Seeing Beyond the Surface

Do you have the ability to see deeper than what’s in front of you?

What do you see in this picture?

photo

It’s a hunk of wood with some pretty rough edges, right?   I don’t think it could be called ‘pretty.’  It might be useful as firewood to provide a bit of warmth before being consumed.

I recently read the introduction by an interesting new book called “The Mud and the Masterpiece” by John Burke.   One of the core challenges of the book relates to how we look at ourselves and others.  

When we look at other people, we see the mud…the flaws…the sin…the rough edges…  We so often label, judge and dismiss people based on what we see.  Sometimes what we see isn’t accurate.  Sometimes it is.

in the book, Burke focuses on Jesus and how he saw people.  Those who were rejected by society – lots of mud and rough edges – felt welcomed and loved by Jesus.

Why?   

Probably several reasons, but one of them is that he could see beyond the mud and the dirt.  Because everything and everybody was created through him (John 1:3, Col 1:16), he knows what who we really are.

Jesus sees beyond the rough edges to the masterpiece that he created.  He doesn’t ignore the mud.  But he doesn’t value people based on it.

How do you look at other people?   Messed up.  Lost cause.  Thank God I’m not like him…

We need to have the vision to see beyond what’s on the surface.  

On the surface might be an ugly chunk of wood, but inside might be a purposeful and beautiful bowl.

This is that same chunk of wood.

 

 

photo 1

Who’s in the cubicle next to you or across the street might be east ti label, judge and dismiss as deficient.

Unless you have the eyes to see deeper. 

We live by faith and not by sight.

And our faith tells us that every single woman and man has been created in the image of God.   And that entails a lot of things, but all of them are good.

We might be rough and dirty, but that’s not who we really are.

Why Are We So Creative?

Did you ever wonder why humans are so creative?

Until recently, I can’t say that I really gave it much deep thought.  It’s something that we just take for granted.

People make things – art, music, furniture, houses, cars…

But why?

I suppose that some things can be explained as helping us get along better.  We need shelter and tools help build homes more efficiently.  

But what about the artistic component?  Even our practical tools we design with an asthetic component.

And then there’s art for its own sake.

And music.  Why do we make music?

From where I sit, our creative drive goes far beyond our survival.  

And then I remember this verse from way back at the beginning of the Bible.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

People have long asked what it means to be created in the image of God.  But what if at least part of the answer to both of our questions is found in the same place.  

If God created us in his image, it makes sense that we create.  

God creates and He made is in his image.

So we create.

But here’s the really cool angle.  We create because we were made to.  We have to.  It’s a part of who we are.

Everybody, regardless of what we believe about God.  

When you build, draw, paint, write, play music, knit, invent…you are doing one of the things that you were created to do.

Link

Sermon on the Conclusion of the Book of Job

Sermon on the Conclusion of the Book of Job

I’ve been doing some blogging on various thoughts from the Book of Job.  I will likely share some more as I continue to think through the implications of some of this material.

For anyone who’s interested, I finished my preaching series through Job.  This is my final sermon from the series.

If you click on the link at the top of the page, it will take you to where you can either download or listen to the message online.

Theological or Practical?

In my (admittedly limited) travels, the culture of a particular congregation often seems focused on either doctrine or practice.

In Bible studies or casual conversation, there’s either some doctrinal discussion (debate) going on or collective complaining about another church / teacher’s theology.  Often it involves somebody being sadly mistaken about the intimate details of eschatology.  Also at the top of the list are figuring out all of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism and why everyone else is so liberal.

Bring up any of these issues in the ‘practical’ church and you’ll probably get blank stares.  Huh?  These folks sometimes say, “As long as it doesn’t affect your salvation, it doesn’t matter.”  They are more interested in practical things.  Fellowship, service projects, events maybe.

Which direction does your congregation lean?

Both have real problems.

One stands up for the Truth.  The other exhibits grace and love.

One confronts sin.  The other lets it go as not to offend.

One argues for the most faithful translation of the Bible.  The other wonders why there are so many translations.

One’s favorite book of Romans.  The other prefers the Gospels.

____________________________________________

I’ve seen both sides.  There are good things that I miss when I’m hanging with the other.

But I long to see them come together – not only in Christ’s Church around the world, but in each congregation.

It’s that great grace / truth paradox.

Grace or Truth?

The scripture tells us that jesus was FULL of BOTH. (John 1:14).

There is much more to say, but it saddens me when congregations care more about debating points of doctrine than caring for the poor and meeting the real needs around them.  A lot more truth than grace.

On the flip side, it saddens me when Christians don’t care much about theology.  They don’t want go go deeper and think through and wrestle.

Why can’t we have both?

If we are truly followers of Jesus, we must.

You Only Serve God For the Benefits

Image

This is the great challenge posed early in the book of Job.

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  (Job 1:9-11)

In the story, God commends Job and the quote above is the response of the satan (the accuser / adversary – more on satan in another post).

Basically, he says (my loose paraphrase): “I’m not impressed.  The only reason Job follows you is because you make his life so easy.  He’s got lots of money, land, a big family and a great reputation.  That’s why he worships you.  But take it all away and he’ll surely tell you off.”

And this is one of the lingering tensions / questions throughout the story.  Once all of Job’s ‘possessions’ are taken away – money, family, reputation, health, will he curse God?

And in all of this, there is something we we ought to ask ourselves as Christians?

Why do we serve the Lord?

Sometimes we here preached or sharing about God’s blessings and provision if we follow Him and we hear very little about the cost.

For some Christians throughout church history and still today in parts of the world, declaring to follow Christ can cost you your life.

How’s that for a benefit?

We ought to love and serve the Lord because He is the creator and sustainer of the universe and the only One worthy of our worship.  

We ought to love and serve Jesus because He first loved us.  Because he gave his life for us that we might live in a restored relationship with God that starts now and goes on for eternity.  Yes, that is a tremendous and true benefit.

But don’t get into a relationship with Jesus thinking it’s going to make you happy, healthy and wealthy all the time.   It doesn’t always work that way.

Sometimes following Jesus makes life harder.  But it’s always better.

Why do you serve the Lord?

God Is Against Me!

Sometimes our experiences and our existing beliefs can lead us to believe things that are not true.

“Everything in my life is going wrong. Why does God hate me?”

We often operate under the idea that good things happen to good people.  And if something is going terribly wrong, it must be because either we’ve messed up…

Or, God isn’t there.  Or doesn’t care.  Or, at worst, is purposely making my life difficult.  

Of all the things that Job lost, I believe that it was his relationship with the Lord that hurt the most.  Although he (like all of us) wasn’t perfect, we are told in the Bible that Job did seek to live a life that pleased the Lord.

“This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”  Job 1:1

But having gone through his experiences, combined with his theology, he believed that God had turned against him, although he couldn’t understand why.

“Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” 13:24

“God assails me and tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me” 16:9

“All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me.  He has made me his target.”  16:12

And there are more and more verses like that I could quote.

Job worked backward from his experience and his assumptions about God, and made a conclusion.

God must be against me – although I don’t know why.

Have you every thought or felt from your experience that God was against you?

The irony here is that Job is absolutely wrong.

The truth is – although he is not aware of it – God is totally for him!

“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.” 1:8

In the context of the story, God actually gives Job His highest approval.  There is nobody like him.  He is the most God fearing guy there is!

And there once again lies the irony.  Job is confident that one thing is true.  In reality, it’s the complete opposite.  

Friends, we need to know that God is not against us.  Yes, it is true that God is not going to bless our sin and rebellion and there is plenty of those things to go around.

But His desire is for us to know and walk with Him.  For us to know that He loves us. 

Jesus Christ proves that God loves us and is for us.  The most famous verse in the world – John 3:16 shows us that.

The New Testament makes it clear that we will go through hard times.  Yes, we should always (in good times and bad) be considering our lives and attitudes.  We should be confessing our sins and shortcomings.   We should consider whether some situations in our lives might be discipline to restore us back to where we should be.

But God is not against us.  In the midst of the greatest challenges of our lives, it’s easy to let our feelings dictate our theology.  But they must not.

Allow God’s Word to shape how we understand Him, not our experiences.

Romans 8 – 

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Be Careful Quoting Job

Normally Christians look to the Bible to help us understand God and God’s ways.  We study the Scriptures to learn good theology.

Throughout the book, Job and his friends say many things that sound pious and God honoring, and surely some of them are true. 

But , we need to be very careful when quoting from the book of Job.  Why?

That pesky thing called context.  We love to take out verses and put them on mugs and t-shirts and our facebook ‘wall.’    Context is important for understand every book in the Bible, but for the book of Job, understanding the context of the entire book is absolutely vital.

Why?

Because of the end of the book.  When we finally hear from God, we understand how He feels about what has been said before.   

First, He speaks to Job:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with works without knowledge?” (38:2)

Job has been struggling and questioning throughout the dialogues of the book, but is still commended by the Lord in the end. (42:7 – more on that in a later post)

But his ‘friends’ – not so much.  

“After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right…” (42:7)

Did you catch that?   God says that the friends have not spoken what is right about God.   Bad theology.

WHen you see a quote from the book of Job, look up the reference.  Is it from one of the three ‘friends?’   

Be careful quoting from this book of Job.  Be careful reading the book of Job.  The context of the whole book is absolutely essential to interpreting it.