Monthly Archives: November 2017

BOOK ADVERTISEMENT!

I just now received a copy of the book I mentioned last month. It’s called BEHOLD YOUR GOD. If you were interested in purchasing one you could at:

rkretz@sunset.cc    or     call 800-687-2121

I don’t know the cost.

It looks great. If we can get the content of these books matching the appearance we’d all be delighted. See what you think.
God bless,
jim

ALDONZA RE-BORN

(God’s salvation in Christ is more than forgiveness! Dear God, we want more than forgiveness!)

It’s true we get back to business as usual after hearing another story of the awful evil in the world—we’ve no alternative; we can’t stand permanently stunned; life must go on. Still, don’t we adjust quickly after the initial shock at the report of some truly savage event?  Yes, we do, but just the same, maybe it’s strange that we’re shocked at all. Wouldn’t you think that history ancient and modern, the daily news from all the media—wouldn’t you think these would have made us shockproof? There’s something amazing about that. There’s something else that’s astonishing—it’s God’s amazing patience and trust in humans.
As soon as I wrote that last sentence I thought how startled or angry many people would be if they read it. Some would think he’s an idiot if he trusts us and some would rage against him (presuming he even exists); they’d say his patience is at humanity’s expense; they’d say his patience isn’t a virtue—it’s a crime! They’d say it isn’t God who is patient; it’s humans. They’d think of Edwin Markham’s words:

Two things, said Kant, fill me with awe
The starry heaven and the moral law.
But I know something more mysterious and obscure
The long, long, patience of the plundered poor.

 That truly makes sense to me! A quick glance at history and that makes sense to me; at a national and an individual level that makes sense to me. If things are anywhere nearly as bad as they appear how can Christians, with straight faces and pious songs, go on speaking about God’s trust and patience? There’s no simple answer to that question—there may be a correct answer to it (and I believe there is), but it’s not a simple one; it’s profoundly complex and richly textured but there is one and it climaxes in someone called Jesus Christ who saw the world not only as it is but as it should be and as it will be. Well, that’s what he said; but of course, the question is, “Can we believe him?”
Humans, whether they believe in God or not can’t help but feel that there ought to be someone. The atheist H.J. Blackham confessed that for him the greatest argument against non-belief was not a rational argument—it was that it was “too bad to be true!” What is demonstrably false should be acknowledged as false—humans get that! They do! But if a proposal is one of cosmic and unyielding despair, if it’s too bad to be true, people don’t want to believe it and that means if there’s something, some story, some argument, some event that defies unyielding despair they’ll go for it. If it’s in anyway reasonable and suggests that non-belief with its pointlessness (Blackham again) is too bad to be true, then distressed humans will take sides with it. They’ll go for God—they’ll go for a God like Jesus Christ if they get the chance to hear about him. They’ll go for such a God even if they don’t understand why he doesn’t now step in to right all wrongs and obliterate agony that tempts millions to curse existence itself. They’ll settle for a promise if that promise has any foundation to rest on rather than settle for the arguments that support atheism with its despair and pointlessness message.
“There’s an answer,” they will insist, “there must be” and the words of some alleged wise man or woman aren’t enough to bury their longing to believe that there is right and wrong; and if they know that then maybe there is Someone who knows it also. In their best moments they know this too: though they know the job is far beyond human accomplishment, they’d fix everything even if it took a thousand lifetimes and if they would maybe there’s someone who will, someone who’s able; someone who cares at least as much as they do.
Let someone (Jesus Christ) come to them to tell them that what they feel down in their bones is true, that what they want to be true is indeed true and humans in their millions will believe his Story.  (Do humans embrace lies in the face of demonstrable truth to the contrary? Of course! But they also embrace truth in the face of a life full or a world full of plausible, persuasive lies.)
Look what happened to Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote. It was written as a fierce protest against overly-romantic literature about chivalry and knightly conduct all dressed up in clothing too unreal. His central character is plainly a lunatic who makes a mockery of outlandish literary knights. But somehow in the great mystery of humanness the novel took on a life of its own and it has become one of the Western world’s greatest literary forces promoting chivalry and knightly behavior and making it desirable. The literary argument against chivalry becomes its greatest champion. He makes us want to be Don Quixote—a sane one, of course, but in our best moments we’d rather be the lunatic than all his sane critics who want to cure him!
I offer the observations not as proof that atheism is false, only that no one wants atheism’s pointlessness, only that atheism will always be a minority view and that to even stay alive it will continue to feed on food from the Hebrew—Christian Scriptures, as agnostic T.H. Huxley said it did.
On his quest to right all wrongs or die in the process, Don Quixote, Cervantes’ glorious madman, comes across a self-hating, man-hating and world-hating scullery maid working in an inn where the flagrantly immoral and cynical traders gather.She’s a self-confessed prostitute, used, abused and sneered at by her patrons.
When he sees her and calls her Dulcinea and “fair virgin” the heartless users laugh out loud and she is doubly embarrassed—not only does she know better, her vile companions know it only too well—”Dulcinea indeed; fair virgin” indeed! Nevertheless, in that woman who calls herself a whore and a slut he sees beauty and honor and denies what she and they say about her and claims he knows her better than she knows herself. “I have dreamed thee too long…I see heaven when I see thee Dulcinea…I have sought thee, sung thee, visioned thee.” He sees her this way because he sees woman that way—he sees woman as the “soul of man.” His lunacy is lovelier than the sanity of the world he moves in!

On the night when he is keeping vigil, believing that in the morning he is to be dubbed a knight he is alone and speaks to himself: “Don Quixote, take a deep breath of life and consider how it should be lived.”
Call nothing thine except thy soul
Love not what thou art,
Only what thou may become.
Do not pursue pleasure
Or thou mayest have the misfortune to overtake it.
Look always forward.
In last year’s nests, there are no birds this year.
Be just to all men, courteous to all women.
Live in the vision of the one for whom great deeds are               done, Dulcinea.
She, coming up behind him, snaps, “Why do you call me by that name?”
Because it is yours.
My name is Aldonza
I know you milady
I think you know me not
All my years I have known you, your nobility of spirit, long have I seen you in my heart.
Why do you do these things? These ridiculous things you do?
I come in a world of iron to make a world of gold.
The world’s a dung heap and we are maggots that crawl on it.
No, milady knows better in her heart.
What’s in my heart will get me halfway to hell and you…your head is going to end up a stranger to your neck.
That doesn’t matter…only that I follow the quest.
[She spits] That for your quest. (Then) What’s this “quest”?
The mission of each true knight is duty; nay, is privilege
[and at this point he sings The Impossible Dream].
Later Aldonza is dragged off, used and dumped. Don Q turns up and swears the crime will be punished and she snarls back:
Crime? Do you know the worst crime of all? To be born!
For that you get punished your whole life.
Dulcinea!—Quixote says to her..
Enough of that! Get yourself to a madhouse!
Rave about nobility where no one can hear.
Milady. he says.
I’m not your lady!
I’m not any kind of a lady.
A lady has virtue and maidenly airs
That a blind man could see that I lack
It’s hard to develop these maidenly airs
In a stable laid flat on your back.
Won’t you look at me, look at me
God won’t you look at me?
Look at the kitchen slut reeking of sweat
Born on a dung heap to die on a dung heap
A strumpet men use and forget.
“Never deny that you are Dulcinea,” Quixote says and she snarls back,
Take the shades from your eyes and see me as I really am.
You have shown me the sky but what good is the sky
To a creature who’ll never do better than crawl?
Of all the cruel villains who badgered and battered me
You are the cruelest of all.
Can’t you see what your gentle insanities do to me?
Rob me of anger and give me despair
Blows and abuse I can take and give back again
Tenderness I cannot bear.
So torture me now with your sweet Dulcineas no more
I am no one, I am nothing
I’m only Aldonza the whore!

Don Quixote is robbed of his insane vision by the lords of the mirrors. They take his eyes off his glorious quest and make him look closely at himself with his pathetic appearance and too obvious limitations and make him see “the world as it is” rather than the world as it should and could be. With the loss of vision he sinks back into agedness, weakness, illness and pointlessness.
But one convert, one genuine convert changes everything; one Aldonza reborn as a Dulcinea restores his blessed insanity and in one he sees ten and in ten he sees a hundred and in a hundred he sees a thousand and in a thousand he sees a world. They called him mad because he refused to keep his eyes focused on the world “as it is”
We need to keep in mind that this book was written as a satire, a withering criticism of outlandish and unrealistic literature and look what happened. Year after year it remains at the top of the list of history’s greatest novels.
Why do famous painters like Picasso link Don Quixote with Jesus of Nazareth? Why after we’ve brushed aside the silliness in the “knight of the woeful countenance” do we still want to be like him?
There’s something in the character we know as Don Quixote that makes us think of Christ. He turns out to be the hero, while we despise the men of abuse and are thrilled at the transformation of Aldonza. He rescues her not only from any band of men who would buy or rape her—he rescues her from her self-hatred that results in the hatred of all men and the hatred of life itself.
But how does such a thing happen? I mean in literature and in life? In the case of Quixote and Aldonza an insane man sees beauty and dignity and decency in a woman who knows it isn’t there; but he makes her want it to be there! He makes such a life desirable and though he fills her with agony and though what he sees is at war with everything she thinks and feels and robs her of the energy that rage brings, she wants to be the vision he sees rather than the one she sees when she looks in the mirror.
Yes, but how does it happen? It’s a great question but while we’re working on the lovely mystery we ought to acknowledge the reality of such transformations and thank God for them.

(I’ve taken this material from Dale Wasserman’s stage play adapted as a musical movie called The Man of La Mancha. The music and lyrics are from Joe Darian and Mitch Leigh. The movie could easily have been better made but I think it is one of those “must see” creations.)

WHAT ASTONISHED CHRIST

Jesus was brought up in Nazareth and He moved to Capernaum (“the village of Nahum ”) and it became a center of His ministry. There He became noted as a teacher and a healer (Luke 4:16, 23) and it was there that He was stunned by a pagan. Twice in the New Testament we’re told that Jesus was astonished and in both cases it had to do with faith.
Luke 7:1-10 (see also Matthew 11:5-10) tells us of a foreigner, a Roman officer, who despite being a part of the forces of occupation loved Israel and honored them and as a consequence he was esteemed by the Jewish leaders.

He had a servant he really cared for and that servant was very ill so the foreigner sent Jewish people to ask a favor of this young Jewish prophet. He wanted him to heal the sick man and Jesus was on his way to do just that. Before Christ got to the house the soldier sent word that he didn’t mean for Jesus to come to his house, only that he speak and the healing would be done. The soldier said he knew what authority was. He had soldiers under him and he himself was under others. When he or his superiors spoke the response was immediate–the order was carried out. He saw it as sufficient that Jesus simply command the disease to leave and it would.

Luke 7:9 tells us that Jesus was amazemed and turned to the crowd saying He hadn’t seen faith like that in His own nation. We’ve become accustomed to the idea that Jesus wept, became angry or was tender, that He was moved with compassion and pity but is there not something astonishing about Jesus being astonished? How did He look when He heard what the centurion had to say? What registered on His face? More important, what are the implications in the fact that He was astonished at the man’s great faith?
It implies that something utterly unexpected had happened, doesn’t it? But what are the implications in that? Did Jesus not see Himself or His Father as worthy of such trust? No, that wasn’t the problem, He knew they were worthy. What astonished Him then? We can guess about the man’s pagan raising and that he was living in a town that Jesus cursed for its arrogance and hard heart (Matthew 11:23-24). Maybe that enters into it. Be that as it may, whatever the man’s past or present environment, it’s clear that Jesus thought it astonishing that such faith could be found in such a person. And that should remind us that it isn’t always easy to believe or to believe with deep conviction. If believing and believing profoundly were as simple as hearing the gospel there would be no reason to be astonished. Exodus 6:7 reminds us of that.
That’s what’s so fine about Jesus Christ. That’s what leads millions to not only love Him but to like and admire Him. He just blurts out His pleasure when He meets up with something glorious and weeps His heart out when He meets something tragic. There’s an openness about Him that while it makes Him vulnerable to His enemies makes Him adorable to those with eyes to trust Him.

Neither Matthew nor Luke gives us a psychological study of Christ on this occasion but it’s not hard to see and sense His joy. “Can you beat that?” we can hear Him say to the following crowd. We understand very well that faith is God’s work in us but it isn’t coercive work; the believer is not turned into a mindless being, he or she must personally and freely give themselves in the process. And people can choose not to believe (see Mark 6:6). When we come across a believer we come across someone who has gladly allowed God to have His way with them.

All of that’s plain enough but still, Jesus was astonished! Given the norm, this man shouldn’t have that faith. Imagine Jesus with his eyes shining, turning to the centurion (compare Matthew 8:13 ), smiling and saying, “How’d you do that?” We can easily imagine the centurion saying, “Oh, sir, we both know that God accomplishes all such things in us.” Christ would totally agree but He is still mesmerized at a lovely human response.

We’ve met people who were raised and continue to live in horrendous circumstances and there they are, up to their hearts in trust. And I don’t find it difficult in the least to imagine Christ with joyful astonishment on His face looking at them and saying, “How’d you do that?”

Here’s to all you “centurions” who provoke in God’s chosen people a godly jealousy and a Christlike astonishment.

“YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT!”

“Their camels four hundred and thirty five, and their donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty.”
That’s Ezra 2:67. Ezra says that’s how many there were and I believe him.
We would have been just as happy with Ezra’s accurate record if he had recorded 438 and 6725. A few camels or donkeys more or less wouldn’t trouble us. What we got in Ezra 2:67 is accurate information but it doesn’t generate a lot of interest on its own. But we’re not supposed to read it “on its own.” We’re supposed to get up on a high place and look down.
If we were in the mood we’d count the number of camels and donkeys. “Yes, he got it right,” we might say, “for we saw it with our own eyes.” But then we’d notice horses and mules and maybe we’d count them to assure ourselves of Ezra’s accuracy. Then we’d notice there were flocks and herds! Then people; boys and girls and women and men—250 of them are singers. We give up all counting and recognize on Ezra’s count that the entire assembly numbered 42,360.
We might walk over to him and commend him for his accuracy as a chronicler. He’d probably thank us but if we made the throbbing center of our speech something about his good counting he would tell us, “You’re missing the point!”
Ezra wasn’t counting heads or hoofs—he was recording a momentous event of which the details were a part. He wasn’t just logging information—he was telling a story, he was rehearsing an event filled with glory! This event said things about mighty Babylon! The herds and donkeys, the flocks and the camels, the mules, horses, singers and the rest of the host sang the fulfillment of Isaiah 44 & 45 where Cyrus is named as God’s deliverer of His people.
To isolate two verses about the animals reduces the message that even the animals proclaim. Mules and camels, horses and donkeys all kicking up dust and chaos were stirring the dust of freedom and and proclaiming the chaos of freedom. These animals meant and mean something! But they only man something if we let them be what the Bible means them to be!
They function as a part of a great Return with the faithful God fulfilling His promise to bring them home. But He is more than faithful; He is capable of doing the wondrous things He promises. And that means He is the Lord of nations and the God who shapes and uses history.
Isolating verses, atomizing scriptures, slavishly repeating what they say without giving them their place within the Cosmic Adventure is no good kind of Bible study!
It not only misses the POINT of the text, it is robbed of the POWER of it; the power it brings! God makes His presence felt in the truth He gives, John 6:3.

(Holy One, thank you… but please…!   This prayer on the Lord Jesus Christ.)

 

“JESUS MY PATIENT…”

Ignoring right now the complexities of this truth let me just state it in light of the biblical narrative: the human family chose alienation from God and consequences followed and continue to follow.

God’s purposed response to it was to become incarnate in and as Jesus of Nazareth (John 1). And He come to be “God with us (Matthew 1). Not God against us. He came not to condemn us but to bring us to fullness of life (John 10). The world we live in has a God-denying look: “If He does exist He doesn’t care. Look around for pity’s sake.” God’s definitive answer to that is the Incarnation and what flows from it. That’s why the Christian faith scandalizes so many of us. The young Galilean carpenter is God responding to human family that has experienced a cosmic wreck and the effects of it. (I do understand this all needs developed!) God is a divine paramedic who insists on working with humans as humans and He won’t go back on that eternal decision. There lies a real basis for our sneering at the Bible Story. God insists on working with humans as humans—even sneering humans.

Matthew 8:16-17 makes it clear that in Jesus Christ God took human suffering on His heart, in healing it He made it clear it is not His heart’s desire and He went with it all the way to Golgotha and nailed it there along with the alienation (Sin) that we chose and choose. He came and ministered to our hurt and hunger and loneliness, suffering with us, from us and for us and because He is one of us He suffers in us (Hebrews 2).

And He continues to serve us through us! I know a woman who worked for thirteen years with the physically and mentally disabled and now works with one feeble, elderly, often pain-racked man, totally dependent on others for everything. I’m privileged to know her well and (along with a host of others) she sees the helpless ill as those Jesus identifies Himself with. In her and all like her Jesus becomes the healer and in her eyes and all like her the disabled become Jesus the Sufferer. And in His likeness they both share the suffering and heal it and so they live out His Story as we see in in places like Matthew 8:16-17.

Marvelous Teresa of Calcutta fully embraced that costly truth in daily living and expressed it with power in a prayer of desperate intensity and sweetness.

Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you.

Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say: “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.
.  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

O beloved sick, how doubly dear you are to me, when you personify Christ; and what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you.

How wonderful is that! How simply magnificent is that!

The great news beyond that is God has said NO to Sin, Suffering & Death in a glorious Resurrection. There’s a new world coming where Sin, Suffering & Death don’t exist. A world is coming where humans live as humans in warm righteousness, unending well-being, joy, peace and adventure know no end. THIS IS WHAT GOD CAME TO OFFER!

Think noble things of God!

FIRST & FOURTH YEAR MED STUDENTS

 

[I’ve put this up before but I don’t know where. [There’s no cure for my lack of discipline.]

A while back I wrote this to a dear God-loving friend. I’ve doctored it only a little.]

Dear…I am a weak one! I confess that I didn’t become weak all by myself—I had help and continue to have help being weak. Still, I wrestle with so much that I am sure I should have outgrown. I’m speaking the truth here: the only thing that keeps me on my feet and in the adventure is that I’ve been privileged to hear and come to know the gospel about God and I have a small handful in my life that [toward me in particular] embody the truth and goodness of that gospel.
I love it that you have the sense of the “poetry” of God and his gospel. Poets [good ones] work with words in a way that even philosophers don’t. Their aim is measurably different and they give us words that enable us to express truths that run around in us as a jumble of feelings and part feelings and half-wishes. They help us to give form to them without systematizing them or making them or leaning heavily on the rational.
With well-chosen words they show us unseen facets of things and they do this by their gift as “seers” and by their word choice. The refuse to “specialize” as they speak. Robert Coles, Harvard child-psychiatrist, medical professor and literary figure, reminds us that 1st year med students spend a lot of time telling one another about the patients’ autobiographical material but a 4th year student’s language becomes altogether clinical and about the medical condition of the patients. The first year students “story,” they “preach”. The 4th year students “lecture”.
I’m not suggesting I’m an expert in this particular area [or any other] but I’ve lived long enough and listened closely enough that I’m sure that in my experience I find the same is true with people who newly hear the Story of God, his biography. Later, under a steady diet of explanation, exegetical endeavor, particular doctrinal stresses, dry lexical emphasis, schooling at a particular school—with a steady diet of these their speech and their expectations and responses become merely descriptive, clipped, “to the point”, “proof-texted” and when they speak they “lecture”. I’m certain that I myself could not live—continue to live—on that. I myself would have no energy to stay on my feet with a strong feeling of assured hope. With my make-up I’d trudge my way through life and whatever else would be true my faith wouldn’t be contagious with what other troubled people need—troubled people like me.

I get it, of course, that some doctrinal truths should not be denied or sidelined. I don’t mind that—in fact I’m happy about it because some doctrinal truths are the foundation on which everything else rests. These are the massive, bed-rock truths about God as he has shown himself in the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures, culminating in an unending climax that is a Person—Jesus Christ. That’s the Story, how we go about telling it is profoundly important. Even if it’s badly told it has power as long as it is the Story that’s being told, but there’s no point in being silly about this—how it’s told makes a difference because how it’s told is how it’s heard and how it’s heard is how it’s believed and how it’s believed leads to how we feel about it and how we feel about it is how we act on it.

You are blessed with gaining the sometimes wild and always roomy, free, glorious aspect of it via this way of hearing. Words create moments that won’t exist until certain words are spoken.

I told an assembly a while back of the prayer in a little book of prayers I have. A young boy [maybe 9] must have heard that God needed volunteers to help him save a world. He wrote, “Dear God, count me in. Your friend Herbie.” The response from numerous people focused not on my overall message which moved in that direction but on Herbie’s marvelously phrased response to God’s call. One [a God-loving wife of a shepherd I know], out of two pieces of thrown-away wood and white paint, even made me something to hang on the wall with Herbie’s words on it. [It hangs upstairs on the wall of my daughter Linda.]
I heard others shout it over at one another on their way to Bible class and a number shook my hand and one of them, a mature man of God, tearfully repeated it and said, “I want to be counted on.” The point I wish to make is that—please reflect on this for a while when you have the time—something happened when those words went out into the air, something that wouldn’t have happened if they had not. Herbie’s words gave us the speech with which to express a sense of things we already possessed but hadn’t been able to express well. It was what we truly wished for but his words set the wish on fire, they drove it home and opened not only our minds but our mouths, “we are a people of utterance.” In rebuking leaders In Jeremiah 2:6-8 God says, “They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ ” We are to be a “saying” people.
Words. The right words do it even better than the poorer words [though we’re not to despise the tongue-tied or slow of speech—Exodus 4:10-12]. It doesn’t matter that the exhilaration of the moment passes away after a day or two—the memory remains and lovely vivid memories, memorably expressed, continue to bubble around in the subconscious, affecting us at the conscious level by shaping us.
Nothing is ever the same when such things happen. No wonder Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and life.” No wonder he said, “The truth sets you free.” No wonder Paul said in [1 Corinthians 1.21] that God in his wisdom purposes to save the world by a preached message.
But we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that words themselves do that—only gospel words do precisely that because they are based on and shaped by actual events of which the words are an expression. It remains true, however, that if the events are never made known they have no effect on us—“faith comes by hearing the word of God” [Romans 10.11-17].
We need no pretense of gallantry in behavior—tough times are real and they tire and test us [and they are experienced as “more” real for countless oppressed and suffering]—but God and His Story, they’re both real too. We are “a people of utterance” and we should thank God for people he has gifted [Christian or non-Christian] with speech who can teach us how to speak—to speak tenderly, memorably, clearly, passionately, joyfully about matters that are worth talking about.
And, of course, we should thank God for those who speak truth and enable us to grasp and rejoice in truth for if what we speak passionately, memorably, clearly and joyfully is not true…

If we are to be “freed” as Jesus had in mind (John 8:32) it must be TRUE and it must be foundational!

(Holy One, please fill our hearts and our imaginations with your mesmerizing gospel and the words to express it. This request in the Lord Jesus Christ.)

 

ON A VISIT TO THE E.R.

I had a cardiac incident a couple of days ago that led to the ER.

Linda and I were there all of seven hours and much of the time we looked with interest at the people that came and went with (no doubt) a host of differing ailments and underlying health problems.

We watched not only the troubled people but we watched the people that attended to them and we were [truly!] very happy at their way and their purpose. Then it was my turn with the specialists, nurses and doctors, EKGs, blood work, Xrays and the like and we were reminded that while God cares ultimately about our alienation from Him as our God (the Sin issue) He cares about our physical well-being. Bless me, He made us humans. That is, He has eternally purposed that humans, as humans, are to love and be loved, to care for and be cared for by one another and that part of that divine love is expressed in the gifts and the brilliance He has poured out on and invested in humans.

I looked at the monitors, listened to the clicks, watched the needles, heard the whirring, smiled at the stethoscopes, etc., etc., and noted the expert ease with which these people did their business. Who came up with these marvelous computers, machines, medicines and so forth, and where did the desire to help the sick come from?

I’m a Christian (however flawed) and I’ve been fed and shaped by the Judeo—Christian Scriptures and interpret life (and experience it) in light of them. So I‘m persuaded beyond debate that all the gifts and honorable drives that humans possess and experience are from God. I know that generates questions and that the “how” of it is so complex that to follow all the threads to an exhaustive and completely satisfying conclusion is beyond us. But everything in life is like that.

Read leisurely Exodus 35:30-35 and context and then back to chapters 25–32 about Tabernacle building and note who enabled them do all that was asked of them. Acts 17:24-29 needs to be read and reflected on and when that is done we need to look around at all the non-Christian people that God is using to supply our human needs. There’s no end to the marvels of human interdependence that is GOD at work!

Religious people can and often do become so “spiritual” that they don’t recognize that human well-being finds its source on the same God that forgives their sins. We rightly claim that we are doing the will of God (when indeed we are) but He is doing His will also through all those who are instruments of His interest in our-well-being. Read and take careful note of Acts 14:17 of what it is God gives (see “and everything else” in Acts 17:25). That text doesn’t go into the complexities of the work and generosity of a God we’ve rejected but a moment’s thought makes it clear that the crops and orchards don’t jump from the fields or off the trees, make their way to our tables all milled or chopped or whatever. Aside from the soil and seed, sunshine and rain, there are farmers, millers, transporters, retailers, jobs to gain money to buy, health and ability and education to do many of these jobs, roads to transport, engineers that make road and vehicles with drivers. There’s no end. ALL this is the work of God, carried out in a human family that is often at war with Him, within a human family where the people with the power are often working against Him. (Another discussion for another time—God enabling).

But is God really interested in our physical well-being? One of the most neglected texts in the Gospels (neglected by scholars within my reach) is Matthew 8:16-17. Look what text and context Matthew links physical healing with. (Another discussion for another time—God enabling.)

The miracles of Jesus Christ are saturated with theological meaning (Another discussion…) and part of it all is promissory and prophetic. By the eternal purpose of God there is a day coming when disease and death will be totally and utterly and everlastingly obliterated and all who are embraced in His saving work in His Holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will know only ceaseless joy, righteousness, unbroken peace and right now, unknown adventure in a life brimful of life.

(Holy One, thank you for gifting the human family with the capacity for invention and vision, with gifts to do good, obliterating diseases and promoting well-being in all its forms. We regret that your gifts are so often used for evil purposes that hinder your loving purpose but we’re fully persuaded that you do even now work despite these and that you will one day completely bring an end to impenitent and exultant cruelty and corruption. Help those of us that are privileged to know you, so that we will come to know you better and will honor you without reservation for the work you do through those who have not yet embraced Jesus as Lord. We thank you for not only gifting them with brilliance but we’re very happy that you have blessed so many with good hearts and sincere devotion to the well-being of your children regardless of who they are. We pray even more for them. And bless us believers that we will not be put off by those who so speak about you as if you exist only to give us more and more and more of what we already have—keep us from being so put off that we refuse to acknowledge your genuine interest in human well-being and the wonderful work of bringing it to millions. Help us without patronizing anyone to see everyone as your servant who engages in your work (though they know it not). This prayer in Jesus Christ.)