The Gospel According to Job

Today, I want to bring out this book, out into the spotlight.  It is a tremendous devotional that makes its way through the book of Job.  I have leaned on it, and it has held me nicely.  I challlenge you to get a copy of this, and to let it work in the confines of your spirit and mind. ––Bryan

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Excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason

 

“An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One who Lost Everything”

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A“Once I met a man who, like Abraham, had moved his entire household halfway around the world on the strength of a vision from God. When I asked him to tell me the story, he answered that there were three versions of that story, and which one did I want to hear? First, there was the version of the story that he told to Christians. Then there was the version he told to non-Christians. Finally, there was the truth. Job is a book that tells things from the third point of view. Probably, along with Ecclesiastes, it does this better than any other book in the Bible.

Not that the other Scriptures do not tell the truth. But Job tells the truth in a way that makes it almost impossible to pervert the truth into pious pabulum. A few years ago I went through a difficult time. Never mind what the problem was. It was nothing compared to the trials of Job. In fact, it was nothing at all compared to the sufferings of many of my neighbors right there on the quiet street where I lived.

But pain is pain, and suffice it to say that my pain was enough to drive me to my knees, totally defeated, half-crazy at times, and crying out for relief. Month after month the battles raged on, thick, dark, agonizing. I prayed, but somehow prayer did not ‘work.’ Usually nothing at all worked, except lying low and gritting my teeth until, for reasons entirely obscure to me, the straightjacket of oppression began to loosen a little––at least enough for me to get on with my life for another day or so before the screws tightened again. What else could I do? How was I to fight this?

In retrospect I can see that a large part of my anguish was rooted in the fact that there really was nothing I could do to control what was happening to me. I was absolutely helpless, and it is this, perhaps, that is the soul of suffering, this terrifying impotence. It is a little taste of the final and most terrifying impotence of all, which is death.

We Christians do not like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith, and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control over our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think that there are certain steps we can take, or attitudes we can adopt, to alleviate our anguish and be happy. Sometimes there are. But anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing there is no help for it, no human help whatsoever.

Simply put, when we are in a deep dark hole we cannot think our way out; neither can we hope, sing, pray, or even love our way out. In fact there is absolutely nothing either we or anyone else can do to better our situation. We can have faith, yes; but in itself faith will not change anything. Neither faith, nor any other good thing that a person might have or do, can actually lift the cloud, move the mountain, or bring about an end to the problem.

Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when He does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.” How will we know? Simply because nothing and no one else could possibly have done it. In this kind of crucible, therefore, we come to a new understanding of what it means to be saved, what it means to be snatched away from the brink of destruction.

Here we get down to the bedrock of the gospel. During my night of anguish, I turned to the book of Job, and there I began to make contact with the gospel in a way that somehow I never had in studying the New Testament. Reading Job, I found myself experiencing in new and astonishing depth the reality of Jesus’ promise in John 8:32,

 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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The Glory of Gripping Things

Understanding the way our Father works is a personal passion for me.  I did not ‘major’ in theology, and so many things have to be painstakingly explained to me, like I was a small child. It seems that I will occasionally find something that is insightful.  A critical need we have is understanding the subtleties and significance of being made right with God (justification) and being made whole (sanctification).  This verse really applies here,

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”

Proverbs 25:2

Furthermore it was the Bereans who were the only ones in Scripture to be called “noble minded” for their serious study and thought (Acts 17:11). Study should not make your spirit ‘rigid’, rather the opposite should occur. God wants us to be learning Him and His ways. Understanding is a good thing.

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Justification & Sanctification– Gripping the Two

  1.  Justification is free (John 4:1)
  2. Sanctification is costly (Lk. 14:25-33)
  3. Justification is instantaneous (Jn. 3:8)
  4. Sanctification is a life-long process (Jn. 8:31)
  5. Justification is by faith (Eph. 2:8)
  6. Sanctification is by faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2)
  7. Justification is not of works (Eph. 2:9)
  8. Sanctification is of works (Eph. 2:10)
  9. Justification involves Christ’s love for me (Jn. 3:16)
  10. Sanctification involves my love for Christ (1 Jn. 4:19)
  11. Justification concerns Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)
  12. Sanctification concerns my righteousness (Lk. 14:25-33)
  13. Justification involves my position in Christ (Col. 2:11-14)
  14. Sanctification involves my practice (Col. 3:1-11)
  15. Justification considers what God has done (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
  16. Sanctification considers what I am doing (Lk. 14:25-33)
  17. Justification is God’s commitment to me (1 Jn. 5:9-13)
  18. Sanctification is my commitment to God (Jn. 14:15)
  19. Justification requires obedience to one command: to believe the Gospel (Ac. 6:7)
  20. Sanctification requires obedience to all of Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:19-20)
  21. Justification focuses on the cross which Jesus took up once and for all (1 Cor. 1:18)
  22. Sanctification focuses on the cross which I am to take up daily (Lk. 9:53)
  23. Justification is finished at the moment of faith (Jn. 5:24)
  24. Sanctification is not finished until I go to be with the Lord (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

Discerning the two should only be a blessing. This is no way puts God in a box, but it does have an ability to explain much. I might add, examining some of the key verses that develop this statements will also bless you.

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Feet Finders, [Intimacy]

JesusFeetOne of the more amazing studies you can do in the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) are the people who found themselves at the feet of Jesus. Actually there is probably more than you think.

There are some common dynamics that take place by these “feet finders.”

  1. A great need- “desperation”
  2. To emphasize one’s need and true condition
  3. To ask for a healing (for self or family)
  4. To honor Jesus as God
  5. To worship more authentically
  6. To be more receptive to His teaching
  7. To witness to others

“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Matthew 15:30, NIV

“In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.”

Mark 7:25

“And the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Luke 8:35

In fact, there are several other instances where people came to Jesus’ feet.

  • Mark 5:22-23, Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue
  • Luke 7:37-38, a sorrowing mother for her daughter
  • Luke 8:41, also Jairus
  • Luke 10:39, Mary, when Jesus was teaching
  • John 11:32, Mary, meeting Jesus entering Bethany
  • John 12:3, Mary, with her perfume
  • Revelation 1:17, John to express what he was seeing (also 19:10)

In every case we find people consciously coming and kneeling at the feet of the Lord Jesus. It was a deliberate action coming from their hearts. Each had a need, custom built for this precise moment in time.

One of the classic scenes in the Gospels is when Mary meets Jesus. She doesn’t understand His delay, she is grieving and confused. But she only has one posture and one place in her heart to be– at the feet!

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32

Being at the feet is not supposed to be a mindless exercise. She maintains her issues with Jesus re: Lazarus. But this questioning came from her knees. The issues could never take the place of her love and her honor. But I think she is an example of how our problems can coincide with a real faith.

One might say that she had every right to take up an issue of incompetence and neglect with Jesus. Much should be made of the fact that Jesus been briefed on Lazarus’ illness much earlier. And yet He purposefully delayed going to Bethany. Maybe Jesus never responds to crisis; but people in need.

To be honest with you, I have my own occasional controversies with God. I have gone through hard things that really needed His attention. I have cried and begged to no avail. I’ve tried to negotiate and manipulate and it doesn’t work.

But even there, there is found a place for me at His feet. It is where I belong. I love Him.

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The Art of Offending Jesus

SIN_KILLS_SIGN Our actions can bless God, and others immensely. We really have no idea that we have such power in our grasp. But we do say and do things that do alter the realities of those who are trying desperately to draw close to Him. We like to be unattached from these very real things. We suppose that it is a “no-brainer,” we will always avoid any complications or entanglements, about our behavior.

However, reality is much more “unforgiving” then we imagine. How we conduct ourselves is certain, and is significant. Honestly, when we become believers and are added to His church, can we honestly behave worse than we were before our salvation from sin?

I’m afraid salvation from sin means “turning off the faucet.” We can’t avoid this, it will determine what kind of a Christian we are. What do we do? Do we continue to sin? “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”

Romans 6:1-2, NLT

I’m truly convinced of this. Our decision to keep enjoying sin is disturbing. Our “death” in this case, has never happened. We have died to nothing, and remain untouched by the Gospel. We become just inoculated enough to make us believe that we are “ok.” Our lives keep moving, and we will never consider that we have made these wrong adjustments.11831809_417345445125926_2957479398676821867_n

Are we not “offending Jesus Christ” by not dying to our own sins? If we have pretty much remained the same kind of people, then it is very likely we have. Our enjoyment of sin indicates our real allegiance that we will have when “push comes to shove.” It really seems that we must shake off the old way before we can put on the new.

I simply suggest that you liaten to the Spirit as you make your choices.

Let him accompany you and show you what offends. I only speak boldly, because it matters more than you realize.

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Almost Holy, [Almost]

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“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

I hesitate to tell you this, but I have not found any secrets to becoming a holy person.

To be sure, I wish I figured this out. I would very much like to come to you with the secret formula. Sometimes I want to just make things up, just to alleviate your trials and strivings. I would easily latch on this idea of a “magic wand.” I think it would be good; and maybe not.

But the authentic Christian life is hardly formulaic. It seems to defy any attempt to explain, and then guide anyone else into that special place of true obedience or holiness. I’m supposing that you are just like me. I truly want to be right. I would love to be holy. But it ain’t happening. I always seem to end up back in the place I started from. Always, defeat and simple failure. Rats!

I’ve always been mystified by the conundrum of Romans 7. I really want 8, but I’ll settle for 6. Romans 7 has been in limbo for a very long time. I don’t really know what to do with it. (I honestly avoid it, after all chapter 8 is so good!) But way deep down, I have a real strong sense I’m missing something very important.

I suppose it might be compared to making a really good ‘discipleship smoothie.’ Of course we must add to our blender Rom. 8. And many would add Rom. 6. However, a lot of us would hesitate to include Rom. 7, we’re not really sure why. Quite a few commentaries also hesitate. Many good teachers and preachers regard chapter 7 as parenthetical. They suggest that Paul is describing his life before coming to Christ, and certainly not in a ‘present-tense’ discipleship.

When I look at the Gospels, I see, across the board that those– the healed, forgiven, cleansed and made whole were always the desperate. They have nothing, they bring nothing– they meet no requirement, but pure poverty. They are the “zeroes.” (Maybe– even the negative numbers?)

I don’t believe, at this point anyway, that there is a singular principle of sanctification. Perhaps we can truly do nothing in precise alignment. There is no such thing as a “microwavable discipleship,” and no real instant breakfasts. We truly come with a desperate faith– and we will end up with just a desperate faith. This should be incredibly humbling to us all. It takes a long time to learn humility it seems.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am!”

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

Please (someone?– anyone?!) challenge me on this. I tell you, chapter 7 chafes, and then “disrupts” me. Will I always be so misaligned and “out-of-step?” Or am I just a lousy excuse for a Christian disciple? If I’m out of line and screwed up; please let me know. But whatever dear one, don’t give up– “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68.)

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“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”

–Mike Yaconelli

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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The Tabloids Were Scandalous!

scandalous‘Scandalizing is celebrated openly today. We’ll manipulate and defame so all will pretty much see our enemies as disgraceful or hypocritical. It makes me want to cry when I hear of this intimidation inside the Church. Jesus told us that this would really, truly happen. We shouldn’t be at all disturbed. To be hurt this way is very much part of being his disciple.

In Matthew 11:2-6, 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Offended. The word in our Greek N.T. is “skandalon.” It’s used in many ways, but the most amazing one is defined as, “the trigger of a trap, to kill an animal. To be the trap wire or stick used to catch prey; a snare.” We have the word scandalous, or to be involved in a vicious manipulation, scandal. Another metaphor is that it’s like the “fly paper” that’s hung up in the barn to catch those big nasty flies. 

Jesus dug up his dictionary, and chose this very specific word to communicate what he wanted. Of men and women, boys and girls caught in something they can’t get out of without help. John the Baptist, languishing in a dark place, wants to understand Jesus. John seems to expect Jesus to hop on a white stallion, and forcefully exert his messianic role.

Jesus will send his message. “You’re blessed indeed, if you do not stumble” (or get trapped) by the misconceptions. John confined in Herod’s dungeon, would be meticulously praised by Jesus. The Lord honors his own openly.

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It is easy to take up offense, (whether right or wrong.) When we hear a message causing shock, anger, repulsion, or disgust; that is a pretty good indicator that you are being “scandalized.” And turn-around is fair play. We might be the scandalizer, or the victim. It happens all the time.

Are you trapping– or are you trapped? Either way we need to stop it. We can’t continue to trip others up– nor can we allow others to foist their trap on us either. The Gospel regards itself as a ‘stumbling block. For some agnostics’, Jesus is someone they keep tripping over. But for the believer, Jesus is a ‘climbing up’ stone!

Worship is the finest defense. People who stumble, or cause another to stumble are usually…

  • grim,
  • guilty,
  • and grouchy.

They become graceless and sterile in the important matters of the heart. They become rigid and bitter.

The man or woman who stands up for their faith, and who doesn’t fall away or let their zeal ‘leak away,’ is incredibly blessed. God however is ready to forgive all those who backslide and then repent, but is especially pleased with those– like John, who hold firm to the faith.

 

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Evaluating Jesus Truly, [CS Lewis]

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“The Difference Jesus Makes,”  from C.S. Lewis

What are we to make of Jesus Christ? This question…has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real reason is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is to make of an elephant has comic elements about it. But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of  “How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings and acts of this Man?” This problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth and sanity of his moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity….

The other phenomenon is the quite appalling nature of this Man’s theological remarks. You all know what I mean, and I want rather to stress the point that the appalling claim which this Man seems to be making is not merely made at one moment of his career. There is, of course, the one moment which led to His execution. The moment at which the High Priest said to Him, “Who are you?” “I am the Anointed, the Son of the uncreated God, and you shall see Me appearing at the end of all history as the judge of the Universe.”….

On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no half-way house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him “Are you the son of Brahman?” he would have said, “My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.” If you had gone to Socrates and asked, “Are you Zeus?” he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, “Are you Allah?” He would first have rent his clothes and the cut your head off.  If you had asked Confucius, “Are you heaven?” I think he would have probably replied, “Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.”

The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you….

Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly…

[Take, for example] the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, “The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.” On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost- survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the universe. Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into “ghost” and “corpse”. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, “This is the truth about the Universe.  This is the way you ought to go,” but He says, “I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.” He says, “No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.” He says, “If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.” That is the issue.”

– Asking Them Questions, Third Series, edited by Ronald Selby Wright (OUP, 1050), also reproduced inUndeceptions (Geofffrey Bles, 1971) and God in the Dock, Chapter 9 (Fount, 1979)
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