Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"The Joke's on Me!"

Laughing Jesus by Ralph KozakPsalm 15.1-5 “The Message”

Question: “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?”

Answer: “Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don't hurt your friend, don't blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You'll never get blacklisted if you live like this.”

David describes the qualifications of a true believer in this wonderful Hebrew poem. Its content literally defines integrity. God tells the writer (and his readers for the past 3,000 years): You can top “the guest list” if “you keep your word when it costs you.”

Have you ever made a pledge you wish you hadn’t? Someone relied on your word and your promise became too expensive to keep. What do you do? “Keep your word” or make excuses…
“Oh, well.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I didn’t realize what I was saying.”
“I was drunk.”
“Sorry things didn’t work out.”
“I said I was sorry!
“Can you drop it?”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“I forgot.”
Your character is at stake. You really have no choice if you want to preserve your integrity. Honor your word. It’s simple. Not easy, not cheap, but simple.

But wait. There’s more... As I drafted this very journal entry, I remembered I was supposed to be somewhere else. I was already quite late an appointment with a treasured client! In a panicky rush I called and apologized. My customer was super understanding. He gave ample grace and said he would wait for me.

I was haunted by my own high standards. While I was busy writing about keeping my word, my client patiently waiting for me to actually keep it. Ironic. 

I understand keeping my word is crucial to my witness as a Christian and, while I certainly do not wish to minimize the message of Psalm 15, there must be a deeper truth here. I did not keep my word because I truly forgot about an appointment. That rarely happens but it does happen occasionally. I was mortified. I literally hate making excuses, even honest ones.

Perhaps Jesus has a sense of humor. Sometimes I take myself too seriously. Forgetting an appointment reminded me of a secondary truth as important as keeping my word... nobody’s perfect, including (and especially) me. Jesus played a little joke on me to make this point. I needed grace and got it. I hope I remember that the next time somebody let’s me down and fails to keep their word to me.
_______________

The wonderful "Laughing Jesus" at the top of this post is by Ralph Kozak whose work may be viewed and purchased at http://www.jesuslaughing.com/.

Monday, July 22, 2019

"The Thing I Do"

Psalm 1.2-3 NAS

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, 
And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, 
Which yields its fruit in its season 
And its leaf does not wither; 
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

God is a promise-maker and a promise-keeper. Today He made another promise in the first chapter of Psalms. I’m told I will prosper in “whatever” I do.

The promise is, of course, conditional. The text presumes I “delight in the law of the LORD” and meditate in it “day and night.” I love the scriptures and I think about them frequently throughout my day and evening. Do I qualify for the prosperity God promised? I assume any believer who reads and meditates on God’s Word will be so blessed. There’s nothing magic or hidden in the passage. It’s a simple, fully disclosed, straight-forward promise made clear from the pages of a loving Creator’s Holy Book. I accept His gift of prosperity as an act of faith.

What if I choose to sin? May I assume God will prosper that decision? After all, did He not promise to prosper the one who meditates “in whatever he does?” Certainly not! The fallacy of this logic is apparent… the one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” will undoubtedly not want to sin. While he may, in fact, occasionally miss the mark, the committed Christ-follower is not defined by his momentary lapse of judgment but by his humble confession when he does sin, and his enduring desire to serve the Lord and delight in His Word.

When I was fourteen, I had a paper route. I delivered the Post-Intelligencer around 6:00 a.m. to over one hundred clients. I was a paperboy. That’s what I used to do. 

A few years ago, I ran a business therefore, I was a businessman. The intention of my business was to effectively serve customers and to remain profitable. That’s the thing I used to do. My business was my personal “whatever he does” activity. If I was asked, “What do you do?,” I answered with a description of my business. That’s what I used to do. 

This day and season of life is different. My wife was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). She was only fifty and too young to die. Ten months of chemotherapy did not work, and her oncologists finally gave her only a few weeks to live. Until she died and went to heaven, I was my wife’s caretaker. That’s what I used to do.

Today, I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization. I write, speak, counsel, and oversee addiction recovery groups. That’s the thing I do now. 

Today I am assured by the voice of God in the book of Psalms (chapter 1, verse 3) that in “whatever” I do, I will prosper. When I did business, my business prospered. When I took card of my wife, our relationship prospered. Now I serve 423 Communities International and take care of my children still at home, and I have faith that my endeavors and my family will prosper.  

Thank you Jesus.

____________________

Please check out our non-profit at www.423communities.org. Thank you. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

"Hay-AHK"

Job 39.24-25 NIV

“In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. 

At the blast of the trumpet he snorts, ‘Aha!’ He catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.”

When I was a boy I took Karate lessons at the Washington Karate Association school on the corner of 85th and 15th Avenue NW near Ballard in Seattle. Under the strong and capable leadership of Sensei Julius Thiry [1], I learned a little bit about respect and discipline. I have fond memories of my brief time at the dojo. I was especially fascinated by the sounds of karate... arms snapping against the heavy cloth ‘gi’ (uniform); students counting in unison, “ichi, ni, san, shi,…;” and the power shout of ‘kiai’ delivering focused energy into a single movement.

‘Kiai’ (pronounced key-eye) is a Japanese compound term combining the oriental word for mind, will, or spirit with the verb ‘to unite.’ It literally means to concentrate your spirit, unite your mind, and focus all your will on the action you are taking. A loud and unique ‘kiai’ (karate scream) often accompanies a well executed kick or punch. Some say ‘kiai’ is a secret esoteric Samurai fighting skill. Others believe the sound itself is enough to kill small animals and render an opponent helpless.

I am equally intrigued by a similar sound of the horse preparing for war in the above scripture verse from the book of Job. The stallion “cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.” “In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground” as he charges the front line of battle. At the blast of a bugle, the animal snorts its primal ‘kiai’ and gathers all its energy for combat.

Most English versions translate the word “Aha” or “Ha Ha” which loses all the intensity of it’s meaning for me. The original Hebrew word is ‘heach’ [2], pronounced ‘hay-ahk’ with a strong guttural emphasis on the last syllable. It’s an interjection expressing incredible determination and joy over the anticipated or realized defeat of an enemy.

‘Heach’ is the Hebrew version of ‘kiai.’ Try saying it now, loudly. Make it your war cry for the battle you will wage today in the name of your Savior, Jesus Christ. Let the sound of the word (hay-AHK) swirl in your brain. You are a warrior rushing toward the front lines of enemy territory. You are ready to lay your life down if necessary in the advancement of the gospel of God’s kingdom on earth. You’ve heard the call. You “cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.” “At the blast of the trumpet” make Satan hear and tremble at your shout of victory…

“Hay-AHK”!
_____________

[1]  For more on Julius Thiry and Washington Karate Association, see 
http://www.internationalshitoryu.com/aboutus/organization-chart/julius-thiry/.

[2] The Hebrew word ‘heach’ appears only 9 times in the entire Old Testament (Job 39.25; Psalms 35.21; 35.25; 40.15; 70.3; Isaiah 44.16; Ezekiel 25.3; 26.2; 36.2) and used mostly by God’s enemies as a term of ridicule against His people.


The image above is entitled “Rearing Horse” was drawn with red chalk by Leonardo Da Vinci (ca. 1493-1498) and is now on display at the Royal Library in Windsor Castle, England.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

"What are You Made Of?"

Job 36.15

“He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression.” NASU

“But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity.” NLT

In the wonderful comedy “Night at the Museum,” starring Ben Stiller as night security guard Larry Daley, the relics and wax figures come alive each evening after museum closing hours. To save the museum and its living artifacts from annihilation, Larry must confront his own sense of inadequacy. He seeks salvation from Teddy Roosevelt, played by Robin Williams, who responds, “Some are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them.” Larry complains he does not have what it takes but Teddy insists that he does… “I’m made of wax, Larry. What are you made of?”

Larry Daley and I have this in common... we both face difficulties we did not seek. Opportunities for “greatness” are “thrust upon” me when I least want them. I may choose to run from afflictions or embrace them. I might think I’m made of wax, afraid of melting under the heat lamp of troubles and persistent character defects. I probably won’t melt but I certainly will discover the truth about myself. Personal adversity will answer the all-important question for me: “What am I made of?”

There isn’t much difference between wax and flesh. Both are soft. Both can be burned and destroyed. Neither will last forever. In truth, I have every reason to be afraid. Just like the psalmist foretelling of the plight of Jesus, I am human with a heart like wax…

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.”
Psalm 22.14 NIV

I need salvation but I cannot save myself. Salvation comes from a source outside of me…

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven
that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4.12

“God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow… and that every tongue
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2.9-11

I need Jesus. Apparently suffering reminds me of that truth. It seems to make me more attune to His voice. Jesus opens my “ear in time of oppression.” He gets my “attention through adversity” and reminds me of my dependence upon Him.

The next time I “have greatness thrust upon” me, I will try to remember ‘what I am made of’. I am made of the essence of Christ who “lives in me” (Galatians 2.20) and through whom “I can do all things” (Philippians 4.13), “overwhelmingly conquer” all adversity (Romans 8.37), and “crush Satan” under my feet (Romans 16.20).

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Eye Covenant"

Job 31.1, 7-8 NIV

“I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

“If my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled, then may others eat what I have sown, and may my crops be uprooted.”

When I purchased my first iPhone I took a crazy number of pictures.  It was easy. Anytime the thought occurred to me, I pressed the camera app and captured the moment. 

The human brain functions like a camera. Our eyes are viewfinders. Once we’ve selected subject matter of interest, we fix our gaze and take a mental snapshot. It’s easy. Just point and shoot. The image makes an impression on our brain and we can pull it up anytime we choose. The photographic capacity of the human mind is amazing. If we direct our eyes toward that which uplifts and benefits us, we capture a cerebral image that will motivate us to achieve God’s best for our lives. For example, when I see a man treat his wife like a queen and his children with respect, I remember that. The idea is filed somewhere in my gray matter and reminds me to repeat that behavior with my own family.

There’s a danger also. If I am indiscriminate in my choice of subject matter, then, like Job, my “my heart has been led by my eyes.That’s not a good thing. My heart is my control center.[1] It should control my eyes, not the other way around. My heart is the operating system that makes everything else in my life work right. If my heart is “led by my eyes, marred by unwholesome images and past negative recollections, I set myself up for a fall. I must use caution in what I choose to look at or I will inhibit the flow of God in me and potentially destroy my life, as the Bible says...

“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4.23 NASB

In the words of Jesus…

“The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear,
your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole
body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you
is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Matthew 6.22-23 NASB  

Job “made a covenant with [his] eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

Q: Why would Job, or anyone, make a covenant with their eyes?
A: Clear eyes = clean heart = fulfilled human = effective follower of Jesus.  

____________________

[1] The terms "heart," "mind," and "brain" are used interchangeably in this post.  In ancient Hebrew times, the concept of heart and mind were synonymous.  The notion that all internal human processes merge to form a singular concept is common in ancient literature of the middle east. 
"The thinking processes of man are said to be carried out by the heart. This intellectual activity corresponds to what would be called mind in English. Thus, the heart may think (Est 6:6), understand (Job 38:36), imagine (Jer 9:14), remember (Deut 4:9), be wise (Prov 2:10), and speak to itself (Deut 7:17). Decision-making is also carried out by the heart. Purpose (Acts 11:23), intention (Heb 4:12), and will (Eph 6:6) are all activities of the heart."
Quote from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "Heart", copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Make a Difference"

The Almighty Dollar ain't that impressiveJob 29.2-6 “The Message”

Oh, how I long for the good old days, when God took such very good care of me. He always held a lamp before me and I walked through the dark by its light. Oh, how I miss those golden years when God's friendship graced my home, when the Mighty One was still by my side and my children were all around me,

When everything was going my way, and nothing seemed too difficult.

Contrary to prevailing opinion, most business owners I know are not single-mindedly committed to the pursuit of financial success. The “almighty dollar” is not the God they serve. The majority of people would rather “make a difference” than “make a buck.” A man solely committed to the pursuit of money is not a happy man. He sold his soul for a cheap replica of fulfillment and happiness.

Job was a man of high and noble intentions. He was dedicated to something infinitely more worthy than money. He wanted to make a difference in his community and leave the world a better place than he found it. It was not money he wanted, or the comfort, friends, and influence money could buy. Job longed to help people. He had the heart of a shepherd of souls, a pastor. In the midst of his most desperate suffering, Job cried for the return of “the good old days,” the times when…

“God took such very good care of me... everything was going my way,
and nothing seemed too difficult”

Why did Job want to return to the past? The obvious answer is those days were easier and more comfortable than his current affliction. But there’s more. In describing happier days, Job asserted...

This woman made a difference
“I was eyes to the blind and feet
to the lame, I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger, I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth. I was like one
who comforts mourners.”
Job 29.15-17, 25c NIV

Job cared for the plight of the blind, lame, needy, aliens, grief-stricken, and victims of abuse. His life had purpose and Job was happy.

The reflections of Job in the midst of his torment brings into focus the true reason for a dedicated life… to serve others in need with the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Then the righteous will answer Him,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty,
and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger,
and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
When did we see You sick, or in prison,
and come to You?’

The King will answer and say to them,
‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of
these brothers of Mine, even the least of them,
you did it to Me.’
Jesus, Matthew 25.37-40 NASU

Monday, July 15, 2019

"The Sexy Christian"

Job 20.20 NKJV 

Dr. Ted and Diane Roberts“Because he knows no quietness in his heart, he will not save anything he desires.”

About ten years ago my wife and I experienced what some would call an ‘oxymoron.’ We attended a “Sexy Christian Seminar.” Is there such a thing a sexy Christian? Apparently, there is. Married, born-again, Bible-believing Christians can have great sex and great sex can get even better. Together with about five hundred other attendees, we enjoyed three days and four hours of ‘R-rated’ Bible instruction at the feet of a super-dynamic Christian couple. Ted and Diane Roberts, who were nearing their fortieth wedding anniversary, inspired, challenged, and invited attendees to go deeper in their marriages. I literally wept and laughed my way through the lessons following which my better half and I put some of the material into immediate practice.

One of the seminar highlights was what the Robert’s called “Home Play,” combining the sexual term ‘foreplay’ and their expectation of ‘homework.’ (“Home Play” sounds better than “Fore Work.”) My wife and I were required to privately discuss answers to relationship questions after each session. It was wonderful to learn more about what motivates my dear woman. I rediscovered the joy of listening and found out she really, really likes it when I do. Our personal discussions were so enlightening that I caught myself admiring my wife and wondering, “How did I ever find such a fantastic woman?” I loved my wife and was always quite certain I was the luckiest man alive!

The Sexy Christian Conference wasn’t all fun and games. I had to do a little bit of hard work. I re-discovered what I already knew… a man’s anger is a royal turn-off to his wife. Even mild anger robs inner peace and sends out vibes that your mate wants nothing to do with.

Occasionally, I have an issue with anger. I don’t rant and rave and rage. I’m not a rage-oholic. You won’t catch me cursing and yelling and stomping around the house. But certain things do irritate me. I murmur inappropriate words under my breath in a traffic jam. You might hear me sigh heavily or whine a little when things don’t go my way. I can be easily annoyed and almost never keep my opinions to myself. It’s quite possible for me to grumble at a change in plans and, if don’t get my morning coffee, well, you might want to steer clear. I can be just a little huffy. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while even I think I act like a jerk. 

The worst part is, I seem to be getting worse as I age. Am I becoming a grumpy old man?  

I received a fresh insight from the Sexy Christian Seminar (which, by the way, was fully reinforced by my wife during Home Play). I learned a guy has a simple choice… he can act like a jerk or he can enjoy great sex but he probably can’t do both. Hmmm.

This morning I read my Bible and stumbled on this verse:

“Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.”
Job 20.20 NKJV

Clearly, high quality sexual intimacy with my wife was one of my fondest “desires.” Equally as obvious is the fact that even mild uncontrolled anger will rob a man of “quietness in his heart.” Allow me to paraphrase Job 20.20:

‘Because he is annoyed and irritable in his heart,
He will not enjoy the great sex with his wife.’

I found new motivation to correct this issue in my life. I am super thankful for…

  • the creativity of the Holy Spirit in revealing this truth to me.
  • the amazing patience of my wife during my slow learning curve.
  • the willingness of Ted and Diane Roberts to share candidly and transparently.

Thank you Ted and Diane.

____________________

Dr. Ted Roberts is a renowned pastor, author, speaker, and founder of Pure Desire Ministries International. He is also a co-recipient of the Telly Award for excellence in video and film production. I strongly and wholeheartedly recommend every married couple attend a Sexy Christian Conference near you. Find out more at http://www.puredesire.org/sexy/.

This is a re-post. Today my wife is with Jesus, having suffered and died from Leukemia at the young age of fifty. I wish I would have appreciated her more and better followed my own advice in this post when she was in good health. I loved my wife so very, very much, and I always will.   

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Speak Up or Shut Up"

Job 16.6 “The Message”

“When I speak up,
I feel no better;
if I say nothing,
that doesnt help either.” 

Nothing compares to the horror of Job’s plight, other than perhaps the sacrificial death of the Christ. Job lost it all… his possessions, his wealth, his children, his reputation, and finally his health. Even Job’s friends, who began their mission of mercy with an incredible display of understanding and sympathy, eventually added unbearable insult to Job’s tragic injury. They blamed him for his own demise. They held Job responsible for his pain and accused him of creating his own tortured story. Their advise was cheap and easy and, of course, entirely misguided.

What would Job do? Job’s mind and ability to form words were all he had left. Unfortunately it did not help to talk about it. Nor did Job benefit by remaining silent. Nothing worked to lessen the pain...

“When I speak up, I feel no better; if I say nothing, that doesn’t help either.”

On not-so-good days in some households, it’s either the ‘silent treatment’ or the ‘talk it to death’ approach. In Job’s case, the ‘no-talk’ rule certainly didn’t work. But talking about his problems also did not help.
 
Dr. Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, in her best-seller, The Female Brain (Morgan Road), claims, “A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000.” This statistic seems to prove what my wife and I used to experience routinely. I once informed my wife of the research proving men use less words in a day than women. She was familiar with the statistics. I presented the idea hoping she would learn to accept my typical pattern of grunting when she wanted to talk. It’s normal for men to use far fewer words than women I argued. My wife answered, “That’s because women have to repeat everything we say to men.” I said, “What?” and proved her point.

I started talking more with my wife. She really liked that. For some reason, communication with me makes her happy, and I always reaped the benefits of my wife’s happiness. Actually, I was fortunate that a woman as intelligent as my wife wanted to talk to me.

My wife suffered from incurable cancer and died way too young. In the last few months of her life, I savored every moment of communication I could get with her. Those are days I shall never forget. 

Sometimes you have to talk things out. Other times it’s best to say nothing. Each situation demands a unique response. Poor Job. Neither talk or silence worked for him.

“When I speak up, I feel no better; if I say nothing, that doesn't help either.”

Occasionally, I relate to brother Job. When neither talk nor silence seem to work, I assume that’s a signal for me to wait and listen to God. Maybe God will bestow the same incredible gift my wife granted me every day of our beautiful courtship and marriage. Maybe He will condescend and speak to me like He eventually did to Job. 

"In Search of the American Jesus"

Job 12.16 NAS

“With Him are strength and sound wisdom, the misled and the misleader belong to Him.


No one can mislead without followers who are willing to be misled. Mis-leaders need mis-followers. Mis-leaders, using skillful leadership principles, create dysfunctional organizations and mis-management teams to insure the on-going success of the whole mis-adventure. God is bigger than all our conceptions about Him and how He would do things. “The misled and the misleader belong to Him.” But that does not stop us from trying to create bigger and worse ideas about who Jesus is. It’s called “totemism,” the human tendency to form a conception of God in our own image, and it’s as old as civilization itself.

“Human beings… take the values and traditions that we most admire about ourselves and project them onto a totem. Eventually, we stand in awe of that totem and end up worshiping an incarnation of the things we love about ourselves. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor.’ ”[1]

The popular question “What would Jesus do?” can be very dangerous. Its answer depends entirely on who Jesus is. Strong leaders who invent Jesus in their own image form faulty conclusions and mislead others in their experiment of faith. Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, had a personal experience with this scary idea while on a short-term mission trip...

“…a group of children were preparing a skit from the gospel story they had read. They came up to me and said, ‘Shane, we need you to play Jesus, because you are white and from America.’ Ouch! God forgive us. Buddy Jesus has become a white American resembling Mr. Rogers.”[2]

Totem Pole by Tripleman
Sometimes we act just like the children preparing for a skit. We allow ourselves to become easily misled. Our continual search for the American Jesus who fits our image of who He should be makes us vulnerable to any mis-leader with a so-called new and better vision. Mis-leadership does not always happen intentionally. We want so badly to perpetuate a notion of Jesus who approves of the lifestyle we adopt and wish to maintain that we easily deafen ourselves to the true voice of Him who said, “Follow Me.”

Thankfully, both “the misled and the misleader belong to Him.” I trust the real Jesus will stand up every day and reveal Himself in stark contrast to the Jesus I want Him to be.


____________________

[1] The Irresistible Revolution ~ living as an ordinary radical, Shane Claiborne, Zondervan, 2006, p. 112.

[2] Ibid. p. 112f.

The painting of Jesus with a tie is called "The Conformist" (alkyd on canvas, 12" x 16", 2003) by Clifford Davis B.A. Hamilton College, M.F.A. Cranbrook Academy of Art. Mr. Davis is a faculty member at Rivier College in Nashua, New Hamshire, and kindly gave me permission to use his painting on this post.

The image"Totem Pole" was shot by photographer Tripleman at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia (http://www.tripleman.com/index.php?showimage=107).

Thursday, July 11, 2019

"From Womb to Tomb"

Job 10.18-22 NASB

from womb...“Why then hast Thou brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been, carried from womb to tomb.

Would He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer before I go — and I shall not return — To the land of darkness and deep shadow; the land of utter gloom as darkness itself, of deep shadow without order, and which shines as the darkness.”

Have you heard about the luckiest baby alive? According to an ABC channel 4 news report in Ogden Utah, Isabella Rose Mecham was born on July 7th, 7:07 a.m. at Ogden Regional Medical Center in Utah and weighed in at, you guessed it, 7 pounds, 7 ounces.[1] On 7-7-07 at 7:07 and 7 lbs, 7 oz. That’s more than seven 7’s! Even if you don’t believe in luck, still you have to admit, Izzy’s was pretty lucky for for the Mecham household.

Job wasn’t that lucky. For Job, life was a short gulp of fresh air between two bottomless oceans of dark nothingness. He begged God to leave him alone so he could die in peace. “Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer before I go… to the land of darkness and deep shadow.” Both Job and his advisers agreed…

“Life is but breath… When the cloud vanishes, it is gone.”
“Our days on earth are a shadow.”
Job 7.7-8; 8.9

In his despair, Job hoped God would shorten his hard life on planet earth. He actually wished he had never been born. If Job had his way, he would have been stillborn, carried directly “from womb to tomb.”

...to tombHave you felt like Job: “I should have been as though I had not been?” Like the rebellious teenager who argued with his dad, “I didn’t ask to be born!” and the exasperated father’s response, “If you had, the answer would’ve been ‘No!’”

Life is not always easy for anyone. No one gets out of here without a little (or in some cases a lot of) suffering. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female, present and past, natural born and aliens. Everyone suffers. Some think they’d be better off dead or never born. “At least a million people are estimated to die annually from suicide worldwide.” [2] Even Job felt forced to admit “...my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains” (Job 7.15).

What we know about Job, however, is that while he may have wished himself dead, Job did not choose to end his life. He waited patiently for the mercy and compassion of God to alleviate his suffering and, ultimately, that’s exactly what God did.

“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of
the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
James 5.11

None of us, including Isabella Rose, the luckiest baby alive, had the option of selecting our own birth date, time, or weight. Nobody ever asked to be born. It was not our choice. The option of heading directly “from womb to tomb” was never ours to select. In times of suffering, we can only acknowledge our pain, then pray and wait for the mercy and compassion of Jesus. It came for Job. It will come for you and me.
______________

[1] I originally found the story about Isabella Rose Mecham and her birthday experience at http://www.abc4.com/content/features/story.aspx?contentid=647acdaa-ffd8-4e0e-b4bf-73378b5fbbd1 on July 13, 2007. It is no longer posted there.

[2] "Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19", World Psychiatry, Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), June 2005, 4(2): 114-120 quoting from Bertolote JM. "Suicide in the world: an epidemiological overview", 1959-2000. In: Wasserman D, editor. Suicide - an unnecessary death. London: Dunitz; 2001. pp. 3–10.

"Through All This"

Job 1.22 NAS

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Somewhere around two thousand years before the birth of Christ there lived a very influential man. He was “the greatest of all men of the east” (Job 1.3) and his name was Job. Job was a good man “fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1.1).

Tragedy befell this good man. He lost all his money and possessions. His seven children died in a hurricane. Then he was stricken with “boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2.7). If this was not bad fortune enough, his wife urged Job, “Curse God and die” (Job 2.9). He sat in a pile of ashes scraping the oozing sores of his diseased body with the fragment of a broken clay pot (Job 1.8). Job was a broken man. Yet,...


Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God”.

I’ve lost a lot of money but never all of it. Some of my seven children went astray for a while, but I’ve never had a child die and go away forever. I’ve been sick, but giant boils have not yet covered my body. My wife has never advised me to deny God nor wished me dead. I’ve had plenty of bruises and taken my share of stitches, but I never had to scrape my bloody skin with a dirty piece of broken glass. I’ve been depressed but I never sat in a pile of ashes.

If I had been Job, I probably would have sinned and blamed God. I may even have agreed to “curse God and die” (Job 2.9). But not Job…

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Broken pots and pieces from Shea's Gallery on PicasaNone of my troubles have ever compared to those of Job’s. Nevertheless, I have sinned and blamed God for much lesser adversity. I’m not even as sympathetic as Job’s much maligned three friends. They wept out of pity for Job. I can’t remember the last time I cried for the misfortune of a hurting friend. Job’s friends tore their clothes and “threw dust over their heads” (Job 2.13) to identify in some small way with Job’s grief. I’ve never done that. And most amazing of all…

“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Job 2.13 NASU

Seven days! I’m lucky to spare fifteen minutes for a sick friend in the hospital and probably never went more than thirty seconds without talking. Job’s friends were more sympathetic than I will ever be and Job’s suffering is greater than any I will ever endure. I am inspired by a man who could wait for the mercy of God in the midst of his pain.

“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of
the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
James 5.11 NASU

Job and his friends offer me two lessons:
  1. Learn to suffer quietly with more dignity and less whining.
  2. Learn to better empathize and comfort my hurting friends.
No one gets out of this life without some suffering. “Through all this” I need to stop complaining and accept my minor suffering with courage and grace. I thank God for historical mentors like Job and his friends who help us get “through all this” whatever “all this” may be.

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God”.

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"Broken pot and pieces" is from Shea Lemley's Gallery on Picasa's Web Albums (http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/k2cr3xhQOLxiHM58hBJP0w). The image has been flipped and slightly tinted.