More musings on Bible reading

iuAbout that transfiguration – a resemblance to Mt Sinai there with the encounter with God and then coming down to find less than holiness and worship going on at the bottom.

Mark 10 – the Pharisees focus on the letter of the law, not the way the law reveals sin and the need for a redeemer. Bartimaeous immediately gives up all to follow Christ. But the rich young ruler prefers an “easy” set of rules to follow, not a sacrificial relationship where he must serve others. Rules are clean, relationships are messy.

Mark 12 – the parable against the Pharisees – they know it is about them but they don’t really understand it. They also didn’t dare ask Him to explain it, to help them see their sin and blindness and need for a savior.

Mark 16 – he rebuked their unbelief. He told them again and again what must happen.

Mark 15-16 and Ps 11 – My sin drove Him to the cross. My sin was paid for and cleansed. He lived a sinless life to be credited to me. He paid for my sins so I can be counted as righteous. He may test me to show me how much I need Him and that I can rest in His righteousness. Because I can do nothing on my own.

These thoughts, meditations, increase my love for Him, my acknowledgement of my deficiencies and great need for a Savior and a Redeemer. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon His beauty and to inquire in His temple, He is worthy of all praise and glory.

One final thought – so many stories tell how certain Christmas Carols were written in a quick moment to prepare for a Christmas Eve service, for example. Yet the theology is most of them is solid (not counting We Three Kings or We Wish You a Merry Christmas, for sure, think instead of O Little Town of Bethlehem and Silent Night.)

Yet we were listening to my Christmas gift of gospel songs performed by Elvis and kept looking at other over the weak and works-based theology that kept coming up. Just an interesting comparison. I’ll still enjoy listening to Elvis, but I will wish he had picked stronger songs to sing. 🙂

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Marriage

I grieve over people struggling in their marriage. Anthony and I both come from broken homes, and the parents of many of my friends also divorced. When we married, I didn’t have many examples of healthy, long-term marriages. It took a long time for me to trust Anthony wasn’t going to leave me, or wasn’t better off leaving me and all my brokenness. I’m grateful that he’s a stubborn man.

It didn’t help that I had drifted away from an established church and didn’t have someone to speak gospel truth into my life and marriage. Once we found our current church and sat under the Word for a regular period of time, the concept of the sacrificial love became easier to live out. You can’t have a marriage that is healthy and long-lasting without that sacrificial love. You have to give 100% and give grace to the other person every single day. And don’t think they aren’t having to do the same. Trust me, you are difficult to live with.

When we see a new couple starting out, we always try to share just a little bit of our journey. Year three was the hardest for us – the bloom had definitely worn off by then. But 23 years later we wouldn’t trade this marriage for anything. And Anthony has a hard road ahead of him, but he’s still glad for our marriage and would never consider walking off to an easier life.

I am seeing cancer support groups where the spouse checks out, cheats, or leaves and it breaks my heart. We have friends who whisper (“pray for us”) and it breaks my heart. We have friends who are admitting they screwed up but the other spouse is no longer interested, and it breaks my heart. Especially when there are children involved.

Invest in your marriage. Pray for your spouse, fervently, that you would love them more and serve them better. You can’t change them, but you can change yourself. Pray for help to change and be a better spouse. Don’t let the children’s activities, and stresses of colleges, life decisions, etc, keep you away from each other. Communicate and support each other. Always be your spouse’s best defender and cheerleader. Make it a point to look for and appreciate the good your spouse does and is. If they’ve become someone you really can’t like, pray harder!

(Obviously, if you or your children are being physically or emotionally abused, get out!)

I’m talking about socks on the floor, dishes all over the house, household maintenance not done, bills forgotten – all of it is petty. Let it go, get over it, pray and love.

Big crises can make or break a marriage. And I firmly believe, like your faith, it matters how you prepare before the crisis hits. If you back-bite and cast blame and resent each other now, a crisis will just give you even bigger opportunities to continue the same. If you trust and support each other now, a crisis gives you an opportunity to keep doing the same.

Anthony and I have always wondered how people can walk away from years of shared memories. No one else knows how you do things, or the jokes, or the friendships, or why your mother can push your buttons. Give it another try.

Cheating just hurts everyone. It leaves scars forever on the children. Don’t pretend it doesn’t. Leaving even if there is no cheating also leaves scars, breaks trust, and leaves everyone unsure how to be vulnerable with anyone ever again. Cherish your wife, respect your husband. I think that if you don’t spend lots of time during the week thinking about how wonderful your spouse is and then demonstrating it to them in a way they appreciate, you have work to do!

Stepping down from my soap box now. Not exactly how I thought this post would go, but my heart is breaking for so many people.

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To share or not to share

A cancer journey is a difficult journey. It is covered with decisions that you have to make, often with little time to think it through, and some decisions that get made for you.

One decision, which can be a huge one, is who you share the news with. I have one friend who admitted her church was really the only place she shared the news. They kept up with the details, supported and encouraged her, and celebrated her remission with her. Friends and most family outside that group never knew.

I heard from another friend who never told anyone but a very few close friends. He kept it very tight, since I had never had any idea of his cancer struggle.

The first friend told me about her decision very early in my journey and it prompted me to start thinking about what I would or would not share. We did start a CaringBridge entry to help friends at church keep up. Since I’m a regular attender and sing in the choir, etc, it was very evident I was not at church so there was no keeping it a secret from them. I also told my mom, sister, and one aunt and 2 high school friends. I hadn’t decided what to do yet about work. I had 2 friends there who did a fantastic job of protecting my privacy while I was thinking it through. I had to let women in the denomination know because I had duties there that I could no longer perform.

The key here seems to be that the more things you are actively involved in, the harder it is to keep this a secret. After 6 months of short term disability and then approval for long term disability, people at work needed a fuller picture of why I was not coming back (although a few still see to be holding out hope that I’ll return).

I had sort of decided I didn’t mind going fully public, it would really be the best way to let people know that I had a terminal cancer that wasn’t going to go away quietly, when a friend posted a photo of me where it was very obvious I had lost tons of weight and I looked very sick! That sort of let the cat out of the bag and I received several messages from people seeking details. CaringBridge came in very handy at that point. I just started pointing people that way and then let them come back to me after they got caught up.

It was at this point that the second friend above contacted me to let me know he could relate to the cancer journey and had not told anyone. By that point I was getting at least one card a day from someone, plus phone calls, text messages, and comments on social media and CaringBridge that brought me so much encouragement and love. I couldn’t imagine wanting to keep this private and miss out on the warmth that so many wanted to share.

That doesn’t mean I think everyone has to share all, or anything at all. It is still a personal choice dictated by the person and the circumstances. And I am still uncomfortable some days with the level of detail I should share, how long people will still be interested, and what purpose my sharing has. Every post on CaringBridge, and certainly every post on this blog must have a purpose, an intention. Sometimes on CB it’s as simple as updating on the result of a surgery or procedure people knew was coming up. Sometimes I’m down and need to remind myself of the many blessings I receive every single day, and writing a CB entry is a sure way to feel better.  Usually on this blog I have something a bit deeper and not specifically cancer related that I’m thinking through and writing helps me think. Or, like this post, it’s just to share one thing others may want to be prepared to think about when life goes sideways for them in the future.

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

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Isaiah 14 and Ozymandias

Isaiah 14 reminded me of the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley called Ozymandias.

Mighty is capitalized, but the original shows most proper nouns are capitalized, so not indicating that this is directed at God. But it could be based on the pompous statements.

Studying this poem online shows that Ozymandias was a known name for Ramses II in Egypt. I don’t remember learning that in high school.

The poem covers the transience or temporary nature of rulers and even civilizations. Look and despair could mean “I’m too big for you to beat” or “it’s all gone, nothing lasts”.

Pride – is it necessarily bad? Maybe in light of the cruel sneer and passions coupled with great authority that lead us to see Ozymandias as a tyrant, not just a powerful ruler.

All that striving does seem pointless as so little survives beyond on generation.

It seems civilizations that try to expand and conquer others fall more quickly than those content within their border. Even when invaded they eventually re-form. Like Israel after exile, and the soviet satellites with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Art isn’t necessarily about resembling as much as recording or even interpreting.

The vagueness of the encounter between the poet and the traveler reminds me of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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Notes on this week’s Bible reading

iuI am using the Church at the Cross Reading plan (see link to right) and have caught up with the December Advent readings. It’s been interesting to be in Isaiah and Mark, and I’ve come up with some thoughts and questions (not necessarily answers) that I thought I’d put down in a blog post.

Is 5 referred to Is 27 so I skipped ahead. That chapter talks about God defeating Leviathan definitively. I thought of this in light of the readings in Job that I mentioned 2 posts back. Does this indicate that the agents of chaos will no longer be needed so they will all be destroyed? I know the commentator in Job was comparing Leviathan to God, but the point to the passage was that chaos is a part of creation at this time until all is brought under dominion. Anyway, interesting thought.

Isaiah is constantly switching between descriptions of punishment and descriptions of the blessings to come for the remnant.

Is 13 – the day of the Lord will be an awful day (hard, threatening, and full of awe).

Mark 1-3 – did Jesus and John spend much time together at family get togethers? Did they know each other well before the baptism? John seems to accept who Jesus is easier than mother and brothers as his ministry starts. Questions came when John’s life was in danger.

The time is now come for Jesus to start his ministry – seems to be based on the arrest of John the Baptist. The last of the Old Testament prophets, signaling the end of an age and showing Israel still doesn’t know how to treat the messengers of God.

The scribes didn’t teach with authority? Or at least not with the spirit filled authority of Christ.

Peter’s mother-in-law is healed and she gets up and serves them, fulfilling her duties as hostess. And probably very grateful to be able to repay (not earn), to express her love.

After so much activity and attention, he went away to pray. He was constantly in prayer, but also needed quiet devoted time.

Moves on, doesn’t try to heal or fix everyone. They are temporary fixes anyway. He is here to bring eternal healing and salvation.

Plethora of demons during this time – due to the incarnation?

Spreading the news prevented him from going to some places so some people didn’t get to see him. Even the demons yell out his identity. Do this knowing it will make his ministry more difficult?

Mark 4 – The storm and the boat. Is he rebuking how afraid they were and how they approached him? Should they have calmly asked if he could do something? Should they have had the power and authority to handle the storm since he seems to treat it as a demon and he has just selected them in order to start sending them out?

Mark 5 – here he actually tells the man to tell others what has happened? Why the change? Because such a dramatic witness to the grace and mercy, not just a simple healing?

Yet then he heals Jairus’s daughter and say tell no one. Yet people knew she was dead and now she isn’t. He can’t keep this one a secret.

Mark 6 – no honor in his hometown. Marveled at their unbelief that “limited” his power.

Walking on the water and “meant to pass by” – he expected to be recognized, seen, and stopped. Allowing them to invite him onboard (per Hendrickson).

Why do they not get it yet? He’s so normally human? Not the type of Messiah they would pick? It’s such a gigantic concept?

Mark 7 – went into Tyre just for this appointment with the gentile mother? A few more short trips seem to follow the same pattern.

Mark 9 – he tells them he will rise from the dead. They don’t get it but they don’t ask about that. Instead they come up with some question about Elijah. Even then he includes a comment about his suffering and they still don’t ask what he means.

Calvin indicates the father seems to be saying “can you, just another prophet, do anything? Your disciples can’t” And the scribes had been there arguing that Jesus was just a man. No wonder the father is doubtful. But Jesus explains his power is inexhaustible and puts it back on the father’s faith. The man is starting to figure it out and realize Christ is someone more. He believes (something) and recognizes he needs help to believe more and more clearly.

Jesus again says he must die. They still don’t understand but instead of asking, they argue about who will be first. And they don’t even understand what they want to be first in.

Abrupt sentence re: hell for those who sin and then discussion of fire not quenched to suddenly talking about salted with fire. Seems to be a contrast of believers vs persistent sinners. We should be purified and then be salt to the world. To lose that is tragic,

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Meditations on James 4:1-10

I’m reading a new book on God’s battle plan for the mind about meditation on His Word. So far it does a good job of explaining what is wrong with far eastern meditation and what is different and right about biblical meditation. Meditation should be intentional, considering God’s word, and lead to practical application. Sunday morning during the sermon on James 4:1-10 I was meditating on the scripture and taking pastor Lee’s preaching into consideration as he moved through the verses.
To remind you, here are those verses.

James 4:1-12 (ESV)

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

My first contemplation was actually that these verses describe a family member who is struggling with anger, a sense of being a victim. He occasionally gives in to the fallacy that destroying someone else’s day by accusing them (again) of ruining his life and betraying his trust will make him feel better. When we refuse to participate in that activity, he then feels victimized by us because we don’t understand him or support him.

I wanted to explain these verses to him and help him understand that he will continue to suffer until he stops thinking of himself as a victim and wanting some form of reparations from all the people who have hurt him intentionally or accidentally. He desires but doesn’t know how to ask, he covets but what he wants is not well defined and not biblical. Revenge or inflicting pain on someone else is not the way to healing.

But the point to listening to a sermon or reading scripture is not to think of all the other people that need it. I turned my thoughts to myself and thought of times I get frustrated or pick a fight with Anthony. I realized one area where I have strife and quarreling is my failing independence. Since the surgeries in May I have been increasing my independence and doing things for myself more and more. It’s easier, it’s comforting, and it gives me a sense that I’m still a capable person, not an invalid.

But the neuropathy is now taking away some of my independence. I can’t button a shirt or sweater very quickly. I may or may not be able to get a necklace on or off. My weak hands can’t open some Tupperware or packages. The other night I really wanted to get into a covered bowl of food but after struggling for 5 minutes I just could not get the lid off, Jim and Madeleine were right upstairs so all I had to do was take that bowl to one of them to get it open but instead I threw it back in the fridge and said never mind. I’m having to use my teeth to open one of the packages I uses for my TPN every night. There has actualy been someone else in the house every time I’ve done that but I won’t ask them for help.

Plus, my ileostomy bag has leaked once a week for the past two months. In fact, it leaked between that last paragraph and this one. And it is messy and frustrating that no matter how careful I am and how many times I go to the bathroom, it still goes crazy and leaks on me.

While thinking about these verses and these frustrations on Sunday I started to cry, seeing my sin and my self reliance causing me to rebel and allow frustration to get the upper hand and not being humble enough to let others help me when they are more than willing to do anything for me, and all I need is something as simple as opening something for me.

Tears of anger at another leak or a recalcitrant container need to give way to tears of repentance and gratitude at all God has given me. He has given me life. He’s given me wonderful friends, lots of them. He’s given me doctors who can give me a pretty good quality of life. He asks me to turn to Him, rely on Him, and trust Him.

I believe, help my unbelief. I trust You, increase my faith. I love You, help me love You more. I need you, help me admit my reliance on You. I rest in You, ease my restlessness. Thank you, increase my gratitude for all You are and all You give me.

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Job – patron saint of suffering

Retribution Principle (RP) – the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper. Do you believe this is how the universe works? Maybe at least a little? Of course, we all know plenty of wicked who seem to prosper and plenty of righteous who seem to suffer. But is there a tiny little bit of us that thinks it’s unfair when good people have trials and suffer? Laura’s a good person who does so much for our church, it isn’t fair that she got cancer. Or maybe you know a family that is essentially a good family and it’s wrong that a car accident killed the father? Or some similar tragedy where it just isn’t fair that there is pain and illness and suffering. Just look at the prayer section of our bulletin for examples. Not that we go so far as the name it and claim it prosperity gospel. But it just seems people shouldn’t suffer so here on earth. Except, of course, that Jesus promised we would all suffer, so He seems to think the universe works differently.

Great Symbiosis – gods reap benefits from the labor of the humans and the humans reap benefits from the favor of the gods. A works based religion, with rules the humans may not even know about they can run afoul and incur wrath.

Have you ever struggled to understand the book of Job? I know I have. Somehow, I can’t make the 42 chapters cohere into a logical story. Partly because I don’t read all 42 chapters at once, partly because some of the bombastic speeches make my eyes glaze over, partly because I’m not sure what I’m looking for. Job is considered part of the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. I don’t usually see how Job is anything like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes so I struggle to get the wisdom out of it. I also used to think it was supposed to be a comforting book, and it isn’t really. Why does Job lose everything and God allows it, why are his friends so useless, why does Job complain so much, and why doesn’t God actually answer any of Job’s questions? It’s a confusing book in some ways. (I also learned that it is incredibly difficult to translate, so many of the words and phrases are guesses. There isn’t enough extant literature that uses those words to know for sure what they mean in these contexts.)

Recently I’ve been reading Job and the NIV Application Commentary and I want to share some of the insights I’ve gotten into how the book of Job may work. I’ll share some of the themes and progressions, the mistakes and the correct ideas about God. The author of the commentary also raised some challenging questions that I’ll bring up. Not questions with easy answers, but questions we should consider. Because I now understand why Job is called Wisdom Literature. It isn’t meant to comfort us, it’s meant to train us in how to think about God and how the universe runs. So that when we do run into suffering and trials, we have a better foundation to stand on so we aren’t rocked quite as hard.

The book starts with the Accuser (Satan?) coming into the courts of God and challenging Him with the fact that of course Job worships God, he gets immediate tangible rewards. Who wouldn’t worship God if they could get that kind of response. And notice that it is actually God who brings Job into the conversation. God is in control of all of it from the very beginning. He allows the Accuser to take all his wealth, his children, and even his health. He already has a challenging wife, who suggests he just curse his God and die to get it all over with. Remember, she lost all her wealth and children, too.

One of the first things we learn about Job himself is that he makes sacrifices to God just in case his children sinned. He believes in a God of justice, who runs the universe in a just way. He thinks Justice is the primary attribute of God when it cones to how the universe was set up to run. Not necessarily that the wicked suffer and the righteous prosper all the time, but that there is justice in God’s actions eventually.

Job’s friends believe in the Retribution Principle I mentioned above. They think God and the universe can be explained by the wicked suffering and the righteous prospering. This is why they are convinced Job must have sinned in some way to bring this all upon himself. And if he would just confess and repent, God would make it all right again. They also think the making right means getting back all the benefits. Unwittingly, they are agents for the Accuser trying to get Job to worship God just for the good things He does and gives. Their speeches reflect this misunderstanding of God over and over. Job knows better. He doesn’t think he’s perfect and holy, but he knows this suffering is not the result of sin. This is an important thing to remember. Not all suffering is the result of sin. When you see someone suffering, don’t assume they have some unconfessed sin. And unless you are a close mentor of that person, don’t even mention that as a possibility, Trust me, the person suffering has already examined that possibility and they don’t need well-meaning strangers accusing them of hiding some unconfessed sin.

So, we have the friends who are clinging to the RP, and we have Job who is clinging to Justice. But Job doesn’t seem to be getting much justice, so he laments and cries out. What he never does is ask for his stuff back. The Accuser is proven wrong because even at his lowest point, Job wants his relationship with God back, he wants justice, but he doesn’t want his wealth and cattle and donkeys back. The Accuser fails and God wins this argument.

But Job is still confused because God is not treating him justly. And his friends are so far off track he stops even trying to correct them. Job had experienced a hedge of protection from God. He now complains that there is a hedge preventing him from understanding God’s reasons. Like all of us, Job wants a reason for his suffering. Why is this happening to him. He would do better to ask what he should be learning or how God would want him to respond to this suffering. God doesn’t promise us reasons. In fact, the book of Job seems to tell us that God doesn’t always have a reason. He always has a purpose and He carries that out every time. But there may not be a reason like unconfessed sin or showing some big miracle to God’s glory, or to teach a lesson or stop a sin. These are all valid reasons that God sometimes indicates are part of the suffering. But not necessarily every single time. Our time and energy spent searching for a reason distracts us from the more important work of trusting God and turning to Him for strength to endure in a dignified manner, as a Christ follower. That trusting and obeying is hard, and even harder if you haven’t prepared yourself for the fact that there may be no reason and that suffering is part of life here in this fallen world.

Why does God allow it? Job seems to decide that God is capricious, with no reasons, and harsh because He allows this suffering of His faithful servants. But remember, if God didn’t allow for sin and the results of sin in this world but instead made it a holy perfect world, there would be no place for us sinners. We wouldn’t exist. He is gracious, and patient, that no one be lost. When there is suffering, instead of seeing it as evidence that God is heartless and mean, we should instead see it as evidence of God’s grace and mercy to all, saved and unsaved alike. There is still life and life is, in general, good.

One thing we know God wants from us is to depend on Him completely. No matter the reason, one consistent purpose of suffering and trials is to cause us to lean on God more and more for strength to endure, patience, faithfulness, and trust. While the friends remain mired in their convictions, Job is moving. Though immersed in pain, he is not stuck. What goads and guides him through his pain is simply the determination not to let God off the hook for a moment. This should be us. I’ve talked about lament before. How the Israelites were very much in God’s face with their complaints about perceived injustices and needs. The book of Ruth shows us lament and how to join someone in lament without heaping burning coals on their head. The week of silence in Job shows us a way to join with someone in lament. Many of the Psalms are lamentation Psalms. God can take it when we come to Him with our questions and doubts and fears and struggles. But we must do so with trust and a desire for increased faith and strength to endure. There is hope, because there is God. Not just hope in a world to come, but hope for comfort and love here and now. In the book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth got their evidence of God’s love in the daily living of gathering food and finding family. Not just some far off hope of dying and going to another world of milk and honey.

Job continues to state reality, while his friends cling to the RP. But Job begins to make very wrong assumptions about God’s motives and methods based on these facts. Misinterpretation leads Job far away from the true God and for this God will bring him to account.

From the commentary, chapter 27:

Can we accept our (presumably) innocent suffering and the success of the wicked, based on the opportunity they provide us to learn godliness: forgiveness, humility, patience, joy in adversity, resilience to circumstances, understanding of sin, reliance on God’s strength, empathy with others, appreciation of simple joys, and any number of other character-building qualities? I would reply that they do not offer reasons for suffering, but they may give us some recompense for the fallen circumstances that we endure; bringing good out of evil does not redefine evil as being good. Suffering can produce personal growth like nothing else, but certainly there are times when suffering produces, not maturity, but loss of faith, loss of confidence in God, loss of resolve to pursue godliness, bitterness, and disposal of all virtue and values. In light of these two diverse responses, we might do well to ask, not “Will I suffer in life,” but “What kind of sufferer will I be?”

Chapter 28 is likely the narrator, not Job or one of his friends. It is where we turn from the question about whether Job’s righteousness is disinterested (he’s proven it is), to the question of whether there can be coherence when people suffer. Does it make sense to humans in this world? God focuses on causes, not effects. Chapter 28 seems to show, and the book of Proverbs and even the book of James seem to reinforce that God built the universe on wisdom. He says it is good when it reflects wisdom, not justice or a retribution principle.

While we can’t assume there is justice or a reason behind our suffering, we should assume there is wisdom. We can search for that wisdom, but we should recognize that God’s ways are not our ways and we are not capable of grasping all that He is and does. This is why trust is our primary function in suffering. We should give God the benefit of the doubt, because He has proven He is worthy of it. We know He has a purpose, even if it is not revealed to us. We know His universe runs on wisdom, even if it is beyond our comprehension. Another good quote:

What does this path look like when life is going terribly wrong?

  1. Trust God rather than blame him or make demands of him for explanations.

  2. Trust God for strength to endure.

  3. Don’t expect it all to make sense.

  4. Channel resentment toward the fallenness of the world, not the God who has given all to initiate its redemption.

  5. Resist succumbing to the temptation to believe that you could run this world better than God does.

  6. Above all, trust that he is wise.

Chapter 31 concludes Job’s speeches and he seems to decide His righteousness is more trustworthy than God. He would rather cling to his righteousness and impugn God’s character by accusing Him of injustice. This is another example of how this book is not an example of how to handle suffering, but provides many examples of how people in the midst of suffering can misconstrue God’s ways and intentions, and typically selfishly put themselves above God. If we can’t trust God, then we think we can do a better job than He is doing. Dangerous thinking there.

One of the issues raised by the commentary is whether suffering is God using a testimony at the expense of the sufferer. I clearly think a good testimony may be a by-product of suffering. But my testimony is not enough to justify the suffering of myself and those closest to me who have to watch me suffer and suffer with me. There must be more to it than that. Not that I demand an explanation or a reason, but I trust that the purpose to God’s wisdom in my suffering is more. And there is also less. Really, it’s a fallen world and stuff happens. Not always with a grandiose reason or purpose, although I trust God will bring good from it.

Elihu comes in now to remind Job that he is not God and cannot be God, so he is wrong to judge that God must be in the wrong to protect his own righteousness. Elihu seems a strange interruption in the book, not having been mentioned before at all. But he contributes greatly to the coherence of the book, so it is not likely that he was just an addition by some other scribe at a later time. He seems to have a pretty important and central role in transitioning from the friends with their old-fashioned retribution principle, to the response from God that everyone has it wrong because they think they know all there is to know and can understand how God designed the universe.

Elihu does a good job of pointing out God’s complete self-sufficiency, He doesn’t need us at all, and our complete dependency, we can do nothing without Him, not even breathe. But again, his inferences from these attributes go astray. More examples of how people can misunderstand God and why just a good head knowledge of God’s attributes isn’t enough. We need to seriously and carefully examine our opinions and beliefs that we build on those attributes and compare them to the God of the Bible. Likely, our God is too small, too graceless, and we struggle to trust Him. A right understanding of God would lead to complete and utter trust and a desire to imitate Him more and more, not just identify rules to follow. But we must work hard at it, we can’t get there just listening to a sermon once a week.

The commentary then raises another question about how much involvement we believe God has. Does He micro-manage every single moment or is He involved at a slightly higher level? The commentator claims those who believe God micro-manages are not consistent in applying that belief. I don’t have an answer, but I found his comments challenging since I tend toward the micro-managing view of God.

Elihu’s opinion was that when anyone thinks of God as paying close attention to the details of our lives and micromanaging our circumstances, we are giving ourselves too much importance and trivializing God’s role in the cosmos. Yet what is the alternative? Do we believe that God is not really involved in the details and is only engaged in the larger issues? Here lies mystery. While we can err on the deism extreme or on the micromanagement extreme, we can also err by thinking we can sort it all out and figure out how God works or does not work. The error of “God too small” is committed when we misrepresent at one extreme or the other, but it is also committed when we think we can fully describe the nature of his involvement. To believe that his work could so easily be defined is to reduce him to something manageable. We must be content with mystery.

God finally arrives, in a whirlwind that indicates His anger. He rebukes Job, then says he spoke rightly so Job had some misunderstandings but at least said some things right about God. God first challenges Job to try to be God for a day, to keep up with all the moving parts, pointing out there are a lot more moving parts than Job’s little world. God’s description of Himself as Creator focuses more on bring order to chaos than actual material creation. It harkens back to the Garden of Eden where God created the world and then engaged Adam and Even in working with Him to bring more order to the world through their dominion. The commentary suggests the world is not completely ordered yet, it is a work in progress and our role should be to increase the order found in the world, which may mean facing agents of chaos. Which leads to the next section where God challenges Job’s accusation that God is a creature of chaos with no control. God claims chaos has a role in the world so not to discredit it so fast.

The commentary has a great description of Behemoth and Leviathan. Not identifying them as specific material creatures or even ancestors of existing material creatures. Instead he proposes that.

Job is compared to Behemoth (40:15). Job, like Behemoth, is the first of God’s works (cf. 15:7) and withstands all turbulence. God brings his sword against Job (40:19) and by a snare he penetrates Job’s anger (40:24). Yahweh does not speak of Job doing anything to Behemoth, but when the discussion switches to Leviathan, the first eight verses use the second person. I therefore suggest that Leviathan is to be compared to Yahweh (41:3, 10-11, 34) – he won’t beg you for mercy and won’t speak with gentle words; you can’t put him on a leash, subdue him, or rouse him. These all discuss what Job can’t do to Leviathan, and they are also things that Job must learn he cannot do to Yahweh.

This quote seems to summarize the point to the book of Job:

God’s answer to Job’s contention is not to explain when or why righteous people suffer. The cosmos is not designed to protect righteous people from suffering. Suffering is inevitable in a world where order has not been finally and fully established. A complete state of order cannot exist in a world where sin (one manifestation of disorder) is present at any level. Like Job, we may think that it is bad policy for righteous people to suffer, but we would, I suggest, be equally dissatisfied with the alternatives. The divine policy that we need to understand is not how God’s justice is reflected in the operations of the cosmos, but that he has brought sufficient order into the cosmos for it to be functional for our existence as his creatures, and at the same time has allowed sufficient disorder to accommodate the continued existence of sinful humanity – one of the forms that disorder takes.

We should not be looking for supernatural remedies to suffering but supernatural uses of suffering. I suppose this is one reason I do not personally expect a miraculous healing. I know God does heal, He does perform miracles, and great glory and witness comes from that. But the one purpose I do cling to is that God is wise and I am to trust Him and turn to Hhim for strength and increased faith. He has been faithful to give me that in abundance and encourage me to ask for more. God restores Job’s wealth not because He is rewarding him for standing firm, but because God delights in giving us good things. Sometimes the good things match what the world thinks is good. Sometimes the good things are a little more subtle and therefore usually more meaningful. Faith, patience, strength, trust, wisdom, love of God – all of these are the gifts He has lavished upon me in this season of suffering.

I want to end with a quote from the book Getting Involved with God:

Those seven days of silence are surely one of the most influential acts of pastoral care ever performed.

Cultivating the habit of silence should be seen as one of the special responsibilities of Christian community in a noisy world. It is a powerful means of fostering mutual encouragement among us, God has entrusted to us one another in this wilderness of pain and doubt.

That week of shared silence is a period of transition for Job. In it he finds the words to speak his whole mind, to admit the pain of all that he has suffered.

First, it means opening up a place for pain to do its work in our lives and then subside. Second, it means speaking honestly of pain, admitting it not just to ourselves but also to God, speaking our suffering as part of the confession of faith. Silence allows pain to penetrate our heart, “deep calling to deep”

Silence comes to us in grief as the comforter of whom we are afraid, for it invites us more deeply into ourselves, into the dark places in which doubts emerge and pain becomes fully perceptible, where loss can no longer be denied.

Silence is the friend who challenges us to be healed when we wish simply to be soothed. It heals us first by making us more empty, carving a space within our hearts, challenging us to-what? Trust that God will use that space and fill it with new life?

No – Job’s story forces us to put the matter more sharply. Trusting God is often a central preoccupation of the biblical writers, but not in this book. Rather, silence pushes Job to challenge God.

Posted in Bible reading, God is faithful | Comments Off on Job – patron saint of suffering

Task list 2015-11-30

images

Deacons/Church

  • Prep for next meeting Dec 6

Women’s Ministries

  • Get keys for Synodical Hall to Barbara?
    • Get address for next Secretary and mail directly to her
  • Update website with 2016 officers
    • ARPWM
    • FirstARPWM

Spiritual Goals

  • Read Knowing God by Packer
  • Read 2 chapters of Unglued (9&10)
  • Read 2 chapters of A Loving Life (16-17)

Marriage Goals

  • Date morning
  • Gratitude
  • Devotions at night

Homemaking Goals

  • MO in my office

Self-Care

  • P90X3 x 5 days
  • Fluids

Personal Goals

  • Blog goals
    • other posts

Deacons/Church

  • Prep for next meeting Dec 6
    • minutes printed
  • Women’s Ministries handbook completed and printed

Women’s Ministries

  • Get keys for Synodical Hall to Barbara?
    • Find another time to get them to a current officer
    • Will she get them to the next Secretary?

Spiritual Goals

  • Read Knowing God by Packer
  • Read 2 chapters of Unglued (7&8)

Marriage Goals

  • Date morning
  • Gratitude
  • Devotions at night

Homemaking Goals

  • Pumpkin Pie for Thursday
  • Brussels Sprouts  for Thursday
  • Clean sheets and towels from company

Self-Care

  • P90X3 x 3 days – not sure how chemo will impact this, can start back Wednesday
  • 3 hour nap Tuesday evening

Personal Goals

  • NaNoWriMo writing – Catch back up – working on that
  • Blog goals
    • #30DaysofLittleThings – now I’m behind
    • other posts
Posted in Task List | Comments Off on Task list 2015-11-30

Task List 2015-11-23

Deacons/Church

  • Prep for next meeting Dec 6

Women’s Ministries

  • Get keys for Synodical Hall to Barbara?
    • Find another time to get them to a current officer
    • Will she get them to the next Secretary?

Spiritual Goals

  • Read Knowing God by Packer
  • Read 2 chapters of Unglued (7&8)
  • Read 2 chapters of A Loving Life (16-17) next week

Marriage Goals

  • Date morning
  • Gratitude
  • Devotions at night

Homemaking Goals

  • Pumpkin Pie for Thursday
  • Brussels Sprouts dish for Thursday
  • Clean sheets and towels from company

Self-Care

  • P90X3 x 3 days – not sure how chemo will impact this, can start back Wednesday

Personal Goals

  • NaNoWriMo writing – Catch back up
  • Blog goals
    • #30DaysofLittleThings
    • other posts

 


Deacons/Church

  • Motion fron Trent to write Minutes of 11/15 meeting re: budget changes. Laura made motion, Barb second, all approved.

Women’s Ministries

  • Get keys for Synodical Hall to Barbara?
    • Find another time to get them to a current officer
    • Will she get them to the next Secretary?

Spiritual Goals

  • Read Knowing God by Packer
  • Read 2 chapters of Unglued (5&6)
  • Read 2 chapters of A Loving Life (15-17)

Marriage Goals

  • Date morning
  • Gratitude
  • Devotions at night

Homemaking Goals

  • Clean off tables completely and counters completely. Prep for Thanksgiving by moving some things out of kitchen for the weekend.
  • Prep beds with sheets and pillows for 5 guests
  • Shopping list and shopping done
  • Prep dishes day before or early morning so just warm up day of
  • Prep dinner rolls
  • Prep dinner for Friday, breakfast Sat/Sun, dinner Saturday
  • Empty in-house refrigerator of as much as possible, including TPN
  • Move book case out for desserts

Self-Care

  • P90X3 x 3 days – no vigorous exercise for 1 week, no lifting for 1 day
  • Quit Strides – they haven’t called me, consider it done.
  • Need more alcohol wipes but hold off on Saline this shipment

Personal Goals

  • NaNoWriMo writing -Need to get ahead since Cataract surgery Tuesday and family here on Saturday. Not sure when I’ll be able to get back to writing before next Monday.
  • Blog goals
    • #30DaysofLittleThings
    • other posts
    • Landing Page for Best Of posts!

Posted in Task List | Comments Off on Task List 2015-11-23

Task list for 2015-11-15

Getting ahead of the ball this time:

Deacons/Church

  • Motion fron Trent to write Minutes of 11/15 meeting re: budget changes. Laura made motion, Barb second, all approved.

Women’s Ministries

  • Get keys for Synodical Hall to Barbara?
    • Find another time to get them to a current officer
    • Will she get them to the next Secretary?

Spiritual Goals

  • Read Knowing God by Packer
  • Read 2 chapters of Unglued (5&6)
  • Read 2 chapters of A Loving Life (15-17)

Marriage Goals

  • Date morning
  • Gratitude
  • Devotions at night

Homemaking Goals

  • Clean off tables completely and counters completely. Prep for Thanksgiving by moving some things out of kitchen for the weekend.
  • Prep beds with sheets and pillows for 5 guests
  • Shopping list and shopping done
  • Prep dishes day before or early morning so just warm up day of
  • Prep dinner rolls
  • Prep dinner for Friday, breakfast Sat/Sun, dinner Saturday
  • Empty in-house refrigerator of as much as possible, including TPN
  • Move book case out for desserts

Self-Care

  • P90X3 x 3 days – not sure how cataract surgery will impact this
  • Quit Strides
  • Need more alcohol wipes but hold off on Saline this shipment

Personal Goals

  • NaNoWriMo writing -Need to get ahead since Cataract surgery Tuesday and family here on Saturday. Not sure when I’ll be able to get back to writing before next Monday.
  • Blog goals
    • #30DaysofLittleThings
    • other posts
    • Landing Page for Best Of posts!
Posted in Task List | Comments Off on Task list for 2015-11-15