Lessons from Jonah…

And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.

Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.

So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.

Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “ When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.

Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.

Linda

A Pleasing Walk, Can you do it?

Colossians 1:9-10a gives us some insight into the heart of the Apostle Paul. He is being intentional with his prayers for the Colossian Christians as he has something specific in mind. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him:” It is totally in Paul’s mind and on his heart that the Colossian Christians live lives that are worthy of their calling as servants of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be pleasing to Him. To achieve a life that is worthy and pleasing to God one must have a knowledge of God’s will and an understanding of spiritual things.

How does one achieve such things? Scriptures tell us to seek to know God. Job said in Job 5:8 “As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,” Psalm 14:2 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
 to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Knowing God and what He desires of us, helps in discerning God’s will for our lives. That means knowing and following His commandments,1 John 5:2 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” We also must seek to abide in Him, John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. Paul knew that a walk without Jesus is futile and will accomplish nothing. So he encourages them and us to keep abiding in Jesus, to draw near to Him, to be steeped and guided by prayer, to stay in God’s Word and above all else seek to know Him more each day.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can know and understand the things of God with spiritual wisdom which helps me to walk daily in a way that pleases Him.

Linda

God at Work in me = JOY!

Therefore is a transition word that means the writer has reached a conclusion and has a truth for us.  Philippians 2:12-13 is one such passage.  Paul had just finished describing Jesus, his role as Savior and Lord of Lords in verses 5-11 and reached a conclusion about Jesus’ effect on all our lives.  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Paul reminds the Philippian believers of their faithful obedience to Jesus, even when he was not there supervising them, and admonishes them to ‘work out their salvation with fear and trembling’.  

Paul’s charge to ‘work out their salvation with fear and trembling’ would apply to us too. God at workThis phrase implies that we need to continue in faith regardless of the obstacles we face daily.   We need to commit to growing in our faith, and strive to know more about God each day.  We need to take that growth and then apply it to our faith with diligence and persistence.  All this should be done without doubt or fear but because of our faith and reverence towards God.  Scholars agree it does not mean any kind of ‘earning’ or working hard to create our salvation but rather living our faith in Jesus out in our daily lives.   Paul refers to believers as new creations in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  That new creation, a life filled with faith in Jesus,  demands a new walk with Christ that causes us to live by His Word and be indwelt and transformed by His Holy Spirit.  We did nothing to earn this transformation as it is God’s gift to us through faith but it needs to be cared for and nurtured as we grow in Him.

philippians 2 13As Paul continues, I love what he says in verse 13.  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”   Paul knows that God is the one working within us to mold and shape us.  God is doing the work. Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him, and he will act.”   God needs our commitment to Him, then He is the one doing the work within us.  We trust and commit then God does the follow through!   Paul also knew that what God intends or wills happens.   Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”   Finally, Paul adds that the things God does in our lives are for His good pleasure.  This will always be good for us as promised in Jeremiah 29:11 “ For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  God’s plans are always for His glory and our good!  

joy quoteIncreased joy for me, how about you?

  • I am filled with joy that my growth in character pleases God and equals joy in my life.
  • I am filled with joy that God is at work within me with purpose and goodness.
  • I am filled with joy knowing that God keeps His promises!

Have a blessed and joy filled day!

Linda

Joy, Knowing God is Sovereign

In Philippians 1:15-21 Paul expresses the facts of ministry as he sees them.  He sees some preaching the gospel to win souls.  He calls that good will and says their preaching is out of love, desiring that all would be saved and be eternally free in Christ.   He also sees those who preach the gospel out of love of self, for self-gratification, self-gain, and self-glory.  He calls that selfish ambition  and realizes that they can, by their words, stir up trouble for him even as he sits in prison.  However, Paul does not hold their actions against them as he rejoices that the name of Christ is proclaimed and trusts in God’s plan and sovereign control over all circumstances.   Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Paul’s continues reasoning that though the prayers of fellow believers and the power of the Holy Spirit, he knows God will be victorious and his place with Jesus is philippians_1_18assured. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Paul knew no matter what, he belonged to Jesus!   He knew the support of fellow believers through their powerful prayers and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit were essential to his surviving in his Roman prison.  Either in death or in life,  he would be victorious in and through Christ. 

 How is it that Paul was so assured?   Paul relied upon the character of God and His Word.   He undoubtedly remembered Joseph’s statement of God’s principle in Genesis genesis-50 2050:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Or perhaps his own words given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:28 “ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Or Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”   Paul was a  student of scripture and knew for a fact the truths about God’s character revealed throughout the Bible.  He had learned to draw upon them for strength, clarity and assurance.   We too need to open His Word and dig deep to replenish our joy, see our hope clearly, and gain strength and assurance. Our Sovereign God is bigger than Covid 19 or any other circumstance we face right now or in the future.  Be assured like Paul that no matter what, you and I will be victorious in Christ!

My joy is increased:

  • I know God is Sovereign and will use all things (people, places, circumstances- yes even the Corona virus) to achieve His will.
  • I know God has my back and has good plans for me as I serve Him, therefore, I will trust in Him.
  • I know that prayer is essential for survival and brings encouragement and resolve to believers.

joy in sovereignty of GodLet your joy be in our Sovereign God today.     Trust in Him!

Linda

#4- Practicing Devotion to God-Meditate on God’s Word

Unlike the ancient believers we have the whole Bible to rely upon, refer to and reference for any and all circumstances, needs, encouragement, hope and reflection.  What about God’s Word makes it special?  Hebrews 4:12 tell us “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  God’s Word can touch us at the very heart of our being and is living and active 2Timothy 3 16-17in us and in our lives.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  God’s Word is inspired and breathed by God so that in using and applying it to our lives we can be ready to do the work and live the life that God has for us.   Can you imagine the power it took for God to create the universe?  That same power is available to us in His Word, He spoke the world into existence and we have His Word before us in the Bible.

isaiah 55 11Isaiah 55:10-11 tell us the intentionality of God’s Word in the world.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Sovereign God knows where His Word is going and what it will accomplish.   We can count on its success as God never fails or is defeated.  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Job 42:2

Knowing the power of God’s Word and how God will use His Word in our lives should give us hope and confidence as we study and learn from His Word.   Psalm 119:15-16 gives us what our attitude and actions towards God’s Word should be so that we can be  used of God and bearing fruit in our life for Him.

hebrews 4 12I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.

May you be mightily blessed as you open God’s Word and let your heart meditate and soak in the truths about God and what He has for you to do. Let the living Word of God live within you today!

Linda

Thankful in all things, really Lord?

1 Thess 5 18Paul’s final words to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them shows his pastor’s heart.  He told them to take care of one another, be patient, not to seek revenge and always try to do good.  Then in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 he includes these thoughts: Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  He concludes this passage with admonitions to them to not try to block the Holy Spirit’s work and always seek to do good. 

What would our lives be like if we really tried to do these things?  Being patient with those who frustrate us, seeking to take care of those who are weak or in need, not being vengeful, always being filled with joy, thanks and praises to God, being known as a prayer warrior, seeking to do the will of God in all things and always looking for the good.   But that is what Paul is saying is God’s will for us.  God wants us filled with joy, always looking to Him in prayer and being thankful in all circumstances.   Scripture does not say being thankful for all things but in all things.  We do not need to be thankful for the hurricane, car accident or someone’s death,  but we need to be thankful during those times of stress, deprivation, sorrow or calamity.  We need to have an attitude of gratitude towards God at all times.  That can be very hard in difficult times but as Paul says this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”   This is the key to having a grateful heart which God desires of us.  I love the way David expresses this is Psalm 86:11-13         Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

psalm 86 12Is this you in all circumstances?  Let David’s words be your prayer today.

Lindar

The 4th Sunday of Advent-worship and be blessed!

Psalm 2 is highlighted in the Messiah as it pointed to Jesus.  It foretells how the nations would conspire against Jesus to condemn Him, but even their plotting and actions were used by God for our good and the redemption of all mankind.                                                       Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed,

job42-2All the raging of nations, the shouting of atheists and the persecution of believers are all vain threats against the Lord and His plans.  Job spoke with confidence in Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Isaiah 8:10 reveals God’s plans against the warring Assyrians.  Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand,  for God is with us.   

Do you have the confidence Job and Isaiah showed about who God is and what power He possesses?  Think about Christmas and the miracle of Jesus’ birth, the sovereignty of God shown in all the prophecies being exactly fulfilled at the exact right time in history.  In the spirit of God’s sovereignty, claim Jeremiah 29:11 for your own life knowing and trusting God and His will.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare  and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

psalm 2 11I love the way Psalm 2 ends with verses 11-12.                 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Serve, fear-revere, rejoice, kiss Jesus (adore Him) then be ready to receive His blessings as you cling to Him.  Have a blessed Sunday worshiping the Lord!

Linda