Questioning God???

“Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? [Job 40:7-8]

In chapter 38 of the book of Job; God speaks. For 35 chapters, Job and his three friends have been talking about God, but they all got God wrong. In chapter 2 we are told that Job did not sin with his lips following his suffering that God allowed Satan to inflict on Job,but Job still does not understand God.

Who does?
[You better not say that you do.]

These verses from chapter 40 almost make me nervous; as do God’s words from chapters 38-41. I can almost hear God speaking to me in those times when I am tempted to blame God or question God’s judgement.

But…

who am I to say that God is in the wrong?
who am I to question God’s judgement?
who am I to doubt God’s wisdom?
who am I to call into question God’s sovereignty?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4)

The fact of the matter is that you don’t have understanding; no one does. The mysteries of this world are meant to be mysteries. The ways of God are higher than our ways and we aren’t meant to know them. The thoughts of God are higher than our thoughts and we aren’t meant to know them. We are not meant to see and know the whole picture. If God were to show you the WHOLE picture I think your brain would explode in a gruesome mess (sorry for the image but I think you get my point).

Job’s testing was meant to bring about God’s glory, and it did. Job passed the test. God won the bet with Satan. Why God allowed Job to suffer we can only postulate (and I will be careful here since I don’t want to be questioned like Job was). But Job’s suffering was only for a moment especially considering the grand scheme of God’s design. Job was blessed even more so following this episode and I can only imagine Job’s reward in heaven.

When God doesn’t make sense;
when God frustrates you;
when God seems to be utterly random…

…run to Him. Run into his loving arms and trust Him. Trust that God knows what He is doing and that God’s higher ways will bring about His glory and eventual yours.

God doesn’t make sense now, but that’s OK, because through Jesus Christ you can have the faith that everything will make sense later on. And who knows, in heaven someday we might even be able to laugh about our suffering when we consider how untrusting and unfaithful we were then.

Who knows?
God does, and that’s good enough for me 🙂

Praise be to God and Amen!

The Pastor -|—

Chariots of Fire

[No, this is not a blog post about the movie, but rather something even better. Yes, better than the movie, Chariots of Fire.]

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV)

I was leading a Bible study this morning and read this text for the ladies. And like every time I read this text, I got goose bumps. One minute the servant of Elisha was scared silly because they were surrounded by the enemy and the next minute he is looking at chariots of fire surrounding and protecting him and Elisha. God had opened the servant’s eyes, at Elisha’s request, and he saw the glory of God.

And I think the source of these goose bumps is the reminder that God is indeed for me through faith in Jesus. I’m not suggesting that I am going to be prosperous in everything I do. I am not suggesting that I am never going to experience suffering or hardship. What I am saying is that through faith in Jesus, THE enemy; Satan, has been defeated. And now, only through the eyes of faith, can I see His chariots of fire defending me.

And so whenever I read this account of Elisha, it’s as if he is praying that my eyes be opened as well. O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.

[Cue the goose bumps]

And you too, hear this prayer: O LORD, please open his/her eyes that he/she may see the glory of God through Jesus Christ.

Doesn’t that give you goose bumps? It does for me even if only one person is reading this.

Praise be to God!

The Pastor -|—

Naked ~ A Prayer

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord .” [Job 1:21]

Creator God…

I praise you that you wonderfully knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you that you brought me forth to enjoy this creation.
I praise you that I know you and that I can worship you.

Father God, I praise you that all I need is you and that even if everything were taken away ~ food, clothing, shelter, family, friends ~ I would still have everything I need. You have blessed me with these things and people but most of all you have blessed me with Jesus Christ that I may have hope beyond this life.

But even though I see this now and praise you now, I know that the tempter will swoop in to place before me gods and pathways that lead away from you. And I will follow. The tempter will entice this flesh and mind and heart to seek that which will not last. And I will follow. What a wretched person I am. 

Father God, forgive me

Grant me strength
Grant me faith
Grant me the wherewithal to turn to you in moments if temptation

I came into this world naked and will leave the same way; for you have given all the blessings in this world and will eventually take them all away that I may see the true blessing of Life ~ Jesus.

So I praise and worship your holy name, for You are worthy. May I have the faith to remain faithful; may I have the faith to live “naked”. In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen!

May God bless your day as you bask in the knowledge that He gives to you as you need and blesses you to be a blessing. May you seek God with all your heart and may the love of Jesus radiate out from you that others may be lead to praise and worship God.

Have a great day 🙂

The Pastor -|—

Morning devotions ~ Such a time

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” [Esther 4:14]

Haman has unleashed an evil plot to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom, but Mordecai finds out the plan. Upon his discovery he tells Queen Esther (a Jew herself) but she is unwilling to go and tell the king. You see, there is a law on the books that states: if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. (Esther 4:11) And at this point Esther had not been called in to see the king for 30 days. So Esther fears for her life. But Mordecai reminds Esther not to be so foolish to think that she will escape this judgement, besides, who knows whether she has been brought to a time such as this.

Long story short, Mordecai finally gets through and Esther agrees to help. She secures an audience with the king and Haman’s plot is revealed; where he is eventually hanged on the very gallows that he was going to hang Mordecai (the man who earlier saved the king’s life). God DID bring Esther to a time such as this and therefore millions of lives were saved.

Have you ever wondered what God is doing in your life? Have you ever wondered why you were in a certain place at a certain time? Have you ever wondered why you were called to suffer in a certain way? Well, maybe you were called to a certain place and time for such a time to bring glory to God. Maybe, just maybe, God had His reasons and was using you to do something special and amazing.

Esther’s story is pretty incredible and maybe God won’t call you to save millions of lives, but he might call you to save one. I believe in the depths of my heart that God calls us to moments to share the Gospel and with a particular person, in order to bring that person to faith. But how many times do we miss those moments or not trust God to be faithful. I also believe that God calls us to suffer in order that we may witness to others. What a powerful way to witness when you do so through suffering; a time when many people would curse God or turn away from God. What an opportunity to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness and the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ.  Maybe you have been called to such a time.

So instead of wondering why God is doing what He is doing or wondering why here, why now; just witness. Make the most of the opportunity and situation to bring glory to God. Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that through his death and resurrection you can have forgiveness of sins and thus eternal life. Live your faith and show your trust in God because who knows, someone might hear the Gospel for the first time and be saved.

And thus God using such a time for His glory.

May God open your eyes to see opportunities and may you have the faith to accept God’s call.

Praise be to God, always and forever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Evening blessing and prayer

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. [Numbers 6:24-26]

I use these verses every week as a benediction to close worship. I started this “routine” mainly because that’s what was in our worship book, but I continue because of the beauty of these words. And what a wonderful words to ponder as we close our day:

Blessing
Keeping
Our Lord’s shining face upon you
Graciousness
The Lord’s countenance
Peace

Beautiful ~ Wonderful ~ Awe inspiring

Meditate on these words before you fall asleep. Ponder their meaning. And then give the Lord thanks and praise as you receive these words of blessing tonight.

And then may your dreams be peaceful, your sleep be restful and your body rejuvenated.

Oh God, thank you for another day. Thank you for the many ways you bless your children throughout the day. And thank you for the peace we can have through Jesus Christ. Amen

Have a blessed night and (God willing) I’ll “see” you tomorrow.

The Pastor -|—

Idiots

As I journey through the Old Testament in my daily Bible reading I just can’t shake the thought that those Israelites were idiots. I mean think about it.  Over and over again they had to be reminded of what God did for them:

~ His mighty acts over the Egyptians
~ Parting the Red Sea
~ Water from a rock
~ Manna from heaven every morning
~ Quail every evening
~ A pillar of cloud and fire guiding them
~ Sandals that did not wear out

Mighty acts of power, love and faithfulness after mighty acts of power, love and faithfulness.  All of this and they whine and complain when things get tough.

Really?!?

Idiots

What does it take to convince them that God is awesome and powerful and faithful? What does it take for them to remember that God is not going to desert them?

All I can do is shake my head and roll my eyes.

Wait a second…

…don’t we do the same thing?  When times get tough, don’t we question God and wonder where He is?  Don’t we forget about God’s love and faithfulness?  I mean, we too run after other gods.  We too chase after idols.  We too whine and complain.

We too are idiots.

But praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is faithful.

People ~  Remember, remember and remember.

Our God is awesome
Our God is love
Our God is power
Our God is our God

Praise be to God and Amen!

The pastor -|—

Unbelievable forgiveness

This week I am continuing our Old Testament sermon series by talking about the story of Joseph and “unbelievable” forgiveness.

In Genesis, chapter 50, Jacob dies and Joseph’s brothers get nervous.  They are nervous that Joseph will unleash his fury since Jacob, the family patriarch, is now gone.  So they tell Joseph that their dear ole dad has said that he is supposed to forgive them the wrongs they had done to him.  The brothers then throw themselves down on the ground before Joseph and vow to be his slaves.

Joseph weeps.

I have never really thought about why Joseph is weeping.  But now I am wondering if Joseph is sad because after all these years of providing for them in Egypt his brothers still believe Joseph doesn’t really forgive them.  When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in chapter 45 he gave no indication he was going to lash out at them even though Joseph had the power to do so.  But Joseph told his brothers not to be distressed or angry with themselves; this was part of God’s plan.  Joseph showed nothing but love towards them by taking care of them through the terrible famine.  Now…after all these years…the brothers still don’t believe Joseph really forgives them.  If I were Joseph I think I would be sad as well.

I wonder if God weeps when we doubt his amazing forgiveness.  I mean…there are times when I wonder if God actually forgives ALL my sins.  Surely there is something that God holds on to.  Surely there must be a limit to God’s patience.  Forgiving ALL my sins?  That almost sounds to good to be true…almost unbelievable.

But God says, “What more do I need to do to prove it to you?  My beloved son, Jesus, died on a cross and rose from the grave to forgive your sins.  I would think that would be proof enough.”  And yet we have our doubts from time to time.  God’s forgiveness of our sins, at times, almost seems unbelievable…there must be a catch.

But there is no catch.

When we go to God in confession, through Jesus Christ we have forgiveness…period.  No strings attached. That, my friends, is pretty amazing.  Unbelievable?  Nope…it’s true.  Through Jesus Christ we have forgiveness of ALL our sins.

So don’t be afraid and don’t be distressed.  Go to God and know his amazing love for you…forever and ever.  Amen.

-edh-

Being challenged and stretched

These past few weeks have been a lot of fun.

Wednesday, January 5 we started a small group study/sermon series on Old Testament stories.  The format is that a group would gather on Wednesdays at 5pm to read and discuss an Old Testament story and then I would preach on that story the following Sunday.  Up to this point we have talked about: The creation story, Noah and Abraham.  The Old Testament stories that are coming up in our study are: Joseph, Moses, The book of Judges, David, Daniel and The book of Job.  This small group is scheduled to end right before Ash Wednesday.  I wasn’t exactly sure how this study would be received but so far there is a group of 5 people getting together every week and we are having a great time exploring these stories.

I don’t come each week prepared to lecture on the story but rather I have a couple questions in mind.  The group then takes those questions and a fun discussion ensues.  I have learned a lot from hearing different perspectives.  I have learned a lot about the faith of the group participants.  I have heard questions that I have never thought of before.  And…maybe…gained a couple pounds (one of the participants is an excellent cook and baker and has been bringing treats for us).

There is nothing quite like gathering with a group of people to read, study and discuss scripture.  I have read these stories many times but hearing from others has challenged me in ways that I would not be able to do on my own.  I can hardly wait to see what is coming next.

-edh-

Awesome worship (explained)

O.K…time to share with you what happened at worship on Sunday.

I said that worship was awesome on Sunday.  Two things contributed to that:  (1) My wife and her team of singers lead worship with the guitars (with me playing as well…which I really enjoy); and (2) continue reading below…

…The Gospel text was from John 6:1-14 (The Feeding of the 5000).  This is one of my favorite miracle stories (next to the Resurrection of course).  I talked about the miracle as something that the people (the 5000 present) did not really get.  I mean…after they had eaten and realized what happened they thought Jesus was the prophet who had come into the world.  They probably likened him to Elisha who fed 100 in 2 Kings 4 (the OT text on Sunday).  In any case they wanted to take Jesus and make him king by force, but that is not what Jesus came to do.  They missed the point…they did not get who Jesus really was.

From that I moved to talking about Holy Communion…another great meal that we a lot of times miss.  We come forward for Holy Communion in a ritualistic kind of way and totally blow off the words that are being spoken.  I mean think about it…Holy Communion is about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the promise of the forgiveness of sins, but how many times do you REALLY really think about that when you receive the bread and the wine?  I urged the people on Sunday to think about this.

Then I went on to say:
When you come here to Salem on the 1st or 2nd Sunday of the month you expect to receive Holy Communion.  You know that Holy Communion happens towards the end of the worship service.  You know the liturgy and how to respond.  Well…I am going to throw you off guard today.  It may be the 4th Sunday of the month but we are going to celebrate Holy Communion right now.  I did not get permission from the altar guild, the worship/music committee, the deacons or the church council.  We are just going to do it.
I did not use the “normal” liturgy…actually I didn’t use any liturgy.  I went on to invite people to come forward whenever they felt ready to encounter a miracle.  I urged them to listen to the words “The Body of Christ broken FOR YOU…the Blood of Christ shed FOR YOU“.  I urged the people to listen to these words and hear the miracle…the forgiveness of your sins.  I invited them to pray before hand and confess if they would like and then come forward.  There was going to be nothing that was ritualistic about this celebration of Holy Communion.

Everyone came forward (except for one person) to partake in this miracle.  And after the worship I got so many comments from people who were very appreciative of what happened in worship (Praise be to God!).  I think people liked it because Holy Communion was not ritualistic.  Maybe some people were hearing for the first time the miracle of this sacrament…I don’t know…but what I do know is that is was powerful for me (and for my wife who was helping serve communion and obviously for a number of others).

Worship was awesome on Sunday.  And all I can say to summarize it is:  “PRAISE  BE TO GOD!”

-edh-

Text study – Genesis 32:22-31

The first lesson text for this Sunday (21st Sunday after Pentecost) comes from Genesis 32:22-31.  This is the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  At the beginning of the story we are only told that a "man" engages Jacob in a wrestling match, but later we figure out that the "man" is God (vs. 26 is out first hint and then vs. 30 confirms our suspicion).

In verse 26 Jacob is wrestling with this "man" when the "man" asks to be let go.  Jacob refuses until he receives a blessing.  I wonder if Jacob is not only wrestling with God but wrestling with some inner "demons".  Earlier in Genesis, Jacob steals the blessing from his older brother, Esau, by tricking their father.  In fear of his brother, Jacob flees.  Now Jacob is faced with seeing his brother for the first time since his deception.  Jacob stole a blessing early on now he wants a "real" blessing from God Himself.  Is this Jacob seeking forgiveness and validation from God? 

In verse 27 God asks for Jacob’s name and then changes his name to Israel.  At this point God has not blessed Jacob/Israel.  Next Jacob wants to know the name of his "opponent", but I wonder if that deep down inside, Jacob knew.  After God refuses to reveal His name, He blesses Jacob/Israel.  Israel then limps on his way – ultimately to face Esau.

So the question is, "What do we take from this text for today?"  A few questions/thoughts to ponder:
(1) If the "man" wrestling with Jacob is indeed God, why could He not over power Jacob in verse 25?  Was this God’s way of seeing how serious Jacob was about reconciliation?

(2) Why was Jacob so intent on receiving a blessing?

(3) What would have happened if Jacob honored the request of the "man" to let Him go?

(4) Is the point of this text the wrestling match?
Three years ago I preached on this very text.  At the time I focused on the fact that even though we like to jump to the end and experience the joy of the blessing, its the wrestling match that changes us.  Maybe this text is not so much about Jacob/Israel receiving a blessing, but that Israel was willing to wrestle with God and not give up.  Israel was ready to make a change.  Israel was ready to do things the right way, instead of receiving good things the wrong way.

Through faith we know the end of the story through Jesus Christ.  Through faith we know that Jesus won the battle over sin, death and the power of the devil.  Through faith we know that this life is not the end.  Through faith we know the "blessing".  But maybe we need to focus more on the wrestling match, because it is through the wrestling that we are changed.  Through the wrestling we are refined, strengthened, encouraged, tested, encouraged some more, etc, etc.  This is not to see whether we are worthy; whether we will give up or not; whether we should receive the blessing, but rather to help us endure until the ultimate consumation of the blessing through the death of our bodies.

What are your thoughts on this?

-edh-