"Ishmael lived 137 years. When he breathed his last and died he was buried with his family. His children settled down all the way from Havilah near Egypt eastward to Shur in the direction of Assyria. The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin." - Genesis 25:17-18
Short thought but "The Ishmaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin." Its right there in the Bible - even the family of the "Father of the Faith" (Abraham) had family issues. Don't get bummed today if you are having trouble getting along with your family or loved ones. Sometimes it's just the nature of human relationships in that we struggle to understand, or want our own way, or simply get wires crossed in communication or maybe just are having a bad day and get an attitude. We can be bears sometimes. It's okay. And of course, some people just like to argue... a lot.
Got someone in your life that you can't seem to make headway with? You are normal. We're all in that boat. So what do we do about it? I have no idea ;~)
No, seriously - just keep doing your best: work on communication, empathy, grace, forgiveness, patience, self control and self awareness (yes, it could be YOU) and take a breath. Even the original family of faith had ornery issues to deal with. It's okay. It's a human thing.
Spark. Just a spark.
" 'After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: 'Don’t be afraid, Abram. I’m your shield. Your reward will be grand!' Abram said, 'God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I’m childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything?' Abram continued, 'See, you’ve given me no children..." - Genesis 15:1-3
I recall that I was appalled. I had just finished being part of a conversation where a nationally known faith leader had commented that "Legacy is everything - I mean all that really matters is what they say about you after you're gone, right?" It wasn't said as a joke. Heads nodded all around and then I disagreed... and was met by the sound of crickets chirping. Too many think what we leave behind is about us, about being remembered, honored, leaving our "mark", significance. It is... only if we are foolish. That's not how Jesus does things.
Abram - later to be renamed Abraham - is the template for what real authentic God-pleasing-faith looks like. He hears God promise him blessings and stuns by immediately turning the focus from himself to what he was going to pass on and who was going to get it. We can feel a bit bad for this "Eliezer" guy ( he worked for Abe) as Abram was not too thrilled to see it all potentially go to him. The point was that Abe wanted his life and the fruit of it to count for someone he loved. That's the holy application of "legacy" over and above the worldly idea of "what the say about us when we are gone". We work hard so we can leave value for those we love. Blessings are meant to be passed on, not viewed as status or self centered achievements.
You're probably working hard today. Maybe it's sweat-breaking or nerve-racking or mind-numbing - whatever - You are working and you hope its all for something. Remember: the only valuable "something" is something that blesses those you love. It's about doing it for Him, or them. It's not about your ego. Resist the world's foolish focus. Do the right things for the right reason.
"Elihu continued speaking: “Let me go on, and I will show you the truth. For I have not finished defending God! I will present profound arguments for the righteousness of my Creator. I am telling you nothing but the truth, for I am a man of great knowledge. " - Job 36:1-4
I like things neat and tidy, maybe you do too. The Book of Job is neither of these. In the final passages, God reveals that the three companions of Job " have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has." (42:7) which tells us that somehow, in all of Job's intense passion he stayed accurate and that his three friends in all their seemingly logical deductions were wrong. God's statement means that we read Job's accounts with awe and fear understanding that though Job's words are jolting, God says he's accurate. His friends statements, we dare not lean on and quote and agree with because the Almighty Himself says "THEY HAVE NOT SPOKEN ACCURATELY ABOUT ME". What part, God? I want to know where they were wrong! I want to know what was right! You mean You record all they said just to say it's got errors in what they were thinking but You are not going to tell me where? WHY?
The answer is God wants us to wrestle with our need to trust and we'll not always be able to figure it all out. It's a shock: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5-7). That offend us. That is true nonetheless. Job was somehow accurate. His friends somehow weren't. Good to know, but did you notice? The hotshot kid Elihu, who proclaims himself "a man of great knowledge" is left out of the equation. In some ways, his speech will line up with what the Lord soon says in the final chapters (all of the "Where were you... do you know how?") but in other ways, he's seemingly self righteous and arrogant. He directly accuses Job of sin which we know for sure was not accurate. So what do we do with that?
Sometimes, in the hardest of times, things just won't line up in a nice tidy way that makes sense. Job's story proves God allows suffering even in the lives of those with which He is deeply pleased. It proves God may allow Hell more access to what we have than our beliefs would... um, believe. We can engage in theological reasoning to say why that can never happen to us - and that's precisely what Job's three friends were doing which God pointed out as inaccurate and frustrating for Him.
The point is WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO GET USED TO TRUSTING GOD. Its the nature of the faith God commends in the Bible. It may look like a mess. It all works and makes sense if you get far enough out to take it all in clearly, to see the whole thing in perspective ... only problem is God alone has that seat.
Trust Him. What looks blurred and messy from your point of view is clear and make sense to Him. He does love you. He does have your ultimate best at work. He's not going to mess you up even though the journey might feel messed up with gray areas and question marks.
Spark. Big toasty fire.
“People cry out when they are oppressed. They groan beneath the power of the mighty. Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God my Creator, the one who gives songs in the night?” - Job 35:9-10
Elihu was a young man who’d overheard Job and his three friends arguing about Job’s suffering and their ideas about the cause. Notice the part where he says “Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God my Creator, the one who gives songs in the night?” So the young man’s not been paying attention apparently. Job 23:1-5 says “ Then Job spoke again: “My complaint today is still a bitter one, and I try hard not to groan aloud. If only I knew where to find God, I would go to his court. I would lay out my case and present my arguments. Then I would listen to his reply and understand what he says to me.” It’s easy to “miss the forest for all the trees” isn’t it?
When people are going through a hard time, it’s easy to get caught on the specific words and, in the process, miss the broader meaning. We are messy. We struggle to get out all that’s stuck within, to express stuff that’s nearly inexpressible. We’re not sure what we’re feeling, what’s even happening at times, and then there’s always that one person who feels the need to score us in our suffering. I am sure I have been that guy - maybe you have too. I've got some apologies to make.
But there IS a point of considering the complaint, too. . When is my complaint just that - complaining? When am I being a cynic or critical? When is my pain legit and I need an ear, a shoulder, and maybe a helping hand? It can be hard to tell. It’s part of learning about ourselves and growing. The tricky part is listening to the Lord when we feel hurt. The Holy Spirit has to help us, that’s for certain.
What hurt people need is to be heard. Then, maybe to have us lend a hand. We have a lot of room to improve here. So today:
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me." - Job 42:1-3
Shot and sweet: four thoughts on Job:
1. You're not promised understanding in this life. We want to know why. We want to be reassured there's some purpose. There probably is. There's no promise you're going to find out. We get a whole book in the Bible with this one single point: KNOWING IS NOT GUARANTEED! Go ahead, yell, scream, rant, rave, reason - Job did it all and received no explanation. Zero. This is faith: trust... even... without... answers.
2. If God doesn't give answers DON'T MAKE UP YOUR OWN!!! Wow, chapter after chapter with his friends and that cocky kid Elihu, endlessly speculating. If you're answer starts with "Well, it seems to me..." then maybe you need to keep it to you. It comes from you, not from God. It's yours. It may be nice, but don't confuse it with truth - it's just an opinion and we all have them. When the Lord shows up at the end of the Book of Job, He's not to pleased with all the opinions passed off as fact. Let's save ourselves some grief and ease up on the guesswork about things.
3. GOD PUTS A LOWER VALUE ON OUR COMFORT THAN WE DO! The Lord cares about your character and watches over your soul. He might see that discomfort or even all out suffering accomplishes something He deems worthwhile. Whew. That one is sobering. Trust Him?
4. If you read it while you're sick... it's even harder. Got a case of bronchitis myself. Read Job in between the hacking cough and every time I thought "man... I feel awful" this nagging thought popped in my head "Yeah, but imagine if you were..." OH SHUT UP, WILL YA?!!! Man alive Job puts stuff into perspective, aye?
Spark. I'd blow on that to fan it to flame but I just keep coughing at the moment ;~)
“But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.” - Job 1:11
Satan, talking to God right there - could he be talking about you as well? When things are going great, are you all "Praise the Lord" and "God is good" but maybe not so much when things aren't going your way?
Hell just loves it when we act this way. Satan said that b/c its a well established pattern in human nature. Today's spark is short but potent: DON'T BE THE PERSON HELL EXPECTS YOU TO BE! Instead, stay grateful and faithful like God expects! Be the person God wants - not the person Hell wants.
Spark. It's cold out - build a fire with this.
“Then God turned his attention to Noah and all the wild animals and farm animals with him on the ship. God caused the wind to blow and the floodwaters began to go down. The underground springs were shut off, the windows of Heaven closed and the rain quit. Inch by inch the water lowered. After 150 days the worst was over.”
Genesis 8:1-3 MSG
So how do you like that last sentence? If you keep reading the story there are months more ahead for Noah.
We want the bad stuff done and out of the way quickly don’t we? Yet the Bible tells us that even God‘s great heroes of the faith often went through long periods where, maybe the worst was over, but it was still a long slog to the other side of things. Period. Yep….There’s nothing else you can add to that. We want a fast turn, and yet that’s not often how the story goes.
Today, if you’re looking at a long rough stretch, rejoice that maybe… Just maybe… The worst of it may be over. But just because you’re over the hump, doesn’t mean you’re out of the slump. (Ouch… Even I cringed when I wrote that.)
But it’s true – Patience is the fruit of the spirit, and perseverance is merely patience stretched beyond its perceived limits. Let the Spirit of God plant and harvest patience and perseverance in you today!
Spark. This one might need some time to burn.
“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” - Genesis 4:6-7
You have some goals for the New Year, I bet. Sure, maybe you're not calling them "resolutions" but either way, there are some things you'd like to be different this year, right? Well here's one you want to be sure not to overlook: mastering sin.
Unlike exercise and diet and probably all the other self improvement things, this one can't be accomplished on sheer willpower. Romans 8:1-2 elaborates:
Spark. Big honking bonfire.