Nights of trouble.

Job. Chapter Seven. That’s where I was yesterday.

The title is Job’s Life Seems Futile, at least that’s how my Bible labels it. Here are some of my favorite verses:

“So am I allotted months of vanity

And nights of trouble are

appointed me.”

“My days are swifter than a weaver’s

shuttle,

And come to an end without hope.”

“Therefore I will not restrain my

mouth;

I will speak in the anguish of my

spirit,

I will complain in the bitterness of

my soul.”

“Leave me alone, for my days are but

a breath.”

“Why then do You not pardon my

transgression

And take away my iniquity

For now I will lie down in the dust

And You will seek me, but I will 

not be.”

Job 7:3-8

People like happy stories. I don’t tend to write them. I think happiness is fleeting and often a liar. But joy, joy is what Job is searching so hard for. That savior who can pardon his transgression and take away his iniquity.

Jesus. Job is yearning for Jesus.

We have Jesus. We don’t have to implore God for something we already have. But Satan will work to blind our minds to the depths of God’s forgiveness. When you struggle mentally, it can be really difficult to hold onto the truth of something like that.

I was sent an article yesterday about Elijah and his mental health. Here, a man, a prophet of God, struggling with bouts of anxiety and depression and loneliness. How can that be?

How can it not?

When you live for Christ, the road is not smooth. It’s rocky and narrow and the farther you walk, the farther you are from everyone else. The Church are those next to you, maybe a little ahead or a little behind, who know the same unpleasant steps, the same throbbing heartache of walking a cleft path.

Everyone else on the wider, smoother road is laughing. They know happiness. But happiness, fleeting and often a liar, is no match for the joy that comes when your foot will no longer know worn earth but the brilliant streets of God’s new creation.

It’s a truth Elijah fully knows now. 

So Job’s life does seem futile, especially from our small, dusty perspectives. But Christ’s work on the cross gives it purpose.

It gives us purpose too.

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Mere specks of dust.

I listened to a podcast recently about denying the credibility of the flat earth theory.

You might think that’s a no brainer since we already know the earth isn’t flat, but there are actually quite a few people out there who still believe it is. 

People with degrees who are rather brilliant biblical scholars.

What drew me in about this podcast wasn’t so much the subject itself (although debunking anything through a thorough reading and understanding of Scripture is exciting for me…I don’t get out much. And I’m totally fine with that), but how it was adeptly and graciously handled by the hosts.

I’m a big fan of Mike Winger. Of any Bible scholar I’ve listened to/read, I would say the way I process Biblical information is quite akin to his. He isn’t easily flustered. He doesn’t get all fire and brimstone on you. He’s simply a truth seeker who doesn’t forget our command to love others. And I think that’s really important. 

I’ve been on a journey of repentance. I think I’m always on a journey of repentance, and I think there’s many of us who are. I used to think once you became a Christian, it was a done deal. I had so much zeal and fervor seven years ago when I began following Christ, and I just assumed that my zeal and fervor would last forever. And it has, it’s just takes on a quieter presence nowadays. What I didn’t expect was how my sins would become more apparent every day, not to mention the uncomfortable feel of being human. But I know all of this is a reminder to keep my eyes on the cross. 

A lot of religions speak of enlightment and how we can all achieve some sort of magical spiritual goal that’s attainable if we do the work. But not Christianity, thankfully. There’s no work to be done because we are mere specks of dust without God’s breath coursing through us. We are subject to Him, to Jesus whether we want to admit it or not. Otherwise, wouldn’t every day turn out exactly as we had hoped?

Anyways, humility and graciousness are two things I know I could always use more of in my life. And the only solution is to remain close to Jesus. It also helps to hear those two qualities played out in real time, and this podcast does just that.

Mike and the hosts of Cultish, a Christian podcast that examines different “sects” of Christianity (mostly outliers) that aren’t truly biblical and the ways their leaders rework the Gospel to manipulate their followers (I recommend taking a listen), take on flat earth proponents in a way that is truth telling but empathetic. What we have to realize is that in a lot of situations, fellow Christians won’t believe the exact same things we do. But it’s our duty to be kind in our approach and to understand that these people are God’s children too. There’s a lot that will be revealed on the other side of this life, but in the meantime, we need to depend on God’s Word to guide us and the Holy Spirit to lead us in how we relate to one another.

I definitely recommend giving this podcast a listen. It gets into the metaphorical language woven throughout Scripture and reminds us that we can’t just take one verse and make it mean what we want. We have to look at how words and phrases are used elsewhere in the text to determine a more probable meaning. Otherwise, we’re making Scripture say what we feel it should say rather than letting it speak for itself.

I pray this conversation blesses you and is a reminder that truth in love is a call for all of us.

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Let there be no divisions.

I’m reading a book called The Chronological Life of Christ. It puts the NT in chronological order. Our pastor gave it to us when we joined our church five years ago, and I’m still reading it! I did push pause on it a bit but Iove reading a section a day with the Spoken Gospel bible study I’m doing right now (go check this out – quick and thorough videos that show how every chapter in Scripture points to Jesus).

There’s a section in the book that talks about denominations and how we as people get everything so wrong.

How silly that we hide behind this or that denomination and believe that we are the “true” Christians. As if there’s something special about one group of followers who have accepted Christ over another. Even Paul is frustrated by this thinking in Corinthians:

“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?…For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

(1 Corinthians 12-13; 17-18)

I can taste poor Paul’s exasperation, can’t you?

How much do we hinder ourselves by living this way? I always wondered why the Christian church was so severed and other religions weren’t. Could it be because we are the true body of Christ and that Satan would love nothing more than for us to form “teams” that pit us against each other? How little we’ll be able to accomplish if we think “Well, can’t go over there and help out those Catholics. You know how they are” or “Don’t even get me started on the Free Will Baptist!”

It’s a shame we treat God’s sheep this way.

I think if we truly understand what Christ asks of us, that we just abide in Him so that Holy Spirit can course through us and we can be His kingdom here on earth, we wouldn’t even think about divisions. 

The goal, ultimately, isn’t unity, but the action of abiding. We need to daily be focused on ourselves (not on who believes what), and when we each do that, we truly are God’s church that destroys all dividing lines. 

As Paul says again in Corinthians:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 

(1 Corinthians 1:10)

It was never intended for us to be a disunified church. It was intended for us to accept and share the Gospel. And the Gospel is this:

To accept Jesus’s free gift of salvation by confessing and repenting (turning from) our sins. We’re to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, a beautiful gift God gives us that shows our commitment to His kingdom and the beautiful covenant He’s made with his sheep. And then we go and find others and share the good news of Jesus, and if they accept, we baptize them and walk alongside them as then they go out and be light to the world.

We constantly abide in Jesus the vine, or we will wither and be cut away.

If we think we need to add anything on to that in order to be “real” followers, then at this point, we’re denying God’s Word. 

And that’s blasphemy.

Denominations won’t be going away any time soon but neither will those baptized in the name of Jesus. And so those who understand what Scripture says about submitting to Christ and furthering His Kingdom will also be able to reach out across dividing lines in order to move the Kingdom forward. 

I’m not saying we blindly accept the doctrines of other churches. I’m saying we can still work together knowing there’s a core belief among us: that Christ is God and died on the cross for our sins, taking our place when we didn’t (and don’t) deserve it.

Like the book points out: “True Christians of all brands make up the kingdom of God on this earth.”

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The colors we could be missing.

I cry-read sometimes. This part of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close made me do just that:

“What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat, and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed color according to your mood? If you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, and if you were blue you’d turn blue. 

Everyone could know what everyone else felt, and we could be more careful with each other, because you’d never want to tell a person whose skin was purple that you’re angry at her for being late, just like you would want to pat a pink person on the back and tell him, “Congratulations!” 

Another reason it would be a good invention is that there are so many times when you know you’re feeling a lot of something, but you don’t know what the something is. Am I frustrated? Am I actually just panicky? And that confusion changes your mood, it becomes your mood, and you become a confused, gray person. But with the special water, you could look at your orange hands and think, I’m happy! That whole time I was actually happy! What a relief!”

This book is about a lot of things (and I highly recommend reading it so you can find out about all of those things), but what’s beautiful is that one of the narrators, Oskar Schell, is a young boy and an atheist. And his heart hurts because his father was killed on 9/11. He invents things in his head to quell his anxiety, that ever creeping fear that all we have is darkness, and we’ll fade away into nothing, just like the people we love.

As believers, we know differently. But as believers, we could really use an invention like this one. I think this is why it’s so important to treat each other with kid gloves. In fact, being a true believer means you display fruits of the spirit.

Paul tells us the fruit of the spirit are:

“…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” He goes on to say “against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-24

Because who would outlaw a kind word or gentle hand? 

These things are what it means to be Jesus to one another. 

I’m really going through a hardcore sanctification process right now. I’m not too shabby at head knowledge. I’ve always done well intellectually, to the point that I get frustrated sometimes because this is my reality, and I make the horrible assumption that this is everyone’s reality too.

But what a terrible reality when you think about it. Because if all I have is a vast number of words in my head, what on earth is happening in my heart? Can I not see it? The different shades of invisible colors flashing on everyone’s skin? Can I not forget for a moment where I end and someone else begins? Because if all I have is this dying brain of mine, I better call it quits.

Nobody is resurrected because they knew everything about Jesus or the Bible. You’re resurrected when you’ve confessed your sins, repented, and submitted to Christ.

You’re resurrected when you’ve humbled your heart. 

So maybe today we forget the frowns and hard exteriors of the world and think of all the colors we could be missing.

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