It’s All About God — Job edition

May 28, 2008 at 10:10 am | Posted in It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a comment to a blog I often check out.  The writer was arguing against the Reformed teaching on salvation and sovereignty, which the blogger holds; he referred to Job’s friends as holding the Reformed position on sovereignty and sin with Job arguing against it.  I had to laugh as I have been reading my devotions in Job the past few days and have been impressed the opposite way.  Job’s friends are arguing against the Reformed position on sovereignty and sin.  The writer of the comment didn’t offer any textual support to his argument.  Here are some examples of the things Job’s friends argue.

Bildad says, “If you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.  Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”  (Job 8:5-7)  Zophar’s contribution is “If you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame and will stand firm without fear.” (11:13-15)  And Eliphaz’ argument is the same: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” (22:21)  Each man is telling Job to repent of his evil actions so God will grant him prosperity.  Job argues that, in spite of his own sin, he has done nothing that deserves such harsh treatment from God; and he argues that, in spite of his struggle with understanding it, God is sovereign.  Notice these thoughts:  “If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!  And if it is a matter of justice, who will summon him?  Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.” (9:19-20)  “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of every human being. . . .  To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. . . .  To him belong strength and victory; both deceived and deceiver are his.” (12:10-16)

            In that light Job recognizes that his only hope is in God, and he recognizes this fact in spite of how he feels God has unfairly treated him.  The following quotes sound to some like New Testament ideas, instead they are just good theology.  “Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.” (9:15)  “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.” (13:15)  “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” (16:19-22)  “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.  Who else will put up security for me?” (17:3)  “I know that my redeemer lives.” (19:25)

            The argument of Job’s friends can be summarized, “It’s all about what you do.”  Job’s point: “It’s all about God, who he is and what he does.”  In the end God said of Job’s friends they “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  Once again we see the truth:  It’s all about God!

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It’s All about God — Even in Politics!

May 20, 2008 at 8:55 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | Leave a comment

Psalm 146:3-4.  “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”   The presidential election of November has been much in the news for a year already; it heated up even last summer.  There were many candidates in each party; there have been numerous debates; there have been ads attacking one candidate or another, and ads supporting one issue or another.  There will be even more as the time to vote draws closer.  Conservative Christians have wondered throughout this campaign if there is a candidate worthy of our votes.

            Now I believe we must vote.  I also believe we must vote for one of the major party candidates because our system is designed in such a way that one of them will be president.  And I believe that every candidate is a sinner, so, at least in some regard, every election is a choice for “the lesser of two evils.”  Yet God says it will all amount to nothing in light of his eternal plans.  Our trust is not to be in princes who will be better kings (or for that matter, candidates who will be better presidents).  It is the LORD who reigns forever; he is God though all generations (v.10).  No matter how I feel about the candidates, whether I feel they are great potentials or the devil incarnate, I cannot trust in them or the promises they bring.  My trust must be in God who reigns forever, in God who keeps his promises.   Even in politics, it’s all about God!

Prince Caspian

May 16, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | 1 Comment

We just returned from seeing “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” Those who know me know that I am a big fan of the Narnia books and enjoyed the first movie in the series.  This film was an exciting experience to watch, as once again, Andrew Adamson put together a great rendition of the C.S. Lewis book.  As in the first movie, there were some added scenes and some rearranging of the details, which I understand are necessary, to make a film flow in a way that a book doesn’t have to.  The relocation of the critical horn blowing, the way in which Trumpkin finds the Pevensies and the added battle at the castle are all discrepancies we can overlook.  Everyone in my family enjoyed the experience.  Here is a report of the positives and negatives that we discussed after leaving the theater.

On the positive side, the movie version of Reepicheep the mouse is superb, exactly as we imagine him from the books.  One reviewer said he steals the show, and we all would agree.  He is both loveable and valiant, both serious and funny all at the same time.  The Pevensies were all, save Peter, well represented in character as Lewis presented them.  Peter seemed a little too hot headed.  The movie’s beginning was exciting and draws one into the story immediately.  From there the flow of action and humor keeps the film moving at a great pace.  The rise of the river god was an impressive scene.

On the negative side, there were three omissions that deserve critique.  My daughter was disappointed that the celebration of Aslan with Bacchus is not shown.  This scene in the book gives a great picture of Aslan and the praise he deserves arriving on the scene after an absence of so many years.  Second, in the book, Aslan comes to Susan and Lucy to take them to the celebration where the trees awaken to fight the battle, but in the film version, Lucy is sent out on an unnamed errand, apparently to find Aslan.  In Lewis’ version Aslan is in total control, while in the film, the children seem left to their own devices to find him.  Finally, one of the most touching scenes in all seven Narnia books occurs when Aslan meets Caspian’s old nurse.  In the movie version, not only was that scene skipped, there was no mention of the heroine nurse in any way shape or form.  When I read the book, I cry through that scene; I’m saddened the film chose to omit it.

Celebrating God

May 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | Leave a comment

         The last few mornings I’ve noticed the amount of joyous celebration, sometimes loud noisy celebration, in Ezra and Nehemiah.  When, after years of exile, the new temple foundation was laid, the people celebrated with trumpets, cymbals and shouts of joy (Ezra 3:10f).  When the temple was completed, after many delays, the people again celebrated with joy.  In this account the word joy is repeated three times (Ezra 6:16ff).  When the people came together and Ezra read the Law of God, they celebrated with choice food and great joy.  It is in this context that we read those great words of Nehemiah, “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10ff).  When the new wall was completed around the city, they again celebrated with two choirs, cymbals, trumpets, harps and other instruments.  In this last celebration, Ezra led the procession of one choir, and the “sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Nehemiah 12:43).

            I am amused that Ezra, a teacher of the Law, usually thought of as the quiet theological-thinker type, would be involved in so much praise.  In my stereotypical thinking, the studious theological types are not the loud praising-God types.  In my own Christian experience, the churches that tend toward the theological, especially those of us from the Reformed perspective, have the least and quietest praise.  But it shouldn’t be this way.  If we really believed what we say we believe about God, sin and grace, we would be praising God the loudest.  It’s ironic to me that those who seem to praise God the loudest are those who believe they somehow have a part in their salvation!  Certainly Ezra was an “all-about-God” kind of theologian.  For example, he constantly reminds his readers that the good hand of God was on him in all that was accomplished (e.g. Ezra 7:27-28).  Yet for that very reason he leads out in praise – a good lesson for Reformed theologians like me.

As a side note, many believe Ezra wrote 2 Chronicles, and loud praise is recorded throughout that book also.  One instance is found in 2 Chronicles 30.

Deadly Arrows

May 8, 2008 at 10:25 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Wisdom | 2 Comments

It seems I recently spent an entire day putting out proverbial fires all around me.  That evening I told Cathy how much easier ministry would be if I didn’t have to deal with sinful people!  Of course, we are all sinful people, and dealing with sinful people is exactly why one is called into ministry.  But that day way too many people were saying things that shouldn’t be said and doing things that shouldn’t be done.  Unfortunately, right in the middle of it, I tried to show off my own depravity and said something I later had to ask forgiveness for saying.

Words can hurt.  I guess it’s providential that I read Psalm 64 this morning and heard David complain about the sinful people and the hurtful words he had to deal with in his life.  “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.”  Though David used this description for wicked enemies, it certainly describes all of us at one time or another.  It reminded me of some other words of David found in Psalm 15; there he asked the question, “Who may dwell in the Lord’s sanctuary?”  The description of those qualified include: they speak truth from their hearts; they have no slander on their tongues; and they cast no slur on others.  David understood how much words hurt and how easy it was for him to speak hurtful words himself.  That’s why on another occasion (Psalm 141:3) he prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”   That’s a prayer we can all benefit from repeating.

Legacies — Part 2

May 2, 2008 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | 1 Comment

2 Chronicles 16:9.  “The eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  This famous verse has an interesting ending.  The prophet Hanani, who spoke these great words, adds this sad commentary to the end of the phrase: “You’ve done a foolish thing.”  The history that brought about that sad comment and the aftermath of it is quite a lesson in wholeheartedness.  Asa was the king of Judah, and he started out great.  “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2), and God blessed him and the nation because of it.  For thirty five years Asa sought the LORD wholeheartedly.  However, late in his reign, he quit seeking God with all his heart.  He went into a battle without God’s guidance (16:1-8), and that battle is what precipitated the prophet’s great words and the sad commentary following.

          Though Asa began well, he didn’t finish well.  The sad result is that it took ten generations for another king to come along who was wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD.  Ten generations!  There were many good kings, to be sure, but most of the good ones were much like Asa – not wholeheartedly given to God for all of life.  His son Jehoshaphat is the perfect example.  He too followed the LORD for most of his life, but, just like his father, he didn’t finish well (see 20:35-37).

          I wonder, when I ponder words about full commitment, if I will finish strong.  I know my own propensity to fall away, to be self-centered rather than God-centered, to exalt myself above others, to rely on myself instead of God.  Could I become like Asa and like Jehoshaphat after him?  I’m afraid too easily so!  I also think of my daughter and the generations to follow her.  She is now committed to God, but what about when she gets out from under her parents influence?  Will she be only halfhearted because of my example?  Will her children and grandchildren be the same way?  I can only hope that won’t happen and determine anew to finish strong.  May God grant us the grace to walk wholeheartedly with him.  May our children and grandchildren follow that example rather than the halfhearted patterns we so often demonstrate.

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