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

A

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.”

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Can Faithful Living Exempt Me From Suffering?

By John Piper

Originally posted on July 23, 2002. The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Can faithful living exempt me from suffering?

No. God’s grace through Christ on the cross has obtained for us a pass on eternal suffering. And if we get a pass on any suffering in this life, he has done that for us as well. But our faithfulness is a response to that kind of provision for us; and if we have to walk through suffering because of being faithful then we know that he has bought for us everlasting peace and joy.

So, no. We can’t live our way out of suffering.

In fact, the people that I’ve known who have been the best people have often suffered most. We know that is true for the Apostle Paul and for Jesus Christ. The two best people in the Bible—the Apostle Paul and Jesus—suffered most. So there is no correlation between my virtue or my faithfulness and my freedom from suffering.

Do you think the effect that suffering has on us is lessened the more we view this world as not our home?

It’s good to be careful about that, because even people who love heaven and love Christ suffer much. But I still want to agree with you and say that, if we didn’t feel like we were losing the most important thing when we got a terminal illness, we could bear it much better.

The Apostle Paul, when he knew that he was going to be dying, said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). And if dying is gain then we will have tremendous help in losing the retirement, or marriage, or grandchildren, or standing in the community that we thought we were going to have, or some church we thought we were going to pastor, which is all gone now as we’re ready to die with this cancer.

But if death is gain—if we gain Christ, if we’ve cultivated a relationship to Christ where he is all and in all—then O how much pain will be spared us psychologically.


© Desiring God

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

Affliction Understood, [Daily Pain]

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner

There is the unquestionable presence of affliction that is present in our lives.  Affliction is the general term for specific instances of trials, tribulations, persecutions, emotional or physical pain and suffering.

The ancient Assyrians used the word for “affliction” as the same word to describe their method of a public execution, which involved being impaled to the ground.  Rocks were gradually piled high until the victim expired.  The combination of being impaled and the rocks piled on you was quite devastating.

And you know what?  That is a terribly specific concept of what afflictions feel like.  Just ask someone, it is exceedingly terrible to be in pain and feel ‘buried’ at the same time.  There is a feeling of suffocating in suffering.  Some have described it, like being ‘hit with a 2×4’. You have just been completely blindsided.

In the letters from the Early Church there was a patentability, or openness when it came to persecution and pain.  The writers of the New Testament operated out of a profound awareness of the pain of the believers of their day.

  • “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.”   2 Cor. 1:8
  • “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”  2 Cor. 4:8
  •  “You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.”   2 Cor. 7:4

‘The Ostrich Effect’ in Affliction

One of the most extensive arguments concerning ‘affliction’ develops around the nature of the atonement.  The thought is that Jesus died and rose to bless me.  Sin and sickness, poverty or lack are not part of God’s plan for the redeemed.

Now, it is possible to refute this in this little post.  But I will try to nudge you a bit to examine the issues of the Early Church.  Know however that there are many people who will follow the ostrich’s example and bury their heads to avoid reality of affliction.  But, I can understand this impulse– this desire to honor God, even if we “play word games” with our faith.

I also know first-hand that the struggles are hard.  Wrestling with them is a brutal way to live the abundant life.  Failure and frustration are trying to short circuit our faith.  And our faith must be protected and valued.

“Afflictions add to the saints’ glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saints’ cross is, the heavier will be their crown.”

–Thomas Watson

 What Does the Scripture Say About Affliction?

  • “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”   1 Peter 4:12
  • “…where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”   Acts 14:22
  • I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

“The wisdom of God appears in afflictions. By these He separates the sin which He hates, from the son whom He loves. By these thorns He keeps him from breaking over into Satan’s pleasant pastures, which would fatten him indeed, but only to the slaughter.”  

-James H. Aughey

I want to try to visit this subject again.  We will trust that ‘real light’ will come to our twilight worlds.

1brobry-sig4 (2)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3-1

*

Testimony of the Scars

 

JC-Lamb

At the crucifixion, Jesus suffered great injury. He was beaten, flogged, spat upon, and had a crown of thorns jammed into his brow. Then He was nailed to the cross through His feet and hands and then pierced in the side with a spear causing blood and water to flow from His body. He was covered in welts, bruises, and blood so that He was almost unrecognizable.

After His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples in the upper room, the welts, bruises, and blood were gone. His body showed very little of the pain and suffering He had endured. He did not have scars on His face or across His back. He was once again beautiful. His resurrected body testified to the resurrection we will all one day know with new, healed bodies that are once again beautiful, even in our own eyes.

The exceptions to this miraculous healing of His body were the nail scars on His hands and feet, and the scar from where He was pierced with the spear. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” John 20:27 (NIV).

These scars testified to His death and suffering on the cross. They testified to the love and mercy we find there. They testify even now to the greatest gift God has ever offered mankind: the knowledge that He was one of us, faced death as we do, and came out on the other side victorious as we one day will be if we trust in Him.

We all experience suffering and injury. We all bear scars, some physical and others emotional or spiritual. We tend to hide our scars from the world, thinking we are the only ones who bear them.

Our scars long to testify to the love and mercy of a God who saw us through our trials and helped us come out victorious on the other side. They long to testify that we were not defeated because God was on our side.

What if, instead of hiding our scars from the world, we shared them for all to see just as Jesus bid Thomas touch the scars on His palms and His side? What if we let our scars testify to the love and mercy of our God? What if we helped share the greatest gift God has ever given mankind, a gift that our scars testify to?

What victory do your scars testify to? Are you willing to share them, to let your scars testify to God’s love in your life to someone who needs Him desperately? Maybe not every scar all at once, but one little scar at a time? Remember, God will be with you when you do, and then He will be with the one with whom you share the testimony of your scars and His.

Linda’s home page is at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3

“Christ and Cancer,” [John Piper]

 

cancerby John Piper.

Before I entered college I hardly gave a thought to cancer and terminal illness. But ever since those college days death by disease has walked beside me all the way. Two of my college acquaintances died of leukemia and cancer of the lymph glands before they were 22. At seminary I watched Jim Morgan, my teacher of systematic theology, shrivel up and die in less than a year of intestinal cancer. He was 36. In my graduate program in Germany my own “doctor-father,” Professor Goppelt, died suddenly just before I was finished. He was 62—a massive coronary. Then I came to Bethel, the house of God! And I taught for six years and watched students, teachers, and administrators die of cancer: Sue Port, Paul Greely, Bob Bergerud, Ruth Ludeman, Graydon Held, Chet Lindsay, Mary Ellen Carlson—all Christians, all dead before their three score and ten were up. And now I’ve come to Bethlehem and Harvey Ring is gone. And you could multiply the list ten-fold.

What shall we say to these things? Something must be said because sickness and death are threats to faith in the love and power of God. And I regard it as my primary responsibility as a pastor to nourish and strengthen faith in the love and power of God. There is no weapon like the Word of God for warding off threats to faith. And so I want us to listen carefully today to the teaching of Scripture regarding Christ and cancer, the power and love of God over against the sickness of our bodies.

I regard this message today as a crucial pastoral message, because you need to know where your pastor stands on the issues of sickness, healing, and death. If you thought it was my conception that every sickness is a divine judgment on some particular sin, or that the failure to be healed after a few days of prayer was a clear sign of inauthentic faith, or that Satan is really the ruler in this world and God can only stand helplessly by while his enemy wreaks havoc with his children—if you thought any of those were my notions, you would relate to me very differently in sickness than you would if you knew what I really think. Therefore, I want to tell you what I really think and try to show you from Scripture that these thoughts are not just mine but also, I trust, God’s thoughts.

Six Affirmations Toward a Theology of Suffering

So I would like everyone who has a Bible to turn with me to Romans 8:18–28. There are six affirmations which sum up my theology of sickness, and at least the seed for each of these affirmations is here. Let’s read the text:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)

1. All Creation Has Been Subjected to Futility

My first affirmation is this: the age in which we live, which extends from the fall of man into sin until the second coming of Christ, is an age in which the creation, including our bodies, has been “subjected to futility” and “enslaved to corruption.” Verse 20: “The creation was subjected to futility.” Verse 21: “The creation will be freed from slavery to corruption.” And the reason we know this includes our bodies is given in verse 23: not only the wider creation but “we ourselves (i.e., Christians) groan in ourselves awaiting sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” Our bodies are part of creation and participate in all the futility and corruption to which creation has been subjected.

Who is this in verse 20 that subjected creation to futility and enslaved it to corruption? It is God. The only other possible candidates to consider would be Satan or man himself. Perhaps Paul meant that Satan, in bringing man into sin, or man, in choosing to disobey God—perhaps one of them is referred to as the one who subjected creation to futility. But neither Satan nor man can be meant because of the words “in hope” at the end of verse 20. This little phrase, subjected “in hope,” gives the design or purpose of the one who subjected creation to futility. But it was neither man’s nor Satan’s intention to bring corruption upon the world in order that the hope of redemption might be kindled in men’s hearts and that someday the “freedom of the glory of the children of God” might shine more brightly. Only one person could subject the creation to futility with that design and purpose, namely, the just and loving creator.

Therefore, I conclude that this world stands under the judicial sentence of God upon a rebellious and sinful mankind—a sentence of universal futility and corruption. And no one is excluded, not even the precious children of God.

Probably the futility and corruption Paul speaks of refers to both spiritual and physical ruination. On the one hand man in his fallen state is enslaved to flawed perception, misconceived goals, foolish blunders, and spiritual numbness. On the other hand, there are floods, famines, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, plagues, snake bites, car accidents, plane crashes, asthma, allergies, and the common cold, and cancer, all rending and wracking the human body with pain and bringing men—all men—to the dust.

As long as we are in the body we are slaves to corruption. Paul said this same thing in another place. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 he said, “We do not lose heart, but though our outer man (i.e., the body) is decaying (i.e., being corrupted) yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” The word Paul uses for decay or corrupt here is the same one used in Luke 12:33 where Jesus said, Make sure your treasure is in heaven “where thief does not come near and moth does not corrupt.” Just like a coat in a warm, dark closet will get moth eaten and ruined, so our bodies in this fallen world are going to be ruined one way or the other. For all creation has been subjected to futility and enslaved to corruption while this age lasts. That is my first affirmation.

2. An Age of Deliverance and Redemption Is Coming

My second affirmation is this: there is an age coming when all the children of God, who have endured to the end in faith, will be delivered from all futility and corruption, spiritually and physically. According to verse 21, the hope in which God subjected creation was that some day “The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” And verse 23 says that “We ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” It has not happened yet. We wait. But it will happen. “Our citizenship is in heaven from which we await a Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our lowliness to be like the body of his glory” (Philippians 3:20, 21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no longer any death; and there shall be no longer any mourning or crying or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

There is coming a day when every crutch will be carved up, and every wheelchair melted down into medallions of redemption. And Merlin and Reuben and Jim and Hazel and Ruth and all the others among us will do cartwheels through the Kingdom of Heaven. But not yet. Not yet. We groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. But the day is coming and that is my second affirmation.

3. Christ Purchased, Demonstrated, and Gave a Foretaste of It

Third, Jesus Christ came and died to purchase our redemption, to demonstrate the character of that redemption as both spiritual and physical, and to give us a foretaste of it. He purchased our redemption, demonstrated its character, and gave us a foretaste of it. Please listen carefully, for this is a truth badly distorted by many healers of our day.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the work of Christ like this in 53:5–6 (a text which Peter applied to Christians in 1 Peter 2:24):

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (RSV)

The blessing of forgiveness and the blessing of physical healing were purchased by Christ when he died for us on the cross. And all those who give their lives to him shall have both of these benefits. But when? That is the question of today. When will we be healed? When will our bodies no longer be enslaved to corruption?

Continue reading ““Christ and Cancer,” [John Piper]”

Some Things Are Just Brutal

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”

1 Peter 1:6, NLT

So much has been written already from the perspective of suffering Christians.  We live in a painful world; there are plenty of cuts and bruises to go around.  Yet each blow we take is disturbing.  I’ve met so many who have been unfairly brutalized and must walk through mental or physical disabilities. Some things are just brutal.

A great deal of recovery is simply allowing ourselves to be comforted in the Spirit, and to understand the Word to see what is really taking place, when we are walloped by an especially intense attack.

We may not have this in our understanding, but suffering provides us with incredible advantages and blessings.  The bruises which hurt us, can also bring us wisdom. We learn many things, but only when we hurt. The challenge is not to waste our sorrows.

Suffering offers us benefits:

  1. Suffering verifies our faith (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
  2. Suffering confirms our sonship (Heb. 12:5-8).
  3. Suffering produces endurance (James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 5:10).
  4. Suffering teaches us to hate sin (John 11:33).
  5. Suffering promotes self-evaluation.
  6. Suffering clarifies our priorities (Dt. 6:10-13).
  7. Suffering identifies us with Christ (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thes. 2:14-15; Gal. 6:17; Phil. 3:10).
  8. Suffering can encourage other believers (1 Thes. 1:6-7; Phil. 1:14).
  9. Suffering can benefit unbelievers (Acts 16:16-34).
  10. Suffering enables us to help others (Heb. 4:15-16).

 -John MacArthur

If you have ever been attacked, it can change you.  Spiritually, our vision clears and we are no longer myopic people.  We are now able to see things much clearer and with more discernment and wisdom.  But the choice today is yours to make. Will you make suffering work for you?

“If you had never known physical pain in your life, how could you appreciate the nail scarred hands with which Jesus Christ will meet you?”  

Joni Eareckson Tada

Unquestionably the pain is real. However, I honestly beg of you to make this transaction with the Holy Spirit.  Exchange your anger and fear and doubt– for peace and confidence and joy.  You’ll be no longer a victim, you will become a victor, if you use your pain to help others.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

&

Walking This Broken Road by Faith

credit: www.internetmonk.com
credit: http://www.internetmonk.com

In one of my early blog posts at lindakruschke.wordpress.com, I was lamenting that remembering my past made me a little blue, because I had regrets and things have happened to me that were less than wonderful. But I have been reminded that I am who I am because of my history.

A week later I was listening to the CD  Stay by Jeremy Camp in my car alot. One of the songs on that CD is called Walk by Faith, but all week I really haven’t tuned into that song even though it is the one I really needed to hear. Then one night I was listening to my iPod while I was making dinner, and had it on shuffle of my Christian Music playlist. This is something I hadn’t done for awhile – I had listening to the Oldies playlist or the Sad Heartache Songs playlist instead. I started out that night listening to the Grunge playlist, but it wasn’t helping my mood at all (now that’s a big surprise, not).

It just so happened that the third song to play on the Christian music playlist while I was chopping veggies for homemade chicken noodle soup was Walk by Faith. The chorus goes like this:

Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

As I heard those words, I realized that the broken road I have traveled (and don’t we all travel a broken road of some kind?) has made me who I am. It has taught me love, compassion, empathy, and, most importantly, faith. If my life had been perfect and easy, with no pain and heartache, first of all I wouldn’t be human. But secondly, I would be a different, perhaps shallower person. I might not even be happy.

So I have decided not to lament or regret my past, but to see it for what it is: the broken road that has prepared me to be the person God wants me to be to those around me. Because ultimately, those around me have traveled a broken road too. And sometimes it is a very similar broken road so that we can relate to each other’s journey. Maybe, as I walk that road by faith, I can help others to walk by faith, too.

Besides, without the lessons learned on my broken road I would have nothing but fluff to write and my blogging would have no purpose.

Have you been walking a broken road? Have faith that God will use your experiences to make you the person He has planned for you to be so that you can be a blessing to others walking that broken road with you.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 (NIV).

^

aasignLinda