READ: Read the passage, noticing God’s involvement in the story and circling God each time he is mentioned.
JOB 1:1, 8-11, 21
(1) Job was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion….
(8) God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him–honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.”
(9-10) Satan retorted, “so do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does–he can’t lose!
(11) “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”….
(21) Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed.
THINK: Notice the interaction between God and Satan. Does it bother you that God is bartering with Satan with Job’s life? Is this the God you know?
Notice the words of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed.” If you lost everything–family, fortune, and eventually your health–would you be able to say such a thing? Why or why not? What would have to happen for you to utter similar words–and actually mean them?
PRAY: Spend time meditating on the gut-honest yet God-honoring words of Job. Let your emotions serve as a backdrop to your prayers. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you in the silence.
LIVE: Today as you use different objects (your car, computer, TV, and so on) and as you enter different places (your home, school, workplace, and so on), consider how you might respond if God instantly removed an item without explanation.
What’s funny is that I’ve read this passage many times and have always so compartmentalized what happened to Job in terms of the conversation between God and Satan and how Job had all his land taken away that I’ve missed many of the correlations to my own life sometimes. Sitting in my current situation, it’s easy to make a comparison of my life to that of Job, in terms of my husband because he’s really the one who has had everything stripped from him. However, now that I think about it: I’ve had just enough stripped from me to make me be able to see this passage differently, to make me able to see the correlation.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had many things wrenched away from me. But, every time, after the hurting was over, and after I’d finished whining and complaining about whatever it was that I lost, I was able to see that loss was not the prevailing theme. I had gained some things too. But what’s more important is that the value of the things that I have gained far outweighs the hurt that losing them caused.
To date, most of the things that I’ve lost or that have been taken away from me, have not been given back to me. Some of those things, I wouldn’t want back. Some of those things I like to think I might want back, but I cannot imagine that my life would be better if I got them. So for now, there’s only one thing that has been taken from me that I know I will receive back, and can hardly wait until it is returned. My husband. But, until then, I know that God is working in the both of us, preparing us to be even better for each other than when we were separated. But not just better for each other. Better for the work he has planned for us as a couple when he returns. Better servants. Better friends. Better parents. And more humble. More submissive to God’s will and plan for our lives. Ready to answer whatever call he has placed on our lives because we will have conquered something that we never thought we could have.
So…until that glorious day, I will continue to walk, with my head held high, waiting expectantly, hopeful that it is sooner than later, but with the knowledge that whenever that day comes, I will be fully prepared for it, and the world my husband and I will re-enter as a couple will have been being prepared for us.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you so much for all you do for us. Thank you for this world that you have so lovingly created and that each one of us has been created in your image. Thank you for loving us so much that you gave up your son to die on the cross that we all might have a chance to spend eternity in paradise with you.
Be with us Lord. You know that we are just dust. You know how easy it is to get attached to the fleeting things of this world, and how easy it is to forget that we would have nothing but that, by grace, you have decided to gift us with all that we have. Lord, help us to be thankful for everyone and everything in our lives that we have received from you. And help us to see that THAT is everything we have. Help us to remember to hold all those things and all those people with an open hand so that it doesn’t hurt quite so much when you ask for them back, or when you require that we sacrifice them.
Thank you, Lord, for everyone who has stopped by this humble, little blog and decided to return. I have no words but the ones you give me. And Lord, please, when the words do not come from you, don’t let them come at all.
I thank you for today. For every breath I was given. For every breath my children took. For every breath my husband takes all the way over in Kansas. I thank you for my family. For my friends. For my mentors. And Lord, I thank you for the people who have hurt me, because that hurt has caused me to have to turn to you if I am going to heal.
I praise your Holy Name. And all this I pray in your son’s precious name, the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
READ: Read the passage aloud slowly. Haman is upset because the king ordered all those at the King’s Gate to bow to him, and Mordecai the Jew does not (see Esther 3:3-6).
(9-13) 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 curious 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 promotions to the highest position in the government. “On top of all that,” Haman continued, “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 King’s Gate.”
THINK: Read the passage again slowly.
How did Haman’s preoccupations affect him? What did those preoccupations reveal about the kind of person he was inside?
Haman was filled with hatred for the Jews. Any time Mordecai did something that drew attention to the fact that he cared less about Haman (or the government) than he did about God, Haman became livid. It’s no wonder that he was having a hard time enjoying the fact that he was about to go have dinner TWICE with the king, at the queen’s request. Of course, had he known the reason why he was going, he would’ve realized that he had need to be preoccupied with more pressing matters, seeing how his plans to annihilate the Jews was about to outed to the king by the queen.
What preoccupations have filled your mind for the past 24 hours? What do these preoccupations reveal about who you are inside?
Wow…this is a question. Considering I am typing this up about 2 weeks late, I think it’s safe to say that my mind has been extremely preoccupied lately. But, for the past 24 hours, I have found myself thinking about the classes I am about to start (the last 2 of my 4 intensives), missing my husband, needing a job, a few impending deadlines, the precarious state of my life come the first of the year, my sometimes overwhelming desire to FIX my life even though I am where I am because I trusted God in the first place. So….yeah….I’ve been a little preoccupied. What do these preoccupations say about me? Well….that I wonder (and sometimes worry) A LOT about what tomorrow is going to look like rather than trusting that the God who delivered me into my current set of circumstances will also deliver me to where I am supposed to be in the future. My preoccupations say that I miss my husband. They say that I have a hard time trusting God when life doesn’t make sense. They say that I have an even harder time trusting God when I don’t get my way. But…most of all, I think they say that I have a hard time trusting God because I have a hard time believing in His Love for me.
Now…don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that if I really believed He loved me that I wouldn’t worry at all. What I think is that I would not think twice about bringing all my cares to him and leaving them at the cross. One of the thoughts I had this past 24 hours had to do with the amount of things that I do not ever bring to God. I was driving to my intensives, a 4-hour drive, in the drizzly rain, on somewhat slick roads, and about half-way here, I thought: Maybe I should’ve stopped to ask God to keep me safe while I was driving. I did, right then. But my very next thought was: “Well, He’s either going to do it or He isn’t. But…what if I pray that he keeps me safe, and then something happens? I’m not unsafe now. Maybe I shouldn’t jinx it.
The conclusion I came to (or that I am coming to as I keep typing) is: my relationship with God looks like I spend a whole lot of time hoping that He is not as indifferent to me as I feel He is. As a result, every pray I pray is hesitant, like a baby learning how to walk, whose every step is halted and shaky. I think the major difference between me and the baby is that the baby doesn’t wonder if his feet are going to hold him up when he puts them back down on the floor.
But…the encouraging thing is: I know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So what that means is that each step I take toward God, hesitant though it may be, is an act of faith. It has to be because I have to believe that He is a reward of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If I didn’t believe in the power of God and in the power of prayer, why would I go to Him at all?
I wouldn’t. And before all this “garbage” happened in my life, I wasn’t really going to him. I was not trusting God as if my very existence depended upon him. I wasn’t really having to trust him for much at all. As such, I never really came to a point of having a crisis of faith. I never had to. Of course, what that really means is that I really only had a picture of what faith should look like, rather than having faith itself.
What things would you like to be preoccupied with?
Hhhhmmmmm. At this present moment….NOTHING. I’ve had so much on my mind for so long, it’d be nice to have nothing to think about for a while. I guess, though, more to the point, I’d like to not have so much to obsess or worry about. I guess that brings me to the next portion of this devotional, as well as where I leave you for the day. Take the rest of the time to do what the rest of the devotional says. See where it takes you…….
PRAY: Pray this verse in your own words: “Set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2, NIV). Ask God for guidance in what kind of person you want to be and what to focus on.
LIVE: Dream about the kind of person whose mind is preoccupied with God. Contemplation is a time for receiving from God. Receive an image of yourself from him. Embrace the future you.
LIVE: In preparation for this lesson, fast from one meal. (Use discernment regarding fasting; check with your doctor before doing it. If you can’t do it for whatever reason, that’s okay.) When you feel the pangs of hunger, use that discomfort as a catalyst for this devotion.
READ: Nehemiah 5:6-11 – Read this slowly.
(6-7) I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”
(7-8) Then I called a big meeting to deal with them. I told them, “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?”
They said nothing. What could they say?
(9) “What you’re doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?
(10-11) “I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”
THINK: While in Babylonian exile as a cupbearer to a foreign king, Nehemiah has a God-given burden: to rebuild the ransacked walls of the forgotten city of Jerusalem and, in the process, to restore the hope of his people. But in the midst of this massive architectural restoration project, the people are being abused by their own countrymen.
Nehemiah’s burden grows larger. His burden now includes poverty and injustice. Imagine yourself in Nehemiah’s shoes today. What does this burden feel like? Consider your empty stomach and write down how you feel.
PRAY: Begin praying by listening for God’s heart regarding justice. Ask him to show you people who need your prayers. Then ask him to point out when you need to speak up on their behalf, and ask for the courage to actually follow through with it.
One thing I’ve discovered about justice over the course of our situation is that it is seldom swift. Maybe as swift as possible, but never as swift as we’d like. Think about it. Whenever someone has done you wrong, is it ever remedied fast enough? When the courts get involved, things slow down to a snail’s pace. Then, evidence or no, the case goes the way the people trying it think it ought to go, or whichever way is going to make the appropriate people look as good as possible, or prevent them from looking horrible. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but the truth of the matter is: the truth rarely counts for much. Except with God.
God commands us to seek justice, to love mercy, to take care of the widows and orphans. Seems like those commands match up with the burdens of poverty and injustice Nehemiah was feeling. Sad to think so little has changed over the years. Jesus talks about how, when we visit the people in prison, or feed people without food, or clothe the naked, we are doing the same to him. The book of James warns against seeing someone cold and telling them to “Go, in peace, and be filled” without offering them what they need to actually be filled because judgment is without mercy to those who’ve shown no mercy.
As I sit in my hotel room, waiting to leave to go visit my husband who sits in jail, this verse hits home. I am getting to visit my husband because of the people around me who’ve fed and clothed a widow and her orphaned children. This is a bit of a stretch, I realize. My husband is not dead. My children still have both of their parents. But considering our source of support has been taken away from us, we resemble a widow and orphans. I do not wish this position on anyone, really; but the lessons it is teaching are invaluable. And humbling.
Today, I don’t really need to pray for God to show me who needs my prayers. I’m about to go to a place full of people I may never know that need prayers, who have families that need prayers. Though I am not personally in a position to be able to physically or financially help these people, my husband has been doing all he can to help those around him who’ve not received justice from one of the only systems in the world that – supposedly – prides itself on preferring that 100 guilty men would go free than one innocent man would go to prison.
Even so…Dear Heavenly Father, You alone know for what purposes you have placed each one of us here. If there are people around us that need what we have to offer, please show us. If “all we can do” is pray for them, let their names be on our lips in prayer as often as we pray. If you have given us the financial wherewithal to help those folks, give us an urge to do so that we cannot ignore. If they merely need a listening ear, may we be willing to be inconvenienced enough to give them the time they need. Relationships are messy and dirty, Lord. Help us to be willing to get dirty and messy with the people who need it the most, and let us do so without reservation when that’s what you require. In Jesus Name, I pray, AMEN.