Don’t be someone whom Satan overlooks

I’ve been reading Job. Something different struck me this time, as I read that first distressing chapter. Job lost everything: his children, his livestock, his wealth, his health and ultimately his hope. One person, however, remained: his wife.

I wondered about this. Why did Satan not afflict Job’s wife? When the children were killed, why did she survive? When Job was covered with oozing sores, why was she not?

There could not possibly be any grace on Satan’s part. He would not have decided to spare the one person about whom Job cared the most. Nor did God explicitly instruct that she be kept alive. He said at first that Job must remain unharmed, and later that his life must be spared, but it seems that Job’s wife was fair game.

Why did Satan leave her?

I don’t know for sure, but when I got to chapter 2, verse 10 I had a hunch. Job’s wife was likely the most precious and influential person in his life. Maybe Satan knew, that when push came to shove, she would say to him, as she did, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Imagine being that kind of wife. The kind whom Satan would leave untouched, with the knowledge that she was better use to him alive than dead. What a position of influence she had, and how devastating, that when a crisis came, she abandoned her faith and exhorted her husband to do the same.

Why would God destroy a city?

Sodom and Gomorrah are two famous historical cities known for their destruction. The account of their demise begins in Genesis 18, when the Lord says to Abraham, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me.”

I was reading this passage as a part of our church’s Genesis study, and this question was posed: ‘Why would God be so concerned about the reports coming from Sodom and Gomorrah?’ I was stumped at first. Sure I know that God hates sin, but evil is just a part of our world, right? Why did He feel the need to destroy them so dramatically?

As I pondered this I was suddenly reminded of something Jesus said: “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.”

Sin is not static. It spreads like a cancer, sometimes slowly, but surely. It seeps into a culture until it moulds minds and consciences and lulls people into deception, saying, “You can live as you like” and “There is no consequence.”

God’s destruction is always characterised by two things: justice for evil, and protection of that which is good. Just like a cancer in the body must be killed, in order for the body to be saved, so has God worked throughout history to restrain the spread of evil, so as to protect his people and offer salvation to all.

Do you want what’s good for you or not?

I took a sick day last week. It was a beautiful day outside, blue sky and sunny, with birds chortling, even though it was the first day of winter. I sat in bed with a stuffy nose and my cup of tea, and as I looked out the window I realised how full and whirring my mind had been over the last few days. What I really needed was to re-centre, to lay out several aspects of my life before God and work out what He wanted.

As I reflected on something in my life that I’d promised, only days earlier, to lay down before him, I found myself praying ‘Lord, you and I have been at cross-purposes on this one…’

Almost immediately, the thought hit me: If you and God are working at cross-purposes, then you’re working against yourself.

How is it that I consistently forget that God wants only good things for me; that His ways are perfect and that His burden is designed to be light, not heavy?

Only minutes before this thought, as I looked out into the bare branches of the tree outside my window, the song had come to mind, ‘be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.’

What a deep comfort this should be to me. How quickly I should hasten to line my will up with his knowing that he asks for no sacrifice or step of obedience that will not ultimately lead to my good.

The Western dream… no servitude

I was in year 12 when I first heard about ‘The American Dream.’ We were studying Of Mice and Men and my teacher was explaining George and Lennie’s pursuit of land to call their own as the ultimate American dream.

This goal has become the veritable ‘pot at the end of the rainbow’ for much of western society; to own a piece of land has become both the American and Australian dream. We may have masters at work, but at home we are slaves to no one. Even our political systems are built on the premise that the common man does not serve the leader, but the leader serves the common man.

As a result, one of the greatest challenges I face is that of servitude to God. No longer does my generation feel any real duty to ‘King and Country.’ In fact, if I’m honest, the concept of truly living my life in servitude to anyone seems foreign to me.

There are many who have laid down their lives for our liberty, and for that I am grateful, but I am afraid that it has created a dangerous illusion. I struggle to lay down my life in full servitude to God, because I have been falsely led to believe that my life is my own. Not only to I fail to see that I am a slave to sin or self, but I have lost all comprehension of the honour it is to serve a great master.

But I’ve been patient for a long time!

573785_35739861950403bcce628b84f7b54513_largeDoes anyone else have things that they’ve been praying about for a long time?

For ten years I prayed that God would heal me from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For even longer I’ve had a desire to get married. For a lifetime I’ve been praying for unsaved family members.

Sometimes God answers prayer quickly, but sometimes, as I found yet again the other day, the Still Small Voice says to me ‘Sarah, be patient and trust me.’

I must confess, I responded with an indignant lament: ‘But God, I’ve BEEN patient… for a really long time!’

It felt like a valid point. How could God still ask for patience when I had already waited so long. And therein I discovered my error. Patience and waiting are not the same thing. It was quite possible that I could have waited for something for ten years and yet never actually been patient.

I looked the word up:

Patient: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like.

It turns out that patience is an attribute that still needs great cultivation in my life.

It’s funny how God reminded me to be patient and trust. For the Christian, the two must go together. How can I bear hardship and delay with great fortitude and calm? Because I know that my God, who holds and ordains all things, can be trusted to bring me that which is good, in His perfect time.

The reason for the wind

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One of my Facebook friends recently posted, “I really hate the wind. And what obvious purpose does it even serve?!”

I don’t hate the wind, but for those who do, I can see it is a legitimate question. The fact is though, that wind serves a very important purpose for trees. While it may appear that the wind mostly batters trees, they actually need it. Experiments have been done that show that trees grown in controlled, wind-free environments are weak and underdeveloped. The wind forces trees to spread their roots deep into the ground, strengthening them and enabling them to draw out water and nutrients.

It’s such a great metaphor for human life. How often have I lamented the things that I hate in my life; the things that hurt or make me feel weak or battered? How often do I miss the fact that it is these very things, subject in themselves to the hand of the Almighty, that are causing me to grow deep and strengthen and mature?

It is not wrong to grieve over pain, but we must not feel overcome by it. It can be viewed as a beautiful, strengthening device.

I love these lyrics from David Crowder: “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”

There is beauty and mercy and love, even in pain. You are stronger than you think, and it’s probably the wind that got you there.

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Before the Throne… so many have been struck down.

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I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament, with the God I know. I’ve just read about this horrible string of events in Samuel:

  • Israel was defeated in battle
  • The Ark of the Lord was captured by the Philistines
  • Eli the priest and his two sons died.
  • The Philistine god Dagon was found bowing and broken before the Ark
  • They were tormented with tumours and ‘the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them.’
  • Cities were thrown into panic and they decided to send the Ark back.
  • On its return to Israel, seventy men were killed when they looked into the Ark.

Imagine the people’s fear as they said ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up to from here?’

I was meditating on this question as I turned my music on and was captivated by these words:

“Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me… I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

The fearsome God of Israel is no less the God of today, but while nations trembled and many died in his presence, we are invited into his very Throne room finding no condemnation, only grace.

The contrast is dramatic. How radically has Jesus Christ transformed the way we may relate to God!

What is ‘life?’

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The other day I was driving along and a large brown planetree leaf fluttered down from its branch at the exact moment that my car drove past. Its detachment from the tree punctuated the end of its life and its final voyage was disrupted by the whoosh of my car as it was swept upwards away from my windscreen, changing direction, finding another place to settle.

A lot of my weird, profound thoughts happen while driving. Driving under a falling leaf is nothing extraordinary, but for some reason, on this day, I was struck with a question about the nature of life.

The leaf was dead. It was once alive. I looked at a flourishing gum tree and wondered, ‘what is it that makes it alive?’ ‘What is life?’

Sure, we know how to distinguish death from life, animate from inanimate, but do we actually know anything about life?

I looked it up in a dictionary. Life is a condition, a distinguishing phenomena, a state.

I think that’s code for ‘we have no idea.’ We know a lot, but we don’t know that. We can create a lot, but we can’t create that.

For the Christian, it’s profound, but not so difficult to understand. Life is the unique, breathed out, creative power of God. He gives it, and he takes it away, and we just exist within it and watch.

 

 

 

 

Turn off your lights so you can see

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Do you ever wonder what a person from 200 years ago would think if you just plonked them down in the middle of one of our cities?

Sometimes as I’m driving along I’m struck by the absurdity of the world I live in – a world that would surely be incomprehensible to people only three or four generations before me.

The concrete jungles that fall like a perfectly normal backdrop for our existence have, in reality, only existed in the last 100 years.

As we march forward, proudly carrying the greatest of human progress, I wonder if we have failed to stop and look for what we can no longer see. We’ve replaced so much of what is natural for what is artificial and many of us have lost God in the process.

It does not astound me that atheism’s unprecedented growth has coincided with the industrial revolution. Humanity cannot find God in his creation because they are blinded by the glory of their own creation. As I drive through the city my vision is dominated by cars and roads and buildings and power lines and paths and lights and planes and clothes and shoes and fences and windows… and suddenly man is the creator.

If only we would turn off our fluorescent bulbs for a second, we might be able to see beyond ourselves; to see that before we had covered the earth with our creations, far superior creations existed, and they must have come from somewhere.

We all want the power

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There’s this great verse in Philippians 3 where Paul says “ I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” If you’re like me, your heart has a similar craving to Paul’s. Oh to truly know Christ in such a deep way that we daily experience the amazing power that flows through Him. A power that not only changes lives but that conquers death.

The idea of this kind of power is intoxicating, and, dare I say, very human.

See, Philippians 3:10 is a verse that, perhaps more than any other in Scripture, I like to leave incomplete. I like to pretend that that’s what it really says. Yes! I want to know Christ. Yes! I want to know the power of his resurrection. Stop.

But the verse doesn’t stop, and it is dangerous for us to pretend that it does. It continues: “…and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Wow. We all want the power, but let’s be honest, we don’t want it God’s way. God’s way says “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9). It is in sharing in the sufferings, yes, even in the death of Jesus that we can truly know the power that has been bought through His resurrection.

We must not despise the suffering that God allows in our lives, nor suppose that we can truly know Him or experience His power apart from it.