows with a moral theme, religious programing over TV and radio, books by the millions or from the pulpits, all offer the similar line,  “You’ve just got to have faith.”

      Let me make a bold assertion.  I say this message, standing alone, is deadly!  Consider this.  Everyone in the world, no matter their age or culture, already has faith.  Faith alone is not the bottom line.  The vital question is, “In what or whom do you put your faith.”

      True, God says in the Bible in Hebrews chapter 11 that “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” but the Bible also outlines specifically in what and whom to trust!

      For centuries the nomadic Masai herdsman of Africa have put their faith in the rules of their ancestral god.  His narrow requirements for life require the drinking of cows blood and milk as the main diet of the people.  Almost every kind of fruit, vegetable and meat are forbidden.  Until the middle of the 20th Century, the whole tribe was dying off because by faith they rigidly adhered to this and other harmful laws of their god. 

      Placing faith in the wrong information is not reserved for people in remote regions.  In developed countries, individuals high on mind altering drugs jump off tall buildings having full faith that they can fly... but they die because they had a misplaced faith.

     This week a dear friend of mine, who has for years been a strong advocate of the “faith” movement, shared her doubts with me.  Before I tell you her dilemma, let me say that she gave up a highly successful, lucrative medical practice to become a medical missionary.  In this new capacity she traveled to some of the most dangerous areas on the globe.  She worked behind the Iron Curtain long before the Berlin Wall came down, and numerous times has trekked though the jungles of New Guinea and Central America.  She treats bodies with healing medicine and also delivers the eternal medicine of the Gospel to those to whom she ministers.

      For the last year and a half she has suffered with painful, debilitating medical problems.  She has “prayed through,” “sought God,” “claimed her healing,” and yet is still not well.  She has had the faith, but alas, her body is still sick.  In her phone call to me she shared that she was beginning to see that this automatic guarantee of healing, if we only have faith, is not faith in the specific message of God’s Word, but more of a faith in what she had been told.

     She had placed her faith in a system that puts us in total control...not God.  In the process of  reexamining the healing/faith passages, in light of the rest of the truth in the Bible, she is beginning to understand that she must let God work in her life as He chooses.  She is beginning to put her faith in promises such as are found in Psalm 138:8.  “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me.”

      A favorite passage used by some to guarantee healing is in Psalm 103:1&3.  “Bless the Lord O my soul...Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.”  Some teach that according to this verse, if you have faith you are guaranteed a healing.  God must heal your disease!  Interestingly, the teachers of this doctrine fail to explain how it is that all faith healers and adherents to this view eventually die of something.  The proponents of “God must heal you” also fail to look back at the previous chapter and read such lines such as... Psalm 102:3-5,11 “For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.  By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.  Sounds to me like the writer had physical problems!)  

      Moving on look at verses 11 & 12 and you will see the contrast that we must understand to have our faith grounded in truth. “My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.  But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.”  The Bible shows us here that God endures forever but our bodies are temporary, fragile and not made for permeant dwelling. 

      Can God heal?  Yes!!  Does God heal?  Yes!!  Does God heal only on the basis of our faith  and must He always heal just because we ask him?  No!!

      So whether we are discussing healing, salvation or any matter of life, let’s not just tell people to “have faith.”  Tell them specifically in what and whom to place their faith.  Use the whole counsel of God.   Truly it is time each of us who claim to have faith reexamine our own faith to make sure it is placed on the God of the Bible and in truths that are found consistently throughout that His Word...
                                                            Beliefs Have Consequences!        
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Commentary, Beliefs Have Consequences # 25
© 2000 Dorothy A. Miller
“Paper or Plastic?

     A few years back, in an effort to satisfy concerns of environmentalists, a new policy was instituted in the supermarkets of California.  Since grocery bags made of paper are biodegradable, the environmentalists wanted everyone to use paper.  But paper bags tear easily, so many folks still preferred plastic. To appease both their customers and the environmentalists, market owners instructed the person bagging up groceries ask each patron which type of bag they  preferred. 

     Because of our town’s warm dry climate, some people decide to move here after they retire.   Consequently we see a high percentage of older folks shopping for groceries in the market. Many of these shoppers have outlived their spouses and their friends, and consequently experience isolation and loneliness.

     They live alone, they shop alone, and often they die alone.  They can be seen in the markets wheeling their scantily filled shopping carts which hold maybe a quart of milk, a ½ dozen eggs and the smallest loaf of bread they can buy since one person doesn’t need much.

     The seniors move through the line and finally it is their turn.  Without looking up the checker says, “Hi how are you today?”  She runs the few purchases over the scanner not waiting or listening for a reply.   But then, a moment later the anticipated personal interchange occurs.  The bagger asks a question that requires a response, and the young employee really seems to care what this senior patron thinks.  The golden words are spoken, “Paper or Plastic?”

     For that moment, just for an instant, a connection to another human is made.  The senior hesitates and then meaningfully responds, “Plastic.”  The personal connection is then finished. The senior carries the small bag out, and goes back to the empty home, having had no conversation with a another living person other than responding to the question, “Paper or Plastic?”

     What have we come to in our society that we are so busy with our own plans that we forget those who are lonely?  We cannot just single out checkers who give the standard American greeting, “Hi how are you today?” but don’t listen to the answer.  I am afraid most of us do the same thing many times a day. 

     Some Russian Jews I met years ago on the street in Riga, Latvia subsequently immigrated to the USA.  Later, when visiting them in New York, they rather sadly related an observation to me.  They said, “Everyone here seems so friendly.  Americans smile and ask, “How are you?’ but they do not wait for the answer.  We feel like they are too busy and don’t really want to know how we are.  They seem afraid of becoming involved in anyone’s lives but their own.  In Russia people are not so friendly at first, but when they do speak to you they listen and care and even in hard circumstances they help you any way they can.”

     I had been telling this couple about Christianity and Jesus.  I thought to myself.  Their observations are sadly true, even true of Christians. 

     Incredibly, even at church gatherings we overlook lonely people because they are not in our private circle of friends!  Sure, it is part of our culture to be superficial and too busy to notice the needs of the lonely, but we Christians shouldn’t be conforming to the bad parts of our culture.  We become so occupied with our own interests, even our “Christian work,” that we don’t even consider having a little conversation with a lonely person or smiling or listening to someone for a few minutes.  The Bible says we should be recognized as Christians by our love. 

 Why not start seeing people the way Jesus saw them?  He reached out to the young and old, the hurting and the lonely. The lost!  He said He came to “seek and to save that which was lost.” How can we share a Gospel of love to people to whom we show no love?

 Every day we walk among the lost, the lost both socially and spiritually, even in the supermarket.  We must pray for insight to see them and reach out and love them as did Jesus.   He did this for us. We should do no less...
                                                               Beliefs Have Consequences!      
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