The Pursuit for Deeper Faith

For some time, I’ve been working with a church in a relatively “non-exciting” way: through reviewing and consulting on survey data. I said “non-exciting” only because processing and statistics isn’t exactly glamourous. HOWEVER – the Process of Renewal on which this church is embarking IS exciting!

I’d like to share a bit with you about another recent LRM event – a Catalyst weekend. Although the church was initially considering a Celebration weekend, there were a few signs that it might not be able to be what the pastor and leaders were prayerfully seeking to achieve. Therefore, after more prayer, they determined to hold a Catalyst first.

The Catalyst is much simpler to facilitate. There are three options: David, Moses, or Ruth. A 30-Day pre-event devotional guide is used to both prepare hearts and minds as well as develop interest in the event. Instead of preparing required aspects of the Celebration like housing, transportation, and more, the church only needs to have housing for two leaders and arrange for two church dinners (and even those can be flexible!). The only “mandatory” that is consistent between the two is the prayer vigil.

In many respects, it was just like a Celebration. We had a Friday late-afternoon team meeting. During it, we reviewed guidelines for discussion groups and talked about sharing testimonies. The difference was that instead of having visiting team members, the church members served in those roles – both experienced as well as first-time group leaders. We also equipped them to share 9-sentence faith stories.

The church then gathered for dinner and fellowship before we began the general session. We dove into the Word and walked our way through the Story of God’s rescue of His children through Moses. We then shared faith stories – usually in 9-sentences but some felt led to share a bit more (PRAISE GOD!). We then dispersed into small discussion groups. When those completed, we gathered together once again for review and celebration. The other times [Saturday morning and Saturday night (with a bridge to God’s rescue of His children through Christ)] finally wrapped up with a special time of shared prayer. On Sunday morning, we gathered for a unified worship service.   

The prayer for AFTER these weekends is simple: continue. We pray that the sharing of stories will continue. We pray that the relationships and group conversations will continue. We pray that ALL God has done will continue.

And, I’m not changing direction, but have you ever noticed the way in which the Apostle Paul interrupts himself in the Letter to the Ephesians? In the middle of his missive, he stops and PRAYS!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19

While it may seem random to us, we know that Paul, writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is moved to pray before he begins to give practical instructions for the Church. In that same respect, I lift up each church with whom we are given the honor of serving. LRM is dropped into the middle of all that is happening. As the church then moves forward, we pray that they can continue to take steps forward to deeper faith and outreach. But, because just like the Apostle we are no longer there, we must pray for these things to continue (and for the NEXT event!).

So, would you please continue with us? Will you continue in prayer and support for DEEPER? In whatever way we are able to serve a particular church, may God continue to move them towards His purposes and will!

Yours in Christ,

Marty

Radio Interview: Denise Pass - Shame Off You

Shame. It can be a weight that drags you down, and down, and down... Whether it was something of your own doing or caused by someone else, we need to understand through God's Word how He is bigger than any of the things of our past.

Denise Pass - Author/Speaker/Worship Leader joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share her book from Abingdon Press, Shame Off You. Denise wrote from her own experience as well as through stories of others who have come to know the freedom through the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV 95.9 / 1320 on October 26, 2018.

Radio Interview: Tricia Goyer - Calming Angry Kids

It's been too long since Tricia Goyer joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV. However, she was back on October 26th to share an insightful (and experienced!) book from our friends at David C Cook - Calming Angry Kids.

If you have ever felt like you were caught up in a whirlwind of chaos and anger, Tricia Goyer brings us back to a place where we can take a deep breath. Listen to the interview and check out the book to learn how you can understand and respond in a manner that calms rather than ignites a trying situation.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV 95.9 / 1320 on October 26, 2018.

Radio Interview: Luke Norsworthy - God Over Good

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
Except when...
There is pain... There is heartache...
There is something that is not fair...
But, isn't God still good then?

Perhaps the issue isn't about God but about you and me? Maybe we need to save our faith by losing our false expectations of God? Luke Norsworthy joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to discuss these questions. Luke, pastor of Westover Hills Church in Austin, TX, also shared from his new Baker Books release, God Over Good.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV 95.9 / 1320 on October 19, 2018.

Radio Interview: David Limbaugh - Jesus Is Risen: Paul and the Early Church

We had a very special Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV guest on October 19th. David Limbaugh (who has Lay Renewal “roots” that run very deep) joined us to share his newest book, Jesus is Risen: Paul and the Early Church. Written as a layman's commentary taking you through Acts and six of Paul's Letters, you'll be better equipped through this resource to understand how the Church grew through the Power of the Holy Spirit! Listen to the interview to hear David share a bit of his faith and this book! (And, just for fun, be sure to listen from the start as David shares a wonderful nugget about Lay Renewal.)

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV 95.9 / 1320 on October 19, 2018.

Radio Interview: Dennis Rainey / Family Life - The Art of Parenting

"My kids are perfect in every way!"

…said by no parent ever without their fingers crossed behind their backs!

Let's be honest. Parenting is hard. But there IS help! Dennis Rainey joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share the new book from FamilyLife, The Art of Parenting.

Written by Dennis and his wife, Barbara, the book presents much needed wisdom and direction for parents and families today. It's also part of a much larger program - including a video study series - that can be an incredible resource for churches.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on October 12, 2018.

Radio Interview: Justin Zoradi - Made for These Times

Justin Zoradi was haunted by a question: "How can we live out the grand theory of calling in our everyday, ordinary lives?" As he traveled from California to Michigan and even as far away as Africa, Justin found a simple path. When God gives you an opportunity, say yes.

To be clear, it's not about trying to do everything. It's about doing what God wants you to do. And then doing it again. Or doing more. Justin founded These Numbers Have Faces and now shares more of his story through Made for These Times, a field guide for those pursuing purpose. Justin joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share more about his life, the book, and what you can do as you seek to glorify God through your life.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on October 12, 2018.

Heroes without Capes - #Suffering

We all have heroes, don’t we? From comic books to cartoons to the wave of movies that continue to bring in millions of dollars at the box office, the desire to have people who can go above and beyond to defeat enemies and rescue us from danger is a common theme.

Now, all heroes may not wear capes, do they? I would guess that you have some heroes in your life. If you think about your family, you may have someone who, even if they couldn’t fly, seemed to be able to do incredible things. They knew you and were always there to do or say the right thing.

Or maybe it was a friend. Someone who was always there for you. Someone who did those extra things that were always able to give you a smile or lift of encouragement. Someone who was a calming presence no matter what chaos was around.

Or maybe you have someone that you have never met. It might be an athlete or businessperson or maybe even just someone you read about. Their life has impressed you and you want to do things or be like them in some way.

The more I study the book of Job, the more I’d like to meet him. While he is not perfect, he is certainly impressive. And as I hear his story and reflect on his response, I’m encouraged. Day after day as he went through this terrible struggle, he responded in faith. When his wife told him to curse God and die, Job trusted. And – before you judge his wife – remember that all of these things were happening to her too. She also lost 7 sons and 3 daughters – I can’t imagine.

But Job also had to stand up and be faithful as these three friends came to him to offer comfort and sympathy. We don’t know a lot of details about the lives of these three men, but those verses in chapter two tell us that they came together in agreement. Word was getting around. When they heard what was happening, somehow they communicated with one another. Then they joined together to travel and offer words of comfort and blessing to their friend. Seven days and nights, they wept and grieved with Job. And then – and remember this – Job spoke first. In the depths of his grief, pain, and sorrow, he began to speak and then they responded.

Each one speaks more than once. Eliphaz and Bildad have three speeches recorded. Zophar has only two. If I am honest with myself, I can see a bit of myself in each person. If I am sitting down with someone – or if I am reflecting on what is going on in my own life – I want to see what I or that other person did wrong. Why is this happening? Is the suffering a ramification of some sin? Or is God trying to teach me or them something? Is God trying to use whatever is happening to draw me or that person closer to him or her?

Remember: I am not God. You are not either. Therefore, neither you nor I know all of the answers. All I can do is speak to what the Word says and how the Holy Spirit is drawing me to understand Him better.

Here is an honest truth. I do believe that God uses circumstances in our lives to bring us closer to Him. It’s hard to imagine, but I know that in many of my own struggles, I’ve found no other choice but to seek God. From the depths of pain, I can only look up and trust. Even if no answer is ever clear, I know that He is sovereign.

Here comes the “but”…

As much as I wish it didn’t happen, if I am being honest, I must confess that I find myself at times reverting to Zophar’s response.

To put it simply, his response is: Stop sinning and do something.

Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.  Job 11: 13-17

To paraphrase: Hey Job, your heart isn’t right. Put away your sin. Be perfect. Lift up your face to God and all will be well. Life will be brighter than the noonday sun.

Doesn’t that sound great?

But let me put a slightly different spin on it. Should we think of it this way? I can’t help but think that this has something to do with the idea of service – and not in a good way. What do I mean?

Make a bargain with God. Get better so that things will go better. Make a deal with God so that things will work out. God, if you will fix this, then I will do that. If you will heal me or heal this other person, then I will do that. If you will make this situation or that situation work out, then I will do this for the rest of my life.

I was speaking with my dad one day and I don’t know how we got on this subject, but we were discussing faith and he brought up a time when he was in the service. He spent almost 20 years in the Air Force and flew in planes in Vietnam. He wasn’t the pilot, but they would take planes and swoop down over enemy lines and take pictures. As you can imagine, they were shot at – a LOT.

On one flight, they were shot down. As he was calling in for a rescue, with lots of enemies all around, he began to make promises to God. “God, if you get me out of this, I will…” Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Are any of us not guilty of doing the same thing?

Now, it may not have been during these exact circumstances, but haven’t we all made a promise or tried to bargain with God in some way?

I don’t want to be too hard on anyone this morning, so I’ll just continue to pick on myself. When my parents first separated, I wondered what I could do to fix it. When I began living in Central America and things weren’t going as I thought they should, I wondered what I could do to make it right. When people around me have gotten sick or in trouble or struggled, I came back to asking God for bargains. I may not have always called them that, but I confess that I put them out there.

There are two simple problems with that approach. First, if things do go better, we conveniently forget our promises. Second, if things do NOT get better, we can blame God for not doing what we wanted. Regardless of whether or not God might be a little smarter than we are (He is); regardless of whether or not God chose to work in a supernatural way; regardless of anything and everything, we forget those simple words that were included in the way Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done”. We continuously want it to be “my will be done”.

Here’s a simple reality. Job had done nothing wrong to cause the present situation. His three friends, who went there to provide sympathy & comfort, didn’t provide those things. They began to try to fix Job’s problems. They began to act in God’s role.

And it’s incredible to read through Zophar’s second speech. He has no sympathy for Job and puts him in with those he calls the “wicked and the godless”.

Though he flees from an iron weapon, a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him. He pulls it out of his back, the gleaming point out of his liver. Terrors will come over him; total darkness lies in wait for his treasures. A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent. The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him. A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters on the day of God's wrath. Such is the fate God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God. Job 20: 24-29

I don’t know about you, but if these were my comforters, I would go back inside my house. I’d go into our closet and close the door. I’d curl up into a ball in the darkness and I wouldn’t come out.

Let me share a few closing thoughts with you that I think are a much better option. I think there are some ways that we can actually provide service in the midst of suffering so that Christ is truly revealed through it.

And it is important to make that connection to suffering. In Isaiah 53, we read of Jesus being the “Suffering Servant”.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:4-7

First of all, if you are going through suffering, please serve by enduring it.

What does that mean?

If you endure something, that means you push forward through it. I am NOT telling you it will be easy. I’m not telling you that you have to be silent and can’t share with others. I’m not telling you it will be quick. I’m simply telling you to find a way to trust God. Find a way to dive deeper into His Word and connection with Him so that you can enjoy the great blessing of love and fellowship with Him. The more we can reflect a Christ-like attitude, the more others can be drawn to Him through us.

Jesus endured pain we can’t imagine and He did it out of love. He did it so that we could be restored in our relationship with the Father. Sin was conquered and, when we receive Him as our Savior, our eternity is secured.

Second, if you have an Eliphaz, or a Bildad, or a Zophar around, please serve by ejecting from them.

What does that mean?

My dad has ejected from three planes. Two were in combat and one was flying over a field. That third time, he was in a plane and suddenly it started shaking – very violently. He called out to the pilot and there was no response. He followed the procedures you were supposed to follow, but as the plane continued to shake and the pilot didn’t respond, he did the final step – he ejected. He got out of the plane and away from the problem.

If you have an Eliphaz, or a Bildad, or a Zophar, then eject. That does NOT mean you have to go away from that person, but stop listening to things that are going to pull you down rather than build you up. When Simon Peter told Jesus that He would not suffer and die, how did Jesus reply? “Get thee behind me, satan!” Jesus then told all the disciples that they would have to take up their crosses DAILY. Let me put this simply. Smile back. Love them back. But don’t get sucked into the muck and the mire. Life is too short. Don’t accept more pain.

And lastly, if you know someone going through suffering, do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT be an Eliphaz, or a Bildad, or a Zophar. You can sit with them. You can cry with them. You can love them. But please serve by easing up.

We all will experience some form of pain or struggle in life. This is a fallen world. We sin and people around us sin. Things happen as a result. As things happen to you or to others, try to be a blessing. Try to find a way to reflect grace rather than gloom.

Yes, there are times we need to speak the truth in love. I’ve had to do it with people that legitimately were going through things that were the result of their own making. And while I ABSOLUTELY know that I did not do it perfectly, I pray that I am doing a better and better job of it every day.

And I also want YOU to know that I see so many of you doing this as well. Honestly, many of you do a much better job of it than I will ever do. Many of you are the “super heroes” I see in life. I know many of you are enduring stuff that I don’t think I could. You are being the light and love of Christ to others.

Continue to press forward in faith. Strive to have more of Christ reflected through you every day. Whether it is a person on the street or a person you meet from across the globe, may we be messengers of grace and truth.

Radio Interview: Jonathan Merritt - Learning to Speak God from Scratch

There are some simple words that we should consider sacred. Grace. Blessed. Confession. Spirit. Family.

However, as Jonathan Merritt moved from his home in the Bible Belt to New York City, he discovered that his "language" was not heard in the same way. He had to start over and, as the title of his book reflects, begin the process of "Learning to Speak God from Scratch".

Jonathan joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share his story and to present a liberating approach to sharing the Savior with people who need to hear His Story!

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on October 5, 2018.

Radio Interview: Dr Kevin Leman - Parenting Conference at First E-Free 10/12-14/18

Writer of 10,257,832 books, Dr. Kevin Leman is well known for his ministry to parents, families, and everyone he can get to listen.

OK - we joke, but only because he does too! The simple truth is that Dr Leman is a noted expert whose is willing to share what God has taught him over the years AND he does so with joy and laughter!

He will be in St Louis the weekend of October 13-14 in a special conference at www.EFree.org. Dr. Leman joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share about the conference as well as many of the great resources available for parents and families.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on October 5, 2018.

How will the Church survive? Through Deeper Faith

From time to time, I work with a church on LRM survey data. While pouring over data and statistics is not an “exciting” way to serve, it is still a privilege to be able to study the health of a particular Body of Christ and consider possible options for getting stronger.

A recent phone consultation itself was interesting. There are details I cannot share, but the conversation was good and the leaders asked many questions that were focused on spiritual growth and outreach. And, to me, that is what it is ALL about. The ABC’s (Attendance, Building, and Cash) are barometers of health, but NOT the goal.

The heart of Lay Renewal continues to be focused on serving the Church as it renews, motivates, and equips men and women for ministry. We believe in the Power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s living and active Word so that people are strengthened in their faith and walking forward to share the Gospel Message of salvation through Christ alone. The world may focus on “bigger is better” but we know that DEEPER is best!

Consider for a moment what happened in China in early September. Christianity Today and other news sources have reported increasing hostile persecution. For example, on September 5th, police raided a church and burned Bibles, furniture, and crosses. On the 9th, the government shut down the largest church in Beijing. Why? They refused to have cameras installed that would allow services to be monitored. China is also considering a series of rules and restrictions for the Internet that would block faith forums, streaming services and more.

How can the Church in China survive? Through deeper faith.

Voice of the Martyrs shares the stories of persecution in Nigeria. Pastor Silas was attacked and killed by Fulani herdsmen. Pastor Vincent was also killed when the church he served was attacked. The wife of Pastor Jacob and six church members were killed during a church attack. There are now over 7,500 people living in refugee camps.

How will the Church in Nigeria survive? Through deeper faith.

The examples of persecution and suffering around the globe are shocking and tragic. And yet, as some churches focus on the ABC’s, the true mission of the Church is found in striving to fulfill the Great Commission. The true mission is found as we go deeper into relationship with God and love others more deeply through His strength!

So, why is the definition of the word “persnickety” at the top of this letter?

When we work with a church in the Process of Renewal, the survey portion can be a risky time. It requires looking inwardly to see how the church family is growing spiritually and reaching out to impact the community. It requires the leadership spending some time examining how they are serving and supporting through their roles. There can be some incredibly convicting information produced before, during, and after this step. Truthfully, some people can be rather persnickety as they attempt to ignore crucial information and push the trivial to the top.

BUT…

The blessings come when churches are honestly willing to assess how God is calling them to deeper faith. The blessings come when churches are committed to considering what they have done, what they are doing, and what God is calling them to do in the future. And the blessings aren’t found in the ABC’s. The blessings are found in deeper faith – renewed men and women who are seeking to do more for Christ and Kingdom!

Yours in Christ,

Marty

Radio Interview: Kristen Barnett - Watt's Bugging You

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. After struggling through some incredible challenges in her own life and ministering to others in crisis, Kristen Barnett decided to help in a different way - through Watts Bugging You. Written to help families with children ages 2-7, the first book, The Bug Who Thought He Lost His Buzz, is now available.

Kristen joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV broadcast to discuss the book, the series, and a special way YOU can help families! www.WattsBuggingYou.com

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 21, 2018.

Radio Interview: Michael Youssef - Life Changing Prayers

 Support LRM by purchasing through this affiliate link!

Support LRM by purchasing through this affiliate link!

For more than 30 years, Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef has been passionately proclaiming Truth without compromise. Dr Youssef took a break from his packed schedule to join us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share wisdom and insight from his new book, Life Changing Prayers.

In his own words, his first response was "Not another book on prayer!" but as he sought to discern if this was God's leading, he realized that there was still much that could be considered. From "ordinary people", God could truly do extraordinary things. You'll be inspired to dive deeper as Dr Youssef takes us to God's Word and precious examples of prayer - including Eliezer, Habakkuk, Hannah and more!

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 21, 2018.

Radio Interview: Jennifer Dukes Lee - It's All Under Control

 Support LRM! Purchase through this link.

Support LRM! Purchase through this link.

A plan to take control of our need to take control may sound like an oxymoron. However, Jennifer Dukes Lee has written a new book from Tyndale House Publishers that covers just that issue. "It's All Under Control" takes you from being unable to say "no" to being able to find the courage to do the really hard things that God wants you to accomplish.

Jennifer joined us on #EncounterKSIV Bott Radio Network to share more from her book and life. Listen to 12-minute interview by clicking on the link below.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 28, 2018.

Radio Interview: Claire Niederpruem - #LittleWomenMovie

Attempting to retell a classic book by Louisa May Alcott is daunting enough. However, imagine trying doing so through film AND as a first-time director!

Claire Niederpruem joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share a bit of her adventure with www.LittleWomenTheMovie.com. The movie releases the weekend of September 28th. Check out the trailer and listen to the interview with Claire. It received 4 thumbs up! (You'll have to listen to the interview...)

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 28, 2018.

Suffering and (God's) Silence - More reflections inspired by one of Job's friend...

In the book, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey tells the story of a man named Richard. He’d met him years ago and they had developed a friendship and working relationship. One day, as Richard’s book on Job was about to be published, he asked to meet with Philip. Richard then told him that he no longer believed in God.

It was a bit of a surprising conversation, but Richard told the story without a lot of the blanks that he’d left incomplete before. He had been drawn to God when searching for ways to keep his parents from divorcing. He’d had a lot of questions but those were set aside by people who told him to simply “trust God”. While that is good advice, the lack of answers only made him struggle more.

Now, for Yancey, these questions weren’t as much of a problem. If you don’t recognize his name, his books have sold over 14 million copies. Titles like What’s So Amazing About Grace and The Jesus I Never Knew have won awards and books like The Problem of Pain and A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith are almost painfully honest in the questions that are presented. 

As Yancey continued to speak with Richard, one of the questions that he shared with him that he had struggled with was simple: “Is God silent?

I will come back to that later, but I want to look at Job first. As we look in the Word and at our theme, we need to make sure that we are addressing the specifics of Who is being called “silent” and why it matters when we are suffering.

At the end of chapter 7, we read Job’s words:

If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more. Job 7: 20-21

Job doesn’t know why he is suffering. He is crying out to God and asking why. He is asking what he did wrong. He is wondering why God is silent. Why isn’t He answering? Then, as we turn to chapter 8, we hear from Job’s second friend, Bildad. We don’t really know anything about Bildad. As I read through his words – ignoring the text but reading them for their beauty – he sounds like a poet. Picture this:

What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider's web. He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold. Job 8: 14-15

I love that imagery! Even so, Bildad isn’t very nice. His first speech begins:

Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind.” Job 8: 1-2

Bildad doesn’t know or doesn’t care why Job’s words are not being answered. Imagine if your “friend” told you, after you’d lost 10 children and just about all of your worldly possessions that your words are a “blustering wind”. I’d be very upset! But Bildad tells Job that God’s silence is not something he needs to worry about.

Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. Job 8: 3-6

In Bildad’s opinion, God’s silence shouldn’t be the focus. Job should focus on what he, Job, did wrong. Bildad blames the death of all of Job’s children on something that they had done wrong. Their deaths were the just penalty. Job’s punishment must therefore be happening because he did something wrong too. 

But Bildad begins with one false assumption and then lumps another on top of it.

My reflections in Job were inspired in part by a book called The Fellowship of the Suffering. In it, Dave Ripper and Paul Borthwick phrase Bildad’s thoughts this way:  

Who does Job think he is to expect an explanation from the God of the universe? While Bildad rightly magnifies God in his exhortation, he wrongly minimizes the people of God made in His image, by surmising God doesn’t have time for them. Even though some of what Bildad communicates has theological truth behind it, the cruelly impersonal way he shares this message chokes out any of the life found within it.”   Fellowship of the Suffering p 22

Bildad is right that God does NOT pervert justice. That is not in God’s character and God does not do things that are outside of His character.

But Bildad persists in blaming all of this calamity on Job. Again, with beautiful words that completely lack any heart or compassion, he throws stones at Job.

The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning. The light in his tent becomes dark; the lamp beside him goes out. The vigor of his step is weakened; his own schemes throw him down. His feet thrust him into a net and he wanders into its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare holds him fast. A noose is hidden for him on the ground; a trap lies in his path. Job 18: 5-10

If you think that is bad, Bildad’s third speech contains a pretty hefty slam against Job. Thankfully, it is very brief:

Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise? How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot — a son of man, who is only a worm!"  Job 25: 2-6

Has anyone ever heard the expression, “With friends like these…”?

When people are throwing stones at you, the normal responses are defense or to throw stones right back at them. I’m guilty of doing that far too many times. I’m trying to change. I’m trying to absorb what people tell me and prayerfully consider any truth that might be in it. But it’s hard.

It was hard for Job too. You can tell from his words that he’s hurt and upset. That said, I love one of his responses:

If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. Job 19:4

Think about a simple question: Have you ever offered someone solutions to whatever problem they put before you?

Now, have you ever learned that the person really didn’t want solutions? All they wanted was understanding.

In Fellowship of the Suffering, Dave and Paul state that very simply:

“What Job needs isn’t solution but understanding.” Fellowship of the Suffering p 22

What Job – and probably each one of us – needed was not a bunch of answers. We usually know the answer. When we are suffering, we just need someone to listen. We need someone to tell us that it is going to be ok. We need someone to love us.

And let’s come back to the big question: Is God silent?

In Disappointment with God, Yancey shares his own question and the path that God took him on to find an answer. In Exodus, we read example after example of God speaking. When Moses met with God, the Israelites were afraid. They asked Moses to speak with God for them.

Beyond that direct conversation, the Israelites had a lot of ways that God revealed Himself and the direction to them. If you remember, as God was leading them through the wilderness, He gave them a pillar of fire at night and a column of smoke by day. It’s kind of like checking the weather by stepping outside. Is it hot? Yep. Does God want us to move today? Nope. The cloud isn’t moving.

God also gave them something called the Urim and Thummim that the priests used. They developed 613 laws to guide their behavior. Don’t steal. Don’t murder. Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. God was very, very clear!

And yet, when we read Numbers, we see how people refuse to listen. The 12 explorers went into the Promised Land and came back with incredible reports of a land flowing with milk and honey. However, 10 of them also said the people were too scary. If they went in, they would be defeated. In spite of Joshua and Caleb trying to tell them to trust God, the people rebelled.

Then, when Moses told them the ramifications of their actions would be to spend the next 40 years in the wilderness, they rebelled again. They decided they’d rather go forward than walk in the wilderness and die. In Number 14, Moses tried to tell them to stop, but they would not listen.

Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!” But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.” Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them… Numbers 14: 40-45

I found Yancey’s conclusion to be true, but also kind of upsetting. Yancey said:

I had second thoughts about crystal-clear guidance. It may serve some purpose… but it does not seem to encourage spiritual development. In fact, for the Israelites, it nearly eliminated the need for faith at all; clear guidance sucked away freedom, making every choice a matter of obedience rather than faith. p 46

Let’s think about what this means. What happens if you know, beyond every shadow of a doubt, what you are supposed to do, BUT you don’t like what you are supposed to do? What do you do?

The Israelites knew what they were supposed to do. God told them through Moses, through the Law, through the signs in the sky, through everything EXACTLY what they were supposed to do.

And they rebelled.

What’s my point?

This is a hard conclusion, but I believe it. God is NEVER silent.

Let me say that again: God is NEVER silent.

God has given us the answer – Trust Him. Trust that we are forgiven through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. Trust the Holy Spirit Who is present in us to give us guidance, encouragement, and peace. Trust God.

God is never silent.

We are the ones who don’t listen. To quote something else Yancey said, “The Israelites give ample proof that signs may only addict us to signs, not to God.” In other words, they had clear direction. They just didn’t listen.

If you are struggling, it’s ok. It really, truly is ok. It’s ok to ask questions and to wonder what is going on. It’s ok to ask for God to show you an answer.

But you can’t just ask. You have to listen. As God tells you – through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, or through whatever means He presents – you have to listen.

If the answer is clear, praise God and walk with Him. If the answer is not clear, do what Job did – trust God. Granted, Job wrestled and struggled and fought, but in the end, he trusted God.

We have to do the same thing.

Radio Interview: Wayne Grudem #ChristianEthics

Would a 1,200+ page INTRODUCTION to Christian Ethics scare you? While I confess it appears a bit intimidating, the new Crossway book from Wayne Grudem presents ideas of moral reasoning in a careful, and grace-filled manner.

Using a structure rooted in the Ten Commandments, Dr. Grudem takes readers from God's Character to the purity of our hearts. He doesn't shy away from current issues of race, gender, or anything else as he presents the Word with a tender heart in incredibly readable pieces.


Click on the link to listen to a special conversation with one of the great teachers in evangelicalism today.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 14, 2018.

Radio Interview: Jack Alexander #TheGodImpulse #Mercy

Mercy is a simple word, isn't it? Yes and no. While we may grasp its meaning, living our lives in a way that truly reflects it in our actions can be something vastly different. Jack Alexander joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share his book, The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World.

Jack not only draws readers into Scripture, but he also challenges you to think about current issues of social justice, broken relationships, and truly seeking to be like Jesus in opening your heart to others. 

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 14, 2018.

 

Radio Interview: Karen Barnett - Where the Fire Falls

Are you ready to go back in time? Are you ready to visit one of God's great creations? Karen Barnett, a former Park Service worker and now a novelist, takes us to Yosemite National Park for the setting of her newest book in the Vintage National Park series, Where the Fire Falls. (Although it is a series, the novels also stand-alone.)

Click on the link to hear the conversation with Karen as she opens up the novel and a bit about herself to the listeners on #EncounterKSIV!

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 7, 2018. 

Radio Interview: Cindy Woodsmall - As the Tide Comes In

In order to reach the hearts of people, Jesus used parables (stories). We know that this is still a way to reach hearts and minds today. And, although not everyone reads Christian novels, they can be an excellent way to draw people deeper into faith and thinking of things of God. 

Cindy Woodsmall joined us on Bott Radio Network #EncounterKSIV to share her newest stand-alone novel, As the Tide Comes In. Moving between North Carolina and St Simon's Island, Georgia, Cindy weaves a tale of pain and healing as her characters wrestle with issues of life and loss. 

Click on the link to hear Cindy share a bit about her writing and this novel.

This interview originally aired on Bott Radio Network KSIV on September 7, 2018.