CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: We gather together in the name of the One who bids us come. ALL: We gather together to hear the words of the One who is love. ONE: We gather together to sing praises of the One who teaches us peace. ALL: Come, let us worship!
WELCOME: OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: All merciful, tender God, You have given birth to our world, conceiving and bearing all that lives and breathes. We come to You as Your daughters and sons, aware of our aggression and our drive to manipulate others. We ask You to forgive us, and by the gentle touch of Your Spirit help us find a renewed sense of compassion, that we may truly live as Your people.
Now in the words you gave us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: All good gifts come from You, Lord, and from these riches we bring this offering. Help us to use it for the benefit of those in need, Lord, and to further Your work. This we pray. Amen.
PRAYER FOR STRENGTH: Dear Lord, we come before You and ask for Your strength within us. A strength not of this world, but of Your kingdom. To refrain from judgement and feast on love. To push out greed and hold tight to joy. To dispel pride and rise with humility. To quell anger and rest in self control. To shun greed and rest in giving. To turn from power and embrace service. To let go of resentment and rest in peace. To push through fear and walk forward in grace. To run with faith, soar with forgiveness and allow Your eternal strength to abide with us. Amen.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Habakkuk 3:16-19New International Version (NIV)16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
Ephesians 6:14-20New International Version (NIV) 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Mark 12:28-31New International Version (NIV) The Greatest Commandment28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
MEDITATION: The Story Of Job
When I was in l0th Grade, the literature curriculum included the Book of Job — and there weren't any Coles Notes! It was one of the hardest reads for me up to that time. I thought it was a terrible story.
I wasn't able to comprehend why God allowed Job to suffer so much The Story of Job is set in Uz, a rather unknown land far from Israel. It took place at an unknown time and focuses on questions about God's justice and why people suffer. I see this now, after many years since high school. And Now it is clearer to me that the story also asks why good people suffer.
I know now that this book is considered among the masterpieces of world literature, and I finally understand it. Let's listen to a simplified version of Job's story.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. He was a perfect man; a man who feared God and kept away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and in was very rich in the riches of that country. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys. And he also had a great many servants. In fact, he was the richest man inall the East.
Now about this time Satan came before the Lord and said he had been going up and down the earth, which he claimed for his own, to see how everything was. God asked Satan if he had seen Job who was a perfect and upright man, who feared the Lord and stayed away from evil.
Satan replied that he did know of Job, but that God had set a hedge around him so that Satan couldn't get close to him. And Satan told God to take away everything Job had and then Job would curse God right to His face.
Try him," said the Lord. "I will put all he has in your power, but you shall not touch him." So Satan went out to do evil to Job.
It came to pass on a day that everything Job had was swept away.
First there came a messenger to him, all out of breath, who said, "Some wild men made a raid and carried off you oxen and asses, and killed the servants who guarded them, and I alone escaped to tell you."
While he was still talking, another messenger came and said the Chaldeans made up three bands and fell upon the camels and carried them away. And they also killed the servants. And he told Job that he was the only one to escape.
And while he was still speaking, there came another servant with the worst news. He told Job that all his sons and daughters were feasting in the oldest brother's house, when a great wind came and blew down the house killing all of them, including the servants. He, too, was the only one to escape.
This was the most terrible news. All that Job had and all that he loved, except for his wife, were gone. Job rose and tore his robe to show his grief, and he shaved his head and fell down on the ground and worshiped God. He said, "Naked was I born and naked shall I die. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
So Satan went before the Lord again and God said to him, "Have you seen my servant Job who still worships God, even though I have let you afflict him so much?"
And Satan answered, "Yes. Everything that a man has he will give for his life. But You have only let me take away his possessions. You wouldn't let me touch his person. I tell You, if you give him a sickness now, he will curse You to Your face."
God told Satan to go ahead and do his worst. And Satan went and sent sore boils upon Job from head to toe which were very itchy and painful. Job was very sick but he went and sat on an ash heap and took a broken piece of pottery with which to scrape himself.
Then three of his friends came to visit him; Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. They hardly recognized him because he had changed so much.
They felt so sorry for Job that they couldn't even speak and so they sat down and kept still. Then they began to talk to Job.
Almost all the rest of the Book of Job is taken up with their reasonings and Job's replies. They said he had been bad somewhere or somehow, and that's why God let him be afflicted. But Job said he had not done anything bad, and he couldn't understand why he was punished in this way.
After a while, a young man, Elihu, joined in the talk, but he really didn't help Job. Yet what these men said and what Job said make a most interesting and helpful part of the Bible. They were among the wisest men of the East, and they knew a lot about the things of creation and the history of man, and they put forth their wisdom as it is told in the Book of Job.
In the end a great thunderstorm came up and it was no ordinary thunderstorm. The sky grew black, the lightning flashed, the whirlwind blew, and there was a great tempest. Then out of the whirlwind came the voice of God, speaking to Job: Gird up your loins like a man and hear Me. where were you when I created the earth and when all the angels sang and shouted for joy? Were you there?"
Then the story goes on about how God told of the many things in creation, in the waters, on the earth and in the air. And God asked Job how much he knew about all of that. He asked Job if he was able to judge without knowing the deep wisdom of God. At last Job answered. "I know that You can't do everything and that nothing can be hidden from You and therefore I repent."
Then God told Job that he had been afflicted by Satan to test him whether he loved the Lord because of the things God gave him, or because he purely loved Him. And God told Job he had passed the test very well. However, he told Job's three friends they hadn't told the truth, but if Job would pray for them, they would be forgiven. Job did pray for them and they were forgiven.
Then the Lord healed Job and gave him back twice the amount of riches he had in the beginning. He had also seven sons and three daughters, and again Job had a happy home. In the end Satan was defeated and God was proved just. Job was the righteous man and lived to good old age.
It's in our nature to try to avoid trouble. We don't like trials and tribulations, but if we trust in God, we will see that those trials give us the chance to rely on Him, which in turn will strengthen our faith. There are many passages in the Bible that talk of the struggle and need to trust God.
At the end of Job's story, Job refers to God as the Lord and he comes to God in complete humility. He confesses his disrespect that he had held for Him in the beginning. James refers to Job in the New Testament. He says, "We say they are happy because they were able to do this. You have heard about Job's patience. You know that after all his trouble the Lord helped him. This shows that the Lord is full of mercy."
I think Job finally realized that trying to find the answer to why he was afflicted and suffering was futile. He realized it wasn't enough to know about God, but he needed to know God personally. Job is restored, and in the end he is blessed.
Job could have turned his back on God. He could have cursed God and dies — but he didn't. Throughout all of God's testing, Job never turned his back on Him. Sure, he got angry and frustrated. He even got depressed, but he stuck it out. Job set an example for all of us to follow.
Let us pray now to find the courage and faith Job had: Dear Lord, You remind us over and over in Your Word, that You are always with us.
You tell us not to fear and You draw us close into Your presence. You're the only place we find refuge in the trials that surround us right now, Lord. You're the only place we can find peace and strength. So we ask You for Your words of truth and power to strengthen us in our life, and lift our hearts to You.
Thank You for Your goodness. Thank You that You understand our trials and You care. Through our own struggle and pain, help us to be Your vessels to offer comfort and strength to others who are hurting.
Please, Lord, stay at our side and let us understand that by looking to You, we will obtain the wisdom and patience and love that will complete us. Fill us with peace in knowing that even if we take a wrong turn, Your purpose will prevail. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.