Archive | January 2012

Ecclesiastes – Chapter 1, Verses 1-4

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.  What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?  A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever (Ecc 1:2-4).”

I didn’t get very far in my study before I felt the need to comment….this might be a long study!  I was intrigued by the original word choice that was translated ‘vanity’ in this translation and ‘meaningless’ in the NIV.  The Hebrew word is ‘hebel’.  ‘Hebel’ is used in various places in the Old Testament, but it is not translated in the same manner.

Isaiah 57:13 states, “When you cry out, let you collection of idols deliver you!  The wind will carry them off, a breath will take them away.”  Here, ‘hebel’ means ‘breath’ or ‘breeze’, implying something that is fleeting, or an action completed in vain.

My favorite verse is Proverbs 31:30, translated in the NIV, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  In the ESV (my preferred translation), ‘hebel’ is translated ‘vain’, but the NIV is clearer, as ‘fleeting’.

I think both of these verses help us understand the preacher’s words in Ecclesiastes, and this is fundamental to appreciating the book in its entirety.  Our lives are not meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but they are fleeting or short-lasted.

This is further expounded upon by the next two verses, discussing how man doesn’t gain anything by his toil, and our lifetimes are short with respect to the age of the earth.  The author is not trying to paint a negative picture of our existence, but rather a truthful picture of how quickly our time will pass by.  This isn’t stated to depress us, but rather, to encourage us to live life to the fullest by focusing on what matters most.

The commentary also points out that ‘hebel’ does not only imply that life is short, but also that it’s elusive.  It “resists our attempts to capture it and contain it.”  We will never fully understand life, nor can we easily manipulate it.  No matter how smart we think we are, we will never fully comprehend how everything fits together!

This is a hard pill to swallow, especially for a scientist!  But, I’ve witnessed it first hand in my own graduate research, and also by reading scientific literature.  Well-designed experiments should hold everything constant and have one variable.  This way, if a change is observed during the experiment, it can be attributed to that variable.  However, what if you inadvertently have more than one variable, or even worse, study something highly complex like the earth, atmosphere, or human body, it becomes impossible to isolate only one variable.  Plus, it’s very easy to attribute a particular result to the wrong variable!

As scientists, we do the best we can, and we have made great strides in understanding complicated phenomena, but we still have questions to ask, and some of our answers may prove over time to be incorrect!

Is Ecclesiastes telling us that life is meaningless?  Does it mean that we wasting our time chasing after wind?  Yes and no…. You see, making the most out of life means choosing the correct path, which we will see is essentially wisdom over folly.  We should strive to focus our greatest efforts on that which is important.  What is that which is important…well, I hope that becomes clear as we go through this book!  For now, we should strive to remember that we can never permanently control nature, or more importantly, control God!

*Provan, Iain “The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs”. Zondervan, 2001.

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Ecclesiastes – Stepping Behind the Word

One of the interesting things that struck me from reading the introductory material from the Ecclesiastes commentary is the deliberate anonymity of the author. “The words dominate in Ecclesiastes even as the “I” speaks them, and in that sense Ecclesiastes is much like other books in the Old Testament, whose originators have taken great pains to retreat behind the words and erase their footsteps*.”

I find this interesting, as it defines my thoughts on writing as well. It’s funny…there are two widely held misconceptions about me. One is that I’m selfish (I have written about this before) and it has made me hate having to ask people for help. I am selfish, just like we all are, but I try my best not to be. I would much rather not have something than ask someone!

The other crazy idea that people have about me is that I love the spotlight. The causes of the comment are true – I do enjoy speaking, especially narrating, enjoy ballroom dancing, singing, acting, and teaching, and was even on a game show. I also ask a lot of questions and strive to fully understand everything I am involved in. My reasons for enjoying these activities have absolutely nothing to do with receiving praise for my actions or drawing attention to myself. In fact, receiving compliments has always been something that’s hard for me!

I can’t really explain why I enjoy the things that I do, but I definitely can say it’s not about being in the spotlight. I don’t mind being in front of people, but it doesn’t motivate me either. In fact, I can clearly see how difficult life is for those who are perceived as “famous”.

I can’t say that I always felt this way, as I think I used to live up to people’s expectations. Maybe it was just easier to do that than be different? I’m not really sure, but once I spent time learning who I truly was, I realized that I am not the person some people assume!

I don’t do as many “good” things as I’d like, but when I do, I try to do them without bringing attention to myself. It still kind of makes me uncomfortable when people say nice things to be, but it’s more than that… I don’t want things to be about me – I’d much rather them be about God or the other person. Some people who claim to know me would likely disagree with my statement, but God knows my heart and I hope my sincerity comes across to Him, because He’s the only one that matters.

The timing of the commentary statement was perfect, as someone recently suggested I post my picture and name on my blog. I wanted to explain where I was coming from, but truthfully, lacked the right words. Dr. Provan’s quotation regarding Old Testament authors conveys exactly what I wanted to say!

As far as my blog, I truly enjoy writing and consider it an outlet, as well as a means of learning about myself and God. It is my hope that my writings will encourage other people to think about themselves and their relationship with God, so truly, my identity is irrelevant.

The earlier writings I am slowly posting are slightly edited devotionals from my former church’s Women’s Ministry newsletters, where I have removed all references to specific people or our church. When the first edition of the newsletter was printed, I was concerned about my name being listed on the devotional, as I was afraid someone might feel I thought too highly of myself for writing so casually to the women of our church. I eventually made peace with authorship, as if there was a problem with something I said, I would rather take responsibility for my words than for people think they represented the views of the Women’s Ministry.

The truth is, I’m just a regular person, who loves to write, and wants to encourage other people to pursue God and embrace their spiritual journey. While I write mostly about my own personal experiences (because that’s what I know), I don’t want anything I do to be completely about me – but, rather be about God and others.

*Provan, Iain “The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs”. Zondervan, 2001.

Ecclesiastes – Introduction

I was traveling on business several years ago, and had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Being an energetic Christian, I visited a downtown church on Sunday and heard an introductory sermon from the Book of Ecclesiastes.  Ironically, I had just been led to read the book for the first time, and I really felt a connection to the words that I read.  The sermon was awesome; the choir even sang “Turn Turn Turn” by the Byrds.  I had never seen a church (especially one that seemed so traditional) use mainstream music to illustrate a point.  Needless to say, I loved every moment of the sermon, and was very disappointed that I couldn’t stay for the entire sermon series.

After I left church that day, I picked up a colleague from his hotel and we went to work.  I was so excited about the sermon that I couldn’t help but tell him all about it.  As we were driving to the University where we were going to be working, we passed a business called “Under the Sun”.  Coincidence…. I don’t think so!

I knew that at some point, I wanted to teach the book of Ecclesiastes!  I just felt I was too young to be terribly convincing to most people…  I look forward to the day when I can teach this book confidently, but in the meantime, I thought it would be a enjoyable to study the book in more detail.

I am using the NIV Application Commentary to help me though the process.  I’ve already read the author’s opening thoughts and saw (at least five times) that Ecclesiastes is “a difficult book.”  Maybe that’s true when you go through a line by line study, but from reading the book in its entirety, the theme always seemed perfectly clear to me….

My takeaway from the book of Ecclesiastes is that spending your life chasing mortal pleasures will not make you happy; true joy is only found in finding Christ and that nothing is new “under the sun”.  We may think our problems or even our answers are novel and creative, but everything has been done before, and we are not as important we we think we are.  Our goal on earth is to prepare us for eternal life in heaven.

My thoughts on the book are likely to change from in-depth study.  In fact, the one topic I’ve read about so far is the authorship of the book.  I always assumed it was Solomon, but apparently, scholars think that’s unlikely.  It’s more likely that the author is not Solomon, but rather someone who could place himself in Solomon’s world, as that royal persona seems to diminish as the book progresses.  Interesting….

What I do know is that although the book of Ecclesiastes is difficult and unorthodox, it was included in the Bible for a reason, and while many mainstream churches may avoid preaching from it, it’s worth an in depth study.

I don’t know how much of the study I will include on my blog.  My goal is to study the material for myself, and write about the material from a more personal lens.  I hope you’ll stick around to see how the material impacts me.

The commentary I purchased also includes Song of Songs….maybe I’ll really jump outside of the box and study that next!

For now, let me pour a glass of wine and get started on the introductory material from the commentary on Ecclesiastes!

This year I resolve to….. (January 3, 2009)

Did you have a New Year’s resolution for this year?  If so, how’s it going?  If not, why don’t you like to make New Year’s resolutions?

On January 2nd, my son told me that his New Year’s resolution was to be nicer to the cat.  My immediate thought was that his resolution didn’t last very long.  In fact, according to a 2005 survey done by Welch Media, only 8% of Americans admit to keeping their resolutions1.  This is a very disheartening statistic that probably serves to discourage people from even setting goals for self-improvement.

It seems to me that a main reason people don’t keep their resolution is because of a lack of self-confidence during the tough times.  Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to cut back on sugar, hoping to improve your health and lose weight.  You start the year completely motivated – everything is going great, until temptation arises – and temptation will arise!  Then, it’s a constant struggle to maintain your focus, and eventually you give in and eat that piece of chocolate cake.  You might give up on your resolution immediately, or it might take several mistakes.  But, in the end, the negativity becomes overwhelming, and you end up feeling worse than before you made the resolution.  Next year, you think, 2010 will be the year that I finally succeed.  But, 2010 isn’t for another 11 months!

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions only because they’re limited to January and on the surface, they lack fellowship with God.  But, the ideas of self-evaluation and self-improvement are vital to becoming a more mature Christian.  So, this year, I encourage you to consider a Christ-centered resolution!  In doing so, please consider the following thoughts regarding resolutions.

-Resolutions are not limited to January.  Whenever you are not pleased with any aspect of your life, resolve to improve it.  If you’re not sure of what your weak parts are, or if you’re like me – which area to tackle first, pray about it.  Ask God to show you where you should focus your attention to become more pleasing to Him.  Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

-Manage your expectations – this is the key for maintaining your self-confidence.  Smaller, short-term goals work much better and offer more flexibility than major goals that will take the entire year to accomplish.  Keep praying about your progress, no matter how things are going.  Give God the glory for your successes, and ask for His help when you are struggling.  A prayer journal is a great way to keep track of how God is working in your life.  Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.”

-Don’t get frustrated with setbacks that will occur.  Keep persevering towards your goal.  Do not let Satan fill your mind with doubt and negativity.  With God’s help, you can accomplish anything that is in accord with His will (this is important – your prayers for becoming a supermodel may never be answered).  1 Peter 5:8-9 “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.”

I pray that you are successful in whatever self-improvement projects you begin this year.  Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.”  Keep praying, and stay focused on your goal.  Stay confident and know that God loves you and wants you to succeed!  Romans 8:31b “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

If one of your resolutions is to become a more involved in your Christian faith, I would invite you to participate in the Women’s Ministry at our church.  This newsletter will come out monthly, and will provide many opportunities for involvement!  Please contact the Women’s Ministry  if you have any questions, comments, or would like to help out with the newsletter or any other events.

1http://www.welchmedia.com/news/article_385.shtml

I Believe

I’ve been visiting a new church and have really enjoyed the past two weeks of Sunday school. The class has been studying 1John and the topic of how we are assured of our salvation. John says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life (1John 5:13).”

Two weeks ago, we had a great discussion about what “these things” meant, and how this is a common phrase that John uses in this letter which refer to the above section (in this case 1John 5:6-12). Personally, I take the context of “these things” to include all of chapter 5, which essentially covers the aim of 1John, which is as believers, we are to love God and love people. But, that point is perhaps less relevant than the meaning of “believe”. Does believe mean to accept in an academic sense, or is its original meaning something deeper?

Think about it… There are many people who “believe” in Jesus, but have rejected Him. I don’t expect to see any of those folks in heaven, do you?

According to dictionary.com (definitions 2 and 3), belief means “confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to immediate proof; confidence, faith, trust.”

Confidence, trust…what do those words mean? Again, are they purely theoretical, or do they require some kind of action on our part? Someone in my class gave a metaphor of a chair, implying that if you trust the chair, you will sit on it and it alone, to hold you up.

In my mind, that could be taken further, as not putting all of your weight on the chair may imply you do not trust it. I guess where I am going with this is… Is it required that you demonstrate your trust in the chair by sitting down, or can you just trust and/or believe in your head. Is that enough?

Personally, I think belief has to be more than just saying “Yay, Jesus died for my sins, so I’m going to heaven… Awesome! Let me go back to reveling in my sin.” If belief doesn’t cause a change in your heart, do you truly believe?, and thus, are you truly saved?

I am troubled by verses from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, such as Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Or, Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessless’.”

This implies to me that many people are going to think they’ve secured a spot in heaven, and later find out that they may have taken the wrong path…and at least some of these people will profess that they did things in the name of the Lord, so they must have “believed” in Jesus in some respect.

I brought some of this up last week, and today we had a great conversation about justification, sanctification, and glorification, and I do understand that justification is different from sanctification and agree with the differences. I just still question if someone who walks away from God was justified in the first place; or if everyone who professes to be a believer will be in heaven.

As believers, we are not supposed to worry about anyone’s salvation except our own. Salvation is an issue between an individual person and God because only God can know the state of someone’s heart. I fully embrace that and am not trying to point fingers at anyone in particular. But, at the same time, we should fully understand salvation if we are going to try to share our faith with other people with the hope that they accept God’s gift and spend eternity in heaven. If we present the gospel as “all you have to do is say this prayer and you’re in” or even “believe” with a head knowledge and not a heart change, and that turns out to not be true….well, personally, I would feel terrible!

The only person’s salvation I can specifically talk about is my own. I do not feel I was saved earlier in my life even though I “believed” that Jesus died for my sins. I think God was working on me, and knew eventually I would get there, but when I said I “believed”, I think it was from a purely academic, “head-knowledge” perspective. It did not transpire whatsoever to my heart. I was not changed.

I do not think I was saved at that time. Maybe that’s why God allowed me to stay on earth until I fully “believed” and accepted Him. I don’t know; but, I’m eternally grateful that God never gave up on me! I may be a slow learner, but eventually I get there…. and yes, now I believe I am saved (although the sanctification process sometimes feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace, but that’s another story completely).

That brings us back to the word “believe”.

This may seem like a meaningless word to question, but I feel the implications are enormous.

John, especially, tells us a lot about the importance of believing. Here are a couple random verses that talk about “believing” and their context. Hopefully this will paint some kind of picture of what it means to believe. I will admit that these verses are by no means exhaustive or particularly well-chosen.

Everyone’s favorite verse….John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is said after Jesus talks to Nicodemus about what it means to be born again, and is followed by a discussion of why God sent Jesus to save the world. Believe is used again, but not really defined…

John 5:44, 47 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?…But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” This was after Jesus healed the man who could not walk, and the legalistic Jewish leaders gave him trouble about healing on the Sabbath. His words were directed to the Jews, but they can apply to everyone. They professed belief in God, but were so caught up in the letter of the law, they missed the point of Jesus, in spite of the evidence they saw from His miracles. They professed belief in Moses’ writings, but they still did not see Jesus was God, even though Moses wrote about Him. These legalistic Jew’s said they “believed”, but their actions showed they didn’t truly believe.

John 8:45-47 “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not here them is that you are not of God.” Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees, but I still believe it’s a valid comparison and worth a look. Here, they say that Abraham is their father (going back to their Jewish heritage), and Jesus essentially tells them that Satan is their father. Those who are of God will hear His word, so would the converse be true, if you are not hearing God’s Word, maybe you’re not of God? I don’t have the answer, just food for thought.

John 10:26-28 “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is at the Feast of the Dedication, after Jesus talked about being the Good Shepard. I could be wrong here (or about anything), but to me, it seems that Jesus is saying that His followers hear His voice with their hearts, and follow Him in faith. And, because of this, they are given eternal life. This proves that salvation is not reversible, once obtained, as it says they will not be snatched from His hand, but to me, it implies that belief requires an action with your heart, not just a callous acceptance with your head.

So does belief mean knowing in your head that the chair will hold you, or sitting down? For me, I’ve sat down completely in the chair, but unfortunately, I like to get up from time to time and walk around. I think during my sanctification process, I’m learning to sit down longer and I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I can prop my feet up and lean back….

I think I’ve presented more questions than answers, but I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination. I just think “believe” might mean more than a lot of us want to admit it does, especially in the fast-paced, instant gratification world we live in…no condemnation, just my thoughts…

I’ll keep studying and praying!

The god of Football?

Let me say right off the top that I am a football fan – have been ever since my grandmother and I used to watch games together when I was two. We used to bet on the games… a nickel for every game our team played, and a dollar for the Superbowl. We had season tickets to our NFL team when I was an adolescent. I have played Fantasy Football with my old church for the past four years. I know and love the game….but, hopefully my affection for football stays at the “fan” level and doesn’t cross into “follower” or “fanatic”!

It’s playoff season for the NFL, and the bowl games just culminated with Alabama beating LSU in the National Championship last night. I even attended a “lesser” bowl game with some friends this season – my first ever college bowl game! I think that’s why this particular topic has been on my heart lately.

I assure you that I mean no disrespect or condemnation regarding what I’m going to say. I have plenty of my own planks to worry about – but, there is definitely a positive takeaway from my thoughts.

These questions came up on Sunday (and I’m certain it has been asked in seasons before). Does God like football? Is God involved in the game of football? Does He only cheer for Christian players? If Tim Tebow played Drew “Brees-us” in the Superbowl, which team would God pick?

I think part of the fascination is in light of Tim Tebow passing for 316 yards on Sunday, and winning games that he probably shouldn’t (Sunday is an exception, Denver definitely outplayed the Steelers). People have been talking about the “miracles” involving Tebow all season! The same thoughts came about when the Saints won the Superbowl a couple of years ago.

Someone posted on a friend’s Facebook (I can’t find the quote, so this is a paraphrase) that God gave each of us gifts and talents, including the ability to play sports, and He likes when players glorify Him in everything they do. I believe that is true, and I believe you can glorify God in everything you do – whether that be singing praise songs, helping a stranger, or playing football. If true glory is given completely to Him, that is a great thing!

I don’t know much about Tim Tebow or Drew Brees, but I do get the impression they are authentic believers. And, that’s awesome! I think they have a special opportunity to show their love for Christ on a National scale, although it must be hard to not let pride take over and humbly give God all of the glory. I certainly do not envy their status, as the pressure must be immense!

The question remains….does God like football? I cannot really speak for God on this exact topic, but l do know He says “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3)”. And, that does include the god of football.

Bear with me, here, let me explain…

An idol is anything that takes our focus off of the one true God. An idol does not have to be another being, or a graven image; it can be anything that we love excessively or more than we love God.

We all have idols in our lives, and it’s good to examine them from time to time. One way to look at what idols are influencing you is to see how you spend your time and money. This can be very humbling, but it also is a good depiction of what you value.

From what I’ve seen in the past few months, many people love football… I mean, really….love….football! More than God? Only God knows the true extent of that, but it really got me thinking….

Have you seen the fervor with which some people sing college fight songs? The whole stadium chanting loudly, sometimes with arms around each other, boldly proclaiming their love for their team. Imagine how beautiful it would be for us all to sing praise songs to God with that same enthusiasm!

Have you seen how excited people get about play-off games and bowl games? How amazing would it be to channel that energy into Bible study or church!

Have you noticed how emotionally involved people become while watching games that are nail-biters? It’s a wonder some people don’t have heart attacks! How incredible would it be to be that invested in our relationship with Jesus!

I sincerely believe that God uses football for His glory, but also that Satan can use football to take our focus off of God. How perfect would it be if we could use our love of non-spiritual things, such as football, as a model for how to love God and other people?

That would be a perfect 14-0 season for sure!

Better isn’t Good Enough

Lately, I’ve been thinking about entitlement and selfishness, a topic that troubles me greatly. In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that this character trait, along with poor communication, is a main cause of society’s problems.

All my life, I’ve been told I’m selfish, often by people more selfish than I am. It’s truly become a sore subject with me. I try to do whatever I can to not be selfish, and have become quite defensive about the whole notion! But, no matter how far I think I’ve come in being ‘self-less’, the fact still remains – I am selfish. We all are!

I don’t mean to make excuses, but it is rather easy to be selfish and entitled in our culture. Commercials tell us “You deserve a break today”; there are songs about wanting “More”; we deserve education, degrees, our job, the good life, everything!

Young people seem to be even more entitled than their parents’ generation (I’m sure this is true in past generations too). I think that’s because we want to give our children the things we never had. It’s an act of love, with an undesired side-effect. Essentially, one cause of selfishness and thus, entitlement, is someone else’s loving attempt at being selfless!

This makes selfishness and entitlement very sticky subjects and not easy to remedy. Trying to be less selfish isn’t really the answer….because it is actually a re-representation of the problem. I mean, isn’t it kind of selfish to think we can become less selfish? Aren’t we awfully entitled to feel we have that ability?

This is one of the thoughts that came to me while studying the book of Job. Job was given a bad deal, let’s face it. He was a good man, who had it pretty together. He didn’t ‘deserve’ to have anything bad happen to him. He wasn’t very selfish by our human standards. He had every right to be entitled because he worked hard for what he had. He lived a Godly life, and cared for others above himself. Even when his life collapsed, he amazingly never cursed God.

Not only did Job have to deal with Satan’s torture, his wife and friends threw salt in his wounds. Yet, Job remained graceful through everything!

The only negatives were that Job did whine, wished he was never born, and questioned, “Why me, God?”. Job was human, after all…although so much less selfish and entitled than I am! I think about how I would react in the same situation… Well, let’s just say, my laments would make Job seem perfect!

Finally God comes on the scene, to comfort Job, right? To let him in on the little bet between Him and Satan? To tell Job that he didn’t deserve any of his torture and that he handled it incredibly well?

No… Not exactly… God didn’t do any of that! God made a whirlwind of an entrance and essentially asked Job, “Who do you think you are?” God’s point was that until we can do the magnificent things that He can, we shouldn’t question His ways!

My absolute favorite verse is Job 38:3 (KJV, for effect) when God says (before His monologues), “Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” God repeats this in verse 40:7, before His second speech, so these words must be important!

God’s speeches were not exactly the heartfelt comfort that Job desired, I’m sure! However, when God was finished talking, Job simply said, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted….therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2,6).”

Unfortunately, those are not the words I would have chosen, but then again, I’ve never seen a personal display of God’s awesomeness. I’m sure seeing His greatness in person would bring anyone to their knees! But, His power and majesty are the same regardless of what I see, and by faith, I should be as quick to repent!

Job may have never understood why all of those horrible things happened to him, but he learned a lot about God through the process. Even though his former status was restored and his riches were doubled, the wisdom he gained was his most important gift!

Like Job, I am called to release my sense of entitlement and selfishness, and stop demanding what I want from God. I need to “gird up my loins” and let Him control my life!

I know, academically, that God’s plans are significantly better than my own, so I should trust Him completely. Always! And, thinking that I’m doing better than anyone else is pointless! That’s pride…. The truth is, we are all so far away from God’s perfection, our individual differences are meaningless. Whenever we start a thought with “I am,” we’re being selfish because God is the only “I Am” that matters.

Thank you Lord for the incredible riches and opportunities you have given me. May I never forget that everything good is from you, not from any works I have done, nor will ever do. I pray that as a society, we can all return to this truth, and put You first in everything. You are our only hope for escaping the selfishness and entitlement that have taken over our lives. I pray that I can step out of the way and let your love shine though. Guide me to focus my efforts on what matters to You, and may those efforts result in Your glory, not mine. I ask all of these things in the name of Jesus, who died so that I may one day live forever with You in heaven. Amen.