Bruised, Blind-folded, Buffeted

Confused, bewildered, and condemned

Was how the man did feel,

Tossed, torn, badgered and buffeted

A fish hooked on a reel

 

Pulled here and there with various

Demands upon his time

Just like a puppet on a string,

Chastised for no mean crime.

 

Each string pulls on an unhealed hurt

Lodged deep inside his past.

To shake the shame off, he lets loose

A violent verbal blast.

 

“I wasn’t wrong!” he argues.

“I was right to act that way!”

“Stop telling me what I must do.

You can’t make me obey!”

.

And yet he can’t escape the fear

Still tugging on his mind.

It keeps him bound as he seeks out

A safe place to unwind.

 

Then shouts a higher voice,

“Oh, you who know not what you do,

Behold my thorn-stained brow.

I came from heaven to die for you.

 

“I let myself be blindfolded and

Treated shamefully.

The blood flowed as they plucked my beard

Men hit and spat at me.”

 

“Confusion mocked my pain

As men who changed truth for a lie

Heaped insults on my head

And ordered me to prophecy.

 

“And as I hung upon that cross,

Engulfed in misery,

I felt abandoned and alone.

God had forsaken me.

 

“But though it didn’t make much sense,

That’s how it had to be.

Your heartache I took on myself,

That you might be set free.

 

“It isn’t yours to carry,

For I’ve risen from the dead.

Recall that you’re my body

And that I, Christ, am your head.

 

“So, cast your sorrows onto me,

Along with every strife,

And I’ll give you the joy

That springs up to eternal life.”

 

 

 

 

 

Mercy, Not Sacrifice Part II: A Good Report

God could have told the devil, “Job is way too proud for me.

His self-reliance doth defy my law of liberty.

His armpits drip with fear. His brow reeks with uncertainty.

It’s utter foolishness. Why don’t you humble him for me?”

 

But God, who’s rich in mercy, didn’t take that tack at all.

His heart was not to set the innocent up for a fall.

His goal, it seems, was to reveal the gospel to this man,

For the One who suffers with us all had formed a mighty plan.

 

It wasn’t something Job could understand inside his head,

Or wrap his mind around. He must experience it instead:

Not from a savior’s point of view, but from a sinner’s seat.

He must sit in the pit of misery and feel the heat.

 

Until you’ve truly suffered, it is hard to understand

The Father’s fervent love for you, the mercy he has planned.

For pain that has no purpose lacks the mighty healing touch

That flows from stripes laid on the back of Him who cares so much!

 

Was Job a sinner like the rest of us? Well, in the midst of Job’s suffering, after Satan has afflicted him, he asks God, “How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?… For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.” (Job 13:23-26)

The reference to iniquities in his youth show that Job was not perfect in the sense of being sinless. However, exposing those sins is not the purpose of the Job book, for when you read the beginning, you see no mention of God punishing him for those sins. Like every man, Job had his flaws, but when God spoke to Satan about Job, He left the past in the past and focused on Job’s good points.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8 KJV)

Job was a man like no other, and God had blessed him in his work. Throughout the land there was no equal when it came to fearing God and eschewing evil (to eschew evil = tell evil to “shoo!”)

God spoke glowingly to Satan of Job’s perfect behavior, just as He spoke well of His creation in the book of Genesis. He called everything He made “very good,” not “very bad.” Even after the first people sinned, he didn’t call them bad names. Instead, He provided the promise of a Savior, the “seed of the woman” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15)

Do you feel guilty over something you’ve done? Do sins of the past continue to haunt you? If so, what do you imagine God would say? Would He yell at you to stop messing up and order you to get your act together?

Note that God did not accuse Job before Satan. Satan was the one who accused Job before God. “If you take away his blessings, he’ll curse you to your face.”

For the purpose of proving Satan wrong, God allowed him to afflict Job – not once, but twice. Job lost his business and his family in one day. It was all wiped out. His business was attacked by Sabeans and Chaldeans. All his animals were killed and so were all his employees.

In fact, before every test Job endures, God is quick to point out what Job has done right.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without a cause.” (Job 2:3)

Although it may seem as if God was, in fact, punishing Job, the purpose of the test is clearly not to find fault with Job but to prove the glory of God’s good name. For the sufferings of Job are nothing compared to the sufferings of Christ, yet in the book of Job we find some small picture of those sufferings, and (at the end) a spiritual resurrection from the dead.

 

Mercy, Not Sacrifice (based loosely on the first chapter of the book of Job)

“I sacrifice, I sacrifice,” the righteous man did say.

“Long hours I toil to satisfy my darling’s needs each day.

This job consumes my life, dear, but I do it all for you,

From Monday up through Saturday, and now on Sundays too.

For me there is no Sabbath rest. I’m married to my work.

It has me in an iron grip. My work I dare not shirk.

You say you want my time, but I do not have it to give.

You see how hard I slave so that my family might live.”

 

And so, the man with fervor climbed his ladder of success,

Although the burden on his shoulders caused him much distress,

For when it came to serving God, he feared his kids might fail,

And that he never would reap any fruit from his travail.

He saw the way they partied. Had they cursed God in their hearts?

Then he must work to save them all from Satan’s fiery darts!

The best of his own toil and sweat this righteous man did pour

Into a fragrant offering that God could not ignore.

 

The best of all he had he sacrificed continually

That God’s forgiveness might rain down on them and set them free.

The man was truly duty-bound. He had no other choice.

Yet his own fleshly toil gave him no reason to rejoice.

For no blood of an animal could satisfy God’s law,

Because such sacrifices are not totally without flaw.

Nor can the righteousness of man atone for sinful pride.

It’s just like fig leaves, leaving him with no true place to hide.

 

Man’s best attempt at righteousness is like a filthy rag,

According to Isaiah. There ‘s no gold inside that bag.

How then can wasted time and talents ever be redeemed?

Not even he whose name was Job could come up with a scheme!

If even he, the man most upright, didn’t have the “stuff,”

Then how could anybody else attempt to do enough?

The truth is, God had His own plan which Job could not yet see,

Until one day he caught God’s notice unexpectedly.

 

Scriptures

Isaiah 64:6   Romans 3:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free the Doves

Symbols of purity, flashes of grace,

Whispers of gentleness, sweet freedom chase

The dove spells good tidings, but when it is caged

No souls are delivered. God’s Word finds no place

In men’s hardened hearts, for they can’t find their way.

False messenger pigeons have led them astray.

Free the doves,

Let them loose,

Let God’s Spirit prevail.

Do not clip a wing

And do not snip a tail,

But open the cage,

Let them fly where they may.

Don’t hinder their progress

But heed what they say.

 

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. Matthew 21:12

What Does Paul’s Thorn Teach Us?

I personally don’t believe Paul’s flesh thorn was a sickness, but supposing – just supposing, that it was, what can we learn from it?

First off, if you read the account in II Corinthians 12:7-10, you will see that this flesh thorn was not of God. For according to Lamentations 3:33, He does not willingly afflict the children of men. The flesh thorn was a messenger of Satan, Paul tells us. Satan’s messages are evil, which is why Paul did not willingly embrace that message. Like any smart believer, he knew that sickness was a form of death, which entered the world through Adam. That’s because Adam accepted Satan’s message that if he ate the forbidden fruit he would be like a god.

So, if Paul’s flesh thorn was an illness – again, I say, “if” – we know that it was not of God. It was Paul’s flesh, prone to the sin of pride, that opened the door. Sin is what opens the door to sickness, for “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,” as Paul tells us in Romans 3:23. Sin is what separates man from God and from His kingdom, which as Paul himself tells us in Romans 14:17, is all about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

In Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20, Jesus said, “If, by the finger of God, I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” He taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In Acts 10:38 Peter tells us that Jesus went about doing good and healing ALL who were oppressed by the devil. What does that tell us about sickness? It is the work of the devil, also called Satan. Many times in the gospels we read where Jesus healed people by casting out devils. He never once told anyone to just accept the sickness. Despite their sin, he healed them, so that they would believe in Him and be saved from their sin.

All we have to be healed and to be saved is to humble ourselves, for as it says in James 4:6 as well as in numerous other scriptures, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

So then, if – and I do say if – Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a sickness – know that God’s grace is sufficient to heal you. Pride is the only thing that will stand in your way. Are you too proud to receive from Him? You might not think so, but what does God say about it?

 

 

 

Sick or Simply “Suffering for Christ”?

In my travels throughout the Christian world and throughout cyberspace I have discovered some disturbing philosophies concerning true Christianity and what it means to suffer for the Lord. It is the idea that physical disease and handicaps are part of Christ’s sufferings in which His followers are called to participate. But what does the Bible say about suffering?

The Old Testament book of Job is frequently mentioned when it comes to the idea of physical pain and suffering. If you read the first two chapters very carefully, it is evident that while God allowed Job to suffer, it was Satan who afflicted him with sickness, and it was a works-based mentality based on fear that opened the door. In the first chapter, we see that Job was worried about his children, so he sacrificed for them continually, thinking “What if they cursed God in their hearts?”

Does such thinking fall under the category of “serving God,” or did Job have a problem with his thought life?

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) The vast majority of us have physical eyes with which to see, but I believe the eye can also refer to the imagination.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

What does it mean to be pure in heart? Well, what do you imagine God to be like?

Job was worried about his children. Was he trusting God with them? What kind of God did he think he was serving?

“Lord, I knew thee, that thou art a hard man,” the servant told his Master in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:24). If this is our attitude toward God, then we will live in fear, not faith. Now, if you want to call that “suffering,” then fine. But is it really suffering for the Lord? In the talent parable, the servant feared his master, but not in a good way. Instead of using his talent for good, he hid it. Did the Master reward him? No. He took the talent from him and gave it to the ones who used their talents. They were men of faith, not fear.

Were they better than Job? No. According to Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

If Job could have been justified by works, then it seems he would have been.

“Hast thou considered my servant Job?” God asked Satan. “… there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Job 1:8

If anyone could have made it to heaven by their works, it probably would have been Job. But if he fell under the category of “all have sinned,” then he obviously had some deeper heart issues that disqualified him.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Christians are immune to suffering. While sickness can help us understand what suffering is like, I wouldn’t call it “suffering for the Lord.” I believe sickness is part of the curse that causes death and which came upon man as a result of the fall. Sin, whether outward or inward, is what invites Satan to attack us.

But by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)