Validation

But as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardship, by difficulties, (2 Corinthians 6:4)

Validation comes in all shapes and sizes. If you get your parking stub validated at the doctor’s office, you receive the blessing of free parking during your visit.  At a high school reunion, we might hope to impress our classmates and show that we made something of ourselves.  At pastors’ conferences, pastors like to talk about the size of their church, with all humility. of course.  Some people make sure they share their witnessing exploits at church functions so others will give them validation. Paul was aware that to some of the Corinthians he needed a type of validation, yet the validation he offers doesn’t sound like the typical stuff.

Paul didn’t boast about how easy his life had become as a Christian, but how much pressure (“affliction”) he was under.  He didn’t brag about his great wealth, but the poverty (“hardship”) he faced.  Paul didn’t list “smooth sailing” on his resume but that, at times, his life seemed caught between a rock and a hard place (“difficulties”).  Chief on Paul’s list of accomplishments was that he endured.  As hard as things were, he didn’t quit.  What really matters in life?  God loves the one that hangs on.  Just hang on.

Why

“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, For the hand of God has struck me! (Job 19:21)

Are you going through a rough time right now?  Do you know someone who is going through a rough time?  How do you respond when difficulty arises?

It seems to me that both Job and his friends were asking the same kind of difficult questions we tend to ask when going through a trial.  The questions are typically all about the “why”.  Job wonders why he is going through such pain.  Job wonders what he did to deserve such trouble.  Job’s friends were wondering what kind of sin Job must have done to bring such trouble.  They felt it was obvious that Job needed to repent of some secret sin.

There are certainly times in life when we need to face up to the consequences of our bad behavior.  Yet the lesson in the book of Job is not that sin leads to difficulty, but that righteous people will sometimes suffer.  Job was a righteous man.  God was proud of Job.

Be careful my friends of going down the rabbit hole labeled “why”.  If the answer is not readily apparent, it might be better to stop pursuing something that’s not there.  Job’s friends needed to learn compassion, not criticism.  Job needed to continue to trust God, even though he didn’t understand the “why”.

Job, the Man, no Myth, the Legend

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant.

Job’s story is not one that many of us want to emulate. It is one of those head-scratchers.  Job forms a part of the wisdom literature and helps us answer the question of what we ought to do when life goes wrong, VERY WRONG!!

“Job was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). He was also REALLY rich (Job1:2-3), which begs the question: can a rich man love and serve God? Yes, he can – Job did, and did so excellently!! What we see from Job’s story is a man who was not wealth-focused, not fame-focused but a man who honored God and helped others honor God. Job would often intercede for his children, and offer burnt offerings on their behalf, just in case they had sinned.

Job had an eternal perspective – we see this the most clearly when he loses his riches and even his family. The only one who was not taken was his wife, who ‘the adversary’ used to try and break his spirit (Job 2:9). In all this Job did not sin”. (Job 1:22) He mourned and was in more pain than most of us will ever know, and yet he worshiped God even through the valley of the shadow of death. As a man of integrity, we have much to learn from Job. Like Job, let us worship God and set the example that our culture desperately needs. Have integrity. Live honestly. Faithfully serve our King.

Foolishness

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1Corinthians 1:18)

In some people’s minds, the cross is a pretty piece of jewelry that’s worn around the neck.  For those who are a little more adept at history and culture, the cross is an unusually morbid thing that unenlightened Christians are attached to.  To the ancient mind, the cross was a place of unspeakable pain, torture, shame, and contempt.  It was a punishment reserved for the worst of the worst, not for someone meant to be venerated. Paul said that the Christian message of the cross seemed like nothing more than “foolishness” (our English word “moron”) to those who don’t grasp the truth of it.

Here’s the irony of it all.  The very thing that seems morbid, shameful, or even foolish to men is what Paul calls the power of God, even the power of God that leads to salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).

How could we value a God who is related to something so horrible?  We are in awe of the cross because it’s where Jesus bore all the shame and contempt that were meant for us.  While my sin separates me from God, Jesus died to pay for and remove that sin. This is not foolishness. This is love. O the wonderful cross.

Building Project

So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them. (Ezra 5:2)

Nebuchadnezzar had leveled Jerusalem, obliterated the Temple, and hauled the Jews into exile in Babylon. When the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, they immediately began to rebuild the Temple, but it wasn’t long before their plans stalled.  Enemies rose up and put political pressure on the Persians to stop the building.  Not all problems were external. The Jews themselves soon lost the drive to see the Temple rebuilt.  The prophet Haggai pointed out that they had become more focused on their own personal comfort than doing a work for God (Hag. 1:4).

Believer, you too are a Temple, and the Holy Spirit lives in you (1Cor. 6:19).  Even though you are a Temple, you’re an unfinished building project.  Your foundation has been laid in Jesus Christ, but how are you going to build on that foundation?  Sometimes it’s the external pressures like people and circumstances that cause us to stop building. Other times, it’s our own sense of personal “comfort” that keeps us from denying ourselves and serving Jesus. Get back to reading your Bible.  Get back to praying.  Get back to church. Serve others. Build that Temple.

I Have a Problem

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)

It’s a great leveler.  The truth that we are all sinners puts us all at the same level.  Sometimes we can fall into the old trap of comparing ourselves with others and think that we’re so much better than they are.  But down at the core, we’re all the same.  We’re all sinners. I need to be careful about getting angry or judgmental towards others and their behavior, because I too am a sinner.  I may not sin as much as I used to, but I am still a sinner in need of grace.

It’s a starting place.  Folks who travel through a twelve-step program have learned that they aren’t going to get very far with their addiction until they realize the truth that they have a problem.  Some may not like the idea of calling their struggle a “sin”, but until you recognize that you have a problem, you aren’t going to get very far.

It’s a sign post.  The sign up ahead may read that the bridge is “out”, but that also lets me know that I can take another road, away from danger.  Knowing I’m a sinner helps me recognize that I need a Savior.  Jesus came to deal with my sin problem by dying on a cross.  He paid for my sin.  He gives me power over my sin.  I can face guilt and shame because I have a Savior who forgives. Recognizing the darkness allows me to turn to the Light.

Outnumbered and Outflanked

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant:

Abijah was a man like you and me, but he was also the king of Judah. His name means, my father is Yahweh. He struggled with things like you and I do, but he also found himself confronted by a HUGE problem. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was the King of Israel. Jeroboam had led Israel into rebellion and idolatry. Jeroboam had the upper hand in every sense of the word. Jeroboam’s army was double the size and had more war experience.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation like Abijah, faced with something so much bigger than you. Take courage from Abijah and his story, his army was flanked and outnumbered 2 to 1. What did Abijah do? He turned his attention away from his circumstances and cried out to God. Second Chronicles 13:15 encourages us with this: “As the men of Judah shouted, it happened that God struck Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand.” Spoiler alert: God leads Judah to victory! Jeroboam, who trusted in the strength and tactics of his army was defeated. My encouragement to you is no matter what situation you find yourself in, whether it be comfortable or desperate, cry out to God, trust Him, and see what He will do. Just like Abijah, there are some practical things God wants us to do, but let God be the driving force that brings victory.

Be Prepared

And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. (1 Chronicles 28:5)

Sometimes when we look at the transition of leadership from King David to his son Solomon, we can get the idea that it was a hastily formed decision.  The story recorded in 1Kings almost makes it sound as if David had to be talked into making the transfer of power when in fact it had been carefully prepared.  The writer of 1Chronicles makes it clear that David had planned for Solomon to assume the throne.  David had worked hard to make sure that Solomon had every chance to be a success as king. David had a kingdom organization in place.  David had plans and materials ready for construction of a Temple.  David even had made a point of clearly letting the leaders of the nation know that Solomon was the one who would be king after him.

Sometimes we think it’s somehow unspiritual to plan ahead.  We confuse being “Spirit-led” with being unprepared.  Though it is easy to plan God’s leading right out of our future, there is a place for God’s Spirit to direct our plans.  Having a will or trust in place for your family is a good thing.  Asking God for business plans that extend after your retirement isn’t so bad. Be prepared.

Unfair Advantage

It seems that some people have an unfair advantage when it comes to certain things in life.  Some people are better looking than others.  Others are bigger and stronger.  Some people are just plain smarter.  King David had an unfair advantage when it came to his battles with the Philistines.  He had a relationship with God and he took advantage of that fact.

When David first became king, the Philistines mobilized their armies to attack David.  What would David do? David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?  (1 Chronicles 14:10) God responded with a “yes”, David went out to fight, and won. The next time the Philistines showed up. David inquired again of God (1 Chronicles 14:14). God gave David a battle plan, David did what God asked, and the Philistines were once again defeated.

I wonder why I don’t ask God for directions more often.  I’m afraid that sometimes I don’t ask because I’m afraid of God’s answer. The wonderful thing about David is that he asked anyway, and then he did what God asked him to do.  David wrote, The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). God wants us to ask Him for help, but He also wants us to be honest with Him. Just like David, we too face battles in life. An honest, willing heart is the key to our “unfair” advantage.

Thank You

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4)

I know that some of you will want to correct my theology and tell me that since God is omnipresent, we are always in His presence.  Yet I find that His presence is not always immediately recognizable to me in my frail state.  I find in my life that it takes a sort of spiritual discipline to “enter into” His presence. It may not require anything more than simply stopping to think about God to “enter in”.  For one moment, I am clueless about God’s presence, and in the next I find myself before the King.

The issue of the Psalmist is not just getting through the gate into God’s presence, but the importance of the attitude when I’m there.  Have I “entered” into God’s presence to gripe and grumble?  Do I find myself before the King wearing the putrid odor of complaint, or the delightful fragrance of praise?  Can you imagine having to answer the phone at work, and every single call is someone with a new grievance to air?

An attitude of gratitude is not an easy thing to come by.  It takes diligence to cultivate appreciation in your heart. Whatever could you be grateful for? Try these for starters: He is good.  His love is eternal.  He is faithful and won’t give up on you.  If you’re looking for a way to spark your prayer life, start by saying thanks.