FAQs

Big Questions
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Finances

Q This economy is choking the life out of us. Can you share any insights about how we can approach our finances from a spiritual perspective?

A In an article titled “A Surefire Investment” in Christianity Today magazine (January 2009), Christian author Philip Yancey shared that in one of the most turbulent weeks of our current financial challenges, an editor at Time magazine called him and asked, “How should a person pray during a crisis like this?” Three compelling insights emerged in that conversation:

  1. Pray. Yancey explains that when we face major challenges in our lives, we tend to cry out for help. Prayer gives voice to these fears and worries.
  2. Meditate. Yancey observes that times of uncertainty provide an opportunity to evaluate what we truly put our faith in. He advises not only talking but listening in our prayers, asking God to show us what he wants us to learn from the current economic challenges we face.
  3. Have compassion for others. This is perhaps the most difficult—taking our eyes off our own financial worries and looking with compassion on the staggering needs of others. Yancey concludes with a surprising challenge: “What a testimony it would be if . . . Christians resolved to increase their giving to build houses for the poor, combat AIDS in Africa, and announce kingdom values to a decadent, celebrity-driven culture. Such a response defies all logic and common sense.”

Bottom line: God is using the financial challenges we’re facing to remind us that he is near and that he longs for us to seek him and draw closer to him.

—Mike Buwalda Mike Buwalda (mike@barnabasfoundation.com) is a stewardship consultant to the Barnabas Foundation.

Health

Q I have recently been diagnosed with arthritis in my knees. Please give me some information on joint problems.

A The most likely kind of arthritis you have is osteoarthritis. It is the “wear and tear” problem that affects the cartilage in the joint as well as the ligaments, muscles, joint lining, and other structures around the joint.

The causes are a previous injury, obesity, and overuse, and it is more common in females and older age groups. There is also a probable genetic factor that hasn’t been completely worked out yet.

Features that suggest the diagnosis are pain, stiffness, reduced range of movement, swelling, and sometimes a grating sound in the joint. Most often the diagnosis lies in taking a medical history and X-rays of the affected joint.

There are a variety of treatments for osteoarthritis:

Non-pharmacological—weight loss, exercise, physiotherapy, braces and/or orthotics.

Pharmacological—anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and sometimes narcotics. Glucosamine and chondroitin are of questionable benefit.

Surgery—arthroscopy (putting a scope into the joint) to remove any loose or unstable tissue, or joint replacement.

The aim of these treatments is to control pain, improve function, and limit the progression of the arthritis.

This is a good reminder to make access to our church buildings friendly to the physically handicapped, especially entrances, bathrooms, and the sanctuary.

—Herman Borkent Dr. Herman Borkent practices medicine at Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.

Culture

Q As a young person, how do I negotiate my religious life, trusting my own instincts over what my parents want for me?

A When you separate from your parents, you will need to determine what being a Christian means for you. If you make a choice unlike your parents’ choice, it will be a hard moment, most likely, for them. If you give up their religious culture, they may feel that you’re giving them up, so please be gentle with them.

If the traditional worship and church of your parents no longer stirs your spirit and keeps you close to the knowledge and experience of God, it may be time for a change.

Consider, though, a way to remain connected with your tradition within a changing culture. If there is a church plant in town (a new church, often one that “does church” differently, started by your denomination), attend there and see if it is a place where God can use you. Being part of a vibrant God- and Bible-believing community is a very good thing.

If, though, you finally believe your parents’ faith traditions and your parents’ church do not bring you closer to God, be open with them and caring about the pain they may feel when you leave.

If you leave to go to another Christian church, I hope your parents will be glad and will support you. After all, no denomination “owns” God.

—Helen Sterk Dr. Helen Sterk is chair of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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