Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Job 23


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).

Monday, February 17, 2020

Job 22


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.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Job 21


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.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Job 20


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.

Open our ears, Lord
And help us to listen
Open our eyes, Lord
We want to see Jesus
                        Maranatha Singers


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Job 19


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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Job 18 (Pt 2)


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,

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Job 18 (Pt 1)


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?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Love - 1 Corinthians 13


According to 1 Corinthians 13, the real test of spirituality is not experience. It is love. That, of course, raises the question: What is love? That question leads us to the middle portion of 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Over the years I have asked a lot of young couples why they want to get married. Almost always their answer is because they are in love. If I ask them how they know they are in love they usually have answers like, “I can’t stop thinking about her” or, “I am only happy when I am with him.” But if 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a definition of love then they don’t even know what love is. I’m sure I didn’t.

My first “I love you” to my wife had very little to do with anything listed in the verses above. That kind of love is often foreign to us. That is the kind of love that the Spirit of God produces in us. Like fruit, it grows as we learn to trust and yield to him. Galatians 5:22 calls it the fruit of the Spirit. As we grow older we increasingly learn how selfish we really are.

Young couples may not know what love is, but it is biblical love that we call them to. It is biblical love that is reflected in the marriage vows: “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” That is Christ’s kind of love and that is the promise we make when we enter into marriage. It is what God calls us to in the church as well.

Am I patient and kind with everyone at church? Even the irritating ones? Do I envy their achievements, experiences, or stuff, or do I boast about mine in order to feel better about myself? Do I insist on doing things my way because I can see so clearly that I am right? Am I irritable or resentful of someone in church because of something they said or did that hurt me, made me feel disrespected, or disrespected someone I love? Do I rejoice in seeing someone else get the discipline they deserve?

I recall watching a television series with my grandchildren. Throughout the series there was a character that was not a nice person. He was mean, selfish, and dishonest. As we were watching, the bad man was suddenly killed and my four grandchildren cheered. I understand the cheer. They were caught up in the show and the bad guy got taken out. But it made me wonder. . .  Is that really how we are supposed to respond when someone gets what they deserve? Shouldn’t our hearts be grieved that their lives were wasted and came to such a devastating end? Do I rejoice in seeing someone else get the discipline they deserve?

Have I embraced the World’s system of values that calls good evil and evil good or do I rejoice in truth? Do I put up with everything without losing faith and hope? Am I willing to endure anything for the good of others and for the glory of God? The man writing this knew what he was talking about. The Apostle Paul had gone from a celebrated young academic to being hunted, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and lashed for his faith in Christ and his love for others. What if that kind of love permeated our churches? How different would they look?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Job 16-17 (Pt 4)


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?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Job 16-17 (Pt 3)


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” are 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?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Job 16-17 (Pt 2)

Job 16:4 (ESV)
I also could speak as you do,
if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
and shake my head at you.

One of the things that made Job’s comforters “miserable comforters” was their inability to view life through his eyes. That is an extremely difficult thing to do. Most church conflicts are couched in terms of sin versus obedience in some form. Whether we are talking about a difference in theological emphasis, a disagreement over where money should be spent, or what the focus should be in our worship services, we almost always talk about these issues as though they are sin issues. The reality is that they rarely are. They are almost always simply an issue of different people viewing circumstances through different lenses. Unfortunately, we allow our lack of understanding to become a sin issue.

When we fail to recognize this, and fail to try to understand how others are thinking, we damage the church and the community. People get angry and leave. People are “disciplined.” People hold grudges. People talk about their frustrations to others. That results in division within the church, and defamation of the church and God. What was not a sin issue becomes a sin issue.

Job says, “If I were in your place I could say what you are saying.” If he saw life through their eyes he would conclude what they were concluding. The problem is that their eyes were faulty. Almost everyone thinks that they see clearly. We rarely do. What is common sense to us is foreign to others. What is obvious to one makes no sense to another. Grace is needed, but criticism is offered.

In my previous blog on this passage I wrote that we need to be like the Holy Spirit in his role as comforter. We don’t do that well. We like to play Holy Spirit in his role of searching hearts and convicting of sin. Job’s friends thought they saw things clearly. They thought that they were helping by playing Holy Spirit in Job’s life, but they picked the wrong role. Instead of comforters they were accusers. That never ends well.


My prayer is that I would view others with eyes of grace. I don’t mean that we should overlook sin. But, I am fully aware that what we often call sin may not be sin. It might be hopelessness. It might be despair. It might pain and confusion. It might be a simple lack of understanding or training. If I can look first through eyes of grace everything changes. The same grace that sent my savior to die in my place to offer me undeserved acceptance sent my savior to die in their place as well. Today I choose to look at others through Jesus eyes, because mine aren’t very clear.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Job 16-17 (Pt 1)


Job 16:2, 4 (ESV)
“I have heard many such things;
miserable comforters are you all.

I also could speak as you do,
if you were in my place;
I could join words together against you
and shake my head at you.
Job 17:1 (ESV)
“My spirit is broken; my days are extinct;
the graveyard is ready for me.

Job waxes poetic as he responds to his accusers in chapters 16-17, but in essence he says three things. First, his friends are “miserable comforters.” Second, they clearly do not understand his pain. If he were as comfortable as they are he could say the same things they are saying. Yet their assessment is not accurate. Third, he is realizing how short life is. He has almost lost hope and feels like he is standing on the edge of the grave. Each of these statements are heavy truths that deserve a blog of their own. Let’s think through the first of these three statements.

His friends are miserable comforters. How often we have failed to minister to those who are hurting. True ministry means getting my hands dirty. I would rather stand on the edge of the mud hole and tell you about the mistakes you made that got you there. If I actually help you get out I might get dirty too. We become self-appointed critics when we should be God-appointed servants. To switch metaphors, we can explain why there is no fruit in your life, but we are not willing to help cultivate, irrigate, and fertilize for healthy growth. And yet, like Job’s friends, we think we are being helpful because we are pointing out the lack of fruit. We call that encouragement. The one we are “helping” calls it criticism.

Job’s friends were miserable comforters. Thankfully, whether others come alongside us or not, Jesus said that he sent us “another comforter.” The Holy Spirit is there to come alongside us, strengthen us, encourage us, and help us to stand even when everyone else feels obligated to tell us why we fell down. What if we, as believers, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, acted more like the Holy Spirit and less like the Accuser of the Brethren? We don’t have to be miserable comforters. Instead of hopelessness we could help bring hope. Instead of grief and pain we could help bring healing. Instead of criticism we could bring real help. We could bring real encouragement rather than patting ourselves on the back for “helping,” when all we’ve really done is criticize.

The three statements mentioned in the first paragraph build on one another. We’ll explore the other two in separate blogs. For now, perhaps it is worth some prayerful introspection to ask God and ourselves, “Am I an encourager, or a critic?” Do we build up, or do we tear down? How do our words affect those around us? May we be more like the Holy Spirit in his role as comforter, and less like the Accuser of the Brethren. May we be more like God and less like Job’s friends.

Job 23

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 ...