Let the Thunder Roll

I remember Billy Graham’s preaching. The booming voice, the convicting message, the call to repentance and faith — and this passage in Job immediately reminded me of it:

Are you as strong as God? Can you thunder with a voice like his? All right, put on your glory and splendor, your honor and majesty. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you.

Job 40:9‭-‬14 NLT

And I don’t give credit to Billy Graham the man for the strength in his preaching, but I would say that the strength that saved him and that powered his preaching was from God — by way of the Holy Spirit in him.

I wonder if we would be bold enough to let our voices boom with the shocking message of the gospel?

I wonder if we would give vent to our anger against sin and hypocrisy and wickedness when we see it consuming the church from within and stealing from the people and blaspheming the name of God in the eyes of unbelievers?

When “church people” mock and ridicule others for their true, genuine, (even peculiar) worship and make it clear that this is not the church for them — will the Holy Spirit within us stir up and humiliate the proud and bury them in the dust?

When “church people” gossip and grumble with everything said about the church but praise and honor everything said about the world — will the Holy Spirit within us stir up and humiliate the proud and bury them in the dust?

I wonder how often we choose instead to be silent rather than offend others?

I wonder how often we would rather let God puke them out of His mouth as lukewarm and not truly His — rather than call for repentance and risk them turning away from us just like they have turned away from God?

I wonder how often we are enticed by our own temptations and let our own feelings, opinions and desires speak to us loudly and justify our wickedness and refusal of God — instead of allowing the Word of God and the Spirit of God to thunder loudly inside of us to deliver us from our own sin?

Do we truly believe what God says in His Word?

Do we have faith in the God of the Bible, or have we traded Him for a “Daddy in the Clouds” that we have made in our own image to our own liking?

One of these perspectives would have God praising us, saying “Well done my good and faithful servant!”

Lord, help us.

A reminder from Billy Graham: https://youtu.be/g3krcCSrJjo

Job’s “One Great Story”

I listened to a wonderful podcast called Earbender by my friend Alexi Muzik yesterday where Rozette, a successful Pop Vocal Coach on Tiktok and InstaGram, described at the end of the interview her “one great story”. It was such an inspiring story full of doors flinging open unexpectedly and other people playing a crucial part in her growth and development as an artist. I commented that “I love when doors open for sweet people by the generosity of others around them — not only by their own talent. It helps build a humility that is so necessary in order to even begin trying to handle true success or fame.”

Success, fame and honor has another side to it that can be just as devastating to a life as loss. Just look at the number of lives destroyed by “easy come easy go” riches, success and fame. Look at the number of sports stars who can thrive on the field of competition, but whose personal lives are destroyed by what grows out of their success. Look at the number of celebrities who find themselves even more lonely, trapped, isolated and depressed even while their fame has them “on to of the world”.

But imagine the crash, to fall from the top of a building versus from the top of a few steps!

The contrast in the chapters of Job 27 and Job 28 should be humbling to any of us who have experienced success, favor, honor or fame in our lives. Chapter 27 talks about how it feels to live a life kissed by the favor of the Lord. While chapter 28 talks about a life darkened by strife, grief and depression.

Those who think that being religious and doing religious things guarantees them only success, honor and fame in this life are utter fools. And many only see religious traditions, theology and dogma as a way of improving their own standing — a narcissistic means of self worship (with God as a supporting cast in their own hero story). This is not worship or faith, but is hypocrisy, self righteousness, sin.

Even those who have truly humbled themselves before God, who know Him and walk with Him, and who are anointed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God are not immune to suffering, grief, loss, oppression, and trials in this life. In fact, Jesus tells the believer to redirect these things.

This verse in chapter 28 sticks out for me:

I live in terror now. My honor has blown away in the wind, and my prosperity has vanished like a cloud.
Job 30:15 NLT

This verse isn’t a statement from before Job ever walked in the favor of God. It isn’t like all was bad before Job made a decision for God and then all was wonderful afterwards — just like God wasn’t only angry and vengeful before the cross and isn’t only peace love and happiness after the cross — and just like our lives aren’t going to be all health, wealth and prosperity once we start “giving money to the preacher man”.

No doubt, there is so much that is gained in a life lived drawing close to the Lord. And the favor and blessing of the Lord is very real. But there is also a cost, and that cost is wonderful. Because that cost refutes the enemies claims that we love God only because He is good to us.

God is indeed very good to us. But only loving or hating Him for whether He is good or bad to us is very shallow, and isn’t about Him but is about us. Going through a season where we are hurting and God doesn’t “fix it” to what we want just because we pray over and over for it in various ways as we try to make sense of things like sickness, suffering, injustice, etc. — it stretches our faith to break through the ground and display the sapling to the world around us of a very real and peculiar faith. And it happens again when a new layer of bark is added. And again when a new branch springs forth. And again when bloom and fruit come forth.

We don’t have to pretend that everything is good if it isn’t. We don’t have to stick it up and take it until we make it. We don’t have to be in the height of our one greatest story to be content and at peace. We don’t even have to be strong.

Wherever we are today, I hope that humility will accompany us through the mountaintops and that peace will accompany us through the valley. And that even in our darkest and weakest hour, we might speak our piece, cry out to God, and then be quiet — for the glory of God. Amen.

Check out Ear Bender on Amazon Music.
https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e75409be-87d9-45e1-9206-9b6b3fa877be/ear-bender?ref=dm_sh_o2Qic3UuUfK2BbrX5h6Pp5LLI

Facts are only a Google, Siri or Alexa away. But Wisdom?

People know how to find many answers. These days, facts are only a Google, Siri, or Alexa away.

But what about wisdom?

What about those things that go beyond written books that the ears and eyes and senses of an apprentice can watch in awe and receive from a master of his craft?

What about those things to go beyond trades and talents and speak to the deeper, political, philosophical, even spiritual things of life and eternity?

Have you sat quiet enough in your mind to listen for the teacher’s voice that is not your own?

Have you sought out to find this “God” that others speak about, that many worship, that people see fit to pass down generation after generation in tradition and ceremonies?

Where have you gotten all these wise sayings? Whose spirit speaks through you?
Job 26:4 NLT

And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”
Job 28:28 NLT

Where’s your God now?

When we are in a deep dark place of hurt, it is quite natural to consider things like Job did:

The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the wounded cry for help, yet God ignores their moaning.
Job 24:12 NLT

As I’ve watched the disease of Alzheimer’s steal from my grandmother for years. And as I watch parents lose their children. And as I watch the rich be frivolous with their money while children and widows suffer and starve in this world. And as I watch natural disasters bringing pain, death and destruction. And as I see families impacted by sickness, death, chronic illnesses, hunger, poverty, oppression, injustice, pain and suffering in this world. Who other than the cold hearted can ignore such things that are undeniably around us?

And when it hits close to you and affects someone that you love dearly — or even you personally — what does faith look like in this moments?

“Though You Slay Me” and “It Is Well With My Soul” are two of my favorite Christian songs. They don’t have the typical “raise your hands and bounce” of today’s Sunday morning mega-rave gatherings where “everything is health, wealth, and prosperity”. They speak to a season of suffering, of loss, of faith stretched beyond what can be endure by mere men to where we must rely on God alone — even in that moment where the question from the accuser screams inside our heads, “Where is your God now?”

It is in these places of suffering that idols are revealed and that the veil of this temporary place is torn back to reveal eternal and spiritual things to us. Imagine a child going to school and taking a test for the first time who is horribly afraid of a low grade on a standardized test — while a teacher’s goal is to determine where they can focus their time teaching to best fit the needs of the child for a rounded and comprehensive understanding of all objectives. Imagine a child experiencing an immersive virtual reality game for their first time and being truly terrified that they might fall to their death or be killed — while a loving parent assures them that there is nothing to fear. Imagine a hard working parent choosing to consistently sacrifice a few hours of sleep for years on end to obtain a degree that will open doors for them to better provide for their families.

It is easier for us to see both sides of the coin in the familiar situations that I described — where we must learn to trust that there is a greater purpose than what we can see and feel in the moment. But what about when life truly demands of us whether or not we believe that our God is faithful and true?

I’m not saying this so you’ll hide in the corner sobbing about how you’ve let God down yet again. Some very cold hearts that are far from God might need the ground to shake under their feet like that to wake them up — but you are here reading a Christian blog, so let’s skip past that trap of shame and get right to faith and trust.

Do you trust God in the hard places — because that’s going to be where you need Him most!

And when you’re in that truly hard place, it is going to feel like doubt and suffering — but it has the opportunity to be surrender and spiritual growth.

When everything cries out to us, “Where is your God now?” — we don’t have to win that argument.

When all evidence makes it look on the outside like the enemy is winning — we don’t have to win that battle.

When what lies ahead is clearly more than we can bear under our own power — we don’t have to speak to the burden.

Are there times that a student might feel like the teacher ignores their groanings about having to take a test — but the teacher isn’t truly ignoring them? Yes! Are there times when our not getting the answer we wanted in the moment we wanted it is good for us? Yes!

Lord, if going deeper was easy, everyone would rush to step out of the boat and walk upon the water. And if it was easy, those who stepped out wouldn’t sink and need your rescue. But this trusting in you isn’t so that our own strength can be put on display — but that our weaknesses can bring glory to you revealing your power. And trusting in you doesn’t profit our lives or the lives of others if it is just a one time statement of faith instead of a daily walk. Lord, for all these things, we need you. You are near and not far. You are here, and your victory is complete. You have called us by name, and we believe, we surrender, and we will trust you by the power of your Holy Spirit that you promise us. For the sake of your honor and glory and in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, we boldly come into the throne room of grace with these prayers. Amen.

Faith Goes Deeper

Faith goes far beyond a ritual we practice daily for self enlightenment and the gaining of wisdom so that our lives might go better. Otherwise, religion would be worth no more than a course on finance, math, science, history, etc.

Theology might be the study of our attempts to understand and align our own thoughts and ways with the ways of God. But faith goes beyond that — to trusting Him when his ways go far beyond what our limited reasoning and perspective can process and comprehend.

When we read and consider Job, we inevitably encounter Job 13:15a. Which seems to me a beautiful parallel sentiment to Matthew 26:39.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
Job 13:15a ESV

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39 ESV

And we encounter Job that seems a sentimental pair to Matthew 27:46.

Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy?
Job 13:24 ESV

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46 ESV

Faith isn’t learned or revealed on the mountaintops or in prosperity, but it is on display in the valley, in the fire, on the cross, in the darkness. This truth of how God is glorified through our weakness and His strength and by our failures and His victory is a mystery that the mind of a proud and successful man cannot probe. Only a humble and contrite man can approach and unlock this scroll, and set to flight the freeing wings of faith, and deliver a peace that passes understanding.

When dealing with real pain, suffering, loss, and hurt — we see through these examples that we can come to God with our questions and even our complaints and our requests. But faith will allow us to seek His face not just solely with our pleas for His hand to move to free us from it — but with our surrender to accept and trust that He is still working for our good even when we can’t see it in that moment.

A favorite song on this topic: https://youtu.be/qyUPz6_TciY

He is the hyena killer

When faced with enemies that seem to laugh at your circumstances, remember:

“He is the hyena killer”

https://youtu.be/Pda4zULB3EA

​Satan replied to the Lord , “Skin for skin! A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health, and he will surely curse you to your face!” 

“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” 

So Satan left the Lord ’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, 

“You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

Job 2:4‭-‬10 NLT

Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.” Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again.  I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.  It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.  So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.  At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.  You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father.  Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf,  for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.  Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.” Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe?  But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:17‭-‬33 NLT

You are valuable

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
Luke 12:7 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.12.7.NLT

You are valuable to God.

Just think about that for a moment.  The creator of all things, the God of the universe values you and has created you for a purpose. The universe is not filled with examples of chaos and randomness, but it is designed with a beautiful order and complexity,  with each component playing it’s part in the greater whole. If we examine with a microscope,  we find a world of particles and order and logical design where every part has a purpose and where they work together in unity.

Even the world around us,  and not just the Word of God points us to the undeniable conclusion that there is a design,  a plan,  an order for everything. And we should understand that in that plan,  we have a purpose,  we have a value to the creator. In fact, He loves us enough to make us self aware,  capable of thought,  capable of choice,  capable of deciding whether or not to praise and honor Him. Isn’t that amazing that we as humans are able to reflect upon ourselves and upon the greater things of life and are not beings wired only for the simple purposes of living,  reproducing,  and dying? Isn’t it wonderful that these physical bodies hold something oh so much more valuable?

When a loved one takes their last breath, it is not their physical body that we value. It is not their physical presence of their body that we miss,  but the ability to interact with that soul,  that life,  that thing of value that was carried around in their earth bound vessel. Yes,  we know the part that God values,  because we can see the value ourselves. We can know the difference between the valuable eternal soul and the perishable physical body.

So we schools know where those things truly valuable exist,  and they are not in this physical body or in the things that tickle and please it – but in the things that are pleasing to our soul,  the things that nourish our eternal spiritual nature,  not our temporary, carnal,  flesh nature.

So why do we find ourselves worrying more over the things of this physical world – what we will eat,  what we will wear, where we will sleep?  When we should know that these things are temporary and not nearly as important as those things eternal. Why do we let ourselves become distracted by our senses of touch,  taste,  smell, hearing and seeing in the physical – and forget that we have a more important spiritual component of our lives that allows for a connection to the one true God that is far more important.

If you have not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit annointing upon your life,  I encourage you to ask, seek, and knock at the gate in prayer until your eye is opened to see and your ears are restored to hearing the voice of your Lord and Savior,  the Good Shepherd, the Word of God, Jesus Christ who sits in the authority of God the Father Almighty,  and who lives in those of us who are Chosen as Sons and Daughters of God.

You see,  you have a value that far surpasses your title, or your possessions,  or your wealth,  or your beauty, or your knowledge,  or your strength – for all of those things will pass away and your body will be c returned to the ground to root and decay upon your death. And if all you have done during your brief time in this physical body is to feed the desires of your flesh,  to fulfill the urges and fancies of this temporary physical body – what good will that serve your eternal soul?

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
Matthew 16:26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.16.26.NLT

So I encourage you to understand what is valuable and eternal,  friend. Know your value, know your purpose. Learn to love God and love each other. Choose to walk with Him today.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Acts 26:16 ESV
But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,

John 15:16 ESV
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Matthew 28:19 ESV
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Ephesians 1:11 ESV
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Let this be our testimony –

“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food.
Job 23:10-12 NLT
http://bible.com/116/job.23.10-12.NLT