Archive for January, 2018


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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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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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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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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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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Early Adopters

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I remember the first time I saw a VCR. It was in the mid-1980’s at the home of one of our church members. He explained how it worked and wasn’t bashful in the least to tell me how much he paid for it. If memory serves, it was nearly $600, which certainly put the device way out of my financial league. Today I can now go to a local discount store and purchase a Blue Ray DVD player for less than $50!

Everett Rogers coined the term “early adopter” in 1962, and described them as early customers to a given company, product, or technology. Today it is estimated that 13.5% of Americans are considered in this bracket, right behind the 2.5% who are considered to be the innovators.

There are a couple of components about early adopters that I find interesting. First, early adopters are patient. While their eagerness may not find crowded check out lines, they have to patiently endure the “bug fixes” that accompany new yet not fully developed products. With early adoption comes paying the price of time as they use the new innovation in the real world.

Second, early adopters often pay premium prices. Those who are early adopters in technology find this to be especially true. Think of the prices of the first VCRs, computers, flat screen televisions, or cell phones. Think of those prices compared to the technology of the same items available today for a fraction of the cost.

What we find in the retail world is true of churches as well. New programs, worship styles and other innovations come with a price. I have yet to see a new anything rolled out in a church that was perfect in its first iteration. There are kinks, bugs, problems, conflicting schedules, miscommunications, lack of communication…you get the idea. Some church members will wait and see if the new innovation catches wind. Some will never buy in. But the early adopters join in and patiently pay premium because they want to be on the cutting edge of innovation. Even when its in the church.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Dealing with Frogs

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I grew up attending church, so the major themes and familiar stories of the Bible are part of my spiritual DNA. One of those stories is unpacked in the Old Testament book of Exodus, which tells of God’s call upon a wanted man named Moses who was tasked with the responsibility of confronting the Egyptian Pharaoh with the command, “Let my people go!”

Pharaoh, of course, was not inclined to give up his labor force, and told Moses that he wasn’t impressed with his “trick” of turning his staff into a serpent. As the story goes, God unleashed a series of ten plagues on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt, each of which addressed a particular object of Egyptian worship.

Having set that stage, I wanted to share a particular insight that I’ve recently contemplated. In plague number one, the water of the Nile is turned to blood. Pharaoh remained hard hearted. In Exodus chapter 8 we see the second plague, which was frogs coming from the Nile to invade every space of their homes.

Pharaoh called for Moses and asked for relief. This makes complete sense for at least three reasons. One, the word plague means, in part, “any widespread affliction or calamity.” Obviously these plagues created a tremendous amount of chaos and discomfort. Two, assuming these frogs were of the African frog variety, there was a great deal of danger. Our American bullfrogs are basically harmless. You may not want one for a pet, but neither would you consider them a threat. African frogs are carnivorous, have teeth, and will bite when threatened. That adds a bit of interest, right? Finally, we’re no different from Pharaoh in our desire for immediate relief anytime we’re even remotely uncomfortable. I keep Tums and Advil in the console of my truck for this very reason.

But when we read the story, we see that Pharaoh did something very interesting. Having been summoned to the palace, Moses asked Pharaoh, “When do you want the frogs to go? You set the time!” And to the disbelief of the reader, Pharaoh replies, “Do it tomorrow.” Tomorrow? Seriously?

I realize that scholars who have written big, fat commentaries on Exodus have plausible rationales for what is taking place here. But using the hermeneutic of the common reader, his response makes no sense whatsoever. We all have experienced suffering, and we’re pretty quick to dial up the prayers for its immediate relief. So why does Pharaoh say tomorrow?

Now that I think about it, why do we say tomorrow? We all have our “frogs.” You know what I mean. We have our habits, addictions, attitudes, and behaviors that are problematic. Like the Egyptians, we have frogs in our bedrooms, frogs in our kitchens, frogs in our living rooms, our garages, in the yard, at our employment–they can be anywhere.

We know those frogs are a problem. And if we’re honest, we know those frogs adversely and negatively affect others. After all, none of us live in a vacuum. To make matters worse, deep down we really want to change. We want to stop. We want to quit. We want to be free and clear of the frogs.

So why don’t we deal with the frogs? Because there’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow gives us the opportunity to hang on to the frogs just one more day. Or one more time. But with delayed action comes increasing stubbornness. Or to use Exodus’ word, hard heartedness.

2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Now is the time of God’s favor. Today is the day of salvation!” Whatever frogs are in your life, now is the time to begin to deal with them. God’s grace is available today. Right now. Its your move.

Categories : New Year
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On Sunday I’m going to begin a nine week study on the life of Job. Check my blog each week for my latest thoughts and interactions from the book that speaks the universal language of suffering.

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Thinking Ahead!

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In the past I’ve tried to spend the last week of December in reflection as well as in anticipation of the coming calendar year. I’ve tried various forms of goal setting strategies based on resources I’ve happened upon. Since research shows that 50% of all new year’s resolutions are broken by February 1, I’ve decided to simplify my approach for 2018 and narrow things down to four basics.

While I’m not sharing the details of each category, I thought I’d at least share the framework with you. If you find it compelling, great! If not, that’s great as well.

1. I want to quit something.
Sometimes you have to let go of something to make room for something new. As John C. Maxwell said, “Breakthroughs are break-withs.”

2. I want to learn something.
I think an important part of life is the commitment to be a life long learner. So I’ve identified a couple of things in fact that I want to learn.

3. I want to create something.
Because I’ve made room for more through my first action, I can now invest the time and resources I now possess to create something new. Don’t assume the word create is limited to some endeavor in the fine arts. It could be as simple as beginning or starting something that doesn’t presently exist.

4. I want to master something.
I, at least, have the propensity to be the proverbial “jack of all trades.” While having a broad and diverse skill set is good, I want to have at least one skill where I am adept enough to be a servant of others. Mastery in this case is not for the purpose of pride. Mastery serves others because it allows one to share an expertise with another person and make their lives better.

As I said, if you find this framework compelling, by all means play with it and see what your four “goals” are for the year.

Happy New Year! 2017 has been good, and 2018 will be better!

Categories : Uncategorized
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