Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bolt, Job, Satan and Jesus

9.58! Wow! Smashing his world record and leaving Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in his wake.
Usain Bolt is just" something special". After that fabulous performance, which was transmitted all over the world in seconds, and an emotional high, I left home for a Taize service at church.
A contemplative service where, verses of hymn, in this case, in both Latin and English, are sung repeatedly, as we seek the Lord's presence in thanksgiving, confession and intersession. It was my first visit, and is a new feature in the church.
And as I joined with ( many ) others listening to God in the quietness and in the darkness, candles were provided, I pondered our dependence on, if not addiction to, communicating with each other, versus communication with God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and all mankind. Between ordinary cell phones talking and texting, Blackberries, FaceBook, Twitter, Linkedln et al, we are constantly communication with each other. Between, Tiger Woods in Golf, the Williams sisters in tennis, Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in soccer, Bolt VC and "safa", in Track and field, HDTV, " So you think you can dance", all the reality shows, Rising Stars in Jamaica and USA, we are constantly being entertained.
To what end, if we are neglecting, to listen to God, who :
" ...from heaven looks down and sees all mankind....who forms the hearts of all and considers everything that they do. Ps 34:13-15.
All of this communication with things of the natural order whilst around us supernatural things are taking place about which we have no idea, but which have profound consequences for us all.
I was led to ponder these things as this week, in His Complete Works, Oswald Chambers reflects on the book of Job and the conversation between God and Satan under a heading entitled:
The Unseen Universe.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, " Where have you come from?"
Satan answered the Lord, " From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it"
Then the Lord said to Satan, " Have you considered my servant Job? there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil".
" Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything that he has? You have blessed the works of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face".
The Lord said to Satan, " Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger".
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Wow! What a conversation, especially in view of the fact that Job is about to lose, not only his livestock, but his children also. And as the story unfolds, he loses his health also. All sorts of
" Why did the Lord", questions arise here, which none of us can even begin to answer.
Three thoughts arise in my mind. One is that if this kind of tragedy can happen to Job, a righteous, man under the protection of God, who is there to help those who do not depend on the
" Everlasting Arms" of the Almighty. The second is that little wonder that we are warned in Scripture to:
" Be self- controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". 1 Peter 5:8 NIV
And even the Epistle for today in our church sounds the same alarm.
" Be very careful then how you live - not as unwise, but as wise, making use of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music to in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The final thought arises from another conversation between Paul and those to whom he was writing in the book of Romans.
We pick up the story in chap 9: 10
Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad - in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls - she was told, " The older one shall serve the younger". Just as it is written: " Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
What shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

" I will have mercy n whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire of effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: " I raised you up for this very purpose......that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth, Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy........One of you will say to me. the why does God still blame us? For who can resist his will. But who are you O man to talk back to God".
The context is different, and ought not to be applied to the Job story, but the basic fact is that all around us supernatural things are taking place, completely unrelated to man's effort and way beyond our ability to comprehend, but rather dependent on God's mercy. Later on in chap 11, vs 32, the profound revelation is made that:
"For God has bound over all men to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them". Which is followed immediately by a great doxology:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and
knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or ho has been his counsellor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all
To him be glory forever."

That is why, we as Christians, ought to, thank God, daily, minutely, for Jesus, for the Word of Gos states that:
" Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy place by the blood of Jesus....let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.... Hebrews 10:19-22
and further:
" For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way just as we are - but was without sin. let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

So because the times are evil, and because these supernatural and eternal events are taking place around us we had better be careful how we live as wise - and not as unwise.
The wise thing to do is to be continuously in contact with God in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by the indwelling and direction of the Holy Spirit. The wise thing to do is to be constantly praying for mercy: " Have mercy on me a sinner".
So yes, let us celebrate the achievements of our athletes, let us enjoy and identify with the exploits of our other sporting heroes. Let us maintain and build on and learn from our communication with other human beings in this natural order. But let us be very aware of the greater need to be in constant communication with Him, Jesus Christ, the Crucified, Risen and soon coming Saviour, who alone can rescue us from sin and death and the wiles and wickedness of Satan.
Finally then if Christ is central to the life of both the Christian and the non-christian, even though they don't accept that fact, and Job had a glimpse of Christ when he declared " I know that my redeemer liveth", what should our response be to this great love of God, as manifested on the cross of Calvary:
The Lord provided a word from Chris Tiegen this week.


" If you love me, you will obey what I command".
John 14:15

IN WORD We fool ourselves if we think that our love for God and our obedience to Him are separate issues. They are two sides of the same coin. Observe how often in this passage love and obedience are linked: " If you love me, you will obey what I command". (v.15). " Whoever has my my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me" (v.21). " If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" (v.24). And later in the chapter. " The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me" (v. 31).
The belief that love and obedience are not related is epidemic among Christians. Would we say in our human relationships, " I love my wife/husband but ignore most of what he/she says to me"? The incongruity is clear in such a context. Why is it s muddled in our relationship with God?
We have become so paranoid of having a theology of " righteousness = works", that we have ignored obedience altogether, as though it did not matter to God. Jesus is clear that it does. Obedience is not our means to righteousness; it is the clearest expression of our devotion to Jesus. it is meaningful worship. When we are disobedient, we are saying that God's word does not matter to us. That isn't love.

IN DEED As Christians, we need to recover a desire for obedience as an expression of our love for our Saviour. if we truly love Him, as we say we do, what he says will matter to us profoundly. We will not follow the acceptable parts of His teachings and ignore the objectionable parts. We will not approach our relationship with Him as though we are trying to get by with the bare minimum behavioral change. We will devour His teachings, turning them over in our hearts, meditating on their applications, and living them as clearly as we can. This according to Jesus, is what loving Him is all about. This is genuine worship.

In this context than what is the Lord saying to us. Let us get our priorities right! We do not have to go as far as my very good Adventists friends, who said that they would not be watching any of the World Games in Berlin on the Sabbath. But certainly there is a message here about the time we spend being entertained on our day of worship. And there will always be something to watch on a Sunday or Sabbath. Certainly there is message here about the time we spend being entertained all week. Certainly there is a message here about the need to be quiet and to listen to God, rather than this constant " chattering" on the cell, and on the Internet. Why? Not just because the times are evil, as they are indeed. But more importantly, because we are all in constant need of grace and mercy, and so Jesus needs to be the focus in our lives, despite all the excitement going on around in this natural realm. Amen