The Mere Edges of His Ways

We think we can know God. And we can, because God has revealed himself through the world he created, through the book he wrote, and through the Son he sent.

Even then, you have to wonder how much of God we really know. Certainly we know enough to understand what it takes to have a relationship with him now and forever. But if God really is who the Bible says he is, then we really know very little of him. At best we know “the mere edges of his ways.”

That’s the profound conclusion Job comes to in the ancient book that bears his name. After hearing his friends prattle on, offering advice in the wake of Job’s misery, the afflicted one reflects on the power and majesty of God in relationship to his creation. From the book of Job, chapter 26, here are some beautiful descriptions, not of some mythic god, but of the all-powerful, all-wise, eternal, immortal God of the universe:

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Don't Just Hear...See!

Job:  “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).

Here was the most righteous man of his day, steadfastly withstanding the condemnation of his three close and misguided friends.  These friends came to Job in his misery and waited with him in silence for seven days.  Then they began their escalating (in directness) and diminishing (in effectiveness) arguments against Job, trying to show him that wickedness produces suffering.  And Job was right to fight this argument by maintaining His innocence.  God was not bringing suffering on Job because of his wickedness.

But then Elihu came to Job, and he spoke of God’s purpose in suffering, to bring sinners to repentance.  “If they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions…he opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity” (Job 36:8-10).  And Job realized that, despite his righteousness, he was still a sinner before a holy God.

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I Just Lost My Job, And God Is Good

My wife is 8 months pregnant, we are halfway through building our first home, and I just lost my job. The news came suddenly last Thursday evening.  A short phone call with a senior partner in our firm, and quick call with HR on Friday, and I was done.  My salary, our health coverage, and a core part of my identity slipped away with the passing of the seconds from Friday to Saturday.

Having reflected on this turn of events for a few days, I am now convinced even more that God is good.  Blessing and loss exist for the glory of God, but sometimes, trials bear the greatest means for remembering the time-tested, rock-solid promises of God.  In the midst of loss, here is what I remember about my God and His word:

1.  Work is a gift from God.  God is the giver of great gifts, and one of the first gifts He gave to man was work (Genesis 2:15).  Losing a job can turn a “have to” into a “get to” in a moment, and nothing reminds us of the value of something until it is gone.
2.  His promises are true.  God commends the ant for storing up provisions in the summer (Proverbs 6:6-8).  When we follow His word, as our family has done, then we find we are not lacking during this time of winter.  God’s provision may come when there are no stores, but it may also come as the fruit of obedience.  Both are means of grace.
3.  He brings rain on the just and the unjust.  The sun and the rain rise and fall on the good and the evil (Matthew 5:45).  God extends His common grace as a gift to all His creation, so my sense of entitlement about the prosperity and stature of my work is shown to be a liar.  We are gifted and placed by the Lord for work that will bring His glory, not bring us comfort and pride.
4.  He tells us this life is a vapor.  Careers are built brick by brick.  We invest hours, and sweat, and passion, and we do well when we build them to the glory of God.  But careers are like family, and prosperity, and suffering, and fame, and success—they are all but vapors (James 4:14).  We grasp at mist when we hold too tight to anything but the firm reality of Christ.
5.  He gives and He takes away, but blessed be His name.  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return,” says Job (Job 1:21).  The covers of life that bookend our work and our passions and our pursuits have one central theme—whatever happens, whether success or failure, whether blessing or loss, comes from the hand of God, for our good, and His name is worthy to be praised.
6.  Trials heat the furnaces of our joy.  We can only “count it all joy when [we] face various trials” (James 1:2) if we value joy in God more than joy in this world.  Losing a job may be a trial, but it is also an occasion for joy because of the lasting value of what is produced in us.
7.  The testing of our faith produces endurance.  Is endurance better than a salary?  Only if we desire to “lack in nothing” (James 1:4).  Faith steps out of the stands and onto the track during times of trial, and the labor of testing produces a steadfastness that works and stretches and grows up into the powerful gait of perfection.
8.  His power is made perfect in weakness.  The shame felt in losing a job can cripple and weaken the soul.  But Christ’s power is made perfect in this kind of soul, testifying to the sufficiency of His grace.  Wherever there is loss, there also stands grace, and in this grace lies the power to boast in weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us (2 Corinthians 12:9).
9.  He abundantly supplies our every need.  God provides, not my employer or my own strength.  God feeds my family, not my employer or my own strength.  God prepares our home, not my employer of my own strength.  In Christ are infinite riches in glory, and from them, God will meet our every need (Philippians 4:19).
10.  Contentment is better than cash.  We do well to be brought low, and to abound, to face plenty, and to face hunger, to live in abundance, or to live in need.  For all of these provide a training ground in which we learn to be content, so that we might know the power of Christ through who we can do all things (Philippians 4:11-13).
11.  Loss of a job is the battlefield for an anxious heart.  “Do not be anxious,” Jesus tells us, because “life is more than food and clothing” (Matthew 6:25).  Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is a fight of faith—believing God that He knows that we need these things, and that He will add them unto us, as we pursue Him above all else.
12.  Everything is to be counted as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus.  The “surpassing worth of knowing Jesus” makes the greatest career to be rubbish (Philippians 3:8).  When God strips things from our lives, we find out what we have left, and having Jesus, and knowing Him, is worth suffering loss of any kind.
13.  The cross is weightier still.  Our work, our families, and our ministries are the fields of our lives in which we toil.  And they are good, as gifts from God, to be used to further His kingdom and bring renown to His name.  But even our greatest work doesn’t tip the scale of significance when compared to the work of Christ on the cross.  Our labor reminds us of His labor; our loss reminds us of His loss, for our gain. 

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With a Heavy Heart

Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. - Psalm 126:4-6

Today is one of those mornings that I don't want to get out of bed. The pressures of the world and the burdens for my friends is almost unbearable. Part of that is realizing that I need alone time. The other part is hearing the cries of my friends and not able to do anything about it. 

Makes me feel helpless. 

I had a conference call with most of the members of my Throw Mountains team yesterday. We're being attacked. We need prayer. And, we're not the only ones.

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Review: A Serious Man

I didn’t think the Coen brothers could top No Country For Old Men, their Oscar-winning masterpiece (which I wrote about here). But A Serious Man comes awfully close. This is a film unlike anything the Coens have ever done, and yet it fits perfectly into their oeuvre. It’s a film about God, man, and the peculiar way that the two relate. And it’s a film that will haunt and provoke you far after you leave the theater.

Stylistically, Man is further proof that the Coens are among the most masterful directors working in Hollywood today. Few other filmmakers are as skillful at the art of employing editing in the service of suggestion and insinuation. As in No Country, the Coens let much go unsaid in Man… and yet so much is implied. So much is clearly hinted at. The Coens’ impressive restraint and pervasive ambiguity only adds to the provocative, head-scratching, deeply unsettling quality of this film.

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Post (College) Graduation

There is a movie out that I think hits some of the core issues college grads are faced with today: Searching for work, searching for love, and searching for self. Those are the words the trailer of "Post Grad" uses to describe the journey.  I'd say that's pretty much dead on. And then add to that the feelings of the potential of having to move back in with family.  I plan on watching this movie.  I doubt it's a great movie (at least not my kind of movie), but I do think it hits some of the core issues faced today.  Mainly, crushed dreams.  I recently wrote an article about this called, "Bachelor Degree: Passport to Privilege?"  You can find that here

Here's an E! New Exclusive about it (notice what Alexis Bledel says in her commentary). Below that exclusive is the official trailer. Unfortunately I think "Hollywood" is seeing the pressures of college-age life and addressing it before the Church does. And even though it's in theatrical form, they have made a movie that's going to relate to and address every day life better than the Church does. It bums me out.

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Success: Love is the Key

Have you ever met a single adult who aspired to become a failure? No, everyone wants to succeed. But what is success? Ask a dozen people and you may get a dozen answers.

I once heard that when the late billionaire J. Paul Getty was asked that question, he responded, “Rise early, work late, and strike oil!” Perhaps that formula worked for Getty, but it is not likely to work for you. A friend of mine shared this definition: “Success is making the most of who you are with what you’ve got.” I like that.

Every person has the potential to make a positive impact on the world. Success is not measured by the amount of money you possess or the position you attain but rather in what you do with what you’ve got. Position and money can be squandered or abused, but they can also be used to help others.

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