In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

Good Riddance, Best Riddance

Revelation 19-22

More than any year in recent history, people are looking forward to the closing of 2020.  There is no magical spell that will make our worries disappear as the zero turns to a one, yet for many there will be a great sigh; a new year brings a new promise.  There are some prognosticators who say the worst is yet to come, yet for some reason, I have a renewed sense of hope. I have longed for an eventual reprieve, rest, and relief from restrictions.  The whole world is longing to move forward, and see 2020 left on the side of the road in the rearview mirror, “Good riddance. Goodbye.” as we blow it a sardonic kiss. Mwwahh.

As we have seen in our time with Revelation this week, any break we have is temporary because the worst is yet to come <balloon pops>.  The pandemic we have seen up to this point will pale in comparison to the plagues preceding the Kingdom of God.  Although there has been some pretty intense weather and natural disasters this year, this isn’t even close to what is being forecasted for future calamities.  While many wars have waned in the wake of coronavirus, war will be truly inescapable, pressing in on all sides before the coming of Christ.  It is so true that grief, sorrow, exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety have been intensely felt in 2020, and I would never make light of that, but when compared to the longing of the earth that is to come, it will easily eclipse all we have felt this year.  The people, and the earth itself, will be longing more than ever for refreshing.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns!  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. – Revelation 19:6,7

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:3,4

The best news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is this ultimate reprieve will come alongside our Lord and Savior. This will be the greatest of all welcomes and simultaneously, the best of all riddances.  While we can retain some small hope that our life will return to the way it was a year ago, was it not still filled with tears, death, mourning, crying, pain, the entirety of the whole old order?  To long for a return to 2019, or even a better version of the past, is similar to the cry of the children of Israel in the desert to return to Egypt because at least their bellies were full there (Ex 16:2,3).  Life as we know it (or even knew it) is marginally mediocre when we compare it to what is in store for us.  If we are to cry out, to groan, to bemoan, let us do so as people who are ready to be rid of our sin and the captivity it has placed upon us and the earth once and for all (Ex 2:23). Our present suffering, no matter how great, is nothing compared to the glory that awaits.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Rom 8:18-22

-Aaron Winner

If you have been reading along all year, congratulations! Today we read the final chapters of God’s Inspired Word – Revelation 19-22.

Tomorrow we begin a New Year and a New 2021 Bible reading plan! Every day we will read 2 passages – an Old Testament passage (usually just 2 chapters) and a New Testament or Psalms/Proverbs passage (often just one chapter or a few short Psalms). Our writers may write about one of the day’s passages, or some will choose to write all week on a chosen theme, giving us the opportunity to dive a little deeper into some relevant subject matter and what Scripture teaches on that topic.

Print your copy of our Bible reading plan below – and let’s see what God has to tell us in 2021! Seek Him! Grow Your Faith! Love!

I found it all oppressive, UNTIL…

Psalm 73, & 77-78

Psalm 73 17 NIV

Yesterday we read the short short story (2 verses) of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10).  He prayed.  God granted his request.  Remember, we don’t know the timeline for the life of Jabez.  Since he had requested from God the expansion of his territory (amongst other things) I feel it is most likely that this answer didn’t come with a snap of the fingers  -though God can certainly work that way when He wants to. I wonder if this answer was achieved over a period of time, with some persistence and wisdom and work required from Jabez.  But still – it sounds so simple and sweet. A fairy-tale ending in just two verses. Jabez prayed.  God granted his request.

But, what about the times when the answer isn’t coming.  We may be praying hard – with a good measure of persistence, wisdom and work, too.  But, it’s just not coming together like we thought a good God would do.

I think of Job and the 41 long, difficult, trying chapters of his story – before the final 42nd chapter when we see God finally shower Job once again with double the blessings.  It would be great to read the book of Job today to remember Job’s anguish – and God’s answer.  Or, you can read Psalm 73 – it is like a mini book of Job boiled down into one powerful psalm.

The author of this psalm begins by acknowledging that he knows God is good.  And, yet, he personally had nearly lost his way and his faith because of his own serious struggles while simultaneously watching the wicked prosper.  He saw boastful, callous, violent, evil men succeeding and growing in popularity and wealth, all while denying and even mocking God.  Are we sure this wasn’t written in 2020, perhaps during a Covid-19 epidemic?  Haven’t we seen and heard the same thing this week and shook our heads and asked, “Where is God?  This isn’t right or just or fair?  The world is too messed up!”  And we sink down deeper in our despair.   As the psalmist said, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me…” (Psalm 73:16)

UNTIL…

Yes – keep reading!  The good stuff is coming – just like it came for Jabez and Job and the psalmist,  it is coming for you and for me.  Though it does require a little bit of action on our part.  The psalmist reveals the secret.  He wrote, he was oppressed UNTIL he, “entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” (Psalm 73:17).  Look to God.  Put yourself smack dab in His presence.  Intentionally seek Him out.  Change your focus.  Consider the whole timeline, the big picture.  Look into the future.  Consider the consequences and coming judgement.  Rest in knowing God has got this.  And He has got me.  And if you let Him, He has got you.

The rest of this psalm has beautiful passages of God’s strength, guidance, comfort, plan, wisdom, & protection in any and every situation.  Don’t miss the chance to read it for yourself and soak it in.  Which verse is your favorite in Psalm 73?

 

Also, don’t miss out on the powerful truths in Psalm 77 & 78.  Psalm 77 begins much the same way Psalm 73 did – in agony and despair.  And maybe you have been there yourself sometime?  Perhaps you have asked yourself, “Has his unfailing love vanished forever?..Has God forgotten to be merciful?” (Psalm 77:8, 9).

And yet – here again we will see a great turn-around.  In a few short verses he will be writing, “Your ways, O God, are holy, What god is so great as our God?” (Psalm 77:13).  What makes the difference?  What happened in-between verse 9 and 13?  Did he win the lottery?  Did he get all his wishes granted in the sudden snap of his fingers?  It had looked so hopeless.  What changed?

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

His situation did NOT change.  His thinking did.

What he was focusing on changed.  He rewired his brain, his thought processes, his attitude, his words, his outlook.  He remembered the good God had done.  He meditated on God’s work.

The anguish and oppressive depression doesn’t have to win, even in a situation that appears so bleak.  You may find yourself in the dark, questioning God.  You are not alone.  But, don’t allow yourself to remain in the dark.  Keep stepping towards the light.  You don’t have to wait until your circumstances change.  Instead, change your view.  Enter His Sanctuary.  Search for the good things He has done – in the past and today.  Seek Him.  Read His Word. Remind yourself of His power, faithfulness and love.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73%2C+77-78&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will jump back to 1 Chronicles – for just one chapter (6) as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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

 

Who Are the Wicked?

Job 17-20

Job 19 25 27 NIV (1)

 

Just who are the wicked?  What does it take to wear that label?  The three friends have talked much about the fate of the wicked – and they have even placed Job among the ranks of the wicked.  Job often speaks of the wicked – and hotly contests that he is NOT one of them.  How do you know?  How can you tell?  What is the criteria for wickedness?  Is it possible there are many who will be surprised to learn they fall within God’s wicked classification?  We don’t ask these questions to play judge and jury on the rest of the world – but for the very real task of keeping ourselves where we need to be.  On the wicked-righteous continuum we have some strong candidates for either extreme, but what about everyone else?  It gets quite muddled in the middle.  It’s a big question for a little devotion – but let’s see what we find here in the pages of Job.

 

First of all, let’s restate from previous days that we can’t tell who is evil by seeing who is suffering – as Job’s friends are arguing.  Yes, sometimes our sins bring very real consequences of suffering.  And, yes, wicked people will ultimately be judged and pay for their wickedness.  However, suffering does not necessarily equate with wickedness.  In Job’s case we know that God was pleased with Job’s righteousness, but still allowed Satan’s attacks against him, even though He would be blamed for them.  There are many reasons one may be experiencing suffering (more on that another day soon), but we cannot assume that all suffering people must be wicked people.

 

We can find some truth regarding the wicked in Zophar’s speech in chapter 20.  He says, “For he (the wicked) has oppressed the poor and left them destitute” (Job 20:19).  We know this is true of the wicked from many other passages, including the separating of the sheep (the righteous) and the goats (the unrighteous/wicked) in Matthew 25.  In this parable how well you do – or do not – care for others, especially the disadvantaged/least of society (those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers in need of being invited into your home, the cold and underdressed, the sick, the prisoner) will determine whether you are ultimately saved with the righteous or doomed with the wicked.  I don’t know about you, but this convicts me.  I have some work to do on regularly seeing the needs around me and adding these commitments and opportunities to my calendar – actually making them a priority not just an intention.   In this parable many believers were surprised by their placement with the wicked – and I believe that will be true in the day of judgment as well.  Seriously take the time to evaluate and challenge yourself regularly.

 

Some people may be feeling pretty comfortable right now because they do make it a priority to care for others.  But, there will be more than that required as well.  In Bildad’s speech in chapter 19 the evil man is synonymous with, “one who knows not God.” (Job 18:21).  Looking ahead to chapter 21 Job says of the wicked: “They say to God, ‘Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways.  Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?’ ” (Job 21:14,15)  To know God and know His ways – so you can serve.  Faith and deeds.  How do we know God and know His ways?  Reading His Word is the best way I know.  I fear there are many today who would much rather create their own god with their own ways.  So they create a god who condones their actions and attitudes and beliefs.  It is a trap we could all fall into – unless we are grounded in seeking out and knowing the One True God and His ways which are revealed for us in His Word.

 

It is that grounded faith in God that is keeping Job going even as his world is falling apart.  He is hurting.  He is questioning.  He is still believing.  He knows that his Redeemer (the one who will care for him) lives and he can not wait for the day he will see him face to face (Job 19:25-27).   May we too look forward to that day – and not be caught by surprise.

 

Know Him and His Ways and Serve,

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s reading of Job 17-20 can be read or listened to here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+17-20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 21-23 as we progress through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

 

 

 

Bitter or Better?

Job 10-13Job 10 1 NIV

 

After church yesterday I had the opportunity to accompany my pastor father-in-law as we visited a beautiful godly woman in the emergency room who was experiencing painful complications of a 4 year battle with cancer.  Then from there we went to a funeral visitation and hugged a brave new widow with three dear girls.  Just a year ago she had stood in that same spot for the visitations of her all too young son.  Tragedies, pain and suffering surround us daily.  No doubt your prayer list, social media feed and newspaper headlines also speak of many in deep trials.  And perhaps you are there in the midst of one yourself.  Whether we are the family suffering – or just the ones feeling a small fraction of their pain – the book of Job offers some excellent examples of grief and from these we can glean some wise advice for those suffering trials and those who try to offer comfort.

Chapter 10 opens with our suffering servant of God, Job, having some words with his Maker.  He begins:

“I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.
I say to God: Do not declare me guilty,
but tell me what charges you have against me.
Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the plans of the wicked?

Job 10:1-3 (NIV)

Hating his life, complaining, bitterness, questioning, it’s not a pretty picture.  But it is a very real picture.  Job is working his way through some of the stages of grief:  denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, the upward turn, reconstruction, acceptance and hope.  He is not yet to the upward turn.  I can easily think, get over it Job, that’s no fun to read, enough with your bitter pity party.  But then I remember how I sometimes lose it over very minor losses or mere inconveniences.  I have been known to get ornery when my cake flops or I hit a snag in my quilting project.    I can feel a bad attitude brewing if the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes or I feel slighted by a loved one.  And here’s a man who has lost 10 children, his wealth, his livelihood and his health, and his wife and friends are adding to his grief.  It’s time I give him some grace.  He needs a hug right now, not a sermon.  It takes time and often some ugliness to get to the upward turn and the beauty of restoration and hope.  (Spoiler alert: keep reading Job – he gets there – and he repents for his previous attitude and misunderstanding of God. If you just can’t help peaking ahead read Job 42.)

The danger lies in not continuing the process.  I remember a sermon years ago from my pastor father-in-law.  It’s important to listen to the sermons BEFORE the crisis hits since we sometimes aren’t ready to listen too well in the middle of the crisis.  One simple phrase he said has stuck with me, “Better, not Bitter”.  We get to choose what we take away from pain and suffering.  We can use any experience, even the most painful, to grow in our relationship to God and others and to become a better version of ourselves.  Or, we can feed the bitterness and distance ourselves further and further from God and those who are trying to help.

It is natural and normal to feel real bitterness in the midst of grief.  It is a stage, but don’t let it become your life. If you ever find yourself feeling the bitterness of Job – do what he did.  Keep talking to God about it.  God can handle it and it will help you walk through that stage of grief.  There is beauty and hope waiting on the other side.

If you are standing beside someone in pain (and God encourages us to put ourselves in that position), allow them time and space to grieve, even if it gets a little ugly.

Whatever you face today – cancer or the death of a loved one, or just an overflowing sink –  how can you practice working towards “Better, not Bitter”?

Marcia Railton

 

Read or listen to today’s passage at – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+10-13&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 14-16.  We are following the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Twisting Truth

Job 6-9

Job 9 19 NIV

This week we will be reading through the bulk of the book of Job, from chapter 6 to 31.  Job has already been struck with monstrous trials: the loss of his material goods and livelihood, the loss of all 10 children at once, a painful disease that affects his entire body from his head to his toes, and a wife who tells him to curse God and die.  We know that these ordeals were not a result of God’s judgement on Job for some large, grievous, hidden sin because in Job 1:8 we heard God’s description of Job – “he Is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” However, in this week’s reading we will hear many conversations between Job and his friends who came to console him, but then turned to some questionable counsel instead.

 

I admire his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, for coming alongside their suffering friend.  Job 2:11-13 says when they heard of Job’s distress they made a plan to meet together to visit Job to sympathize and comfort.  When they saw him they wept – and then they sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights.  To think, how often do I have trouble finding the time to send a card to a hurting friend?  These friends had the best intentions and were giving of themselves in a time of crisis.  But, good intentions are not always enough.

 

Along with their good intentions, they also were armed with some very true and accurate knowledge of God.  Throughout the passages this week there will be many times where Job’s friends – and Job himself – will share solid truths about God, His majesty, sovereignty, love, justice and faithfulness.  My favorite passage in today’s chapters of the truth of God’s majesty is from chapter 9, verses 4-12.  I didn’t know that the constellations (the Bear, Orion and Pleiades) were named so long ago.

 

But sometimes, even starting with good intentions and a knowledge of the truth (or some truth), is not enough.  This week I want us to look for instances where his friends (and sometimes Job) begin with their good intentions and a truth about God and mankind – but come up with false conclusions – such as – God is just and loving – so if you are suffering you must have done a terrible sin God is paying you back for.  And, while we search for those truths that were then twisted in the ancient book of Job, let us also search our society, our community, our church, ourselves.

 

And – two verses that are a beautiful nugget too good to not repeat:

“He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together”

Job 9:32 & 33

The older NIV version in place of “someone to bring us together” says “to lay his hand upon us both”.  I love the imagery.  Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son Jesus who has a hand on us and a hand on you, that he sees us in our suffering and speaks to you on our behalf.

 

Stay in His Word as you Seek Grow & Love in 2020!

Marcia Railton

 

You can read or listen to Job 6-9 here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+6-9&version=NIV

And you can print our Bible reading plan here – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Healing Hope

Luke Chapter 7

Screenshot 2019-12-08 00.42.58

This chapter is rich in content, and many sermons and classes have been built around the Faith of the Centurion, the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with perfume, or Jesus’ discussion on John the Baptist.  All very good stuff.

 

But something else stood out to me today in this chapter.  Isn’t it interesting how often scripture speaks to us in different ways based on when we read it?  That should be a very good reason to be in the word daily.

 

We have a funeral this coming week at our church for a World War 2 Veteran who lived a full life and passed away peacefully, and yet Bob will still be greatly missed.  Last year around this time, my dad passed away unexpectedly. I really miss being able to talk to him. I know many people who are currently suffering from or have recently suffered from cancer.  Someone else in our church is still suffering through a migraine headache that started three months ago. Death and suffering stink.

 

With all of these things in mind, this chapter has been an encouraging reminder for me.  In the opening account of the chapter, Jesus fully heals the Centurion’s servant who was near death.  Then Jesus raises a widow’s only son to life, after he had recently passed!  

 

Later, in verses 22-23, it reads, “At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’”

 

Wow.  Imagine the grief you would be feeling if you just lost a close loved one (some of us don’t have to imagine) and shortly afterward, the loved one is returned to us, fully healthy and alive.  Or imagine if you have never had the ability to see, and then suddenly you did! 

 

We are promised that there will be a Kingdom where the dead will have been raised back to life and where all suffering has ceased.  That is hard to imagine as well. But here Jesus offers the proof that it is possible. Not only did Jesus raise the dead and fully heal the sick here and at other times, but many dead were also raised upon Jesus’ death, and then Jesus himself was raised to life.  Of course only Jesus was raised to eternal life. The rest will have to wait until Christ returns.

 

Friends, we have access to that wonderful Kingdom that God has promised.  What an amazing opportunity and reward that is. It is good to be reminded about that continually, but even more so at certain points in our lives.  Do you known anyone else who could use that kind of encouragement? Do you know anyone else who doesn’t share that same hope for the future? If yes, then spread the Good News!

 

Greg Landry

 

Seeing Beyond the Tears

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5 4 NIV.png

Today’s beatitude is like a living enigma in my mind and without a living God makes absolutely no sense. Matthew 5.4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The word mourn can also mean sadness.  Let’s attempt to read in our definition of blessed from yesterday. Happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted. The idea that I am happy when I am mourning is a real problem in my head. I don’t know about yours.

Have you ever had a friend who was out to accomplish something great and they finally accomplish it? Through this whole process you are proud of them for suffering and enduring and getting to the other side. It is awesome to see your friends succeed. It’s great when you get to celebrate those events and successes with them.

Now when they are hurting and in the middle of this great struggle it is really hard. Sometimes in the middle of life you don’t see how it is going to work out well for you and all you know is that your soul hurts and you don’t see any reprieve. Yet when someone else is going through one of those times it is so easy to see the end for them. When someone else is trying to go through a hard time or is pushing through a hard time it is simple for us to say, “It will all be worth it” or, “You will get through this.”

The reason why it can be easy for us to say those things is we are seeing the end for our friends. Outside of that pain, suffering and sadness we are able to see clearly that it will all be alright or what they are going through will at least be worth it. Sadness, pain and suffering can distort our view and cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture and our hope.

To be completely honest… you will suffer in this life. If you live as a Christian you will probably suffer more. There will be plenty of mourning and sadness.  Sorry guys.

The thing I cling to and the thing that allows people to get through extraordinarily challenging things and accomplish great things is they cling to hope and draw near to God. I will say it again. They cling to HOPE and draw near to GOD.

I believe that God will comfort us in the here and now when we pray for it. Sometimes, however, I can pray and still feel empty and sad. So, what do we do then? How do you continue on?

2 Corinthians 4.17-18 says “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

We aren’t living for this world. We are living for a world that we cannot see yet. We suffer through things that we don’t fully understand. The implication of what we are living for is a kingdom that hasn’t yet come. There is no suffering in vain as long as you are walking with God through it. The reason our mourning and sadness makes us blessed is because it isn’t for nothing.  I know one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no mourning and sadness and we will get to see God in all his glory face to face (Rev. 21.4).

I find my comfort in those things when this world has left me mourning. Don’t let the pain and suffering you are going through distract you from the great comfort you have hope in.

It will all be worth it.

Dan Wall

He Has Conquered

JOHN 16

John 16 33

Theology is one of my favorite things to study. It’s fascinating because people have read the same 66 books for 2000 years and have created millions of different explanations for how it all fits together. For example, there is a belief in certain Christian groups that has been labelled “Christus Victor” or “Christ is the conqueror”. This view believes that our sin was atoned for by Christ being the ransom for our sin. By being killed and rising again to life – sin, death, and the devil lost all right to those who trust in Christ. This view has some strong language of support (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6). And of course, Christ’s victory is made clear in John 16:33.

 

It’s important to note the situation Jesus is talking about here. He is letting the disciples know that he is going to die. (John 16:16) Moreover, he is letting his disciples know that he is going to the Father. (John 16:28) And for the first time, the disciples get it. They are finally understanding what he is telling them. But he lets them know, “You will all desert me.” But even knowing they will all leave him, he has been telling them all these things, about the Counselor coming, about Jesus being the vine and the branches, about Jesus and the Father and the Spirit abiding in believers, he is telling his disciples this so that they would have peace.

 

The words of John are in Greek, but he thought like a Jew. In the Hebrew language, “peace” is shalom. Shalom is not an absence of conflict, but a flourishing of life (usually accompanied by an absence of conflict!). Jesus even makes this case himself, “so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world.” Right there back to back, we have peace and suffering. Shalom and conflict. Jesus is letting us know that we will have struggles. I may sound like a broken record with yesterday’s reading, but it’s important. When those people hate you for doing what is right and for trying to be like Jesus, then we need to find our shalom in him. We are called to take courage in him.

 

Why?

Because Jesus has overcome.

And this is before the resurrection.

 

The Messiah has beaten the system. Jesus in the Gospel of John is different, in some striking ways, from the Jesus of the synoptics in regard to his death. He insinuates that he is willingly going to the slaughter. He tells the people that he will lay down his life (John 10:15) and take it back up (10:18), as that is the missions given to him by his Father. Jesus is not afraid to die, asking God for it to pass, but knows that no one takes his life from him by force (19:11) but that he lays it down (15:13). Jesus knows that he is going to win; he says “if I am lifted up, I will draw all people to me.”(12:32) In this Jesus makes a pun about his own death: “lifted up” in the Greek could mean the metaphorical “lifted in Glory and honor” and also the literal “raised up, i.e., on a cross.” Jesus knows that his crucifixion, far from being the moment of defeat, is the moment of triumph and success. In his crucifixion, he removes sin from his followers as a sacrifice and he buys us, the slaves of Satan, as a ransom to become children of God.

 

I am not asking you to have the same unadulterated confidence; that would be too much. I am asking you to trust in the one who we already know was victorious. Jesus was asking his disciples to trust in him as he was about to be sentenced to death. How much more should we trust that Jesus will care for us knowing that he has been raised to life.

If you are going through a trial, something that the world is throwing at you, keep this in mind: Jesus has already won. Not could win, not even will win.  JESUS HAS ALREADY WON.

 

Christ is, for now and forever more, the conqueror. 
-Jake Ballard