Friday, February 27, 2009

The Best of Friends...

Job 2:11-13 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

After the loss of our first child, there was this one single act of compassion that will always stand out in my mind. One of my closest friends had chosen to come and spend the day with me while my husband had gone back to work. It was to have been my first day by myself since my miscarriage, and this dear friend drove over to my house with her arms stocked full of packets of hot cocoa mix and "chick-flicks"...you know, those movies that only women can understand and you couldn't get a guy to sit through and watch it with you for anything.

It was those few mugs of soothing hot cocoa, watching Sense and Sensibility, and the numerous times during the day when she was there with a hug while I would spontaneously break down into tears that got me through the day. There were no words that could have been spoken to me that day to comfort me, and my friend didn't try to speak any. Her friendship and presence were more of a consolation than anything that anyone could have said to me at that time.

Going back to my friend, Job - Upon learning of what Job is going through, three of his friends came to sympathize and comfort him. Unfortunately, when they came, they did a poor job of comforting Job because they were proud of their own advice and insensitive to Job's needs. As it turns out, their words weren't all that helpful - but at least they came. Later, God rebukes them for what they said (42:7), but He does not rebuke them for what they did - making the effort to come to someone who was in need.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blessed Be Your Name...

Everytime I've been pregnant, it has always amazed me at how different my outlook on life is once I realize that I'm expecting a new baby. I go from daydreaming about actually being pregnant to daydreaming about the life that was now growing inside of me. My obsession would continue to grow each day, making sure that what I ate and what I did, above all, benefited my baby's health. I have even found myself holding a one-sided conversation with the baby (who often would kick back a reply or two if I was lucky!) The child that was forming inside of me consumed my every thought during the day and my dreams at night. The fact was, I always felt like I'm on top of the world, the luckiest woman in the world, and I felt as though I had it all!

And what does Job have to do with any of this?

Job was devout and when it came to his knowledge of who God was, he didn't compromise in his belief. * Job 1:3 reads that Job was the greatest of the Qedemites, his wealth was measure in livestock, and the numbers indicate the ideal. Similar property lists in Genesis 24:35 describes the wealth of the patriarchs, suggesting that Job's way of life was much like theirs. Indeed, with his children and his wealth, Job must have felt like he was on top of the world - that he had it all.

Job 1:7 - God singled out Satan and said, "What have you been up to?" Satan answered God, "Going here and there, checking things out on earth."

Don't be mistaken, God didn't ask the question because He didn't know, this was more like "State your business." We know from 1 Peter 5:8 that Satan "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Satan's only purpose is to seek to destroy those who love God. While we live on this earth, we are within his reach so we should constantly be on guard, especially during this time when we experience the loss of our dreams. We wanted children. We risked our heart by loving the new lives that grew within me. And it's when you risk that much - when you risk your own heart - that's when you are most vulnerable to pain, and the attack of the enemy.

Before long we read that Job loses pretty much everything, including his children. Suffice it to say, his whole world caved in overnight. I think it's safe to say that everyone at one time or another has had a bad day. We all have. But let's be honest. The verses that describe Job's loss continuously read, "While he was still speaking..." Yes indeed, this was a very bad day - the events that Job experienced in that one single day are something that maybe we've experienced in the course of at least a week if not a month or two.

Job had lost what was near and dear to him, but most of all, his children. To us as parents, the loss of our child is indeed equal to losing all that is important to us, and there is no greater loss. I think we'd all like to believe that we have a great faith in God. That no matter what comes our way, we can stand strong in our relationship with Christ and our God. But can we really? How do you respond when you get slammed in life? How did I respond with the loss of our children? How did Job respond?

Job 1:20-22 - Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped: Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I'll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed. Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.

He grieved. I grieved. As it turns out, 6 years later - I'm still grieving. It is okay to cry!! Showing our emotion is not a sign that we have lost our faith, but only that we are human as God created us to be. But there is more to Job's response than just mourning - he fell to the ground and worshiped! Could you just imagine the look on Satan's face as he watched Job fall to the ground before God. I can picture him sitting there with his mouth wide open in utter disbelief while Job was saying, "The one who gave me life and has put everything on loan to me during my lifetime has chosen (and has every right) to take everything away. I won't take anything with me anyway. Blessed be His name for loaning it to me while I had it. And blessed be His name for choosing to remove it."

Our children are a gift, and the appropriate response to a gift is gratitude. Job, even though he has just lost everything, thanks God for the gifts he had been given. I had to ask myself if I was willing to thank God for the gift He had given me and had now taken away. Could I loosen my grip on my children enough to feel the freedom of entrusting everything to His care, and welcome God to have his way with those I love?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

The same God who gave Job all his possessions also had taken them away. Just as the same God who gave me the gift of that life inside of me, had chosen for whatever reason to bring that life back to Himself. I couldn't let the knowledge of this pull me away from God, but instead draw nearer to Him. I love my God for who He is, not just for what He gives.

On this day, 6 years later, I thank God for that short time He blessed me with a beautiful gift.

*Charles Swindoll. Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance
Nancy Guthrie. Holding On To Hope

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Jesus I Love Thee?

My Jesus I love Thee, I know thou art mine;
for thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou -
if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now.

Being raised in the Church of Christ, I had probably sung that hymn hundreds of times, and yet , six years ago, I found myself on a February Sunday morning with those words that were so bitter in my mouth that I could barely utter them.

In 1998, after trying for nine months, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child. All of our excitement, hopes and dreams were quickly dashed to the ground when we lost that baby due to a miscarriage at ten weeks. My doctor had diagnosed it as a blighted ovum - our baby had simply stopped developing. But we were told that there was no reason for us to not try again. So we did!

It took a year, but eventually we were pregnant again! I had a normal pregnancy, a long and hard labor, and eventually delivered an 11-pound baby boy via c-section. We were in complete shock over his size but believed this was a blessing in abundance after our first loss

A year and a half later, we found out that once again we were pregnant. I was thrilled at the idea of a new member in our family, but completely frightened at the concept of caring for a newborn and an active two year old at the same time. Those fears and anxieties were short lived, however, when once again a miscarriage took our baby. This time the doctor could not give us a medical reason, only that it was a "fluke thing

It was after that loss in 2002 when I found myself sitting in the pew at church, with the words of that hymn just stuck in my throat. At the same time I was forcing back tears, just praying they wouldn't fall. You see, I wasn't just crying over yet another child we had lost, but I was crying over the fact that I couldn't bring myself to sing those few words:

"...if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus 'tis now."

Everything within me was screaming, "Praise through! You can do this. You know you are His child and He loves you. You know that you love Him, tell Him!" But at that very moment in time, I couldn't. I was tired and I was angry, and I really wanted that anger to be directed at God. He was the only one that it made sense to be angry at. And right then and right there in that church service, I did not want to tell Him that I loved Him. And that was what was breaking my heart.

In the weeks that followed, I became too cynical for my own good, and my anger slowly found it's voice. Being a stay at home mom to our young son found me many opportunities for my own one-on-one conversations with God. I decided that if He was going to get so personal and interfere with my life, He had better have a good reason why and He had better fill me in on it! It was during one of our many conversations, I found myself at the point where all I could do was to cry out to Him, "Why? I just want to know why?" I heard Him simply say to me, "Look to Job."

Please don't misunderstand. It's not like I heard an audible voice from the heavens, and this was the first time I can honestly say that I knew it was Him. But when this passing, fleeting thought came into my head, I knew it was God speaking to me. And how did I respond? I laughed. I mean, come on! This is Job, the man with the never ending whine!! What in the world would Job possibly have to say to me?

Romans 15:4 - Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next.

I remember the first time I had ever read the book of Job - boy, did it bug me! Don't get me wrong, I had sympathy for Job and the tragedies that he went through during the first two chapters of the book. But all I was getting out of the rest of it was that he had a few "friends" (I use that term loosely but it's God's word, not my own) who came to comfort him and help him through his trying times, and all I could see Job doing was continuously whining, "Woe is me, woe is me!" I was just not getting him at all. And for awhile, I would often think of the book of Job and just sigh heavily whever it was referred to in a sermon.

The thing is, the book of Job is probably one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. Until you've lived a little bit of it, it's virtually impossible to understand it properly...I would read commentaries on Job, look at their analysis, and say to myself, "This author has never lived this thing." It wasn't until I began to live through some hard things that the book of Job began to open to me.*


*Bob Sorge - Pain, Perplexity & Promotion

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I have a story to tell...

...and it scares me out of my mind to tell it. I'm not harboring some deep, dark secret. But it is such a personal journey I have taken, that for me to put it out there makes me feel like I'm standing here naked for the entire world to see, judge, criticize and sympathize.

For almost 3 years now, it's been sitting in a binder in my basement, and I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with it. So I offer to whomever is reading this, my story and testimony of healing. Of where I was, and where my ever faithful God has brought me to.

We may live a righteous life following God's commands, but we might still face overwhelming struggles. The book of Job reminds us that our suffering is not necessarily evidence of sin in our lives. Rather, it is evidence that, even in our suffering, God is in control and has a purpose. We can trust God to bring good out of our suffering both for ourselves and for those we love.*

Can we trust Him enough to claim the words of Psalm 119:65 (NASB) - "You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word. " instead of echoing the accusation of the Israelites in Malachi 3:14 - "It doesn't pay to serve God. What did we ever get out of it? When we did what He said...what difference did it make?"

Yes, I have a story to tell, and it is going to unfold here on this crazy mom's blog. If it ministers to you then I give my Savior all of the glory for that, for it is only because of Him that I am able to even tell this story at all.

(To be continued...)

* - The Mom's Devotional Bible: Introduction to the Book of Job. NIV. Zondervan 1996

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Know Who I Am...

A few years ago, I took a class on the books of Acts & the Apostle Paul's Letters. The entire class was great, but there was one section in particular that always stood out to me as that one defining moment in the class, My "AH-HA" moment, or rather that moment in time when the light bulb finally went on in my head!

Ephesians 1:3-12
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

All spiritual blessings and privileges are given to each believer as we enter into our position as a child of God in Christ. The Body of Christ has a difficult time recognizing that ALL these blessings are already there for us in heaven. It's been deposited in our heavenly bank account. All we have to do is draw on what is already been provided for each one of us.

According to the above scripture, these are our privileges "In Christ". This is our inheritance now! -
  1. All spiritual blessings, not some...ALL
  2. We are chosen individuals - He picked us!
  3. We are accepted in the presence of God. This word accepted means "give grace to, make acceptable, endue with special honor."
  4. In Christ is our redemption
  5. We have all wisdom
  6. We have all knowledge (according to His will)
  7. We are holy, blameless, loved, and known!
  8. We are seated on the throne of God in Christ (2:6)
  9. We are joint heirs - we don't have to obtain it, we already have it! This was nothing that we did, it was all Him (His grace & His will)

It doesn't end there - verses 15-19:

That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Paul prays for the people of God that they would see with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation how powerful Jesus is. The Lord needs to open our eyes so that we might see whom we have believed.

HOW BIG IS YOUR VISION OF GOD?

When we begin to get a picture of how big our God is, then we will begin to see all he can do in us and through us. This is why Paul prayed what he did in the above verses.

If we really know who we are in Christ and our full inheritance, nothing will hold us back.