Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faith, Fellowship and Fortitude

We face a number of battles in life.  Things are not always easy.  We’ve heard preaching on adversity in the Christian’s life.  We’ve heard preaching on struggle and disappointment.  We know that Christianity doesn’t guarantee an end to all our troubles. 

We like to think we’re self-sufficient, don’t we?  But the fact is, we can’t do everything alone, sometimes we need God.  In fact there are three things that are crucial to living out the will of God; faith, fellowship and fortitude.  Those three things will see you through the battles of life and into the kingdom of God. 

Today I want to write about faith, fellowship and fortitude from a familiar portion of scripture. 1 Samuel 14:1-6

This story takes place during a battle between Israel and the Philistines.  This is when Saul with 600 men is facing a garrison (or fort) of Philistines.  He’s hopelessly outnumbered.  There is no way he can defeat them with 600 men.

It takes place just after Saul has usurped the role of the priest and offered a burnt offering, thinking that Samuel was going to be late.  Samuel showed up on-time and told him that God had torn the kingdom from him, looking for a man after God’s own heart.

Saul is sitting under the Pomegranate tree, he’s waiting for something to happen.  He’s waiting on God.

But Jonathan is eager to see God’s deliverance so he gather’s his armor-bearer and they attack the Philistines, just the two of them and they kill twenty Philistines on a half-acre of land and then there’s an earthquake and the Bible says the Philistines just melted away.


Let’s take a look at the things that are happening in this story:

1 Samuel 14:1-3 (NKJV)
14:1 Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the Philistines' garrison that is on the other side." But he did not tell his father. 2 And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men. 3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.

In these three verses we see a contrast in faith.  On the one hand we see Jonathan who tells his armor-bearer, “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” “Let’s take an action and see if God will move.”  We see this faith more completely in verse 6.

1 Samuel 14:6 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few."

What restrains God?  He can save through many or He can save through a few.

Faith is an action word.  It doesn’t mean to sit and believe that God will magically do something.  Through faith, we take an action.  We call it a step of faith, don’t we?  So Jonathan decides to actively move on his faith that God will deliver by Jonathan’s actions.

On the other hand we see Saul, who is sitting under the pomegranate tree.  He’s got the priest in an ephod.  The priest wore the ephod to consult the oracle of God.  Saul’s looking to hear from God.  Saul is waiting for God to move.  But in waiting, what’s he doing?  He’s doing nothing.    The circumstances aren’t going to change by waiting.  Saul isn’t doing anything to activate a move of God.  He’s not acting in faith, he’s waiting for magic. 

Let’s think about that for a moment.  Is that faith?  “Okay, I prayed, now I’m going to sit down here and wait for God to wave his magic wand and change my circumstances.”  The question here is, “Does waiting around change our circumstances.  In your own life, when was the last time that doing nothing improved a bad situation. 

There are no more soldiers marching to Saul’s position.  The Philistines aren’t going anywhere; they smell an easy victory.  Nothing is going to change through Saul’s waiting.

Look at the Bibical definition of faith: 

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith gives substance to what we hope for.  It’s the evidence of what we don’t see.  In other words faith makes our hopes and dreams real.  How do you make it real?  By acting in Faith. 

Saul is sitting, waiting for God to move and nothing is happening.  How many of us have real needs that only God can meet?  What are we doing to see those needs met?  Jonathan steps out and acts in faith.  God moves powerfully in response to his faith.  The deliverance of Israel comes from that act of faith.  Saul waits for God; Jonathan acts, knowing God will respond.  Which one is acting in faith?  So, simply said, faith is the catalyst to a move of God.  It is vital for a Christian to not only believe but to act in faith to see God move.

But I’m not talking about acting rashly.  I’m talking about prayerful, considered acts of faith.  Jonathan isn’t rash in his decision to go to the Philistines.  First, he enlists the armor-bearer; he asks the question, “Should we do this?”  Secondly, he looks for God to be involved; “This will be the sign,” he’s asking God which way should we do this.  “What’s your plan for the completion of this thing?”  Thirdly, he acts and God’s answer comes out of that action.  Once they showed themselves the Philistines responded according to the sign they were looking for from God.  This is a pattern for us in decision-making.  As Christians we need to act in faith.


1 Samuel 14:6-12 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few." 7 So his armorbearer said to him, "Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart." 8 Then Jonathan said, "Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, 'Wait until we come to you,' then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, 'Come up to us,' then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us." 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, "Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden." 12 Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, "Come up to us, and we will show you something." Jonathan said to his armorbearer, "Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel."

Jonathan wanted to see a move of God.  He was looking for the deliverance of Israel.  At this time in Israel’s history, The Philistines were dominating them.  Israel didn’t have any blacksmiths, they were forced to go down to the Philistines to have farming tools sharpened…so they had no weapons to defend themselves.  Look at this:

1 Samuel 13:22-23 (NKJV)
13:22 So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son. 23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

You can see what a desperate time this was for them.  They’re facing a force that greatly outnumbers them.  They have no weapons.  The Philistines will totally dominate any kind of battle, then they’ll “own” Israel.  This is a desperate moment.

Jonathan isn’t looking out for his own self-interest here he’s looking for the deliverance of all of Israel.  He knows that deliverance is only possible through supernatural means.  Only God can do this, for Israel it’s impossible.  They only have about six hundred men; only Jonathan and Saul have weapons.  Jonathan is ready to act but he knows he can’t act on his own so he enlists the armor-bearer. 

Jonathan and Saul are under huge pressure, here.  But look at how each reacts:

Saul waits to see what God will do; he doesn’t look to any of the others.  He’s trying to deal with all on his own.  Remember in Chapter 13 he offered the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel to come.  He moved to solve a problem on his own and in his own strength.  They’d been sitting there for a while…The people were frightened, they were hiding, they were leaving.  Saul didn’t want to wait for Samuel because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hold his force together so he orders the animal to be brought for the burnt offering.

1 Samuel 13:9-12 (NKJV)
13:9 So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, 'The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.' Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering."

So he acted alone and look at the outcome:

1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NKJV)
13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

The Lord would have established his kingdom forever, but because he acted alone he lost it all.  In Chapter 16 Samuel anoints David to be king of Israel, while Saul and his heir are still alive. 

But now look at how Jonathan reacted.  He went to the armor-bearer; he wasn’t intending to act on his own.  He went to a brother; someone with whom he is of one accord.  He acted in fellowship with another man whose strength was as strong as his own.  In Christian terms, they acted in fellowship. 

We aren’t alone.  Christianity was never intended to be a solo pursuit.  We are intended to be together and strive together.  Last week in, “Are You Spiritually Fat?” I wrote about striving together.  That’s God’s will that we will be in fellowship with each other.  That’s why in Hebrews Chapter 10 it says this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)
10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

That verse is talking about fellowship; we need each other. 

We can see that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were of the same mind.  The armor-bearer tells Jonathan, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”  He’s merely saying, I’m with you.  I believe with you.  I’m of one accord with you. 

Before I came to Taiwan, I pastored a church in Riverside, California. There was a family member of one of the Riverside church members that became very sick.  He had made tea of a plant that was a dangerous and powerful drug and he ended up in the hospital.  This woman in our church is there to pray for him, she’s witnessing to him and his wife.  Afterward the wife turns to her thanking her and says this: “My heart is with you.”  Do you know what that is?  It’s fellowship.

This is what the armor-bearer said to Jonathan.  “Do it, my heart’s with you.”  Look at what was accomplished:” 1) they defeated the garrison of the Philistines and 2) God moved powerfully and brought about the deliverance of Israel.  In acting together we can overcome, in acting alone we’re doomed. 


According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionaries, Fortitude can be defined as strength of mind that enables one to meet danger or bear pain or adversity with courage

Jonathan’s faith carried with it fortitude.  It took courage in this instance to act in faith.  Two men facing a whole garrison, that’s courageous.  That’s fortitude.  The odds were against them and they acted courageously, anyway. 

How often do we face things in life that require courage?  We make decisions that will affect our families.  We make decisions in business that are a risk .  We make decisions that will completely change or lives, forever.  That takes fortitude…and faith. 

That’s what happened in 1 Samuel 14.  Jonathan acted in faith, fellowship and fortitude and God gave Israel a great victory.  I want you to notice that Jonathan wasn’t acting selfishly here.  He was acting for all of Israel.  But I also want you to know that God will meet your individual needs as well, when those needs further God’s will for your life. 

Faith, fellowship and fortitude:  These three things are vital to the Christian experience.  God is expecting that we will be of one accord and strive together for victory.  We need each other. 

One of the problems I’ve seen over and over is people making decisions on their own, without God, and without counsel.    There was a couple in Riverside that decided that they would move to Mexico to pursue a career.  The man told me, “There’s more opportunity in Mexico.”  Seven percent of the population of Mexico has immigrated to the US, legally and illegally looking for the opportunity to feed their families. 

But this couple, like Saul made the decision to go on their own, without God and actually ignoring counsel.  God even spoke to them through a sermon, I preached the day before they left and I didn’t even know they had made this decision at the time.  They lost everything, eventually came back and now they’re gloriously saved, living for Jesus and blessed.

But look at the lesson; they acted more like Saul than Jonathan.  God puts churches together because we all have gifts that benefit each other.  It’s like marriage; Brenda has strengths, talents and abilities I don’t have.  I have strengths, talents and abilities she doesn’t have, but together we make a good team.  The same is true in the church.  We can benefit from our association together.  Striving and fighting together makes us much stronger than fighting alone.  If we act together in faith, fellowship and fortitude, God will bring about a victory in our church…and in our individual lives. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are You Spiritually Fat?

I have a pie in my hand.  It’s a pie with a wonderful texture.  A chocolate cream pie with fluffy swirls of chocolate whipped cream.  Small delicate wheels of chocolate and a beautiful coating of glossy milk chocolate over a layer of chocolate cream and a layer of chocolate cake inside a pie shell.  This is one of Taiwan’s most delicious chocolate pies. I recently held this pie up and described it, and asked what people would do to get me to give up this pie.

There were a number of answers:

  1. “I would tell you ‘I love you,’ everyday for two weeks.”  (my daughter)
  2. “I would tell you, ‘I love you everyday for a year.’ (One of the brothers)
After that the answers turned a little more serious:

  1. I would pray for it.
Finally I got the answer I was looking for:

  1. I’d ask for it.

Indeed, to ask for the pie is all that was necessary, but then I refined the questioning a little more.  “How much of this pie do you want?”  The answer was disappointing, “Just a little slice.”

This is a good illustration about how we react to God.  We desire God.  We want to have God come into our hearts.  We ask for the promises of God.  But then what?  What do we do after that?  We limit what we’ll let God do in our lives.  In this post I want to write about getting all of God.

Luke 11:9-10 (NKJV)
11:9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

We Have to Ask to Receive

How do we go about receiving God’s grace?  What is the method of our salvation?  Is it found by doing good things?  Is it found by just saying the right words?  Or do we receive salvation by asking God for His Grace and mercy?

A while back I wrote out a simple sinner’s prayer for the people in my congregation.  So they could read it and understand how to pray with other people for salvation.  That’s a part of our service.  That’s what the altar call is about.  We ask who wants to get saved.  I wrote out the prayer so the people would also understand that salvation comes through faith.  If we look at the prayer, though, what is it?  It’s asking God for forgiveness and asking Jesus come into your heart and change you.
To receive the wonderful gift of salvation all we have to do is ask.  Just ASK.  We have to ask to receive. 

But it doesn’t end there.  Salvation shouldn’t be the only thing we want from God.  The Bible is full of the promises of God. 

Give and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be among them. (Matt 18:20)
Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish… (John 3:16)

There are promises all through the Bible.  Here’s another one:

Whatever you ask in My name I will do it.  (John 14:14)

The problem is that we don’t ask.    When we don’t ask we won’t receive.  Actually, we can’t receive.  There are many times when I have called for people to pray for healing and no one responds.  I wonder how many times people were in need of healing and didn’t come forward.  People complained about not feeling well or hurting, which is why I called for a healing line.  But they didn’t come.  I wonder how many others didn’t even mention they needed healing.

There is also the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  People are afraid of receiving that gift, they’re afraid of speaking in tongues and being embarrassed so they don’t allow it.  On our church website (www.pottershouse.blogspot.com), we have testimonies of some of the saints.  One brother makes this statement:

"However, two months later, when I was to go out mountain-climbing alone, I suddenly thought of Jesus, and no one was nearby, and I wouldn't be embarrassed, so, I start to pray, confess what I have done wrong in the past, decide to repent, believe Jesus Christ."

I don’t think he’s alone in that.  I think there’s a lot of fear about how it will look to others, especially in Taiwan.  People are worried about what their family will think or say.  I’m not criticizing my brother, though; I think people everywhere are like that.  But what I don’t understand is, why are we afraid of receiving more of God. 

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Our lack of faith puts us outside the will of God.  If you really want God to do something in your life; if you really want all that God has for you, then you need to seek Him…diligently.  Ask for all of God that you can get.

You know, when it comes to politics many people are very outspoken, sometimes too outspoken.  But every time you make a political statement there’s about 50% of the population who doesn’t like what you say.  We’re not afraid to offend people with political statements.  So why are we so afraid to let other see us declaring our faith or simply obeying God (by speaking in Tongues.)  Is that what makes us afraid to receive the gift, what others will think or say? 

Do we want all of God?  God comes in three parts; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Do you want all of God or just a slice?  Are you on a God diet?  Are you afraid to become “spiritually fat?”

Proverbs 13:4 (KJV)
13:4 The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

I want to have a fat soul, so give me all of God.  If you want it all, you have to ask for it.

Seek and You Will Find

When you need a job what do you do?  Look for it!  When you’re trying to find a certain book, what do you do?  Look for it!  When you’ve lost something what do you do?  Look for it!  When you need something from God what do you do…wonder why God doesn’t just give it to you?

The Bible says seek and you will find.  If you want something from God you need to take an action to find it.  What do you really need in life?  Where can you find the thing that you need?  I’ve seen people turn to all kinds of different things for answers. 

Do you turn to science?  Does science have all the answers?  Are scientists the ones who have a handle on all knowledge and reason?  To answer that let me say that many scientists are beginning to believe that Aliens from another planet are responsible for life on this planet.  Professor Richard Dawkins, eminent evolutionist said this:

“Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. “  

What he’s saying is that aliens created life on this planet.  Some guys will say anything to avoid admitting that God exists.  This is supposed to be one of the brilliant scholars of our time.  But he doesn’t have any answers.  He has no proof of what he says…so he makes it up.  Should we go to people like him for answers?  So where should we go for the answers to problems in life?  What should we do when we really need something?  The Bible says, “Seek and you will find…”  God will respond if you’re seeking Him.  But the question is, “Are you seeking Him?  Are you really contending for a move of God?”   

That word contending is an interesting word.  Contending means striving.  But the root of the word contending comes from the same root as the word contest.  Contending means that we strive or work, together:  Each of us struggling, or fighting, without letting up for a common goal.  Fighting together as a team.  So if we want to see God move, we need to contend, together.

Philippians 1:27 (NKJV)
1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

This scripture seems to imply that we strive together for common goals.  But did you know we can strive together for individual needs, as well.  That’s why we have prayer requests.  Do you pray for other people’s needs when you’re alone or just when they’re brought up as a prayer request at church?  That’s contending; working together to see people’s needs met.

Have you ever heard of synergy?  Synergy means that two people working together can accomplish much more than two people working independently on the same thing.  If we strive and contend together we can receive much more than if we remain independent and self-centered.

So if we want the most of what God has for us, we need to contend with other people to see that their needs are met.  Striving, or contending, like this is seeking God.  Remember Hebrews 11:6?

11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The diligence with which we seek Him is an expression of our faith.  This scripture tells us he rewards those who diligently seek Him. 

We all need things from God.  There are things that are beyond our abilities:  Things that are impossible for us.  But those things are not impossible for God.  God is able to do all things.  But it is up to us to “activate” the move of God.  God is “activated” by our diligent seeking of Him.  He is “activated” by our faith. 


How is “diligently seeking” expressed?  First let’s define the word diligent: According to Mirriam-Webster’s dictionary diligent is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort

So then, contending is an expression of diligence.  Contending is steady earnest, energetic effort.  Faithfulness, then, is also an expression of diligence, isn’t that right?  So what is faithfulness?  One part of faithfulness is praying for the others when you’re not with them.  One part of faithfulness is living out what you say you believe, when you’re alone.  Another part of faithfulness is being at church.  God often gives pastors something to preach that will really help people.  But the problem is that they never know when they can preach something like that because they I never know when people will be there.  In my church, whenever I preach on faithfulness, only the faithful ones hear it, because only the faithful come to church faithfully.  The ones who really would be helped benefit aren’t there.

Think about a job for a moment.  How many bosses are going to give you a raise if you’re haphazard about being at work?  How many bosses are going to be thinking about your family and your needs, when you’re not there?

I used to be on the phone or emailing with all my friends from Colton, all the time.  But since I’ve been here and not seeing them I rarely hear from most of them.  Out of sight out of mind.

The same is true in our jobs, if you want the most from your career; you have to be there to receive it.  The same is also true with God.  If you want the most of God’s promises, you need to be here where God dispenses them.

How many things come between you sand hearing from God?  What kinds of things are more important to you than diligently seeking God?  This goes back to my last point.  How can we strive and work together when we don’t gather together?  When we don’t pray together?  When we don’t join together to do the work of God.  That isn’t synergy it’s independently working on the same things.  Striving together is seen in faithfully gathering together to work toward the common goal of seeing each other’s needs met. 

If you want more of God your life, you need to rpess for more of God in the lives of the others in your church.

Reader’s Digest had an article called, “What Good is a Tree.”  This article talks about a substance that is produced when the roots of two trees touch that reduces competition.  A fungus is produced that links the two trees together, so nourishment can be transferred between them.

For example, if one tree has access to water and the other has access to sunlight the trees have the means to share together…they will both have water and sunlight.

We have need of each other’s prayers in order to receive the most from God.  If you’re not in church and diligently contending, you are actually keeping the rest of your church from receiving the maximum of God for their lives.

So Are You on a God Diet?

What about it?  Do you want a small slice of God or do you want it all; all of the promises; all of the blessing; all of the wisdom of God?  How much you get depends on how much you ask. 

When I go to Costco, I hate it when they give me samples of something to taste, especially if it’s something that I like.  Do you know why?  Because a little taste isn’t enough, I want as much as I want.  Sometimes I want to go to the end of the line to get another sample.  That’s greedy, huh?  But not when t comes to God because there is enough of God to satisfy everyone.  We can all have as much as we want.  All we have to do is ask and diligently seek Him.  If we will knock He will invite us in and give us whar we ask.

Recently, we went to Pizza Hut very close to the time when they were about to close.  They were cleaning up and getting ready to leave.  But we knocked on the door and they opened up and we were the last customers.  We ordered and they gave us what we had ordered.  But then, they gave us even more than what we ordered.  They had prepared something perishable and it didn’t sell, they were going to have to throw it away, but rather than do that they gave it to us.  That’s how God works, too.  Remember the story of Solomon’s first night as king?

He has a vision, God says what is that you want ask and I’ll give it to you.  So Solomon asks for wisdom and character to lead his people.  God gave it to him.  But then, check this out.  God says if you had asked for money and power I would have given those to you, but since you asked for wisdom and character, I’ll give you money and power, too

Solomon got all the promises of God and then some.  He wanted all that God had for him and God didn’t hold back.  I’d say at that time in his life Solomon wanted to be spiritually fat. 

What about you, what do you want?  You know, being too skinny is unhealthy.  In God’s spiritual medical system heart disease comes from being too skinny; from not being spiritually fat enough.  When our hearts aren’t filled up with God there is room for other things to come in and begin to displace God. 

There’s a type of firefighting equipment, it’s a chemical that displaces the oxygen from the area of the fire.  But it doesn’t work in as sealed room full of air, because there is no place for the air to go. 

The problem is that our hearts aren’t sealed there are leaks there; places where God can be displaced through.  If we aren’t full of God then other things can come in to our hearts and displace God through these leaky places.  We need to stay full.  We need as much of God as we can hold.  We need to keep pressing for more of God, because we leak.  How much of God do you want?  Do you want all of God or just a little slice?  Are you afraid to become spiritually fat?  How much of God do you REALLY want?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Misinterpreting the Move of God

Have you ever misinterpreted what someone is trying to say:  Or trying to do?  I live in Taiwan and recently I got a call from a taxi-driver demanding money for “our accident.”  Apparently, someone who was on the way to the church had an accident with this man.  In the discussion they had after the accident, the person mentioned he was on the way to the church.  The cab driver apparently misunderstood the man and thought that I was the person with whom he’d had the accident, so he called and demanded money from me and warned me that he had notified the police.  Since I had no knowledge of what he was talking about I refused to pay him, thinking it was a scam to get money from me. (These types of things happen sometimes in Taiwan.)

He interpreted my refusal to pay him anything as a sign that I was trying to defraud him.  So he became angry and threatening.  “I will call the police.”  “Go ahead, we’ll straighten it out with them."  It was a misunderstanding.  The person with whom he’d had the accident paid him and everything worked out.

In the text I want to use for today’s post the disciples misinterpret what Jesus is saying to them.   I believe that we often misinterpret what God is doing or trying to do in our lives.

Mark 8:13-21 (NKJV)
8:13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then He charged them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have no bread." 17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?" And they said, "Seven." 21 So He said to them, "How is it you do not understand?"

We Often Miss the Point

Our text here is a classic example of missing the point.  Jesus is talking about the leaven of the Pharisees and the disciples are worried that they don’t have enough bread.  I think this is a perfect example of why we sometimes miss God’s point.  They were so concerned with their own problems that they think that Jesus was pointing that out to them.  It’s like the taxi driver story.  The taxi driver was so concerned about getting paid that he didn’t even realize I wasn’t the guy who he had the accident with.

In our text, the disciples are so concerned with the fact that they didn’t have bread, that they assume Jesus is criticizing them for that.  Jesus, on the other hand never mentions bread, he only mentions one ingredient of bread, Leaven. If I mentioned egg yolks would you automatically assume I was talking about Cakes?  Probably not, but that’s what the disciples did, here.  “Leaven!”  “Augh, He’s criticizing us for forgetting to bring bread."  Sometimes we misinterpret what God is saying or doing because we are so focused on our own lives and the problems associated with them. 

Think about it for a moment.  When we are going through something we often pray, “God help me.”  “God get me out of this problem.”  But actually we may be experiencing these things because God is working in us.  God may be trying to change us in some aspect of our lives.  We’re praying, “God deliver me from this evil; this time of struggle,” when the struggle is God trying to deal with the issue. 

A good example of this is financial struggle.  We’re praying God deliver me from this financial difficulty.”  But what God is doing is causing you to struggle in your finances so that you can get a handle on your spending problem, or your reliance on credit cards.  The thing is that God isn’t going to wave a magic wand and cause all your troubles to disappear.  We think God isn’t connected to hardship, that God is a loving God whgo will fix our problems.  God is like that, He does desire to fix your problems, but he fixes them through your decisions.  God is faithful to bring the problems to our attention, so we can decide to fix them.  We are misinterpreting the move of God for us as the Devil’s move against us.

Isn’t that what the disciples are doing here.  Jesus is trying to deal with hypocrisy in their lives and they have misinterpreted it as a rebuke of their forgetfulness.  Think about the things you’re praying about; the things you’re struggling with and asking for God’s help with.  What are you expecting God to do?  Are you thinking God will make the problem disappear without you being involved?  More likely, God is trying to show you an area where you need to change.

I want to illustrate this with the story of Cain and Abel.  I want you to see two things here.  One, how God tries to change us and two, what can happen if we misinterpret God’s intentions. 

Abel comes to bring God an offering of the firstborn lamb of his flock and sacrifices it.  Cain, after a while brings an offering of vegetables.  That saying, after a while, implies that these are not the first fruits.    So God respects Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s.  So, Cain has a choice here.  He can either say, “Okay I messed up,” or do it right, or he can get angry at God and jealous of Abel.  Of course we know what happens, Cain gets angry with God, and jealous of Abel and ends up killing Abel in a field.

But in the course of all this, God says something remarkable to Cain.

Genesis 4:6-7 (NKJV)  6 So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

“Why are you angry? If you do well you will be accepted.”  In other words God is saying, “Okay, you’ve been rebuked.  If you do well it’ll be okay.”  So Cain is misinterpreting what God is trying to do.  God is trying to show Cain where he’s wrong and what needs to be changed so the problem can be fixed.  All Cain has to do is admit he’s wrong and decide to change.  But there is a warning there for Cain also.  Sin lies at the door, crouches there waiting to spring when we reject what God is trying to do in us.  Cain is filtering God’s intentions through his own ideas of the way it should be. 

Do you know what I mean by that?  How many times have you tried to make someone understand how you want them to do something, only to hear him or her say, “Okay. okay, okay,”  but you can see they don’t understand what you’re saying, they’re filtering what you said through what they think is right.  This happens to me all the time, and it’s frustrating.  I don’t even want to think about how often that must happen to God.  The Bible tells us that this leads to sin.  Do you know why?  Because you begin to rely on yourself and act in your own will, instead of acting in the will of God.  That’s where Cain went wrong and look where it led.

What Causes Us to Miss the Point?

I think the reason we filter God’s intention through our own ideas stems from a basic problem in people.  The problem is unbelief or a lack of faith.  Let’s go back to our text for a moment.  Look at what Jesus says to them about their thinking that he’s “hassling” them about the forgotten bread.

Mark 8:17-21 (NKJV)
8:17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?" They said to Him, "Twelve." 20 "Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?" And they said, "Seven." 21 So He said to them, "How is it you do not understand?"

Jesus begins to deal with them about the reason why they don’t understand, and he zeroes in on the problem.  He asks them if their hearts are still hard.  I want you to think about your own heart here for a moment.  When was your heart hardened about the things of God?  When was it that you didn’t want to hear about God or from God?  Wasn’t it when you didn’t believe?

When did you get mad at people for witnessing to you?  Before you believed in God, right?  Your heart was hard when you didn’t believe in God.  But there’s another time when your heart is hardened, and that’s when you don’t want to hear what God is trying to say about what you’re doing that you don’t want to change:  When you don’t have faith that God has your best interest in mind. 

“God mde me like this, if he were a good God he wouldn’t be doing this to me.”  I’ve even heard people say, “How can I believe in a God who did this to me.”  That’s unbelief and hardness of heart isn’t it?  That’s how Cain thought, “God’s not trying to work in me, He’s trying to tick me off.” 

So after Jesus asks the disciples if their hearts are hard, He reminds them of something that should cause them to have faith.  “Were you there when I fed five thousand families?  Didn’t you pick up the fragments that were left over?  How about the time I fed four thousand families?  How much was left over then?”  “Do you really think I’m worried about bread?  If you saw all of that how can you not understand what I’m saying to you?”  The problem was a lack of faith…A lack of faith will cause us to misinterpret God because it will harden our hearts.

I gave some examples of people who are upset at God because God isn’t doing what they want God to do.  Through their unbelief they assume that God’s intentions toward them are evil, when God’s intentions are the opposite.  Because of their unbelief they can’t believe that God is trying to work in them, or help them, or change them because they don’t believe God wants the best for them or has their best interests in mind.

This is one of our great failings.  We do this over and over because we have such short memories.  When things are going well, we like God.  When things are not, we think God is against us. 

This is one of the reasons the Israelites had such a great struggle in the wilderness.  Three days after God delivers them from Egypt through the most powerful set of miracles imaginable, they’re asking Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die?”  Things got a little hard.  God had just moved heaven and earth to rescue them and three days later they’ve forgotten all about it and begin to misinterpret God’s intentions.  They do this over and over and because of it God eventually says, “Just wander around the desert for forty years until this unbelieving generation passes away.”

The disciples are no better.  They do the same thing in a storm at sea.

Mark 4:36-41 (NKJV)
4:36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"

The disciples had been with Him when He healed multitudes earlier in that day.  They had seen the power of God play out through Him.  They had witnessed miracles.  They’d heard His words; they knew He was the Messiah.  They knew His purpose.  But they forgot it all when the water got rough.  They lost faith.

These were the men who were with Jesus.  These are the men who should have had the greatest faith.  They saw His power everyday, and they struggled with unbelief the whole time.  So do you!  How can I know that, because I do, too?  When we struggle with unbelief we are in danger of misinterpreting God.

Look at What He’s Done

How does Jesus deal with this in them?  He points them to the things He’s already done.  Remember the five thousand hungry people and the leftovers?  Remember the four thousand fed with just seven loaves. 

How do we keep faith?  In order to keep faith we need to look at the things God has already done in us and through us.  Instead of dwelling on the discomfort of the moment, we need to dwell on the times when God has come through for us. It seems really simple doesn’t it?  When I had this issue, God saved me in this way.  When that problem happened I remember what God did. 

But it isn’t all that simple because we have short memories, just like the Israelites in the desert and the disciples in the storm.  When we’re struggling with something, we focus on that instead of all the times God has delivered us in some way.

You know, quite often I struggle with pain.  Every time I do I focus on that.  I’m not thinking about how God literally saved my life 20 years ago, I’m complaining, “every time we have revival I go through this.”  I’m just like the Israelites.  I’m just like the disciples.  I’m just like you. 

But I have to tell you something we have an advantage over the Israelites and the disciples.  We have the Bible.  We can read it and be reminded about what God has done; we can be reminded of God’s intentions.  It’s all right there in the Bible, so we don’t really have an excuse for our unbelief.  The problem is that we don’t always read it often enough. 

If we read it every day it will help to keep us in remembrance of these things; to see His power regularly; to remind us of His intentions toward us.  If God didn’t have our best interest in mine, He never would have sent His Son.  Reminding yourself of that will help to keep you from misinterpreting God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Prodigal Mind

Have you ever stopped to think about how your mind works, especially when you’re not thinking about anything in particular?  It just throws out random thoughts, or brings back memories that you thought were forgotten, or ideas begin to bloom.  This is the time when our minds are fascinating.

Have you ever seen a brain that’s been removed from the skull?  It’s just this wrinkled mass of gray matter.  It’s not like a muscle.  It has no moving parts; it’s just a big gray lump. Yet, this is the machine that controls our thoughts.  It interprets our senses like smell and touch.  It makes sense of the images that come through our eyes.  It controls those autonomic systems, like heartbeat and respiration.  It controls deliberate movements, like the muscles that must move in sequence so that we can walk or scratch our heads.  Our brain is the thing that controls our ability to reasonable thought.  This is our ability to reason things out, to solve problems and create tools.  Our brain is the place where our intelligence and personality come from and yet it is just a big gray lump.

Our brains function through chemical reactions that cause electrical impulses to travel across nerve endings. But because of that we can think and form ideas that can cause changes in our environment.  The problem is that our minds, which are constantly working, come up with bad ideas far more often than they come up with good.  We must learn to discipline our minds so that we are able to control ourselves and limit our behavior. 

Today I want to post a message from a very familiar portion of scripture, that we have always looked at as a picture of the longsuffering love of God, and examine it in terms of the minds of those who are living out his will in day-to-day life.

Luke 15:11-24 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.12 “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.13 “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.15 “Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.16 “And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!18 ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,19 “and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.23 ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;24 ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
Prodigal Living Wasting our Inheritance

The younger son wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  The words translated into English as prodigal comes from the Greek word Aosotos which is literally translated as riotous.  In fact, the American Standard Version uses that word riotously.  Se we get a picture of a reckless and extravagant lifestyle.  But how does that apply to our minds?

Here is a young man who took all that he had for granted:  The wealth, the probability of inheritance and threw it all away in order to live a life of wild abandon and excess.  This is a problem of the mind.  He is sure that he’s missing something.  He’s sure that there is more to life than what he’s already got and he’s looking for the excitement that he thinks this kind of lifestyle will provide.

We, as Christians, also have an inheritance that is set aside for us.  An inheritance thatwe will see as we continue to live the will of God for our lives.  But how many have known people that have behaved in the way of this prodigal young man and lost the inheritance that is to be theirs? 

We sometimes look at our salvation and think is their all there is to life?  I knew a man who at the age of 35 looked at his life and his career and said exactly that, “Is this all there is to my life?”  The problem was that he was a good Christian, living out the will of God for his life.  But he was tired of the job that he had.  He was tired of his “boring” Christian lifestyle, so he threw away his inheritance looking for some excitement.  He calls it, “a midlife crisis.”  But it was really a thirst for prodigal living.

He felt like he was not experiencing all the things he should have experienced by that time in his life.  We’re told through television, movies and music that life is to be experienced.  That somehow we must pass through certain rites of passage to be satisfied adults:  Rites of passage like fornication, drunkenness, drugs, whatever it is.  I believe this is the same thing that the prodigal son felt, that he was missing out on life, because as soon as he received his inheritance he went out and lived recklessly.

Ephesians 5:55 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
 In living that type of lifestyle he wasted his inheritance and when we live that way we also waste ours. 

But is it only the things we do that waste our inheritance or is it also what happens in our minds?

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus is saying that it is a thing of the heart.  We think of the heart as the center of our emotions; as the center of who we are.  But the heart is only a muscle that pumps blood, through our bodies.  It is no different than the muscle that causes your diaphragm to flex and your lungs to inflate.  It is really the mind that is the center of our emotions, our attitudes and the things we believe.  It is our mind that determines who we are. 

The things that we allow into our minds are the things that will make us or break us in terms of our salvation.  What we allow into our minds will focus our thoughts.

Matthew 6:22-23 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
 I read recently of a video of a fourteen-year-old girl engaging in oral sex on Youtube.    What would cause a young child to engage in this type of behavior in a place where others could videotape it?  What we look at shapes our thoughts.  Movies, television, magazines, the Internet, these are the things that bring visual images into our minds.  These images suggest ideas into our minds.  For example, television reality shows depict lifestyles of recklessness and debauchery.  Young people see these things, and the money and privilege that these people enjoy through the showing of things that should be secret and private in their lives to millions of viewers.  Flesh draws viewers, but it also stirs the hearts of young men.  They begin to look at women as objects.  Young women begin to feel that in order to attract a young man that hey must be sexy and provocative:  That sexy is everything.  These things begin to gain access to our minds and draw us toward prodigal living. 

It is our mind that begins to stir us.  The thoughts that we begin to entertain are directly influenced by what we see, read and hear.  As Christians, do we allow only those things that would strengthen our relationship with Jesus?  Or are we allowing ourselves to be influenced into prodigal living and the wasting of our inheritance, by the things we allow into our minds through media.

The Prodigal Son left Home Before He Ever Walked Out

It’s obvious to me that the prodigal son left home in his mind long before he ever demanded his inheritance and walked out of the house.  He’d thought it through.  He had plans and ideas for when he was off on his own.  He knew the things he wanted to do.  He was sure of the image he would project.  He thought about what he would need in order to do those things.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he’d calculated the amount of his inheritance and had finally determined that he now had enough to make happen.

There was a popular comedian an number of years ago, Steve Martin, who in the middle of his stand up routine would suddenly stop, sigh and say, “Aaaah!  Sorry, I went to the Bahamas for just a second.”  It’s an illustration that we can be one place physically and yet our minds are thousands of miles away.  As a high school student I spent countless hours on backpacking trips and other exciting adventures while never leaving my Chemistry or History class.  How many times have you been at church and thinking about what was happening at work. 

This young man pictured himself in that far away place before he ever approached his father about his inheritance.  I have seen people with my own eyes sitting in church services with their minds in a far away place, no doubt some of them thinking about sin and wasting their inheritance. 

Nobody suddenly backslides.  Nobody is sitting in church, thinking about the will of God, and desiring more of him in life, and suddenly backsliding.  People backslide in their minds long before they ever leave the will of God. 

There is a subtle shift in perceptions.  They begin to struggle with prayer.  They lose the desire to be involved in what the church is doing in the community.  They begin to have problems with their brothers and sisters in the church.  They begin to rebel against the things preached and emotionally distance them selves from the church and finally from God.

Titus 1:15-16 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
 This can happen even while they’re still filling a pew at church.  On outreaches we have run into these people.  They talk about how God has moved in their life.  They talk about their relationship with Him and yet they continue to sin.  A young man, on drugs and homeless, walked into my office one day, talking about his relationship with God; his desire to have more of God in his life; how much he loved God and served God by praying and worshipping, and then asked for the money to get him and his pregnant girlfriend a hotel room.  He had no idea of who God was or how opposed to the will of God his lifestyle was. 

This is a sign of the times we live in.  Even though they’re physically in the church, their minds are far away and their lives are riotous.  Jimmy Swaggart was preaching he Gospel with conviction the whole time he was consorting with prostitutes?

2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men will be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  (3) without natural affection, unyielding, false accusers, without self-control, savage, despisers of good,  (4) traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  (5)  having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these.
When He Came to Himself

Luke 15:17  “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
 When he came to himself, that is, when he entered once more into his own mind.  The foundation of our relationship with Jesus is in our mind.  When we don’t see him here, physically.  We can’t reach out and touch him.  We can’t speak to Him and hear His voice like we hear the voice of other people.  When those things aren’t possible our relationship with Him is based in faith.  On what we think and believe about Him and those things are a part of our thoughts, which are a part of our minds.   

1Peter 4:7
But the end of all things has drawn near. Therefore be of sound mind, and be sensible to prayers.
 In order to be of sound mind we must guard our minds and allow only those things that edify our minds to enter into them.  We can only protect our inheritance through the protection of our minds.  We must be careful what we look at:  What things we allow to color our thinking.   We need to concentrate on the things of God, looking to Him for wisdom, looking to His word for guidance.

2 Timothy 3:16-17  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We must begin to come to church with an ear to hear from God.  This is wha will strengthen out faith.  Strong faith will result in a strengthened resolve to serve God.  Faith is what keeps you.

One of the interesting things in this scripture is the reference to the servants of God having bread enough to spare but yet he says he is starving.  Those of us that are servinfg God have the, “Bread of Life.” 

John 6:33-35 “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 
Placing our hopes in Jesus Christ, not our own strength, but Him and His word strengthens us.  By submerging ourselves into our relationship with Him we will be shielding ourselves from the influence that will draw us away.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
What the Bible calls Mammon, we can call the things of the world.

During the Viet Nam war,the generals talked about winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.  The thing that was supposed to turn them from communism and turn them toward the US was the winning of their hearts and minds.  In fact that is a sound strategy, “for where your heart is, your treasure will be also.”  We failed to win that battle and lost Vietnam to Communism.  This is also the strategy of the devil, to win the hearts and minds of those who serve Him. 

Guard your heart.  Protect your mind; shield it from the influences and images that destroy.  Don’t allow the devil to win your heart and mind.  Don’t allow yourself to be turned away to prodigal thinking or living.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Judgment and Mercy

Anyone who has spent any time witnessing to people has been told, “You’re judging me, who are you to judge me?” But I think the problem is that we call them on their sin and then tell them God is going to send you to hell for that. What we leave out is the good news. If you repent, you’ll be accepted. So today I want to bring a balance to judging. We are called to judgment tempered with mercy.

Recently, I read in the news of a young woman who was on trial for the murder of her two-year old daughter. This woman, Casey Anthony, and her family, repeatedly lied to the police, sent them on wild goose chases, kept them from finding the body. Finally, three years after the murder and her arrest, the trial concludes with the woman being found not guilty of murder, manslaughter, child abuse and other charges. She is only convicted lying to the police. A jury of twelve people heard the evidence and the arguments and judged her to be not guilty of the crime.

The press, on the other hand doggedly, throughout the trial and before, made the judgment that she was guilty. They made this judgment without the presentation of evidence and arguments and witnesses. They made their judgment on hearsay and their own opinions.

The jury made a judgment in a correct way, the media didn’t. Is the woman guilty? I have no way to know that. The evidence was pretty sketchy, no cause of death, no witnesses, no DNA: All of the evidence was circumstantial.

I’m not judging the rightness or wrongness of the jury’s decision. I’m not making any statements about her guilt or innocence. I’m only making a statement about human nature. We have a tendency to make a judgment based on our own assumptions about what happened. Jesus tells us we need to be careful about how we judge.

Luke 6:37-42 (NKJV)
6:37 "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." 39 And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.
Making Judgments

In our text Jesus is talking about Christians making judgments of other people. Making judgments is what people do, isn’t it. Most of our lives are spent making decisions and judgments. Those are the things that get us through life. They can be simple decisions about what to wear to a meeting or school, or they can be more complex decisions about finances or direction for our family or our lives. But Jesus warns us about judgments we make involving other people.

People have an interesting capacity to look at other people’s sin while at the same time overlooking their own. We have a “perfectly good reason” for the sin we’re committing. “I know I drink too much, but the pressure at my job is awful.” “Well yeah, I ripped off the company, but they’re not paying me what I’m worth.” “I know I shot up my university, but I had a bad childhood.” These are the justifications we use that are intended to make it okay for us to act improperly. But the problem is that while justifying our own misbehavior we have a “no excuses policy” for everyone else. We can harshly judge someone else with no thought of mercy, and this is Jesus’ point.

Look at the context of this statement, “Judge not and you shall not be judged!” You can find the context in the verses preceding the text. Look at the statements found in those verses:

1. Love your enemies
2. Bless those that curse you
3. Pray for those that use you
4. Turn the other cheek
5. Give to those that ask
6. Treat others, as you want to be treated

Look at verse 36 the last verse before the text:

Luke 6:36 (NKJV)
6:36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
So, mercy is the context of Jesus’ words about judgment. Mercy is found in all of God’s judgments. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment. God created the Garden and He gave Adam and Eve only one command. He told them they could eat of any tree in the Garden but one. What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat and God judged their actions.

When God did that He laid down some pretty heavy curses on them, didn’t He? He told Adam that all of the provision God had made in his life to this point was over. Adam would have to sweat to receive what God had freely given before. Eve was created to be the mother of all, and a partner with Adam. But now God told her she would have pain in childbirth. So this is a judgment of God.

But at the same moment of this judgment God tells Satan that the offspring of Eve, whom Satan had deceived, would eventually destroy him. In other words, He would send someone who would make it possible for human beings to return to God’s favor. That’s mercy. Adam and Eve did nothing to deserve for God to make it possible for them to return to a relationship with God, but God made a way for them anyway. That is the dictionary definition of mercy, by the way: Undeserved compassion shown to an offender.

How do we make judgments of things people do wrong? We condemn without mercy. “I’ll never speak to him again.” We assassinate people’s character through Gossip and innuendo. We destroy opportunities.

I just read in the news the other day about a hacker who is going to prison for 18 years. He got angry with his neighbor because the neighbor was dismayed that this guy kissed his neighbor’s son on the lips. So look what he did. He bought a program that allowed him to steal his neighbor’s IP address, and then he hacked his email and sent threats to the Vice President of the United States. He sent child pornography to the guy’s colleagues; all of this was done to destroy the neighbor. They called it Internet terrorism. People do things like this all the time. Maybe not on a lesser scale, but we act without compassion or mercy all the time.

But God tempered His judgment with mercy. That same mercy is seen in these context statements that I’ve presented:

1. Love your enemies: Jesus died for the very people who were crucifying Him.
2. Bless them that curse you, pray for those that use you: Pray for their salvation, Jesus did that on the cross, “Father forgive them…”
3. Give to those that ask, treat others as you would want to be treated.

Sometimes people are in need because of their own bad decisions or bad habits. Sometimes they realize that they have caused themselves to be in that situation. Other times they are defiant about it. But when it comes to real need, regardless of the situation, Jesus is telling us we need to give. It doesn’t have to be money…it can be clothing or blankets or food. Treat them, as you want to be treated.

There is an interesting moment in scripture when a rich, young ruler comes to Jesus and asks Him, “What thing must I do to inherit Eternal Life?” Look at Jesus’ answer:

Mark 10:19 (NKJV)
You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' "
Don’t you think it’s interesting that all of these have to do with how people treat each other? Not one of them mentions our relationship with God; they are all about our relationships with other people. You want Eternal Life? If so, relationships with people are important. Our text speaks of an important component of relationships; mercy and forgiveness.

Does This Mean We Shouldn’t Judge Sin?

Unfortunately, we all sin; sin is a part of our nature. Let me ask you a couple of questions: Is there anyone reading this who has never told a lie? How about stealing, can you say you’ve never stolen anything, this can even mean work time from your boss?

Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:10 (NKJV)
3:10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;
So we can’t do it. Our works can’t justify us. We can’t earn heaven by living out the law, because we can’t live the law completely. But does that mean we can’t judge sin? Look at what the Apostle Paul says:

1 Corinthians 5:11-12 (NKJV)
5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
We must be able to judge sin. We have to be able to recognize sin in order to judge it in our own lives. Sometimes that means judging it in the church. We have to judge it in the church, and what Paul is saying here might seem harsh, “Do not keep company with…not even to eat with such a person.” That seems like a pretty harsh judgment, doesn’t it? But Paul tempers it with mercy. Look at this statement:

1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NKJV)
5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
The goal of judging is to bring the person back to the will of God; to see that person saved, once again. It isn’t about punishing the person it’s about bringing that person back to the place of salvation. Why should the people of God judge? Paul answers that question, as well.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NKJV)
5:6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The people of Corinth were not only not judging, they were kind of proud of it. Paul is warning them that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. In other words one person’s sin can spread to the rest of the congregation.

I’ve seen this happen a number of times. If sin in a congregation isn’t judged, that sin will spread. Fornication, rebellion and adultery especially will spread quickly through a congregation. I know a church where these things took place a number of years ago and they haven’t recovered still. The church is still struggling with some of these same issues today.

So judgment must be made for the sake of the person involved in the sin and the well being of the congregation. It must be made in order to give the offender opportunity to repent and so that the church will remain pure; to keep sin from spreading throughout the congregation.

There is one other thing; judgment must be made so that the blessing of God will remain on the church. There is an illustration of this in the Old Testament. It’s found in the story of Achan.

God has given Joshua a plan for the defeat of Jericho. This was the first city that Israel had to defeat in battle, as they began to take possession of the land of Canaan. He tells Joshua to walk around the city for seven days and then blow their trumpets and the walls will collapse. Bus as he gave him those instructions He warned him that all of the spoil will belong to God. The people are not to take any of the spoil of the battle. That spoil is a tithe to God; it is the first fruits of the Promised Land.

But Achan sees some wonderful things; gold, silver, garments, treasure and he takes it. He violates the command of God. When we violate God’s commands that’s called sin. So Achan sins and what happens? In the very next battle the people of Ai rout Israel.

Joshua 7:4-5 (NKJV)
7:4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Joshua is upset, he demands from God to know what happened. Look at God’s response:

Joshua 7:10-12 (NKJV)
7:10 So the Lord said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.
Israel sinned? I thought it was only Achan who sinned, but all of Israel is held accountable. What does that mean for a congregation? We as a church will be held accountable for the sin of individuals if that sin isn’t judged. A congregation will be unable to stand against its enemies. Who are our enemies: The forces of hell and Satan himself? We won’t be able to stand against him. We won’t be able to stand against sin. We will always be defeated by the devil if we don’t judge sin in our midst. I don’t know about you, but I need victory.

Judgment is Tempered with Love

So what does all this mean? Do we need to kick everyone who sins out of the church? I think most churches would have a pretty small congregation if we did that. Judgment doesn’t always include banning people, but it does mean that we have to confront sin in each other’s lives. Prayerfully, Biblically, lovingly confront the sin. Tell them what the sin is. Show them in the Bible that it is sin. Then show the mercy of God to forgive when we repent.

In revelations Chapter Two, Jesus is speaking to the church in Thyatira. There is a woman there named Jezebel. She’s teaching false doctrine, seducing the saints to fornication and sin. But she isn’t immediately judged; God doesn’t immediately strike her dead with a lightning bolt. Instead, God looks patiently for repentance.

Revelation 2:20-22 (NKJV)
2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
God gives her time to repent but she doesn’t repent, so He will judge her. This is mercy, because the Word of God says this:

1 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is our example. We need to allow opportunity to repent. We’re not allowed to judge and condemn those who are outside the church. God is their judge and that scripture tells me He will give them time and opportunity to repent. God will send a watchman to them to bring a warning, that’s our role. People involved in sin will tell you that you’re judging when you bring the warning, but actually you are acting as the instrument of God to give them opportunity to repent. As I close this, I want to show you the difference:

On one side, there is a website called http://www.raptureready.com/index.php On this website they preach about the coming of Jesus and his calling of the saints in the rapture. They preach on sin and salvation. But they also have an extensive collection of documents that tells what to do if the rapture happens and you are left behind. Their focus is the salvation of mankind. They are trying to help people to prepare for judgment and give them time to repent.

On the other side, there is a church that protests at the funerals of killed American Soldiers and hold up banners and signs that say, “God hates fags.” This is untrue. God loves people and hates sin. In God’s eyes there is no difference between the sin of lying and the sin of homosexuality. There is no real call to repentance, only a call to judgment.

If the things you’re saying while witnessing only demonstrate the wrath and judgment of God then you’re not only bringing condemnation, you’re not judging Biblically. Biblical judgment is confrontation of sin and opportunity for repentance and a demonstration of the mercy and love of God. It is God’s place to judge and condemn it is our place to confront and show mercy. Be an instrument of repentance rather than an executioner of judgment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Blessing of Adversity

Sometimes, things happen in our lives and we think that God has abandoned us. I hear this all the time, “Why would God let this happen?” “Where is God in all this?” “What have I done to cause God to be angry at me?” But that may not be the case at all. God is in heaven and he’s in control. In reference to that, I want to look at Job’s story today. Something happened in Job’s life that is like nothing any of us experienced. Job suffered a loss so great in one day that most of us would never be able to understand. He lost his children, all of his wealth and his health in ONE DAY. I wan to look at Job’s life and response and see how we can apply it to our own lives.

Job 1:1-22 (NKJV)
1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. 2 And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. 4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly. 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" 12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. 13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Job Went Through It!

Look at what Job experienced in one day. The loss of everything that had meaning for him. He lost it all, his kids, all of his wealth, eventually even his health. Everything that was important to him was lost, with the exception of his wife.

What would you say if this was to happen to you today? What would you be thinking? The first thought we would have is, “The Devil is after me. That lying, stinking devil is trying to kill me.” When we look at what happened to Job, that’s not far from the truth. The devil was trying to destroy him. He was trying to get him to turn away from God and he thought he could do it by destroying everything that Job cared about or possessed. His thought was that Job only served God because of the blessing that God gave him.

Don’t you wonder sometimes how you would hold up under that kind of assault? Think about this, this is hard-core demonic attack. None of us have ever experienced that kind of assault. How would we handle it? I know people who have lost it over nothing: Christians who have backslidden over some small setback in their day. “My boss yelled at me, I’m going to go get drunk.” Maybe they just got mad at God over something that didn’t happen in their time frame. Maybe they blame God for something that happened that caused hurt or suffering.

Job has lost everything and the Bible tells us he didn’t even sin with his mouth. He didn’t roll up his fist and say, “This is your fault God.” His wife asks him, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” Look at his response:
Job 2:10 (NKJV)
"What are you a fool or something? You sound just like those foolish women. Can we expect that God will only bless us?” He’s telling her God has a right to bring adversity into our lives. God can do whatever He wants.
Do you know what’s really interesting about this, though? The devil had to ask God’s permission for this and God gave him permission. God gave the devil permission to attack righteous, blameless Job.

The devil comes to Him an says, “Oh sure Job loves you now, because you’re blessing him, but he wouldn’t do that if you suddenly stopped blessing him.” That’s what ticks me off about the devil. He’s a liar, he’s the father of lies and he accuses us all time before God. He says the same thing about us, “Oh sure, he says he’s a Christian but what if things get really bad? He’ll fold up like a cheap, empty suit.” Look what God says in verse twelve of our text:

12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person."
God says, “I can prove he’s faithful and loyal. I can prove that he’s blameless; you can’t get him to sin even if you take everything. So take it, it’s all under your power…but don’t hurt him.” God gave him permission to attack Job.

Why would God do that? Sometimes we think God gives permission because he doesn’t care about us. But that isn’t true, because when we rebelled He sent Jesus to redeem us. He could have just destroyed the entire human race but he didn’t. The Bible tells us that He loves us; John 3:16, right…”For God so loved the world...”

Other times we think God is punishing us. That’s what traditional Taiwanese religion teaches; that if we offend the gods they’ll curse us. That’s what Job’s friends think, too. Eliphaz the Termanite comes to comfort him. Look at his comforting(?) words:

Job 4:7-9 (NKJV)
4:7 "Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off? 8 Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.
But God doesn’t respond to us that way. Eliphaz is mistaken because in verse eight God calls Job a blameless and upright man. Blameless and upright means he is a man of integrity who is in the will of God. There’s no sin on Job’s part, so God isn’t punishing him. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Look at the Book of Psalms:

Psalms 34:16-19 (NKJV)
34:16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous. What does that tell us; even though we’re righteous we’re going to be afflicted. We’re going to go through a few things. In Job’s case it was because he was blameless and upright that the devil asked to attack him. If you are in the will of God, you’re going to face demonic assault.

But it seems that Eliphaz, although he missed God’s purposes in all this, gave Job some good advice.

Job 5:8-9 (NKJV)
5:8 "But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause-- 9 Who does great things, and unsearchable, Marvelous things without number
. This is what the psalmist is telling us, too. If we cry out to God He will deliver us from all our troubles, and that includes afflictions. “Cry out to God, that’s what I’d do.” That’s his advice, and it’s good advice.

What if it Happened to You?

The problem is that when we are at our best with God, that’s when the devil tries to prove to God that we’re unfaithful. In our text, when did the devil ask God if he could attack Job? When God was bragging about him. Is God bragging about you? Let me ask that question another way. Is everything going right in your life? No little struggles or hardships? No big struggles or adversity? Maybe there’s no attack on you because you’re not that close to God, right now. What is it that pleases God? The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Maybe, because of what you have struggled through before, you’re not full of faith. There’s no reason to be Satan’s target in that case. Satan doesn’t have to drag you into deep sin to destroy your salvation; all he has to do is build unbelief and he wins.

Think about this for a moment. Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. What a statement of faith! Jesus tells him that this is what the church of Christ will be built on. God is pleased by his faith. Peter is standing in the very center of the will of God. But what happens a few chapters later?

Luke 22:31 (NKJV)
22:31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
The devil says, “Oh, this great man of faith, let me sift him like wheat.” It’s virtually the same thing he said about Job. So Jesus tells Peter that and after he delivers that bit of good news look what he says next.

Luke 22:32 (NKJV)
22:32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
What does that mean? It means Jesus gave the devil permission to sift him. He’s essentially telling Peter, The devil is going to sift you, and you’re going to backslide, but when you come back strengthen these others. Ouch.

Maybe when we’re at our closest with God, that’s when the devil gets really mad. That’s when he goes after us the most, like he did with Job and Peter. But there is some good news here. That is that God uses adversity to strengthen us, and then can use us to strengthen others. In other words, we go through things for God’s purpose sometimes.

Here is another thing to look at: You are working and trying to live in the will of God. You love God; you trust God; you’re in the will of God and yet you’re struggling. You just can’t seem to get a break. You look at others; the unrighteous, the liars, the cheaters, the thieves and they’re the ones getting blessed. They’re getting rich while you struggle.

Have you experienced that? You’re trying to do the right thing and live for Jesus. You’re not cheating people, you’re honest you’re doing it right. And the cheaters and liars and connivers and thieves, they’re making all the money and getting all the blessings. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that only the evil people get blessed. Not everyone who is blessed is like I described. I know people who are doing the right things and God is blessing them. But sometimes we’re tempted to think, “I’m doing it right God. Why are the bad guys getting blessed and I’m being punished?”

Matthew 5:45 (NKJV)
5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
God blesses whom he blesses. What have we really done to expect only good things from God? We have, at best, given only our reasonable service. God saved us from eternal torment in hell and he did that while we were yet sinners. While we were just as bad as those others we were just complaining about. We didn’t deserve God’s mercy but he has given it anyway. He has blessed anyway. Job really gets it right when he says, “shall we expect only good from God, and shall we not expect adversity?”

God uses adversity to bless us. If you go through something you can often look back and see the blessing that was hidden in the adversity. I was writing to my pastor recently, about Muscular Dystrophy and I said this: “I’m not going to go so far as to say that Muscular Dystrophy is a blessing, but if it wasn’t for that, I probably would never have responded to God’s call and gotten saved.” Through that adversity I was blessed and I think that’s how it often happens.

That’s How it Worked in Job’s Life

After Job went through all that he did, God blessed him.

Job 42:10-17 (NKJV)
42:10 And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. 12 Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. 15 In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. 17 So Job died, old and full of days
After all of that, God blessed him. He restored all that Job had lost and doubled it.

Before – After

1. Seven sons and three daughters - same
2. 3,000 camels – 6,000 camels
3. Five hundred yoke of oxen - 1,000 yoke of oxen
4. Five hundred female donkeys – 1000 female donkeys
5. A very large Household
6. He was the greatest of the people in the East

God doubled what he lost to Satan. He also restored his health because he lived another one hundred-forty years and saw his grandchildren to the fourth generation. He got blessed, but look at the adversity he went through to get there.

If you’re struggling right now, hang on to your integrity; stay away from the blame God game and the jealousy of lost and dying sinners and you just might get blessed, as well. In all he went through Job didn’t sin and God blessed him. He will bless you as well. Glory to God!