Posts tagged ‘Love’

Job’s Patience or God’s Glory?

Who hasn’t heard the story of Job?  The wealthy Old Testament man of God who lost everything, his animals, his servants, all his children, and even his health.  The Bible tells us that Job was such a godly man that God trusted him to not curse God when faced with terrible times.  God knew his heart…an advantage Satan didn’t have when he challenged God.  Job’s life is virtually destroyed in the first 2 chapters of the book.  Then his “friends” come to comfort him.  In order to do that they lecture him in one speech after another for the next 36 chapters!  Of course Job refutes them, but it is a lot of back and forth while they try to convince Job that he has sinned and that is why God is punishing him.  He is accused of being arrogant and self-righteous, and they are disgusted and angered when he declares his innocence and refuses to back down.  Job never does curse God.  He curses the day he was born.  He does, however, accuse God of doing wrong to him, declaring that he is right and God is wrong.  Finally, in the 38th chapter God makes Himself known…and boy, does He make Himself known!!  BOOM!  His voice thunders from the whirlwind (The Message calls it the eye of a violent storm).

The whole scene reminds me a little of one of my favorite scenes from the Disney movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Aslan, the great lion has just agreed to sacrifice himself in payment for the treachery of the boy Edmund.  The White Witch turns to Aslan, and before the great crowd of Aslan’s followers, boldly asks, “How do I know your promise will be kept?”  Alsan roars his great booming roar, and this evil, powerful enemy falls to her knees before him.  I’ll include a link to the scene on YouTube, just because it is fun:-)  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgl4tqw2OKs).

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements?  Surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?  To what were its foundations fastened?  Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  God begins in Job 38:4-7 (NKJV).  Who put the seas in their place and put the barriers around them and told them to stay put?  In the next 105 verses God lets Job have it.  He declares, in no uncertain terms, exactly who He is.  He is the God who measured and designed the entire earth.  The God who put the waters where they belong and set the doors to keep them in place.  The God who has commanded the dawn since the beginning of time.  The God who holds the treasury of snow and hail for times of war.  The God who can pinpoint the exact location where lightening bolts and wind begin.  The same God who created the gentle deer and designed the number of days of her pregnancy, and the behemoth, and even greater, the Leviathan who could not be defeated by man.  And where was Job during all of that?  Was he present?   The point?  Job, do you really think you have the knowledge and insight to be able to accuse me, God Almighty, of doing wrong?

In chapter 38:2-3 (NCV) God begins by addressing Job, “Who is this that makes my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?  Be strong like a man!  I will ask you questions, and you must answer me.”  This is where Job says, “gulp.”  After 2 chapters of God’s greatness and might, Job is hoping God has forgotten him, but God pauses in His questioning.  Chapter 40:1-2 – The Lord said to Job:  “Will the person who argues with the Almighty correct Him?  Let the person who accuses God answer Him.”  Here is the part, the roar that drops Job to his knees.  And Job’s response?  After going on and on defending himself in the bulk of the book, this is what he has to say (vs 4-5 NKJV):  “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You?  I lay my hand over my mouth.  Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.”  Zip, button, lock and throw away the key…his mouth is shut tight.

What is the most common thing we hear about Job?  The patience of Job?  Don’t we often boil the story down to this poor man who lost everything, remained faithful to God, and then was blessed two-fold afterward?  Is that the real message though?  Was Job really all that patient?  Have you read the book lately?  He didn’t look patient to me.  I am by no means downplaying the terrible things he went through.  If I were in his shoes, I am pretty sure I would do some of my own questioning of God.  But why do we call Job patient when he wasn’t really all that patient?  I think the book of Job has some hard things in it that make it much easier to focus on Job’s suffering.  First of all, we get a behind-the-scenes look at God and Satan having a discussion about God’s people.  We see Satan asking for permission, and God giving it, to cause harm to one of His people.    That is not an easy picture to understand.  And anyone who is looking for an excuse to hate God could very easily find it there.  On the other hand, those who love God, and fear Him with reverence, will be comforted in knowing that even Satan must stop at the boundaries God sets up, because God is in control.  Then we have the middle of the book with all the drivel of Job’s friends.  Quite frankly, I did a lot of eye rolling when I read their lectures…and a lot of, “for heavens sake!  What kind of friends were these?!”  We have Job’s self defense and accusations of God’s “wrong-doing” that do not demonstrate the patience of Job, sorry.  I just don’t see it.  BUT THEN.  Then we have the omniscience, and omnipotence of God declared in a thunderous voice from the eye of a violent storm by God Himself!  And that declaration left a mouthy man dumbfounded, speechless, and feeling a millimeter tall.

The story of the book of Job is not the story of a man who went through hell on earth.  It is the story of the might and power of God.  It should leave us on our knees, hands over our mouths, in speechless awe of the God who rules from His thrown above…but who didn’t stay there!  In Job 9:32-35, Job cries out for a savior.  Someone who could make peace between him and God, remove his punishment, and allow him to speak without being afraid.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?  This same awesome God, who caused Job to shut his mouth, and leaves us with eyes wide, mouths gaped open and incapable of uttering anything other than “wow,” loves us so much that He took on that millimeter-tall, frail, unworthy form in order to rescue us from our own filthy dust and ashes.  Take the time soon to read Job 38-41, and soak up some awe.  And while you are at it, take a gander at the crucifixion of Jesus in Matthew 26 and 27, Mark 14 and 15, Luke 22 and 23, or John 18 and 19 (must be an important story!).

1 John 4:9-10 – This is how God showed his love to us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him.  This is what real love is:  It is not our love for God, it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be the way to take away our sins.

The Naked Truth: Why Did Adam Really Hide From God?

“Then they heard the Lord God walking in the garden during the cool part of the day, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees in the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said, ‘Where are you?’

“The man answered, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.'” (Genesis 3:8-10 NCV).

This was part of the passage we discussed in Sunday School today. And the question was, “Why did Adam and Eve hide from God?” Was it guilt and shame? Embarrassment? After all, they looked down for the first time and realized “Whoops! Yikes! We are naked as jay-birds! We can’t show up before God like this!”

Was nakedness really the reason that they hid, or was there something else? Of course there was. The very moment Eve, and then Adam, ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they not only understood the difference between right and wrong, but they had a full understanding of the gravity of what they had done. They heard God walking in the garden and knew that they had disobeyed the God of the universe. They felt guilt, and shame. But they also felt fear for the first time. God said that if they ate from that tree, they would die. Now God was looking for them. Did He know already? Was their any way they could hide this truth from Him? Would He kill them on the spot? Adam and Eve hid because more than their bodies were naked. Their souls were laid bare, and they were now vulnerable. They were afraid. Before they ate, they lived in the comfort and safety of God Almighty. Now, God was their enemy. I’d hide, too!

They had to wonder, who was this God? Was He a God of anger and revenge? Would He be filled with hatred, and regret over creating them? Adam and Eve suddenly realized that they no longer knew God. The One with whom they had spent countless hours strolling through the garden had become a stranger to them. Something had come between them and Him, and fear gripped their hearts like it was a physical vise. It was this fear that drove them to cower behind the bushes when God called for them. They did not dare to face Him.

Don’t we find ourselves in the same situation when we sin against God? The God we enjoyed communion with in prayer just hours before becomes a stranger. We feel separated from Him. Vulnerable. Afraid to show ourselves to Him. What will He do? How will He react? We doubt His goodness, and wonder if this is the time that God says, “Enough. This is the last time you will blow it. I am finished with you.” Satan feeds us one lie after another. He overruns our mind with doubts. And in so doing, strips us naked, leaving us vulnerable and afraid to turn our face toward God.

What was God’s response to Adam and Eve? Punishment? Perhaps. To be sure there were consequences for what they had done. But God didn’t fry them. He didn’t strike them with lightening. He didn’t vaporize them. And He didn’t hate them. God’s response was to care for them. He met their needs. They were naked and vulnerable. He covered them (vs. 21). He loved them.

What is God’s response to you when you sin? He does not condemn you (There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit – Romans 8:1 NKJV). Yes, there are natural consequences for our sins. But God loves us, and He covers our nakedness. He covered our nakedness once and for all when Jesus died on the cross. We sin and build a separation between us and God, but He comes calling for us. He wants us to return to Him. He wants us to trust in His love.

So God loves us. He does not condemn us when we disobey Him. He even comes looking for us to bring us back to Him. Why then would we fear Him? Because Satan wants us to, just as he wanted Adam and Eve to. As long as Satan can keep us away from God, filled with the fear of a response from God that he has contrived, he can keep us from being used by God. Our relationship with God is put on hold, and our service to God is paralyzed. Satan becomes the victor in our lives.

We will sin. No matter how hard we try not to. But we cannot allow Satan full victory in our lives! Our time here is short. God has a purpose for our lives, and when we allow Satan to make us ineffective by not returning to the God who offers us His own righteousness, we lose. We lose out on precious time in prayer and worship with God. We lose opportunities to reach others in His service. And we lose the blessing of being used by the God of all gods. God is not the God of fear. He is the God of love, and He wants you to return to Him the moment you realize your sin. Do not delay. Defeat the fear of the Devil. Instead, seek victory in Jesus!

What is Holding You Back?

It has come to my attention (thank You, God) that it is time to share my testimony with you.  But not necessarily my salvation testimony.  I don’t have a dramatic salvation story…I was only 4 when I invited Christ into my life, after all.

Like all Christians, I had my ups and downs trying to figure out what this Christian life was all about.  One thing I always had, though, was someone who was a true faith warrior.  It wasn’t always the same person.  Sometimes there were more than one.  But these were the people who always gave God the glory.  Always held strong to their faith.  Were deep in the Word, and anchored by prayer.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Christian like them.  I wanted that relationship with Jesus that filled every part of my life.  I wanted to be in love with Jesus…but for some reason I just could never seem to get there.  I prayed.  I read my Bible.  I went to church.  I always served God in some capacity through my church.  Nothing seemed to work.  So what was holding me back?

Two things.  The first was the belief that God could not use me.  I’ve heard people use this argument when they have led a rather sordid life.  They have skeletons in their closet that would scare ghosts.  Not me.  For the most part, I was a pretty good kid growing up.  The kind of trouble I got into was fighting with my brother, and talking back to my mom.  No drugs.  No alcohol.  No illicit sex.  Even as an adult, I was tame.  I married, had children, and settled down to make the good Christian home.  We took the boys to church on Sunday.  Went to Sunday School and made sure they did, too.  I taught in Vacation Bible School every year.  Still, I didn’t believe God could use me.  Why?  Because I knew my heart.  I knew the thoughts that ran through my mind.  The judgments I made of others.  I knew how frustrated and angry I got with my boys when they misbehaved.  I knew the bitterness I held in my heart for some.  All the little secrets held inside me that no one else could see…but God.  God could see them.  I’m not perfect.  I’m not holy.  I’m pathetic.  There is no way God can use me.  I’m a living, breathing example of a hypocrite.

The second thing holding me back from that love relationship with Jesus was fear.  Oh yes!  Fear.  I was scared to death of what He would do in my life.  And maybe not even that as much as how He would do whatever He wanted to do.  What trial would He ask me to bear?  What pain would I suffer?  What, or even who, would He ask me to give up?  I guess I was afraid of the process of learning to love Jesus, more than the end result.

Still, I watched the faith warriors in my life, and longed for that same relationship.  That longing just became greater and greater over the years.  It never waned.  Always at the back of my heart was the call to draw closer to Jesus.  I know now, of course, that He was calling me.  Never giving up.  Because even though I couldn’t love Him completely, He loved me more completely than anyone else ever could.  A few short years ago God’s pull finally overcame my push.  And I realized that the only way I was going to have that relationship with Jesus was to completely surrender to him.  I had to believe that Almighty God could actually do something with my life that would bring glory to Him.  And I had to give over to Him all of me, and all those people and things that meant so much to me, and trust Him to do whatever He knew to be the best.  I had to lay it all on the line.  And I did that.  One day as I sat in a room alone, with the door locked shut, I cried out to God.  “I want that relationship with you, God.  The one that so-and-so has.  Please, take me and make me Yours.  Do with me as You please.  Just use me, please.”

Then came the change.  It wasn’t instantaneous.  But it has been steady.  I have found a deep desire to learn more and more about the God I serve.  I am drawn to read His Word like I am to eating sweets.  I crave the Bible, and find myself looking for opportunities to read it, even outside of my devotion time.  I have the same craving for my prayer time.  You might say I have a sweet tooth for Jesus.  And I finally have that I’m-in-love-with-Jesus kind of relationship with Him that I have longed for since I was four!  It has been a long time coming!

What about my fear and belief that God can use me?  The fear God has taken care of with His peace that passes all understanding.  Now and then I will hesitate, or even find myself gripped by fear, but I have learned to recognize that as Satan trying to pull me away from God.  The Bible tells us that God does not give us a spirit of fear.  So praying and praising will quickly dispel that trouble.

As for God not being able to use me, well, that is another story.  And it is one that you are reading right now.  Since my cry out to God, I have learned that He has given me the gift of prophecy.  And I am learning how He wants me to use it to lift up, encourage, and edify His people.  This blog is a direct result of His calling to me, and a demonstration of how God is using me.  Am I any more perfect or holy than I was before?  No.  Just ask my boys:-)  I still lose my temper.  I still wrestle to keep my thoughts controlled.  I still say and do things I shouldn’t.  And I’m sure there are still people who could look at my life and call me a hypocrite.  But I’m trying.  And I continually give myself over to God, asking Him to change me and make me the person He wants me to be.  God is using me in spite of myself.  I guess that is what makes this relationship so humbling.  God knows me better than I know myself, and yet He still loves me, wants a relationship with me, and wants to use me for His honor and glory.

The thing I want most in this world is what I hope to hear in the next.  I want desperately to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Someone out there is reading this blog post and longs for a deeper relationship with Jesus.  Someone is wrestling with the same fear that I did, and believing the lies that Satan is telling them.  I want you to believe that God can use you!  Heed His call in your life.  Cry out to Him!  He is waiting, longing to ease your fear, give you peace, and shower you with Himself.  And He will use you.  I don’t care who you are, what you have done, or what sins you still wrestle with.  God is God, for Pete’s sake!  Of course He can use you!  Nothing is impossible for Him, including you.

My prayer for you today is the courage and faith to surrender to God, and then all the blessings that come with being in love with your Lord and Savior.

Do I Disappoint God?

I’m not often disappointed by people. Well, not to the point of frustration anyway. I have learned over the years that just as I need the grace and understanding of others, they need it from me as well. Once in a while, though, I have higher expectations for someone than I should. And when that happens, so does disappointment. Then when disappointment happens, frustration, anger, bitterness, resentment also tend to rear their ugly heads. This is exactly what happened to me this week…and on more than one occasion, with more than one person! I was setting myself up for a fall, and worse, I set them up for a fall!

When it was all said and done, I had some confessing to do. And it took me a bit to figure out how to talk to God about it all. I was hurt because of the actions of the people who disappointed me, so there was that to deal with. But I knew that I didn’t handle it as well as I should have either. So here I was with a wall between me and God. I hate that feeling! There can’t possibly be anything worse than feeling that distance between you and God, and not knowing how, or where, to begin getting back to Him. It took a lot of work, but eventually I was able to start praying about everything. As I prayed about the disappointment that I felt, I thought, “I must disappoint You all the time.” But how can God be disappointed?

Where does disappointment come from? High hopes. We expect more of people than it is fair to expect. We expect perfection from imperfect people, and then don’t offer grace and understanding when they don’t live up to our expectations. We expect them to be something they are not…infallible.

When I thought of how often God must be disappointed in me, He corrected me. God is never disappointed in me! He doesn’t set up high hopes and delude Himself into believing that I am more than I am. He knows exactly who I am, what I am capable of, and what I am not capable of. He knows I am not perfect. Not only is He not taken aback, surprised, or disappointed when I fail Him, He knew it was going to happen before I did it. God knew what He was getting when He called me to Him in the first place. So it is impossible for me to disappoint God! But there is more.

God knew exactly how I was going to react to those who disappointed me this week. He wasn’t disappointed in me. That doesn’t mean He liked it. But He loves me. He offered me grace and understanding…and forgiveness. But the thing is, the forgiveness was mine before I sinned! Hebrews 10:10 (NCV) – “And because of this, we are made holy through the sacrifice Christ made in his body once and for all time.” Once and for all time. Long ago I accepted the free gift of salvation through Christ. When that happened, my sins were forgiven…past, present, and yes, future! God is not disappointed in me because He knows me; because He understands me; and because, through the blood of Jesus, He has already forgiven me for what I will do! This is not an excuse to go do as I please. Instead it is a blessed reassurance of His unconditional love for me. And my praise and thanksgiving seem so inadequate in comparison. What do I have to give in return but myself. It is all I have to give, and I give it freely to my God who loves me.

Blessed Assurance by Frances J. Crosby, 1873

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

A New Commandment?

Exodus 20: 1-20 (NCV)  –  Then God spoke all these words:  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt where you were slaves.
“You must not have any other gods except me.
“You must not make for yourselves an idol that looks like anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the water below the land.  You must not worship or serve any idol, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.  If you hate me, I will punish your children, and even your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  But I show kindness to thousands who love me and obey my commands.
“You must not use the name of the Lord your God thoughtlessly; the Lord will punish anyone who misuses his name.
“Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.  Work and get everything done during six days each week, but the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the Lord your God.  On that day no one may do any work:  not you, your son or daughter, your male or female slaves, your animals, or the foreigners living in your cities.  The reason is that in six days the Lord made everything–the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.  On the seventh day he rested.  So the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother so that you will live a long time in the land that the Lord your God is going to give you.
“You must not murder anyone.
“You must not be guilty of adultery.
You must not steal.
“You must not tell lies about your neighbor.
“You must not want to take your neighbor’s house.  You must not want his wife or his male or female slaves, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
When the people heard the thunder and the trumpet, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke rising from the mountain, they shook with fear and stood far away from the mountain.  Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself, and we will listen.  But don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
Then Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid, because God has come to test you.  He wants you to respect him so you will not sin.”

I have been working my way through the early books of the Bible.  The stories are fun and interesting.  But the rules!  Oh my!  Rules, rules, rules!  This kind of animal sacrifice for this reason.  The grain sacrifice for that thing.  So very strict, regimented.  One slip up and you could be dragged out of the camp and stoned to death, or struck dead on the spot!  I often wonder why.  And how in the world did they ever remember it all?  In Numbers 15 a man was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath.  Then God told Moses to tell the people to make tassels out of thread.  Put a blue thread in each tassel, and then attach the tassels to the corners of their clothing.  When they look at the tassels, they would be reminded of the Lord’s commands and obey them.  I’m sorry, but a tassel tied to my clothes would not help remember all of the commands!  The 10 maybe, but everything else?  Not a chance!  

What a relief to be able to jump ahead to the New Testament, and read the2 commandments that Jesus gave!  Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command.  And the second is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’  All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”  

The key word is love.  Oh, I know.  This is not nuclear science or an amazing spiritual breakthrough.  It could, I suppose, be brought to the level of duh.  Not on Jesus’ part, on ours.  We had to ask, what is the most important of the commandments (Matt. 22:36), after all.  Jesus was just simplifying the code for the sheep to understand.  Take the first three of the ten commandments.  If we love God, we will not have any other gods before Him.  If we love God, we will not make idols to worship in place of Him.  If we love God, we will not use His name thoughtlessly.  Take the second of Jesus’ commands.  If we love our neighbor as ourselves, are we going to steal from them?  Lie to them, or about them?  Murder them?  Of course not!!!

It is all about the love… of God, for God, from God!  I have been battling against a self-serving attitude.  I become upset, lose my temper with my children, my husband when things don’t go the way I don’t want them to.  I have spent a great deal of time in prayer about this.  And have boiled it down to selfishness.  A self-serving attitude.  I am angry and frustrated with my family because they don’t do what want.  They don’t behave the way Iwant them to behave.  They don’t speak the way want them to speak.  You get the idea.  But GOD boiled it down even further.  THE BRASS TACKS??  LOVE!!!!!!!  IF I DO NOT LOVE MY NEIGHBOR (OR MY CHILDREN, OR MY HUSBAND) AS MYSELF, THEN I SERVE MYSELF.  And how can I say that I love God, but not love the most precious people He has put in my life with the kind of love that He loves me with?

Whatever your battle is, God’s love is the key.  Join me in praying: Father God, fill our weak and broken earthly vessels with Your love. Pour it out of us onto those closest to us.  But Father, don’t stop there.  Seep it out of the cracks and wholes of our lives to all those we come in contact with each and every day.  May Your love be seen in and through us.  And may You be glorified because of it!  In the precious name of our Savior and Lord, Jesus…Amen.

God bless you all!!!

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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