Re:Verse passage – 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (day three)
“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion.”
Tugging at heart strings, appealing to feelings of guilt, and priority-shaming have all served as tools for attempting to bend the will of people toward open-handedness. Sometimes it works. Coercion of any kind, though – even “benign” – will result only in short-term gain, not long-term transformation. Nobody says, “that time I gave more money to the church in order to feel better about my extravagant vacation has made me a person of joyful generosity.” Instead, straightforward and transparent statements of need, reports of gratitude, and questions that ask directly, “What are you willing to do with your treasure?” will place the church in unity with Paul’s declaration that all the forcefulness we can muster is no match for the whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Re:Verse passage – Acts 2:42-47 (day three)
“Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.”
“Everything is awesome,” as the hilarious song declares in The Lego Movie. Gradually in that storyline, as in real life, one comes to the understanding that no, everything is not, in fact, awesome – at least in the sense of good and beautiful. Perhaps you’ve known of or been part of groups that proclaim with such forceful insistence that their organization is awesome that you wonder whether they might be trying very hard to convince themselves that it is, because they couldn’t bear the truth that it’s not. But here, we find a group of people who lived with a continual sense of joyful astonishment at their life together near God. They had discovered that the Savior called them – not the rulers of this world – to have the last word as they taught Christ to the nations.
Re:Verse passage – 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (day three)
“…knowing from whom you have learned them…”
Here’s something true about a local congregation: You know these people. Your Sunday school teacher is ________. Your fellow committee member is _________. You and _______ became friends at a single adults retreat in 1985 or whatever. The point is that peers, teachers, pastors, ministry project partners – these folks know you, and you know them. And sometimes, you get tired of them. They always say the same thing about certain scriptures. You and they disagree on various issues, etc. Maybe they’d admit to feeling the same about you, too. That’s not good or bad. It’s just everyday church. And it’s in the repetitive, predictable aspects of congregational life that Christ will show himself faithful to you. These people would die for you, you for them, and you teach each other about the Lord. That’s eternal.
Re:Verse passage – Romans 8:15-17, Ephesians 5:22-32 (day three)
“This mystery is great…”
The marriage bond will defy all attempts at formulaic tidiness. You who are married might have begun to suspect as much. With all the heated debate about complementarian this and egalitarian that (what?), and the meaning of “head” and the parsing of “be subject to,” it’s easy to lose the voice of the Spirit inviting you to sit in the paradox and be formed by it. God’s word predates our ways of seeing the world. Paul calls it a mystery. Submission leads to authority, leadership results in submission. Will a wife submit to her husband? Then let her husband lift her to places of authority just as Christ commissioned Mary to evangelize about the risen Lord. Will a husband lead his wife? Then let him from her learn how to submit as Christ submitted to the cross.
Re:Verse passage – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (day three)
“If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”
In the local fellowship, what happens when grief or hardship or loss descends on the life of a person in that fellowship? In a physical body, injury means that a person will limp in order to spare a wounded foot further pain. There is no shame in a limp; a limp isn’t a defect, but rather a tender response to trauma. The human body will not attempt full range of movement and pretend there is no agony. In the church body, a limp will take various forms. But when a church insists on pretending it doesn’t need to limp, it denies the pain of those in its midst. On the other hand, a church that exists as a wounded body in this world is living in beautiful imitation of its Lord.
Re:Verse passage – Job 38:1-7; 40:6-9 (day three)
“Now gird up your loins like a man;
I will ask you, and you instruct me.”
Is God mad here? Is he offended? Indignant? Irritated? How about “none of the above?” It’s not hard to misidentify intensity as annoyance. But God knows the limits of a human being – that a man, finite as he is, doesn’t have access to the larger sweep of events across the unseen realm of the spiritual nor the vast expanses of the cosmos. To wit, Job wasn’t aware of the conversation between God and Satan about Job himself. So no, God’s not aggravated. He is, on the contrary, taking Job seriously by meeting him where he is, matching his zeal. Job has argued ardently and vehemently. God doesn’t hate Job for his ignorance. He loves him enough to have the conversation for which Job has pleaded.
Re:Verse passage – Job 32:1-10; 33:2-4, 22-30; 35:9-10; 37:14-24 (day three)
“Therefore men fear Him;
He does not regard any who are wise of heart.”
One can sense at the core of Elihu’s musings a discontent with what has come to be regarded as wisdom. Elihu looks at the cumulative thinking from each perspective, and he doesn’t see much that’s promising. He basically says, “None of you has got it right.” He himself doesn’t claim definitive insight, but he finds the ideas of his elders – Job included – to be deficient in dealing with the questions that arise from Job’s plight. This young person doesn’t say, “Get out of the way so we can do it my way.” He does say, “I haven’t heard true wisdom yet, so let’s keep seeking.” That’s the kind of youthful passion that can soften hardened positions and set a people up for God’s revelation.
Re:Verse passage – Job 19:20-27 (day three)
“Why do you persecute me as God does,
And are not satisfied with my flesh?”
The old joke, “If you can’t be an example…be a warning,” becomes poignantly real here, and it’s not in the least funny. Job’s life had invited people to aspire to all that is honorable, lovely, and noble. Now, his life invited people to castigate him as one who had it coming all along. No wonder Job dives headlong into a burst of defiant longing: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” If he were to discover otherwise, it would mean that no one is listening, and in the end, no one cares. Such a fate would destroy him. Therefore, he holds fast to the declaration that it cannot – must not – be. One might say his hope is wishful thinking. The Bible says otherwise: “My hope comes from the Lord.”
Re:Verse passage – Job 19:13-19 (day three)
“My intimate friends have forgotten me.”
Bereft of his children, separated physically and emotionally from his wife, deserted by friends, no longer possessing social standing, and unable to find God, Job, from all he can see, has achieved non-person status. It’s worse than death because intimacy with others is out of reach. He can’t contact anyone and seemingly no one can contact him. He’s like the astronomers sending messages into the void of space not knowing whether any form of sentient life will ever receive – or answer – those messages. He is, in his experience, alone in the universe. Isolation is deadly to a human being. His cry to others and particularly to God – “Why have you forsaken me?” – is the very cry that will one day cross the lips of the Savior Job longs to find.
Re:Verse passage – Job 9:32-35 (day three)
“There is no umpire between us,
Who may lay his hand upon us both.”
From time to time in his long articulation of his plight, Job says something that begs the question – at least as his words reach our ears in the year of our Lord 2022. Job says, “If only there were a mediator between God and me.” (The translation “umpire” seems kind of humorous, but it gets the job done.) The question Job’s utterance begs is this: Is there no mediator? Job takes it as a given that there is not. But that was then; this is now. And what a “now” it is. Jesus is that mediator – the only one between God and man, as Hebrews teaches us. This mediator, though, is no neutral party, but a fellow sufferer with us, that we might also know his resurrection.