Stories Lead to Truths about God

Just a slight deviation from favorite verses today to favorite Bible stories. When I asked my friend Kathy for a favorite verse or two she responded with her favorite stories. As I thought about this, it so suits Kathy. She is a lifelong student of the Bible and the consummate Sunday School teacher. She sees things relationally as they impact our lives. Here are her favorites:

“I love the story of Esther because it tells me that even though the name of God is never mentioned, He is there, working in our lives.” Do you see God working in each area of your life? Is He with you in the hard times- rescuing, helping, guiding and providing all that behind the scenes encouragement? Do you also turn to Him in praise when things go well? I am reminded of God’s promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Esther believed God was there with her and her people. What about you?

I love the story of Ruth because of the love and devotion it speaks.” Ruth gives us an example to follow because of the love she showed her mother-in-law, Naomi. Do you have someone you are serving even though it is hard? Are you letting the love of God shine through you towards them? Paul put this in another context in Romans 12:9-11 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” What does your love reflect?

I love the story of Jonah because it tells me that I can’t outrun God.” Jonah is such a great example of thinking we know better and can get away from God. Do you try to second guess God and tell Him how things should be? Submission is not easy but it is biblical. Christ is our example in Hebrews 5:7 “ During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Let us learn from Jonah and strive to be like Jesus.

I love the story of the blind man in John 9 because it tells me that even though people can see, they may still be blind.” Jesus made mud and put it on this man’s eyes and his eyes were opened. He had been blind from birth. The Pharisee’s were incensed that Jesus healed this man and did it on the Sabbath. They considered healing work and Jews were not permitted to work on the Sabbath. They questioned the man’s parents to verify he was born blind. They questioned the former blind man about who had healed him. He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not (meaning Jesus), I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” He was blind physically but Jesus gave him sight. The Pharisee’s were blind spiritually and could not see the truth of Jesus and His power. Are you open to His work and leading so that you can see God’s truth in your life?

I love the story of Ananias and Sapphira because it tells me that God knows me so well, I can’t lie to him (and lying never brings about a good ending).” This story occurs in Acts 5. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. It would seem from what happened, they said they were giving all the proceeds from their land sale. Maybe they wanted to look good in the eyes of the apostles and their fellow believers so they would think well of them, think them generous and selfless when they secretly held back a portion for themselves. Their actions were deceitful and here is what happened. Ananias came before Peter:

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

Next his wife came in, not knowing what had happened to her husband. “About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.  The sin was not that they did not give it all to the Lord’s work but lying about it. If they had been truthful about the price and what they were giving, all would have been well but they tried to lie and get away with it. What a price to pay for pride and trying to be more than they were. I agree with Kathy this is an example of God’s Omniscience and man’s pride. God knows, and we kid ourselves, when we think we can get away with things. God always knows. I am reminded of 1 John 3:19-21 “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”

Be encouraged today with these stories displaying God’s character. He is Omnipresent and Sovereign as in Esther showing His providential care and guidance. He is loving and the great Provider as seen in Ruth. He is Omniscient in the case of Jonah and Ananias and Saphira. He is Compassionate, Loving and Almighty God as seen by the blind man. Who is God to you? How do you see him in the story of your life? Is He Faithful, Unchanging, Savior, Redeemer and friend? Take time to thank Him for His presence in your life today.

I’d love to hear your favorite story too. Thanks Kathy for directing me to these gems of scripture that give us foundational truths to live by.

Linda

Do you Need to drag out your Sackcloth?

The action of ‘putting on’ is seen in ancient Nineveh. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach a message of repentance to the Ninevites. Jonah did not want to go so he ran in the opposite direction. God confronted him in the belly of the big fish and Jonah repented of his own rebelliousness and sin and went to Nineveh. Our section begins with his preaching to the Ninevites about God’s impending destruction in 40 days if they did not repent and turn to Him.

Jonah 3:4-8  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

The king of Nineveh realized his sinfulness and turned to God. He also called his people to repent. His actions saved that generation. What did his repentance look like? Scripture describes he mourned over his sin by putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes along with calling for a fast for everyone. Sackcloth was coarsely woven cloth that would have been scratchy and uncomfortable. Ashes were from the firepit and were a sign of mourning too. The idea was to make yourself uncomfortable so that you would contemplate your sins and abandon the cause-repenting. In fasting you are abstaining from food with the purpose of heightening your own awareness to your needs and then putting them aside as you focus on God and His goodness and your sinfulness. Mourning over your sins shows genuine humility and sorrow for sins committed before Almighty God. These action (sack cloth and ashes) were done to turn their thinking and desires away from self and towards God with a change of heart = repentance.

As I meditated on this today, I asked myself, what does my sorrow over sin look like? Does it cause me to dress differently, sit and contemplate in an uncomfortable place, pray fervently or am I inclined to fast? Our own mourning is personal, but as we see it needs to be exhibited in some way that causes you to be uncomfortable and show you are truly sorry for what you did. True repentance leads to turning in a new way or direction towards God. Remember, repentance of the heart is turning away from the worldly pull and its desires towards God and what he desires. Here are a few verses describing repentance for you to consider:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 Our repentance turns us away from sin towards God and salvation for then their is no grief and death.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 Our repentance leads us to find forgiveness, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and peace with Christ. Amen!

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 Our heavenly Father wants all to turn to Him, acknowledge their sin and begin anew with Christ.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can find repentance and full forgiveness in Christ. What does your repentance look like? Will you examine your heart today and see if there is any wicked way in you that needs to be changed. Christ makes all things possible.

Linda

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

Thankfulness Day 7: God’s grace and mercy

It could be said that attitude and actions are an essential part of our walk of faith. Our attitude and actions towards God and our fellow man show the true nature of our faith. In today’s verses, Jonah has had a readjustment of his attitude towards God and it has changed his future course in life.

Jonah realized placing his faith in worthless things, including his own pursuits and desires, was futile. The only hope he had was in the Lord who always brings salvation. He was now willing to shout and proclaim with a thankful voice that God is the Lord. What about you? Are you like Jonah experiencing an attitude adjustment caused by circumstances of your own making? Are you running from God or trying to put up barriers to protect yourself? Jonah turned back to God with thankful heart.

God told Jonah to go to pagan Nineveh and preach a message of repentance. Jonah did not want to go so he decided to run. He caught a ship leaving port and got onboard. They were stuck by a terrible storm and Jonah revealed to the crew he was running away from God and told them to toss him overboard. In the depths to the sea, he was swallowed by a big fish. After 3 days in the belly of the big fish, he prayed to God with a repentant heart. The circumstances reshaped his thinking and attitudes and lead him to pray as he realized it was wrong to run and to not do what the God he believed in asked him to do. His willful attitude was changed. Jonah 2:8-9 “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.    Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

God showed his grace and mercy to Jonah by saving him. He deserved to be lost at sea, BUT GOD saved him. Do you see God’s grace in your life today? Jonah responded with thanksgiving and praise. Will you praise Him with a thankful heart today for how God has rescued you? Take heart from Ephesians 2:5 “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” and Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”

Blank white paper mock up on white wood background – filter effect

Thank you Jesus for saving me and changing the course of my life. Will you join me in thanksgiving and praise for God changing the course of your life?

Linda