Shepherding the flock: Truths for all of God’s People
Introduction: the primary goal of this material is to help church leaders shepherd the flock in the giving and receiving medical care. Secondary goals are helping sheep be God’s kind of sheep/counselee/patient, helping physicians be God’s kind of physicians, and helping church leaders help both groups achieve those goals.
- Personal note: I am a rheumatologist through God’s providence who ordained my choice. The fact of that I am rheumatologist is important for a number of reasons. Not all fields of medicine are the same. General principles override all disciplines but there are significant differences. The field of rheumatology differs in many respects from other fields of medicine. Complaints of misery, often long-standing, are a constant menu for most rheumatologists. The whole person is affected (thoughts, desires, actions or inactions). Patients tend to be long standing as their problems are chronic. Therefore I urge physicians and patients or would-be patients to take note of the general principles of good stewardships as derived from the Bible and apply them to the giving and receiving of medical care in their own area.
- Our standard is the Bible which:
- Is clear, authoritative, necessary, and sufficient for life and godliness including giving and receiving medical care: 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
- Focuses on relationships, vertically and horizontally, and the whole person: Matt. 22:37-40; Duet 6:4-6.
- Addresses stewardship which includes the giving and the receiving of medical care: Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.
- Presents a worldview that has been interpreted as anti-science and “non-medical”:
- The hard sciences such as biology, physics, astronomy, etc.
- The soft sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology.
- Medicine which utilizes the hard and soft sciences.
III. The Bible’s orientation is radical, antithetical, counterintuitive, counter-cultural, and counter-self. It presents the doctrine of two ways.
- The doctrine of two ways includes such contrasts as natural-supernatural, truth-falsehood, sight and senses–faith, unsaved-saved, lost-found, trust in self-trust in Lord, unclean-clean, and the wide-narrow road.
- Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to live and function in God’s world.
- Man is to grieve God’s way (1 Thessalonians 4:13), be angry God’s way, (Eph. 4:26; James 1:19-20), seek God’s way (Mat. 6:33), and to fear God’s way (Ps 56:3-4; Proverbs 1:7).
- There is no Scriptural mandate to worry God’s way, be depressed God’s way, or to be overwhelmed God’s way.
- Consequently, there is a godly and ungodly way to practice medicine and to receive medical care. These are extensions of how a person lives (thinks, desires, acts) outside the doctor’s office.
- Basic anthropology in the giving and receiving of medical care: ma n is the image of God.
- Everyone is a religious being, a theologian and a worshipper.
- The object of the worship is self, through people and or things or it is God.
- Everyone looks outside of self or within for direction and strength.
- Everyone is a relational being.
- Everyone, believer and unbeliever, has, whether acknowledged or not:
- A vertical relationship – to God – in His world.
- A horizontal relationship – to others – in God’s world.
- A vertical reference to circumstances and to God – God’s providential ordering of life events.
- The personal significance of those relationships influence and determine thoughts, desires, and actions in any situation.
- Everyone is a revelational being. He receives, interprets, and implements what he has received in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions.
- Everyone is a rational being. He is a thinker, initially designed to think God’s thoughts for God’s glory and to partake of the blessing to and for him and others.
- Everyone is a moral, ethically responsible being.
- Man is faced with the issues of lawmaking and law-keeping.
- He makes choices that are cognitive and willful,
- Everyone is a representative. Man is not his own but he was designed to follow God’s design in the Garden.
- Everyone is a reflector. Man was designed to reflect God’s glory to the world and back to God.
- Everyone is faith-based either saving faith or non-saving faith.
- Everyone is an affective, emotive being.
- He has feelings but he is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
- Subjectivity is the rule.
- The term “feelings” is too often culturized and psychologized.
- Everyone is a seeker. The issues are who does he seek, how does he seek, and what is the motive for seeking.
- More anthropology
- Everyone lives out of an identity, is motivated to set an agenda and pursue it.
- Man was created the image of God – a whole person – wanting, thinking, and doing.
- As a whole person, he is duplex, a complex unity.
- He is body as well as having a body (outer man: he is a physical, material being); but he is not only body.
- He has a soul (inner man: he is a spiritual being); but he is not only inner man (other terms the Bible uses for the inner man are heart and mind).
- He thinks and desires/wants in both his inner and outer man.
- He acts in as well as out of/from the inner and outer man.
- In every situation (God’s providence), the doctor and patient are theologians.
- The issue for both is which kind?
- The Bible is our source for the answer.
- Everyone is a sensual and faith-based being.
- He gathers or takes in information via the senses.
- He interprets/evaluates information in both the inner man (heart/mind) and the outer man (brain).
- He draws a conclusion.
- He acts according to his evaluation.
- He has an interpretive grid which is one of two kinds captured in Proverbs 3:5-8:
- He trusts God (fear of Lord).
1) He lives according to saving faith, biblical truth, and the application of biblical principles to all of life.
2) He has biblically-controlled thinking and wanting
- He trusts self.
1) He is guided by the trio, in part or the whole, of feelings, reason unaided by biblical truth, and/or experience.
2) He is controlled by his own thoughts and desires
- Cautions for the helper (pastor, counselor, and doctor) in regard to the sheep
- No helper is to be exclusively a spiritual mechanic (focused solely on inner-man activities) or a body mechanic (focused only on the physical) because:
- Man is duplex, a whole person, image bearer of God and a theologian.
- His situation in life is God’s providential ordering. Life is not just is.
- The situation is:
- The context for the person to demonstrate the functional significance of his relationship to God in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
- A tool for him to further develop a God-honoring relationship in Christ.
- All helpers are to be listeners and learners:
- Listen to learn to love to lead.
- Don’t assume.
- Understand what the person is saying: clarify clichés and terms.
- Understanding the person in his situation is the key to discipleship.
- Next the person is to give appropriate truth to the person in his situation given his level of willingness, his knowledge, and his spiritual maturity.
- The importance of methodology
- Be alert to the fact that the person invariably begins with how he feels, his experience, and his own logic and most often in terms of his trouble often called suffering.
- The person is BOTH a suffering sinner AND sinful sufferer.
- Labels matter.
- Maintain the proper balance between sinner AND suffering.
- Ask questions with an inside-out focus.
- Inquire about the person’s thinking, wanting, motivation, and resultant actions.
- Your goal and your method
- The key is to function as a God pleaser.
- Minister biblical truth so that it functions vertically – the person’s relationship to God – and horizontally – the person’s relationship to others.
- Most sheep/counselee’s/patient’s focus is primarily horizontal (change him or her or the situation).
- Any vertical reference is often distorted: view of God, self, and others:
- Determine what biblical truth is needed that best fits the person in his situation.
- Learn and teach God’s way of change: “put off” and “put on.” by determining:
1) Help determine the genesis of wrong thoughts, desires, and actions
2) Develop the need and even urgency of putting off by putting on.
3) Give hope because of the resources that every believer has in Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
4) Help determine the proper biblical replacement and the how if it. Be specific.
5) People change and get victory in the concrete.
VII. Helps for the helpers: pastor, counselor, doctor, and patient/counselee
- Think “whole-person” and man as “duplex.”
- The inner man affects the function of the outer man: inner-man activity of thinking and wanting affects a person’s feelings and activity.
- The outer man affects the function of the inner man.
- The outer man-inner man connection depends on how and which part of the body is affected.
- The physical/material is the area of medicine that is most familiar to people.
- Person: what is wrong with my body? Fix me. Give me relief.
- Doctor: attempts to find an anatomic and or physiological defect and treat it – accepts the Medical Model of disease.
- If no defect found, he still applies the Medical Model and treats – often with psychotropic drugs.
- Mental illness and emotional breakdown are loaded terms.
- The mind/heart and the brain are not synonymous.
- Feelings (they are anatomic rightly understood) and emotions (non-anatomic) are not synonymous.
- The mind/heart is immaterial and non-physical.
1) Broken heart: bad feelings
2) Takotsubo cardiomyopathy has been referred to as acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome, and “broken-heart syndrome.”
- The mind/emotions are not broken.
- Often they work overtime in the realm of thinking and wanting.
1) Wrong thinking and wanting leads to symptoms that are called physical.
2) Wrong and thinking is exposed at the time of the event/situation.
- Man thinks in his heart (IM) and brain (OM). There is a connection between the outer and inner man that does not appear to be a defined anatomic neural circuit.
- Man’s duplexity and its relationship to behavior require serious biblical thinking.
- What is needed? There is no science-Bible/biblical truth dichotomy.
- The answer is biblically-directed, whole person considerations.
- The result will be appropriate application of biblical truth by all involved.
- Thinking “whole-person” duplexity means that the outer and inner man is linked.
- Wanting, thinking, and doing are both IM and OM activities
- Feelings are linked to thinking and wanting so get to the person’s thoughts and desires.
- Man is not his feelings but functions as if he is.
- The trio of feelings, experience, and unaided human reasoning competes with the Word of God especially in the areas of progressive sanctification, problem solving, and decision making.
VIII. By divine plan, the goal of every believer to please God. He does that by becoming more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:9 (metaphor of Christian oyster).
- This includes the pastor, counselor, doctor, and the patient.
- The believer is the most changed person.
- He is to be the most changing person.
- In part, he does that by bringing biblical principles to bear as he considers his physical problems.
- The goal is honoring God by getting victory in the problem not necessarily out of the problem.
- Victory is defined as:
- Being controlled and directed by biblical principles rather than the desire for relief.
- Pleasing God rather than self in the situation
- Using the situation/condition to develop Christlikeness
- Victory may not include “cure.”
- The pastor, counselor, and doctor are the teacher and modeler of the above principles as good theologians-stewards:
- Stewardship defined: the God-given responsibility of taking care of that which has been entrusted to you with accountability.
- Stewardship involves the inner and outer man and every aspect of man as God’s image: thinking, wanting, and doing.
- Teach and model biblical stewardship and expect its practice.
- It is much more than tithing and giving.
- It is a whole-person activity.
- The pastor helps the sheep/patient regarding:
- The patient’s physician and his relationship to him:
- Is the doctor a Christian?
- If he is, what does that mean practically for both patient and doctor?
- Does the doctor bring biblical principles to bear on the patient in his problem?
- In determining:
- The doctor’s goal in caring for him.
- How the doctor’s practice of medicine differs from that of an unbeliever.
- In evaluating the medical diagnosis and treatment.
- What is the diagnosis and its basis?
- What is the solution, if any, and its basis?
- The pastor helps the counselor and doctor regarding:
- Understanding that the discipline of medicine at its core is pagan.
- Understanding that the problem is not science but the scientist (including the physician) as he evaluates “facts” (no fact is neutral – it is interpreted according to truth or falsehood).
- Developing biblical skepticism regarding medicine and its practice:
- He takes doctors under his wing.
- He finds a doctor and counselor who is a learner and you be a learner.
- He teaches them from the Bible and partners with them.
- He finds one that is theologically sound or is willing to be.
- He helps him see the better way which is pleasing God in the midst of God’s hard Providence. The situation is from God and the patient’s tool for growth.
- He helps him see that the consistent, humble application of biblical principles re: the whole person is the best care he can give his patients.
- It will be slow.
- Doctors may be a valuable ally or an effective enemy.
- Find out.
- Pray for them.
- Doctors are vulnerable and may unknowingly help undermine the gospel message.
- Be aware of prayer meetings.
- Gear prayer requests toward wisdom issues: growth in Christ and not simply relief/cure.
- Teach that God’s answer of no for relief is never no to growth in Christ.
- Help the people to be excited about growth in Christlikeness.
- Thoughts about going to the doctor and receiving medical care
- The patient should go to the doctor, not to get, but to please God as a good steward.
- Poor stewardship can be manifested via too few or too many visits to the doctor.
- Good stewardship can be few or many visits to the doctor.
- The same balance applies to exercise, sleep, food, and medications.
- Thoughts about giving medical care
- Does the MD administer or minister? What is it that he does and how?
- The goal is to please God and help the patient do the same.
- Teach the MD to bring appropriate biblical truth to bear on himself and the patient.
- The physical condition of the patient does not alter the essence of biblical truth but it may change how/in what way biblical truth is ministered.
- He needs to know theology and medicine well.
- He must apply proper theology including man’s duplexity/whole person.
- He must have confidence in the Word AND confidence in his use of that Word.
- He uses his Bible as his guide.
- It won’t tell him the specifics of diagnosis and treatment.
- It will direct the physician and the patient in the Truth/truth which is real freedom.
- Christian physicians and pastor should develop a biblical skepticism for medicine: its approach to people, its goals, its agenda, its philosophy and its practice.
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