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”

_______________________

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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Gold Fears No Fire, [Comfort]

Things fall apart

“He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”

-2 Cor. 1:4, NCV

“The sinners in Zion are afraid;
    trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Isaiah 33:14, ESV

There has to be some sort of confusion here. Some discrepancy, some incongruity, something overlooked. But things are never what they seem, and that is accentuated when we are in real pain. We think that whatever trouble we get enmeshed in, can’t have any real redeeming value. Or does it?

After a period of time walking with God, whose presence is true fire, we should process this prominent thought. Suffering is part of God’s idea. He has plans that hinge on our pain. It has been deliberately placed into our lives.

A competent pharmacist will be extremely aware of the drug he is filling for a patient. Never too much, nor too little. God is even more meticulous and acutely alert when it comes to suffering and pain. He has an intense love for you through it all. He drops in the proper amount needed for that moment.  It is confined and designed to heal, grow, and strengthen. Never to harm or destroy. He is not punishing you.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

Keller understood. She was both deaf and blind, since infancy. From this dark and complete isolation, she broke through. Helen Keller became a potent and significant woman. She would graduate from college and became a famed public speaker of international renown.

“God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son” (see Romans 8:28-29).

Jerry Bridges

Gold fears no fire.

We must believe pain has purposes. Life teaches us how to love. Some seem to go through life “charmed”, they are really not hurt in any substantial way. If that is the case, reach out and help someone else, for there’s certainly enough pain and evil to go around. (We should find ourselves actively sharing in the trials of others.)

I think that when a believer finally arrives in heaven, they will be ushered in limping, wounded, leaning on an angel for support. They will bring it all to Jesus, their scars remembered, and their sins forgiven. And we will be transformed, fit for heaven.

aabryscript

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Helping Those Who Hurt Intensely, [Compassion]


Job needs God’s wisdom
By John Piper, originally published September 12, 2008  
The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Can we learn something from Job’s friends about how to help the hurting?

Absolutely. Those first seven days were their golden hour. If they had stopped there they would have been heroes, I think, because they would have shown compassion and patience. And that’s what we should learn.

When you walk into a horrific calamity you should be really slow to speak and quick to listen. You should be quick to cry, quick to hold, and quick to meet needs, bring meals, and wait upon the Lord. The theological wrestling comes later, probably. It’s different with different people.

But I think the lesson we learn from the progress of the book of Job is that while those three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—were sitting in dust and ashes, aching with their friend Job, he was helped by them. And many people are helped just by the loving presence of another.

I don’t think this nullifies the importance of truth. Let me give you an example.

I’m a colleague here with Tom Steller, who has been with me for 24 years. And Tom and I have sometimes said to each other, “It would be great to stay together long enough to die together, Tom.” And depending upon which one of us comes to visit the other in the hospital at our dying moment, we know, because of 24 or (perhaps by then) 54 years together, we don’t have to say a word. It’s all been said.

We have a common theology. Neither of us will have to preach to the other in order to fix their ideas. We will all know that God reigns, God is good, God is loving, and God is wise. We’re perplexed, but you don’t need to preach. Let’s just take each other’s hands and pray and fight this fight of faith together.

 

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Broken Dreams, On a Friend’s Suicide

This is a guest post from TheNorEaster, hope it blesses!

A TheNorEaster Post.

An old buddy of mine from high school recently committed suicide.

I cried myself to sleep the night I got the news, praying passionately and begging God to have mercy upon him.

John was the last person I would ever expect to take his own life. He always was quick with a joke, and his laughter was contagious.

When I got the news, I was fortunate enough to be with my best friend, who eventually asked, “How many is that?”

“Exposures?”

“And the people you were especially close to.”

“Mike shot himself, Ken’s two neighbors had some kind of ritual, Adrian stabbed his social worker to death to get shot by a cop, Judy’s killer hung herself in prison after beating her to death with a sledgehammer, Neal’s father-in-law shot himself, I don’t know how Kim did it, and then there was Britany, Terry, Nancy.

“And now, John. That’s ten, I think. It wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t so many.”

Each new loss compounds the previous ones. And I kept wondering when it all would end, when my grief would finally pass — when I could, at long last, get on with my life.

As I write these words now, I realize these trials are my life. And that the only way anyone can ever avoid grief is pure apathy.

I grieve because I care. And I mourn because I have loved.

If there ever was a way to love somebody without ever getting hurt, or burned, even betrayed — Well, I sure wish somebody would put it in The Suggestion Box.

I’d be lying if I said that I am not angry at John. He left behind a wife. Two children. But, I also know, from what I know, that John covered his own wounds very well.

Until the blood of his wounds soaked through the bandage.

It has been said that America is “The Land of Opportunity.” And we are taught to pursue our dreams with ferocious tenacity — be it writing a book or making music or simply starting a family.

In the midst of it all, we sometimes forget that life is not, at all, fair. That those who live good and respectable lives come upon atrocious times. And that those who do achieve their dreams — even one as seemingly simple as starting a family, like John — do indeed have their own wounds with which to contend.

As I consider this, I cannot help but wonder — What is the purpose of a dream?

To achieve? To inspire? To be rich? Or famous?

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
~Matthew 20:26-28

God sure does everything backwards, doesn’t He?

So, is it just possible that the relentless pursuit of a dream is a symptom of our spiritual poverty? Doesn’t Scripture tell us to be content? And yet, how can we possibly be content if we always want to be where we are not?

I am very much aware that those questions do sound discouraging. And, in fact, they are discouraging — until we consider the truth behind Psalm 37:4:

“Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

For the longest time, I thought that passage was some sort of trade off, that if I took “delight in the LORD” then my dreams certainly would come true.

But, I realize now that what I have wanted — and even what I still do want — is so very rarely what God wants.

And that is why, to be sure, that delighting in the Lord does not mean getting what we want, but instead means that God gives us desires in our hearts to serve Him — in humility, with gratitude, and, above all, out of love.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”

And if my dreams must die that I may yet have a measure of greatness in the eyes of God, if I still must endure the terrible loss of my old buddy, if I need struggle with depression to run the race, if I must face my own foolishness in my fourth suicide attempt last year, if being broken is the cross I must carry in this life to see my precious Father face to Face…

…I’d say a few broken dreams cannot possibly compare to such heavenly glory.

“Sunset is Morning.”

Please check out TheNorEaster’s terrific blog at: http://thenoreaster.wordpress.com/

Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One

“I love you. God, I miss you. And I forgive you.”

~from the film Remember Me

“When I saw that scene in the movie, I stumbled out of bed and fell to the ground as my whole body trembled in anguish and agony — and I started and screaming like a wild, wounded animal.

It has been six years now since my friend, Britany, committed suicide. I thought, by now, I would be better. I thought I would have been able to let go. And move on.

At the very least, I had hoped that I would have felt the loss a little less now than I did when I first got the news.

I was wrong.”

Grief lulls you into a stupor. It hides inside you as you go about your business, working and doing the laundry and, Yes, even falling in love. You tell yourself, subconsciously, that if you’re not in tears then you must have moved past the mess. If you can function, you must be okay. Besides, you don’t eat out of cans anymore — and that has got to be a sure sign you’ve finally let go of your loss.

And if you say it out loud, you’re that much more convinced it’s true. I got over it. But when that lingering sadness creeps in, you’re right there with the excuse: Well, I’ll never really get over it until I’m in Heaven, but that doesn’t mean I have to spend all my time dwelling on it.

Those are the calling hours of grief, but you won’t answer the door. You’re scared to death of being weak, of being afraid, of feeling that way again. You were taught that God is gracious and loving, that He cares about you in ways you cannot begin to fathom, but the lies of a false religion have you believing that no gracious and loving God would ever want you to feel sad or desperate or crazy — to the point of falling to the ground in agony like a wild, wounded animal, begging Him for help with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.

Like religious legalism equates the avoidance of sin with goodness, you thought everything would be all right if nothing appeared to be wrong. So you learn to speak casually of your loss. You dismiss your own grief. You learn to act, to hide. Your prayers start to sound like you’re talking to your Best Friend from childhood — whom you haven’t seen in years — but you have grown so detached from the Person you once thought you knew so very well that the relationship now lacks any kind of depth and every sort of substance. God has become a casual convenience. Because in the deepest, darkest caverns of your heart, you harbor a hidden resentment rooted in your loss.

And maybe, like me, you’ve screamed in tears of anguished rage as you ripped your Bible to shreds, only to buy a new one the next day because you’ve discovered — in that moment — that living without God is the one thought you cannot bear. To be absolutely alone in your pain, without hope, without His Presence, His forgiveness, and His eternally tenacious Love is an unspeakable horror. Nevertheless, you soon pretend such a moment never happened, stuffing it in the back of your mind like a distant memory. You can’t tell your friends about it because you know they’ll think you’re crazy. Worse, they’ll question your faith.  But you stay silent because you have enough doubts as it is.

Before long, the act becomes the reality. And you start to take a certain pride in what, you think, you have overcome. And every time that lingering sadness starts to creep in, you’re still right there with an excuse. You have become a master of self-rationalization, basking in the cheers and applause of your family and friends and church because your life is now a grandiose testimony to what, you think, God has done. But you don’t realize that basking in such glory is heresy, usurping the glory that belongs to God — and to God alone — because you want it yourself. It is foolish to presume this glory is somehow yours, as if you had earned it through your pain.

But, God won’t have it. The Lord of Heaven and Earth will not tolerate the lies you’ve been living in your relationship with Him. You are His child and you are His treasure. He delights in you in ways that go light years beyond your comprehension — and that includes making your life in a fallen world easy. Christ suffered, and you will certainly will as well. And it does not matter how fast you run or how well you hide. Even if it takes six years — or ten or twenty or eighty years — for you to realize that you need Him in ways you never thought possible.

You are broken. And that means there is no going back to the way things were. The loss has changed you. It has shattered your heart and bent your head and stolen every last ounce of strength and all sense of reason.  But somewhere, — somehow — in the midst of the mess, you found a faith so strong it defies logic and denies reason. You see what cannot be seen and you hear what cannot be heard — because you have felt the distant visions and echoes of eternity placed upon your heart. You can see through the storm. And you know sun rises beyond the dark clouds.

You don’t get over it. And you never do get used to it. The beast of grief you have kept buried inside for years will hunt you down and, without a doubt, leave you reaching for God in ways and means you never imagined. But you have now the one thing you’ve been missing all this time: a faith that has been shaken so hard it cannot be shaken. Even if God leads you to the floor crying and screaming like a wild, wounded animal — broken — you believe.

I have tried, determinedly and tenaciously, to give up on God, to forsake a life of service to our Father.  It just hurts that much.  It really does.  But, if I have learned anything in the past six years — it is, quite simply, that it is impossible for God to forsake His children.  He has pursued me through the darkest nights and my monsoons of tears.  And He will absolutely will not give up on you — ever.  And so it is with a sincere, agonizing gratitude that I offer our Father a sacrifice of praise:

Pstorm 243

The Lord is The Most High God!

He is bigger than our sins,
and greater than our troubles —

He who stretched the sky above the Earth
and set the stars in their place  —
He sees, He knows, He hears.
He watches, He plans, He listens.

Is the One who made the mountains
smaller than your very own troubles?
Is the One who carved the valleys
hidden from the caverns of your hearts?

Is the One who levelled the plains
ignorant of your very own despair?
Is the One who commands the seasons
unable to direct your ship in the storms?

Look up, you precious daughters of The Most High!
Lift your heads, you adopted sons of The Almighty!

Is the One who paints a seaside sunset
deaf to your cries of infertility?
Is the One who turns the Earth every day
blind to the pleas of your petitions?

Is the One who renews the trees each spring
paralyzed to restore your heavy hearts?
Is the One who guides the birds with the winds
silent amidst your anguished prayers?

The Lord our God is The Most High God!

He is bigger than our sins,
and greater than our troubles.
He sees, He knows, He hears.
He watches, He plans, He listens —

And He promises

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you
so that you will always be with me where I am.”

Love,

The NorEaster

 

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http://thenoreaster.wordpress.com/