PBJ : Pastor Brian Jones

PBJ : Pastor Brian Jones

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a teacher of His Word, Senior Pastor at Calvary Bible Church of Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti, Michigan. I am a husband and father of three.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Bible, as well as Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

Genesis 44, Job 10, Psalm 42

Today we’re reading Genesis 44, Job 10, and Psalm 42.

This devotional is about Psalm 42.

The term “self-talk” is a phrase from modern psychology that refers to how we think about ourselves and interpret the events that happen us. A person may be very attractive to others physically, but his or her self-talk might be, “I’m ugly, no one will ever love me.” That kind of self-talk dramatically shapes a person’s confidence and the choices that person makes. It is a defeating-kind of self-talk that many people practice.

Self-talk also can refer to instructions your conscious self gives to the rest of you, particularly your emotions. If you are sad and you tell yourself all the reasons why you should be happy, that is positive self-talk.

Here in Psalm 42 the Sons of Korah gave us an emotional song. Verses 1-2 describe a strong, sincere desire to see God but verse 4 indicates that this person could no longer experience God’s revelation of himself in the temple (…how I used to go…) any longer.

That was depressing to the author of this letter, so he used “self-talk” to refocus his mind on God. Note the self talk in these words, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Similar examples of God’s self-talk are 5b, 6, 11. The author here coached himself about what to do in his moments of despair: he instructs himself (to himself) by saying, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” In other words, he commanded himself to think differently–bibilically–about his life and act according to that command.

What is your self-talk like? Have you learned how to encourage yourself biblically to do the right thing, even when your desire to do it isn’t there? Use the pattern in this Psalm and pay attention to what your brain is telling you. Teach yourself to remind yourself of Christ’s promises. Good self-talk is a great way to internalize scripture passages so that you can act freely and learn how to glorify God with your life.

Genesis 43, Job 9, Psalm 41

Today’s readings are Genesis 43, Job 9, and Psalm 41.

This devotional is about Job 9.

Because of the strange supernatural ways in which Job’s life had collapsed, there were no easy answers for what happened to him. If a tornado levels a family’s house, leaving only one survivor and a stock market crash on the same day wipes out their life’s savings, that’s bad. But in that case the tornado probably destroyed and damaged other homes in the area and other people for sure would have lost money in the market. Those people might think God is out to get them but the reality is that God allowed some painful tragedies to happen to many people.

By contrast, Job’s life was surgically detonated–like a skillfully imploded skyscraper that levels the target building while leaving the others around it unaffected. His friends came to show their support but they couldn’t empathize with him because they hadn’t experienced even part of Job’s traumas. The strategic nature of his calamity, and the thoroughness of it, would cause anyone to think that God was out to get them. It was designed to strip Job of every blessing. Then his theology–his understanding of God–would be exposed, like tearing the bricks and siding off a house so that you can see the framing beneath it.

We see that theology–the infrastructure of Job’s faith–here in Job 9. In verses 2-13, he lauded the Lord’s wisdom and power as unparalleled in the universe. As I read those verses, my heart was moved to awe at the majestic massiveness of God, particularly in verses 4-10. Then, in verse 11, Job points out that God is invisible so we are unaware of his presence even as he goes about blessing or wrecking our lives. Job’s theology revolves around the greatness of God and it is rock-solidly biblical. Because he understood God so well, he was painfully aware of the futility of challenging God. Consider:

  • “How can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? Though they wished to dispute with him, they could not answer him one time out of a thousand” (vv. 2b-3).
  • “If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (v. 12).
  • “How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy. Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing” (vv. 14-16).

Job was right and, as a result, we’re all in big trouble. Although he was a very righteous man, he was not perfect in his righteousness. If Job knew that he could not stand before God, then none of us has even a ghost of a chance.

His good theology and his terrible circumstances, however, led Job to an important conclusion: “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot” (vv. 33-35).

This is where Jesus comes in. He came to do what Job knew that he needed someone to do. He came to “mediate between us.” And he did more than Job could have expected. If Jesus came to mediate for us based on our own righteousness and good behavior, he would have nothing to argue. By becoming our righteousness, however, Jesus could make peace with God for us and he did. This is our hope. This is the core of our faith. This causes us to worship God thankfully, not fearfully. Although we are guilty, our advocate made peace with God for us.

Genesis 42, Job 8, Psalm 40

Today’s readings are Genesis 42, Job 8, and Psalm 40.

This devotional is about Job 8:1-7

Sometimes people have a simplistic view of God and his work for us. Job’s friend Bildad the Shuhite here in Job 8 is one example. Bildad’s thought was that Job was full of hot air when he claimed not to deserve his suffering (v. 1). Since God is just, he thought, then Job’s children must have sinned. Therefore, in their death, they got what they deserved (vv. 3-4), according to Bildad.

On the other hand, Bildad thought that, if Job just repented and sought the Lord, God will give him everything back that he lost and then some: “But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”

This shows that the Prosperity Gospel is a very old heresy. It sounds so simple and so good: Bad things happen to sinful people but God blesses the repentant and upright. Claim the truth that “Christ died for our flu according to the scriptures” and you’ll get better immediately. Seek God now, Job, and all your kids will come back to life. That’s Bildad’s simplistic understanding of God.

Job was written, in part, to cure us of this nonsense. Scripturally, God does promise blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience. The problem is that, in this life, “blessings” are not primarily material goods or physical health. Those blessings will be fully realized in God’s kingdom but, until that kingdom exists on earth, people on earth–even believers–will still have to struggle with financial issues, sickness and death, and other human problems. God allows many kinds of sufferings in our lives to test our faith, deepen our faith, and purity our faith. Job received this testing, not for unconfessed sin, but for the glory of God so that his power would be demonstrated through Job’s faith.

It’s not wrong to desire health but it is wrong to suggest that someone’s spiritual life is damaged because they are sick or suffering. The thing that someone condemns someone else over might be the very thing God is using powerfully in their lives for his glory. So don’t impose on God simplistic, false human notions about God and his blessings. Instead, trust God in your suffering and let him testify to his own greatness through your faith as he faithfully carries you through the trials of life.

Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 41, Job 7, and Psalm 39.

This devotional is about Genesis 41.

To me, the amazing thing about Joseph’s story is not how quickly he rose after having so many down years and experiences. Throughout the painful parts of his story we were told that God was with him and was blessing him, so it isn’t surprising that things turned around for him quickly.

What’s amazing is how grateful and God-honoring Joseph was during his vindication, which we read about today here in Genesis 41. When he appeared before Pharaoh to hear his dream, he gave glory to God for the ability to interpret his dream: “‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (v. 16). Later, when he named his sons, Joseph chose the name Manasseh and explained, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (v. 51b). When he named his son Ephraim, saying, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (v. 52b). These statements ring with gratitude to God; they completely lack any sense of indignation about what had happened. I don’t know what the Hebrew would be, but I’d be tempted to name my kids, “It’s about time something good happened to me for a change” and “Take that everyone who tried to hurt me!”

What made Joseph so grateful and so quick to honor and thank God? It was his faith in God. His faith in God is what carried him through all the problems he had faced in his life. So how could he be angry with God when it was his confidence in God that sustained him in the darkest days? Although it was his life, and the pain was real, it was ultimately God who was vindicated here in Genesis 41. The confusing, unhappy moments in Joseph’s life were necessary to get him to this place where God would use him.

Maybe this is a message you need today, that the confusing, unhappy experiences you’re going through right now are preparing you for what God has next for you. In that case, don’t give up on God or become bitter toward him. Things might get worse before they get better, but it is all part of making you into who God wants you to be so that he can use you and bless you according to his will.

Genesis 40, Job 6, Psalm 38

Today, read Genesis 40, Job 6, and Psalm 38.

This devotional is about Genesis 40.

If the story of Joseph’s life were plotted on a graph like the price of a stock on the New York Stock Exchange, what would it look like? Early on, the line would go up–he was favored by his father and had divine dreams that assured him of greatness. But, after his stock ascended for a while, it would have moved downward drastically after he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Then, there would be a small move up when Potiphar entrusted him with more responsibility, then another big move downward when he was falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife and put into prison.

At the end of Genesis 39, his stock moved up again a bit. Although he was in prison, the warden of the prison elevated Joseph into leadership and paid little attention to what he did “because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (39:23b). Still, he was in prison so the overall trend of his life was downward, despite this little spike upward.

Here in Genesis 40, Joseph saw an opportunity. Two of Pharoah’s officials were incarcerated and had dreams. Joseph interpreted their dreams and asked the cupbearer–the one who got good news–to “remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison” (v. 14b). After all the downward moves in his life, he finally had a reason to hope.

Alas, however, according to verse 23, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” His hopeful opportunity never materialized and, if it were me, I would have despaired of ever getting out of prison.

Although Joseph had many discouraging moments in his life, he also had evidence of the Lord’s work in his life. God blessed his work and allowed him to rise even in the bad situations he found himself in. More obviously, the Lord gave him the interpretation of the dreams of these two men.

Fortunately, neither you nor I have been enslaved by others or imprisoned based on a false accusation. But it is easy to feel in the tough times of life that God has forgotten about us or doesn’t care about our circumstances. If that’s you, let Joseph’s story give you hope. God is watching and the story isn’t finished yet.

Genesis 39, Job 5, Psalm 37

Today’s passages are Genesis 39, Job 5, and Psalm 37.

This devotional is about Genesis 39.

A guy like Joseph could easily have justified an immoral relationship with Potiphar’s wife. He had been sold and enslaved unjustly. He was deprived of the blessings that he should have had as Jacob’s favored son, not to mention the opportunity to marry and have a family of his own.

Given all this, it might have been flattering to catch the eye of Potiphar’s wife. It was she who tried to initiate the relationship with Joseph (v. 7) and she was persistent about it (v. 10). Someone in Joseph’s situation may have feared the consequences from Potiphar, but at least one of his wife’s advances happened when there was nobody around to witness it (v. 11). Joseph was able to resist the temptation, however, not because he feared Potiphar but because he feared God. As he said in verse 9, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

This is the attitude we need to help us refuse temptation. Even if nobody else ever knows about your sin, God will know and he will hold us accountable.

Joseph’s situation worsened after he obeyed God. He was unjustly accused and imprisoned but God had not abandoned him. It would take years, but his faith in God would eventually rewarded. Reminds me of some other verses we read today, Psalm 37:

Psalm 37:5-6: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37:27-28: “Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.”

It’s often hard to do the right thing. Remembering that God is watching and believing his promises helps. In fact, it is what living by faith is all about.

Genesis 38, Job 4, Psalm 36

Today we are scheduled to read Genesis 38, Job 4, Psalm 36.

This devotional is about Psalm 36.

After we sin, and the pleasure of it is gone, and the price tag comes due, it feels pretty stupid.

Before we sin, however, sin seems like a great idea. We delude ourselves into the think that we won’t get caught or we justify our disobedience by telling ourselves that our case is exceptional. Or maybe we don’t even think very far beyond the moment; the promise of sin clouds our thinking and keeps us from counting the cost.

David had a message for us in this Psalm. Sin is not only stupid, it is arrogant. Verse 2 says, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.” This is how our hearts deceive us. Your heart and mine tells you and me to ignore the truth of God’s word and the wisdom about life that is offered there and to trust our own judgment. When we choose to do wrong, we flatter ourselves into thinking that we have it all figured out.

Verses 5-9 sing to the Lord, praising him for his faithfulness, his righteousness, his justice, his love, his abundance, his life, and his light. Believing these truths about God can cause us to make righteous choices in our lives. When I want to do wrong but choose to do right, it is a choice to follow God’s wisdom over my own. It is an act of faith, believing that God’s ways will be better than following my own ways–no matter how flawless my plans seem or how brilliant my evil heart tells me I am.

Verse 12 calls us to look at those who’ve come before us. They’ve already made the moral choices that we are tempted to make. They believed the lies of their sin-cursed hearts. What happened to them? “See how the evildoers lie fallen—thrown down, not able to rise!”

Sin will please you for a moment and kill you in the end. God’s commands, however lead us to better things: “People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (vv. 8-9).

Choose the light.

Genesis 37, Job 3, Psalm 35

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 37, Job 3, and Psalm 35.

This devotional is about Job 3.

Job received the blows of affliction well in chapters 1-2. He recognized that he was not entitled to the life he enjoyed and that God, as Sovereign, had every right to take away what he gave.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Job felt no pain. Here in chapter 3, he lamented being born. The pain of losing his children, his prosperity, and his health was greater than the joy he had experienced from those things. Dying before he lived long enough to enjoy anything was a more appealing prospect than losing the blessed life he’d had. His concluding words in verses 25-26 make your heart go out to him: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Although he maintained faith in God, he still hurt and wondered why.

It seems to me that many Christians believe that heartbreak is un-Christian. We feel guilty about mourning; we think that glorifying God means smiling through every trial. We often put smiles on our faces to hide our pain so that other’s won’t question our salvation or spiritual maturity. But there is a way of hurting, of crying out, of wondering why that does not curse God. Submission to the will of God does not mean turning off your feelings. Trusting God does not mean eradicating all questions from your heart and mind. It means processing all the pain while recognizing your dependence on God. It means looking to him for hope and help instead of as an object of cursing.

Have you suppressed your questions, fears, and heartaches because you think that’s what good Christians do? If so, you haven’t really solved anything nor have you opened up the capacity within yourself to grow from your trials. God allows our faith to be tried to expose to us pockets of unbelief and to refine them out of us. Being honest about how you feel is part of that process.

If you’re hurting today or wondering why, ask God. Journal your thoughts and fears. Wonder aloud. Just don’t accuse God of evil and injustice. Ask him, instead, to show you how your circumstances fit into his plans. Ask him to strengthen you through this trial so that you will grow because of it.

Genesis 35-36, Job 2, Psalm 34

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 35-36, Job 2, and Psalm 34.

This devotional is about Job 2.

In Job 1 we were introduced to this famous man of the Old Testament. Although he is not tied through any genealogy to Israel, he was someone who worshipped the true God. As 1:1-2 told us, “he feared God and shunned evil.”

(By the way: people refer to Job sometimes as “the oldest book in the Bible.” It might be, but we really don’t know. My Old Testament professor in seminary wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Job and he thought the author could be Solomon based on the Hebrew text. But Job the man probably lived prior to Abraham, so his story is quite old regardless of when God inspired someone to write it.)

Anyway, in chapter 1 we learned that Job loved God, had a large, loving family, and was financially prosperous. God pointed him out to Satan as an example of spiritual greatness. Satan responded by asking and receiving permission to test Job’s faith.

After taking everything Job had but his wife, here in chapter 2 Satan received permission to cover Job’s body with painful sores. He was now suffering immensely inside and outside. His wife, also a victim of everything Job suffered except for the sores, was unable to contain her anger at God. “Curse God and die!” she said to her husband in verse 9. In verse 10, Job responded with a condensed form of his understanding of discipleship: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” The longer version was spoken in Job 1:20-21: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In both of these quotations, we are challenged to accept our place as the “creature” in the “Creator-creature” hierarchy. God is the Creator; he owns all things, including us, right down to the length and quality of our lives and the health (or not) of our bodies. Anything we have is on loan to us from God because we came out naked and leave naked (1:21a-b). If it was loaned to us by God, he has the right as the Creator to reclaim it anytime he wants: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Our mission in life is, whether happy or sad, prospering or suffering, to worship and praise God: “may the name of the Lord be praised.” When Job asked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” he was speaking reverently and in submission to God, his Lord and Creator.

But Job’s attitude is a tough one to replicate, isn’t it? God did not create us to suffer; he created us to worship and serve him in joy. It was the entrance of sin that brought suffering into the world. Since God could have stopped the entrance of sin or the causes of our suffering, it feels unjust to us when suffering comes into our lives.

This is why suffering–trials–is the test of our faith. When we curse God, we call him unjust. We appeal to our own sense of right and wrong, a sense that is permanently skewed in our direction. We want mercy when we do wrong but justice when we feel that wrong has been done to us. God allows us to suffer to expose our unbelief, the weaknesses in our faith, so that they can be purified from our hearts and we can trust him even more purely and fully.

Everyone reading this is suffering in some way, or emerging from suffering, or heading toward it, probably unknowingly. Let the presence of pain in your life strengthen your walk with God. Let it cause you to turn to him for hope and comfort not away from him in anger or bitterness. Let it teach you how to truly praise God from the heart and trust him. Remember that Job did not have the answer to “why” that we were given in chapters 1-2. All he had was his theology and his circumstances. When those two seemed irreconcilable, he went with his theology and staked his hope there.

May God grace us to do the same.

Genesis 34, Job 1, Psalm 33

Today’s readings are Genesis 34, Job 1, and Psalm 33.

This devotional is about Genesis 34.

Larry Nassar went to prison a few years ago for molesting over 150 girls and young women while he was supposed to be treating them in his role as a sports medicine doctor. He is just one of many men in the news recently who treated women sinfully and shamefully for his own satisfaction. Here in Genesis 34, we read about Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, and how she was taken and raped by Shechem (v. 2). I doubt she was the first woman in human history to be mistreated this way and she certainly wasn’t the last. Her story contains several marks that are common:

  • She was doing nothing wrong and felt unafraid despite being vulnerable (v. 1).
  • She was taken advantage of by a powerful man who did not fear accountability (vv. 2-3).
  • There was no outrage on her behalf or response from the man who should have protected her (v. 5).
  • In fact, Jacob was willing to cover up the crime committed against her (vv. 6-12). Note from verse 26 that her brothers later “took Dinah from Shechem’s house.” This phrase shows that Shechem kept her and did not bring her home after he assaulted her and went to talk with her father.

At least her brothers recognized the evil that was committed against her and had an appropriate emotional response to it (v. 7b). Their remedy for what happened to Dinah was extreme and unjust, killing all the men in a city when only one man had sinned against their family (v. 25). Their extreme violence was not justified, but their outrage and desire for justice certainly was.

Why did Jacob respond so passively after his daughter was mistreated this way? One answer is fear. Jacob feared retaliation from the other nations around, so he was unwilling to seek justice for his daughter. His fear prevented him from doing the right thing. Those who covered up Nassar’s crime may have reacted that way for the same reason.

Women bear the image of God. He loves them and sent Christ to die for them just as much as he did for men. It is shameful when any man mistreats a woman–raping her, or groping her, speaking inappropriately to her, or demeaning her. It is also unrighteous when men do nothing after a woman has been mistreated in any of these ways.

Guys… God created us to glorify him in how we treat women and how we partner with them to create families for his glory. Treat your wife with dignity and love. Protect her and your daughter(s) from predatory men. Never use your physical power or your position to take advantage of a girl or a woman. Keep your hands to yourself around other women and speak to them only in ways that are pure and appropriate in the sight of God. If a woman comes to you for help, take her word seriously and see that she gets justice.