Friday, November 30, 2018

Job 25:4 (ESV)
How then can man be in the right before God?
How can he who is born of woman be pure?

By the time we get to Job 25 Eliphaz has tried to convince Job of his sin three times. Bildad and Zophar have each given it a try twice. Now, in six short verses, Bildad wraps up their attack by concluding that Job must be wrong because it is impossible for anyone to be right before God. He is correct. How can anyone be right before God? Yet, he doesn’t really solve the issue. For Job it is not an issue of whether he deserves what he has, but an issue of justice. Why does he get pain while those even more wicked get pleasure?

Like Bildad, Eliphaz made that argument back in chapter 4, and again in chapter 15. Job acknowledged that truth in chapter 9. The Psalmist acknowledged that same truth in Psalms 143:2 where he writes, “For no one living is righteous before you.” This is not a wrong statement. We often hear, “What did I do to deserve this?” The reality is that we all deserve worse than we get. That is why a heart of gratitude is so important. It doesn’t answer the question of injustice, but it does raise a valid question. How is it possible for anyone to be right before God? Psalms 130:3 asks it like this,

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?

Therein lies the Good News. “If you should mark iniquity, who could stand?” Our goodness, our righteousness is never found in ourselves. Moses wrote, in Psalms 90:8,

You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

There is nothing hid from God. With him there is no such thing as secret sins. Thankfully Psalm 130 does not stop with the question, “Who could stand?” It goes on to say,
Psalms 130:4-6a (ESV)

But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord

Job understood this. He agreed with Bildad and Eliphaz back in Job 9:2 when he asked, “How can a man be right before God?” But he also understood, “that my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). If God were only just we would all perish. Thankfully he is also merciful. When I begin to realize that because of Christ I will never receive from God what I deserve, I am overwhelmed. I am reminded of the gospel chorus Why Should He Love Me So?

Love sent my savior to die in my stead;
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary's cross He was led;
Why should He love me so?

I am grateful that because of Christ I don’t get what I deserve. The good news is that God will accept us, not because we are good enough, but because Jesus took our sin. Believe it. Job understood that. His friends didn’t get it. Do you?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Job 24:1 (ESV)
“Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty,
and why do those who know him never see his days?

In chapter 24 Job continues to wrestle with the injustice of life. Those who are walking in sin, injustice, and selfishness seem to get away with it, while those who know God never see his blessing. Of course it is an overstatement. Not all of the wicked live in luxury. Not all of those who know God live in pain and want. But Job’s question is valid. Why do the wicked get away with their wickedness?

A primary idea in this chapter is Job’s description of wickedness. He gives very little time to what we would call wicked. Toward the end of the chapter he mentions thieves, murderers, and adulterers, but most of the chapter is given to societal injustice. The wealthy fail to care for the poor. For many believers in our culture that would be considered a second-tier sin. It is not as important as stealing, killing, and committing sexual sins. Those are the really big ones. Job sees issues of justice as primary. It is wrong for the wealthy to be comfortable while the poor starve and freeze. It is wrong for the powerful to use their positions of power to take advantage of the less powerful. White collar crime is given more attention than the crimes of the poor.

Job 24:2-3 (ESV)
Some move landmarks;
they seize flocks and pasture them.
They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

These are descriptions of those with wealth and power taking advantage of the poor in order to increase their own wealth. This is wrong. This is not political for two reasons. First, this is not about developing new government programs. Government programs allow the wealthy to continue abusing their wealth and power while providing a program that makes them feel like they are helping. All they are really doing is creating dependence. Second, this is not political because both major political parties are populated by the wealthy. Many of them have gotten where they are by taking advantage of others. This is not political; this is basic ethics. This is about loving our neighbor. This is about demonstrating the grace and love of God to others. This is about remembering that we are all created in the image of God.

Our wealth is not for our consumption, but for our service. 2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (ESV). God’s blessing and provision are not for our own consumption, but in order to give us opportunities to demonstrate his own generosity. God’s overwhelming mercy caused him to love us when we were unlovable. It caused Jesus to die for us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8). That same overwhelming compassion ought to characterize his people. Yes, God hates sin. Yes, stealing, killing, and sexual sins are evil. But maybe we have so focused on those sins that we have missed a greater sin. We have lived lives of comfort and ease off the pain and suffering of others.

Job is desperately confused by the injustices of life. Why does God allow the wealthy and powerful to continue taking advantage of the poor and powerless? Job finds his answer in the brevity of life.

Job 24:24 (ESV)
They are exalted a little while, and then are gone;
they are brought low and gathered up like all others;
they are cut off like the heads of grain.

Not even the wealthy and powerful can escape death. Let’s be honest. We are the wealthy and powerful. As little as I make, I haven’t missed a meal. I have a dry home and a warm bed. Compared to much of the world, what I possess makes me extremely wealthy. I don’t need to feel guilty for my wealth, but I do need to make sure that I am using it for God’s glory and not just wantonly wasting it on my own personal comfort. It makes me wonder what life would look like if we lived with eternity in view instead of trying to get all our happiness here and now. This reminds me of the chorus by Alfred B. Smith. May that be my attitude today.
With eternity's values in view, Lord.
With eternity's values in view;
May I do each day's work for Jesus
With eternity's values in view.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Job 23:10 (ESV)
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

Job is still contending that he is innocent. He desires to argue his case before God, yet he cannot find God. He searched for God. He called for God. He cried for God, but he cannot find him. He firmly believes that if only he could present his case before the throne of the Almighty he would be vindicated. On the other hand, Job fears God greatly.

Job 23:15-17 (ESV)
Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
when I consider, I am in dread of him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
yet I am not silenced because of the darkness,
nor because thick darkness covers my face.

Job’s friends assume that because he is defending his innocence and desiring to present his case to God, he therefore has no fear of God. Yet that is hardly the case. Job does not understand why these things are happening to him. He feels that if only he could present his case he would be guiltless. Yet his fear of God has never diminished. Job desires to approach the unapproachable God. What motivates Job’s desire to present his case to a fearsome God is his faith in the character of God.

Job is absolutely convinced of two additional truths. First, Job is convinced that even though he cannot find God, God “knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10a). The omniscience of God is comforting to Job. He cannot find God, yet God knows right where Job is and what is happening to him. Not only does God know, but God is watching over him. That brings us to the second truth: Job is convinced that he will come out of this trial like purified gold. “When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10b). That sounds an awful lot like 1Peter.

1 Peter 1:6-8 (ESV)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

This may not answer the why question that Job is wrestling with, but it gives hope. Whatever I am facing, whatever pain, or difficulty, or oppression, or opposition, or even persecution we face as believers, we know two things. God is watching. Nothing escapes his view. And, we will come through the trial like purified gold.

Trials aren’t fun. No one prays for more difficulty in life. Yet it is just that which God uses to burn off the dross in our lives and purify our faith. It reminds me of the old chorus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
Helen Howarth Lemmel

The challenge, of course, is to turn our eyes upon Jesus when we cannot see him. That was Job’s conundrum. Sometimes, with Job, we can only see him through eyes of faith. And so we hold firmly to this one truth: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Job 22:15-16 (ESV)
Will you keep to the old way
that wicked men have trod?
They were snatched away before their time;
their foundation was washed away.

Eliphaz responds to Job in chapter 22 by saying that clearly Job is a wicked man. If only he would repent, then God would restore his wealth. To make his argument he recalls the flood of Noah’s time. “Will you keep to the old way?” The old way was the way of wickedness, violence, and rebellion that led to the destruction of the earth through a flood. “Their foundation was washed away.” Eliphaz’s assessment of the past is accurate. His application to Job’s life is flawed. His own presuppositions led him to misuse and misapply truth.

Eliphaz queries, “Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you and enters into judgment with you” (Job 22:4 ESV)? He is suggesting that Job does not fear God (see verses 12-14). Job’s pain and suffering must be an attempt by God to teach Job to fear him. If only he feared God more he wouldn’t be such a great sinner. If only he feared God more he wouldn’t be experiencing God’s judgment. The problem is that he is putting words in God’s mouth. For God, the issue has nothing to do with whether Job fears him. It has everything to do with proving Job’s faithfulness to the accuser.

Eliphaz spoke truth wrongly applied. How often we do that! Truth needs to be coupled with discernment. Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” Eliphaz failed to get insight. He failed to use discernment. Further, truth needs to be understood in the proper context. Naomi told Ruth to go down to the threshing floor, observe where Boaz lay down to sleep, and then go uncover his feet and lie down for the night. There is some cultural and historical context to that passage that we may not understand, but it is hardly good advice for a young woman looking for a husband today. Can you imagine a mother suggesting to her daughter that the way for her daughter to find a husband is to find out where he is sleeping and lie at his feet all night? That it is truth taken out of context.

Cults take truth out of context. False teachers take truth out of context. Abusive leaders take truth out of context. Biblical believers cannot afford to do that. We must be diligent to handle God’s word accurately (see 2 Tim 2:15). Truth needs to be properly applied. To do that truth needs to be coupled with discernment and understood in its proper context. Further, we need to make sure that we are actually speaking truth, and not just our perception of truth.

The Holy Spirit who inspired every word of the scriptures is the same Holy Spirit who dwells within every believer. He is the same Holy Spirit that Jesus said would lead us into all truth (John 16:13). Rather than assuming that we know the truth, we need to make this our daily prayer, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Ps 25:5 ESV). Maybe if Job’s friends had understood this, they would have turned out to be better friends.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Zechariah 10:1-3, 6 (ESV)
[1] Ask rain from the LORD
in the season of the spring rain,
from the LORD who makes the storm clouds,
and he will give them showers of rain,
to everyone the vegetation in the field.
[2] For the household gods utter nonsense,
and the diviners see lies;
they tell false dreams
and give empty consolation.
Therefore the people wander like sheep;
they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.
[3] “My anger is hot against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,
and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.

[6] “I will strengthen the house of Judah,
and I will save the house of Joseph.
I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,
and they shall be as though I had not rejected them,
for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them.

Three truths stand out in this chapter. First, God’s tender love for his people. He will not leave them. He has not abandoned them. All they need to do is call. He is ready to answer. They have been under discipline, but they need to understand that despite the discipline, he loves them. God will provide the Spring rains when they are needed. All they need to do is ask. The same is true of us, as believers in Jesus Christ. God promised that he will never leave us. Because of his love, he will rebuke and chasten us, but he will never abandon us. He is always as close as a prayer.

Second, God’s anger at the leaders of his people. Israel’s and Judah’s kings and priests had failed to lead them well. They had served for their wealth and comfort rather than the best interest of the people, and the purposes of God. If we have influence in the lives of others, then we are leaders. If we are leaders, then we need to regularly examine why we lead. Are we in it for our own prestige, our own comfort and wealth, or our own sense of importance? Then we are leading for the wrong reason, and we will answer to God. He is not pleased with leaders to lead his people wrongly.

Third, God’s purpose and plan. As hopeless as Judah appeared, as weak and insignificant as she was, God had a plan, and he intended to accomplish his purpose. He has a purpose and plan for us as well. When we look at our churches, our resources, and our opportunities, we may feel insignificant. But, there are no insignificant people or ministries in God’s kingdom. He has a plan and he will accomplish his purpose. Time and again throughout history, right up to today, God has continually used the insignificant things of this world to literally change the world.

So, what do we do with this? God tenderly loves his people. The leaders of God’s people will answer to him for how they lead. God will accomplish his purpose through his people. Maybe it is as simple as saying, “Okay God, I’ll trust you even though I can’t see how anything good can come of this.” Let me suggest three applications. First, let’s begin faithfully asking for the “Spring rains,” the blessing of God on our ministries. Second, let’s search our hearts before God concerning our leadership. Let’s make sure our motives and influence are in synch with his. Third, let’s choose to trust him when we cannot see any way through the darkness. He is God. If he can create everything out of nothing, then he can do amazing things through insignificant people.

Friday, November 23, 2018

As you work your way through Colossians you will realize that giving thanks is a big deal. Colossians makes reference to giving thanks more times in less chapters than any other book in the New Testament. In 4 chapters it makes reference to giving thanks 7 times. In those 7 references we find at least 4 good reasons why we should give thanks to God.

1.     It recognizes God’s grace – 1.3ff
2.     It is a core part of walking in Christ – 2.7
3.     It is a key part of setting our minds on things above – 3.2ff
4.     It is an essential part of prayer – 4:2

Colossians mentions giving thanks three times in 3:15-17. Verse 17 says:
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

That is immediately followed by a discussion of household relationships: wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters. The very next verse, after dealing with these relationships, is about giving thanks. The discussion runs from Colossians 3:18-4:1.

Colossians 4:2 says:
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (ESV)

So, between "whatever you do ... giving thanks" and "continue steadfastly in prayer... with thanksgiving" we find instructions on household relationships. Without grateful hearts toward God we have a difficult time demonstrating holiness and godly behavior toward those to whom we are closest. That is probably true because you can’t live out your Christian faith well in any relationship when you mind and heart is set on things of earth.

Doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus affects how we think about ourselves, how we live and how we relate to other people. It's not so much about doing things well or with excellence as it is about doing things in a manner that reflects the character of Christ. In doing that giving thanks appears to be a key element. Verse 15 says to let the peace if Christ rule in us with thanksgiving. Verse 16 encourages us to let the word if Christ dwell in us with thanksgiving. Verse 17 instructs is to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 reminds us to continue praying with thanksgiving. Perhaps we struggle with these other areas of our lives precisely because we are not thankful.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Job 21:1-2, 34 (ESV)
Then Job answered and said:
“Keep listening to my words,
and let this be your comfort.”

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

In Job’s frustration with what he perceives as injustice, he cries out to his friends, “Keep listening to my words, and let this be your comfort.” He needed friends who would be a non-anxious presence in his life while he wrestled with his pain, and his perception of the inequities of life. Their own anxiety pushed them to defend their theological positions with increasing insensitivity. Job just needed them to listen to him.

Job 21:7-9, 28-30, 34 (ESV)
[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.
[9] Their houses are safe from fear,
and no rod of God is upon them.

[28] For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’
[29] Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony
[30] that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity,
that he is rescued in the day of wrath?

[34] How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.”

What do you do when your theology doesn’t fit with your reality? That is the question Job is wrestling with. His theology tells him that the wicked are judged and the righteous prosper. His reality is just the opposite. As a righteous man, he is suffering while he watches the wicked around him prosper. When our theology doesn’t fit our apparent reality we tend to respond in a couple of ways. We reinterpret reality. “They may look like they are prospering, but deep down they are miserable.” We don’t know that, but it feels like an answer that allows us to not think too deeply about life. It makes us feel okay. “I’m miserable, but deep down I have the joy of the Lord somewhere. They look happy, but deep down they are miserable.” Our theology is still intact and we feel like we have provided an answer. All we have really done is reinterpret reality.

Job’s friends reinterpreted their reality. They chose to look no further than a few examples in life that seemed to justify their position. Job challenged them on this. Notice what Job asked his friends in Job 21:29-33. 

Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony
that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity,
that he is rescued in the day of wrath?
Who declares his way to his face,
and who repays him for what he has done?
When he is carried to the grave,
watch is kept over his tomb.
The clods of the valley are sweet to him;
all mankind follows after him,
and those who go before him are innumerable.

Essentially Job is saying, “Don’t you actually look around and see the world? Do you just create these ideas out of thin air? Don’t you talk to people who have seen more of the world than you have?” Their perception of reality is not real. How often have we decided that things are a certain way simply because that supports our teaching or our theology? We reinterpret reality and sit in smug self-righteousness. All the while people like Job are falling apart around us, and we blame them.

We can reinterpret reality. We can also can refine our theology. Job’s friends did this as well. They tweaked their theology and their understanding of their world by saying, “God stores up their iniquity for their children” (Job 21:19 ESV). So now, instead of saying that bad things happen to bad people, they are saying that bad things happen to bad people’s children. It doesn’t really solve the problem. They have no evidence to support this idea. If they were to look around, they would realize that even the children of bad people are not experiencing God’s judgment. On top of that, Job asks why bad people would care about what happens to their children as long as their own life is comfortable. Their tweaked theology makes them feel justified in their assessment of Job’s condition. It does nothing to help Job.

We do not need to be afraid of people asking hard questions. We do not need to feel anxious and begin defending our theology at all costs when someone challenges us. Much damage has been done because we react to people instead of listening to them. Much damage has been done because we have failed to be honest about the difficult questions in life, settling for canned answers and easy solutions that satisfy only ourselves, but fail to enter into the pain of those around us.

What Job needed was not answers, but someone who cared. He needed friends who would be a non-anxious presence in his life while he wrestled with his pain, and his perception of the inequities of life. Their own anxiety pushed them to defend their theological positions with increasing insensitivity. Job just needed them to listen to him. Jesus did not say, “Always have an answer that readily fixes people.” What he did say was that we should love God and love others. In our anxiety we fail to do either. If we can trust that God is at work in an individual’s life, then we can lay aside our anxiety and love them instead of trying to fix them. To do that we need to be okay with not having all the answers.

Peter wrote that we should “always being prepared to make a defense (or answer) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” But he went on to qualify that we should, “do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15). He didn’t say that we need to be ready with an answer to every question that people have. Nor did he say that we need to be ready to defend God. He did say that we need to demonstrate gentleness and respect.

We ought to have an answer for the hope that we have in Christ. We do not need to have canned answers for every question people have in life. The reality is that we need to be okay with not having all the answers. We need to be okay with not being God. We need to trust him more than we need to defend him. When we trust him then we can love people even when they ask hard questions for which we have no ready answers. If only Job’s friends had learned that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Job 20:1-3 (ESV)
Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:
“Therefore my thoughts answer me,
because of my haste within me.
I hear censure that insults me,
and out of my understanding a spirit answers me.

This is Zophar’s second response to Job. Like Bildad, Zophar’s response is prompted by his own ego. “I hear censure that insults me,” he says.  When did this become about Bildad or Zophar? Zophar’s whole argument is that bad things happen to bad people. His implication is that if bad things are happening to Job, then Job must be bad. That’s been said over and over by Job’s friends. What is fascinating in this chapter is that Zophar answers out of his own feeling of being insulted, and out of his own understanding.

Zophar says, “out of my understanding a spirit answers me.” Shouldn’t that raise an eyebrow? His thoughts are spinning even before he begins to speak. Then, apparently a spirit speaks to him. Does he mean that his own spirit is speaking, or is he referring to an angel or demon? Why is a spirit answering Zophar out of his own understanding? Wouldn’t you expect that if a spirit or angel from God is speaking that you would learn something new? Why is it that this spirit only affirms what Zophar already thinks?

It is amazing what people do not see when they are not expecting to see anything, or what they do see when they expect to see something. I have a video I show people in some of my classes. Most people miss the most obvious things in the video because they are looking for something else. The same is true about God and his word. How often we pray and read the word only to find exactly what we already knew! We don’t learn. We don’t grow. We just affirm what we already think. That is the height of arrogance. It is self-focus, not God focus. It is reading through our own egos. Like Zophar, we hear what we already think. The spirit speaks out of our own understanding.

When we come to the Word of God… when we come to God in prayer, we need to come with humility, not ego. We need to come listening well. We need to come with no axe to grind, nor position to defend, but with a heart inclined to hear from God. If you go looking for verses to defend your position, you will find them. If you come with an open heart God might teach you, stretch you, and give you a fresh perspective.

We are not talking about embracing heresy or immorality. We are not talking about opening our minds to whatever comes along. But we need to stop putting God in a nice comfortable box where he meets my needs, fits with my expectations, and keeps me feeling comfortable. He is not a safe God, but he is a good God. He is not a finite God. He is infinite. He is not a God limited by my knowledge and experience. I need to stop hearing what I expect him to say, and actually listen. I need to get out of the way and let God speak. Father, open my heart and mind today. Help me to hear.

Listen to this song linked below. May it be the prayer of our heart today.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Job 19:6-8 (ESV)
Know then that God has put me in the wrong
and closed his net about me.
Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered;
I call for help, but there is no justice.
He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass,
and he has set darkness upon my paths.

When everything turns against you, helplessness sets in. Others around you may see opportunities. All you can see is hopelessness. Others see glimmers of light. All you see is darkness. It is hard to help someone in that condition. It is nearly impossible for them to drag themselves out of the darkness to see any light at all. All they can see are the obstacles. The interesting thing for Job is that while he sees hopelessness in life, he sees hope beyond this life.

Job 19:25-27 (ESV)
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.
My heart faints within me!

Job says, “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Ultimately his hope was not in this world, but in an eternal God. He firmly believed that although God seemed to reject him in this life, there would be a day when he would see God. “Redeemer” is the same word used in Ruth to refer to Boaz as her kinsman redeemer. Job’s kin have abandoned him. In Job 19:17 he says, “My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother.” Even his siblings have rejected him, yet he has a kinsman redeemer that “will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). At that time all things will be made right. In verse 29 he reminds his friends that a judgment is coming. Job will be redeemed. The wicked will be judged.

Job has embraced a truth that is hard for us to grasp. Now is so real to us.… Now is often so painful that we find it difficult to look beyond now to eternity. Now is never more than an instant. In reality there is only past and future. The Apostle Paul explained to the Philippians, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph’p 3:13-14).

How was Paul able to do that? Knowing the rejection and pain in which Paul lived, how could he live in that way? Paul went on to explain.

Philippians 3:20-21 (ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul’s words sound an awful lot like Job’s. They were able to look beyond now, forgetting the past, and hoping in the future because they knew they had a savior/redeemer who would renew and transform them in the future. “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). Job and Paul lived by the same hope. That hope changes everything. Now is not forever. It is just now, and now only lasts an instant. Now is never forever. Forever is where our hope lies in a God who transcends time and is able “subject all things to himself.” With Job we can trust him no matter how dark things feel today.

How do you help someone who is stuck in the darkness? How do you bring hope to the hopeless? All we can do is point them to Jesus and pray. He is our savior and redeemer. He is our hope. He can be theirs as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Job 18:1-4 (ESV)
Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
“How long will you hunt for words?
Consider, and then we will speak.
Why are we counted as cattle?
Why are we stupid in your sight?
You who tear yourself in your anger,
shall the earth be forsaken for you,
or the rock be removed out of its place?”

What an interesting response to Job! Job’s friends’ arguments did not satisfy Job. When we have no answers, but think that we are right, our response is often the same as Bildad’s. We attack the one we can’t convince. I’ve been guilty of this far too often in my life. Bildad begins to defend himself. He challenges Job’s commitment to truth, “How long will you hunt for words?” He challenges Job’s view of his friends and defends his own honor, “Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight?” Bildad’s own insecurity feeds this attack. This is no longer about Job. Now it’s personal. Now it is about Bildad.

We’ve watched that in political elections. Neither candidate is convincing in their arguments, so they go on the attack. If you can point out all the faults in the opponent, then maybe people can overlook your own lack of sense. It is easy to see it there. It is more difficult to see it in our own lives. When we try to help people we often come under attack. That is life. That is the way things often work. Rather than faithfully continuing to help without expectations, or acceptance, or gratitude, we begin to criticize. Rather than listening well, or caring unconditionally, we find reasons to distance ourselves. “They are just ungrateful!” “They don’t help themselves. Why should I help them?” “They are being wasteful, unwise, or ungrateful.”

The criticisms may or may not be true. But since when did God love us because we deserved it? Since when did God provide because we were wise, thrifty, and grateful? God’s love is predicated upon his own character, not ours. His grace is grounded in who he is, not who we are. His forgiveness is based on the death of his son, not our goodness. Yet we treat people as though help needs to be deserved. When they don’t receive it well, we attack. When they don’t listen well, we blame. When they don’t respond the way we think they should, we reject.

Bildad started out concerned for Job. Unfortunately, he moved from concern for Job to concern for himself. His own insecurities began to show. He reacted by blaming and defending rather than genuinely caring. If we find our security in Christ, we don’t need to accepted and appreciated. If we find our significance in Christ we don’t need to be valued and respected. We only need to love as God loves. When we find ourselves blaming those to whom we are ministering, we ought to take a moment to ask why it is that we serve in the first place. Odds are, we have become more concerned about ourselves than we are about those we serve. May God forgive us, and change our hearts.

Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Consider the words to this old hymn, May the Mind of Christ my Savior
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
Kate B. Wilkinson,

Friday, November 16, 2018

Job 18:5, 18-21 (ESV)
“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out,
and the flame of his fire does not shine.

He is thrust from light into darkness,
and driven out of the world.
He has no posterity or progeny among his people,
and no survivor where he used to live.
They of the west are appalled at his day,
and horror seizes them of the east.
Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
such is the place of him who knows not God.”

Job 18 is Bildad’s second response to Job. His argument is that bad things happen to wicked people. The wicked are devastated, wiped out, and forgotten. His implication is that because bad things happen to bad people, and bad things are happening to Job, therefore Job is bad. But there is a breakdown in his logic. First, history shows us that the wicked are not always wiped out and forgotten. Sometimes they prosper, and their memory lingers for generations. Sometimes history is even rewritten to make the wicked look good.

Bildad is correct about the destiny of the wicked in the end. Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” There will come a time when the wicked will be forgotten, but that is not in our lifetime. That is in the new creation. In his argument, Bildad has gotten ahead of God.

Second, even if Bildad is correct, even if it is true that bad things happen to wicked people, that does not mean that people to whom bad things happen are wicked. It is true that a dozen is twelve, and twelve is a dozen. It is true that grapes are fruit. It is not true that all fruit is a cluster of grapes. It is true that a dog is an animal. It is not true that an animal is a dog. Not every statement of truth can be reversed. Bad things will eventually happen to wicked people. That does not mean that if something bad is happening you therefore must be wicked. Good theology can lead to bad application when it is handled poorly.

When we live with our convenient boxes of truth we tend to jump to conclusions, judge those different from us, and do more damage than good. What Bildad needed was discernment. He looked into his disconnected boxes of truth, found where Job seemed to fit, and jumped to a conclusion that had a ring of truth to it, but he missed the truth by a mile. That is why we need to listen to the Spirit of God as well as knowing our Bibles.

The Spirit of God will never lead contrary to his Word. After all, he is the one that inspired the Bible. He will never lead contrary to his Word, but he might lead contrary to our understanding of his Word. Too often we assume that we know the Word. We assume that we have a corner on truth. We have our neat little boxes of theology all wrapped up nicely. Anything else is evil. But often, we have not listened well. We have jumped to conclusions based on our own culture and experience. We have not wrestled with the hard questions.

Bildad was sure that he had it all figured out. Job was wrestling with the question of why bad things were happening to someone who had been honoring God. Bildad didn’t feel the need to wrestle with that question. His neat, tidy theology explained it all. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things were happening to Job. Therefore, Job was bad. It was as simple as that.

Bildad had all his theological “i”s dotted and “T”s crossed. The simple truth was that God was doing something outside Bildad’s boxes of understanding that he had never seen before. God has a way of doing that. Will we listen, or will we force God back into our neat theological boxes? Maybe he is trying to teach us something. The big question is: Are we listening?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Zechariah 9:1 (ESV)
[1] The oracle of the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach
and Damascus is its resting place.
For the LORD has an eye on mankind
and on all the tribes of Israel,

This chapter goes on to talk about the obscene wealth of Tyre and Sidon, and how God will bring them down. There is not a nation anywhere that God does not see. There is not a people that will not answer to him. There is not a leader who escapes his eye.

Neither are his people ever away from his view. With severe persecution of Christians in some parts of the world, general opposition to Christianity in others, and growing mistrust toward the Christian church in the United States, we need to remind ourselves that God has not forgotten us. In Zechariah’s day, God’s people were rebuilding, but their numbers had been decimated. They had spent years in a foreign land. They were still under foreign control. Their temple was unfinished, and there were surrounded by powerful enemies. They needed to be reminded that God had not abandoned them.

I’ve known too many believers that lose sleep over which party will be elected, or which individual will sit in office. Too many believers live in fear or in envy of the unbelieving world. Too many believers live in fear of our changing culture, and the impact of immigration on our country. We act as though all of this is outside of God’s control. We give lip service to faith, and then live as though there is no God. Zechariah ends with the assurance that God will indeed establish his kingdom and accomplish his purposes.

We need to stop living by sight. The enemies look great. Wickedness and violence seems to have taken over. If we walk by sight, we live in a scary world. But God. . .  Like the People of God in Zechariah’s day, we need to stop looking at the power of the enemy, and set our eyes on the God of all creation who will ultimately accomplish his purpose, and he will use us in the process. We can trust him. God has not abandoned us despite what we see. Sight is not always reality. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Job 16:10 (ESV)
Men have gaped at me with their mouth;
they have struck me insolently on the cheek;
they mass themselves together against me.
Job 17:1 (ESV)
“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.
Job 17:14-15 (ESV)
if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?

Job’s adversity caused people around him to shun him, and mistreat him. His spirit was broken. He had almost given up hope. Here is a man who had everything. In our day he would be the equivalent of the CEO of a large corporation. He was the man everyone went to for help. Now people spit on him as they walk by. What do you see when you drive past a homeless person? What do you see when you walk by a drunk on the street? Do you ever wonder about who they are, where they have been, and what they have done in life? Or, do you avoid them and walk on?

Over the years, I have had many conversations with those less fortunate than myself. Two thoughts have occurred to me. First, that could be me. If things had just been a little different it could easily be me living on the street with nowhere to call home. At what point would I just give up and stop trying? The second thought that occurred to me is that these are people created in the image of God. They are of value no matter how dirty, how hopeless, or how little motivation they have to change. They are often people with surprising backgrounds, training, and experiences. Sometimes circumstances got the better of them. Sometimes their own choices took them down this road. But, they are people.

It is easy to smell the stench of unwashed clothes and see the dirt of living on the street, and not see the person. How many people who walked by Job saw a man of great wisdom? How many simply saw the sores, and the ashes, and the hopelessness? How would Jesus see him? In Jesus’ day people saw a despicable, little tax man. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and said, “I must stay at your house today,” and “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:1-10). In John 4 when Jesus met the woman at the well, people saw an immoral woman. Jesus saw a broken woman who had value. She became an evangelist to her whole city. When the woman in Luke 7 washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, people saw an immoral woman. Jesus saw brokenness, worship, and faith.

Maybe it is time that we stop looking at others through our own eyes, our own expectations, and our own experience. Maybe it is time to ask God to help us see as Jesus sees. Maybe it is time to see others through eyes of grace instead of judgment. Maybe it is time to make this our daily prayer, “Father help me to see, think, and speak with grace and peace today.” After all, where would we be if he gave us what we deserved?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Job 16:22 (ESV)
[22] For when a few years have come
I shall go the way from which I shall not return.

Job is realizing how short life is. He has almost lost hope. He feels like he is standing on the edge of the grave. It reminds me of Jacob’s words to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9).  “Few and evil” describes life. When a person is young, 50 or 60 years sound like an eternity. You turn around and realize you are 50 or 60 and wonder how you got there. Life is short.

In pondering how quickly life spins past us we can respond in one of two ways. Paul writes, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (1Cor 15:32). If there is no resurrection; if there is no hope beyond this life, then we respond to the brevity of life by saying, “We need to have as much fun as we can before we get too old to enjoy life.” We need to go for the gusto before we end up like Job and cannot enjoy life anymore. We need to see all the sights, live all the experiences, and do all the things we’ll regret never having done. That’s one response to the brevity of life. Reading Job’s words one might come to that conclusion.

Job 17:11, 14-15 (ESV)
My days are past; my plans are broken off,
the desires of my heart.

if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?

But there is another way to respond to the brevity of life. It is what Job clung to all along. It is what many in pain, suffering, or difficulty have come to embrace. That is, no matter what life sends our way, we need to trust God. We need to embrace Paul’s perspective.

Philippians 1:21-23 (ESV)
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Job’s perspective on life seems to be slipping, yet he trusts God. Looking at life through the lens of the present he is beginning to wonder what value his commitment to God held. He was faithful, yet here he is standing on the threshold of death, living in pain every day. What is the point of that? Of course, what Job could not see was how God would use his story to encourage people to faith for thousands of years after Job was gone. Job could only see the present. He could only feel the pain. He could only live the grief. But he could trust.

He deeply desired to understand why he was facing such difficulty in life. He deeply desired to argue his case before God. He was overwhelmed by the lack of future from his perspective. Yet God had not abandoned him. All his earlier service and dedication had not been forgotten and it had not been in vain. When life is all there is, we opt for, “Let’s party for tomorrow we die.” When our perspective is centered on Christ, we realize that we have all of eternity to experience life. We have but one short life to prepare for eternity. That changes everything.

1 Corinthians 15:19-21, 54b (ESV)
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

For the believer, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” make much better slogans for life than “Go for the gusto.” Our time on earth is short. Our bodies will fail us. Life will disappoint us. We will never experience everything there is to experience or see everything there is to see. But we can live life to its fullest for the glory of God and never regret a day. How will you live your life?

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...