The following is an excerpt from Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.

As the first book of the Bible written, Job becomes a precedent-setting book.  When the Holy Spirit prepared to inspire Holy Scripture, He calculated very purposefully how He would direct its formation.  It’s not an accident or mere happenstance that the Holy Spirit started the whole thing off with Job.

Cornerstone Of Scripture

Job is an incredibly strategic book.  As the first building block of all Scripture, it serves as the initial cornerstone of all inspired revelation.  If the cornerstone is in place correctly, the rest of the building can rise in perfect alignment and symmetry.  If the cornerstone is awry, the entire building will be planted on a skewed foundation and will eventually crumble.

Under “the law of first mention” (discussed in Chapter Three) the entire book of Job takes on a special significance as the first Bible book written.  Thus, Job is a ground-breaking, foundation-laying, pioneering, apostolic book that becomes the cornerstone of all theology.  It is the beginning basis for our understanding of God and His ways.

If your foundation is wrong, the whole building is weak.  When the Lord visited me personally with calamity, I felt like He took the foundation of all my theological understandings, swept them out from under my feet, tenderly watched me crash, and then He slowly began to remove the rubble and start the rebuilding process.  And He said, “We’re going to rebuild this whole thing on the book of Job.”

A Primer On Spiritual Warfare

As the first Bible book written, the book of Job constitutes a primer on spiritual warfare, charting the perplexing territory between God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s harassments, and people’s opinions.

Job had the hand of God on him, the hand of Satan on him, and the hand of man on him—and he couldn’t distinguish between them.  He became dizzy with trying to sort through the whole tangled mess, because he couldn’t really identify clearly from which direction things were hitting him.

The Job crucible is a place of great perplexity.  When you’re in the fire, you don’t know where the heat is coming from, or why.  Your head begins to swim as you’re caught in the swirl of trying discern cause and effect.

Job is apostolic in that he pioneered the whole arena of spiritual warfare.  He was the first one to ever document in Scripture his woundings on the perplexing battleground of spiritual warfare.  Job is in the battle of his life, warring with God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s evil incitements, people’s carnal reproaches, and the imperfect realities of a fallen world—all elements involved in spiritual warfare.  Thus, even though Job is rarely mentioned at spiritual warfare conferences, the book of Job is a primer on spiritual warfare.

Job is sailing in uncharted waters.  He is going where no man has gone before.  He’s drawing the first map we have of spiritual warfare’s battleground.  Map-makers always pay a great personal price for bearing the distinguishing honor of being the first to traverse virgin territory.  The early explorers laid down maps of America literally at the price of human lives (disease, shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, hardship, etc.).  As the Scriptures unfold, the map of spiritual warfare will gain greater clarity, but Job is to be honored for the toll he took in giving us the first primitive map of spiritual warfare’s hazards.  Forerunners always pay a price.

Job is stepping on landmines, and they’re exploding in his face because no one else had ever stepped there before!  To explain, I’ll use the example of what he says in 19:11, “‘He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies.’”  Job thought God was treating him like an enemy, but in fact God was counting Job as one of His friends!  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6).  Job didn’t realize God had wounded him in His kindness, and so Job accuses God of treating him like an enemy.  This is one reason God later says to Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2).  Job will learn this lesson (and many others) by the time the battle is over, but he’ll have triggered many landmines in the process.

So here’s Job, all bloody from the latest bomb that has exploded in his face, and he hoarsely whispers to us, “Don’t step there, that thing will blow your leg off.”  And then contemporary readers will stand back in the safety of their comfortable perch and criticize him.  “Job shouldn’t have spoken like that,” they say.  “He had a lot of bad attitudes!”  In one sense that’s true, but I just want to say this about Job:  Give the guy a break!  He had no Scriptures, no map, no prophetic word, no witness from someone else who had walked this way before.  He was the first one!  So rather than being critical of him, I think we should be extremely grateful for a godly man who was faithful to God through the greatest maze of perplexity that any man had ever encountered up to that point in human history.

The Most Misunderstood Book

The book of Job is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible.  Until you’ve lived a little bit of it, it’s virtually impossible to understand it properly.  I realize this book is unique from many other commentaries on Job.  I would read commentaries on Job, look at their analysis, and say to myself, “This author has never lived this thing.”  It wasn’t until I began to live through some hard things that the book of Job began to open to me.

I know some people wish Job wasn’t in the Bible.  Because I was once one of them.  I had the experience in my early years of ministry of preparing a sermon, and being very impressed with it.  “This thing slices; it dices; it pops; it sizzles.”  I could see it: this sermon will have Satan’s hordes cowering at the gates of hell, and it will have the saints on their feet, cheering.  The sermon was perfect, a well-fashioned arrow, except for one little “fly in the ointment”:  the book of Job.  Everything else in the Bible seemed to support my beautifully crafted sermon, but the book of Job was the one book that seemed to contradict it.  What about Job?  Can I just preach my sermon and forget about the fact that the book of Job exists?

No I can’t, not any longer.  Now I see it.  If it doesn’t line up with the book of Job, it’s got to go, because the book of Job establishes the theological framework against which all other theological understandings must be measured.  If you get Job wrong, then nothing else can be fully right.

As the endtime storms hit this planet, everything that can be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28).  The only theological framework that will not be totally shaken in the last hour will be one that is firmly fixed in a true knowledge of the God of Job.

So now the question becomes one of paramount importance:  what is the book of Job all about?

The Book’s Theme

I want to express in one broad, general sentence what I believe is happening in the book.  To uncover this understanding was a very long and painful journey personally, and it carries great implications that I will articulate in the rest of this book.  So here it is:  In broad strokes, the life of Job is a pattern for all believers of how God takes a blameless, godly man, with a life of personal purity and a yes in his spirit, and brings him through the fire to a higher inheritance.

Job came out of the crucible with a life message that has spoken to God’s people ever since.  Here are some of the poignant truths Job’s life declares:

•     Sometimes God is totally perplexing.

•     There are things going on in the spirit dimension that you don’t see.

•     If you’ve been walking blamelessly and faithfully before God, and something incredibly mystifying and even traumatic happens to you which seems to have no reasonable cause, then heighten your spiritual alertnessGod might be in the process of bringing you into spiritual promotion.

•     If you will guard your purity, increase your pursuit of God, and commit yourself to unquestioning obedience, He will eventually unfold His purposes to you.

•     Realize that God loves to glorify Himself by salvaging the calamities of his saints, producing the superlative out of the impossible.

A Pattern To Get Your Bearings

Job’s life message serves as a model or a pattern against which others can measure God’s disciplines in their lives.  When you have a grid for measuring what is happening in your life, you’re able to cooperate with God’s purposes.  But without that grid or pattern you’re very likely to partner with the accuser, cop an attitude toward God, and end up aborting the process.  Without any prototype for understanding God’s dealings, it’s very difficult to say, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:65).  Instead, it’s easy to echo the accusation of the Israelites, “‘It is useless to serve God’” (Malachi 3:14).  God wants us to steer clear of that pitfall so He has given us the pattern of Job.

Job, then, was a pioneer, a pathfinder, a forerunner whom God baptized into “the School of the Spirit,” in order that he might serve as a living parable to all generations after him.  His life serves as a compass, enabling us to get our bearings when we’re under the disciplines of God.

Sometimes we think we know who God is.  God says, “None of you know who I am!  Unless I show you.”  So God devastated every understanding Job thought he had of God and began to rebuild Job’s theology on the truth of Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.”  So Paul cried, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

God operates in a dimension that totally surpasses our human analysis.  And here’s a signature of God’s ways:  He loves to redeem impossible messes.  He loves entangled imbroglios that have no human solution, that are hopeless catastrophes apart from divine intervention.

Sometimes God allows the saint to be reduced to seeming defeat, filled with anguish and reproach, with Satan gleefully savoring his upper hand.  Or sometimes the saint is trapped by crushing circumstances beyond his control.  When it appears that God has abandoned you, Job would cry out:  “Don’t quit!  Trust God!  It’s never too late!  This is the kind of situation God loves!”

In some situations, God steps back and says, “Too easy.  If I step in now, they won’t glorify My name for the answer.”  Thus He waits things out a bit, and lets the situation become even more critical so that there will be no question about the source when He intervenes with His sovereign deliverance.  He loves to do the impossible!

Job Helped Abraham

Earlier, I emphasized the fact that Job pre-dated Abraham.  Here’s why:  It’s very likely that Job served as a forerunner for Abraham, helping Abraham interpret God’s hand in his life.

God had said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2).  Basically God said, “Kill your son.”

But Abraham also knew what God had said to Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6).  So Abraham faced a crossroads:  “Do I follow my theology, or do I follow the voice?”  In that moment of critical decision, it’s very possible that Abraham thought to himself, “Job!  I’m in a Job situation!  God is vaporizing my theology.  If I’m faithful like Job was, God will lead me to a higher place.”  Part of the reason Abraham was able to cooperate with God’s purposes was because he had Job.

Redemption’s Greatest Crossroads

In fact, I want to suggest that Job became a forerunner for the most eminent of saints, helping them navigate the greatest crisis points of redemptive history.  At the crucial crossroads of God’s redemptive plan, when everything  was at stake, Job’s life served as a pattern enabling them to make the right choice.

Joseph didn’t realize that he stood at a vital juncture of God’s purposes.  Everything was in the balance.  Would Joseph respond properly to his enslavement and imprisonment?  If he would blow it, there would be no sovereign provision for Jacob’s family during the seven years of terrible famine.  Thankfully, Joseph had Job!  Job provided Joseph with a grid for understanding the pain of his prison, empowering him to persevere successfully to the completion of God’s purposes.

Moses also stood at a critical crossroads of God’s redemptive plan.  Would Moses respond properly to the shattered dreams, to the unfulfilled promises, to the seeming abandonment by God?  If he would pass the test, God would have a man to lead His people forth from Egypt.  Thankfully, Moses had Job!  Job’s journey became a model that enabled Moses to walk forward into God’s highest and best.

David was another man at a critical crossroads.  He was anointed as king, but was running for his life from Saul.  Every promise of God seemed to be violated.  If David would respond properly in this crucible, he would emerge with the promise of an eternal throne.  If he would give up, how could we call Jesus the Son of David?  Thankfully, David had Job!  Job’s example gave David the courage to persevere unto God’s highest and best.

We are now facing another critical moment in God’s plan:  the return of Christ.  In preparation for Christ’s coming, God is taking many of His servants through the Job crucible.  A fire has been kindled in the earth to awaken the bride with passion for her Bridegroom.  Will she persevere to the end, or will she abort God’s purposes?  Thankfully, she has Job!

Everybody  had Job for an example, except for one man: Job!  This is why Job is so admirable.  He persevered through the crucible with no predecessor, no forerunner, no pattern from which to gain comfort.  Job had nobody.  He was charting virgin territory, going where no man had gone before.  He was making an unprecedented foray onto the swirling battleground of spiritual warfare, where God’s purposes and Satan’s incitements and people’s opinions combine to season the soul.

As a result of Job’s faithfulness, God decided to use his example to comfort every generation, providing them with a compass to help them interpret their pathway.  We enjoy the same benefit today.  Instead of aborting His purposes in our lives, we are now able to cooperate with His grace and enter into our highest inheritance.

This post is an excerpt from the book Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.  You can click here to learn more about the book and order a copy.


I am with you blog pic

Two years after my debilitating vocal injury, I found myself in the darkest place of my life, groping for answers and reaching desperately to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. It was there, in my darkest hour, that the Lord gave me a sign of His nearness and favor that I will never forget.

Click here to watch the film.

Film by Joel Sorge
Music by JoJo Riddering


wresting to be a prince

In the wrestling match with Christ, Jacob asked Him to tell His name.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (Gen. 32:28-29).

Jesus did not divulge His name to Jacob. But if He had, He might have said to him, “Israel.” Because Israel is one of the names of Christ. This is seen in Isaiah.

And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa. 49:3).

This verse appears in the “Servant songs” of Isaiah. The context clearly indicates that the Father is the speaker, and He is talking to His Son, the Servant. The Father, addressing His Son, calls Him Israel.

Israel means “Prince with God.” Truly Jesus is the ultimate Prince with God! He wears the name gloriously. Jesus is the true Israel of God. To be in Israel, you must be in Christ, because Christ is Israel.

At Peniel, Jacob was wrestling with Israel! When Jesus gave Jacob the name Israel, He was giving him His own name.

Jacob did not really understand it at the time, but he was wrestling for his name. “If you are to be a Prince with God, Jacob, you are going to have to wrestle down the name.”

Takeaway: To wear the name Christ has for you, don’t be surprised if you have to wrestle it down.




waiting on god

Jacob was the only person in Genesis to talk about waiting on God. While prophesying over his sons, he stopped to exclaim, “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!” (Gen. 49:18). The statement appears out of place in its context, but when you realize how waiting was so central to Jacob’s story, it makes sense. Even though it took many years, eventually he saw the day when God sent from heaven and saved him.

After Jacob, the Scriptures are virtually silent on the discipline of waiting on God until the advent of David. The whole thing burst to life in David’s writings. David’s psalmist anointing, which was fueled from a place of long and loving meditation in the word, necessitated an awakening to waiting on God in His presence. Perhaps it is not accidental that as the first scriptural writer to place considerable focus on the grace of waiting, David was also very taken with Jacob. David mentions Jacob in his writings more than any other patriarch.

After David, the next Bible author to pick up the banner of waiting on God was Isaiah. Isaiah is “the king of wait.” Is it accidental that he mentions the name of Jacob forty-two times? Both David and Isaiah placed profound significance upon Jacob as an example for us to follow.

“Waiting” is an excellent word to summarize Jacob’s life. It’s true that over his span of 147 years he had some bell-ringing, catalytic moments. But the vast majority of his story was marked by extended periods of waiting on God. Brief bursts of divine activity were separated by vast expanses of virtual inactivity.

Actually, this is one of God’s signature ways. He separates His most outstanding works by protracted periods of seeming silence. Then, when He finally manifests His glory, it shines all the more brilliantly. Consider the lengthy span between each of God’s most outstanding wonders: from creation to the flood, to the exodus, to the return from exile, to the resurrection of Christ, and then to the future coming of Christ. There’s a long time between each of those six mighty events! It’s those prolonged lapses between His major activities that put the flair into the way God invades and redirects human history. The deafening silence of the thousands of years between each mighty intervention has rumbled throughout history in timpanic drumrolls of suspenseful anticipation.

The waiting seasons actually give God the room He needs to write the story. Those who demand resolution too hastily can forfeit the grandeur of what God was intending to write. By taking things into your own hands prematurely, you can undermine the basis upon which God was planning to write your last, great chapter.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him (Isa. 64:4).

Takeaway: Wait on God. Give Him some material to work with.



The Hidden Blessing of an Unfulfilled Promise

One of the most valuable things you can have in this life is a promise from God. “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). The reason promises from God are “exceedingly great and precious” is because they are guarantees that, before our story is finished, God is going to visit us with His power and glory.

When God has not yet answered, we get discouraged all too easily with the fact that we haven’t yet experienced our breakthrough. What we fail to fully appreciate is the amazing treasure that we actually possess—a promise from God.

The first thing I want to say to everyone who has a promise from God is this: Do everything in your power to keep your fingers wrapped around that promise! It’s just too precious to lose.

When holding to promise for a long time, we’re often tempted to lose heart and relinquish our hope. The reason it’s so imperative to hold fervently to promise is this: Jettisoned promises can be lost forever. Not every promise is unconditional. Some promises must be carried tenaciously if we are to see their fulfillment. We see this truth in these verses:

Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12).

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal. 6:9).

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise (Heb. 10:35-36).

Hold onto promise like a wide receiver holding onto a football. As he sets his eyes on the goal line, he says within himself, “No matter what happens, I must not let go this football!” That’s how intently we must resolve to hold fast our confidence.

I can hardly imagine anything more tragic than to receive a promise from God but then to fumble it because it wasn’t fulfilled in our timing. To once have a promise, but to be now without it, is like subsisting in a wasteland of heartsick hopelessness.

My soul refuses to live in the badlands of abandoned promises. I am resolved to do whatever I must to keep His promise close to my heart. Fasting, prayer, and word immersion are gifts from God to empower us to maintain our grip on His promise.

When you have a promise firmly in your possession, an uncommon boldness and confidence overtakes your soul. The unfulfilled promise means that it must be fulfilled in your lifetime. That confidence puts boldness in your soul about the present.

Let me explain what I mean with some biblical examples.

Abraham had a promise that God would make him into a great nation (Gen. 12:2), even though his wife was barren. At a time when Abraham still had no son, Lot was taken captive by invaders. In response, Abraham mobilized the entirety of his resources—318 men—against the federation of foreign armies (Gen. 14:14). The odds were stacked miserably against Abraham, but promise had placed a boldness in his spirit, and he stepped forward audaciously to engage the enemy. Guess who won? The man who carried a promise. A legion of foreign armies can’t kill a man with an unfulfilled promise.

Caleb had been promised a mountain in Canaan (Josh. 14:9,12). Not only did that promise empower him to endure the 40-year trek through the wilderness, it also preserved his body so that at age 85 he had the strength and energy of a 40-year-old (Josh. 14:11). God preserved his strength so he could take and inhabit the promise given him 45 years earlier.

David had been promised the throne when he was anointed as king by Samuel (1 Sa. 16:13). That promise put brash boldness into David’s spirit, so much so that he went up against Goliath, a seasoned champion of the Philistine army (1 Sa. 17:48). After all, how can a man of faith who carries a powerful promise and is led by the Holy Spirit be taken out prematurely by an uncircumcised Philistine?

Peter had been promised by Jesus that he would live to an old age (Jn. 21:18). When he was imprisoned by Herod (Acts 12:3), he wasn’t old yet. That’s why, even though he was slated for execution on the following day, he lay fast asleep between his two guards. Why stay up and fret when you’re living under the shelter of an unfulfilled promise? The promise that he would reach an old age gave Peter the confidence to get a solid night’s sleep before his seemingly inescapable death. And of course we know the story—Peter was released from prison by an angel (Acts 12:11). Why? It was impossible for him to die before he was an old man.

If you have a promise from God, allow that promise to put this same kind of boldness in your soul. Okay, so you haven’t received your breakthrough yet. Okay, so all you have is a promise. But do you know what you’ve got?