Job didn’t sin with his lips in chapter 2, but what about his heart?

WebJPGOutoftheWhirlwindTwo weeks ago at Harbins Community Baptist Church we launched a new sermon series called, “Job: Out of the Whirlwind.”  I am very excited to go through this book because I believe it’s Spirit-inspired message is radically life-changing.  Nevertheless, Job can be a confusing book that can prompt all kinds of questions.  In my first sermon I brought our congregation’s attention to Job chapter 2:10, where the author summarizes Job’s response to his painful trials by simply saying, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Well, that prompted a question that I received from a careful Bible reader who asked,

I noticed multiple times in last week’s sermon you read/mentioned that Job did not sin with his lips. Does that mean that he was sinful in his thoughts or heart as he tried to make sense of all these tragedies? Just curious since it’s so specific that he didn’t sin with his lips/words.

The reason this question is so important is that understanding Job’s spiritual condition is critical to understanding the whole book.

thomas_std_tPart of the set-up to the book of Job in chapters 1&2 is that the author is establishing the righteous integrity of Job. Indeed, Job’s righteousness is actually what makes him a target of Satan. Satan is convinced that if God removes from Job the blessings of wealth and family, that Job will curse God. In response, God allows Satan to attack Job, and the reader is on the edge of her seat, wondering, “Is Satan right? Will Job curse God?”

After the first wave of tragedy strikes, Job’s response is thomas_std_tpraise and worship and we are told in Job 1:22 that, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” In chapter 2, God says that Satan was wrong and asserts that despite the trials, Job “still holds fast his integrity.” (2:3) So we know for certain that Job did not sin in the wake of Satan’s first assault.

thomas_std_tAs chapter 2 progresses a second assault begins and Satan strikes Job’s body with disease. As difficult as this was for him, all of the evidence points towards the steadfast, righteous perseverance of Job. In fact, it seems that Job’s response is so godly that his wife is dismayed. She says to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9 Emphasis mine)

Shockingly, Job’s poor wife becomes an unwitting pawn of the Enemy as she counsels her husband to do exactly what Satan wants!

But Job’s response is not to give in to temptation.  When he opens his mouth he doesn’t curse God, instead, he rebukes his wife! And his rebuke includes an affirmation of God’s sovereignty over good things and bad things. (Job 2:10)

Finally, the author gives us his commentary on all of this at the end of the verse when he says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

In both the first assault (chapter 1) and the second (chapter 2), the author wants us to see Satan proved wrong. I don’t think the author is trying to say, “Job did not sin with his lips but boy was he sinning in his heart!”

thomas_std_tIn the New Testament, Jesus tells us that, “Out of the abundance of the  heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34) The sentiments expressed from Job’s mouth in chapter 2 are an expression of his heart, just as in chapter 1, the praise and worship that comes from Job surely are an overflow of a godly heart. (1:21) “Job did not sin with his lips”, is simply the author’s way of telling us, “Satan thought Job would curse God and Job didn’t do it.”

Job’s initial response is beautiful and instructive for us. However, the story does not end at chapter 2, verse 10. This is only the beginning of a very long, hard trial for Job. Moving forward in this sermon series we will see that the strength of Job’s faith begithomas_std_tns to waver. He begins to wrestle with serious questions about his plight, about justice, and about God’s character.  Yes, Job is a good man, but he is still a flawed sinner, which means that his heart is not perfect, and as Job’s trial wears on and wears him down, some dark things will begin to emerge from Job’s lips, the same lips that praised God.

So as we explore Job, the question hangs, will Job break down and curse God, giving up and abandoning Him altogether?  Is Satan right? And what does Job’s story mean for us? Job’s response from chapter 3-31 is certainly different than chapters 1 & 2, and we will dealWebJPGOutoftheWhirlwind with that in the weeks to come. In fact, in this past Sunday’s sermon we began to do that a little bit so be sure to check out that message.  Whether you attend Harbins Church or listen online, stay tuned for more and please pray with me that our church will be richly blessed through exploring this incredible book!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Pastor Steve and I welcome your comments and questions about life, God, the Bible, theology and anything else you think we may be able to help you with.  You can reach us directly at steved@harbinschurch.org and demerwebb@gmail.com

Gay Marriage, Golden Opportunity

Note: Even though this article was written two years ago in response to another SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, I believe my thoughts are even more relevant today.  Hence, the repost. 

As you probabimagesly know by now, the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and has declined to uphold California Prop 8 which protected traditional marriage.  These landmark decisions continue to push our country towards legal gay marriage.  On the one hand, this is disturbing for Christians who are concerned about the continued redefinition of a God-given institution.  On the other hand, this is an exciting time to be a Christian in this nation and believers have been given a golden opportunity.

Russell Moore has posted an outstanding response that all Christians should read.  Moore rightfully suggests that the shifting views on marriage have profound implications on our gospel witness because “marriage isn’t incidental to gospel preaching.”  He goes on to say,

imagesThere’s a reason why persons don’t split apart like amoebas. We were all conceived in the union between a man and a woman. Beyond the natural reality, the gospel tells us there’s a cosmic mystery (Eph. 5:32).

God designed the one-flesh union of marriage as an embedded icon of the union between Christ and his church. Marriage and sexuality, among the most powerful pulls in human existence, are designed to train humanity to recognize, in the fullness of time, what it means for Jesus to be one with his church, as a head with a body.

And here’s where our opportunity lies.

I have thought for quite some time that this cultural conversation on marriage is a golden opportunity for the gospel that has been dropped right in our laps.  Sometimes it can be challenging to turn conversations with people towards the gospel, but this issue makes it about as easy as it’s ever been.  Marriage is already on people’s minds, people are already talking about it, and people are very interested in it.

Sadly, I’ve seen some Christians, myself included, miss this opportunity.  Sometimes we Christians merely settle for “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” or “The state has an interest in preserving traditional marriage” and we just leave it at that.  While those things may be true, is that really all we’ve got?  Is that the best message we can give the world?  Heaven forbid!  This is our time to tell of a Cosmic love story that began before the foundation of the world as God the Father had a Bride picked out for His Son.  And this Son would fight for His Bride, destroy the Dragon that savaged her, restore His Bride, clean up His Bride, and cherish her forever.  Ephesians 5:22-33 reveals to us that marriage, as God designed it, is meant to be a parable of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Church.

And this is not just about gay marriage.  Any tampering of marriage is wrong because any tampering of marriage tells lies about Jesus Christ.  God detests adultery because Jesus Christ always keeps His promises and is faithful to His Bride.  God hates divorce because Jesus Christ will never part ways with His Bride.  Wife-beating is wrong because Jesus Christ will never abuse His Bride.  Polygamy is wrong because Jesus Christ has only one Bride, the Church.  You see, the institution of marriage has been assaulted long before anyone ever thought of gay marriage.

It was first assaulted in Genesis 3,images when Adam refused to protect and provide for Eve as he passively stood by and let her be enticed by the serpent instead of crushing the reptile’s skull.  Adam’s loveless and selfish passivity told lies about Jesus Christ who always defends His Bride and in fact, Jesus turns out to be the serpent-crushing Hero prophesied in Genesis 3:15.  He won where Adam lost.  And how did Jesus, in love, defend and rescue His Bride?  Go back to that marriage passage in Ephesians 5 that says,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives… (Eph 5:25-28)

imagesJesus “gave himself up for her” through His death on the cross which paved the way for our forgiveness and restoration.  Jesus’ death and resurrection was the serpent-crushing blow that rescued His captive Bride from the reptile’s clutches.  The reason we wish to uphold marriage as God intended is because we wish to uphold the gospel.  And again, this “marriage moment” in our culture is a golden opportunity.  Dr. Moore agrees.  He says,

This gives Christian churches the opportunity to do what Jesus called us to do with our marriages in the first place: to serve as a light in a dark place. Permanent, stable marriages with families with both a mother and a father may well make us seem freakish in 21st-century culture. But is there anything more “freakish” than a crucified cosmic ruler? Is there anything more “freakish” than a gospel that can forgive rebels like us and make us sons and daughters? Let’s embrace the freakishness, and crucify our illusions of a moral majority…we have the opportunity, by God’s grace, to take marriage as seriously as the gospel does, in a way that prompts the culture around us to ask why.

Amen.  Let’s seize this moment.  The next time you are in a conversation with someone about marriage, tell them about the ultimate purpose of marriage as a gospel reflecting parable.  Some may say, “I can’t say that.  They don’t even believe the Bible!”  I say, “Jesus has commanded us to preach the Gospel to a world that doesn’t believe the Bible.  They may or may not believe.  But one thing is guaranteed, they won’t believe unless there is a preacher (Rom 10:14). Therefore, go and make disciples…”

Church, let’s not miss this opportunity!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Tomorrow’s worship service will be unusual, and why that’s good.

Dear Harbins Family,

Tomorrow’s service will be unusual.  thomas_std_tThere will be no singing except at the very end and the tone and mood will not be as light as normal.  The reason being is that the sermon will be covering one of the darkest Scriptures in the whole Bible, Job chapter 3.  Many churches would skip over Job 3 and the “darker” sections of Scripture in favor of passages that are more cheerful.  I believe this is a mistake. The Christian life is not always a “feel good” “sun-shiny”, “happy-go-lucky” experience.  Part of the path of following Jesus takes us through great trials and difficulty, as the Scriptures say, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

thomas_std_t The Christian life in truth is a life that is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor 6:10).  Sometimes churches major on the rejoicing and leave no room for sorrow.  We do not know how to “weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15)

My prayer is that Harbins will be a church that will equip you to minister to those who are in deep anguish, as well as helping to prepare you for the storms that come in your own life.  A part of that will entail not skipping over the “dark” parts of the Bible but letting Scriptures like Job 3 (and the whole book of Job for that matter) speak to us.  Let’s remember that all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for equipping the man of God for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16)  Those Scriptures don’t just include our favorite “positive” Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 13 and Psalm 23, but also those that take us into the darker corners of life.  God has a word for us in the more difficult passages of Scripture like Job 3, and I pray that God will give us ears to hear what His Spirit has to say to us.  I expect He will speak both to suffers and those called to minister to sufferers, and I suppose He calls us to be both at different points of our lives.

thomas_std_tSo I am looking forward to joining with you tomorrow morning to worship the God who knows and understands our pain better than anyone.  Jesus Himself is known as a “man of sorrows” who is “acquainted with grief.” (Isa 53:3) We can turn to Him in our darkest moments, because “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  (Psalm 34:18)

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Demer

The Sovereign Surgeon of the Soul

WebJPGOutoftheWhirlwindI am thankful to God that we now have two preaching/teaching pastors at Harbins. There are so many benefits that Harbins Community Baptist Church will reap from having pastors who routinely sit under the preaching of other pastors. The enumeration of those benefits is not the aim of this blog entry, perhaps that will be future post. Today’s entry is the first of what I hope will be many to come. Each week, either Demer or I, will post some additional pastoral reflections concerning the previous Sunday’s sermon. I imagine that the pastor not tasked with preaching that week will normally be the one writing the blog entry. This past Sunday Pastor Demer began a sermon series from the Old Testament book of Job called “Out of the Whirlwind.” You can listen to that first sermon here.

After sitting and absorbing and thoroughly enjoying the preached Word this past Sunday I began to think about how hard it is for the human mind to accept the very clear teaching of Job 1 and 2 that God is absolutely sovereign over human suffering. My finite brain is one that needs illustrations and analogies to help me along, so as I sat and pondered how a good God can be sovereign over evil the first line of the physician’s Hippocratic Oath came to mind: “First, do no harm.” As I found out through some research this week, that line is not actually the first line of the famous oath, however it is a summary of the overarching ethical concept contained within the corpus of the oath, which states that doctors should be committed to seeking their patients’ healing as opposed to their harm.

I, for one, rest much easier knowing that doctors take an ethical oath like the Hippocratic Oath when they enter into medical practice. But I also rest easier knowing that good doctors with high ethical standards do sometimes intentionally do harm and do so for very good reasons. A good doctor knows that sometimes short-term harm must be administered in order for long-term healing to be accomplished. ptg01509040The most obvious example of this is surgery. Running an extremely sharp blade across someones skin in order to cut into their body is indeed a very harmful thing (I’m getting squeamish as I write). But it is allowable, more than that, it is good and desirable if that cutting is happening in order to remove cancer or to fix something else that’s causing greater harm to the body. It is not evil for a good surgeon to cut his or her patients.

Job 1 and 2 are two of the most challenging chapters in all of Scripture. They are not challenging because they are hard to exegete. They are challenging because they are so easy to exegete. The challenge is found in what the text clearly says, namely that God is sovereign over suffering yet God is not in anyway evil or sinful. There is real evil in the world, and God really hates evil even though He is sovereign over it. This truth plays out in opening chapters of Job. We see that evil in the person of Satan, who has evil designs for Job’s life. Satan has no good in his purposes, his oath is to do only harm. But Satan is not sovereign. He is a creature, therefore he is limited and his will is subservient to God’s, his very existence is subject to God’s overarching, sovereign purposes.

Satan is actually a tool in God’s hands. The repeated focus on God’s “hand” is interesting in chapters 1 and 2 of Job. When Satan shows up in the heavenly council and accuses God of buying off Job’s loyalty in 1:11 he says this: “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” But one verse later God takes up Satan’s challenge saying, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand. So we see that God’s hands are clean. God’s hand is stretched out against Job by means of Satan’s hand. He is sovereign over, but not guilty of evil. We see it again in 2:5 where Satan says, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” To which the LORD replied, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” Two hands, two purposes, two designs but only one hand is sovereign. Satan’s hand is subservient to God’s!

Job-SufferingThe only way a person can be touched by the hand of Satan is through God’s sovereign permission, and God always has a design behind evil so that his hand is ultimate while still being innocent. This truth regarding the absolute sovereignty of God over good and evil is not a teaching confined to the first two chapters of Job. Joseph taught this to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Likewise, in Deuteronomy 32:39, God clearly proclaims these words:

‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.’

The Lord God, like a surgeon, is permitting, allowing, even ordaining blades to cut. This does not diminish the evil of evil. Satan is real, and his hate is strong, but in God’s overall plan he is but a tool, a surgical instrument that will one day be discarded.

For the believer in Christ this is good news, for we know that our accuser’s power is limited and his time is short. Secondly, we see that all that our sovereign God ordains (both good and evil) in our lives is for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28). Though from the vantage point of a patient under anesthesia we cannot see it now, we will one day see how good His purposes actually were. One day we will see that He was doing the great surgical work of perfecting us through various trails (James 1:2ff).

God is not like a human surgeon who can err, who can make unethical decisions, who can harm for no reason. For those who belong to Him, God is the sovereign Surgeon of the Soul, always acting on our behalf, even when it means the razor-blade of suffering must come into our lives.

Will you help me build a Boiler Room?

I’m wondering if one of the best things we can do for our congregation and for our community is to build a boiler room at our church.  Let me give an explanation and then an invitation.

imagesCharles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) is known as the “prince of preachers.”  He was pastor of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle and the hand of God was upon him and his church mightily and through his ministry the Lord ignited revival.  Thousands came to Christ through his preaching.  There were times where worship services drew as many as 10,000 people.

imagesSpurgeon had a humble and biblical attitude about his ministry.  He never took credit for the fruit.  As a matter of fact, when people came to his church to learn the “secret” of his success, he took them to the basement where there were hundreds of people on their knees in fervent prayer.  Yes.  There was prayer before, and even during the service!  Spurgeon called these prayer gatherings the church’s “boiler room.”

In Spurgeon’s day, steam was the main power source.  Boiler rooms were powerhouses that drove everything from home heating systems to enormous machines in factories.  While boiler rooms were never the most glamorous part of a building they were absolutely essential.  Spurgeon said, “If the engine room is out of action, then the whole mill will grind to a halt.  We cannot expect blessing if we do not ask.”

Spurgeon recognized that the prayers of God’s people were essential in fueling his preaching and his church.

I’m wondering…. will you help me build a boiler room at Harbins Church?

imagesStarting this Sunday I will be in my office (The old preschool room) around 10:30am to have a brief time of prayer before the worship service.  Anyone is welcome to join me for this.  It will be a time to get our hearts right before the Lord, to pray that God will help us to worship Him in spirit and truth, to pray for every element of the service (singing, preaching, fellowship, etc.)  We will also pray for our congregation.  We will pray that believers will be blessed, encouraged, and impacted by the service, and that our passion for Jesus will be further ignited and that passion will spill over and impact our families, our relationships, and our community.  We will pray for the lost.  We will pray for Dacula and surrounding areas, we will pray for people who will come to our service that do not know the Lord.  We want to see more people drawn to Jesus, to believe, and to receive life in His name.

Of course, if you have personal concerns and burdens I would love for us to lift these things up before our Father as well.  I am sure every week we’ll focus on slightly different things.  This will not be a tightly structured or formal time.

My hope is that pre-service prayer will also help to facilitate further unity and a sense of collective mission amongst our church family.

imagesThis time will be very loose and informal.  Walk in whenever you arrive.  If we’ve already started, that’s fine.  If you have to step out before we wrap it up, no problem.  If you want to pray out loud, great.  If you want to pray silently, fantastic. Sometimes prayer may only be for a minute or two.  Sometimes longer.  Regardless, the longest we would go would be until 10:40am.  Men, women, and children of all ages are welcome to come.  If you’ve got a noisy baby or jittery toddler, come anyway!

Jesus reminds us that He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do imagesnothing. (John 15:5) We need Jesus’ help for our corporate worship to be everything He wants it to be.  We need God’s help for our church to be powerful, effective, and a vehicle that God will use to powerfully impact lives in our fellowship and in our community.  If we want to see further growth and powerful spiritual revival in our midst, why not simply ask?

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  (Matthew 7:7-11)

Spurgeon himself told his fellow preachers,

“Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.”

What do you think?  If you agree, consider joining me every Sunday in my office at 10:30am for pre-service prayer and let’s get a boiler room going.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Blogging for your good and God’s glory

Friends,
thomas_std_t
Some of you are aware that when I was in Alaska a part of my ministry including blogging.  I was always amazed when people told me they actually read it and even more amazed when they said they actually benefited from it!  Because I love to write, it made me happy to know that this endeavor was doing something beyond just giving me an outlet to express myself.

Now that I am serving at Harbins Church, my hope is to continue and even increase my writing ministry.  Pastor Steve also shares a passion for building up the body through the written word, and for this reason, we are excited to join forces and blog together.

thomas_std_tExplore The Story is a blog that seeks to encourage and equip Christians by examining theology, culture, life, and reality through the lens of the truest and greatest book of all, the Bible.  We believe the Bible impacts every aspect of existence because the Bible is from God and because every page of it is part of a beautiful story, an unfolding drama that features Jesus Christ as its Hero.  The Bible is not about you.  It’s about Him. And that’s good news.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that the mystery of God’s will has been revealed to us, and His will is “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” (Eph 1:10)

All of reality exists for and finds its meaning thomas_std_tand purpose in Jesus Christ, which means your meaning and purpose are bound up in Him as well.  Everything you need to know about your life, your world, and reality itself is revealed in the Scriptures, for that reason, there is no more important story to explore than the story of the Bible.

We really want this blog to be for your good and for God’s glory.  If there are particular topics, theological questions, questions about Christian living, or various themes you’d like us to pursue on the blog, please let us know.  We want you to benefit from this resource and help you discover how your story is wrapped up in His.

I left a handful of old articles up that I wrote while pastoring in Alaska, but God-willing, Steve and I will be adding much more new content to the blog moving forward.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Demer