Christians are weak and stupid…

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There was an article published rather recently that went a little viral with other articles explaining the findings of a research project. I’ve read and seen multiple versions of basically the same article (for example: New Meta-Alnalysis Checks the Correlation Between Intelligence and Faith), explaining the same information to various degrees. The gist of many of these articles was the apparent conclusion of a study which essentially found that on average those who would classify themselves as theists are less intelligent than atheists.

Now this reaction does have some empirical justification. Because the recent meta-analysis of studies on religion and intelligence did indeed “find” that yes, overall, people with higher IQs and test scores are less likely to be religious. Researchers analyzed 63 studies on religion and intelligence from the past 80 years with differing results to discover the slightly negative correlation between the two.

This particular article even quotes the Greek playwright Euripides in an interesting manner, and mentions that it was penned 400 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (at least they admit His existence… see the mind-numbingly bad “documentary” Zeitgeist: The Movie for some alternative “theories”). This quote reminds me of some contrasting words also written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ, and even hundreds of years before Euripides too. They are the words of the Jewish king David, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1; cf: Deuteronomy 32:21, Ezekiel 13:3)

The Irony of the Study

Everyone has faith in something or someone. It is an impossibility to be faithless. Even the most ‘secular’ mind, even the most staunch atheist has a tremendous amount of faith. So, before we get offended or give this study more weight and credit than it deserves, we should consider some other knowledge that has been available for much longer. Let’s start by looking at Romans chapter 5, verse 6… “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” I just want to stop there for a second… At the right time… while we were weak…

Some of us were weak, and at the right time, God came and grabbed us; He opened our blind eyes and softened our hard heart. This didn’t just happen in second grade Sunday school or at VBS. He came and grabbed some of us in high school, in college… in our 20s, in our 30s, in our 40s, a few of us even in our late 60s, 80s, etc. God showed up. The common theme for when He showed up is when we were weak. This is one of the things I’ve heard the world say, which is evidenced clearly in the above articles mentioned, many related articles, and the recently published meta-analysis research study: that Christians are more likely to be weak minded or less intelligent. Well, I just want to agree with it… I mean, they’re trying to slam us, but it’s true…

“Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.” – Tim Keller

“Christianity is a crutch.” We should just be like, “Absolutely! I am weak. Because my legs are broken. My legs are busted. I need that crutch.” “Religion and faith (including Christianity) is for the weak-minded.” Yes. I have a weak mind. Give me a right mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). “Weak people need it.” Absolutely, weak people need it. My skeptic brothers and sisters, you just don’t know you’re weak. So ultimately, is Christianity a crutch? Yes. Are we crippled? Absolutely. Because, “… while we were weak, at the right time…”

In fact, as Christians we should be earnestly praying that God would open up our eyes to our weakness, and we would finally lean on the crutch instead of hobbling around on our busted femur and blown-out knees (Hebrews 12:12). Right? Because “… while we were weak…” God loves the weak. He oftentimes saves and uses the weak to shame the strong. Do I even need to cite all those examples here? For the fun of typing some names: Moses, Leah, David, Paul, Timothy, even Jesus Himself on the cross… God even says multiple times, things along the line of “give justice to the weak and fatherless,” and that He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy; that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven you must come as a child (Matthew 18:1-6; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). From oppression and violence He redeems their life, and precious is their blood in His sight (Psalm 72:13, 82:3-4; Acts 20:35; Hebrews 4:15). See, God loves weakness. In our culture, we hate it. That’s a huge problem. Do you understand? It’s a huge problem for us to despise weakness like we do.

We seem to think we should not be seen as weak. No, brothers, be seen as weak. God’s power flows most vividly and most powerfully through the weak vessels (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Romans 8:3-11, 26-30). Paul goes on to tell us this more than once, and in more than one epistle:

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1st Corinthians 1:17-31 (ESV)

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.” – 1st Corinthians 4:10 (ESV)

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” – 2nd Corinthians 11:30 (ESV)

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

“For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.” – 2nd Corinthians 13:4 (ESV)

“For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.” – 2nd Corinthians 13:9 (ESV)

Paul wants to continually remind us; therefore, God in the Scriptures wants to continually remind us of our weakness and need for Him. It becomes imperative for us to know this. While we were enemies, Christ died for us (Ephesians 2:1-10). While you were an enemy, Christ died for you. When you were weak, at the right time, God saved you; or for some He is working to show you His saving grace. That means God has a plan for you.

God has a plan for those of you in your weakness. That may have been depression, violent anger, illness, severe anxiety, struggles with grades in school, pornography, eating disorders, addiction to drugs and alcohol, stealing from others (be it stores, neighbors, family, or the company you work for), and all sorts of other deviances in that moment and at your weakest, when God saved you. God, by His life, by His resurrected life, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can and will transform your life, and He’s going to use you in magnificent ways. This is the gospel. The gospel, the good news, is that while you were an enemy of God, while you were weak, Christ died for you.

When you were at your weakest, at the appointed time, God rescued you. This is the gospel. This is good news invading dark spaces. Are you in rebellion? Absolutely, me too. God’s response to your rebellion is to rescue you out of that rebellion, to snatch you out of your rebellion against Him. So, here is where it gets even more beautiful, that God came to save that which we might deem weak, unwanted, unintelligent, unloveable, and unworthy.

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Don’t be the fool, forgive.

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I was counseling someone recently about forgiveness and seeking reconciliation, and I couldn’t help but start thinking about some of the stupid things I have done in the past, all the horribly immature and petty things done out of pain, heartache, and bitterness. I began to think about how in some instances, I never really apologized to those I hurt or had an opportunity of reconciliation in some of my past relationships…

I have no excuse for any of my past hurtful actions. I am ashamed and embarrassed of the way I have treated some people; even people I loved, because none of how I treated them, was ever a display of that love. Any good memories there once were of some things, well, I tarnished those with spiteful and childish actions.

I’ve had to work through many of my own heart issues and come to the painful realization that in every bit of the bitterness and pain I felt towards some people, well, it was actually me who was the root-cause. The real issue and problem stemmed from my own selfish and prideful heart (Matthew 6:12-15, Luke 17:3-4). I could not continue to blame anyone else for my actions.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Teddy Roosevelt

The line between all that I was and all that I hated has been thinner than I’ve ever wanted to believe or acknowledge. Eventually I realized that I could not stay angry, bitter, or resentful towards someone unless I felt superior to them (2nd Corinthians 2:5-11). Because there is no bitterness without pride. I lied to myself, believing I would never do anything like what others had done to hurt me. But if one struggles with anger and bitterness, it is because pride is at the root of it. My own pride made me the fool and robbed me of more joy than any wrong that had ever been done to me. I’m sorry for those I’ve hurt in the past that it took me treating some people so poorly, hurting them, upsetting friends and family, and causing so many problems as the consequences of my own foolishness. It can be quite embarrassing how long it has taken me sometimes to begin to really be convicted about my pride and figure some things out.

Rather than learning many of these lessons from watching others or reading a book, my stubborn self has had to learn by painful experience that false conviction is a reflex reaction caused by self-disgust, a sorrow over the consequences of sin. True conviction is an abiding sorrow over the offence against God, and while not the natural response, it does demonstrate that God has begun a good work that He will complete (Philippians 1:6). True conviction is followed by true repentance. False conviction is followed by counterfeit repentance that only sees and fears the consequences of sin and the pain it causes others. Often this leads to a temporary change in behavior without a heart change.

“Teach me to feel another’s woe, to hide the fault I see, that mercy I show to others, that mercy show to me.” – Alexander Pope

When we begin to grasp that we are unworthy sinners saved by an infinitely costly grace, it destroys both our self-righteousness and our need to ridicule others. God has modeled perfect forgiveness for us. Despite the magnitude of our offense against Him, God does not forget in order to forgive. He forgives in spite of our sin.

If we are ever to learn to truly forgive we must learn it from God. This means we must be forgiven first by accepting the forgiveness extended to us in Christ (Ephesians 1:7, 2:4-10, Colossians 1:14, 2:13, 3:13). As forgiven children, we are not required to forget the wrongs against us. Believers can forgive in the midst of pain because we have been forgiven much. We are set free from the bondage of unforgiveness and the slavery of bitterness in order to extend the life-giving freedom of compassion (Hebrews 10:18). We remember the grace shown to us and extend that same grace to others.

“Everyone wants judgement when it’s not their own foolishness being revealed. Praise Christ for grace in foolish moments and mercy for consistent failures.”

Practically, this may take time, and that is okay. We are often wronged in deeply painful ways. So be true and real. When you are hurting, hurt. But in the hurt and suffering, seek to understand that there is coming a day when all suffering will be removed, and you will be made whole. You have refuge in the only truly innocent sufferer, Jesus Christ, who is understanding and sympathetic to your pain. Because, when the Gospel and the cross are viewed correctly and understood, it will lead not to you standing next to the cross and telling others to get right, but we will instead find ourselves kneeling on the ground at the cross telling others there is room.

So forgive, not to the degree to which you forget, but to the degree to which you realize you have been forgiven much. As one made in the image of Christ, extend the same kind of forgiveness you have received. Because God’s grace came into your hands free of charge to you, we are to redistribute it the same way.

“Forgiveness isn’t an end in itself. The point of forgiveness is to remove the barrier that stands between us and God so that He can give us His Spirit and bring us into His everlasting family.” – Darrell Bock

As for any of you reading this that might be thinking, “Alright, I get it, I’ve been able to forgive others who have hurt me, but I’m still really struggling to forgive myself for some of the terrible things I’ve done. We need to realize that when we say, “I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself,” what we really mean is that we have failed an idol, whose approval is more important to us than God’s. We should remember the words of the apostle John in the book 1st John 1:9, as well as the wise words of C.S. Lewis here, in that: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

God is the Gospel

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Sometimes, I wonder whether some of us who claim to know about this guy named Jesus, really understand the message of His Gospel… Even people who don’t have backgrounds in church have usually heard the 23rd Psalm. In Psalm 23 David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd…” and ends it with, “He restores my soul and He leads me into paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” And just from this passage (along with well an overwhelming number of other passages in Scripture that all clearly teach this) we read that God loves you, God is for you, and God will provide for you, but the motivation behind all that is not your awesomeness, but rather God. God is ultimately for God. God is about God. What God wants is the praise of His name in the universe. It’s the reason that everything exists. You, I, animals, plants, the nations, the planets, and the entire universe exist so that we might display that infinite perfections of God Almighty.

Now that rubs against the air we breathe, because the air we breathe is that we’re the point, we’re what it’s all about and everything should be about and revolve around us. We breathe that air. Every commercial is pointed in that direction. “You earned it. . . you deserve it. . . why wouldn’t you have this?” Almost all marketing schemes are built around how worthy you are of [insert product here]. So the Bible teaches that in reality you are not the center of God’s affections. You are most definitely not the center of the universe. Ultimately God is the center of the universe. But that rubs most of us so raw that in our pride we refuse to even question how and why this is good news. How can everything not being about me, be good news?! As big of a deal that I may think I am sometimes, God being about God is infinitely better than God being about me, you, or any of us.

Three reasons why it’s the best news in the universe that God is ultimately for God: If God is after the praise of His glorious grace, then He is not at odds with my desire to be filled with joy. If God is for God, He is not after my begrudging submission. He’s not after me just doing what He says so He won’t destroy me. If His goal is to be praised, to be worshiped, to be enjoyed and in that enjoyment to show Himself to be glorious to the world and to the universe itself, then He is for my joy. Which means all the commands of God in Scripture are not about taking anything from us, but rather leading us into deeper joy than we can imagine.

Now I know many people immediately upon reading this want to sit down and have a drink so they can tell me how that’s not true for them. “You don’t understand my situation. You don’t get my relationship. You don’t understand the part of life that I’m in right now or how I’m wired.” Many of us would love to sit down and explain why that’s not true for us and how the commands of God shouldn’t apply to us because, if we were to do what God commanded, that would easily lead to our misery all the days of our life until we died. However, the fact is, that is really an unbelievably arrogant and closed-minded position. No one has been a greater threat and caused greater violence to your joy than you have. Now have people jacked with you? Absolutely. Do we live in a broken world? Yes. But how you have handled that, how you have responded to that is completely on you, not them. You’re the greatest enemy of your joy, not God. God is beckoning towards life, and you’re pulling toward death.

C.S. Lewis describes the state of so many of our hearts well, in his book The Weight of Glory. “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” Now he’s talking about pleasure here. So Lewis is saying that he thinks God thinks that our desire for joy is not too strong, but it’s too weak. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” I love this quote. Because it’s us! We don’t yearn for Him, long for Him. Why? Because Bravo and TLC have some cool shows about cakes and dresses. Because it’s March Madness time and teenage boys are trying to get an orange ball through a hoop. (Or insert the NBA Finals, Baseball in October, the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Cup, etc. etc.) Because if we can just meet this deadline at work then we’ll get to the next level and we’ll somehow obtain a greater identity. That’s why we don’t yearn more for God. Because after a long day’s work, there is nothing you would rather do except sit on your behind and watch television. Don’t fool and delude yourself with the worn out excuse “I don’t have time.” You have all the time there is. You have just as much time as the rest of us. We don’t because we don’t want to. There are not other issues. We sin because we want to sin, and we don’t pursue Jesus because we don’t want to pursue Jesus. There are other things to us that are more valuable than Him, and that is why we don’t pursue.

You may go on to say “Well, I don’t know how to read my Bible.” You read it. One word at a time. And there are an unbelievable amount of resources put out there for us. Everything from how you read it on a day-to-day basis to how you study it in depth is available for free on more than one website. But here’s the thing… Some of you didn’t know how to fly fish, garden, paint, sew, play an instrument, etc… but you do now, don’t you? Do you know how you did that? Well you bought some equipment, you got a book, and got all geeked up about it and spent time practicing. Why? Because we all love mud pies in the slums. You never see a grown man playing actively in the kiddie pool, do you? Not without his kids. Because if he’s without his kids, don’t we call the police? Why? Because grown men were meant for the deep end. They weren’t meant for the kiddie pool. So it’s a provoking thing to me that so many of us like to sit in that shallow warm water when the deep end is right over there.

So in Lewis’ great illustration, the prideful, closed-minded skeptical person hears that God is offering a holiday at the sea, but they want to stay in the slums playing with mud. They think that the invitation to the sea is robbing them of the joy they have making mud pies. In buying into the lies of this world, we miss out on the reality that God’s being about God is tied to our ever-expanding, ever-increasing joy. And that’s how God is praised and gloried in, in our ever-increasing joy in Him and in His perfections. What do I mean by His perfections? I’m talking about Him lining us up with how He designed life and the universe to work.

So, if you’re not the center of the universe, that frees you up in a thousand different ways. Because if I’m the point, then I have a whole list of things my spouse or significant other had better be doing. If I’m the point, I have a whole list of things that my kids had better do. They had better not represent me like I really am. And if I’m the point, then I view my money a certain way. If I’m the point, how dare you go 45 mph in the left lane. If I’m the point, if you cut me off, I’m going to have to follow you home and maybe punch you in the throat. If I’m the point, I’m easily offended. Because, “It’s my universe. How dare you intrude on my universe? I have a set plan for my day. How dare you get in the way of my day. Because I’m the point. My plans are flawless and anyone who would interfere with them is obviously of the devil. Because I’m the sun. This universe revolves around me. It’s all about me.” But if I’m not the point, I’m a free man. If I’m not the point, I’m hard to offend. If I’m not the point, I have been set free to love my spouse and not have a list of things they had better do. If I’m not the point, then I’m set free to love and shape my children with grace and not fear. If I’m not the point, then that frees up my finances and I’m not constantly worried about what I have and don’t have. If I’m not the point, then I don’t get as offended when life just happens.

You might be type-A and plan out your day to the millisecond, but it doesn’t always work that way, does it? And when things don’t go as planned we freak out and get angry, don’t we? All frustration is birthed out of unmet expectation. So if it’s not about us, that’s all a lot easier to handle. If it is about us, that stuff is very difficult.

But I believe, as the Bible teaches, God is ultimately for God and that’s good because, if God is infinite and He has always been and will always be, then that joy, regardless of time, is ever-increasing. There is a great book in the Old Testament called Ecclesiastes. Solomon, who was a king with more money, more power, more fame than we will all have even if we combine all our clout, writes a whole book on how everything in life is meaningless. It’s really quite a chipper little read. So he has all this money, and he says it’s vanity, it’s meaningless and it doesn’t matter. He literally says, “Even if you have money, you’re going to die. And your kid is probably an idiot because you’re rich and have spoiled him. It’s vanity. It doesn’t matter.” And then he builds. He plants forests and vineyards. That puts your little garden in your backyard with the Crepe Myrtles to shame. And he says, “It’s vanity. It’s meaningless.” He builds houses for his wives and concubines, he builds the temple of the Lord and says it’s meaningless. “Vanity, vanity. All is vanity. There is nothing new under the sun.” And the reality of God being infinite and for our joy means that our experience of that joy is ever-increasing to the point where we don’t hit that ceiling or finally get to the bottom. It’s ever-growing and ever-expanding.

Keep this in mind though when contemplating the great truth of the gospel: only the Holy Spirit can open a person’s eyes to the beauty and splendor of Christ. We can and should do our best to try to provide all the answers we can, and pray constantly for others on their behalf, but only God can soften hearts and enlighten minds. 1st Corinthians 1:18-19, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (cf Ephesians 2:1-10)

Some Theological Implications from Job

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1. Freedom of God:

Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this does not mean we will ever understand Him exhaustively. The Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; that is, we can never fully comprehend His whole being. Scripture not only teaches us that God’s whole being is incomprehensible, but each of His attributes – His greatness, power, thoughts, ways, wisdom, judgments, knowledge, love, mercy, and grace – are well beyond human ability to fathom fully. Not only can we never know everything there is to know about God, we can never know everything there is to know about even just one aspect of God’s character or work (Psalm 145:3; Job 26:14; 36:22-23, 26; 42:1-6; Isaiah 40:13-14; 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36). Because God can never be fully known, those who seek to know God should be deeply humbled in the process, realizing that they will always have more to learn. The appropriate response to God is a heart of wonder and awe in light of His incomprehensible greatness. God’s incomprehensibility also means that beliefs can be held with firm conviction even though they may be filled with inexplicable mystery. The Trinity, the divine and human natures of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and many other core teachings of the Christian faith are profoundly mysterious; believing them requires a robust affirmation of the incomprehensibility of God.

Also, God’s personal and sufficient revelation of Himself should foster solid conviction among believers. We need not live in ambiguity and uncertainty about who God is and what He demands of His creatures. The increasing influence of Eastern religions on the West, certain postmodern views of truth, and religious pluralism all emphasize God’s incomprehensibility so much that He is eventually made to seem unknowable. It then becomes impossible to say anything definitively true or false about Him, and people then think that the only heresy is claiming that there is any heresy at all! On the contrary, because of His gracious revelation and illumination, God can indeed be known. God’s knowability should lead to eager, diligent, devoted study of God’s Word so that we can understand Him as He has revealed Himself and avoid any false view of God that will dishonor Him. We should never grow apathetic in seeking to know God because we are in fact able and equipped to know Him and to please Him with our lives.

2. Testing of Satan:

The book of Job sets out from the beginning to show that the reasons for human suffering often remain a secret to human beings. Indeed Job’s sufferings come upon him because Satan accused him in the heavenly courts, and the reader never learns whether these reasons were explained to Job; probably they were not. God controls and uses evil, but is never morally blameworthy for it (Exodus 4:11; Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6). However God’s relationship to evil is understood, both His complete sovereignty and His complete holiness must be maintained. In his great suffering, Job says, “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). We are told that Job’s assessment of God’s providence over evil is correct in that “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). The greatest evil ever done, the crucifixion of Christ, happened because of unspeakable human sin, but all within God’s perfect plan. “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf Acts 4:27-28). Even human rebellion unintentionally ends up serving the perfectly wise purposes of God. Nothing – not even sin and great evil – can ever ultimately frustrate God’s sovereignty. Christians can be sure that God will one day defeat all sin, evil, and suffering. Until then, God can be trusted because He is wise, holy, sovereign, and powerful and is always working out His plan to perfection (Romans 8:28) – even when in the short term it may not seem to be so from our earthly, human perspective. The picture of Satan being our accuser and God being our advocate is very clear in the book of Job. As a Christian, we are to embrace this accusation, admit that we are weak and we all fall ridiculously short of God’s standards of righteousness, but we are to then find comfort and rest in the fact that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, who became the propitiation for our sins (1st John 2:1-2).

3. Retribution and Justice:

The book of Job warns us of following God just for His blessings. We are to love God, our Father, for Himself; we are not to try and use the Father for our own self-centered ends, but rather love, enjoy, and serve Him for His own sake. It’s not often realized, but even careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God. Sin is not just the breaking of rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge and thinking that your way is better than God’s way. Job’s friends offer no real help to him as he struggles through his suffering. They come to “comfort” him (Job 2:11), but Job ends up declaring them “miserable comforters” who would “comfort” him “with empty nothings” (21:34). These friends represent an oversimplified “orthodoxy,” based on a misreading of the wisdom tradition to the effect that all troubles are punishments for wrongdoing. Their “comfort” consists largely of applying this message to Job, urging him to identify his sin and repent of it. In so doing, these friends serve as a mirror for all readers who might be inclined to say similar things to people in distress. Astonishingly, the Lord does not take Job to task over his words, instead calling them “right” (42:7). The author does not provide a theodicy in the sense of defending the justice of God. Job’s friends serve as a foil to that end. Their wisdom is a human effort to resolve this dilemma, but as far as the author is concerned, these efforts fail. God also declares that the friends are wrong (42:8). Elihu’s intervention probes further, but neither is he the intermediary whom Job seeks. The author is concerned about the triumph of faith in a time of suffering. To this end his hero succeeds. Job can triumphantly declare, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (19:25). Job’s resolve to love and trust the one who seems to attack him as an enemy is evident throughout. The book as a whole illustrates that a full understanding of God’s reasons for events is not a pre-requisite for faithfulness amid terrible suffering. Further, Job’s deep perplexity and questioning are not a provocation to God.

Job longed for an advocate, an arbiter, someone to plead his case before God in chapters 9-11. “For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay His hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not dread of Him terrify me.” (Job 9:32-34) Like many in the Old Testament, Job longed for the awaited Messiah, and put his hope in the Christ to come. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1st John 2:1)

4. Strength for Suffering:

The problem of suffering is timeless, whether national or individual. The most important key word in the book is the term “comfort”; the book shows where true comfort is to be found. In 2:11 Job’s three friends come to comfort him; in 6:10 Job takes comfort in not having denied the words of the Holy One; in 7:13 Job claims that God will not allow his bed to comfort him. In 15:11 Eliphaz claims to be offering the comforts of God, while in 16:2 Job calls his friends miserable comforters, and in 21:34 he declares they are trying to comfort him with empty nothings. In 21:2 Job sarcastically offers to his friends the “comfort” of hearing him out. The key comes in 42:6 (where “repented” can also be read as “am comforted”). When Job’s relatives and friends come to comfort him in 42:11, this is probably ironic: Job found the comfort he needed in the vision of God’s unsearchable wisdom.

Evil and suffering may be, if anything, further evidence for God and our eternal need for His grace. The story of Job clearly shows that suffering is allowed by God for our good and His glory. For if you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because He hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have at the very same time a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know or understand. But you can’t really have it both ways. Most of our modern objections to God are based on poor, warped views of fair play and justice.

As a Christian, we should realize better than others that most of what we’ve needed for success in life comes from us having to go through some very difficult and painful experiences. We should be able to look back on our lives and see that sometimes that illness or extremely difficult period we struggled through was not God turning His back on us, but rather an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth. It is a detrimental mistake to think that if you abandon your faith in God it would ever somehow make the problem of evil or suffering any easier to handle. However, many people claim that “all the philosophizing in the world does not just let God off the hook.” God, however, cripples this complaint by what He has done through Jesus Christ. God deliberately came to earth to “put Himself on the hook” for us and experienced the greatest depths of pain and suffering on our behalf.

Christianity does not provide the reason for every single experience of pain and suffering, but it does supply us with deep resources for actually facing pain and suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair. On the cross Christ went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceed ours as infinitely as His knowledge and power exceed ours. In Christ’s death, He suffered in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that He was willing to take it on Himself. We cannot even begin to fathom the depths of His love and there will never be a greater love than that of Jesus Christ.

To suffer for Christ out of love and obedience in the face of pain, rejection, and suffering is the greatest thing we could ever do with our lives. We should, especially as Christians, find joy in our pain and in turn praise Christ through our sorrows. For in the end, the beautiful promise of the Gospel is that even if we lose everything in this world, we still have Christ (Romans 8:18). We still receive the greatest thing there is in our relationship with Christ, because “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We cannot comprehend the immense value and worth it is just to know Him and be known by Him.

Also, as Christians we need to know that our suffering is not in vain. Because for those who suffer, the Christian faith provides a resource not just for the teaching of the Cross, but also for the fact of the resurrection as well. Christ promises a future that is not just a consolation for the life that we suffered through or the life that we never had, but a restoration of the life we’ve always wanted. Jesus insisted that His return will be with such power that the very material world will be purged of all decay and brokenness (Romans 8:18-39).

Christ promises that He will not only heal all things, but all that might-have-been will be. Our hope is that in Christ and the restoration that He is going to bring, everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost. Some day, things that look like broken glass to us here will make sense… as small parts of a beautiful stained glass picture of God’s redemptive work throughout history.

Rough Days

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Do you ever have days where you just feel beat down, overwhelmed with this sense of guilt or shame, kind of hollow inside, crushed by the continuous thoughts of “what if” and “if only,” like you don’t measure up to where you think you should be, plagued with this sense that you’ve gone too far, that you’re lost, that hope is but a fleeting fairy tale never to actually be found?

I’ve had these kind of rough days, and I might have some bad days again sometime in the future. What about today though? Are you having a rough day today, feeling anything at all like what I described above? I’d like to remind you of something that I have to constantly remind myself of: Get over yourself.

Your weakness shows your infinite need for Christ. Sometimes we seem to forget the whole gospel, and only listen to the part about how much we lack. The gospel doesn’t end at, “You are a worthless piece of garbage that can’t accomplish anything good on your own, you’re just a good for nothing sinner who can never escape your past, let alone outrun your present….” The gospel message doesn’t end there. It climaxes in the BLOOD SOAKED CROSS OF CHRIST, with Him crying out, “IT IS FINISHED!” And three days later Jesus raises from the dead to defeat death and conquer sin. (And it doesn’t even end there, it just gets better… because someday, everything sad will become untrue.)

Stop dwelling on how weak you are today and think about how great and powerful our God is, always! Your righteousness has nothing to do with your good deeds. Do you not realize that you cannot even rest in your own good deeds? No matter how numerous they may be, no matter how great a deed you have done might be, it will never measure up as any semblance of a righteous standing before a truly Holy God.

To be blunt, and not skirt around the issue, even our good deeds, our very best works, are but dirty rags, filthy garments, bloody cloth, and piles of crap in comparison to the righteousness of Christ that has been imparted to us (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 5:15; Philippians 3:8-9; Titus 3:3-7; among many verses that would substantiate this view). And while it was our sin that needed to be paid for through righteous, innocent blood in order for reconciliation to take place, it was actually the love and obedience of Christ that held Him to the cross. (Similar to there being two wills of God, or reasons that coexist, yet one supersedes another in importance.) We are all far worse than we’ve ever dared to imagine, yet in Christ, we are far more loved than we ever dreamed we could be.

Your righteousness was bought, it was purchased in blood, by Jesus Christ. He went to the cross and suffered the worst beating and loneliness any human has ever experienced all while knowing every stupid thing you would ever do, every bad thought you would ever have. And He did not do it in a begrudging manner, He did it in GLAD SUBMISSION!

The men that mocked God in the flesh to His very face, He created them. The men who spit upon Jesus, He designed their very saliva glands. The men who whipped Jesus and beat Him mercilessly, He gave them sight. The men casting lots over His clothes, Jesus foreknew and was sovereign over the outcome. The men who ripped the beard out of the face of Jesus, He kept their muscles operating. The men and women hurling insults at Christ as He carried the cross, He kept their lungs continually inflating with air. The men who nailed Jesus to the cross, He kept their hearts beating. The very men and women whom Jesus Christ spoke into being, the very people He created, were beating, mocking, and trying to shame Him… and He was sustaining their lives throughout every moment of it.

Do you struggle with believing that Jesus loves you. Not the idea that He loves everyone. But YOU. God loves YOU. Not you ten years from now after you’ve “cleaned yourself up” some, but you today, you right now. He does. Jesus loves you. How can we know this? Because Jesus despised the shame of the cross, and the mocking of His love. He went to the cross for the JOY set before Him in the ransoming of your soul, the fulfillment of your life.

Many of us still wrestle with this amazing truth in monumental ways; we’re still walking in doubt because we just doubt God’s affection for us. Do you know what that really is when we do this? It’s idolatry, because what you’re doing in essence, is looking at the bloody cross of Jesus Christ and going, “That’s just not enough. You’re going to have to show me something bigger than that to convince me You really love me, that You’re really for my joy.” Some of us are still wrestling with all of this because we doubt Christ’s affection for us despite the fact that He went to the cross and died for you. We lose sight of the fact that He went to the cross despite knowing you, despite knowing every single stupid thing you’ve ever done, every single dumb thing you have yet to do, as well as every single horrible thought you’ve ever had or have yet to think. He knew/knows you better than you even know yourself, yet He still went to the cross for the joy set before Him; of buying you back from enslavement to sin, with His own blood.

All the sin, weaknesses, and failures in the life of a believer have already been fully covered by the blood-soaked cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is exponentially and infinitely more powerful than any sin. So we can break the silence, stop drowning in shame and guilt, walk out into the light, and face the things that God is calling us to face.

We should look to the cross at least ten times for every time we begin to dwell on our own sin. Because God will never give you a task to complete without enabling you with the resources to accomplish it. He is the resource. His grace and love have already ransomed you. I’ve heard it said that sanctification is the process of further understanding and living in light of your already received salvation. We must depend on the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice, the Spirit’s help. We must always run back to and rest in the Gospel.

Some day, things that look like broken glass to us here, will make sense… as small parts of a beautiful stained glass picture of God’s redemptive work throughout history. So, for today, please, get over yourself. God loves you because of who He is! NOT because of who you are! You are loved.

In Christ there is forgiveness…

Covenant love.

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“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 18:22

A ring doesn’t mean anything if you can’t haul the weight… Love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning, not a feeling, or a moment. I didn’t just make a promise to Kat on our wedding day. I made a covenant with our God to love and serve Kathryn until one of us dies, regardless of my feelings or her actions. In this promise, this oath, this covenant, this marriage, I’m not going anywhere. I am privileged and blessed to never stop pursuing my wife until my lungs are completely void of air.

Understanding the wickedness and selfishness of my heart; understanding Biblically that marriage is for my sanctification, not simply for my sexual pleasure, not to have better financial stability, not to have somebody to help clean the house, not to have someone to bring me water and meds when I’m sick, not just to have someone to give me children and then help raise them… no, God has displayed His love for me in that He gave me a wife to grow me more into the fullness of Him. This involves the further death of me and my selfishness. God has given me a wife to show me the areas in my life where I am tremendously selfish, self-centered, and still desirous of my own petty way. And much to my frustration, but eventual joy, Kat helps me see more how stupid I am on a daily basis.

This is God’s grace displayed in my life. The image of marriage in the Scriptures is this image of God, Christ, His bride, the bride’s rebellion, Christ’s love, His pursuit, His grace… In this earthly marriage, God has said, “I love you so much, that I’m gonna show you what it’s like to actually pursue you. So have fun, you’re gonna need Me.”

My marriage to Kathryn is ultimately about the two of us acknowledging, understanding, growing in, displaying, and celebrating the love that Christ has displayed for His bride. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes in chapter five about the truth that marriage is not ultimately about sex or social stability or personal fulfillment; rather marriage was created to be a human reflection of the ultimate love relationship with the Lord. It points to the true marriage that our souls need and the true family our hearts want.

For me personally, I never really even caught a good glimpse of the fuller meaning of this truth (of what it means for us, the church, being referred to as the bride of Christ) before mine and Kat’s wedding day. I mean, I had heard it taught on, read about it, thought about it, but the deep truth of Christ’s love for His bride had not yet really penetrated my heart or amazed my intellect. When those doors opened, and my bride, Kathryn, walked into the wedding chapel room looking beyond incredibly amazing, yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit it… I teared up as it all began to hit me.

We, the church, are not called Christ’s wife, but His bride… Think about that for a moment… The groom does not look upon his bride on their wedding day and think about her imperfections, but rather he is intensely focused on her precious qualities and beautiful attributes. On the wedding day, the groom is overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude, and devotion. Because this bride, standing adorned before her groom: she is his. He sees only her, and no one can deter his gaze. She alone catches his eye and she alone can hold his attention.

I will never forget how Kathryn looked that day, and how she was completely dressed up in splendor, having been presented to me as a beautiful, radiant, spotless bride. That is how Christ sees us, His chosen loved ones whom He died for, and He calls us His bride. His pursuit of us is fierce and unwavering, His affection for us is strong and deep, His love for us is abiding and unending. Our sincerest hope is that the Gospel is preached through our marriage, as God has chosen the story of our lives to be a shadow of His much greater narrative.

When I see and understand my marriage this way, and not as some kind of selfish contractual agreement with another person who exists only to serve me, make my life better, easier, and more enjoyable for myself, then it frees me up to not lay in bed at night and pout because I’m not getting what I want or not getting my way. Rather I better understand what is actually happening; I’m being sanctified, I’m being grown more into the fullness of Christ, that God is loving me in these circumstances (as difficult as they may be right now) in order that I may know Him and rely on His sufficient grace all the more. So I need to be more gracious, patient, humble, slow to anger, gentle, abounding in love and encouragement, and never stop pursuing my wife in Christ-like love.

Many people get from books, movies, television, etc. this idea that if you have married the right person (or if you’re just “with” the right person) you may expect to go on “being in love” forever, and it should come naturally and effortlessly. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake, or the other person fooled them, and they are entitled to a change – not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour of any new relationship will eventually go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one.

Because love and marriage are much more than the fleeting feelings of a new infatuation. Our wedding, our marriage, our family, our love, our lives are not meant to simply terminate on momentary happiness here in this lifetime on this earth, but to find and experience eternal joy as we celebrate our great God and King: Jesus. And when we arrive at eternity’s shore, where death is just a memory and tears are no more, we’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring, Christ’s bride will come together and we’ll sing, You’re beautiful!