Monday, March 21, 2011

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety without Drugs

Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm." (Psalm 55:1-8)

One of the realities of life that our current physical science based medical system has had to admit in recent years is that there are non-physical causes to poor health and disease. One of the few non-physical causes that is widely accepted as a cause of disease is “stress.” It is quite well known today that the presence of stress in one’s life, and how one deals with that stress, has a direct impact on your health. Unfortunately, the solutions the medical system most often prescribes today for mental and emotional health are expensive drugs with serious side effects. So many people are “stressed out” that anti-depressant drugs have become a growing and prosperous business for pharmaceutical companies.

David, the second Jewish king during the monarchy period, was a man who faced tremendous stress and pressure in his life. Few of us reading this today will have faced the kind of stress and anxiety David experienced during a period of probably more than ten years of his life where he was constantly on the run from his enemies who were trying to kill him. In fact, as he records in this Psalm, it wasn’t just his enemies that caused problems, but also his “friends” and fellow believers: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” (Psalm 55:12-14)

Notice the signs of stress as recorded in his words in the passage above: “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught… My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” If David had confessed these kinds of feelings to a physician or psychiatrist today, he would have been prescribed anti-depressant drugs immediately to try and stabilize his emotional condition. He had all the signs of “mental disease” including the temptation to try and escape from all of his problems by running away from them: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” He was unstable, neurotic, and desperate. He would have probably been labeled as “insane” today and been committed to a mental health facility.

But David did not seek out physicians in his anxiety. He appealed to God for help, trusting that God would hear his prayers and change his condition. If you read the Psalms of David which reveal his emotional and mental condition during times of extreme stress, you will notice that David consistently took two approaches to dealing with anxiety and stress, both of which involved prayer and a relationship to his Creator.

1. David prayed to God asking him to intervene in the circumstances of his life that were causing the stress:

Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city… Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them. But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them— men who never change their ways and have no fear of God. (Psalm 55:9-19)

As strong and powerful as David was, in many circumstances he was powerless against his enemies and the rulers of his day. But he knew first hand that God was not powerless, and so he appealed to God to intervene.

2. David cast all of his worries and cares unto God, trusting in him to take care of them all, and to sustain him with strength to endure everything.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22)

These two methods of using prayer to deal with stress are even more available to us today, in the age of the New Covenant which was instituted by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The believers in the early church were often arrested and persecuted, suffering tremendous stress. The same two principles were used to deal with anxiety and stress.

Principle 1. Pray for God to intervene in the stressful situation. Here is an example of what was prayed after the believers were arrested and released for preaching about Jesus and miraculously healing a man (they didn’t follow the prescribed protocol for healthcare of their day!):

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Act 4:23-31)

Principle 2. Cast all our anxieties and care on God, trusting him to take care of all our problems and to sustain us with his strength:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 – prescription for mental health)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1Peter 5:7-11)

These are the two biblical principles of dealing with anxiety and stress, and they are the guiding principles for mental health. No drugs are needed. It requires a relationship with God through Jesus, however, and not just an intellectual knowledge about him. So the first step is the spiritual rebirth.

How do you deal with anxiety and stress? The two principles written about here are time-tested principles that have been used for thousands of years, long before modern-day pharmaceuticals came into the market place with our current medical system. They are backed by a guarantee from the Creator himself, the one who formed and fashioned you while still in your mother’s womb. Best of all, they are free!

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1Peter 2:24-25)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Prescription for drug-free mental health:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Related Articles:

Dealing with Despair

Medicine: Idolatry in the Twenty First Century

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Medicine: Idolatry in the Twenty First Century

This is what the LORD says — your Redeemer, the Holy One… "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17)

The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament portion of the Bible is one of the most incredible books of prophecy ever written. Isaiah was a prophet during the time the northern kingdom of Israel was deported to Assyria in 722 B.C. But not only did Isaiah write about events that were happening during his own day, he also wrote about events that would happen hundreds of years later during the days of captivity of the southern kingdom of Israel after 586 B.C. He also wrote what are called the “suffering servant” Messianic passages that prophesied about the life of Jesus Christ which would happen more than 700 years later.

In Isaiah chapter 48 we are given some of the reasons why God revealed these things to his people through the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together. Come together, all of you, and listen: Which of the idols has foretold these things? (Isaiah 48:12-14)

What a poor comparison the idols of Isaiah’s day were in comparison to the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth! The idols did not have knowledge of future events like the Lord did, who sometimes revealed these events to his prophets. The Israelites were called out to be a special people, different from the nations around them. They were to trust in God alone, and seek a relationship with him, as is stated in verse 17 above, where God states “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” This principle guided everything in life, and was the first of the ten commandments:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:2-6)

So why did people create idols, and what did they trust them for? Idols were looked to for guidance, power, and healing. It seems strange to us today that people would create idols out of man-made objects created by their own hands. But the reason it seems strange to us today is because the people trusted in the spirits or spirit world represented by the idols, or in some cases they may have believed that the idol itself was inhabited by spirit beings. Our materialistic culture, by contrast, believes primarily only in the physical world.

The heart of idolatry is looking to sources outside of God for our basic needs and desires in life. The idols that are erected flow out of our experiences in life, and the idol is an attempt to explain life apart from the Creator. Hence, when the Israelites were miraculously delivered from slavery to the Egyptians under the leadership of Moses, and when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the laws that were to govern them and did not return for 40 days, they assumed he was dead and they reinterpreted their experiences in life to find meaning apart from God. They assumed God had abandoned them and was no longer involved with their lives. Their experiences taught them that they had indeed been miraculously delivered from the powerful Egyptian army which was destroyed, so they had to attribute this reality in their life to something. Drawing upon their religious experience in Egypt, they decided to make an idol out of gold and use that image as a symbol of great power. (Read the story in Exodus 32)

The typical things people have historically looked to idols to provide for them are: guidance, wealth, fertility, and health. God, the Creator of heaven and earth, presents himself to his people as the sole source of these things we need and desire. God does not act like a “magician” by providing these things for us out of thin air, but most of the time he works through his natural order of creation which is upheld by his power. The creation, however, is not a closed system, and he himself is not bound to its laws. He operates outside of it also, and in the person of Jesus, especially, we saw the power of the Creator in human form interact and overcome the limitations of the physical creation in many instances. Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, immediately healed people’s diseases, and even raised people from physical death back to life. But the decision as to when supernatural events happen always originates with God, and not the created beings. The prophets and other leaders at times were used by God to perform miracles, but the miracles were performed by God through them. “Magicians” on the other hand, those who truly perform magic (not just illusions), are interacting with the spiritual world being controlled by their own thoughts and desires, or those of the spirits who are also created beings.

Are things any different today in terms of idolatry? It has taken on a different form, but it is in essence the same thing it has always been – trust in idols rather than God to supply our needs and desires. Modern-day culture has changed dramatically since the theory of Darwinian evolution came on the scene and dominated academics in western culture, so that today the physical world is exalted above all other realities. The spiritual world is either denied or ignored. Hence, creation of physical idols is very uncommon, because current culture ignores the unseen world that could be represented by such physical manifestations.

What has replaced those idols, however, are beliefs in new ones. The most common idol in western culture today, by far, is medicine – the new “magic.” Modern day medicine has existed for a relatively short period of human history, and the creation of a body of licensed “physicians” can be traced back to the start of the vaccine movement in Europe in the 1800s, when health officials wanted more control over the population and what they perceived as threatening diseases like small pox. Today, medicine is seen as the solution to almost all of life’s problems. A pill or vaccine exists now for just about every ailment or problem in life, and for those problems that don’t have a medical solution yet, billions of dollars are spent on research to find one. The belief system currently in place is that physical science and medicine can solve all problems in life. The people who control the medical system are trained and licensed and given great authority to control our lives. Currently they have the authority to take children away from their parents, to declare someone “insane” or mentally disturbed and have them committed to an institution, force people (especially children) to use their products via immunizations, and make sweeping laws and regulations that affect the lives of everyone. It is believed that life itself is dependent on medicine, and this belief system is used to justify the authority and power the medical system has in our culture.

How have we allowed this to happen? How does the population for the most part willingly believe in the medical system and give up so many of their freedoms and so much of their wealth to this system? There’s only one rational explanation: idolatry. We are simply repeating the same mistakes that have been made throughout history, when God is removed from our belief system and replaced with a belief in something else. We learn to trust in our idols instead. If history lasts long enough, I predict that a day will come many years in the future that will look back at our current day and culture and have the same feelings of repulsion and disgust that those of us feel today when we look at ancient cultures that trusted in graven images and spirits in their idolatrous practice. “How could they be so foolish to trust in those things”, we think today, and in the future I suspect the same thoughts and questions will be pondered about our medical practices today.

The winds of change are blowing already, however, as many are beginning to see just how far we have come in this blind trust we have in medicine. Some are stepping back to try and take an objective look at the effectiveness of our drugs, and what is being seen are some very troubling facts that can no longer be denied.

First, depending on which set of statistics you look at, deaths from legally prescribed medicines and the administration of the medical system is seen as either the number one cause of death in the US today1, or the number three cause of death just behind cancer and heart disease2. This would include deaths from prescription drugs and hospital mistakes that are preventable. All of the statistics used to reach a conclusion like this are from standard published reports that come out of the medical system itself. Yet this is not widely reported in mainstream media, because of the belief that medicine and the medical system is necessary for life, and that therefore we have no choice but to put up with these mistakes and accidental deaths that are a direct cause of medicine. Anything that is put forward as an alternative to the medical system for health is generally attacked and declared illegal, and if those from within the medical system decide to become “whistle-blowers” to speak up and try to reveal the failures of the medical system, they are usually attacked and they often lose their careers. This is especially true in the vaccine movement right now, which seeks to greatly increase the number of vaccines required to immunize children and now even teenagers and adults. Hundreds of thousands of parents know first-hand that vaccines have either killed or permanently damaged their children (and this is even backed up by statistics in the VAERS - Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System – government database), and yet the medical establishment continues to deny there are any problems in the face of overwhelming evidence. While great wealth and profits are definitely tied into the vaccine and medical industry as a whole, I believe that the overriding motivation is a belief system, and not necessarily strictly a profit motive (although the profit motive is also a huge factor!) For vaccines, the belief is that if everyone is not vaccinated, dangerous viruses and diseases will spread through society and threaten life itself – the very existence of the human race. That belief, however, is not backed by objective science. It is simply a belief system, based on historical plagues and what future plagues could potentially do. It is a belief system that feeds on fear and makes no consideration that there is a God who has ultimate control over his creation.

Secondly, people are now starting to look objectively at the effectiveness of medicines, and what they are finding is very disturbing. This is especially true when it comes to psychotropic drugs within the field of psychiatry. Psychiatry is presented as a part of medical practice that supposedly has its basis in biological science, but it just simply is not true. There are currently no biological tests that can diagnose mental illness. None. Drugs are prescribed simply on symptoms. It is a $330 billion industry, and the number of antidepressant drugs prescribed has doubled in less than one decade. Most people don’t realize that the diseases these drugs are supposed to treat are diseases that psychiatrists vote on to include in their “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders” (DSM)3. There are no objective tests to detect these “diseases,” and the number of defined diseases that go into the DSM are increasing at an alarming rate, and now include such things that in the past were considered within the realm of normal behavior. One of the largest and most controversial ones is “attention deficit disorder” which is increasingly being used to prescribe strong drugs for children that are “over active” and have “behavior problems.” Even unhappiness is now considered a disease, and drugs can be prescribed for that too. Critics point out that the DSM is so large now, that it can now cover the behavior patterns of the entire human population, and effectively label everyone now as having a mental illness. What a huge market for their drugs!

As editor of Health Impact News, seldom does a week go by where I don’t see at least one story, and many now from mainstream media sources, questioning the validity of this increase in antidepressant drugs and their dangers4. These drugs are now being implicated in the increasing school shootings we are seeing so frequently in the news5, and to an alarming increase in suicide among our youth6. They are also being increasingly used with the elderly population who are often defenseless to defend themselves and stand up for their rights7.

Idolatry is the reason we have allowed this medical system, which is so wrongly labeled as “healthcare”, to become as powerful as it is today. Some may think after reading this that I am opposed to all drugs and anything involved with the medical system. That is not the case. There are real drugs that are based on real science that obviously have great benefit, and can save lives. Antibiotics are a case in point. But our blind trust in antibiotics has led to such an abuse and overuse that they are losing their effectiveness. This is because over 80% of all antibiotics are used on animals8 in our industrial agricultural system, and it is estimated that of the other 20% or so used to treat human illnesses, about 90% of those cases antibiotics are used unnecessarily. If we continue to follow the current path we are taking, some feel that antibiotics will completely lose their effectiveness, making it impossible to perform life-saving procedures like surgeries or emergency room trauma9.

Many today are recognizing the faults of the medical system, and they are seeing that what is labeled as “science” to justify this system of treating diseases is in fact primarily a belief system and not really science at all10. “Scientific” studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals regarding new drugs or vaccines are almost exclusively funded by the drug companies themselves, with tremendous conflicts of interest.11

There is a solution to this mess we have created:

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One… "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me." (Isaiah 48:17-19)

The cure for idolatry is belief and trust in God our Creator and Redeemer. The Redeemer Messiah had not yet been born during the days of the prophet Isaiah, but we live in a day and age after he has been born, and his name is Jesus Christ. Faith in God our Creator and the Redeemer Jesus, is the opposite of idolatry, and recognizes that life depends on God the Creator, and that redemption, the forgiveness of sins and spiritual rebirth, comes from a relationship with Jesus. When we trust in God, we trust in his word, and this is his word to us: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Don’t put your trust in the medical system! If you need to use it, make sure you have sought the Lord first, and that he is the one leading you to the right people and the right solutions. The prescription for dealing with sickness in biblical times was to seek counsel from spiritual leaders, not doctors. Life is not dependent on the medical system, and often times there are natural solutions, and sometimes even supernatural ones. God is the author of all life, and he is the one who upholds it. Seek him first, and depend only on him!

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:2-6 – the first of the 10 commandments)

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16)

Related articles:

Who is Responsible for Providing Healthcare?

Do Doctors Really Heal?


1. The medical system is the leading cause of death in the US: by By Gary Null, PhD; Carolyn Dean MD, ND; Martin Feldman, MD; Debora Rasio, MD; and Dorothy Smith, PhD

2. America’s Health Care System is the third leading cause of death in the US: by Barbara Starfield, M.D.

3. Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights: Psychiatric Disorders Voted Into Existence - Psychiatry’s New Billing Bible, The DSM: A Goldmine of Mental Disorders for Pharma

4. Here are some recent ones: Ex-Pharma Sales Reps Speaks Out – Pharma Not in Business of Health (Video), Antidepressant drugs do not work, and they have serious side effects (includes Videos), The hidden tyranny: children diagnosed and drugged for profit, Psychiatry Biggest Offender in Mis-diagnosis and Unnecessary Procedures (ABC News) – These are a small sampling of recent stories. To view the most recent ones, click here.

5. See: Take This Antidepressant, and You Too May Have a Violent Psychotic Break, and Psychiatry’s Prescription for Violence (Video)

6. See: Harming Youth: Screening and Drugs Ruin Young Minds (includes Video)

7. See: Judge Clears Way for Whistleblower Lawsuit Over J&J Risperdal Kickbacks (prescribing antidepressants for the elderly in nursing homes when they didn’t need them), Senate Aging Panel blows whistle on over drugging dementia patients

8. See: Congresswoman Slaughter Fights to Keep Antibiotics Effective, Reduce Unnecessary Use in Animals

9. See: Overuse of Antibiotics “Greatest threat to human health”

10. See: Is modern medicine more science or religion? and The Uncertainty of Medical Practice: A physician's perspective

11. See: BMJ & Lancet Wedded to Merck CME Partnership Conflict of interest on Vaccine research? and Why the media is usually wrong about health information

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

God Speaks: Are You Listening?

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets... Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. (Psalm 50:1-3)

The author of Psalm 50 was very emphatic about who he was writing about at the beginning of this Psalm, using three different terms for God, the Creator of heaven and earth. In a culture filled with idolatrous worship of other things and other “gods”, the author didn’t want to leave any doubt about who he was writing about. Psalm 50 is a clear reminder of who God is, his place in the universe, and what he expects of his people. It offers valuable lessons for us also here in the 21st century.

First, Psalm 50 establishes the fact that God is both the owner and the ruler of the physical universe – both heaven and earth. And as the ruler, he has something to say to the inhabitants. God is not a silent ruler. He speaks. It is within our best interest to listen to what he has to say.

The main point Psalm 50 is trying to communicate is that God is not concerned about religion – a system of activities or rules that people use to try and please God or earn his favor. No, God is not concerned with religious activity. He wants a relationship with us. That is the heart of what he is trying to communicate to his people in Psalm 50.

The religious system in place during the day this Psalm was written was a Jewish system of sacrifices that were started during the days of Moses. It was never intended to be a religious system where the people would earn God’s favor by performing these sacrificial duties prescribed by the law. It was intended to be a reminder to the people of how dependent they were on God, both for their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. The purpose was to draw their hearts and minds back to God, and to rely on him alone for all of their needs. That kind of worship, where one totally depends on God alone for all their needs by walking in faith, is what was supposed to separate the Jewish people from all other nations and religions.

So God reminds them in this Psalm that they have lost their focus, and that they have replaced their dependency on him with religious activities:

I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? (Psalm 50:8-13)

Notice that he states that he is not rebuking them for the sacrifices. The acts of sacrificing themselves were not wrong, they were written in the law that he had given to them after all. It was their perspective on the meaning of those sacrifices that bothered God. He is basically saying “how foolish of you to think that I need these sacrifices for some reason. I already own the universe, including all your livestock and all the wild animals that are not domesticated. I know every single one of them. So what makes you think I need these things? You have lost your focus on the purpose of these sacrifices.”

Fortunately, God does not simply stop there with pointing out their faults. His criticism is a “constructive criticism” designed to get them to change their behavior for their own benefit. He goes on to state what he really desires from his people:

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (Psalm 50:14-15)

God knows that we can do nothing apart from him. The very air that we breathe every second of our existence is dependent upon him. He desires a relationship, not religion. He wants us to come to him for everything, both in good times and in difficult times. When we enjoy any good thing in life, he wants us to thank him. That’s a sacrifice, because it takes a sacrifice on our part to set aside time to focus our thoughts and mind on God and thank him for his blessings in our life. When things are not going well in our lives, he wants us to turn to him for help, because he is the best person in the universe, being its creator and ruler, to supply what is lacking in our lives.

Things have not changed much today. The principles all remain exactly the same. Most of us have religious or what we consider “spiritual” activities that we do, and it is easy to think and engage in these activities thinking that we are pleasing God somehow. But God is not pleased with our religious activities. He wants a relationship with us. He speaks to us all the time, and perhaps he is speaking to you right now through this message you are reading. Will you make a sacrifice of thanks to him today, and take time to listen to him? He knows what your needs are, and he has the solution.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:15-17)

Related Articles:

How God Speaks to Us Today

How Can We Please God?

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to be Restored from Sickness

The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. (Psalms 41:3)

The way sickness was viewed in Biblical Old Testament times and the way sickness is viewed today in the 21st century is almost in completely opposite terms. In Old Testament times, sickness was primarily viewed as a judgment from God for sins. This view primarily stemmed from Israel’s experience in the Exodus from Egypt, when God inflicted plagues on the Egyptians.

He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)

In our modern day post-Darwin era, sickness is almost always viewed as strictly a result of natural causes, with no thought given to spiritual issues such as sin. Medicines and other cures are seen as the remedy for all sicknesses. If a cure does not exist in medicine, it is believed that one will be discovered in the future through scientific research.

Both of these views are extreme and imbalanced. The Book of Job in the Old Testament, the record of a righteous man and his sufferings and sickness, completely contradicted the belief that righteous people never suffer, and that all suffering is a result of some sin in our life. Here is what was written about Job:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1)

But as the story unfolds, Job loses everything and suffers terrible sickness as part of God’s plan for his life. His “counselors” came to try and convince him he was suffering because of some sin in his life. But God himself had declared Job “blameless.”

Jesus also contradicted the belief that all sickness was a result of personal sin:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)

The naturalistic view today that all sickness is a result of natural causes that man can control and cure through medicines is certainly not supported by real science. There is no medicine or natural cure that works 100% of the time, and properly prescribed medicines today kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, and are the third leading cause of death in the US. Our current day medical system, which historically has only been around for a relatively short time, began post Darwin and ushered in an era of great hope and expectations with the belief of being able to cure all the world’s diseases through medical technology. Many are now seeing the limitations and problems inherit in the medical system and its underlying philosophy and approach towards disease, and many are now beginning to lose faith in the medical system which is dominated by politically and economically powerful forces that dominate western culture.

David’s words in Psalm 41 give us great wisdom regarding how we can be restored from sickness:

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. I said, "O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you." My enemies say of me in malice, "When will he die and his name perish?" Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad. All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, "A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies." Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But you, O LORD, have mercy on me; raise me up, that I may repay them. I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen. (Psalm 41:1-13)

As I have noted in other articles about the life of David, sometimes he suffered sickness because of personal sin in his life, and at other times he suffered because of persecution – the sins of others. But his approach to being restored from sickness is very consistent throughout his writings. Notice the principles he teaches in this Psalm:

1. He looks to the Lord in his helpless condition.

2. He trusts in the Lord for his healing.

3. He confesses his sins.

4. He depends on the Lord’s mercy for healing – he does not see healing as something he deserves or he can purchase from disease specialists.

5. He is honest before the Lord, and before others.

David saw healing as an act of mercy from God. Being sick puts us in a helpless situation, where we recognize our dependency on God. David was honest about his own weakness and sins, and he depended upon God’s mercy for healing. “Mercy” means receiving something you do not deserve as an act of benevolence. You can’t purchase mercy – it’s free and it is totally dependent on the benevolence of the one offering it.

Contrast this with the way most people view being restored from sickness today. We are not honest about our sinfulness and dependency on God. We believe that sickness can be remedied by counter-acting the illness through drugs, rather than dealing with the root problem of the sickness. We don’t believe we need God – we believe that science and medicines have the answers to our problems via man’s knowledge, and we put our faith in medical experts. Sadly, many people only turn to God after much suffering, and when they reach a point where they understand that man’s knowledge is insufficient, and that medical technology has its limits and faults. They spend great resources and sometimes even give away their entire wealth and family inheritance to the medical system in fighting the sickness, rather than being honest and acknowledging the source of the problem and asking God to act in mercy, trusting in him rather than man’s wisdom and technology. And while the medical technology does work sometimes, it only deals with the symptoms, and not the root cause of the problem. Hence, even in those situations where relief is accomplished, true restoration from sickness is not accomplished, since that depends on our relationship to our Creator.

The ultimate restoration from all sickness, of course, is in redemption from our sins through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As I have written in other articles, viewing sickness from strictly a physical perspective is historically a unique view on health, unique to our day and age post Darwin. Other cultures throughout history have always viewed the process of healing as part of the spiritual realm as well, and healing was always accomplished through appeasing those in the spirit world (usually through offering some sort of sacrifice at an altar), in addition to any physical remedies that might exist. This is viewed as “primitive” today, but it would seem that “primitive” man may have been more intelligent than modern man in some ways, because they understood that true health could not be accomplished strictly through physical remedies. The spiritual restoration from sickness has existed for a couple of thousand years, however, and is solidly based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and restoring man to a proper relationship with his Creator by dealing once and for all with the spiritual and physical consequences of man’s sins.

How do you approach healing and restoration from sickness today? Do you only seek physical remedies while never giving thought to the spiritual causes of sickness? If so, you can find greater success by following the five principles listed above that David followed to be restored from sickness, and acknowledge that healing has a spiritual aspect also. Being honest before God about our spiritual condition and looking to him for healing can result in our own spirit being completely renewed through the rebirth process.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:8-9)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. (1Pe 1:18-25)

Related Articles:

What is Health?

Do Doctors Really Heal?

Who do You Run to When You are Sick?

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Dealing with Unhealthy Anger

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed.... (Psalm 37:7-9)

Psalm 37 was apparently written by an older and wiser King David (I was young and now I am old… v.25.) If you know anything about the life of David as recorded in the Bible, you will know that David suffered through many trials and persecutions throughout his life. Many people hated him and tried to kill him throughout his lifetime, including government officials, “friends”, and even his own son. Psalm 37 deals with the heart of the issue of injustice in the world, and the anger it can produce in our life. He writes:

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. (Psalm 37:1-15)

Dealing with the injustices that we see in the world and in our own personal lives begins with a faith in God, believing that he created everything and has absolute control over his creation, including the affairs of man. “Evil men,” as David calls them, those who do not believe in or serve God, have no future either in this life, or in the life to come in eternity. God has a master plan. He has the last say. A long-term view of life sees that God and righteousness always win. So when we see injustice and things in life that are just “not fair,” we need to first understand that God sees it also, and he has a plan to make all things right, to bring everyone into an account for their actions someday. Having this understanding, our proper response is to wait for God to take action, and follow his leading in our life to accomplish his purpose in us, the purpose for which he created us. Anger is not a proper reaction, because it pre-supposes that God either does not exist, or that he exists and just doesn’t care; that he has no plan to take care of things and bring about justice. According to David, this incorrect view of God leads to anger and negative results in our life.

Look at the benefits, however, of trusting in God in these situations:

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:3-6)

What a wonderful promise he makes to us if we trust in him! With such a wonderful promise from someone who never lies and never goes back on his word, why would we ever have any reason to be angry at the difficulties life puts in our path? We know what the future holds, and we know that there is an all-powerful God who will make all things right.

Are you caught in a circle of anger and frustration over the “unfair” circumstances of your life, and your powerlessness to be able to do anything about it? If so, then be assured that you are right where God wants you to be, in a position to come to him in faith and helplessness and to “wait patiently for him.” Replace your frustration and anger by “delighting yourself in the Lord,” and you will soon experience the joy and peace that comes from trusting in God. If you are delighting yourself in the Lord, you will then find out that the things you desire in life are the things God wants you to have, and that he delights in giving them to you! All the reasons to be angry will then just fade away…

If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. (Psalm 37:23-26)

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where does Healing Come From?

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life…’” Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.” (Isaiah 38:1-5,21)

The record of King Hezekiah’s life; his illness, his prayer, and what the Lord spoke to him, provide valuable insights for us regarding healing. Let’s take a look at some of the principles this historical account teaches us.

First, healing comes from God, the one who created us. God also controls the timing of our physical death. Hezekiah developed some kind of sickness, and God sent word to him through the prophet Isaiah that he was not going to recover – he was going to die. Hezekiah then cries and prays to God. God hears his prayer, and decides to add fifteen years to his life. After delivering this message from God to Hezekiah that he would recover, Isaiah then uses “a poultice of figs” to apply to his skin disease as a remedy. If Isaiah (or anyone else) had tried to use this natural remedy prior to the Lord declaring that Hezekiah was going to be healed, it would not have worked. God made the decision: Hezekiah and Isaiah just followed his directions.

Modern day science is based on the foundation of evolution, and the belief that the universe is a closed system. It sees the universe in primarily physical terms. To have such a belief, one is forced to not believe in God or creation. However, God does exist, and his existence is not limited to the confines of his creation, e.g. the universe. He also exists outside of it. Therefore the universe cannot be a closed system. God created it, and he interacts with it as he chooses. The historical records of the life of Jesus show that Jesus constantly defied what evolutionists would call “the laws of nature” by doing such as things as walking on water, turning water into wine, healing diseases, and even raising dead people back to life.

Unfortunately, modern day medicine and modern day naturalism/alternative health primarily base their systems of healing on the evolutionary foundation which believes in a closed system. Healing is believed to exist primarily within the physical realm. So the medical system trusts in its medicines, and the naturalist trusts in natural substances such as herb, nutrients, etc. That these physical remedies do indeed have therapeutic value cannot be denied, even as people during the days of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah probably understood that “poultices of figs” also had therapeutic value. But as noted above, God had already spoken regarding Hezekiah’s condition, and no natural or man-made remedy could have changed that. Among all the medicines and natural remedies known to man today, none of them affect healing 100% of the time. People still get sick, and people still die.

The second major principle we can learn from this account of King Hezekiah, is that God hears people’s prayers, and he is moved by them. The fact that God can “change his mind” regarding future events is also documented in other places in the scriptures. One of the best stories is the one of the prophet Jonah. Jonah was sent to preach against one of Israel’s enemies and go to the city of Nineveh. He tried to resist God, but that was futile. So he entered the city and proclaimed the word of the Lord, which was that Nineveh was going to be destroyed within 40 days because of their great sin. But as was similar in the story about Hezekiah, prayer was offered up to God, and God changed his mind:

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:6-10)

Could it be that in the case of Hezekiah God was allowing certain things he had sown in his life to take their course in his illness until Hezekiah humbled himself before God and came to a point of recognizing his own sins and shortcomings, much like what happened with the king and citizens of Nineveh? I think we have the answer in Hezekiah’s own words after he was healed:

Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17)

Hezekiah apparently saw his illness as an opportunity to humble himself before God and change his ways. He could not say “you have put all my sins behind your back” if he was not aware that he had sinned against God. His illness humbled him and made him aware of his failures before God, and he turned to God for forgiveness and help. That was a good thing, and it moved God to change his mind!

Contrast that with the way our modern culture approaches healing today. Starting with a presupposition of a universe that is a closed system and where God does not exist, we approach all illness as a result of “natural causes” that can be observed through empiricism. God is never considered, and any sins committed against God are considered only as part of religion, and certainly not part of modern day healing. Spiritual health conditions are almost never related to physical health conditions. Remedies are sought only in the physical realm, and restoring one’s relationship to their Creator is not considered.

As I have noted in other writings (see links below), such a narrow concept of health and healing is a recent phenomenon in human history. Even within ancient Greek culture, which brought to us empiricism and much of the beginnings of modern day "science" academic thought, they believed in a spirit world and approached healing from not just the physical realm, but also the spiritual. They looked to their Greek gods, such as Apollo and Zeus, for healing in addition to using physical remedies. They understood that there was a spiritual aspect of health also, and they sought the favor of their gods.

I have also noted in other articles that our personal sins are not always a direct cause of our sickness. Sometimes our health can suffer through the sins of others, or from direct causal relationships to things such as pollution or toxins in our environment. But the source of healing is always the same in all circumstances, whether we recognize it or not.

I am the LORD, who heals you. (Exodus 15:26)

Where do you see the source of healing coming from? Who do you turn to when you are sick? When you are healed, who do you give credit to?

O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. (Psalms 30:2)

The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalms 41:3)

Related Articles:

Do Doctors Really Heal?

What is Health?

Who is Responsible for Providing Healthcare?

Who do You Run to When You are Sick?

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Key to Happiness and Long Life

Would you like to enjoy life? Do you want long life and happiness? (Psalms 34:12)

I come across articles and advertisements quite frequently within the world of nutrition, natural foods, and alternative health that advertise or make claims to supply “long life” and happiness. There is even a whole field of science today called “longevity” which studies ways of slowing down the aging process. While there is wisdom and good practical advice within this field, it comes up short of delivering what is promised or hoped for, because of the way our culture defines “happiness” and “long life”. Happiness is usually thought of as a life free of stress and troubles, and long life is concerned only with our short (compared to eternity) life here on earth.

When you study the writings of King David in the Psalms, you learn a lot about happiness and longevity. It is interesting that the prelude to Psalm 34 does not put David safe and secure in his royal palace at the time of writing this Psalm. It puts him in that period of his life where he was constantly on the run from King Saul, who was always trying to kill him. He had to hide in caves and constantly keep moving to keep King Saul and his forces from finding him. That meant at times going to foreign countries that were enemies of Israel, and trying to convince the leaders of these countries not to kill him also. At times he apparently pretended to be insane to these foreign rulers just to protect himself. Doesn’t exactly sound like a happy existence with a future, does it?

But David never defined happiness as the absence of conflicts or struggles. On the contrary, happiness was found in the midst of them. Psalm 34 gives us the keys to David’s contentment in the face of life’s difficulties, and he instructs us how to live a long life with happiness.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psalms 34:4-10)

When David faced difficulties in life, he turned to his Creator for help. David had a relationship with God. He knew that God loved him, and he trusted God to take care of him through all of the junk life can throw our way! As David ran for his life during the years Saul was trying to kill him, look at the statements of health that he wrote in the verses above. He prayed to God, and God delivered him from all his fears. His confidence in the Lord made him “radiant” and his face displayed joy instead of shame. His experiences in the presence of God are described as pleasant to his senses, as he uses such words as “taste” and “see.” In his distress he did not suffer from hunger and weakness – the Lord provided for all his needs, because he looked to the Lord alone as the source of everything he desired.

David enjoyed life, even in the midst of persecution and tremendous difficulties. He also wanted others to enjoy life as he did, and live long on the earth, so he wrote the secret to enjoying life and living long on the earth:

Come, my young friends, and listen to me, and I will teach you to honor the LORD. Would you like to enjoy life? Do you want long life and happiness? Then keep from speaking evil and from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good; strive for peace with all your heart. (Psalms 34:11-14)

It is very interesting that the first thing David wrote as the key to happiness and long life is what comes off of our tongues! This is probably because our speech reflects what we believe and what is in our hearts. I have written about the healing power of words in another article. Our tongues have the power to destroy or heal others, and according to this statement by David it also affects our own life as well. If we are speaking things that are not true, we are out of step with our Creator and the purpose he created us. To be happy and live a long life on earth, we need to “Turn away from evil and do good; strive for peace with all your heart.

The key to doing this is to understand that God is in control of all things, and that we don’t have to take things into our own hands every time something goes wrong in life. We have to trust that God has a master plan, far above and beyond everything we could possibly know, and that we just have to trust him. To think that life is meant to be free of troubles or concerns is a wrong perception of the truth and reality. So many people who are chasing happiness and longevity are pursuing an empty dream of something that does not exist in this life. This produces frustration and the desire to blame other people and other things for all our troubles. But David clearly writes here that happiness and long life are accomplished in the midst of troubles and difficulties in life, by having an attitude of trust and faith, and turning to God when we need help:

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all… (Psalms 34:15-19)

So the key to happiness and long life is not the absence of difficulties, but the proper attitude and response towards them. This attitude is much different than the world’s attitude of trying to control our environment and circumstances to produce a life free of troubles and difficulties, pursuing the false dream of something that does not exist in this life. Hence, our modern day culture has replaced faith in God with faith in science, technology, and medicine, foolishly believing that these man-made objects of our faith will produce happiness and longevity. The “naturalists” are not much different, concentrating mostly on the physical realm and simply replacing technology and medicines with vitamins, herbs, etc. But both approaches start out with the wrong presupposition about life (evolution) and the difficulties we face in life (survival of the fittest or ”advancing” in the evolutionary process), and how to deal with them, because they leave the Creator out of the discussion.

David then concludes this Psalm with this thought:

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. (Psalms 34:21-22)

God has the last say. We are all mortal and we will all die a physical death and come face to face with our Creator. Those who have depended upon God and have gone through the spiritual rebirth process will not be condemned, because Jesus was condemned in our place. Those who trust in anything besides God throughout their life will suffer the consequences. So how you deal with life’s difficulties and pursue happiness and longevity in this life also affects what happens to you in the rest of eternity!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:16-21)

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