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Archive for September, 2013

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In Job chapter 22, once again, we find Job being mercilessly falsely accused.  This time, Eliphaz brings specifics to his unfounded charges.

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

2 “Can a man be profitable to God?
    Surely he who is wise is profitable to himself.
3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right,
    or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?
4 Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you
    and enters into judgment with you?
5 Is not your evil abundant?
    There is no end to your iniquities. ~Job 22:1-5

Eliphaz begins by assuring Job that God has no need of him, even if he were righteous.

Come on, Job.  Don’t you know there’s no rewards with God?  You can’t merit anything by doing good or obeying him.  Do you really think that piety earns favor with God?  What are you, some kind of legalist?  I thought you were reformed.

Well, Eli’s half right, but his delivery is rancid.  While we do not earn favor or love through works, God is indeed pleased with righteousness and obedience.  Why else would he call us to it?  God honors those who are faithful in spiritual disciplines and he gives them a good return of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control when they persevere.  Although our piety never adds to or detracts from God himself in any way, it surely adds to or detracts from our own well-being.  Godliness is of value in every way. (1 Timothy 4:8)

Furthermore, Job serves a God who enjoys men’s sacrifices of praise.  He delights to fill his nostrils with the aroma of our worship.  Job’s obedience to God’s directives and his faithful prayer, sacrifice, and worship were not evidence of legalism or meritoriousness; they were evidence of his faithfulness.

Come to think of it, what better way is there to magnify a God who stands in need of no one and nothing than to display his amazing, careful, loving grace to condescend; to encourage; to invite; to accept the humble offerings of his children – not because he needs them, but because he wants them.  When we act upon our beliefs by prayer, fasting, studying, serving, and worshiping, we have the unique opportunity to display not only God’s worthiness, but also, his grace to accept us despite our helplessness and insufficiency.

Eliphaz doesn’t seem to know much about that, though, does he?  Where is his encouragement for Job in what he had done right?  Oh, I forgot, nothing Job ever did was right in Eliphaz’s eyes.  After all, that’s why he’s suffering, right?  Job was pegged.  Even good was seen as pure evil if Job’s hands touched it.  If Job was wise and learned, it was because he was puffed up with knowledge and void of love.  If he was void of knowledge, he was neglectful of diligent study and foolish.  If he did good works he was trusting in himself.  If he did not do good works he was oppressing the poor.  If he carried out spiritual disciplines he was pretending to love God.  If he faltered in spiritual disciplines he was godless.  Job was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t in the eyes of this man and his friends – who, by the way, I’m certain were giving one another mad props as they bounced their wrong ideas off one another piercing Job with them all.  How troubling that must have been to a man already vexed with such a load of grief.

Eliphaz went on to falsely accuse Job of hypocrisy, atheism, infidelity, gross impiety, injustice, oppression, no fear of God, and no regard for men.  None of it was true.  He sought to convict Job by shame and by fear.  When he said, “Agree with God” (Job 22:21),  what he really meant was, “Agree with me.”  Maybe someone should’ve told Eli that he wasn’t exactly the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know.

Well, what I do know is that there’s another guy who likes to peg people as one-dimensional and hopeless.  Maybe Eli hung out with him a little too much.  He also loves to damn people when they do as well as when they don’t.  His name is Satan.

Christians!  We must stop being Eliphaz!  We will never earn the confidence of our peers if all we ever do is discourage wrong…especially when everything is wrong in our eyes.  We must encourage right without darkening it by assuming ill-motives and underlying evil simply because we lack discernment.  There will always be people who do the right things for the wrong reasons.  We shouldn’t ever assume that certain people, you know, those ones we love to hate, fear, envy or have no practical use for in our lives, are sinister in all their undertakings.  Only Satan does things like that.

Don’t be a jerk.  Encourage one another despite imperfections.  When you see a man suffering, be gentle and extend extra compassion – not because God needs you to, but because he wants you to.  Then, like Job, the guilty will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.

He delivers even the one who is not innocent,
    who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands. ~Job 22:30

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0p6_4KDy98

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It’s hard being a kid. 

Just ask one.  Every child I’ve ever known agrees that they cannot wait to grow up.

 Just this morning, Addie excitedly anticipated the day when she will be big enough to “ride the big roller coasters.”  This afternoon, Mia informed me that when she’s a mom, she’s going to “shop every single day.”

Children want independence.  They anxiously await the ability to make all of their own decisions.  They want freedom.  They see growing up as their ticket to a magical world where there are no limits on candy and they don’t need a step-stool to wash their hands.  Children are always looking at the benefits of growth.

Adults, well, adults tend to reminisce the benefits of childhood.  Grown-ups don’t care much about candy, but we’re still not big enough to clean the gutters without a ladder and we seek pleasure as diligently as a toddler at Toys R Us.  Sometimes we even shudder at the fact that, somehow, someway, we did actually turn 20…or 30…or 40.  

Yes, we adults fully understand the cons of coming of age.  We know that with independence comes responsibility; with maturity comes hard work; with decision-making comes consequences; with freedom comes temptation.  Some days curfews and chieftains seem like a lot better idea than bills and big buildings.  How often we are helpless, hungry, and unrealistically hopeful!

Could it be because we’re nothing more than children after all?

Pastor asked us if we believed in a Jesus who can tell us, “No.”  I don’t know about any of the big people, but I’d rather have a Father who tells me “no” out of love than a whole world whose yes’s confine me to a room where I’m alone without him.  Because I’m still scared of the dark and I’m terrified of the monsters lurking under my bed.

I wanna live in my Daddy’s house, where my Daddy lives; where my Daddy pays; where my Daddy provides; where my Daddy delegates.  His house is better than my sandcastle.  His rules are better than my idols.  His love is better than my lusts.  

My kids might think it’s better to be an adult now, but I hope and pray that when they grow up they’ll pine to perfect the art of becoming like little children.

He must increase, but I must decrease. ~John 3:30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLd1sWx-PCw

 

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…listen.  

In Job chapter 21, Job knows his friends will not listen.  He knows they won’t put up with the wisdom of what he is about to say.  They haven’t thus far and there’s no sign of change.  Perhaps he isn’t saying it just for them, though.  Maybe he’s thinking out loud, collecting his own thoughts, reminding himself of the truth which is being dismantled, and hoping God will answer.

 Then Job answered and said:

2 “Keep listening to my words,
    and let this be your comfort.
3 Bear with me, and I will speak,
    and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 As for me, is my complaint against man?
    Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled,
    and lay your hand over your mouth.
6 When I remember, I am dismayed,
    and shuddering seizes my flesh.
7 Why do the wicked live,
    reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8 Their offspring are established in their presence,
    and their descendants before their eyes. ~Job 21:1-8

Job has one request.  He wants to be heard.  Job’s plea is not for ease, comfort, or even relief at this point.  He admits that he cannot understand or correct the God who has afflicted him (Job 21:22.)  In fact, Job’s high view of God actually adds to his confusion and makes his circumstance more difficult.  Therefore, Job begs only for an ear.  He calls it the comfort of his friends since they’ve not yet offered any, and, after all, they had originally said they were there to comfort.  How oft a listening ear is taken for granted by those who’ve never had to search for one!

Incidentally, how on God’s green earth could these men know how to comfort Job if they failed to listen long enough to even let him tell his own story – from his own perspective?  Job knew they didn’t understand.  He knew they had jumped to hasty conclusions, assumed they knew more than they did, and felt the need to shame him back on to the straight and narrow.  As we see with these friends, presumption never precedes proper pontificating.

Job knows how evil their thoughts about him are – so much so he tells them, “I know your thoughts…” (Job 21:27.)  Job knows how biased and prejudiced against his good character they are and have been since the beginning of this whole circumstance.  The question is why?  Why were those who should have been most compassionate and most aligned with him so opposed to him?

How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
    There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.” ~Job 21:34

Job understands that these men are not dealing in truth.  These men are relying on assumption, gossip, false premises, and, perhaps even, fear and jealousy in regards to his situation.  They’re assuming and presuming upon him constantly without any willingness to close their mouths and open their ears.  It’s gotten to the point where Job actually has to say, “…lay your hand over your mouth…”  Little wonder why the man receives no comfort of relief from them!  How can a man be comforted with untruth?  With remedy based on an illness he does not have?  With a reward God has never promised?

Would he really never suffer if he were truly righteous?  Is there any evidence of his wickedness or godlessness?  Would the piety they claim he grossly lacks really be guaranteed a reward of prosperity on earth?  

No. No. No. No.  There is no comfort in untruth.  Job is wise to their folly.  His folly is that he keeps speaking to them thinking that if he just keeps proving, keeps repeating, keeps saying it another way, that he’ll really be able to convince them of the plain truth.  

Sorry, Job, there’s some men you just can’t reach.  But don’t worry, God can.

Friends, learn how to listen.  Christians were made to be salt; light; comfort; encouragement for this dark and painfully dying world.  The world will tell us everything we ever wanted to know about their pain.  We don’t ever have to guess, presume upon, gossip, or assume.  All we have to do is listen.  Then, perhaps God will find it easier to use us to teach. 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~James 1:19-20

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puO8EjJO_Z0

 

 

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In Job chapter 20, Zophar speaks hastily and without contemplation.  He never even takes time to consider Job’s defense or his response at all.  He is quite unable to put up with Job.  His spirits are high and Job’s are desperately low.  He simply has no patience, no sensitivity, and no understanding of Job’s life, nor does he seek it.  Matthew Henry notes that he “mistakes the dictates of his passion for the dictates of his reason” and it results in an (even more) angry condemnation of this innocent man.

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:

2 “Therefore my thoughts answer me,
    because of my haste within me.
3 I hear censure that insults me,
    and out of my understanding a spirit answers me.
4 Do you not know this from of old,
    since man was placed on earth,
5 that the exulting of the wicked is short,
    and the joy of the godless but for a moment? ~Job 20:1-5

Zophar’s hostile accusations are thus: Job has acted out of lust, love of the world, violence, oppression, hypocrisy, and all wickedness and this is the reason he suffers.  

Why is Zophar so mad?  So insistent?  So ruthless toward a man who he was supposed to love?  Even if Job were guilty, is this any way to turn him from his supposed evil?

The truth is that he and his buddies had a lot of undealt with pride.  Pride always produces a general hatred of being challenged or contradicted in any form – even when you’re dead wrong.  On top of that, this man and his friends can not for one moment even entertain the idea that Job is the real deal.  They’re wholly insecure, jealous, and afraid to believe that God would really allow this degree of suffering to be placed on a better man than they.  Neither their pride nor their doctrine will allow for it in the least.  These men are very comfortable believing God gives good to good men and bad to bad men.  If Job is indeed a good man, their entire system of belief is bogus – and that’s scary.  Therefore, Job must be bad.  Job will always be darkened.  He will never be comforted or recognized rightly by men so insecure and so self-protective.  Jealousy is never more ugly than when it determines to change the identity of another in the sight of its object. 

Zophar’s entire answer in chapter 20 is purposed to accuse and indict Job – a man he should have been praying with, praying for, and serving.

Well.  We all have a Job, don’t we?  Someone in a low place who stands right in front of us in need of prayer, company, encouragement, or practical help?  We’d never accuse them to their face like Zophar, would we?  After all, we’re good Christian people aren’t we?  Instead we’ll just not pray.  We’ll not go.  We’ll not encourage and we’ll not serve them.  We’ll justify it easily by reminding ourselves of all the reasons why they don’t deserve our time, our love, or our friendship.  We’ll keep a detailed record of their wrongs and we’ll post it on the door of our hearts.  We’re so righteous ourselves, we may even become a martyr in our mind every once in a while and greet them with a smile and a hug in church on Sunday.  But we will never like them.  We won’t love them.  We won’t share our own struggles with them and we certainly won’t ever allow them into our real lives.  Oh, and we’ll make sure everyone who is in our real lives knows just how ungodly and unfriendable they are.  That’s what we Christians, um, I mean Zophars, do.  

God help us.  Let it not be me. 

“You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them.” ~Vachel Lindsay

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl0iZGUVGD0

 

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Job’s counselors had long ceased being his friends.  They perched themselves in the place of God and became Job’s judge, jury, and executioners.  Job, however, had not need or desire for counselors.  All he ever wanted was a friend, an encourager, and, perhaps, some prayers amid his heinous pain.

Then Job answered and said:

2 “How long will you torment me
    and break me in pieces with words?
3 These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
    are you not ashamed to wrong me?
4 And even if it be true that I have erred,
    my error remains with myself.
5 If indeed you magnify yourselves against me
    and make my disgrace an argument against me,
6 know then that God has put me in the wrong
    and closed his net about me.
7 Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
    I call for help, but there is no justice. ~Job 19:1-7

On top of Job’s suffering, God has allowed these men to tear Job down again and again without recompense.  Job describes their attacks upon him as a repeated beating with words.  It was so frequent and so severe that he asks if they are ashamed.  He is clearly puzzled by the brazen assaults so often shamelessly flowing and ever unamended.  Doubtless they should have been sorely ashamed.

Job pines for provision.  He cries louder and louder for help and for justice, and yet, he hears not God.  He sits in silence.  He watches his hope shred thinner and thinner (19:10).  He feels hedged in (19:8-12), desperately alone (19:13-19), and, of course, painfully afflicted (19:20).  

Job cries out for mercy from these men.  He tells them to recognize how severely God has afflicted him and consider how close to death he already is.  He begs to know why they insist on continually bantering and belittling him in light of his helpless condition.  

It’s likely Job wondered if a reckoning for these careless words and wounds would ever come.  I mean, there’s no condemnation for God-fearing men is there?  But what if God-fearing men continually berate and condemn their own brothers and sisters?  Does that mean they don’t fear God?  Or does it make their sin unimportant?  I don’t know about Job, but I do often wonder.

“Oh that my words were written!
    Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
    they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!
28 If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’
    and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’
29 be afraid of the sword,
    for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
    that you may know there is a judgment.” ~Job 19:23-29

Job wanted his hard lot to be remembered.  What faith he must have had to maintain both his innocence as well as his hope of a Redeemer even when he’d lost all and every person who had any position to help him only further injured him!

Deep down, Job knew that these heart-wrenching events and attacks were not meaningless.  He wanted them written down.  He wanted someone else to see; to know; to understand; to remember.

That someone else is you and me.  Job suffered that when we suffer we might also say, “For I know that my Redeemer lives,  and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

Job’s suffering was not in vain.  He could not see his silent God, but he believed still.  He did not understand why, but he ever held onto who.  

Job ended his discourse with a warning to his attackers of impending judgement.  Job never stopped believing in a just Father.  Neither did Jesus.  No matter how unjust and violent this world becomes, let us remember Job’s words and his faith.  Let us remember that Jesus, too, asked for the cup of suffering to be taken away.  God did not spare Job or Jesus.  Instead he used their suffering for his great glory.  May we remember that he is using ours, too.

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71nE8nPHoSM

 

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I participated in the Chestnut Mountain Mudder yesterday.  I’ve done only one other mud race in my running career to date.  I signed up for this one thinking it would be quite easy.  The distance was roughly one-third my previous mud race and the website informed me that it was “great for beginners.”

After completing this race, I just have to say, I now know why it’s called Chestnut Mountain and I have no idea why it’s rated for beginners.

Wow.  I did not expect it to be as hard as it was.  Naivety always gets the best of me.  

Last fall, when I competed in Seven Springs’ Mud on the Mountain, I went expecting a difficult endurance race with a big mountain on top.  I trained accordingly.  But this time I went in expecting to breeze through little more than a 5K with a side of mud.  I did not prepare for something requiring mountain climbing terrain or mountain conquering tenacity in the least.  I now understand the meaning of the term sorely mistaken.

There were quite a lot of volunteers along the course.  Funny thing – none of them were muddy.  They weren’t tired, beaten, bruised, or broken – and I’m almost positive they had a “no hugs” policy.  I did notice another breed of volunteers, though.  Running alongside my teammate and I virtually the entire race was part of Morgantown’s Crossfit team.  There were quite a few crossfit beginners and several coaches.  The coaches were not only stationed along the course to aid, but also running, sweating, and poop creek stinkin’ right alongside their students.  

That’s the difference between a volunteer and a coach; a title and a trainer; a preacher and a partner; a looker and a leader.

Oh, and I was quite happy to see the firemen there as well – in case I went up in flames jumping over the flaming hay bales.  

Anyway, all in all it was truly a really fun time.  I’m thankful for all the volunteers and supporters of such a great cause*.  It did make me think about our world, it’s filth, and what kind of help we all really need.

Am I going to stand on the sidelines backing away when dirty hands reach for help?  Or will I be part of a different breed?  One who is willing to train far harder than everyone I’m reaching for that I might not be timid or tired when I’m in their trenches together with them?  Because the latter – that’s the kind of leader this dirty world needs.

*Chestnut Mountain Ranch will establish an academic environment to motivate the student to use his gifts and abilities for God’s glory. (Prov. 22:6) Consistent encouragement, meaningful relationships and quality instruction will help the student and his family realize God’s purpose in every aspect of their lives and equip them to make sound choices.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdkm0aVIhXU

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Yep.  Hollywood stole God’s idea.  They just moved the snakes from the plain to a plane.  I can’t imagine a movie with a title like that being very enjoyable, but whatever floats your boat I guess.

Numbers 21:4-9 is the passage Addie chose for Bible class yesterday.  (We’re taking a little break from Acts while Mia is away.)  Here’s how it goes:

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. ~Numbers 21:4-9

God’s people were in the wilderness.  They had been travelling for quite some time.  In fact, these people were the descendants of Egypt’s slaves.  They were born in the wilderness.  They’d spent their entire lives searching for and waiting on the blessings of the promised land.

But they still weren’t there yet.  There was no end in sight.  Manna was all they’d ever eaten and detours were all they’d ever taken.  Before anyone gets all Bible belt on me, let us take a moment and consider just how difficult it would be to stay positive and expectant in such circumstances.

God, however, does not rate difficulty as a valid excuse for faithlessness.  God is angered by their impatience and ingratitude.  So, he does what any fun-lovin’ God would do.  He throws some feisty, fiery snakes out heaven’s window and gives their whiny behinds somethin’ to cry about.

Presto.  Repentance is now on the menu.  Their leader, Moses, prays for them and God tells him to make a bronze snake and hang it up to save the people.

Does this story seem a bit bizarre to anyone besides me?  I guess not if you’re in second grade.  I mean, Addie just loved it.  She didn’t wonder why God didn’t take the snakes away when the people repented.  She never asked why God’s discipline was so harsh.  It didn’t even occur to her that some of these people most certainly screamed and ran (and died!) instead of lifting their eyes to the lifeless metal snake on a pole.  In fact, she didn’t even include any not-smiling people in her illustration.  When I asked why everyone was so happy she simply said, “I didn’t put anyone who didn’t obey in the picture.”  (After I asked, she changed their smiles to singing mouths for some reason.)

This is the part where I began to wonder why she drew me into the picture.

Impatience and ingratitude make the wilderness more unbearable than…well…the wilderness.  If you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of these unbecoming attributes.  It’s likely that when the fiery serpents arrive at your feet you are severely tempted to foster fear in lieu of first grade faith.  You might experience real snakes by day and be tormented by fake ones by night.  Let’s face it, when you’re surrounded by serpents, looking up may not come as natural as one might hope.  Furthermore, one look is not nearly enough to stave off a million demons.  I must look at my Savior a hundred times a day if I’m going to stay smiling in Addie’s perfect world.  And I must.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. ~John 3:14-15

God did not remove the serpents when his people repented.  He didn’t take them away when they were scared, or even when they began to die.  No.  God gave his people something much more powerful than that which they feared.  God gave them a Savior who crushed the very head of their leader.  He left them with a choice about which reality they would look at.  He saved them by faith.  Now, death comes not by the Serpent, but by unbelief.

Smile.  There’s a snake under your feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfgf-R7bPsw

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