Wednesday, March 25, 2015

10 Habits of an Effective Leader

I am by no means an expert, but I feel that I have learned through the years that as a leader if we do these 10 things we are setting ourselves up for success:
  1. LOVE your people
    • Know their name
    • Know their spouses and children's names
    • Know what is going on in their life
    • Know their strengths and weaknesses
    • Never consider them expendable
  2. DELEGATE your responsibilities
    • Know every role in your area through experience 
    • Never ask someone to do something you wouldn't do
    • Find leaders and give them additional responsibility 
    • Structure your area where if you left operation would continue
  3. Be a person of INTEGRITY.
    • Do what you say
    • Don't cut corners
    • Always be honest
    • Do not talk negatively about leadership
    • Do not talk negatively about someone in your area
    • Do not talk negatively about anyone
  5. RECOGNIZE good work.
    • Recognize those who go above and beyond
    • Recognize those who do their daily responsibilities well
    • Recognize group successes
  6. ENCOURAGE new ideas.
    • Give everyone the freedom to suggest new ways of operation
    • Prepare your mind to react to mistakes from this in a positive and constructive way
    • Recognize new ideas that improve operations as well as those that do not 
  7. Set and measure GOALS.
    • Numbers don't tell the whole story but they do reflect a reality
    • Set operational goals and keep track
    • Set relational goals and keep track
  8. Stay ORGANIZED.
    • If your office looks like a tornado hit it so will your area
    • Keep a calendar and a to do list
    • End each day by straightening your office and planning the next day
  9. BE ON TIME.
    • Always be on time, every time
    • If you must be late communicate it
  10. COMMUNICATE clearly and timely.
    • Communication denotes value, so lack of communication denotes lack of value
    • For a text message, email, or voiceMail return communication before the end of the day.
    • Leave no need for clarification, no fuzzy communication

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2 Things Every Parent Should Know

This time of year the florist's begin to buy new cars and the card isle at Target looks like someone attacked it with a leaf blower....we all know what time it is....MOTHER'S DAY!  I am blessed to have many mothers in my life, but I especially want to wish my bride of almost 9 years a Happy Mother's Day!  She is without a doubt the best mom on the planet, sorry mom! 

One thing I did this year for Mother's day was buy a large picture matte that was made for events such as a wedding shower or birthday party where everyone signs their name and writes a word of encouragement.  I asked my almost 3 year old and my 5 year old what they loved about their mother and here is what they said:

Grace (5 yrs old)
  • She snuggles me
  • She plays with me
  • She makes me s'mores
Elise (almost 3 yrs old)
  • She pushes me on the swing
  • She kisses me a lot
  • She plays with me
I then asked Grace what she thought that mom taught her more than anything else.  She said "To be nice to others."

Now, as I was writing these things down to use for my bride's gift I realized that there are two over-arching truths regarding parenting that I learned from my wife.  These are critical to the success we have as parents.
  1. Be there - both of our girls mentioned that momma played with them.  But all of them have one requirement, that my wife be there.  It would be impossible for my wife to snuggle my daughter if my wife was not there.  If we want to invest in our children we have to be there to experience life with them.  When we are there we must be there fully, meaning we may need to turn the phone/computer/tablet off and invest in our families. What is scary about this truth is that someone is always going to be there.  They are kids and lets face it, they have to have someone making sure they don't burn the place down.  At the end of the day they have someone who is there, that person should be us more than others.
  2. Lead them to Jesus - Grace's answer to my last question about what momma taught them seems like an answer that someone who knows Jesus or someone who doesn't could answer, but let me tell you from experience that the idea of being nice to others is rooted in the fact of the gospel and what Christ did for us.  Every opportunity my wife gets she impacts them with the gospel. She always, and I mean always leads them to Jesus.  She disciplines with scripture and explains the way we love others is a reflection of our love for God.  I had a parent tell me once, "You have to make your kids hungry for Jesus", and I feel like my bride does that.  We have to lead them to Jesus.  Again, the scary thing is that our kids being led is not an option.  They are going to be led somewhere, and there are only two options out there.  Jesus or the world.  The world is trying hard every day to get our kids to follow it, we must always lead them to Jesus.
One final remark I will make is that if we do these two things with excellence Satan will continually attack us and remind us of all the mistakes we make in parenting.  We all do them and we always will, but know that God gives each child their parents for one reason, to bring Glory to His name.  If we keep our focus on that then everything else will take care of itself.

I write this in honor of my wife Elizabeth, who sacrificially and selflessly loves our two girls and me every day.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Parenting = Discipling

     One of the things the Lord has laid on my heart recently is the lack of motivation for junior high and high school students to spend time in God's word.  As a student pastor I see this all the time.  I see it in students who show up once a month for life group and I see in students who are at every event.  The Lord has been challenging me to better understand why this happens.  A lot of these students are obviously believers in Jesus but they do not spend time with the Lord on a frequent basis.  After talking through the idea with a close friend of mine, Caleb Reeves, I began to realize that part of the issue may be because of the way we frame the bible.  He was talking about how we tend to make it something that will help us if we read it or hurt us if we don't and in reality it is something that we do out of worship to our savior.  It is a response to our salvation.  This led me to a deeper thought, in order for students to spend time in the word they must value their salvation.  In other words, their faith must be the number one priority in their lives.  It doesn't matter how "perfect" we paint the picture of the bible if their faith is not a priority they have no draw to scripture.  This led me to ask a couple of our students who I would call "rockstars" in our ministry what causes their faith to be a priority and I believe the Lord gave me a clear cut conclusion, Parents.  I know this may sound like a "duh" statement but as a parent (although mine aren't teens yet) this hit me pretty hard.  I think there are a few areas that we as parents always need to be reminded of:

Follow the Leader
     As a parent we are given leadership over our Children from the Lord.  PARENTS ARE THE PRIMARY DISCIPLERS IN THE PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP. Let me make this clear, this is not an option nor is it a sometime thing, we disciple our children.  Every day they watch and listen to how we live, what we read and watch, how we treat others and everything else.  This is all discipleship, the question is what are we drawing them to be a disciple of?  Here is the bottom line of this section, If faith is not a priority to a parent, it will not be a priority to a student or child.  Youth pastors and workers can preach and teach until they are blue in the face the importance of making a student's walk with Christ the most important thing in their life but if we as parents do not reflect that it will be very difficult.  Scripture tells children to honor their parents, and it is innately in us that we are to listen to them.  Pastors and life group leaders can equip them to be disciples of Christ but if as their parents we are equipping them to be disciples of the world we don't have a chance.

Off - kilter
     This leads me to my second thought.  As I was thinking through this I began to weigh in on what students priorities in life were.  I think it can be grouped into 3 main categories: relationships, media, and extracurricular activities.  For most students these three areas drive everything they do.  When they get up in the morning they spend a large amount of time getting ready because of a desire to meet some sort of relational expectation.  This could be from friends or teachers all the way to a "significant-other".  They might get up and spend time working out which could be relational or could be so they can dominate on the court/field/etc.  They may wear a certain outfit just so they can post a selfie on whatever social media site they want.  Then the rest of their day is spent filling themselves up (being discipled by) these different arenas.  They spend time in relationships, they spend time on media (average 7.5 hours a day according to the huffington post), they practice and play games and have concerts.  I was struggling how do we make faith something greater than these and it dawned on me as me and my wife were discussing that the reason student's priorities are off kilter is because most adults priorities are off kilter.  They come home and see us on our phones, or watching tv, playing video games, or focusing on our favorite sports team.  We make decisions based on relationships.  Our motivating factor is the exact same as our children.  We must evaluate where we use our resources: time, money, energy.  All of these things are give to us from God and we have a finite amount of them, is what we do with them a reflection that Christ is our priority or something else? 

     I think one of the root causes of all of these is a false sense of satisfaction.  All of us have a desire to be satisfied.  It was put in us by God.  We spend our entire life (some of us anyway) searching for satisfaction.  The challenge we have in the U.S. is we have  false sense of being satisfied.  We think because we go to church, our kids are doing good in school and sports, we have jobs and money in the bank, and good friends that we are ok.  This false sense of satisfaction leaves us lazy in our desire for perfect satisfaction found through Christ.  This is why it is not a priority.  Why do students spend 7.5 hours a day on media (social media, tv, internet, video games)?  Because they feel satisfied and they see their parents as satisfied.  How would our lives changed if we realized that our only satisfaction was found in Jesus and we genuinely sought his word because we were wholly satisfied in him and desired to know more and more about him?

Not enough time?
     I have to give my wife Elizabeth the credit for this thought.  We were talking through and she brought this point up.  I have said multiple times that if there just more hours in the day I could get everything accomplished.  We all feel that way, there is just not enough time for me to do everything and spend time with the Lord and, and, and….but the fact of the matter is that God created time.  He created days, and he created us.  He created all of us in harmony and if God thought we needed more than 24 hours in a day he would have given us more.  But he didn't.  He gave us 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year, and 24 hours in a day.  What we have to do is make sure we are using that time in a manner that glorifies the Lord.  We don't need more time, we simply need less time-wasters.

What do we do?

     So what do we do?  How do we as parents make sure that when we disciple our children that we lead them to be a follower of Christ and not the world.  It starts with us.  We have to make a decision that our relationship with Christ is the greatest priority.  We have to spend time in the word every day and pray, we have to have spiritual conversations with our family.  We have to serve together, go on mission trips together, share the love of Christ together, and do it all in worship of who Christ is and what he did for us.  If we have a relationship with Christ and find our ultimate satisfaction in him and desire to grow in our walk with him then everything else in our lives filter through that lens.  In John 15 Jesus lays out to his disciples what it looks like to follow him, and I think if we truly want to worship Christ with our lives then we have to follow these things.  Not out of a desire for righteousness but rather out of worship to our Lord.  We must abide in his word, we must pray, we must love and connect with the church, and we must reach the world.  If we do these things then naturally our everyday life will be centered around Christ and it will be the number one priority.

Monday, March 31, 2014

10 Things I learned in Business that Help me Do Ministry

Prior to surrendering to the call to ministry I spent 5 years in manufacturing logistics working for a wide variety of companies.  I have worked for both small family-owned businesses and I have worked for a major corporation.  Both taught me a lot about leadership and management.  

*Let me throw in my disclaimer here.  I am by no means and expert and most people who read this will be like "DUH!", but for me I have to constantly remind myself of these things and hopefully this will help whether you are in ministry or business.*

Here are 10 of the best things that I learned which help me do ministry:

1.     Family First – our primary responsibility is to minister to our family.  It is crucial that when we leave our occupation we leave our work as well.  I have heard both Dan Reeves and Andy Stanley say that the job we do will be handed off to someone else but we will be the only dad and husband in our family.  So when we are with our family it is imperative that we are fully with them.  In addition, in leadership we want our employees and volunteers to keep their families first, but if we don’t live our own lives that way we cannot expect them to either.  If we do not make our family our first ministry we will not be fit to minister to anyone else.

2.     Organization is crucial – whether studying major manufacturing or a made to order processes there is one constant in world-class companies, everything has a place and everyone knows it.  Organization also includes having organized processes for everything being done.  Everything that we do should be designed so that anyone who comes in should be able to know where everything is and how it is done immediately.  Good leaders can leave and their organization will survive, but great leaders leave and their organization will thrive.  Organization is crucial to this.  Ministry depends on volunteers and a lot of them.  If we have an organized process with organized materials and supplies we are setting them up for success in the ministry they are serving in. 

3.     The devil is in the details – does it matter that an assembly line worker knows the proper torque to put a lug nut on in an automobile factory?  Absolutely.  The same goes for ministry, the more details we have and plan ahead for, the smoother our processes will go and the better stewards of time we will be.  In ministry it is imperative that all the details have been thought through.  It is crucial that when I lead a group of students on a mission trip that we have the day planned out to the minute.  Why?  We take them on the trip to grow in their relationship with Christ and if we want to be good stewards of the time God has given us everything we do must drive to that purpose.  Also, meetings need agendas and we need schedules.  Although minor details, it is a proven fact that meetings with agendas are more efficient.  Finally however, there is a point where details become a time burden.  Know this limit.

4.     Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more – regardless if it is intended or not the level of communication a person receives has a direct correlation to the value they feel.  When people are included in the communication they feel valued, and when they are not included in the communication they feel de-valued.  One key to remember is never assume everyone is clear on the matter.  If there is any doubt communicate again.  My motto has always been over-communicate.  Make sure everyone who needs to know is clear, and evaluate if your communication is effective.  Whether doing ministry in a small church or a multi-site mega church communication is critical to the effectiveness of its ministry.  Its quite obvious that this is one of the most important things in my humble opinion.

5.     Do everything with excellencemy dad always taught me that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing right.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth and if whatever you are doing is using that time and your energy it is worth doing right, the first time.  In addition, as a leader if you expect your people to do everything with excellence and you are not; the wrong example is being set, and the work will reflect it.  It has been said that history always repeats itself, the same goes for leadership; whatever you do as a leader your people will repeat.  Ministry is kingdom work; our goal is and should always be excellence every time in everything.

6.     Love your people, not just what they do – this is one of the most important things I learned in business.  The greatest asset any organization has is its people.  While people are there to help us complete a goal they are still people.  Know their families and mourn with them when they mourn and rejoice when they rejoice.  Ask them how they are and mean it.  Another key thing I learned was when leading people help them set goals.  We all have a goal, even if it is to “ride it out” until retirement.  Help them set goals and help them put plans in place to reach their goals.  Ministry depends on volunteers, and we love and appreciate them; not just the task they do.

7.     Numbers matter – this one is controversial.  Hear me out.  When I worked in business we had a metric to measure every facet of our business.  Efficiency, quality, engagement, etc. and we knew how to measure them.  We set goals based on what we were seeing.  It did not matter how good I thought our quality was improving if the numbers did not reflect that my feeling was not reality.  Numbers reflect reality.  Numbers in ministry reflect people.  Therefore we need to set goals and the goals have to be measurable.  That being said there are many important facets of ministry that cannot be measured by numbers, but they do matter.

8.     Earn Respect, don’t expect it – as a leader we walk into situations where we need to be respected.  While it is easy to assume that everyone will respect you because of your title people will respect you greater if you take the time to earn it.  First off, know the jobs you are over.  Understand what their responsibilities are and how they are supposed to be doing them.  Secondly, spend time with the people and watch how they do the job.  Do the work, help them with the hard stuff, and don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.  When a leader takes time out of their busy schedule to do work and know the job from experience the natural response is respect.  In ministry it is imperative that we know and understand the things we need our people to do, and come along side them while they do it.

9.     Be decisive – if the above are done and you as the leader know your people and their jobs and have their respect you should be well prepared to make any decision that you are faced with.  People want to follow a leader who is willing to make a decision quickly.  Two things happen when we are indecisive; first off it wastes enormous amounts of time.  We all face decisions everyday and if we spend 3-5 minutes contemplating every decision, we can end up wasting hours each month.  From my experience 95% of the time the initial decision will be the same decision made after contemplation.  The second thing that happens when we are indecisive is that it shows a lack of confidence and ability to the people we are leading.  If we want our people to take chances and evolve in what they do we have to be confident and show it.  Ministry is no different, there are decisions that have to be made every day, and we have to be decisive.

10. Be flexible – we are all going to make mistakes.  One of the greatest hindrances to evolution in business processes is the fear of the response a leader will have when a new process is tried and fails.  Don’t react negatively when someone tries something new and it fails, rather praise him or her for trying and challenge him or her to make it better.  In addition, one of the few things in life that is constant is change; and plans and processes change.  They also can change and change back.  Be flexible and lead through the change, never against it.  Ministry is always evolving while the gospel never changes.  Be flexible in how ministry is done but never give on the truth of who Jesus is and what he does.  Don’t let pride get in the way of trying a new idea or process, be flexible and willing to do new things to reach new people.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Whats Your Promise Land?

While working through Numbers 13 & 14 where the Lord has Moses send spies to check out the promise land I was posed with this question, "what is your promise land?"  I have chewed on the idea for a while and want to pose the same question to everyone else.  Where are we going?  Is it worth the sacrifice of our lives?  

Just a little background, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years and the Lord delivers them from their slavery in a mighty way.  I don't mean they just got to leave, there were crazy plagues with locusts and frogs and then when they were leaving the Egyptians pursued them and the Lord parted the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land.  We read about these stories and some are in awe and others struggle to believe them, but the Israelites were there.  They experienced it.  They heard the cries when the firstborn was taken and saw the sea come crashing down on the Egyptians.  They knew that the Lord was with them.  They also knew the covenant that had been given that they were God's people and he was going to give them the promise land.  Fast forward to Numbers 13, they are getting ready to go into the promise land and the Lord tells Moses to send some spies in to take a peek at the promise land and bring back some fruit from the land.  God had promised them a land that was flowing with milk and honey, and what did they see when they reached it:

"Thus they told him, and said, 'We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.'"  Numbers 13:27

These people knew the promise God had made.  They saw that what God had promised lied before them.  What did they do?  They let fear control them and told the people they could not defeat the people in the land.  These men, who had seen God turn the Nile from water to blood did not believe they could defeat the inhabitants of the land.  And you know what, they couldn't, but with God (as they had already experienced first hand) they could do anything.

What does this have to do with us today?  I believe we all have a "promise land" the question is does ours correspond with what God says or what the world says.  Both promise us a destination which will provide "happiness", but only one is true.  The world promises a land where when we acquire enough stuff, friends, approval, money, status, relationships, etc that we will be happy.  The problem is that none of us can ever have enough of that stuff.  It simply will not meet the need.  But the Lord promises we will have life abundantly (John 10:10) and eternally (John 10:27-28).  Only one of them will actually fulfill the promise.  

We are all on the side of the hill spying out what the land ahead of us holds.  We see the effects of the world through people who are addicted to substances, pornography, material things, relationships, etc and how they continually seek the next best thing because what they have is not enough.  We spy this.  All of us know someone who does this.  We also see the effects of the Lord through changed lives.  We see people set free from addictions and live lives that are joyful beyond everyone's understanding.  The same miracles that the Israelites saw we see today, in different forms but with the same power.  The question is, which land are we going to run to?  The question is not do we have to choose a promise land but the question is which one are we going to choose.  We all are going after a promise land, so we need to know where we are going.  

We need to know what we are sacrificing our life for.  You see, we all are sacrificing our life for the direction we are going.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth and we take that time and use it.  When we do that we are sacrificing that time for something.  Is the direction you are going worth losing your life for?  The only thing worthy of our life sacrifice is Jesus.  He is the only thing worth it.  What are you sacrificing for?  

Friday, December 14, 2012

God's Goodness Through Unimaginable Tragedy

In the wake of the Elementary School shooting this morning in CT I have put a paper I finished yesterday for a Seminary Old Testament Class.  Looks at what scripture says about it.  I just copied and pasted so it is not written like a typical blog post.

            Based on personal experiences one of the first questions that are typically asked when sharing faith with a person is, "Why do bad things happen if God is good?  This idea of theodicy is not something limited to Christianity; there are two Babylonian documents that are very similar to the biblical book of Job which aim at addressing this problem outside of the Christian faith.[1]  Merriam-Webster defined Theodicy as "Defense of God's goodness in view of the existence of evil".[2]  In other words, how can a good God allow evil to exist and allow evil things to happen.  One of the most popular books used by Christians to argue this point is the book of Job.  This paper will argue that chapters 38 - 41 prove the goodness of God through unimaginable circumstances.
Historical Setting
            The book of Job lies in the Old Testament following Esther and preceding Psalms.  This is a transition point for the Old Testament as it marks the end of the historical books and the beginning of poetical books.  It is classified as "wisdom literature" which Arnold and Beyer define as literature that "touches on all issues that explore the meaning of life".[3]  One of the biggest challenges when it comes to dealing with the book of Job is putting a solid date on when the events occurred or when the book was written.  It is a topic that neither scholars nor religious officials can seem to come to agreement on.[4]  According to Hartley there are three possibilities when it comes to dating the book of Job, but there is not one that has sufficient evidence to define the period.  The three possibilities mentioned are: early seventh century under King Hezekia, mid sixth century after the fall of Jerusalem, or fourth - third century during the era of the second temple.[5]
            While we cannot pin down a date of authorship we are able to see in scripture some characteristics about Job that provide the context for the entire book.  Job was: a blameless man who feared God[6], affluent[7], under the attack of Satan[8], a man who faced heart wrenching trials[9], and a man who faithfully trusted in Yahweh[10].
            The book of Job is organized into six sections: a prologue, dialogue, Job's speeches, Elihu's speeches, God's speeches, and the epilogue.  The focus of this paper is God's speeches.  In order to understand the context of God's speeches the previous sections must be understood.  The prologue introduces Job and what sort of man he was, highlights a conversation between Satan and Yahweh, details the trials that Job faces, and introduces his three friends that come to "counsel" Job.  After receiving the OK from Yahweh, Satan takes all of Job's possessions, kills his children, and gives him a skin disease.  Even though all of these trials happened Job continued to trust in the Lord.  Then three of his friends come to counsel him.  The dialogue is the recording of the conversations between Job and his three friends.  They go back and forth three separate times.  All of Job's friends believe in retribution theology and believe that Job's suffering is a direct result of sin in his life.  Job's response is constant through the whole dialogue, while he does not believe he is completely righteous he believes that the suffering he is dealing with is not in harmony with the level of sin in his life.  His consistent point throughout is that he wishes to have an opportunity to make his case with God.[11]  As Walvoord and Zuck put it, "Job wanted a legal hearing, an opportunity to prove the illegality of God's onslaughts against him, the patriarchal plaintiff".[12]
            Following the dialogue is a collection of Job's speeches.  During these Job gave his thoughts on wisdom, looked back upon his life prior to the suffering, continued to mourn his current situation, and deny guilt of a whole list of specific sins including but not limited to lust, greed, and idolatry.  At the end of these he basically takes the stance that he is done arguing his case and is waiting on God to answer in word or action.  After this point Elihu comes onto the scene and his speeches are the last part before God speaks.  His speeches rebuke both Job and his friends and he too took the approach that Job's suffering was a direct result of sin or obedience in his life.[13]
            Original Context
            Up until this point there has been complete silence from God.  By looking at Job's responses throughout the previous 37 chapters it appears that Job is having a hard time wrestling with the idea of theodicy, and how a good God who had blessed him previously could allow such suffering.  He doesn’t understand how could God be the "creator and the destructive force?"[14]  Then God speaks.
            Yahweh bursts on to the scene in a whirlwind indicative of many of the previous appearances throughout the Old Testament.  The next four chapters contain 2 speeches from Yahweh and 2 responses from Job.  Yahweh's speeches have two distinct purposes: 1) show God's wisdom through His creation and 2) show God's power over His creation.  Job's wish of an encounter with God is granted, but not without Yahweh pointing out the fact that Job has completely blocked out the ability to see God's plan because of his lack of knowledge.[15]  Yahweh then tells him to prepare for an interrogation.
            In 38:4-11 Yahweh poses a set of questions to Job regarding his part in the creation of the earth and the sea.  Yahweh compares the creation of the earth to construction of a building or house.  While modern readers get the basic picture of this, to Job and reader of Job's time this would have been much more impactful.  They did not have electricity or any modern tools therefore when describing the creation of the Earth as Yahweh did; coupled with the creation account they likely knew of, this would have been a reflection of His power to be able to create the earth in the time frame He did.  The same would go for the description of the creation of the seas.  In verse 8 Yahweh says, "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb".[16]  Imagine standing at the coast during Job's time and seeing the sea, its power and endlessness.  Here Yahweh restrains it.  While this is still powerful to the modern reader, with modern technology such as dams and bridges the power of the sea is taken for granted; however to people from Job's time this puts Yahweh in a greater realm.  It is also interesting to note a comparison of the water with the evil forces of the world.  They are allowed to exist and move about but only within the limits set, not their own will.[17]
            In the next section, 38:12-38, Yahweh asks Job how much of a part he has played in getting the day started.  Specifically in 13-15 God takes the dawning of a new day and actually puts a purpose to it.  Whereas Job, and likely the majority of readers old and new, would see the dawning of a new day as a process that just happens day in and day out, Yahweh stated its pre-determined purpose.  This would have had huge implications on the people of this time, there were few things that were consistent in their day but the sun rising was one of those things.  By Yahweh taking ownership of that happening reflected His amazing power and constancy.  Also, in 25-27 Yahweh brings rain into the discussion.  He poses a question to Job asking not only who brings the rain, but who brings the rain to the most desolate land and causes life to spring up from it.  This culture depended so much on agriculture that this statement would have had major impact.  Here the Lord takes a desolate land that the people would not expound any energy to put water on the ground.  It was dried up and of no good use; however Yahweh through his provision and power could easily water this land and cause green grass to come up.  This paints such a beautiful picture of God's people and how through his provision they can have new life.  There are many more questions from God to Job related to the daily orchestration of the stars, snow, hail, clouds, and wind that show the glory and sovereignty of God as He controls all things.[18]
            From there Yahweh continues his interrogation of Job.  In 38:39-39:30 God questions Job regarding many different animals that are extremely dangerous and elusive.  He asks Job how they are able to survive, protect and provide for their young, and if he could domesticate them and provide for their needs.  In essence all of these animals that were and still are dangerous, yet God provides their food, sees them give birth to their young, and he provides them a habitat.  Every need they have is provided by Yahweh.  Many different animals are mentioned but imagine being in the region this was written in and hearing God saying He would provide the food for the young lion and be in the den with them.  If a person attempted to complete this task the Lion would obviously attack and kill the person.  God brings up specific animals for specific ways to show his power and sovereignty.  The first one is the Ostrich.  Every person in Job's culture knew exactly what an Ostrich was.  It was a big, strange-looking bird that could not fly.  They were also known at this time for laying their eggs and then leaving them.  It would be easy for one to assume that God made a mistake when creating the Ostrich and this could be proof of an imperfect God and support many of the ideas of polytheism.  However, when examining the Ostrich we learn that it can run with very fast speed.  The person who views the Ostrich as one of God's mistakes is simply showing their ignorance in relation to God's sovereignty.  Next Yahweh brings up the horse.  The horse is one that everyone knew of its power and prowess.  They all knew that horses were used in many different avenues, from farming to military battles to royal coaches.  It would appear that the horse was one of God's greatest pieces of handiwork; however the Ostrich could out run it.  This contrast provided evidence to support that God created everything for a purpose and that purpose may be something that is not easily seen through human eyes.  The final creature he points out specifically is the hawk/eagle.  Up until this point all the animals discussed were land animals, but now Yahweh was questioning Job as to what he contributes to make them fly and where they dwell.  This is one of those things that are still captivating to modern people today.  When an eagle or hawk is seen soaring through the air there is something so majestic about it.  This proves His control over His creation is not confined to land animals.[19]
            At this point is has been a barrage of questions asking Job what makes him think he can even approach Yahweh to argue his case.  After walking Job through the details that prove Yahweh not only created everything but also is the single source of cause putting every moment into motion.  He then poses another question to Job in 40:2, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it"[20]  If we look at the original text that is translated into "he who argues" it is the same word used in Job 9:33 which the New American Standard translates to "umpire".  Here God is asking Job for his advice on being the God of creation and the God of his life.  The umpire of a baseball game who is behind the plate decides what is a strike (good) and what is a ball (bad).  In other words God is asking Job what he thinks is good or bad.  Not quite the answer that Job was looking for.[21]
                        Before moving on to Job's answer it is important to reflect upon Job 38:1 - 40:2 and give a summary of how these passages point to the goodness of God even through the most unimaginable circumstances.  The central character of the book of Job is at a definite low point in his life.  He has gone from being an extremely affluent, blameless man who has been reduced to an outcast.  He has no possessions, his children have died, he has a visible skin disease, and his wife is asking him to abandon his faith.[22]  His friends have come out of compassion for him[23], but their discussions all seem to point to the obvious sin that Job must have in his life causing this suffering.  We see the first point of Yahweh's goodness by the simple fact that He comes and manifests himself to Job.  For most people of this time period it was impossible to "encounter God".[24]  The fact that God came to Job in the whirlwind shows his goodness.  Not only does God manifest Himself to Job, He takes Job's focus off of himself and puts it back on God's creation.  Job was so wrapped up in his desire to defend his position to God that he had lost sight of the majesty of the creation around him.[25]  It would have been easy for Yahweh, perfect and righteous, to come in and point out all of the sin in Job's life and make Job feel even worse than he did.  However, because God is a good God he asks Job a series of questions that change his perspective.  Job realizes how small he is in this world,[26] yet God cares enough to come and help him see the bigger picture.  Finally, God showed his goodness by showing his sovereignty through nature and his control over it.  The law of Job's day was an extensive list of do's and don’ts that all people knew and tried to follow to maintain their good favor with The Lord.  Yahweh could have approached Job with a task list instructing Job as to what steps he needed to take to get out of this period of suffering.  However, God showed Job that he was sovereign throughout all of creation and the events that take place every day.  If He was the controller of these things then Job could trust in God's plan for his life.  Matthew says it this way in Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?".[27]
            Job finally has his chance to defend himself, but his answer does not quite match his attitude from the dialogue with his three friends.  After hearing the questions from God, which have changed Job's perspective, he humbles himself before The Lord and tells God he will speak no more.  He understands he needs to hold his tongue but there is not surrendering of the situation over to Yahweh.  He realizes his inability to make any sort of case against The Lord, but he is not ready to concede to the will of God.[28]  There is almost a hint in his voice that says he has already said what he was going to say and there was no need for him to speak anymore.  Basically he was saying, "alright God I get it that you are creator and master, but I still don't like what is happening."[29]
            Yahweh also sees that Job has not succumbed to the fact that God is just and by taking that stance Job sets himself up for another set of questions from Yahweh.  He begins by challenging Job in his thought that his suffering is unjust.  If that were the case, and Job was right then God would be an unfair God.  Job would then be as powerful as God and have the same level of hatred for unrighteousness that Yahweh has.  Once again, God is working to change Job's point of view from himself to the rest of the universe which is under the control of The Lord.[30]
            At this point Yahweh brings in two distinct creatures the Behemoth and the Leviathan.  There are multiple schools of thought on the animal being discussed.  The Broadman Bible Commentary compares them to mythological creatures[31], while the Bible Knowledge Commentary considers the Behemoth to be a hippopotamus and the Leviathan to be a giant crocodile[32].  Either one would serve the purpose being sought out by Yahweh.  The people of Job's time understood mythology very well (they worshiped idols and practiced other religions that discussed this) and for God to say he created them and controlled them would be a testament to his power.  If it were the latter the same would be the case.  These same people had also seen the hippopotamus and the crocodile's and understood the danger they presented.  God wanted Job to subdue them, for most they were symbols of evil.  By pointing out to Job that he could not even contain the symbols of evil, he had no business accusing God of not dealing justly with evil[33].  There is an amazing piece of imagery built into the description of the Leviathan.  Notice it's length, and the flow, it appears that God was beginning to see Job let go and begin to let go of his pride.  God does not stop discussing this beast until he sees Job has reached the point of humility.[34]  Job's response is one of humility and repentance and Yahweh restores Job's fortune and gave him additional children.
            All the way through the second speech to Job we see God's goodness.  First, Yahweh was able to sense that Job was not ready to let go of his pride and rather than striking him down or putting more suffering upon him God prepared him for additional questioning.  If God were not good then Job would not have been given a second chance.  Again, God speaks to Job in a way as to change his perspective.  He challenges Job to humble everyone who is proud, which if Job is honest with himself; he would be the first person on this list.  God could have easily humbled him because of his pride, but rather approached it in love and gently showed Job his own pride.  Next he brings the Behemoth and Leviathan into the discussion.  Here God showed his goodness by taking the idea of evil and putting a tangible image to it.  Again, Yahweh could have told Job to just realize that He is in control of everything.  But instead, he approaches Job as a teacher approaches a student out of love and proves his sovereignty once again through nature and His control over them.  Finally, God did not stop the discussion with Job until he realized his brokenness and pride.  There is a beautiful picture that can be seen by reading through chapter 41.  It is very similar to an elementary aged class at church on a Sunday morning.  Whenever the teacher or facilitator can see the wall of pride beginning to fall they are relentless in their sharing of the gospel.  This is the same way; God could see the wall falling and just came at Job harder with even more details of the Leviathan that would reflect His glory.  In the end Job repented and surrendered his life to the will of God.
Bridging the Gap
            What does this have to do with the modern believer?  Everything!  In the beginning of this paper there were 5 characteristics that were said of Job, and all of them can be said of the modern day believer.  Job was blameless, and when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior so are we, "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and BLAMELESS and above reproach before him."[35]  Job was very affluent, as are we: "But you are a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."[36]  Job was under attack from Satan and faced heart wrenching trials.  We too as believers are under attack and face trials, "Count it all joy, my brothers, WHEN you meet trials of various kinds."[37]  Job also faithfully trusted in Yahweh, this faith is something that God provides: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."[38]  If we accept all of these facts that we are very similar to Job it gives us a good idea of how we will react when we face heart wrenching trials.  If we couple that with the things that Job did to act out his reaction to the suffering we can begin to develop a plan for when that happens.
            There will come a time in every believer's life when they will face trials.  They will feel as if they went from "the royal priesthood" to the "diseased man sitting in a pile of ashes" with no understanding of why they are facing whatever it is they are facing.  The majority of believers, just as Job did, would want their opportunity to sit down with The Lord and understand why they have to suffer.  The beauty of God's word is that it is "living and active"[39] and the same God that manifested Himself to Job is the same God we serve today.  All we have to do is to revisit these passages in Job to understand what God would say to us.  Just as it was when this passage was written, God created everything and has control over every moment of every day and if we believe and trust in God then we have the hope and comfort that just as He tells the oceans where to stop he also has total control of our life.  While it may make no sense to us, as with the ostrich - a funny looking winged animal that cannot fly but runs really fast, we know that He has created everything for a specific purpose and all works together for His glory.  Some of the greatest moments of hope in a believers life are when their is no other hope.  When all that is constant is that God will cause the sun to rise another day, and that is enough. 
            One of the biggest challenges that any believer will face in today's world is fighting off the world's pull for their identity to be found in something other than Christ.  Job 38-41 can serve as a very good checklist for the many different things in our life that tend to draw us away from Christ.  For example, a lot of people struggle with their identity being wrapped up in their job.  However, if a person will take their job and put it to the test against Job 38 it can reveal how temporary and insignificant it really is.  Our job had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the earth, has nothing to do with the rising or setting of the sun, or life or death, or rain, etc.  If we remember these things we will have a better chance at maintaining our identity in our faith.
            Finally, these four chapters provide one of the best answers to the problem of theodicy.  As stated in the introduction this is one of the biggest hang-ups for people hearing the gospel.  They do not understand why a good God would allow bad things to happen.  However, by walking someone through these passages it becomes clear that God is sovereign and that everything will work together for His glory.  We should approach our daily lives through the lens of Job 38-41, out of constant reflection on God and his glory through his creation and sovereignty.

[1] R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), 1024-1025.
[2] Merriam - Webster, 2012, s.v. "Theodicy."
[3] Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 1999), 158, 282, 290, 292.
[4] William Sanford La Sor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic William Bush, Old Testament Survey (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 561.
[5] John E. Hartley, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Job (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 17-18.
[6] Job 1:1 (English Standard Version).
[7] Job 1:3 (ESV).
[8] Job 1:12 (ESV).
[9] Job 1:12-2:8 (ESV).
[10] Job 1:21 (ESV).
[11] Arnold and Beyer, 294-296.
[12] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (U.S.: Sixth Printing, 1988), 766.
[13] Arnold and Beyer, 296 - 297.
[14] Athalya Brenner, "God's Answer to Job," Vetus Testamentum 31, fasc. 2 (April 1981 (accessed December 6, 2012).
[15] Clifton J. Allen and others, eds. The Broadman Bible Commentary Volume 4: Esther - Psalms (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 136-138.
[16] Job 38:8 (ESV).
[17] Allen and others, 138-139.
[18] Allen and Others, 139-140.
[19] Allen and others, 141-143.
[20] Job 40:2 (ESV).
[21] Allen and others, 143.
[22] Job 2:9 (ESV).
[23] Job 2:11 (ESV).
[24] Arnold and Beyer, 298 - Job offered his own sacrifices, likely pre-mosaic.
[25] Hartley, 494.
[26] Job 40:4 (ESV).
[27] Matthew 6:26 (ESV).
[28] Allen and Others, 144.
[29] Athalya Brenner, "God's Answer to Job," Vetus Testamentum 31, fasc. 2 (April 1981 (accessed December 6, 2012).
[30] Hartley, 518 - 521.
[31] Allen and Others, 145-148.
[32] Walvoord and Zuck, 771-773.
[33] Walvoord and Zuck, 773.
[34] Hartley, 518.
[35] Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV).
[36] 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV).
[37] James 1:2 (ESV).
[38] Romans 12:3 (ESV).
[39] Hebrews 4:12 (ESV).