I recently heard an African man speak. He was from Liberia. He had fled his country during the war and while fleeing buried his dead child on the trail – no marker for the little grave.
He spoke of Job in the Bible. When Satan comes in from roaming the earth and stands before God. God asks Satan if he has considered Job. “There is no one like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Basically, Satan says Job is that way because God has blessed him and put protection around him. God tells Satan to do what he will with Job but not touch him physically.
Satan leaves and proceeds to destroy all that Job has: his children, his cattle, servants, his sheep and herdsman, as well as his camels. All is destroyed. Job grieves but, “in all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Again, Satan comes in to stand before God after roaming the earth. Again, God asks, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he maintains his integrity though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
Satan says Job is that way because he still has his health. He challenges God, “Stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones and he will curse you to your face.” God gives Satan permission on the condition that Job’s life is to be spared. And we know what happens. (If not, I recommend you read that great book.)
We are given a fascinating behind the-scenes look into heaven! And bird’s eye view of Job’s less-then-helpful friends.
The African speaker said that God was bragging on Job to satan. Beating His chest, as it were, because of Job’s fidelity which satan challenged. Then the speaker challenged us: “What does it mean for God to beat His chest for me? What have I done to make God boast?” Wow!
Think about that for a moment.
I don’t want to fall into the trap of “works righteousness” or “performance orientation”. But my first thoughts were things that I had done. Accomplishments that were sure to please God. Kindnesses along the way. Service I had given. All performance oriented. Job had presented God and his 3 friends with all sorts of arguments and defenses. But when God actually showed up, this was Job’s response:
I know that thou canst do all things,
And that no purpose of thine can be restrained.
Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge?
Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not,
Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak;
I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now mine eye seeth thee:
Wherefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.
Job in God’s presence felt small and ignorant of God’s ways. But God boasted of Job for his trust in Him.
God’s answer to our suffering is Himself. He is enough. Our proper response is to trust. That makes God boast, beat His chest with delight and joy. He’ll point to us and say down the corridors of heaven, “Those are my children! They are trusting me. He’ll point them out to the angels and say, “See them? They get it!”
I confess, I am not there yet.
I watched with a heavy heart the reports coming out of Paris and the cold-blooded slaughter of innocent lives by the Islamic terrorists – heartless savages. I am angered by what I saw and heard.
I cannot conceive how human beings can do that. I do not understand how they think. How unfeeling they are. How blind! It is evil, plan and simple. I’ve heard folks say they don’t believe the devil is real. I do. And I see evidence of him in this carnage. His fingerprints are all over this.
It is evil. They are radical Muslims. They believe the warped lie that they are doing God a service by this killing and they will be rewarded in paradise. That is what motivates this madness.
Does God love them? Yes. Did Jesus die for them? Yes. Why did God allow this? Perhaps to open our eyes to our desperate need to repent of our sins. We need to be praying for these radicals. Not to spare us – we deserve judgment. It is God’s desire that ALL come to repentance – including these evil, wicked murderers.
The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44-47). He even tells us to love our enemies. That is a hard command. How are we to pray for these “enemies”? How can we love them? What about striking back?
The way I pray for these radicals is that God would expose their plans and they be brought to justice. I also pray that their eyes would be open the to truth of God’s love for them. The Koran never uses the word “love”. They do not see Him as personal, or forgiving, or loving. What a terrible way to believe! I feel sorry for them – to not know of God’s mercy and grace. I have to ask God to help me love them – I don’t have it in me.
Jesus died for them, too. I pray someone or some event would plant a seed in their hearts and minds for the good news of the Gospel. They have murdered Christian believers – surely they observed their courage and heard them utter a prayer. Did it make them wonder why? One day we will know.
Until then let’s obey the Lord’s command to pray for them. And their victims and ourselves. The Lord commands us to forgive. My first reaction to that is, “Never. They don’t deserve it.” No they don’t. Nor do I. No one does. But God offers to me, you and the terrorists forgiveness when we truly repent. God is not willing for anyone perish in their sins.
What about revenge? Payback? Bombing them into oblivion? I do believe there is a time as a nation we should take quick, thorough action to deal with evil in the world. That is not my decision to make but I will support a serious war on terrorism. War is hell. Our enemies do not play by the rules. We ask our troops to put themselves in harm’s way with one hand tied behind their back. I don’t support that.
Where are our Churchillian leaders? Our MacArthurs? Our Pattons? Eisenhowers? Let us pray that God will raise up leaders who can lead us against this evil.
I recently went to a conference and heard 2 speakers who were former Muslims and one man who has studied Islam extensively. To say it was eye-opening would be an understatement.
Here are some of the things I heard:
“Islam is more alive today then it was 1400 years ago.”
Arabic is being taught in our public schools. They are then aiming to teach the Koran in our schools. In deference to the Muslim population of a prison, no pork is served in our prisons. They are very “evangelistic”. One of the big issues is Jesus’ divinity.
Don’t use a frontal approach but enter into a dialogue with them. Let them ask questions. Concentrate on the mind – use the Koran as bait and bring them to the Bible.
They believe all people are born Muslim – that’s the original religion of God – then are “converted” to other religions; Christianity being one.
There is no such thing as “separation of church and state”. There is no division between the secular and religious; they do not compartmentalize.
They are confused about God, Jesus’ death and they deny the resurrection. They are scared of hell. A good question to ask would be, “If you were to die today, where would you go?” or “Can I pray for you?”
Muslim concept is not love but hate. The word “love” is never used in the Koran. It is a religion of violence which originates in the Koran. It instructs “how to behead” someone.
When Muslims are in a minority they remain docile, peaceful – marking time and having babies – until they become a larger percentage of the population – at 50% the begin to show their true colors. They concentrate on the highest electoral states. There has never been a reformation in Islam. There are 1.5 billion Muslims. Their lives are completely prescribed by Mohammed. They have to appease him.
There are 624 Islamic student associations on or near campuses in NY. Fairfax County, VA. has 22 Islamic groups.
They are on the move!
You can learn more at http://www.answeringislam.org. I would encourage you to read and learn all you can. Be informed.
Someone recently emailed asking me what I thought were the most compelling questions of the 21st Century. Interesting to think about…
I passed that question around and got a variety of answers. Some were political. Some were environmental. Some were nationalistic. Some were global. Some economic. Some moral. Some spiritual. Most of them profound. None were silly or frivolous.
I confess I do not often sit around and think in those philosophical terms. I should expand my thinking. It made me think about what is really important.
How would you answer it?
Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate one for the Jewish feasts. No doubt it was crowded and noisy – He was jostled by the crowd – no one noticing that the Son of God was passing by. They were busy going about their own lives. Perhaps tired and hot, He stopped by a pool near the Sheep Gate – where sheep were led into the temple area to be slaughtered for sacrifice. The Pool of Bethesda.
Instead of a quiet, cool place to rest a bit he saw a multitude (hundreds) of sick, infirmed, blind, paralyzed, crippled people. It was probably noisy, smelly, dirty. People moaning. Swatting away flies. Not a pleasant place. I would have quickly backed out and looked for another spot. Not Jesus. He took it all in. Saw faces of hope. And faces of despair and misery. The disappointment. The self-focus.
You see, people believed that an angel, unpredictably, would ruffle the water and the first person in the pool after that would be cured. (Some kind of odd lottery!) Each one hoped. Each one was still hoping. Each one had experienced disappointment. They wanted to be whole – more than anything. The reason they were there was to be healed. Perhaps a family member was with them hoping, too. How did they pass the time? Talking? Sleeping? Arguing politics? Playing games? Eating? These were real people in real time seeking help beyond themselves.
Out of that whole crowd Jesus focused on one man. Jesus learned he had been there for 38 years! Hoping for this opportunity. Jesus knew his story – the hope, the disappointment. The hurt and loneliness. He knew it all. Can you imagine? I would have given up. Become bitter. Lost faith. Blamed myself. My family. My friends for not doing enough to help me. Maybe his friends and family lived too far away. Maybe they went back to their own responsibilities. Maybe they were tired of it all. Or angry. Was he used to being overlooked? No one was paying attention to him. Maybe he was tired of asking for help and being rejected. Maybe he was an outsider.
But Jesus went straight to him and asked him a question. “Do you want to get well?” What an odd question. Hadn’t the man been there for all those years? He hadn’t given up hope. He hadn’t gone home in despair. He was still there. No one helped him. Was he used to being outsider.
When God asks a question it is not because He doesn’t know the answer. He wants us to look at ourselves – honestly – and tell Him where we are in ourselves. He wants us to confront ourselves. So it was with this man.
I’ve heard preachers say this man was full of self-pity and had grown comfortable, made excuses for himself. I’m not so sure. He was still there. He had no where else to go. He needed help to get into the pool – maybe others had given up on him and left him alone. When Jesus asked the question, the man gave a straight-forward answer: “I need help. There is no one to help me. Someone beats me to it every time.” That was all true. He knew he was weak, in need of help. He knew he was not self-sufficient. He knew he was losing out. But he was sill there.
That’s the very same place we all have to get to before God. To tell Him we need help. We cannot do it ourselves. It’s only then God does the amazing. He touches our lives and makes us whole. Jesus simply told the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” We read, “At once he was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” He obeyed.
There was no doubt in this man. He believed Jesus. He didn’t lean on his own understanding. He trusted Jesus.
What is it you want from Jesus – more than anything? As the great hymn says, “Trust and obey – there’s no other way.”
This weekend I attended the Mission India “Gathering” at The Cove near Asheville. I was truly blessed by their ministry, vision and humility. One of the speakers told this story and it’s too good not to share – I had never heard it before though I knew the song well.
About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales, England. As a result of this, many missionaries came from England to northeast India to spread the Gospel. The region was known as Assam and comprised hundreds of tribes. (I was in this region in February.) The tribal communities were quite primitive and aggressive.
The tribesmen were also called head-hunters because of a social custom which required the male members of the community to collect as many heads as possible. A man’s strength and ability to protect his wife was assessed by the number of heads he had collected. Therefore, a youth of marriageable age would try and collect as many heads as possible and hang them on the walls of his house. The more heads a man had, the more eligible he was considered.
Into this hostile and aggressive community, came a group of Welsh missionaries spreading the message of love, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed.
One Welsh missionary finally succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man sang his reply, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”
Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”
But the man replied, again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered the man’s wife to be shot with an arrow to the heart. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now the chief asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”
In the face of death the man sang, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back. No turning back.”
He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”
In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
I just got back from the very beach pictured above. I love to worship as I walk at dawn. This year as I read my scriptures several verses jumped out at me – they had to do with lifting up. Scripture tell us to lift up – our heart. Our hands. Our souls. And I’d add our mind – I think it is implied in several passages. (Now I am not one to lift up my hands in church…I’m too Presbyterian!)
Lifting up is a positive action – a giving. It is also a position of vulnerability – it’s not defensive. It is a sign of surrender.
I lift up my heart for healing. Laminations 3:41
I lift up my soul for refreshing and restoration. Psalm 25:1
I lift up my hands in worship and surrender. Psalm 63: 4
And I lift up my mind by thinking about the things Paul told us to. Those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable things, excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) Also as we meditate on scripture our hearts, souls and minds are lifted up. And our hands will follow! Sometimes as we lift up our hands it is easier to lift up the other parts of us.
How different would our day be if we “lifted up” our hearts, souls, hands and minds to the One who made us and desires the best for us. He created us to worship Him. If we are not worshiping Him, we are not fulfilling our purpose.
What do we worship about Him? Everything! He is holy, good, faithful, love, great, mighty, able, glorious, just, merciful, redeemer. He is our hope and refuge. He created us. He loves us. He is in control. You can add your own thoughts.
OK, now, lift it up!