Well Equipped for Good or Bad

Scripture Focus: Job 19.25
I know that my redeemer lives…

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.

Reflection: Well Equipped for Good or Bad
By John Tillman

Whether it is students going to school, business professionals walking in to a presentation, or tourists going on vacation, no one willingly goes ill-equipped. 

A student may be ill-equipped due to economic disadvantagement. A business professional may be ill-equipped due to faulty research or poor preparation. A vacationer may be ill-equipped due to negligence or ignorance. But they aren’t ill-equipped on purpose and each of them would admit embarrassment at the outcomes of their situations that resulted from being poorly equipped.

We typically put a lot of thought and emotional and financial investment into equipment we rely on. This is true of our mobile devices—the most ubiquitous equipment that modern urbanites carry—but it is also true of any item we use frequently. However, being spiritually ill-equipped is common and our investment in our spiritual equipment—prayer and other spiritual disciplines—is often lacking. 

When a disaster hits our lives, it is often a wakeup call to our spiritual life. We pray when we’ve never prayed before. We read the Bible when we’ve never read it before. We seek godly counsel through the community of the church when we had been going it alone.

Job shows us that spiritual practice does not prevent tragedies of any kind, but we can see that his spiritual practice prepared him to experience tragedy differently than his wife or his friends. Even in his most bitter and painful moments, Job sees the truth of his situation and his desperate cries give us some of the greatest insights and prophecies of Christ’s role as our mediator.

“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19.25-27

Spiritual disciplines allow the Holy Spirit to equip us for good and prepare us for bad. He prepares our hearts for the joys, the trials, the successes, and the failures that are and will be a part of our walk with Christ. He gracefully walks with us and will supply our needs when we call on him.

Don’t wait for tragedy to seek God or to serve humanity in his name. Engage in spiritual disciplines today that will empower you to do good now and strengthen you for evil days to come.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 19 (Listen -2:48)
1 Corinthians 6 (Listen -3:03)

Read more from Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm
Meditation is a breathing apparatus to help us survive in a poisonous atmosphere polluted by anxiety and fear.

Read more about Cultivating Daily Bread
Daily bread refers to a daily need for God and purposely highlights the need for spiritual disciplines that are required for us to grow in faith.

Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Job 16.19-21
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 a man he pleads with God
    as one pleads for a friend.

Reflection: Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The earliest dates for Job’s writing are around 2,000 years before Christ, and the antiquity of the events may be far earlier than that date. Both Ezekiel and James discuss Job among lists of historical persons, implying that they believe him to be more than merely a story or parable. So, Job’s words give us the earliest written prophetic vision of Christ. In Job, Christ is our un-named and undeserved heavenly representative, who takes our case and acts as a true friend, even as Job’s earthly friends berate and badger him.

This week, pray this poetic prayer of thanks to Christ, our advocate, redeemer, and friend. This poem incorporates prayers of Job and other scriptures.

Christ, Our Undeserved Friend:
In this life,
When gripped by strife,
I know above
Of one who loves.

When I’m amidst a storm that swirls
Hiding from accusations hurled,
Immobilized in sin and guilt,
Collapsing consequence I built,

Rotten inward and outward too,
My sins are yeast worked through and through.
Condemned, inner and outer self
Have no appeal, no chance of health.

I cannot speak, for if I do
My words turn each fault into two.
My speech reflects my inward sin.
My thoughts bring outward sins within.

I hope in nothing I can reach
But he who in this darkness seeks.
The darkness is not dark to him.
He sees me clearly, sees my sin.

Though my sins and weakness he sees,
My case before the Father, pleads.
He knows my state and yet he bends
God’s ear to me, for me contends:

That I might swap with him my place,
That I might be changed by his grace,
That I might be healed through his wounds,
That I might live, he be entombed.

The Father consented.
The son he descended.
He purloined my guilt.
His dear blood was spilt.

My sin he grasped with nail-pierced grip
Dragged sin to hell, and there left it.
My sorrow sees his body riven.
My joy to know his body risen.

With death defeated, he grasped me,
That I should live eternally.
His work in me, begins to show,
As obeying his Word, I go.

Serving my world in thanks to Him,
Shunning pride, a humble pilgrim
To read, ponder, walk in, live in
The Word, and Holy Spirit given.

I walk with my redeemer, friend,
Holding my hand, until the end.
In this world there will sufferings be,
Tolerable only when with thee.

Give my mouth a tongue which will speak
Of your love and, though I am weak,
Unfailing faith to stand in grace
And steps to finish out this race.

Christ, he our undeserved friend,
Is with me yet, until the end.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 16=17 (Listen -3:40)
1 Corinthians 4 (Listen -3:15)

Read more about Lamenting With Job :: Guided Prayer
Lament is frequent and important in the Bible and should be in our lives as well.

Read more about Greater Footstool, Greater God, Greater Redeemer
Before Job ends, he declares the promise that the Redeemer will stand upon the Earth to reclaim it.

How Not to Read Scripture

Scripture Focus: Job 10.12-14
      You gave me life and showed me kindness, 
         and in your providence watched over my spirit. 
      “But this is what you concealed in your heart, 
         and I know that this was in your mind: 
      If I sinned, you would be watching me 
         and would not let my offense go unpunished. 

Reflection: How Not to Read Scripture
By John Tillman

In part of today’s passage, Job describes a God who seems deceptive. Job accuses God of using kindness to mask a secret desire to harm Job when he inevitably sins. Is this God real? Should we be ducking for cover from a God who is out to get us?

Sometimes when we read the Bible we forget who is talking and why. It is not always God talking and every phrase or group of words is not always an actionable directive or nugget of “truth” we can apply. We need to see the bigger picture.

In this passage, God is not telling us that he is out to get us. Job is sharing his emotionally charged opinion with his friends. Job is conjecturing, not speaking for God. Later, God will condemn Job’s words as “darkening his counsels” and being “words without knowledge.” (Job 38.1-3)

We also can “darken God’s counsels” (or obscure his plans, as the NIV puts it) when we speak words from the Bible without knowledge. It is an error to think of the scripture as the “words of God” instead of the “Word of God.” The Bible is God’s Word—his perfect revelation, but it is not a transcript of God’s unambiguous commands. The Bible is a work of art, not a manual.

Some may fear this lowers the Bible’s authority or lessens the miraculous spiritual nature of the Bible. The opposite is true. We rob the Word of God of its power when we think of it as merely an owner’s manual of unimaginative, dictated instructions. No analogy is perfect but the instruction manual analogy for the Bible is particularly flawed. If it were true, we should skim the Bible and toss it in the closet with the rest of the instruction manuals. This is how not to read scripture. No one ever found joy and companionship from re-reading an instruction manual. 

The Bible is more akin to a pointillistic painting. When you zoom in far enough, all you might see is a few dots of red, blue, or yellow. You have to step back to see the likeness the artist has created.

This is why is it so vital that Christians read the whole Bible and read it regularly. (This is why we follow a whole-Bible reading plan.) In this way, we are equipped to view the Word of God as a work of art that reveals who God is, what God is doing, and what God expects us to do. 

*View the world’s most famous pointillistic painting, “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”, by Georges Seurat at this link.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 10 (Listen -2:12)
Romans 14 (Listen -3:28)

Read more about How to Read Prophetic Judgment
There are many prophecies that are meant to comfort us. But the more typical function of prophecy is to cause us discomfort.

Read more about A Berean Palate
The Thessalonians were prone to being riled up by exaggeration and falsifications. Just like we are. 

Christ, Our “If Only…”

Scripture Focus: Job 9.33-35
      If only there were someone to mediate between us, 
         someone to bring us together, 
      someone to remove God’s rod from me, 
         so that his terror would frighten me no more. 
      Then I would speak up without fear of him, 
         but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

Reflection: Christ, Our “If Only…”
By John Tillman

Job cries out over the course of his many speeches for mediation.

Job’s speeches flow with expansive, idiomatic imagery that recognizes an uncrossable gap between Job and his creator. God could no more come down than we could go up, and if God did step down…mountains would melt seas would flee…making Job’s problems inconsequential. 

Job had no illusions that he could actually speak to God. He only asked, “If only…”
If only, he would hear me…
If only I could face him…
If only he could hear my case…
If only I could stand in his presence…
If only there was a mediator…
If only there was a go-between…
If only there was a redeemer…

In the context of the beliefs of his age, Job’s request was foolish, impossible, and inappropriate. To propose God lower himself to address Job was unthinkable. Even as great a man as Job was reported to be, this was considered to be a prideful and sinful desire. Even Job’s friends, who, out of love, sat in the dust with him for days without speaking, considered this a scandalous bit of madness. This is why Job’s friends seem so harsh to us, so callous. Job is asking not only for the impossible but for the inappropriate.

But thank God that he is the God who abandons propriety to run to us. God’s love for us is foolishly, scandalously undeserved. He is the God who does the unthinkable on behalf of the unworthy.
God does not step foot on Earth to melt mountains but to melt hardened hearts, turning them back to God.
God does not wade into humanity, timidly cringing at the grossness of flesh, but rejoicing in living among us. He joyfully eats our fish, pays our taxes, touches the diseased, speaks to (and raises) the dead.

God is a God for whom there is no uncrossable gap. He crosses the distance to us. 
Christ comes, applying for Job’s job posting. He would be our mediator if we let him. He stood between us and God. He removed God’s rod from us and placed it on his own back. He will remove our terror of God and allow us to see perfectly God’s tender mercies to us.

God told Moses he was the Israelites’ “I am.” Christ holds out his hands to Jerusalem, to Job, to us, and to all mankind, longing to be our “If only…” 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord Lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation!
Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O Lord, and sing praises to your Name. — Psalm 18.46

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 9 (Listen -3:22)
Romans 13 (Listen -2:35)

Read more about Greater Footstool, Greater God, Greater Redeemer
As Job begins, Satan walks the Earth and has power over it. Before Job ends, he declares the promise that the Redeemer will stand upon the Earth to reclaim it.

Read more about Taking Sin Seriously
Jesus doesn’t “let the woman go.” He sends her out. Jesus, instead of taking the woman’s life, redeems it. He buys it for his own.

From the Crucible of Suffering

Scripture Focus: Job 6.2
Oh, that my grief could actually be weighed
And placed in the balances together with my tragedy [to see if my grief is the grief of a coward]! (The Amplified Bible)

Reflection: From the Crucible of Suffering
By Jada Swanson

With these words, Job responds to the accusations of Eliphaz. He felt that he was being unjustly judged by his friends. Since they had not suffered the great loss that he had, there was no way for them to understand his grief. The raw emotions that are expressed cannot be truly understood unless one has walked this journey.

It is easy to see God’s grace when things are going well. But in the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love. Not to mention, navigating the advice of others while in the midst of great pain and suffering can be an added trial. To be sure, Job’s friends doled out quite a bit.

Suffering and brokenness are common experiences to which all who live in this world can relate. Yet, many tend to gloss over suffering, thinking it is unspiritual to dwell upon. The pain of suffering is like a visit with an unwelcome friend. Still, the importance of sitting with this intrusive companion, learning from the experience, and, in the end, being transformed cannot be minimized. It is essential in navigating the journey of suffering and loss.

There is a deep richness that comes to people who face suffering biblically. A key to this richness is a joy and a contentment that difficult experiences cannot steal. Unfortunately, many Christians do not look at suffering in this way, and run from it, instead of facing it head-on.

Are you in the midst of a trial, experiencing great loss, suffering without hope? You may wonder is God being too heavy-handed? Or if this kind of suffering is “normal” for a Christian’s life? Those are honest questions. And, sometimes, the answers do not come as quickly as we would like.

In the crucible of significant suffering, profound good often emerges. In these times, we can be assured that our powerful, tender God is with us, helping us discover meaning and purpose in the trials we experience and the suffering we endure.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me and hear my words. — Psalm 17.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 6 (Listen -2:56)
Romans 10 (Listen -3:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 7 (Listen -2:23) Romans 11 (Listen -5:23)
Job 8 (Listen -2:09) Romans 12 (Listen -2:58)

Read more about Meaning In Suffering
Because there is meaning in suffering we can refocus our attention toward the outcome.

Read more about Suffering for Our True Identity
It is not our goal to get the world to like us. In fact, we should not be surprised when they hate us.

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