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Job 16:11-20:11

I remember reading the book of Job in AP English in high school (bet that doesn’t happen anymore!) as a literary study. Even though I wasn’t a Christian at the time, this book had a profound impact on me. I remembered Job’s suffering and perseverance for many years. It was literally the only book of the Bible I had read and I probably only knew of maybe 10-12 Biblical figures until I became a Christian at age 30. So, this book has always had special meaning to me.

In this section, Bildad and Job are going back and forth and then Zophar joins the fray in chapter 20.

Some of it goes like this (Bildad):

2“How long before you stop talking?

Speak sense if you want us to answer!

3Do you think we are mere animals?

Do you think we are stupid?

4You may tear out your hair in anger,

but will that destroy the earth?

Will it make the rocks tremble?

Job 18:2-4, NLT

Nice guy huh? With friends like these, who needs enemies? Were these really the same guys who sat there in silence for their friend? It sure seems hard to believe.

Job stays steadfast in his responses, and they go something like the below:

“How long will you torture me?

How long will you try to crush me with your words?

3You have already insulted me ten times.

You should be ashamed of treating me so badly.

4Even if I have sinned,

that is my concern, not yours.

5You think you’re better than I am,

using my humiliation as evidence of my sin.

6But it is God who has wronged me,

capturing me in his net.

Job 19:2-6, NLT

It is clear that Job is having none of it from these guys. He knows his own heart and isn’t in the mood for their spite. His rebuke then turns to despair:

‘“My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. My servants and maids consider me a stranger. I am like a foreigner to them. When I call my servant, he doesn’t come; I have to plead with him! My breath is repulsive to my wife. I am rejected by my own family. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me. I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth. ‘

Job 19:13-20, NLT

I struggle to imagine a point where everyone who is important to me is either dead or turning their back on me like what Job was experiencing. I cannot even imagine this level of hurt and despair. Yet, Job shows such incredible resilience and strength in the face of all of this.

I think that is what struck me as a 17 year old and someone who had really never been introduced to the Bible. I was awed by this man who had no idea that God was allowing this to happen to him and yet he stayed strong and never cursed God throughout all of this. I admired the strength that he showed and wanted to show this kind of resolve in my own life. I am not sure I have ever showed the strength and resolve that Job did without completely losing my cool at some point. I hope to one day mature enough to handle a tough situation with others like Job did – to not take false accusations and push back on them with logic, strength, and wisdom; yet still recognize my own weakness and call out to God to guide me and strengthen me.

Dear Lord, I pray that you strengthen all of us when our lives fall apart, either of our own doing or if you are sending us a wake up call. Let us handle our critics with grace and with courage to not back down to false accusations. Let us remain strong and true in our belief in You. We may have times ahead, as it states in Revelation, that we will endure more persecution as a people. Let us keep this book in our minds and hearts if and when those days come. In Jesus’s name, Amen!

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Job 9:1-12:12

Today’s passage starts with a long list of what our God of the universe does/says/is that goes way beyond our power and comprehension. We read these words from Job…

Then Job replied:

“Indeed, I know that this is true.
    But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?
Though they wished to dispute with him,
    they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
    Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
He moves mountains without their knowing it
    and overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth from its place
    and makes its pillars tremble.
He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
    he seals off the light of the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens
    and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear[a] and Orion,
    the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
    miracles that cannot be counted.
11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
    when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
    Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
13 God does not restrain his anger;
    even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.

            (Job 9:1-13 [NIV])

Let’s list out what he is capable of or does in his own might and power:

  • He is so wise we cannot argue with him, vv. 3&4
  • He moves mountains without their knowledge, v. 5
  • He can shake the earth, v. 6
  • He makes nature (stars & sun) obey him, v.7
  • He stretches out the heavens and walks on water, v.8
  • He created the stars, v. 9
  • He is a miracle maker and does wonders we cannot comprehend, v. 10
  • We cannot see him, v. 11
  • We cannot stop him from doing anything, v. 12
  • No one can stand against his anger, v.13

Now perhaps we look at this and this context is right, that these are attributes of God that may fill us with fear and vexation. However, another way to look at it is that this is the person I would want to put my faith in not only for the here and now, but for all eternity. The fact that he is this mighty God brings comfort and peace to my soul. In the world we live in today we need our God to be all of this.

Put your faith in God today and stop your fear and worry. He is more than enough to take care of it all. God bless you all.

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Esther 5-10

This is a story demonstrating what not to do in more ways than one. We should never let circumstances dictate our behavior. Our behavior should be the same no matter what happens, if we trust in God. Our foundation should be so inground in us that we don’t react to circumstances, like those without God. People without God act like Haman. Haman was an angry man filled with bitterness towards one man.

Have you ever been in a room with someone like Haman? You can cut the negative tension with knife. They are not the only ones who feel it, everyone in the room is can feel it! As well as not wanting to be in the same room with the other person, you talk about it to whoever will listen, and hope that they will side with you. This is what happened in our story of Esther today. It was Mordecai the Jew vs. Haman. Just the presence of Mordecai made Haman’s blood boil. The world is big enough for everyone, but Haman didn’t know that. He and his followers had one motive in mind—get rid of Mordecai. He didn’t want it to look like a personal vendetta against Mordecai, so he conspired with the king to have all Jews killed. What he didn’t know, because she kept it to herself, was that Queen Esther was Jewish, and King Xerxes liked Queen Esther very much, enough to give her up to half of his kingdom.

Sometimes it is frightening to ask someone for a favor, for fear that they will reject our request. But if we never ask them, they will never know what you want, and you will never get what you need. The worst they could do is say “no”, but what if they complied? In Esther’s case, she could get a no, and she could have been killed. Esther was a brave, brave woman. She was willing to risk her life for others. She could have been selfish, after all, she has never told anyone that she was a Jew. But she loved her uncle, her fellow people and most of all her God. So, off to the king she went to see if she could save her people. Queen Esther and King Xerxes and Haman had a little dinner. And guess what? Haman was invited back again tomorrow.

Haman left the palace that day happy, beaming. And then he saw Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate ignoring him, oblivious to him. Haman was furious with Mordecai. But he held himself in and went on home. He got his friends together with his wife Zeresh and started bragging about how much money he had, his many sons, all the times the king had honored him, and his promotion to the highest position in government. “On top of that”, Haman continue, “Queen Esther invited me to a private dinner she gave for the king, just the three of us. And she’s invited me to another one tomorrow. But I can’t enjoy any of it when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the Kings Gate.”
His wife Zeresh and all his friends said “Build a gallows seventy-five feet high. First thing in the morning speak with the king; get him to order Mordecai hanged on it. Then happily go with the king to dinner.” Haman liked that. He had the gallows built. (Esther 5: 9-14 The Message)

Haman’s first mistake is listening to his friends and wife. His second mistake was having the gallows build. He must have had a lot of hatred in his heart to build the gallows in the middle of the night. Wisdom is very necessary in discerning wise counsel vs. foolish counsel. And, most things done in anger don’t turn out the way you plan. But he acted out with his emotions flaring wildly, another mistake he has made over and over. You will be judged the way you judge others. Haman was heading for judgement day.

That night the king couldn’t sleep. He ordered the record book, the day-by-day journal of events, to be brought and read to him. They came across the story there about the time that Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh—the two royal eunuchs who guarded the entrance and who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.
The king asked, “What great honor was given to Mordecai for this?”
“Nothing” replied the king’s servants who were in attendance. “Nothing has been done for him.”
The king said,” is there anybody out in the court?’
Now Haman had just come into the outer court of the king’s palace to talk to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows he had built for him.
The king’s servants said,” Haman is out there, waiting in the court.”
“Bring him in,” said the king.
When Haman entered, the king said, “What would be appropriate for the man the king especially wants to honor?” (Esther 6: 1-6
The Message)

God has a sense of humor, sometimes at our expense. But Haman wasn’t laughing as he was escorting Mordecai around the town square. But that was just the beginning.

Tides turn quickly! One moment you are on top of the world, and the next, the wind has been knocked out of your sails. The way events have been perfectly aligned, is so God! Perfect timing is in God’s hands.

All through time, God has been faithful to those who take a stand for Him! There was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and now there is Mordecai. Individuals who made a choice to stand for God no matter what. To refuse to bow their knee to any other god. When someone honors God in this way, the blessings keep coming to give them the courage to keep standing. When, God is for someone, nothing can be done to harm that person. God’s angel armies come to fight for them! They may not know it, and, they may not know how it will look, but for those with a strong constitution for God, even if they are killed for their beliefs, will be blessed. I know that death doesn’t sound like a blessing, but death is only temporary, and your soul, if it belongs to God, will be in His presence, with a beautiful crown designed especially for those who die for their faith.

King Xerses killed Haman and gave his estate to Esther. Mordecai became Haman’s replacement. Non-Jews were converting, because it was dangerous not to be a Jew. A decree was issued to allow the Jews to defend themselves. Many were killed by the Jews, but no plunder was taken. Afterwards they took it easy and celebrated with much food and laughter. Laughter is so important and cleansing. It changes your outlook. It lifts your spirits. It is good for the soul. This became an annual celebration.

Queen Esther was a woman to be imitated. She loved God, her family, and did the right thing even when it was hard. She was brave even though she was scared to death. She was created for such a time as this, to free her people from oppression. She was an orphan who was used by God to change the world. Hallelujah, what a legacy.

Likewise, Mordecai left a legacy for men to imitate:

Mordecai the Jew ranked second in command to King Xerses. He was popular among the Jews and greatly respected by them. He worked hard for the good of his people; he cared for the peace and prosperity of his race. (Esther 10:3 The Message)

Am I leaving a legacy?

Father God, Your handprints are all over Esther and Mordecai. Even if Your name is never mentioned, You are there with them. They may have had meek and hard beginnings, but You raised them up to be faithful to You, when the time was right. You like to use the weak, so they are aware it is not them, but You! Father God, I need to build my faith so that no matter what happens I will stand for you and not falter, even if it means dying for you. Please give me the strength to stand in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

Carol (carolvorwe)

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Nehemiah 13:23-31; Esther 1-4

I enter the story that introduces Esther to me with a king, King Ahasuerus, who was parading his magnificence for 180 days before everyone. His glory and honour were on full display and there must have been a lot of oohing and awing.

 For six months he put on exhibit the huge wealth of his empire and its stunningly beautiful royal splendors. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the king threw a weeklong party for everyone living in Susa, the capital—important and unimportant alike. – Esther 1:4 MSG

There was no end to his extravagant generosity towards those in attendance as he must have felt proud being the top person in the kingdom, a place of absolute honour.

The king did something next that he would not have done if he was not drunk. He dishonoured himself as a husband (called to protect the modesty of his wife). He diminished himself as a king when he asked her to do something that she would refuse because of her own virtuous honour. What he would ask her to do was against the custom of the Persians for women to appear in public.

 On the seventh day of the party, the king, high on the wine, ordered the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants (Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas) to bring him Queen Vashti resplendent in her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the guests and officials. She was extremely good-looking. – Esther 1:10-11 MSG

Bad news for the queen for there was a law, as opposed to a custom, for not honouring the king. I am amazed at the brazen advice the king received on how to deal with her.

Lot’s of words describing what honour and dishonour looks like. They did not get the idea of what real honour looked like. In fact, it was the wrong way to gain honour – laws do not promote honour, relationships do.

The king and the princes liked this. The king did what Memucan proposed. He sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.” – Esther 1:21-22

While I learned a lot about how not to treat my wife and a lot of what it would look like to honour her – the story sets up the most dramatic events of honour that put this book in the Bible even though God’s name was not mentioned once. Honouring God was deemed the same as mentioning His name.

I love the reminder that when I honour God, am bold in the tasks that I have been called to do, in the positions I have been placed, then God is honoured and His deeds remembered for eternity.

Father, thank You for the kind reminders of what honour does not look like. Thank You for the kind reminders that You control the destiny of the world. Thank You for the kind reminders that Your plan is constantly unfolding. Thank You for the kind reminders that I need to seek to do Your will and follow Your plan.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Nehemiah 11:22-13:22

Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament and the Bible as a whole. The courage, faith, and shrewdness that Nehemiah shows in this story is one I greatly admire. We did a study of this book at the church we belonged to when I first launched my business in late 2016. I took great inspiration from Nehemiah, as against all human odds and tremendous opposition, he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. I wanted to do build something great when I started my business.

To set the stage for what I am going to write about here, the wall had been completed. Nehemiah had organized great celebrations to commemorate God’s faith in building the wall in an almost impossible timeline and against incredible odds. The people who built it, along with Nehemiah, dedicated the wall to God. Nehemiah organized everyone and gave everyone orders on what to do next and how to conduct business and live life. He then returned to King Artaxerxes to fulfill his post.

After some time, he returned to find the people back to some unhealthy patterns (all from Nehemiah 13, NLT):

 6But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, Neh. 5:14–16for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, 7and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in 5preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. 8And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. 9Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

“Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place. 12Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. 13And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren.

14Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!

15In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. 16Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

17Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? 18Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”

As you can tell, Nehemiah was furious because his orders (God’s orders via Nehemiah) had not been followed. What isn’t stated was why the people drifted from his orders. Was it willful disobedience? Complacence? Were the distracted or discouraged by something and slowly drifted? It is hard to say.

Last fall was a very difficult one for me and for the business. We had much going on. I lost an employee to a customer as they hired him away from us, which took away almost any hope of being profitable for the year. We lost a potentially large contract that would have taken us to the “next level” and it was one that I truly thought we were going to deliver on. My mother in law was in bad health. My oldest son was still adrift. We were (and still are) trying to find a church where we feel we should belong. I became like the people in the above story. I had drifted from the things that God had told me to do that would make me successful in His eyes. I wasn’t studying as much. I wasn’t praying as much. I was distracted by other activities like golf and fishing. The events going on in the country, the world, and within God’s people were weighing me down. I was far away from the course that God wanted me on.

On the business side, we had had two great years and it wasn’t like I didn’t know what to do, nor had I forgotten what it took to get there. Maybe I just started thinking we had “made it” and the business would just continue to grow. I had gotten complacent over time, maybe even a bit arrogant. I had done so much, the “wall was built,” yet it all has to be maintained and cultivated. It wasn’t like I suddenly forgot what to do.

For me, I think it was a slow drifting away from the things I knew were the best for me and there were certainly some body blows to my ego and my psyche. It hurt, but it was a slow drifting away toward complacence that was hurting me. Every discouraging event weakened my will.

I didn’t really have a Nehemiah to come in and assess my life, my business, and all of my issues. I wish I did. I wish someone would have come in sooner and called me out on things that I wasn’t doing as much as I should have. I wish someone would have called out the distractions and the things that were turning to “idols” in my life without knowing it (well, Kristina did a few times, as good wives do!). I had to get back on track with God Himself and a small circle of people. I had to admit to myself that I needed to make a course correction.

I think for all of us, especially in these crazy times we live in (which aren’t unprecedented by the way – I have to keep reminding myself of that and the Bible reminds me as well), it is easy to get discouraged, distracted, and complacent. It is what the enemy wants. He wants us away from our lifeblood. It isn’t easy to come back from a distracted state, but it can be done. What we have to guard against at all cost is willful disobedience, which can be a real danger to us. That is much harder to get back on track from.

So, what do you think happened with the people of Jerusalem? Was it willful disobedience? Or, were they just like their ancestors who were delivered out of Egypt and then complained at every turn just because things weren’t turning out how they had hoped? How about you? Have you been blessed mightily in your life only to find yourself feeling down, bitter, or nonchalant to what is going on in your life? Do you need a Nehemiah – someone sold out and on fire for God to come in and make a tough assessment and tell you what you need to hear whether you want to or not? Is there someone that you need to lovingly hold accountable for something like Nehemiah did here? I will let you ponder that.

Dear Lord, I pray for all of those that read these words. I pray that they take an honest assessment of where they stand with You and with what they are doing in their life. Are they and we obeying You the way we should? You have brought me back from dark places more times than I can count and yet I still let my fire for you burn too low at times. I am praying that my track back toward where You need and want me to be continues. I pray that the right person or people are encouraged and challenged by these words. For those in the right place with You, I ask that they stand on guard at all times. The enemy never quits, never sleeps, and is always out to destroy our relationship with You. I am sorry for drifting away and forgetting Your majesty at times. Help me stay focused on You and away from things that are not good for me. In Jesus’s mighty name I pray, Amen!

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