07 July 2007

More on ''why do the innocent suffer?''

I really need to come back to this, because it really is one of the hard questions of our faith, of my personal faith. If there is or ever has been someone who has gone through life with NO loss, NO fear, NO struggle, NO pain, none if it - well, I've never heard of it. And nobody gets out of here alive. Pain and death are, at the end of it, the common denominator of all of mankind. We experience it personally, we see it around us if we have eyes to see and a heart to perceive.

Yet, as believers, we know that God is God Almighty, that He really did create all that we see from nothing; we believe, we know, that He is good to an extent that we can't really understand; we believe that He knows us more completely than we know ourselves; and we believe that He loves us. We believe all of this. And, at the same time, we see all the pain and loss.

How do we reconcile this?

This has been a problem for believers since the time of Job, and it is no accident, perhaps, that Job may be the very first book of the Bible to have been written down, possibly even before the time of Moses. Or so some have told me - I have no idea but it is true that the question is as old as the time of Enoch at least.

I came across a thing that was written some years ago by Dr. Gerald Mann, pastor of Riverbend Baptist Church in Texas, famous for his short, to the point, sermons that stressed the phrase ''you can begin again''. Here is a link to his response to the question. It answers it perhaps as well as a human being can, certainly better than I can or have.
''The Question God Hears Most"

I am an engineer by trade and by inclination. Finding the answers to difficult questions is one of the things that I do and frankly enjoy doing. But there are questions and there are questions. I can find a way to operate your factory more efficiently, or find an answer to a heat transfer problem. but I have no answers to the man whose wife died suddenly and wants to know why. I can often find the what. The ''why'' is often out of my field. That is the province of God. I see no reason to believe that He is displeased when we cry out to Him, when we pour out our heart, when we bring Him our hurts. But we have to realize that we may not get an answer, not one that we will recognize as one. We can be hurt, we can be angry at the situation, we may weep and mourn. When all else is said, we still have to hang on to Him, and to trust Him, to trust His nature. Job said, '' if he slay me, still will I trust Him''. And sometimes there just is no alternative but to realize that His nature is not our nature. And just hang on.

Today's Reading July 07

G'morning, all. It's just after 3 am here
Back on January 01 we started out on a through-the-Bible in a year journey. See how far we've come in just a short while every day? It's not an impossible task, particularly as the Lord guides us through. And He definitely will do that.
This morning's reading is the next-to-last day in Job. This is one of the books of the Bible that has long had great meaning for me.
Today we look into chapters 35, 36, and 37. Elihu, the young man, speaks on behalf of the Lord. This is the last speech given here by any of Job's ''friends'', and it contains some nuggets, some recognition that God's ways are not our ways, His perspective a whole other thing. From chapter 35,

2 Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's?
3 For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?
and from chapter 36,
2 Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God's behalf.
3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
4 Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God.

All of which goes to this: God is not just a long-lived human being with great power and lifespan. He is much much more than that, of another sort entirely, and we do wrong to approach Him as if He were.

This evening we take up another section of the Acts, chapter 14 this time.
More of an early missionary trip, with opposition and persecution, and also great success.
2 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

06 July 2007

Today's Reading July 06

Good morning and Happy Friday!
This morning we continue in Job, chapters 33 and 34.
Elihu, the young man, continues his address to Job, and part of that message is that God is just:

10 Therefore hearken unto me ye men of understanding: far be it from God, that he should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that he should commit iniquity.
11 For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways.
12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.

But there will certainly be times that we do not understand, where we do not understand His purposes.

for this evening, Acts chapter 13, verses 24 through 52
Paul is preaching the Good News, and creating quite a stir:
38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
40 Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
41 Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Hab 1:5
42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

and yet this was not always well received
46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
Isa 49:6
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
52 And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.

05 July 2007

Today's Reading July 05

Continuing in Job, chapters 31 and 32
Job continues his speech,

Chapter 31
1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
2 For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
3 Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?
4 Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?
5 If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;
6 Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity.

and now we change, just a bit. Four visitors had come, three of them contemporaries of Job. They have done the talking up to now. But now the fourth speaks up.

Chapter 32
1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
2 Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
3 Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.

we are heading towards a conclusion here.
Job is, as I've said, an important book and the timing is also meaningful to me. In the last three years, I have known disaster. I have lost a mother, a mother in law, and virtually everything that I had. We have known distress and need and fear. And it all started three years ago tomorrow, July 6th. So the story of Job resonates. But in my heart I know that the Lord is up to something here.


Continuing in the Acts, chapter `13, verses 1 through 23.
Early mission trip here. Spend some time in this passage - it's all important. Little things that we might miss if we rush past. Here's one, bolded,
1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

no accidental decisions here. And don't you think that someone who knew Herod from of old might have some insights?

04 July 2007

Today's Reading July 4th

Good morning
This morning we continue in Job, chapters 29 and 30.
Job spends chapter 29 looking back at the joy of his previous life, with longing
Chapter 30 is a recitation of his current situation with a great deal of imagery

25 Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.
27 My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.
28 I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation.
29 I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.
30 My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.
31 My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.

And if you haven't been there, hang on, you will be. We are nowhere guaranteed a life of ease and plenty. I don't care what the 'TV Preachers' say, it's just not so. There is a place for the ''blab it and grab it'' types, but you don't want to be there.
This evening we continue in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12.
Persecution of the Church really begins (see above for perspective) starting with an execution. Peter is thrown into prison. But an angel gets him out, and Herod dies in a terrible way. And the result of all of this?
24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

A new phase begins. But James, the brother of John, is dead. Did that mean the Lord was displeased with him? Not at all. And see Job, above, for reference.

03 July 2007

Today's Reading July 03

Good morning, all
This morning we continue in the book of Job, chapters 26, 27, and 28.
This entirely a speech by Job praising the Lord. Hard to imagine, isn't it, that in the midst of all that had happened, Job takes the opportunity to speak of the greatness of God. No ''curse God and die'' here. And he ends the passage with

28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.
We have all too often sought worldly wisdom not the wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord. Job did not make that error.
This evening we get into another portion of the Acts, chapter 11. This is one of those passages that contains verses out of which have comes sermons, and books, and whole series of same. For example,
16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
LIke that? I do.
1 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.

See what I mean?

02 July 2007

Today's Reading July 01

Happy Monday, everyone.
for the morning
Job 23, 24, 25
Good words from one of Job's friends

4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?
5 Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight.
6 How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?

And it's still a good set question.

for the evenining

Acts chapter 10, verses 24 through 48. This is the unfolding story of the Early Church, showing early involvement with Gentiles. I'm glad that happened, that group includes me. Probably it includes you as well. We take it for granted now, but at the time it was quite controversial, as we will see later on in a number of places.
Cornelius the Roman centurion has prayed to the Lord, his prayer is heard and answered far beyond his expectations. (that would be a good sermon or study series in itself, by the way). And the Lord sends a messenger, Peter. And Cornelius makes and introduction
33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Don't you wish you'd been there? I do.

01 July 2007

Today's Reading July 01

This morning
Job, chapters 21 and 22
Job is continuing the discussion with his friends, ''why to the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?''

6 Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.
11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.
12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

This evening
Acts, chapter 10, verses 1 through 23
Another new development in the developing church. Up to this point, with the exception of the eunuch Phillip preached to, the church has been entirely comprised of Jews. That now changes. We see now a Gentile, a Roman soldier of rank, described as 'God-fearing', who is now called by the Lord to faith in Jesus the Christ. Most Christians have more or less forgotten this, and now a Jew, especially a Messianic Jew, is regarded as an oddity.