It can be summed up in this little quote:
Democrats are looking ahead to expanded power.
I am so not looking forward to the next 4 years.
It can be summed up in this little quote:
Democrats are looking ahead to expanded power.
I am so not looking forward to the next 4 years.
Sweet treats for everybody; I’d like to pass out some candy favors today; little pieces of sweetness as a symbol of the wonderful friends we’ve developed in this class.
(For my illustration today, I’ll pass out little candy favors to everybody, but “accidentally” overlook Margaret.)
Sometimes big conflicts can fracture a relationship. Sometimes, little things do. Perhaps it’s something as simple as accidentally overlooking somebody, or even perhaps intentionally overlooking somebody. Everyone except Margaret received a piece of candy. I know I’m partially at fault, but maybe I’m ashamed that I overlooked her. Perhaps the look on her face let’s me know she’s upset and I don’t want to deal with her emotions. Left unchecked, a little thing can fester into a big thing, and then one day we find we’re no longer on speaking terms.
I need to get things right; I’m sorry I left you out. Would you like a piece of candy?
Loss of friendship hurts. It hurts us, it hurts them. Dealing with the hurt is hard; sometimes there is mistrust or pain from verbal abuse and name calling. And if neither side apologizes or owns up to their contributions to the argument, the friendship is never healed. We just sort of coexist on the same planet. If somebody has caused pain to us or to a loved one, if hostility has been expressed by the other person or let’s face it, by us, reconciliation may seem a long way off.
If we feel the hurt was intentional or insensitive, we just don’t feel like reconciliation. In fact, sometimes we’d rather seek revenge. “They don’t deserve my friendship.” After a while, the separation becomes semi-permanent. Some want to just leave well enough alone; perhaps it’ll work itself out all by itself. Or perhaps, we just completely ignore the other person, avoiding any contact, because is there really a need to go through all that emotional pain again? Or perhaps we spend months or years waiting for the other person to come apologize to us. Each of these approaches end with a permanently broken relationship.
Q: Why do we ignore or avoid the other person rather than work toward reconciliation? Is reconciliation something you say, or is it something you do? Why?
Reconciliation is not the same thing as forgiveness. Usually before you can reconcile with somebody, you have to forgive them. We often get confused about what forgiveness is; often we think we will forgive them if they ask for an apology, as though forgiveness is something we are offering to them. Forgiveness is not for them; who is forgiveness for?
Reconciliation comes after forgiveness and requires both parties to participate. Reconciliation is a change in both people who were once at odds with each other. While forgiveness is something we should always do, reconciliation is only something we can initiate, and also depends on the other person to reciprocate. Chris’s lesson last week talked about how to decide if the other person is ready for reconciliation and today we’re going to build on that. God wants us to take whatever steps are necessary toward reconciliation with anybody we’re alienated from. Let’s turn to Genesis 43 and sort of summarize what’s going on so far.
In Genesis 42, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy grain, all except the youngest, Benjamin, who stayed home with Jacob. Since Joseph was the governor of Egypt now, the brothers came to see him and bowed down with their faces to the ground, fulfilling the prophecy of the dream Joseph had as a boy. Joseph recognized them, but the brothers didn’t recognize Joseph in return for a lot of reasons. They had sold their brother into slavery years ago, and would not have expected him in this position and dressed so richly.
Joseph challenges his brothers to see if their hearts have changed, and accuses them of being spies. When the brothers mention that the youngest is still at home with their father, Joseph devises a test; he agrees to sell the brothers the grain they need, but they’re going to have to leave one of the brothers behind as hostage. Secretly in each brother’s sack of grain, Joseph puts the silver they used as payment back in their sack. Joseph then throws Simeon in jail and says that Simeon won’t be released unless the youngest brother is brought to him as well.
When the brothers arrive home, they discover the silver in the sacks and become frightened; they’re certain they’ll be accused as thieves if they return. Then Jacob starts complaining. First, years ago, he lost Joseph. Now the brothers have lost Simeon, and they want to take Benjamin away, too. Jacob refuses to le them go back to Egypt.
Then in Genesis 43, all the grain is gone, and Jacob finally says, ok, you must return to Egypt for more food. The brothers remind him that all the brothers must go, including Benjamin. Jacob complains, why oh why did you tell him you had a younger brother. Their answer is simple; the man asked, we told him.
Ok, Jacob says. You can take Benjamin. But take a lot of gifts with you this time, some balm and some honey and spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Also take along double the amount of silver. And Jacob places all his trust in the Lord in verse 14, “And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you.”
By verse 19, the brothers had arrived back in Egypt and brought to Joseph’s house. They’ve been invited to dinner, and they’re scared.
So [the brothers] went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. “Please, sir,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silverâ€”the exact weightâ€”in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”
“It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.
The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.
When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”
They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed low to pay him honor.
As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.”
Joseph wants to desperately for his family to be reunited again, but can he trust his brothers? This last time he tested them, they delayed their return. Perhaps they weren’t ready. Are they ready now?
Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.
As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’ “
Why do you think Joseph put the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag? Joseph is seeking confirmation that the hearts of his brothers have changed. The brothers are now caught with the silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. What are the possible responses Joseph could expect?
The brothers make a rash promise in verse 9; they believe they are innocent, so they say that if any of them is found with the cup, they will die and the rest of the brothers will be slaves. Fortunately in verse 10, the steward says that whoever has the cup will be a slave and the rest will be set free, and of course Benjamin has the cup.
Once, these same brothers threw Joseph in a well. They left him for dead, but then changed their mind and sold him into slavery. Their motive was probably jealousy and envy since Jacob clearly favored Joseph by giving him his Technicolor dreamcoat. Now the other favored son is in trouble. Joseph has an ideal test. Will the brothers sacrifice Benjamin, or will they try to save him?
The next several verses are very touching and show the changed hearts of Joseph’s brothers; in verse 16, Judah says that since they cannot prove their innocence, all of them will be slaves. The brothers will not abandon Benjamin. Joseph says that’s nonsense, only the youngest is a slave, the rest can go.
Judah came forward. He said, “Please, master; can I say just one thing to you? Don’t get angry. Don’t think I’m presumptuousâ€”you’re the same as Pharaoh as far as I’m concerned. You, master, asked us, ‘Do you have a father and a brother?’ And we answered honestly, ‘We have a father who is old and a younger brother who was born to him in his old age. His brother is dead and he is the only son left from that mother. And his father loves him more than anything.’
“Then you told us, ‘Bring him down here so I can see him.’ We told you, master, that it was impossible: ‘The boy can’t leave his father; if he leaves, his father will die.’
“And then you said, ‘If your youngest brother doesn’t come with you, you won’t be allowed to see me.’
“When we returned to our father, we told him everything you said to us. So when our father said, ‘Go back and buy some more food,’ we told him flatly, ‘We can’t. The only way we can go back is if our youngest brother is with us. We aren’t allowed to even see the man if our youngest brother doesn’t come with us.’
“Your servant, my father, told us, ‘You know very well that my wife gave me two sons. One turned up missing. I concluded that he’d been ripped to pieces. I’ve never seen him since. If you now go and take this one and something bad happens to him, you’ll put my old gray, grieving head in the grave for sure.’
“And now, can’t you see that if I show up before your servant, my father, without the boy, this son with whom his life is so bound up, the moment he realizes the boy is gone, he’ll die on the spot. He’ll die of grief and we, your servants who are standing here before you, will have killed him. And that’s not all. I got my father to release the boy to show him to you by promising, ‘If I don’t bring him back, I’ll stand condemned before you, Father, all my life.’
“So let me stay here as your slave, not this boy. Let the boy go back with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? Oh, don’t make me go back and watch my father die in grief!”
Do you think Joseph sees the evidence of changed hearts? The brothers are all united here, even though they were allowed to go. Judah’s words and actions indicate that they are not willing to repeat the act they committed against Joseph many years ago. Judah originally had the idea to sell Joseph to the caravan. Now Judah is showing that he’s learned from his past mistakes. He’s learned how his actions have hurt his family, how his father grieves, and he’s reevaluated his life. Joseph can now see that Judah is a changed man.
Joseph spent much effort is seeking their hearts. His efforts will be different than the effort we should produce, unless you’re a servant of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Our efforts should include prayer, first of all. What other efforts can perform to see if another has a changed heart?
And now, the happy ending in Genesis 45. Joseph breaks down crying and reveals to his brothers that he is Joseph and asks if his father is still alive. Verse 4-7, instead of blaming his brothers, he demonstrates that he’s forgiven them and gives all the credit to God, who had a plan all along.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
This is the first occurrence in the bible of the word “remnant.” God’s people are rebellious, over and over again, and yet God always spares a remnant of righteous people who will survive.
Joseph urges his brothers to bring their father to Egypt, and then in verse 14, Joseph finally gets to hug his little baby brother after 22 years.
And they all lived happily ever after. And the moral of the story isâ€¦?
God is teaching us through the story of Joseph about the great joy there is in reconciliation. More than just forgiveness, reconciliation is restored relationships. In our married class, God has provided us with a spouse with whom we can express our love to each other. Sacrificial love, agape love, serving love, affectionate and intimate love. Such closeness can bring hurt, though. Uncaring words to a stranger bounce off; uncaring words to a spouse hurt. Thank our heavenly Father that we have such wonderful Christian spouses that share the same goals; how much more difficult in those marriages that do not share a love of Christ.
And when we fight with each other, we are given a chance to forgive each other, such as God forgives us of all the many things we do that could bring judgment on us. But with our spouse, His grand design is more than just forgiveness. When we wound each other as we eventually do, lingering unforgiveness can lead to distance in our marriage. We think somehow the distance will keep us from getting hurt even more. But is God’s plan for us merely to live separate lives in the same house, or are we to cleave and become one flesh? The lesson God teaches us through the story of Joseph is that changed hearts lead to reconciled relations. We learn these lessons first hand with our spouse. If there is coldness, bitterness, separateness, then changed hearts are needed. We should be seeking reconciliation daily to be as close to our spouse as we possibly can.
Craig introduced our new class motto this week, Ephesians 5:33. Here’s how God wants us to live, verses 22-33, from The Message,
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the churchâ€”a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favorâ€”since they’re already “one” in marriage.
No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
Does that sound like we’re merely supposed to coexist with each other, or does God see our relationship with each other as special?
Reconciliation with our Christian brothers and sisters is also important to God. God tells us in Matthew 5:23 that gifts and service to God are secondary to our relationships with each other.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
God knows it’s not always possible. It requires changed hearts, and God allows us to harden our hearts. But Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As far as it depends on you. Seek a changed heart for yourself. Seek a changed heart in others. Then reconcile with each other.
And what reconciliation does God wants most of all? Our reconciliation with Him. We are born with hardened, selfish hearts. God watches, waits, calls to us, waiting for a sign that our hearts have changed. Jesus tells us in Luke 15:10 that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. God wants more than just to forgive us for our sins. God wants to reconcile with us. God wants a relationship with us.
When Joseph reconciled with his brothers, there was joy in the reconciliation. There is joy when we reconcile with our spouses, our families, our friends. And there is joy in heaven when we show a changed heart and seek a relationship with our Creator.
And then, they all lived happily ever after.
I haven’t posted much this week. Perhaps it’s because I’m not thinking much this week. Here’s a little scrimpet of stuff that has passed by my noggin but is too little to write about –
Yes, I made up the word “scrimpet” just now.
I was blessed with the opportunity to teach bible class this morning on the book of Job, chapters 1 and 2. Respond in Faith, or “why do bad things happen to good people?”
A guy named Pete gets a job as a switchman with the railroad, and undergoes weeks of training. The supervisor then takes him into the switch booth to test his readiness. The following exchange takes place:
Supervisor: “Imagine you were sitting here alone and you learned there was a train coming from the North on that track, and another coming from the South on the same track. What would you do?”
Pete: “I’d throw this switch right here and put one train on the other track.”
Supervisor: And what if that switch didn’t work?”
Pete: “I’d go down to the track and throw that big switchlever there, putting one train on the other track.”
Supervisor: “And what if that switchlever didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d come back here and call the dispatcher to stop both trains.”
Supervisor: “And what if the phone didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d go to that gas station across the street and use their phone.”
Supervisor: “And what if their phone didn’t work?”
Pete: “Then I’d go get Uncle Joe.”
Supervisor: “Uncle Joe??? What would he do?”
Pete: “Nothing, but he ain’t never seen a train wreck.”
Many of us, though, have seen a trainwreck in our lives or the lives of somebody close to us. Something terrible, something awful, that left us with a feeling of â€œwhy me?â€ When I was born, the first thing that happened was the doctor picked me up by my feet and hung me upside down. As a baby, I was having a hard time maintaining my dignity. If that wasnâ€™t back enough, then the doctor smacked me on the rear end. I thought, â€œWhat did I do to deserve THAT?â€ It seems sometimes that some people have been trying to smack me around ever since.
Perhaps youâ€™ve been smacked around, too. A marriage that failed, a mother or father that died. I have a friend up in Conroe who has a granddaughter thatâ€™s permanently brain damaged since the age of 8 months because of a tragic home accident. Some in here are widows or widowers, having lost spouses too early. When calamity happens, we want to ask why, we want to question God. Some may want to step away from their faith in anger at God. Why do bad things happen to good people?
There are lots of possibilities. For the unbeliever, God will use pain and suffering to turn the unbeliever away from evil ways. Repent, turn from sin, and face God. The bible has a lot of good instruction for Christians, but for the unbeliever, God has only 1 instruction: â€œBelieve in me!â€
For one who professes Christ but leans on men, God uses calamity to strengthen faith. If a Christian leans on money, God takes that crutch away through a family emergency, perhaps loss of a job. If a Christian leans on his own works, God may cripple him to make him dependent on God. For a strong, upright and faithful Christian, God uses calamity to sanctify him, to bring him closer to God. And then sometimes, we donâ€™t have any idea why we suffer. We look at ourselves for unrepentant sin, something weâ€™re doing wrong, we think Godâ€™s trying to tell us something, and we just canâ€™t figure it out. Itâ€™s undeserved. Weâ€™ve been smacked on the bottom and been through a trainwreck, and we donâ€™t know why.
The book of Job is an example of undeserved suffering. Job is a prominent and wealthy servant of God, and in a matter of minutes, Job lost everything. Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, all took a beating. To Job, it might appear that God had deserted him and offered him no comfort or explanation. Yet through all of his suffering, Job remained faithful to God and even stopped to worship Him in the midst of suffering. Thatâ€™s inspirational, a perfect example of how God wants us to respond in everything.
Letâ€™s walk through Jobâ€™s life and see what happens. If you have your bibles, letâ€™s turn to the chapter on automotive quality (At Ford, Quality is Job 1). Here we find the wizard of Uz, Job.
Job 1:1. In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
Job is described spiritually, not physically. We are to be judged by our character, not our appearance. Job was â€œblameless and upright.â€ He was morally sound, mature, full of integrity. The Hebrew word for â€œblamelessâ€ is â€œtamâ€ and also means â€œperfect.â€ Job walked the straight and narrow path.
Job â€œfeared God and shunned evil.â€ This doesnâ€™t mean he was a coward; a fear of God is necessary for good spiritual discipline. Proverbs 1:7 says â€œThe fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.â€ Oswald Chambers, in a book called â€œMy Utmost for His Highest,â€ wrote â€œThe remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.â€
I think the phrase â€œshunned God and feared evilâ€ together are interesting â€“ â€œfeared Godâ€ meant Job always did the right thing, but more than that he shunned evil, or also avoided the wrong thing. He was a complete man of God, not one who did good when people were watching and evil when people werenâ€™t. Job was not a hypocrite who said one thing and did another, he was a man of perfect integrity, doing what was right and avoiding what was wrong.
He was also a very wealthy, prosperous man. Letâ€™s look at his tax return â€“
– seven sons, 3 daughters. Excellent, so he had a lot of deductions for dependents
– 7000 sheep
– 3000 camels (*I* donâ€™t own *any* camels!)
– 500 oxen
– 500 donkeys (I donâ€™t own any donkeys either. True story: my brother gave his wife a donkey for Motherâ€™s Day last year. Wait, that gives me an idea. My wife and I are celebrating our one year anniversary next weekâ€¦ Never mind. It was an idea, but not a good idea, mind you.)
– and a large number of servants.
Job was like sort of a cross between Billy Graham and Bill Gates. In verse 4 through 5, we also learn that Job was blessed not only with material wealth and public prestige, but also a loving family. Seven sons and three daughters that regularly broke bread together and Job would pray for them and offer sacrifices on their behalf.
Now, in verse 6, we step away from the human world and into the spiritual world where there is some sort of conference going on in Heaven. The angels of the Lord are presenting themselves before the Almighty, and God notices Satan there. â€œWhere have you been?â€ says God.
â€œChecking things out, wandering around, looking for some mischief.â€
This is disturbing to me. God says, â€œHave you considered Job? Heâ€™s the best of the best, blameless and upright, fears God and shuns evil.â€ Iâ€™d like to avoid the devil and stay far away from him. Here God is saying, â€œDude, check out Job.â€ Why would God do this?
The short answer is, we donâ€™t really know. How can we know the mind of God. Hereâ€™s a few things we do know, however â€“ we know that Romans 8:28 says â€œAnd we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.â€ All things, including whatâ€™s about to happen to Job. How could calamity be considered good? Well, Job wouldnâ€™t know this of course, but he turned out to be an example for thousands of years of Godâ€™s power and absolute control. Thatâ€™s good for us to know, even if Job didnâ€™t. We also know that God promises not to give us more than we can handle. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, â€œNo temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.â€ God will not permit anything to come into our lives that we are not capable of withstanding. That doesn’t mean tragedy won’t come our way – only that when it does, we’ll either be able to stand up under it or provide a way out.
Job 1:9-11, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Iâ€™m not surprised Satan cops an attitude with God. Satan says that the only reason Job fears the lord and is a man of perfect integrity is because God has built a hedge of protection around job. In other words, Satan charges that the only reason Job is such a great guy is because God pays him. Have you prayed for a hedge of protection? Itâ€™s a good prayer, something good to ask for. But this verse shows that the hedge of protection is taken down as easily as it is put up, but more importantly, if the hedge of protection is taken down, it may not have anything whatsoever to do with our morality.
Are we shallow Christians that believe that if we are doing Godâ€™s will, God will bless us? Are we making some sort of bartering agreement with God? Alright God, I mowed my neighborâ€™s yard this week. I helped a little old lady across the street. I said, â€œGod bless youâ€ when somebody sneezed. Now listen God: you owe me. That is a shallow Christian that misunderstands the will of God. We do not do Godâ€™s will in order to receive blessings. We do Godâ€™s will so that God may do His will. We may or may not receive blessings on this earth. Our blessing is after we are done on this earth.
God *is* a God of blessings, but He is not *only* a God of blessings. Heâ€™s not some magician we produce at parties to pull a rabbit out of a hat for us. Iâ€™ve heard people give an excuse for their behavior by saying, â€œGod just wants me to be happy.â€ That is not Godâ€™s primary desire. Godâ€™s primary goal is for us to worship Him. You cannot excuse your behavior by saying, â€œGod wants me to be happy.â€ When you read this disaster in Jobâ€™s life, can you say God wants Job to be happy? No, God wants Job to glorify God.
We also know here that Satan badly misjudges Job, and God is perfectly right and accurate. Satan believes that if Satan is allowed to wreak havoc in Jobâ€™s life that Job will renounce God and curse God to His face. God knows Job, though. God will be able to use Jobâ€™s calamities for Godâ€™s purposes.
Job 1:12, â€œThe LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.â€
What would happened if this exchange was about you? What if God and Satan were talking about you in heaven? â€œHave you considered my servant Michael? Have you considered my servant Ken? Have you considered my servant ________? Put your own name in the blank. God knows where you are spiritually, and He promises not to give us more than we can handle, but how would you feel about God talking about you with Satan?
Notice that God is sovereign, all powerful. We like to believe that God is all good and nothing evil comes from Him, but thatâ€™s an incomplete picture. God *is* all good, but He is also sovereign, in charge of everything. Notice Satan has to ask Godâ€™s permission before he is allowed to mess with Job. The humans in us would like to say Godâ€™s answer should be, â€œNope, donâ€™t mess with Job, heâ€™s mine.â€ We like to think of God and Satan as being the great generals of a massive battle between good and evil, battling it out in the heavens and on earth. Obi Wan Kanobe versus Darth Vader. Professor X versus Magneto. Aslan versus the White Witch. We think Satan is ruling the earth from Hell, but thatâ€™s not quite right. From the book of Job and in 1 Peter 5:8, we know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Revelation 20:10 tells us that Satan will not be cast into the Lake of Fire before Judgment Day. God isnâ€™t battling Satan, God is sovereign. God is referred to as â€œThe Almightyâ€ in the book of Job 31 times. When Satan wants to do evil, he has to ask Godâ€™s permission. This is true in the New Testament, too, by the way. In Luke 22, the disciples are squabbling over which one of them will be considered the greatest in Heaven, and Jesus rebukes them and tells them to be more concerned about serving. Then he says in Luke 22:31: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” Look, Satan is asking for permission again.
Does it bother you that God gives permission for suffering? A big mistake in our Christian walk is to misunderstand what â€œGod is in controlâ€ means. We think that since God is in control, we have a right to expect Him to keep bad things from happening to us. We think that because we try to keep bad things from happening to our friends and family, that God should do the same for us. We are children of God, are we not? How could God let something bad happen to us if He is in control.
Let me ask you some blunt questions. Did God have a son? And did that son suffer? And did that suffering work for Godâ€™s glory? God does have a plan, God is in control, and itâ€™s human folly to think that Godâ€™s plan does not include suffering. As Christians, we know that our suffering will be used by God for His purposes. We know that it is our response to disappointments in life that makes us stronger in our faith in our almighty God. The sinner doesnâ€™t have this comfort. To the sinner, suffering is pointless. Suffering makes a sinner bitter. Suffering makes a Christian better.
Letâ€™s see what sort of things weâ€™ve learned so far about God.
Lessons Learned about God
– God is sovereign over all, good and evil.
– God provides hedges and removes them according to His will.
Weâ€™ve learned a few things about Satan during this exchange. I learned Satan has access to God in Heaven. I read this exchange and thought, Holy Smoke, how did Satan get in there? Thatâ€™s not allowed! But itâ€™s true, Satan has access to God, and must ask God for permission before he can do evil. We learn that Satan is evil, but not sovereign over evil. Satan has to ask Godâ€™s permission.
Lessons Learned About Satan
– Satan has access to Godâ€™s throne in Heaven.
– Satan has to ask Godâ€™s permission before he can touch Godâ€™s people
What happens to Job after this? Satan may not lay a finger on Job â€“ God set that boundary and Satan must obey â€“ but Satan sends destruction. Job 13-19, the Sabeans steal the ox and donkeys, then kill all the servants. Then lightning strikes and kills the sheep, then the Chaldeans steal all the camels, and then a mighty wind collapses his sonâ€™s house and kills all of his children. In a matter of minutes, Job loses everything. Everything.
Now I know that in a room full of singles like this, we are likely to have tragedies in our lives. Death. Divorce. Loss of material things. Loss of a job. Why did we have to suffer? When weâ€™re facing a calamity, the first thing we must do is self-reflection. We must look inside ourselves for unrepentant sin. The Old Testament is replete with examples of God sending His perfect wrath in order to turn His people away from evil and toward Him. Weâ€™ll never be 100% righteous, but we know when we are sinning and it feels too good to stop. God will get our attention one way or another. But what if weâ€™ve examined ourselves for unrepentant sin and find none? God did not allow Satan to bring harm to Job just to say to Satan, See, I told you. God knew Jobâ€™s faith was real, and God knew this before he allowed Satan to do what he did. Godâ€™s purposes in allowing suffering are complex and it is not possible to reduce the purpose of suffering to some simple explanation.
I know how I have reacted to suffering in my life. Anger. Depression. A mix of both. Letâ€™s see how a man of God reacted, see what he did and did not do.
Job 1:20, At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.
Instead of tearing robes we wear black, but ancient signs of grief were tearing his robe and shaving his head. It is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry. We are commanded to love one another, and the loss of that love is most certainly a time for grief. God gave us emotions, and itâ€™s ok to show those emotions. But then look what Job did â€“ he fell to the ground and worshipped God. Job said,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
As Christians, we can recognize that everything in this life is a gift from God. Our relationships, our children, our stuff. We came into this world naked, without a thing. And when we leave, we take nothing with us. The Lord gives it all to us, and the Lord takes it all away again. â€œMay the name of the Lord be praised.â€ It is easy to praise the name of the Lord when he gives. When he takes away, can we still praise the name of the Lord? Are we only thankful for things he gives? He may have many reasons for taking away, all according to His purpose. Can we give thanks to God for taking it away?
How do we remain thankful while suffering? Rather than blame God for what he doesnâ€™t have, Job thanks God for what he does have. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us, â€œBe joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.â€ We recognize that it is Godâ€™s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances. Job could thank God because Job realized that everything Job had wasnâ€™t Jobâ€™s; it all belonged to God. God owns everything. Job had the privilege of managing it for a little while. And in so, we learn one more thing about God: When Satan attacks, God uses it for own good and His glory.
Job 1:22, â€œIn all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.â€
Itâ€™s ok to be angry. Itâ€™s ok to be depressed. Our emotions are something God gives us. Job certainly had intense feelings of grief. But Job did not sin because he didnâ€™t say God was wrong. He didnâ€™t say God was neglectful. He didnâ€™t say God has bad intentions. Through all Jobâ€™s grief, he said, â€œBlessed be the name of the Lord.â€
Job stayed strong. He didnâ€™t whine, â€œWhy meeeee?â€ His character remained that which God approved, even in the midst of suffering. Job was strong, patient, even resigned. And Satan must have been disappointed. Here was a man who loved God more than money, more than his earthly possessions, more than his family. Jobâ€™s relationship with God was not dependent on his circumstances, his position in society, or his stuff.
In Chapter 2, Satan goes back to God and says, â€œwell, ok, so that didnâ€™t work, but you didnâ€™t let me touch him. Heâ€™s still a healthy person. Let me take away his health.â€ I donâ€™t know what this illness was, maybe he had more than one thing. In chapter 2, we know he has boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head, and they itch. In Chapter 7 through 30, we learn that it also includes a haggard appearance, running sores, loss of sleep, depression, severe weight loss, acute pain, darkened and peeling skin, and fever. Oh, and bad breath. In verse 7, Job sits down in the ashes of his life and scrapes himself with a piece of broken pottery. Sort of symbolic, like his life had now become a piece of broken pottery.
His wife was less than helpful. â€œAre you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die already.â€ Before we pick on Jobâ€™s wife too harshly, letâ€™s remember that she, too, was intensely affected by all of this. She, too, had lost all of her children, sheâ€™s lost any importance she thought she had in the eyes of the community, and her husband is some foul-smelling creature sitting in a garbage dump scraping sores with a piece of pottery. So Jobâ€™s wife was certainly under a lot of stress. Itâ€™s easy to pick on her, but sheâ€™s in pain. Perhaps she thought her own pain would end. Perhaps she just loved Job and wanted his suffering to end.
Job still didnâ€™t sin; sometimes itâ€™s easier to remain faithful to God when youâ€™re alone, but remaining faithful to God when youâ€™re with others is harder. Job tells her that sheâ€™s talking foolishly, that her faith is not wise enough. â€œShall we accept good from God and not trouble?â€ We do not always have a choice in our circumstances, but we do have a choice in how we respond. Jobâ€™s wife responded first with her emotions. Job responded with his faith.
Jobâ€™s closest friends were more helpful. What did they say? Nothing. When they came to visit, they were shocked, they cried with him, then sat on the ground with him for 7 days and said nothing. Nothing. Just sat and grieved. Sometimes thereâ€™s nothing you can say, so thereâ€™s no need to try. Just be there.
Discussion: Describe a tragedy that happened to you or a loved one. How did you respond? How should you respond?
I want to close with a few examples. How many here have seen United 93 at the theater? Itâ€™s a powerful movie, mostly for what it doesnâ€™t say. Thereâ€™s no commentary explaining peoples motives, just a snapshot of peopleâ€™s actions. We see the confusion of the people at the FAA, the hysteria of the passengers, the evil of the terrorists bound on killing as many people as they can.
Many of us have heard of Todd Beamer, who uttered the now famous, â€œLetâ€™s rollâ€ during the passengers revolt against the terrorists. What a lot of us may not know is Todd Beamerâ€™s family were devoted followers of Christ. Can you identify with Toddâ€™s wife, Lisa, the grief she must have suffered? She turned her faith in God into a powerful testimony and wrote a book that encourages people to build their lives on a firm foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hereâ€™s what she wrote about 9/11:
We all have the choice to look at the things weâ€™ve lost or to look at the things we have, to become bitter or to become better, to live in fear or to live in hope. Iâ€™ve chosen to live in hope, not because Iâ€™m a strong person but because of the heavenly, eternal perspective that God has given me. Lately Iâ€™ve been trying to look at the bigger picture, to discover what Iâ€™m supposed to learn from all this. Probably the most important truth is that my security must be in God rather than in anything or anyone in this world.
Think about it: the World Trade Center represented economic power, success, and security; yet it was shaken and destroyed in one hour or less. The Pentagon is the symbol of our nationâ€™s military might; yet it, too, proved vulnerable. Where can we find true security these days?
I have found safety and security in a loving heavenly Father, who cannot be shaken, who will never leave me or forsake me, and in whom I can trust completely. For those looking for hope, I recommend grabbing the hand of your heavenly Father as tightly as possible, like a little child does with his parent. God is a hero who will always be there when you need him.
Another survivor is Jennifer Sands. Her husband was killed in the World Trade Center that day. Sheâ€™s since written two books, the first called â€œA Tempered Faith,â€ that details the emotional and spiritual struggles â€“ and triumph – in losing her husband. She continued with a second book called â€œA Teachable Faith,â€ where she shares her continued journey on how God uses circumstances to teach us, heal us, and give us a greater understanding of Him.
And finally, Joni Eareckson Tada who has founded a ministry on sharing the gospel and equipping churches with the tools to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities. Joni said that when she gets to heaven she is going to fold up her wheel chair hand it to Jesus and say, â€œthanks, I needed that.â€
Thereâ€™s our example. Thanks, Jesus. I needed that. Have a great week this week, no matter what.
I taught a lesson on “Taking Comfort in Godâ€™s Strength” and never got around to posting my notes. I have found that I tend to get lost in my notes and I tried to switch to an outline format. It actually worked out better for teaching, but it looks like a lousy format for a blog. So without further ado, here are my notes.
A. Why is it that some Christians find living by faith to be a powerful positive experience and others donâ€™t? The bible talks often about the joy of salvation, yet some Christians walk around in a funk with their own little black cloud following them every where they go.
B. The difference between Christian living in victory and a defeated Christian is refusing to let go of the world and cling to God, who offers an endless supply of strength.
II. First, letâ€™s do the history lesson.
A. Isaiah, as a prophet of God, had a job to tell the people what God said. During this time the Israelites were sinning against God and refusing to turn from their sins, so God was in the process of punishing them. In 722 B.C, during Isaiahâ€™s life time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrians and the people were either killed or taken into captivity. In 586 B.C, more than 100 years after Isaiah lived, the Southern Kingdom was overrun and its peoples carted off to Babylon.
B. Isaiah prophesied the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C. He repeatedly warned the people that this was going to happen to them because of their sins and their refusal to get right with God. In addition to warning them of Godâ€™s impending judgment, Isaiah also spoke to the Israelites words of grace and comfort from God, telling them that their punishment and captivity would not last forever. This passage in Isaiah is all about the hope and comfort of God.
C. The Jews found these words comforting because it assured them that God was still their God, even thought they sinned, and that God would be true to His promises to them as a people. The Israelites knew that one day God would take them back to their homeland and bless them.
D. So in chapter 40 of Isaiah, Israel is complaining about their captivity and oppression by King Cyrus. Theyâ€™re tired and weary and as a result, theyâ€™ve taken their focus off of God. Now they are focused on their own â€œwoe-is-meâ€ state of mind, and with their mind off of God theyâ€™re now relying on their own strength to see them through the tough times.
E. But Isaiah points out that just because we have lost sight of God, thatâ€™s not the same as losing God. God is still there for us, but often we are too focused on ourselves to notice.
F. Isaiah 40:1-5. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah focused on the judgment of Israel because of Judahâ€™s sin. By the time we get to Chapter 40, God emphasizes comfort and hope.
i. v1. The word â€œcomfortâ€ here is not just a pat on the head or casual encouragement. Itâ€™s the type of compassion you offer someone over the loss of a loved one.
ii. v2. Israel has seen some tough times because of disobedience, but now comes a time of comfort. Her iniquity, her sin, has been pardoned. In Exodus 22:4-9, Godâ€™s law says a thief should repay twice what he stole. God is saying that Israel has stolen from God and has now received twice the punishment required.
iii. v3. This is a messianic prophecy, a declaration that Christ will come. John the Baptist cried the same thing 700 years later. Roads at the time were usually well worn paths that meandered to and fro, but when royalty announced their intention to travel, a roads would be straightened to make travel easily. And the desert implies that God will travel through an inhospitable place.
iv. v4. Talk about making straight paths. Valley will be lifted up and mountains leveled to make a smooth road for the Lord.
v. v5. And when the glory of the Lord appears, not only Israel will see Christ, but all humanity will.
vi. v6-8. The Assyrians that conquered the Israelites must have seemed overwhelming, but God is pointing out that, despite appearances, anything humanity does will fade. Godâ€™s breath is like a hot dry wind in the desert that dries up anything humans can accomplish, including the Assyrians. And after the grass is dried and the flowers gone, the Word of God still remains.
vii. v10-11. God assures us that his rule is not like human rulers that can rule by fear and intimidation. Godâ€™s rule is more like a shepherd watching over his flock because He loves us.
viii. v27-29. Israel has been saying that God isnâ€™t listening. Israelâ€™s way is hidden from the Lord. Godâ€™s response is that He has been there for centuries, through the Exodus, bringing Israel into Canaan, but Israel kept turning away from God to idols. People today often ask the same question â€“ where is God â€“ while the same people are disobedient. God hates sin and will not look upon it, so one canâ€™t go on sinning and asking where God is.
ix. God reminds us in v. 28 that God is different from people â€“ God is everlasting, humans are temporary. God is the Creator, people are the created. Godâ€™s strength knows no limits while people grow weary. And thatâ€™s the part thatâ€™s most interesting to me.
III. Isaiah 40:30-31:
“Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength: They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
A. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Does work get you down? Do you have family that stresses you out? Neighbors? Housework? What sort of things make you weary?
B. We can have hope through this scripture that we can tap into Godâ€™s strength.
a. How strong is God? God is infinitely strong. He created Heaven and Earth. Genesis tells us that God clapped twice and said, â€œLet there be light.â€ He created the sun, the moon, and the stars. When did He do this? Hard to tell, because He created time, too. God is everything.
C. Isaiah 40 above tells us two things â€“
a. We all grow weary, and
b. As a people of faith, expectantly waiting on the Lord, we will find new strength.
IV. Growing Weary
v. 30, “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly. . .”
A. All of us are going to grow old and weary, but sometimes young people donâ€™t realize this. This verse is specifically for younger people like Ken, a warning that their strong energy level will fade. They think theyâ€™ll be 18 till they die, that theyâ€™ll always look vigorous and handsome, that their energy level will always be high. But those of us with a few miles behind us realize this doesnâ€™t last forever. As the younger grow older, theyâ€™ll get weary and tired, too.
B. When we get older, we realize weâ€™ll get even older yet. A mark of maturity is recognizing life for what it is and accepting it, but sometimes we grow weary. This past Easter Sunday we visited my mom and stepdad, joined them for their church service and then went out to brunch. We had planned on going to Minute Maid, but we got worried about his health since he spent several months in ICU last year. So weâ€™re driving around when all of a sudden his leg cramps up. He has to pull over and I offer to drive, so I get out of the back seat at swap places with him. As heâ€™s getting in the back seat thereâ€™s a lot of groaning going on as he tries to wedge himself back there, then he warns me not to laugh because one day Iâ€™ll be older too. I told him I wasnâ€™t about to laugh â€“ when weâ€™re 20, we might think old people are funny, but by the time weâ€™re in our 40â€™s weâ€™re recognizing that someday weâ€™re going to be that old, too. Itâ€™s not as funny anymore.
C. And as we get older, we get weary and worn out, and as we get weary, we start developing problems. For instance, when weâ€™re weary, we drop our defenses. Weâ€™re too tired. Like a wolf picking off the weakest sheep from the flock, the enemy waits for us to become weary. Then he pounces. When we are weary, we are defenseless against the enemy.
i. Deuteronomy 25:17-18, “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.” Very powerful example the devilâ€™s attack on weary Christians.
ii. 2 Samuel 17:1-2, “Furthermore, Ahithophel said to Absalom, â€˜Please let me choose 12,000 men that I may arise and pursue David tonight. And I will come upon him while he is weary and exhausted and will terrify him so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike down the king alone.” When we become weary, we are defenseless.
D. When we are weary, we also lose our perspective. We do stupid things. Remember Esau in Genesis 25? Esau came in from the field, famished and tired, and sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. What was he thinking? He was weary, forgot what was important, and missed out on Godâ€™s blessing.
E. When weâ€™re tired, we get sleepy. We get inactive. We can actually become a hindrance to other Christians because we become baggage that gets dragged around. Theyâ€™re trying to vacuum the living room, weâ€™re snoozing on the sofa. Every once in a while we crack open one eye and say, â€œHey, not so loud.â€ Weâ€™re in the way.
F. When we are weary, itâ€™s easy to get depressed. When we are weary, we want to throw our hands up and quit. We get negative, critical, and we feel like everyone is against us. Let me read this Psalm that shows our attitude when we are depressed.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Deep dark depression, excessive misery.
If it werenâ€™t for bad luck, Iâ€™d have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Whatâ€™s the answer to this kind of darkness? Take it from me, Hee Haw reruns arenâ€™t the answer.
V. Vitality in Waiting on the Lord
A. v. 31, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength: They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
B. Wow. Run and not get tired. What does it mean to wait for the Lord? I looked up the word â€œwaitâ€, and the original Hebrew word is â€œqavah.â€ The word â€œqavahâ€ does not imply sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for something to happen. Itâ€™s more than an expectation, too, it implies you are bound together with God like the braids of a rope. Inseparable, stronger together than if you were apart.
C. Qavah is a fairly common word in the bible, used 49 times in 45 verses. Iâ€™m not going to read them all unless you have time, of course, but I wanted to highlight one of them that implied something besides â€œwait.â€
i. Genesis 1:9. â€œAnd God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together (qavah) unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.â€ Waters gathered together. Ropes bound together. We are to be inseparable if we want to run and not get tired.
D. Can we do this without God? Do we have inexhaustible strength? The truth is that if we rely on ourselves, our own strength runs out. What we need is new strength, a renewing strength. When we wait upon the Lord and bind ourselves to Him, we exchange our weakness for His strength.
E. Then look at the impact this exchange has on our lives â€“ we will â€œmount up with wings like eagles.â€ When we exchange our weakness for His strength, we grow spiritual wings, we learn to soar above our earthly problems, our light and momentary afflictions. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” As we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ, our inner man is renewed day by day. When we are bound with God, we soar with wings like eagles. Sometimes instead of soaring like eagles, or we’re flapping like wounded ducks.
F. But that’s not the whole promise. It also says, “They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Sometimes we are called to run, to do something immediately for the Lord. If Jesus is setting a fast pace, He will provide the strength we need. There are times when He calls us to run. And in those times, we “will run and not get tired.” But there are other times when we just walk. In those times, we “will walk and not become weary.”
G. I just noticed it makes us no promises if we just sit there. Our daily walk with Christ is a movement, a doing something for Christ. Get up and walk, and sometimes run.
H. So if this promise of strength is for us, why donâ€™t we always get strength?
i. Sometimes itâ€™s because we donâ€™t stay bound with Godâ€™s Word. Instead of being wrapped up in His Word, devoting time to prayer and meditation and study so that His Word is in our head, we treat it as a part-time hobby. I heard a story a couple of weeks ago from a man who said his family teases him about an incident years ago when he hit his thumb with a hammer. Apparently when he hit his thumb, a lot of very interesting words came out of his mouth. When he was asked, â€œwhat exactly did you say?â€ He responded, â€œI donâ€™t remember. But I can tell you this â€“ whatever came out of my mouth, I had been practicing to say it. It was what was in my heart and it flew out of my mouth.â€ So instead of staying bound with God to rely on His strength, we often abandon Him when we need Him most.
ii. Instead of being bound with God, weâ€™re bound to our past thoughts and habits. Imagine for a moment, a young boy whose father is an alcoholic. When his father comes home drunk and mean, the boy is scared, runs and hides. The pattern is repeated over and over, the boy hiding from his father every night. When the boy grows up and somebody confronts him in an angry way, how does he respond? He runs away. Itâ€™s a habit, a stronghold in his mind to respond that way.
iii. We all have these strongholds in our minds, and theyâ€™ve come from years of practicing them. Instead of trusting in Godâ€™s strength, we learn to cope with Plan B, our own strength. These strongholds can be a sin, a missing the mark for what God has planned for us. Once you decide to follow your plan instead of Godâ€™s plan, the next time a similar situation comes up, youâ€™ll probably choose your own plan again. Why? Because thatâ€™s what you practiced, itâ€™s becoming a habit. If you repeat an act over and over, it becomes a habit. And once this stronghold is in your mind and actions, it becomes very difficult to change. Hereâ€™s some examples â€“
1. Hostility. When you are threatened, how to you respond? If youâ€™re driving down 610 among the construction of the week and some pickup truck nearly takes off your front bumpers cutting across 3 lanes of traffic, do you get road rage? If youâ€™re trying to convince your boss of some idea youâ€™ve had, and he responds, â€œThatâ€™s stupid, itâ€™ll never work,â€ do you get mad and wish you could quit? When a family member irritates you, do you sharpen the tongue and go at them? Itâ€™s a stronghold, a habit to respond that way because youâ€™ve practiced it. God is stronger than this. If youâ€™re bound with God, though, you know that you should love your enemy, pray for your enemy, turn the other cheek. God is stronger than hostility, but you have to be bound with Him.
2. Inferiority. Iâ€™m not good enough to do that, I canâ€™t do that, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, Iâ€™m going to the garden and eat worms. Thatâ€™s a stronghold, shrinking away from people and not wanting to get involved. You attend bible class but you donâ€™t join the church because somehow you donâ€™t feel like you belong, that those other people are somehow better than you. You donâ€™t feel you pray enough or read your bible enough or share your faith enough. Pretty soon you start thinking about your failures and agreeing that youâ€™re probably not very lovable to God. Youâ€™ve grown weary and Satan is picking the weak sheep off. God says you are a child of God, a saint who is inferior to no mortal. Bind yourself in Godâ€™s word and know that He values you above all creation.
3. Manipulation. Control freak. You feel that if itâ€™s happening in your life that you must control the people and circumstances. Youâ€™ve developed a stronghold by practicing a pattern of control, and now it controls you. Bound yourself with God, what does He say? He says to give control of everything to Him. Give your problems to God.
4. Sexual immorality. Anorexia, bulimia. Negative thought processes that you trust more than Godâ€™s strength, and in so you become a weak sheep that the evil one wants to pick off and devour. But bind yourself with God, walk with God and you wonâ€™t become weary and disillusioned. Getting rid of the old sinful self was Godâ€™s grace, a gift through the Holy Spirit. God changed our nature, but it our responsibility to change our behavior, putting to death our fleshly desired. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul rebukes immature Christians for their expression of jealousy, strife, and division. Why? They had old habits and were choosing self over God.
I. So now youâ€™re saying, but what about meeeeee? What does this have to do with meeeeee?
i. First of all, no more pity parties. Donâ€™t be like the chocolate Easter bunny that went to see a psychiatrist. The chocolate Easter bunny lies down on a psychiatrist’s couch with the psychiatrist sitting beside him taking notes. The chocolate Easter bunny was explaining his problem to the psychiatrist: “Naturally, I would like people to love for me for what’s inside. But Doc, that’s the problem. I’m hollow on the inside.” Ps 103:2-5, â€œPraise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagleâ€™s.â€ What are some of Godâ€™s benefits?
1. Fellowship with God, they almighty God, maker of Heaven and Earth. Heâ€™s not a spectator and watching our game of life, he wants a relationship, one on one with us. In Exodus 33:7, 9, 11a, it says, â€œNow Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it “the tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp … As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses … the Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend.â€ As a man speaks with his friend. Thatâ€™s the kind of relationship God wants with us. Who was here for Savior last Friday night? Fabulous musical and the opening song was a love song, a duet, between Wintley Phipps with the voice of God singing â€œwho will appreciate this beautiful world Iâ€™ve created? Who will enjoy the waters that that are deep and clear, who will enjoy the music the birds sing? And it turned into a duet with Eddie singing as Adam. Just beautiful.
2. Fellowship with one another. Jesus said second only to loving God with all your heart, we should love one another. Every relationship with another that you have is a gift from God. Your parents, your older brother or younger sister, your next door neighbor, are all gifts. Thatâ€™s a benefit. Treat them all as the gifts that they are.
3. Gift of eternal salvation. An eternity of Heaven. Hard to beat that benefit. He doesnâ€™t owe it to us, but he gives it freely. So no more pity parties!
ii. Take command of your attitude. Ephesians 4:22-24, â€œYou were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.â€ And Philippians 2:5-8, â€œYour attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!â€ If you think youâ€™re something special, more special than everyone else, or if everyone else owes you something, then you need an attitude check. If youâ€™re always fighting for your rights, then you will always be fighting. A good attitude comes from laying down his rights for the good of others. What rights did Jesus fight for? Did He claim we owed him something? Remember, many things on earth are backwards from the way they are in heaven. If you want to be exalted, humble yourself, and let God lift you up. If you want to receive strength, you must learn to give strength to others. You have to empty yourselves so that God can fill you up.
iii. Walk with Christ. Colossians 2:6, As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. When youâ€™re just walking or driving or sitting, think about these words. If youâ€™ve professed your faith in Christ, are you now walking with Him? Think about when you are relying on your own strength, and realize that someday you will be weak there, like the grasses dried by Godâ€™s breath. Think about when you are weakest, and how Godâ€™s strength is yours if you will just learn to rely on God instead of yourself. Compare each of them to what you know God wants from you. How will you do today?
I find this story in the Houston Chronicle amusing:
Republican Gov. Rick Perry rallied his evangelical, socially conservative base on the issue, but political analysts said Proposition 2’s success doesn’t necessarily predict future success for individual politicians.
“I don’t see how it can be useful for a party or a candidate because this so transcends all the political parties and the typical categorizations,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the conservative Free Market Foundation, which backed the amendment.
I see. So while Democrats opposed Proposition 2’s ban on gay marriage and Republicans supported a ban, the fact that the rank and file Democrat voted for Proposition 2 also doesn’t mean they support Republican principles. Huh.
Looks and smells like denial to me. The Democratic party has been supporting every far-left anti-moral cause for the last decade and don’t understand why they’re losing elections. To oppose Proposition 2 and take credit for its passage simultaneously is a fascinating study in doublespeak.
Hmm. Nothing inspires me to blog today. I tossed some ideas at myself but nothing stuck.
North Korea says the have nukes and don’t want to talk about it. The U.S. says we ought to talk about it. No solutions look good at the moment. Let North Korea keep the nukes? Force them to disarm? Blah.
And at the same time, Prince Charles decides to marry Camilla Parker Bowles. Coincidence? I think not.
Wardhill Churchill sounds like a bigoted lunatic. I predict he’ll voluntarily step down to save face. If not, he should be fired. Free speech isn’t the issue, by the way.
Stock market is down. Weather is cold. Irv’s still in the hospital. I think I’ll need a new car by the summer of 2007. I’m going to buy some sort of mp3 player. This weekend has plays to see, dancing, Star Trek, birthday parties, Valentine’s dinner, …
Whoa. I have a lot to blog about. I wonder where I should start…