The book of Job


Reblogged from Christ is deeper still

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The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust.

The book is driven by tensions.  One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He didn’t deserve what he got.  Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge.  Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8).  Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further.  Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations.  He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17).

Two observations.

One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on and inevitably form opinions.  Suffering brings temptation both to the sufferer and to the observer.  The sufferer is tempted to give up on God.  The observer is tempted to point his finger at the sufferer with smug, self-serving thoughts and words: “This is all your own fault, of course.  If you’d just own up, everything would start getting better.”  The fallacy here is to assume that we live in a universe ruled by the simple laws of crime and punishment.  Our minds dredge up these thoughts not really because we are confident in ourselves but because we are uneasy about ourselves and therefore threatened by the suffering of another: “If it’s happening to Job, it might catch up to me too.”  So we cling to the illusory feeling of control by reinforcing our own self-image of moral superiority.  We try, by sheer force of assertion, to re-order the moral universe in a way reassuring to our prejudices.  The book of Job teaches a more honest and humble way.  When we observe someone suffering, we too should trust God and sympathize with the sufferer rather than off-load our own guilty anxieties by dumping on the sufferer.

Two, when we ourselves suffer in ways that defy easy explanation, God wants us to trust him more deeply than we ever have before.  Job eventually settles into a profound place where, without answers to his questions, he trusts in the omnicompetence of God: “I know that you can do all things” (42:2).  What God can do is more important than how God explains himself.  What if he did tell us every mystery right now?  Would we be satisfied?  Would we say, “Oh, I see.  Here I have your explanation for it all.  That really makes everything okay now”?  I doubt it.  An explanation is a wonderful thing, so far as it goes.  But it is an intellectual thing.  It cannot touch our core being, where the anguish in fact has taken up its deepest residence.  Far better to leave it all with God, as our faith deepens from questioning to waiting.  We don’t live by explanations; we live by faith.

“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able.”  2 Timothy 1:12

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Not the time


lone birdBelieve me, it’s no time for words when the wounds are fresh and bleeding; no time for homilies when the lightning’s shaft has smitten, and the man lies stunned and stricken. Then let the comforter be silent; let him sustain by his presence, not by his preaching; by his sympathetic silence, not by his speech.

George C. Lorimer

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O Love that wilt not let me go


angel face

 This is my hope for 2014. 

No matter the circumstance, the suffering, pain or any daily experience. I can make the choice to do something with my life, whether in suffering or happier times, I can surrender it.  I can turn my thoughts away from what I have lost or gained, and lift my sometimes weary soul to the far greater Love of God that will never let me go.  George Matheson, blind from birth and reeling from personal loss did just that. This hymn was an offering to God from his pain.

You can read his story below the hymn and listen to the Westminster Chorus sing this balm from Heaven.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson suffered poor eyesight from birth, and at age 15 learned that he was going blind.  Not one to be easily discouraged, he enrolled in the University of Glasgow and graduated at age 19.  He then began theological studies, and it was while pursuing those that he began totally blind.  Matheson’s three sisters rose to the occasion and tutored him through his studies –– even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother.  With their help he was able to complete his studies.   After graduation, he answered a call to serve as pastor of a church in Innellan, Argylshire, Scotland.  He had a successful ministry there, and was later called to serve as pastor of the much larger (2000 member) St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.

On the day that one of his sisters was married, Matheson wrote this hymn.  He recorded this account of that experience in his journal: “My hymn was composed in the manse of Inellan on the evening of June 6, 1882.  I was at that time alone.  It was the day of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of my family were staying overnight in Glasgow.  Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering.  The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.  It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life.  I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself.  I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction.  I have no natural gift of rhythm.  All the other verses I have written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.  I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse.”

Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his “most severe mental suffering,” but people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier.  His fiancee had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life married to a blind man.  Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought to memory the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed.

At any rate, Matheson’s “severe mental suffering” inspired him to write this hymn, “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go.”  The hymn celebrates the constancy of God’s love –– “love that wilt not let me go” –– “light that follow’st all my way” –– “joy that seekest me through pain.”  It concludes by celebrating “Life that shall endless be. “When I read the various accounts of Matheson’s writing this hymn, one sentence struck me as especially important.  It was this –– Matheson said, “The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.”  There is an important lesson in that.  All of us suffer some sort of heartbreak or disappointment or disability at some point in our lives.  What makes all the difference is our response ––whether we let the hardship stop us or inspire us to greater effort.
Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan

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Battle worn and weary, but home!


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“The last drops of my sacrifice are falling; my time to go has come. I have fought in the good fight; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:6-7).

As soldiers show their scars and talk of battles when they come at last to spend their old age in the country at home, so shall we in the dear land to which we are hastening, speak of the goodness and faithfulness of God who brought us through all the trials of the way. I would not like to stand in the white-robed host and hear it said, “These are they that came out of great tribulation, all except one.”

Would you like to be there and see yourself pointed at as the one saint who never knew sorrow? Oh, no! for you would be an alien in the midst of the sacred brotherhood. We will be content to share the battle, for we shall soon wear the crown and wave the palm. — C. H. Spurgeon

“Where were you wounded?” asked the surgeon of a soldier on Lookout Mountain. “Almost at the top,” he answered. He forgot even his gaping wound — he only remembered that he had won the heights. So let us go forth to higher endeavors for Christ and never rest till we can shout from the very top, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Finish thy work, then rest, Till then rest never; The rest for thee by God Is rest forever.

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Of an old hero the minstrel sang —

With his Yemen sword for aid; Ornament it carried none, But the notches on the blade.

What nobler decoration of honor can any godly man seek after than his scars of service, his losses for the crown, his reproaches for Christ’s sake, his being worn out in his Master’s service!

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God moves in a mysterious way


William Cowper 1774

 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” .  John 3:17

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God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
the bud may have bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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Black seeds without beauty


tears_of_sadness

J.R. Miller)

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

“Lord, what do You want me to do?” Acts 9:6

The first condition of consecration, must always be entire readiness to accept God’s will for our life. It is not enough to be willing to do Christian work. There are many people who are quite ready to do certain things in the service of Christ, who are not ready to do anything He might want them to do.

God does not send us two classes of providences
— one good, and one evil. All are good. Affliction is God’s goodness in the seed. It takes time for a seed to grow and to  develop into fruitfulness. Many of the best things of our lives — come to us first as pain, suffering, earthly loss or disappointment — black seeds without beauty — but afterward they grow into the rich harvest of righteousness!

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

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Waiting is an art


Waiting75

Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.

It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting—that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.

Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them… For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming.

Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of my love this Christmas-tide. We shall both experience a few dark hours—why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…. And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”

Letter to fiancée Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2011-03-21). God Is In the Manger (pp. 4-5). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.

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A faithful minister


discipline-of-prayer-the

October is Pastor appreciation month and I would like to take a few minutes to thank my Pastor, Jeff Arthur for laboring many years to bring the Gospel message to the brethren of Elizabeth Baptist Church. In these days of confusion and false teaching it’s such a blessing to have a humble, faithful servant hold up God’s word as a beacon of truth in these last days. I know so many people have such a hard time finding a doctrinally sound church and faithful minister,  for that reason I am all the more thankful for the many men who uphold the Church  as “The pillar and ground of the truth”

A faithful Pastor would bring praise, honor and glory to Jesus Christ, never to himself. We are not to exalt men and any Preacher worth his salt would encourage you to test his teachings by the light of scripture and to never put him on a pedestal. Having said that I am so thankful that the Lord has gifted these teachers and leaders to teach and guide us in His truth.

I included one of my Pastor’s many sermons featured on sermon audio which further explains God’s requirements for the office of Pastor. http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=421131457436

A faithful minister

(Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ”)

“Let the elders who rule well be accounted worthy of
double honor, especially those who labor in the word
and doctrine.” 1 Timothy 5:17

The which is here rendered labor, signifies not simply
to labor—but to labor with much travail and toil, to labor
even to exhaustion, as he does who chops wood, or who
toils in harvest, or who fights in a battle.

Oh what an honor is it to a faithful minister, when he has . . .
found the people dark and blind—but left them enlightened;
found them dead—but left them alive;
found them a proud people—but left them humble;
found them a profane people—but left them holy;
found them a carnal people—but left them spiritual;
found them a worldly people—but left them heavenly;
found them a wavering people—but left them settled and rooted.

Oh, it is an honor to faithful ministers,
when their people are like them in . . .
knowledge,
wisdom,
love,
humility,
holiness!

“Be an example to all believers in what you
teach, in the way you live, in your love, your
faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

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Broken, trampled, torn


broken house

(J.R. Miller, “Help for the Day”)

Life may seem a failure here, crushed like a lily under the heel of wrong or sin–broken, trampled, torn! But it may yet become a glorious success. Many of the truest and best of God’s children, know only defeat in this world. They are ever beaten back and thrust down. The burdens are too heavy for them. They are overmastered by sorrows. The world’s enmity treads them in the dust. They are not worldly wise, and, while others march by to great earthly success–they live obscurely oppressed, cheated, wronged, and lie buried away in the darkness of failure.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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The last words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The Voice of C. H. Spurgeon’s Son, Thomas Spurgeon

It is said that while no audios were ever made of C. H. Spurgeon, his son Thomas possessed almost identical voice quality with his famous Dad. Hence Edison-Bell Record company persuaded Thomas Spurgeon to record his father’s last words from the last printed sermon

 

“If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. His service is life, peace, and joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of JESUS CHRIST!”
“If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was his like the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. His service is life, peace, and joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of JESUS CHRIST!” – See more at: http://spurgeononline.com/media/#sthash.SZRkHA6w.dpuf

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October 4, 2013 · 9:12 pm