Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2013

Image

Job had just experienced the ultimate bad day.  His livelihood, his possessions, his means of sacrifice, and all ten of his children had been taken.  Yet, still, Job worshiped God and did not charge him with wrong.

You’d think Satan would have been frustrated for losing, ashamed for being shown up, or, at the very least, humbled by his wrong inferences and assumptions of Job in the presence of God.

But not quite.  In fact, not even a little bit.  Satan is relentless in all his evil works.  He is never ashamed and his pride will not be broken by any flaw or failure.  Win, lose, or draw, Satan and his children only persist constantly in folly and destruction.  

Consider what Satan says to God after his initial plans to prove Job a fake backfire.

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”~Job 2:1-6

The first thing I notice is how unashamed Satan is in being wrong.  He goes right back in among the worshipers of God, as well as into the presence of God himself as though he is one of them.  But God knows he’s an intruder.

Therefore, God asks where he’s been.  Notice that Satan never gives a straight answer.  There is no confession, no apology – not even a trace of backpedaling despite the fact that he and his evil accusations had clearly been wrong about Job.  He admits nothing and no truth is ever spoken from his lips concerning his mistakes.  All we find Satan speaking is more lies and displaying more pretend innocence – even in the face of utter defeat.

Instead of admitting fault, confessing to God his wrong assumptions, accusations, or just giving a straight answer about where he’d been, Satan rails some more and contends with God saying he’d not taken enough from Job to really injure him and cause his faith to fail.  So God allows Satan to take Job’s health away.

What kind of God does that?!  Really!

I mean hadn’t Job proved himself already?  Hadn’t his faith been tested quite vigorously?  Is this God never satisfied?  Is he in some cosmic peeing match with Satan at the expense of humanity?  These are questions we have to ask if we’re going to be honest with the text.  What the heck is going on here?

We find the answer in Christ.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. ~Hebrews 5:8

Christ.  Learned.  Obedience.  The God-man who was perfect in every way and never sinned learned obedience by what he suffered.  So it is with Job.  So it is with us.  So it is with every child of God.  As hard as it is to believe, God means our suffering for good.  Satan is simply an intruder who is pride-filled and foolish enough to believe the ultimate end of suffering will be bad for us.  He doesn’t realize that’s only true for him and his children, not God’s.  That’s what’s really going on here.

Therefore, no matter what trial life brings, let us not despair.  May we endure and persevere knowing that it is because we are the beloved children of God simply learning to obey perfectly.  God help us as we learn.  

“We do not learn by inference and deduction and the application of mathematics to philosophy, but by direct intercourse and sympathy.” ~ Richard Nixon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh7VB_r8K-Y

Read Full Post »

Image

Uncle Bruce’s garden

When the wildflowers begin to join in among the weeds I remember the soldiers who spring up for a time simply to answer their call and are soon gone again.  

On an old bicycle I turn down upon the old country road where Daddy used to let me drive and where I was only allowed to ride my bike a quarter mile out.  How different that old road looked when I was just six and there was nothing but wide open spaces, seeds to plant, and a field of wild strawberries ripe for the picking. 

Maturity breeds liberty I suppose as I glance over to that old neighbor’s yard where I so longed to play in the tree house and wear out my welcome.  I study the tender plants of late and consider the days of picking beetles off of young corn and sharing Sunday spaghetti with the only ones who mattered in the world.

I return to my normal course and wonder why it seems so foolish to even try to go back.  Still I wish.

Two days later I’m back on my bicycle in the country.  Racing, I push and pull with all sincerity.  Transitioning to the run, my hair flies around my unpainted face and I am there.  Every ounce of strength is propelling me further into the fight with each steady step.  I envision that old road and I am finally content.  I realize I am most free when I am fighting the hardest.  So it is with every soldier.

How many days of hard work and heated practice it takes to grow!  How far I’ve come from regulatory rules and experiencing honest joys.  Some changes are good.  Some are not. 

And so I go back.  Foolish, yea, I must say it surely seems so to me.  But go I none the less.  I go back to the hard places where I am a slave, a child, a willing surrender-er.  Yes, where joy is a choice and peace is a challenge.  After some unfounded protest, I take my memory of that delightful detour and my half a day old medallion and I determine to become a fool.  I keep them close to remind myself where I’ve been and, more importantly, where I’m going.  I plan to push forward at all costs as any good soldier before me has done.  I put away the rules and regulations of immature faith and I embrace waiting.  I hold onto childlike joy and I choose to expect.  I purpose to cling to my fellow soldiers tightly and find my greatest freedom from inside the good fight.  

Finally, I ask my Lord just what kind of fool he thinks I am and he replies, “This kind: We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” ~1 Corinthians 4:10-13

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aTLCShRefs

Read Full Post »

 Image

Job, a good and righteous man, has been accused in the heavenlies by Satan.  Satan’s claim is that Job is a hypocrite who only appears religious as a result of the many blessings he is enjoying.  Satan asks permission to afflict him so that God, and everyone else, will see that Job’s piety is false.  Job is about to experience the ultimate bad day.

 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants[a] with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. ~Job 1:13-22

Four messengers come to Job, one after another.  Two bring news of brutal enemy attacks upon his livestock and servants.  The other two bring news of two natural disasters – a tremendous fire from heaven (probably a lightning storm) and what was likely a vicious tornado.  By the end of the day, every possession Job owned as well as all of his ten children had been lost.  Everything. Consider that.

His oxen, camel, and their drivers were all gone.  Was God displeased with Job’s hard work and diligence regarding his livelihood?  Job lost his means to support and provide for his family.  Job became unemployed.  

Also, Job’s sheep and Shepards were struck down.  Could God be angry with Job’s honorable sacrifices?  Job had no means by which he could make atonement for himself or his family now.  Job had nothing to offer God.  

Lastly, Job lost his beloved children.  Had God not accepted his sincere daily prayers and sacrifices for them?  Job became childless.  

Surely, at this point Job had to be wondering what he had done wrong, second-guessing his every move and motive, and feeling quite insecure about his own standing with his heavenly father.  Surely, even the best men would be asking what use it is to serve God.  Surely, it is vain to serve a God who mercilessly crushes his best men this way, isn’t it?

 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. ~Job 1:22

Surely not.  “Discontent and impatience do in effect charge God with folly.” (Matthew Henry) It is mercy that crushes us.  The same unfathomable mercy that crushed Jesus Christ for our sake crushes us for the sake of others.  Apart from heat and forging, tools cannot be made strong.  And we are all but tools in the hand of our maker.  Every offense against us is an opportunity to extend grace. Extending grace to undeserving sinners is the act that most resembles Christ. Those who are called to endure the most opposition have the most opportunity to look like Jesus.

Job knows.  Therefore, he doesn’t respond to the worst of all situations in despair, disrespect, or dereliction.  Job worships the God who is crushing him.  He continues to honor God.  He affords God the right to take away as well as to give.  Job proves his faith true in the face of Satan’s worst storms and accusations.

God may bring disaster.  Look at Oklahoma.  He may bring unemployment.  He may cause us to be barren or ask us to bury children.  No matter what calamity he allows, one thing is for sure – sheep or no sheep we have nothing to offer in exchange for a life of ease.  No amount of piety, sacrifice, or holiness will keep us from hardship in this life.  That should remind us how much nothing we’ve got to give in exchange for our souls as well.  

God is the giver.  He is the taker.  We do nothing but receive.  What we receive – good or bad – is solely up to him and is not always dependent upon our conduct.  The response to his giving or his taking is to be one in the same – worship.  Kudos to Job.  Lord, help me respond like him that I might look like you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvlUiE_QMbU

 

Read Full Post »

 Image

Job has been introduced as a good man, faithful in work, family, and religion.  Those attributes, if authentic, while often overlooked here on earth, do not go unnoticed in the spiritual realm.  Consider the dialogue between Satan and God concerning this man.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. ~Job 1:6-12

Satan appears before God with a congregation referred to as “the sons of God.”  These beings could be human saints or God’s angels.  Either way, he’s intruding.  Therefore, God asks where he came from – not because he didn’t know, but because Satan didn’t belong.

Notice that Satan gives a very vague answer.  Rather than any admission of a specific location wherein he doubtless was causing destruction and despair, he generalizes.

Next, God lays Job out before Satan.  Clearly, Job is the best example of God’s people at the time.  God is satisfied with Job’s worship and therefore presents him as evidence of faithful obedience – something Satan insists is an utter impossibility.  I get the impression that God is proud of Job and is not ashamed to put him on display – even in the face of he who has the most power and potential to prove him otherwise.

Satan’s singular goal is to defame and discredit Job’s faith.  He begins by discrediting Job’s religious and righteous efforts to God by deeming them  ill-motivated.  His claims are unfounded.

Satan contends that Job only serves God well because God has blessed him well.  Never does Satan even acknowledge Job’s life-long hard work, vigilance, and sobriety concerning the things of God which brought many of those blessings.  No.  Defamation always discounts diligence.

So God allows Satan to test his servant.  As bizarre as this whole conversation seems to be, God has his purposes.  He does so to prove Job true, to be glorified greatly, and to denounce the devil and his lies.

Let us continually remind ourselves of these things: Satan never belongs among the children of God.  He is always an intruder.  He never gives a straight answer and his goal is always destruction.  He usually begins by seeking to defame God’s children and discredit our faith.  He judges motives and infers the worst about us.  He claims that obedient faithfulness is an utter impossibility.  Satan is constantly looking at good and insisting that its origination and intent is evil.  Then again, it’s also Satan that looks at evil and insists that its intent is good.

When it comes to human interactions, some days I, regretfully, look and act more like Satan than I do God.  Other days my fellow human beings look and act that way towards me.  Lord, concerning your people, let us not be accusers any longer.  Make us each other’s advocates.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3oplLSWlX4

Read Full Post »

Image

Boat docks are made to stabilize boats, not children.  The other day, my four-year-old and I learned that the hard way.

With Mommy at one end of the 20-foot pier and five kids at the other, curiosity got the best of an otherwise perfectly dry little girl.

I’m not sure if she just lost her balance on the slightly rocking platform or whether she just leaned over too far without realizing it, but I do know one thing – the sound of a thirty pound splash kicks adrenaline in a mommy faster than nitro-methane does in a daddy.

She fell in, I jumped in, and, praise God, it’s nothing more than an etched memory in our family’s log of amusing things to reminisce.

The detail I learned most from as Maylee’s mom (other than the fact that she really shouldn’t be at the end of a dock without me) is that all the “swimming” with flotation devices at the local YMCA with me actually worked.  For the 10-15 second baptism, that girl was treading water like nobody’s business.  Her head was not submerged.  She didn’t gulp any water.  She never gasped for air.  She may not be able to swim, but my baby did not sink.  Thank God.

And you should have seen her sisters’  reaction to the whole thing.  It was one of extreme concern, extending their little hands and reaching desperately for her as well.

Like I always say, these girls teach me just as much as I teach them.  As I replay the scenario in my “what could I have done differently?” mommy mind and consider what my littlest girl did when she was caught off-guard and thrown into a panicked situation, all I see is myself.

Usually, I’m the one wandering a little too far from the safety of my Protector.  I’m the one curiously contemplating what might be in that deep well of vast unknowns.  And, of course, I’m the one repeatedly falling in, panicking, and then having to fearfully use every ounce of strength I have just to stay afloat.  Sometimes I’m treading so desperately that I, like Maylee, can’t even reach up to grab the hands extended to me.  Even if I could, I’d probably just end up pulling them in with me anyway.

God knows I can’t keep from drowning for too very long on my own, though.  He always jumps right in after me.  He throws out life-preservers (AKA my brothers and sisters in Christ) who continually extend their hands, reach for me, and try to pull me up where they are.

It’s quite ironic, and even more humbling, when I think about the fact that I began my week near-drowning, too.  I wrote another self-pitying rant about my distrust of the church, which translates, ultimately, to my distrust of God Himself, and God, in turn, sent at least five brothers and sisters to lift me out of my self-made, murky, me-first waters.  Talk about eating your words.

I guess it’s hard to think about anything other than treading water when you’re drowning, though.  It’s hard to reach up when you don’t have the strength to stay afloat without your arms – as puny as they are.  Those acts take an enormous amount of trust in the other parties who seek to help – especially if previous “helpers” have annihilated your naivety to trust rightly.

There is only one who Maylee trusted to help her and that was me.  The one who feeds, clothes, and cares for her the most.  All her flailing and fear would have drowned her sisters and left them both sinking if they had jumped in to get her.  She even managed to push my head under a couple times before she got out, but past “I’m pretty sure I’m going to die” triathlon swims have made me strong enough and confident enough to endure much more than that.

Bottom line – you can’t drown your Daddy.  Be it tears, distrust, temper tantrums, or trifles, God is a great swimmer.  If he sees you sinking, he’ll save.  That’s what mommies and daddies do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd1KWkmCXFg

Read Full Post »

Image 

Imagine for a moment what the life of Job looked like pre-satanic suffering.  This is how the Bible describes it:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. ~Job 1:1-5

Here is a man living in a region known for unrighteousness and ungodliness.  Pretty much everyone around him, save his own family, was wicked and unholy.  But the text says Job was “blameless.”  There was nothing for which this man could be accused.  He was “upright.”  He did what was right and just as much as it depended on him.  He also feared God and turned away from evil.  His practice matched his profession of faith.  He obeyed God and abstained from habitual sin.  

We are also told that Job is a a father of ten children, that he is wealthy, of high position in his culture, and very serious about spiritual things.  While it may be less difficult to serve God rightly as a single man living an isolated monastic lifestyle, Job was anything but a loner.  This man had mouths to feed, cattle to tend, property to manage, and sacrifices to offer.  He was not lazy or bored by any means.  But Job’s busyness did not keep him from the things of God.  In fact, he was so concerned for not only his own spiritual condition, but also the spiritual condition of his entire family, that he went above and beyond the necessary sacrifices and made sacrificial offerings for each child individually before any other task each morning.

Clearly, Job did not view his fortunate circumstances as deserved or earned.  He did not presume upon God or his grace.  Job continually pleaded for mercy upon himself and his children.  Although he was a righteous man in every sense, he never denied either his own or his family’s fallenness or potential to sin.  Despite all the wrongness surrounding him, Job refused to conform to the world.  Instead, Job was humble and obedient to the God he sincerely loved.  “Sincerity is the gospel of perfection.” (Matthew Henry)

The world around is quite dark.  It’s human nature to adapt to our surroundings and compromise accordingly – especially when we’ve got piles of heaping worldly responsibilities beckoning to us day in and day out.  It’s easy to push the things of God aside and tread water as best we can.  The more we succeed, the greater our tendency to believe we deserve it.

Job’s flawless example teaches us never to presume upon God’s grace.  Daily, we must submit to the disciplines of faith for ourselves as well as those around us.  We must never underestimate the importance of justice, obedience, prayer, or sacrifice.  That way, when the satanic storms come (and come they will) to kill, steal, and destroy, there’ll be no doubt as to where they originated.  Blameless men don’t create calamity, however, they are often called to endure it.

 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~2 Timothy 4:5

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. ~1 Peter 2:18-20

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWzLgWWu5wU

 

Read Full Post »

Image

There are two things that, over the course of my Christian life, have driven me veritably insane.  Before anyone again accuses me of actually being insane, let me say that one is indeed false accusation.  The other is being misrepresented and misunderstood by those who are happily willing to assess,evaluate, and conclude every motive and detail of my actions, speech, and circumstances from a comfortable distance, yet are wholly unwilling to sit closely with me with understanding and concern through the pain my Protector has amply provided.  In short, those who want a position of respected authority over me apart from a trusted friendship with me.  And trusted friendships involve a mutual exchange of struggles and weaknesses.

I’m not talking about our culture’s moronic creed that says, “Don’t judge me!  Only God can judge me!”  Any Christian who studies their Bible at all understands that passing judgment in an effort to condemn and feel superior to is oceans away from discerning destructive behavior, deeming it wrong according to Biblical truth (not one’s own opinions or preferences)  and correcting out of love in love.  I’m certainly not saying, “Don’t judge!” I’m saying judge and correct in love only if I can sing “What a friend I have in_________” and confidently insert your name as well as you can mine and we both can Jesus.  That’s all.

Bottom line…if you don’t want to hang out with me, you won’t be the person I’m confiding in.  Did you get that church folk?  If you wouldn’t come to my house or want me to eat at your table, I wouldn’t want you to heroically come to my aide.  Because you’re not my hero.  Jesus is…and those who look and act like him.  And I’m pretty sure I speak for the majority of the unchurched and unbelieving in our nation when I say that.  Anyone who sits in superiority over others cannot truly help them.  There is no such thing as “people projects.”  You cannot reach those you look down upon and personally dislike thinking you’ve made some deal with God to save in his stead to earn some booty from the imaginary vault of merit in the sky.

Let me explain…

Anyone who knows me knows I’m an extremely transparent person.  If you’re my friend and you’re a Christian, you know what I’m struggling with.  Hell, you don’t even have to be my friend, just read my blog and you’ll get more than a few clues.  I’m brutally honest and I’m particularly hard on myself.  I’m always searching for answers, the causes of my effects, and examining my motives for flaws and failures – which, by the way, I continually find in abundance.  As a Christian young woman, I’ve never been one to shy away from sharing struggles, seeking godly counsel, addressing conflict, or heart-baring truth talks.

But honesty is uncomfortable.  It makes people nervous…even when they aren’t the one being honest.  Apparently, there’s an unwritten religious people rule that says that if I’m being honest and you’re not willing to, you have to paint me as the impious pretender that you actually are in order to save your own ass.  That way, you can stay perfectly polished in public and I can be the only problem in my otherwise prim and proper life.  But what is the truth?

 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:8-9

Well, as I tried to discern what book of the Bible to study and write on next, I began to sweat.  I know that each time I study, God opens the Word in my life and I truly experience some of the very same trials that those men and women of old faced.  Through life experiences, God teaches me his truth.  My only request was, please, God, please not Job.

Today I begin the book of Job.  Perhaps the Lord will have mercy.  I’m hoping for that.  Besides, I can certainly already relate, not to his horrific hardships, but to his lonesome despair in the face of his supposed friends’ misunderstanding, false accusations, and utter insensitivity during his darkest days.

Daddy, I search for you insatiably.  Please, give me a hearing.  Better yet, just be my faithful friend when I can’t find one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gixANklQ48I

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »