Monday, March 28, 2005

Preaching Job, preaching the Resurrection

BEWARE!!! Long post!
In abscence of anything NEW to say, I'm putting up my sermon I preached yesterday, Easter Sunday. Yes, I was actually dressed up like Job . . . it was kind of fun! But the message is what's important. Read on if you want to hear it.

My name is Job, and I have a living God.

No doubt you’ve heard my story by now. I understand it’s in your book—what do you call it? Ah, yes, the Bible. My story is in what I guess you would call the Old Testament, many years before your time, and even many years before the One Whom you call Jesus was born. Ah, but you’ve heard His story, and you’ve come here for mine . . . yet I suppose that His story and mine do meet . . .
But ach! Where was I? Oh yes . . . my story. I was once one of the greatest men on the earth. Rich . . . very rich. I owned more sheep than you could count, enough camels to fill the desert, and the oxen, and the donkeys, and the servants? Oh, you should have seen them all! God had blessed me with so much . . . but I was rich in more than just things. I had family, and what man is poor when he has family, eh? Oh, my children; seven strong sons—smart as whips, all of them—and three beautiful daughters. They could light up my eyes just walking into the room.
I had wealth, I had family, but the most important treasure I had among them all was my God. He was to me the very breath of life, and I did all I could to follow His ways and to shun evil. The people, they used to say, “Job and God, they’re like two peas in a pod!” . . . I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I’m a kidder . . . but . . . I did feel so close to my God. I didn’t get mixed up with any of that crazy, uh, idol worship. No, no, no . . . I worshipped the true God. I would even make sacrifices for my children just in case they had sinned and cursed God in their hearts.
You see, I thought I understood God, that maybe God was just another good part of my life . . . something I could control. Not that I thought I knew more than God, no, no! But . . . oh, I don’t know . . . all I know is that in one day God took away everything from me. God—He took away my oxen, He took away my donkeys. He took away my sheep, and my servants . . . my camels . . . my children. Oh, my beautiful children! He could have taken away everything else and left me with just them, and I still would have been the richest man on earth! But my children—my strong sons and my beautiful daughters—He took them all away from me, and they died, crushed under a house when it collapsed on them. A house that my wealth had bought. What good is money when it cannot even protect your family? But the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away: Blessed be the name of the Lord.
And so I sat in mourning for days, thinking God had taken everything away from me; but I was wrong. As I sat mourning my children, God took away my health, too. Was I a sight, oy! Sores from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, itching, painful. It was so bad, my wife, she said I should curse God and die. But that’s foolish talk . . . should we take the good from God and not also accept trouble, eh? But still, the pain that was in my heart was worse than the pain in my body, and I wished I had never been born.
Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing came to me instead of food; my groans poured out like water. What I feared had come upon me; what I dreaded had happened to me. I had no peace, no quietness; I had no rest, but only turmoil.
And then my friends came to comfort me. My friends! Bah! These friends, their comfort was to tell me that I had sinned, that my God was punishing me! Me! I had done nothing wrong, no evil had escaped my lips! Yet they kept on accusing me. With friends like those, who needs enemies, eh? Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.
My days had passed, my plans were shattered, and so were the desires of my heart. What strength did I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should have been patient? Did I have the strength of stone? Was my flesh bronze? Did I have any power to help myself, when my success had been driven from me?
No, my friends, no. I had no power left, except in my God . . . and He was not answering me. Perhaps if I had been more righteous . . . But how can a mortal be righteous before God? Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand. His wisdom is profound, His power is vast. Who has resisted Him and come out unscathed?
But though God would slay me, yet would I trust Him. I would surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, I knew this would turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see Him—I, and not another!
These troubles of mine; they were nothing! Because I knew that I had a Redeemer, one who could bring me close to God and bring me to where I could speak with God face to face. My living God was there with me in my troubles! I could not see Him, I could not touch Him, I thought He was not listening . . . but He was there, and He came and spoke to me face to face—which is something you want to avoid, if you can help it! Oh, the lightning, and the glory, and the angels swooping around . . . have you ever tried to pick up after a bunch of angels? Not easy, let me tell you . . .
But where was I? Ah, yes. I know that my Redeemer lives. This Redeemer, He lives for me, and He lives for you. See, even though we are separated by many years, you and I, we have the same Redeemer. For even though I lived many, many years before Jesus Christ was born, God, he gave me those words, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” God gave me those words to help tell the story of Jesus Christ to people like you. Because we’re not so different, you and I . . . we’ve both had our desires shattered . . . we’ve both wondered just where God was in our lives . . . what will happen when our lives end. But this Jesus, He shows us the love God has for us by being a living Redeemer. Yes, you’ve heard the story of how Jesus, He died for you on the cross, but have you heard about He rose for you from the grave just three days later? In your New Testament Peter—Peter, a nice boy, a little emotional perhaps, but a nice boy all the same—Peter, he says God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him!
This is the love God has for us! This is the thing that kept me strong through my troubles, knowing that my Redeemer was alive, and that through Him I would be alive forever with Him. I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in my flesh I will see Him!

My name is Job, and I have a living God. He . . . is . . . risen!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Life . . . such as it is

Oh my goodness, my head hurts.

I'm exhausted, worn out by a brief bout with insanity in the form of a tension-induced, adrenaline-fueled temper burst. Literally came out of nowhere like a flash and left just the same, leaving me feeling like a drunk reeling from a heavy-weight contender's rapid-fire jab, feeling the pain but unable to comprehend the source.

I don't want to push forward, but there's work to be done. Good work. Important work. So I grab my own shirt collar, yank myself up into my chair and fix my eyes on this blasted computer screen. If the muse comes, I'll have a sermon for tomorrow. If she doesn't . . . well, that's not an option for Easter Sunday, is it?

But I hope she does. Oh, do I. Because she visited for a while yesterday, and it was good. That sermon was cooking up to be a classic, the juices were flowing and the dead bones of the outline were taking on sinew and flesh. And so here I sit, a manic Dr. Frankenstein trying to breathe life into a once-living, now-dead creation. Only instead of a blasphemous cry to the storm-filled sky, I cry out to the God of all creation, to send His Spirit, to fill my mouth with His words, sweeter than honey.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

What is "normal"

Soooooo . . . "normal."

What the heck is that, anyway? Is it just some ideal that I hold up, thinking, "I can't wait until my life gets back to 'normal'!"? Is "normal" a state of being?

Interestingly enough, I hardly think so, though I tend to think and act as though it is. "Normal," in my mind, is often something that means, "that state of being to which I am accustomed, when there are no surprises and life is under my control." And when in the world is THAT ever true? Well, never.

"Normal," in reality, is actually better thought of as "the consistent pattern of events." In which case "normal" means "barely above chaos." Is there anything predictable from day to day? Is there any way that I can prevent bad things or good things from happening unexpectedly? Well, no . . . of course not. When my life is "normal"--meaning when my life is as it has always been--I live a life that is governed by God's hand, I life a life that is placed fully at the whims of another.

That's more than just a bit scary. So, could God take away everything from me? He allowed to happen to Job (see post below). Would I understand why? No. Would it be "normal"? Yes!!! Because I go through this life and the life to come in God's hand, carried along by Him from good to good regardless of whether or not I conceive of my current station in life as being what I consider "normal."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What can I say now?

I've got to preach this weekend. I'm thinking I'll preach on Job.

That seems like an odd choice, I mean, it's Easter, after all . . . shouldn't the sermon be about Jesus and the resurrection? Well . . . yes.

But Job is a man with troubles. He loses everything, and he had a lot to lose. His "friends" come by to comfort him, but after sitting around a few days they decide they'd rather tell him it's all his fault. His wife nags at him, "Oh, for crying out loud, Job, just curse God and die!" So it's worse than just losing everything--it's losing everything and then having people you thought you could trust turning the screws tighter.

That sounds a lot like the life that I know, and probably a lot like the life that you know. But Job says just one thing, one thing that made me think that I'll talk about him this Sunday: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another."

Job's world is rocked, but not his faith. He knows that his Redeemer is a living Redeemer, that God lives on, and one fine day we will be able to see Him with our own eyes, to touch Him with our own hands . . . that He'll wipe the tears from our eyes and say "Well done, my good and faithful servant," and that everything will finally be okay, that it will be right, that it will be good.

Yeah, I think that'll preach.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Expanding my blogosphere

Just found out a buddy of mine (who, incidentally, I've never met . . . oh, the wonders of the internet age!) is blogging here as well.

Check out Good News For Today to get a dose of good news from Art.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The roller coaster rides again

And yet AGAIN life takes a sharp, hard twist to the right, corkscrewing back in on itself indeterminately before it straightens out again.

So what do you do when you get the unexpected letter in the mail? Sweat, fret, bet, and set. Fear for tomorrow. Fear for today. Fear that this may never go away.

I've taken about 20 deep breaths to try and clear my mind, and it's still spinning. I've talked for over 2 hours between three different people, and the situation is still there. What now? I'm worn out and wearied.

Time now for sleep. May the God of all comfort reach me in my dreams and let me know that, with Him, tomorrow is yet another day.

Monday, March 14, 2005

How do you smell?

Stumbled across this in my reading this morning. Honestly couldn't say I had ever noticed it before . . . but I thought it was an excellent metaphor.

2 Cor 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowldge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. to the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

Who smells you . . . and how do you smell to them? Maybe those folks who seem to wrinkle their noses every time you come by smell death . . . and maybe that's an indicator that they need the life we can offer them.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Just getting settled in for a short but (hopefully) restful night.

I was thinking the other day that I don't post very regularly when I'm in a good mood. What does that say about me? That I want to dump my misery on the world? That blogging is cathartic for me? That I'm selfish and don't want to share my happiness?

I honestly think it is the second choice. I like to write, to get a chance to put my thoughts out of my head and onto "paper". ("Paper"--what exactly is this "paper" once again??) Creative acts like writing, or music, or drawing, allow me to channel my feelings into a satisfactory medium. Someplace static where I can then look at them, analyze them . . . and I suppose even to some extent control them.

Hey, that's an interesting thought . . . my creative outlets are a mechanism by which I differentiate myself from my emotions. Sounds good.

Wonder if it's true? :D