JOB 9 – 10 – SELECTIVE PERCEPTION

SUFFERING LOSS

Selective Perception - Three or Four © Ross Cochrane

Selective Perception – Three or Four © Ross Cochrane

A successful, well-respected businessman, an involved father and husband, he doesn’t expect his world turned upside down by the sudden loss of his children. He doesn’t expect the disasters and the grief that follows to crush dreams and hopes with such choking intensity.

Numbed with the dysfunction of sorrow, unable to fathom his loss, he is still reeling when the “takeover bid” of a corrupt foreign company leaves him in economic ruin. A fire destroys what little he has left.

When tests indicate he is dying of cancer he is disturbingly detached for a time, but already the ulcerated lesions have begun to form all over his body and the pain is unbearable (Job 1-2).

LABELS AND FILTERS

Friends from his business come to visit. They are horrified by his suffering but assume his suffering is the result of some bad lifestyle choices (Job 3). There is little to no compassion in their words.

Although he is blameless in his business and personal life, his friends begin to question his integrity. This kangaroo court of three, convened of would-be lawyers, judges and theologians, direct blame, innuendo and accusations against him.

Refusing to be convinced otherwise, they urge him to confess to his “criminal” activity. Their focus is filtered through sullied lenses, and Job is labelled as guilty. Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Once you label me you negate me.”

With an overwhelming urge to clear his name and set the record straight, he submits sworn statements denying the accusations with great specificity, but to no avail. He is struggling to prove his innocence. This hardly seems fair.

Throughout his ordeals, Job refuses to allow false accusations to define him. Accusation is not proof, and reasoning with those who have made up their minds and assumed his guilt becomes a circular conversation.

SELECTIVE HEARING AND VISION.

Wearing theological glasses, his friends selectively filter out all insight that falls outside the range of their fixed thinking and accept only the wavelengths of their particular persuasions, the colours of their judgements. The remaining colours of truth and grace are blocked.

With their polarized sunglasses, the truth is modified with subtle changes that affect what they see. The bright colours of Job’s character are rendered as very dark.

DECLARATIONS

Today I refuse to fit the filters of accusation or to see through the lens of judgment and blame. I refuse to project my own biases through the filters of false assumptions and religious legalism. I will not block out the colours of compassion, understanding and love or filter out truth with the monocle of deception.

Taking off the sunglasses of my biases places me in the uncomfortably bright light of loving others and sensitively caring for them. That’s a challenge at first until the eyes of my heart adjust to see others as God sees them. There may be tears.

Without filters I see the light, the laughter, the warmth of restored trust dispelling the dark places of impossible circumstances. At the Cross the filters of a defeated attitude are broken and I can choose to look for life-changing victory over hopelessness.

The invitation of Job 9 is to take off the lens of your bias and you will come to those like Job with love and bring compassion. Come with Words of life and you will encourage faith. Come with prayerfulness and you will usher in peace and hope. Come with the Lord Jesus Christ and you bring truth, direction and life. See others through the eyes of the Cross and you will see past their sin to their redemptive potential, and to what God has intended for them all along, in Christ.

Pastor Ross

GOD’S PHOTO BOOK OF ENID FLORENCE SHEDDEN

IMG_1472Julie produces a photo book every year. She writes so beautifully about the journey of our family and as the year is captured through her eyes and words I always see and read of the intertwining stories of the generations. Perhaps it is most obvious when Julie visits her Mum with our grandchildren in the Donald Coburn centre, an aged care facility in Sydney.

I have read some well-crafted fragments beautifully woven together from the fabric of our lives in her books, and now our grief will also be shepherded gently into the pages. Enid, my mother-in-law, Julie’s Mum, our children’s Nan and grandchildren’s great nan went home to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, peacefully slipping away in her sleep.

She valued the book Julie made about her husband Colin. She loved looking at his face on the cover and the treasury of photos within became a source of reminiscing of days gone by.

Enid and Colin’s love story, in fact, was like a beautifully crafted novel, but for us it now seems like the last page has been turned, and although we worked out what would happen, the ending still took us by surprise. Perhaps that’s because the story is not quite complete. The Author expects us to capture the moments and write the end of the story.

This week has been trying to find a fitting way to fill the empty pages, and so we, by way of a eulogy and what we share in conversations, create some kind of conclusion to a story that encapsulates Enid’s life in the words we say and the memories we have of her.

IMG_3224For me what is written in my memory is a woman who didn’t like me much when she first met me. My hair was too long and I was too quiet. Still, almost imperceptively, I remember times in the little country town of Tumut, there in her kitchen, opening up to her as she cooked.

Mostly we talked about the Bible, faith and family. She loved Colin so much and I have never seen a couple more in love with each other or more dedicated to their relationship with Christ.

Her faith in Christ was genuine and she had an assurance that she would one day be with the Lord in heaven – “absent from the body, present with the Lord”.

I had never known that such a family existed and wanted to know more. She came to love me as her favourite son-in-law. I know it’s written differently in the memory of the other son-in-laws, but that’s how I felt. Loved. I value that gift.

GOD WRITES A DIARY

God also writes. He has an ongoing diary, especially of our grief. He sees more significance in our sorrow than we do, perhaps because our attention is drawn to eternity.

Psalm 56:7-9 says “You Lord, keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have RECORDED EACH ONE IN YOUR BOOK.”

I was thinking of the way God writes last night, about how God has written a generational diary called the BOOK OF TRUTH, the Bible, and the BOOK OF LIFE where the names of those who believe in Christ as their Saviour are written.

His Book of Truth made such a difference in Enid and Colin’s life and it inspired them to make an investment in the lives of many people. I remember the string of missionaries they supported and the way they were always willing to help us on our journey in life.

Psalm 139:13 speaks of yet another book, a DIARY. It says that “You (God) saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was RECORDED IN YOUR BOOK. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Our life before God really is an open book.

LOVE STORY

IMG_9576When God wrote Enid’s life, perhaps it was an historic novel, a long book to depict the 87 years of a full and fruitful life. Many chapters.

Somehow I think God had a love story in mind, a romance novel, love for Colin, love for her children and their spouses, love for her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, but undergirding all that was her love for Christ.

The Holy Spirit wrote into Mum’s marriage words such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit characterised their life together. It is expressed best by the words of the verse Julie chose to characterise her Mum. She had “… the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV).

THE DEDICATION PAGE

IMG_2730The dedication page of a book always catches my attention. The Romance novel of Enid’s life includes a dedication page. As you would expect it is dedicated to the Lord, to Colin and her family.

She leaves behind the pages of a legacy of faith and love for us, as her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She prayed for every one of us to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Enid and Colin would pray every day for us.

THE LAST PAGE

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t wait to finish but when you got to the last page it was missing? I once read a version of The Pilgrims Progress and the last few pages had been torn out. It was years later that I finally discovered the ending.

From our point of view, that’s what Enid’s book looks like. We have read only the first part of the book. God holds the other pages for the next chapters of her life. He has totally restored the book, crafted to last for eternity.

THE FIRST EDITION

We have only the first edition copy. It’s way out of date, constantly being revised. The rest of the book will never be finished for us, but God is a prolific writer. There is no ending, no tears, no more crying in eternity for Enid and Colin.

PLAGIARISING

I don’t think that Mum would mind if we plagiarise some of the material for our own lives, especially her faith in Christ. What God writes on the remaining pages of our lives has now become of vital importance and significance as we step up.

I wonder what Julie’s Photobook diary will say about our family this year. Perhaps more significant is – I wonder what it is, in the way we live out this year, that will move God’s hand to write another page of the heritage we share.

Pastor Ross – son-in-law to Enid and Colin

Job 8 – PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

Playing the Blame Game © Ross Cochrane

Playing the Blame Game © Ross Cochrane

Some childhood memories are vivid. This time my Mum blames me for something I have not done. Mostly I deserve it what I get, but not this time. She is so sure that I am the culprit. In the end, there is nothing I can say or do to convince her that I have not committed the act. (I don’t even know what it was now. All I remember are the false accusations of wrongdoing and being helpless to defend myself. Strange when you try to dodge the verbal blows of those you love as they assure you it is for your own good to confess. What can I say? I was innocent for once).

My father-in-law always said that Bildad the Shuhite was the smallest man in the Bible except for the man who stood on his watch. Bildad, with his “expired use-by date”, insensitive and small minded thinking, falsely accuses Job. There is nothing Job can say to convince Bildad the Blamer that he is wrong.

Because of a stroke and his emotions, Gerard (not his real name) finds it difficult to talk. My friend gives voice to his suffering. “It broke something inside me and I have never believed in God since. I don’t want anything to do with someone who is powerful enough to spare my wife from dying and yet ignores my prayers for her.” I can only listen as this old man, once a brilliant communicator, now stumbles over his words to explain that cancer has taken the woman he loved. “I prayed like I had never prayed before. I begged God to spare her life, but she died anyway. If there is a God, how could He let this happen?”

Intimately acquainted with grief, Job has also experienced the loss of his family in tragic circumstances but instead of pushing God away, he runs to Him for healing. He can’t understand his extreme suffering. Satan is given full reign in wreaking havoc on Job’s family and health and Job is barely alive (Job 1:12 and 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his ulcerated body (Job 7:5).

Job has tried as best as he can to give voice to his suffering, but Bildad is not listening. “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT). With no idea of how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) Bildad’s own blustering words only serve to increase the pain. He gives an insensitive rendition of God’s justice, devoid of love and compassion, a canned response based on his own false theories about God.

As I visit my old friend and listen to his stinging words of rage towards God, there is no canned response. It is not the time to try to answer his questions and prove somehow that he is wrong about God. He is not ready to hear and I don’t have a full understanding myself. Sometimes the best friendship I can provide is my presence and willingness to listen. I do not have all the answers. I may never understand some of the things I or others experience.

I would like my words to be like a refreshing breeze that brushes across the dying embers of his faith. Perhaps they will rekindle a flame. Or will I be a “blustering wind” like Bildad the Shuhite and extinguish what little is there? I pray that I will be able to give him time to breath and sigh and express his pain, and then perhaps, if he is willing, try to share God’s words of life and love?

Pastor Ross

JOB 8 – THE HITMAN

HITMAN BY ROSS COCHRANE

JOB 8 – THE HITMAN

A tall, silver-haired, brown-eyed, no-nonsense man, wearing a suit with a black tie and black leather gloves has received instructions for a mission.

THE SETUP

In the hotel room, he decodes the secret message and destroys it immediately. He is surprised and a little confused at first by the assignment. Things have obviously changed dramatically since he has been away. He can hardly believe that agent Job has turned rogue and has become a double agent. With cold-blooded determination, he decides to pay him a visit. What agent Bildad Shuhite doesn’t realise is that his brief is a setup. The information he has concerning Job is false and his mission will only serve Lucifers purposes.

THE CONSPIRATOR

A brilliant but dangerous individual, agent Lucifer was ostracized from Headquarters for his insubordination and radical theories on mind manipulation. He continues his experiments, however, in a sophisticated hidden lab deep in the earth. The consummate megalomaniac, agent Lucifer attempted to get Job to become a double agent, but Lucifer underestimated how far agent Job had advanced in loyalty and integrity to the Governing Operations Director (G.O.D.), and all Lucifer managed to do was spread seeds of doubt among Job’s fellow agents.

THE MISSION

Unlike Job, agent Shuhite is the textbook hired gun personality type, highly intelligent, ruthless, dispassionate and well trained in the traditions of the past. In fact, Bildad Shuhite comes from a long line of agents. He has traced their history and gleaned from their experience, and believes that the customs and beliefs of the past, evolved over the generations of the Agency’s history have been transmitted into his safekeeping for such an occasion as this. With his false brief, agent Shuhite will become the perfect character assassin, a reputational hitman. He is convinced that his mission is to eliminate the threat posed by Job, to interrogate, with mental torture if necessary, to obtain a confession.

THE TARGET

Already wounded, agent Job’s life is now in even more danger. A recent mission has gone badly for Job. He carried out his orders from Above with precision and integrity but somehow the enemy took his family as hostages and slaughtered them brutally in order to get at him. Agent Lucifer tried to implicate the Director. His plan did not work and Job has not turned rogue.

Grappling with grief at the tragic loss of his family, in the crossfire, agent Job was badly wounded and beaten, and is now fighting for his life. The bullet came close to Job’s heart. He tries to contact Headquarters by activating a backup signal, secreted in a device in his shoe, but it seems he has been abandoned. He is left in agonizing pain. He has no appetite, can’t sleep, and is hallucinating. He is barely alive (Job 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his lacerated body (Job 7:5).

Agent Shuhite believes that double agents like Job and his family deserve all they get. He has tracked Job’s signal easily to a half burnt-out warehouse, and after a week’s careful surveillance (Job 2:13), he is shocked to discover Job’s injuries. He goes in.

THE INTERROGATION

At first Job thinks agent Shuhite is there to help. He outlines the misery of his situation. He tries as best as he can to give voice to his suffering. He tells agent Shuhite that his life is but a breath (Job 7:7) but Bildad Shuhite hears Job’s words as the noise of conceit blowing in a squall, going nowhere, no restraints, responsible to no-one and causing indiscriminate damage to himself and others. He dispels Job’s expression of misery with his rudeness – “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT).

Job is stunned as agent Shuhite begins his interrogation. Trained well in traditional methods, agent Shuhite proceeds with his precise character assassination. His weapons are words and he is out to make his target confess to his crimes. He will intimidate Job until he gains access to the Job’s supposed briefing by the enemy. Job is tied to a chair and interrogated for hours on end. “Just tell us what we want to know, Job, and we’ll get you to a hospital.”

With the spotlight trained on him, Job tries to explain that he is innocent (Job 7:3-7). He is not a double agent! He has done nothing wrong, but after a time he is reeling by the cruel callous words of agent Shuhite, who is no longer playing Mr Niceguy.

With the sensitivity of a sledgehammer agent Shuhite says, “Your children must have sinned against GOD, so their punishment was well deserved” (Job 8:4 NLT). They died because of their involvement in your duplicity. He infers that Job also deserves what he gets. Not exactly comforting words to a man who has just lost his family.

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

For agent Shuhite, the traditional canned response is inviolable; the Governing Operations Director (G.O.D.) could never be unjust and punish a loyal agent (Job 8:1-7; 8:20). Agents only suffer if they turn rogue (Job 8:8-10) “So agent Job, you must have turned rogue because you are obviously being targeted. The wages of sin is death (Job 8:11-19, Romans 6:23). After all, it’s all about cause and effect (Job 8:11-22). Job, you need to own up and tell us what you know or pay the consequences (Job 8:20-22). Simple!” In Bildad’s limited mindset, this is how it has always been.

What he fails to realize is that the GOD has recognised Job’s integrity on countless occasions (Job 1:8, Job 2:3). Agent Shuhite is big on understanding the Director’s justice but devoid of understanding His grace (Job 8:3). He doesn’t come alongside Job or go to GOD to discover the truth, but continues to interrogate him, battering him with his accusations, his rudeness and insensitivity. His is a boxed response, steeped in the traditions of his generational heritage, devoid of compassion, and based on false assumptions.

THE FALSE INTELLIGENCE

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it,” wrote George Santayana, but I learn from Bildad the Shuhite that Those who interpret the past incorrectly are condemned to learning a new set of mistakes. There must be objective Truth from GOD Himself. Truth can never be muddied by the imperfections of the traditions of sinful men. In Matthew 15:3 (NLT) Jesus said, “… why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?”

THE INSIGNIA

By the way, GOD is a God of Justice, but He never deals out only His Justice to wicked people. His character is not only that of a judge. If anything we wonder how He could be so merciful at times (Nehemiah 9:16-17).

Once GOD the Father sent His only Son on a mission of suffering and now the insignia of Headquarters is the Cross. GOD finds ways to exercise His Grace despite our sin and the arms of the Cross are a focal point where His justice and love meet to provide us with forgiveness and Salvation.

Now, let me interrogate you a little with some questions.

Can someone live a life of integrity and purity and still suffer (Job 8:5,6)?
Do we make presumptions of guilt, assuming the worst about those who appear to us as deserving of what they get?
Does God give us what we deserve?
Is it always a matter of “Obey and prosper. Disobey and suffer!”
Does the devil sometimes deceptively give us the wrong briefing based more on the Traditions of Men than on God’s Word?
Do we need to be careful in getting our facts straight before going in with both guns blazing?

PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

Some childhood memories are vivid. I can picture a time when my Mum blames me for something I have not done. Mostly I deserve what I get, but not this time. She is so sure that I am the culprit. In the end there is nothing I can say or do to convince her that I have not committed the act. (I don’t even know what it was now. All I remember are the false accusations of wrongdoing and being helpless to defend myself. Strange when you try to dodge the verbal blows of those you love as they assure you it is for your own good to confess. What can I say? I was innocent for once).

My father-in-law always said that Bildad the Shuhite was the smallest man in the Bible except for the man who stood in his watch. Bildad, with his “expired use-by date”, insensitive and small minded thinking, falsely accuses Job. There is nothing Job can say to convince Bildad the Blamer that he is wrong.

Because of a stroke and his emotions, Gerard (not his real name) finds it difficult to talk. My friend gives voice to his suffering. “It broke something inside me and I have never believed in God since. I don’t want anything to do with someone who is powerful enough to spare my wife from dying and yet ignores my prayers for her.” I can only listen as this old man, once a brilliant communicator, now stumbles over his words to explain that cancer has taken the woman he loved. “I prayed like I had never prayed before. I begged God to spare her life, but she died anyway. If there is a God, how could He let this happen?”

Intimately acquainted with grief, Job has also experienced the loss of his family in tragic circumstances but instead of pushing God away, he runs to Him in an effort to understand his extreme suffering. Job is not aware that Satan is given full reign in wreaking havoc on Job’s family and health and Job is barely alive (Job 1:12 and 2:6), maggots infesting the lesions of his ulcerated body (Job 7:5).

Job has tried as best as he can to give voice to his suffering, but Bildad is not listening. “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind” (Job 8:2 NLT). With no idea of how to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) Bildad’s own blustering words only serve to increase the pain. He gives an insensitive rendition of God’s justice, devoid of love and compassion, a canned response based on his own false theories about God.

As I visit my old friend and listen to his stinging words of rage towards God, there is no canned response. It is not the time to try to answer his questions and prove somehow that he is wrong about God. He is not ready to hear and I don’t have a full understanding myself. Sometimes the best friendship I can provide is my presence and willingness to listen. I do not have all the answers. I may never understand some of the things I or others experience.

I would like my words to be like a refreshing breeze that brushes across the dying embers of his faith. Perhaps they will rekindle a flame. Or will my words be the sharp “blustering wind” of the bullets of accusation, judgment and assumptions, like Bildad the Shuhite, which extinguish what little is there?

I pray that I will be able to give him time to breath and sigh and express his pain, and then perhaps, if he is willing, try to share God’s words of life and love?

The invitation of Job 8 is for me to refuse to adjust the focus of my gun sights with my judgments, assumptions and accusations, but discard my weapons and adjust my focus by seeing others through the eyes of the Cross and with the Compassion and Love of Christ.

Then I will be able to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Pastor Ross

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THE CRAFTSMAN

The Craftsman © Ross Cochrane

The Craftsman © Ross Cochrane

I touch his character in half-finished pieces of furniture, beautifully crafted, and feel the echoed whispers of the past as I walk around his workshop in my mind.

On 26th April at around 1:30pm he left us at 96 years old. A Cabinet Maker by trade, he made some excellent pieces of Church Furniture.

Working with Wood requires precision and skill and he was a skilled workman, cutting, shaping and joining pieces of timber. The personal touch of the Master Craftsman’s hand always produces something unique.

His rough hands loved the touch of finished wood, but it was the roughhewn wood of a tree made into a Cross on Calvary where Jesus suffered and died for our sins, that changed his life. He found forgiveness at the Cross.

He sought to allow his own life to be crafted and honed by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed”

I think woodworking shaped Maurice’s understanding of God, perhaps because Jesus was also a Carpenter.

Jesus probably worked with all kinds of wood, different grains, wood with growth rings indicating the scars of fires and narrow growth rings indicating cold winters, the warps and twisted pieces, the knotted parts, the red, white, the light and dark brown woods, the twisted and straight pieces, the weathered pieces, the beautiful oaks and cedars. “The God of the universe was knee deep in wood shavings” it seems. Hard to imagine.

But, of course, He shapes human lives as well. All kinds. He has the wonderful ability to take the scars of our past and knotted parts of our personalities, the flaws in our abilities, the twists and the warps of our experience and as we trust in Him, He redeems them and makes us into something uniquely beautiful, with purpose and a destiny.

He measures us with the Word of God and dovetails that into our lives. He wastes nothing but uses our gifts, motivations, abilities, personalities and experiences, shaping our understanding and faith, making something of value and beauty. Each piece has His personal touch, all handmade.

The old man was created in such a way as this, joined together, and finished by the Master Craftsman.

When he was created he was fearfully and wonderfully made. Jesus knows His craft.

Psalms 139:13-16 (NIV) says “For You created my inmost being; … I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well …”

I am told that the Heartwood of a tree gives it stability and although it dies as the tree grows it provides support for the tree while it grows. The heartwood of the Craftsman’s life was his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who died for him. Maurice had a strong faith in Christ.

One of the essential tools of the trade he would have used in Cabinetmaking is a Tape Measure or a wooden folding rule. The old adage says “Measure twice and cut once.”

A picture his wife painted for an exhibition was the old Woodworker reading his Bible out in the back yard of near his workshop, during a break. The Bible was his measure.

It was the essential standard of life and faith and in it’s words of truth, he constantly found the measure of his identity. And so it was appropriate for one of his grandsons to read Psalm 91.

He wasn’t perfect. There were many mistakes made in his time as a Cabinetmaker. Learning from mistakes is how a Cabinet Maker increases his skills. So too in the life of faith.

God, on the other hand, doesn’t make any mistakes in His creative endeavours. He ordained each of the old artisan’s 96 years.

During WWII, the Craftsman made an old wooden shelf in a makeshift hospital inside a cave on the island of Crete, where he worked as an Ambulance officer.

An 8-year-old girl would bring candles, light them, and lead them into the cave each day, placing the candles on his shelf.

Years later the old Craftsman returned to Crete and was surprised to find his shelf was still in the cave with traces of candle wax. The interpreter, on hearing the story of the 8-year-old girl, invited him to go to the village.

Now a 58-year-old woman, Maurice was reunited with the girl who brought the candles so long ago. She was still living in the village. This helped to bring some sense of closure to his war experiences.

At his funeral it was as if Maurice had left us an unfinished piece of furniture in beautiful mahogany and although we were unskilled, it was up to us to create something in tribute that would honour a life well lived.

We tentatively began by speaking the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We sang the hymn – Abide with me, accompanied by two of Maurice’s grandchildren on the Oboe and Keyboard.

A Cabinet Maker must have patience. You can’t rush the process. You have to “listen to the wood” through hand and eye. One of Maurice’s sons and two granddaughters sought to “listen to the wood” as they crafted a Tribute to Maurice’s life in their eulogy and in photographs of years gone by.

Once again, I run my fingers across unfinished work the Lord has yet for me to do. I touch His character in the beautiful natural, hand-chosen grains of the timber He has provided and gaze across at the tools He has left me with which to work. I feel the whispers of His voice in this space to which I am called.

A good piece of furniture will have lasting value. A life well lived will leave a lasting legacy. A life redeemed has eternal influence.

Farewell old friend.

JOB 6 AND 7 – MISERY AND SPIRITUAL SENSITIVITY – Part 1

THIS IS A STORY OF MISERY

Misery © Ross Cochane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Misery © Ross Cochane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Misery lost his family in a tragic accident and lives on the farm he inherited from his Father (Job 6:27). It is all he has left of better times. He is poor and lives simply, but he is studying to obtain his degree from a local School. His shirt is untidy, dirty and stained and the pocket is torn. He has become grossly obese and recently suffered triple bypass surgery.

His friends bring him what they consider to be healthy food, but he does not want to eat. He sits on the see-saw of his troubles, eloquently voicing his desire for balance in his life but finds none (Job 6:1-3). “All I really want to do is play football again, swim in the creek, run and do all the things I used to do.”

ARCHERY

It all started when Misery chose to major in Archery for a sport. In an event with God, he became the target. He didn’t see what happened but when he looked up he’s sure he saw God turning His back and walking away.

The shock of the poisoned tipped arrow caused a serious heart attack. He doesn’t blame God because he cannot accurately fathom what took place, but Misery has not heard from Him since.

He still wears the bandage around his shoulder, but it is the wounds of his spirit that have become infected and he has terrifying dreams of God drawing back the string of His bow (Job 6:4-10).

He suffers from a fever and agonising pain. He is beginning to think it would have been better if God had aimed at his heart instead of his arm (Job 6:8) to release him from this world. In the mirror, he doesn’t recognise himself. The face of Misery does not depict the person he once was.

DROUGHT

Misery owns a donkey and an ox named Desolation and Despair. With drawn features and pronounced ribs, they bray and bellow. Because the ground of Misery’s farm is so barren they are starving. The drought is severe. Understanding how they feel, Misery cries out with them “Don’t we have a right to complain? There is no relief!” (Job 6:5).

When his friend Judgment calls, he makes Misery unsalted food and tasteless omelettes made only with egg whites. Although it diminishes his appetite, he gags at the thought of eating it (Job 6:6). He longs to eat the feasts that his Father’s servants Kindness and Care once prepared for him, but they have moved on since he fell on hard times.

At dusk, Misery stands in the dry bed of Fair-weather Creek and tries to remember the promises of Spring when the bubbling music of the stream and myriad colours of the fields made his heart sing.

Spring had made promises of support, but like Fair-Weather Creek, they were Ill-founded. She said she would bring Refreshment, Sympathy and Compassion, but her commitment ceased when the creek ran dry (Job 6:15-17).

Expectation had promised to bring Hope but seemed to disappear like a mirage in the distant desert sands when the colours of the flowers faded. Even Understanding had not been in touch. A phone call would have been enough.

Streams that once flowed so freely are gone. There are only rocks of Disappointment, Fear and Disaster to keep Misery company in this parched and arid place (Job 6:18-19).

BULLYING

On the way to School, Misery is mocked by Depression and his gang once again. Depression has a menacing smirk on his face and is quite well built for his age. He has a reputation of being a bully around town. Blame and Criticism, two of his rough shaven hangers-on, throw stones of Accusation at Misery but, fortunately, their aim is dreadful (Job 6:14).

Desperation, watching all this as he passes by, cries with Protest, but they are pushed out of the way by Disregard (Job 6:26). Misery would rather die at the hand of God than of Depression and his band of thugs (Job 6:11,12).

Depression smiles and throws a barrage of malicious lies about Misery’s worth. Because of his life-threatening illness and Depression’s gang, Misery has regretted his existence. He doesn’t want to live like this (Job 6:11). He feels he has no purpose left.

When Misery saw Judgment, tall and imposing with his large, slightly crooked nose, standing on the other side of the street in the shadows, he secretly wished his friend had intervened on his behalf (Job 6:23).

But Judgment is not the most sympathetic of friends. He believes in some of the baseless allegations that Depression, Blame and Criticism have made about Misery. After they have gone he says, “Don’t tell me you are innocent. There must be some reason why they are picking on you. What have you done? Tell me, so I can help you.” He and Stubbornness are committed to getting Misery to admit that he is Guilty.

“I am willing to fight Blame and Criticism if necessary!” says Misery “Truth will help me!” but he knows that Truth is not very popular and is quite small in stature. Truth looks a lot like Stubbornness, but not as Sullen and Moody. Nevertheless, he can fight. He’s had to fight all his life.

Misery appeals to Judgment, “Look at me! Would I lie to your face? Stop assuming my guilt, for I have done no wrong… Don’t I know the difference between Right and Wrong?” (Job 6:28-30 NLT).

Emotionally bankrupt and alone (Job 6:22-23) Misery feels once more the burden of his weight crushing his soul. Misery did not always have the encumbrance of bearing so much weight.

THE WOUND

After School and on weekends, Misery had once worked as a part-time fencer. He toiled for little pay in the hot sun without wearing a hat, sweating profusely. He remembers feeling faint and longing to sit in the shade of the evening at the close of day when work was done and he would be paid.

But since Misery’s arm has become badly infected he can no longer work. When they took the bandage off the wound, it had become infested with maggots (Job 7:3-4).

With time off School Misery now sits most of the time in the dust of his Father’s farm, Weaver’s shuttle in his hand, looking up at the sky. His days fly quickly like the movement of the shuttle. Suffering guides him as he weaves an intricate design in blues and browns and greys. If only God would cut the thread of his life (Job 7:6, Isaiah 38:12).

The clouds, like huge sea monsters, writhe and dissipate in voluminous breaths of the coming storm (Job 7:9) and he too feels his life struggling to hold it’s shape. The rain passes by again and he cries out to God “O God, remember that my life is but a breath,” (Job 7:7-8). “I would rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living” (Job 7:14-15). But God doesn’t seem to hear.

School exams are coming up soon and despite his suffering Misery has studied hard during his days at home to pass the test. With his arm causing so much trouble once again he thinks of God and says absently, “You examine us every morning and test us every moment. If I have sinned, what have I done to You, O Watcher of all humanity? Why make me Your target? Am I a burden to You? Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt?” He turns to his friends “Soon I will lie down in the dust and die. When you look for me, I will be gone” (Job 7:17-21).

What can you do when you come face to face with Misery? What can you say? How can you introduce Words of Life to ease the burden that he bears? No, really. These are not rhetorical questions. Perhaps you could share this story and ask others what they would do or say to someone experiencing the misery of a life threatening disease. I would love to include your answers in this post. Make a comment or send me an e-mail.

Pastor Ross

WHEN THINGS DON’T WORK OUT AS PLANNED

When things don't work out as you expected.

When things don’t work out as you expected.

She is blind and has an Anglican background, not that the two are related, and she asked me if I could organise for a priest to come and give her communion, the Lord’s supper.

But Anglela (not her real name) didn’t get to see him before Easter as she had wanted. She suffered a heart attack and went to hospital.

While she was in hospital she decided that I was a nice enough Chaplain and that I might be able to take her funeral in the event of her having another heart attack. She would ask me on her return to the Aged Care Facility.

On her return she said. “On further thought, if you are to take my funeral you might as well have communion with me instead of asking a priest.”

“I would be honoured.”

Knowing that Anglicans have real wine for their communion, I went down to the kitchen and asked for some. I don’t drink so I left it up to them to choose. They were busy but they gave me a choice of two. I chose the red one which was not a sparkling wine, so I was sure it would be suitable.

Procuring a slice of bread (there were no communion wafers around), and some throw-away communion cups, on the arranged day I arrived at Angela’s door with all the equipment, Anglican communion service included, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I could tell she was excited and expected great things from her alternative priest.

We proceeded through the service until we arrived at the bread and wine. I had already poured the wine in the cups and placed them in a communion tray, ready. After eating the bread together, remembering the body of Christ, we proceeded to take the wine from the two small glasses. As she is blind I made sure she had a firm hold of her glass.

We drank together on that morning, but before we could remember the spiritual significance of the moment we simultaneously gagged at the dry, bitter taste of the wine as it burned it’s way relentlessly down our throats. We gasped at the unpleasant alcoholic surprise.

I don’t normally drink alcohol but I had made an exception for this spiritually uplifting moment. Now I was regretting the decision greatly, but realised with greater clarity why I had made a choice not to drink in the first place. There would be no chance of me succumbing to the wiles of alcohol on the sculling of this potion. We almost spat it out, but it was too late.

“Oh, my Goodness!” I said, and she responded to the taste of the brew with a shudder and a grimacing look of disgust on her face. Her lips were twisted slightly as she said “This is not the sweet tasting wine that reminds me of my Saviour.”

In haste and trying to save the sacredness of the moment I said “No, it certainly isn’t! Perhaps it can remind us instead of the bitterness of the Cross and the sacrifice He paid for us.”

Nice save, I thought. She wasn’t so sure about this and I apologised for the wrong choice of wine. I finished the service while she gave the appropriate responses, said the Lord’s prayer, Apostles Creed and I finished with a benediction.

I was so relieved when she said that this had been a wonderful time of fellowship and she looked forward to having communion with me again.

“Next time… I assure you that I will bring a sweet communion grape juice to remind you of your Saviour.” I quickly returned the wine to the fridge in the Extra Services section where those who have more experience at drinking alcohol can scull it down with a grimace, and shudder as it burns it’s way dryly down their throats. Perhaps they too will have their determination reinforced to become tea totalers.

Pastor Ross

SPECIAL GUEST AT THE EASTER SERVICE, SHALOM CENTRE, SYDNEY

Man in the Shadows © Ross Cochrane using Paint.netWe have a special guest with us today and I will tell you a little bit about Him before I introduce you to Him personally. We are honoured to have Him with us.

He is a remarkable young man who had quite a year last year since our last Easter Service. It’s been an astonishingly turbulent year, but if anyone knows about the message of Easter, he does.

This young man has done a lot of world travel in the last year and has witnessed some amazing events all around the globe.

Do you remember Flight MH-370 that got lost and was never found? This young man happened to be in Malaysia Airport in March, seeing off some of His family members on flight MH-370 that day in Kuala Lumpur. He was one of the last to see that plane ease into the skies before it went missing. The world’s biggest aviation mystery.

We try to make sense of what happened. As the search efforts proved futile and the hopes of the families of the crew and passengers began to fade, he spoke to Danica Weeks, whose husband was on flight MH-370: She asked Him “How can life go on without him? How do you tell a small boy, who last waved his daddy off on a plane to go to work, that daddy will never come home again? …”

Our guest today was there, giving hope, when relatives were trying to make sense of the lost flight of MH-370. He cried with them and comforted them in their grief and He brought God’s grace.

In fact if anyone knows about the true meaning of Easter he does.

His secret to success is His love for people which I have personally had the opportunity to experience over the last year and He has always generously given me His time.

A MESSAGE OF GRACE

I had the privilege of interviewing our honourable guest before the service and He told me that Australians have been searching this year for answers. We have searched for love and life and hope and we have searched for God’s grace even in the midst of tough circumstances.

Australians have definitely had to explore some eternal issues and spiritual issues, issues of life and death in the last year.

As we spoke I realised that He is extremely well connected. We got to talking about famous people who died last year, … the people who have inspired us.

It turns out that he knew Malcolm Fraser personally. He spoke at the funeral of Gough Whitlam, who died at the age of 98 in October. He has sung with Joe Cocker with his raspy voice “You are so Beautiful”. He knew Rod Taylor the actor and encouraged Colleen McCullough with her creative skills to write “The Thorn Birds.” He played alongside Leonard Nimoy in the original “Star Trek” TV series. He knew Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall and laughed, sometimes, with Joan Rivers and Robin Williams who all died last year. Absolutely incredible. But His powerful spiritual connection and service is even more incredible.

After Robin Williams died He was saying that He noticed that people were searching for answers to dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide. He was instrumental in giving many people the help they needed.

It seems more than co-incidental that this our guest this morning happened to be at the match and witnessed the tragic death of cricketer Phillip Hughes, who was killed when he was struck by a bouncer at the SCG. He helped Michael Clarke write his eulogy when he said “We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.” He spoke at the funeral and sought once again to bring God’s grace.

He told me that at funerals He often confronts people to think about death and dying because it’s too important to play games with eternal issues.

When he speaks at a funeral he often asks 2 questions “Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?” And the other question is…

“Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?”

These are good questions when we are faced with eternal issues. What would you say? “I’ve lived a pretty good life? Or She’ll be right mate?”

He told me about a gift that Philip Hughes had given to a friend of his – a signed cricket bat. It’s worth a lot of money now, I’m sure, but it was a gift. His friend didn’t pay for it or work for it or earn it in any way. It was given freely to him.

He says heaven is like that. You can’t earn your way to heaven by living a good life. Nobody can earn, work for or deserve heaven. It’s a free gift. And He’s right. That’s exactly what the Bible says about heaven. That’s exactly what the Easter Message proclaims. Heaven is a free gift. You can’t work for it, deserve it or earn it in any way.

The Bible says in Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9 says – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Like any genuine gift, Eternal life is free. If anyone knows about the Easter message, it’s him. 

AN UNDERSTANDING OF SIN 

Days before an Isis terrorist beheaded the US journalist Steven Sotloff, my young friend was talking to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Mr Abbot said to him “I refuse to call this hideous movement Islamic State because it’s not a state; it is a death cult.” My friend said “Sin always instigates death.”

The man I am soon to introduce to you happened to be in Ukraine when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukrainian air space by Russian separatists and a battle ensued to recover the bodies. He had tried to stop them but they would not listen. All 298 people on board were killed, including 38 Australians, on July 17.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would “Shirt-front” President Putin over the murder of Australian citizens and “Shirt-fronting” became Australia’s word of the year. My friend believes in Care-fronting. You don’t avoid the issues but you do it without causing further harm. My friend had been in negotiations with Boko Haram when they kidnapped 273 Nigerian girls. Sin steals the precious things of life.

When Daniel Christie died from a coward punch he was there. Daniel Christie’s family said they wanted king-hit attacks to be referred to as “coward punches. We don’t agree with the popular term ‘king-hit’.” They said. SIN would be a better word still. Sin is often a very cowardly response to our circumstances.

My guest was in Sierra Leonne last year caring for those dying from Ebola. He says that “Sin, like the Ebola Virus is dangerous. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. We have all been infected to some degree by our sin and we cannot save ourselves. This is also an important part of the message of Easter.”

Sin is what drove Man Haron Monis to take 17 hostages at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, Sydney, with tragic results. Sin takes hostages of our lives and produces death. My friend was there with the Chaplains who were deployed, once again offering hope.

My friend says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

THE INEVITABILITY OF JUSTICE

We were talking about justice in the world just the other day. The young man I will introduce to you was a witness in the trial of Oscar Pistorius. The court case kept the world in suspense until October, with a “live trial”. He was eventually found guilty of culpable homicide.

Our honoured guest says that sin always catches up with us and that although God is merciful He does not leave the guilty go unpunished.

He should know. He was on the MV SEWOL in April, the ‘South Korean ferry’ where 304 passengers lost their lives, and the captain of the ship was sentenced to 36 years in prison. Sin does not go unpunished.

Entertainer Rolf Harris knows that sin catches up with you when he faced trial on child sex abuse charges. My friend was one of the witnesses.

My guest told Barry O’Farrel not to accept the bottle of wine. Sin can look innocent but it is always corrupt.

THE RESPONSE OF FAITH

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan’s know what justice is all about. They are on death row in Indonesia for Drug trafficking. My friend knows Andrew Chan personally and led him to faith. Andrew started reading his Bible and after his sentence wrote these words in his diary.

“The Lord was showing me that all things are possible and that all I had to do was to believe in Him without wavering and that’s what I decided to do. Before the trial I began praying and telling the Lord, “If you get me out of this and set me free I will serve you forever.” Well, when the judge announced the death penalty I was in shock”. For quite some time he could not understand but then my friend told him “He did set you free! In your heart, He has set you free.” He then wrote “I then understood that I was free. I might be in prison, but in my heart I was free. I found a real salvation through Jesus Christ in prison, and the message of salvation in my life that I share with everyone can never be contained by the walls of the prison” (Andrew Chan, Death Row, Kerobokan Prison, Bali). What an amazing declaration!

My guest helped him to realise that we all deserve to be punished for our sin but Christ took our sin and paid the punishment price for us.

You have read His book. You have followed His life story. He is the most admired and influential man in the world. What I know for sure is that He will inspire all of us today.

Of course some of you already know who I am talking about. So let me introduce Him to you. The Lord Jesus Christ. Of Course. He is only a prayer away. He is there in all the events that we encounter through the year encouraging us towards faith. He will never leave us or forsake us no matter what the world throws at us. If anyone knows the true meaning of Easter, He does.

THE MESSAGE OF LOVE

He offers heaven as a free gift. It is not earned or deserved.

He offers forgiveness because we are all sinful people and we cannot save ourselves

He pays the price that the justice of God demands for our sin by dying on the Cross for us, so that we can have a personal relationship with God.

He offers those who have faith in Him and in what He has done for us a place in heaven.

2014 was a year of risk. Our guest would say that faith is spelled RISK. Faith in Christ is a risk worth taking. Faith gives us new perspective for the circumstances we face in life. Faith inspires us to take action.

To receive the gift of heaven we transfer our trust from ourselves to Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.

AN INTRODUCTION TO CHRIST

Because of Jesus, Easter has relevance not only for the past but for the present and future. The Cross is about Love. Easter is about Life. Let me introduce you to Jesus. He is only a prayer away from transforming your life.

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour. Thankyou for Loving me. Thankyou for giving me Life. In Your Name. ”

Amen.

JOB 4–5 – ELEPHANT AND TERMITE THINKING

Elephant and Termite Thinking © Ross Cochrane

Elephant and Termite Thinking © Ross Cochrane

1. HEAVY FEET OF JUDGMENT, SMALL MINDED

I was aware of the elephant standing in the shadows long before I actually saw it. It’s distinctive shape and enormous size could not be disguised, though it’s dark shades of grey blended in with the early mist of the morning. Surprisingly, I was not overly disturbed, … until it spoke!

“There are some rather weighty matters I have to discuss with you”, it said, as it began to stumble heavily towards me. There were no restraints and so I stepped back a little. “Do the innocent die?” it said, “I could pound you into the dust, snap life from you as easily as a moth. Alive one minute, dead the next! Gone forever without a trace. Like circus tent-cords are pulled and the tent collapses, you could die in ignorance right here, but you need not be afraid of me, only of God.” It’s analogies didn’t help alleviate the onset of panic.

The trunk of the beast swished past my head and in the morning light I saw a tiny white ant gripping onto it. It too looked at me with accusing eyes that seemed to want to eat away at my character.

They made a good team. Having made their lofty assumptions they sought to do great damage with their small thinking. In the ensuing conversation I found the elephant to be big on blame, the termite small on praise; the elephant boundless in discouragement, the termite limited in reassurance. The elephant heaped heavy burdens of guilt upon me and the termite had such little understanding of my innocence. A maximum misinterpretation of my situation coupled with minimum appreciation of my pain.

2. TRUMPETING OPINIONS, LITTLE CONSIDERATION 

The trumpeting voice pounded in my ears “May I venture an encouraging word to you, Job” it said. “Give me a break”, I thought. “I have been sitting in the dust for a week covered in boils, and in excruciating pain, having just lost my family. Encouraging words from an intimidating elephant and disparaging termite! Not!” 

But I could not escape from the Elephant and the Termite. Like a giant hit-man, the elephant, pointing it’s trunk at me, said with a good deal of what I detected to be beligerance “Job, you have encouraged many people in the past and now it is my turn to be give an encouraging warning about your obvious lack of integrity.” I could just detect the termite nodding it’s head and displaying it’s mandables.

“This is far from ‘venturing a word.’” I thought in disbelief, “It’s the bellowing trumpet of an elephant confronting me as if I had committed a crime; loud allegations of blame, accompanied by a termite trying to undermine my integrity.”

“Those who sow evil gather trouble” the elephant said “and since you have gathered plenty of trouble you obviously need discipline.” He saw me flinch as I imagined being stomped into the ground or thrown by those enormous tusks into the air. “You are already suffering because you think you’re so holy, but it’s obvious that you’re not holy enough!”

Once again I became aware of my pain. Weeping sores were all over my body and my bones ached. I couldn’t escape if I wanted to. The termite whispered something into the huge elephant ears and the elephant spoke on the termites behalf “I know all about secret places where immeasurable damage is done! Some secret sin has caused this, Job. Admit it!” he bellowed.

3. BIG EARS OF THEOLOGICAL SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, SMALL CAPACITY FOR LISTENING

The hairs stood up on my arm. The Elephant seemed to notice and began talking about a ghostly vision that made the hair on his flesh bristle. What hair? What’s this about? This is different and all a bit weird! We are getting into horror movie images here. The elephant spoke of seeing a form and also hearing a voice say, ‘Can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’ (Job 4:17 NLT).

As far as the elephant is concerned everyone falls short of God’s glory, none are righteous, no not one, from largest to smallest. “He’s right” I thought, “We can’t hope ever to match God in our own integrity. God goes so way beyond us that we all fall short. That’s why we need the righteousness of the Mediator God in our lives.”

4. TUSKS EAGER FOR DISCIPLINE AND MANDIBLES EAGER TO BITE

All of a sudden the elephant wrapped his trunk around me and resting on his tusks I was lifted into the air. I was terrified! The termite crawled up my neck and bit me as I flailed helplessly about. I was already suffering from painful boils from head to toe? The termite whispered in my ear “people in your condition die everyday, unobserved. No-one even notices they are gone” (Job 4:20). Sooo encouraging! Not. How are his biting termite-like arguments relevant in bringing answers to my hurts?

I was thrown roughly back into the dust, crying out to God in my pain. The elephants advice was without sensitivity. “I would seek God, and would place my cause before God.” Nothing wrong with that advice, but he went on to say “You are being disciplined by God because of your sin, so admit it.” Strong powerful tusks of accusation based on feeble-minded generalisations.

5. LONG TRUNK OF INTRUSION, SMALL UNDERSTANDING

It was clear that the elephant was determined to stick his nose into my business without really understanding what was happening. It’s assumptions turned into judgments “God is judging you to keep you in line” it said, but it was being way too heavy and simplistic in it’s theology; broad sweeping statements, influenced by the termite’s narrow-minded thinking.

Eliphaz the Temanite (strange, strange name – kind of like Elephant the Termite – conjures up a picture of contrasts). Eliphaz the Temanite wants to make a huge difference but his small mindedness only brings harm. Such contradictions of intention. His dark view of Job stands in stark contrast to God’s statements of integrity (Job 1:8). His lack of compassion is inversely proportionate to the size of his judgments. The variance in what he sees taking place in Job’s life and what is actually happening is extraordinary.

Not all suffering in the world is a result of something we have sown. Jesus said something interesting about a blind man once. John 9:1-3 (NLT) says “As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.   “Rabbi,” His disciples asked Him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”   “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”  

Now on one level what Eliphaz the Temanite says is right, but he hasn’t really heard from God before giving his advice to Job. He knows nothing of the spiritual battle that is going on in the heavenlies and like a lot of people he is blaming God rather than Satan for Job’s troubles. 

6. BIG APPETITE FOR BLAME, VERY LITTLE COMPASSION

Eliphaz says that people who are not under discipline don’t go through what Job is experiencing. Apparently righteous people don’t get sick or have any suffering in their lives! Get a life! That’s not true! God allowed a righteous man called Job to get sick at the hand of Satan. It wouldn’t last, but Job didn’t know that. 

Let’s get real here and watch out before making rash theological determinations based on half-truths. Eliphaz is a heavy-weight in his judgment but like a termite, his words eat away at Job’s integrity and place a slur upon Job’s character that he doesn’t deserve and certainly doesn’t need right now. Elephaz dishes out large doses of disgrace, with little-to-no honour. 

HOW TO BE BIG IN LISTENING, SMALL IN JUDGING

When he first arrived, Eliphaz was silent for a week. It would have been better if Eliphaz had kept quiet for another week, but he can’t help himself. Ever had a friend like that? Well meaning but with a big mouth, quick to judge and very little by way of compassion? Such “friends” provide immense hindrance to healing, and give minute help in seeking God. 

James 1:19 (NLT) says “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

A huge part of an effective conversation is an ability to listen. If I am to be an effective listener, I will be interested and responsive, understanding and patient, non-judgmental and sensitive, open and supportive, loving and prayerful in my support. Lord, I need your help today.

The invitation of Job 4 is to speak words of life not judgment to those who are hurting today. Lord, forgive us when we blame You for things without really understanding the spiritual conflict going on around us. Give me huge ears with which to listen, a nose for the truth, tusks of integrity for the battles I face, the ability to give weight to Your Word and to be small in assuming that I am always right. 

Pastor Ross

JOB 3 – WHEN YOU REGRET BEING BORN

Dust portrait 6When Julie gave birth to our son Ben, and then to Rachel two years later, I was overjoyed. I held them up to God soon after birth and praised God for the privilege of raising them. I realized even then that they belonged to Him, and I needed His help to be a parent. I drove home in the car honking the horn and shouting praise to God.

Job is experiencing so much pain in this chapter that he curses the day he was born in an eloquent tirade of emotions. When you hurt physically and emotionally, you are not interested in the joys of the past or even in hope for tomorrow. You are forced into the present by your pain and consumed by your passionate pleas for it to end.

Job asks the inevitable question “Why?” several times without an answer. In fact if God had answered all his questions he would still have had his pain to contend with. We do not alleviate our circumstances by explanations, but by our circumstances changing. I have found it more helpful to ask the question “What?”

“What can I do, Lord, to co-operate with You in what it is You want for my life to see my circumstances change? As long as I am alive there is a hope and purpose that You have for me, but in my pain, I need Your help so that I can draw even closer to You rather than be so focused on my desolation. What needs to happen, Lord, so that I can do this? I have been driven to the point of wanting death, Lord; to the place where it seems like death would provide respite for my pain, but I keep hearing Your gentle and persistent voice saying that this is not what You have chosen for me.”

“Why did I not die at birth?” Should God answer such a question Job would still find himself in pain. One day he will be able to ask “What purpose do You want for my life?”

Should God give friends who come alongside me and acknowledge my pain and then gently give me just a ray of hope by praying for my healing, then I could bear more easily my pain until I find the healing I long for.

“Why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul?” No respite in the answers to this question but it is the expression of anguish that looks for the easy and sometimes selfish ways to alleviate our pain.

Pain has a way of driving you inward. “What can I do to find the solutions I need to get through this and find healing?” The road less travelled is so much more difficult when we are vulnerable and weak physically and emotionally.

For you who are suffering, we can only hope to acknowledge your pain rather than constantly suggest ways you should try to alleviate it. We can pray for your healing rather than focus on your misery, encourage you gently to have hope rather than accuse you of giving up, and love you unconditionally rather than abandon you in your distress. What can we do that will help you find healing? Believe for you when you cannot believe.

Job invites you and me to cry out to God who is our hope, our unchanging anchor in a spinning world, our truth when our thinking is askew, our authority when all I have is questions, our life when I feel that life is a curse, our power, when I am powerless to act, our wisdom when we have our thinking clouded, our Father when there is no other refuge than within His arms, our present help in times of trouble when I am all alone, and all I have is Him, our victor over my thoughts of death when I am regretting that I am alive, our Lord and Saviour when I am drowning in my suffering. He is all I can cling to and all I will ever need.

Pastor Ross