Job Bible Study

What We Think We Know

Have you ever thought something to be so true, only to find out later that you were so wrong?  I do this with song lyrics often.  I’ll be singing at the top of my lungs and think, that doesn’t sound right.  I look up the lyrics and sure enough, I had that line wrong for years!

There are other more serious scenarios where I didn’t discern the situation correctly and was stuck with my so-called tail between my legs.  Sometimes it’s a matter of not having enough information, receiving misleading information, or our past experiences have led us to believe that situations lead to certain outcomes.

I don’t believe that I ever did anything out of pride or envy.  I never want to see someone down on their luck get crushed even further.  But it is something to consider when giving advice to someone.  There needs to be a certain amount of discernment involved when counseling others.

I think it is a natural response for humans to question why certain things happen to them.  I also believe that, as friends trying to help those questioning, we often feel the need to try to explain why that said thing could’ve happened.  Where is our truth coming from?  Is it okay to not have an answer?  Can we still be comforting without it?  Is it better to just not sing the lyrics, or continue making our own words up, blinded to the real words and meaning of the song?

We do have a one-up on Job’s friends.  We know that God allowed Satan to test Job and try to sway his faithfulness. God even says that Job is a righteous man and that this test is not a punishment.  His friends, however, can’t even comprehend this as a possibility.  They are getting the lyrics all wrong.  Let’s consider those questions above as we read on.

20170722_194257.jpgS – Scripture: Job 32-34

  • 32:2-3 – “Then Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the clan of Ram, became angry. He was angry because Job refused to admit that he had sinned and that God was right in punishing him. He was also angry with Job’s three friends, for they made God appear to be wrong by their inability to answer Job’s arguments.”
  • 32:12-14 – “I have listened, but not one of you has refuted Job or answered his arguments. And don’t tell me, ‘He is too wise for us. Only God can convince him.'”
  • 33:9-13 – “You said, ‘I am pure; I am without sin; I am innocent; I have no guilt. God is picking a quarrel with me, and he considers me his enemy. He puts my feet in the stocks and watches my every move.’ But you are wrong, and I will show you why. For God is greater than any human being. So why are you bringing a charge against him? Why say he does not respond to people’s complaints?”
  • 33:23-25 -“But if an angel from heaven appears–a special messenger to intercede for a person and declare that he is upright–he will be gracious and say, ‘Rescue him from the grave, for I have found a ransom for his life.’ Then his body will become as healthy as a child’s, firm and youthful again.”
  • 34:11-13 – “He repays people according to their deeds. He treats people as they deserve. Truly, God will not do wrong. The Almighty will not twist justice. Did someone else put the world in his care? Who set the whole world in place?”
  • 34:21-22 -“For God watches how people live; he sees everything they do. No darkness is thick enough to hide the wicked from his eyes.”
  • 34:36-37 – “Job, you deserve the maximum penalty for the wicked way you have talked. For you have added rebellion to your sin; you show no respect, and you speak many angry words against God.”

O – Observation:

  • Elihu speaks against Job.  He is angry because Job won’t admit his sin to God and that God has the right to punish him.
  • He questions why and how Job can accuse God of doing these things to him.  He thinks Job has not right (and is guilty) to come at God that way.
  • Elihu claims that God would speak to Job if only he would repent – Job is clearly being punished.
  • Satan works by twisting the truth in the slightest way.
  • We must be careful to discern God’s truth among all of the other noise spoken to us.
  • Elihu wasn’t necessarily speaking falsely about God and his justice, but he definitely didn’t know what was going on.  Again, he had the head knowledge of God, but not the heart knowledge that Job had.
  • We really don’t know how God works or why he does the things he does.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge                 of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”                       2 Corinthians 10:5

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

20170714_133957_resizedA – Application:

One of the greatest things that people said to Dan and I as we went through our miscarriages was, “I’m so sorry, I’ll be praying for you.”  This may seem like a passive response, but it was all that I needed and wanted to hear.  I knew they meant it, and I felt those prayers.

I didn’t want a discussion or explanation of what may have caused this or why God would allow it.  I coudn’t handle that.  I just wanted to sad and angry for a time. Knowing that people who loved me were praying for me was all I really wanted.

This is just my opinion, but I think that sometimes we are too quick to try to resolve a situation and move on. Sometimes we need to just sit with the pain, sadness, anger, confusion, and grief.  We personally, and others alongside us, may not know how to deal with those emotions so we try to brush them off with platitudes and earthly explanations.

What I also think, is that it’s in those deep emotions that God can really work.  If I hadn’t stopped to rest, physically and mentally, I may have missed out on feeling the most gentle grace and love that I have ever felt.  If I had just put those emotions in a box and buried them deep inside I wouldn’t have been able to experience God’s amazing power to redeem and grow my life into something new and beautiful.  The alternative would have been fear, doubt, loss of faith and hope in God, bitterness, anger, etc. I may have just become an empty shell instead of a thriving vessel for God to use.

What my life is turning into is nothing that I could’ve explained or imagined.  God is working. I truly believe that it is beacause, in all of the wrestling though the emotions, I have allowed God to work and to heal me.

But it started with friends and family allowing me to do that.  By praying for me and giving me a hug without saying anything, I had the room and grace to seek out the answers from God alone.  He, above all, had to me my healer, counselor, and redeemer.

This wasn’t always easy, in fact, I don’t think it has been since this started a year and a half ago.  I had to focus on “taking captive every thought” and “renewing my mind” amidst all of the emotion to lead me back to God when I felt weak and helpless.  There were many tears and moments of doubt, but it always lead back to trusting in the Almighty Redeemer.  He became my fortress and shield.

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Words fall short most of the time.  Prayers are never missed by God.  He always hears.  I guess my advice out of all of this is to give yourself and your friends or family the space to wrestle with those tough emotions.  You can be there to hold them up and pray bold prayers to a God who can do far more than we can hope or imagine.  Sometimes the person going through the hurt can’t pray those yet, and that’s okay. Many times we need others around us to believe that God can make something beautiful when all we see is destruction and tragedy.

What I recall needing prayers for the most include 1.) God’s gentle and abundant grace and healing, and 2.) God’s protection over the heart’s of those hurting, that fear and doubt would be far from them.

I urge you, and I’m speaking to myself too, to not make things worse with your words. If you don’t know what to say, stay silent and pray.  God may give you some words to share or use your silent presence as a source of comfort. Trust that God is working and that he has a plan out of our tragedies, beyond explanation.  Don’t sing (in this case) without know all of the lyrics. Allow God to work without putting him in a box of our own, small thinking and vision.  Let our big and majestic God do big and majestic things with our lives.

P – Prayer:

God, I thank you so much that you are bigger and more loving than any hurt or tragedy that comes our way.  It can be easier to box up those tough emotions and not deal with them.  I felt like I would lose control if I let one out of the box.  But it was when I did that you had room to work.  We could tackle it together.  You never left me alone in my pain. You are so good.

Lord, I lift up those who are hurting today.  Would you nudge them to give themselves rest and space to stop and be with you?  Could you show them your gentle grace and love in that place?  Protect their hearts from the lies that Satan dishes out.  May the arrows of doubt and fear not touch them.

May you redeem and heal us and those around us Lord.  Make good on the bad things we have experienced.   Make us beautiful and thriving again. Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #12 - What We Think We Know
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Inspirational Quote
It was when I did that God had room to work.
Job Bible Study

Making Good

Life seems pretty good, until it’s not.  Everything can be going so well and then, WHAM!, the carpet gets pulled out from under you.  You are lying on the floor dizzy and shaken, maybe concussed.  In shock, you look around at the mess and dust floating in the air.  How did you get here?

You were walking a straight line.  You had picked up all of the obstacles so that you wouldn’t trip.  The job is secure, the family is thriving, the house payments are in on time, the faith is growing.  What did you miss to get you here on the floor?

Bad news is always a phone call away, isn’t it?  That isn’t to scare you, but it’s usually the harsh reality.  We see Job, living an amazing life.  Righteous and with integrity, he walks among the community.  God has granted him with many blessings and Job knows that. He had a vision that life would be good and long because of his devotion to God.  But the devil had the idea that he could turn Job away from God by taking away all that God had given him.  In a blink, Job’s life changed.

crossroadsWe are in the midst of Job’s turmoil and sorrow.  This is a cross-roads for us too.  How can you, when life takes an unexpected, unexplained turn, keep your faith in God?  How can you see eventual good come out of a tragic situation?  What could God possibly do to make this impossible situation better?

Read on, friends!

S – Scripture: Job 29-31

  • 29:13-14 – “I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows’ hearts to sing for joy. Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban.”
  • 29:18-19 – “I thought, ‘Surely I will die surrounded by my family after a long, good life. For I am like a tree whose roots reach the water, whose branches are refreshed with the dew.'”
  • 30:15-18 – “I live in terror now. My honor has blown away in the wind, and my prosperity has vanished like a cloud. And now my life seeps away. Depression haunts my days. At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly. With a strong hand, God grabs my shirt. He grips me by the collar of my coat.”
  • 30:20 – “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.”
  • 31:14 – “how could I face God? What could I say when he questioned me?”
  • 31:35-36 – “If only someone would listen to me! Look, I will sign my name to my defense. Let the Almighty answer me. Let my accuser write out the charges against me. I would face the accusation proudly. I would wear it like a crown.”

O – Observation:

    • Job speaks of his former life, all he had and all of the good things he did for others.  He lead a righteous life and felt strong and secure.
    • Job laments about life as it is now.  He is mocked, robbed, despised, alone, humbled, opposed, depressed, in pain, and persecuted by all the people he helped before.
    • Job makes one more claim of innocence and questions what he may have done.
      • Lust (30:1-4), Lying (30:5), strayed from God (30:6-8), treated servants unfairly (30:13), refused to help the poor, widows, and orphans (30:16-23), put trust in money or gloated about wealth (30:24-25), idolatry (26-28), mocked enemies or sought revenge (30:29-30), tried to hide sin (30:33-34) – Job claims he did none of these things.
    • Job questions how he could even face God. What could he possibly say to redeem himself?

 

A – Application:

I was reminded of a podcast that I listened to not too long ago by Pastor Levi Lusko, author of “Through the Eyes of a Lion.”  He was speaking at Willow Creek in Chicago at their midweek service on how he overcame the loss of his daughter to an asthma attack.  It was a tragic time in his life, and yet, God has used his story in powerful ways to give others strength and hope to get through their grief.lion

One of the points he made stuck out to me so profoundly. Pastor Lusko was discussing how the devil has to ask God to do anything that is evil, and God must allow it.  There is no way we can know why God allows the things he does.  But he says, “everything God allows has the backdoor purpose of accomplishing what he wants, not what the devil wants.”

Levi Lusko then shares briefly the stories of Joseph, Job, and Jesus.  He shows how evil was allowed to enter their lives, stripping them of their homes, wealth, family, and, in Jesus’ case, his life. But in each situation, God controlled everything that happened and worked it into something far more amazing than we could have thought and defeated Satan’s plan.

Joseph was sold by his brothers, but later became second to Pharaoh and saved millions from starvation due to a famine in the land. He was later reunited and reconciled with his family. Job was stripped of his wealth, family, and health, but (spoiler alert!) God granted him twice as much as he had before.  Jesus was betrayed, beaten, and crucified, yet God raised him from the dead to save the rest of the world for the wages of sin.  Amen!

I’ve also seen it in my life.  When I was sixteen I completely tore my ACL playing basketball.  I was a Junior in High School and the level of play was starting to get good. I was getting good.  Then an injury knocked me out for the rest of the season of basketball and, my favorite sport, volleyball.  I was devastated.

What was I supposed to do now?  How was I ever going to recover and be as good as I would have been? Will I ever play sports again? Why me?

Then I went through Physical Therapy and fell in love! I had so much fun at my sessions. I was amazed at how my knee could go from completely immobilized to full range of motion.  It was from then on that I wanted to do that. I developed a passion for seeing other people healed through exercise.  It changed the trajectory of my life that I maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

This experience also strengthened my spiritual life.  At that time, a friend of mine, Brenda, reminded me of Romans 8:28 (I know I’ve shared it before, but it’s so good!):

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

anchorAt the time, that was the most tragic thing that had ever happened to me.  It was the first time that I had to question the goodness of God and his plan for me.  I had an idea of what my life was supposed to look like, and all of a sudden, with one bad twist of my knee, my life changed.

This was an opportunity for the devil to swoop in a turn my thinking away from God and towards him instead.  I could have decided to leave all that God had for me in that moment.  I could have stated that he clearly doesn’t love me, why would this have happened if he did? So could Joseph, Job, and Jesus.

But that verse, “God causes everything to work together for the good.” I clung to that promise like a lifeline.

What would have happened if I didn’t go through that surgery?  Where would I have ended up?  What would have happened if Joseph’s brothers didn’t sell him into slavery?  What if Jesus never died on the cross?  Where would we be?

God’s powerful and mighty hand is always in control, of the good and the bad.  He has you.  And if you allow him to, he can do amazing things through this tough time in your life.  You have the choice.  You always do.  Either see your situation as a forever dark path, never to be light again.  Or,  let the Creator of Light shine so powerfully that you can’t explain how your life became so blessed out of the dark.

20170624_143109I’m waiting to see the light that comes from the hardship of two miscarriages.  I don’t know what God is going to do with that or how he is going to use that to make good in my life.  There are days when the waiting just seems like too much.  It can be overwhelming.  But there is hope.  There are good things to be thankful for right now.  I can see God moving, in his time.

Are you waiting to see the light through the darkness?  Take hope, God is working, friend.  Trust in his love and his timing.  He has good plans for you.

P – Prayer: 

God, thank you for being in control.  As much as I like being in control, I know that I can’t do it all.  Especially in trials, I can’t get a grip on anything it seems.  But it comforts me to know that you can handle it.  You are working in ways that I can’t yet see. Thank you for the examples of Joseph, Job, and Jesus. Where would we be without their overcoming trials. This gives me hope.

Father, continue to bless me with glimpses of your promises and power.  Don’t let the devil sneak in and disrupt the work you are doing.  Give me strength to overcome his snares and detect his lies.  Amen

 

 

 

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #11 - Making Good
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
I am like a tree whose roots reach the water.
Job Bible Study

Wisdom and Understanding

When I picture a wise person I see someone who is CONTENT.  Life seems simpler and less chaotic.  Don’t get me wrong, they have stuff going on, but they seem strong in who God is and who they are.  They have what the Bible calls a “fear of the Lord.” I want that all the time! We are going to explore that a little bit more later on.

Sometimes life feels like you are in the eye of a tornado.  Everything is swirling around you and you can’t escape except to hang on to something till it passes.  But that’s the thing, you must go through it.  There are definitely action steps that should be taken,  but sometimes you just need to sit for a second and take a deep breath.  There are times when you need to grasp onto the only visible and substantial thing that God gave us, his Word. Sometimes you need to read and proclaim to your soul who God is and what he can do.  You need to “fear the Lord.” This allows you to experience his wisdom.

Job expresses how amazing God is in these next chapters.  We see a deeper contentment in who God is and what he can do in the middle of troubling circumstances.

S – Scripture: Job 24-28

  • 24:22-24 – “God, in his power, drags away the rich. They may rise high, but they have no assurance of life. They may be allowed to live in security, but God is always watching them. And though they are great now, in a moment they will be gone like all others, cut off like heads of grain.”
  • 26:7-8 – “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. “
  • 26:14 – “These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?” 
  • 27:2-6 – “I vow by the living God, who has taken away my rights, by the Almighty who has embittered my soul– As long as I live, while I have breath from God, my lips will speak no evil, and my tongue will speak no lies.  I will never concede that you are right; I will defend my integrity until I die. I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.”
  • 28:12-15 – “But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living. ‘It is not here,’ says the ocean. ‘Nor is it here,’ says the sea. It cannot be bought with gold. It cannot be purchased with silver.”
  • 28:28 – “And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.'”

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O – Observation:

  • Job questions why the wicked aren’t punished and the poor go on suffering.  But he goes on to say that he knows God is watching them and will take care of it.
  • Wickedness may look like it is prevailing – but God will always win.
  • Bildad speaks: no one is innocent before God.
  • Job responds, saying that God is in control of all things and is all-powerful.
    • He vows to never speak against God and maintain his innocence.
    • He questions what hope the wicked have when everything is stripped away – they do not have God to fall back on.
    • Job proclaims that the righteous will have victory over the wicked in the end.
  • Wisdom is more valuable than any riches found on earth and can only be found with God (from God).
    • Fear of the Lord = Wisdom
    • Forsaking evil = Understanding

A – Application:

I needed to search a little more on the subject of true wisdom and understanding.  Here is what I found:

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.  All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.” Psalms 111:10

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7

“Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.  Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.” Proverbs 2:2-11 

“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out 20170725_150534everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit.  And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-13

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:5-8

It’s interesting to me, looking back on the rough times in my life and realizing that all that stood were the words of God.  All other wants and needs faded, but the promises of God remained constant.  God was consistent in all he said he was and could do. I had to put my trust in him because that was the only thing that were still consistent.  His words never changed.

On one particular day, October 9, 2016, I wrote these words that God spoke to me:

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I was wrestling through the emotions of my second miscarriage at that point.  Work was particularly difficult and I was starting to find that I needed a change.  I felt God calling me to start stepping away, but was struggling to give parts of my job up.  I needed some form of assurance amidst my wavering heart and head state.  These words gave me a mission.  They allowed me to see a path to start walking on.  It seemed simple enough as well. “Feed on my words.” Seek my wisdom.  “Trust in me daily.” God will provide all that I need when I need it. Oh, they were like water to my parched soul.

When life seems like it’s one punch in the face after another, sometimes we need something to grasp on to.  If we can feed on the constant and unchanging words of God, we can slowly build the endurance to stand.  Somehow we get this supernatural strength and faith to make it through or take steps to change our situation.

God’s wisdom is not a secret.  It’s not granted if you are “good enough.”  But you do need to believe without a doubt that God is God and he is all you need. He gave us his Spirit to counsel and guide us.  And he can whisper in your ear far greater ideas and solutions than you can hope or imagine.

I’m not that smart.  I don’t know all the answers.  But I serve and believe in a God who does.  With that, I can accomplish all that he calls me to do and go through.

What do you need wisdom on today?  Have to talked to God about it yet? Have you searched through his Word to see what it says?  Take some time to do that today.  The answers may not all come at once, but my prayer is that you get some sense of clarity or a boldness to step out in faith.

To fear the Lord, to be in awe of all that he can do, is the beginning of wisdom.  Soak in all that God is.  Let that sit on your heart for a minute and be overwhelmed by his amazingness.  Then, go out and do what he has called you to do.  You can do it because you serve a God that has it all.

20170722_194257P – Prayer:

Thank you Lord for all that you are.  You are more than I can hope or imagine.  You give me all that I need when I need it.  Thank you for your unchanging Word that guides me through life.  Lord, speak to those who need to hear you today.  Give them strength, boldness, wisdom, and grace.  Let them know that you are close and guiding their every step.  Thank you God. Amen

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #10 - Wisdom and Understanding
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
The fear of the Lord is true wisdom.
Job Bible Study

Heart Knowledge

I am so thankful that I grew up going to church.  I loved the songs and stories, the crafts and games, VBS and kid’s choir.  My family was originally from Alpena, Michigan and so we would go back there for a week in the summer and do their Vacation Bible School.

Now they went all out! It was called, “The Marketplace,” and people dressed in robes and you were divided into the twelve tribes of Israel and had a tent that you would do activities in.  We got to build birdhouses, paint, hammer coins to purchase items at a store, and even go to a jail they built.  It was great! It was like a mini camp.

My family also went to summer camp at Camp Lake Louise near Gaylord, Michigan.  This place became a safe haven for me.  It was in the middle of nowhere, and escape from the real world.  There was a “blob,” kayaks, tons of crafts, rustic cabins, and a cook that snuck oatmeal into every meal somehow (to keep ups regular and not clog the toilets so much, haha!). My friendships with other believers and my faith grew so much here.  I understood the importance of having a strong community of people who believed the same things and knew that it was a crucial part of life outside of camp.

CLL

Everything about those events were great.  But a lot of it was people telling me about God and faith. I learned verses and concepts of the Bible, but since I’ve lived some years outside of highschool and college, I’ve begun to understand the importance of not only “head knowledge” but “heart knowledge.”

The head knowledge, I believe, can set a firm foundation, especially when our hearts are under strong emotions during trials and temptations.  If we have a clear idea of what the Bible says, it can lead us to a firm ground.  When we know the promises of God, we can have hope during hard times. But the heart knowledge is what draws me closer to God.  It gives me the opportunity to create a relationship with God that is my own and not just stories of other faith warriors from the Bible or real life.

So there has to be a combination of heart and head knowledge.  It can’t just be one or the other or else we will be on shifting sand when trials come.  I think Job sets an amazing example of this in these next chapters.  He has friends who are spouting out head knowledge about the Lord.  But Job seems to know God on a deeper level.  It’s personal and relational, not just liturgical.  There is something different about his faith and knowledge of God. See what I mean in the verses below:

S – Scripture: Job 21-23

  • 23:10-14 – “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.”

gold sunO – Observation:

  • Job seems to be getting a little impatient waiting for God’s answer (21:4).  He questions why the wicked get to live great lives while cursing God.  He inquires how God works and judges: both men, wicked and righteous, end up in the dust, side by side in the grave (21:26).
  • Eliphaz answers, still claiming that Job is wicked and being punished.  He says that God will restore Job if he repents (22:23).
  • Job is searching for God to plead his case (23:3-4) but is terrified of God because he can do whatever he pleases (23:13-17).
  • God sees everything that happens, even in the midst of our trouble.  He’s got it under control.
  • Job knows God on a deep level.  It’s a relationship.  He has walked with God and been righteous before him in words and deed.

A – Application: 

I absolutely LOVE the verse in Job, “And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” What a beautiful imagery and example of hope in the middle of such a difficult trial.  To come forth as gold in the end, oh, how good that will be.

I did a little research into how gold was refined and made into what we see as beautiful pieces of jewelry or decor.  The process uses acid to break down the gold as much as possible, removing the impurities.  Gold is usually a solid thing, but as it’s being filtered, it’s a liquid; it doesn’t look like the shiny and glimmering gold we see.  Sometimes it takes multiple refinements to get all of the impurities out.  Then, it is placed in 2000 degrees and turned back into a solid.  It takes on it’s natural, but new form and can be molded into whatever the end product is.

pure goldThis really is a great picture of going through trials.  The essence of who God made us is still always there, but the refining works to clean out the things we have picked up along the way that don’t fit in to our purpose. We go through what I call, an “unlearning phase.” The process can take a long time and a few too many trials it seems.  It takes effort and patience.

Acid and fire don’t feel good, but they produce a magnificent result.

Job knew something that the others didn’t.  He felt so strongly that this was a test from God and not a punishment.  He knew that all he needed to do was speak to God and plead his case.  This glimmer of hope shines through that when this is all finished, he will be refined and life would be as beautiful as gold again.

When we know whose hands we are in, and hold firmly to who he is and his promises, we can experience a bold and unwavering hope like Job.  When we can look beyond our current struggles and see a possible purpose, or a potential goal to be achieved, we can withstand the pain and suffering.  When we connect our head knowledge to our heart knowledge, we travel deeper into God’s love and comfort. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging, but it gives a supernatural strength to endure.

I mentioned before that I got tattoos as reminders for myself.  They are small and can stay mostly hidden on the inside of my ankles.  They aren’t for anyone else but me.  One is an anchor, to remind me of who holds me (Hebrews 6:19).  The other is a helm, like that on a ship, to remind me of who guides me (Psalm 23).  They are on my ankles to show me that I can stand tall and strong in to midst of my struggles. At a time in my life, I needed constant reminders of those things.  They gave me hope, patience, endurance, and strength.

Most importantly, they gave me purpose.  I look down at them and feel that if I hold on and stick to my faith and to God, that I will come out as gold.  There will be great purpose and redemption and a way to bring glory to God because of my story.  If I can show how strong, loving, and gentle God can be in the midst of tragedy, and that gives someone else hope, then I will endure whatever he allows me to go through.

It took a long time to be able to confidently say that.  But now, it’s a constant mantra that keeps me going.  It keeps me wanting to get better and stronger in God so that others can see him through me.

raysIt’s activity time!  Go stand in front of a mirror, look at yourself in the eyes and say, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” Say it again.  Now again.  One more time.  Okay, again.  Repeat until it sinks in.  Write it down and post it wherever you can see it as a constant reminder. We need these sometimes (and not always in the form of permanent tattoos!)

I pray that even if there are tears streaming down your face,  you can feel hope today.  My deepest wish is that you can take the Words of God and plant them deep in your heart no matter how hard it is.  I want you to know that you will come out as gold, beautiful and magnificent.

A psalm of David.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.  He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.”      

Psalms 23

P – Prayer:

God, there are tough things in this world.  Dark and evil things that push us down and we feel like we are crumbling.  But you know all of our hurts and carry all of our tears.  Thank you for constantly working in our lives and especially for working to make them good.  I pray that each person today will feel a glimmer of hope.  And that they will set their gaze on you and hold tight to your life-giving words.  You are so good.  Amen

 

 

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #6 - Heart Knowledge
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
I will come out as pure as gold.
Job Bible Study

But As for Me

Do you ever feel like there are too many voices speaking at you? You’ve got close family and friends, coworkers, bosses, pastors, the media, teachings and dogmas, cultural norms, the little voice in your head, God’s whisper, and more. Is there a voice that is louder than the others?  Is it positive or negative? How do you filter out all of the erroneous noise and focus on the most important? Do you have a process to help you separate what’s right and wrong when making a decision?

Job is being bombarded with useless chatter.  His wife has betrayed him, society mocks him, and his friends clamor on with counterproductive platitudes.  Job’s responses give us a glimpse as to how to decipher what is true through the noise and keep a firm foundation in the Lord.

S – Scripture: Job 17-20

  • 17:3 – “You must defend my innocence, O God, since no one else will stand up for me.”
  • 17:11-13 “My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken. These men say that night is day; they claim that the darkness is light. What if I go to the grave and make my bed in darkness?”
  • 17:16 – “No, my hope will go down with me to the grave. We will rest together in the dust!”
  • 19:6-8 – “But it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in his net. I cry out, ‘Help!’ but no one answers me. I protest, but there is no justice. God has blocked my way so I cannot move. He has plunged my path into darkness.”
  • 19:10 – “He has demolished me on every side, and I am finished. He has uprooted my hope like a fallen tree.”
  • 19:25-27 – “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!”

20170706_214622O – Observation:

  • Job cries out for God to stand up for him.  Still, in all his anguish, he trusts in God and his hope is in him alone.
  • Bildad and Zophar go on about how it’s because Job is wicked that he is in these circumstances.
  • Job responds that the issue is between him and God.  God has wronged him, yet still claims him as his Redeemer.
    • Redeemer, according to Blue Letter Bible, means “one charged with the duty of restoring the rights of another and avenging his wrongs.”
  • God is constant, a firm foundation, and victorious over sin and death.
  • When we build our foundation on God, it will stand.
  • We can be so wrong about things, especially pertaining to God: his character and ways.

A – Application:

The last couple of verses in Chapter 19 are so beautiful and such a good revelation of faith.  You see a blameless man stripped of all that he has by the hand of God and still he knows that the only way to restitution is through him.  His destroyer is also his redeemer. The only thing that Job has left to hold on to is that God will stand up from his Judge’s seat and save him. Whether in this life or in death, he will be with God.  His soul will rest in the presence of the Lord.  He is crushed and feels uprooted but has a firm foundation of faith.  

But Job had to clear out all of the other noise in order to remember how great and redeeming God is.  He had to shut up his friends and focus on what his foundation of faith was saying to him.  

20170718_205156How often do I turn immediately to a friend or comfort or distraction instead of facing God with my problem?  Sometimes going to God is a last option after I’ve tried everything else.  Maybe it’s because I want control or that I think it’s too small (or too big) of an issue for even God to handle.  Then I get anxious and panicky at what the future might hold.  I spiral down till I think the world is going to end before I realize that I should just go to God first.  

So how do you clear the noise and condition yourself to go to God first?  It’s still something I’m putting into practice, but here are a few things that I have learned.

  1. I had to start ridding the excess noise from my daily life, not just in trying situations.  For me, I want to keep the dialogue between me and God open throughout the day.  So, I try to keep the TV off, news off, distracting or discouraging media out, my cell phone on silent and the notifications for all of my social media off, and set designated times for those things instead.
  2. I start filling my day with opportunities to get to know God’s voice. In order to do this, I go right to the source, the Bible. It is God’s spoken word.  (You know how moms can pick out their kid’s voice and cry? There is an attachment to their child that tunes in immediately the sound of their words or exclamations.  I want that with God.) I want to know instantly when he is speaking to me and be sensitive to his promptings at all times.  So I had to carve out time to learn what his voice sounds like.
  3. I keep reminders out in front of me of words he has spoken to me through his word or during prayer so I can always see them.  Depending on what I need to hear in that season, I write down the verses that keep me close to God and remind me of his promises. (I’ve even gone as far as getting tattoos that remind me of his promises, but you don’t need to go that far. A simple notecard at your desk or on your mirror will do.)

Here are some of my favorites:

“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night– but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” Psalms 139:7-12

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

20170703_173331“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Often, I need the reminder that God loves me so much that I cannot escape his presence, no matter how far gone I feel.  I need to remember that I can go to him with anything and he will guard my heart and give me peace. The steps that I can take before a trial comes, building a firm foundation and knowing the sound of God’s voice, can literally save me.

It’s hard to clear out the noise, but it saves so much time spent in worry and anxiety.  It sets your feet on solid ground during those rough patches of life.  I urge you to take a small step today to remove some of the distracting noise and open the opportunity for God to speak directly to you. Hint: it’s usually a whisper.  

P – Prayer:

Thank you Lord for loving me enough to speak to me.  Forgive me for the times that I have allowed other voices to fill my head and heart before yours.  It’s always so much better when I come to you first.  Will you show me the things in my life that need the volume turned down? I want to hear your voice and be open to what you have to say to me at all times. I want to be able to say, when trials come, “But as for me, my redeemer lives.” I want to stand firm on your foundation, sure that you will save me.  Help me to know your voice.

God, would you speak to me today?  Some days, like today, I just need to know that you are there.   You are so good, and you do good things. Amen

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #8 - But As For Me
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.
Job Bible Study

Controlled Burn

Have you ever seen a controlled burn? When I was young I would see the charred trees and smoke and feel so sad that trees had to die, and for what? It was hard to imagine that place ever being alive again.
As years went by, and I would drive past the place that was burned, I now saw a flourishing forest. Its new vegetation blooming in beauty and abundance.
I’ve since learned that that is a technique used to strip away old growth to make room and give light to new. Clearing away the overgrowth allowed sun and rain to reach areas that needed it. Beauty came through the ashes even years after.
We are catching Job after a big burn. There a still a few coals smoldering and the smoke is still heavy over him. How much longer do we have to wait to see the beauty of life again? Is that even possible?

S – Scripture: Job 14-16

  • 14:1-2 – “”How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.”
  • 14:7-10 – “Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling. But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they?”
  • 14:13-16 – “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins.”
  • 16:5-6 – “But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief. Instead, I suffer if I defend myself, and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak.”
  • 16:17 – “Yet I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure.”
  • 16:19-21 – “Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. My friends scorn me, but I pour out my tears to God. I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends.”

20160925_153530_resizedO – Observation:

  • Job’s hope is gone in life and death. He questions how life would be different when there is knowledge of life after death. The struggle would all be worth it then.
  • Job feels trapped between an rock and a hard place. Whether he defends himself or speaks, he will continue to suffer. He asks God to just let him die until his anger passes and then bring him new life. Then God would protect him rather than stake out a wait for him to sin.
  • What we say and do for friends in dire need really matters. We have the opportunity to convict and condemn or uplift and carry through. Our words are powerful in those moments.
  • Job’s only witness is God. His only advocate is in Heaven. He longs for a mediator – someone to be a witness and helper in his case.

A – Application:
Have you ever been caught in a circumstance that you felt you could never get out of? Have you ever felt that happiness was never going to be possible again? Or maybe that God’s goodness had run its course in your life?
I’ve been in that spot. It’s a rough place to be in. I remember going to church and not even be able to sing one of my favorite hymns, “How Great Thou Art.” The words:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Those words were more than my heart and faith could even fathom. I would just stand there and cry. Is God ever going to be good in my life again? I wanted to believe it, but I couldn’t see any light in my darkness.

20170628_115137_resizedIt was the week before Easter and had been about three months since my miscarriage. I smack my hand on my head now because I remember, in a common moment of anguish saying, God can’t possibly know what I’m going through, he never lost a child!

Pause – I’m sorry…what was I thinking? What the what?!?

Then the verse was read that Good Friday,

“At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, ema sabachthani?’ which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The Pastor spoke and mentioned how Jesus used the term, “My God,” instead of “My Father.” He made the point that in that moment, God had turned his face away from his son, he lost him to death. He had abandoned him.

I had never really paid as much attention to God as I had to Jesus’ act on the cross. The torment and anguish in watching his Son suffer and die such a horrific death I can’t even imagine. How agonizing it must have been even though he new the purpose and the outcome. How did he do it?

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

God had gone through what I had. He had lost his child. My heart changed that day. It had a glimmer of hope that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I realized that because of what Jesus did, no matter what happens in this life, I have eternal life through him. I do have life after death. I can have sunny, glorious, and good days after a time of darkness and drought. A fire can allow the production new life and growth.

20170714_132951_resizedWe now have the Advocate that Job longed for. We now have the witness he proclaimed he needed. We can now enter into the presence of God washed clean from all of the dirt, grim and filth that accumulates in this life.

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:18-20

There is hope for a brighter day. I know it’s dark today. I’ve felt the darkness caving in before. But holdfast to this truth: we have the hope of eternal life, God’s promise, as an anchor for our souls in the midst of the tumultuous waters of this life. Tighten your grip and never let go of that, even if it’s all you can do.

And the final verse:

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

It’s good news that Christ will come again and there will be no more tears or pain. We 20170703_175819_resizedwill be reunited with those lost and our hearts will be full and redeemed. How great is our God, that he would allow the pain of fire (the cross) in order to give us new life and life eternal.

P – Prayer:

Thank you for life. Thank you for the gift of eternal life. It brings hope on the dark days that seem to stretch farther and longer and beyond end. My heart goes out to those hurting today. Can you show them your hope today? Can you give them some bit of comfort in those tough hours? You know our hearts and hurts. Start bringing new life to those burned areas of our lives. Make it a beautiful garden. Amen.

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #7 - Controlled Burn
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
My Advocate is there.
Job Bible Study

Wrestling Match

Have you ever felt that God just wasn’t there?  That you were on some island in the middle of the great ocean with emptiness all around you?  It’s dark, misty, quiet.

Questions start to flood your mind.  Everything you have ever known has been turned upside down.  You feel lost.  You question your goodness, God’s goodness, and the purpose of all that is happening.  Is God really there? Does he even exist?

In this passage, Job calls on God to plead his case.  He knows he is innocent and wants to duke it out with God.  He has questions that need answers.  Job is asking to come up to the presence of the Judge.

S – Scripture: Job 10-13

  • 10:1-9 – “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. I will say to God, ‘Don’t simply condemn me–tell me the charge you are bringing against me. What do you gain by oppressing me? Why do you reject me, the work of your own hands, while smiling on the schemes of the wicked? Are your eyes like those of a human? Do you see things only as people see them? Is your lifetime only as long as ours? Is your life so short that you must quickly probe for my guilt and search for my sin? Although you know I am not guilty, no one can rescue me from your hands. “‘You formed me with your hands; you made me, yet now you completely destroy me. Remember that you made me from dust–will you turn me back to dust so soon?”
  • 10:13-15 – “‘Yet your real motive–your true intent– was to watch me, and if I sinned, you would not forgive my guilt. If I am guilty, too bad for me; and even if I’m innocent, I can’t hold my head high, because I am filled with shame and misery. And if I hold my head high, you hunt me like a lion and display your awesome power against me.”
  • 12:4-6 – “Yet my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer. I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me. People who are at ease mock those in trouble. They give a push to people who are stumbling. But robbers are left in peace, and those who provoke God live in safety–though God keeps them in his power.”
  • 13:3 – “As for me, I would speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God himself.”
  • 13:23-25 – “Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy? Would you terrify a leaf blown by the wind? Would you chase dry straw?”

wheat in the wind.jpg

O – Observation:

  • It’s almost as if God allows us time to question him, our existence, our circumstance, etc. all to grow closer to him.
  • 12:13 “True wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.”
  • Platitudes are useless and not helpful.
  • Satan will use all his resources to try to pull us away from God – even friends.

A – Application:

In the midst of one of the toughest trials of my life, my mom sent me a beautiful devotional from Oswald Chambers.  You can read the whole thing here.  The point that stuck with me was:

“It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child.”

There are so many questions that run through our minds during a trial.  Our brains race, trying to grasp onto some form of an answer – some form of control.  The question that changed my journey through this wrestling match of why was, “what am I supposed to unlearn?”

This was a turning point for me.  It gave me a mission in my suffering and a way to draw closer to God.  It gave me permission to question my relationship with him and break down the ideas that I had formed about him.  I began to see him differently and my affinity towards him deepened.

You see, my faith had been stripped down to its very core.  It was to the point that I questioned if God was even there.  My brokenness brought me to the most simplified version of faith.  In that moment of deepest grief I could only say that I believed there was a God and that he was my God.

mustard seed“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Matthew 17:20

From that, I experienced an unexplainable sense of grace and peace.  I was a child who could only lay in the hands of her Father and just breath.  Tears stream down my face just remembering how gentle and gracious God was in that moment.  So tender for my aching heart.

It didn’t answer all of the other questions in my head, but answers weren’t really what I needed.  I needed a gracious, loving, and gentle Savior that I could just rest in.  I needed to quiet myself enough to just feel my heart beat and breath flow.

Job was calling for God’s presence to plead his case.  He laid out all of his questions, everything on his heart.  We don’t have a conclusion yet, but it’s coming.

20170711_114547

For now, whatever you are going through, ask yourself, “what is God calling me to unlearn?”  What parts of my faith need to be stripped away, so all that is left is what God wants there.  It only takes a mustard seed size of faith for God to move.  If you feel that’s all you have, that’s enough for God to work.  Rest in his gentle and loving arms.  Surrender enough to feel your heart and your breath beat through you.  Allow yourself to be raw and broken and a child. Know that the life-giving Father is caring for you right now.

 

P – Prayer:

God, waiting is hard.  My mind just won’t settle.  My heart races and I feel like I’ve lost all control. Set my feet on solid ground.  Help me to rest in you and gentle grace.  Settle my heart and mind on the simplest form of who you are. Amen.

 

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #6 - Wrestling Match
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
Tell me, what have I done wrong?