Friday, May 24, 2013

I Am Job's Friend

In my Bible reading recently, I happened to land upon the section where Job is being 'counseled' by his 'friends'. To be honest, I tend to become a scanner in this part of the Book, because you already know the narrative and you know that this is just philosophical back and forth and I want Job to get better... so I just scan until God confronts him face to face and rush to the good part....restoration.

And I know all the commentary about how this advice or teaching from Job's friends doesn't really help. They are telling Him it is sin to doubt God, or that Job must have done something to deserve this, and all the normal things people say in the midst of inexplicable tragedy and suffering.

But as I was reading Job's friends. It wasn't that they were speaking heresy to Job... it was the fact that they were speaking at all.

I am all for long discussion of theological approaches to suffering- but their teaching wasn't much help to a man who had lost everything and was scrapping wounds inflicted by Satan under God's allowance.

Job did not need a lecture. He was merely spewing rhetorical exasperations. He was in pain.

A godly friend, confident in God and His divine purposes, should never feel pressure to defend God during these times- they need to be heartbroken, pray, and serve. The only words that matter here are "I love you" and "I am here".

In the dark of night, that friend would remember Job and reach out to him. And as Job cries out "Why is this happening" the only proper answer is "I don't know, my friend, but here is a cool taste of water and ointment for those wounds."

I get so sad that I always lead with words and rarely with sacrificial service.

The time for truth will come- but in the early stages of loss my friends and family need a shoulder and a servant and a heart of compassion.

God's people understand that.

When 200 mph winds destroy homes and schools- they pack their trucks with chainsaws and water and run to the hurting. They give money to support. They pray with tears of sorrow.

And them some, like me, sit back and pontificate on the problems.

I want to do better here. And it starts with my wife and children.

I have a tendency when some in my family come home- and they have had a hard day- and there are tears of pain or frustration or anger- I tend to work to 'explain' and 'teach' responses. Sadly, there have been times when the lecture begins with "you are wrong which means your emotions are a result of wrong" like that helps one bit.

Lord, make me more willing to say nothing at all and hug, pray, and serve.

Those other conversations will come... in time. But even then- the hug will go to the heart and my words will sound hollow without the love.

In our society right now- as I read the www. there has never been more suffering.

And yes, suffering of this magnitude is often exaggerated because of our distance from God and His gospel promises. Romans 1 is very clear... the consequences of sin are contained in the lawless acts themselves- a type of moral physics. Not all suffering is a direct application of personal sin Jesus and Job said that over and over, but we all suffer directly or indirectly because of sin. And sometimes we are left in the wreckage of natural disaster or providential tragedy- for the Lord allows the rain to fall on all.

But that whole last paragraph- full of truth- says NOTHING if it is not lived out in LOVE and compassion and mercy.

Many of us moralists will retreat and flee when the consequences of sin come full bloom. But God's people never retreat. They bind the wounds of the sinners because that is where we all are in gospel terms. Many, including me, will become teachers of the Law and, in mostly civilized and kind terms say, "see I told you so" and watch the carnage with little sympathy.

This doesn't mean that we never correct or discipline our children. But it does mean that even when we discipline we need to have the HEART of the Father as well. "He whom the Lord LOVES He disciplines".

This is how it should work:

A sinner, despite knowing better, stays in his sin until the hammer finally falls. He receives penalty and punishment. If he is still breathing, God has been merciful- but no one ever realizes that.

God's child steps in and sees a man suffering. He begins to pray, and love, and serve. He does these acts of mercy without expectation of gratitude or payback- he knows that God is his reward. He never PARTICIPATES in the sin, he doesn't enable or become a co-dependent the sin. But he prays, and loves, and helps with an non-condemning attitude.

One day, it is the sinner who begins the conversation.."Why do you do these things? I am not worthy of this!" And the Holy Spirit has now opened the door to gospel truth.

"We are all sinners, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. His call is on you now..Come and follow Me."

Now in reality- this is a long and complex process in a sea of rejection and mis-understanding and hearts hardened by sin.

But we should be in the process offering rest for the weary, help for the hurting, and prayers for all.

Today, I am going to stop being a bad friend to Job- I am going to be a godly God's grace.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Ministry of 'Mess Up, 'Fess Up, and Grow Up

About to finish an amazing two years of serving as the Dean of Students at our school. And it has made me even more amazed at the 20 plus years that Coach Fred Yancey served in this role. Sometimes I feel like I have served 20 years in two- and if that is true- he did 200 years in twenty.

He has been the one that has been so helpful as I go to him and talk through different situations and he always has an example of things he did right and things that he wished he had done differently. I don't care what your degree is or how many books you read- there is NO substitute for a mentor.

And last night- he summed up my job in such a clear and concise way that I will never forget it. He was talking to our team and said- "the ministry of mess up, fess up, and grow up"- and it clicked like a light bulb.


My job is the most consistent one on the planet next to funeral services. I go to work everyday with a small to do list that I never really get to because e-mails, phone calls, and stop-ins begin to line up the long list of disobedience or rules infractions. Dress code, classroom disturbance, inappropriate humor, possible cheating, plagiarism, tardies, twitter fights, student concerns, parking or driving issues, skipping class, family issues, and I can go on and on. Some VERY light and some deep and serious.

I have never had one school day in 2 years where everyone did it right- which is a picture of where we all are in terms of human nature. We can't follow man's rules- how much more we violate God's rules. Some struggle in areas where others do not- but everyone has that area where no matter how hard they try- they come up short on their own. Now, the vast amount of our students NEVER come to see me for discipline issues. But no one is perfect..... no, not one.


Here is where the rubber meets the road. It is not normal to fess up.

This is as old as the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve refused to come clean with God. The natural tendency is to lie and deny til you die. It is easy to blame others or complain that others are guilty and geting away with it.

It takes a lot of courage and grace humility to look someone in the eye and say "I did it and I am sorry".

This is going to sound weird, but some of my most rule breaking students are ones I admire the most because they are honest in admitting what happened. Even more are the ones who know they need to accept hard consequences- but have the inner strength to take them.

I try to help my students here in the process. I never want a false confession (and I get those at times) but I do work with them on the process of admitting a wrong doing and teaching a process of apology and moving forward.


The Book of Hebrews has a lot to say about the necessity of discipline:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I get to see the fruit of this process almost everyday.

I will read this passage to my students from time to time- including the inference of verse 10 that 'fathers' sometimes make the wrong decision in discipline thinking we are doing good- but God disciplines us for good.

But I do see a fruit of standing firm in business-like discipline. Not yelling but explaining punishment and gradually increasing the severity until the message clicks- it is much better and easier to obey.

However, it is a PROCESS- "those who have been trained by it"


Personally- I need to fess up to God and see the areas that I need more self control and need to practice being more disciplined. This includes applying the disciplines of grace- Bible study, prayer, to my life in a more consistent way.

As a Dad: I do not like disciplining or correcting my children. I like peace. But if I do not correct them, I AM NOT LOVING THEM. My tendency was to do great while they were little but back away as they get more sophisticated. But if I do not address issues of laziness, or respect, or attitude... I am not helping them. There are times to do this and times to back up..... but hard conversations and possible consequences that stick need to be administered. Our youth tend to disregard authority and our role as parents is to nip that in the bud. A child left alone will not move upward.

As a Church Member: I need to practice Matt. 18 and be willing to lovingly confront obvious sin. Not to remove a speck where I have a log, but in love have a conversation. I also need to be willing to hear rebuke from others.

I am so thankful for Coach Yancey and his ministry and I pray that God would grant His grace for me to grow in this area.......