Category Archives: Devotional thoughts

You can’t really ignore Job…

I’m back at my Bible reading and I’m currently finishing up the book of Job, which is no easy task. Like I’ve mentioned before I’m reading through The Message translation (or paraphrase) which is a little easier on the noggin when your trying to read through the whole thing. Even at a good reading clip it’s gonna take a little while to get through Job.
Job is a very long book (by my calculations it’s the sixth longest book of the Bible behind: Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Genesis and Ezekiel). Given that it has to be the longest dialog in the entire Bible, going a good 40 chapters. And it’s pretty much an argument no less. It’s full of Job pleading his case to his friends and questioning and doubting the ways of God. Job’s friends aren’t really the best examples of comforters, but they do hang out for the discussion. I guess I just sit back after reading this book each day and think, “you know it’s okay for us to have questions.” I think we need to acknowledge that and allow other people that reassurance too.

Lying ‘to do God a service’?

I’ve been doing a bit of catching up on my Bible reading and have recently been hanging out in the book of Job. Now, you’ve got to wonder about the book of Job. Most of the time it’s summed up by a preacher in about three chapters (the first two and then the last one), basically they say: Job’s a good guy, devil asks to test him, God let’s him take away everything Job has and even gives him boils, Job doesn’t curse God, and in the end God comes in a violent storm and then returns to Job double what he originally had, the end.
What we barely ever spend much time on is the nearly 40 chapters of conversation between Job and his three ‘counseling’ friends. I could be wrong but I think that is the longest conversation that there is in the Bible, and it’s an definite argument no less. And I’ve been spending the past two days sitting in the midst of these arguing friends, and boy is it something.

I think there are a ton of situations where you could apply some of the wisdom found here, like don’t argue with someone who just lost everything, but I think you can figure those out. Instead, I’d like to just point out one of the interesting passages I ran across that I think might lend us some insight. (This is from The Message, I looked at the NIV too and I think it’s a acceptable translation)

Job to his friends:
“are you going to keep on lying ‘to do God a service’?
to make up stories ‘to get him off the hook’?
Why do you always take his side?
Do you think he needs a lawyer to defend himself?
How would you fare if you were in the dock?
Your lies might convince a jury-but would they convince God?
He’d reprimand you on the spot
if he detected a bias in your witness.
Doesn’t his splendor put you in awe?
Aren’t you afraid to speak cheap lies before him?”

Have you been there? Eagerly trying to ‘defend God’ with your human wisdom? Is that why we are so into apologetics and theological study?

I wonder if our lack of awe at this concept of god we argue the case of, is the very thing that keeps those we argue against from seeing the splendor and standing in awe of the true living God?

God’s view and our view

Luke 1:6-7 bring together two interesting thoughts that quickly pass me by on most readings. It’s a clear sign that God’s perspective on the world and us as individuals is often different then our worldly perspective.
Verse 6 points out very clearly that Zechariah and Elizabeth where upright in the sight of God. They had followed what God had commanded and where blameless. If we had known this, we likely would have showered them with praise and attention.
Verse 7 reveals that they had no children. Just a little insight into cultural norms, being barren was considered a sign of disapproval from God.

I look at a situation like this and I’m just disturbed by my own judgment. I know I would have looked down on Zechariah and Elizabeth, even if he was a priest. I’m so prone to judging others by cultural norms, or outward signs I see as Biblically one way or the other.
I find too often that I look at what I see revealed in Scripture and I use it as a foundation from which to judge others, looking at the speck in my brothers eye.

Lord, help me remove the plank from my own eye.

…and to die is gain

I think we would of labeled Paul a suicidal loony these days and thrown him in a padded room. We just aren’t supposed to be thinking like this.

Here is where we are to live our lives radically different then the world. Paul does not mean that we should go out and live risky lives for the thrill of it, but we are to live our lives without a fear of the end of our lives. Paul doesn’t encourage us to be suicidal (remember to live is Christ!).
What he does encourage us to do is to show the world a radical, upside down worldview. It’s this type of worldview that keeps Paul from running out of the jail during the earthquake when he was in Philippi.
Let’s think about this for a second. Pretend you where preaching Christ in another country and then where beaten and thrown in prison. All of the sudden there is an earthquake and you have the chance to escape! “Praise God, he has brought a natural jailbreak for me to be free, I don’t have to risk being put to death here” (that’s what I would say). But Paul, knowing that his life is for Christ, and if he where to die it is gain, sees the earthquake as a chance to show the jailer exactly that. He saves the jailers life at the risk of his own. And the jailer and his whole family come to know Christ and this God-centered worldview.

Do you think like that?

…to live is Christ

I’ll deal with the second part of the verse tomorrow, let’s just hang out and reflect on this for a while.

Our call as Christians is to live lives where Christ is exalted in us. I think we can all agree on that, the crazy liberal and the staunch conservative, we as Christians stand in agreement that we are to exalt Christ. How we do that, and how we think we are supposed to do that varies a lot, but we start from the same basic point.

This is about as simple as you can get, and yet it is so hard to do, and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.

Here is your challenge for the day, and think long and hard on this. The things you are most passionate about, the things you spend the most time doing, are those things for you or for Christ?

ponder this.

I almost forgot to write me devotional thoughts this morning, and since I’m in a rush I’ll keep them super brief. I’ll expound on this more tomorrow but just think about what this might possibly mean in your life:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

This advances the gospel?!

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”*

The way I see it, Paul is either the ultimate optimist or he’s got some crazy view of the world we rarely hear of. The last time I was pulled over by a police officer I wasn’t exactly cheery about it. Paul visits Philippi, heals a lady, is arrested for it, severly flogged, and thrown into jail.* I’d be a little pessimistic at that point. Then there is an earthquake, the jailer freaks, then his whole family becomes believers, and then Paul and Silas are freed. And that’s his first time in Philippi. The list of other things that happens to Paul is way long, and now he’s sitting in some prison, probably in Rome and is writing to the folks back in Philippi. Paul is definitly an optimist.

What really set’s Paul apart though, what gives him the hope and joy that he has is that he has a worldview so different then anything we’ve encountered. I long for a perspective like this. Paul seems to relenquish all of his own power and trust fully in God’s hand in his life. Arrested? God has a plan for it. Flogged? God’s glory is revealed to others in that. I imagine Paul had ideas of what he wanted to do for God. I wonder how much he struggled with thinking God gave him a vision that he wasn’t able to carry out.

Today, try to be more optimistic, and do it because your worldview has changed. Trust fully in God and his hand in your life. See every situation and opportunity as placed there by God, and do your best to show the love of Christ in that place. That might mean relenquishing some of your own plans, even those you thought where God given.

This one’s for Zach.

To all my early morning readers,
This will hopefully be a regular post on devotional thoughts, but I could use an “Amen” here and there to keep me going.
(I’ll get started in one of my favorite books: Philippians).

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”
Now that is a compliment. It’s verses like this that remind me that a bunch of these “books” in our Bible are actually letters written from one person to another (or another community). That they aren’t just instructions or directions for Christian living, but that there is relationship, meaning and purpose behind them.
Paul later says:
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Now that is a hope-filled statement. It’s one thing to be complimented by someone, but we have a tendency to write comments off (I know I do). “they’re just saying that. They don’t really mean it. I mean they know this and this that I’ve done wrong, that can’t possibly thank God for me.” and on and on. But then you read this verse and it negates your disagreement with out an arguement.
God knows you are not perfect! The thankfullness is not just for who you are right now, it is also for who you are becoming.
Let our thoughts and comments be showered with thankfulness when thinking about our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are works-in-progress. I shouldn’t be too stuck in my ways, I’m open to change, to seeing things differently, to being shaped and molded by the thoughts and prayers of others. God’s still working on me.