Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Galatians 2:11-14

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Paul was definitely his own person, or God's person, depending on how you look at it. Jesus had spent years with Peter, and it sure seemed to be a long, slow process of growth. And here is Peter again, letting his reactions get the better of him.

I think back to the day of Pentecost, and the boldness of Peter. It kinda puts Peter in a place where I just picture that he is on track now, and not gonna ever blow it again. I guess I can see where the Catholics get it. But Peter was still human. Why should he be any different than anyone else? than me?

I guess Peter was not perfect after all. And Paul called him on it. Not that Paul was perfect, but he had an understanding of truth that went beyond what might be considered normal, and he was not afraid to address what must have been an awkward situation in a righteous manner.

The Bible does not say, but I like to think that Peter handled it in an appropriate manner. I like to think that he recognized his error and took Paul's criticism in stride. But then again, he was Peter...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Music

There is just something bizarre about posting a Michael Jackson cover that strikes me as I do this, but then I tend to like bizarre here goes...

I enjoy the music of Sidewalk Prophets. And I understand their covering this song. Change does start with me, but my change starts at the cross. Somehow, I think Michael missed that part.

Christmas is about a baby born in a manger, and how one wrought a change that is still felt 2,000 years later. But I believe that is true because of the supernatural nature of that change. If my change is to be real, it is not about what people will say of me when my life is but a whisper, but it is who I am with that matters. about a cover for Thriller, video and dance steps included?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Lapping Up God's Word - Yum!

Galatians 2:6-10

And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

A lot of people make the Bible into a gushy book full of love and nothing else. But that is not the truth. Jesus often confronted people, he turned over tables, he turned people off with his words. Paul was also a no-nonsense kind of guy. Even though at one time he was one of the influential people, or at least on the fast track to being one, he now thought nothing of earthly influence, not even when it came to the apostles. I don't think he disrespected them, but he did not let their position cause him to place them on a pedestal. They were both charged with sharing the same gospel. Apparently, the apostles felt the same about Paul. They were not in awe of him, but were encouraged when they saw what God was doing through him.

How far we have gotten from this, when preachers are placed on stages and television, and we lap up every word as if it were God himself who were speaking. Yum! Not a hint of bitterness here! I am not saying that God does not speak through preachers who speak the truth, but we have a responsibility in this too. I love that the apostles remind Paul not to forget the poor. Looking at the lifestyles of our current "evangelists," can we say that they have done the same?

I guess I just look for a balance. Preaching truth where my responsibility is to be discerning and be responsible for living truth out for myself. Jesus turned tables because those who had been entrusted with truth abused it. And everyone there just saw it as normal. Perhaps because they had lost tune with the God whom they were worshiping. I don't want to lose that vision.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Galatians 2:3-5

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul seemed to be questioning if he were doing the right thing, preaching the right gospel. I understand this, because the gospel that Paul was preaching was counter-intuitive. It just makes sense that we owe God, and that we should have to do something to pay that debt. We should desire to earn God's favor, because we are not perfect. There must be some element of the law that we can still cling to.

But not even Titus was compelled to be circumcised. If the Jews were going to keep any element of the law in place, it would seem circumcision would be a logical choice. It was instituted by God and labeled them, set them apart. Titus was a Greek, not a Jew. One would think that he would want ot make sure that he was safe, that he was a part of the "in" group. Why not be circumcised, if for no other reason than to play it safe? But Titus was confident that not only was no such action needed, it would be a hindrance to his faith. This was a part of hte freedom that Titus had found in Christ. Not a freedom to do anything that he wanted, but a freedom that meant he was not bound to the fruitless requirements of a legalistic system that couldn't fix the problem of sin.

Others observed this, and couldn't comprehend it. Or they simply did not want to give up the control that it gave to them. Sure, Christ saves, but they wanted the debt and allegiance of others to continue. Remember the later church's idea of indulgences? Same principle. You can be free in Christ! Now follow us in obedience to these laws and freedom will be yours.


Our freedom in Christ does free us from the law, but it does so in order that our service to Christ will be a response of love that honors him. That is the truth that Paul wanted to preserve! No one suffered more for the cross than Paul, but he did it not out of obligation to a set of rules. He did it as a response to what Christ had done for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I find this insane!

Galatians 2:1,2

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

So Paul has been at work for 14 years! Think about all the highs and lows, the victories for the cause of Christ, the personal suffering he had to endure. So then he goes to Jerusalem to meet with those who were the leaders. And Paul presented what he believed the gospel to be. 14 years into it, and he wants to make sure that he has not been doing all of this in error?

First, let's stop and look why he went. He went in response to a revelation. The Holy Spirit was guiding him to go to Jerusalem. He knew he was going to talk to the leaders of the church. Was this because he had been doing something wrong? We all know that feeling, when you are called before someone of importance and we don't know why. Be it boss or parent or the boss's boss, our mind sometimes begins to wander, thinking, "What could I have done wrong?"

I am not sure if I see a moment of doubt here, or a moment of humility, or perhaps both. There is nothing wrong with a moment of doubt, and certainly nothing wrong with humility either. I like that Paul is open and honest, whatever the reason, and is willing to listen. I pray that I would be that way. And I pray that all leaders would be that way.

How crazy, after 14 years, for Paul to consider if he had been running his race in vain. The only thing crazier would be for him not to consider such a thing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I don't know when I first ran across this video, but it has only been a few years back. I heard it on a Bebo Norman CD, and later found out it was written by Jackson Browne.

I used to listen to Jackson long ago, back when he wrote things like "Doctor My Eyes." I imagine that this was written around that time and just never got a lot of play. At least that is what I like to think.

I don't think Jackson views himself as a Christian, at least not in the traditional sense. I think he is rather turned off by Christians actually. After listening to this song, I can see why.

What do I need to change about how I treat Christmas this year?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Deep and Wide

Galatians 1:17-24

17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

Paul was converted and immediately begins a missionary journey. He does not feel the need to get the rubber stamp of approval from the Apostles. I find this a bit curious, as the Bible is clear about the fact that we should be submissive to leaders, but then again, how often does one's conversion come as a direct result of an encounter with Jesus?

I love the idea that Paul's conversion is a matter of public discussion. I liken it to the idea of a Richard Dawkins type becoming a Christian. C. S. Lewis comes to mind.

It also reminds me of Christ's teaching the he who is forgiven much loves much, and he who is forgiven little loves little.

Lord, help me see the depth of my salvation!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Galatians 1:15-16

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.

What does Paul believe about how he became a follower of Christ? Was it his decision or God's? From this passage, it appears that Paul did not have a say in the matter, being set apart from the womb, and called by grace. It is as if God chose him and then waited for just the right moment to reveal Christ to him. And once this was done, Paul did not feel the need to get this verified. He didn't go to the apostles, his mother, the High Priest, or any human for that matter. He knew. He knew and it changed him. He knew and it wrought a conversion the likes of which is seldom seen. Not that this invalidates any other conversions of lesser magnitude, it was the conversion that God had set him apart to experience. It was the conversion that God created and used to glorify Christ. It was beautiful.

How to stop smoking (for some)

Galatians 1:13-14

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul was a fairly famous person, at least in Christian circles. And this was true prior to his conversion. Prior to his conversion he was the guy you did not want to show up at your prayer meeting. Like having a cop show up at a drug deal. He was a bad man with a mission to destroy the church. Intensely destroy it. It was a passion of his. And this passion was working for him. He was quickly advancing up the ranks in his religion, destined for greatness and even more power. 

Where does such a passion come from? Or better yet, what can cause a man with such a passion to turn 180 degrees? Something had to happen to cause his mind to switch tracks.

My dad was a smoker for most of his life. He tried to quick various times, but soon was back to the habit. Then one day, he had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital. That ended his craving for cigarettes. It just stopped, like a bug hitting a windshield. He often spoke about how he just no longer even desired a smoke. Not everyone who has a heart attack has the same result, but for him it turned his desire around and ended his addiction.

Paul met Jesus. He was confronted with what Christ had done for him. It turned him around. Not everyone understands the depth of what Christ has done like Paul did. Not everyone will turn like he turned. But to deny Paul's authority, to ignore what he will bring out in this letter, I don't think that was an option for the Galatians. I'm not sure it is an option for us either.

This speaks to what conversion is, what happened to Paul, and what needs to happen to you and me better than I can...

My favorite line: "If you don't have a new relationship with sin, you do not have a new relationship with God." 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Insanity Test

Galatians 1:11-12

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

This is such a bold claim. One that makes so much sense to those who get it, and is utter nonsense to those who do not.

When looking at the gospel, especially a gospel that would be invented by such a potentially prominent Jew, the gospel that Paul preaches makes no sense. It gains him nothing, and costs him everything. So unless it is true, Paul is insane.

I don't think he was insane, so listening or reading this is more than just something to do, it is something to investigate. It is something to work out. It is something to test. And if found to be true, it is something to live out in the same manner that Paul lived it out. Anything less seems insane.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'll pick Jesus

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 Paul makes an interesting statement here when he says, "If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." I think it is more what he doesn't say that strikes me. He does not say that by preaching Christ, or calling himself a Christian, he would be rejected by man. He says that by seeking man's approval he would no longer be a servant of Christ. I think that there are so many who are working to do both, and sometimes just the former. Paul was not interested in that. If he were, he wouldn't have confronted the Galatians regarding their straying from the heart of the gospel.

So for those who seek to keep the peace, because so-and-so is a major contributor, or they volunteer in so many places, etc., does that peace keeping show you to be a servant of Christ? I am not saying that Christians should always be confrontational, but there does seem to be a time and a place to do so. 

And one of the sad things is, we often get it backwards. We are so ready to stand up and confront the world, to purge the world of sin, but when did God commission us to purge the world of sin? I was of the understanding that God called us to make disciples. We are willing to make enemies in the world in order to appease those in the church, when Jesus was always willing to make friends in the world while not caring if a few religious leaders or even disciples were bothered in the process.

Hmmm...who do I want to be like?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good cheesecake!

Galatians 1:6-9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Paul has laid out who he is  and how he feels about the gospel. He is enveloped in the gospel more than anyone I can think of, outside of Jesus. He has an understanding of it and a passion for it. He has grasped the concept of grace and it has changed his life. Now he looks at others, and is astonished that they could feel or act differently. How could someone be impacted by an understanding of grace and truth, and give that up to go back to living under some kind of other law? That would be like tasting a my mom's cheese cake, and then going back to store bought. 

Paul likens this change of heart to following a different gospel. Not that such an animal really exists as far as God is concerned, but in man's eyes, that is exactly what it is, a different gospel. And it is not a new animal, it is the same old dirty dog that bit you before. But there is a certain level of comfort we have with this old dog. 

But for those who return to their old ways, they shall be cursed.Cursed because they have missed the boat and are in danger of hell, but also the curse of living under the law. Because when you live under the law, the only way to satisfy it is to maintain every aspect of it, and impossible task. Paul, as good as he was in his previous lifestyle, surely still realized that he was not perfect. He deeply understood the freedom that grace afforded. And he relished it, and was amazed that some would not. 

I want to find that deep of an understanding of grace. I want  to grasp the meaning of the gospel message. Don't I? (Yes, I understand there is an inherent risk to that kind of an understanding.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Really good cupcakes

Galatians 1:3-5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Sure, he is writing to a group of Christians and you might expect talk like this, but somehow I think that this is how Paul would talk regardless of the audience. 

Grace to you, and peace...don't those two go together just like popcorn and butter? Like steak and potatoes? Like copy and paste? Can there really be peace without the promise of grace? And just look how grace permeated Paul's life. Paul gave up an entire lifestyle because of the grace of God. He turned from a man on a fast-track to power and prestige and became a man who joyfully endured suffering like it was the frosting on a cupcake, the really good, creamy kind, with sprinkles.

That is what the gospel does, if you get it right. It ruins you for the stuff that you used to think that you could not live without. Paul was a realist. He looked at the age he was living in and saw it for what it is, a present evil age. I don't think he was comparing it to any other age on earth, as many people are prone to do (although perhaps he easily could have). I think he just realized that any age on this earth is an evil age, because sin reigns. And God has through Christ redeemed us from this age, and that is something that Paul completely grasped.

All of this, Paul's gift of apostleship and his radical life-change make his message compelling, one that is at least worthy of an audience. At least it does for me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Music Monday

I listen to a variety of music, some by Christian artists and some not.

One of the albums that I cannot seem to get enough of lately is by a group called "The City Harmonic." This is one of my favorites, "Holy(Wedding Day)"

The group has a sound that reminds me of U2. Very powerful. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's Up Next...

So I made it through the book of Job...

I thought I would take up the book of Galatians next. This is the book that changed my thinking about what it means to be a Christian at a time when God had just begun to steer me in a direction that I did not want to go. Changing me from a church-goer to a follower of Jesus. A road that I still travel...
Galatians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

Paul is the author of this letter, and he begins by stating his authority as the author. He was an apostle. This authority was recognized by the other apostles, who had taken the other route to their office. Those were the ones who had been with Christ throughout his earthly ministry. Paul was different, he was dramatically called out of a life as a persecutor of the church. 

Paul was set apart by God to be an apostle. What does that mean? Does it mean he did not have a say in the matter? So say that of course he did, and that if Paul had not chosen to follow Christ, God would have raised someone else to do the job. But I struggle with that, because there was only one Paul. Only one who was on the fast track to Jewish leadership, with an eye on perhaps being High Priest. Only one who was a Pharisee among Pharisees. How could God raise up someone with those credentials, when all along he had chosen Paul for this job? 

Being chosen by God, those are some great credentials. I don't think I can argue with them, knowing what I know about Paul's life. Knowing what he gave up, knowing how he lived, what he endured, and how he endured it. Seeing his contentment, a contentment that was not based on circumstance, but on a relationship and love for God. Seeing a man who had undergone a change in his belief system not unlike, at least in some ways, the change I was to go through. Yeah, this is a book that I might want to pay close attention too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I Learned

So now that I have finished Job, what have I learned?

One thing I learned is that my actions, good or bad, do not affect who God is. I think I used to have this idea that my sins devastated God, and to overcome this He sent his Son. This means that God sent his Son so that for himself, so that he would be able to allow me into his presence. Now I see it a bit differently. While God is Holy, and he is disgusted by my sin, God could easily live without me. The fact that he sent his Son was done out of love, and was for my benefit. God is ultimately content regardless of my choices. When Adam brought mankind into sin, God was not viewing himself as a failure. He cannot fail.

So what is the impact of this? It means that my love for him is based on what he has done for me and me alone. Sending his Son was not something he did so that he could be with me, but something he did so I could be with him. A subtle difference to some, but something I see as a major shift in thinking. I was completely and selflessly done on my behalf. Just like when God commands us to worship him or live in holiness, it is done for me. Therefore my response should not be to be a moral good-nick because that is what makes him happy. My response should be to love and worship him completely because that will ultimately bring me the greatest joy.

Job saw God and repented. Previously he was a hearer, but upon becoming a seer of the truth, seeing his worth to God in light of his standing before God, Job came to appreciate and love God. I think it was at this point that Job received his salvation, and that everything in his life was leading up to this moment. Just like when Satan had Jesus crucified, thereby cementing our salvation, God used Satan to ultimately bring Job into a true relationship of salvation, taking him from a Pharisaical hypocrite to a true child of God. I love that.

BTW: If you have read some of my previous posts, you know that struggles that I have with the institutional/evangelical church. Here is a great series of 5 short posts that not only highlight how I feel, but also relate to what Job endured from his 3 "friends."

Job's First and Second Responses

So Job has listened to God tell him how little he is compared to an infinite God. And Job responds by telling him that he (Job) is of small account, and that he will shut up and listen now. I find that to be a good response. Perhaps my wording is a little harsher than the Bible's, but I think that is how Job took it. I think the translations tend to water things down a bit.

Can Job catch God with his little games the same way he sparred with his friends? That would be like trying to catch a dinosaur with a stone, or catch a whale with a fish hook. Ain't gonna happen.

So Job responds again, a little differently this time. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Oh yeah, it is me, Job. I was saying what I did not understand. I think that now I am ready to listen. Not only am I ready to listen, but I get it now. I don't just hear, I see. And because I see, I repent.

In Job's first response, he is humble. In his second response, he is humiliated. I know that some will think that is harsh, but I believe it. At first, Job expresses his place before God, yet God continues to show him his place. Perhaps like the man that Jesus healed, who at first saw people but they looked like trees walking, he needed some more convincing. (Mark 8:22-26)

Job saw clearly, and he was humbled enough to repent. He went so far as to say that he despised himself.

So now God turns to his friends. He rebukes them and then has Job pray for them, saying he will accept Job's prayer. He forgives them and restores Job's fortunes. His His brothers and sisters came and ate with him, and comforted him for all that the Lord had brought upon him.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent[a] in dust and ashes.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Praise Him in the Storm

In 38:1 of Job, God finally speaks, and it says he does so out of a storm. Which storm is it talking about? A literal storm or the storms in Job's life? Or perhaps both? I vote both, but it doesn't matter. I like that God speaks out of the storm either way.

So, many want to ask, are the storms of life Gods judgment or not? Again, the answer seems both. The flood was told as a story of judgment over the earth. But Job's storms seem to come as a life lesson. The New Testament tells that it rains on both the wicked and the righteous. God's sends the storms, and he knows why. That is good enough for me.

God then proceeds to ask Job a bunch of questions. The answers appear to fall into two categories. Category 1: Not me, I don't know, or no. Category 2: You, only you, or no one else but you. God is showing Job that He is God and Job is not. And as God, He does not answer to anyone, even the "righteous" Job. Job needs to hear this because he thinks he can stand before God as righteous. He can't. Two chapters of this before God relents.

I need to chew on this. How does this affect me? Even if I don't challenge God with my righteousness, because that would be very stupid of me, do I virtually do the same thing when I feel sorry for myself? When I get angry? When I am depressed or sad? If God is in control, how should I handle the sunshine and the storms? Yes, I need to chew on this a while.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Of mice and men

There is the old story of the mouse and the elephant, who were crossing a rope bridge. When they got to the end, the mouse looked at the elephant and said, "We sure shook that bridge, didn't we?" Of course, the mouse had no impact at all, and that is the point.

So I read Job 35:6, and I think of the mouse and the elephant. If I sin, me, a mouse, a speck on a rock flying through space for a moment of time, if I sin, is the infinite creator God wounded by my action? Although he is hold and perfect, does my imperfection make him anything less? Can I actually harm God? Me? The mouse?

And in verse 7, if I am righteous, perfect, holy; does that make him any better? Does it make him more God?

Verse 15 is stunning, and Job needs to understand it. "He delivers the afflicted by their affliction." Job, though he thought he was righteous, needed his affliction to ultimately reveal the truth to him that he was not the center of the universe, not even close.

37:13 is another stunning verse that speaks volumes to me about how much God is God and I am not. "Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen." I can't and don't see the big picture that God sees. When I surrender to him, a part of that is taking whatever comes my way, trusting in his wisdom and grace. 

God does not regard those who are wise in their own eyes. (37:24) God owes no man an answer for his actions. Our actions, righteous or not, do not alter who he is or diminish him in any way.

Still doesn't work

Job Chapter 32

So they stopped talking to Job because he was righteous in his own eyes. (Job 32:1) I can relate, can you? Ever been in a conversation with someone who refused to admit any wrongdoing? I have. And I have probably been on the other side of some of those conversations too, sad to say.

Job seems to be somewhat of a hard-head. Elihu burned with anger because Job justified himself rather than God. To Job, it was all about his righteousness, and what God owed him as a result. And his friends found no answer to refute Job either.

In 34:9, Job is chastised by Elihu. "For he (Job) has said, ‘It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.’" Job was righteous, but his righteousness seemed to be predicated on obtaining God's favor because of his righteousness. But no one can stand before God as righteous through their own behavior. The joy the God wants us to find in him is joy that is predicated on who God is, and not who we are or what we do for God. 

In verse 36, Job's answer is compared to that of wicked men. Job? Wicked? Yes! But thanks to God that he saves the wicked! Without that hope, I have no hope. It is as if wickedness is not determined by mere action, imagine that! Yet throughout time, including this time, men try to earn their way to God, and plead their righteousness before Him. Didn't work for Job, don't think it will work for anyone else either.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wisdom, what is it and where does it come from? If not for God, can wisdom even exist? If not for God, is it not all randomness?

Chapter 28 ends saying that wisdom is the fear of God, and it involves turning away from evil. That makes sense, because if we truly see God for who he is, would not turning from sin be the logical choice? Isn't it those who deny his holiness the very ones who are so willing to spit in his face? Like spitting in the face of Santa Claus, because you know he lacks any real power, and is just a department store flunky. Wisdom is not found in the things of earth, although there is profound wisdom in their making. True wisdom is revealed by the one who possesses it. The world's wisdom says live for today, eat drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die. But God's wisdom goes beyond death and gives life.

In Chapter 29, Job speaks of the good that he has done while he lived a life of plenty. In Chapter 30, he speaks of how the tables became turned, and now not only are his fortunes gone, but everyone also now looks down on him. Verse 11 "Because God has loosed my cord and humbled me they have cast off restraint in my presence." And then in verse 24 this statement, "“Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help?" God did not need Job to accomplish his purposes. Perhaps this humbling lesson is one that Job needed to learn? 

I think Job has a hard time seeing this. He talks about how God numbers his steps, but struggles with the path that he is on. I think most of us would do that same.

Friday, November 9, 2012


In Chapters 26 and 27, Job offers some final words to his friends. As I have read through their discourse, I see two different perspectives. First is that of the friends. They are apparently free of the pain that Job is experiencing. Their perspective is one that says God loves them, and their proof of that love is based upon the fact that they are doing well. Therefore, they see Job's misfortunes as the result of Job's lack of favor from God. They label Job a sinner. But are these conclusions valid? Can God be put in a box? Can we expect God to handle people in only one manner?

Then there is Job's perspective. He sees himself as innocent, blameless. He struggles with the way that God is treating him. He cannot accept that he is a fault in what has happened. He rejects the condemnation and advice of his friends.

So what is the truth? Job is angry with his current lot in life, he sees God as in control and responsible. Yet he also understands that God is not to be trifled with, and that God is not answerable to him. He seems to feel that God has the right to do as he pleases. Imagine that! He seems to understand that while he can question God, God can choose if he wants to answer him.

So which is truth? Does God punish sin? I think the Bible is clear about that. From the flood to the death of Ananias and Sapphira, there is punishment for disobedience. Yet there are stories of suffering for those who did not seem to deserve it either. Did John the Baptist deserve beheading? What about Moses not entering the promised land, does that seem right?

One thing I learn here is about perspective. While it makes sense to view things from my perspective, I also have to realize that my perspective is not the only one there is. If I want to know the truth, I have to be able to view things from other perspectives as well. What is God's perspective? What are the perspectives of others? Maybe I should stew on that, and keep reading.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Yada Yada Yada...

And the dance goes on, with Job asserting his innocence, and his friends continuing to insist that Job's issues are a result of his sin. It is like a political debate, with people not answering questions directly, with a staunch refusal to admit any defeat, no change of heart or position, and attributing statements to your opponent that were not made or are taken out of context.

There are some great statements, but as I read through Chapter 25, I just see a see-saw of wind blowing in one direction, then in another. Maybe the next few chapters will straighten it out for me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

These Guys Won't Stop

Chapter 15 of Job

Eliphaz starts our Chapter 15 with more verbal sparring, calling Job's thoughts "empty notions" and referring to the "hot east wind." Nice friends. In verse 5, he basically says Job's words are directed by his sin, and that he is like a used car salesman. Where can I get that evangelism course?

He really comes up with no new wisdom, just more condemnation and telling Job that he should listen to him. At times, it almost reminds me of a political debate. No substance, just a lot of show, and no one is coming with an open mind, no one listens to the other, they just draw lines in the sand and dare the other to cross it. Also kinda sounds like some churches I have been to.

I love Job's response in Chapter 16. "You are miserable comforters, all of you." Tell them how you really feel Job!

Job goes on to talk about how God must be angry at him, and how his trials are directly attributed to God.Oh that someone would step up and plead his case for him! As I read this, I wonder if many of the feelings he expresses are the feelings that Christ, the only truly righteous one, felt as he suffered on our behalf.

And then there are verses 11 and 12 of Chapter 17: "My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day;  in the face of the darkness light is near." Where is that coming from? Does Job know something no one else knows? Does he have a hope that goes beyond his current circumstance?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chapter 12 and 13

Job takes a stand now...

Like I said in the previous post, they speak like no one except them can understand the things of God. Job seems to think so too, for in verse 2 he says, "No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you." Go Job!

Verse 5 (This should be a poster somewhere): "In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune" --Maybe have a picture of a well dressed man turning his nose at a beggar. The book of James addresses this some.

Job then goes on to say that what has happened has come from the hand of God! Blasphemy, for this falls far short of Prosperity Theology, not to mention what is shoveled from most pulpits on a given Sunday morning. God is not a meanie! He wants me to have riches and happiness and so on...

How dare He go on to explain that God's sovereignty reigns over every aspect of every thing, and that God is in control of the good and the bad! (Okay, enough sarcasm, but it makes the point, I think)

In 13:4 Job tells his friends, "As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all." (And people say that I am harsh!) Or verse 5, "Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom." (Did he just tell them that the smartest thing they could do would be to shut up? Sounds like it!)

How about this one... (verse 9) "Will it be well with you when he searches you out?" (Is God gonna be happy with you when you meet him face to face? That is a powerful and gutsy question!)

But listen to Job's attitude toward God as expressed in verse 15: "Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." (Bring it on God, you are still my only hope. But that doesn't mean I like it and won't let you hear about it!) I think God loves that attitude.

I see this attitude in the Apostle Peter. One moment, he is proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, the next he is telling the same Jesus that he doesn't know what he is doing (by saying that he must suffer and die). And there is Nicodemus, one moment saying that "We know you are a teacher from God," and the next moment arguing that he can't crawl back into his mother's womb to be born again. What patience Jesus exhibited with both men!

Job is going to speak his mind, and he is not going to let these men with their feeble theology whitewash his problems. Good for Job. We need more Jobs.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Deja Vu all over again...

Job Chapter 11

Why do I feel like I know this guy, like he has given advice to me? He basically is saying that Job is full of b.s., and that Job should just listen to him. He even states, "God has even forgotten some of  your sin." Where does this come from? Did he just pull it from his behind? What line of thought does this come from, besides the line that says "this is what I want to believe?"

He asks Job if he can fathom the mysteries of God, and then proceeds to speak as if he can fathom the mysteries of God himself. It seems as if he want to boil the belief system down to the idea that if you just put away all evil, then life will be easy, you will have no problems with God or life. How is that working for anyone (besides Joel Osteen)?

The idea that I can live in comfort, that I need not fear God if I am doing right flies in the face of Scripture. Let's just think about Jonah here. He ran from God because he was not comfortable with what God wanted. He did not like the idea that God might show grace to these people. (Sometimes even grace can be an uncomfortable thing?) God finally does make him comfortable when he produces a plant to offer some shade, only to then provide a worm to cause the plant to die. Psyche! And perhaps just like Job, Jonah just needed to learn some things about God that God just does not teach in conventional ways.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What he didn't know mattered

I love the end of Chapter 8...Bildad says some things, surely meant in one context, but beautiful when taken in another. This is what I believe predicates Job's response of agreement. But then he asks Bildad to explain how it can be. And he again asserts God's sovereignty over every one and every thing. What have you made lately that can compare to the stars, mountains, or what control do you have over the sun or the ocean's waves?

God destroys both the blameless and the wicked, for are they not the same before Him? No wonder Job despises his life. (Note: The word despise carries the idea of rejection, not hatred. We are called to hate to reject our lives and embrace God.) If God is not in complete control, who is then? Who else or what else would Job embrace? But it is not easy, for who can understand the mind of God? Job will continue to struggle with this idea, not knowing the big picture.

Verse 33 of Chapter 9: If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together."

Let me tell you of my Savior! But Job did not know of this, though he longed for it. Amazing.

But Job does not understand, so he continues to struggle. But he will voice his complaints, both to his companions, and to God as well. He even seems to struggle with the choices that God must make. On one hand, God is just and holy, so our sins is an abomination to Him and cannot go unpunished. Yet God made us and shaped us, he molded us like clay, how can He destroy us? Why are we born only to face judgment and destruction, pain and suffering? Yes, we deserve it all, but how much better never to have existed if this is our fate!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who can fix this?

Job's third friend now has a chance to speak. He too, starts out rough on Job, calling him "full of talk" and calling his words "babble."

One of my favorite lines of Zophar, "But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of his wisdom." It is a great line because God will do just that! And he will have some advice for Mr. Zophar too!

Zophar tells Job how high and mighty God's wisdom is. Apparently it is higher than Job can discern, but Mr. Zophar has it figured out. If Job will just put away his sin, and reach out for God, then all will be well again. It is works based. Here Job, just fix yourself and then you can confidently stand before God. But Job sees it differently. He seems to think that we cannot fix ourselves, that only God can do that.

I gotta side with Job on this one. It is not about what I have done for God, but will always be about what God has done for me. But I must stop babbling for now...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This is what I deserve

Job has just endured the "advice" (verbal bashing) of another so-called friend. He is told that he is a fault for his problems, that God is punishing him, and if he will repent, God will restore his fortunes.

Job responds with an interesting (and certainly new) idea that no one can be righteous before God. We cannot contend with God, for God is amazing and all-powerful. He does what He pleases, who can ask God, "What do you think you are doing?" Job understands that he cannot approach God on his own righteousness, but only on the basis of God's mercy.

My favorite line..."If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty!" ...well, duh!

And this is a close second... "though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse." So what I call blameless, still stands as a sinner before a Holy God. Yes, Amen, there is no one righteous.

Job states in several ways, that though we may be blameless or though we may be sinners, we all fall short when standing before God, and whatever God brings our way, He is just in doing. Its not that Job enjoys this. In fact, I would say he thinks it sucks, but it is truth.

Yes, God makes us like clay, and can return us to dust! He is the creator, and had all rights and power. If I make a bowl out of clay, I can do as I please with it. I can fire it in the oven, smash it and start over, or fire it and then smash it. I own the clay, it has no say in the matter.

I believe that God is sovereign. He is an all-powerful creator, and any hope that I have is based on His mercy and grace, and not upon my righteousness or effort. That is why I love Him. It is not what I do to deserve His blessing, but it is His granting me, a sinner, grace that brings out my love for Him.

Go Job, tell them like it is!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More friendly advice

Another of Job's "friends" replies. Here are some observations...

Verse 2: He calls Job's words a "blustering wind." So is he too, calling Job a blow hard? We have quickly gone from a week of silence to a complete lack of compassion. Isn't this how it is when it comes to questioning religion? We quickly throw out all reason, and seek to defend "our faith." Poor Job, searching, mourning, only to run into a brick wall similar to what Jesus endured from the Pharisees and similar to what many endure today.

In verse 3 he continues his assault, basically telling Job that his kids were sinners and got what they deserved. How comforting a thought is that? And he continues, telling Job that his fate will be the same unless he seeks God earnestly. He basically tells Job that if he is pleasing to God, things will be go well for him. (Can anyone say, "Joel Osteen?")

Verse 8 contains another wonderful theological premise that so many believe, "Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned." In other words, what has experience taught us? While I believe that experience can be a valuable teacher, it is not faultless. My mom was raised Catholic. If I only trusted in what my previous generations believed, I would hold to a much different view.

He concludes with an interesting thought... "Surely God does not reject one who is blameless or strengthens the hands of evildoers." Were the events of Job's recent life a sign of rejection by God? I certainly cannot agree. If they were a rejection, then God would not have later conversed with Job to see what he had gained from this experience. I don't reject someone and then invite them to dinner. Why is it that we see misfortune as rejection? And the opposite is true as well, we often see fortune as acceptance. There are those who prey on the weak and unfortunate with this type of theology. Does not Matthew's gospel tell us that when it rains, it does so on the just and the unjust?

Bildad lives in a simple world, Good things are rewards from God and bad things are punishments. Job lived in a different world, because he knew that what was happening was not a punishment. I believe that Job believed that God was behind his misfortune, but not because he was punishing him. Job struggled with what was happening, but in his struggle he did not sin. He did not curse God. That had to be tough.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who done it?

Job Chapters 6 and 7

Job is responding to Eliphaz. (See previous post)

Job begins by expressing how heavy his level of frustration is. I have also experienced high levels of frustration. No matter how much you hold on to God, it is a challenging experience to deal with things that you do not understand. Especially as those events continue or even get worse. I have learned to never day, "But at least it can't get any worse!" Job is learning the same. The experience is so heavy upon him that he wishes he were dead, that God would crush him and get it over with.

Verse 10 is an interesting one...

This would be my comfort;
I would even exult in pain unsparing,
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.

So we see that even in this crushing time, he will not slander his God. He finds comfort in this.

Verse 24 carries these words...

“Teach me, and I will be silent;
make me understand how I have gone astray.

At first I thought Job was speaking these words to God, but now I think they are a question for Eliphaz. Eliphaz has basically laid the blame for Job's treatment at Job's feet. That this was God's response for some secret sin of Job's. But Job is not accepting this. Teach me my error, show me where I have gone wrong, is Job's response to this line of thinking.

In verses 28-30, Job continues...

“But now, be pleased to look at me,
for I will not lie to your face.
Please turn; let no injustice be done.
Turn now; my vindication is at stake.
Is there any injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity?

Does this cound like a guilty man? Or does it sound like a man who is honestly pleading to be shown his error, if there be one.

Chapter 7:1-6 reveal job's thinking...

“Has not man a hard service on earth,
and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like a hired hand who looks for his wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing till the dawn.
My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
and come to their end without hope.

To me, he is saying that God, and not Job is in control. (An early Calvinist, perhaps?) Job's misery was not his choice, nor was it a response for his behavior, but more a part of his "allotted months of emptiness." He was merely a slave in the hand of God

Job finishes with verses 16-22...

16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
17 What is man, that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
18 visit him every morning
and test him every moment?
19 How long will you not look away from me,
nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me your mark?
Why have I become a burden to you?
21 Why do you not pardon my transgression
and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
you will seek me, but I shall not be.”

Some of these verses remind me of Jesus, and perhaps what he felt in the garden. That was his human side showing, and perhaps that is just was is happening with Job here. He knows who God is and that God is sovereign and in control, but it is hard. He questions, "Why does God even care about man at all? Our lives are but a breath, a mist, so short in the realm of eternity. I love verse 20. Even though David knew that when he sinned, he sinned against God, Job shows us that our sin does not make God any lesser of a God

Verse 21 reminds me of Christ on the cross and in the tomb. Suffering for our transgressions, though He was innocent.

Unity or Conformity?

Another post found while digging through the archives and dredging up the drafts. Just couldn't delete it...

Christ calls for us to be united. But what does unity mean? Does it mean that we don't rock the boat? Does it mean that we never complain or confront? What does unity mean?

I have put together a few thoughts. Please feel free to share yours.

Unity means harmony, conformity means one note.
  • When everyone sings one note, it is easier to sing along, and harmony does takes effort. But it is harmony that makes the music beautiful.
Unity invites discussion, conformity demands you listen to it.
  • Discussion can be difficult. What if someone asks a question I don't like? What if I don't know an answer or have to struggle through something? I might even have to grow...
Unity is accomplished out of love, conformity is commanded out of fear.
  • There is a lot of control issues in the church. So many denominations, probably because when something gets difficult, we just leave or get kicked out. Is that the kind of love that God models for us? When the going gets tough, the tough get going...right out the door. (Sometimes with a shove)
Unity breeds compassion, conformity breeds contempt.
  • If you are different, you get treated different. I think the book of James addresses this well. (Don't read it unless you want to feel bad. Just saying...)
Unity allows for differences, conformity demands compliance.
  • When is the last time you saw a diverse church? Either in ethnicity, theology, etc. It's an anomoly, isn't it?
Unity comes from a clean inside, comformity looks good on the outside.
  • Matthew 23:25 anyone?
Unity seeks truth, conformity seeks to be right.
  • And only one can be right, right? And of course, it is me...
Unity comforts, conformity intimidates.
  • Even when we see someone in error (that does not lead to death), should our response be to beat them into submission? Is that how Jesus worked? Sure, he was tough on some, but had great compassion for others. What made the difference? (Think about it)
Unity plays by the rules, conformity makes its own rules.
  • Now, where is that found in the Bible? And doesn't this passage apply too?
Unity brings things to light, conformity hides things.
  • This is kind of a dysfunctional thing. Are there any dysfunctional churches out there?
Unity considers the body, conformity considers the self.
  • See that big toe? Do we really need him?
What about you> How do you see unity?

Unity is its own reward, conformity expects to be rewarded.

I was doomed to hell! (That is what I heard, anyway)

I was going through my old posts, and found this as a draft. I didn't want to discard it, so here it is...

A remembrance from childhood...

I was raised by a Catholic mom and Lutheran Dad, so we were sent to mass at a Catholic Church when we were younger. My older brother was even an altar boy, a fact I find very ironic! (You would have to know my brother to understand that.)

I must have been about 7 when this happened. It was a weekday evening, and my brother was at church. I was looking for him, so I stepped inside to see if he were there. I cracked the door open and scanned the sanctuary. I did not see him, so I left. Apparently, there was some kind of service going on at the time.

As I was leaving the building, a priest asked what I was doing. I told him I was looking for my brother, and did not see him, so I was leaving. He then proceeded to tell me that I had just committed a mortal sin. (I am not sure what that sin was, perhaps leaving a church service? Talking to a priest? Looking for my brother?) I remember thinking, "Well, that does it, I just blew it and now I am damned to hell for all of eternity." I don't recall if I had any further conversation with the priest, but I do recall going home, all the way thinking what it was going to be like in hell.

We tend to remember strange things from our childhood.

Jesus was there that day, as he always is. And he took care of me as he always does. I ended up leaving the Catholic Church a few years later, but story is for another time.

I see the signs now, "Catholic Come Home." They make me chuckle. Come home to eternal damnation is what I hear when I read those signs, and I am not interested in that. I read a lot about people who have left the institutional church for a variety of reasons. I can understand why sometimes. Is it just me, or has the church (as a whole, and not just the Catholic church) gotten away from what it was intended to be?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Does God punish sin?

Summary so far: Job is a righteous rich man, who loses everything except his life, and apparently his wife. His friends come to comfort him, and when they go to see him, can hardly recognize him. They spend seven days in silence together, and finally Job speaks, mourning the day he was born. Then Eliphaz speaks... I just want to highlight a few of the things he says. Wish I had time to go through it all. red letters are Scripture, black bold letters are comments.

Chapter 4 (ESV)
Your words have supported those who stumbled;
    you have strengthened faltering knees.
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
    it strikes you, and you are dismayed

Job, you have been helpful and supportive to many. Now it your time to receive help and support. Not a bad thought, but perhaps a little cold or blunt at the moment. 
“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? How about every single one. Every person eventually perishes. Part of the problem I see here is the same thing I see in modern preaching, it weighs experience and emotion over truth. Surely this man has seen or known of a child that died young, or a good person who suffered. But we attribute some evil to that person without a real basis. Perhaps that child would have become a murderer or thief. Surely Job has some hidden sin that makes him guilty. 

    Where were the upright ever destroyed? No and Yes. No one is really righteous, but several decent people have endured suffering while less desirable have prospered.

As I have observed, those who plow evil
    and those who sow trouble reap it. A generalization much like a proverb, but not a hard and fast rule. Unless you count judgment day, which I don't think he was.
17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Nope!
    Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker? No again.

Chapter 5 (ESV)

Resentment kills a fool,
    and envy slays the simple.
I myself have seen a fool taking root,
    but suddenly his house was cursed.

Is he calling Job a fool? Is he blaming Job for his calamity? It sure sounds like it. Why is it that everyone looking in from the outside wants to stand in judgment?

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God;
    I would lay my cause before him.

Cannot argue with this advice! It just seems to lack a little when placed in with everything else he has to day. A little bit of truth in with a lot of mush.

17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
    so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

The word "discipline" is the Hebrew word "muwcar" and carries with it the idea of correction or chastening. Taken in the deepest sense, this means that Job, or anyone who endures trouble, can and should consider themselves blessed. (See James 1:3) Again, good advice, but taken in the context of his other comments, I think Eliphaz is more focused on the idea of God punishing Job for his sins, rather than focusing on the sovereignty of God, which I believe James is speaking of.

18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
    he injures, but his hands also heal.

There is a very deep beauty in this verse. I wonder if either of them see it.

27 “We have examined this, and it is true.
    So hear it and apply it to yourself.”

This is what we believe, so it must be true. Listen to me. Yet did Eliphaz really hear himself? Was he listening to Job, feeling his pain, or was he just looking to justify his belief system by ascribing fault to Job and removing fault from God?

I think that there is both wisdom and foolishness in Eliphaz's response. He is a little harsh when it comes to his friend, who is frustrated and grieving. It sounds as if he begins by saying, "How does it feel now that the shoe is on the other foot? He speaks some truth, or perhaps regurgitates it without even understanding it. Again, it reminds me of those preachers I hear whose plan of study is to read someone else's book or sermon. They preach with passion, maybe even conviction, and perhaps one of the people they hope to convict is their own selves.

Or not.