Mock Up (For God’s Sake Only part 2)

“Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on. As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?” (Job 21:3-4)

Life is good

So if I understand this correctly, Job is turning from what was just spoken by Zophar in the previous chapter. Zophar the Naamathite proceeds to show us the overarching moral structures and strictures that God has set up to the downfall of those who sought to use the gifts and blessings of God as spoil for their own manipulative conquests (see chapter 20). Really, in continuing on, Job sets up the argument one higher. That’s pretty much the tenor for his answering his friends throughout the book that bears his name. In chapter 21, Job says, yes, these people enjoy life in much the same way as those who aren’t conscienceless. They “live” and “become old” (verse 7). The enjoy their families and the safety of their property (verse 8). Their plans scale and produce fruit after their kind (verse 10). “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto Him?” (vv. 14-15)

This is the human condition. There are times in my life where I get an influx of the same (the aforementioned “garden variety things”) and see the discipline of what it truly means to follow Jesus, fall by the wayside. There was a time in my life where I was depressed and it felt like I was under God’s thumb permanently. I can now tell you unequivocally that it’s better to be in a dark place with Jesus as your cell mate, than free to roam the earth while it slowly burns up. The horrible corollary to what I was experiencing due to my having neglected the ways of God in my (physically) formative years was, should I have experienced an upswing during that season, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons God had for me nor would I have been strong enough to resist the aforementioned temptation to “mock” God and not “revenge all disobedience when once [my] obedience [was] fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:6b)

But God is better

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

When Job answers Zophar, he leads with a brief plea for the floor after which, he tells him, that he can “mock on”. Because Zophar is playing God. Zophar sits across from Job and seeks to spill all the secrets of the Almighty without actually having earned the right to know them through suffering. This is the way. Of Jesus is it spoken that He “learned…obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) And if all someone wants to do is enjoy life for its own sake, or, for their own sakes, how do you think God feels? How does this reflect on what Jesus had to go through to become what He did? I would have to say that it’s supremely insulting.

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name.” (Psalm 63:3-4)

David had seen to the depths God brought him to and consequently had “eyes wide open” all the way back up. Gratitude (“my lips shall praise Thee”) and worship (“I will lift up my hands in Thy name.”) are but a paltry sum for that which God gifts freely in exchange for a fleeting few years of torment and misery and…obedience.

“It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.” (Lamentations 3:27-32)

Taking Liberties

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

As an American, the concept of the Fourth of July—the day our country celebrated its independence from British rule in 1776—is something I’ve known about since I was a child. I remember being taught the rudiments of American history at my little Christian Montessori school in Montrose, California. An idyllic town that belied the busyness of the surrounding area. Greater Los Angeles was a melting pot of twenty-million people at the time. From San Diego up to Sacramento, my dad realized the enormity of the sprawl in which he found our family, and so decided to move all of us up to the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. The time was the early nineties and the Gulf War was in full swing. And while all of this uniquely American activity swirled around me, my eight year old mind only barely was able to process the periphery of this information.

I still don’t have the benefit of firsthand outside perspective when it comes to my homeland, what can I say?

Much has changed in the twenty years I’ve lived in this relatively small community. Both foreign and domestic. Globalization seems to have made a full circuit and come back around, entering into my consciousness in spite of the insulated atmosphere of the valley and not just because of the ubiquity of the internet. My father is a Marine. He enlisted during Vietnam, not to spite my grandfather (a naval officer and doctor), no. More out of contrast and in needing something different.When you’re raised on naval bases, unless it’s really for you, one tends to rebel. In his way, he contributed what he could, laying his life down for the country. While he never went overseas, he was willing to die. I find it miraculous (for me) that he’d be part of the three percent of enlistees who were never deployed. All this aside, my younger brother, Ian, followed in his (big yellow*) footsteps after High School. Having enjoyed (and also slogged through) the rigors of boot camp, he took his place alongside so many “devil dogs”. I am the only member of our family not to have served in the armed forces. I don’t feel anything untoward. I am myself.

How can I say this? I’m not a pacifist. Not as easily defined under an overarching (and polarizing) term. But I’m not a jingoist, either. And if it seems like I’m skirting my point, I’m not (I almost said I was). What I’m trying to do is cast the topic of “freedom” and “liberty” as the Bible defines it and not just from an inordinately “patriotic” standpoint. But I don’t want to sound un-patriotic. My brother did what he did with eyes wide open and while we are incredibly close in spite of being ten years apart, he didn’t ask me before enlisting. I don’t hold this against him in the slightest. A moment-by-moment…what’s the word? Ah. *snaps fingers* liberty pervaded our father’s raising us to where we were free to make our own decisions. I wouldn’t have had it any other way–even when in my late teens I felt I’d been on the wrong track for years.

And this is what God gives us in Christ. The freedom to believe is yours. The freedom to do. You have the right, from wheresoever in this world you may be reading this, to reach for God, or to relegate Him—as an idea, a figment—to the basement of history. The choice is yours.

But as a Christian? I must say that in times and locales of persecution, the Gospel does its best work. The overarching “freedom to believe” is in many ways superfluous. It’s when we’re granted the luxury to do as we choose that we run into grey areas and problems of so-called entitlement and surfeiting. These three things: persecution, entitlement and surfeiting are widespread in this country. Three things that aren’t in keeping with the ethos of God’s order. While one camp (hardline atheists) defends the primacy of sense, the fundamentalist evangelical religion acts in ways that are beyond senseless (I don’t think I need to cite examples). I scratch my head. The statements of Jesus are leveled at somewhere in between and while love is the great equalizer, “liberty” doesn’t always turn out and churn out model citizens.

“As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16)

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

*Not a reference to cowardice. Recruits each step from the bus onto one of the two-dozen pairs of bright yellow, oversized footprints painted on the receiving bay at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California. To be sure, they’re big shoes to fill and the recruit earns the title “United States Marine” only after completing the grueling three-month boot camp regimen. I know my brother did it just as much for himself as he did “for God and country”. I hear it in his voice.

Every Type, Every Stripe

“All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone.” (Psalm 86:9-10) Every type.

People the world over experience God in different ways. Even those in your local or home church have things going on in their lives in which God is working in ways that are foreign to your understanding. His ways. His means.

Jesus speaks to the deep places in the human. It transcends language. It supercedes cultural borders, societal labels, even gender types and roles. We are all human beings with spirits, alive or dead. And this is what Jesus touches on first and foremost.

“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under Heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites (essentially Iran), and the dwellers in Mesopotamia (Iraq), and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia (Asia Minor), in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene (Northern Africa), and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:5-12)

Don’t doubt…

I find it somewhat disconcerting to read this passage and sense the dissonance among the body of Christ in America. And maybe I’m not viewing the situation through the right lens. If I’m not “believ[ing] all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), then I’m not looking with love. But if there were any country that exemplified the melting pot of Jerusalem (everyone present was there to observe the Jewish festival of Pentecost) in the above passage, it’s America. And I’m not trying to tie this country to prophecy or come across as patriotic. What I am saying is that we, we have an obligation and also the auspices necessary to see this atmosphere come back around in our time. Our place. Look for the opportunities that present themselves (really, it’s God presenting them to you) in your locale. While there may not be a varied cultural ethos where I live, I do so love meeting people from all over the world. The odd individual who hails from Germany, Poland, Australia, Korea, Tunisia, etc. Their attitude is so refreshing to encounter merely because of its difference. They laugh at the foibles inherent in American mores and in turn describe where we are more laid back. Each one, though, created by God and each fulfilling their role in the majestic tapestry that makes up His world.

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” (Ephesians 4:10)

A citizen of the world, Jesus seems to be a busy person. Much has been written and told of visitations from the Lord of Creation—from across the globe. Those who have had personal encounters with Him wherever they may be. He seems to have been constantly on the move during His three-year itinerant ministry. But while He is “set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2), who’s to say that He doesn’t get up now and again to stretch His legs and tour the globe? Food for thought. And just as the gift of tongues was exhibited during Pentecost, it would necessarily be lived through Him as He called and culled from every nation and every tongue, garnering a body of believers that are humble, hungry and seeking the truth. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who makes any and all of this possible.

“And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2, speaking of the Holy Spirit)

The stateside mission field is “white already to harvest” (John 4:35). Jesus speaking of the bumper crop of people who are ready to hear the good news of His Gospel. An ironic statement, too, as the whole point here is that it’s not just about “white” people. Or black. Or any other race. It’s about the human being on a global scale. Every type. Made possible by the life, death and resurrection of just one man. “Who in his own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” His stripes, eh? Every stripe.

“And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel…” (Mark 16:15)

Your world, wherever that may be.

Greater Than and/or Equal, Too

Don’t hold back.

God’s provision is unlimited. How much of our harvest and GDP do we utilize for ourselves? I couldn’t say. Without even referring to greed and collusion, the output is so abundant as to be distributed worldwide. We see this in our charities and food banks (local and international). The point is, we have enough to go around. To put food on the table and to feed anyone who asks. The waste is enough to feed the want of some small countries.

Waste not, want not. Spiritually, it’s like this: until we are grateful and fully utilize what we do have from God (mind, will, emotions), He can’t “open the windows of heaven” (Malachi 3:10) to give us more.

We, as a nation (America), are drowning in products and provisions. But spiritually, we are starving. When Jesus says that “greater works than these shall ye do” (John 14:12), it’s assumed that we’re already doing the minimum requirements needed to appropriate the blessings of Heaven. “And God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). I feel very passionately that God is waiting on us. The ball is in our court and the way to change things begins in our own heart and mind. How much of my day do I bring into the line of God’s scrutiny? How much am I even willing to bring into his subjection? The Book of Proverbs says that I should “acknowledge” Him “in all [my] ways” (3:6, more of a command, really). How many ways? All of them. How much of my mental capacity is, as it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, to be brought into “captivity to the obedience to Christ”? “Every thought”. This is stark. Like getting out of the pool after swimming. It might feel cold (it’s not), but it’s reality. God wouldn’t have told us to do this if it weren’t possible. In fact, this is what keeps out the riffraff. Without the enablement of the Holy Spirit—which is ours for the asking (all it takes is a simple “please” and “thank-You”)—it’s not possible. And yet Jesus says “I only do those things that please the Father” (John 8:29). We are called to do the same. I know we’re “only human”. And Jesus is “all that” plus God, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be “striving for the mastery” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

God will shore up our perceived inconsistencies if we are making the effort to bring “all things in subjection” (Hebrews 2:8) to Him. It takes effort, sure, but the Holy Spirit has our back. What other endeavor is more important?

“Only one life ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C. T. Studd

National Resurrection

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

Whether you believe in God or not, the fact that you have the freedom to believe or the freedom to doubt is integral to the fabric of this nation. Ten years ago that fabric hung, tattered and knotted as we struggled in disbelief at the attacks on the East Coast. I watched from my TV, having just come back home from delivering a missed customer on my paper route. It took a long time to process what I saw and still some of the details are hazy. Like the New York skyline for weeks following.

Did God cause it to happen? Absolutely not. But I believe He was powerless to prevent it.

As it says in Proverbs (16:7), “if our ways please the Lord, He’ll cause our enemies to be at peace with us”. The pundits, preachers, poets, priests and politicians (thank you, Sting) pointed at this sin and that “sin” and blamed each other. Conspiracy theories littered the landscape like detritus from the war of ideologies. And yet, following this tack, it was indeed an inside job. Inside our hearts and minds we shut God out. All of the apathy and hate and ingratitude rising to heaven, we sacrificed compassion and conscience for hate and hedonism and as such the door was left open for the enemy. We paid the price. And as Ed Roland (of Collective Soul, in an unrelated song;10 Years Later) sings: “it’s 10 years later and still I haven’t a clue”. I see today, the same apathetic attitude we were infected with a decade ago.

God’s forgiveness is still extant and extravagant. Love, as Peter says (1 Peter 4:8), covers a multitude of sins. Any outward, behavioral sin, “a reproach to any people” (again, Proverbs 14:34), begins—towards God (Psalms 51:4)—in the heart and mind. So, too, do the virtues. A lukewarm heart, veneered over with rudimentary morality isn’t going to last. Let us turn to God again and let Him heal our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14). We need to “put aside the alienation” as Rush sang in Limelight. Only when we renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) to the truths in God’s word will we experience real healing and prosperity. And freedom. From sin, violence and apathy. His love, mercy and grace will help us if we ask.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)