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Friday, June 22, 2012

The advice of friends needs to be weighed
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I would prefer as friend a good man ignorant than one more clever who is evil too. ~ Euripides

We are social creatures aren’t we?

We love parties, friends, social events and those special people who gather around to share our dreams and failures.

We love to love, and hate to be alone. This is part of being human! It’s a tough part!

For those who have not found a special mate in life to connect with and commiserate with, this can be a source of sorry. Then there are those popular people who find themselves asking if their friends are around them because of their money, influence etc. and whether if this money and influence should disappear, whether the friends would as well.

The bible talks about a guy, Job, who was very influential, rich, well liked, had a huge family, friends everywhere and who lost all his family and possessions. He went from the most influential person in that area to perhaps the least. Sitting in the dirt, covered in sores and listening to his last few friends advice, he laments as follows...

And now, my friends, you haven't helped me either.
You see the horrible condition I'm in.
      And that makes you afraid. [1]

 He is left with only three friends that come to talk to him, followed by a fourth a bit later. The advice they give him is varied but in summary is that he needs to face God because there must be something he has done wrong to experience this pain.

He knows this is not the case!

 Bad advice, inadequate friendship!

He is in a horrible state to look at. Have you ever visited a person who is very ill or hurting? Probably you have, most of us have, I know I have.

Sometimes when doing this I have caught myself thinking that I am glad I am not as sore, ill or stressed as the other person. I don’t like myself for that thought!

That thankfulness is a small touch of what people experience in survivor guilt. This happens when someone dies and the fortunate person escapes the same death for no apparent reason. We actually feel guilty for being healthy and safe sometimes, don’t we?

Is this okay? Not really!

With Job, his friends advice is poor! Perhaps because they were trying to explain to themselves that they had escaped this event because they hadn’t sinned as they considered Job must have.  This is not a position of true humility!

When I find myself being thankful that I am not suffering as another, I immediately ask God for forgiveness and turn myself to the task of coming alongside the sufferer..

It’s not that I want to suffer, but I do want a pure heart and to have true compassion. I am sure that I often fail, and the example of my thoughts above is one example. A person with a pure heart does not see themselves in the others circumstances when looking at another person suffering, instead they see a person loved by God who is being stressed by the evil influence of this world. They see a person who needs someone to come alongside. Perhaps we cannot do anything of value to help, but we are social creatures. Simply holding a hand, being there, helping what little we can and giving of our time to stop the other feeling lonely is a huge step in love.

Sometimes the best advice a friend can give is in the simple words “I have no idea of what I can do to help, but I just wanted to come and be with you.”

Then, when we cannot do anything physically, prayer is a significant option. Turning to the almighty omnipotent God and expressing our concerns, fears and love for those we want to see helped, releases a power that is not our own. Often we find our very words are influences by Holy Spirit to encourage and release powerful healing forces.

This is being a friend. This is where we make a difference.

Words that are empowered by God often achieve what our poor advice cannot.

This has been spoken from the perspective of a friend of someone suffering. When we are suffering, we need to evaluate carefully our friends words before we accept them like Job, we can have friends who fail to see God’s plan and purpose. We need to seek truth in their words. We need to weigh the words on the eternal scale of God truth. Perhaps like Job we will need to ask “think it over again”.

True friends are wonderful, friends who want to be truthful and God inspired are similarly wonderful.

The reality is that we need to evaluate all friends advice at all times since only God’s truth blesses us. We cannot understand God or how he engineers life’s circumstances. We can honor and respect him in any circumstances’ no matter how difficult.

So today, let’s consider our words and how we use them. Let’s be true friends to those around us and let’s release some silent joy into the world by coming alongside those who need our presence.

Hope you have a successful day!


[1] Job 6 NIRV
Fri, June 22, 2012 | link          Comments

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Extraneous excellence

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“The person who rests in the shadow of the Most High God will be kept safe by the Mighty One.” Psalm 91:1 NIRV

I was listening to a part time firefighter talk on TEDtalks last night. This firefighter has a heart driving him to help others. He was encouraging others to do the same. During his explanation, he explained how one evening, on reacting to a fire, he arrived to find other firefighters rescuing the people and pets. The lady, who was the house owner, was in the wet cold street under an umbrella hiding from the rain and watching fireman enter her burning home. His chief asked him to go and rescue her shoes.

He did this, not considering it a very important assignment since the fire was about out. When the lady was reported in the local paper the next day, she singled out this act of kindness as demonstrating the depth of the help the fire department had provided.

This fire department was not considered excellent only for it’s fire fighting techniques, but rather for it’s extraneous excellence in understanding the depth of discomfort and despair that this woman, the victim, was experiencing at the time. They were lauded for having compassion outside the limits of duty!

As Christians, we respond to God’s love by simply letting Holy Spirit have control of our hearts and minds in everyday situations. Like that fireman, we often fail to understand the depth and breadth of the direction we receive. Instead, we simply allow God to take control and willingly follow guidelines he gives us, making sure that these guidelines are aligned with the bible guidelines so that we don’t get misdirected by the subtle forces of evil that often try to mimic Holy Spirits voice.

Little events count! Taking a small amount of time out of our day to listen to someone, help a person, pay attention to needs, these are things that at the time they are done, appear to be of little value. They often turn out to be much more important!

God is interested in the little things that matter! Answering that prayer of the child in the exam hall who realizes her pen is about to run out of ink and needs it to finish the exam paper is as important as supporting the president of the country making a policy decision that affects millions. Nothing is too big or too small for God!

Resting in God's presence we are able to live with extranous excellence!

 

As we rest in God’s presence, our lives take on shades of meaning that give depth, variety and generously overcome the ordinary way that we live. God causes us to live in a way that is much more meaningful. Let’s never loose sight of the encompassing love God has for his children. I am one of those children and I do hope you are!

Have a wonderful day!
Thu, June 21, 2012 | link          Comments

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tired, needing rest?

 

 
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“It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves” ~ C.S. Lewis

 Lack of sleep suppresses thinking, innovation, and slows the rate at which one is able to effectively deal with the decision making during the day.

Have you ever felt so tired, that upon waking up, the feeling is of even more tiredness than upon going to sleep the night before. Our head spins and aches, turning the simplest activities onto marathons. Talking to others is like shouting into a fog from a deserted hilltop, movements seem to deplete energy levels and we are short with others and bothered more quickly than usual.

That’s my day today!

It’s not worry or stress that has driven me to this state, as over the years I have found Jesus is the greatest antidote to those types of problems. See previous blogs, Before I go to sleep. . . or A silent night? Can't sleep! or Lacking sleep, not well, grouchy, a tough day ahead?

This time, I am tired simply because for some reason I have been having an allergic reaction to spring pollen or other allergen’s that make my whole body come out in hives and itch so much that I cannot sleep.

It’s amazing how aggravating and stressful itching can be! I think of how when Satan wanted to test Job, and rob him of health, it appears as if in addition to covering him with sores the one thing he selected to do was to make him itch. The bible says “He got part of a broken pot. He used it to scrape his skin.” I guess he was itching!

Tired, lacking sleep for a few nights, I started to consider my day as a marathon with a reward of another night of similar stress. It’s easy to get despondent isn’t it?

Then I read “Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light."[1] and it sounds so good!

Jesus reaches out across the centuries and gives me hope for my day. For many people, these would just be words in a book, but I have walked with God for a number of years now. I know that words he provides are power filled. This encourages me! Here respite is to be gained, in the midst of isolated aggravation! Here is the one who will take the frustrations and replace them with love. I know it!

When I consider what he endured, my lack of sleep for a night starts to dim its intensity, and instead, thankfulness drowns this nagging fleshly torture. The comfort of Holy Spirit’s presence surrounds me like a soft warm blanket on a cold night, inviting, loving and encompassing.

The situation has not changed! I am just as tired, but now I can deal with the world in love. Instead of letting the current situation of strain flow over into my communications, attitudes and demeanour, I have the true comfort of God, that will make me a little more humble, caring and loving in these interactions with others.

Now my dear wife, associates and friends, will get the “true” me instead of the ogre that was trying to arise in me due to that aggravation of my physical body.

I know now, I have overcome the greatest hurdle of today! With this success, I can look forward to enjoying others and my work.

Again, God makes all the difference! How about you let him turn your day to success?


[1] Matthew 11:28-30 NIRV
Wed, June 20, 2012 | link          Comments

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The riches of simple words
   
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It is better to be poor and to live without blame
than to be foolish and to twist words around. Proverbs 19:1


 Have you ever noticed that the more people have in life, the more complex their life becomes? The more complex their lives, then the more complex tehir language often becomes. The simpler a life, the less complexity we seem to find in that person. This is not to say that tsimpler living people have it easy. No! There is no direct relationship between complexity, or simplicity of life, and difficulty or ease of living.

There is however a relationship between complexity and the time available to do things.

I was considering that some of the most amazing people are people who knew how to use their time, independent of complexity or simplicity of life.

Some people we think of as being rather amazing in simplicity, are people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela. Here, their lives were poor in many ways, but what astounds us, is their ability to live without blame and in simplicity.

Then, we turn this around and look at the lives of people who have huge complexity.

I always think of American presidents when I think of this. Was it not amazing how Carter turned from a smiling peanut king, with a shock of brown hair, to a melancholy gray haired man in months after he took that position? Complexity wears men down. Think of George Bush, Obama and how they change once they gain the office they strove for.

I think that verse from proverbs explains their dilemma. They have to twist words around. Compare their language to that of Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and the other great simple livng person Jesus.

I don’t think these presidents are fools, so they escape that part of the verses comment, but even having to twist words around seems to rob them of health and enjoyment of life. They all get old quickly don't they?

Can we learn from people who refuse to have their words twisted?

In the bible, Job is a guy who is so afflicted by life he says “May the day I was born be wiped out,” and in regard to God he says

"I was born naked.
      And I'll leave here naked.
   You have given, and you have taken away.
      May your name be praised."

 The bible points out that in spite of everything, Job didn't sin by blaming God for doing anything that went wrong.

Job didn’t allow circumstances to twist his words.

God wants us to speak clearly and without distortion. I think Jesus was one of the master communicators of all time. Thousands of years after he lived, we have clear communications on what he said, because the words are so simple and elegant yet loaded with meaning.

Have you noticed that successful people don’t twist words, they speak plainly, they don’t allow the riches and pressures of life, to dictate their behaviour and language?

Perhaps that’s what God wants for all of us. Ability to speak plainly, living without allowing life’s complexity to twist our words.

That’s my ambition for today and it is a good thing to strive for in my interactions with others.

What about you? How will you deal with your words in the complexity of your life today?
Tue, June 19, 2012 | link          Comments

Monday, June 18, 2012

Suffering, how did Job do?
  
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Have you heard of the saying “patience of Job”? Ever wonder where it came from? I did and I found out it refers to a person mentioned in some of the most ancient writings in the world.

“Why do people struggle with life if God is in control?”

This is another aspect that the story of Job explains. So who is Job? When was this writing about him established and what does it say?

Before we look into this (and I may take a few blogs over a few weeks to do this) let me investigate typical questions and statements people make about God.

Some say...

·         if God is in control, why do disasters happen and people suffer for apparently no reason?” e.g. why do tornadoes hit Oklahoma?[1]

 ·         The world is filled with suffering of every kind. Countless millions know little else. Yet God allows it. Why has He not stopped the terrible suffering that afflicts so many?[2]

 ·         In his now famous book The God Delusion, outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins contends that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  ... But, for those who have borne witness to the immense suffering and evil present in this world, it can be tempting to sympathize with Dawkins’ perspective.  People (including theologians) have wrestled with the question for untold generations:  If God is in control of the universe, and he is good, why is there so much suffering and evil?  How does one, for example, rectify the existence of a good and just God with the occurrence of the holocaust?

 I plan to open up some of the arguments and discussions of this book of Job so we can answer this question for ourselves after seeing how people in the book of Job dealt with them.

Let’s start with figuring out when Job was written. If we ask this question we get told “in the age of the Patriarchs” so who are these “Patriarchs?

They are...

      Abraham
, the ancestor of all the Abrahamic nations;

       his son Isaac
, the ancestor of the nations surrounding Israel/Judah; and

       Isaac's son Jacob
, also named Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites

 
They are mentioned in the bible book Genesis. The text of these bible books (Job and Genesis) are arguably the oldest books in the bible. So they are among the oldest in the world. Genesis is part of teh Torah (jewish first five books and is the first book in the Christian bible) [The Torah and Christian bible are the same in this text]. Here is a timeline showing when we think they could have been written...

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The traditionalists this it was somewhere in the 1400’s B.C. and the modern scholars who don’t have any faith and dissect the bible into what they think are different authors say about 500B.C.

 
Either way it was written a long time back and we actually think the writing comes from the 2nd millennium B.C.

 
Here is why (courtesy of the website indicated in the reference [3])

1.   Job lived 140 years after his calamities (42:16). This corresponds with the lifespans of the patriarchs. For example, Abraham lived 175 years.

 2.   Job's wealth was reckoned in livestock (1:3; 42:12) which was also true of Abraham (Gen. 12:16) and Jacob (Gen. 30:43).

 3.      The Sabeans and Chaldeans (Job 1:15, 17) were nomads in Abraham's time, but in later years were not.

 4.      The Hebrew word (qsitah) translated "piece of silver" (42:11) is used elsewhere only twice (Gen. 33:19, Josh. 24:32). Both times are in reference to Jacob.

 5.      Job's daughters were heirs of his estate along with their brothers (Job. 42:15). This was not possible later under the Mosaic Law if a daughter's brothers were still living (Num. 27:8).

 6.       Literary works similar in some ways to the Book of Job were written in Egypt and Mesopotamia around the time of the patriarchs.

 7.      The Book of Job includes no references to the Mosaic institutions (priesthood, laws, tabernacle, special religious days and feasts).

 8.      The name (sadday) is used of God 31 times in Job (compared with 17 times elsewhere in the Old Testament) and was a name familiar to the patriarchs.

 9.      Several personal and place names in the book were also associated with the patriarchal period. Examples include (a) Sheba - a grandson of Abraham, (b) Tema - another grandson of Abraham, (c) Eliphaz - a son of Esau, (d) Uz - a nephew of Abraham.

 10.  Job was a common West Semitic name in the second millennium B.C. Job was also a name of a 19th-century-B.C. prince in the Egyptian Execration texts.

 So the 1400’s B.C. to 2000 B.C.  is a likely date for Job.

Job is a story of his suffering and one where we can see God’s statements about human suffering. It is complex and really a long poem.(So ancient people could easily remember it and repeat it accurately).

A man called Job lost everything he had in a very short time, became an outcast of his people and went to live near the city dump where he is visited by three friends (well maybe we should say four and God who was fifth).

The story is different in that we get to hear discussions between God and Satan about Job and his circumstances. We get to see suffering from a different perspective that the view we have of it here on earth. We also get to hear how his three friends try to explain it.

In the first set of arguments they say it’s the sinful, ignorant and nasty things, the sin, in Job’s life that causes it. They say God is giving him what he deserves. Job rejects this! There is Elipaz a kind mystical type, Bildad a rather unsympathetic tradionalist and Zophar a guy who is rather narrow minded. They each have a different set of reasons as to why Job suffers and all thump Job with their speeches. Job simply says that even if he dies he will trust God.

They have another go, explaining how God is going to judge the wicked.

Job simply says he will see God and does not accept their arguments.

Then these “friends” explain how wise God is, and how God controls life and that Job is simply ignorant and has no right to argue with God. Job refuses to agree and sticks to his statements.

Then another guy, Elihu, arrives on the scene and starts saying pride has get into Job and this is a reason for his suffering.

Enough is enough! God arrives and explains they are all wrong. None has the facts or can have. They simply have not got the knowledge and ability to understand and trying to justify oneself is worthless. Only He can put things into true perspective and God asks Job to learn this. Job does and everything taken from him is restored.

The simple truth is that when we have nothing left, we can realize God is enough!

This is a long argument, too long for a blog. I suggest you read Job, here are the different parts of teh book

      Prologue: scene in heaven Job 1:1-2:13
      First set of speeches Job 3:1-14:22
      Second set of speeches Job 15:1-21:34
      Third set of speeches Job 22:1-31:40
      The speech of Elihu Job 32:1-37:24
      The reply of God Job 38:1-42:6
      Epilogue Job 42:7-17

 To give you a flavour here is the first part with some comments of my own. Bible text[4] in blue, mine in black

1 There was a man who lived in the land of Uz. His name was Job.

He was honest. He did what was right. He had respect for God and avoided evil.

(so he was good man!)

 2 Job had seven sons and three daughters.

(big family!)

 3 He owned 7,000 sheep and 3,000 camels. He owned 500 pairs of oxen and 500 donkeys. He also had a large number of servants. He was the most important man among all of the people in the east.

(wealthy and influential!)

4 His sons used to take turns giving big dinners in their homes. They would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. (His family got on with each other!)

5 When the time for enjoying good food was over, Job would have his children made pure and clean. He would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them. He would do it early in the morning. He would think, "Perhaps my children have sinned. Maybe they have spoken evil things against God in their hearts." That's what Job always did for his children when he felt they had sinned.

(He had concern for the things of God and was a good dad trying to protect his family!)

Now we move to a different scene, in heaven...

6 One day angels came to the Lord. Satan also came with them
. 7 The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

(Didn’t God know? So perhaps this was asked so we could hear the answer!)

 Satan answered, "From traveling all around the earth. I've been going from one end of it to the other."

(This tells us Satan roams freely around the Earth without God influencing him. Evil has ability to go anywhere on Earth!)

 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you thought about my servant Job? There isn't anyone on earth like him. He is honest. He does what is right. He has respect for me and avoids evil."

(God is impressed by Job. This shows God appreciated his relationship with man and appreciates honesty, righteousness, respect and rejection of evil)

9 "You always give Job everything he needs," Satan replied. "That's why he has respect for you. 10 Haven't you guarded him and his family? Haven't you taken care of everything he has? You have blessed everything he does. His flocks and herds are spread all through the land.
11 "But reach out your hand and strike down everything he has. Then I'm sure he will speak evil things against you. In fact, he'll do it right in front of you.“

 (Sneaky argument!)

 12 The Lord said to Satan, "All right. I am handing everything he has over to you. But do not touch the man himself."

(This shows God putting his trust in a man not failing him. It shows he has a great relationship with this man and feels he will not fail him!)

 Then Satan left the Lord and went on his way.

We would like to have God’s trust in that way, but we also would not like to have the sufferings that come upon Job.

God want’s to have us as partners in his eternal planning, but we cannot understand that planning. Often partnership with God is complex and difficult to conceptualize. Today we HAVE to know WHY, don’t we?

With God that is not always possible. Somethings when people are suffering and ask why we give some really poor and nasty answers. Over the next few weeks I will be interspersing blogs addressing some of these arguments, and why we should be careful of what we say when encouraging others. We don’t have all teh answers, what we should at least have is compassion and love.

So if there is someone suffering today, come alongside, not with advice but with love and caring. That is always appreciated!

 Have a wonderful day!



[1] http://thegoodfight612.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/if-god-is-in-control-why-do-people-suffer
[2] http://rcg.org/articles/wdgas.html 
[3] from http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4222545/k.449D/When_Was_the_Book_of_Job_Written.htm
[4] Job 1 NIRV
Mon, June 18, 2012 | link          Comments


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A horrific mining accident results in Joshua Robyn's father being killed. Joshua struggles both with himself and his townsfolk as he tries to make sense of an incomprehensible situation. Is it an accident or a murder? Why is there a seeming link to evil? Why is his work environment suddenly threatening? What is the conspiracy about and what are they trying to do? As action moves dramatically from exotic African grasslands to the heart of North America's cities, the plot unfolds and the pace quickens. Will there be time? Why is a beautiful abused young woman in the center of this plot?

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