Whatever You Do

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.

-1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17, 23; James 2:12 (NLT)

There are three things in life: work, celebration, and rest.  If you have not rested, then your work will not be productive and enjoyable.  Also, if you do not rest, you lack the energy and fountain of vitality to celebrate.

You can't celebrate and rest.

After work, we need rest; but we often celebrate after work, before we rest.  We celebrate while we are tired which is ok as long as we are aware of our tiredness.  If we are out of touch with our exhaustion, our celebration in tiredness will be less enjoyable.

But, if we acknowledge our exhaustion, but still want to celebrate, we can have a (lower energy) good time still.  The greatest celebrating comes after rest.  There is work and planning, then a pause for rest before celebrating for maximum enjoyment.

You can not celebrate and work.  

I remember an absurd advertisement for a workplace where they beckoned potential employees  to come work, "in a party-like atmosphere".  People who celebrate while working (all day or night) are not productive and quickly lose their jobs.

You can not work and rest.  

The only people paid to sleep on the job are firemen who are on-duty while sleeping, ready to get up and go on a call, if need be.  Most of the rest of us will not be productive, if we sleep or rest while on the job, the whole time.

We need to rest well to work well and we need to rest well to celebrate well.  Life is harder without rest.  We can not rest while we work and the need for rest tempers our ability to celebrate.

Balance, rhythm, and wholeness.

Work is good and celebration is good, but a life of all work or all celebration is out of balance.  Rest is good and essential, but the life spent only resting is not good and we call that slothfulness or laziness.  The rhythm of life is work, rest, celebration, and rest.  Then, back to work.

Skipping any step will bring us out of balance and wholeness.  For example, if you go straight to celebration after work, then your ability to enjoyably celebrate is limited and you will need more rest after that limited celebration, and you will need to acknowledge your energy level to celebrate as limited.

I want to pause and acknowledge that my perspective is that of an introvert.  Extroverts do get energized by being around people.  But they also need their rest.


The limits issue means that as human beings, we have limits; and if we ignore them, we will be in trouble.  The person who comes home from work and grouches at their family or melts down in stress out of proportion to the stress at hand is in need of rest.  Substance abuse (over or under the counter) also is fueled by out of touch behavior that does not acknowledge one's limits and need for rest.

People take their drug rather than getting rest and it ends up being unwholesome or destructive for them and the ones who love them.  People who neglect rest after celebration also pay a price in their work, in it being unproductive and less enjoyable.

"Whatever you do."

I think that "whatever you do", is an excellent motto in life, if the whatever is linked to the Lord.  Whether you raise the dead or take a nap, do it in the Lord.  Let your life be "in the" and "of the" Lord.

We do not have compartmentalized lives of acting one way here and another way there.  We want to be godly and walkers with Christ in the light and in the dark; when we are seen by others and when we are alone or anonymous.  At this place or that other place, we always want to walk in the light of the Lord's sight.

Joseph, The Righteous Man

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.
-Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary, when she told him that she was pregnant.  She told him something that didn't make sense.  She told him that she had not had another man in her life, but that she was visited by an angel, who told her that God would cause her to be pregnant, in a miraculous way. 

We do not know how Joseph judged Mary's account of how she became pregnant.  What we do know is how he responded to this crisis.  He responded with mercy and honor in a righteous way.

Joseph's betrothal to Mary was a more serious  matter than engagements of couples today.  In today's language, Joseph was already Mary's husband, while Mary remained at her father's household. 

It would be hard enough to find out that your fiance, today, was pregnant with someone else's baby; but Joseph's responsibilities were heavier in his day, because he was legally bound to Mary and had to decide what to do.  In this kind of situation, a man could have his betrothed branded as an adulteress.  But that is not what Joseph had in mind to do.

Joseph was righteous, kind, and merciful with Mary.  He was going to annul the marriage quietly and let Mary have her baby.  We do not know whether he believed Mary or not.  What we do know is that he treated her with dignity and respect.  Joseph acted with benevolence, charitability and kindness.

Adultery was punishable by stoning under the law, although there is no evidence that it was practiced during Jesus lifetime(1).  Joseph reminds us of how Jesus treated the woman brought to him who was caught in adultery (John 8:3-11).  The men who brought her were asking Jesus to endorse the stoning of her.  They brought her to Jesus, saying that the law demands that she be punished by death.  Jesus, the embodiment of God's righteousness, did something else.

Joseph, who was living out an authentic, righteous life; had to decide what to do in response to Mary's news that she was pregnant.  Joseph's righteousness was tempered with kindness, honor, and mercy; just like Jesus.  Joseph did not want to punish Mary.  He also did not want to go ahead and marry her, because that would be unrighteous as well, in his mind.  The righteous thing to do was to not humiliate her and quietly divorce her.

Joseph shows us what righteousness is.  He desired to live within God's laws, but also to have God's heart.  God's heart says, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice"(Hosea 6:6, Matt. 9:13). 

Joseph seems insignificant compared to Mary.  After Jesus' childhood, we don't see him.  But Joseph is very significant.  How he treated Mary is very important.  God inspired Matthew to tell us in a matter of fact way that Joseph was a righteous man and illustrates this.  Joseph was interested in following God's heart.  He was kind, merciful, and benevolent.

This is the man who got to hold baby Jesus.  This is the man who got to raise him.  This is the man who taught Jesus a trade.  He taught him how to live.  He taught him how to treat a woman.

If you are a man and specifically a father or will be a father, you need to understand that this is your second most important function, role, or assignment in your life.  Your most important thing is being God's child.

Joseph and Mary's lives were not a charade.  They were real people trying to live out normal, godly lives.  God selected Mary to do a one time thing that people have not stopped talking about.  Joseph has something in common with God, in that he saw something in Mary and selected her also.

While Joseph was making his selection of Mary, God was also selecting Joseph to be Jesus father.  Joseph would be the man that Almighty God would trust with raising Jesus.  Joseph watched over Jesus and protected him and gave him a home to grow up in.  Joseph provided one of the greatest services in history.  This man is the servant of God, literally.

All of this might not get our attention as important, in our culture that bashes fatherhood.

When the Bible introduces us to Joseph, it shows us the kind of man, the kind of husband, and the kind of father that we men want to be.  These traits apply to ladies as well.

True righteousness covers the faults of others.  True righteousness is honorable, humane, and benevolent.  The truly righteous person is merciful.  They see sin and weep over it.  They want to connect sinners with God's forgiveness.  They want to see redemption.  Sin is not ok with them, but they know it's destructiveness and want to lead people out from and away from it, through God's forgiveness.

The truly righteous one sees themself as a sinner saved by God or a beggar leading other beggars to the bread of life.  The truly righteous one is not self-righteous, but humble.  Humble means that your God is big and you are small, but you know that God is your all in all.

Joseph shows us that the righteous person is concerned with doing right before God in justice, with humility before God and man; while living out the kindness of God's character in mercifulness and benevolence.
1. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, p. 18

What Child Is This?

Antonio da Correggio, The Holy Night (PD)
And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord,was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.
-Luke 2:4-20 (HCSB)

What child is this?  That is the question that the Christmas story asks.  Remember the Charlie Brown Christmas show?  In it, one of the characters reads the story.  Millions of people who watched that show each year and on video hear the familiar story.

The story is that an angel visited these shepherds with a message of what just happened and they went and saw, then told everyone they could, what they saw.

The key verse, in the story of the shepherds who see baby Jesus in Luke 2, is verse 11, that is stated in the NIV as,“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This answers the question, “What child is this?”

Son of David

The town of David is Bethlehem. In Micah 5:2, it says that Messiah will come out of Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for the census, because Joseph was from the line of David and Bethlehem is where David was born.

Joseph’s home was in Nazareth, a three-day trip from Bethlehem. We know, from Luke, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the Jewish leaders who studied the scriptures knew about Micah 5:2, but they did not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds knew and told everyone, when it happened, but the news never got to or was not heard, by the Jewish authorities.

There was an ongoing issue with people having prejudice against Jesus, because he was from Galilee (John 7:41, 52) and Nazareth (Jn. 1:46). Jesus was rightfully referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, but we and the shepherds know that he was born in Bethlehem.


Next, we know that this child is a Savior. This word means, “The one who saves and delivers, heals and makes whole”. A Savior also protects and preserves you. That’s the “whole package” of Savior. That’s who this child is.


This child also is Christ. That means “anointed”. He is “The Anointed One”. Messiah is the anointed. Christ is Greek for Messiah. The word Messiah is only in the OT twice in Daniel (9:25-6), but the Hebrew word, translated Messiah, is translated anointed, dozens of other times, in the OT.

David refers to Saul as, “God’s anointed”, because Saul was. The King is the anointed, ruler, and the one who has authority and dominion. So, that is what Christ means.

The child born in Bethlehem is The Anointed One. When we get that, we have to make a choice to yield to and come under his rulership.


And he is not just a king, like Saul or David, but he is God’s King and the Lord. “Christ the Lord” is a unique title just for Jesus. There are anointed ones, even king Saul was one of these. And there are lords. Like in the twelve days of Christmas song. But there is only one, “The Lord”.

Remember the psalm where David wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord”? In that psalm, David is looking at God and Christ. Both are Lord, “The Lord”, and “My Lord” (Psalm 110). At the end of Matthew 22, Jesus gave a gathering of Pharisees a lesson on how Christ is Lord.

What child is this to you?

The answer to the question, “What child is this?”, is that he is the Lord, God. He is your savior and the Lord. He is not a commodity of a force or a power to be used; but a person, The King and The Lord, who saved us and we are to bow to and follow.

He is also the greatest gift ever given and we get to receive him and respond by giving our whole lives to him and at his service. He is our inheritance and our children’s inheritance. The whole goal of Christian parenting is to bring our children, just as the angel brought the shepherds, to Jesus, and to teach them that he is Savior and Christ the Lord.

The Gospel

This child is Savior and Lord. He really saves. He takes sin away, cleansing it and purging it out of our lives. He heals us too. He makes us whole and delivers us.

Salvation is not an intellectual exercise, where you learn the lesson; but a life-transforming experience. Jesus changes lives. When he saves you, he renews you, regenerates you, and gives you a whole new life.

The Gospel is also that he is Christ and Lord. The language that says, “make Jesus your personal Lord and Savior”, can give us the mistaken idea that the gift of God, in him, is a commodity. The more correct or Biblical idea is that He is Lord – He has come to save us and make us his subjects and his subjects get to become children of God and disciples (learners) of Christ. These are not options, like when you buy a car or get your kitchen remolded.

The message of Christ’s advent is savior in every dimension of salvation (wholeness, healing, and deliverance) and he is king, God’s King, and he is the Lord. Being God’s Son, even though he came into this world through a woman and as a man, he is the pre-existent only Son of God, which makes him the Lord.

With that on the table, we bow and receive his Lordship and Kingship and give our lives to him. The gift and the demands go together, as a whole package. We call this the gospel of the kingdom.

Some “Christians” have never been saved nor received Christ as Lord. When this lightning strikes in your life, you get to be saved (cleansing and purging of sin, healing of body, soul, and spirit; and deliverance) and make Jesus the Lord and the King of your life.

Who this child is, is about to be discovered by many people.

Good King Wenceslas

The Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" tells the story of a king who goes out with his page to give alms to a poor man on the day after Christmas. Wenceslas is a real person, born in 907. His father was converted to Christ through the work of two Greek brothers Cyril, known as Constantine; and Methodius in the 860's. These brothers became known as "the apostles to the Slavs". Wenceslas' father died when he was only thirteen and his grandmother, Ludmila, raised him as a Christian. His mother, Drahomira, remained pagan as did his younger brother and arranged Ludmila's murder in 921 and regained control over raising Wenceslas. History is sketchy on what happened during the next 5 years, but when he was 18 years old, he assumed the throne and had his mother exiled. He then promoted Christianity throughout Bohemia. The nobles did not like the Roman influence that they saw coming in through Christianity and plotted to kill Wenceslas with his pagan younger brother, Boleslaus, who murdered him in a brutal manner outside of a church building.

The author of Good King Wenceslas is John Neale (1818-66). He was an English clergyman, hymnologist, scholar, linguist, theologian, and prolific author of over 30 volumes. He won prizes for his poetry. He also wrote the popular carols, "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and "Good Christian Men Rejoice".

He spent his last 20 years of his life as the Warden of Saksville College in Sussex, which was a charitable institution for the aged, at a salary of 27 pounds a year. He had a heart of compassion for the poor, ill, aged, and children. Historians write that his bishop barred him from official duties out of jealousy.

Neale's succinct biography with more references is here.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.

He is still born in a stable

"and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them."
Luke 2:7 (TNIV)

Christmas is all about Christ's birth. He is God's gift to humankind. He was sent to reconcile us. He also showed us what God was like. Rather that transport into earthly life or appear, like an angel, Jesus was born to an obscure set of parents, under obscure circumstances, at an obscure time, and in a very obscure place.

He wasn't born in the finest hospital of the day, nor in a palace, and not on a mountain top. He was born in a room that western minded moderns think of as a stable, where animals lived and were sheltered for the night, just like you would find on most farms or ranches today. Actually, it was a room in the house where the animals lived and had shelter for the night. Historians believe it was actually a cave.

Many Bible translations state that Jesus was placed in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. We easily picture and full hotel. Western English translators choose Inn, but the word that Luke uses actually has more to it that just meaning inn: The word Kataluma can mean:
  1. an inn, lodging place
  2. an eating room, dining room
We can get a further clue of what Luke had in mind when we look at the one other time he used this word and it was for the upper room where Jesus had his last supper. The upper room and the place where there was no more room may just refer to an extra room where you could have a dinner party or lodge guests.

But whatever the places were that were full, Jesus ended up being born in the lowest form of real shelter, where the animals were housed. What does this mean? Is it a sign that makes you wonder?

When You Meet Together

What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church.
-1 Cor. 14:26

I have a question.  What is a meeting?  Is a meeting just a gathering of people, where anything happens; or does every meeting have one thing in common; that you meet there?

Is going to a movie theater a meeting?  What if it is a film festival and there is a panel discussion and interview with the filmmakers, including questions and answers?  Is it a meeting then?

I believe it's a meeting if you meet.  If you can say, "I met someone", you were at a meeting.

There are "meet and greet" times built into events that are not meetings.  It's not a meeting, but an event.  The organizers know people like to meet; so they build the meet time in.  That does not make it a meeting, but an event where meet time is built in.

We have gatherings where the main thing is a speaker who speaks in a monologue.  But it it is not a meeting in the truest sense, because a meeting is where we meet.

Meeting means face time.  It means I see your face and you see mine, but it's more than that.  It means we all see each others faces and each person has a chance, many chances, to speak, to share and to express.

Meeting means we all meet each other.

Monologue and performance is not a true meeting.  The more you break up and stop the monologue or performance, the more meeting can take place, because meeting is about, "I met people".

It is true that in order to hear and be clear, we do need solo speech time.  I might say, "I need y'all to hush while I share, so you can meet me and hear what I bring to the meeting."

But the whole 'meeting time' is not my monologue or performance, because real soon, someone else gets to share or ask me a question or respond to what I just said.  You might not want to ask me something, but you might want to ask or say something to the person seated next to you, and that is ok too.

A meeting is about meeting.

The scripture from Apostle Paul says, "When you meet together, each one has..."  Each one has means, each one has.  It means that everyone gets to play.  It means everybody gets to share.  It means all can participate in the meeting.  It does is not say, "when you meet together, the speaker will speak or preach for 30, 60, or 90 minutes".  But that is what many meetings are. 

In this text which is descriptive, Paul describes a different kind of meeting, than what most western Christians are familiar with.  From our modern (modernity), western (Grecian-euro) influenced culture; we might look at the Corinthian Church Paul writes to as aberant (naughty and off the rails).  We might view the whole letter as correction with some beautiful side notes, like the love chapter.

When Paul says, "when you meet together", we might hear it as a rebuke.  This was a mess, chaos.  But, if you read all of chapter 14, or chapters 12 through 14; you will find out that there is much commendation, with some rebuke or correction.  The only way to see the Corinthian church or what they were doing as all bad, is to come to the text with a gigantic bias and we don't want to do that.

The meeting of the church that Paul describes here is a meeting where everyone gets a chance to participate.  We are so used to going to church meetings where we go to hear monologues or see the "one man show".

We have lost the art of leadership which is to create a space where everyone gets to participate.

The job of the shepherd is to protect the sheep from wolves and lead them to pasture.

"When you meet, each one has."  The meeting is a pot-luck buffet.  Each person brings something.  If one person has had a bad week, they might bring a sorrowful song of lament.  We want to hear them, acknowledge them (get them), and comfort them.  We might want to come along side them as they trade their sorrows for the joy of the Lord, or we might just sit beside them in their grieving

Each person may bring something.  What did you bring to share?

We come to church, the church meeting, having spent time with God.  We might have been on assignment, or we might have received something from God, we want to share.  'Each one', means more than one, everyone.

What is the outcome of all this meeting and sharing?  The building up of the church.  The variety of sharing and caring, meeting and receiving each other is mutual edification.  There is a spiritual nutritional benefit from the variety of sharing that all the people bring.

How To Respond To Tragedies

At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”
-Luke 13:1-5

If you have some time, open your Bible to Luke 13.  I will be going back to it a lot.

I started writing this post, this past fall.  After the two hurricanes.  Before Las Vegas.

This post is about how to respond.  The Bible has a lot of wisdom on this.

Every week, we all encounter people who are going through losses and tragedies.  How do we respond and what do we say and how can we pray?

Some of us don't know what to say or how to respond and some of us say things that are unhelpful.  We can sometimes say things that are hurtful.  We can say things that come from our Christian perspective that are insensitive and completely out of touch with the reality of the pain and suffering of people, while at the same time purporting to represent God.

The platitude, "everything happens for a reason", is a false statement that is an example of this.  Another one, is to respond by saying that, "we are (just) in awe of God, at his sovereignty".

This is not at all how Jesus responded.

Pause and reflect on the truth, that we never see Jesus saying things like this.

On the human plain, we think in terms of cause and effect.  In the stories, in Luke 13, when they asked Jesus about the people who died, he said that it was not punishment for their sinfulness.  And he said that we should all be living in repentance or we will perish.

Luke 13 applies to all the stories, when people have died in tragedies.

Right after Jesus clears things up by saying that God does not arbitrarily do things like this, people read his next words, misunderstanding that God indeed does do what Jesus says He does not.  Jesus was saying that we ought to live in repentance, so that we do not die in our sins.

The word "perish" in Luke 13:5 is the same word in John 3:16:

"Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

In John 3, Jesus is talking to Nick about life and death.  He is saying, "choose life over death".  He is saying that through him, you can live forever rather than dying.

Jesus is not saying that God will kill you or that you will die in a bad way, if you don't live right.  Jesus specifically said that the victims who died were not executed by God.  He did not gossip about their standing with God and ultimate destiny.  Instead, Jesus turned the question back on the askers.

Do you get it?  If we ask Jesus why those people died in Las Vegas, he would say the same thing: "Do you think those people were more sinful that you all, because they suffered that way?  No!"

Same answer about people who died in the hurricanes, floods, and fires.  "No!"

Does God send disasters?  No.

Unfortunately some Christians have a different view, believing and teaching that God does send these.

I heard a retired megachurch pastor and author of thirty books espouse this view, the week after the hurricanes Harvey and Irene, 'that God does send disasters'.

He cited the flood, but forgot the rainbow.  He also spoke from a dispensational viewpoint about the book of Revelation, acting like this (dispensationalism) is the only explanation, that all Christians believe.

No sir.

Another famous Christian leader wrote and published a prayer, about the devastation caused by the hurricane last summer, in Texas.

Much of what this prayer said is true, like God is mighty and merciful and we should ask for mercy.  But the flavor or tone of his whole prayer seemed to be about judgement and power and condemning people.

It was all this high belief in God with very little love for the people God so loves.  Is this what a good percentage of Christians believe?

The critique of this kind of Christianity is not just the beliefs, but the intellectual stoicism that does not know how to lament. 

There is also this narcissism, where we shed tears and love our ideas about God, rather than the real God and the people God loves.

Lack of love is the top problem with Christians.  If we don't know God's love, how can we love people with that love?

We argue about theology, soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology, but we don't know the affection of the Father.  We have all these arguments.  You can hear them in Sunday sermons.

Many Christians see themselves as big on love.  But we have deceived ourselves in that we love our view of the truth, or doctrine, beliefs, and creeds instead of a person and the people God loves.  We judge people all the time and call it love, because we love our truth.

We are a people who have loved what we think and see the truth as being, rather than loving God and loving the people God loves.  And we self identify as lovers. But we have much hate, while at the same time identifying as lovers of the truth.

Many of us can not even talk with people we disagree with and we do not know how to listen to a contrary viewpoint without reacting.  Critical thinking is a lost art.  Round table discussions are very rare.

The indifference to the suffering of people and the platitudes spoken and prayed are our problem.

Caring for and about people is the whole thing.  But we have made teaching and then knowing the right theology the whole thing, or at least the main thing.

We are left with arguments without love.  Lots of anger, but it is selfish, narcissistic anger that is angry that others don't get it, don't agree.

We should rather be broken hearted, like Jesus was.

When we look at a tragedy and think, why did this happen.....   they must have deserved it for some reason...  We are completely off and out of the heart of God.

The shortest verse in the NT might be the most revealing verse about Jesus and about God's heart:

Jesus wept.

He did not weep for himself, but he wept for others.

And at the end of Luke 13, that begins with the questions about the tragic deaths; Jesus says this statement that reveals his heart:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

That is love.  Relentless, sacrificial love.

For anyone who says the platitude, "God is in control of everything", please think about how crazy and hurtful it is to say that.  Consider these statements:

If God is in control of everything:
  • Nothing is our decision.
  • Explain rape.
  • Why pursue advice?
  • Hasn't He made a mess.!!??
  • You cannot stop divorce.
  • Knowledge has no reward.
  • Wisdom is unnecessary.
  • It's unnecessary to pray.

Let's go back to the beginning of Luke 13 and see how we can get it so wrong about disasters and human suffering and God.

At that time, some people came and reported to him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.”

We misunderstand Jesus when we read this and say that this teaches that God says everyone deserves to die: and even in a bad way, under terrible circumstances.  

At first glance, we could interpret Jesus words that way, if we have a certain view of God and God's nature.

What if you discovered that your theology was based more in Greek Mythology than the Bible?  And what if you discovered that your soteriology was Hindu?  What if you discovered that you are wrong, in thinking that you are the center and the locomotion of your salvation?

If we don't know God, we are going to misinterpret God.  We are going to think he is like us.  We will be like orphan children on school yard.

The view that God is in control of everything and everything happens for a reason, that leaves out freedom of choice, powers and principalities, Satan, angels and demons; is very problematic.  It is robotic, mechanical, and scripted.

What is twisted about this view and wrong, is that it assumes that God caused or 'scripted' Pilate to do the evil thing he did and that God caused the tower to fall.  Why?  Because (they believe) God is in control of everything.

That view also does not have the time or the compassion to explore the person of Judas Iscariot, because we believe that he was 'scripted' by God to play that role.  I'm not sure if they would also say it was God's plan for Satan to fall and then for Adam and Eve to fall.  Was king Saul also set up by God for failure?  Was king David's abuse of women God's will too?

Of course not.

The list goes on and on.

Is it your view, that we are all living out a script, like robots of animated drawings?  Satan's work, cancer, and the holocaust all are God's plan, his script so to speak?

This view would say that disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes or bridge collapses are "the most merciful message" or "the most precious message", signifying the need for the rest of us to get right with God.



Back to Luke:

Further down, in Luke 13, we have another story of human suffering, also not caused by God:

As he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for over eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” Then he laid his hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God.

Quoting Greg Boyd, "This is what we find throughout the Gospels. They uniformly identify infirmities (sickness, disease, deformities, disabilities) as being directly or indirectly the result not of God’s punishing activity, but of Satan’s oppressive activity."

Jesus says that Satan caused this woman's suffering, not God.  This gives us a clue about Jesus worldview that we should also adopt.  Satan and his team are free agents, within boundaries, set by God.

The idea that God causes disasters that kill people was popular in the first century, to some extent.  The argument could be made from OT stories.  But Jesus came and clarified all that.  He did not preach a hyper grace message, and it certainly is orthodox to say that Jesus and the Apostles would say that sin brings death.

Jesus took on the judgement of God for the sins of the whole world.  Even if God ever punished people for their sins, through disasters or anything else; after the cross, that is finished.  Jesus work on the cross dealt with sin: all sin, past, present, and future.

It is very strange to say that God punishes people, specifically and especially, by killing them, for their sinfulness.

It is also very strange to look at devastation as say, "we all deserved that (punishment) disaster".

How can you believe in a God who settled or paid the high price for sin, but still randomly punishes sinners for their sins?

Is not the message that God could punish us for our sins, but instead Jesus died on the cross?  We need to have faith, yes we do.  We can not get forgiveness and be cleansed unless we come to God, who first draws us.  That is the way God has lovingly provided.

Even if the Old Covenant framework was for God to teach a lesson through disasters, we are not in that framework any more.  We are in the era after the cross.

Jesus and his work is the center, and the interpretive key to everything.

footnotes and for further study and background:

Why the W35 bridge Collapsed, by Greg Boyd
Putting My Daughter To Bed  Two Hours After The Bridge Collapsed, by John Piper
Hurting With God- Learning To Lament, by Glenn Pemberton
Chaplain Mike, Against Sermonic Neo-Puritan Prayers

Give Me This Mountain

Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day.
-Joshua 14:12a (NKJV)

Have you asked God to give you your mountain?  Have you considered that God has a mountain with your name on it?  Do you have a big dream that God has put in your heart that you are waiting to be fulfilled?

Joshua, chapter fourteen, tells the story of Caleb asking for and being given his inheritance.  That's the mountain.  He is saying here, to Joshua, that he wants that particular mountain; and that it is what God promised to him, long ago:

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim).

Then the land had rest from war.
-Joshua 14:6-15 (NKJV)

It was not rude for Caleb to ask, it was assertive.  Being assertive is a good thing. 

Jesus always responded to people who asked for things and teaches us to ask God.

Caleb was asking for something he wanted and that God had promised him.  Somehow at some point, long ago, Caleb saw that mountain and maybe God said something to him, in his heart, that was like, "that's yours".

Stop and think about it.  God wants to give cities, companies, blocks, buildings, and spheres of influence to his people.  What God has for us is so much more than huddling in church and having a great relationship with Him in private.

It is notable that Caleb was 85 years old, and that he was not born into one of the tribes of Israel, but was a proselyte.  Caleb was a descendent of Edom, who were descendants of Esau.  Caleb was a Gentile, adopted into Israel, into the tribe of Judah.

Caleb is part of the list of heroes in the Old Testament times, who were not born Jewish.  Two other renown people, who end up in Jesus family line are Rahab the prostitute, who was an Amorite, and Ruth the Moabitess, who gets her own story of redemption written up in the book of Ruth.

You might be concerned that you don't have the right pedigree to be used by God, because your life's resume is unconventional.  But the truth is that God's story in your life is what qualifies you, and not your resume or connections.

Today, there are people over 40 who think they are too old, when the complete opposite is true.  Every age has advantages.  There is a reason why the government does not draft people to be in the armed forces, during times of war, who are over a certain age.  Young adults do have the most energy.

But, as you get older, you gain a lot of other things.  Life experience and wisdom are gained over time.  Every person should have older people, a generation ahead; who are in their lives for guidance, mentoring, and counsel.

Your older friends should be your most valuable relationships.  If you are in your twenties, look for people in their forties or fifties.  If you are in your thirties, look for people in their fifties and sixties.

When we visited and became a part of a church 7 or 8 years ago, I went straight to the oldest person in the room and sat with her and became her friend.  I usually do that at any gathering.  My oldest friend is 93.

I didn't come up with this idea, but have been prompted by God and just said yes.  The oldest people are the ones with the most gold in terms of wisdom and life experience.

Caleb's story excites me, because I believe there are many, many people, who are over 40; mostly in their 50's, 60's, and 70's; with a few in their 80's and 90's, who have yet to receive their inheritance of destiny and ministry on earth; whom are about to receive it. 

Many of us, who are over 40; with probably the highest concentration of people in their low 60's, received a call or got a vision of their destiny or inheritance, from God, years and decades ago, that has not really come forth yet.

A bunch of us are like Caleb.  Like him, we have waited and been faithful to God.  Many, most, or all of our friends or kin, that we started with are gone, but we are still here, before God.

Now, the time finally comes to claim our promised inheritance, from God.  That season is upon us.  I don't know how it will happen or exactly when it will happen, but I believe that this is what is going to happen.

I am encouraged and want you to be encouraged, especially if you are over 40 and have lived with the feeling that maybe you missed it and your inheritance is lost.  Whether you just turned 40 and are saying "now what?", or you just turned 90 and gave up long ago; God is faithful.

Caleb is not the story of an extraordinary man.  It is the story, like many others, of God's faithfulness.  God was faithful to Abraham, Moses, Caleb, David; and you and I.  That is His story. 

The story here is that Caleb saw something, a piece of land.  And he had an experience with God, where God said, "that's yours".  Then, a bunch of time went by.

Finally, the time came when everyone in Israel was going in to take the promised land.  Various tribes were being assigned portions of land.  In that context, Caleb spoke up.

Here is the application that this has for us.  We may have had an experience with God, a dream, a vision, God's voice, a prophetic word, or a strong 'knowing' that has been refined over time and is still strong.  That experience was when we heard or saw, from God, our mountain.

Your experience, long ago was perhaps not super clear or maybe is was clear, about your mountain.  And then time went by, years or decades.  It was forty-five years for Caleb.

These long periods of time for the Bible characters teach us that it is never too late or that we are not alone, if it has been many years and even decades for us.

The time for the fulfillment of the promise does finally come.  In those forty-five years, it is very possible that Caleb forgot about his promise or was not sure about it, based on all of the negative things that happened over that time.  But he was faithful to God over that time.

Faith does not mean you understand.  It means you trust.

It was never up to Caleb to fulfill the promise or make it happen.  Only when the time finally came, was it up to him to step up and say, "I want what God promised me, long ago".

We can be encouraged that the time is coming, when we are finished with our waiting period in the wilderness.  The promise has always been for a time, in the future.  And the future will finally come into the present.

One week, one year, or tens of years after hearing God's promise; Caleb may have prayed, cried out to God, "Give me my mountain!"  And nothing changed.  He was stuck with his obstinate people, for over forty years.

But, over that time, a whole new generation was born and grew up.  They heard about the past, about Egypt, but they were born in the wilderness and that is the only life they knew.  And maybe they heard about the promises of God, about the land of promise.

The time finally came, when all the people were called by God, to enter into the promised land.  That is when Caleb claimed his promise.  When the time finally comes, we can claim our promise too.

The mountain (some translations say 'hill country', or 'mountain region') is your assignment, your place of work, your place of opportunity, or your area of service.  There is a mountain with your name on it, yet unclaimed.

Your mountain is your assignment.  Your mountain is where God has designed you for and destined you to be.  Your mountain is your ministry, your calling, and your sphere of influence.  Your mountain is your inheritance.

Like Caleb, we must ask for and claim our promise.  There is a continuous discernment process and refinement of what our mountain is.  And we must ask for it.

God give us gifts that are complete surprises, that are like a package sent to us.  We receive it and open it and enjoy it and are thankful for it.  But, with promises, we often have pursue God and go after it.

Babies get total care.  Children get lots of care and begin to take responsibility and be held accountable.  And adults still get a lot of free gifts, but mostly have to work and totally be responsible for their lives and well being.

Inheriting our destinies takes some work on our part.  That work is not legalism or works righteousness.  It is endurance, faithfulness, courage, and bravery.  This might be what, "many are called, but few are chosen", means.

What I am saying is that there is a paradox, in that we do have to work to inherit the promises; but we do not inherit them through works.  Faith is never passive.  Real faith is an action.  Real faith is tested in refining trials.

It's all grace, but with courageous perseverance.  That is the faith.

God has unlimited resources, but we limit ourselves in what we ask or what we believe for.  The problem is not on God's end.  But there is not some lever that we get to pull, and what we ask for appears.

Faith is made real through faithfulness, which is faith acted upon, based on the belief in the faithfulness of God.  Faith is not faith unless it is faithful.  And faithfulness involves living out your faith

If we do not pursue God or pursue his promises, we probably won't get much extra, beyond the baseline.  But if we go after the promises and pursue God, something may happen.  I personally believe that something always happens, when we pursue God, but it might be invisible to us our outside of our knowing.

God sees and hears every prayer and all our pursuits of him.  Exercises of faith are noted and have effect.  And if you pray for the wrong reasons, God deals with that.  James says that we have not because we ask not and that sometimes when we do ask, we don't receive, because we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:2-3)

Here are some points to pray about your mountain:
  • Give me my mountain.
  • Let me see my mountain.
  • Bring me to my mountain.
  • Bring my mountain to me.
  • Let me ascend my mountain.
  • Give me the place you have chosen for me on that mountain.
  • Give me a home on my mountain.
  • Let me receive a living on my mountain
  • Let me stand on my mountain.
  • Give me sherpas, guides, or angels; to help me climb my mountain.
  • Let me breathe the air on my mountain.
  • Let me be on that mountain.
  • Give me the ministry on that mountain that you have desired for me.

The Tree of Life

Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
-Revelation 2:7

What are you hungry for and what's on the menu?  Some people seem to always be hungry.  In this verse, we are told that there is a special tree, that only some people get the right to eat from.

Throughout your life, you have probably tried foods that you never had before.  Sometimes, you might have said, "that's really good".  There are foods that taste exquisite.

There is a promise in the message to the first church, in Revelation, that they will get to eat from the tree of life, if they conquer.  A special food is available to those who conquer.

The word conquer is an odd word for us.  What does it mean?

It means victory or overcoming, which has to do with faithfulness.  And faithfulness is an action.  To be faithful and have victory or be overcoming and conquering, is to take action.

And the context here are people who have been working hard for God, but have abandoned or left their first love.  They have labored, endured, and been intolerant of evil people.  They have exposed the lies of false apostles.  They have specifically endured hardships for Jesus name and have not grown weary.

"I know your works, your labor, and your endurance,and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary."

But in all that, they made the mistake or got off track by moving away from the life of living in Love.  Jesus says that is what they and we started with and they and we too can move away from love, into all sorts of good works.  We can move away from that love and start living is self righteousness, sort of doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

Jesus was not and is not pleased with believers who do the right thing without love.  We learn here that we can not live the life and be pleasing to the Lord, detached from the simple life of love that started our journey in Christ.

The reward for being simply faithful to live in the love of God and be loving because we are loved, is to eat from the tree of life.  Before Adam and Eve fell, they were allowed to eat from the tree of life, in the garden of Eden.  They were forbidden from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

They ate from the second tree and became barred from eating from the first tree.  The phrase 'tree of life' is mentioned in Proverbs and perhaps Ezekiel, before we find it again in Revelation here and later, in the city of God, in Revelation 22.

You could make the case that the tree of life is eternal life through Christ.  The Bible looks backwards and forward to Christ, who stands outside of time, as 'the Lamb who was slaughtered from the foundation of the world' (Rev. 13:8).

The reward or promise and provision for those who stay in their first love or return to it when they stray, is to eat from the tree of life.  It is interesting that if the tree of life symbolizes Christ, what the promise is saying is that if you stay in the love of Christ, you get more of Christ.

The alternative would be that if you leave the love of Christ that got you started, and somehow get involved in religious obligation or legalism, doing the right thing for the wrong reason; Jesus will remove your lampstand.  This is the penalty or result when we do not repent.

What does this mean: "I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent"?  Does it mean you lose your salvation?  I don't know if it means that.  Figuratively, it might mean that you or you all, because it is a church, plural; will lose you light, your ability to shine real light or influence for Christ.

'Lights out', might mean no life or nobody is home.  It might mean asleep.  Maybe it is like Jesus is saying, "If you don't repent, I am pulling the plug on your church".  I don't know.

It is interesting that when we leave the love, the love we had at first, we are already 'pulling the plug' or ceasing to be connected to God in Christ.  But perhaps, Jesus keeps blessing people, ministries, or churches for a while, who become disconnected from the love that they started with; and then at some point in time, he says that this has happened and we need to repent, or he will remove his blessing.

This reminds me of Jesus' saying, "To those who have much, more will be given.  But to those who don't have much, what they do have will be taken away."  The secret is that we determine how much we get and he encourages us to get more.  The person who is passive or purposely does not seek to get more will lose the small amount they do have.

You could make the analogy to food or produce and farming.  You get more by harvesting and planting.  If you don't get out there are pick the produce and plant more and do all the things farmers do, then your crops will shrink from small to none.

Same thing with your livestock.  If you don't feed and tend to your animals, they will die of be lost.

If Christ is the tree of life, then the reward or blessing; the promise and provision from living loved, is more love.  Christ and his love is never boring and it is limitless.  The experience of his love and the love of the Father through him is deeper and wider than we can explore in our lifetimes.

When we come into the love of God through Christ, we have entered into eternal life.  If begins here and now, then continues into eternity.

The simple love leads to a life of deeper and wider love.  It does not get complicated, but is does go into depth, insight, and wisdom.  When we leave love for works or cerebral knowledge, the leaving the love part is a problem.

The tree of life that is promised to the Christians or the church that conquers, is victorious, or overcomes through faithfulness to living in the love that they started with; could be called 'the deeper Christian life'.  That deeper life is more from God that we started with.  And God has a catalogue or warehouse of gifts and blessings that he wants to give us, that are in Christ.

The mistake we make is to somehow leave the love that we started with.  And it is funny that conquering, victory, or overcoming is had by simply staying in the love that got us started.  The tree of life is the Father's love in Christ.  The fruit of that tree is the Father's love that is shown through Christ.

That is the bread of life that we must eat daily.  This is also our greatest weapon that gives us victory and overcoming and conquering in our lives.  Living loved and knowing the love is the key to living and is what sets captives free.

Salvation, deliverance, and life comes from that love.  Wisdom, joy, and peace come from that love also.  To eat from the tree of life reminds us of every good thing that is from him.

Eating from that tree of life brings us into Philippians 4:8, of thinking about what is true, just, pure, lovely, and commendable; of moral excellence and praiseworthy things that are from the Lord.

If the tree of life is Christ and we have Christ within us, we can access it and partake of the fruit anywhere and at any time.  We neither have to wait to go to heaven nor hope for a special spiritual experience or visiting heaven.  We have Christ within us and can eat his fruit, as our daily bread.

His life is our life and that is the tree of life.  Don't think that eating from the tree of life is an unusual gift, showcased is Jesus' word to the Ephesian church of Revelation 2.  It is for all Christians (2 Cor. 1:20).

Back to this issue or word 'conquer'.  The ones who conquer get to eat from the tree of life.  Don't let that sound like a good work or zealousness that is ever outside of our first love or love we started with.

He conquered death and the enemy.  When we realized who Jesus was and when he initiated our salvation, or personal salvation experience, we got involved, through his love, God's love through him; with him.  His conquering was to take action, out of love for us.

Our conquering is to take action, in being faithful to him.  We do this by loving him with the love that started when we were first touched by his love.

Good things can be done, outside of loving Christ.  The problem with this and the problem Jesus has with this for us, is that if we do things and live a certain way that might be good, but it is not from and out of his love, then it is not Christian.  We might identify as Christian and be church people, but we are really humanists or socialists or fill in the blank.

Jesus stern words are that if you want to do good and even hate evil, but it is not from the love that he loved you with that saved you, then he will remove your lampstand or shut off the lights in your church.

He is looking for a people who simply love.  Those who have been saved will love others in that love from the one who saved them.  And eating from the tree of life symbolizes partaking of the life of Christ and becoming deeper and wider in the love that started our lives in Christ.

The way in is the way on.  The love that started us is the love that we go on in.  We never leave the love that started our lives, but take it with us.

There is a tendency we have to let the love grow cold or be taken for granted.  We always need to circle back and revisit that love, rekindle it, renew it, be thankful again for it; and the person from whom it is from and through.  Relationship to Jesus must be nurtured and renewed, celebrated, and made sacred again and again.

Teaching By Asking Questions (Teaching Like Jesus, pt. 8)

I have a question for you...
-Matt. 21:24, Mark 11:29, Luke 20:3

In my opinion, it is good when a speaker, whether it is just your friend across a table, or someone speaking to a huge audience, asks us questions.  It is bad when someone asks no questions, but just teaches you, lectures you or tries to entertain you.

Think about the best comedians or Shakespearean soliloquy/monologues.  They ask the audience questions.  They ask us to enter into the story.

The best experiences are when we are drawn in.  We say, "Yeah, that happens to me".  And the questions draw me into whatever the speaker is talking about, so that we can be together in it.  Saying, "have you ever ran out of gas?", "burned your toast?", "been honked at?", "been given a surprise?"; all draw me into your story or the story in teaching that you are asking me to go on.

If you have ever watched a TED talk, the speakers ask you questions to draw you into the story about what they are sharing or teaching.  That is called compelling.

Everything that we say that is compelling is not a question.  I am not sure if the Gettysburg Address has questions in it or if good eulogies need to have them to be compelling.

According to Hermann Horne, Jesus asked about 100 questions, in the Gospels.  The homework for this study, would be for us to go the Gospels and circle all Jesus questions.

Jesus is the answer.  But Jesus came to ask questions and give answers.  Why?

His questions are meant to stir us up to thinking.  Education is when we think and learn something.

I personally believe that good teaching involves asking questions and I like that style.  I used to listen to a preacher on the radio that began every message with, saying, "Question", then he would ask a question, that was what his message was about.

Questions lead to dialogue, learning, and community.  I would say that in dysfunctional families or relationships, we don't ask questions.  Dysfunctional parents or teachers do not ask questions or encourage questions that educate, cause growth, or nurture community.

Curious people are thinking people who ask questions and are growing.  Great teachers or leaders tell us things, and also ask us great questions.  And the best teachers and leaders also encourage their students or followers to ask questions, and they refuse sometimes, maybe often, to answer them.

This is one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke


Learning to teach Like Jesus series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Notes on Suffering From Job, By Chambers & Peterson

Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.
-Job 1:20-22

This is a follow-up on why we can not and should not try to fix people.  (You Can't Fix People)  There is a whole book on this in the Bible, called Job.  It is the story of a good guy who had bad things happen to him.

Here are notes and quotes, full of sage advice and Christ centered wisdom about how to approach suffering, from first Oswald Chambers, then Eugene Peterson.

These are some notes or quotes from Oswald Chambers book on Job called, Baffled To Fight Better.
  • The sympathy which is reverent with what it cannot understand is worth its weight in gold.
  • It is not what a man does that is of final importance, but what he is in what he does. The atmosphere produced by a man, much more than his activities, has the lasting influence.
  • (A) man may utter apparently blasphemous things against God and we say, “How appalling”; but if we look further we find that the man is in pain, he is maddened and hurt by something. The mood he is talking in is a passing one and out of his suffering will come a totally different relationship to things. Remember, that in the end God said that the friends had not spoken the truth about Him, while Job had. 
  • All we can know about God is that His character is what Jesus Christ has manifested; and all we know about our fellow men presents an enigma which precludes the possibility of the final judgment being with us.
  • The pseudo-evangelical line is that you must be on the watch all the time and lose no opportunity of speaking to people, and this attitude is apt to produce the superior person. It may be a noble enough point of view, but it produces the wrong kind of character. It does not produce a disciple of Jesus, but too often it produces the kind of person who smells of gunpowder and people are afraid of meeting him. According to Jesus Christ, what we have to do is to watch the source and He will look after the outflow: "He that believeth on me,...out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
  • There are things in our heavenly Father's dealings with us which have no immediate explanation.
  • There are inexplicable providences which test us to the limit and prove that rationalism is a mere mental pose. 
  •  The Bible and our common sense agree that the basis of human life is tragic, not rational, and the whole problem for us is focused on this (in the) book of Job. 
  •  Job 13:15 is the utterance of a man who has lost his explicit hold on God, but not his implicit hold, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him." That is the last reach of the faith of a man. 
  •  Job's creed is all gone; all he believed about God is disproved by his own experiences, and his friends when they come, say in effect, "You are a hypocrite, we can prove it from your own creed."
    • But Job sticks to it, "I am not a hypocrite, I do not know what accounts for all that has happened, but I will hold on to it that God is just and I shall see Him vindicated in it all."
  • God never makes His way clear to Job. Job struggles with problem after problem, and providence brings more problems all the time, and in the end Job says, "...now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5): all he had hung onto in the darkness was true, and that God was all he believed Him to be, loving and just, and honorable...
  • Will I trust the revelation given of God by Jesus Christ when everything in my personal experience flatly contradicts it?"

These are notes from Eugene Peterson's book, The Message: Job: Led by Suffering to the Heart of God.

  • Job was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong.
  • He refuses to accept the role of defeated victim.
  • Job does not curse God.
  • Neither does Job explain suffering.
  • He does not instruct us how to live so that we can avoid suffering.
  • Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery.
  • Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love, and praise.
  • Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: "We take the good days from God- why not also take the bad days?"
  • Sufferers attract fixers the way road-kills attract vultures.
    • These people use the word of God frequently and loosely.  
    • They are full of spiritual diagnosis and prescription.
    • It all sounds so hopeful.
    • But then we begin to wonder, "Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they have said their piece?"
  • The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God's presence in our suffering but it is also our primary biblical protest against religion that is reduced to explanations or "answers".
  • Many of the answers that Job's so-called friends give him are technically true.
    • But it is the "technical" part that ruins them.  They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy.
  • In every generation there are men and women who pretend to be able to instruct us in a way of life that guarantees that we will be "healthy, wealthy, and wise."
  • He (Job) rejects the kind of advice and teaching that has God all figured out, that provides glib explanations for every circumstance.
  • Job's honest defiance continues to be the best defense against the cliches of positive thinkers and the prattle of religious small talk.
  • Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandized in success stories.  It is refined in the fires and storms of pain.
  • We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.
  • When we rush in to fix suffering (people), we need to keep in mind several things:
    • 1.  No matter how insightful we may be, we don't really understand the full nature of our friends' problems. 
    • 2.  Our friends might not want our advice.
    • 3.  The ironic fact of the matter is that more often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more.
  • When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.
  • Instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering... we should begin entering the suffering.
    • Entering the mystery and looking around for God.
  • We need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and if they will let us- join them in protest and prayer.
  • Pity can be nearsighted and condescending.
  • Shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.

You Can't Fix People

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.
-John 15:1-9

You can't fix people.  Have you discovered this?  It is futile to imagine that you can.

We get frustrated with others and want them to change.  We want them to get saved, become different, to move into Christlikeness and godliness.  We say and do things to try to get them to understand, to change.

We are trying to fix them.  We might even think that this is what discipleship or ministry is all about.  But we are wrong.

When we try to fix people, we are trying to save them, get them saved.  It sounds good and noble.  But we were never called to save people.

We are called to love people and let God save them.  This is what the vine and the branches analogy from Jesus is about.  He is the vine.  The vine is the source for the branches.

Branches have the vine on one side and fruit on the other.  And branches bear fruit because they are attached to the vine.  That fruit is offered to the world and the source of that fruit is the vine.

All that the branch does it produce fruit, by being attached to the vine.  The branch does not offer the power to make fruit.  The branch only offers the fruit.

When we try to fix people, we are acting like we are the vine.  And we further delude ourselves that we can somehow get our vine to influence that person to make good fruit.  But we are not the vine and that is not how it works.

We are called to love people and be fruitful.  God saves people.  Jesus saves.  The Spirit of God works to save people.

We share, we love, we forbear, and we stay in the vine.  When we leave the vine to try to be the vine, then we cease to bear fruit and become useless.

The fruit of Christ in our lives is mainly to love people.  We see every person as lovable and as a person God wants to and can save.

People might not be nice, they might be mean, annoying, or even doing evil.  We can most definitely say to them. "that's not nice", or, "that is wrong", or "stop that".  We can say, "what are you doing?" to someone who is doing something wrong.  We can stand up for someone being attacked, protect them, or shield them.

These are all good and fine.  But in all these, we need to know that we can not fix people.  We need to know this so that we do not try to force people to change (be fixed or saved) or we do not melt down internally into despair, because we do not see people change for the better.

We can forbear with rude people or ask them to not do the rudeness.  We can forbear with people who are rude with their cars on the road or push ahead and cut in line, in person.  Or, we can lovingly say something like, "excuse me", when someone cuts or we see them steal.

How do you stay in the vine and keep bearing fruit, as you witness someone stealing at a store or cheating?  What if a secret sin that someone is doing becomes known to you?  How do you respond, or do you respond?

How do you not fix people, not be their savior, but always bear fruit from the one who is the savior?  How do you live out the great commission, as a minister, but not fix people?

We are connected to someone.  We reflect him.  We point to him.

We speak his words, his language.  We are filled with the Spirit, who is all about Jesus.

People in our lives, all around us, need Jesus.  They need salvation, need to get saved.  And we always say or need to say, "I can not save you, but I know who can".

Meanwhile, here is what we can do.  We can give to people.  Give them sustenance, clothes, shelter, and help.  We might not have any of these, but we give what we have and what we can.

We give people attention.  We see them and listen to them.  We have to learn to see people and listen to them without trying to or needing to fix them.

Most of the time, we will not understand people.  We might think, "how will this person ever get saved?"  We're thinking they are too far gone or too alienated from God or too far into unbelief, deception or rebellion.

Stay in the vine.  When we get into despair, at people, we have to hold on tight to Jesus, who can save anyone.

A person who is a 'mystery' to you, how they could, can, or will ever get saved; is a 'my story' to them, before Christ.

You can not fix people.  But He can.  We hold onto him, and let him bear his fruit in our lives.

We can and do call upon people to get saved and to come to be saved.  But we do it as we hold onto Jesus and bear fruit.  We are always showing him off and expressing the reality that he saves and that people can get saved, because they are loved.

God Will Restore Your Lost Inheritance

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.”
-2 Samuel 9:7

Many people have lost inheritances that God is going to restore.  

You have thought about it and you have also worked on coming to terms with it, as your history, your story. 

I believe that God does restore lost inheritances.  God's kindness and graciousness knows no bounds with his children.  This is illustrated in the story of Mephibosheth, in 2 Samuel 9:

David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from the family of Saul I can show kindness to for Jonathan’s sake?” There was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”

“I am your servant,” he replied.

So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?”

Ziba said to the king, “There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.”

The king asked him, “Where is he?”

Ziba answered the king, “You’ll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.

Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, fell facedown, and paid homage. David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“I am your servant, ” he replied.

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.”

Mephibosheth paid homage and said, “What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?”

Then the king summoned Saul’s attendant Ziba and said to him, “I have given to your master’s grandson all that belonged to Saul and his family. You, your sons, and your servants are to work the ground for him, and you are to bring in the crops so your master’s grandson will have food to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.

Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do all my lord the king commands.”

So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table just like one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. All those living in Ziba’s house were Mephibosheth’s servants. However, Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem because he always ate at the king’s table. His feet had been injured.

This is the greatest illustration of grace in the Old Testament.  Chuck Swindoll said that.

Mephibosheth was about 5 years old, when his dad, Jonathan and his grandpa, Saul; were killed.  At some point, when he was little, he was accidentally dropped and both of his feet became crippled.

He was a special needs kid who also lost his dad and most of (all?) his family.  They died in the tumultuous war.  His grandpa was also in a civil war with David, his dad's best friend.

It was unknown, in the years that followed his dad's and grandpa's deaths, if Mephibosheth was loyal to his grandpa, against David.

Mephibosheth was born into a messy time, with a good dad, but also had a disability, due to an accident.  If things had gone differently, he would still have his dad and be in the royal family.  But the reality was very different.

Misfortune upon misfortune seemed to be Mephibosheth's fate.  Despite these, he found a wife and now had his own son.  When David summoned him, he might have imagined that this is it, he was about to be executed, since he was Saul's heir, and his son was about to become fatherless, just like he was.

But that is not what happened.  Instead, David reinstated Saul's lands to him, ordered a group of people to work that land for him, and gave him a place at his table (the king's table) permanently.

Reversal of fortune is what we call this.  Probably totally unexpected.  Kindness given, grace bestowed.

In this chapter, we have this word 'kindness' three times.  It is in Hebrew, hesed, meaning 'loyal love'.  This word is also used in Lamentations 3, where Jeremiah talked about just how bad things are, but then remarks that in the middle of this grief, that God is still good, dependable, and worthy of putting our faith in: 

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!

-Lamentations 3:22-23

This is what happened to Mephibosheth, encapsulated in 2 Samuel 9:7:
  • "Don’t be afraid", David said to him, 
  • "Since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan". 
  • "I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields", 
  • "And you will always eat meals at my table".
Four things, four points of interest to note here.

Don't be afraid.
    • God wants us to fear not.  Be at peace and be still.  You are not being punished.  What Mephibosheth went through was not punishment, but misfortune.  When God moves in your life, do not be afraid.  God loves you.
God is the kindest person you will ever meet.
    • God is kind and invented the concept.  Whatever you have been through or was taken from you, God's kindness has you covered.  God has been kind to you and is going to show you his kindness in a big way, when he restores your lost inheritance to you.
God restores what is lost.
    • This is a theme throughout the whole story arc of the Bible.  And this particular story emphasizes that again.  How and when God will restore and in what way, I can not say.  But what I can say is from the Bible, is that God restores.  Expect it and look for it.
To have table fellowship daily is one of the best parts of restoration.
    • This reminds us of Jesus story of the two sons.  The one asked for his inheritance early and squandered it.  When he came home, he realized that being with his father was the greatest reward and that his real inheritance was bigger than he imagined.  And the second son, who stayed home, lived with his dad and took him for granted and did not know how loved he was and what a treasure that sharing life and meals together was.
Something to think about is that God does not 'make it go away', as in putting us in a time machine, or turning the pages back and giving us a different history.  Instead, God redeems the bad things and restores us in relationship to him and restores the inheritance that was taken or jilted from us in misfortune.

Mephibosheth still had the disability and he still missed his dear dad.  But he was given back his life and got a new living, from David.  And he did not have to fear anymore.

He was about 5 years old when he lost his dad, and went into seclusion.  He became a nobody.  From royal family to pauper.

He may have been about 20 years old when David summoned him.  15 years had passed.  Despite the misfortune, he married and had his own little boy.

He had managed to find some joy perhaps, after so much loss.  How do you think he felt about God?

God is kind.  God is gracious.  This is a story of God's kindness and graciousness.

David loved Jonathan and I imagine he missed him.  I think he never had another friend that he loved so much.

And David was loyal.  He remembered who loved him before he had power.  He wanted to do something for someone, in the name of his friend, Jonathan.

God really cares and notices our loyalty to him and to each other.  Loyalty is a big deal.

Mephibosheth suffered losses that were no fault of his own.  He was in a certain family, and that family suffered losses.

His dad had been very loyal to David.  Mephibosheth's inheritance was lost when his dad died.  David gave that inheritance back and gave Mephibosheth a permanent place at his table.

I believe that God is going to restore our inheritances that were lost.  Because God is kind and gracious.

And I have seen God do it.

God is kind.  David illustrates or puts on display God's kindness.

The highest type of kindness, that is the kindness of God that we want to emulate, is spontaneous and self-motivated.  God's kindness or godly kindness in us, is based on who God is.  God in God and God in us.

We are not kind to people because they earn it or have shown themselves somehow to be good candidates for it.  Kindness is gracious.  We are kind and gracious, because of something internally in ourselves.  It is internal and self motivated.

God is kind because God is kind.  I am kind because God is kind.  And I want to have God in me, influencing me to be kind.

This is what Jesus was saying when he said, "Be merciful, because your Father is merciful".  We, who have experienced God's mercy are to be merciful to others.

David echoes God, in his actions towards Mephibosheth, in his kindness.  This is our lifestyle as well, to echo God.

The best basis for benevolence is the experience of the mercy of God.  Human organizations like charities that come to mind, that are not based on God's mercy are not the best.

Some people will be indifferent to your lost inheritance.  They will be content for you to stay in obscurity or in hiding from your destiny.  You might even be 'blessed' with friends like Job had, who tried to reason out how Job must have brought his misfortune upon himself.

Or you might be married to someone who totally does not get you or what God is doing in your life, like Job's wife, who urged Job to, 'curse God and die'.  And remember when Sarah was eavesdropping on the Lord speaking to her husband and cracked up, laughing at the absurdness of them having a baby, at their age?  These stories are actually very encouraging, showing that God works with weak people and loves them and puts his faith in them.

God is kind.  God is kind because God is kind.  And God is kind to us because of who God is.

David not only reassigns Mephibosheth's inheritance to him, but gives him a place at the royal dining table.  He is given the inheritance and promoted to a new level of relationship and intimacy with David.

It is the same for us with God.  God restores our lost inheritance and gives us an intimate relationship with him.  He does not just give us gifts, but 'he does not leave us as orphans' and takes us to live with him.

But wait, there is still more.  The inheritance re-assigned to you comes with provision.  Your inheritance comes fully staffed.

This is what happened to Mephibosheth.  A crippled man, with a wife and a small child, was not just given a large farm estate.  David also assigned a group of people to work it for him.

The name Mephibosheth means 'dispeller of shame'.  Dispel means to make disappear.  Perhaps this was Mephibosheth's destiny all along.

There was a lot of shame in being in the family of Saul.  He was very dysfunctional and acted crazy.  Like a rageaholic.

You might have an inheritance that you lost, that was supposed to come to you, from dysfunctional persons.  Maybe even a rageaholic.  To be raged at or to see someone in your family rage is shameful.

Growing up, while trying to process and understand what happened with your grandpa, who failed on an epic level, might give you some shame.  If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you might identify with this.

God heals our shame.  That's good news.  Jesus came to heal up our shame.

Mephibosheth does not have to be ashamed anymore, and you won't either.

This story also illustrates how God loves the fatherless.  We are all fatherless in a sense and get adopted into God's family, as His children.  But God particularly loves people who are orphaned.

He does not love them more, but there is more to love.  Deep wounds, deep healing, from deep love.

God is huge on covenants.  Covenants are very important.  David made a covenant with Jonathan before Mephibosheth was born, to be loyal to him, no matter what.

David missed his friend and his heart was tugged by that love and desire to do something loving and kind in his memory.  That is what started the ball rolling that resulted in Mephibosheth getting these blessings.  Covenant love.

This is illustrated in our lives today when we show kindness to our friends children.  Especially when our friends die and their kids come into some hard times.

I remember my dad's best friend, who tried to help me, because he loved my dad so much.  I really had no idea at the time.  But now I realize.

I was just a young man.  And he loved me, because he deeply loved, and honored my dad.  Wow.

His name was Gus.  He had a beard.  I first met him when I was very young.  I asked Gus if I could touch his beard.

Gus loved me and took an interest in me, because he loved my dad.  I had no idea at the time, except I liked him back.  He asked me to dinner one time, when I started working in Los Angeles.  He came and met me at a Sizzler.  He wanted to help me.  He was so kind.

God is kind.  God remembers.  God takes notice of when we have our inheritance lost.  God restores things to us that were lost.  And God provides for how it will all work.  He does not leave us as orphans.  And he gives us a permanent spot at his dining table, where we can continue getting to know him and his family and ask questions and become known.

God restores.  God is kind.  God is gracious.  And he dispels our shame.  Just look and you will see.  And it will happen to you.

Sky Links, 1-19-19