Blessed be the Name of the Lord

I use it all the time at the graveside.  "The Lord has given.  The Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  Job 1:21  I used it this past week.  It is an odd sounding statement.  It speaks of the blessings that the Lord gives to us and then the apparent decision of God to take those things away.  At first glance, God appears capricious.  He gives us things and then he takes them away.

How could Job then call for us to give a blessing to the Name of the Lord?  It is a good question because it is what I ask people to do all the time in the middle of their suffering.  I ask them to trust the Lord.  It is a hard thing to do when it seems God is allowing a lot of things to be taken away from you.

What we miss is that Job is giving a description of life and then the answer to it.  Life is a series of things gained and things lost.  It is successes and failures.  Good and bad.  Every mature adult understands that inevitability.  Job is not so much concerned with who we lay blame to as he is that we see the only thing consistent in the process.  It is the name and office of the Lord.  It is the person of Christ.

God doesn’t change.  He is as devoted to us when we enjoy success as when we suffer setbacks.  He is concerned with our spiritual condition and eternal future, not just seasonal successes and failures.  That is hard for us because we are seasonal people.  We live in the moment and too quickly forget all the blessings of God.  Sort of ‘What have you done for me lately, Lord’ attitude.

Job offers an approach to life that can sustain you in the worst of times.  (Job should know)  Job determined that everything would be used to bring honor to his Lord.  The good things.  The bad things.  He would not curse his God.  He would not take his life.  He would wait and trust and speak of God’s goodness. 

That is why you and I still talk about this man of God.  What are people saying about you.  See you tomorrow at Palm Sunday.


It’s The Economy Stupid

It is being sounded from every station and rooftop.  The dollar is slipping.  Foreclosures abound and gas prices are soaring.  Few are those who are not feeling the pinch.  The president will try to reassure everyone this morning while gold hits an all-time high.  What a way to begin the morning.

So I thought it might be helpful to hear from a higher source than television pundits. 

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Hosts."  Haggai 2:8

God takes a definite interest in the affairs of men and reminds us of the illusion that we are in control.  If we were, things wouldn’t turn south of us so often.  We just think we are in control.

"God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  2 Corinthians 9:8

We may not be able to live in the luxury we are accustomed to experiencing but by no means are we incapable of doing the good works God asks of us.  God assures us that if we are faithful in doing his good work, he will be faithful in providing the resources physical and spiritual to do so.

So take the news with a grain of salt.  Adjust your lifestyle and focus more on those things close to home.  And keep doing the good thing.  The Great Economist knows what is going on.


Into the Wild

Took a day with Marcia today.  Been too long since we had done that.  Began with a breakfast at Lurton’s in Commiskey.  An experience in its own right.  Food was good and interesting to watch the people who were there.  A collection of blue collar and back country with a young couple thrown in.  Friendly enough but everyone seemed to be on their own journey.

Caught up with my sister and her husband back from winter in Texas.  Good to see them and listen to their stories and look at their pictures.  Both were filled with people.  They wanted to feed us, of course, but we were still to full from breakfast.

Stopped outside of Columbus at a little food stand just opened from the winter.  Had our first ice cream cone of the season.  Sun was warm and the cone was good.  Marcia and I talked.  Mostly about people.

There were, of course, the phone calls.  People don’t stop hurting.  Such is life.  Good to talk to Ron just home from surgery.  A nice answer to prayer.  Will pray for those who continue to struggle.  Seems life is easier sometimes without the people or so it seems.

Did a few chores when we got back to the house and then we decided to pop some popcorn and enjoy a movie.  There was one out on DVD based on a book I read a couple of years ago.  Got in from one of my outlaws who hiked the Appalachian Trail, canoed the Amazon and camped in Cambodia.  It was a book that mimicked some of his life.  It was titled ‘Into the Wild’.

It was a long movie we interrupted for Megan coming home and a bite of supper.  It was a haunting movie about a young man who rejects the ways of the world and takes his own course trying to find source of happiness.  Fresh out of Emery University, he gives his money to a food bank and sets off on his adventure.

I won’t tell you how it ends.  Hate to spoil a good book or movie.  (The book is better than the movie like always)  In his final thoughts he realizes that happiness is something that has to be shared.  We need people.  I thought about my day.  The long bearded man eating his biscuits and gravy with a coworker.  My sister and brother-in-law recounting all the people they had meet.  The car hop at the drive-in with a ready smile.  Talked to my dad and step-mom on the cell.  They are getting older but doing well enough.  There was the  aging clerk at the store who made conversation while she checked us out.  Megan making plans with friends to go to the school play tonight.  And Marcia sitting beside me as we watched a touching film.

I am blessed.  God has filled my life and my days with a lot of people.  I am privileged to share the lives of so many people in good times and bad.  Megan will be home soon.  Marcia is working in the kitchen and the television if off. 

I hope you meet some people today.  I hope you had the chance to visit with them or at least notice them.  If you did, then you have a good life.  Make sure you enjoy them.  Don’t worry so much about the stuff.


Reaching for God

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Philippians 1:21

I go in a few moments to conduct the funeral service for Sam Hotchkiss.  He was a kind man and good Christian.  His passing reminds me of a missionary’s son named Matthew Huffman.

Matthew hadn’t reached his tenth birthday when he awoke with a fever at his parent’s home in Brazil.  As his temperature soared, he began to loose his eyesight.  His mother and father put him in the care and raced to the nearest hospital.  As the drove, the boy lay in his mother’s lap unmoving.  Then suddenly he put one hand into the air. His mother gently pulled back down but he raised it again.  So she moved it back again.  Then when Matthew reached out the third time, his mother asked him what he was reaching for.

His answer stunned them both.  "I am reaching for Jesus’ hand."  With those words, Matthew closed his eyes and slipped into a coma from which he did not recover.  He died two days later from bacterial meningitis.

Matthew was a child but wise enough to know who to reach for in the hour of their death.  Sam did the same.  King David was right when he said:

"The good man, the man of peace, he has a wonderful future ahead of him.  For him there is a happy ending."  Psalm 37:37

Well done, Sam.  Well done.



"Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart."  Job 1:21

If ever there was a summary statement about life, that is one of them.  It is not comfortable statement but it is revealing in more ways than one.  The ancient man lays bare the secret of surviving life’s terrible tragedies and the secret comes in layers.

First, Job lost all his business holdings.  In one moment, all that he had accumulated was gone.  Then on the heels of that loss came the news that all his children had perished.  We cannot contemplate such sorrow.  Most of us would have fallen at the first blow but there are things much worse than financial ruin.  The loss of our children would have crushed us but it wasn’t over for Job.  His health failed and he lay in physical suffering.  It doesn’t surprise me that such would happen.  The first two events would fail the health of any man.

But what amazes us is that as each level of Job’s life is stripped away, we find him faithful.  Here is the secret of Job.  The trials and losses did not make Job’s faith any stronger because Job’s faith was already there.  The heart of Job held an unwavering trust in his God even if he didn’t understand His actions.

Life has a way of stripping us down and showing us how deep a faith we truly have within.  When the stuff of life is stripped  bare we see how deeply we love God or not.  Job never lost his faith nor his resolve.  It was when he learned of the death of his children that he uttered, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart."  Job knew that eventually all of this world is lost anyway. 

We know that too if we will admit it.  When we are young, we accumulate.  We accumulate wealth, an education, a family and a career.  We have two or more cars, a home and hobbies.  Then time and health begin to strip us.  Our children leave.  Our health declines.  We sell the house and cars for something smaller.  Then in those last days, we are stripped of everything.  There is no injustice in this because this is life.  All of us die and then face judgment.

Sam died that way Sunday.  Disease had stripped him bare but he never gave up.  He had been through war and knew how thin the veil is between life and death.  He did not lament his death.  He walked into bravely because he knew what was on the other side.  I discovered what lay deep in the real man.  Sam had faith.  May we do the same.


No Explanation Given

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting…when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house.  It collapsed on them and they are dead… Job 1:18,19

Job never knew what we know now.  We got a sneak peek into heavenly places and witness to Satan’s attempt to deprive and destroy Job.  We watched as God allowed the attack with provisions for Job’s life.  Job never knew the spiritual struggle which had caught him up.

When our lives come crashing in, we feel like Job.  One day, everything seems fine and then the bottom falls out.  No warning.  No explanation given.

You have to follow Job for the next 41 chapters to discover that ‘the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first." (Job 42:12)  Sometimes we have to wait a long time for our ship to right and life get back to some normalcy.  Tragedy takes a long time to heal.

But notice this: we never find out why God allowed Satan to attack Job in the first place.  We have Satan’s side of the argument but are never given God’s side. 

This is hard for us to handle.  Whenever something goes wrong in our lives, we look for an answer.  Was it us?  Someone else?  We say we are looking for answers.  What we are looking for is someone to blame.  We believe that by blaming someone, we can punish that person and get some justice for the tragedy.

God teaches a hard lesson here.  Sometimes, more than we admit, we don’t get answers to life’s dilemmas.  We may never find out why these things happen on this side of heaven.  Here then is the only answer we have in those times: God knows the reason why!  And He cares.  Sometimes that is all we get.  For us, that is always enough.

Sam’s services will be Wednesday at the church at 11:00 a.m.  We will miss his wit and his presence.  Remember Dave, Virginia and Esther along with the family.  Also remember Jim Bode.  He was admitted to St. Vincent’s with heart failure and extensive bleeding.  I go there this morning to see how is progressing.

Remember.  God knows and He cares.  That is enough for now.

It’s Official

With the level 2 snow emergency, we will have only one service tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.  No first service or Sunday School.  Please advise everyone you know.  Do not put yourself at risk.  If you live off the beaten path, use your common sense.  Also, don’t forget that we lose an hour of sleep tonight.  You will have to turn your clocks forward.  So it will be dark even till 9:30 or so. 

Spread the word.  I will put it on the radios and television.  Play it safe tomorrow.  See you then.


Good for Nothing

Good morning on a very wintry day.  With the time change and road conditions, we may alter church times tomorrow but will still have church.  I will check with police and elders before any decision is made.  Weather doesn’t pay much attention to schedules.

"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?"  Job 1:9-10

As I watch the blowing snow, I realize that we have a tendency as humans to believe things will improve if given time.  Every downturn will have an upturn, every storm is followed by sunshine and every flood will drain away.  It is the way of life but not necessarily the way of faith.

We think that if we are good and work hard enough and pray long enough, every difficult circumstance will turn around.  A sort of formula for blessing.  But Job plays havoc with that formula.  Here is a man that did nothing wrong and everything right.  And what happens to his life cannot be revoked or regained.  He will feel that pain the rest of his life.

Don’t get me wrong.  Doing the right thing is the right thing.  There is reason and purpose for our prayers and our trust in God.  What Job teaches us is that our good living is no guarantee for blessings.  It rains (snows) on the just and the unjust.  But it also teaches that God will never leave us. 

Satan believes that we will crumble at the first sign of trouble or when things don’t go our way.  He thinks our devotion to God is because of the good things God gives us.  Here he makes his fatal flaw.  We believe like Job believes.

"Shall we accept good from God and not trouble.?" (Job 2:10)  There is no doubt that God puts a hedge about us and holds Satan at bay in ways we cannot see.  But He is no respecter of persons.  He does the same for all His children.  And He allows us to deal with life face to face which is sometimes tragic.

No, the world doesn’t understand.  We will love Him even if there is no upturn, the storm persists and flood increases.  We don’t His church because we can afford it or it is the acceptable thing to do.  We are family and He is our Father.  We will do with Him wherever it leads.  So, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


That’s The Way It Goes

I moved wood in on my porch so it wouldn’t be covered by snow.  The wind blew more snow on my porch than in my yard.  That’s the way it goes.

It’s official.  We will be moving the Ladies Retreat to Sunday afternoon from 3 to 7 with an evening meal.  Maybe they need someone to pray about mealtime.  I’ll check.

Well, got to make a cup of coffee and settle in for a long winter’s night.  Stay warm.

Lucky You

"In the land of Us there lived a man whose name is Job."  Job 1:1

Lucky you.  It’s snowing and going to get worse and I am doing my meditations out of Job.  So it looks like a double whammy for you.  I hope one can help the other.  Keep Sam Hotchkiss in your prayers.  His Parkinson’s is taking it’s toll.  I’m not sure how much longer he can fight.   Rock is doing great considering what he has been through.  Hopefully home by the first of next week.  God is good.

I read some news releases on the economy and especially retirement for we boomers.  So now I am looking to Job.  (ha)  But few Bible characters provide a better example of how to live than Job.  He successfully managed his family, spiritual life and career.  Realizing how little control he had over his life, he simply tried to do it right today and let tomorrow take care of itself.  Not bad wisdom for us right now.

He also did some deep soul searching.  He discovered that circumstances can change regardless of your piety.  What he learned was that we weren’t meant to live this life alone.  We need each other, especially those who are going down the same road.  Only such a person can provide that iron-on-iron interaction spoken about in Proverbs 27:17.  It we want to deal effectively with our lives we need both truth and accountability. 

Sometimes we ignore the truth and don’t want to be accountable.  We are only hiding our heads in the sand.  You reap what you sow and sometimes you reap what your country, leaders and corporations sow.  With so much out of our control, it is helpful to have someone in the same boat.

So the next time you commensurate with your friends, remember to also hold each other accountable.  Accepting bad news is just the beginning.  Dealing with it takes friends.  Ask Job!

Check back.  I will update any church changes.


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