A Center for Ants?!

Job 41-42 and Psalm 89

I struggle with the book of Job. I come to the end of it anticipating answers. I’ve read it before, and I didn’t find answers then, so why would I expect answers this time? Maybe I will read it enough times that the key to all of it will suddenly spark into my understanding. But I could be asking the wrong questions. What if the author of Job wasn’t trying to answer the questions I care about? Is it still fair for me to excavate it for the answers I want?

If I was going to judge the book of Job like I would a television series, I would say it got canceled and they had to scramble to figure out a way to end it in the last episode. But there were too many details and connections to squeeze into one episode. There are only so many options in that situation, and none of them are good. So the producers of The Job Show, driven by the fans’ need for closure, opted for the fairy tale ending where some magical element swooped in out of left field and restored Job to his former glory. Then nothing really had to be explained. It was tied up with a bow without the need to craft all the right connections.

Somehow having two Ferraris to replace the first and getting a replacement family doesn’t feel like closure or justice to me. Really, I’m happy that Job had a great life after all of that, but that doesn’t wipe away the lingering questions.

Probably the biggest question everyone has about the book of Job is how a good and loving God can allow such terrible suffering. In Job, it is even more problematic, because God is making some kind of wager with the accuser and giving him permission to take everything from him. It doesn’t really take God off the hook to say that technically he didn’t do anything to Job. It sure sounds like Job was a chip being pushed out into the middle of the table during a divine poker game.

Another uncomfortable question is about the satan/accuser. The assumption might be that he is the bad guy, and that if justice is done, he should be dealt with. But he isn’t dealt with. He’s not important enough to even mention as the story comes to a close. It isn’t clear at all from the text that he is supposed to be understood as being evil. It sounds like he is just fulfilling a role of someone on God’s staff responsible for playing devil’s advocate, to enact checks and balances against God’s policies.

Short of having good answers for these questions, the next best thing I can do is suggest that they were probably not on the radar of Job’s author. The book of Job is not really about why we suffer or where suffering comes from, although Job’s suffering is like the emotional setting of the story. It isn’t about who or what the satan is, nor about his relationship to God. Not that these are not important questions! It’s just that the author of Job didn’t set out to address them. I think the real questions on the table are more about God’s wisdom and justice, and that the events at the beginning of Job serve to propel us into a hypothetical situation where we can sandbox the questions with Job and his friends.

In all the haste to bring the series to a close, there was time for a good bit about Leviathan. He’s a chaos water-dragon type of creature that we are apparently completely powerless against. You could take him to be a representation of our deepest fears and unknowns. How do we face such absolute terror? And if God is his creator, how much more terrifying must God be? Just imagine that we are like ants to Leviathan, but Leviathan is just a tadpole to God. Just a tadpole in a drop of water on a rock orbiting a star, somewhere within a galaxy of billions of stars, somewhere among billions of other galaxies. Do you feel insignificant?

After reading Job, we are left feeling small and with more questions than we had before reading it. Our status is upset from expert to beginner. This is a good place to be. This is humility that can lead to wisdom. God didn’t inspire the author of Job to answer all of our questions or connect all the dots for us. God is prompting us to ask bigger and better questions.

God trusted that Job would endure the most severe unrest and still serve him. Job was somehow able to trust that God was a God of justice even though he didn’t have the evidence we’d all require to do the same. Can I really trust that ultimately God will set everything right? Am I willing to accept that I most likely will not see all of this happen in this lifetime? Can I accept that God has the wisdom to enact true justice in his time, to his standards? 

Little did Job know that having his riches restored was only a small taste of God’s restorative justice. Our ideas of what justice, goodness, and love look like are so tiny compared to the true versions of these that come from God.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)

-Jay Laurent

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway at Job 41-42 and Psalm 89

Your Reputation

John 3

What’s your reputation? The Bereans were known for checking Paul´s words against Scripture. Thomas was the doubter. Saul had a reputation for persecuting the Christians before he became Paul. The Pharisees were hypocrites.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day, and at the time were esteemed by many. But in the eyes of God they were dangerous men who didn’t get it. Matthew 16:12 ¨Then at last they (the disciples) understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.¨ What a common misconception, right? The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws. They were the teachers and leaders of the Jews. Yet Jesus rebukes them because they were missing a love for God.

This type of thinking reminds me of chapter 5 of Matthew where Jesus keeps on telling the people  that they have all heard what the law says but Jesus comes along and ¨tightens¨ up the law, by changing the outward focus inward- off of the laws and onto the heart. The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws but no matter how much they seemed to do they missed the point- following God, not just the laws.

 From what the Bible tells us about the Pharisees we see them continually trying to trick Jesus into messing up, or catch him red handed going against God´s law. They are the ones who plotted and killed Jesus! With the exception of Gamaliel and Nicodemus and Paul, the Pharisees are recorded as hypocrites, blind guides, lovers of  money, and a brood of vipers. (Matthew 23:23-24, Luke 16:14, 12:34) The Pharisees´ hated Jesus and everything he did and said.

In John 3 we see Nicodemus, a Pharisee, come to Jesus at night. Even to come at night had to have taken guts. But when Jesus tells him that one must be born again before they can see the Kingdom of God, he is stuck in his thinking as a Pharisee. But he knows Jesus is different from the rest of the Jewish teachers. Later on in John, Nicodemus makes steps in not following the Pharisees when he convinces his colleagues to allow a trial for Jesus, and when Jesus was laid in the tomb, it was Nicodemus who provided the myrrh and aloes and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to care for the lifeless body of Jesus.

What do you want to be known for? Nicodemus could have been a stereotypical Pharisee but he stepped out to learn from Jesus, the Son of God. He wanted to follow God instead of people. 

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here Joshua 23-24 and John 3

Called and Used by the Generous God

Jeremiah 1-3

Jeremiah 1 5 NIV sgl

These first 3 chapters of Jeremiah have several applications for the reader. In the beginning of this book, we learn about the calling of Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah was even born, the Lord set him aside to be a prophet. God wanted to use Jeremiah to fulfill this calling. Jeremiah at first believed himself incapable of such a thing. But the LORD said he would be with Jeremiah. He would not only guide him; he would also protect him. Jeremiah then trusted God and began this work.

We can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes it is easy to doubt ourselves and believe that we are incapable of something. We may think that God couldn’t use us because of x, y, and z. In reality, though, it is not by our strength or ability that we serve the LORD. It is rather him working through us. So, by doubting ourselves, we are doubting the ability of the LORD to work through us. Jeremiah also did not believe himself capable of being called, but nonetheless he was. The LORD called many sinners such as David, Jonah, Paul, and countless others. So, do not doubt yourself. The LORD is capable of calling you and through him, you are capable of answering that call.

Another interesting thing found in these three chapters is the fact that God warned the people of their ways. He did not make them guess. Sometimes when we are upset with someone, we think that the offending party should be able to figure out why we are upset with them. God did not do this. He used Jeremiah to tell them what they were doing and what they needed to do. If I really think about this, I think of how generous and caring this act is. Even though the Israelites were completely in the wrong and should know what it was they were doing, God still communicated with them. He did not keep them in the dark even though they were ignoring him.

It is interesting also that it seems like the main thing that God is asking of the Israelites in these chapters is for their repentance. Through Jeremiah, he tells them that they should not continue on in their ways as though they are doing no wrong. They should acknowledge what they are doing and repent. They needed to accept that they were wrong.

It can be hard though to admit when we are wrong. By doing this our pride is injured and we have to humble ourselves. It is far easier to keep doing what we were doing and act like we are in the clear. This, however, is not right. We need to admit when we are wrong. Through doing so, we can grow and mature.

 

Hannah Deane

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+1-3&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 4-6 as we continue on our journey through God’s Word with the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

It’s All About Love

Luke Chapter 10

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The chapter begins by Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples with the order to spread the news of the Kingdom, and giving them specific instructions.  It is noteworthy that people that heard the message and rejected will be judged more harshly than people that did not.  

 

Later, starting in verse 25, “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

 

Those are basic concepts that we can share with others when we have an opportunity to evangelize.  Add to that the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus, and then maybe sharing the Gospel doesn’t seem so hard after all.  We want people to be saved. We want that because that is what God wants as well. As we follow the two tenants of loving God and loving our neighbor, we should naturally want our neighbors to be in a saving relationship with their Lord and Savior.  

 

Not many of us are going to evangelists on the scale of Billy Graham, but we can certainly each do some small (or medium) part.  If you are worried about failing, and so hesitate to get started, I am sorry to tell you that you are guaranteed failure by doing nothing.  Doing SOMETHING greatly increases your odds for success. And remember, God wants you to be successful? He will help, and then you just have to hope that at least some of the seed landed in fertile areas. 

 

Greg Landry

 

Growing Love

FREE THEME – Loving through Service

Matthew 22 39

This past week I went to Love Grows, a weekend youth retreat focused on growing your love for others through service. Throughout the weekend we were striving to follow Jesus’ teachings when he told us the two greatest commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).  This is so important to live by daily. If we love God then we will love others. We need to express unconditional love to everyone, always. By doing this we can train ourselves to see God’s work that needs to be done. Ask God for courage to step out of your comfort zone to do His work. Thankfully, God has given us spiritual gifts, talents, and passions to serve those around us. So use them.  

 

One easy way to show love to others is to serve them. As Christians it’s our responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Thankfully we can look to the best example of a servant’s heart. Jesus. The most exciting part is that there are so many different ways to shine and serve.  It could be as simple as giving someone a hug or a high five. Or even easier, smiling. Whatever it may be, take a minute of your time to invest in someone else’s life. Compliment. Listen. Encourage. It’s amazing how big of an impact a little kindness can have. We just have to keep our eyes open for opportunities. 

 

 I want strangers to be able to know that I am different. I want people to see God in me. And I hope you all have similar goals. The only hitch is that it has to be more than just a goal. We need to act in order to make it reality. We should make it a priority. Jesus called us to be different. Be the change. We have a higher calling. Higher standards. Higher expectations. Jesus is calling you to love. 

 

Makayla Railton

 

The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12

Mark 12 29 30 NASB

A scribe goes to Jesus and asks what the foremost commandment is.  “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.

It’s easy. Know who God is, love Him with all your heart, and love others. Well, when it’s put like this, it seems easy anyway. It’s interesting to note that if we are loving God with all our hearts, then we are keeping the first five of the 10 commandments.  (Honoring our fathers and mothers is a way we honor God as well, because He put them in authority over us. Although you could say that this fifth commandment could go with the last five and loving others.) Likewise, if we are loving others, then we are keeping the last five of the 10 commandments.

How can we love others as ourselves? We can strive to think of others before we think of ourselves. If we can make our lives more about others and less about “me”, then we are on the right track. How do we love God with “all”? Well, we must love God with every part of who we are and outwardly it shows because of how we spend our time and money. At the end of this chapter Jesus points out the widow who gave very little, but gave “all she had”. That took a serious amount of faith. God is always pleased when we act out of faith in Him.

-Melissa New

 

Can Love and Wrath be Reconciled?

Nahum

Nahum_1-7

Wednesday, April 19

The prophet Nahum is incredibly descriptive in his writing concerning the imminent doom of Nineveh. When reading, I thought of war movies like, 300, the Patriot, Saving Private Ryan and others, because of the picture Nahum paints with his words. However, the question arises at one time or another for most people. How can God be a good loving God and yet declare wrath on nations and individuals? It seems mutually exclusive and inconsistent. Maybe you have given thought to this at times?

Currently while I am interning in Texas I have a side job. Well, really a side job that’s full time. I work at the elementary school in town and I work with first through third graders. The kids I work with have behavioral, learning, and psychological diagnoses. I love my kids. But at times they conduct themselves in ways that are totally unacceptable. Because I love them and want the best for them I have to discipline them. I want the best for their lives and that will be hindered greatly if their outbursts go on unchecked. Now I give them plenty of chances to turn things around and correct their behavior before I have to bring the hammer of correction down. And when I do it’s not uncommon to hear “you’re mean Mr. Rohrer!” “I don’t like you!” and even “I can’t wait for you to move back to Ohio!”.

On a much grander scale, God, because he loves must punish and be wrathful. Just as if parents don’t care about their children they won’t disciple them, if God didn’t enact judgement he wouldn’t be caring. And the worst thing is not wrath, but indifference. I read someone that said, if God didn’t judge and enact wrath then peace would never be realized on earth. You see, if God didn’t hold evil accountable, then who else will enact justice? It’ll be up to you and me. But because I know God holds all things accountable, I can endure persecution and wrongdoing knowing one day God will make all right, because he loves. In the meantime, I am to live out the kingdom peace we are called to.

A loving God and a wrathful vengeful God are not incompatible. They go hand in hand and the author of Nahum understood this:

            “A jealous and avenging God is Yahweh

                        Yahweh is avenging and wrathful.

                        Yahweh takes vengeance on his adversaries

                        And reserves wrath for his enemies.

                        Yahweh is slow to anger and great in power

                        And Yahweh will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…

                        Yahweh is good”. (Nahum 1.2-3, 7a)

-Jacob Rohrer

(Photo Credit: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Nahum-1-7/)