John T. Willis

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Every year, people around the world enjoy driving along the highways and country roads of Texas from mid-March to late May to watch and take pictures of bluebonnets.

The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. This beautiful flower is approximate one foot tall. Texas A&M researches breeded red and white strains, creating a Texas state flag in bluebonnets for the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial. In time, researchers developed a deep maroon strain of bluebonnets, and this became the official color of Texas A&M University.

The name "bluebonnet" may come from the shape of the petals of the flower and their resemblance to the bonnets worn by pioneer women to shield themselves from the sun. Or, it may be derived from the Scottish term Bluebonnet, for the traditional blue colored version of the Tam o'shanter hat.

Legislators declared that Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas on March 7, 1901. However, citizens of Texas overwhelmingly insisted that Lupinus texensis is the preferable species. So, in 1971 the Texas Legislature made any species of bluebonnet the state flower. A favorite pastime in Texas is photographing children, family members, and pets among bluebonnets.

After Lady Bird Johnson returned from Washington D. C. after the end of the presidency of her husband, Lyndon Baines Johnson, she persuaded the government of the State of Texas to seed bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the highways throughout the state. Every spring, the flowers return as a legacy to the First Lady.

Officially, it is illegal to pick bluebonnets in Texas, perhaps because the bluebonnet is Texas' state flower. But everybody knows that it is perfectly all right to pick bluebonnets along the highways in Texas.

I love bluebonnets. Evelyn and I sometime intentionally drive along the highway just to watch the bluebonnets. Bluebonnets are just another of God's billions of gifts on earth. I hope YOU enjoy and appreciate bluebonnets--and ALL of God's blessings.

What are YOUR experiences about bluebonnets? Share your incidents with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fear Tactics--Job 18

We come now to Bildad's second speech, recorded in Job 18.

When people are engaged in a debate, and one side runs out of arguments, that side resorts to using "fear tactics" to threaten the opponent(s). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have "run the gamut" of arguments against Job. Job's friends have ONE ARGUMENT: All righteous people prosper, and all wicked people suffer. This HAS to be correct, BECAUSE IF God is JUST, then obviously, all righteous people prosper and all wicked people suffer. Many people today buy into such a view.

Job's three friends are still expected to continue the planned debate, but they are out of arguments. So, now, Bildad resorts to "fear tactics," and this is what Job 18 is all about.

Job 18 falls into two parts. We will track with Bildad's words.

I. Bildad makes some lame accusations of Job against Job's three friends: (1) Job is floundering--Job is hunting for words, because Job's position is so weak; (2) Job considers his friends as mere cattle, not human beings; (3) Job thinks his friends are stupid; (4) Job tears himself in his anger. Job 18:1-4.
Notice that in this paragraph, Bildad consistently uses the word "we" (once in verse 2, and twice in verse 3). As we have pointed out several times earlier, Job's three friends FIRST confer with one another, THEN the next appointed speaker proclaims their decisions. See 5:27.

II. Bildad simply ASSERTS that all wicked people suffer--they are filled with TERROR and HORROR (note especially verses 11, 14, 20). Job 18:5-21.
a. Bildad offers NO ARGUMENT, but simply ASSERTS or CLAIMS that SURELY the light of the WICKED is put out. All the schemens or plans of the wicked are doomed to fail very soon. Verses 5-7.
b. In the next four verses, Bildad "stacks" illustrations after illustrations to CLAIM that the wicked are doomed. The wicked: are thrust into a net by their own feet, walk into a pitfall, a trap seizes them by the heel, a snare lays hold of them, a rope is hid for them in the ground, a trap for them in the path. TERRORS frighten them on every side, and chase them at their heels. Verses 8-11. Bildad says the same thing OVER AND OVER AND OVER.
c. Bildad claims that all kinds of bad things happen to wicked people: hunger, calamity, disease, cast out of their house, lose everything, shrivel up, forgetting, expulsion from society, have no children or grandchildren, make people on earth stand appalled at their misfortunes. Verses 12-20.
d. Verses 5 and 21 form an "inclusio" around the assuring word "SURELY." So, Bildad REPEATS his ASSERTION in verse 5. The UNGODLY will experience all the losses Bildad has just described. This is the fate of those who do NOT KNOW GOD. Verse 21.

When a person first hears such "thinking," it appears to be right--until we begin looking around REAL LIFE in our own world. How many people do YOU know who are obviously or probably wicked and therefore suffer? And how many people doe YOU know who are obviously or probably righteous and therefore prosper? My experience is that there is no univeral one-to-one relatio between righteousness and prosperity, and wickedness and suffering. To cite just one biblical thought is: Was Jesus righteous or wicked? Did Jesus prosper or suffer? Then, think of other biblical examples pertaining to this.

What is YOUR response to Bildad's tirade in Job 18? Share your thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rock of Ages

The Bible is full of terms to describe God. One such term which, for some reason, God's people unintentionally neglect or do not see is "ROCK." Here are a few [and there are many] texts which refer to God as ROCK.

1. Genesis 49:24 [in the passage concerning the tribe of Joseph]:
"His bow remained taut,
and his arms were made agile
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
by the name of the Shepherd,
the Rock of Israel."

2. Deuteronomy 32:4, 30-31:
"The Rock, his work is perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God, without deceit,
just and upright is he. . . .
How could one have routed a thousand,
and two put a myriad to flight,
unless their Rock had sole them,
the Lord had given them up?
Indeed their rock is not like our Rock;
our enemies are fools."
[See also verses 15, 18, 37].

3. 1 Samuel 2:2:
"There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God."

4. Psalm 61:2-3:
"From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the Rock
that is higher than I;
for your my Refuge;
a Strong Tower against the enemy."

5. Psalm 31:1-5:
"In you, O Lord, I seek REFUGE;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a ROCK of REFUGE for me,
a STRONG FORTRESS to save me.
You are indeed my ROCK and my FORTRESS;
for your name's sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my REFUGE.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me,
O Lord, faithful God."

All of these texts [and similar texts] emphasize God's reliability, God's protection, God's constant presence, God's dependability, God's assurance. A favorite song which portrays this idea is Rock of Ages, written originally by A. M. Toplady in 1776. Thomas Hasting put this to music in 1830, and Pam Henderson added the descant in 1993. Here is this song:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and pow'r.

Not the labor of or my hands
Can fulfill the laws's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring:
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Vile, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

O Rock of Ages,
Forever Thou shalt be;
Oh, to Thy bosom fly,
I will with Thee abide.
O Rock of Ages,
My Savior, lest I die.

If we have any hope at all, it is totally in God. God is our ROCK. Let us rush to him and seek his shelter and his safety.

How do YOU resonate with this wonderful thought? How has God protected YOU in difficult times, in conflicts, in afflictions, in opposition? Share your experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Job's Third Court Trial Plan--Job 16-17

We continue our journey through the Book of Job. Now we come to Job's second response to Eliphaz's speech [which we just discussed in Job 15], which is recorded in Job 16-17. Like Job's three friends, more and more Job repeats his own views, but in some instances, Job pressed beyond his prior views.

The key new passage here is Job 16:18-22. As a background, we need to set forth earlier texts dealing with Job's insistence on meeting God in a fair court trial. You might want to go back and look at these earlier texts. Here, we need to sketch these propositions briefly.
1. Job's First Court Trial Plan is in Job 9:30-33. Job says: I wish that an "umpire" would appear in court, and argue God's views and argue Job's views; then it would be clear that Job is right and God is making Job suffer without just cause. BUT, no sooner does Job make this suggestion than Job says: "There is no umpire between us," and hence, Job removes this first plan or option.
2. Job's Second Court Trial Plan is in Job 14:7-19. Job says: A tree that is chopped down still has hope; but when a human being dies, he cannot live again here on earth. BUT IF God would allow a person [here Job] to (1) Let Job die; (2) Give time for God to get over his WRATH TANTRUM; and (3) give Job a time any time in the future so that Job would have a fair chance to defend himself and prove that God is making his suffer without just cause. HOWEVER, Job says this is impossible, BECAUSE God will not allow a person to die and then rise again and live on earth.

Now, in Job 16:18-22, Job proposes a third court trial plan. Job 16-17 falls into three parts. Each is fairly simple and forthright. We will discuss each section in this blog.

I. God is making me suffer without just cause. Job 16:1-17.
a. Job first proclaims that Job is just as capable as defending his position as his friends claim they do. Job says that his friends are "miserable comforters." [Personally, I would have to agree on this thought]. Job claims that his friends have "windy words" and they "keep on talking" without saying anything pertinent or helpful. Job says: If I were in your place, I could condemn you just as you are condemning me, or I could encourage you. Verses 1-5. Actually, all of this is irrelevant to the discussion, but Job is trying to defend himself to his friends.
b. Job declares that God has picked Job out for the specific purpose of making Job suffer. God has "worn me out," "shriveled me up," "torn me in his wrath," "hated me," "gnashed his teeth at me," "sharpens his eyes against me," "casts me into the hands of the wicked." Verses 6-11.
c. Job uses three figures to describe the terrible way God is mistreating Job:
1. God encounters me [Job] in a gigantic wrestling match. God is like a giant, a Goliath, and I am like a little two year old boy. God grabs me by the neck and dashes me to pieces. Verse 12a-b. Job has not chance to fight with God. God is much too powerful for any human being to defend himself against God.
2. God encounters me [Job] in an archery range. Job is the target. God is the archer. God's arrows are God's pains inflicted on Job. God, the archer, never misses. Every pain penetrates the heart of Job. God slashes Job's kidneys and pours out Job's gall. There is no way that Job can possibly defend himself. The contest is incomparable. Verses 12c-13.
3. God encounters me [Job] in the siege of a city. Job is the city. God is the violent warrior who bursts upon the city, tears it down, and destroys this. This is the way God treats Job. Hence, Job is in great pain, and has been in pain for a long time. Verses 14-17.
d. God has done all of these terrible things against Job:
"though there is no violence in my [Job's] hands,
and my prayer is pure."
Job declares: I am a blameless and righteous person; therefore, I certain do not deserve all of this unjust suffering and misery.

II. Job proposes a third fair court trial: long after my death, "My witness in heaven" will prove that God is making me suffer without just cause. Job 16:18-22.
a. Job portray God as God's murder of Job. The picture here is almost identical to the story of Cain murdering Abel. Read Genesis 4:8-11. God murders Job; now Job prays: Expose God's wrongdoing: "Do not cover my blood." Verse 18. Wrongdoing demands justice and vindication. Job calls for this.
b. Job now assumes that Job has a "witness in heaven" who will "vouch for Job" that Job is right and God is making him suffer without just cause. Verse 19.
c. Job says: My friends "scorn" me. BUT:
"my eyes pour out tears to GOD,
that he would main the right of a mortal with GOD,"
as one does for a neighbor. Verses 20-22. This sound contradictory. But this text SAYS that Job is proposing that Job's "witness"=GOD is going to maintain Job's position against GOD's injustice. Logically, Job seems to refer to TWO GODS. I think this is not the case. RATHER, Job is struggling between THE GOD WHOM JOB HAS FEARED AND TRIED TO SERVE JOB ALL OF JOB'S LIFE and THE GOD WHO IS NOW MAKING JOB SUFFERING MERCILESSLY. Job is convinced that the God whom Job has always served will appear and prove that the God who is making him suffer right now is wrong.

III. In spite of the way that God is treating me unjustly, some righteous people will be righteous in spite of God's injustice. Job 17.
a. Job describes his terrible suffering. Job's spirit is broken. Job is ready to die. Mockers scorn Job. No one defends or protects me. God has made me a "byword." I am in deep grief, and I am physically fragile. Verses 1-7.
b. The righteous are appalled at the terrible way God is mistreating Job. But the righteous will still be faithful to God in spite of God's unrighteouness. Verses 8-9.
c. Job says: I cannot find a single "sensible person" among his friends [and evidently his larger audience--"you" is plural here]. My life is finished. If I desire death=Sheol=the Pit, I have no hope. Verses 10-17. Thus, Job ends here with a a very dismal feeling.

Remember, I am merely attempting to report Job's views at this point in his journey. I do not necessarily agree with Job's view.

What are your insights? What are your thoughts? Help me. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Balm in Gilead

Modern medicine is quite advance for human beings. In the ancient world, medicine was relatively limited. One of these was a "balm." The Hebrew Bible refers to a "balm" sever times, and does not always mean the same thing.

1. "Balm" refers to various medicinal and aromatic mixtures made out of olive oil and other types of resins. Some were gathered from trees and scrubs in Transjordan, Arabia, and Egypt. Genesis 37:25 mentions gum, resins, and balm from Gilead to Egypt transported by the Ishmaelites. Genesis 43:11 and Ezekiel 27:17 refer to similar remedies throughout the ancient Near East.

2. Healings resins have been found at En-Gedi. Common practices for healing included herbal medicine, combined with consultation with Levitical priests (Leviticus
13:2-3), prophets (2 Kings 5:3-6); sacrifices, purges, and prayers (Psalm 41:3), and the encouragement to have a cheerful heart (Proverbs 17:22).

3. Gilead, the region located east of the Jordan River and North of the Arnon River, was famous for a special balm. This may have been the Pink Rock Rose, a small tree or large shrub, common around the Red Sea. The bark, fruit, roots, and gum of this small tree was used medicinally for various ailments. Jeremiah 8:22; 46:11; and 51:8 refer to this balm.

The most famous passage involving the "balm in Gilead" is Jeremiah 8:18-9:1:

"My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land.
'Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?'
('Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?')
'The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.'
For the hurt of my people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
Is there no BALM IN GILEAD?
Is there no PHYSICIAN there?
Why then has the HEALTH of my poor people
not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!"

This is metaphorical language based on medicinal practices in biblical times. God is the great physician. There is health available to God's people. God is ready and willing to apply his spiritual "balm in Gilead" if his people will but turn to God and come back to him. For our day and time, our situation is similar. God is our great physician. He has a balm for us. He can give us health. Who will respond?

A well-known song fits this concept: "There Is a Balm in Gilead." Here is this song:

"Sometimes I feel discouraged, And think my work's in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again.

If you cannot preach like Peter, If you cannot pray like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus, and say, 'He died for all.'

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."

What is YOUR spiritual health today? There is medicinal supply for YOU. God is the great physician. How will YOU respond?

Let me hear from YOU. Share your thoughts with others. Abundant Blessings,

John Willis

Monday, October 05, 2009

All Wicked People Suffer--Eliphaz's Second Speech--Job 15

We now begin the second series of the debate between Job and his three friends. This is recorded in Job 15-21. Job's friends become harsher and harsher with Job, and their arguments are redundant.

Eliphaz's second speech, recorded in Job 15, falls into three parts.

I. Eliphaz tells Job: Your own arguments condemn you. No one could fear your God. Job 15:1-6.
a. Eliphaz begins by asserting that Job's reasoning is "windy knowledge," like the "east wind," "unprofitable talk." Verses 1-3. Assertion!!! But is Eliphaz correct?
b. Eliphaz declares that IF Job's view is correct, you [Job] are doing away with "the fear of God." In other words, no one could fear the God you are portraying. Verse 4.
c. Eliphaz accuses Job of teaching iniquity, of being crafty, and obviously condemning Job's own position. Verses 5-6.

II. Eliphaz proclaims that no human being is righteous before God. Job 15:7-16.
a. Eliphaz asserts that Job knows nothing compared with God and wise people of former generations. Eliphaz denies that Job was the first human being ever born or that Job listened in the council of God. Eliphaz declares that he and his two friends know fully as much as Job. [Notice in verse 9 that Eliphaz is speaking in behalf of his friends as well as himself--"we," "us." Evidently, Job's three friends first consulted about their position, and only then gave their next debate speech]. Eliphaz appeals to the wisdom of the "gray-haired," the "aged," those "older than your [Job's] father." So, Job, why do you turn your spirit against God? Verses 7-13.
b. Eliphaz repeats the obvious view of his friends [see Job 4:17]: All human beings are "unclean" and "unrighteous." Even the angels are unrighteous. How much less Job, who "drinks iniquity like water." No wonder Job is suffering. Verse 14-16.

III. Eliphaz re-insists that ALL WICKED PEOPLE SUFFER--Job 15:17-35.
a. Eliphaz "quotes" the position of the "sages" and their "ancestors." This position is: "THE WICKED WRITHE IN PAIN ALL THEIR DAYS" (verse 20). Verses 17-20.
b. Eliphaz "lists" a number of punishments that sinful people experience: terrifying sounds, the destroyer will come upon them, they are destined to the sword, distress and anguish, they live in desolate cities, they will not be rich, they will not prosper, and fire consumes their tents. Verses 21-35.

Well, this is Eliphaz's position at this point. What do YOU think? I am not trying to affirm or denounce Eliphaz, only to relate Eliphaz's view here. I DO have to wonder whether Eliphaz ever got out of his house and look at the "real world." ALL wicked people suffering? That is not what I see in my world. What about YOU? Share your thoughts. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunrise, Sunset

One of the songs that Evelyn and I love so much is: "Sunrise, Sunset." This song is a favorite for weddings, but also on other occasions. Here is the song:

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swifly flow the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as they gaze . . .

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears . . .

One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears . . .

This simple song captures the realities of life, and there is no way that we human beings can change this, and there is no way that we can go back to former days.

God has made us as God wishes. We are born, we grow into adolescence, we grow into young adulthood, we marry, we have children, our children grow up, they leave home, and suddenly we are in older and oldest age. This is God's way. So, it is very good.

Maybe we can learn some important lessons from this concept.
1. Every day is very important. Make YOUR day FULL.
2. Live for each day. Do not be burdened down or rejoice over the past. This is gone. Do not yearn for the future. The future may never gone. Live for today. God will take care of the rest.
3. Life is short, no matter how long a person lives. Life is here today, and gone tomorrow. BUT, God promises an eternity with God in heaven--so rejoice.

For a closing biblical passage: James 4:13-17:

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.' Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that ppears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do, commits sin."

How are YOU doing TODAY? Live each day to the full. God will take care of YOU. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis