June 13, 2017

June 13, 2017

JOB 40-42

Focus Verse: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:5-6

 

Here it is. The difference between religion and relationship. The difference between every single world religion and the Judeo/Christian faith. We don’t serve a god who we know through rules and regulations. We don’t even serve a god who we know through the stories of others. We serve a God who calls us into a personal relationship with Himself. And until you experience that relationship, you cannot possibly know Him and come into a relationship with Him.

 

Job experiences God here in these final chapters. He moves from knowing of God and hearing about Him to knowing God and hearing directly from Him. And his first response to this interaction is to bend under the weight of the glory of God and repent. The weight of God’s glory is so heavy, there is no other choice.

 

This is why, scripturally, every time God’s glory falls, everything around Him falls away. The earth quakes, the mountains tremble, and people fall to their knees. And the physical is just a small part of it; spiritually God’s glory causes all things to fall away. Pride is destroyed at the sound of His voice, fears are stilled, sickness is wiped away and the schemes of the enemy are annihilated.

 

You cannot come to God outside of relationship. He’s simply not that kind of God. And you cannot come into a relationship with Him without experiencing His glory. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – everything is solved by the presence of God. Whatever it is that you need, don’t seek the need, seek God’s presence. He will provide the need in His presence or will make you realize that it wasn’t really a need in the first place.

 

Job goes on to receive a double portion of everything that he has lost, but make no mistake, this is not the moral of the story. How small our God would be if that was the takeaway from the book of Job; that if we make it through our suffering, God will double our blessings. The moral of the story is found right here, before Job has a single possession restored. Job suffers well so that God is glorified, and as a reward he receives God’s presence.

 

HE is our reward. His presence. Nothing more and nothing less. His presence is all that we need.

June 12, 2017

June 12, 2017

JOB 38-39

Focus Verse: Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
Job 38:1

 

God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. He spoke to Elijah from a still, small voice after an earthquake, wind and fire storm. And now He speaks to Job and his friends in the middle of a storm (the NIV translates ‘whirlwind’ as storm). The picture we get is unshakable here in Job, and it’s probably the way we expect God to speak most often; that booming voice from the heavens, thundering down, making all cower who would ‘darken counsel with words without knowledge’.

 

Here’s the point: we can’t put God in a box on how He will speak, but we can expect Him to speak. It’s not always going to be when we want. I can tell you that I, personally, have gone through seasons in which I have desperately cried out to hear God’s voice in the middle of a storm and He has been silent. But He has always spoken eventually, and when my pride steps aside I can honestly say that His timing has always been right, and the timing that I desired would have shorted me of a valuable experience.

 

Never miss this though – GOD SPEAKS. He still speaks. And I love how He speaks here in Job. He’s downright snarky. He gets sarcastic with Job and his friends (something that I particularly relate to…I love me some sarcasm). I think sometimes we are waiting for God to speak in Ye Old King James English and we miss His personality. God has emotions! Jesus Christ has emotions! The Holy Spirit has emotions! And they speak with those!

 

Don’t miss God speaking to you. I can’t tell you when He will speak; for Moses it was before the biggest trial of his life, for Elijah it was immediately after his most crushing defeat, for Job it was in the middle of his suffering, right before the winds were about to change. So I can’t give you a formula for when God will speak, but I can tell you that He will speak exactly what you need to hear, exactly when you need to hear it.

June 11, 2017

June 11, 2017

JOB 35-37

Focus Verse: For truly my words are not false;
One who is perfect in knowledge is with you.
Job 36:4

At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.
Job 37:1-2

 

I want to reiterate something from yesterday: there are no good guys and bad guys in the Kingdom of God. There is one enemy, and that is the devil, but while we are here on earth, he is our only enemy, never people. We have to see people in this light or it will give us reason to keep the gospel from them, and that goes against God’s desire that NONE should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

 

My tendency in the book of Job is to tear down every statement of Job’s friends, to find fault in everything they say. But this little cross section of two verses will show you something that is so true of the human condition: we can be so screwed up, but still right on certain points with God. You could also say that we can be right on certain points with God, yet still so screwed up on other points. If this is true in all of us, then we need to be forgiving and gracious when we find faults in someone else’s views, correcting them IN LOVE, and at the same time we need to be constantly on our toes, even when we’re listening to someone whose counsel we trust deeply.

 

Here, Job’s friend Elihu starts his daily ‘why Job stinks at life’ rant with the statement, “One who is perfect in knowledge is with you” referring to himself. First of all…never trust anyone who refers to him or herself in the third person. Second of all…just no! The Bible teaches again and again what happens to those who suffer from pride…so we all know where Elihu is heading – for a fall!

 

But then look at the second part of the focus verse. Elihu talks about how his heart trembles and leaps with joy at the sound of God’s voice. I thinks it’s easy for those of us who have read the book of Job before to chalk everything that Job’s friends say up as heresy. We know that, in the end, God punishes Job’s friends for speaking falsely into Job’s life, so we just write them off into the ‘bad guys’ category.

 

That’s not the case though! Clearly from this passage in 37:1-2, not to mention many other verses from all of Job’s friends, these are individuals with pretty solid relationships with God. They know Him, they have experienced aspects of God, they clearly have walked with God during their lives. These aren’t ‘bad guys’ offering bad advice; they are flawed humans doing their best to help a friend.

 

Unfortunately, our best, most often, can get us no higher than sin in God’s book. This is why our relationship with the Holy Spirit is so absolutely vital. The right word in the wrong situation is a sin…that’s what we see from Job’s friends all throughout this book. They offer solid theological truth, but it’s in the wrong situation. The only way for us to know the right word for the right situation is to listen to the Holy Spirit and to follow His lead.

 

Job’s friends dropped the ball in the book of Job – there’s no question about that. Honestly speaking though, who among us can say that we haven’t? That we haven’t been in this exact same position where we have offered solid, biblical advice to someone only to have it blow up. But you know what, it’s ok. Spoiler alert, God forgives Job’s friends for speaking the right truth at the wrong time. And I have to believe, since I can clearly see that Job’s friends had a relationship with God, that they received God’s correction and became better friends, better counselors, better followers of God, because of their mistakes.

 

If we are open to correction, God will always redeem our mistakes. That’s just how amazing He is.

June 10, 2017

June 10, 2017

JOB 32-34

Focus Verse: I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
Job 32:12

 

Why are you arguing?

 

Are you arguing to win or are you arguing to be right? Because I would argue that as long as you are arguing to prove the other person wrong, you’re losing the argument.

 

We love to throw Ephesians 4:15 around and speak the truth to people, but I’m afraid it is very rarely done in love. I absolutely do not believe in lying to people to make them feel good. I will never tell someone an untruth or a half truth just to make them feel good. But my goal when talking to people about issues involving my walk with Jesus is to win them to Jesus, not to prove myself right.

 

I think this can stem from what I wrote about yesterday. We don’t see everyone as equals. We see the world in good guys vs. bad guys. We who have Christ are the good guys and those who don’t are the bad guys. And that simply is not true. I love the story of Joshua in Joshua 5, when he meets the Captain of the Lord’s armies and asks him, “Are you for us or against us? Are you a good guy or a bad guy?” And the angel answers: “NO!”

 

God’s not here to win arguments for you. He’s not here to win anything for you. So you go ahead and pray those imprecatory psalms against your enemy, but I’m warning you, as long as your victory over your enemy is more important than winning your enemy to Christ, your priorities are off.

 

Our goal is never to prove someone wrong. Our goal is to prove to them how much God loves them. Let’s strive for that with everything we have.

June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017

JOB 29-31

Focus Verse: Did not He who made me in the womb make him,
And the same one fashion us in the womb?
Job 31:15

 

This is the truth that smashes every cultural barrier. This is the truth that makes serving the poor, fighting injustice, feeding the hungry and every other act of service toward mankind mandatory. It’s not optional. God made all of us and loves all of us; therefore we do not get to choose whom we love and whom we will serve.

 

And it goes even deeper than that. It means that we are no better than anyone else. Many times, we do a good job serving those less fortunate than us, but if we take an honest inventory of ourselves, our attitude for serving stinks. We don’t serve others out of love, we serve them out of pity. We think that we’re better than them, and serving them makes us feel good about ourselves. Service toward others can be one of the most dangerous forms of pride because it gets masked so well as something that has the look of service to God.

 

But it goes even deeper than that! It also means that we are no less than anyone else. I can stand in the presence of kings and queens with confidence because I am made by the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no one that I can’t be confident in front of, because the God of the universe gave His life for me so that I could share His love with EVERYONE I come in contact with.

 

One of my favorites, Tim Keller, perfectly summarizes our position in Christ like this: “The fact that Jesus had to die for me humbled me out of my pride. The fact that Jesus was glad to die for me assured me out of my fear.” The gospel of Jesus Christ demolishes any form of bigotry or self-loathing that we can have. The same God who made you, made me. He made everyone, and one day we will all stand on the same playing field, measured by one thing: IN Christ or IN yourself. Which camp will you be in and who will you be bringing with you?

June 8, 2017

June 8, 2017

JOB 24-28

Focus Verse: For as long as life is in me,
And the breath of God is in my nostrils
Job 27:3

 

There it is right there. This is the pride killer. This is the answer to all of your problems. “You don’t know me.” you might say, and that is true, but I do know the Gospel and what it tells me of the human condition. I do know myself and all of the junk that I wish I didn’t struggle with, and I’m willing to wager, if you look deep enough, you’ll see some of the same traces in you that I see in me.

 

We need this attitude toward life or we will be consumed. I wrote about my favorite Bible verse a few days ago, Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. This verse is the prequel to that verse.

 

You cannot suffer well so that Christ is glorified unless you realize the truth of this verse. Job is recognizing that his very life is borrowed. His breath is not his own. If you approach it any other way, you will never make it in front of the throne of God. Why can I be so sure of that? Because there is nowhere in the Bible that teaches that the proud will inherit the Kingdom of God, quite the contrary actually. The only thing promised to the proud is that they will be humbled…one way or another.

 

Ok! Deal. Then we all just need to strap up our boots, realize it’s God’s breath in our nostrils and that’ll take care of it. WRONG! I’ve heard a lot of people say that worship is the path to destroying pride. I don’t even think that’s the case. I understand it, and I’m splitting hairs a little bit on this, but I think it’s a hair that needs to be split or else we could come away with a faulty conclusion.

 

Praising God is absolutely a great way to keep our pride in check. Giving Him our thankfulness, our worship, our praise – recognizing all that He has done for us – that absolutely is a great thing.

 

But if we claim that as the way to destroy pride, then the power to destroy pride still lies within us and our actions…and that’s the problem with pride: as long as you have ownership, as long as it’s yours, pride will always accompany it one way or another.

 

Jesus Christ is the only one who can destroy our pride. I said earlier that pride will never let you approach the throne of God, but once you’re ready to get rid of that pride, the throne of God is the only place where you can get rid of it. God has to take it. The most beautiful illustration of this comes from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Voyage of the Dawntreader from the Narnia series. Just reading through it makes me tear up every time when I think of what God has done for me.

 

The passage is about a young boy named Eustace, who, because of his greed, tries to take a dragon’s treasure and finds that he himself has turned into the dragon. He tries to peel off the dragon scales on his own, and succeeds in pulling them off, but no matter how many times he tries, he continues to find that underneath there are more scales, more layers of dragon skin that he cannot be rid of. Then the lion, Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, intercedes:

 

“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

 

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was jut the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

 

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

 

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

 

Do you need to turn into a boy (or girl) again? Jesus Christ will take your pride, your greed…any sin that is standing in between Him and you. It will hurt, realizing what you’ve become, but the freedom on the other side is unlike anything you have ever felt before.

 

It’s all His to begin with. Your very breath belongs to Him. When you give it back and become that boy (or girl) that He initially created you to be, you will experience freedom like never before. Following Christ will become a joy! Even in the midst of suffering! You will finally be who He created you to be…there is nothing more glorious than that!

June 7, 2017

June 7, 2017

JOB 21-23

Focus Verse: “But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
“My foot has held fast to His path;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
“I have not departed from the command of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
Job 23:10-12

 

When trials come, this is all we can hold on to. As I said a few days ago (June 2), any pain or suffering we go through, as believers in Christ, we can be assured is a trial or test to make us more like Jesus. Because Jesus took the entire wrath of God at Calvary, we can trust that we are not being punished. But knowing that it is a test and not punishment doesn’t make it hurt any less.

 

But it does offer more hope. There is no hope in punishment. With trials though, there is nothing but hope! I have run two marathons and am looking to run another one in October. With all of these races comes a heavy dose of training. The training isn’t fun, the training is painful, the training flat out sucks. It takes a whole lot of time, effort and energy and there is absolutely no reward in the training itself. But there is hope in it. There is hope that this training will help me reach my goal time in my next marathon. There is hope that, even though it’s no fun now, if I make it through the hardest days of training, the actual race will be a whole lot more fun.

 

The same can be said when we run this race with Jesus Christ. If we are running it without Him, then all of the pain and suffering you go through has no purpose. You are going through all of the training without the hope of it pushing you toward something bigger and better. But if you’re running with Jesus, all of that pain is for something. It has a purpose.

 

And when you have come out on the other end of the trial, you will come forth as gold. Jesus has promised us that!