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Archive for September 2014

Ask Dave - Question 11

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Question 11

What did Partakers do in 2013?

(as interviewed by Mrs Heidi Trotman)

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Job - Why God? - Part 4


Study 4 : Job 16 - 19

Job continues to struggle.

In these chapters Job says some truly astonishing things that we may otherwise overlook.  To give you an idea of what is to come these are: in chapters 16 and 17 he reckons that he has been attacked by God, which leads to him saying that he has been abused by God; and then after a further statement from Bildad in chapter 18, which implies that he, Job, must be a wicked man, Job says in chapter 19 that although God is against him he has a strong hope that he will be able to state his case before the heavenly court and he hopes to be supported by an effective advocate. Who exactly that advocate will be is not clear to him – though perhaps it is to us!

First, the relatively easy passage, Job 16:1–5, where Job is asking himself how he would do if he was trying to comfort a friend who was suffering as he is suffering. Here it is.

If someone else is suffering it is so easy to stack up a heap of conventional phrases such as ‘you will soon feel better’ even when we know that our friend is dying, or, when we visit someone in hospital ‘cheer up, I’ve brought you some grapes’ which we then proceed to eat while our friend cannot face food of any sort, and so on.

Question: how do you do as a comforter? How would you rate yourself?

Answer: up to you, of course. Paul never actually lists comforting as a gift. He does tell the Christians in Corinth that we should all be good at comforting because we claim as our Father God the ‘Father of compassion and God of all comfort’, but I do think some people are given a very real gift to say the right and helpful thing more than others do when faced with suffering. Some people are more adept at saying the wrong thing, than the right and helpful thing when someone is having a very hard time. If you are a gifted comforter make sure you use your gift as much as possible.

Now we come to the difficult passage 16:6 – 17. Job says his God is his enemy, his attacker and that there is such a thing as divine violence and abuse. Here it is.

Is it really so, or is Job just lashing out with words in his frustration and bitterness at what has happened to him, and his, for no reason he can begin to understand. I have been fortunate enough to live a peaceful life without any major traumas but many of you listening or reading this may well be shut in, unable to get out much because of some major trauma in your life or struggling in other ways, so I must be careful what I say from a position of inexperience. There are other statements like this in scripture. The Psalmist says ‘Your arrows have pierced me,  and your hand has come down on me’, but then goes on to say ‘because of my sin’. Lamentations chapter 3 talks at length of the violence of God but the writer cannot believe that will go on for ever because ‘of his unfailing love’ and traces the problem back to sin. Job never does that. There will eventually be comfort for Job when we get to the last chapter of the book. But there was no comfort for The Jewish members of God’s ancient people who died in the holocaust less than 100 years ago.

There are, I think, 3 lessons here.

  1. In extremes of anguish we may, and even perhaps should, shout at God without losing our faith and our standing before him;
  2. God is with us, as he was with Job, and will be in the succeeding chapters, whatever may happen;
  3. Usually, but not always, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are always subject to the NCL, the normal chaos of living. That is the way God created the world. We are in that world and therefore have to accept that world the way he designed it – even when we do not understand the design principles.

Jesus taught us to think of God as our loving heavenly Father, contrasting sharply with the most obvious OT picture of a creator/ruler/judge, even though there God is also a covenant God of steadfast love and faithfulness. Job evidently thought mainly of the creator/ruler/judge God and could not resolve the apparent conflict between that God and the covenant God. Neither will we ever be able to do so. We have to live with that conflict, holding to both images, not despairing because we cannot resolve the paradox, continuing to honour and trust the Lord and drawing strength from both Biblical pictures. Only that way will we be able to live with the complexities of life that we cannot fully understand or resolve.

Job is very ready to give up. He says this in the vivid pictures of chapter 17.

Next Bildad speaks up in chapter 18. He makes a fundamental mistake. He thinks the line between good and evil passes between people with some on one side some on the other. But in the real world it is not so. The line between good and evil runs through all of us; some of you, some of me, is on one side, some on the other. We are, like all the human race, made in the image of God, but on the other hand have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But Bildad is sure that Job is entirely the wrong side of the line between good and evil. He doesn’t quite say so but it is very clear that that is what he thinks is why Job has had such a tough time.

And so to the famous chapter 19: famous because of one phrase ‘I know that my redeemer lives’ and one song in Handel’s Messiah. But is it really a statement about Jesus? We need to look at it carefully. I will read the first 6 verses where Job continues to react against his so ineffective comforters.

At this point I am going to switch from the NIV that I have been using as the version you are most likely to have to the Contemporary English Version, the successor to the Good News Version, because the argument is easier to follow in that. In the next 16 verses he describes his plight in some vivid images. He is trapped in a hunter’s net; a landslide blocks his way; he is caught in the dark; he loses his high place in society; he is uprooted like an old tree; he is besieged in his tent. Worse than all that he has lost all his closest relationships with family, household and friends. It is a sorry story, which I now read, 6-22.

Yet, all is not lost. In a surprising and memorable passage Job now turns to God. These are verses 23, 24.

He wants what he says to be recorded, not in a computer memory, which can be so easily erased, but engraved in rock with the letters filled with lead so they can be read forever. At least, that is what he hopes for. The CEV has ‘I wish’ and the NIV has ‘Oh that”. He has no certainty.

Then he makes his great pronouncement; here it is 25 – 27.  It is all about his goel, as the original word is, translated as redeemer or saviour, his kinsman-redeemer, who will come to his rescue. Even after all his bitter and angry statements railing against God he knows that only God, or some delegate of his, will be adequate to come to his rescue.  The OT goel was a close kinsman, an elder brother or a senior uncle or some other close and senior family member, whose responsibility it was to avenge a wrong, buy back a field that was in danger of being lost to the family estate or marry a widow to continue the family (as Boaz, the best known goel, did for Ruth). Experts argue about whom Job was thinking of when he wrote that. We don’t have to argue about who our goel is, it is Jesus.

It is rather surprising that the goel does not appear in the NT. The writer to the Hebrews perhaps get closest when he says Jesus was ‘not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters’ but he then goes on to talk about him as our high priest and not as our goel. However we can say with certainty that he is our kinsman for Gal 4: 7 says ‘you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir’. He is, as it were, our elder brother. And he is our redeemer as Peter says in his 1: 18, 19 ‘it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ’. So he is our goel, our kinsman-redeemer.

For Job it was a just a hope, an ‘I wish’ but for us it is a certainty ‘God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. …it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God ‘.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that. We are all capable of sliding into a dark, damp ditch of despair, perhaps not as deep and dark as the one poor old Job had got into, but just as real to us. But we have a better promise and a clearer hope than he ever had. Brother, sister, have courage.

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Partakers Friday Prayers!

26th September 2014

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

A Prayer of Thomas Aquinas

O Lord my God,
help me to be obedient without reserve,
poor without servility,
chaste without compromise,
humble without pretence,
joyful without depravity,
serious without affectation,
active without frivolity,
submissive without bitterness,
truthful without duplicity,
fruitful in good works without presumption,
quick to revive my neighbour without haughtiness,
and quick to edify others by word and example without simulation.


Grant me, O Lord,
an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from You;
a noble heart that no base love can sully;
an upright heart that no perverse intention can lead astray;
an invincible heart that no distress can overcome;
an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.


O Lord my God, also bestow upon me understanding to know You,
zeal to seek You,
wisdom to find You,
a life that is pleasing to You,
unshakable perseverance,
and a hope that will one day take hold of You.


May I also receive the benefits of your grace,
in order to taste your heavenly joys and contemplate your glory.

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Ask Dave - Question 10

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Question 10

How did Partakers start and why?

(as interviewed by Mrs Heidi Trotman)

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Job - Why God? - Part 3


Study 3 : Job 12 - 14

Job states his case.

Chapter 12 - after all his ‘friends’ have stated their cases and he has answered them Job makes a major statement in these 3 chapters of how he views the situation. Much of what he says could be regarded as very pessimistic as he expresses his, quite natural, unhappiness at what has happened to him and his family. But I think we are expected to learn several things from his experiences and what he says, so we will try to make the most of it!


To repeat yet again what was said in the introduction to the first study: behind all the arguments of the 3 friends is what we are calling a CEP, a cause-effect principle, operating in moral theology. They are all, his friends and Job, saying that everything that happens to a person has a moral cause hidden behind it. In essence: good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people. From that starting point his ‘friends’ have deduced that however much Job may protest otherwise he is not a good person because bad things have happened to him! This theology is still around both inside and outside the church. It appears every time someone says “he didn’t deserve that!” or “God’s not fair!”. In these chapters Job begins to understand and to argue that the world does not work that way. Life is just not as simple as that.


Question: Here is a question about those verses. What does Job really mean by what he says here? How would you describe his attitude expressed in these words?


Answer: Job is being very sarcastic. You have to be quite a clever person to be as sarcastic as this! He is clearly quite fed up with the way his so-called friends are treating him. He knows, as we know from having read the first 2 chapters of this book, that he is not guilty of serious sin; his experiences are not a reflection of who he is or what he has done; he is not being punished in any way for misdeeds he may have committed. What has happened is part of the NCL, the normal chaos of life.


Job is still being sarcastic through the rest of the chapter – the animals are wise, wiser than his friends, God treats the high and mighty, people like his friends, just the same as everyone else, nations rise and fall as God decrees. And we suddenly realise that, in being sarcastic, Job has actually moved forward to understand that life is chaotic, the NCL does happen, that is the way the world works.


The next step that he takes in the next chapter is to start arguing that he wants to appear before God in a court of law to argue his case. Job 13:1–19.


Job is starting to be a great deal more positive. I am no expert on the stages of grief but I think this might be regarded as a good sign – he is starting to think more forcefully and in it all he is still declaring his faith. He said ‘though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’. Well done Job – that sounds good.


He continues in much the same way in the remainder of the chapter – Job 13:20-28.


But it proves to be a false dawn. In the next few verses, 14:1–6, he slides back into despair. He wants God to leave him alone.


But then, equally suddenly, he thinks of a metaphor for his existence in 14: 7 – 9. READ. If a tree is cut down it is not finished – it will send out new buds, it will sprout again. It won’t grow to be the same tree it might have been before, but it will grow, more plant like, less tree like, but still alive and still valuable. There is something we call hope.


And yet again he changes direction in 14: 10 – 22. READ. He goes backwards and forwards. Humans die and that is the end of them unlike a tree. But perhaps that is a good thing because his sin, supposing that that is the problem after all, will be covered over. No – perhaps it isn’t because the Lord God destroys hope the way a stream in flood wll destroy the surrounding ground.


Make up your mind, Job. Which way is it?


It would be easy to get fed up with Job in his swinging backwards and forwards, his pessimism and his optimism, his inability to make up his mind about the future – is there hope, somewhere in the future, or is his future, our future, as black as he thinks in his down moments.


What positive, helpful, ideas can we get from this tossing and turning of Job. They are not immediately obvious but I think there are three.


The first is this. Job is becoming furious with his 3 friends because they have gone on blundering along with so many words using OK phrases as bandages to wrap around his wounds without healing them at all. Paul said the gift of prophecy is ‘to speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort’. It is all too easy to major on the first 2 of those and forget about the comfort bit. Not everyone is able to say the right words to offer real comfort to the suffering or struggling. It is a real gift for those who can. These 3 guys did not have it.


Question: what about you? Do you have this gift?


Answer: up to you, of course. If you do have it – use it. If not – don’t make the same sort of mistake these guys did.


The second idea we can get from these chapters is this: We can go down like Job. Horrible things can happen to us, and to those whom we love, our world can crash round our ears but that is not the end. We should still have faith; we should still be faithful. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ said Job and that can and should be our statement too. I didn’t call it a prayer in that last sentence, but a statement, for fear that it might then be read as a possibility and not, as it should be, as a certainty.


We are all subject to the NCL, some of us more heavily, more dangerously, than others. We don’t know why that is the way the world is, we just have to accept that the world that our loving God, our Creator God, created is a world of chaos. He may know what it all means – he does know what it all means – but we do not.


And the third thing we have to learn from these experiences of Job is this: the nature of God is such that we may argue with him. He is that sort of God. No, shut away, unapproachable God is he. Job, like the psalmist, was allowed to complain, to lament, to grumble, to sulk, but God did not refuse to listen to him. Sometimes we are like that: complaining, grumbling, lamenting, sulking, but God is still our God, our loving, listening, hearing God. That is easier for us to understand, to grasp than it was for Job because we know about Jesus. We know that, although Jesus was the agent of creation, responsible for all that is, he was still prepared to listen to, even to argue with, the non-Israelite woman who was desperate to have her daughter healed. He said ‘it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’ and she retorted ‘even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table’. And he accepted what she said and changed his mind so that her daughter was healed.


That is the sort of God with whom we have to do: a loving, caring, arguing, concerned God – in fact an amazingly human God (because we are made in the image of God so, to at least some extent, he has to be in the image of what is best in being human).


Jesus, God, walked on water in the midst of the storm that so upset the disciples in the boat. What a wonderful metaphor that is of how our God will walk with us in the midst of all the storms of life on this earth, the NCL. Job was struggling – very understandably. But by the grace of God he had some idea that he was not alone. In all his mood swings, God was with him. He might despair for the moment but that despair would pass because God was with him. That’s the way it is with us – if we are prepared to recognize it.

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WOW Paul

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A 30 second summary of Paul's "poem" about Jesus from Colossians 1:15-20!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

For in him all things were created:

things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;

all things have been created through him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And he is the head of the body, the church;

he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,

and through him to reconcile to himself all things,

whether things on earth or things in heaven,

by making peace through his blood,

shed on the cross.

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