Job & The Chariot of Fire

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“Then ADONAI answered Job out of the whirlwind… ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you will inform me!'”–Job 38:2-3 TLV

THE MORE I READ The Book of Job, the more I’m convinced that it wasn’t meant to explain the problem of suffering. The suffering itself is a decoy–like the fiery chariot that seperated Elijah and Elisha, when Elijah was transported to heaven in a whirlwind (2nd Kings 2:11). The real subject matter is in the whirlwind, for it is the whirlwind that narrows our focus onto God, making no effort to tame Him. The whirlwind is where our souls are calmed and quieted, like King David when he said, “I do not concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me” (Psalm 131 NKJV).

The God of the whirlwind bows to no one. He’s not some indefinable cosmic energy that we can tap into, but He’s not a flat orthodox figure either. He is not an entity that will morph to suit our fancy or a cracked fresco on the ceiling of a Byzantine monastery. He is who He is.

But He is unchangeable, and who can make Him change? Whatever His soul desires, He does.–Job 23:13 TLV

In chapter 28, Job declares that true wisdom, like gold and precious stones, is hidden in the depth far beyond the surface of things; and, by the same token, those who approach The Book of Job with logic and presumption, reasoning away the mysteries of the supernatural, have already missed the point.  Continue reading “Job & The Chariot of Fire”

James: A Commentary on The Book of Job

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THE BOOK OF JOB is a portal into an unseen war, a tribute to the glory of God in creation, and a testimony to the fact that people inevitably disappoint each other and great men are only men after all. With so much to unpack, it can be very confusing, and many scholars have written commentaries to help readers understand it. The Bible is its own best interpreter, however, and if you want to unlock the The Book of Job you need only read The Epistle of James.

That’s right–just flip ahead to the New Testament.

Oh, I know Job is only mentioned once in James’ letter, but every verse in The Epistle of James is relevant to The Book of Job.

Job’s life was a perfect model of the “pure and undefiled” religion that James wrote about, and when Job takes inventory of his life in chapters 29 and 31 of The Book of Job, it’s almost as if he is saying: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 NKJV).

James must have had Job in mind when he wrote that we all stumble in many things, we should be quick to hear and slow to speak, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God, mercy triumphs over judgement, and “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). He must have been thinking about Job and Job’s friends when he wrote about the destructive power of the tongue and warned against worldly wisdom, favoritism and pride.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…–James 3:5-6 NKJV

Continue reading “James: A Commentary on The Book of Job”

Dusting Off The Arab Hero of The Bible

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BEFORE MOSES DELIVERED the Ten Commandments to the tribes of Israel, before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and before Muhammad founded Islam, there was a mighty son of the East who lost everything and wanted to enter God’s court with boldness (“like a prince”).

Jews, Christians and Muslims honor him. Scholars are puzzled by him. Even in his own lifetime, he was a legend and a riddle. He was truly his brother’s keeper, and yet his name means “hated”–he suffered because he was hated, and then he was hated because he suffered. His name has become linked with persecution and perseverance, immortalized in what is possibly the oldest and most ironic book in the Bible (a book that is revolutionary, exotic, and often misunderstood). But while a crude and irreverent imitation like The Shack gains a cult following, his ancient story gathers dust…

Who is he? He’s Job, of course; and in the next several posts, I’m going to dust him off.

When and how did an Arab sheikh get written into the Hebrew scriptures? No one really knows. But Jews love a survivor, they love someone who wrestles with God, and so it was only natural for them to adopt him as one of their own.

What would Job say to us if he were alive today? He might have some choice words, like “Don’t shoot the wounded,” or “Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.” Or, on second thought, he might bite his tongue and not say anything at all. Continue reading “Dusting Off The Arab Hero of The Bible”

Every Year With Jesus Is A Good Year

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I HAVEN’T BEEN IN THE “ZONE” now for seven months! (gasp)

I have some free time now, and I’m energized and more like my normal self. Decluttering–not writing–is currently at the top of my agenda (I’ve been inspired by Becky’s blog about minimalist lifestyle, and I’m stoked to try some of her ideas in 2018). But I still have two pet projects that I’m determined to publish this year; and since my friends and family appreciate the personal touch, here’s a recap of 2017:

There were some growing pains. Old family “skeletons” came out of their closets. Idols toppled. There was a lot of pressure at home and at work, and many adversities that only God knows about.

My brain was tired, and my heart was tired.

I was tempted to shed faith and morality like a dress that doesn’t fit anymore. I had to re-evaluate my convictions and my relationships while getting involved (way over my head) in the family business; and I found out just how hard it can be to juggle business and personal life. I crept out of bed in the mornings like an old woman, feeling disoriented, depleted, stuck in a rut, missing my dreams and wanting them back (you know the feeling).

My little niece had a meltdown one day because nobody had time to play with her, and I picked her up and burst into tears like a real basket case, much to her surprise as well as mine.

But enough with the self-pity–I’m here to tell you that it was a good year! Continue reading “Every Year With Jesus Is A Good Year”

The Romance of The Cross

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. My photo.

STAY, MY RESTLESS HEART, my wandering feet. The way of escape is here. The place of newness and purpose is here too. Not in the next adventure, the next accomplishment, the next good deed, the next admirer.

Stay and look up, above the spectacles, the sensations, the vanity. There is a cross up there in the sunshine, strong and plain, beckoning you back to Contentment. Back to your First Love–the Christ who willingly went “like a lamb to the slaughter.” Back to the Christ who healed the pastor’s broken marriage and rescued him from the cartel.

How many kings and priests and prophets of ancient times longed to see what you see? You belong to someone, not something. You belong to a person, not a religious tradition or ideal. It is nothing less than the precious body that was broken like bread and the precious blood that was poured out like wine. “God With Us.” God for man and man for God. God and man, reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Stay, my restless heart, my wandering feet. Desire the one who desires you. Continue reading “The Romance of The Cross”

For Trae & Those He Left Behind

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YESTERDAY WE SHARED A MEAL and laughed with our brother. Today we are washing his blood out of our clothes and asking God to forgive his murderer, whoever and wherever he is. The sky, like a cold gray funeral sheet, is stretched out above the orchards where we all used to feel sheltered–above the peaceful orchards where once I wandered in search of solitude.

If we knew what was going to happen tomorrow, what would we do differently today?

The day before yesterday he wore a teeshirt that said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, until the day I die.” Yesterday he was getting ready to go on a trip, not knowing that he was about to take the ultimate trip. Yesterday we all spoke of love and war and the vast ocean of mystery that separates us from the distant, golden shore of eternity. Someone said, “I guess we won’t know until we get there.”

I guess he knows now, and I’m jealous. What does Jesus look like, Trae?

There are no goodbyes in God’s family…

See you at home, brother.

Morning

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C. AD 30

We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.–2nd Corinthians 1:9 NKJV

The eyelashes of morning fan across a blushing sky and Peter laughs with his friends over a catch of fish so bountiful that their net is too heavy to pull into the boat. The net is not as full as Peter’s heart, though—for death has become its own executioner, just as the Lord said, and there’s an empty tomb to prove it. Sorrow has turned into joy. Night has turned into day. But Peter, formerly so passionate, now doubts the warmth of his own affection. He still can’t hold his head up when he remembers what a miserable failure he was—how cowardly and blind and unfaithful. And is that a twinge of insecurity that he feels toward John, favored “baby brother” of the gang, who is (of course) the first to realize that the friendly stranger on shore is really The Resurrection and The Life? Peter, always impulsive, leaps into the water.

2009 

She’s like a little girl trapped in an old woman’s body, so fragile yet so strong, visibly shrinking while the cancer eats her alive (but pride and fear, she says, have robbed her more than cancer). Morphine takes the edge off. She still makes me laugh somehow. Her bed is her home and it has to be made perfectly. I sing as I work in the kitchen, to keep her company. Tears run down her face when I leave. She is curled up, facing the wall. I promise to return, but every step is agony. “I’ll see you later…” She flies away like a dove to her rest, under a big blue October sky. She doesn’t wait for me to come back. I sprinkle dirt on her coffin, thinking about what could have and should have been different. The wages of sin is death… the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law… the last enemy that will be destroyed is death… O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? I get up every day and thank God for my health, singing I Know You by Heart and Angel to myself. I know what the “sting” feels like now. It feels like separation and regret.

2016 

The sky is opal. Morning steals in through a window, gilding my bedroom, breathing on my face like wisps of silk. It feels as if there’s been a death in the family, although there hasn’t—only the death of a dream. I hear the faint rhythm of my own heartbeat. It feels as if I am dying too, and maybe I am. Oh Father, let me go back and do the last eighteen months of my life over!