God’s Voice Amidst The Tempest (Job 9:16-17)

My father had been ill for some time.  Heart disease had deteriorated him to a weakened state and he was slowly dying.  It was only a matter of time.  We waited.  I was at a meeting representing a Bible college that I had worked for when I was notified that I had a phone call.  When I answered, I heard my pastor’s voice.  After stuttering for a few seconds, he told me that my father had passed away.  I thought I was ready, but the news still hit me like a ton of bricks.

When bad news comes, it hits us at the pillars of our strength.  We are rocked at that foundation and the structures of our own making begin to crumble.  Our works, knowledge, service and determination cannot help at that moment.  The foundations are established in our hearts and as the heart crumbles so do the foundations.  However at the same time the Holy Spirit bears witness to our spirit of truth and our faith secures the truth structures that remain.  

The testing time is when we believe in the goodness of God even though we cannot hear his voice.  When we cry out to him, he answers or his eye is on us* just as it is on the sparrow.  He may speak to us, but the devastation of the wounds in the trial make him seem to be silent.  There will come a time when his voice will ring clearly, but until then, the still small voice is crowded by wounds from the tempest.  The purpose for the trial is to remove our false securities and be strengthen in faith and fellowship with the Lord.
Until the trial ends or the voice of the Lord sounds clearly, bath yourself in the word of God.  It is his written voice and can be heard at all times and under all circumstances.  Pain cannot drown it out and it is the truth that the Holy Spirit will use to secure the truth foundations in your heart.
* the definition for answered contains the idea of God focusing his eye on something or paying attention to it.

Compassion (Luke 15:20)

The story of the prodigal son is familiar to most people.  It has been preached countless times and expounded upon in many ways.  Most focus on the passage in light of a salvation account, but the purpose of the parable was in response to the Scribes and Pharisees’ accusation of Jesus receiving sinners (vs. 2). It is another story revealing the compassionate heart of God towards sinners who come to him.  From the qualities displayed by the father in the parable, we can measure our heart for compassion towards those that God loves.
While the son was off at a distant land wasting his life, the father did not go after him and try to deliver him from the circumstances in life that the son brought upon himself.  If we have compassion, we will not enable other people in their sin by trying to remove their consequences to protect us from shame or embarrassment.  By doing this, we, with compassion, are more concerned about them than ourselves.
Compassion will cause you to desire the fallen to come back to the Lord.  It is my belief that the father saw the son a great way off because he continually desired and looked for the day that he would return.  When we have compassion, we will see people who are far away from The Lord and our hearts will be moved with the desire that they would return.  When the son returned, he was not questioned by the father about where he had been and what he had done.  He was received with gladness.  When sinners return, we too out of compassion will leap at the opportunity to receive them without asking questions (vs. 20).
As a musician is compelled to play music because of what is inside of him, compassionate people cannot hold back compassion, but must show it.  They, from compassion, will celebrate the victories of restored (vs. 20) and bring others into the rejoicing (vs. 22-23).  From there, they invite the them back into fellowship and will lead others to do the same.
They accomplish all this by one means: they focus on the person and not the sin. This quality is missing in so many circles of our faith.  Compassion is the manifestation of love that Jesus said would be the means by which all men shall know that we are his disciples.  What do the lost need from us?  Compassion.  What do people in the church need from us?  Compassion.  What do you and I need from others?  Compassion.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  (1Peter 3:8)
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Anguish of Spirit and Bitterness of Soul (Job 7:11)

As Job sat upon the ashes and scraped his sores, he continued to express how he believed his trial would end and comfort would await him upon the end of his short life. Until that time came, he expressed his heart and soul’s anguish and bitterness.  Many believe that spiritual people will never complain about the conditions in their lives, but that view is not accurate.  

When we speak about our problems to people who do not have the power to bring about a resolution or enable us to bear the burden of it, then we are complaining.  However, when we express our problems to those who can bring about change, we are problem solving.  This is true for the home, work place, school and life in general.
There is nothing wrong with pouring out your heart and expressing to God the hurt and anguish that you are experiencing.  Job expressed having anguish and bitterness.  Because his spirit was crowded or held in a tight place, he began to experience bitterness in his soul.  In most cases, bitterness is not a good thing, but for Job it was different.  Usually when people face grave circumstances, they become bitter towards God and others.  For Job, he was bitter or angry with the circumstances in his life and not with God.  Remember the scriptures say that in all this Job did not charge God foolishly.  The Bible is filled with examples of people expressing themselves in this same manner to God: David (Psalm 55:2), Elijah (1Kings 19), the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17/10-12), the children of Israel crying out in bondage (Exodus 6:5), Hannah (I Sam. 1:16), Asaph (Psalm 77:3) and the list can go one.  
What we must remember is that when we pour out our hearts to God as we are in anguish of spirit and in bitterness towards the circumstances in our lives, we do not make accusations against The Lord or his people.  Moses redirected his complaints away from God and instead attacked God’s people (Numbers 20:10-11).  Because of this, he experienced the loss of not leading God’s people into the promises land.  The children of Israel did the same by complaining about God and the circumstances into which he led them (Numbers 11) and their results were repeated acts of chastening.
Pour out your heart to God.  Share the burden of your soul and continue to wait on him.
Psalm 62:8  Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.  
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Being A Disciple (Luke 14:33-34)

When my daughter was a little girl, she had a favorite stuffed animal.  Wherever she went, it was always with her.  When she was admitted to the hospital as an infant, we left it at home thinking that the hospital would not permit it there.  Needless to say, another stuffed animal needed to be purchased.  Her little stuffed bunny stayed with her in the hospital and everywhere that she went.  She slept, played and ate with bunny.  Needless to say, when it was time for bunny to move on she was not pleased and wanted to hold on to it regardless of its condition.  
As adults we sometimes function in the same manner.  We hold onto things thinking they will help us be what we want to be, but they really keep us from being what we could be.  There are supposed securities in our lives that we cling to and we keep these to help us face our fears in life.  These securities may be people, vocations, savings, alcohol and medication or walls of protection that we put up to keep people and things from hurting us.  
People are not God and will always come up short when it comes to protecting you or meeting your needs.  As we saw a few years with the financial structure of the United States, the bottom can fall out at any time and the effects can be devastating.  Finances are never a security and are nothing more than a house of cards.  When times of stress crowd people in, some believers turn to alcohol or drugs.  By these tools, they adjust their moods and either remove the stress or gain the courage to move forward.  In the past, great walls protected cities from attack.  In like manner, people build walls in their lives to protect them from people and life events.  Whenever they face trials or oppositions, they retreat behind their walls and protect themselves.
These and other qualities are the very things that God wants us to forsake so that we can be a disciple of Christ.  Our success in Christ is not solely caused by what we do or the qualities that we may have, but is more so based on how little baggage we are carrying.  What hinders believers the most is a double heart meaning a heart for Christ our fortress and one that also is holding on to other securities.
What is hindering you from being a disciple?  What in your life are you trusting instead of Christ or in addition to Christ?  In spite of it, the Lord has brought you this far.  Now is the time, to let it go.


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I Want Out (Job 6:8-11 – part 2)

While in the midst of his trial, Job requested that God would remove him from the burden and accomplish this by taking his life.  As we know, The Lord did not answer his prayer and so is the case with us.  The Lord does not solve problems our way, but instead follows his divine plan.  However for some people when God does not respond as they request, they take matters into their own hands and attempt to remove themselves.
One manner of attempting to remove yourself from the trial is by taking action–regardless of how drastic–to resolve any issue causing the trial.  People may utilize credit to remove themselves from a financial trial.  If a trial involves work, they may resign or change jobs to get away from people or circumstance causing the trial.  Others may remove themselves and escape the trial’s pressure by altering their mood with drugs, alcohol, food or lust.   What they fail to recognize is that The Lord has allowed the trial to fulfill his own purpose for their lives.  He intends to use the trial to conform them into the image of his son and by removing themselves from the trial, they lose any progress that God has accomplished and will face a similar trial to begin the same work again.  Sad and shameful to say, others take their own lives.  They hurt the people that they love, destroy their testimony for Christ and create trials for others.  Their epithet for life becomes “God is not enough”.
How did Job respond?  He petitioned God, but yielded to his sovereignty and divine will.  It is not an easy task and the journey may be long, but you will not be alone.  His presence will be experienced in fellowship and he will carry you through when you feel you cannot go any farther.
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I Want Out (Job 6:8-11)

As the dialog between Job and his friends goes on, what is in the heart of Job begins to manifest itself.  As he sorts through the matter in his heart, Job comes to a conclusion for the answer.  Job’s solution is to cut himself off from the sorrow.  He desires for God to bring his life to an end.  It is then that he believes his soul will be able to leap for joy.  He sees no hope in the matter or any expected end that should give him strength.  
Because this event is recorded in the scriptures, we can see the end from the beginning.  We can see that Job will be victorious over the trial.  We can see that the trial may last for some time, but there will be an end.  We can also see the purpose for the trial and how his faithfulness in it will be a help and encouragement to untold millions.  However, Job is blinded to these details.  All he can do is trust the righteousness and goodness of God.
Our trials are similar to Job’s.  We are blinded to the purpose of our trials and the benefits that will come from them.  God sees the beginning from the end and has allowed them to occur for his glory. He will be glorified by us as we see him lifted up in power.  He will receive glory from others as we demonstrate his grace in action and our trials will be a part of the multitude of events for which we will give praise to God in eternity.  
The answer for trials is not to seek an escape, but to seek for God.  You can do this in a two fold manner: face the trial by accepting it as something God has ordained for your life, which he determines to be good (Romans 8:28; 12:1-2) and seek hope from the promises of God’s word.  Through these acts of faith, you will find God who by his Holy Spirit will bring comfort and power to you.


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Sorrowful Meat (Job 6:7)

Before coming to Christ, I spent many holidays fellowshipping with family and friends while sitting around a card table playing poker.  After the cards were dealt, I would glance at my hand and had to make a determination: should I keep the cards and play the hand or determine that nothing good could come from them and decide to fold or drop out of that round of play.
As we walk through life, unpleasant situations come our way.  Situations in our lives may change drastically and to the point that we experience life in a way that we thought would be impossible and avoidable.  Job stated this condition in terms of food when he said, “The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.”  Because life is not a game like cards, we do not have the option of folding or tossing in our cards for a better hand.  What we must do with this situation is make right decisions, live holy, trust God and move forward.
Some time ago, I knew a person who worked for a rather large ministry that had the financial bottom drop out.  Because of that, there was no money coming in to meet his financial obligations.  Instead of looking for blame or making hasty decisions, he decided to seek the Lord’s face and allow him to lead.  He remained faithful to The Lord, continued to serve him and moved forward.  Through it all, The Lord provided a partial income through a second job and supplied the remainder of his budget through answered prayers.  In the midst of the great trial, he experienced another set back with the starter in his car breaking down.  The Lord blessed through the faithfulness of others the material needed and the labor for the car to be repaired.  At first glance, the hand dealt to him looked pretty bad, but instead of throwing in the hand, he looked for God to get in and perform his might work.


For you, things may be looking pretty bleak, but it is not the end.  The Lord wants to lead you, meet with you, strengthen you and provide all that you need through this time.  Until then, pray for guidance to make right decisions, live a holy life by following the principles of the scriptures, trust God’s faithfulness and take the next step.  
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105
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The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

The happy life begins with believing that The Lord is a shepherd to us and by his sovereignty will provide what is need for our lives.  To experience this, we must recognize him as shepherd and believe that whatever comes our way is part of his plan and is intended to meet our needs in a special and personal way.
When we live our lives away from his shepherd leading, we run to a fro in the Earth looking for peace, security and satisfaction. The places where we look will never contain essentials for our happiness.  That is why The Lord leads us to a different place and causes us to lye down in it.  This place where he leads is where we live without want.
As we follow his lead, he changes our emotional state.  He restores our soul or brings it to a point of resting in him.  The troubles of life crowd in the soul, agitate it and cause it to worry and fret, but as we lye down in his pasture, we experience security in him and the negative emotions dissipate.
In order for us to follow God’s righteous leading, he must first lead our hearts.  He leads us from the pasture experience with him to our life’s plan designed by him.  Because of the pasture experience, we are able to rest in the promise of his continued security.  The security that we have does not promise the avoidance of troubles, but instead the promise of his presence in the midst of troubles.  With him, we can fear no evil.
Whether we walk through valleys or experience abundance of blessings that the enemies are unable to thwart, it will be because of his leading and provision.  This is the goodness and mercy of The Lord.  We can rejoice in his promise, presence and provision in each trial of life, but we can only experience them in their fulness after we lye down in his pasture.
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Forgetting Those Things Which Are Behind (Phil. 3:13-14)

This great passage has been a help to many with maintaining or gaining a right focus.  However, so many people have misused this passage or applied it incorrectly to their lives or the lives of others.  Probably the most damage has occurred when people, who have been wounded by abuse, have been told that they don’t need to get closure or help in dealing with their wounds that have caused them to fight anger, bitterness, depression and anxiety, but instead forget about their past and those things that are behind and press forward for Jesus.  I am glad to say that the meaning of this passage is something completely different.
In verse three, Paul makes an important state.  He speaks about worshipping God and rejoicing in Christ and then says, “And have no confidence in the flesh.”  From there, Paul boasts on everything from being circumcised on the eighth day, to persecuting the church and finally touching the righteousness of the law and being blameless.  He then sums it up with counting all things but loss, accounting his righteousness because of Christ and recognizing that he has not arrived.  After the contrast is made between his life in the law and now in Christ, Paul’s says, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, Paul is saying that his focus is not on his past accomplishments, but instead on what he is in Christ and that he will determinately and faithfully stand and live for him.
A practical application would be to recognize that what you were will not provide the success, accountability and influence for today and tomorrow.  You cannot live on past victory and success because today is another day that brings its own trials and work.  Just as past success cannot determine today’s victory, sins of the past are not a determination for today or future failures.
So be like Paul and forget about your past in the flesh, forget about your past spiritual accomplishments and make today count, because it is the only day that you have the power to change.


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Standing In The Trial (Job 4:12-21)

Trials are times of testing.  They may test us physically, spiritually and emotionally.  Trials are confusing in that the circumstances that they present seem to prove God and his promises to be untrue.
Although God allowed Job’s trial to come, the author and instigator of the trial was the enemy.  After taking away his family, possessions and health, he remained unsuccessful at causing Job to fail.  Therefore, he continued to bear on Job’s faith and righteousness by way of his accusers.  In the same way that Satan, in Heaven,  brought accusations against Job to God, he is now doing the same on Earth.  In Job 4:12-21, we see that Eliphaz received a spiritual visitor who attacked Job’s righteous living.  Most likely this visitor was Satan himself.  He lead Eliphaz in an attempt to destroy Job’s hope (vs. 3-6) and to bear upon him with false accusations (vs. 17-21).
Since the Scriptures are for our guidance and admonition, we must recognize that the enemy will work in the same manner towards us as he did for Job.  But how can we stand against such great accusations and overcome the hurt without caving in from weariness?
While in a trial, you must stay in God’s word.  Truths that he shows you in devotion times will become the focus of your faith (Job 23:12).  Without his word, you will not have what is needed to dispel the onslaught of lies from the enemy.  Truth dispels lies in the same way as light dispels darkness.  Without truth, you will become weary and eventually fall.
For victory, you must maintain your righteous living.  Circumstances do not determine your measure of righteousness, but your faith does.  Keep your heart clean and continue walking believing that you are right with God.  If you fall, repent, confess and believe you are forgiven.  Trials are not a punishment, but a manner to test or reveal the measure of faith and righteous living that you already have.  
In the end, God will be glorified by your demonstration of faith and grace and your faith will be strengthen through and from the trial.

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