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You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men and thought,

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Things We Don’t Understand

why

Many times when great suffering, destruction, and distress, things that upset our world come our way, our first response is

” I don’t understand”
Many times followed by followed by “Well if God cares, loves (fill in the blanks) why would He allow this to happen?
I do not believe asking when we do not understand is offensive to God. But we should be careful about questioning Gods goodness and reputation.
Our ancient ancestor Job learned this the hard way as he and his friends discussed Jobs troubles (in 42 of the most difficult chapters I have read in the Bible)

After 37 chapters of discussion God finally speaks to Job and says

Who is this that darkens counsel,
who covers over sound instruction with empty words void of knowledge?
Now, prepare yourself and gather your courage like a warrior.
Prepare yourself for the task at hand.
I’ll be asking the questions, now—
you will supply the answers. Job 38:1-3

For two chapters God asks “Where were you?”

I am not a theologian. I am aware that much has been written about the story of Job. I have no new revelation or insight to offer. But I do believe there is wisdom to be gleaned from this story that would benefit us all in our moments where understanding is not possible. In Job 42 we find these nuggets of wisdom

We somehow think if we could just understand it would make sense.

I’m not convinced it would. If we knew from beginning to end how it all was going to go, there would probably be things we would not want to know.
Job never got an answer as to why God allowed him to go through the suffering. But he came away with understanding of far greater importance

“I know You can do everything;
nothing You do can be foiled or frustrated. (Job 42:2)

Gods questions of “where were you?”  involved much more than chastising Job for daring to suppose he knew the mind of God, or questioning God. I believe it also to do with trust. In pointing to all of his mighty works and wisdom, God is far less concerned with Job understanding his circumstances. He wants Job to understand who He is.

The later on is more important than the here and now

In a post on Desiring God Gloria Furman writes:

“We tend to forget about tomorrow and eternity when our day is filled with the tyranny of the urgent”.

For Job who suffered like most of us never will, the tyranny of the urgent was his wife encouraging him to “curse God and die”, his friends trying to figure out what wrongs Job had committed, and Job wondering “why was I even born?” (Job 3:11). At one point Job says “Don’t find me guilty, just tell me what I have done?” (Job 10:10)  In response to God’s question “Who is this that darkens counsel, who covers over sound instruction with empty words void of knowledge?”, Job replies

” And now I see that I spoke of—but did not comprehend—
great wonders that are beyond me. I didn’t know. (Job 42:3b)

Only through Job’s suffering is this revealed to him. And Job was a better man in the later on.

Who are we to question God?

God says to Job earlier in chapter in chapter 38

” I’ll be asking the questions, now—
        you will supply the answers”.

Jobs response “Before I knew only what I had heard of You,
but now I have seen You.
Therefore I realize the truth:
I disavow and mourn all I have said
and repent in dust and ash. (Job 42:6)

“God, who has perfect understanding and unimaginable power, cannot be comprehended with the human mind and should not be questioned by the likes of Job”.

This quote from The Voice Bible commentary on Job 37 is true for Job and for us. And while God encourages us to talk with him, to come to Him with our requests, we need to ask ourselves a few hard questions before we go into that discussion.

Do we trust God on the basis of who He is, or by what He does?
Do we expect God to perform, prove Himself based on our expectations?

 

Do we suppose God owes us an explanation on any level?
Are we willing after we have done all we can to trust God with the outcome in any situation?

 

Are willing to accept that God is God and we are not….

And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So, I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I?

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So, I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him
And from Him are all things
So let us worship before the throne
Of the one who is worthy of worship alone

Oh God, God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture He’s painting
God, God is God and I am man
So, I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God
Only God is God

 

Does God Care?

palm of his handDoes God Care?

This is a question that we most often ask during difficult times, during times of pain, sorrow and loneliness. We know God cares for the world but does He care for you and for me?

We are not alone in asking this, David a man after God’s own heart asked this question.

We read in the book of Psalms

Psalm 13:1-2

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way? How long must I agonize,
grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?

Psalm 89:46

How long must we endure, O Eternal One?
Will You hide Yourself forever?

Psalm 44:24

Why are You still hiding from us?
Why are You still ignoring our suffering and trouble?

Psalm 10:1

O Lord, why do you stand so far away?
Why do you hide when I am in trouble?

I do not think God is offended by this questions, I also believe He has already provided answers.

We know God cares for us because of His actions

John 3:16

For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.

Romans 5:6

And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men.

Romans 5:9

If, while we were his enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through his living in us.

We know God cares for us because of His promises

Romans 8:38

For I have every confidence that nothing—not death, life, heavenly messengers, dark spirits, the present, the future, spiritual powers, 39 height, depth, nor any created thing—can come between us and the love of God revealed in the Anointed, Jesus our Lord

 

We know God cares for us personally

He cares about my sorrow

Psalm 56:8

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book”.

He rejoices over me

Zephaniah 3:17

“For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.

He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

 

My name is written on the palm of His hand

Isaiah 49:16

“See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands”.

I realize that in context this verse is part of a message Isaiah delivered to the people of Israel.

McClarens Exposition I think explains this well.

“Now, of course, the text does not primarily refer to individuals, but to the community, whether ancient Israel, or the Christian Church. But the recognition of that fact should not be allowed to rob us of the preciousness of this text in its bearing on the individual. For God remembers the community, not as a generalised expression, but as the total of all the individuals composing it. Each one valuable, each one an individual”.

It is especially poignant when I realize that the nails that pierced His hands were necessary because of my sin. In part my name was written on them.

Courage

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Joshua had been Moses right hand for many years and now the responsibility for God’s chosen people rests on his shoulders.
God’s instruction to Joshua after the news of Moses death-

“Prepare yourself and the people to cross over the Jordan River to enter the land I have given you.

I will give you every place you walk upon and no one will be able to oppose you”

Up until now it sounds great and then God says-

“Be strong and courageous”

“Never be afraid or discouraged”

Looking down the list of responsibilities to come Joshua must have seen some opportunities to be at least a little afraid and a little discouraged.

Maybe even weak and not courageous.

But God’s expectation is clear. After telling Joshua to be strong and courageous two times the third time it is preceded by

“This is my command” be strong and courageous

If I were in Joshua’s sandals I probably would have felt this was a little unfair.
What God says next is what makes His command and instruction to Joshua possible
Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God, the Eternal One and I will remain with you wherever you go.

 “I will remain with you wherever you go”!

Maybe for you the giants are big

Or the news was bad

Maybe those you were counting on let you down

They said “we’re with you” but they weren’t

Maybe it looks impossible

Or it looks like it will never change…

Maybe the obstacles are too great, the walls too high, the fear too great..

Whatever you are facing remember He is your God and He remains with you wherever you go. And whatever you are facing this promise makes victory possible for you.

 

Hebrews 13:5

For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”

Matthew 28:20

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

 

Joshua 1:9
This is My command: be strong and courageous. Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God, the Eternal One, and I will remain with you wherever you go.

Hope

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Evening-first day

As the lifeless body of Jesus is laid into the virgin tomb, those who witnessed the spectacle retreat into the city that has claimed the lives of so many prophets. All are crushed that their teacher and friend has died such a horrible death. Their hopes are dashed against the rocks of Golgotha. In the first hours of grief, Jesus’ followers huddle together in secret in the city, hoping to avoid arrests and executions. They mourn. They grieve. They remember…*

 It is important to understand how people in Jesus day processed death and resurrection to appreciate the impact his death had on his followers. For the Jewish people the here and now was much more important than the hereafter.

Blessing and cursing for the individual or the nation came in this life or in the future through their descendants.

The first five books of the Old Testament (the books of Moses) most honored and used for instruction, contained little to encourage confidence in personal survival on the other side of death.

It isn’t surprising then that the people of Jesus day were divided along these these lines concerning resurrection or life after death.

1. Those who believed that resurrection from the dead and life after this was possible (Pharisees) They believed in living a pious, religious life to ensure the best possible result after death

2. Those who did not. (Sadducees) They believed in getting all you can out of life now because when this life was over its over.

 Jesus presented a third view.

He spoke of a future kingdom whose inhabitants would dwell there not because of who they were in this life, qualified by works but also on how much they loved it’s King.

He said those who were willing to give up this life would inherit eternal life.

 He spoke of a time when those who had died would hear his voice and rise from the grave. The good to eternal life, the evil to condemnation.

 He spoke of himself as the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in him

even though they die will live forever.

 He said he was going ahead to prepare to place that we could share that with him, so do not not be afraid or despair.

 And now he is dead..

It is not possible to know exactly what those close to Jesus were feeling but from scripture we get a sense of what it might have been like

 Mary Magdalene

For Mary the death of Jesus was not like the loss of a mentor, a friend or even a brother.

For her His death was the loss of the one for whom she had given up everything to follow the one who set her free

Mary was present at the mock trial of Jesus.

Mary was present in Pilates Hall as Pontius Pilate pronounced His death sentence of crucifixion.

Mary was present as Jesus left the hall to be spat upon and ill-treated by the crowd thirsting for His blood.

Mary was present when they led him out to Calvary to be nailed to a tree.

Mary was faithful until the end her heart was broken

 Peter

Simon. The one Jesus called Peter, the rock.

Peter who left the family business, his home and friends to follow the One who said “I will make you a fisher of men”.

Peter the one of who followed Jesus to the mountain-top and walked to him on the water

Peter to whom Jesus said “Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! No human revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you. Peter who defended his Lord with a sword in the garden, then ran away, abandoned Him and denied even knowing him.

Alone and afraid he wept bitterly

 Thomas

We know little about Thomas.

Thomas did not lack courage. When the other disciples were trying to talk Jesus out of going back to Judea John 11:8 Teacher, the last time You were there, some Jews attempted to execute You by crushing You with stones. Why would You go back?

Thomas speaks up to say “Let’s go so we can die with Him.”

Thomas who when the disciples say they have seen the risen Lord Thomas replies

“Unless I see his hands , feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to his side, I won’t believe what you are saying”.

Angry and disillusioned Thomas wants no part of it.

 Heart-broken and sorrowful

Defeated and full of guilt

Angry and disillusioned

And so were many of us….

 And then something completely unexpected happens

 

“Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away”. John 20:20

 

This coming Sunday will be a celebration of the meaning of this verse and what follows.

Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Luke 24:6

The resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.

 But many will find themselves in the place Mary, Peter and Thomas were on that day so long ago.

Full of sorrow

Defeated

Disillusioned

Unbelieving

They will attend church on Sunday because their Mom or Dad, wife or husband a friend or a neighbor asked them to go.

They will listen to music, hear the message but when the time comes to say “I will believe, I will follow” their heart will say no.

 Maybe because you gave everything, trusted someone left everything behind for them and they left you, abandoned you, left you alone.

 Maybe you gave it all, held nothing back and your best just wasn’t good enough and in the end when it mattered most you weren’t able to come through. You failed.

 Maybe you trusted in someone or something. You believed in it and put all you had into it and it fell apart, let you down and now you trust nothing, no one.

 For Mary, Peter and Thomas it must have seemed that way.

It was over, hope was gone.

Maybe it feels that way for you.

 Mary would be the one to discover the empty grave.

She followed Jesus all the way to the cross and she was the first back to the tomb.

Early that morning she went where she could be close to him.

She wasn’t expecting what she found

 

Peter went fishing

“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.

“We’re coming with you,” they told him. John 21:3

 Possibly Thomas went with them we don’t know for sure but we do know he was not around when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples.

 Putting yourself in Jesus place after all the time he invested , the time he spent with them, it would be easy to give up on them. He didn’t.

He will meet us where we are.

 Mary, he appears first to the one who stayed until the end

 Peter He calls him by name. The angels instruct Mary to”Tell Peter and the disciples that He goes before you to Galilee just like he said”.

 Thomas He says “Don’t doubt but believe”

 Peter and the rest decide to go fishing. Returning to what they were doing when Jesus called them.

He meets them on the shore and cooks them breakfast. John 21:1-9

 

 he resurrection story is about the defeat of death and the grave. From death to life.

It is also about hope and second chances.

It tells us God keeps his promises.

The prophet Isaiah wrote over 600 years before the birth of Jesus.

It was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

 It tells us that those who are far from Him, even those who still refuse him he is extending His love and offer for forgiveness.

Some would say that because He hasn’t returned he won’t. What about that promise?

Peter writes as one who understands God’s love and willingness to restore

God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone a chance

2 Peter 3:9 the Message

 

I have to be honest I do not understand all that the Jesus resurrection means.

I know that he suffered and died for you and for me.

I know he did all he said he would do rising from the dead, appearing fully alive.

I know he keeps his promises and we can believe with confidence the words John the beloved disciple wrote:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

And that gives me hope. Not just now but for the future.

 

 

We come to the end of this journey that began with the trial of Jesus, His death on the cross and the resurrection.

It is a time, a season where we reflect on what all this means.

No matter where you may find yourself, an unbeliever or skeptic, a prodigal on a journey that has taken you far from the Father, or a follower like Mary or Peter or Thomas that has faced disappointment, failure or discouragement He will meet you where you are.

 

I can think of no better explanation than Romans 5 of all the hope we can have.

Because of what He has done.

May this season be a time of hope for you!

 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of

undeserved privilege where we now stand,

and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials

for we know that they help us develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character,

and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When we were utterly helpless,

Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person,

though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son

while we were still his enemies,

we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because

our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

 

While We Were Still His Enemies

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The soldiers and the crowds have left

The bodies have been taken down.

 But the events of the past few hours are still fresh in the minds of those who were there.

They remember the cries and the agony of the two thieves on the hated Roman crosses, the accusation in one of their voices “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself–and us, too, while you’re at it!”

They remember that he spoke to one of them about being in paradise that day with Him.

They remember the One who spoke only a few words from his cross and never a complaint.

They remember the wind that began to blow, the darkness that covered the whole land at mid day as the ground shook and trembled.

They remember that the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; that the rocks were split. That graves were opened, and many bodies of the holy men and women who had fallen asleep were raised from the dead

 They remember the one of whom Pilate said “In him I find no fault”.

 They remember being part of the crowd shouting ” Give us Barabbas, Crucify Him”.

 They remember the one who spoke as no teacher or rabbi ever had. Who healed blind men, delivered children from evil spirits, made the lame man walk and fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish from a little boys lunch

 They remember the one who raised Lazarus, the Roman officers servant, and the little girl from the dead. The one who healed the lepers, and set the madman in chains free.

 They remember the woman who spent all her money on doctors who could not heal her but after touching the hem of his garment was made well

 They remember the prostitute set free from seven demons, the woman caught in sin saved from certain death and what he said, “Woman where are your accusers. Do they not accuse you? “No Lord” “

Then neither do I. Go and sin no more”.

 

They remember he had compassion for the people, that they were like sheep without a shepherd, no one to help them, no one to rescue them.

They remember that he offered those who were helpless, sick, oppressed and poor, life more and better than they could ever imagine.

 They remember that he never claimed an earthly kingdom or even had a place to lay his head, but spoke of a kingdom where there were many mansions, room for all.

They remember the one who never claimed to be a king but said ,

“I am the way the truth and the life”.

 They remember shouting out as he rode into Jerusalem,

“Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”

They remember the he was spit on, mocked, and beaten but never defended himself but instead said ,

“Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing”.

 

They remember his last words on the cross

“It is finished”

 

And as they remember all these things the weight of what has happened comes crashing down upon them, it all becomes clear and they begin to wonder-

“What have we done”?

Why did we allow this to happen?

 

I believe there are two things we must understand about this event, the one that more than any other changed the course of history.

One: It was not an accident, a situation gone horribly wrong, a mistake.

 Through the years the Romans have been held responsible, the religious leaders, and some  would even retaliate against the Jewish people for their part in the death of Jesus.And while it is true that those in that time share responsibility focusing only on guilt shows a lack of understanding of God’s plan and purpose.

 We see echos of this, in a conversation with his disciples Jesus asks “Who do you say that I am?” and commends Peter for getting the answer right. “You are the Christ.”

Jesus then begins to explain what is going to happen that He would have to go to Jerusalem. There the elders, chief priests, and scribes would meet Him; He would suffer at their hands; and He would be killed.

Peter maybe a little frightened, sad or prideful says:

No, Lord! Never! These things that You are saying—they will never happen to You!

Jesus (turning to Peter): Get away from Me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s story!

If we just look to assign blame we miss the greater purpose now as Peter did then

 

There are numerous statements by Jesus himself that clearly show his purpose for coming to earth was to die. Caiaphas the high priest unwittingly agrees with this with this statement in addressing the Sanhedrin the judicial council of that day.

Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

Those who contributed to the punishment and death of Jesus are not blameless, but we see even in this the heart of God that even in this horrendous act is willing to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

Two: No one not the disciples closest to him, those who followed him, the Pharisees, the religious leaders, or the powers of hell and their dark master understood the significance of the cross. This is made clear in scripture-

But we do impart God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom. Before the ages began, God graciously decided to use His wisdom for our glory. This wisdom has not been grasped by the ruling powers of this age; if they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8

 

They did not understand that the cross would be the undoing of Satan’s grip on humanity and that the death of Jesus would bring life.

We again see the heart of God and his love for his creation through the writing of the apostle Paul.

Paul the one time persecutor of Jesus and the church understood this truth intimately and personally

“When the time was right, the Anointed One died for all of us who were far from God, powerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it’s possible that someone may give up his life for one who is truly good. 8 But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

 

It is a new day hope out of tragedy, life out of death, victory from defeat!

Forgiveness is available.

There are two enemies left to be defeated, the best is yet to come!