This impacted me at my very core, carried with it conviction of the Holy Spirit and a richer awareness of the inner me.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. (Job 19:25 NIV)
The scripture above popped into view when I opened YouVersion.com this morning. As I have been doing, I look at the verse in several of my favorite translations and then write a short devotional for our church’s Facebook page, check it out if you want to: First Christian Church, Greenville, KY. I don’t often transfer that content to this blog, but I just feel led to that today…this way I can expand if the words come.
Thousands of years before Christ, Job, the Bible’s original man of sorrows expressed his faith in God while he sat in the ash heap of his life. In some ways I have never liked the book of Job, Satan wagering with God over whether Job without all his blessings would remain faithful to God. The whole concept, well to be honest, frightened me, actually made me think, WHAT IF…God allowed me to experience the losses and misery inflicted on Job? Yes, there has been sorrow in my life, loss, times of financial, relational, and physical crises have occurred. I have known others who have endured greater sorrows than mine, greater losses, and yes, I do ask God, “Why?” Looking closely at Job, he, too, tried to find a reasonable explanation without success.
There Job sat, literally, in a pile of ashes. His children, his herds, his home, his health all gone, covered in boils, Job sat in the ashes of what had been a wealthy blessed life. His wife, who by the way, except for the boils, had suffered every loss Job had, her children, her livelihood, her healthy husband, his wife suggested he curse God and die. Job refused.
Then his three friends and later a fourth friend showed up to sit with him. You really have to give them credit for showing up. Many undoubtedly didn’t just as today many shy away from visiting a friend who has lost a child, a loved one with cancer, a friend who has experience loss of job or investments, so these four who came to sit with Job were not deserters, but they were also not comforters. So sure were they that some unconfessed sin in Job’s life had brought the destruction on him, that they yammered at him for days.
Job questions his friends, Job questions God for 37 chapters and then in a whirlwind in the 38th chapter God answers. Whew! But God’s answers took the form of a brutal interrogation in which Job may have stuttered and stammered, but God asked the questions without giving Job a chance to speak.
Here Job sat miserable in body and spirit, without comfort and yet in the middle of the book, before God makes his presence known, Job proclaims, “I know that my redeemer lives…” He declared his faith, in a situation that seemed bereft of God that in the end GOD would stand. Job looked beyond the ash heap and saw though distantly a vision of salvation. Job saw his redeemer, when all evidence suggested God had forgotten him, or was punishing him, or simply did not exist.
Who do we identify with in Job’s story?
Am I Job going through one of the ash heap times of life?
Am I Job’s suffering wife angry and bitter, wishing he were dead, wishing we both were dead?
Am I Job’s friends who didn’t show up, distancing myself from the pain and suffering lest I be infected?
Am I Job’s friends who do show up, but with lots of opinions, advice, platitudes and finger pointing?
Do I stare at the ashes or do I lift my eyes, dare as Job did to question God, proclaim as Job did his faith in God?
At the end of the story, Job does finally find his tongue. God addresses the friends and lets them know their counseling of Job fell short, had them prepare a sacrifice and Job would pray for them so God would not treat them like the fools they were. God changed Job’s fortune. He returned his wife, brothers and sisters to him, doubled his possessions. He also blessed Job and his wife with 10 more children, not as replacements for those lost, but as a blessing for the generations to follow, in fact, Job saw 4 generations before he died.
Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:23-25
Abraham’s only tie to the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was his nephew Lot and Lot’s family, so it makes this passage all the more poignant as he bargains, that’s right, bargains with God for their salvation. He knew God planned to deliver Lot and his family, but surely in these large cities, surely among the families, good fathers, husbands, men of integrity existed. And so Abraham bargains. If there are 50 good men, 30, what about 10? Let’s say there are 10 good men, will You not destroy these cities? God hears Abraham’s pleas and assents to his bargain. Undoubtedly, God already knew there were not even 10, but I sense He was proud of Abraham for considering with compassion these two cities, for praying there was a seed of hope within their walls that could turn them around from self driven destruction.
Paul wrote, that where sin increases, so does the grace of God(Romans 5:7). I don’t have to go farther than my bedroom mirror to find a sinful person. Thanks to Jesus, I am also a forgiven child of God. If I am not careful, I might rest in His Grace and ignore the thousands upon thousands, who continue to wander as Jesus said, like sheep without a shepherd.
I might become like Jonah, who really wanted God to destroy Ninevah and its 100,000 inhabitants expressing his anger first by running from God’s call, and then heeding God’s Call with foot dragging compliance. Poor old Jonah, who ended up sulking because in spite of his half hearted call to repentance, the Ninevites did and God spared them.
Am I like that about certain sinners, thinking them not worthy, too wicked to save? Or, do I turn a blind eye in the name of tolerance to obvious sin that damages individuals, confuses families, and sends society on a slippery slope to destruction, avoiding personal discomfort of calling for repentance? Will we one day as Christians find ourselves bargaining with God for the world of the lost? Surely there are at least 10 righteous men? Or will we work, will we stand up, will we pray, will we love the lost, will we be Jesus’ agents of salvation?
“There are two kinds of people both in life and in death: the saved and the lost. Jesus is the only agency of salvation.” Lucy Kinya
Genesis 18: 20-33 (Old Testament Lectionary Reading for July 28, 2013, Proper 12, Year C)
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10 NIV)
Create in me purity of heart
Renew within a steadfastness of spirit
Grace that extends to every broken part
And Peace that passes every understanding
Love that serves and Faith that does not depart
Rising from purity of heart.
What a beautiful prayer for the morning
A prayer to begin a new day
Full of hope, full of joy, fully disarming
A prayer to chart God’s way
A prayer to begin every day
To walk in God’s way
Scrub me clean of the damaging clutter
Give me a heart full of love
Fill my mind, fill my live with every word that You utter
Make your will in my life, like your will is above
Give me a heart full of love
My will like yours is above
Create in me purity of mind, heart and soul
Till your kingdom is all I behold
Strengthen the weakness that strikes me with fear
Till advancing your kingdom is all I hold dear
Wake me to pray these words every day
That I can walk day by day in your way
and really have something praiseworthy to say
Saturday morning, I am feeling a little lazy…not unusual. The scripture from Psalm 51, YouVersion’s verse for July 20, 2013 [https://www.youversion.com/] while familiar hit me as WOW! I should be echoing David everyday with this prayer. Not because I am not forgiven by God, but because everyday I need to come clean with Him and let the Holy Spirit have full access to clearing out anything I in my sinful self have packed for the journey. Toss out all the negative input I have entertained that comes straight from the devil. Discard the unkind thoughts, jealousies, pettiness…in general…garbage, sure to create a stench if it is allowed to sit for long. None of this stuff needs to be recycled.
So clean spiritual house with me today! Pray David’s prayer and don’t cling to one single piece of anything that is discouraging, destructive, or downright selfish…that’s it, loosen the fingers, one by one. Toss it and let the Holy Spirit fill the empty places with order, encouragement, and all those Spirit fruits…so much better. So much better prepared for any old thing the Enemy might throw your way today!!!
Photo credits: PRIZMMAGAZINE.ORG
I am God Most High! The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful and to keep your word. Pray to me in time of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour me. (Psalms 50:14, 15 CEV)
Sometimes it really feels like a sacrifice, being grateful, thankful, being truthful and keeping promises…other times those attitudes and actions flow from us without any reservation, any holding back. Our current situation, our failure to see the blessings, because they are obscured by the NON-blessings, our simple lack of attention to saying “thank you” can cause us to agree more with the bumper sticker that reads, “S–t happens!” than to bring the sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in response to the bumper sticker that reads, “Blessings happen!” So read the two verses above to understand that God understands that overt gratefulness can be a sacrifice…but He wants it…not for HIM..but for us.
Likewise, being truthful and keeping our promises, asking for His help. Yes, ASKING for help, even when it feels like pulling teeth without an anesthesia, Pray, Ask and He will not leave you hanging.
Most of all, these sacrifices Honor God! Read all of Psalm 50 and without a doubt you will see His resources are endless and you will see the contrast between those who trust Him and those who don’t.
Consider the old story of the two young boys whose parents tried an experiment, giving the pessimist of two, a pony and the optimist, a room full of manure. The pessimist immediately started belly aching, “This is going to be more work than he’s worth, cleaning out his stall, feeding him…and on and on. The optimist opened the door and saw the manure piled high in the stall and immediately grabbed a shovel and started digging. “What are doing?” His amazed parents asked. He looked up grinning, “With all this manure, there is bound to be a pony in here somewhere!”
Which child of God am I?Honor God and He will lift you out of all the “S–t Happens!” moments and open your eyes to the blessings all around!
The very best moment in my three time a week Fitness Class is when the instructor says, “Lie on your back, stretch out your arms, stretch out your legs and relax.” Then she dims the lights, sounds of waterfalls, birds, pleasant melodies fill the room, as we enter the “cool down” portion of the class. Some mornings when we are doing wall sits, strength training, leg work, etc. I comfort myself knowing that before we leave, I will hear those anticipated words, once again…and that is the only thing that keeps me going! Anticipating retirement can be like that.
Yesterday, in Lexington, KY I had the opportunity to say “Aloha” to a very special lady. For the final five years of my employment with the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs http://chfs.ky.gov/ccshcn , Anne was my boss, my confidante, my best resource on how state government works, and my friend.
During that time she amazed me by completing the work necessary to obtain her Certificate in Public Management while serving as Director of Clinical and Augmentative Services for an agency with multiple offices across Kentucky where direct services are provided to a varied population of children with special health care needs. She also directed the hemophilia program in Kentucky which serves both children and adults. On top of that she had to manage ME, with more private career experience than public, a person who hardly knew the difference between a Statute and a Regulation, but she taught me.
She will enter a new stage of living in less than 10 days. If she lives retirement with the gusto she gave to her career, she is really going to “rock” and I do not mean in a chair.
A career in Public Service mirrors my Fitness Class, lots of warming up, to simply sit at the wall waiting for someone else who is holding the stop watch to let you stand, pushing through the pain, and so on. So to Anne and to others out there chosing to retire, “Aloha”, which is both good-bye and Hello.
“Lie on your back, stretch out your arms, stretch out your legs and relax.”
The She Reads Truth http://shereadstruth.com current Bible Study explores Women in the Bible. The first two lessons were on Eve, the mother of us all, known more for her failings than for anything else. Still Eve was special to God, so special that HE FORMED both Adam and Eve. Amanda Williams puts it this way:
“Amazing, isn’t it? Our God, the One who speaks the world into existence and who flings stars and planets and galaxies into the sky with a word, He scoops up ordinary dust in His almighty hands and forms humanity.
Matthew Henry notes in his commentary that the word “formed” is used in Genesis 2:7, whereas the words “created” or “made” are used for the rest of God’s creation. The difference, Henry says, is that “formed” indicates a slower, more gradual work, a “work with great accuracy and exactness.”
The impact of mental image of God with his hands shaping tenderly the man and then the woman led me to leave the following as a comment the morning I read the scripture and then the devotion. I pray you who read this find a blessing.
With a word, God created the heavens and earth
With a word, He set the stars into space
With a word, the oceans, lakes, and rivers flowed free
With a word, the fields, the mountains, forests of trees
But with careful attention, an act of His Grace
He knelt in His garden for the work of His hands
And in His own image God formed the first man
With careful attention, an act of His Grace
With His own hands, taking from the first man
In His own image God formed the woman
With careful attention, a Gift of His Grace
He breathed life into these works of his hands
On the sixth day, the woman and man.
Watching Skipper, my grandson’s dog, romp and play with our Max in the grass reminds me of the importance of play in all our lives. Travel most places, even some pretty stark conditions, you will see improvised play, using cans for balls, sticks for rackets, chasing, catching, laughing–Ever consider that GOD created the need for play into the DNA of all his creation.
I wonder why, if I am correct about a play gene, we find it so hard to just let go and do it. I suspect life circumstances, reprogramming, and worry about how we look to others “plays” a major role in stifling the joyful, carefree attitude involved in play. Think of all play does for us, it gets our bodies and minds moving, it teaches us healthy competition, it produces endorphins in the brain, it keeps us healthy and young.
Play can be as sedentary as a board or card game or as active as playing a pick up basketball game. The important thing to remember is the attitude of play differs from the attitude of work. Any of the above activities can become work. Play like the dogs scuffling on the lawn, with no worries.
Maybe that is the point of play afterall to carry us away from Worry…Jesus said:
I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can worry make you live longer? (Matthew 6:25-27 CEVUS06)
I have a distinct inclination that God has been showing me a better way to live out the time I have here on this earth and playfulness and spontaneity are important components of a life lived in the will of God.
P.S. I am too often like Emma, my granddaughter’s pug-mix, standing on the sidelines and God forgive me, sometimes disapproving! Help me Play More, Lord!
After our fitness class this morning, Terry proposed that we play a little tennis this afternoon, perfect day for it, 83 degrees, low humidity, sunny, slight breeze…it would be the first time since his shoulder surgery in January for Terry to pick up a racket. I really do not want to try and remember the last time I had one in my hand. Nevertheless, after lunch, we packed up the rackets, water bottles, and our two dogs and headed for Hopkinsville. We really like the courts there and don’t really know where any are closer to us.
We volleyed. Did not play a single set, although both of us did try out our serves. Thankfully, no one else was on the courts. We chased balls, hit a few and in general had a great time. After 30 minutes we both needed to quit, hopefully, we can go a little longer next time. Or not.
At McDonalds we got dipped cones…great deal for $.99 each. Took the dogs for a short walk and headed home. Days like this are important through out a marriage. Spontaneous togetherness, unplanned and yet just right. (Ok, I know that wasn’t a complete sentence.)
Writing this I realize how often I over plan, trying to think of every contingency and forget nothing usually leaves me weary and cranky. Today, my husband and God reminded me to be open to the moment and enjoy right now.