Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 27

Proverbs -- Chapter 27

What a text, speaking to the place of boasting (v1-2), the power of emotion (v3-4), the value of friends (v5-6; 9-10), the need for perspective (v7-8), the goodness in discernment (v11-12), the ways of neighbor love (v13-14; 17-18), a form of torture (v15-16), the relationship between desire and character (v19-20), the revealing of that character (v21-22), and the beauty of thoughtful stewardship, consisting of labor and forethought (v23-27).

Apparently God has something wise to say about pretty much everything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Job's Relief

"Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 
let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more."
Pr 31:6-7
In light of what we have seen of Job's sufferings thus far, 
I do wonder about his drinking habits.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God the Just: Meditations on Job's Hope

"Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar, and make my speech worth nothing?"
Job 24:25

Yesterday morning, after making an in-home speech, I asked the above question to those in the room (my wife and daughter). I confess with Job that the copious amounts of injustice I see eat away at my bones, and my sanity. Please don't hear me saying that I'm innocent. Please don't hear Job saying that he is innocent either (See ch 9, & 13:23). Job's battle never concerns his innocence in a general sense, but in the sense that his "friends" press upon him -- that he has by particular acts of unrighteousness earned the particular sufferings doled out to him. Their doctrine of suffering is horribly flawed in its content and its oversimplification. It is not true that the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, as by some automated mechanism. And it is also not true that reward and punishment are wholly meted out in this life. The reality is that there is a Person behind all of the rewards and punishments. And His purposes are regularly mysterious and beyond our finding out. They are also carried out in eternity, not just this present time. This is not a simple thing.

In chapter 24 Job speaks of the mystery mentioned above. His desire is that "wickedness should be broken like a tree" (v20). But of course it isn't. Not only do the wicked prosper in a way that seems to indicate that "God does not charge them with wrong" (v12), but the righteous suffer at the hands of these same evil people. The chapter contains a list of sins Job sees from those who "rebel against the light" (v13) along with Job's desired punishments for them (v18-21). Job's complaint here has not changed. He still believes that when he "cries out concerning wrong, he is not heard", and that "there is no justice" (See 19:7). And he asks that God would "look away from him that he may rest" (14:6). Amen.

I am under the impression, correct or not, that most of the Christians I know have never had deep feelings like this. The explanation for this is a lack of suffering. A lack of suffering is a good thing if God has determined that one not suffer though they practice righteousness. But a lack of suffering for "playing it safe" is a terrible and sinful thing. The Apostle Paul has told us that all those who want to live a godly life will suffer persecution [usually from within the church (2 Ti 3:12)]; and that his Christian suffering was so severe and prolonged that he came to believe that death was the only way out (2 Co 1:8-10). Job came to believe this too (10:18-19, for example).  Jesus has said to us that following Him will bring loss (Mt 5:11-12), even great loss (Mt 10:24-39; Jn 16:1-2).

God says that suffering and trial make us better, useful, mature, and godly (See Ja 1; 1 Pe ; 2 Co 1, etc). And some of these trials we bring upon ourselves by our faithful obedience (See 2 Co 8; Mt 5, etc). In other words, there are demanding but beneficial consequences that come with the Christ-life. But many who profess Jesus as Lord do not feel the weight of these consequences because they live like pagans, striving for what they understand to be the most secure path, risking neither dollar nor reputation nor relationship. These are the cruisers, and the users. Apparently, to these, God exists for them. And this belief is at the heart of what's wrong with the church in America. It's not the adulterer, the drunkard, or any of the other more glamorous sinners that plague our congregations. It's the American Christian coward, who would rather do anything than suffer, who never does a truly hard thing, who does nothing that remotely resembles sacrifice, and who couldn't even begin to define biblical faith. These are those who say that evangelism and giving, for example, are "not their gifts", and imagine heaven as only an extension of their present condition. No wonder the Apostle Paul spends two chapters commending the Macedonian Christians for their eagerness to sacrifice (2 Co 8-9). It's just so rare, and so beautiful.

As I wasted time yesterday ranting to my wife and daughter on the horrors of such cowardice, I named names that my wife would know. And I made a judgment, though not an authoritative or ultimate one. I said that I sincerely love these people, but that I have trouble respecting them. They cruise (in my estimation). They give the minimum, and sit on piles of money they don't need while legitimate needs go unmet. They take the easy gigs only, while God demands that His people "go to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach" (He 13:13). And they will, in this life, take the better vacations, drive the better vehicles, and have lots of friends; but at what cost? Have they (or I) "strived for the faith of the gospel and suffered for Jesus' sake" (Php 1)? Have we known God (Php 3)? Or have we gained the world, but lost our souls (Mt 16:26)? I don't know. I am not their judge, or mine (1 Co 4). But this I know, that "God draws the mighty away with His power; He rises up, but no man is sure of life. He gives them security, and they rely on it; Yet His eyes are on their ways." (Job 24:22-23).

May God make us faithful.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Echoes of His Image -- FUN, on the Desire for Peace and Unity.

"Some nights I wish that this all would end,
cause I could use some friends for a change."
From their song "Some Nights"

"I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ. . ."
The Apostle Paul 
(Php 1:23)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
The Apostle John
(Re 21:1-5) 

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
(Mt 25:34) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Echoes of His Image -- An Introduction, Featuring Hank Hill, on the Desire for a Heavenly Celebration

God made humanity in His image (Ge 1). And God made us for God (Ro 11; Col 1) . So whether we recognize it or not, we hunger for our Heavenly Father. Our desires, though perverted, may be attributed to our longing for Him for whom we were made, and Him whom we image. This comes out everywhere in the culture. We all want heaven, and the God of heaven. We just don't know it. So we try to construct paradise on earth, and fail. Our urges are the echoes of His image.

I'd like to occasionally post quotes that reflect such echoes, but with this caveat - I do not take culture altogether seriously. Every human impulse is not valuable. In fact, the Apostle Paul attributes our much sinning to our own inordinate desires, labeling them foolish and harmful (1 Ti 6:9). So my posts in this context are not meant to excuse evil and idolatry, but to point us away from such to God. Now, hear Hank ask. . .

"Is there anything beer can't do?"
Hank Hill

"You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household."
God, via Moses
(Dt 14:26) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Because She's My Bride

Have a peek at my first tattoo. I had the concept in mind -- a ruby, a dove, and my wife's name. Of course I needed the artist to help me put it all together. I wanted my wife's name because, well, she is my wife (Pr 18:22), and the ruby because of her worth (Pr 31:10), and a dove because God the Holy Spirit has joined us together (Mt 3:16 & 19:6).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

God the Lover: Meditations on Job's Hope

"But He is unique, and who can make Him change?
And whatever His soul desires, that He does.
For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such things are with Him.
Therefore I am terrified at His presence;
When I consider this, I am afraid of Him.
For God made my heart weak, 
And the Almighty terrifies me;
Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness,
And He did not hide deep darkness from my face."
Job 23:13-17

As suggested in my last post, God means to make us weak. And so it goes with Job. God's love is a terrifying one; because apparently He will do anything to make us holy. The anything includes "deep darkness" and debilitating forms of suffering. God not only takes good from Job, He gives him horror in its place, so that Job's suffering is not only the pain of loss. In addition, Job learns that he is alone in his terror. He has no comforter or sound counselor. His friends scold him, and his wife suggests suicide. I imagine she does so out of pity and compassion. And I also imagine Job seriously considered the option. He spends many words cursing the day of his birth and wishing, even praying, for his death. I speculate that if God took away even one of my children, that grief combined with the devil's power to tempt, would push me to that place. Job lost all of his children. He also lost his property, his income, and his health. He never, however, lost his faith (13:15-16, 19:25-27).

If nothing else, the book of Job is a testimony to the power of Christ to keep all that are given to Him (Jn 6:39). The fact that Job did not take his wife's advice to "curse God and die" is evidence of this. Beyond this, I'm still musing on the meaning of the narrative. Apparently God has something to prove to Satan, at Job's expense (See chapters 1 & 2). Like I said, God will do anything to make us holy. And like Job, I'm terrified of that kind of love; because that kind of love doesn't feel like love. It feels like hatred. It feels like God has marked us as His enemies and set us up as His targets (7:20). And apart from sovereign grace, what feels like hatred is believed to be hatred and so the former "believers" become apostates.

We'll see what happens with Job. I'm only through chapter 23.

"I was at ease, but He has shattered me; 
He also has taken me by the neck, and shaken me to pieces;
He has set me up for His target. . ."
Job 16:12

Thursday, August 16, 2012

God the Taker: Meditations on Job's Hope

My blogging regularity has suffered as of late along with other former regular practices. That's because something else consumes my thoughts and energies. And it is not a pleasant something or even one something. But never mind what I mean by "something". It wouldn't matter to you anyway. In addition, I have considered that my blog often reads much like a journal, chronicling thoughts and life events. Putting those things together leads me to write a bit this morning on God's piling up on His people. Some say whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I say whatever doesn't kill our bodies may nevertheless kill our spirits. Some dogs, when beaten, get mean and tough. Others become frightened and psychologically fragile. So it is with men.

I've been reading Job. And as I do I find myself becoming angry, with God, for what He brought upon His servant. I'm only in chapter 19, so I have a way to go. And of course I've read it before, but never with such interest. Job was convinced God was angry with him. He was sure he had become God's enemy. He states these things repeatedly. He even says, "As a mountain falls and crumbles away, and as a rock is moved from its place; As water wears away stones, and as torrents wash away the soil of the earth; So You (God) destroy the hope of man" (Job 14:18-19).

God is a taker, not just a giver. Job says so (1:21). And when God takes and takes and takes (1:13-19), do we become stronger? Does His not killing us make us tougher? No. We become weaker, at least initially. And perhaps that's His aim (See 2 Co 12:7-10), to produce a particular kind of beautiful weakness. I'm not altogether sure. Like I said, I'm only to chapter 19.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beautiful Rebellion

"The Church owes a great debt to its rebels."
Alistair Begg, from his preaching series through the book of the Prophet Amos. Find it here.