“I Am Not But I Know I Am” by Louie Giglio

“I Am Not But I Know I Am” by Louie Giglio

 

There are very few men who have the unique gift of letting you feel good about yourself while telling you the truth.  Christianity is all about the good news of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what that can mean for us.  One of the things that keep people from experiencing the fullness of the Good News is their own misconception of themselves.  We believe that God needs us.  We believe that we have something to bring to the table.  We believe we have earned God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness, etc.  God’s Word is going to tell us over and over again that we are not good enough, we don’t measure up, and cannot come close to earning God’s love and forgiveness on our best day.

Naturally, the Christian message can sometimes be a downer.  When we think we’re killing it, we get dragged down to the reality that it’s all filthy rags compared to the actual standard of holiness and perfection.  Louie, as a voice who proclaims the Good News on a large stage, is one of the few men who can look you in the face and tell you how far off the mark you are, but make you feel good about it at the same time.  Louie is biblically grounded, meaning he doesn’t shift the meaning of the Scriptures to make people like him, so he talks about sin and the consequences of living outside of God’s commands.  But Louie always points us back to grace.  Half of the Good News is that we fall short and are deserving of Hell and separation from God.  The other half of the Good News is that God chooses to save us.  He chooses to use us despite our overwhelming flaws and defects.  He chooses to enter into relationship with us and even invites us to be used by Him in His plan of saving others.

In the book “I Am Not But I Know I Am,” Louie makes us excited about how small we are.  He makes us feel good about how insignificant we are.  He makes us happy about our inability to measure up to God’s standards.  He opens the veil and allows us to see God for who He really is.  The point of life is not how good we are, how successful, or how beautiful – the point is God.  One of Louie’s greatest gifts is communicating deep, theological truths in a way that we can understand.  This is probably the main reason why the Passion Conferences are so successful.  Anyone who can get college students to understand the deeper things of God while telling them not to think of themselves to much is truly gifted.  Louie’s book is a great read, and I would highly recommend it to all ages.  I am thankful to the Lord for how He continues to use Louie Giglio for the glory of His name.

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“The Blessed Church” by Robert Morris

“The Blessed Church” by Robert Morris

 

Robert Morris’s book is a great story about one church – his church.  There can be no denying the real, tangible truth of God using Morris and his vision for a church structure in a way that is both rare and inspiring.  If you like stories about how churches got their starts and how the leadership in those churches formed their respective visions for ministry then this is a book that you’ll enjoy.  If you’re looking for some practical answers for structuring your church or casting a vision for growth and maturity – you might be disappointed.

I don’t think that Morris’s intent in writing this book as to give an outline for how every church should be run.  I think he was simply wanting to let everyone know how he was led to do church, and hopefully inspire others in some way.  There is very little in the way of revolutionary ideas that can be translated into any context.  He does give a structure that could fit in some contexts, but little that can be seen as “across the board” type structures.

My biggest disappointment with this book was a lack of biblical foundation.  One would hope that if an author was looking to give a blueprint for what a blessed church is, he would start with God’s Word.  A truly blessed church does not follow a specific structure or have a certain budget or membership role.  A truly blessed church sees that value in God’s Word and His glory no matter what the income or numerics are.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people who like to hear stories of how churches began.  It’s an interesting story with some pretty amazing results.  On a whole, I would not recommend this book to a struggling pastor who is feeling stuck in a seemingly dead-end ministry.  This book could potentially cause some undue covetousness which is not the author’s intent.  Morris’s structure at Gateway works wonderfully for him and his congregation, it’s not supposed to work everywhere.  The same God who Morris gives credit for the blessing of a large, successful megachurch is the same God who gets credit for the loving, modest congregation.  May the Lord continue to govern His Church as He sees fit.

“Greater” by Steven Furtick

“Greater” by Steven Furtick

 

“Greater = the life-altering understanding that God is ready to accomplish a kind of greatness in your life that is entirely out of human reach.  Beyond Steve Jobs. Beyond what you see in yourself on your best day.  But exactly what God has seen in you all along.”

 

This is the closest thing to a definition of “greater” that Steven Furtick could give us.  Unfortunately, He doesn’t really mean it.  It is clear that Furtick has charisma and is a gifted communicator, but that simply doesn’t cut it.  It does not seem too much to ask for a definition of the word that you will throw around all over the book.  At one point, “greater” is becoming rich, influential, and successful beyond your wildest dreams while at other points “greater” is simply sucking it up and enduring the nightmare that has been your job, marriage, or life.  And it all depends on you.

I’m really not out to get Furtick. I had high hopes in reading this book, but there is nothing concrete.  There is no firm foundation for the readers to stand on.  As much as Furtick might try to sweet talk his way out of it, he leaves us (or introduces us) to a god who is distant and moody.  A god who plays with our emotions at times in hopes that we will somehow get it right.  A god who is waiting for us to get our act together, otherwise he simply can’t or won’t work.  Furtick’s god is not the God of the Bible.

Furtick’s book is misleading at best.  He gives no clear definition for the word he uses throughout the book and even as the title.  There can be no practical help when there is no practical use for the word.  I can use the word “love” all day long, but if “love” starts to mean something other than “love” it ceases to be “love.”  Furtick wants everyone to feel like God has called them to be Steve Jobs, but that’s simply not the case.  Furtick, to his credit, does not claim that everyone can be the next Steve Jobs, but in ambiguously using “greater” he wants you to think you can.  He’s a motivational speaker using God as the means by which you become successful in your own eyes.

Furtick’s book tries to impress us with stories of overcoming obstacles, letting go of past failures, and becoming what we’ve always dreamed of becoming.  He claims to have biblical basis for his practically non-practical approach to faith and life, but the misses the point.  A point that Furtick could not agree with, but one that he fights against in his book.  Jesus says in Matthew 23:11, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”  I don’t think that Steven Furtick would have a problem with Jesus saying this.  Steven might even point to this verse when people come to him and ask him why burning their plows, digging ditches, and striking the water didn’t work for them.  No one wants to be the servant.  No one has dreams of being the servant.  No one forsakes everything to be the servant.  The focus cannot be on us.  God’s work cannot be dependent on our faith or action.  “Our God is in the heavens and He does whatever pleases Him.” (Psalm 115:3, emphasis added)  Our call is to pursue Christ, not pursue an ambiguous dream of something “greater.”

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“Christ Our Mediator” by CJ Mahaney

Christ Our Mediator by CJ Mahaney

 

We walk into the mediation room unkempt and unrepentant.  We know there is we are guilty of a great offense, but we’ve convinced ourselves our hands are clean.  The other party sits across from us at the table.  His holiness and perfection causes our pride to swell within us.  We know we have no shot at the case ending in our favor, but we persist in going on with the mediation.  Our Mediator stands in the gap and begins to present both sides.  He is at once like us, but not exactly like us.  He begins to walk us through the dispute, starting with the majesty and authority of the One sitting across the table.  He finishes our long list of defamations, blasphemies, and rebellions.  There really isn’t much to mediate.  We are obviously guilty.  We just wanted to stick it to Him one last time.  Then we are shocked, stunned, dumbfounded when He pronounces the final verdict.

 

We are absolutely guilty and the Mediator will take the punishment that we deserve.

 

This is the grand portrait that CJ Mahaney paints for us in his book Christ Our Mediator.  With a sincere humility and absolute devotion to Christ and His Word, CJ Mahaney paints a picture of the Gospel that pushes back against the entitlement age in which we live.  You don’t have to look far to find a religious teaching that would have us believe that Jesus stands in the gap for us to excuse our sin and calm an overreacting, unreasonable judge who has obviously misunderstood us and our motives.  Mahaney pulls no punches in delivering the transcendent truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: God is holy, we are guilty, and Christ has made a way for us.

It should be pointed out that Mahaney is clearly writing this book to believers in Christ.  And for the believer, it will be a breath of fresh air.  It is not necessarily just for believers, but some of the language used could be misunderstood if the audience were thought to be the general public.  I would highly recommend this book to any child of God.  It is a warm blanket for the soul, and CJ Mahaney is a great friend to have for the journey.

Book Review: “Real Church in a Social-Network World” by Leonard Sweet

“Real Church in a Social-Network World” by Leonard Sweet

What is the greatest longing of the human heart?  What are the fundamental elements of humanity that transcend time and culture?  Leonard Sweet seeks to answer these difficult questions in his book “Real Church in a Social-Network World.”  Sweet goes into great detail of how the longings of the human heart are communicated by what we pursue as a culture.  He uses the rise of social-networking as a silent cry for relationship.  Sweet also tries to distance the life of Jesus from the non-relational elements of the church that tend to love philosophical concepts rather than people.

Sweet does a tremendous job in emphasizing his points about the need for Christians to pursue deep and meaningful relationships both with God and with each other.  Sweet is obviously well read and attempts to pull several different perspectives to prove his point.  Sweet makes the transcendence of relationships across moral and cultural lines foundational to his argument by pulling from Jewish rabbis and mystics as well as quoting theologians, scholars, and philosophers.

Sweet’s writing style is smooth and engaging if you don’t mind a few big words here and there.  And he expounds on his points without seeming repetitive or dry in his delivery.  It is clear that Sweet’s desire is to encourage believers to live lives worthy of the gospel as Sweet sees it.

There is, however, a huge problem with Sweet’s conclusions about the nature of the Gospel, Christ, God’s relationship to mankind, the Bible, and ultimately the definition of “Christian.”  Sweet tries very hard to convince the reader that there should be a definite and absolute divorce between what we will call “doctrine” and the follower of Christ.  Sweet even goes so far as to say that truth is not singular and cannot be essentially known; it is, rather, misty and multiple (Chapter 1: Orthodoxy and Paradoxy; para. 2).  If we are to say what Sweet will not, essentially, Jesus did not come to fulfill the law but to abolish it.  Jesus is very clear that there is truth and He is it.  This is not a copout that suggests we should deny doctrine for the sake of relationships.  Paul, a devout follower of Christ, was one of the foremost teachers of doctrine.  The book of Romans is essentially the first book of systematic theology.

Sweet tries to encourage believers to neglect the divisive “doctrine” for the sake of establishing relationships and an “experience” that will make outsiders feel judged or shunned.  It would appear that Sweet wants to push the church away from graceless, judgmental, better-than-thou Pharisaism, and I am in full agreement.  But when Sweet starts uprooting this life of grace from the soil of truth, he is misrepresenting the kingdom Christ came to instill in the hearts of His people.  Christ absolutely lived a life of grace sharply rebuking the Pharisees who trusted their own righteousness to save them, but that does not mean that He stood for relationship over truth.  Christ message to the prostitutes and tax collectors was not simply an invitation to relationship but an invitation to holiness.  Not a holiness imputed by men after years of hypocritical self-righteousness, but a holiness imputed by the only One who perfectly met all the requirements of the Law.

Leonard Sweet’s book ultimately calls Christians to live lives of full, deep relationships, and I am in full agreement.  At the same time, we must weigh his words carefully.  Anyone who tries to divide the truth from the relationship Christ exemplified for us must have his words tested by the fullness of the Word.  May it be that the Holy Spirit awakens our hearts to the truth of who He is and may that awakening drive us to love and serve those around us.  Grace and peace,

JOT

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Job Part 4 – The Gospel Problem (Job 1-3, Philippians 3:5-11, 2 Corinthians 11-12); August 22, 2012

Job Part 4 – The Gospel Problem (Job 1-3, Philippians 3:5-11, 2 Corinthians 11-12)

 

There is a huge misconception in modern Christian thinking that it is okay to feel what we see others feeling.  We often read ourselves into stories this way.  This brings a great deal of relatability to characters.  If a character is feeling fear, we tend to justify our own fear. If a character is angry, we feel justified in our anger.  We do the same thing with non-fictional heroes or people with whom we relate.  For instance, if a friend is upset, we feel perfectly justified in being upset even if the situation does not affect us in the slightest.  I believe there is real danger in making this empathy an unconscious habit, especially when reading the Scriptures.

Now, I must say that there are Scriptures that command us to mourn with mourners and rejoice with the rejoicers, but we must allow a loving distance when our brothers and sisters wander into the dark night of the soul.  We must resist the impulse to wade into the waters of their doubt, fear, anger, and struggle.  We do this not because we want to be cold or unfeeling to their situation, but because that should be a grace given to us in not feeling the full brunt of their struggle.  This distance is not one that we muster and impose ourselves, but is a working of the Spirit within us through the power of the Gospel.

We talked last time about Job’s limitations in being able to adequately deal with his situation.  Job did not have a Bible to flip open and immerse himself in.  Job did not have a pastor or church leader to point him back to God.  Job didn’t even have the example of Christ to look back on and find strength.  Job was limited by the revelation of God available to him.

We cannot be satisfied with empathizing with Job when we hold God’s Word in our hands.

Sadly, we have drifted so far from our need of God’s Word, we believe that God is no longer the God of the Bible.  He has evolved.  He has modernized. He no longer wants us to be satisfied in Him, He care about our happiness more now.  He wants us to have stuff.  He doesn’t want us to struggle, fight, change, or be uncomfortable.  His dreams for us are our dreams for us.  He calls us to follow Him down the streets of gold not the road to Calvary.

People love to read Job and relate with him.  They remember the times that they were being good people when something went wrong.  Teenage girls remember the day their boyfriend broke up with them and that was their “Job day.”  Young men remember when their team lost the big game and that was their “Job day.”  Some people remember losing a loved one.  Others remember their parents divorcing.  Some remember war. Others remember sickness.  Paul remembered floggings, beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks.  The difference for Paul was that he had nothing to lose.

The full weight of Philippians 3:5-11 is often lost on the modern church.  We equate knowing Christ with wealth, health, and prosperity.  So counting things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ is not a sacrifice, it’s a socio-economic upgrade.  Paul had something else in mind.  Paul was looking beyond the accomplishments and materialism of this life and focusing the prize of Christ for eternity.  There were no more “Job days” for Paul.  There was nothing that could pull him from Christ.  There was nothing he could lose, no tragedy that could befall him that could ever cause him to question God as Job did.  So why do we?

The pains of this life are real.  There is nothing easy about losing loved ones, struggling with sin, losing a job, hunger, poverty, war, or a thousand other thorns that pierce our souls.  There is real pain and suffering that takes place in this life.  But our hope is not in this life.  Comfort and peace in this life is not proof of our eternal home, neither are they statuses due us for being obedient.

If history has shown us anything it is that there will be days that we are tempted to ask the same questions as Job.  We will want to die or wish that our lives had never happened.  We will hold high our own righteousness and question God’s justice.  Children of God, when this day comes for you, I pray that you run to His Word.  I pray that you wrap yourself in the comfort of His love.  I pray that you have surrounded yourself with better friends than Job – friends who know the Word and will speak it faithfully to you even if it stings a little.  May we be people of the Word, and may we stop holding on to the things of this world that do not satisfy like Christ does.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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Job Part 3 – The Perspective Problem (Job 1-3); August 15, 2012

Job Part 3 – The Perspective Problem (Job 1-3)

 

Thus far in our discussion of Job we’ve waded through some thick questions.  Hopefully we’ve allowed our focus to shift from seeing this historical account as being focused on Job to being focused on God.  The next step we must take is shifting our focus in our own lives.  This cannot simply be a story about another person.  In face, if we simply turn this into a parable then we miss the whole point of why this account has been passed down for thousands of years.  Job’s life must affect us.  We must see ourselves in Job’s condition and see his faults as our faults – his limitations as our limitations.

It could very easily go without saying that Job’s perspective is somewhat limited when compared to the God of the universe.  I say it not because we do not know this inescapable fact, I say it because we tend to not live in this unavoidable reality.  What I mean is that we can say that we are limited with relative ease, but we tend to live, act, and think as though we are not.  And for some strange reason, this foolishness thrives in the church.  I’m not sure if it’s the inerrancy of Scripture that drives us to it or the imputed righteousness that gives us license to claim equality with God in our own hearts, but there is no denying that the church struggles with this just as much as those outside of it.

Job’s lament in chapter 3 gives us a glimpse of Job’s faulty position as the discourse between he and his three friends begins.  Job believes that after a week of contemplating his life and circumstances that he should never have been born.  Most of us have had that day.  Some of us have had that life.  And almost all of us have said the words, “I wish I had never been born.”  The issue is not how silly we are for wanting to get out from under the weight of a fallen world.  Paul even hopes for that.  The problem with this statement lies in our utter defiance of God.  In stating our desire to have not been born, we assume two things: God was wrong in creating us and we have an adequate perspective to judge that fact.

No one who believes in the God of the Bible would ever say these things out loud.  We simply hold them in our hearts and they drive our actions.  We must see our limited perspective as defiance against God.  We must address the wickedness of our fallen nature.

The perspective problem is an issue of sanctification.  Let’s follow the progression that we’ve already addressed.  God not only chose Job to be born but also made him upright and blameless and allowed Job to suffer at the hands of Satan.  Job is secure in the hands of God, resting in His blessing and protection, driven to good works and sacrifices until catastrophe hits and Job’s world is shattered.  Job’s true perspective is then revealed.  Job is in need of further sanctification – a movement from one degree of glory to the next.  Job is in need of a new perspective.

This is where we must allow the Spirit to examine our own lives and convict us of sin.  We are in desperate need of a new perspective.  We must stop justifying the defiance of God.  We must see our sin as sin.  Too often tragedies and the fallenness of this world bring to the surface what is wicked within us only for us to shove it back down again without allowing our wickedness to be discarded.  We need a change in perspective.  It is my prayer that the Lord will give us eyes to see and ears to hear.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

 

JOT

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Job: Part 2 – The Predestined Problem (Job 1-3; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:1-10); August 8, 2012

Job: Part 2 – The Predestined Problem (Job 1-3; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:1-10)

In Job: Part 1 we mentioned some verses that were somewhat problematic in our discussion of Job’s innocence and the justice of God in allowing Job to suffer in the way He did.  The summary of the verses describes the inability for any man to be righteous before God.  It even goes so far as to say that there is no one who seeks God, much less loves and obeys Him on his own merit.  Why this is problematic is that God Himself calls Job blameless and upright.  So what’s really going on here?  How can God call this man blameless and still allow such tragedy to befall him?  This is why I have included the Ephesians passages in our reading for this segment.  We must pull back a bit from the book of Job and look at the Bible as a whole in order to accurately answer the question “What makes Job blameless?”.  And yes, I am perfectly aware that this discussion might be making some of you cringe.  Others might have skipped this one altogether after reading the title.  I’m not at all trying to make a statement other than this is how the Bible says we are made blameless and there is no exception that I can see anywhere in Scripture.  Job’s blamelessness was predestined just like his suffering.

Once again, I want to pull our human-centric blinders off and focus on God and His work and not Job.  The point of everything in Scripture is the glory of God.  Everything done, from salvation to damnation, is for the glory of God’s name.  God does not exist to make much of us; we exist to make much of Him.  I have chosen the Ephesians passage because it uses the term predestined several times as well as thrusting the idea home in chapter 2, but I could have very easily made the point through other passages from either of the Testaments.  God’s election of Israel for instance is a shadow of predestination (Genesis 15, Deuteronomy 9).  Dry bones revived also are a shadow of predestination (Ezekiel 37), and the shadow of rebirth (John 3).  There are more I could name, but I don’t want to distract too much from the topic at hand.

Ephesians 1 states that before the foundation of the world, before the creation account in Genesis 1, God had chosen Job to be blameless in His sight.  He saved Job millennia before Job was even born.  God put the desire for righteousness within Job that Job might seek right standing before God.  Job was not perfect.  He was blameless not of His own doing, but was given righteousness by God through Christ.  You may now be asking how this can be since Job lived thousands of years before Christ.  Galatians 3 states that Abraham was saved by his faith, faith is given by God so that no one can boast, and therefore we can discern that Job was saved in the same way.  Jesus, who is not a liar, said that He is the only way to the Father.  Therefore if anyone is saved it is through Christ.  Job was saved through Christ and shared in the imputed righteousness that sons and daughters of God walk in post-crucifixion.  If we remember that God is outside of time then this become much easier to conceive because we know we will never be able to fully understand it.  Christians must learn to live with this partial understanding.  We know we are saved by God’s predestined work, we just don’t understand the ins and outs of that work.

As we said in Part 1, Job’s suffering was a measure of grace given to him to move him from hearing of God with his ear to seeing His face.  Job, while saved by grace, had not moved into deep intimacy with God.  God chose suffering to deepen Job’s love and worship for Himself. This is the role of suffering in the life of the believer.  Suffering draws us into deeper worship of God.  Pain strips us of confidence in ourselves.  This is God’s love for His people.  He has chosen suffering to draw us closer to Him.  We may not all lose everything as Job did.  We may not all suffer in the same way, but suffering is not optional for the follower of Christ, it is promised.

God does not take risks.  If Job was not His already in God’s hand then Job could have very easily walked away from God.  God held Job secure in His hands as the devil stripped Job of his possessions, children, and health.  God allowed Job’s suffering so that He might be seen as more glorious, more worthy, more majestic in Job’s heart.  As we will see when we get into the arguments between Job and his three friends, Job had grown very proud of his own righteousness.  It was God’s grace being extended that crushed him.  We would do well to remember this when our time of suffering comes.  May God be so merciful as to tear us from the things that keep us from seeing Him as our all in all.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

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Job: Part 1 – The Problem (Job Chapters 1-3); August 1, 2012

Job: Part 1 – The Problem (Job Chapters 1-3)

Modern man has a tremendous problem with the state of the world. He knows that there is something wrong.  There is really no disputing that.  There’s something wrong with humanity as a whole.  There’s something wrong with nature.  There’s something wrong with the answers that are generally given for the questions that are inevitably asked in life.  Questions like “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, “Where is God when tragedies occur?”, “How can a ‘good’ God allow the ‘innocent’ to suffer?”, “Why can’t God keep bad things from happening to those that don’t deserve it?”.  There are undoubtedly countless others that we could mention, and I am in no way going to attempt to give an answer to any of them.  The longer I live the more I come to believe that there is no single answer to any of those questions, and I can also say with great confidence that I am not the one who has any semblance of an answer for any of those questions.  It is rather my hope to direct us to how these questions become bearable – how we can live with these questions even when they are unanswered.

Job is a book about suffering.  A “good” man who goes through unrelenting loss and pain at God’s allowance.  We would call Job “innocent.”  Indeed, God Himself calls Job “blameless” and “upright.”  Job has served God for the better part of his life and has been blessed by God in everything he undertook and was even protected by God.  Why the sudden abandonment?  Why does God choose Job to bear the weight of judgment usually reserved for those being punished for unrighteousness?

We must start our discussion by looking at how humanity looks at these circumstances.  Humanity tends to look at life through a certain set of lenses.  Most scholars call this way of seeing as a “worldview” – simply a way of seeing the world around us. So how do we see Job’s problem?  As an American, a Westerner, I tend to judge who is innocent, guilty, and then pronounce my own personal judgment as to who should be condemned.  Justice, reason, and order must win the day.  Other worldviews would attempt to judge the spiritual aspects of the situation by inferring as to the spiritual condition of Job and the other players involved in his struggle.  Many others would argue against the historicity of the story, attempting to show the moral, philosophical, or spiritual elements of the story as it aims to teach us something transcendent rather than actual.  Something that we could all take away and apply to our everyday lives without truly having to address the severity suggested in calling Job an historical figure.  I am most familiar with my own iniquity, so we will argue briefly as to how an American would judge the story of Job.

In the account of Job, as seen through the eyes of many Westerners, the problem is a simple matter of finding who is guilty for what befalls Job.  There are three suspects that we must choose from – there would be more since Job’s children are destroyed in the disaster, but the text does not allow us to keep them as suspects due to the discourse in Heaven between God and Satan.  The suspects are Job, Satan, and God.  As we examine the story, two are guilty and one is innocent or blameless.  The conclusion must be that Job is innocent by his own actions and God’s commendation and that Satan is guilty of murder, theft, and assault with a deadly disease and God is guilty of negligence and conspiracy to commit murder.  Most modern men and women have no problem with this conclusion.  They didn’t even need Gil Grissom to dust for prints.  It’s pretty open and shut from their point of view.

Christians naturally have a problem with this verdict.  God can’t be guilty – He’s God!  So people begin to question God’s goodness and power or they take the story from history and make it a parable, a fairy tale.  Others just dig their heals in and stamp their feet and just say God’s not guilty because they say so.  Many others want to point to the fact that God just wants to make Job stronger and He knew Job could take the test.  And where most Christians may have the right heart in wanting to believe the God is not as evil as the evidence suggests, they don’t really know the how or why to their beliefs.  And the initial problem lies in the lenses they look through to see the problem.

Most of us look at Job’s story and want to focus on how “good” he was.  This is a horrible way to start.  In fact, it’s the wrong way to start.  The point of Job is not Job.  If we start with him we miss the point.  The point of book of Job is the same as the point of the Bible, God’s glory.  We will delve deeper into this next time, but Job has nothing to bring to the table when it comes to righteousness if he is compared to God.  Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm, 53:1-3, and Romans 3:10-18 all confirm that there is no one who is righteous before God.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.” Daniel 4:35 says, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and [God] does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”

Humanity does not particularly enjoy the themes of these verses, and they are not the only ones that can be listed.  We have the gall to believe that we have earned favor from God by our behavior and that He owes us health, wealth, and prosperity because of how “good” we are.  The Bible constantly condemns this, so we cannot base our interpretation of Job on the idea that a man somehow earned enough brownie points to be exempt from suffering.  Psalm 51 and Ephesians 2 are clear in stating that there is never a moment in our lives that we stand innocent before God.  We must never fall into the trap of believing ourselves capable of judging God’s motives or actions.  He is above us.  Far, far, above us.

So are we then without hope?  Since we cannot answer these difficult questions and we can’t judge God, are we left to simply wallow in suffering with nothing to comfort us in our pain?  Absolutely not.  In Job 42:5 Job says this, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”  The suffering had been used to reveal a deeper understanding of who God is.  Job was a proud man, a pious man, but not equal to God.  God had awakened Job to His power, might, and grace.  This is why God allows suffering for His people.  This is why God allowed Job to suffer.

I know that I probably haven’t answered any of the questions that might be lingering in your mind.  Sometimes we don’t get the answers we want.  Job didn’t.  All he got was more of God.  That’s what I hope you find.  This is a mild introduction to a very deep and complex book.  We will be discussing the rest of the book in the coming weeks.  If there is something particular that you would like to be addressed, please leave a comment and I’ll address it through this series.  Also, if you are struggling or in the midst of suffering, please contact me and I would be happy to pray with you and offer what I can to help in your time of need.  I love y’all more than you know.  Grace and peace,

JOT

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Unpacking from Tanzania 2012

Unpacking from Tanzania 2012

I have always wanted to go to Africa.  My dad went to Kenya when I was a teenager and I remember him coming back and telling amazing stories about his time there.  Our church was able to minister to many African refuges not long after that time, and so my heart was always intrigued about the Church in Africa.  I loved watching them worship and pray.  I have always had a passion for missions, but I had no idea how the Lord would grow that passion.  This opportunity, accompanied by a chance to preach, peaked my interest as soon as Scott Whitson mentioned it in one of our meetings.  The Lord made the way, and I followed in faith.

The journey was very much like what most of you have heard about traveling in Africa.  Rough roads, long bus rides, and rarely a schedule to be seen much less kept.  None of this bothered me or even presented a challenge.  The Lord has blessed me with many experiences of traveling internationally and it has been extremely that any of those have been short or comfortable.

The lessons I learned and the things that stick with me the most are not what I had anticipated.  I had expected to see dozens come to Christ.  I had expected to be irrevocably moved by their worship and love of Christ.  I had expected to be broken by their poverty.  Don’t get me wrong, we saw salvation, I was moved by their worship and love, and I was broken by their poverty, but the lessons cut much deeper than that.

Firstly, I was blessed to connect with the other members of the team I traveled with.  You might not count this as all that strange, but I’m no accustomed to making friends quickly or easily.  Nor was I prepared for the depth of conversations that began almost immediately, most people aren’t game for deep theological discussions with someone they have barely met and usually gives off a rather intimidating first impression.  I will never forget Josh Woolsey as long as I live.  He was a Godsend, and it was through Him that the Lord opened my eyes to my role on the trip.

Secondly, I was blessed to be trusted with the privilege of presenting the Gospel.  My heart had been longing and is still longing for such opportunities.  This is the calling that is placed upon my life.  I am to proclaim the Gospel.  As much as my flesh despises the idea of standing in front of people, as much as I would prefer to be left alone, as much as I would never choose a profession where I am constantly in front of people, I know that He has chosen me for this.  My heart is still burdened for the pastors and their wives who attended the seminar that we were able to hold.  It was there that I met the Lord face to face.  It was there that His voice spoke to me and through me most clearly.  I scarcely remember what was said, but my soul remembers His embrace.

Thirdly, I was burdened for the people.  In every nation that I have had the privilege to travel to in my life, I have always been struck by the people.  It is no different at home, but the feelings resonate more emphatically in a new culture.  As in all nations on this earth, there is darkness in Africa.  There are heavy burdens borne by those who are not capable of carrying them.  The weights come in different forms in Africa than they do here at home.  Instead of greed, they carry want.  Instead of gluttony, they carry hunger.  Instead of freedom, they carry oppression.  Many of the people, especially the children, looked to us as if we could lift their burden.  You could see in their eyes that the believed that we could save them because we had been saved from what they suffered from by the fact that we were born where we were born.  A cloud always hung heavy on my heart as I looked into their eyes.  I was not the only one to sense the cloud.  I watched as several tried to alleviate the weight on their hearts by giving and reaching out, as indeed we all did.  The truth remained that we did not have the power they thought we possessed.  Helplessness is a hard lesson.

The singular thread that wove its way into every aspect of the trip was just how sovereign our God is.  I look back and wonder what the trip would have been like if He had not intervened the way that He did.  How would the trip have gone if even one of the team members had not been so open and courteous?  How would the trip have looked without the rain or mud that came upon us unexpectedly?  How would we have been impacted if it were not for the cloud He placed on our hearts?  I am thankful for His discipline and great love that He showed me on the trip.  Those moments will not soon be forgotten.