Monday, April 27, 2009

How Great Is Our God!

Job 42:2 - I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

There is NOTHING God cannot do, and it is impossible to frustrate God's purposes. God's purpose can't be blocked, restrained, or stopped. God's intentions can neither be altered nor disrupted. What He purposes will transpire without delay, without hindrance, and without fail.

This is where my journey with Job comes to an end. Oh, I think God is still teaching me and will continue to do so, but after 4 years, I finally felt "released" from my time spent with Job.

There is no explanation for what we went through during that time. For 9 months, we tried to get pregnant only to have it end in a took us another whole year to get pregnant after that...18 months later, we were pregnant again - and had another miscarriage, and six months down the road, it happened once again. Month after month of fertillity testing resulted in no apparent reason for my body to miscarry and reject these pregnancies. But when given the go ahead to try and get pregnant, it took us yet another 12 not only was I losing babies, but these children - my son and my daughter - were not easily conceived!

So, imagine my surprise when our daughter was just 9 months old, and I discovered I was pregnant...AGAIN!

"Wait a minute God! This has always been a struggle for us...and now You're just going to throw this one in our laps without any effort whatsoever?"

Make no mistake about it, I was done having children - done with the breastfeeding, and the baby food! I was happy with the idea of raising our perfect little family in our perfect little house. But now I had to figure out where in the world I was going to put another baby in our perfect little house! Oh. And God? I really, REALLY don't want to go through the experience and recovery of a 3rd C-Section!!

It took some time, but eventually I realized that God's message to me was the same that it had always been... "I needed you to trust Me to bring Derek and Jordan into this world in My perfect time. Why won't you trust me now and know that this new little one is also in My perfect will for your life?"

So once again I have been brought to a place where I can say, "I trust You God. I don't understand it, I can't explain it, and I don't know why. But if there's something I can learn, wonderful. If there's something someone else can learn, great. Just get me through it. Hold me close, deepen me, change me."

Isaiah 25:1 - "O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."

Friday, April 24, 2009

The End of Job's Story...

The story of Job ends with his wealth and posterity restored. So then, what is the point of the story? Are the rewards of Job's faithfulness and integrity to be understood in terms of the restoration of his fortunes? Are all things as they were? Not all!

The Job of the first chapter was perfect, blessed, and without adversity. But he had never seen the splendor and glory of God. The Job of the last chapter has been sorely afflicted, and those times cannot be forgotten. Job has been deeply wounded. But he has survivied warfare with God; he has seen God.

The Spirit of God moves in the lives of believers in a variety of ways. He draws us into God's presence so we may receive the blessings of salvation. He continues to move in our lives, sometimes in a gentle and restful breeze, and at other times like the winds of a great storm that disrupts our lives. The Spirit's work in our lives is to draw us into God's holiness so we may experience his glory. We prefer to experience His glory rather than His holiness. But as Job testifies, we can experience His glory ONLY after we have been confronted by His holiness.

As Spirit-filled believers, we must make room in our theology for a God who is utterly free from our sentimental caricatures. We must make room in our spirituality for profound lament. We should recognize that true victory does not come without intense struggle. We must give room for the Spirit of God to blow mightily through our lives and through our churches. In doing so, we may find ourselves wounded, but whole, and prayerfully, holy.

"How could God give up the most loved of His saints for the diversion of the devil, take from him h is children, smite him with sore boils so that he cleansed the corruption from his sores with potsherd -- and for no object except to boast to the devil 'See what My saint can suffer for My sake.' But the greatness of it lies just in the fact that it is a mystery -- that the passing earthly show and the eternal verity are brought together in it. In the face of the earthly truth, the eternal truth is accomplished. The Creator, just as on the first days of creation He ended each day with praise: "That is good that I have created,' looks upon Job and again praises His creation. And Job, praising the Lord, serves not only Him but all His creation for generations and generations, and for ever and ever, since for that he was ordained. Good heavens, what a book it is, and what lessons there are in it! What a book the Bible is, what a miracle, what strength is given with it to man! It is like a mould cast of the world and man and human nature, everything is there, and a law for everything for all the ages. And what mysteries are solved and revealed! God raises Job again, gives him wealth again. Many years pass by, and he has other children and loves them. But how could he love those new ones when those first children are no more, when he has lost them? Remembering them, how could he be fully happy with those new ones, however dear the new ones might be? But he could, he could. It's the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet, tender joy." (Father Zossima - from The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sound Theology...

We never know ahead of time the plans God has for us. It may be a treasured blessing, it could be a test that drops us to our knees.

Job 42:3
"You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me."

God's plans are beyond our understanding and too deep to explain. Perhaps God doesn't explain Himself because knowing and understanding His ways may not help us all that much. Does knowing why really help? Is the pain removed by knowing the cause? When things turn from bad to worse, sound theology helps us to remain strong and stable.

Jeremiah 10:23 - "I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course."

Jeremiah 29:11-14 - "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

Proverbs 16:9 - "We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it."

Proverbs 20:24 - "The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we're going?"

Isaiah 55:8-9 - "I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work. For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think."

Philippians 4:6-7 - "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

James 1:2-4 - "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."

1 Peter 5:6-7 - "So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Your Latter Will Be Greater...

Job 42:7-8
"It came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and got to my servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.'"

A quick note - You'll see that God gives Job the same title four times: "My servant". What an honorable title! He had it before the suffering began (Job 1:8 - "Have you considered my servant Job?"), and he has it still.

Job 42:10
"After Job had interceded for his friends, God restored his fortune - and then doubled it!"

AFTER Job prayed for his friends, he prospered. Why? He knows part of our healing is praying for those who hurt us. Forgiveness doesn't make "it" alright, it makes YOU alright.

Isaiah 61:7 - "Because you got a double does of trouble and more than your share of contempt, your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever."
Zechariah 9:11-12 - "And you, because of my blood covenant with you, I'll release your prisoners from their hopeless cells. Come home, hope-filled prisoners! This very day I'm declaring a double bonus - everything you lost returned twice over!"

When we were finally blessed to bring a child into this world, somehow that beautiful little baby was born weighing in at a whopping 11 pounds! We were given no clue or hint that this was going to happen! In the hospital nursery, "little" Derek's bassinet was next to twins that had also been born that day, each weighing between 5 and 6 pounds. Our ONE baby weighed as much as the TWO of them put together!

You know what else is wonderful? Satan's silence. This is all very much, "In your face, Satan". With Job, as well as with us, the Adversary could only stand silent in defeat.

Job 42:11
All his brothers and sisters and friends came to his house and celebrated. They told him how sorry they were, and consoled him for all the trouble God had brought him. Each of them brought generous housewarming gifts.

Job's restoration took time, and it happened not in solitude but in the context of community. In Job's home there was something going on that nobody wanted to miss. People were ministering to each other. Job was praying for his friends and relatives, and they in turn were comforting him.

"Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" Let your heartfelt answer echo back to God, "Lord, I believe that nothing...absolutely too difficult for You!" Speak your belief in the power of God in the face of disappointment, of challenge, and of incredulity! Look your circumstances straight in the eye, and remind them of your theology that cause you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that "Nothing is too difficult for God!"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's not about me!

Job 42:1-6 - Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.' I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Do you know what Job (and myself) finally realized? It is all about God, not me.
  1. God's purpose is unfolding and I cannot hinder it.
  2. God's plan is incredible and I will not comprehend it.
  3. God's reproof is reliable and I dare not ignore it.
  4. God's way is best and I must not resist it.

Job finally got it. He finally realized that God's plan is profound, that His reasoning is right, and that His ways are higher than he could ever understand.

A basic starting point in worshiping God is acknowledging, "There is a God, and I am not Him." God is the one Who rules ultimately, Who governs sovereignly, and Who answers to no one. As Paul writes in Romans 11:34-36 (NIV) "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." In other words, God is in control. And it's when we refuse to acknowledge His control over our lives, our worship of God is directly hindered.

Perhaps it's an illness for which doctors can find no cure. Maybe you're attempting to make sense of an unexpected death. Someone desiring control might withdraw in discouragement, or internally shake a fist at God in anger, insisting that He explain what's going on. Control freaks find it difficult to submit to God's always wise, loving, and all-knowing plans.

I know I did.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Be Still and Know...

Job 40:3-5 Job answered: "I'm speechless, in awe--words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I've talked too much, way too much. I'm ready to shut up and listen."

This is an act of total submission on Job's part, for to yield the tongue is to yield everything. "Be still and know that I am God"(Ps 46:10). When we are broken and brought to the end of ourselves, it is not for the purpose of gaining more answers to spout off to others. It's to help us acknowledge that the Lord is God, and His plans and reasons are deeper and higher and broader than we can comprehend, and we are relieved from having to give answers or defend them.
  1. If God's ways are higher than mine, then whatever He allows I bow before Him in submission - True Humility.

  2. If God is in full control, then however He directs my steps, I follow in obedience. What relief that brings! Finally - I can relax, since I'm not in charge!

  3. If God has answers I lack, then whenever He speaks, I listen in silence. In the process of listening, I learn. Learning requires our slowing down, patiently waiting for God to work, staying ready to listen as He instructs us in His ways.
Job 40:7-14 "I have some more questions for you, and I want straight answers. Do you presume to tell me what I'm doing wrong? Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint?Do you have an arm like my arm? Can you shout in thunder the way I can? Go ahead, show your stuff. Let's see what you're made of, what you can do. Unleash your outrage. Target the arrogant and lay them flat. Target the arrogant and bring them to their knees. Stop the wicked in their tracks—make mincemeat of them! Dig a mass grave and dump them in it—faceless corpses in an unmarked grave. I'll gladly step aside and hand things over to you—you can surely save yourself with no help from me!"

There are times that nothing works better with small children than placing both of our hands on their shoulders and speaking firmly as we look them in the eye. In a similar way, I'm suggesting here that the Lord takes Job by the shoulders and gives him a firm talking to. It's as if God says, "Let me make something real clear to you, son. As the father, I'm the one who earns the living in this home. If you're going to be in charge and you earn the living, then you need to go where I go and do the work that I do. You need to face the pressures I face, then make the decisions that I make. You take care of the mortgage. You handle the leadership. You make the plans. You make certain they are carried out correctly. I ask you - are you able to do that? ... Now let me assure you I will love you forever, but you will not rule this home. That's my role."

Just to re-enforce his point, the Lord chose a couple of animals. First, the Behemoth, next, Leviathan. These two animals are at the top of the food chain. Neither is intimidated. They can take care of themselves in the wild. Most every other animal bows to them, and if they don't they pay a terrible price, usually with their life.

The Behemoth represents the hippopotamus, and the Leviathan is an ancient word for the crocodile. Understand - although they are large and intimidating to us, they were still made by God, and they are still subservient to their Creator. They have the natures and instincts HE gave them. They do the things HE created them to do. The message to Job? - "If you're unable to handle these creatures, obviously you're not on MY level. And if you, in fact, are fearful of them, then you would certainly not qualify as their Maker."

Let me share something with you, a few years ago, my mom decided she was ready to pick up and start over by moving to Florida. She found this "55 & over" community that within it had 6 or 7 small lakes that at any given moment were surrounded by turtles, herons, and alligators. You could walk through this community and see these creatures sun-bathing on the shores of these lakes, swimming in the water...and occasionally they actually do wander up closer to the homes.
So when God tells Job in 41:2-3 regarding Leviathan: "Can you lasso him with a rope, or snag him with an anchor? Will he beg you over and over for mercy, or flatter you with flowery speech?" Just imagine my little friend here -

...Do you really think he was looking at me ready to whisper soft little words and loving comments into my ear? "Welcome to Florida, Candy - lovely to have you here!" I don't think so!

The argument runs like this. If even the most courageious man would not be so insane as to stir up Leviathan, how could anyone be so foolish as to stand up against God, as Job had done? We can feel the force of this as a warning against irreverence. But in the dialogue it was always the friends who tried to warn Job off his enterprise with reminders about how much stronger God is than he. Job has never challenged God to a trial of sheer strength, as a man who hunted a crocodile. The argument ot the superior strength of God is made, not to discourage us from trying to have to deal with God, but to enhance God's capability of managing the affairs of the universe so that we will trust Him.

"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." (Proverbs 16:9) When we make a decision to submit our life's plans to the Lord we need to pray, "Lord, you are perfect LOVE, and you only want the best for me. You are perfect WISDOM, and you know what is best for me. And you are perfect POWER, and you are able to make it happen." He concluded that there is no substitue for submitting one's plans to our all-loving, all-wise and all-powerful God.

Mike Mason, The Gospel According To Job
Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance
Francis Andersen, Job: An Introduction and Commentary

Monday, April 6, 2009

Finally...God Speaks.

Job 38:1 - "And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm."

All this time, God has been patient with all of these "characters", and then it's almost like He's saying, "Are you finished?" Job has spoken, spoken, and spoken his mind some more. Now it's God's turn to speak His mind.

In the midst of Job's lament, the winds began to blow again. It seems that another storm is brewing. The dark thunderheads are low on the horizon, and they are blown quickly across the heavens. In their midst are loud claps of thunder and bright lightening. Then suddenly, "the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind." A great wind that was first the source of Job's afflictions is now the place from which God speaks.

Let Me amaze you, says God, by the complexity and intricacy of it all! From the foundation of the earth (38:4) when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God in the heavenly court shouted for joy (38:7), that joyous celebration of the Creator has been sung ever since. Consider the sea, held back from its chaotic power (38:8-11), the skies, the deep, the light, and the darkness (38:12-21)...Think of the animals too! Can you hunt prey for the lioness (38:39)? Who provides for the ravens (38:41)? What about the life-giving power of birth - for the mountain goats (39:1); the wild asses (39:5); the wild oxen (39:9)? Come round with me Job: See these things; wonder at them; enjoy them. You cannot control them, but they are under my control says God...

Sometimes we will most help distressed people - help them draw nearer to God, from the depths of depression - not by teaching them doctrine, or by preaching our best sermon, or by showing them the error of their ways, but by walking with them round the garden, by taking them to see a waterfall or a sunset, by helping them recover an enjoyment in the world.

Job 39:13 - "The ostrich flaps her wings futilely - all those beautiful feathers, but useless!"

Leave it to God to pull a stunt like this...maybe Job even laughed out loud at this picture of the dumb, clumsy ostrich, without a grain of sense in her tiny head. Who can consider the duck-billed platypus or the blue-footed booby without thinking, "What a joker God is!"

The Lord's quirky sense of humor, however, is more than just a laughing matter. It also poses some rather profound questions. In the world of animals it is fine to give a creature feathers and wings and two legs like a bird, and yet withhold from it the power of flight. But what about when the Lord allows this sort of thing in a humban being? What about the diabled child who will never learn to walk, or perhaps never grow up at all? Do we laught about this too? Or do we conclude that God is cruel?

Life's underlying order may not always be humanly comprehensible. But we must believe and trust that Divine Order is always there.

In His response to Job the Lord does not supply any of the missing cards. All He does is to say, in effect, "Here is the deck, learn to play with it. Learn to live without knowing everything. What does it matter whether I give you great wisdom or only a little? Compared to all there is to know, it is still only a pittance, and therefore many things are going to strike you as preposterous or even insane. So get used to it. Get used to my absurdity, and live by faith rather than by sight. Be like the ostrich: though you cannot fly, you can still flap your wings joyfully!"

Beth Moore -...Yet Will I Trust Him: A Study of Job
Daniel Tomberlin - Wind of Terror, Wind of Glory
Mike Mason - The Gospel According To Job

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Last Bit of "Friendly" Advice

Along comes a new friend to our setting with Job. Elihu is "full of words", evident by the length of his speech which goes on for SIX CHAPTERS!! Very briefly...

He starts in chapter 32 by saying, "I've waited my turn out of respect for you older three. Supposedly older = wiser, right? But now that you're done, I see that's not necessarily the case. But now it's my turn and I've got something to say, and I'm laying it all out on the table for you..."

Elihu gets on Job's case about his attitude that's he's been sporting around towards God...

Job 33:13 - "So how dare you haul Him into court, and then complain that He won't answer your charges?"

Being informed brings a sense of security. It's natural to want to know what's happening in our lives. Job wanted to know what was going on, and why he was suffering. In previous chapters, we sense his frustration, and Elihu claimed to have the answer for Job's biggest question, "Why doesn't God tell me what is happening?" Elihu told Job that God was trying to answer him, but he was not listening. That's where Elihu misjudged God on this point.

If God were to answer all our questions, we would not be adequately tested. What if God had said, "Job, Satan's going to test you and afflict you, but in the end you'll be healed and get everything back"? Job's greatest test was not the pain, but that he did not know why he was suffering. Our greatest test may be that we must trust God's goodness even though we don't understand why our lives are going a certain way. We must learn to trust in God who is good and not in the goodness of life.

Elihu was one who meant well (above the others - or was he the worst one of all of them?) Shortly after our 1st miscarriage, it was one of my closest friends who called to offer sympathy, support, and "advice", and it was this same friend whose words probably should've meant the most to me at such a time. But they missed the mark by saying, "you know, we've been told that the heart really doesn't start beaing until 12 or 13 weeks." Okay, not only was this completely wrong...but completely insensitive!

But that's what happens when advice comes in from all areas...advice that comes from those who have never experienced the loss and pain such as what we had felt and were going through. They couldn't possibly know, and instead perhaps they should've just sat in silence with us, as Job's three friends did when they first arrived on the scene.