MOSQUITOS AND TICKS. WHAT’S GOD GOT TO DO WITH ALL OF THIS?

I can hear Job complaining to God right now; asking why coronavirus or any virus has to exist and destroy so much that is good in life. God’s response to Job might be that even viruses have good purpose. Ask a virologist. And as organisms, living things, they have a freedom to move hindered only by the ability of free human beings to destroy them. Having been the recipient of malaria through the bite of a mosquito, I understand this. It would appear that the human reach has not extended to the parts of the world where over 400,000 people die of malaria each year. I am somewhat certain that mosquitos have some beneficial purpose, food for bats for one thing. And if I were Job I certainly would ask God what the big plan for ticks was?

There is freedom in this creation. That’s what God intended. And this freedom is only bounded by God at work WITH his creation. God’s work involves a humanity first created to commune and work with God to care for all of creation. Think about Moses for a moment. He is said to have parted the sea but he was the human agent involved with God and with the natural element of wind. Moses was God’s partner. When we read the Bible we always read about humanity and God together: from Adam and Eve to Abraham to Jesus, humanity is freely working with God towards good, for the most part.

In these past painful weeks, with more to come throughout the world, we have witnessed the human community come together to fight; to limit a common enemy.

People on this earth are pursuing a good by all means possible, even at the risk of their own lives. Religious and non-religious folks have become a community to work out God’s good purposes. God doesn’t want this virus any more than you or I do. God is not punishing anyone or wanting anyone to suffer. Just consider what Jesus did to heal. It’s not as if God gave people demons and afflictions only to have his son work to get rid of them. Recall Jesus’ healing of the blind man. When Jesus was asked about who was to blame for the man’s blindness, Jesus responded that it was the fault of no one in particular but rather it was the will of God to get this man well and know that wellness was the will of the Father in heaven. What hurts and destroys is not God’s intention.

In Haiti there is a saying, ‘Bon Dye Pa Di Sa’ (God didn’t say that), in reference to why there is disease, earthquakes and such. No, God is at work to influence, to draw people together to fight, heal, and comfort. And yes, at certain levels people resist that influence because of their own egos. That is the risk of free will. God’s grace is making a difference as it has throughout history. The miracles of God will be found in the thousands of stories that will come out of this ‘evil’ experience.

Please realize that what I am writing is from a worldview that sees Christ as the best revelation of God’s will for his creation – that one day it will be brand new. For those who have died it IS a reality, even though it brings ache and agony to friends and family.

Right now through the medicine, intellect, faith, prayer, love, sacrifice and grief of millions of people on this planet, a difference is being made. There WILL be healing and good through God’s love and the efforts of humanity. That which intends evil can be changed into good by the grace and will of God working through his creation, particularly human agency.

May God grant special, willing and wise hearts of the government leaders and people of medicine to assist all humanity in the days ahead.

 

 

 

WE NEED A PHYSICIAN

The coronavirus has changed the way most of us think. Some didn’t pay attention when it was first announced. But most of us have now heeded the warnings and cautions and we have adjusted life accordingly. People seem to be more caring for one another. They are finding ways of making connections. Many are sacrificing their own safety to serve others.

So I got to thinking – when Jesus came into the world his message was ‘change your way of thinking because God has come into your midst to create new hope-filled life instead of the fear and enslavement you’ve been used to’. Jesus came to say that he was providing a way to God’s life. You might remember the exact wording: “Repent for the kingdom of God is here.”

Now we’ve got scientists and health providers, ‘messiahs’ if you will, telling us how to get better, stay well and enjoy life. I’m sure they soon will let us know they have figured out the way to the ‘kingdom’ of healing and wholeness. And most of us believe what they are saying is true and we are willing to follow.

As in the days of Jesus, some of our leaders turn a blind eye to these ‘messiahs’ and insist their way is best. This got me to thinking that when Jesus says he is the only way to God’s life, he wasn’t being exclusionary. He was stating a fact – that his life, death and resurrection were providing for the whole world a way of healing, hope and eternal life. He provided this for everyone.

I personally think everyone will receive, by God’s grace, the antidote to hopelessness. But a lot of folks just won’t appreciate or trust the giver of the gift and thus they will miss the very conscious new life that is being made available to them.

So when Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom is here”, he is telling us to change the way we think about love, hope, justice, forgiveness and even death. For God is healing this creation by his personal involvement. He’s changing hearts and minds. He’s on a rescue mission to show that there is a better way to live – with him.

The Sermon on the Mount is our health guide. There is a reason we call Jesus the Great Physician. He came to begin the process of healing, of reconciliation of heart and mind with God. And around the world there are emergency clinics – churches, synagogues, temples – where ‘paramedics’ are trained to care for the least.

Two-thousand years after Jesus we are still in need of the Great Physician. Maybe that’s why Jesus told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to ‘keep an eye out and pray so that you are not distracted from the One who is able to do for you more than you can even imagine’.

 

 

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

Recently I listened to a podcast from Renovaré, a great ministry/organization focused on Spiritual Formation. The podcast was a conversation with author Philip Yancey led by Nathan Foster.

Yancey has written a new book titled Fearfully and Wonderfully: ‘The marvel of bearing God’s image’. In the book he draws an analogy between pain in the human body and pain in the Body of Christ, the church community. His writing comes after working many years with Dr. Paul Brand, the late surgeon who specialised in treating leprosy in India. Leprosy is an infectious disease within the skin and peripheral nerves leading to a disastrous consequence for those, who because of this illness, cannot feel pain.

Pain is important because it’s real and it signals that something is wrong with the body. It can be physical or emotional and can include such discomforting feelings as anger, sadness, depression and much more.

Pain causes us to pay attention to our bodies. And for the Body of Christ, as the analogy goes, pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

These days there seem to be a lot of division and hurt in the church over such issues as exclusivity and inclusivity, liberal and conservative, sexuality and doctrine. Rules, standards, grace and love are in conflict and people on all sides are hurting. I know this personally.

So let me continue the analogy by saying the church needs to know the pain is real and then go to the Great Physician who can diagnose the pain and help each of us to care for those in pain. Jesus told his disciples that the signal of a healthy community is loving one another. He prayed for us to be one even as he and the Father are one.

We are all in some fashion broken, sick, or lost but within the community, the Body, we can recognize and address those circumstances that underlie the pain. We need to stop being against each other and instead be with and for one another. Let’s listen to each other out of love. Let’s be attentive to the pain we often hide beneath a veneer of doctrinal faithfulness, social activism and success (just to name a few methods of denial).

Read the way the Apostle Paul puts it in 1Corinthians 12. ‘If one part of the body suffers then every part suffers with it.’

Maybe the question isn’t ‘What do you believe?’ but rather the one we often ask our children, “Where does it hurt?”

NAKED

In order to understand grace we need to understand our own predicament and for that to happen a basic requirement must be satisfied. I get to it by way of two examples from my own life.

These are instances of what I call ‘naked humility’. The first happened in Haiti back in the 1990’s. After a long sweaty day our team was invited for showers. ‘Showers?’ I wondered. ‘How is that possible here up in the mountains?’ Well, we were led to an area behind a family’s home, given large buckets filled with water; a towel and some soap and then told, ‘Go ahead, be our guests.’ Several women watched over us in anticipation of any needs we might have. Privacy would have been on the top of my list. So the team of men looked at one another, felt the sweat dripping down our dirt laden bodies and said, ‘Let’s get on with it.” There we were, buck naked, as the expression goes, in front of each other, which isn’t such a big deal if you know anything about gang showers back in high school days. What was different was being observed, wondering how to cover our manhood discreetly and wash at the same time. It took all of a minute to adapt to our situation and just get refreshed, and laugh at ourselves and our situation while all the time being a bit sensitive to our hostesses who most graciously came and filled up our buckets at a moments notice. Who was it who said, ‘naked I came into this world and naked I shall return.’

It was necessary to be naked in order to get clean. I think of the whole experience in terms of standing before God with the desire to hide part of ourselves, to keep something within ourselves a secret, to be in some regard a bit like Adam and Eve hoping to find some tree leaves to cover ourselves.

But no, there we are before God with everything laid bare, all our thoughts (see Hebrews 4:13) and everything about our lives exposed to God. Not only can’t we hide but also we learn eventually that we don’t want to hide our fears, doubts, wonderings, anger and things that could cause us shame. Before God they are the welcomed thoughts of God’s child who is growing closer to God because of God’s gracious acceptance of all that we are.

Like the prodigal son (Luke 15), who, to some extent, ruined his life and pretty much mad his family distraught; when he returns the Father is waiting to clothe his naked child in the finest apparel. In the same way, God sought out Adam and Eve and clothed them, graciously looking out for them.

The second example of ‘naked humility’ happened in my physician’s office. The doctor needed to perform a digital prostate exam. I expected this as part of the physical. But then he asked if his female student doctor could also perform the procedure. ‘Whoa, hold on there,’ I thought, but what could I say? Well, I survived but all modesty went out the window. There is nothing hidden from a good doctor.

God, I was caused to remember, is the most gracious of physicians and even forgiving our habits that may wound our own spiritual health. God will take the best care of us. And if he inflicts any pain we know it is all to a good purpose.

We bring our naked thoughts before him and he is attentive to us. We bring our sin and he forgives. We convey the best and worst of ourselves to him and discover anew the meaning of grace before our God.

I love this verse: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) NIV

And when all is said and done by God we learn again the meaning of grace.

‘There is nothing we have done to make God love us less and nothing we can do to make God love us more.’ –quote attributed to Phil Yancey.

One more final word on this subject is an old saying: ‘God loves us just as we are but never leaves us there.’

 

And…..there is no co-pay.

 

 

POINT OF CONTACT

My friend, Larry, says that everyone has a point of contact with God. Somehow and at sometimes there is a way that humans want to touch God. The old saying that ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ has some merit. People need God. They may call God by another name, higher power, the one upstairs and they may even worship an idol to reach out to God as seen in Acts 17 nonetheless somehow people stop looking inward and they look outward.

Take the woman in Luke 8 who has a serious bleeding problem that has persisted for years and through the care of many doctors but there is still no relief. This would have been an amazing story for Luke to tell since he WAS a physician.

The woman comes up behind Jesus just to get close enough to perhaps touch him in HOPE that some healing might come to her. And as she touches the fringe of Jesus’ robe Jesus himself experiences power going out from him and the woman is healed.

Just a touch, a point of contact. A prayer of help. A baptism. A wedding. An hospital visit. A telephone call. A word of encouragement. Who knows how that point of contact will bring healing and salvation to a soul in need?

You and I are the body of Christ. We wear the garment that people want to touch. Let’s find ways for them to find Jesus in us.

Doctor

A clinician is a doctor whose practice focuses on observation of the patient to provide a diagnosis. A good clinician knows the ins and outs of the body’s system and can detect through their knowledge,  listening skills and observations what the problem might be. I have a doctor who is magnificent at observational diagnosis. I am always amazed at his knowledge, understanding and remedial suggestions.
Jesus was a physician by his own admission. He was the kind of physician who not only diagnosed but provided the remedy for the illnesses of body and soul. And so when he came across a man born blind from birth (John 9) he was not particularly interested in the causes for this blindness as the curious disciples were. They wondered what sin might have caused this? Something from the man’s life or the parents’ lives but Jesus disregarded their question and went to the heart of the matter that in the process of healing this man the presence of God would be evident.
Certainly in modern time doctors look for causes to illness and there were times when Jesus himself knew a particular cause as in the case of demons. But as common Christians our responsibility is to move in at God’s direction and offer the help of prayer and compassionate ministry believing in the power of God to heal and  believing that Christ is still present to heal and forgive.
Let not our curiosity get the better of us. Let love move us to help.