Live by faith–not sight!

Scripture reading for May 24: Job 20-21

Job’s friend Zophar was offended by Job’s warning to be afraid of punishment by God as well! (Job 19:28-29)  Zophar had a belief that the wicked only get by for a short time and then punishment will fall on them here in this life.  He held a strong belief in what he could see, but looks can be deceiving!  Job took exception with his theology and his way of comforting him!

Job stated that often the wicked seem to grow old and increase in power. (Job 21:7)  He observed that they appear to be safe and have no fear or problems.  They mock God and God seems to do nothing.  (Job 21:14, 15)  Some men die fat and happy, others die in bitterness and pain.  The grave swallows them both and we don’t know why.  (Job 21:23-26)

This controversy has been the subject of other writers of Scripture.  Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, a gifted musician in King David’s Levitical choir.  Asaph nearly lost faith when he observed the prosperity of the wicked.  (Psalm 73:2)  He saw that they had health and prosperity and were proud at heart.  They scoffed at man and mocked heaven and nothing seemed to happen.  This almost caused him to slip away from serving God.  Then he entered the sanctuary of God and he understood their final end.  In the end, God would judge them and send them away to everlasting destruction! (Psalm 73:16-19)

We can’t go by what we see!  The righteous live by their faith!  Job’s faith was tested by the taunts of Zophar.  Asaph was being tested by Satan when he began to reason with what he observed in the world.  We are often tempted to join the wicked in their sins and folly.  But when we enter the sanctuary of God and see the truth of His holy Word, we understand that the wicked will not stand in the judgment or sinners before a holy God Who will bring every secret thing into judgment!  (Psalm 1:5-6)  Allow the Lord to bring you understanding today.  If you are involved in sin or wickedness, repent quickly and begin a new path of faith and obedience!  You’ ll never regret it!

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I know my Redeemer lives!

Scripture reading for May 23: Job 18-19

The attack on Job’s character by his friends continues with Bildad the Shuhite in Job 18.  Bildad harshly accused Job of being wicked, evil and not knowing God.  (Job 18:21)  He told Job of the destruction that awaited him if he didn’t come to his senses and deal with his problem of sin.  These statements are very presumptive and go against all that Job has tried to tell him. They certainly did not give Job any comfort and brought further suffering his way.  (Job 19:2-3)

Job was being attacked and it forced him to evaluate his beliefs.  He went to God for answers, but even God seemed to be against him.  (Job 19:8)  He was opposed by his own friends and his wife.  He looked at his own body, which was skin and bones and knew that he might not be long for this earth.  He asked for pity from his friends and began to state his true feelings!  (Job 19:21-22)

Job wished that his words would be recorded!  He stated a belief that his Redeemer was alive–that he would see Him one day, even if he died.  This foundational belief in resurrection brings hope to us.  It is what Christ gives each one of His followers!  We know that we will suffer and eventually die while in this life, but that isn’t the end!  We have a permanent dwelling place with the Lord to look forward to!  (2nd Corinthians 5:1-2)  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!  (2nd Corinthians 5:8)  There is the “Blessed Hope” as well, the soon appearing of Jesus Christ for His people!  (Titus 2:13)  There will be a sudden appearing of Jesus to take His people who are ready to be with Him!  (1st Thessalonians 4:13-18)  With Job we can say “For I know that my Redeemer lives. . .Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25, 27)

Do you live with the assurance that your Redeemer is alive and watching over you? Do you have the assurance of eternal life? How does Job’s statement of faith match with your personal testimony?

“And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son as life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1st John 5:11-13

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Miserable comforters?

Scripture reading for May 22: Job 15-17

Isn’t it amazing how we can see the faults of another person and feel that we know the answer to their problems and the cause!  Theologians and students of the Bible can get proud about what they know and forget that they are studying God’s heart and His way.   Job’s friends again attack his character and accuse him of a lack of understanding of God.  (Job 15:3-5)  Job was told that his sin has caused his mouth to be crafty and deceitful.  He was accused of being impure and therefore under God’s wrath. (Job 15:30) They were ‘miserable comforters’ and took the role of ‘accuser’ of their brother!

Job’s response to these new accusations was to label his friends “miserable comforters”.  (Job 16:2)  Job needed encouragement and understanding.  He needed someone to pray with him and seek God’s help and answers.  Job was in despair over these latest accusations and the trouble he was experiencing.  He wondered why God had broken and crushed him.  He was depressed but in faith stated that his Advocate was also on high and his Witness was in heaven.  (Job 16:19)  Job seemed to know that although his physical body was broken, God still knew him, loved him, and would help him.

As I think on this passage, I realize that I have been the “miserable comforter” to some.  Sometimes it is easy to have glib answers and quote standard Bible texts.  God wants us to have His heart of compassion for the hurting and downcast.  We must listen to them and hear their heart.  Sometimes this alone is the best thing we can do.  We must seek to let the Holy Spirit speak through us and address the real needs.  What is on the surface is not always the real issue.  My prayer today is that I would be sensitive to each hurting person that I encounter and that God would use me to be a true friend!

James 1:19 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God,”

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God forgets sin when . .

Scripture reading for May 21: Job 11-14

“Know this, God has even forgotten some of your sin.” Job 11:6b “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17

Job’s friend Zophar was frank in his accusation that Job needed to repent.  He was certain that Job had sinned and that God was being merciful in his harsh trial.  He stated that God had probably forgotten some of Job’s sins or it might be worse!  (Job 11:6)  If Job would put away his sin, God would be merciful to him. (Job 11:14-15)  Zophar could not get away from the common understanding of God’s justice: trouble and suffering were a result of sin in a person’s life.

Job, however, knew of no sin and did not want to fake a repentance or manufacture some sin just to try and manipulate God or appease these friends.  He knew that God alone could cover these sins.  He wrestled with how he could meet with God or if the grave would hold him at death.  Finally, Job made a statement of faith concerning his own life and sins.  It was in the form of a prayer discourse with God.  (Job 14:13-17)  Job asked God to hide him in the grave until His anger has passed and then “to set a time and remember me”.  He asked God “If a man dies, will he live again?”  He expected to hear a call from God and to respond from the grave because God longed to have fellowship with the “creature He has made”.  Job expected all his sins to be sealed in a bag, covered over and not remembered! God revealed these truths to Job by revelation to sustain him in his trial.

As believers in Jesus, we have a mediator Who is like us, but without sin!  Jesus Christ came and gave His life for our lives, promising to come again and remember us!  He forgives our sins and remembers them no more!  We will live with Him forever!  We will hear His call and come out of the grave! This is available now to all who will repent and confess their sins to the Lord!  (1st John 1:7-9)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1st John 1:8-9

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I need a Mediator!

Scripture reading for May 20: Job 8-10

When you talk with unbelievers, one of the main accusations against the idea of a supreme being is the injustice that is in the world.  How can a loving God allow such suffering of innocent people?  If God is all powerful, why does He allow evil to happen to good people?  If He is indeed just, does this mean that all suffering people are suffering because God is punishing them?  For many, these questions keep them from knowing God and embracing Him by faith!

The next friend of Job to speak was Bildad the Shuhite.  He told Job that his words were like a blustering wind!   He told Job that because his children sinned, God merely gave them over to the penalty of their sin!  (Job 8:2-4)  He was sure that God gave people what they deserved and he pointed Job to past generations and what they had experienced.  (Job 8:8-9)  He did encourage Job to plead with God for mercy and told him that God could restore him if he were really pure and upright. (Job 8:5-6)

Job answered his friend with a question: ” How can any mortal man be righteous before God?”  (Job 9:2)  He was aware of the great gap between him and God,  and he felt the need for a mediator, one who could arbitrate for him with this great God.  (Job 9:32-35)  Job spoke plainly to God about his need to understand what he had done wrong.  (Job 10:2)  He was not sure of his guilt.  Out of his pain, he wished he would have died before birth and asks for a reprieve before he does die!  (Job 10:20)

Suffering encourages us to ask the hard questions about our own life.  Job truly wanted to know if he was guilty of sin and if so, what was that sin?  Job grappled with his mortality and God’s great power and knowledge.  He tried to understand the justice of God in a situation that felt unfair.  His own friend Bildad had tried to help him see an aspect of God’s justice, but it was not feeling right in Job’s spirit.   We know that God said that Job was blameless but Job did not feel like it in his trial! (Job 1:8)

Job 9:33 “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.”

Another thing to take note of is God’s answer to Job’s prayer for a mediator.  We now have a mediator Who is seated at God’s right hand on our behalf!  Jesus Christ is the One Mediator between God and man!  He is a man like us and understands our suffering and weakness and is able to help us when we suffer and are tempted!  (1st Timothy 2:5-6)

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Sunday rest and reflection: providence

Dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings on this wonderful day of refreshing!  Every day is a day of refreshing in Jesus Christ, but Christians celebrate a day of worship and rest on the first day of the week because that is the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead!  This supernatural event declares Jesus to be the Son of God with power!  (Romans 1:4)  He stands uniquely above any other person because of this event and their are many eye-witnesses that testified to this truth!

I want to reflect today on the “providence” of God.  Providence is a word that seems to mean “chance” or “luck”.  But Christians do not believe in “luck”.  Our God is sovereign and has the power to bring about His purposes.  He alone knows all things.  He knows what will happen and how things will happen.  He also has the power to make things happen.  He is bound by His love and the covenant He made with man and by His own Word.  If He has said it, He will do it!  He has also decreed that He will hear the prayers of His people and act upon them in a way to bring about their forgiveness, deliverance, healing and prosperity in accordance with His own Word.

 In God’s economy, everything will work for good for those that love God and seek Him in prayer.  (Romans 8:26-28)  He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to pray according to the will of God!  As we pray in the Spirit,  He can take that which was meant for evil and turn it to our good.  He can take evil men and turn the tables on them!  He can bring hidden things to light at just the right time to change the course of history!  Esther’s story with that of her Uncle Mordecai gives us glimpses into the miraculous providence of God released when His people pray!  Have a great day of rest and may the providence of our Lord fill you with joy and peace!  In His Love, Pastor John

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What are friends for?

Scripture reading for May 18: Job 4-7

Close friends who we can share our hearts with are few and far between.  I am blessed with a close friend in my wife.  She is God’s precious gift to me in the area of friendship.  I also have several men who are friends I can count on.  But outside of your mate, friends who will stick with you and speak honestly to you through thick or thin are not that easy to find.  We have trouble trusting others and as we live life, we come to see that each person, ourself included, has his own load of faults and walls of self-defense.  The gift of friendship is something special that must be cultivated over time.

Job was in the thick of his personal crisis.  He had lost his material possessions and his children, and now had lost his health.  His body was covered with sores and he itched and ached.  Worms infested the sores and he could find no rest day or night.  His skin was disfigured and he was sickly and emaciated.  He was just a shadow of his former self and at this point had no answers as to why this was happening to him.  His own wife had advised him to curse God and die.  Three friends were sitting quietly with him. 

One friend, Eliphaz, finally spoke with advice for his friend.  Eliphaz believed that God punished the wicked and He rewarded the righteous.  Any suffering was the result of some sin and God was punishing wickedness.  God would restore and heal any person who honestly confessed their sin.  Eliphaz got this revelation from a personal experience with a “spirit” and from personal observation.  (Job 4:12-21)  The ‘accuser’ had used Eliphaz to torment his friend. Eliphaz did not know God had Himself declared Job righteous before the suffering began and allowed Satan to test Job in this manner! (Job 1:8)

But Job knew his own heart and his integrity would not let him confess to something he did not know about.  He would not try to manipulate God just to get everything back.  Rather than being comforted by Eliphaz’s words, he was made even more miserable!  (Job 6:21)  Job went to God in prayer for the help he needed and the advice his friend did not give!  (Job 7:17-21)

As I read Job’s story, I am reminded of my need for compassion for those who suffer!  It is easy to judge others from our own worldly wisdom!  God’s ways are above our understanding and we cannot always know the whole story through our own study or personal experience.  Listening closer is wise!  Waiting on the Lord and encouragement is a wiser course of action.  My prayer:  “Help me O Lord, to be a better friend to those who suffer!”

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Satan, the accuser!

Scripture reading for May 17: Job 1-3

The Bible teaches us that the unseen world is eternal and the world that is visible is only temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:18)  God dwells in the realm of the eternal and made this visible creation, including us.  Because of Satan’s rebellion and man’s disobedience, sin and death now dominate the visible creation.   God, in His love, seeks to redeem us from the world of sin and death. The Bible is the story of God’s gracious plan of redemption being implemented throughout history in the lives of people who by faith knew God.  As we come to the book of Job we have a revelation of God at work behind the scenes in the invisible world revealing Himself to Job. We also find Satan, cast down to earth, accusing Job before God.

Job is one of the oldest books in Scripture. It begins with Satan having access to God.   We find Satan accusing Job of serving God because of selfish motives. (Job 1:9-11)  Satan also accused God of showing favoritism to Job, protecting and blessing him.  He made the accusation that if God removed His protection and the blessings, Job would curse God to His face!  God knew Job and agreed to allow Satan to test Job to show his faith was genuine. God placed boundaries on what Satan could do to Job personally and released Satan to his temptations.  As a result, Job suddenly and catastrophically lost everything he owned as well as his ten children in a violent storm.  (Job 1:19) Job’s response was to humble himself and to worship God. (Job 1:20-21)

As Job’s story continues, Satan and God continue their discussion.  God commends Job for keeping his integrity during the temptation.  Satan responds with another accusation and lie.  He contends that if God will allow him to take Job’s health, Job will then curse God.  (Job 2:4-6)  God again sets a limit and releases Satan to inflict Job physically and emotionally.  During this trial, Job’s own wife suggests that he curse God and die.  Job rebukes his wife and sits in silent suffering.  He finally curses the day of his birth but does not curse God.  (Job 3:1-4)

What insight do you receive from this story of Job, Satan, and God? What response would you have towards God if you suddenly lost your possessions and children? What about your health being taken? 

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Celebrate the God of victory!

Scripture reading for May 16: Esther 8-10

When God wants His people to remember something, He designs a feast or celebration.  God gave Israel “Passover” as a way to remember their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  He gave them “Pentecost” and “First fruits” to celebrate the harvest and giving of His Law.  He gave them “Tabernacles” where they lived in booths to commemorate their 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land.  He gave the church the “Eucharist” (thanksgiving) to celebrate Jesus Christ’s final sacrifice and as a picture of the great wedding banquet to come!  God likes His people celebrating and best is yet to come!

The Jews had good reason to celebrate!  Their enemy, Haman, had been hung on a gallows that he himself built to destroy them.  The king had extended favor to Esther and Mordecai by giving them Haman’s estate. Haman was a rich man who had offered 375 tons of silver, the equivalent of about 120 million dollars, to eliminate the Jews and the king told him to keep his money!  (Esther 3:9-11)   His estate must have been tremendous. Not only that, but they were now granted the right to defend themselves against their enemies on the appointed day that Haman had picked for their destruction! 

Mordecai was granted authority to write up what the Jews needed in order to counter the first decree which, according to the law of the land, could not be set aside.  Before the day came, many people of other nationalities became Jews for fear of them. (Esther 8:17)  On the day set by Haman, the tables were turned and the enemies of the Jews were themselves destroyed.  (Esther 9:1-2)  Five hundred were killed in Suza and another 75,000 were eliminated across the land of Persia by the Jews.  Esther asked for another day in Suza and the king granted her plea and even more enemies were eliminated!  God truly turned the tables!  Thus the feast of Purim was begun.  They celebrated for two days giving gifts and eating choice foods, for their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into celebration!  (Esther 9:20-22)

God is in absolute control of everything!  When His people fast and pray and seek to obey, He comes through.  Evil toward His people is turned back on the heads of those who would touch His children!  His children can celebrate a total victory over the forces of evil arrayed against them!  Tell someone this good news today! Celebrate the victory that is yours in Jesus Christ!

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God turns the tables!

Scripture reading for May 15: Esther 5-7

“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.” Proverbs 26:27 “An evil man is snared by his own sin, but a righteous one can sing and be glad.” Proverbs 29:6

We must be careful when we plot revenge.  All judgment and vengeance is the Lord’s.  (Romans 12:19)  The Lord has a way of turning the tables on those who seek revenge and plot evil.  He has ways of protecting those who are innocent and those who are serving Him. 

Haman was thrilled with his position and his influence!  He boasted to his wife and friends of his good fortune and how he was the only one invited to meet with Queen Esther for a banquet.  (Nehemiah 6:1-12)  He was happy, except for one fly in the ointment: Mordecai the Jew would not show him honor by bowing before him!  He complained to his wife and friends who proposed a plan to hang Mordecai on a gallows 75 feet high!  This would have been high enough to display the execution above the walls of the city!  He had the gallows built and was ready for the next day.

But God was moving silently behind the scenes.  The king could not sleep, so he had the chronicles of his reign read to him.  He heard the story of a foiled plot to assassinate him–a plot Mordecai had exposed, thus saving his life.  He asked what had been done for this man and found out it had been overlooked.  He asked who might be in the court to honor Mordecai, and providentially, Haman had just walked in.  The king asked him what he would do to honor someone special to the king.  Thinking it was him to be honored, Haman proposed a grand public honor and was shocked when the king told him to honor Mordecai!  God turned the tables deftly and quickly!

The end of the story finds Haman hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai after being exposed as the one seeking to kill off all Jews, including the Queen!  It may look as if the wicked get by with their schemes, but not in the end!  Do you have thoughts of revenge or plans to get even?  Why not forgive and turn the table back toward God’s mercy before He turns the tables on you?

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