If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

Job 31-34

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Wednesday, December 21

A profound and familiar philosophical question that has repeated through many ages says, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  While this is a simple “yes” or “no” question you would probably get ten different explanations if you asked ten different people.  The question really is not precise enough to be answered on its own.

 

I have found the following question, heard in many theological circles, to be similar: “Does God speak today?”  Again, a question like this would be met with a variety of logic and debate because depends on interpretation of the question.

 

I feel both questions can be clarified by defining a single word. What do you mean by “sound” or “speaking”?

 

While there in a nuance between the two, I define both as an active force that travels through space or time that can/will eventually meet a listener.  God is not AN active force, but THE ever-present active force working in our lives.  While He has chosen to speak audibly to some, He has also spoken through vision, through prophets, and the ever-reverberating and active forces, His word and nature. (Heb 4:12; Psalm 19:1-6).

 

In our reading today, Elihu gives Job many examples of how God speaks not only audibly but inaudibly, through circumstance, His word, and through our brothers and sisters in Christ:

 

“But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue; My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.  The Spirit of God has made me;   the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” – Job 33:1-4

 

“For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds,he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.”  – Job 33:14-18

 

We may grow “deaf” because we have rejected Him, we may tune out certain frequencies because we have parts of our lives we are not ready to turn over to Him, but it does not mean He does not speak; it means, like Job, we have not listened.  There is always an audience for Him in moving and active creation. (Joshua 24:27).

God’s target audience is not the rocks; it is us.  He is constantly speaking in His word, through his pastors, in the sunrise, through his children, and yes, audibly.  Slow down.  Stop even.  Make time.  Ponder.  Pray.  Seek.  Perceive His wisdom, warnings, and wonders.  Today, make time to listen.

-Aaron Winner

Enduring Faithfulness

Job 27-30

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Tuesday, December 20

Yesterday, we tackled Bildad’s question to Job about the righteousness of man before a Holy God.   With a new frame of mind, we can answer and confidently place these words of Job in our heart:

“I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it;  my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” – Job 27:6

Our conscience, our friends, and our family are not our judge, only the Lord God Almighty.  If he has made us new through repentance, then that we are indeed.  Do we continue in sin? NO! (Rom 6:1).  Do we walk around saying, “You are not my judge!” NO! (Heb 10:24) We become part of the church, pray, study, do good works, give cheerfully, share His good news, not to earn merit badges for the Kingdom of God but as loving and faithful acts of a pardoned people.  No matter our past or present circumstance we must not conceal what God is/can do in us.  Today, you can move forward declare and renew your innocence through Him.

“I will teach you about the power of God;   the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal” – Job 27:11

Along the same vein, another reflection for today comes from the second half of today’s reading (Job 29 – 30).  Job essentially is contemplating the “good ole days”, before his fortunes turned south.  The power, the respect, the friends, and the wealth he once enjoyed all are gone.  While our fall might not equal Job’s, far too often when things take a turn for the worse, we quickly forget about the faithfulness of God.  We become as the children of Israel, longing to return to slavery so our belly can be momentarily filled. (Ex 14:20) We cry out, “God, why have you taken this from me?” yet we forget who gave it to us in the first place.

Your present life may not include the finite features of your past.  Death, debt, despair, and destruction may have become more commonplace; however, there is one infinite feature that is constant: the love and faithfulness of an unchanging God.  Look upon the past not to remind you of the “good ole days,” but of his enduring faithfulness; use the lamp unto your feet to know that your future is secure, no matter what life’s storms may bring.

-Aaron Winner

Maggots! And Great Grace!

Job 22-26

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Monday, December 19

Job is repeatedly told by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that it is Job’s actions that have brought this wicked fate upon him.  In today’s reading, Bildad poses a question to Job, but really, calls into question the righteousness of every man.

 

How then can a mortal be righteous before God?  How can one born of woman be pure? – Job 25:4

 

The truth is that Job, his friends, you, and I have all suffered from the same condition.  We have sinned: an act of contempt against our Creator.  It doesn’t matter if we strayed for a moment or a lifetime, it separates us from a Holy God, and it makes us like maggots clinging to garbage; our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Job 25:6; Isaiah 64:6)

 

There is nothing that man can do to gain the grace of God.  It is a gift that no amount of church attendance, prayer, Bible study, charity, or good work earns.  Redemption comes only through our faithful Father’s plan of salvation.  (Ephesian 2:8)

 

The inverse of this is an equally powerful message.  No man with the breath of God in his lungs can lose His grace.  You cannot be selfish enough, you cannot hate enough, you cannot deny his existence enough, and you cannot curse his grace away; it is there faithfully following and patiently awaiting confession and surrender.  (Isaiah 59:1; Romans 8:38-39)

 

A small glimpse into tomorrow’s reading reveals our new attitude because of this:

Until then,

Aaron Winner

 

The-Kid-Who-Knows-Everything Answer

Job 18-21

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Sunday, December 18

A teacher poses a challenging question in his class.  Most students begin to ponder, some begin to turn and whisper, some cross their fingers and hope they are not asked to contribute.  Not a single hand goes in the air.  The teacher repeats the question; this time, he says in a different way.  It doesn’t help.  Thoughts become more frantic.  Anxiety increases.  Some students begin to avoid eye contact.  At the moment that it seems that the teacher will start combing the class for a response, a lone hand ascends into the air.  It is that kid who knows everything. Thank you, that kid who knows everything! The teacher calls on her, and you are saved from having to answer the question.  All’s right with the world; you now can rest easy.

 

I have seen this scenario played out many times as both a student and a teacher.   No matter how difficult the question, it seems there is always one person in our lives who is prepared to answer it.  Whether it is at school, in your family, your circles of friends, or your work, there is always that one person (who very well may be you) that you turn to that has the experience, knowledge, or wisdom it takes to figure out life’s most difficult questions.

 

A passage in today’s text is like “that kid who knows everything.”  It  is the all-encompassing answer that holds God’s key and fundamental truth in which we can fix our hope. It stops us from over-thinking, stifles our anxiety, and helps us to take on, not avoid challenging situations, like:

 

  • When you are having trouble making sense of the world around you
  • When you feel like your prayers are not being answered
  • When you seek  “the reason” THIS is happening to YOU
  • When you lose someone or something you dearly love
  • When justice cannot be found
  • When we lose our health or happiness
  • When we face many other examples from Job 19:7-20

 

This is Job’s answers and ours:

 

Job 19:25-27 – “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him  with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”


It is not resignation.  It is not a cop-out.  It does not mean you stop seeking, studying, or pursuing.  It is the assurance and peace which you can rest and be guided in while you are waiting.

-Aaron Winner

Though He Slay Me

Job 13 – 17

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Saturday, December 17

Today’s reading records my favorite verse of the book of Job:

 

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ”  (Job 13:15)

 

Job lived this song. The Psalms plead this song.  Because of God’s sovereign care for us, every pain in this life is producing a glory that will last forever.  A Christian’s suffering should never be meaningless. Not only is all our affliction momentary, not only is all our affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every second of our pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every second of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory.

Job’s trust in God was not based upon emotion.  It was based upon a complete belief in God as the One who knew what was best for him in all situations.  It was based upon a complete belief that whatever God put into his life, God was still to be trusted.  Job uttered these classic words after he had gone through the worst testing that anyone has possibly gone through.  He didn’t look to what was seen, and neither should we.

Shane Barnard of the Christian contemporary music group, Shane & Shane, understands this truth too. After the untimely death of his father, he and his family desperately looked to God for comfort. They clung to God’s word, and in their deepest moments of grief, they were led to worship. The song below, “Though You Slay Me,” was born in that experience.

 

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

 

Therefore, do not lose heart. Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!

-Julie Driskill

 

 

2 Things You Always Have – No Matter the Circumstance

Job 9 – 12

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Friday, December 16

In yesterday’s reading and today’s portion of the book we find Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, come to visit him. The trio sit with Job in silence for seven days out of respect for his mourning. On the seventh day, Job speaks, beginning a conversation in which each of the four men shares his thoughts on Job’s afflictions in LONG, poetic statements.

 

To summarize, Job curses the day he was born, comparing life and death to light and darkness. He wishes that his birth had been shrouded in darkness and longs to have never been born. All his bemoaning only seems to intensify his misery. Eliphaz responds that Job, who has comforted other people, now shows that he never really understood their pain. Eliphaz believes that Job’s agony must be due to some sin Job has committed, and he urges Job to seek God’s favor. Bildad and Zophar agree that Job must have committed evil to offend God’s justice and argue that he should strive to exhibit more blameless behavior. Bildad surmises that Job’s children brought their deaths upon themselves. Even worse, Zophar implies that whatever wrong Job has done probably deserves greater punishment than what he has received.

 

The one thing I wish in reading the story of Job is that God had actually given Job reasons that made sense to Job. He never did. He simply said, “I am here and I am God and you aren’t.” What I do know from personal experience and from scripture is that God has settled His love for me, regardless of my circumstances. There is no injustice, grief, pain or loss that could ever take away the love that He displayed for me, a hopeless sinner, in giving His Son as my sacrifice. Regardless of what you have lost, as believers in Christ there are two things we always have. You still have Jesus and you still have a choice. Cling to both until God brings you to a peaceful rest.

-Julie Driskill

 

 

Questioning God

Job 5-8

why Thursday, December 15

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? This is a re-occurring question we find Job and his so-called friends exploring in this section of scripture. The re-occurring theme seems to center around man’s status in the world. Man’s powers don’t come close to God’s, but according to Genesis, we were made in His image. Does that give us a right to talk back to God? Job would shout a resounding yes, but sometimes the exchanges back and forth between the friends and Job would give the reader mixed signals.

 

Usually when someone makes rules, it isn’t in the rulebook to question those rules. Job doesn’t deny that the rules exist, but he’s often found challenging their application. So as Job doubts God we find him taking a big step philosophically for Israelite thought. He is seemingly doubting tradition and this is a big leap. Job keeps acknowledging his innocence in his lengthy monologues, but he cannot quite reconcile how God in His divine justice remains silent in his suffering.

 

While this excerpt of Job is not offering any answers, it does provide helpful guidelines for thinking through issues. All men and women eventually suffer. It is in our duty as we feel the pain to explore the sovereignty of God – and eventually relinquish control that we never had in the first place. All Christians will go through challenging situations, by studying the life of Job it can help one to draw strength and encouragement until relief comes.

 

Julie Driskill

Hold ON!

Job 1-4

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Wednesday, December 14

The book of Job is an emotional rollercoaster. Rider/reader beware when you begin to venture this wild, scary, often windingly frustrating thrill ride. Pretty much everyone in the Book of Job dies except the main characters. But this story is about more than just mass destruction. Don’t get me wrong, the mourning rituals recorded after Job’s entire family dies are fascinating, but the physical destruction in the story leads to quite a collection of major philosophical ponderings that truly stick with the reader. Heavy, confusing stuff. You were warned.

 

The prologue places us in the land of Uz, not Oz, which is located far away from Israel. The unnamed author reveals no clear historical settings, and it seems as if all of the characters, except one, Elihu, are of any Hebrew origin whatsoever. The reoccurring themes throughout seemingly volley back and forth from the idea of suffering to justice. And by the way, don’t hold your breath, those questions will never get answered. Job will be pondering, reflecting, and VERBALIZING about how fragile and meaningless human life is in repeated fashion throughout.

 

The saga opens with the author declaring how awesome Job is, “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”(Job 1:3)  Wow. That is quite an endorsement. From this point we are ushered into the throne room of heaven in a very odd scene of sorts. The action resembles a court scene of sorts. God, the angels, and Satan are all present arguing the integrity and faith of Job. God gives Satan permission to test Job and the story gets very dark, real quick.

 

Pain is a central part of the human experience and there is no way around it. The book of Job covers all its pain bases: rashes, boils, and blisters, oh my! Not only does he experience physical pain but also emotional pain. Round that out with a heavy dose of spiritual pain and you can begin to see why Job finds himself at breaking points time and time again asking God why.

 

By chapter 3 & 4 we are introduced to Job’s “friends.” The reader will quickly discover that with friends like these you wouldn’t really have need of enemies.  The three bullies seemingly gang up on Job doing their best to convince him non-stop that he has sinned in some manner and God is simply punishing him for it. While Job is certainly down for the count, his consistent banter back and forth with the trio is mind boggling. Give it a rest Job? Just shut up and let them move on!

 

Remember how Job renounced God and became an atheist when his entire family died? No? Oh yeah, that’s because that’s not how it goes down. Nor will it ever be. Job makes it through Round 1 pretty successfully, but we find him getting more and more feisty when he finds himself with a rash and infuriating, obnoxious friends. And neither should we. Spoiler alert: God does not owe us explanations, and the sooner we come to terms with that timeless truth the happier we will all be. Tune in tomorrow as we observe the further unraveling of our besieged hero. I promise it will be worth the ride!

-Julie Driskill

 

 

 

 

 

How It All Goes Down

Esther 5-10

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Tuesday, December 13

Esther is accepted by the king.  After the fasting and praying period, Esther went before the king, he raised his scepter, and he spared her life. Xerxes was eager to grant Esther what she wished. Instead of telling the king about her problem, she invited the king and Haman to a banquet. At the banquet, Esther invited the king and Haman to another banquet the next day. Haman was still upset at Mordecai, and through the encouragement of his wife, he made a 75 foot pole to hang Mordecai.

God gives the king a sleepless night.  The night between the two banquets the king couldn’t sleep. The king’s insomnia was no accident. This is actually one of the main turning points of the story. God made sure that Xerxes was up that night so that he would be prompted to remember when Mordecai saved the king’s life. It turns out that Mordecai had never been rewarded for saving the king’s life. The king resolves to reward Mordecai immediately. And he puts Haman in charge of the celebration! (Insert face palm here.)

At the second banquet, Esther told the king, finally, that she was a Jew, and that she would be killed because of the law that Haman wrote. Filled with anger, the king walked out of the room. Haman, meanwhile, pled for his life with Esther. When the king returned, he believed that Haman was attacking Esther. Haman was arrested and hung on the pole he created for Mordecai.

In order to save the Jewish people, the king allows Mordecai and Esther to write a law that saves the Jewish people. The Jews are authorized to defend themselves with the protection of the government. When the day comes, the Jews fight their enemies and are saved. As a result of all of this, Mordecai becomes second in charge of Persia after the king, and Esther is the glorious queen!

God works in your life through the ordinary. What did God do in the story of Esther? There were no miracles. There was no verse that said, “God…” and explained God’s actions. But certainly, God was at work in this story. After all, his chosen people were saved through a series of improbable events.  This demonstrates just exactly how God works in our lives. God accomplishes his plans through everyday, ordinary means. We need to see how God is working in our lives through his providence. Think about things that almost didn’t happen in your life. Maybe you almost went to a different school. Or, you almost never became friends with your best friends. But you did, and it changed your life. The story of Esther teaches us to see how God works in the everyday, ordinary parts of our lives and to trust God’s heart when we don’t understand His hand.

-Julie Driskill

For Such a Time as This!

Esther 1-4

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Monday, December 12

Esther occurs at an interesting time in Biblical history. The Jewish people had been living in exile in Persia. The Persian king, Cyrus, allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Many went back to Jerusalem, but some stayed behind in Persia. Esther is the fascinating story of those people who stayed behind in Persia.

At this time God’s people were basically controlled by a dictator.  The king of Persia is a guy named Xerxes. In Esther chapter 1, we see he threw a huge party for all of his most important officials that lasted for 6 months. In the last 7 days of the party, Xerxes expanded the party to include everyone in the city.  After seven days of getting drunk, Xerxes called for his wife, Queen Vashti.  He wanted all of his friends to view his wife and see how beautiful she was. But Vashti refused, which made Xerxes angry.  (Uh-oh.) Vashti is removed as queen, and all the wives of Persia are told not to be defiant like the queen!

Enter Esther.  In chapter 2, Xerxes decides to find a new queen. He’s not romantic, however. He’s a sick dictator.  He has his servants go throughout Persia to find beautiful virgins. They are brought back to the palace, and then they are to spend one night with Xerxes.  One of the women brought to the king is Esther. In chapter 2, we are introduced to Esther, and her cousin Mordecai who raised her because she was orphaned. Esther is taken into the king’s harem. And when it is her turn to be with the king, he falls for her. Esther becomes queen, but we learn that she doesn’t tell anyone she is Jewish. (Psssst.) It’s a secret.


It is also in this chapter that we learn that Mordecai found out about a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther, who told the king, and the perpetrators were executed. As chapter 2 ends, Esther is queen and Mordecai is responsible for saving the king. But remember, no one knows Esther is Jewish.
Chapter 3 introduces us to the true villain of the story -a man named Haman. He was the most powerful official in Persia after the king, and he was a jerk! Mordecai refused to bow to Haman. And Haman got mad. He didn’t just hate Mordecai, but all the Jews.  Haman came up with a plan to exterminate the Jews from Persia. He told the king that if he was allowed to kill this group of people, he would take their money and give it to the king. Xerxes agreed to this arrangement without hearing the details.


In chapter 4 Mordecai and the Jews began to be in mourning because of this decree. Esther wanted to know what was the matter with Mordecai, and why he was in mourning. Mordecai believed that Esther can help, but she was afraid to go before the king. If a person came before the king unannounced, they could be executed.

Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Esther 4:13-14

God would save the Jewish people. He promised to do it in the Old Testament. But Mordecai saw that Esther might be God’s instrument of salvation for the Jews. You have to remember, neither Mordecai nor Esther knew how the story was going to end. Both of them could have been killed.

Finally, Esther decided to help, although death was a real possibility for her. She asked the Jews to fast and pray for her. This was a turning point in Esther’s life. She went from being a young woman who was at the mercy of the king and her cousin, to a person who was decisive and in control.

At the completion of today’s post I hope you realize that everyone faces turning points in their lives. Have you faced a turning point in your life yet?  Some possible turning points in your lives could be:

Will I cheat on this test or not?

Will I date a non-Christian or not?

Will I have sex with my boyfriend/girlfriend or not?

Will I let everyone know that I am a Christian or not?

Maybe you can see some turning points in your life where you didn’t follow God with your decision. There is good news. God forgives.

God uses unusual events to accomplish his plans. The story of Esther is like an elaborate chess board, and God is moving the pieces of the chess board into place to accomplish his purposes. He does this in our lives too. You might wonder why God allowed your parents to get a divorce, or why he allowed your family to move to a different state. You might wonder why God isn’t giving you the things you want in life.  He takes all of the experiences of your life and uses it for your good. As we continue tomorrow in Esther, you will see how this rings true!

-Julie Driskill

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