1. Don: What is health?

The short answer is: Good health is the presence in our lives of God's provisions (in creation, community, and Christ) sufficient to meet our energy needs - body, soul, and spirit. It is more than just the absence of illness or disease.

An expanded answer is: Good health is

Physically, 1) a strong immune system to help protect our bodies against the elements we ingest in our food, water, and air which are adverse to good health, including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and parasites, 2) properly functioning biological systems (the cardio-vascular, nervous, and digestive systems), and 3) skeletal/muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance;

Psychologically, 1) a working knowledge of how the world we live in works (the mind), 2) impulse control, the power (ability) for decision-making to say yes and no appropriately (the will), and 3) the experience of affection. i.e., the feeling of being accepted, approved, appreciated, admired, and wanted (the emotions);

Spiritually, the life of Christ, or divine nature, in fullness - essentially, the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit - present in our lives to enable holiness (usefulness in redemptive service to others).

Health, I believe, is manifested multidimensionally in energy and enablement for life and godliness, particularly in service to others beginning in the home. God has provided for physical health in creation, for psychological health through relationships to people in the home and church, and for spiritual health through relationship to God through Christ and his Word by the Holy Spirit.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

2. Don: Don't hard times make us stronger?

No, it's a myth: Hard times do not make us stronger; they crush us. Rather, it is the wise choices we make in response to hard times that increase our strength. For example, weights do not make us stronger; rather, it is lifting them that does.

Also, God does not remove hard times. Instead, he supports us for making wise choices in response to them so that we are increased in our strength.

These choices begin with taking extended quiet time daily for reading the Bible (the Gospel of John and the Psalms), confession of need, prayer, and worship, but also includes regular, scheduled times for exercise (to increase and maintain strength, endurance, and flexibility), eating (4-6 small meals a day, beginning early and ending early, and including at least 5 servings of raw vegetables and fruits, also grains, nuts, and seeds, and drinking 64-100 ounces of water), and sleep.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9C17

3. Don: I feel extremely insecure about my physical appearance. Do you have any advice for me and other women who deal with this same issue?

1) This concern, of course, is normal (actually to both men and women), and especially common to some temperament types. Over-concern or worry, however, is fear-based, rooted in our unmet need for confidence (faith) that God values (loves) us unconditionally - which, I believe, is our deepest, most critical health need.

2) This confidence of God's unconditional love/value for us is the spiritual fruit of our experience of "who Christ is" within us (the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, primarily his Love - Galatians 5:22-23), and also/secondarily of our experience of supportive relationships in the home and Church. Worry/fear about how others may perceive us, even a spouse, cannot prevail against this experience and confidence.

So the problem is not really mostly what we have experienced or heard (how we have been treated or spoken to) that hurt us, but what we have not experienced or heard that supports health.

3) This experience and confidence of God's unconditional love/value for us is not the same as our need to feel valuable - which is a valid and similar need, but not our most critical support need. This need to feel valuable is met conditionally - that is, it is based on the opinions others might have of us (our performance or appearance) - which, of course, puts us at risk for disappointment.

4) This we know: The more Christ is manifested in a man, the more he appreciates (and is attracted to) a woman's inward beauty/character, particularly her fitness and faith. A woman will, in time, be disappointed with a man who was attracted to her by only (or even mostly) her physical features.

I hope this helps.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

4. Don: Clarify you comments on positive thinking.

My comment was that positive thinking is not the same as a confession of faith (concerning our needs and God's faithfulness to meet them) which enables us to make (not ignore) appropriate choices (especially quiet time) for health.

Adding to that statement: Positive thinking has appropriate benefit for many things including (I like to say) bull riding and playing golf. Its power is limited, however, to accomplish our growth in grace.

My definition of positive thinking is to "artificially calculate facts to be our reality" - for example to calculate as truth that we are free from sickness because the Bible says "by his stripes we are healed" - never mind that we might have no experience of Christ through daily quiet time for Scripture reading, confession of need, prayer, and worship in order to be filled with his life in fuller measure for increased healing.

In my thinking, it is the same as intellectualizing that I am spiritually hydrated because the Bible says Christ in me is the Living Water - in which case, if I feel spiritually thirsty, I can artificially override it with a calculation in my mind (positive thinking) that the opposite is the reality. This is hocus-pocus, perhaps mysticism, and certainly a mind game which is not necessary when we simply take time each day to be renewed by his presence flowing into us, which is a measurable, conscious experience and reality.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

5. Don: When multiple illnesses strike is God trying to get our attention for something, or is this just part of life? A friend suggested that Satan has thrown stuff at us, that we need to be repenting, breaking strongholds, etc., etc.

We live with broken bodies in a broken world, so are subject to trouble. We are also subject to Satan's evil and hatred for us. Still, it is our confession, our experience, and our testimony that as long as we are connected daily (John 15:4-5) to the flow of God's provisions to renew us in health, the circumstances of life and the forces of Hell have no power over us, so are a non-issue in terms of what we need to be anxious about.

My hope for you is that you will try to take care the best you can every day to include in your life (physically, psychologically, and spiritually) all that is essential to support your health. Then surrender responsibility for the outcome to God's love and care for you. (This is the central theme of the guidance and support we give in the counseling we do.)

There are many voices that will focus you on performance, including how to do battle with Satan. They will not serve you well, but put you in bondage. The Holy Spirit will focus you, instead, on God's faithful provisions for your health and healing, and on your need to stay connected to him.

I do not believe sickness is punishment from God. This is not to say, however, that it is a chance happening like a meteorite falling on you from outer space, or that it is genetic, or that it is not the result of our choices.

I understand about genetics, but if some of the studies are correct, no more than about 30% of our health status is subject to genetics. Family history, then, does not need to be a life sentence.

Yes, God does allow us to experience trouble for the purpose of drawing us closer to him, but the outcome of that renewal in relationship to him will be increased insight and enablement for the choices we can make that lead to our renewal in health.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

6. Don: How can we deal with the unhappiness of failing to meet our goals for life?

Unhappiness rooted in the disappointment of failed expectations is an anticipated issue in the counseling we do, especially this time of year when people more tend to evaluate their lives. My own struggle was resolved as I learned (incrementally over a very long period of time) how not to focus on outcomes, but to focus instead on being renewed daily in personal health, especially spiritual health through my experience of God's presence in my life (grace).

Through the years, as I have grown in my confidence (faith) that God alone is indeed the explanation for any fruitfulness we may have in our Christian lives and service to others, I have been enabled more and more to give up my intense preoccupation with outcomes. I now have no goals that represent my expectations for God's purpose and calling for my life. My confession of faith is this: It's God's Work and his Will - not mine. We who are in his service are earthen vessels he has chosen and prepared, so I trust him to use me accordingly, and also that the outcome of the work he does through me will be absolutely all it needs to be.

"So neither is he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who gives the increase (makes things grow)." - 1 Corinthians 3:7

If God is indeed the explanation for our fruitfulness, then keeping score of the results is just not an appropriate concern for us to have. An interest in outcomes is appropriate only if what we do has no eternal value and is self-enabled. Although frustrations may still sometimes surface when the outcomes we experience don't seem to be positive, they quickly diminish as the Holy Spirit renews us in our confidence that "God gives the increase" and that we do not need to take ownership for a burden that is not our responsibility.

This is strictly a grace perspective on the subject, and I find that more than a few have difficulty accepting it. That's because man's carnal nature tends not to want to give up ownership of outcomes since it means he is left with nothing to boast about - which is a huge issue within his carnal self.

The Apostle Paul's perspective is perfect: "For me to live is (to experience) Christ; and to die is gain (to experience him even more)." - Philippians 1:21.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

7. Don: Do you think "happiness" is even in the equation for Christians? I know we can have joy, but happiness?

From a counselor's perspective, I believe unhappiness is the result of unmet human needs - needs for which God has made faithful and adequate provisions and that happiness is the certain and unfailing outcome of those needs being met. The "rest" Jesus promised in Matthew 11:28-29 is Gr. anapauo: "to give recovery leading to calm, comfort, and contentment."

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

8. Don: I am under attack from a friend. How should I respond? I know I need to forgive, but should I pull back from the relationship?

As long as we are in this life we are subject daily to living under the weight of a fallen world filled with fallen people. You and I know this. Paul referenced it as "the hardships we suffer" and being under "great pressure" and "the sentence of death." He said also (quoting the Psalmist), "we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

But at the same time we can be so sustained in such measure by the provisions of God's grace (enablement) that our sufferings do not need to preoccupy us or define our lives. This is possible, however, only as we are connected to the resources he has provided.

This concept has been the hard sell for the counseling we do. To begin with, turning away from trusting in self-effort to trusting alone in God's provisions, and also giving up control of outcomes to God is a huge issue for human beings.

Then to explain the meaning of connection is another challenge for our counseling. To some, connection means to think positive, or to follow the rules, or to stay busy with church or religious activity.

But by connection, we mean something very different. We sometimes illustrate it in counseling by using a battery charger and a rechargeable battery - identifying the battery as man's inner man (his soul). The need we try to explain is the organic or physics principle of renewal and our need to take extended time (at least an hour) each day to sit quietly before God with an open Bible for Scripture reading (to hear him speak), confession of weakness and need, prayer, and worship (the experience of intimacy with Christ initiated by the Holy Spirit whereby God's life is imparted deep within our inmost being to renew us in his likeness). I can more easily get counselees to commit to a self help program that represents to them something they can do (the driving force for them here is their need to be significant or to stay in control) than I can to a program of inclusion (I call it) for renewal.

With regard to the attacks: Yes, you do need to forgive, but understand forgiveness means basically to withhold punishment. (In its most enabled expression, it means to minister - a concept we can talk about later.) I don't believe by definition that forgiveness involves attempting to suppress your hurt or disappointment with another person, in a performance way, in order to obey the rules.

My encouragement to you is to make no denial or defense, but instead, to communicate to her (not with detachment or sarcasm, but with pathos) only that you are sorry she feels the way she does ("I'm sorry for the way you feel; it makes me sad.").

Also, make full confession of your hurt to God, and of your resentment and anger because of the attacks. Your confession, I think, should be; "Father, this is the way I feel; I hate it, but it is the way I will feel, and I will feel this way until you renew me by your life in me to feel differently."

I would not discourage you at all to pull back from your relationship to her. I cannot say to you in a few sentences all that needs to be explained here, but in a short statement, Christ will always focus you first on you own health and happiness. You are not called to rescue anyone, but to be renewed in your strength daily, then out of that strength, to be available for however God wants to use you in relationship to others.

Well, all that is a hard sell also.

I am sorry you are having this hurtful experience. Also I welcome the opportunity to be a friend.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

9. Don: I get some criticism for sending email postings that are not always grammatically perfect, but isn't that "sweating the little things?"

If you just want to "do something" for your entertainment, then it doesn't really matter, but if your burden, calling, and motive is to communicate a message in your postings that someone needs to hear, then it is appropriate to take the time needed to get it right, especially grammatically, so that readers can have a fair chance to understand it. One person may need to work harder than another to get the grammar and spelling right, but so what! It is part of the cost we consider before we give ourselves to a project. Right?

My suggestion is to always (always!) save a draft of your email, send yourself a copy, open and read it, go back to your draft to make the needed changes or corrections, and to repeat the process as often as needed, even as many as 6 or 8 times (no kidding) - and always before you send it out to others. This is time consuming and tedious work. The aphorism, "Don't sweat the little things, and remember it's all little" is probably okay in some ways, and although the need to have "every hair in place" (so to speak) probably comes out of insecurity, still it is my humble opinion that an attitude of "whatever" doesn't have much place in ministry, and may just be a prevarication (cop out).

Don Whisnant The Grace Perspective

10. Don: Wasn't God in control of the election outcomes?

We believe that God has the absolute power, freedom, and authority to act apart from any other influence, but also that he has chosen not to impose his will.

If God's sovereignty (freedom to control) means that humans have no real freedom to choose, i.e., that God's will is imposed arbitrarily (instead of enabled or influenced), it conflicts with what we understand about choices and outcomes, sowing and reaping, and cause and effect.

Control, in the sense I use the concept to speak about God, refers to the faithfulness of his provisions.

Certainly God is free in terms of power to impose himself, but I do not believe he does so generally. Rather, we believe he chooses to control mainly in the sense that he has set in motion certain immutable laws to govern his universe. For example, if a man jumps off a building, the law of gravity is in control. If a driver swerves into oncoming traffic, the laws that control the outcome have already been established.

Maybe an illustration will help. Let's use water again. Does water do what it does without fail? Yes! So it does not vary to quench thirst or get you wet today but not tomorrow. We have no power to change what water does. We can neglect to drink it or to wash with it, but water does not change to do less than it does. The same is true of light or oxygen.

So we believe, consistent with the powers of our Constitution, the election was won by the party that received the most votes.

11. Don: If God chooses the rulers He wants in order to accomplish His sovereign purposes according to Daniel 2:20-23, does that not mean President-elect Obama was His choice?"

Consider that God has chosen to govern his creation through the cause and effect laws which he has established, also that officials are elected and governments rise and fall consistent with those laws.

Also, whatever God did in other dispensations, and particularly with respect to Old Testament monarchies or theocracies, I don't believe it is especially relevant during the Age of Grace to a government which is a republic.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 8K20

12. Don: Does God give America the government leaders it deserves?

No. America gives itself the government leaders it wants on election day at the voting booth. God gives light through relationship to his Son and his Word sufficient to illumine sound judgment for our choices. It is in this light that voters make choices which elect government leaders who fight to protect human life, the traditional family, national security, and individual rights. It is in the absence of this light that dark hearts make choices which accommodate their darkness no matter the issue. They hate not only the light, but will crucify every provision for its entrance into their dark world which they love.

"Light has come into the world, but men 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 his deeds will be exposed." - John 3:19-20 (NIV)

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective

13. Don: Is our American heritage at risk because of the immigration issues?

Accelerated immigration is always a call to know the issues, especially as it relates to the ability of our infrastructure to absorb and assimilate other cultures. However, our focus is not political; rather, it is for the Church to be renewed in Christ's likeness, so that regardless of any scenario, the risk of loss will not prevail in the Light. I would rather live with a majority of immigrants in the Light, than with a nation of any race in the darkness. Illegal immigration, of course, is a more serious issue representing an increased threat to our national security, so that our focus on political solutions is increased.

Don Whisnant The Grace Perspective

14. Don: You say take care about where we connect. What are the resources that can hinder more than help?

There are obvious ones, of course, which are "impure and lead to ever increasing wickedness" (Romans 6:19) – for an easy example, probably most of the world's entertainment.

Others are more subtle and difficult to define. Although they are not really poison which kills immediately, still at best, they are not redemptive to support health. Sometimes I call them junk as in junk food.

Also, as much as anything, I am concerned about the mixed legalistic (part grace, part works) teaching that comes from even some of the most conservative evangelical ministries to which we may be connected. The default disposition of our human minds already has an affinity for legalism. Their performance-based “work on yourself, do better, believe in yourself, never give up" message is like fertilizing weeds.

But rather than say too much about where not to connect, I point to the Scriptures as our only true resource, then give the strong counsel to take care to weigh everything else we hear and read against the convictions the Holy Spirit gives us.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10B10

15. Don: I am having a hard time making a schedule. The hard part is making one that I can follow.

Actually, you would not make a schedule based on it being easy to follow. The purpose for a schedule is to provide a support for making health choices so that you do not need to make the same choices over again each day. Your schedule becomes your boss and makes the choices for you. It is the same as a budget: It serves as an external boundary or control working together with the inward strengths and motivations which the Holy Spirit is building within you. This is the meaning of Philippians 2:12-13: "Work out as God is working in" (summarized).

Making a schedule begins with identifying the choices you must make (with regards to diet, exercise, and sleep, for example), then submitting yourself to its control. At first, you may not be very compliant, but as I have explained in our sessions, with each success, your disinclination to follow it will increasingly diminish, so that, in time, you will be enabled to comply more. We know this as "training effect."

Also, do not adjust or throw away your schedule to accommodate your inability to keep it. Rather, do your best each day, celebrate any successes, then attempt to do better the next day, allowing for the process to be slow. Your first week may be a disaster. No biggie! Just move forward with your schedule in the second week. The improvements may be slow, but not to worry! Instead, trust that the process will work. The important principle is to not throw away your schedule, even if it takes many weeks or months to have the success you want. Throwing away your schedule means that you have quit to do nothing.

5) Consider getting up in the morning at the same time, immediately do some light, warmup stretches, drink raw vinegar water (1-2 tablespoons to 4 ounces water), brew 1-2 cups green tea, go to your quiet place to begin reading the Psalms for at least 30 minutes, exercise (walk, exercycle) to get your heart rate up for a sustained twenty minutes, eat a whole-grain, high-protein breakfast, then shower/dress for the day.

This will mean that you will need to go to bed early enough at night so that you can sleep 7-8 hours and still have as much as two hours before leaving for work.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10B22

16. Don, what Christian music cd's would you recommend? 

I appreciate your interest to choose good music. I am of German descent so have a very deep appreciation for music. God uses music in a significant way in my own personal quiet-time worship almost every day. But I am very guarded and particular about it. I have done enough research on the sounds of music to know that it can, sometimes very subtly, call us away from and, in fact, be a barrier to Truth (Sound Doctrine), so that it has no redemptive value. I take great care to strongly and emphatically keep the lyrics prominent in my mind and the sounds which accommodate it in the distant background.

Remember that sound is an aesthetic component (the same as taste) which God graciously gave to support his message. This means that, while the sound (like taste) can be enjoyable, if it drives or overwhelms or defines the experience, God’s purpose is lost. I grieve because of that.

Sound, like taste, can poison the appetite (addiction), which explains why unhealthy people love unhealthy music, the same as they do unhealthy foods (non-foods). So, please take the same very special care about your selection of music as you do about the choices you make for your diet. That means, if the words are not pure Truth, the song is junk. Even a little false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9). Also, if the sound appeals to you sensually (your carnal self) or emotionally more than it does to your mind (intellect), it is not a good choice.

I doubt you will find anything at any book store that I would encourage you to buy, mostly because of the compromised grace message, even if the sound was appropriate. I don’t say too much about this because it would be the same as talking too much about unhealthy food choices at the outset of my counseling.

I suspect the day will come (and already has, I think, to a great degree) when you may use music appropriately in your worship but very limitedly for casual listening.

I welcome the opportunity you give me to comment on this. I hope some of it makes sense. I will teach on it more in the future because it is a very critical concept.

Indeed, take care!

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10J25

17. Don: The Bible says that "God gives his beloved sleep." Then why not me? I have prayed and done every sensible, practical thing over the years to sleep well, but if I don't take my sleep meds, it just doesn't happen for me.

I hate that you cannot sleep. Studies continue to show that sleep is critical to health – mainly because it supports the immune system.

If we consider sleep to be a provision of God’s grace to support our healing, then it is
  • available to everyone and also
  • experienced in our lives in the same way all of God’s provisions are received – by connecting to his resources in Creation, Community, and especially, Christ through which they flow.
Our counseling supports hurting people for knowing how to do that.

No one is an exception to God’s law of sowing and reaping. I understand that sometimes our health status may be so challenged that recovery will be long term, but his provisions are true and faithful (effectual and enduring). This means, we can be renewed to a fuller measure of Christ each day so that
  • we are increased in his love, joy, peace, etc., so that, in turn,
  • our minds and emotions are being healed, and, ultimately, so that
  • we are enabled to make wise, scheduled choices for diet (including water - because dehydration, some studies report, is the leading cause for insomnia), exercise, lifestyle, and supplementation. Schedule is important because of the bio-rhythmic tendency of the body, which is also a grace provision.
I am glad you emailed. Try to take care of yourself.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10K11

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