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Mar
04

Job’s Complaint (Job 3:1-26)

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1 At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said:
3 “Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
4 Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.
5 Let the darkness and utter gloom claim that day for its own.
Let a black cloud overshadow it,
and let the darkness terrify it.
6 Let that night be blotted off the calendar,
never again to be counted among the days of the year,
never again to appear among the months.
7 Let that night be childless.
Let it have no joy.
8 Let those who are experts at cursing—
whose cursing could rouse Leviathan—
curse that day.
9 Let its morning stars remain dark.
Let it hope for light, but in vain;
may it never see the morning light.
10 Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb,
for letting me be born to see all this trouble.
11 “Why wasn’t I born dead?
Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?
12 Why was I laid on my mother’s lap?
Why did she nurse me at her breasts?
13 Had I died at birth, I would now be at peace.
I would be asleep and at rest.
14 I would rest with the world’s kings and prime ministers,
whose great buildings now lie in ruins.
15 I would rest with princes, rich in gold,
whose palaces were filled with silver.
16 Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child,
like a baby who never lives to see the light?
17 For in death the wicked cause no trouble,
and the weary are at rest.
18 Even captives are at ease in death,
with no guards to curse them.
19 Rich and poor are both there,
and the slave is free from his master.
20 “Oh, why give light to those in misery,
and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
and rejoice when they find the grave.
23 Why is life given to those with no future,
those God has surrounded with difficulties?
24 I cannot eat for sighing;
my groans pour out like water.
25 What I always feared has happened to me.
What I dreaded has come true.
26 I have no peace, no quietness.
I have no rest; only trouble comes.”
(NLT)

After sitting in silence for seven days with his friends, Job broke the silence with a powerful and disturbing monologue. Picture him sitting in the dirt. His past is lost, his future is empty, his present is painful. How did Job arrive at this dark, emotional state?
Think about it for a moment.

Time had passed and he has had time to think. As kids say today, “he’s stuck in his own head.”

His friends demonstrated they believed his situation was hopeless. Seven days, after all, was the ancient period of silent grief for one who had died.

Maybe he thought his wife was right after all. She had encouraged him to “curse God and die.” Maybe?

The memory of his past was gone. There was no sign of reflection about any of the good he experienced before his profound losses.

Finally, heaven was silent. Where was God? Where is God?

Job conveyed an image of complete and total hopelessness regarding his present state.

Reflecting on these piercing words of grief, what can we apply from his words as we think about our own suffering? I think we’ve all had our moments of feeling lost, helpless and hopeless.

First, his story and his words are a strong reminder that Christians are not exempt from suffering. Jesus, the man of grief, acquainted with sorrows, experienced suffering. And if Jesus wasn’t exempt from suffering, who are we to think we should not have to suffer in life? (Isaiah 53:1-10)

Second, Christians are not exempt from questions and feelings during suffering. Again, Jesus expressed some strong words himself when from the cross he cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Finally, though Job does not know his end, we know ours, and because of Jesus’ resurrection we shall rise again! We have hope, not because we are good, but because Jesus is God and was raised to life on the third day, obtaining victory over sin, death and the grave!

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our suffering because he suffered.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our questions because he had a few of his own.
And the good news of the gospel is that Jesus understands our final outcome in life because he is risen!

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Feb
27

With Friends Like These…

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His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (Job 2:9-13, NLT)

What do you say to someone who is suffering? Often, people tend toward two extremes. Some will say wrong things, while others will say nothing out of fear of saying wrong things. Job’s suffering was great, and the conclusion of chapter 2 provides some helpful advice that we can put into practice.

Let me begin with the positive responses. First, Job’s friends came to be present with him. They didn’t avoid him and the suffering he experienced. Second, they were authentic. They threw dust in the air and demonstrated concern by tangibly showing their grief. Rather than exhibiting the stiff upper lip, they tangibly mourned alongside him. Third, they were silent. They didn’t speak a word. After all, what could one say? Finally, they stayed. For a full seven days they sat with him.

If you know the story of Job to any degree, you already know that the silence would eventually be broken and words would be spoken. Job’s wife and his three friends would all respond to his suffering in four unique ways, none of which proved helpful.

Take Job’s wife, for example. Her response was accusatory. In so many words, she demanded that Job either give up his claim to righteousness or give up his life. Blasphemy was viewed in ancient culture as punishable by death. They believed God would strike one down for cursing his name.

Job’s three friends spoke as well. There is Eliphaz, the prophet. His response to Job was based on experience and observation. He said, “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same” (4:8). Next is Bildad, the traditionalist. He surveyed Job’s suffering based on the traditions handed down from previous generations. “But those who came before us will teach you. They will teach you the wisdom of old” (8:10). By far, Bildad the traditionalist was the most vicious speaker of the three. That leaves the third friend, Zophar the rationalist. He believed that the answers to suffering are found in reason and logic. His words are pragmatic, redundant, and cliche. “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea” (11:7-9). Sounds like a bumper sticker, doesn’t it?

Job’s wife and friends shared the same conviction expressed from different angles. That is, the belief that Job was being punished for some sin he committed. They also believed that if he would appease God his suffering will end. And Job refused to have anything to do with any of it.

Which left Job with one final loss–his relationships. He is alone in his suffering.

It’s always easier to diminish God than it is to increase faith. Job is grasping for faith which is hard to do when you are suffering. It’s even harder to do when you are alone.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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Feb
13

Would You Rather?

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When my kids were younger we’d play a simple game called “Would You Rather?” The point of the game is simple. You’d be given two options and would have to choose one over the other. For example, would you rather lose your eyesight? Or your sense of hearing? Another example might be, would you rather be the poorest person on earth with excellent health? Or be the wealthiest person on earth with terrible health?

As I read Job chapter 2, I think Job would rather be the poorest person with excellent health. In chapter 1 he lost all of his material possessions and all ten of his children in a quick and sudden series of tragedies. But he still had his health, and he still maintained his faith. But check this out:

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. (Job 2:1-8, NLT)

Job’s suffering had reached unparalleled levels. In the first “test,” he experienced external loss. But in this second test, his loss touched him physically. Those who have experienced loss will acknowledge that there is a big difference between tolerating loss and tolerating pain.

The accusation of Satan was relentless. Having lost the first round, Satan redoubled his efforts by claiming that deep down, Job (or any of us, for that matter) only cared for himself. The idiom “skin for skin” can be understood as “life for life.” In other words, Satan wagered that if Job had to pick between his personal faith and physical suffering, he would pick himself. Guaranteed. Furthermore, he inferred that Job had not really been tested, given his clean bill of health.

So Satan was released to harm Job with the limitation of taking Job’s life.

A careful reading of the text reveals at least three ways Job suffered. First, and most obviously, he suffered physically. Scholars have debated for centuries what this illness may have been. Some suggest leprosy, others elephantiasis. No one is certain, but Job is described as covered with boils, which would have inflicted a great deal of pain and discomfort.

He also suffered materially. If you think about it, the medicine of choice in ancient times was olive oil. But like today, medicines cost money. Having lost everything financially, Job is reduced to “self-medicating” and does so by taking the refuse of the common man, broken pottery, and using that broken shard to lance and scrape the boils hoping for relief. Think for a moment how your suffering could be compounded without access to health insurance!

Finally, he suffered socially. Job is pictured as sitting in ashes. I believe these were the ashes of the local landfill which served as the location of burning piles of garbage as well as the home of those declared “unclean” due to their physical disease.

Its hard to identify with such suffering. But Jesus can. There is no mistaking the amount of physical suffering Jesus endured on the cross, where he is pictured as stripped of the only earthly possession he claimed–the clothes on his back. Jesus not only suffered in destitution, he suffered alone, having been crucified on the outskirts of Jerusalem near the local garbage dump. (Hebrews 12:12-13)

Jesus identified with Job’s suffering, and he identifies with your suffering, whatever that may be. No one is comforted by stories of those who have it worse than you, for your suffering is your suffering and it is difficult. But we can all be helped by the stories of those who have walked similar roads, for it is in knowing those stories that we are reminded that we are not alone.

Categories : Job, Unfair
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From the Los Angeles Times:

Trifecta of opioids, alcohol and suicide are blamed for the drop in U.S. life expectancy
LOS ANGELES TIMES | FEBRUARY 8, 2018

An epidemic of despair is disproportionately claiming the lives of rural white Americans in the prime of adulthood. And for a second year in a row, their deaths by drugs, drink and self-destruction have caused life expectancy in the United States to fall.

That milestone, suggests an editorial in a respected medical journal, marks a sustained reversal of close to a century of improving health for Americans. And it raises a puzzling mystery: What is causing the despair, and what will restore hope and health to these battered Americans?

The opioid epidemic, which claimed the lives of 64,000 Americans in 2015 alone, “is the tip of an iceberg,” a pair of public health scholars wrote in the journal BMJ.

In an even larger public health crisis unfolding in the United States, death rates from alcohol abuse and suicides have also seen sharp increases in recent years, wrote Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonweath University and Laudan Aron of the Washington-based Urban Institute.

Between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate rose by 24%. And mounting evidence has shown that deaths linked to alcohol abuse are rising as well among white Americans.

Nowhere are these trends more dramatic than in rural counties, where decades of social and economic changes have made the lives of white Americans less secure than their parents’, Woolf and Aron wrote.

About 15% of the nation’s population — some 46 million persons — lived in counties outside metropolitan areas in 2014. In a January 2017 analysis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that those living in nonmetropolitan areas were more likely to smoke cigarettes, to be physically inactive and obese and to suffer from high blood pressure than were metropolitan county-dwellers.

Fully 18.1% of rural Americans lived in poverty, compared with 15.1% of those living in and around cities. And people in rural counties reported less access to healthcare and a lower quality of healthcare than did those in metropolitan counties.

In October, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that, while premature deaths were down among all American adults between 1999 and 2015, nine of 48 subgroups studied saw increases in early mortality. The lives of non-Latino whites, largely in rural or small or medium metropolitan counties, were mostly being shortened by suicide, drug overdoses and liver disease — a condition closely linked to alcoholism.

That study’s data showed steep declines in deaths due to HIV infection, cardiovascular disease and motor vehicle crashes among African Americans and Latinos and in urban and suburban areas. But those declines were more modest or nonexistent among whites living in any setting. And they were offset by dramatic increases in drug overdoses and suicides in whites, no matter where the victims lived.

The authors of the BMJ essay note that the roughly 15-year run-up in drug deaths and suicides has not been seen in black Americans.

While the racial gap in health is narrowing, African Americans’ rates of premature death have always been starkly higher than those among whites, Woolf said. And it may be that the uptick in “deaths of despair” seen in whites will eventually be detected among blacks as well, he added.

But Woolf said it’s also possible that black Americans have some “resilience factor” that white Americans do not. Perhaps, he said, African Americans’ response to the discrimination, structural disadvantages and health inequities they’ve long endured has buffered them from following whites down their path of self-destruction.

At the same time, the despair of whites is “unclear, complex, and not explained by opioids alone,” Woolf and Aron wrote. In once-thriving communities outside the nation’s metropolitan areas, industries have collapsed. As steel mills and coal mines have closed, timber production has gone bust, and automation has left rural communities behind, their economies and their residents’ health have suffered.

The result is a national phenomenon that has been unfolding for at least three decades. Relative to life expectancy in other affluent, industrialized countries, Americans’ once-commanding lead in longevity began slipping in the early 1980s. By 1998, U.S. life expectancy had fallen below the average for industrialized countries. It is now 1.5 years behind that benchmark.

“It’s really sad that a baby born today will likely live less long than one born even a year ago. It’s not the direction you’d expect the richest country on Earth to be going,” Woolf said.

But economic collapse might be too easy an explanation for rural white communities’ epidemic of despair, said Woolf, who has studied the urban-rural health divide across the country. More important might be the fraying of communities’ social fabric that followed.

“Poverty rates don’t capture the frustration and hopelessness people experience when they can’t get ahead or can’t give their kids a better life,” Woolf said. When the social fabric of a community is frayed, its residents may be more inclined to salve their woes in self-destructive behaviors, he added.

A look at broader U.S. trends and policies may also shed light on the roots of some Americans’ despair, Woolf and Aron wrote. During the three decades during which U.S. life expectancy has slid, the nation’s educational performance weakened. Its social divides (including income inequality) widened. Its middle-class incomes stagnated. And its poverty rates exceeded those of most rich countries.

“These are all factors we know are important to health,” Woolf said.

If policy makers wanted to reverse the trend of shortening U.S. lifespans, “they would promote education, boost support for children and families, increase wages and economic opportunity for the working class, invest in distressed communities, and strengthen healthcare and behavioral health systems,” Woolf and Aron wrote.

At the end of the day, Woolf said, “it’s probably not a good time to make policy choices that don’t invest in helping these people. A policy agenda that’s focused on improving value for shareholders is not really going to bring relief to these families and communities.”

Categories : Uncategorized
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Feb
11

Give and Take

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Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
(Job 1:20-22, NLT)

In one day, within a matter of moments in fact, Job went from one of the greatest men on earth to the least of men. He lost his entire wealth, his servants and his family. The loss Job experienced in incomprehensible. We know people who have lost material possessions. And we know people who have tragically lost a child. But to lose all one owns plus all of their children in quick succession is beyond anything we can imagine.

How would you respond?

How did Job respond?

Job responded by defaulting to his spiritual preparation. The man who was noted for his close relationship with God turned to Him for comfort in an act of worship. Job had invested in spiritual resources throughout the course of his life, and had spiritual resources to draw from in abundance when the bottom fell out of his life.

If you closely examine his worship, you’ll see that Job came to God authentically. His body language speaks of his sincerity. There were no masks, no cliches, and no “pat answers.”

In his expression of worship he also acknowledged God as the source of his blessings. He didn’t take credit for what he possessed. Neither did he indicate that his wealth and family was the sum of his identity. The blessings he enjoyed came from the hand of a generous God.

At the same time, Job affirmed God’s right to repossess the possessions and blessings he had bestowed. He didn’t blame God, nor did he call God unfair or unjust. The Lord who had given is the same Lord who reserves the right to take.

Job’s vulnerable act of worship reveals his belief that when life is hard, God remains the same. That’s a powerful lesson for those of us who experience loss. Job worshiped as sincerely during the dark night of his soul as he did when all was right with the world.

If I were to offer a takeaway from this portion of Job it would be this. Don’t let all that’s wrong with life keep you from worshiping all that’s right with God. He may not have understood. But he didn’t abandon faith. His bank account may have been depleted, but his spiritual reserves would carry the day.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
27

One Day:: 2

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One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”

(Job 1:13-19, NLT)

Even though Satan is the chief mischief maker in the universe, he cannot operate beyond the boundaries established by God. Having established the boundary of Job’s physical life, Satan left the presence of God and began reeking havoc. In one given day, Job lost everything. His flocks, his servants and his children were all swept away by bad guys and bad weather. None of those forces would have been perceived uncommon in Job’s day, but to happen all at once would have left him devastated. Through it all, the hand of God was concealed and the hand of Satan unsuspected.

What do we make of Job’s situation thus far? What lessons can be applied?

First, life should be lived with a profound sense of humility. Life is a gift that we cannot afford to take for granted. We are not entitled to any of the blessings God has granted. We didn’t earn them and we certainly cannot guarantee that they will remain a part of our lives by our own efforts. As the famous holocaust survivor Corrie TenBoom once remarked, “I have learned to hold on to the things of this world very loosely because it hurts too badly when God has to pry my fingers apart.”

Second, we must cultivate the spiritual resources we need today so we will have those resources available to draw from when tragedy strikes. Think of it as retirement planning. Those who are wise have and continue to plan for retirement by putting resources away for the future. When retirement comes, they are able to do so because they have prepared in advance. The same principle is true of spiritual principles. Job had cultivated a life of character and integrity, fearing God and turning from evil. Because of the spiritual resources he developed as a routine part of his life, he had those resources to draw from during his time of devastating loss. Not even God can draw something from you that you have not intentionally invested. If we have not made those investments into our spiritual lives, we will find ourselves spiritually destitute if and when we need to make a significant withdrawal. We’ll see more evidence of Job’s spiritual investments in the next section of this story.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
24

One Day

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One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.
(Job 1:6-12, NLT)

On May 1, 1915, nearly 2,000 passengers boarded a luxury ocean liner at Pier 54 in New York destined for Liverpool, England. People were anxious, because Great Britain and Germany were at war, and the charted course would call for the Lusitania to navigate dangerous waters. Germany had placed ads in American newspapers warning them not to travel on British ships, and many heeded the warning. However, approximately 200 Americans chose to take the risk and make the trip. The first several days of the journey were uneventful, but on the morning of May 7, the ship found itself in dense fog and 100 miles from its destination. As the fog lifted around noon, a German U-boat spotted the Lusitania and fired a torpedo into the starboard side of the ship. The explosion triggered a second explosion, and within 20 minutes the ship turned on its side and sank. The tragic event was instrumental in the United States decision to enter what we now refer to as World War I. And it all happened as the result of one day.

The story of Job begins by introducing him as a man who was, in the words of God, “the finest man on earth.” This introduction is followed by a conversation that is staged at the throne of God in the heavenlies. We are presented with “the Satan,” who is pictured as wandering the earth. Though he wanders, his wandering is not aimless. This adversarial accuser stands poised to create mischief throughout the earth. The reader is reminded of Peter’s description in 1 Peter 5:8 where he reminds us that Satan “roams the earth, to and fro, seeking whom he may devour.”

As the conversation unfolds, God points out his servant Job. Satan immediately flung his arrows of accusation, claiming that the only reason Job is devout is because God has blessed him and protected him from harm. Inherent in this accusation is the finger pointed at God, suggesting that God has blessed Job in exchange for his devotion. So a challenged is proposed: take all that he has and Job will no longer worship God. The challenge is accepted, with limitation. Satan is released to undertake his work, but forbidden to touch Job himself.

The essence of the challenge is this. Is God so good he can be loved for himself? Will a person hold on to God when there are no benefits attached? The test of Job is a good question for us. Do we love God for who he is? Or do we love him for the gifts he bestows?

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to the rural regions of Haiti. It was less than primitive. We were 100 miles from a telephone. The nearest power outlet was the same distance. The terrain was so rugged it took nearly 17 hours and 5 tire changes just to get to the orphanage where we would stay. It was third world conditions.

To our surprise, the first morning we were awakened at dawn by the local villagers having choir practice. These men and women sang in full voice, brimming with joy and enthusiasm. My friend Greg, who was on the trip, made an observation I’ll never forget. He said, “If these people, living in these conditions, can sing like that at 5:30 in the morning, I’ll never complain about singing in church again!” These Haitian men and women loved God for who he is, no strings attached. And we will soon find that Job did too.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
17

Once Upon a Time:: 2

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“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.” (Job 1:1-5, NLT)

The Book of Job begins by introducing the reader to this remarkable person. Why is he remarkable? The first five verses give three explicit reasons, the first of which is his character (1:1). The writer reports that Job is a man whose life is marked by blameless thoughts and attitudes as well as behavior that is of complete integrity. He does this by fearing God and avoiding evil.

Not only is he a man of character, he is a man of affluence (1:2-3). He possessed exceptional wealth. Among the inventory of his possessions is the fact that he has been blessed with ten children. Those who lived in the ancient near east believed that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. The thought that Job was “lucky” or hard working would have never occurred to his peers. Their evaluation would have been that he was blessed by God.

In addition to these two elements we find that Job is also a man of influence (1:4-5). Because of the early nature of Job’s story, there was no central priesthood, but that didn’t stop Job from priesting his family. He led his family spiritually, pointing them to God, making sure that even their potential sins were atoned for. As we read on, we find that Job not only influenced his family, he helped those around him. Job 4:3-4 states of Job, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees.”

Everyone loved and respected Job. But even more that the affirmation of his family and peers was the affirmation of God, who called Job “the finest man on earth!” (Job 1:8, 2:3)

Why is this information important? It’s important because Job’s righteousness is essential to the story. Had Job been a rascal we would look at his pain and suffering and write it off as well deserved. But he’s not a rascal. He’s the most exemplary person on earth…and that’s God’s assessment!

Job’s righteousness sets us up to wrestle with some very important questions.

— Why do bad things happen to good people?
— Why do the righteous suffer?
— Is God arbitrary?
— Is God just?
— Is God fair?

That’s the stuff of the story of Job. And its worth

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Jan
16

The No Complaining Rule

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This week I finished The No Complaining Rule by Jon Gordon. Using parables, Gordon writes simple books with large morals that are helpful in virtually every dimension of life. This book is no exception.

Gordon suggests that people complain for two basic reasons. One, they are fearful and hopeless, and two, its a habit. He offers three beneficial “no complaining tools” to help break the cycle of complaining and move toward more productive and constructive conversations. Here they are, in short.

First, use the but, >>> positive technique, meaning that when you find yourself complaining about something, add the word “but” and follow it with a positive statement. For example, “I can’t believe its snowing again, but at least I have a warm house and a roof over my head.”

Second, focus on using “get to” instead of “have to.” In other words, instead of saying, “I have to go to work today,” try “I get to go to work today and am thankful to have a job.”

Finally, find ways to turn complaints into solutions. According to Gordon, mindless complaining focuses only on problems and is never beneficial. Justified complaining, however, identifies problems and begins to move toward solutions. The only appropriate complaints are those that immediately move off of the issue and immediately begins to work toward solutions.

This is a quick read with many lessons. If chronic complaining is an issue for you at work, at home, or even personally, you’ll find this volume to be helpful.

Categories : Books
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Jan
15

Once Upon a Time

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What did you read growing up? As a child learning to read, one of the genres of literature that I cut my teeth on was fairy tales. Those fairy tales had a certain rhythm. They began with recognizable phrases such as “once upon a time,” or “long, long ago in a far away land.” There was the main character, usually a castle, and the story involved someone with incredible wealth. The main character was usually beset with some adversity that was rooted in evil such as a magic spell. The main character would be delivered and live, of course, “happily ever after.” Fairy tales are written for at least two purposes. First, the story is written in a manner that allows the reader to insert himself or herself into the narrative. Think about how many “princesses” came to your door on Halloween. Second, the story is written to offer a moralism or a truth that can serve as some form of life lesson.

Job is written in such a fashion.

By making that observation I am in no way suggesting that the Book of Job should be considered fictional literature. There is a lot of evidence that would support that Job was a real person who did indeed suffer greatly. But to my point, it is written in a way that allows the reader to insert himself or herself into the story and find a take away to live by.

According to scholars, Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible. Chronologically it appears in the middle of the Old Testament, categorized with the wisdom literature books of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. But its interesting to note that some of the oldest Old Testament manuscripts are from Job, suggesting that before God wanted to talk about subjects such as creation, the Patriarchs, or the Exodus, he wanted to address the universal dilemma of human suffering.

Yesterday I began a nine week series on the story of Job. I hope that you will find these reflections helpful as together we try to understand the ways of God in the midst of our own pain and suffering.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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