Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Faith in God and Healthy Babies

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells us that most types of stress that bother expectant mothers is relatively harmless for the unborn child but certain kinds of stress can be harmful to the child. What do you think is most harmful?

Stress about money?

Stress about work issues?

Stress about housework?

The answer is, "None of these issues".

The most harmful stress comes from within and it has to do with anxiety about the child. Faith and hope and fellowship reduces anxiety, stress and worry. Get together with other pregnant women and talk things out. Find some older women to join the group so they can talk about pregnancy from a more objective point of view.

Learn to take your stinking, thinking and make it full of faith and love. Add at least twenty minutes of prayer to your day and watch the fears roll off your back.

So, if you are worried about your baby, get some help. But first, read the story.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spiritual Warfare?

A Warrior Wears Amulets

The "blood wars" currently raging in Thailand are really spiritual in nature. The BBC writes a very interesting story about the violent "blood" rebellion going on today.

In the battle for Thailand's political soul - played out over several years by "yellow" and "red" waves of protesters - symbolism is probably the most important weapon.

A powerful belief in astrology and the supernatural ('saiyasat') co-exists alongside an increasingly commercial, globalised culture.

This is not just a frame of mind found in far-flung rural areas. Many of the country's top leaders, civilian and military, have actively participated in magical rituals to seek special powers and enlist them on their side.

A leading historian of Thailand, Chris Baker, and top economist and political analyst Pasuk Phongpaichit, have produced a paper entitled "The spirits, the stars, and Thai politics".

The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy

It outlines several instances of serious consultation by leading political figures - from former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the generals who led the coup against him in 2006 - with astrologers, spirit mediums and supernatural forces.

It details events such as damage to specific shrines and the smashing of a statue at the famous Erawan shrine in central Bangkok as efforts to either harness or distract spiritual forces at times of political tension.

"Of course this is not new; but there does seem to be a definite correlation between periods of military rule and upsurges of interest in supernatural influences on Thai politics," the authors wrote.

In the Secular Humanist West we tend to pooh pooh such sentiments but in the East they are central to life, love and politics. As a Christian, Teacher I have traveled to Asia many times and understand that Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism are rife with spirits and supernatural beliefs. Where we Christians ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit, the Eastern Mystics ask to be filled with many spirits.

In Yoga, for example, the practitioner is given a mantra to say over and over while meditating. That mantra is always the name of one of the Hindu gods, of which there are some 350 million. Thus, the mantra is essentially a way to ask those gods to fill the meditative person. This is why Yoga is not good for anyone but especially for Christians. Idolatry is never a good thing.

The blood wars in Thailand are in reality "spiritual wars" that call down evil spirits to do battle against other evil spirits. It is similar to Haiti with its Voodoo practices and are dangerous indeed for any of us to interact with.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Religion and Congestive Heart Failure

Koenig HG (2002). Religion, congestive heart failure and chronic pulmonary disease. Journal of Religion and Health, 41(3):263-278
Objective & Design:
We examined the prevalence of religious beliefs and practices in hospitalized patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) or chronic pulmonary disease (CPD), and determined relationships with physical and mental health. A consecutive sample of 196 patients age 55 or over admitted to Duke University Medical Center with a diagnosis of CHF or CPD. Patients underwent a 60-90 minute interview and physical exam to assess physical health, social support, mental health, religious activities and attitudes (attendance, prayer and scripture study, intrinsic religiosity). This was a pilot study to examine the feasibility of a larger study now funded by NIH which is currently underway.

Religious practices were widespread; 98% had a religious affiliation; 48% reported attending religious services weekly or more; 70% reported praying or reading religious scriptures at least daily; and over 85% consistently indicated intrinsic religious beliefs and attitudes. Religious activities and attitudes were inversely related to measures of physical illness severity and functional disability, and were less common among patients with prior psychiatric problems, hospitalizations for depression, drinking problems, and those currently taking psychotropic drugs. Religious activities (especially religious attendance) were associated with greater social support, but were only weakly related to less depression.

For more information, contact Harold G. Koenig (

Religion May Help Lower Blood Pressure

People active in the church and who study the Bible appear to have lower blood pressure than people who are less religiously active, according to a new study.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. examined the health and habits of people 65 and older over a 6-year period. They found that people who attended religious services at least once a week showed lower blood pressure readings than folks who attended less often.

Researchers also found that people who tuned into religion programs on television or radio had higher blood pressure than those who did not. Dr. Harold G. Koenig tells OnHealth that finding may be due to the fact that people who resort to broadcasted religious programs may be too old or too sick to leave the house.

"Involvement in the religious community may have very important health benefits," Koenig says. "Religious people cope better with stress," which may explain why they have lower blood pressure, he adds.

The findings arrive when many studies have linked religion to better health. Koenig says he's not recommending doctors to convert or prescribe religion for patients, but to be aware that faith can be a factor in one's health. The study appears in the summer issue of International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.

Our Miracle of 2000

This situation actually started in 1999. I gained a substantial amount of weight from June through December of 1999 to the tune of 58 pounds. I also had a chronic cough.

My wife told some people at work about my weight gain and cough and one person said her mother who had the same symptoms. Her mother finally went to the doctor and found out that she was in congestive heart failure and recently died.

I do not usually find myself at doctor’s offices, but I made an appointment for a December Saturday morning. Dr. Van had the unfortunate responsibility to inform me that my heart was struggling and I needed to see a heart specialist right away. He prescribed Lasix, a medicine that is a diuretic and a potassium supplement. During the first eight days I lost 34 pounds of water.

Dr. Van referred me to a highly regarded heart specialist in our area, Dr. Gary Brown. Dr. Brown examined me and ordered an echo cardiogram (sonogram of the heart). The echo cardiogram confirmed both doctors’ initial beliefs about what was going on. My heart was enlarged and functioning very poorly. An ejection point percentage (the amount of blood pumped each time) was only 15-20%. A normal ejection point is between 55-65%. I was in serious congestive heart failure!

Dr. Brown prescribed medications and explained to us that my prognosis was very poor. I needed a heart transplant within the next five years if I was going to live. I had only a 20% chance of survival without it. Finding the right donor and making it through that surgery is monumental. Wow! What a shock.

Needless to say this news was unbelievable to hear and very hard to tell others around us. It was so difficult to share with our teenage daughter Bethany. She took the news very hard. She coped by internalizing her distress and the anxiety weighed her down.

In February of 2000, Dr. Brown performed a heart catherization and angiogram allow him to get more specific information on the performance of my heart. My ejection point percentage at that time was not much of an increase; only 20%. Additionally, my heart was three times larger than normal. My valves were still closing all the way which was positive news. The prognosis was still the same because of the low ejection point percentage and enlargement of the heart.

Many people told me they were praying for me. I really began to feel convicted about waiting for an answer to prayer for me but not praying for others who had needs. I thought that if God was going to help us that I needed to show my faith by praying for others. So I started going to an intercessory prayer group that met on Thursday evenings.

During the next year of 2000, three different groups of people anointed me with oil and prayed. My wife's boss brought a group together for prayer. Terry _______ invited a group of work associates and other concerned people in the community, some who knew my wife and some who knew me. Others were strangers who cared. Another group of close friends prayed for me and a third was made up of the Senior High School prayer group.

During the summer the youth in our church have a week long camp. They arrive in the morning and leave after a full day of worship, teaching, outreach, and fun. During that week I picked up our daughter and her best friend from the church in the evening. When I went inside to find the girls, I was unbelievably moved by the spiritual outpouring of prayer and love I saw from them. I was also privileged to hear their conversations on the way home in the van, which were centered on the work of God in them and others at the camp. They had started attending a youth prayer group after camp ended.

Each month I would see Dr. Brown and he would modify my medications. My ability to work for long hours began to diminish which took its toll on us financially and that added greatly to the stress! The Lord moved people to provide money for our mortgage and other bills from time to time so his care was evident to us.

During all this time my prayer was – Lord, give me, us, strength to make it through this. My wife's boss, told me his prayer for us was going to be more for more specific healing, not just strength to make it through. Many other friends also mentioned that this was also to be their prayer. I always thanked everyone for their encouraging words and I truly could feel God’s arm around my shoulders and he did give me strength.

I really was unaware how hard this all was on my daughter. She told us later that her greatest fear filled her mind with “Will my dad get to see me graduate? Will he see me get married? Will my children ever know him?” Her senior high group asked me to come into their room one evening so that they could pray for me. I cried as the group of ten teenagers and some leaders anointed me with oil and cried out to God for healing. What an experience to see teenagers act so selflessly and to be so concerned for another, crying and asking God to intervene.

Then about the same time, my wife, daughter and their friends went to a prayer meeting at our church on a Friday evening. During The meeting, my wife and daughter went forward for prayer for my heart. While several people were praying with them, the two friends also came forward to pray for me.

I did not go to that meeting because I was very tired. I was in bed reading and getting sleepy when I had a dream/vision of my daughter and her best friend coming into the bedroom followed by my wife and her best friend. As they all got closer to the bed I could see that _______ hands were cupped in front of her and that a gold beating heart was in them. She bent down and put the gold heart on my chest and then backed away. As the heart beat it sank into my chest leaving behind only the gold. That was it.

I kind of woke up, then went soundly to sleep. The next day my wife asked what if anything went on with me the previous night while they were praying. I shared with her my dream/vision. She asked me about what time in the evening this happened. I told her midnight, which was the very same time she and the others were in prayer!

I had my regular appointment with the doctor in another month and I kept praying for strength. In October I had my second electrocardiogram to see if my situation had progressed. Dr. Brown was not present at the test, but would share the results in three weeks at my appointment. During this time, one of the teenagers created a golden heart from a model he painted and placed it in a decorative wooden box for me. I still cherish that gift.

When I met with Dr. Brown we discussed the results. My ejection point percentage had risen to 45% - a 25% jump. Dr. Brown said that was great and almost unheard of in his 25 years practicing as a specialist. He told me that my prognosis had just gone up 1,000 times and that by the medical definition of congestive heart failure I no longer had it!

I then asked about the size of my heart.I wanted to know if it had grown larger? He looked at the report, then back at the previous report, then back again. He did this over again and even asked my birth date to verify that the report was mine. He told me that my heart had actually reduced in size and that never happens. I told him a lot of people had been praying and I just thanked God.

When I began telling people the results they rejoiced, praised God and some cried. My daughter sent out e-mails to all of her friends and youth leaders. Part of her e-mail include the line that ”Now my Dad will be able to see me graduate, get married, and even have children.” That is when I really knew the burden she had carried.

It was an unbelievable miracle! Dr. Brown said he could not think of a better diagnosis to give someone just before the holidays. You can imagine how we celebrated on Thanksgiving of 2000.

I feel thankful, humbled, and overwhelmed by this miracle as I ponder, why me? So many others have needs not yet fulfilled. My only hope is that this testimony will give others hope and strength in the knowledge that God does care and people care as well. It was a whole year of wondering and hoping and hanging on…don’t give up…

This miracle was made possible by another miracle. That miracle was the coming of Jesus to earth to show us his sacrificial love. It is through belief and receiving of this miracle that we can have hope for tomorrow as well as eternity.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Mike Butler

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Process of Discipleship and Spiritual Growth

Saul of Tarsus was knocked off his horse by the Lord Jesus Christ while riding to Damascus, Syria from Jerusalem to persecute followers of Christ. (Acts 9:3-4) That was some three or four years after the resurrection and during a time of severe persecution of the new Christians in Israel. Along the way, Saul had proven his zeal for God by helping find, arrest and even kill those who had been converted from Judaism to follow "The Way". He was the Ben Ladin of his era. (Acts 9:1-2)

How long after Saul was hit by the power of the resurrected Lord did he move from anger, rage and persecution to ardent follower, evangelist and Apostle for "the Way"?

Today like many seminars I have taught over the years, I asked that question. Here are some of the suggested answers.

1. As soon as his eyes were opened and he was baptized. (Acts 9:17-18)
2. Three years after he was converted.
3. After he studied under, what's his name (Barnabas).

What do you say? Read the book of acts from Chapter 9 onwards to see how long it took for Saul to grow enough to become useful in the Kingdom of God. Write Saul's Spiritual Growth Time Line and meditate on what events God used to facilitate his growth.

How about your own Spiritual Growth Time Line? What events have helped you grow? We all of them positive in nature?

Write and let me know of your spiritual growth experiences. For example, I came to Christ as a ten year old boy but "backslid" during some times of youthful rebellion towards my folks. Then, ten years later, at age twenty I had a life changing experience with the Holy Spirit on a 1957 Ford with 230 horses that impacted me deeply.

I would love to hear your story.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Biblical Model of Maturity

Who do you think the Jerusalem Apostles considered the most mature and able person to direct a multicultural missionary ministry?

Who kicked off the first cross cultural missionary church planting event from Jerusalem?

Who lead the very first cross cultural missionary trips throughout the region of the Mediterranean Sea?

Who do you think the pagans considered to be the most powerful missionary Apostle?

Who was the most influential Christian leader in history?

Tune in later and find out the names of these persons?

Growing in Christ While on a Mission Trip

My friend and colleague Dr. Richard Kidd is a member of the Administrative Staff at Regent University in Virginia Beach. He serves as Director of Campus Ministries and does the work of a Chaplain, Counselor, Coach and Adviser.

Richard took a group of about two dozen students on a mission trip to New York last week and wrote this great letter to his prayer supporters after his return. Many of us think of missions as a ministry of people who have already Grown up enough to Go for Jesus. That is true as far as it goes. Another truth is that short term mission trips are very much an opportunity to "Go to Grow in Jesus". As you read the article by Richard, I am sure you will agree that this trip was an opportunity to do both. Gary Sweeten

Dear Gary:

I must say, even though I have done many missions trips with students before, this one was particularly powerful and life changing. Perhaps it was because I love NYC, or it was my first college trip, or God just smiled on us, but the time over the week was powerful in many ways. I have no doubt that your prayers played a large role in that from heaven's perspective, so I want to say thank you for your crucial role in reaching the urban context with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, our team of 26 was able to lead over two dozen individuals to faith in Jesus Christ. I think of it as "pulling our weight"... we brought as many into the kingdom as we had on the team. Praise God!

This happened in any number of settings. Some of the most powerful were on the streets. Our very first "appointment" on the streets was an Hispanic man. The team we sent out (by rotation) happened to include one of our fluent Spanish speakers. She had shared in our team meeting her "passion for souls." In the span of a few minutes, she had given him a blanket, a toiletry kit, a sandwich and water. But then God gave the greatest gift of all--the gift of eternal life! The students came back beaming.

Another powerful moment came at the Espanola Soup kitchen. Our team provided a service before the feeding. Students came together and organized their gifts to present worship and testimonies. After the sharing (which revealed that some of our students had more of a "checkered" past than I realized) a Divinity student got up and gave a powerful altar call to which 25 people responded. Some of them were re dedications, but others were first time salvation's. The student who gave the altar call had been a later addition to the team...he had felt led to take his Spring Break, rent a hotel room in Atlanta, and go out on the streets and preach the gospel. We convinced him to go with us, to experience the power of community. As a result, he encouraged others with his zeal and bonded with all the guys in a group they called "Da Bredran" (the Brethren in a Jamaican accent!) Not only did he pay for his trip, he also donated more to cover other students who hadn't been able to pay their own way. God is good!

We ministered at the United Nations, where I was privileged to speak to representatives of over 15 nations in a Christian employee prayer meeting. I spoke on the subject "Turning Terrorists into Diplomats--the Barnabas DNA." The students who went with me were then able to pray with and encourage the workers afterward.I even prayed for one woman from Ethiopia who knew friends of mine in Addis Ababa...God is good!

Many of these workers are stigmatized for expressing their faith publicly at the UN, which is dominated by a pro-gay and pro-choice agenda. We arrived during the Committee on the Status of women, which those forces continually insert pro-abortion language. It was the team's privilege to meet and pray with the Catholic Family league lawyers who lobby for pro-life in this dark atmosphere. What a joy it was to pray with and for them! Then, at the gracious provision of one of our Regent profs, we met with the Archbishop Celestino Migliori, the Papal Nuncio to the UN. He shared with us their fight for life in all segments of the UN, where they have observer status. It was quite an honor to sit next to his excellency!

As I taught our students to minister to both prince and pauper; down and out as well as the up and out, we shared Christ through a cup of soup and a piece of bread at the New York Relief Bus in the South Bronx. The South Bronx was the site of white flight to the tune of 300,000 in lost population, as gangs and violence spread across the area. But Love Gospel Assembly stayed and is ministering to the hurting. In the context of a soup kitchen we gave out clothing, a hot lunch, gave referrals to jobs and rehab ministries, as well as personal prayer. I had the joy of pairing Robert with a donated Pierre Cardin wool overcoat. He had shared with me that he was going for a job interview in the next week and needed something special. God provided a perfect fit for him, and as we prayed, God revealed to me he would have a "Joseph" anointing. It was a coat of gray, not "many colors" but his tears of joy were real nonetheless. What a privilege.

Thursday was a difficult day, as we changed gears and did contact evangelism in a primarily Muslim segment of Queens, Jackson Heights. There, a large influx of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indians has joined the Hispanic and Chinese who preceded them to form what the locals called "our very own United Nations." We joined a YWAM team and set up a "Prayer Station" on the corner...complete with tacky red aprons with praying hands on them. The team was to hand out fliers, and direct people to the table, where others would offer to pray for needs the residents might have.

For those of you who know me well that methodology pretty much drove me crazy. I refused to don the red apron, but for the sake of the team hung around to pray and give protection. (not everyone seemed so friendly) Many of the team had to confront rejection as person after person refused their sincere offer of prayer. I watched one student in particular grapple with a feeling of impotence and frustration over the rejection. (0 for 50 at one point) He prayed for at least one young person who would pray with him.

Then we met Evo the rapper. We knew his name, because it was shaved into his wispy young beard! He responded with sincerity to our offer of prayer, although his friend seemed more interested in praying with one of our young women! Evo began to share his views of God, and confessed he had let his interest in music overtake his faith. He prayed with us to rededicate his life to Christ and after we said Amen, promised to come back one day to give a Lamborghini to each of us when he made it. So I figure I've got that going for me!

As it happened the teams that we sent to Jackson Heights had limited success with the prayer stations, but the one in Harlem led by Dr. Antipas Harris, our Urban Ministry specialist at Regent, met different results. People there were so hungry, they stood in line several deep to receive prayer! They met Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, lapsed Christians, and more. One huge muscular man on his way to the gym was convinced to stop. There our "stud" Caleb prayed with him to receive Christ. With the stupid red apron on, nonetheless! I was forced to reevaluate my view of the tool's effectiveness... in light of the sufficiency of Christ.

The final ministry was in the Coler-Goldwater Hospital, Thursday night. On tiny Roosevelt Island, this out of the way medical facility housed many who suffer from various long-term infirmities. Many have the HIV virus, and while some like Tony, suffer from MS. Tony was a precious soul, who loved God passionately and vocally. Our entire team visited with him, and were delighted to see how he responded with joy and grace to the indignities of his disease. At his invitation, the team read some of his poems out loud. Several team members had to excuse themselves, overcome with emotion at how he faced his physical limitations with such effervescent joy. Then Tony invited the team to join him in the creation of a new poem about his "angels" sent by God to visit. More tears, and more prayer ended the visit, along with a precious copy of the new poem.

So many of the stories in the hospital cannot be told publicly, out of respect to those who have suffered. Suffice it to say that the trauma that so many have endured boggles the mind, and sear the soul. It reduced us to sobs on numerous occasions. But the team held impromptu praise concerts in hospital rooms, and prayed and cared for many. We read favorite bible verses and held gnarled hands. One patient after pouring out her tale of pain prayed the sinners prayer. In their joy, the students rushed out to tell their peers what had happened. One member of our team said, "What's that?" So there, on the last night of the trip, on the 2nd floor of a drab hospital ward, Julie gave her life to Jesus Christ. There was much rejoicing all around!

Thank you so much for your partnership in prayer. You are truly co-laborers in Christ. Pray for the students as they return "never to lose their zeal." They have vowed to begin ministries like this in our area. They want to tell other students the joys of praying and seeing Christ move among the hurting and disenfranchised. They are bubbling over with joy... and will lead the chapel services this Wednesday and Thursday at Regent. Pray that this will be but the beginning of the missions program at Regent. Pray that we will not soon forget that the Spirit of Christ is on us to preach good news to the poor.

God bless,
Richard Kidd
My blog at Regent is Are We There Yet?

Praise the Lord for this great report. It makes us want to take our own mission trip even if we just go to downtown Cincinnati. Keep up that great work, Richard.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why Blog About Healing?

I spoke at the Stephen Ministry last night at Hyde Park Community Methodist Church in Cincinnati. It is a church that has many practical ministries and serves all sorts of people in need. I spoke on what I called, "Pre-Divorce recovery". Many churches, including this one, have support groups for Divorce Recovery but it is too late to really bring healing to a couple already divorced. I want to help people recover BEFORE they see the need to divorce.

With about 20 Stephen Ministers in attendance we discussed the needs they see in the community as the visit in the homes of the ill, shut ins and so forth. We discussed the fact that depression and anxiety are rampant and more is expected because so many people are living in toxic conflict that often leads to divorce and divorce leads to dysfunctional kids.

With all the Psychologists, Counselors and Psychiatrists as well as the anti depression medications, what can Peers from a church do to bring healing? Plenty! As a Clinical Counselor, Retired, I can say for a certainty that Professionals need the helps and follow through of Lay Helpers, Ministers, Support Groups and Self Help Classes in churches. And, we must not forget sermons and worship that provide faith, hope and love for people.

If your church does not have a Stephen Ministry or something similar, start praying and planning how to set one up. It can do a lot to prevent depression and anxiety and support hurting people as they face pain, illness and loss.

Jesus and the Healing Philosophy

Jesus manifesto (Lk 4:14-30) and rejection in Nazareth (Matt 13:55-58, Mk 6:2-6)

Immediately after being baptized in the Spirit and having defeated the devil's attempts to subvert his mission by tempting him in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee 'in the power of the Spirit' and taught in the synagogues. He went to Nazareth on the Sabbath and, in the synagogue, was given the scroll of Isaiah to read out. He found Isaiah 61:1-2 and read:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me preach good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

He sat down and said, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'. They were amazed saying , 'Isn't this Joseph's son?'. He answered that no prophet is accepted in his home town since he perceived they were wondering why he didn't do miracles here as he had in Capernaum. Luke doesn't record any healing prior to this in Capernaum or anywhere else.

Matthew 13 and Mark 6 put this incident somewhat later in his ministry than Luke does. Luke puts it near the beginning of the gospel because of its theological significance. Matthew and Mark put the incident after Jairus' daughter. Mk 6:5,6 says he could not do many miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them because of their lack of faith, which amazed him. He referred to Elijah and Elisha healing non-Jews and the people became furious and tried to throw him off a cliff.