Job, In Spite of Me

Most of you have no idea what tragedies, terrors, torments, and turmoils are going on in my life.  I count it all joy!  Here’s why:

One of the greatest lessons of Job is that his friends tried to help him.  Man, were they wrong!  Job tried to answer them.  Man, was he wrong!  The focus of many sermons is a focus on man. Man, is that wrong!  It is always true that “I am not good because I am a Christian.  I am a Christian because I know I am not good.”  It makes no difference who or what I am, and all the difference who and what God is.  I love to boast.

“If you are a fool, you can expect a fool’s reward.”  I do.  I have spent most of my life as a fool, making foolish decisions.  But if Jesus overcomes death, foolishness no longer has any spiritual power. (That’s not precisely accurate, but I’ll defer trying to explain that premise.)

Job announced, “Destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.”  That’s a pre-salvation, pre-Jewish, pre-Christian thought that endures through every iota of Judeo-Christian thinking and philosophy.  “What did I do to deserve this?”

I did the same thing Job did.  I chose to love God, and him only.  OF COURSE with abject failure, slipping and sliding, willful disobedience, stupidity and foolishness, and classic “simply dumb,” but it is still my 30 year choice and dedication.  That’s why I’m entirely okay with the very NOT OKAY circumstances.  I get to read Job and understand because it is revealed to me in Job.  My counselors and Satan can deliver no message of how to “correct” my life.  I see destruction as a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I DO endure.

There is more.  God said to Satan, “Do anything you want to Job, but don’t kill him.”  That is enough to rest my case.

But I can’t because my righteousness is not my own.  I am a very screwed up person, just like you I expect, and I am only fully and absolutely and completely justified by another — namely Christ Jesus.  Nothing in me can claim worthiness of behavior, good choices, healthy attitudes or even moral decency.  Except, now and then, more or less, by accident.  I can “only” claim Christ.

It is the most hideous and pervasive flaw in man: #what.did.I.do.to.deserve.this You get what you get and you deal with it.  We all do.  God still demands what he demanded of Job, “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.”

Aren’t I tough and lovely?  Look what I can do.  heh.

There is goodness. It is good!  As Job said at the end of his “lessons,” “I have heard of you with my ear: but now I see him with my eye!”  It happened to me, when I lay in a hospital in Umpqua, Oregon, lying alone, my stomach full of blood, body full of infection, IVs, stomach pump, acute pancreatitis, wildly out of control diabetes, no friend at hand and far from family and my life partner, expecting to die, and being overwhelmed with hope and peace.

In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “‘Splain dat, Lucy!”

No one could give me any advice at that moment BUT Job, and he said, in essence, “If you really knew me, you’d know what a joke it was when God called ME righteous.  He was righteous through me.  Mostly, they love my story and get it all wrong.”

Sometimes even I misunderstand my “suffering.”  Even with Job’s understanding.  It is a tremendous gift, because past every pain, misery, financial burden, depression, loss, and horror, there is only mercy and grace. It has always and inescapably been true of the financial.  I just can’t worry about it.  It strongly appears that God says, “I own the cattle on a thousand hills” . . . You’d almost think there’s a Bible verse about that or something.

Wealth? Nope, not for me.  Not in one single relative sense.  Except the bounty of Christ.  Health?  Nope, not for me.  Not in one single relative sense.  Except the beauty of Christ.  Life?  In Christ.  Liberty?  In Christ.  Happiness?  Oh yes, right up there with suffering! (Not to be confused with masochism.)

The ENTIRE story of Job, the whole message, and mine, too, is simply this: “For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

I see and not another.  None of this is because of me.  My sin is no longer my reward.  It is forgiven.  Nor is it remembered.

In spite of me.

 

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Recent or Billions of Years?

Traditional geology requires long ages.  The conventional view of the Grand Canyon — the one taught in primary and secondary schools — describes the evolution of earth like the wear patterns on old stone steps.  Here, a PBS broadcast describes the simplest elements of that perspective.

Of course, any rational geologist nuances this stuff, but those basics appear almost everywhere.  The time frame varies, too, from a few million to a few hundred million years, but who’s quibbling?

On the opposite side, thinkers try to make sense of our creation from the perspectives of the Bible.  Could it have simply been laid down in six days and modified for a few thousand year?  I grew up knowing that was preposterous.  They started teaching me the “real story” — a variant of the one above — sometime around 1st Grade.

A friend had told me about “recent creation.”  Although he was a mechanical engineer who owned a significant bookstore, I checked to make sure he wore shoes!  How could an educated man believe this stuff?  He took me to meet Steve Austin at a special lecture in 1991 or ’92.  I was a baby Christian of just over a year.  Steve is a research geologist and professor with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.  I was so ready to scoff.

The man was more than credible, and the information solid.  Here is a very short piece of it.  That was enough to show me that if nothing else, modern science is a private club, and most legitimate research is ignored or shoved aside and skeptics abused, ostracised and/or demonised .  It really is not different than it was for Mendel (left) or Wegener.

This article from The Spectator, Scientists in Hiding, covers the current abuse.  And we see it all the time, though you might not recognize it.  Your brain might have been air conditioned or overheated, but “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth,” according to John 4:24.  No one can declare exactly how creation happened, or how long it took, but it can only be seen by faith.  You must acknowledge either a faith in God, or a faith in nothing over a very long time.

Oh, by the way, Gregor Mendel found proof of “all things after their kind” in the Bible, and discovered genetics in pea plants; Alfred Wegener (right) theorized plate tectonics from the Biblical account of “the earth broke deep” in Noah’s flood.  Thousands of scientists have used Biblical truth to discover earth’s realities.

Unlike other fairy tales, run of the mill “settled science” rarely is, and never ends happily ever after. . . but that is a different topic.

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World View

How do you see the world?  Is it, for instance, an opportunity or a hurdle?  Is it lovely or nasty?  Is it beauty to be built or beauty being ravaged?  And people, are they essentially good or bad?

From my own perspective, I see the political ideology divided largely between would be conquerors and perceived victims.  The helpless want big government to take care of them (Liberalism) or defend them (Conservatism) and conquerors want to seize control of people (Liberalism) or things (Conservatism.)  These extremes can fit (sometimes by force) the general attitudes of our partisan cults of Democrat and Republican extremes.

Many Americans think that either “I did it all by myself” or “I can’t possibly do it alone.”  Within those perversions of reality lies a world of truth precisely because they are both true . . . and of deceit because they are lies.  Society is just that — social interdependence — and liberty is precisely that — freedom and autonomy.

Then there is the more serious problem of control.  Quite simply, who should have it?  The choice is Republican control or Democrat control.  Sadly, we always seem to get forced into that argument with exactly those options.  The truth, however, is that our system of government was magnificently designed to keep the government out of control at every private and independent turn, and to hold what little centralized power existed at the federal level, while allowing slightly more power to state executives, legislators, courts, and policing agencies.  In turn, those were to be controlled, always, by We, the People.

As a nation, we forgot, and set about reinstating a king of the empire.  We forgot that all men are created equal, and we forgot that we are endowed by our Creator with certain rights.  We went straight back to the oldest whine in intelligent civilization, recorded in the Bible, in I Samuel, chapter 8:

“When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. . . Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. . . . And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. . . Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them’.

Is there some different story for us?  I think not.  Our nation stood independent, powerful, and peaceful for a couple of generations, but our wisest men grew old.  We and they together appointed corrupt men.  We have been solemnly warned of the same exact damned things, by Samuel himself:

“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots.  And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.  He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.  He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

I might add: It was 1/10th then.  Wouldn’t that be nice now?  There is plenty of room in Samuel’s warning for the conquerors and victims.  But you asked for it.

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Origins (In the Beginning)

Faith in God or faith in Chaos?  One belief system or the other demands its religion and dogma.  Either a Creator set it in motion and put it in place, or “stuff happens.”  The ultimate choice must favor everything or nothing as the fundamental reason for existence and life.  There can ultimately be no middle ground.

The challenge of believing in God is that He must be rational, self-existent, and self-sustaining.  That is a complicated bit of faith!  The challenge of life from Chaos, however, is equally difficult, and logically ridiculous: self-existent and self-sustaining matter and energy, and a long list of seemingly immutable laws, a developing purpose, and the incredible wonder of semi-autonomous life — all starting and progressing without design, purpose, cause, energy or material.

The three primary challenges of “Evolutionary” origins are material self-existence, ordered life out of Chaos, and reason and logic forming out of (and into) irrational obscurity.  (We can look at each of these if you like.) This means nothing is simply “improbable,” but utterly impossible, and it leads to a preposterous set of ridiculous outcomes.

Faith in Chaos is often referred to in terms of “life forming from a primordial soup,” seldom recognizing that the soup itself sprang from nonexistence without matter or energy . . . or any conceivable reason.

Of course I have to stop short of saying it cannot happen, but it would certainly require “an act of God.”

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Curled Toenails

There is no reason not to tell the truth.  Some truth, however, is debatable and even relative.  All that will go under this new category of Just Truth is truth that is just, and true, and free to all people.

You may reject it until your toenails curl or your gizzards rot (and they will.)  You will never change the Truth that is Just.

And maybe some day after your gizzards rot and your toenails curl, you will finally learn the truth.  May it happen today, instead.

In the end, this is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  And he will bring every work into judgment.

This is the beginning of wisdom, and nobody is required to be too stupid to understand.

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