Sunday, February 27, 2011

Job's Losses

Job's Losses
Feb 28, 2011
Job 1:10 "'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.'"

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Job. He was a wealthy, God-fearing man, who had never suffered until the Lord allowed Satan to attack him. In a few quick blows, Satan destroyed the man's family, wealth, and health, leaving him completely destitute. Job didn't deserve such harsh treatment; even the Lord God said Job was blameless and upright, that he had lived a life of righteousness. Nonetheless, Job was attacked by Satan and most everything dear to Job was taken away from him. Job suffered great losses, far more than you and I have probably experienced. What is interesting about the story of Job is the initial conversation held between God and Satan, just prior to Satan's attack on Job. I don't quote Satan very often, but Satan said to God, "'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.'"

Satan declared that the reason and cause of Job's comfortable life was the protective hedge God had placed around Job. Satan was obviously aware of this protective hedge; it is probable he tried to penetrate it on numerous occasions to no avail. Satan knew he was unable to permeate the protective hedge placed around Job's life, unless God removed that protection. Satan was powerless over Job's life because of God's covering. This protection, the Lord's hands around Job, allowed Job a safe and successful life. Job was taken care of by God, and Satan could do nothing to thwart that in Job's life. Then in an act of sovereignty, God removed the protective hedge around Job and allowed Satan to physically and spiritually test him. Without God's hand of protection, Satan was able to inflict great losses on Job.

Job understood this, the fact that the hand of God had protected him for so long, for so many years, making his life comfortable. Listen to Job's own words, after Satan had penetrated God's hedge around him:
"'How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness! Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.'"

Job was remembering, and knew what it was like to live with God's protective hedge around him. You, too, may have experienced this at one time, the wonderful covering of God's protective hedge around your life. But Satan has been hard at work attacking you, doing his best to steal from all that God has made blessed in your life. Satan has inflicted you with losses, leaving you destitute in some area. It is painful to lose all that was comfortable in your life, the things God had blessed you with. Satan has stolen from you and your losses seem great.

This is your opportunity to pray against Satan's attack in your life, to petition the Great Shepherd to keep His hands of protection over you. Every day is a new opportunity for Satan to surmount his attack on you and your loved ones. He longs to inflict you with losses and steal all that God has made blessed. Do not give up without a prayerful fight each and every day. Pray for God's covering, for the protective hedge that Job lived under. Live a life of righteousness and do your best to stay under the covering of the Lord Most High. It is the only way to reduce the losses that Satan wants to inflict on you today.

1. What losses have you suffered lately?
2. What is the probability that Satan was the cause of those losses?
3. How can you live and pray in such a way to keep God's protective hedge around you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Job 1, Job 29

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bad Samaritan

The Bad Samaritan
Feb 21, 2011
James 4:17 "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them."

In the parable we often refer to as, "The Good Samaritan," a stranger takes care of an injured man, at a considerable cost. Recall the story. A man fell into the hands of muggers and was left on the side of the road for dead. Along came two devout holy men, who saw the man but decided not to tend to his needs. Then came a third man, from Samaria, who had compassion for the stranger, tended to his wounds, and paid for his recovery. It is a nice story, told by Jesus, to teach us we "should" be kind to our neighbor. It is interesting, though, that Jesus never called the man who took care of the stranger "good." The title, "The GOOD Samaritan," was created by us, many centuries AFTER the original manuscripts were written of Jesus' story telling. If you read your Bible, there are nice headings in it, for ease of reading, but the original manuscripts didn't have that.

When Jesus told the story, He was saying that it was actually the Samaritan's job to take care of the wounded man. It wasn't really an option for the Samaritan, if he was following the Lord's will, to ignore the man's needs. But in today's society, where everyone gets a trophy for getting out of bed in the morning, the Good Samaritan should be lauded, hence his title "GOOD." We like this title, "Good," because we also want to give it to ourselves for doing something nice for someone else. But God was saying that it is a requirement of ours, this doing good for others, if we are to be considered as following the Lord and doing His will. When you are in the employment of someone else, you don't get a nice title to make you feel good when you do your job. It is a requirement, when you are at work, to do your job.

When reading the Scriptures, we learn the Apostle James says further that anyone who doesn't do good things, when he knows he should, is actually in sin. He is telling us that it is a sin if we do not do our job for the Lord. In reading the parable of "The Good Samaritan," had the man from Samaria not tended to the needs of the wounded, he would have been in sin. Furthermore, the passage in James is suggesting that the two other men, who passed by the fallen man, were in sin by not helping him. Wow, what perspective if we are going to be servants of the Lord Most High! We like to consider it an "extra" if we help someone else, but it is actually our job and we are in sin if we neglect our duties.

When you read the words of James, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do...", the word "good" is defined as "good deeds" or "works for the Lord." It is taking care of your fellow man, both physically and spiritually. Jesus further proved this when He said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Jesus was saying if you claim to be a Christian, a Christ-follower, you are in His employ and the person you are serving, when taking care of the needs of others, is God. The "Good" Samaritan wasn't tending to the needs of the wounded man on the side of the road, the "Good" Samaritan was serving God, doing it for the Lord. This is a hard perspective to have, because we like to look at the face of the one we are helping, taking a picture of their smiling face when we do good for them. But God says don't look at their face, look at His, because He is your employer and if you neglect taking care of someone else, you are in sin. This sin is described as deliberate disobedience to God.

So, the next time you see someone who has a need, picture God's face looking at you, instructing you to help them on His behalf. It's your job.

1. Do you look for the needs that others have or do you only take care of yourself?
2. When was the last time you sacrificed to take care of someone else's needs?
3. How can you picture the face of God every time you help someone else this week?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matthew 25:40, Luke 10:25-37, Luke 12:42-44, Gal 6:9, Titus 3:8 & 14, Heb 13:16, Heb 13:21

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pleasing Faith

Pleasing Faith
Feb 14, 2011
Hebrews 5:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God. . ."

The Bible says, clear as day, that it is impossible to please God without faith. It takes faith to please God, or at least we need to have some faith to make the Lord happy. You can work until you are blue in the face, you can give all of your money to the poor, but if you don't have faith, then you will not be able to put a smile on the Lord's face. This is contrary to how the world lives, where you are only valued if you perform well. God does not require performance to please Him, He requires faith. It can be a confusing concept since the word "faith" can have different meanings. We say a person has a "Christian Faith" or a person can have "faith" that something is going to happen. So, what does it really mean to have faith that pleases God?

The Bible defines faith as, "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." You may have heard this definition before but maybe it needs clarification. There are two parts to this. Having faith in God, because He exists, though we have not seen Him, is the "assurance about what we do not see." It takes faith to believe God exists. This is the easiest part for Christians, believing in a God. The other part of faith is the "confidence in what we hope for." Hoping for something, though it may not happen in this lifetime, is faith. But it is not just hoping for something in the future, it is a boldness, a confidence that it will happen in the future. If you are reading this, you probably already believe God exists, but you may not be living your life with confidence. It takes confidence, in what you do not have, to make the Lord happy, to please Him.

If you read the latter part of the verse that explains it is impossible to please God without faith, you will find a further explanation of what was intended. The entire verse reads, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Notice the definition of faith is right alongside the mandate of what it takes to please Him. It says we must believe that God exists (which we all do) AND we must have confidence that God rewards those who earnestly seek him. Pleasing faith, then, is believing in God and believing that He will deliver a future for you, full of heavenly blessings, for finding Him and His will here on earth. We all know He exists, but this second part is where most of us are lacking. If we had confidence in a future reward, we would ALL do more to find God and His will in every circumstance and situation. If we believed God would have our best interests at heart and take care of our needs down the road, then our current actions would be different. Our actions would declare what we believed about His will for us. When we seek Him, we will truly know Him, then be compelled by faith to live out His will for our lives. Our actions would then speak volumes regarding how much we know about God.

The only thing our actions prove is that we are out to take care of ourselves, unless God decides to come back today. We don't live with a confidence and an expectation of the future, we live with the worry of the current situation. We worry about today's relationships and today's money and today's happenings instead of what God has for our future. God says we must live with a confidence toward the future, a simple naivety of letting God choose our future and our reward regardless of how things play out. If we could all rest our lives and the outcomes of our situations in His hands, then we would be pleasing to Him AND we would probably have more reward. This is also counter intuitive to the way the world works. In this world, the only way to have more is by working for more. But God says, the only way to have more in His kingdom is by having faith.

1. What do your actions say about your faith in God?
2. How can you have a confidence in a future reward for today's actions?
3. What would it look like if you truly had Pleasing Faith.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 11:5-7

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wrestling with God

Wrestling with God
Feb 7, 2011
Genesis 32:24 "So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak."

Jacob wrestled with God. He literally endured a true wrestling match, a physical struggle. While the actual identity of Jacob's wrestling opponent is not known, it is clear he was a representative of God, a heavenly being. What makes Jacob's wrestling match an interesting tale is the story line found in reading just a few Bible verses before the match. In the verses preceding Jacob's wrestling, we find Jacob in emotional distress and intense prayer because he feared for his very life (due to a bad relationship with his brother Esau--Genesis 32:1-23). Jacob took his dire situation before God in prayerful earnestness. After Jacob took his situation in prayer before the Lord, he was not given an answer or promise from God, but instead was "attacked" by a man who became Jacob's wrestling opponent. This physical wrestling is the only time in Scripture where this happens and it is quite bizarre. We have to wonder: why would God not simply talk back to him through Jacob's established prayer line? Why would God send a man to physically fight with Jacob?

If you read the Bible from an historical point of view, Jacob did not have any Scriptures to turn to for spiritual guidance to his problems. In fact, there probably wasn't a single written account of God that Jacob could open up, read, ponder, or use to discover truths. Jacob had to discover and learn things about God first hand. He could not turn to the pages of the prophets for promises from the Lord. Oftentimes, when we as Christians go through tough times, we turn to the pages of the Bible for answers. And rightly so, that is what God intended. He gave us the Scriptures for our spiritual wrestling, our search for truths and solutions to life's situations. We have the luxury of seeking Godly council from educated men and women who can help us use Scripture to wrestle with the answers to life's tough dilemmas. But Jacob, he had nothing to rely on, not even a friend. In fact, the very words preceding the initiation of Jacob's wrestling match read, "So Jacob was left alone."

Jacob's wrestling match is significant because of the outcome. The end of the wrestling match did not result in a winner and a loser. The end of the wrestling match was simply a realization by both parties (Jacob AND the other man) that Jacob was not going to give up; he was not going to quit. Jacob continued to fight the entire time; He never relented and wasn't willing to back down. There is a huge spiritual significance to this as it is representative of Jacob's character. Jacob was not a quitter; he proved that through his wrestling. Whatever it took, Jacob was going to continue to fight, continue to wrestle through things. Jacob proved to God that day a resolve in his character that demonstrated his willingness to work through life's tough situations. You can sum up this story of Jacob's wrestling in a few words: Jacob prayed and then Jacob fought for his life.

Christian, tough times are an opportunity for you to demonstrate the resolve in your character. Are you going to back down or are you going to wrestle through life's tough situations without giving up? It is your opportunity to pray and then wrestle through God's Word for the answers and solutions. Tough situations are not the time to quit or be beaten down, they are an opportunity to come out a survivor and with a blessing from the battle. If you read Jacob's story, towards the end of the wrestling, the angel of the Lord wrenched Jacob's hip, giving him a permanent reminder of the struggle. But Jacob also walked away with a blessing. Jacob was granted a blessing from wrestling through the tough situation, the situation in which Jacob was not willing to quit. Christian, don't back down. You might end up with a few battle scars from this life, but when you come through as an overcomer it is a tremendous blessing. You will then live as a victor over your problems; open God's Word and don't be afraid to wrestle for the solutions.

Jacob wrestled all through the night and only at dawn was the match complete. Wrestle through the darkness, the light is coming.

1. What situations in your life seem like a wrestling match?
2. Are you wrestling through it with the Lord or are you giving up?
3. How can you demonstrate to God your willingness to be an over-comer, allowing your Christian character to shine through?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 32