Faithfulness – Going Deeper with Job

One of the major theological questions of today is “if God is good and in control, then why do bad things continue to happen to good people?” This is called the “theodicy question” and in our limited understanding of fairness and justice, it seems like a legitimate question. However we forget that we chose and continue to choose brokenness in our life and this distortion thwarts the divine reality God originally created. It is not God who picks and chooses winners and losers in life; it is the ambiguity and randomness of our chosen state of brokenness that does that. The story of Job is intended to teach us how to live a faithful life in the midst of our ambiguous brokenness. I pray that these readings will compliment this week’s sermon as you journey toward a deeper experience of God’s presence in the middle of your brokenness.

Monday: read Job 1:1-2:10

God brags to the divine beings about the faithfulness of Job. The Adversary, a divine being responsible for searching out unfaithfulness presses God by asking if Job would remain faithful if God did not protect him. Two tests ensue for Job – an external loss of possessions and his children, then the personal one of battling painful sores that cover his entire body. Through both tests Job perseveres and is faithful to God. Job believes and says that God can give and God can take away and so he continues to bless the name of the Lord. Put yourself in Job’s place (maybe you already are); how would you or have you responded to others and to God?

Tuesday: read Job 2:11-13

One of life’s biggest challenges is having the right words to say when we engage those who are grieving. We find ourselves caught between saying nothing and the need to say something. The grieving have a need – they crave words of comfort because it lets us know that we are not alone, but uninformed words, while well-intentioned, can also be painful. Can you recall a time when someone’s words made the situation even worse? What was it that caused their words to be painful? Or can you recall a time when you offered words of comfort but within you there was tension because you knew the words were not the right words?

Wednesday: read Job 10:1-7

We have all heard or used the phrase to describe someone as emulating “the patience of Job.” But when you read carefully Job’s story you will see that Job was patient and impatient; Job persevered but he did so with a lot of questions, doubt and accusations all directed at God. Job’s analysis was that God wounded him for no reason (9:17); God was responsible for his misery (12:9). Job was angry, questioned God, and expressed despair because of his circumstances. Can you recall a time when you felt like Job? What was the situation and what did you accuse God of?

Thursday: read Job 31:1-37

Job’s final speech to his three friends is his legal brief stipulating his righteousness. Job has avoided lust, deceit, adultery, and abuse of others. Actually Job has given aid to the defenseless, worshipped God only and demonstrated concern for his neighbor. When you think about it, Job does have a legitimate complaint, or at least according to our understanding of fairness and justice. The reality of life though confirms that the rain falls on the good and the bad. The world is not ordered so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished because human brokenness is arbitrary. So what is God in absolute control of, if not every good or bad thing that happens to us?

Friday: read Job 31:40b-32:5

The counsel of Job’s three friends has concluded – they encourage Job to confess because somehow Job has sinned against God. That is their only way of understanding why Job has experienced the calamity that he has. His wife has not spoken since the beginning when she told him to curse God and die. Now that Job has finished stating his case, the defense rests. He expects God to answer because God has been silent since the beginning of the tale. But instead, a different voice appears – it is the voice of young, inexperienced Elihu who has been an observer of everything and who could no longer stay silent. Has someone ever given you wise counsel and they were the person you least expected it from? How did you feel in that moment?

Saturday: read Job 38:1-15

Now God speaks but not as a defendant in a law case. Why? Because God and humans are not equals. Instead God probes Job’s defense with a series of questions. “Where were you when I…?” “Do you know…?” “Can you…?” God’s questions pointed to the divine creative power at work and that we humans cannot do what God has done or is doing because we are not creators, we are a part of creation. God draws Job into a wider view of the world rather than entertain Job’s complaint and question – why me? The reality of life is that it is ambiguous; there is little that is certain other than we breathe in our first breath and we will eventually breathe our last breath. The invitation of God is to walk faithfully with God through this ambiguous life. Are you walking and talking with God each day? What is your routine or practice of faithfulness? How are these practices empowering you to live within the ambiguousness of life?

Prayer focus: injustice in this world that is attributed to God; faithfulness as walking and talking with God each day; faith is not just a mental understanding of God, it is a lived experience of God.

Blessings for the journey.

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Faithfulness – Job who faced total loss

One of the major theological questions of today is “if God is good and in control, then why do bad things continue to happen to good people?”  This is called the “theodicy question” and in our limited understanding of fairness and justice, it seems like a legitimate question.  However we forget that we chose and continue to choose brokenness in our life and this distortion thwarts the divine reality God originally created.  It is not God who picks and chooses winners and losers in life; it is the ambiguity and randomness of our chosen state of brokenness that does that.  The story of Job is intended to teach us how to live a faithful life in the midst of our ambiguous brokenness.  I want to encourage you to take time over the next couple of days to read Job’s story from beginning to end.  Then sit with it for a while and let the words rattle around in your soul.  Don’t try and make sense of them but rather let them attach themselves to your heart and mind.  Then come and join us this Sunday as we converse about Job’s story of faithfulness and what that implies for each of us.  Finally, I would encourage you to engage my follow-up post with our daily readings and reflections; they are intended to compliment Sunday’s sermon.  I pray that your pre-reading, time in worship and follow-up study might guide you as you journey toward a deeper experience of God’s presence; as all of us journey toward faithfulness in the middle of our ambiguous brokenness.


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Faithfulness – Noah who faced a mighty task

The Genesis account of Noah is one of several Ancient Near Eastern stories about the flood. God selects a righteous man for an impossible mission that won’t happen for some time. How many of us could conceive of doing something (build an ark) to survive an event (the flood) that had never happened before? And then to claim that God told you to do it? That is exactly what righteous Noah did; he did not argue with God or debate an alternative plan. No, Noah set out doing exactly what God instructed him to do because the plan of God is perfect and will accomplish God’s true mission – cleansing and restoration. I pray that these readings and reflections will guide your thoughts and meditation toward the God who cleanses and restores us. From that I also pray that we might learn to listen to God’s call and to honor God above all things. May we learn to be faithful.

Monday: read Genesis 6:5

Genesis says that all of humanity was bent toward evil; it filled their hearts and infiltrated their actions. In the creation story God “saw” good and now God “saw” evil, the opposite of what God created. But the writer goes on to say that God does not act suddenly or arbitrarily. God continues to watch each of us and God sees good and bad in our lives. Do you find it comforting that God is patient, not acting hastily to correct us?

Tuesday: read Genesis 6:6-7

The sinful inclination of humanity grieves God but not to the point of God acting in anger or judgment. The Genesis writer portrays God regretting the creation particularly of humanity but God is not portrayed as powerless or inactive. Actually God is driven to action and the action is surprising. While we may read the flood story as destruction we should really read it as God cleansing the earth of corruption. In baptism we speak of the power of the water and the Spirit to cleanse instead of destroy. Reflecting upon your own baptism, how does the power of God to cleanse speak to you?

Wednesday: read Genesis 6:11-12

Humans have struggled with the theodicy question since the moment paradise was lost. We continue to ask the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” Even in the flood story we must understand the innocent suffer with the guilty because humans have already sown the seeds of their own destruction. What story or headline this week illustrates this point for you; that innocent people suffer along with the guilty?

Thursday: read Genesis 6:17

Noah moves into God’s vision and plan based upon a promise – basically that God would spare Noah and his family. It is evident that Noah is called by God to this task because Noah already has a firm relationship with God; Noah was and continues to be a worshipper of God. Many of us want to do something significant with our lives; we want to hear God’s calling but can’t. How much of that could be due to the fact that we don’t fully worship God with our lives?

Friday: read Genesis 8:1

“God remembers Noah.” The waters came, the flood has covered the earth, and the ark precariously resides above the cleansing of the earth. The first verse of Genesis 8 could make it seem like God was so focused on the cleansing that Noah and the ark slipped God’s view. Or that God was so deep in grief over the cleansing of the earth that God temporarily lost sight of Noah and the ark. There are times in our lives where we feel like God has temporarily lost sight of us but the promise is that God will never leave, forsake, or totally forget us. Are you troubled by this or do you find comfort in this?

Saturday: read Genesis 8:20

Noah, his family and the animals come out of the ark after the waters had receded. Noah proceeds to build an altar and then sacrificed to God some of the clean large animals and birds. If you think about it Noah sacrifices to God part of what was needed to repopulate the cleansed earth. But Noah does not see it that way; Noah honors God for God’s provision and rescue and it cost something to do that. The lesson is that we need to learn to give to God generously understanding that in giving we actually gain more than we do when we hoard resources. Honoring God takes precedence over our objectives or ideas. How are you honoring God in your life and through the church? What is it literally and figuratively costing you?

Prayer focus: evil, injustice, and destruction that resides in our own hearts; water as a symbol of cleansing; God sees and God remembers us, especially when we feel far away; honoring God should be our first priority.

Blessings for the journey.

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Treasure – Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing

Life today seems to be more complex and complicated than at any other time in history. But is it really? I would propose to you that we continue to worry about the same things that humans have worried about for centuries – health, comfort, tangible success, and family are a few of these timeless topics. Jesus points us in a different direction; actually Jesus points us to the root of faith and joy. God treasures each of us and provides all that we need. When we grasp firmly this truth, then we will begin to treasure God above all other things and live with the joy God intends for us. May these readings and reflections guide you on your journey of discovery this week.


Monday: read Matthew 6:25

Many of us juggle multiple roles in our lives – this causes stress, anxiety, and worry. We are trying to keep up with doing, needing, and seeking. How do you find comfort in Jesus’ words that life is more than food, drink, and clothing? Jesus said “do not worry” as a way of pointing us to God – to treasure God above all things.


Tuesday: read Matthew 6:27

Back in 1988 pop singer Bobby McFerrin recorded a number one hit single that said “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” What we all know is that worry does not add time to our lives; actually worry is costly because we invest precious time in a useless emotion. The reality though is that we cannot cease to worry; but maybe we can overcome it by understanding that time and life are not dependent on us. Jesus tells us not to worry and points us to our God, who is the holder of time and life. So trust God and embrace the time God has given you here.


Wednesday: read Matthew 6:28-30

Fall is approaching and many of us will be planting mums – we love the beauty of the color just like we love the beauty of the spring flowers we plant and tend. We all enjoy the wide array of color in God’s creation. When we look up into the sky we may notice the migration of geese headed south as winter comes. It’s time to find better climate and more provision. If God cares enough to create beautiful flowers and give birds the instinct to thrive, how much more does God treasure you? God cares for creation which includes you and me.


Thursday: read Matthew 6:31-32

What is your greatest treasure? What does it take for you to care for it? Whether it is a possession or a person we know the sacrifice of time, effort, and money needed to care for our treasure. We are God’s greatest treasure – above all things God treasures you and me. This knowledge has the power to sustain us through times of uncertainty and fear. Our faith should be bolstered by the understanding that God knows exactly what we need to thrive. What will it take for us to find comfort and rest in this knowledge?


Friday: read Matthew 6:33-34

Jesus recognizes that there are other things in our lives that demand our attention and they cause us concern. They are important to us; sometimes they become the most important thing to us. Jesus’ objective is to help each of us understand the proper place these things should hold in our hearts. First and foremost should be the things of God; we should treasure them above all else. Could it be that when we prioritize the things of God first then we gain freedom from material pursuits? And this freedom can be redirected to our treasure – our family and community.


Saturday: read Matthew 6:21

So what is it that you treasure most in life? When we align our hearts with Jesus’ invitation we will discover the joy God intends for us. We can live in the power of knowing that God treasures us and we are invited to reciprocate. We will prioritize and serve God first and above all other masters. We will give of our time, talent and treasure to honor God and to participate in something bigger than ourselves. And this new-found life orientation can free us from worrying about all the wrong things. Instead we can live a joyous life because we are aligned with God’s heart and desire for us; we can live in faith knowing that we are God’s greatest treasure.


Prayer focus: acknowledge our worry, anxiety, and stress; assess our ability to control or affect what we worry about; consider and believe that God is the keeper of time and events; have faith that God will care for your needs because you are God’s greatest treasure.

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Treasure – How do you give?

Almost every single one of us struggles and searches for the grand meaning to our lives.  Victor Frankel’s memoir about life in a Nazi concentration camp is titled Man’s Search for Meaning.  Even there he recognized the human need to find purpose and meaning behind the experiences of life.  For some of us our meaning is found in the power to accumulate possessions and wealth or the freedom to do what we want when we want.  Our abundance of freedom and possessions becomes a vehicle for us to gain recognition and praise from others.  But for others of us, we believe that real joy in life comes from honoring God, not ourselves.  This is achieved by giving, no accumulation.  The hope is that each of us might heed God’s invitation to be people who give and who do so in quiet humility.  It is a journey that can help us become followers whose prayers and gifts honor and glorify God, not ourselves.  I pray that these readings might be a guide on this journey.

Monday: read Romans 4:19-21

God included Abraham and Sarah in God’s big plans for the salvation of the world. Certainly God could have accomplished God’s plans without them, but God didn’t. God wanted them to know what it was to participate in plans and events bigger than themselves. God desires that for us as well. Are you participating in anything God is doing that’s bigger than you?

Tuesday: read Matthew 6:1-4

Each of us likes to be recognized and praised for doing a good job. We anticipate and expect an excellent review, a merit increase and/or bonus as our reward for our efforts. But when it comes to participating in God’s work, we must resist these needs, urges and expectations. When we get the pat on the back, then God is forgotten; the credit is misplaced. Jesus counsels us to give in secret so that we aren’t wrongly praised for our gifts. What is your motivation for giving? To be praised or to give praise to God?

Wednesday: read Matthew 6:5

One of our greatest fears today is public speaking. This fear is especially evident when someone is asked to pray in public. But in other religious activities, we may fall prey to the tendency to put the focus on ourselves. Jesus links treasure and prayer together in his sermon; we should come to recognize that these two things go together because they are inseparable. Could it be that the more we humbly and quietly pray, the more we can be led by God to give and give generously?

Thursday: read Matthew 19:21-22

Think about the time you spend each week; how much of it is absorbed in getting more stuff or maintaining the stuff you have? Is it minutes, hours or days? Now, how much time last week did you spend laughing, dancing, hugging, and praying? Jesus said that our stuff is a roadblock to living, giving, and being connected to God and each other. So, Jesus said get rid of the roadblock. What’s keeping us from following Jesus advice?

Friday: read Malachi 3:10

The prophet speaking for God issues a challenge to the people – test God by giving and see if there isn’t enough left over. A few of us can’t imagine giving much let alone ten percent – there isn’t “enough” for that. Maybe we need to re-open our eyes to our spending habits. Try collecting your receipts for one week and then put them into two categories: necessary and not necessary spending. Total the “not necessary” stack and see what percent it is of income and spending. What if you took the money spent on the “unnecessary” and gave it to God? You’d still have “enough” for the necessary, wouldn’t you?

Saturday: read I Corinthians 10:31

Our city is filled with people hoping to someday see a ticker tape parade. They want to experience the excitement of celebratory sounds and fluttering confetti; to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Actually giving is supposed to be just as exciting. The offering plate certainly isn’t passed to the sound of a marching band, air cannons and fluttering pieces of paper, but it’s just as momentous! Why? Because we are giving and participating in the greatest thing in life and on earth – God’s work! So whatever you do this week, offer it to God and do it for God’s glory.


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Treasure – Two Masters

I find it difficult, actually impossible to do two tasks simultaneously. I cannot write a sermon while also trying to make phone calls or answer emails. They are separate tasks, separate masters. I have to learn to prioritize and say yes to one master and then let the other things fall into place as a sub-set of my devotion. I have to choose my relationship with God first so that all of the other priorities and task benefit. To elevate any of these above God causes me to serve another master; it is a recipe for failure. The readings this week challenge us to consider how many masters we have and our level of success or failure, fulfilment or frustration we are living into. May God bless these readings and your journey.

Monday: read Mark 3:24-25

Jesus speaks about division and its power to completely undermine the unity of a kingdom or a household. In other words division erodes the base of our existence to the point that we have no solid footing in life. But Jesus recognizes that many of us try to manage the tension by bridging the division. However we serve one master at the expense of the other and vice versa. You end up hating on and loving the other; you divided life collapses. What will it take for you to clearly see that Jesus is the trustworthy master who will not allow our life to collapse?

Tuesday: read Matthew 12:43-45a

One of the reasons we have multiple masters is that we continue to say yes to multiple things. It is hard for many of us to say no, maybe because it is hard or we don’t want to disappointment others who have a need or expectation of us. The unclean spirit represents a master; when we learn to say no the master goes away. But we must learn another lesson; by saying no we are able to say yes. By saying no to an evil master we can say yes to the master of heaven and earth. What is God offering to you today that you should say yes to?

Wednesday: read I Kings 18:21

Elijah called the people to make a definitive decision – either follow God or follow Baal. Maybe part of our struggle is that we try to live in the gray, a mixture between God and our worldly pleasures. The murky waters become our habitat but because we don’t see clearly, we don’t actually get where we are supposed to go in life. Jesus is clear – you cannot serve both masters. Elijah is clear – you have to make a choice. So, will you follow God or will you follow the false promises of the world?

Thursday: read Romans 10:9

Love is jealous. Human relationships tell us this because when one partner feels neglected due to the masters the other partner is trying to serve, jealousy enters the picture. God is a jealous God! This is true because we serve masters, but not the one true Master of all creation. When we serve God, by serving Jesus Christ then all of our other relationships will benefit. They will flourish because our relationship with the one true Master flourishes. What do you need to do today so that your relationship with God in Jesus Christ might become your priority?

Friday: read I Samuel 7:3-4

According to scripture(s) anything we worship other than God is a false god; an idol in our lives. This can really hit home when we realize that our false god or idol also becomes part of our identity. For some of this it can be our job; it becomes our identity. Our address becomes our identity. The brand of clothes, shoes, or accessories becomes our identity. And we worship them, protect them, because to lose them means that we lose our identity. Worship the Lord alone and he will deliver you – maybe the reason we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives is because we worship powerless idols.

Saturday: read Matthew 15:8

Bob Dylan wrote “He not busy being born is busy dying.” A hymn writer said that our hearts are prone to wonder and leave the God I love. All of the sudden our passion for God can become lip service, play acting as we go through the motions. God does not play act when it comes to you and me. God means what God says and does – God loves us and wants the best for us. Jesus doesn’t care specifically about our money – he uses it as an example of how we can wander away from God as our treasure. God treasures you and God desires to be your treasure. What has your heart wandered to as your treasure?

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Treasure – Where is Your Heart?

Treasure – the people and things that you value the most in your life.  Jesus had a large crowd following him and according to Matthew’s gospel he shared with them several teachings called the Sermon on the Mount.  One of the teachings focused on what fills our heart.  Jesus cautions the hearers to be careful because the heart follows the treasure.  It is easy for us to spend our treasure on all of the wrong things in life and while they gain the devotion of our hearts, they will never satisfy them.  Rather Jesus says lay up treasure in heaven meaning we need to spend our time and energy focused on God and the things of God.  When we do that our hearts will be attuned with their true home – life now and life eternal with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Take some time this week to read and pray.  Also be open to discerning where your treasure is – that’s where your heart is.  Blessings for the journey.

Monday – read Exodus 20:15, 17

Early in the liberation journey of the Hebrews God gave them laws through Moses. Isn’t it curious that a people who had been enslaved and oppressed for over 400 years had to be reminded not to kill, commit adultery or lie about each other? They also received instructions not to steal from one another. How often do we have to be reminded to be generous to God who has given us everything? How often should we be reminded of our call to honor God through the act of generosity?

Tuesday – read Proverbs 28:25

Very few people ever admire someone who is greedy. Actually greedy people are portrayed as ones who stir up trouble in their family, circles of friends and associates. A greedy person has little or no capacity for charity; they see no reason to help someone else. But those who trust in God and give generously prosper; maybe not monetarily but in the soul. When it comes to money are you greedy or are you generous? Are you stirring up trouble or prosperity?

Wednesday – read Proverbs 11:28, 23:4-5

A current commercial asks the question “when did it become an act of courage to leave work on time?” Our culture demands so much from us, especially if we want to get ahead (meaning a promotion, with higher pay, that can fuel our appetite for more stuff). The wise teacher reminds us that pursuing wealth is a waste of effort because wealth is tenuous at best. He also says that trusting in stuff is misplaced trust because one day it will all disappear. Where or in what have you placed your trust? How much time do you spend pursuing the things that are eternal?

Thursday – read Luke 12:15

What do you use to measure the quality of your life? Some of us may use the size of our bank accounts, assets, and savings as the measure of who we are. Jesus indicated that if this is your measuring stick then it could lead to greed – it could consume your time, attention and heart because you will take any measure to preserve your wealth. What is the measure of your life – your wealth or your service to God and others?

Friday – read Matthew 6:19-21

Mark Tabb (author of Living with Less) wrote that we live in “collectable America.” Many of us collect something thinking that someday we will sell our collection for a tidy sum of money. If we preserve the collection it will someday appreciate and be worth our time and effort. But very few things last forever – Jesus actually said that only heavenly treasure will last for eternity. And depending upon which we choose, earthly treasure or heavenly will influence where our passion lies. Where is your treasure being collected; stock piled?

Saturday – read Luke 12:32-34

Fear of not having enough – some would say that is what drives many of us. The fear that we won’t get our fair share of the imagined riches we think we deserve. What if we could live fearlessly? Live without the driving forces of obtaining more and more? Jesus invited his disciples to live simply because being unburdened of possessions also meant the release of fear. When fear subsides, trust can thrive. These two things cannot live in the same world, simultaneously. So what rules you? Fear or trust?

Prayer Focus: fear, insecurity, greed – do these attitudes and behaviors rule me? Trust, security, and generosity – how do I allow these attributes to grow and thrive in me?


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