Job: a Testimony Against Easy Answers and Shallow Teaching

Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922)

I was a high school student when I first read the Book of Job. I had (finally) gotten serious about my walk with the Lord and began reading through the Bible. Job’s story was deeply encouraging to me as I struggled through those awkward teen years.

To be clear, I have a lot of fond (and some quite hilarious) memories of my high school days. But I also learned that walking with God did not guarantee that I would always “win” or that He would give me everything I wanted. I discovered, in fact, that God allows His children to go through trials. The “trials” I experienced seem kind of trivial now, but I suspect all of them will once we reach eternity (Romans 8:18).

Here’s a quick summary of the Book of Job:

Job had everything a man of his era could want. He had the perfect family (seven sons and three daughters) and was the wealthiest man in the region. But Job was also “blameless and upright.” This doesn’t mean he was sinless, of course, but he did walk in the fear and admonition of the Lord. He even made sacrificial offerings to God on behalf of his children.

God allowed the enemy to take everything from Job: his children, his wealth, and even his health. Job never cursed God, but he certainly cried out to Him in his anguish.

His friends offered their counsel, but their insights were based the erroneous idea that bad things only happen to us when we sin (a false notion that many still believe today). Job, they argued, must have done something to deserve the unspeakable tragedies that had come into his life. Needless to say, their words did more harm than good.

The Lord eventually answers Job’s lengthy complaint with an intense rebuke. We could summarize His response one sentence: “Dear Job, I’m God, you’re not.” God never told Job why He had allowed him to experience such loss and misery. This taught me a valuable lesson: God is not obligated to explain Himself to me.

Job’s life does eventually turn around for the better: “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.” Encouraging, indeed, but we are never told why God allowed this godly man to suffer.

That’s my feeble attempt at summarizing a magnificent story–I would highly encourage you to read it for yourself. It’s located in the Old Testament of the Bible.

I’ve mentioned how encouraging the Book of Job was for me during my high school years. But I was exposed to some really bizarre teaching a few years later (through television, radio, etc.). It was called by different names: “word of faith,” “name it and claim it,” or more commonly, “the prosperity gospel.” The nuances among teachers vary, but the central message is the same: God’s children should be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous, and a lack of these material blessings in believer’s life means he just doesn’t have enough faith (or has sin in his life).

Job’s life presents a unique dilemma for prosperity “preachers”: How do you reconcile the teachings of this book with claims God’s children should only experience prosperity? They have tried, but their attempts have resulted in some of the most horrendous interpretation of the Scriptures I’ve ever heard. You’d think that even a casual Bible reader would see through it, but the desire to turn God into our personal bellhop can be blinding.

I’ll give you one example. Let’s take a direct quote from Kenneth Copeland, who travels in his own private jet (at ministry supporters’ expense) to avoid “demons.” Here’s a quote about Job, directly from Copeland’s website:

The Bible tells us Job continually made the same sacrifice for his children. The sacrifice was to be made only once. Because he did it continually, he sacrificed in unbelief instead of faith; as a result, the thing he feared came upon him (Job 3:25) . . .

Through all of his life, Job was safe until he feared and lost his faith. And it wasn’t until his faith was restored that God was able to bless him again.

Let’s consider the serious errors you’ve just read:

Yes, Job did continually offer sacrifices for his children: “continually” in the sense that it was his normal practice. But there’s nothing in the text that would lead us to conclude Job “sacrificed in unbelief.” The opposite is true–the Scriptures are highlighting Job’s dedication to God and his concern for the spiritual well-being of his family.

Job laments that his worst fears have come true in Chapter 3, verse 25. But again, there’s nothing in this text that states (or even implies) he lived by fear. This verse is Job’s grief expressed in sacred poetry, and we should simply read it as such.

Prosperity preachers like Copeland propagate the very error that the Book of Job was written to correct–the belief that we can presume God’s favor or judgement based on material blessings alone.

Don’t allow false teachers to rob you of the beautiful, perplexing, awe-inspiring lesson of the Book of Job: God is sovereign, and He allows His children to suffer for reasons we’ll never fully understand this side of eternity.

Four Years of Love

kevinweddingring

Mare Cris and I celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary today!

I wish I could say that all of our goals and dreams for life in the USA have come true, but they haven’t. We have, in fact, recently experienced an extremely disappointing setback in our quest for a job/ministry (the most painful one so far). We’re still feeling the emotional aftershocks.

But God has been good to us, and we have much to be grateful for.

And I can handle shattered dreams as long as she’s by my side. She is, after all, my dream come true.

We’ll make it through this . . . together.

Kahit saan, basta kasama kita (translation: anywhere, as long as I’m with you).

2015: The Year in Review

2015hourglassThere are only about 12 hours left in 2015 and I’ve decided to write a few reflections. It feels like the past year has flown by, but this isn’t really easy for me to explain. This year hasn’t been especially eventful for us. It has been more like stopping by a tiny town at midnight to gas up your car as you head to another destination. Regardless, I like to keep a record of what God has done in our lives. Here are a few things that come to mind when I think about 2015:

New Orleans:

I think the highlight of this year was our vacation to New Orleans, a place I had not seen in 14 years (I lived there in 2000-2001). Mare Cris and I enjoyed visiting this historic city together. It brought back many memories from my time as a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. And we had the opportunity to build new memories in a place that’s near and dear to my heart.

New Friendships:

Mare Cris and I have met quite a few new Filipino-American couples over the past year. This actually started not long after we arrived here, but the number and depth of these friendships grew significantly in 2015. The interesting thing is this has all happened “coincidentally”–we’ve just met people who know other people. It’s always a blessing to make new friends and to stay in touch with the Filipino community.

Ministry:

God has continued to give me opportunities to preach at different churches here in the Birmingham area. Needless to say, we are hoping and praying for a permanent place of ministry in 2016. Until then we are doing our best to be faithful with every chance He gives us to minister.

Grateful and Hopeful:

Mare Cris and I would like to thank all our friends, family and prayer partners for the many ways you have blessed us in 2015.  More importantly, we are thankful to God and look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in 2016.  Hopefully I will have some exciting updates to share with you soon.

The First Hello: Four Years Later

One important tip I’ve learned for strengthening a marriage is to celebrate your story. It makes sense to remind each other of how you met and the infant stages of the relationship. That wasn’t too long ago for Mare Cris and me, but we enjoy talking about it nonetheless. It brings back really great memories and emotions that we want to preserve.

Meeting your spouse on Facebook has one distinct advantage: you can go back and look at some of your first “conversations.” I decided to do this a couple of weeks ago. It took a while to scroll up through thousands of messages, but I eventually reached those first few paragraphs that marked the beginning of our relationship. I copied and pasted them to a word document so we’d have easy access to them.

That very first message from Mare Cris came four years ago today.

I had just moved to Angeles City the evening of All Saint’s Day. I chose to move during this holiday because I knew there would be minimal traffic to interfere with my exodus from Manila (virtually all schools/businesses are closed on November 1st). Everything went smoothly: I had somehow managed to downsize just enough to allow all my possessions to fit in the moving truck. The trip to Angeles City took a little over an hour, and unloading everything took about the same amount of time.

The apartment (things still in disarray).
The first floor of my apartment on November 2nd (still in disarray).

My new apartment was half the cost of my place in Manila. It was located in a really nice subdivision near every imaginable amenity (grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.). Erwin, a dear friend and ministry partner, lived just a short walk away. Everything just came together beautifully.

My life could not have been better . . . or so I thought.

The very next day would bring a blessing in my life that I had not planned or even hoped for: a message from the beautiful woman I would marry just a few months later.

Life has never been exactly the same since that first “hello.” For this I’m extremely grateful.

Macau (December 2011)
Macau (December 2011)