Yellow Skittles and Suffering

Job 2

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Do you like skittles? It seems like everyone has a favorite color and a color they dislike. For me, I dislike the yellow ones. If someone were to give me a pack of skittles, I would simply pick out the yellow ones and eat the colors that I do like. Life, however, is not like this. We cannot pick and choose what we like and don’t like. Our lives are not as simple as pulling weeds out of a garden.

In this chapter of the book of Job we find him in the aftermath of losing everything. To make matters worse, Job is now being afflicted with painful boils. Destroying everything in Job’s possession did not persuade him to curse the name of God, so Satan has now turned to physical attacks.

            Even Job’s wife believes that Job should give up. His wife has also lost everything. The children whom she carried in her womb are dead. The life she knew- gone. She was in great turmoil as well. Her grief causes her to go out to her husband, who is sitting among the ashes, and plainly tell him to curse God for the calamity that has befallen them. And then she says that Job should die. For all that Job has endured certainly there is no reason to continue. No reason to attempt treating himself for boils, which is what he is attempting during this conversation.

            Job’s response is a great reminder. He says in verse 10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

            Such an attitude can be extremely difficult to cultivate in times of such pain. Even Job’s friends, when they first see him in this chapter, weep at the sight of him. Even amongst his pain Job refuses to curse God. Job was unable to cherry pick what was happening in his life. It was out of his power to dispose of his yellow skittles in life.

            It is impossible for us too. We are not promised a perfect life in this fallen world. As a result of the fall of man and sin entering the world, we live in a corrupt world where bad things happen. We are given many good skittles, but that does not mean we will never have taste of a yellow one. But we have hope that one day if we put our trust in God that we will taste eternal life. Every tear and pain from this fallen world will be wiped away and what was imperfect will be made perfect.

            So, until that day comes, let us trust God and know that the taste in our mouth that the yellow skittle leaves is not forever. Remember Job’s words, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”

-Hannah Deane

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What have been the yellow Skittles in your life? How did you respond to them? More like Job did? Or his wife? The next time you encounter a great trial or suffering how would you like to envision you will respond? What could you do now to prepare for this response?
  2. What good have you accepted from God? Thank Him for them!
  3. How does keeping an eternal perspective give you strength and hope through the difficulties?

A Most Challenging Day

Job 1

Friday, July 1, 2022

            Take a moment to think about your life? Is there a particularly bad day you can remember having? A day where everything that could possibly go wrong does? Maybe that day is today or maybe it was 10 years ago. Regardless of when, though, those kinds of days are challenging.

I have had quite a few days like this. From having a high fever during final exams and then having my laptop shut down in the middle of the final exam or learning that my older sister had passed, life can be very challenging. There are ups and there are downs. And usually it is on the way down when we begin to ask where we are going. Most often we don’t know, or at least not in the moment.

            The book of Job is quite interesting. Some Bible scholars have even argued about it being included in the biblical canon. However, the book of Job has nonetheless become a favorite book for many who are in the midst of hardship. It is a book that a struggling Christian in the fallen world can relate to. It also offers insight into the struggles we face in life.

            In this very first chapter we find Job living a prosperous life. He is beyond wealthy and has everything anyone at that time, and probably today, could ever want. Yet in one singular day it all comes crashing down. No matter how bad of a day I have had in my life, I don’t think any could quite top Job’s. One servant after another comes to tell him that they are the lone survivor of terrible tragedies. From his sheep being burned in the fields to a building falling in on and killing his children, the heartbreak and nausea he must have suffered in that moment is unthinkable.

The introspective we have into the calamities that have befallen Job is not a luxury that Job had. He, like us in our own hardships, did not know why this was happening. He didn’t know that Satan himself was attacking him and baiting him to curse the name of his God. He was not able to witness the conversation between God and Satan and say, “Oh, ok that’s why this is happening.” He was genuinely shocked and grieved by this unexpected course of events that rattled his life.

            In the midst of all this suffering, though, Job did not lose his faith. In fact, we are told that he worshipped God despite this. However, this does not mean he was not grieved and filled with a deep sorrow. For we are also told that he tore his robes, shaved his head, and fell to the ground. He was broken, but he worshipped God in his brokenness. Sometimes it is that moment of being broken that the light of the love of God warms our cold and tired hearts through the newly formed cracks. So, like Job, lets worship God in our brokenness. 

-Hannah Deane

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Describe Job. What impresses you the most about him?
  2. Why do you think God allowed Satan to test Job?
  3. What can it look like to worship God in our brokenness? Have you been there before – or are there now?

False Advertising

2 Corinthians 11

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Have you seen anything advertised lately that you really wanted to try? Keep this in mind. We will revisit it at the end…

     Paul in this section of the letter to the Corinthians is defending his apostleship- not by means of hearsay, but through the proof of his testimony to Christ. Through the actions of his ministry, he has demonstrated his devotion to his faith. In the latter part of the section, Paul lists out the persecutions he has suffered. He does this not for the sake of attention or for puffing up his chest. He does it to demonstrate what the life of a true follower of Christ can look like. He does so to prove through his actions, and not the empty clanging of his voice, that he is an apostle of Christ.

     Paul does make a point to call attention to the “false advertising”, if you will, of others. He even makes the statement in verse 14, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Both before and after this powerful statement of warning, Paul also mentions the servants of Satan and the deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness. Their beautifully spun words are to create an illusion that they are something that they are not. They are to deceive and steal away those who would come to Christ.  

Going back to that product you saw advertised, what about the product appealed to you? Was it the products testability that spoke for its reliability? Or was it the colorful design and exaggerated wording? We are in a world that is saturated in advertising and overrun with so many products trying to steal our attention from the others.

It is the same with who we put our trust in. Sometimes the advertisements of Satan are much more appealing. It can be difficult to choose the beautifully created bowl of fruit over the decadent devil’s food cake. But in the end, one nourishes and sustains us and the other satisfies us for only a moment.

-Hannah Deane

Application Questions

  1. In what ways do you see Satan working to convince the world and Christians that what God said is good is actually bad, and what God said is bad is actually good? How does evil try to look good – masquerading as an angel of light?
  2. What lies of Satan have you believed?
  3. How can we protect ourself from being deceived by Satan as Eve was?
  4. What role does knowing and loving the truth play in fighting temptation? What truths do you find in Scripture that can help you be strong and wise against temptation?

The Final Enemy

1 Corinthians 15

June 16

When I was a kid, I amassed a pretty good collection of action figures.  I had a lot of He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys.  I even had a few from the lesser known franchise Silverhawks.  Transformer toys (the cars and trucks that convert to robots and visa versa) were popular then, too.  I didn’t have many officially licensed Transformers, but several of the toys I did have, could be rapidly changed from one configuration to another in some way.   With just a squeeze of the figures legs, a flip of a switch or a dip in hot or icy cold water and the figure’s costume or facial expression might change.

It seemed easier to tell the difference between heros and villains in the 80’s than it is now.  For example, The evil Skeletor was He-Man’s  enemy.  You could tell just by looking at Skeletor, “he was a bad dude”.  He had a face like a skeleton and always dressed in all dark clothing.   In the cartoons on Saturday mornings, he would cackle with delight at the misfortune of others while I ate Cap’n Crunch.

I still have most of my toys from when I was a kid, but especially those action figures.  I didn’t destroy stuff like some kids do; like MY KIDS do.  (Remember a few days ago, “puddles” and “Whacko”.) At this point I figure I’d better save those old toys  just in case I don’t ever find that savings bond, or my pension fails to keep up with inflation.  Sometimes old toys have a lot of value.  Sometimes the value isn’t monetary.

My toys helped me explore the differences between good and evil and imagine epic battles.  They helped me envision how just when the world seems to be at its darkest possible moment and we feel powerless to the evil closing in around us, our Messiah will return and save the day.

1 Corinthians 15 is one of my three favorite Chapters of the whole Bible.  It paints a vivid picture of a war story more intense and dramatic than any Hollywood blockbuster.  The chapter is chocked full of memorable quotes such as:

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

1 Corinthians 15:26 NIV

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?””

1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV

So often, people seem to forget that the Bible calls death the enemy, not the reward.  It is in fact the LAST ENEMY to be destroyed.  It is like the “boss” at the end of a video game.

My favorite restaurant in my hometown, DeKalb, Illinois is Pizza Villa. 

In the basement of Pizza Villa there is a small arcade.  Some of their video games have changed over the years but for as long as I can remember two have been the same. 

They have always had a plastic egg dispenser that has a Fred Flinstone inside that spins around slowly when you put a quarter in it.  Fred says “Yab ah Dab Ah doo. Yab ah Dab Ah doo” twice and a little plastic “Dino egg” falls out with some cheap prize inside.  Maybe it’s a plastic spider ring or an old tootsie roll.  The prizes aren’t worth a quarter but the nostalgia of the experience is priceless.  Then there is  a four player Teenage Mutant Ninja “Turtles in Time”  game.  It’s pretty much a “must play” every time I’m there.  As you may already know, the Ninja Turtle’s final enemy is “Shredder”.  Before you get to face Shredder in the video game though, you have to beat several other opponents that gradually increase in formidability.  Among them, is a huge fly character that I’ve never known the name of, a giant humanoid hippo named Bebop and a rhinoceros named Rocksteady.

I can’t tell you how many quarters my Dad, my buddies and I have plunked into that machine over the years trying to beat Rocksteady.  We could definitely get that horn nosed beast blinking and jumping around faster (a sign that he was taking on damage).  We feverishly thrashed the joy stick and hit “A B B A A B” over and over, desperately trying to deliver just the right combination of bow staff blows and ninja kicks.  I would bargain for more quarters as a kid.  Now,  when my kids get to that spot in the game, they will beg me for “just one more quarter?!” as they watch the final seconds tick away.       There never seems to be enough “pizza power” or pocket change to finish him off.  I’ve never seen anyone beat the game.

Some people seem to think that Satan is God’s final enemy and death is just one of his attack moves. They act like we can put on some kind of invincibility shield by saying the promise of eternal life means we don’t really even die, that we just go somewhere else, maybe even “a better place” immediately.   (Remember the Bingo card I wish I had?).

Satan’s first lie was that Adam and Eve would not really die.  He tried to put a positive spin on sin.  He made it appear as though sin was a pathway to a higher consciousness of some kind; an avenue to special powers or secret knowledge; a way to become almost an equal with God. 

What Satan was actually doing was setting up an ambush by the enemy of death.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life.  As long as they ate from it, they would continue to live.  They were protected from death.  Satan knew he needed to get them out on their own and away from the tree of life for them to be vulnerable to death.  The plan worked. 

Separation from God and the life sustaining properties of the tree of life was the wage of their disobedience (sin).  That separation resulted in death.  Their flesh decayed and they returned to the dust from which they were made.  Absolutely predictable, scientifically repeatable decay takes place when a human body dies.  The changes a dead body goes through are EXACTLY what God said they would be.  Every time.

Without obedience to God we cannot be in his presence.  Without being in his presence we do not have access to the tree of life.  Without access to the tree of life our bodies will grow tired and weak and we are vulnerable to be overcome by the enemy of death.  We spend our lives fighting off gradually more formidable foot soldiers of death that attack when we are isolated by our disobedience.  You know the ones: loneliness, poverty, obesity…when we get to the end we have no energy left to fight off the final enemy- death.   I can’t tell you how much money people have spent trying to keep fighting off death.  Sometimes we make bargains with our father at the last minute for just a little longer. Nobody beats the game. Death wins every time.

It stings to realize that. 

I vividly remember my first bee sting.  I was about 6 years old.  I was helping my dad clean out a little ski boat we had on a trailer in our driveway. I moved a pile of life jackets and disturbed a bee.  It was like life switched to slow motion for a minute.  I saw the little thing wiggle it’s bottom against my arm as it deposited its dagger.  I felt the pain pulsing up my arm.  I cried and gnashed my teeth.  I flailed my arm, but the damage was already done.  It stung me.  My dad removed the stinger and I held an ice cube against the spot to numb it.  Eventually the sting was gone, but the memory wasn’t.  Every time I hear the word “sting” I think of that incident.  As a Funeral Director and a Deputy Coroner,  when I meet with a grieving family, I often see the sting of death in their eyes.  I can almost feel it.  Death stings.  The enemy of death has not been destroyed. 

1 Corinthians 15 tells us there is a day coming when things will be changed faster than a transforming action figure.  We will be made imperishable and the sting from the enemy of death will be no more.  Death itself, the final enemy, will be defeated.

Let us cherish these truths more than our most beloved childhood toys.  Like a box of favorite action figures, let us pass these promises on to our children and their children.  When their savings bonds and pension plans fall short may their hope in Christ sustain them.

-Brian Froehlich

Application questions:

  1. What was your favorite Saturday morning Cartoon? Did you ever have any of the corresponding toys? Do you still have them?
  2. Besides a bee sting, or the sting of death what are some other things that “sting”?
  3. What comes to your mind when you hear the word “enemy”?
  4. How do you define the word “destroy”?
  5. What will it mean for the enemy of death to be destroyed?

There’s a War Out There

Matthew 4

January 4

Deserts are dangerous places! Wild animals, extreme temperatures, lack of water, and don’t forget the devil, the tempter or Satan – he goes by many names – even in our short desert passage in Matthew 4 (vs. 1, 3, 10).

But, dangerous deserts aren’t his only hang-out. He was also spotted in an other-wise perfect garden giving a tantalizing advertisement for forbidden fruit. And, oh the trouble he caused there! The spiraling, echoing repercussions of which we can still feel and see and hear today. The darkness. The evil. The distance from God and His will and His way.

Don’t assume that if you don’t see a crafty red fellow with horns and a spiked tail or a wily talking snake that you are free from temptation and the spiritual battle between good and evil. Paul says it well in Ephesians 6:10-18. I encourage you to read the whole passage, but here I will include verses 11-14a

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then…”

Jesus shows us how to Stand Firm against the devil’s schemes. Adam and Eve show us how to crumble, reject God and His truth, listening instead to Satan’s lies and pursuing selfish gain and ultimately paying the consequences – which lasts for generations to come. Let’s not follow in Adam and Eve’s footprints as they take the serpent’s bait and then try to hide from God in their guilt.

Let’s look again at Jesus’ victorious example in Matthew 4:1-11.

It is interesting that Jesus had just completed a 40 day fast in the desert when Satan appears ready to tempt him with food. Certainly a fast of this length would make you hungry, so at first it seems maybe Jesus will be weakened by his current circumstances. However, keep in mind that a fast is NOT just not eating, an extreme diet plan. It is rather giving up typical food, schedules, conveniences, practices, self to instead focus on seeking God and drawing near to Him. 40 days of seeking God, sacrificing self “needs” to focus on His desires. Jesus’ stomach was empty but his spiritual tank was full up and ready for battle. He was armed with all the ingredients necessary for a successful stand against Satan. Truth. Righteousness. The gospel of peace. Faith to extinguish ALL the flaming arrows of the evil one. Salvation. AND interestingly the only offensive piece of equipment in the armor of God – the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. He was prepared to not just protect himself but he was also prepared to do battle with the forces that wanted to tear him from God and His will. He was armed with Scripture. He knew it well and he knew how to use it to rebuke Satan’s attacks.

That, is what I want. I want to stand firm in victory over Satan because armed with God’s armor and using God’s word has power over evil. I want to know and love and be practiced in God’s word so I can use God’s light from His words to scatter the darkness. And, that is what I want for you, too. Let’s suit up with the armor of God and His Word!

Questions for reflection and discussion

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how aware are you of the spiritual battle being waged right now? In Scott Deane’s class on Daniel and Revelation for Atlanta Bible College, he often said, “What happens in the spiritual world affects what happens in the physical world.” Do you see evidence of this in Scripture? Do you see evidence of this in our world today?
  2. When do you feel weak against evil and Satan’s attempts to pull you from God and His will? When do you feel spiritually strong? How can you make changes to increase the amount of time you feel more spiritually prepared to face the devil’s schemes?
  3. What was Jesus’ message when he began preaching (Matt 4:17)? Where did we hear this before? (Matt 3:2) Do you think we will hear it again in Matthew? Is it a message we still need to hear today?
  4. Who did Jesus call to follow him and fish for men in Matthew 4? What did they give up to follow Jesus? What are you willing to give up in order to have more time and resources to follow Jesus and fish for men? How are your fishing for men skills? How can you develop them more? Who do you know who is currently in darkness and in need of being caught for Jesus? What can you do this week to share Jesus with them?

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

A Captive in Sin

2 Chronicles 5-6

As much as I could go on and on repeating exactly what Paul says in Romans 2, I have much more to add and apply from the Chronicles passage, so focus your reading on those chapters. Mostly, I’ll be looking at chapter 6. Solomon has just built the amazing perfect temple that David definitely did not build (even if he prepared all the materials, drew the blueprints, and basically left only the annoying part of building a building to Solomon). And in chapter 6, Solomon is dedicating this temple to God. Take a look at verse 14, the opening of Solomon’s prayer where he addresses God. Notice, there’s almost a lesson in that God’s faithfulness is kept with those who “walk before [Him] with all their heart.” Of course, Deuteronomy 6:5 says more and Jesus even more of how much of you should be dedicated to God on a daily basis (hint: it’s literally all of who and what you are, Mark 12:28-31). But I mostly want to look at verses 36-39.

36 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; 37 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; 38 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; 39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.” – 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 – NIV

Reread those verses and think for a second… You may be saying “How does this apply? Isn’t this just an ironic prophecy about Israel’s inevitable collapse and occupation by Babylon?” And, yes, it probably is. But the beauty of the Bible is taking historical accounts and creating life lessons from them, so hear me out. When you’re buried in sin, and truly lost, it almost feels like you’re a captive in enemy land. And, in some spiritual sense, you are. Sin is the land of the world and of Satan, not of God. And you feel far and cut off from everyone, but look at 37. Then 38. Because if you pray to God, he will hear you, and if you truly wish to repent – to turn in your ways – and return to God in all of your heart (and soul, and mind, and strength) then God will forgive you.

“…Now, my God, please, let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place…” – 2 Chronicles 6:40

-Liam Johnson

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 5-6 and Romans 2

Overcoming the Opposition

Nehemiah 6-7

So much work had already been done – the walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt – now they just needed to finish the gates. Surely this project was God-ordained and he picked the right leader for the job – Nehemiah. He was able to get everyone motivated and working together, and despite the opposition they were able to finish their job on the 25th of Elul (which appears to correspond to somewhere between Sept 15 and October 2). So, this week is a super time to celebrate the work that is accomplished when working for God.

So much good had been done already – but the work did not end and neither did the opposition!

Nehemiah was under attack. Satan (along with Tobia, Sanballat, Geshem and the rest of those fighting against God) were using every weapon at their disposal to bring this righteous leader down: lies, fear, wolves in sheep’s clothing, attempting to distract him from his work with other business, spreading gossip and accusations of sedition to either silence him or get him in serious trouble with the authorities, even hiring a false “prophet” to scare him into sinning.

But Nehemiah stood strong. We continue to see him turn to God in prayer. Asking for strong hands and asking for God to take care of those getting in the way of the Lord’s work. He obviously had a strong knowledge of God’s law to not be tricked into sinning. This gave him wise discernment in knowing who to listen to and what to do, and not do. And, he knew to fear God not men.

We can learn a lot from Nehemiah today because Satan keeps using the same ploys. Adolf Hitler wrote, “Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.” Evil men seeking to destroy God’s work have come and gone and yet remain today. It is indeed a vivid reminder that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV). They love nothing more than trying to interrupt God’s work and if they can bring down a godly leader at the same time they probably get bonus points.

We see so much of this evil and oppression today. But like Nehemiah, we must not give up! We must turn to God again and again when faced with the lies and fears and Satan’s strong man tactics that would love to have us throw in the towel and take the easy way instead. Pray, fast, seek His word and His way, don’t fear man, resist sin, use discernment in knowing who to trust, what to say and do. Pray, too, for our leaders that they will have the wisdom and strong hands of Nehemiah

Satan has been running rampant and the result is a broken world. Keep at God’s rebuilding work – one brick at a time.

Marcia Railton

Speaking of our opposition, mental confusion, lies, panic, and pleasing man not God, reminds me of the life and death fight for the most innocent of God’s creations. Tonight would be a great time to watch See Life 2020 and #LoveEveryHeartbeat. And pray for strong hands – and hearts – to do the work God wants you to do.

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 6-7

Tomorrow we will read Nehemiah 8-10 as we continue seeking God on our

Who Are You Blaming?

Job 29-31

Job 31 2 NIV

I love the orderly layout for Job’s final 3 chapters of his defense before God and man.

 

In chapter 29 Job longs for his earlier days, “When the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me” (Job 29:5).  He isn’t dwelling on all the wonderful material  goods he once enjoyed, though we know they were many.  Rather, he is fondly recalling the interactions he had with others – the respect he felt, the ability he once had to help others: serving as the father to the needy, rescuing the fatherless, and comforting the mourners.  And, then he became the mourner.

 

In chapter 30 Job details his current despair.  Now he is detested by men.  He has lost all former dignity and safety and feels terror instead.  He is physically suffering with gnawing pain; blackened, peeling skin; and fever.  And perhaps worst of all, he feels like God is ignoring his cries for help.

 

In chapter 31 Job affirms his righteousness, denying his friends’ claims that he must now be suffering because of great past sins.  He describes many sins: lust, dishonest business transactions, marital infidelity, injustice, not caring for the poor and fatherless, abusing power, greed, idolatry, rejoicing over one’s enemy’s misfortune, and hiding guilt.  For each sin he says, I didn’t do it.  And for each sin he names a punishment a just God could give to him or anyone else who did that evil.

 

The problem is Job – and his friends we have heard from in the past many chapters – don’t understand that there are multiple reasons why we may be enduring trials.  His friends say trials are a result of God’s punishment.  And they were right – but only partially right.  They were erroneously blaming Job for his current trials because he must have deserved it.  Job says he was righteous (not sinless, but righteous) and thus shouldn’t be experiencing trials if God was just.  But, just who is God?  And why does He allow suffering?  These are still the questions that need answers today.

 

Last month I was delighted to watch the youth of our church develop and share a Youth Sunday based on several “apologetic” questions people ask about God.  Does God exist?  Did He create the world?  Is the Bible accurate and reliable?  Are science and the Bible enemies?  AND the biggie – why does God allow suffering?  Too many times a faithful person can believe all the right things and live the right life (just like Job) – until trouble comes.  And then the blaming and questioning tears them away from what they knew was true and the God that loves them.  It was powerful seeing these young people studying truth (guided by godly mentors) and gaining this understanding which will prepare them for trials to come.

 

I want to share with you a brief outline which youth group members, Kaitlyn and Addie, presented on “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”

  • The Fall (Genesis 3:14-19, Romans 5:12)
  • The Devil Causes Evil (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 Peter 5:8,9)
  • God’s Judgments (Romans 6:23, Genesis 19:13) – this was the one Job’s friends knew about
  • God Uses Suffering for Good (Romans 8:28, James 1:2-4)
  • Sometimes People Don’t Get Healing Because of a Lack of Faith (Matthew 9:22-24, Mark 9:29)
  • Time & Chance (Luke 13:1-5, Ecclesiastes 9:11)

 

Many sermons could be written about any of these but I want to say just a few words about the devil, Satan, the accuser, the serpent, or the god of this age…the list goes on.  He goes by many names – perhaps a part of his deception and secret identities.  I find it very interesting that he plays a KEY role in Job 1 & 2 – and yet is not mentioned again by either Job or his friends.  He is the one bringing about these trials (which God is allowing) but everyone is pointing the finger at God rather than at Satan.  It is true that the Old Testament has a very limited number of references to Satan.  They did not yet have a very thorough understanding of many things God would reveal to His people through time – the Messiah, the resurrection, and Satan.

 

When Jesus enters the scene, he works to bring a clearer understanding of all these things.  All 4 gospel writers record Jesus speaking about (and sometimes directly to) the devil/Satan and the power he wields to tempt, deceive and inflict.  Every New Testament writer references the devil or Satan.  I believe we still point the finger at God often times when we ought to be recognizing, and fleeing from, the power of the god of this age.  Perhaps there is something you need to stop blaming God for and give the “credit” to Satan instead.

 

And, that is just ONE of the other Biblical reasons for our trials.  So much to think about in the book of Job!

 

I enjoyed looking into Job with you this week and I greatly look forward to the coming week when we get to hear from Cayce (Ballard) Fletcher as we get into the BEST parts of the book of Job!

 

Keep Reading and Seeking, Growing and Loving
Marcia Railton

 

To read or listen to today’s Bible passage check out – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+29-31&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 32-34 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Dragon at War

Revelation 12

Revelation 12 17 NIV fixed.png

If the story through Revelation wasn’t strange enough, it gets even stranger in chapter twelve. Here we see a cosmic woman giving birth to a child, who are then attacked by a great, fiery dragon, but then is ultimately defeated by an angel army… What in the world is going on now? Once again, it is important to read the Scriptures for yourself and to discuss with other Christian teachers around you in order to gain deeper insights into the text. Never assume that I know what I’m talking about, or anyone else for that matter; always question and look up the answers for yourself to see if what is being said is true.

 

I assume that these descriptions are further insights into the contents of the Scroll that was eaten in chapter ten; however, I am not 100% sure on that, but will be going ahead with that interpretation for this discussion. We do gain information about the cosmic battle that is happening around the person of Jesus at his death and resurrection, as Satan (depicted as a dragon) is at war with the angels of heaven during this time. Satan is unable to conquer the cosmic woman that produces Jesus (whoever/whatever that is), Jesus himself, or the angels; Satan doesn’t have as much power as we think he does.

 

Through frustration, Satan begins to attack the rest of the woman’s children, which are those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus”. In other words, since Satan can’t beat anyone else, he is going to attack the Christians next. We definitely experience this today still, as Satan hasn’t been fully destroyed, although he has already been defeated through the cross. We are weaker than Jesus and the angels, and are susceptible to sin; is there any hope of beating Satan, or are we as doomed as he is?

 

Perhaps the most practical verse for us in the whole letter of Revelation is found in this chapter. In 12:11, we are given a description about how Christians can conquer Satan. The description is three-fold; we are able to conquer Satan through the blood of Jesus, the preaching of the gospel, and not loving our lives. This should give us great hope and encouragement! We have the power to conquer Satan when he rears his ugly head, if we would only trust in these three things; the blood/sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, the power of our gospel preaching, and the power of looking beyond this life to the eternal life that God has promised us.

 

I encourage you today to spend some time meditating on these three questions: Do I trust that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to pay for my sins? Am I faithfully spreading the good news to others around me? Am I truly looking forward to the life that God is bringing me in the future more than this life?

 

Talon Paul

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