Should We Do It?

“Do you know…? Can you number…? Can you bind…? Do you give…? Do you make…? Is it by your understanding…?”
Job 39:1, 2, 10, 19, 20, 26

I was in the second year of my pastoral ministry when the news broke.

Scientists in Scotland had successful cloned a sheep using a cell from another sheep. While this wasn’t the first time an animal had been cloned, it was the first time one had been cloned from an adult cell.

Being a fan of science fiction books and movies, I knew a little about clones. But now science fiction had become science fact.

At the gathering of pastors that spring we discussed and debated what “Dolly” (the cloned sheep’s name) meant to the Church.

Both those in the scientific community and the religious community raised concerns about the ethics of cloning animals. And, of course, this led to heated debates on whether the cloning of humans would ever happen or ever should happen.

There is no doubt that it can happen. We, as humans, have figured it out. We have the capabilities to use scientific knowledge to do things like this and much more.

The questions that God puts to Job in chapter 39 are not rhetorical in the sense that humans could not know how to influence the animal kingdom. 3800 years after Job it is verifiable that we can.

But maybe they are rhetorical in the sense of God asking Job (and us) not could we but rather should we.

Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should do a thing.

God is asking Job these questions not as an interrogation as to what Job knows and doesn’t know but to make the point that there is a God and Job isn’t him!

In this chapter, we meet the God who created mountain goats, wild donkeys, wild oxen, ostriches, horses, and hawks.

They each have their idiosyncrasies and ways that many people do not understand. That doesn’t mean we could never understand them.

But it does mean that we cannot make them to be what they are.

God can and did! He is the Creator of all that exists and has given living things their living breath.

And the ultimate point, again, is that since we cannot do this and only God can, we should trust God that he knows what he is doing.

Even when something bad happens to us.

In Job’s case, it is the loss of his wealth, his family (all except his wife) and his health. Job doesn’t understand why this has happened to him. But God points out that this isn’t all that Job doesn’t understand.

He also doesn’t understand how wild goats, wild donkeys, oxen, ostriches, horses and hawks live and move and have their being. Yet they still do.

God is subtly asking Job to trust him. It is as if God were saying to Job, “I know you don’t understand what’s going on now, but trust me! I love you and I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

Jesus would echo this sentiment to his disciples.

What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7).

We may have the capability to alter or mimic the creation process of God, but we need to understand God as best we can before we start messing around with his creation.

And the best way to understand God is by faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins and gives us new life through his death and resurrection!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Removing Barriers

Image result for Jesus Clears the templeAnd Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus the King enters Jerusalem on a donkey. He fulfills prophecy and shows that He is the Prince of Peace, not a conquering King.

But the Peace that Jesus brings will be brought by conquering evil, conquering sin, and conquering the devil.

First stop, the Temple. Jesus drives out those who have turned it into a “den of robbers.”

The King who rides a donkey brings peace back to the Temple of God. Instead of selling, buying, and turning a profit, people will be able to pray to God in peace.

In a few days, Jesus will open the way to God forever by removing the Temple Curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place in the Temple.

Jesus brings peace by removing the barriers between man and God. Barriers that man first built up by his son, and barriers that needed to be put into place by God to protect man.

Jesus removes our sin with His sacrificial death on the cross. And takes down the barriers erected by God because when sin is removed, God can safely be approached.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Death

Image result for mary anoints JesusJesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.” John 12:7

There are only a few days left in this Season of Lent.

We are rapidly approaching the days of Holy Week, when we will celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper, commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, and celebrate Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead.

Notice that in the middle of the celebrating is death.

Notice that every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we remember His death: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night He was betrayed….”

Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we cannot escape the fact that He was betrayed and, as a result of that betrayal, died.

“This is my body, given for you….”

“This is my blood … shed for you….”

That happened on the cross on the first Good Friday.

We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – and we can’t do that unless He actually died.

And then there’s Mary, the sister of the once-dead-man Lazarus. A week before Jesus’ death she anoints the feet of Jesus with pure nard – a funeral spice.

Jesus uses this event to point ahead to His death – which is only one week in the future.

My point is that we cannot escape the death of Jesus. We are presented with the death of Jesus almost constantly.

Go into just about any Christian church on the planet and you will see a cross.

A Roman instrument of death. But for the Christian the symbol of our life!

The death of Jesus is of paramount importance. It is the one event that changed the history of the world.

But more than that, it is the one event that all of history points to!

It is the reason for everything you see around you. The death of Jesus means that God is reconciled. The requirement of His Law is satisfied.

The death of Jesus means that you will live!

In the days ahead, let us focus on the death of Jesus.

But remember this: you can never separate the death of Jesus from the resurrection of Jesus! They go together – always.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Right Thing to Say – the Best Way to Say It

“I will answer you and your friends with you.”
Job 35:4

In a previous devotion, Repentance, we heard about John the Baptist and his words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

John was the “forerunner” of Jesus Christ. In other words, he was the one who was prophesied in the Old Testament who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

John’s last recorded public words were, “He (meaning Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John is saying that he must now leave the limelight, that his mission is accomplished.

John was soon after imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch. He languishes in Herod’s dungeon for about year when he receives word of what Jesus has been doing.

He sends some of his own disciples to ask Jesus if he is, indeed, the Messiah that he prepared the way for.

During John’s ministry, his message was God’s message. But that didn’t mean that John himself was perfect or anything less or more than human.

He still had his doubts. He must have known that he wouldn’t leave Herod’s dungeon alive and that his death was fast approaching.

Jesus reassures John that all is well. That John’s message and ministry did exactly what they were supposed to do.

Once again, God used an imperfect human to convey his perfect message to his perfect effect!

Elihu serves much the same function as John the Baptist. He’s preparing Job and his friends for when God will show up to speak to Job.

Elihu’s message is intended to turn Job to God so that Job is ready to hear God and receive what he says. This will happen very soon.

But Elihu is still just an imperfect human. His overall message will have God’s effect of getting Job to focus on God. But Elihu also conveys the message in a less-than-perfect way at times.

Elihu berates Job for a lack of faith in God when what is more likely happening is that Job is crying out in grief and sorrow to God.

Elihu – in his youth and level of maturity – misses the fact that Job is a beaten-down man. It is almost as if Elihu is saying, “Buck up, man! It isn’t that bad! Get over it! Don’t cry out to God in complaint and anger! Just trust in God and his goodness!”

This isn’t a wrong thing to say, just a less than proper way to say it. Elihu probably could have found a more comforting way to say to Job, “Trust in God! He is good! He will come through for you!”

As a man, especially, I need to learn this lesson. When my wife or sons are upset, I want to jump in and make it all better as fast as I can. I will say comforting words to them, hug them, help them.

But if they are still sad or hurting or despairing when I felt that they should have gotten over it, I get frustrated and I tend to be like Elihu and overreact.

Or I can be like John the Baptist and question whether what I had said and done did any good.

Thankfully, God is so much more powerful and wise than I. He gave me the words, yes. But when I botch up the delivery of the message, he is still able to bring out his own desired result.

That’s our encouragement today, to continue to follow God’s leading in our own lives to speak to and help others. Don’t get discourage if you overreact or get frustrated. Keep telling God’s message and let God take care of how that message affects people.

God has given you the right thing to say – in his Word. Always be learning the best way to say the right thing to say.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Repentance

“I have born punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more….”
Job 34:31-32

He approached the river from the wilderness. He looked like he had been living out there for quite some time, possibly years.

Wild, tangled hair. A cloak made of some rough and itchy-looking material tied with a belt around his waist.

His first words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

At first, the toads and crickets, and whatever animals lived along the river bank, seemed to be his only audience. But that quickly changed!

People from the capitol and surrounding villages and towns flocked to see this strange man with the powerful message.

For it was a powerful message. “Repent!” Why did that resonate with so many people?

Soon after, this man’s cousin – his younger cousin by six months – also began to draw crowds. This time, up in Galilee. His message? The same!

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17)

This message was short and to the point. “Repent” means to turn from your ways to a new way of living. And this is a message that touched people’s hearts. They were yearning for a new way of living, a new way of life. They lived in an oppressed society, ruled over by an authoritarian and ruthless empire. Who wouldn’t want a new life?

This message resonates no less today. Are you looking for a new life? A new way of living? Do you need a change? Are you ready for your life to take off, to become the adventure you always dreamed it could or should be?

I have good news for you! This is exactly what Jesus came to give you!

And it all starts with repentance.

In chapter 34 of the Book of Job, Elihu shows – by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit – the way of repentance.

While it looks like a 3-Step Plan, I don’t mean to imply that it is a step-by-step process. Not at all! In fact, it is a way of life – a life that Jesus came to give you!

Repentance starts, and maybe this surprises you, with the Holy Spirit and not with you!

You are a sinner (and so am I!) and cannot get to this new life on your own. We are all conceived and born in sin. That is, “by nature [we are] spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, as the Scriptures teach (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:8-9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3); therefore, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him’” (Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, ©1986 Concordia Publishing House, p 150).

The Holy Spirit uses the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) to prompt repentance in us.

And this life of repentance looks like this according to the Book of Job: Stop offending people, be taught, and strive to not sin anymore.

It starts with verse 31: “I will not offend anymore….”

This is a recognition, a realization, that our sins are an offense. They are an offense to other people, especially when we sin against them.

But they are truly an offense to God. God is perfect. God is holy. And God created us to be perfect and holy. But because of our sinful human nature, we offend God’s perfection and holiness. Repentance is realizing this and wanting to stop.

Verse 32 says, “Teach me….”

This is a willingness to learn from God. Who better to learn how to stop sinning and how to live a life free of sin than God? Repentance is putting yourself under God’s tutelage. We learn from God how to live because he is the Author of life itself!

Verse 32 also says, “I will do it no more….”

This is a resolve to live a life of not sinning. I know, I know! Nothing is easier said than done! And while I don’t think we can actually get to this point in this lifetime, the Scriptures do tell us to try!

And I think we can get better at this. It is like getting to the point of being able to lift 300 pounds worth of weights.

When I started lifting weights in earnest a little over a year ago, I could barely lift a 45-pound bar. Now, a year and a month later, I’m lifting over 100 pounds 8 times (repetitions) 3 days a week!

When Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), he meant a life lived in repentance to the glory of God.

I pray you and I can do this and will do this by the power of the Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Cause and Effect

“For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.”
Job 34:11-12

In the early 1980’s I was fascinated with computers. My dad bought us first a Radio Shack TRS-80 and then, soon after, an Apple ][.

He had his own computer consulting firm and I worked with him. He encouraged me to learn how to program computers and I started with BASIC programming (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).

But this programing language was too, well, basic to do what my dad wanted his company to be able to do, so he encouragement me to learn Assembly Language programming. I was soon in over my head. I just didn’t have the capacity to learn this more complex programming.

I had a basic (no pun intended) understanding of how computers worked – and still do – but most of what computers do and can do is beyond me.

And that brings us to Elihu’s continued discourse with Job and his three friends.

Elihu’s understanding of how God works is incomplete – as it would be for any human. We simply do not have the capacity to fully understand God.

But he knows enough to tell Job that he (Job) also doesn’t know how God works!

We all cannot understand God fully.

This is why God has revealed what he has in Scripture. God does want us to know him better than we do. So God reveals what he knows we can handle in his Word.

One of those revelations is often misunderstood and Elihu calls Job and his three friends out on one of these misunderstandings.

God will pay back people according to what they have done, good for good and evil for evil.

But the misunderstanding is that if I’m good, I will receive good because of it. If I’m evil, I will receive evil because of it.

The truth, however, is revealed in Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-10, and Hebrews 11:6.

Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

In short, doing evil is equated with unbelief and that is the cause of damnation. But doing good is the result of salvation, which comes from God alone by grace alone through faith alone revealed in Scripture alone.

I admit, I cannot understand how this can be. But I believe that it is how it is. It takes faith, and that is something that is also a gift from God.

And it is comforting to know that God loves me, gives me faith to accept the things I can’t understand, and to be okay with that.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.