Hey Fitties!

Body Pump training: CHECK. Bunch of other shit to do: Almost check.

Welcome to the gyroscope that is the end of my year. I guess we’re all in that spinning out of control time of year…. fiscal year end, holidays, etc. etc.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, the world didn’t end. Surprise! (?)

I’ve been having these weird dreams. The other night I woke myself up doing chest presses. Last night, I dreamed I was on stage with a bunch of other fitties doing… I dunno… SOMETHING AWESOME. Some sort of workout that rocked.

Then I was at some sort of reception having dinner with a lovely woman who, while putting on blush with a marshmallow, brought up the recent shootings in Connecticut. She told me, as she applied purple circles to her cheeks, that she just couldn’t believe in God anymore. We talked about suffering and God and then I woke up to take to my blog.

Even without the shootings in Connecticut one week ago today (which is, I think, the worst thing to happen to our country since 9/11, but I could be wrong), horrible things happen that cause us to despair. New Hampshire recently had a couple who beat their baby boy so badly he needed brain surgery and will be impaired for life. Then the mother and her paramour went to Universal Studios. God is asleep, we think. God is not watching. God does not care. Or, the ultimate rejection: there is no God.

If there is no God, then the brutality and mayhem of life really shouldn’t be that surprising. If we are just a collection of atoms and ego and id vying for evolutionary supremacy and the satisfaction of our lusts and urges, then killing and beating and rape and crime are part of that natural order. If life is just chance, how can there be value in what is essentially a cellular lottery? If life is not valuable, what purpose is there to life except what each individual decrees in his heart? In this system, why would we be surprised if the individual decides his purpose is to hurt and destroy everyone else who gets in the way.

I suggest the reason that this is so horrible to us is, in our hearts, we do know that this is not the way the world was designed to work. We are designed with a longing for peace and love and to see children growing up and not dying before they lose their baby teeth. We also do not possess the ability to achieve peace and love in our own broken human capacity, but that’s another blog post (or just read Questions 14 through 20 here)

So I wanted to share with all of you, and myself, this excellent sermon from Timothy Keller. Keller talks about the testing of Job and brings up some excellent points (don’t just read my points, still listen to the sermon).

1) Satan tells God “Job doesn’t really love you, he loves the prosperity you brought him.” Job not only has health and wealth but he has a thriving family. He’s a prosperous and fortunate man by ancient standards (and our own). God knows Job’s heart and knows Job’s faith isn’t based on his wealth. So God permits Satan to try to prove the falsehood.

2) Job’s family and friends tell Job that if God loved him or if he hadn’t done something to piss God off, he would not be suffering. “Curse God and die,” Job’s wife tells him. And this is the most insidious lie and a lot of prosperity preachers are shifting uncomfortably in their seats. This is really the other side of point #1 — that our relationship with God is quid pro quo.

The lie is that we get from God because we love and we should love God because we get. The book of Job shatters that relationship model. God is not Santa Claus. He doesn’t give us prosperity because we’re good (or because we have faith) and suffering when we’re bad.

3) God determines the limits to which Satan may go. Keller puts it this way: God permits Satan to act in a way that will end up thwarting Satan’s own ends. God permitted the crucifixion of Jesus, for example. Without death, there’s no atonement for sin. Satan thought he won when he destroyed an innocent man on a cross. But that permitted free fellowship between man and God for the first time since the fall. God forbids Satan to take Job’s life because Job’s survival and continued faithfulness to God defeats Satan’s plot.

4) Here’s the clincher: Job never understands the point of all of this in his lifetime. When he’s wondering, why did God permit this to happen to me, his faithful servant? Why did God take my children? My health? Job NEVER receives an answer this side of heaven. Most of us just want to know “why.” Why did last Friday happen? Whose fault was it? Who could have prevented it? What purpose could it possibly serve in God’s plan to allow innocent babies and young teachers to be murdered at school right before Christmas?

We don’t get to understand it this side of heaven. It’s not that we COULD understand it if philosophers or scientists just studied the question of evil and suffering long enough. God does not permit us to understand it right now. Job gets more than you and I ever will in this life — a one on one conversation with God in which God basically says, “Job, you’re not God. You don’t get to be privy to my inner workings.”

Because if we understand why, that’s really taking us back to the quid pro quo relationship again. God, you earn my love. You prove to me you’re trustworthy. You show me you’re worthy of worship, and then I’ll do it. You discuss your big plans and decisions with me first, and if I agree, then I will love you. God does not love us conditionally and he does not allow us to love him conditionally. The book of Job tells us that’s not real love and it’s not the love that God wants from us. That may piss us off, yet God remains unchanged.

Evil doesn’t win. What happens on this earth is not the end. Those are the big take aways from this sermon. I implore you to listen to it, reflect and ponder. If you’d care to leave a thoughtful response or challenge to the sermon, you are welcome to do so here ONLY after having listened to the sermon. I will delete any commentary that is made without listening to the sermon first, so please reference the portion of the sermon you’d like to discuss by using the minute/second of the recording.

I’d like to end my already long and not-fitness related post with Longfellow’s poem (which many of you will recognize as a Christmas carol as well). My prayer for us all is that we may know this Christmas season that Christ came to redeem a broken people and to make it possible for us to have peace and goodwill one to another even when we don’t understand the purposes of God.

  1. I heard the bells on Christmas day
    Their old familiar carols play;
    In music sweet their tones repeat,
    “There’s peace on earth, good will to men.”
  2. I thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.
  3. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
    For Christ is here; His Spirit near
    Brings peace on earth, good will to men.”
  4. When men repent and turn from sin
    The Prince of Peace then enters in,
    And grace imparts within their hearts
    His peace on earth, good will to men.
  5. O souls amid earth’s busy strife,
    The Word of God is light and life;
    Oh, hear His voice, make Him your choice,
    Hail peace on earth, good will to men.
  6. Then happy, singing on your way,
    Your world will change from night to day;
    Your heart will feel the message real,
    Of peace on earth, good will to men.