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Yesterday I was having back spasms. I was laid flat for most of the day. My biggest problem is I didn’t do anything to hurt it. I didn’t lift anything and not use my legs. I didn’t twist awkwardly to catch a football. I didn’t jump from the boys fort. If I’m going to be in this much pain, I’d like to know what I did to deserve it.

Last night we continued our study of Job. I guess I’m a little like him in that sense. I’ve not suffered nearly as much as Job did. However, I still would want to know why. Where is God? Why is he not doing something about my situation? Does he not care? Not necessarily about my back, but there have been other situations, other instances, when I’ve wondered where God was?

God finally appeared on the scene. After Job’s continued suffering, after the intervention by his friends, after the interlude on wisdom, after the words of Job are ended, after a final rebuke by Elihu, God appeared out of a whirlwind.

And yet, when God finally appeared on the scene he didn’t directly answer Job. There was no explanation of why Job had suffered. No explanation for God having allowed Satan to act on Job’s life. No answers in that sense.

Instead, God challenged Job’s right to ask. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job. 38:4-5, TNIV). Job, you don’t understand everything you think you do.

Job, once confronted, realized that God is God and he is not. Will I? Will you?

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In preparation for an upcoming sermon series, I’ve been thinking about spiritual disciplines this week. Our tradition hasn’t always thought in terms of the disciplines. Not that we’ve been undisciplined, we just haven’t used that language. I remember “Sword Drills” in grade school Bible class. Who could find the Scripture reference the fastest? I ways very fast. We had to read the passage to prove we had found it, but then it was on to the next one.

During my teen years, we were encouraged to spend time in prayer and Bible study (a personal quiet time). We weren’t always taught how to do it, but we were encouraged nonetheless.

In college, we met frequently together. One year we even attempted the pattern of Acts and met daily. Being the obsessive, compulsive, over-achiever that I was, I often met twice daily, morning and evening, when groups were available.

Church attendance? Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.

It wasn’t until years later that I really learned about grace. I can still recall when I figured out that I didn’t HAVE to go to Sunday evening service. I still went, but it was liberating to find that I didn’t have to.

Prayer and Scripture (reading, study, meditation) are still an emphasis in my life and growth. I don’t always live up to what I would like, but more and more I’m OK with that. I acknowledge failures and move on.

What disciplines are important to your own growth? How do we embrace disciplines that help us in our Christian growth and yet not make the disciplines themselves the focus?

“I said, ‘I will watch my ways and
keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence.’
But when I was silent and still,
not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.
My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
‘Show me, O Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
‘But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth–
each man is but a breath.
‘Hear my prayer, O Lord,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more.’”
(Psalm 46)

Last week was an emotional roller coaster; conducting the funeral of Apryl and ending with our holiday banquet. This Psalm made me think about Apryl; “let me know how fleeting is my life.”

I overheard people trying to comfort the family at the funeral. “God had a purpose for taking Apryl.” I think, maybe it wasn’t God at all.

But the author of this Psalm believes that God is against him. Have you ever felt that God was punishing you; either justly or unjustly? How do you cope? Are there any words that help with the pain?