Monthly Archives: January 2012

Insights from Job

This year I’ve decided to make it my ambition to read through the Bible, following the Chronological Bible reading plan and I spent much of this month reading through the books of Genesis and Job as part of the plan. The book of Job has always been one of those books in the Bible that has stumped me, as I have sought to make sense of its purpose in the scheme of the other Old Testament literature. So instead of just read it, I decided to do a little more study and here’s my take.

In setting the scene for the book, it is clear that that Job was truly blessed by God, and this in turn becomes the reason for Satan’s interest in testing Job, because he thought that Job’s obedience to God was only in direct proportion to his blessings from God. While Satan is allowed to test Job, I find comfort in the fact that Satan’s actions are limited by God’s sovereign control. Evidence of this is seen each time Satan approaches God to test Job, and in both cases God clearly limits the extent of Satan’s tests, mentioning that Satan could not put forth his hand on Job, nor take his life. Thus God’s sovereignty becomes one of the major themes of the book.

In developing the themes of divine retribution and the sovereignty of God, four messengers of misfortune, come to Job and declare of the calamity that has arisen out of the unseen personal workings in the heavenlies. Upon hearing the news from the fourth messenger, Job is overcome with his grief and gets up, tears his robe, shaves his head and falls to the ground in worship of God.

The tension created by Job’s remarks in chapter 3 also contributes to the overall message of the book, and teaches that it is not necessarily wrong to for a person to be honest before the Lord and to ask the questions of why, as Job does repeatedly throughout the book. It is important to again point out, that none of these questions grow into accusations or cursing of God, and to remember that the point of Job’s questioning is his attempt to try and understand his experience in light of God’s sovereignty. Job nowhere states in this text that he will have nothing to do with God, but through his lament attempts to find God in this experience and therefore appeals to God again and again.

In grasping the meaning of Job, it is also obvious from the text that the author was intending to argue against the theology of divine retribution, which later becomes the thesis of Job’s three friends banter (4:7-1; 8:3,11-22; 11:13-20; 18:5-21). Throughout the book Job maintains his righteousness and steadfastness, and shows us that the person of faith will trust God through adversity or prosperity even when their world doesn’t make sense. In the end, Job passed the test and instead of cursing God, Job acknowledges God’s sovereignty and therefore destroys Satan’s suspicion that he only feared God because of God’s blessing.

The World Needs Leaders…

The World Needs Leaders…
who cannot be bought;
whose word is their promise;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be honest in small things as well as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular;
who can say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.
Leading the Way, by Paul Borthwick

Lessons from a Homeless Man

Yesterday I officiated funeral services for a homeless man, who was murdered on Friday, December 30 in Yorba Linda. His daughter attends our church and serves as one of our small group leaders. The service was attended by about 50 or so family members and friends, as well as by several news reporters.

Dutch’s life was taken by a man who is now in custody and who has been charged in the stabbing deaths of four homeless men. While the family feels a sense of peace knowing that the streets are safer, they are still left trying to make sense of this senseless tragedy and trying to pick up the pieces as they grieve the loss of their loved one.

While no words can adequately comfort and answer the questions of why, I know many left yesterday’s service deeply touched with a sense of gratefulness for the lessons we learned from this wanderer. Here are a few of the things I shared, as well as few of lessons and reminders that I walked away with…

  1. Each of us are created in the image and likeness of God and we have infinite value and worth to our Creator. God loves us regardless of our race, social or economic status.
  2. Everyone one of us has a story and our lives have an impact on the lives of those around us.
  3. The homeless have a name and family members who love them and are likely praying for them. In this story, Dutch had three loving daughters and ten grandchildren who loved him dearly.
  4. Unconditional love truly breaks through the hardness of one’s heart. In this story, a daughter’s unconditional love and acceptance broke through a hard heart and opened new relational connections to the church, which may have never been.

While we live in a world of good and evil, we know from the Scriptures that evil doesn’t win the end! Yesterday, I saw the good that is in the world. And I left giving thanks to God, as I saw him beginning to make beautiful things out of the ashes.

People Grow Better in Grace

Peter clearly understood that people grow better in grace when he encouraged his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). But what does grace mean, and how does the experience of grace foster transformation?

While righteousness has always been by faith, God operated under the system of the law, with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament, God operates under a system of grace; because His wrath was satisfied in the death, burial and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. Paul, in writing to the Ephesians states, “for by grace you have been saved through faith; and it is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Grace is literally defined as “unmerited favor.” And because of God’s grace, one can enjoy favor with God, not because of what they have done, but because of what God has done.

Unfortunately, it’s so easy in our world to think we need to do something to earn God’s favor. As though God’s grace was too good to be true. But since our acceptance before God is not based upon our performance, we can find true freedom in Him, and our life becomes a thank you to Him for what He has already done. This is the experience of grace that fosters transformation, because no longer do we feel this nagging sense of having to do anything to earn God’s favor, but instead we simply respond to Him because of what He has done for us.

Grace transforms because it leads us to relate to a loving God not out of a sense of obligation, but out of love. The law was never intended to bring righteousness, and we are foolish to think that we can ever add anything to Christ’s completed work on the cross. Guilt and shame only lead us away from God and into hiding. Grace leads us toward God and toward one-another. Therefore, may the church always be characterized by grace, because after all, people grow better in grace.

A Purpose Driven Life

In looking at the ministry of Christ, Jesus’ objective was always clear. As Robert Coleman writes in his book Master Plan of Evangelism, “[Jesus’] life was ordered by his objective. Everything he did and said was part of the whole pattern. It had significance because it contributed to the ultimate purpose of his life in redeeming the world for God [Luke 19:10; Matthew 20:28]. This was the motivating vision governing Jesus’ behavior. Not for one moment did Jesus lose sight of His goal. Jesus seized every opportunity for decisive action, but never lost sight of his ultimate objective to redeem a person to himself (Luke 2:49). Jesus knew and understood what his overall objective was, and ultimately conceived a plan that would not fail, by calling twelve men to himself who would in turn lead the multitudes and usher in a Kingdom. Yes Jesus could have been all things to all men, but instead he choose to invest himself in a few who in turn could win the masses and ultimately reach the world.

Jesus gives us the perfect example of living a purpose driven life! Not only did he knew what his mission was, but he fulfilled it for the glory of God. Two thousand years later, God’s mission is still the same. And believe it or not, he wants to use you and me to fulfill it.

Persevering Prayer

While most of us have never been imprisoned for our faith, I had an experience of being interrogated by the KGB in the summer of 1986 while serving on a short term mission in the former Soviet Union. Because of our evangelistic activity, our team was asked to stop “spreading our propaganda” or we would be asked to leave the country.

In Acts 4, Peter and John were facing similar opposition for their faith and likewise were commanded not to “not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” However, like my team in the Soviet Union, they could not help speaking about what they had seen and heard (4:20) and upon their release prayed to God in the midst of their opposition.

In looking at the prayer of Peter and John, I see four principles of how to pray in the midst of opposition. First, they focused on the character of God. They acknowledged God as the one who is in control of all things and as such, the one who they could trust with their lives. Second, they focused on the eternal truths of God’s word, quoting from Psalm 2. They focused on Scripture that was relevant to their situation and used it as a guide in their prayers. Third, they prayed for God to change their response to the opposition, not for deliverance from their circumstances. Finally, they got involved in what they prayed for and spoke the word of God boldly.

This year our small group ministry will be focusing on developing our prayer muscle. And I hope our prayers will be similar to those of the early disciples when we encounter similar opposition. I’ll keep you posted.

An Undivided Heart

Going to college in Santa Barbara was the ultimate experience! For four years I lived life on the coast with the all the amenities and distractions that come with beach living. I remember failing one of my first exams during my freshman year after attempting to study at the beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Even studying in the library was a challenge, as almost every window in the library had an ocean view.

College was full of distractions! There were plenty of things that could have easily divided my heart and my interests. Each day I was faced with choices and challenges; however, as I faced those challenges, I remembered the promise I made to God, which was to live for him no matter what.

In 2 Kings we see a picture of divided loyalty. 2 Kings 17:38 says, “they worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods.” In other words, the Israelites had a divided heart. Jesus taught about this during his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “no one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

While the distractions in college were many, I find that there are so many more things to capture my affections in this technological age. I guess life has always had its distractions; however, I don’t want that to be an excuse. God desires that our heart would be unwavering in our commitment to him. May that be true of me! May that be true of us!

“give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” — Psalm 86:11, NIV

Say Wait?

They say “good things come to those who wait,” but frankly I don’t want to wait. Whether it’s some new toy, saving up to buy a new car, or working through a difficult situation, I want immediate resolve. And in an age of instant credit and microwave dinners, it makes it difficult to practice this discipline.

In Acts 1 the apostles were instructed by Jesus not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the Holy Spirit, which they heard Jesus speak of. In that culture it was a lot easier to wait, so this is what the apostles did. The outcome was phenomenal. A great thing happened in that the Holy Spirit came as promised. The result was that Peter was able to speak boldly about the things of God, and church grew by three thousand people that day.

I have to confess that waiting on God is hard. For years my wife Jennifer and I struggled with wanting a child and not being able to conceive. I was bitter toward God for not answering our prayers and giving us the desire of our hearts. However, I kept pursuing the things of God while I continued to wait. Then one day after a seminary class, I came home and Jennifer exclaimed “I’m pregnant!”  Ten years later we still rejoice over God’s blessing, our son Zachary.

Good things do come to those who wait.

Conan

Got to connect with my friend Brian Chandler today. Brian and I used to serve together at Lakeside Church. Brian now serves locally as the worship leader at Mosaic in Hollywood. Since we’re both serving churches in the Los Angeles area, we spent the afternoon talking about life, ministry and our experiences in Southern California. Later we enjoyed a taping of Conan at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank. Had a fantastic time being part of this studio audience and we both actually landed on national TV! You can catch us about 50 seconds into this segment, which was part of the opening monologue.

Time to Pick Up the Towel

If you know me well, you have probably heard me teach on a Scripture or two from John 13-17. There is a reason for that, the Upper Room Discourse happens to be one of my most favorite sections in the Bible. I have often wondered what it must have been like to be part of this original small group and to share those final hours of Jesus’ life with him and his close friends.

On the eve of Jesus’ arrest, Jesus invites his disciples to share the Passover meal to show them “the full extent of his love.” Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, comforts his friends with the promise of his presence through the Holy Spirit, and prays for them and for those who would come to know him because of their witness. It is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ humility and love for his friends.

I am challenged by the example Jesus set for us in the Upper Room. Instead of focusing on what was to come, Jesus gave of himself. Instead of asking for comfort, Jesus comforted his friends. What a wonderful example of being others-focused. This service reflects the character of Jesus, for he did not “come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

There are many ways we can serve others. Perhaps it’s time to pick up the towel and wash some feet!

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