Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Do You Want to Be Well? Part 2 by Thomas Butts

Do You Want to Be Well?
Part II.

by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

When I left you last week we were giving some thought as to why Jesus asked the invalid man at the Sheep Gate if he really wanted to be well. There is more to this business of being sick and being well than one’s physical condition. Jesus knew this. Good doctors have known this for a long time, even before modern psychology.

I got a rather heavy dose of the Protestant work ethic when I was growing up on a two-mule farm in rural South Alabama during the Great Depression. We were made to feel guilty if we were not working – unless we were sick. Even today I tend to feel a little guilt when I am not working. I read or polish my shoes while I watch television. I’ve always felt a bit of anxiety about taking a day off or going on vacation. But I do not feel guilty at all about watching television without working or just lying around doing nothing if somebody will tell me I am sick.

Being sick gives me permission to do nothing.

I had cataract surgery last year. I remember when patients were required to stay in bed for many days after cataract surgery. I was a little bit disappointed when the doctor said I could go back to the office the next day. I had been looking forward to being sick for at least a week. Can you hear what I am saying? There are degrees of hypochondria. If you do not go past a certain point, it is socially acceptable and relatively harmless.

We all know people who are sick with something all the time. We may even be people who are always sick. We all know people who talk constantly about their illnesses. They frequent the offices of doctors and take loads of medicine every day. They are always looking for a new medication. You hate to see them coming and you dare not greet them by asking, "How are you doing?", because you are stuck for an interminable length of time while they tell you how sick they are. It is obvious that they find their identity in their illness. They do not want to be well.

That is true, debilitating hypochondria, and it is almost impossible to cure. Why? Because they do not want to be well.

I have known a few cases of what I call "severe and advanced hypochondria." These people complicate family life and run up healthcare costs and send their friends running when they see them coming, and cause you not to answer the phone when their number appears on the "caller I.D.". (Thank God for caller I.D.!!) They not only stay sick all the time, but they up the ante if someone else in the family becomes ill. They are always the sickest. They have strange accidents and love to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. They enjoy having you pray for them as long a you do not pray seriously for them to be well. They enjoy being on the Prayer List because they know that even God cannot take away their precious illnesses they love so much.

A few years ago I said in a sermon that 50% of the people who will show up in doctors offices on Monday morning would be suffering as much or more from psychological and/or spiritual problems as they would be from physically based problems. There were several doctors in my congregation. One of them stopped at the door and said to me, "Your statistic is incorrect." (I thought, O Lord, I have over-stepped the bounds of my profession!) He said, "It is more like 70 or 80 percent."

We will probably never be so emotionally mature as to eliminate the psychological component from our physical illness, but through prayerful reflection we can be aware of "creeping hypochondria." It really is not healthy, and it is a pain to others.

Do you really want to be well?

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for June 28, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do You Want To Be Well? Part 1 by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

Do You Want to Be Well?
Part I. written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts

The Gospel of John tells an interesting story of how Jesus healed a man who had been crippled for 38 years. The man went each day to a pool at the "Sheep Gate" where it was believed that when the waters were "disturbed" the first one in the pool would be healed. It is a long and rather convoluted account, which you may wish to read. There is a salient point in the account where Jesus asks the man if he really wants to be healed.

This seems a rather strange question to ask this poor man who for 38 years has been entombed in a profoundly crippled body! Everyday for 38 years he has dragged this crippled body with impotent and useless limbs down to this pool to try to be first in. He probably has almost made it a few times, but other more agile afflicted people with friends to help them push past him, and he has had to crawl back to that cursed pallet where he has lain for so long. Almost 14,000 days it has been and somebody beat him to the sacred waters every time.

"Do I want to be healed? Would I like to be made whole?" He doesn’t even answer the question. He just tells Jesus he has nobody to help him and someone else steps ahead of him every time. You would think the poor fellow would be a little discouraged by now.

"Do you want to be made well?"

Foolish question! But is it now?

It is not so impertinent a question as it may sound. He did not answer the question. He only offers a complaint in the form of an excuse for not having been able to get into the pool. By now he may be wondering if it would even work for him. By now he may have lost hope and quit really trying to get in the pool. It would be easy to just make a feeble gesture that would look like he is trying and then settle back on his little bed and say: "Well I didn’t make it again." Who knows what 38 years had done to his heart and soul?

It may well be that Jesus knew or sensed that the man has become content to remain an invalid. If he was made well he would have to shoulder the burden of making a living and take responsibility for himself. It happens, you know. There are invalids for whom invalidism is not an unpleasant condition. It attracts a certain amount of sympathy, and somebody else has to work and worry about paying the bills. Hypochondria is not so rare as you might think. I know lots of people who enjoy poor health. I would dare say most of us have at least some small degree of hypochondria.

Have you ever caught yourself wishing you could get sick enough to not be able to go to work for a few days? In 57 years I’ve seen lots of Methodists get a little sick on Sunday morning, at least too sick to come to church, and then be completely well by Monday morning. Have you ever found yourself to be mildly ill and try to squeeze a few more days out of the illness in order to be waited on by your husband or wife and enjoy a little more of that warm sympathy that you do not get when you are well?

Can we be well when we are getting some secret benefit from being sick? Can the doctor, or God, make us well when our illness is tinged with, or completely the result of, hypochondria? It is clear that Jesus had some question about that. Do you?

Stay tuned and we will explore this business of being sick and being well in more detail next week.

AN ENCOURAGING WORD for June 21, 2007 - written by Dr. Thomas Lane Butts, Pastor Emeritus, Monroeville First United Methodist Church

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Let us begin with a very clear statement: America is the greatest nation in the history of our world. We have freedoms to write this article and have it published. We have the freedom of speech and religion, and many other important freedoms in this world of terrorists today.

My biggest concern today is the silence on the part of Christian people. I do not believe in forcing Christianity upon people through the government. That was tried in England. But I am in favor of Christians getting up off of their lazy behinds and voicing our opinions (even when those Christian opinions may differ). I truly believe we have great Christians in both of our major political parities as different as they may be, and truly hope that Christians from all sides and all denominations will get involved in our problems as a nation.

Again, I do not believe we should have laws that force people to be Christians. Besides; according to The Bible that would be impossible anyway. Christians are “born” not forced into existence. It takes the true Holy Spirit of God for a person to become a Christian. This also means that most likely not every person who claims to be a Christian today is truly a Christian.

This leads me to another point.

Even Christians (as imperfect as we are) need to fall on our knees and seek God and God’s will for our nation. Before we point fingers for others to repent, we must repent ourselves for sins such as hypocrisy, anger, malice, gossip, greed, materialism, lack of support for our local churches, lack of service to our community, lack of service to the least, last, lost, hungry, homeless, and others. The reason I write about this is the wonderful warning and promise from II Chronicles 7: 14: “If my (God’s) people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” It sounds to me like God is waiting on the supposed “God-fearing” people of our nation to straighten up and fly right before God will enter into the needs of our nation.

This call to repentance must also be heard by our politicians in both of our political parties if our nation is to move forward. I realize this would take a miracle, but I’m willing to pray for this, and feel it is God’s will for us to seek this. We need to expect more honesty and less corruption on both sides. We should expect more service for the people and less greed by those who govern over us. We should expect fairness from those who govern and less selfishness for prophets from corporations in which government workers are part owners.

Again, America is the greatest nation in this history of the world. We live in one of the best times to live in the history of the world, but that is no reason to become lazy in this journey of life. May God give us the strength and Spirit to help keep our nation great and strong for years to come.

PRAYER FOR AMERICA: Gracious God, we give you thanks for America and the role we play in the world today. We give you thanks for the incredible blessings and prosperity that we enjoy. We give you thanks for the many freedoms, and for those who fought and died for these freedoms. Be with all of our troops today and keep them safe in this time of war. We pray that all leaders will be able to come together and find the wisdom of peace. Until then, keep our nation safe from harm, and be with the troops who serve us. Bless their families as well and grant them your favor for the days to come. Be with our leaders that they may seek you and find you: that they may seek divine wisdom, and Godly direction for all that they do. Be with our churches and church leaders that we might also hear your voice and follow only your will. Please bless America in spite of our sins, short-comings, corruption in government and corruption in corporations. Guide our nation that we might be “one nation under God,” and give us wisdom in all the decisions that we make on all levels of government and in our homes. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Written by Dr. Jim Savage.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Terrorists: Part 2 and 3 by Dr. Jim Savage


So what should we do?

1. Pray and ask for divine intervention. Pray for your children and youth, your neighbor’s children, and children you know personally, and ask for God’s divine guidance and wisdom to guide them each day.
2. Offer hope directly to the children and you that you personally know.
3. Get involved in the lives of young people. Do NOT ignore them or throw money at them. This only makes the problem worse, and makes the individual’s problems much worse.
4. Be a positive role model.
5. If you are a parent or grandparent, take away the violent TV programs and video games, but do not stop there.
6. Offer positive times of conversation to build up their self esteem, and offer them the idea that
God loves them, and created them and called His creation “good” (Genesis 1).


What do kids and youth need from us?

1. Love!
2. A safe and loving home, school, and place of work or recreation.
3. Hugs and assurance that they can be happy and successful in this world, but do not paint false realities of wealth or happiness.
4. They also need to know the realities of life without making it so depressing. We should paint positive but realistic pictures of possibilities for them.
5. Let them know that their choices are very, very important. Once they become teens and older, every single decision is important and could change their entire future.
6. Let them know that education is very important without demanding unrealistic goals from them. Not every teen will make a 36 on their ACT, or receive an academic scholarship for college. Not every child is ready for college. We still need people who learn the trades of this world, who would never be happy at college, or the type of job this provides. Education is a broad term.
7. Listen to our youth and take them and their stories seriously.
8. Help them understand that popularity is not the most important thing. Help them know that their friends will change many times in their lifetime. High school and/or college are just short stops in this journey of life.
9. And last but first, talk with them about the love of God. Because I am in ministry of Christian faith, I personally believe every youth needs to be told about Jesus Christ. I realize people reject Christ everyday, but many have not been given the best opportunities or enough opportunities. We often allow teens in our homes to “make their own decisions” about going to church, youth meetings and their personal belief in God.

Why do we do this? We do not allow them to just quit school and sit home for them next 30 years watching TV. I personally believe that a relationship with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ can be the answer for every youth or adult who is struggling in this life today. Even if you are not a parent or grandparent, simply stop and talk to youth when you can: at the grocery store, workers at Wal-Mart, at the malls, ballgames and every possible place. Offer them the best words of encouragement and wisdom that comes to mind. You never know---you just might save the lives of 32 other youth on a college campus one day.