Losing Everything

My own studies have immersed me in the awful book of Job. This man lost everything–there is much we can learn from him. But it may be a definite challenge to plow through these “dark” issues. But we need to do this, sooner or later.

First of all, Job is a mysterious book. There’s no reference to the Temple or the Temple services. No connection with other biblical writings or persons. Most students believe that the book of Job is the first one written in the Old Testament.

It’s not Jewish, but it’s not pagan either. In a real sense, it speaks about suffering and pain. Job lost everything. The book tries to explain what brokenbelievers face every day. We all struggle. We all will experience suffering and loss.

Job connects us with those with illnesses–mental or physical.

We are people who must try to navigate through dark things. Most will never really understand this, but we are those who must face adversity and conflict. Like Job we ask why. We may even end up accusing God of attacking us.

We have to sort things out and believe me, it’s never easy. As we try we’ll often ask “why me?” We often accuse God. But I’m thoroughly convinced that the Almighty isn’t fazed by our questions and we should never think we’re wrong when we so challenge his goodness. He’s big enough to handle these.

In Job we’ll hear God speak to us through “the whirlwind.”

I want to encourage you (the reader) to find place in your heart for this book. Job isn’t easy to read–but I’ve gained a lot by reading it in the Message translation, but any other modern Bible works.

We’ll realize all of our questions will probably not be answered, but that’s okay. The problem of our suffering will most likely remain. There are no pat answers. I’m sorry.

“Anyone who has suffered knows that there is no such thing as “getting a grip on oneself” or “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. The only bootstrap in the Christian life is the Cross, sometimes laying hold of the cross can be comforting, but other times it is like picking up a snake.””

“Job knew this firsthand. From him we learn that there are no easy answers to suffering. That the mark of true faith is not happiness, but rather, having one’s deepest passions be engaged by the enormity of God. And through Job we learn the secret of the gospel: that “mercy is the permission to be human.” The Lord never gave Job an explanation for all he had been through. His only answer was Himself. But as Job discovered, that was enough.”

Mike Mason

Spellbound Captives of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— ugly, awful and evil things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers, but we still ‘can’t’ fathom this terrible ‘mystery of iniquity.’ “Filthy rags is what we wear. Our sins have destroyed us.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, attached to a truly sinister evil, that we are being confused about what is real or true?  To be spellbound means we’re being hypnotized by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front of it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive seems to be an ordinary occurrence for human beings.  Captivity implies imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and after all the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies. We never realize that satanic power has blinded us.

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars” mythos.  It is very real.)  We gradually give ourselves over to the dark. We think we are pretty much impervious to being deceived, but the truth is that we’re already blind. In our lostness we can only stumble through life.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus forgives us, and lifts the darkness. We start to see things as they are, reality breaks out in our minds. He has changed everything. His blood covers us, and we start to walk in what is true. We finally understand what sin has done to us, and we turn from it to what He now gives freely.

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

Learning to Walk, Again

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4 Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT

Life is chock full of mysteries, so much is unknown.  Early in my walk, over 40 years ago, I concluded that I would be able to acquire all the knowledge that I could ever want.  I was on the short track, going up of course.  It was a glorious thing, it took me some time to realize I was very ignorant of so much.

I think we need to work through this, for most it is a minor tweak.  For others who still think that their life consists in how smart they can become, it is trouble.  I believe that the Word of God, read and meditated on is an exceptional thing.  All scripture is God-breathed…”  The Bible communicates truth, not facts.

As I age, I start to understand that things are much more enigmatic and unfathomable than I ever dreamed they would be.  It is a step of faith to accept truth when their are still a lot of things that are still vague.  Mike Mason wrote, “You say you have faith to be healed, but what about the faith to be sick?”

That is a penetrating question, indeed.  “Why are some healed, and other are not?  Why do I have eternal life, and my friend does not?  Why should AIDS sweep through poor African villages when I live in a very comfortable suburb in the US?”  I have many other questions like this, but I won’t bore you with them.  (You probably have them too.) And there are thousands like this.

And I’m not making a whole lot of headway here.  Reasons and facts are not there. Life becomes more mysterious and inscrutable.  But there is a word we must know–it is the word “trust”.  It is a faith that assists us through the landscape of impossible questions.

As a struggling, mentally ill Christian, many (even in my own church) create more questions for me.  “Therapists, psychiatrists and daily medications are really good, but do you really need them?” or  “Did God create in you the need for lithium and Zoloft?” and ” How can you follow Jesus when you have all of these depression issues?” And here is a humdinger, “Where is your joy?”

But it is precisely these issues that help me be a disciple.  I’ve been slowly learning you see.  And my weaknesses are becoming my strengths.  They lead me to exercise my feeble faith.  I trust in Jesus; my faith helps me trust. I find it interesting to note  that the Book of Psalms for the most part, was written by “a broken believer” like David– a king and a rascal.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
    because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message

These nebulous areas have only increased, but ironically my trust has only grown.  I have more questions then ever before, but my faith in him only gets stronger. I suppose I will never, ever be a gleefully upbeat, cheery person.  But I am learning “to trust and obey, there is no other way…”  He himself has taken up the chore of teaching me to walk, again. Just one thing, keep trusting.

 

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Restore the Sparkle: Psalm 13

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

Psalm 13, NLT

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Life can get complicated really fast. David finds that sometimes there are no easy answers. If we look objectively at his life, we see the frayed ends where confusion rules. It was never meant to turn out this way.

Commentary

V. 1-2, David believes that he has been forgotten. A phrase is repeated an astounding four times, “How long?”  It does seem that impatience is a significant issue for him. Often when it gets this bad, we find ourselves turning to surrogates to fill the gap.

V. 2, “Anguish…sorrow, everyday.” Somehow David is alert enough to recognize the evil one. Everyday=no relief– constant, gnawing pain, which can be physical, emotional, or spiritual (or all three).

V. 3,  Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” (I love this version–“sparkle”). David knew that life was exceptional. And there is much more than breathing to life. He speaks of being restored. He seeks a reason to keep living.

V. 4, Also, he is quite aware that his life is being threatened. The word, “gloat” is interesting translation. It has the idea of boasting, or relishing someone else’s failure. The dark prince savors your defeat. He has been looking forward to this desperate moment.

V. 5,  But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.” The Lord has covered David with His hand. His life has been saved by a love that never falters or weakens. Never, Never!

V. 6,  Tremendous verse; it is really wonderful. When we finally get to this last verse, we see that we have “run-the-gauntlet” with David. Often good jewelers display their diamond necklaces on a black background. The darkness intensifies the brightness of the jewels. They become even more beautiful. David is singing and praising the Lord in His nearness. It really is what we were made to do.

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