Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas.  In all the hurry of the season I had become stressed and feeling not very festive.  My phone went missing last Friday, so that only adds more stress.  It's still missing.  Last night I had no Christmas cheer, then I started to think about why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  It is not about finding the best deals on gifts, being stressed about trying to get everything done or dealing with family visiting.  It is to be in awe of the miracle of the birth of a little baby that was to become our King.  Jesus came for you and me, He came despite our constant sinful nature.  This is an amazing moment in history that is often overshadowed by the chaos of getting stuff.

When I started to focus on Jesus my stress diminished, I saw how unbelievably selfish I was being.  Today was a bit nerve racking, but I was trying to focus on watching my kids.  The excitement they got over opening presents and playing with them for hours.  That was the best present of the day for me.  I am thankful that I was able to spend Christmas with my family and share a great breakfast & dinner with them.  This post would have been done earlier but, due to a migraine (see above about stress) I am finishing this late before bed.  Besides stress I am one of those people that can only take being around other people for so long.  It's nothing they do, just the way I am.  Some great writers have been hermits, so I'm on the right track.  I am a loner at heart so gatherings take a tole on me.

I hope that no matter what the events are from today, you enjoyed celebrating with loved ones and were able to enjoy the greatest gift of all.  Even if you had no one to share the day with, you have a kind and loving Father who gives the gift of a warm embrace.  When the King of all nations descended upon this earth He shared the Father's love and mercy with all people.  We have been given a gift to share God's word with the world.  I hope you will join me in trying to share, despite our nature to sin and get things wrong many times.  If our hearts are filled with Jesus, there is no telling the amazing things we could do if we would only take a step of faith.

Merry Christmas to you and you families.  God bless you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nahum 1:1-5

You may wonder why it has taken me so long to start my next book in the Bible.  I just found my study Bible after many months of not knowing where it was.  I am very disorganized, even before the move, this is a problem area for me that I am trying to work on.  I have been feeling a bit strange lately.  I just feel that I'm off balance.  I know that the time I have been spending with God has grown smaller over these last few months.  I am not to the point of Nineveh yet sometimes when we are slightly off then it doesn't seem like a big deal.  That is when it can be the biggest deal, even small sin is disobedience and can look like nothing compared to the "big" sins.  Not putting God first can change the dynamic of your life.  So I am happy to focus on getting back to where I am in a peaceful place with God.

v. 1-5 "An oracle concerning Nineveh.  The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.  
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and maintains his wrath against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power;
the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.
He rebukes the sea and dries it up;

he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it."

We are here again in this painfully familiar place.  Making the same choice and continuing down the same path that we know will only lead to discipline.  Some will never make better choices, others will slowly start to make better choices so that their lives will have a vastly different outcome.

Nahum is another prophet who spoke of the problems in Nineveh.  This was nearly one hundred years after Jonah's time.  After an entire city turn to God they eventually started back to their old ways and are now in the same position they were when Jonah came to town.  The newness wore off, the light got pushed out by bad habits and old ways.  Maybe each new generation heard a little less about what God had done in the lives of their families and town until nothing was said about Him at all.  There was great suffering in Judah because of the invasion by Assyria.  This book is a warning to turn from sin and repent, it also gave hope to the Israelites who had been crushed by these people.

An oracle is a message from God that was given to the prophets to let the people know what the word of God was.  v. 2 says that God takes vengeance and He is filled with wrath.  People turn away because they see a mean God and hypocrites in His churches.  Yet in every instance I can think of in the Bible, God becomes this way only after wrong choices are made by mankind.  He gives free choice to all people and only after bad decisions are made does He reacts to those choices.  God's vengeance and jealously are not within our understanding.  When we react in the same way it is with different motives in our hearts, we get jealous out of envy, pride or selfishness.  God punishes those that misbehave just as a good parent will discipline their children.  These people were an enemy to God.  I think a reason why this section starts off with showing God's vengeance is to grab our attention so we can focus on not making those same mistakes as the people of Nineveh and it shows His power and authority.

"When people wonder why God doesn't punish evil immediately, help them remember that if he did, none of us would be here."  NIV Notes

v. 3-5 shows the nature of God.  He is slow to anger and He gives us so much time yet there comes a point when He intervenes.  This also shows He is great in power so much so that when He chooses to act there are physical disturbances in the earth.  That is some kind of power!   God is patient and gives us time to repent, but judgement will come.  Bashan, Carmel and Lebanon were known to be extremely fertile lands so this gives people a picture of what God's power could do if He could make those places wither to nothing.  Willful disobedience is rebellion against God and if the Holy Spirit is inside of you then it is rebellion against the very core of you being.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quote - Raven Symone

"I'm an American.  And that's a colorless person."

~ Raven Symone

This woman would be considered black to those who see her, yet she does not want a label of African American.  I don't think that is going against her heritage.  Isn't it time to drop labels for all and just be known for who you are.  I agree with her.  For a while now I keep thinking the same thing.  I don't go around stating that I am a European American do to where my ancestors came from so why are certain groups still using this.  I think this was used by a group of people to keep their identity and heritage.  I also think this was used by media and research groups to make sure people are fit in groups, but they lump everyone together which may not help with to stereotyping.  I'm not sure if this is the same in other countries in the world like in American.  African, Indian, Asian, Latin, Middle Eastern, etc doesn't matter in God's eyes.

If you are an American, then that is what you are.  If you are a Christian then you are in one family, not divided among different groups.  There are so many different divisions of Christianity that I think we lose a sense of unity.  I didn't grow up in church so I'm not Methodist, Baptist, etc.  I am a Christian, I do not have a denomination.  Some estimates that say there are 20,000 to 40,000 differences in Christianity alone!  Remember God gave 10 commandments and the Rabbi's can up with over 600 laws.  We are one church under God (this doesn't include any crazy cults who don't actually line up with the Bible).

The more we see ourselves as separate the more we will start to believe it.  Then our actions will start to show the division of our belief.  Then we will see and think of certain groups in a negative way.  Those beliefs will be so deep rooted that we will pass on to the next generation the same beliefs which will limit connections with people who don't look like us.  

I don't believe God sees color, He sees our hearts.  When will we join Him?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Quote - Albert Einstein

"Life is like a bicycle, you have to move forward so as not to lose your balance."

~ Albert Einstein

Many of us continue to live in the past.  I know this very well since this was the direction I faced for many years.  Longing for times gone by and filled with constant regret for my mistakes.  With help from God I was able to quit living in the past and be in the present.  Be careful that you don't go too far and end up worrying about the future, that won't do you any good either.  Life is a balancing act, especially for Christians.  We are not called to be like the world, yet we have to live in it.  It is very easy to turn off of the narrow path and walk the broad road, but that road is full of dangers that will derail us if we are not careful.  Balance is the key to live a life full of awareness.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Don't give CPR to a murderer (your old sinful self)

Last Saturday at church we watched a short Beth Moore video that had such a huge impact on me.  First we kept having technical difficulties where the video would play then stop and after restarting the computer and doing countless other things it finally worked.  The enemy did not want us to see this.  Beth had a life size doll that represents our old sin life that we can't let go of so we carry it around with us because we can't give it to God.  I seldom hear of such an amazing description and it's a good example of what is really going on.  This old self, if left unchecked would have led us to eternal death so it makes sense to view our old sinful self in this way.  WOW!  Mind blowing revelation.  The visual of giving CPR to someone who is a murderer really makes me think.  This is a crime scene, but unlike any that we know of.  This old self who we are very familiar with is now a complete stranger and is unwelcome in our life.  If you view your old sinful self with affection and familiarity think of this.  The old self dies when you accept Jesus.  It no longer needs to be apart of our lives nor should we keep it for sentimental reasons.  Going back to that life will ultimately end in death yet countless people return to the comfort of old scars and dwell with the pigs.  Beth spoke of people writing an obituary for their former sinful self, wow again.  To write it down might help some with closure.  Just think, what you would say about the death of your former self?

Romans 6:6-7 "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been freed from sin."

Are you carrying a murderer around with you?  Do not let the sinful weight of your past bar the rest of your existence on this earth.  You are far more valuable to God than the value you place on the person that no longer exists.  

John 12:24 "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

There is an up side to this dramatic subject.  In order for a seed to grow it must be planted.  This seed feels immense pressure on all sides like it will be crushed and the waiting seems too long with no evidence of improvement.  Yet the seed breaks open, if it doesn't then it will not grow.  It is given light and warmth from the sun and living water all to make this broken seed sprout to produce an amazing crop.  We are all seeds and when broken that is when we really find out who we are and what we can do with God's guidance.  I hope that you really take some time to see this along with me.  The enemy wants things to see like it's not a big deal and has little importance on our life.  I think the more visual and shocking the more we realize what is at stake and  how much clearer our vision gets in the process.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Being back online, For King & Country and having some Compassion

We are getting settled in our new house and I'm so happy to finally be back on the Internet.  We recently got service so I can start blogging again.  YEAH!!!  It is very inconvenient to not have the ability to communicate with others and keep updated on things like school, scouts, blog, etc.  Although this is a small issue compared to what many others go through in this world.  I found myself reading more, stepping away from the Internet made me very aware of the amount of time I had spent on things that would have no value in my life.  This way to connect can be very isolating to some and to others it can be a window to the world.  If you don't master it, it will master you and consume so much of your time that the important things in life are often pushed away.  Going forward I will try to do better.  I need to plan my time on the Internet just like I plan for anything else.  Setting limits for media is a very good thing.  In disconnecting from online I will find I can connect better to everything else around me.  It is about trying to balance everything in my life.

I was sick two weeks ago and I'm sick again now.  You see I did something good for God's kingdom, a small act, although anything you do for the Kingdom the enemy hates.  It seems like when you do something good the enemy wants to keep you down.  I will keep pressing on because I know that the inconvenience of another cold is small compared to God's grace on those that follow His leading.  

We went to the For King & Country concert last Sunday at our church.  They put on a great show and the lyrics to their songs are fantastic, but there was something more there that was missing in a lot of entertainers shows.  They spoke a little on their testimony and they spoke about sponsoring children, they spoke on how men need to step up and treat women right and they spoke about how women should know their worth and value in God and not what this world tells them to be.  That message is often covered over by the loud noise of what the world is saying.  They support Compassion International, a charity that helps children around the world with the help of those who are more fortunate.  They told a story of a boy who grew up to be a preacher who is going through Africa planting church now and his sponsor when he was a child was a 15 year old girl.  This young girl made a decision to help another child.  If a child can do this, what more can we do as adults?  We decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International, a girl in Bolivia.  This is something that I have wanted to do for awhile and just haven't done yet, not sure why I took no action until now.  Right after that I started to get sick again, but I will continue to seek God no matter what is going on.  So I'm very excited to start a relationship with this young girl who I have never met.  I hope you will go on this journey with me.  For every child who is in need there is an adult who can help them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jonah Recap

This extremely short book has been stretched out since the fall due to several interventions and interruptions in my life, but I am happy to be at the end.  After really diving into this study I can see myself as Jonah, probably along with many of you.  This book tests our ability to follow God without reservation.  Here are some lessons I learned or relearned from Jonah.

When Jonah was praying in the fish he spoke words that mirrored those found in the Psalms.  This is why we are to read the Bible daily.  We should have at all times words to help in any situation we are going through.  Jonah 2:2 suggests Jonah "cried out", instead of whimpered.  "The Hebrew word (cried out) implies intensity of action that was reserved only for the most heartfelt prayers.  This word is only used 22 times in the Bible and the majority of those times it is used autobiographically-as Jonah used it-to denote one who recognized his own prayer as fervent."   R. Laird Harris

God choose an impossibly stubborn man to do something he despised and he never gave his entire heart over to God.  God is trying to mold our hearts.  Why did He choose this sequence of events?  In this entire book God was calm, caring and patient.  God was trying to change Jonah's thinking from traditional religion to an amazing personal relationship.

Jonah was the only prophet who ran from God.
God has chosen YOU for a task, PAY ATTENTION!
Let God's will be done, not mine.
Don't take ownership of my life, just manage it.
God's ways are beyond our comprehension.
Don't be afraid of change.
Speak God's words back to Him.
Celebrate God never turning away.
God does not allow shortcuts.
Spread the gospel.
Keep humble.
Don't think we have all the answers.

"Cookie Cutter Christianity-we want our calling to look like everyone else's.  We look at other's we envy, but we don't know what God has asked them to walk through."  Priscilla Shirer

When you are in a downward spiral of disobedience you step down from you position as a Christian, you put up an out of office sign.  You continue to sink to the depths, Jonah kept going down in his disobedience.  Down to Joppa, down into the ship and down into the dark sea.  Only when he accepted his fate did he rise up.

"Whatever you are holding on to in this life, hold it loosely so it won't hurt when the Lord has to pry your fingers open to take it away."  from Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted

"He is the master of taking the mess you've made and turning it into the biggest miracle you have ever seen in your entire life.  We are the world's leftovers in the hands of a master."  Priscilla Shirer

Many times God has other plans that we could never see, never dare to hope for or something that we would never want to do.

There are two different kinds of interruptions: the distractions from this world and Godly interventions.  We choose which ones we will follow every day.

I believe our attitude will hinder our growth if we continue to choose our feelings over God's will. 

This book is a great look at our hearts and how when God calls us, we choose to act, either in disobedience or complete and utter allegiance.

To be interrupted questions our priorities and the value we place on them.  When held up to the light of God our value system is faulty.

"God often sends us into the hopeless place because it's in the hopeless place that we can see the hope of God."  Priscilla Shirer

Our plans for our life are many times uprooted by God so that He can work wonders through us.

It is hard to fathom that God would want to partner with us, those who sin continually.  We should see interventions as a privilege and not a burden.

Once strong men will wither to their knees to seek a God who can help them out of misery.

The problem with a man made god is that they don't have eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to feel or power to act.

Our justifications for sin does not justify sin, it's our minds way of reasoning the unreasonable.

Do we think that when God asks something from us that He will not equip us with the means to achieve it?  It is amazing how in our mind we can alter reality and truth to fit our thoughts and actions.

 We think that whatever we do is not noticed, everything we do and say goes on record in a heavenly court that will later serve as our place of judgment.

When the plans we make clash with God's intent for us, there will always be a storm that we have to go through.

Believing we have the correct view changes when God shines His light upon it so that nothing is hidden in the darkness and only then can we truly see how twisted our view really is.  

We are Jonah when we choose to deny God's will for our lives, our Nineveh is a person, place or group that for many reasons we dislike or think unworthy of God's grace.  The storm is the mechanism that propels a final decision, being thrown into the sea is obedience at any price no matter the outcome.  God is full of mercy and grace, yet can we see it for all the judgments that we are continually putting out into the world.

God controlled the sea and the fish, not to be harsh, but to guide Jonah to the task he had been given.  The men tried to row back to land and the storm increased.  When we are fighting God the obstacles get bigger and bigger until we finally see that it's not worth it to go up against the God who created everything.  The men thought that if Jonah was thrown overboard that he would surely die in such a violent storm, they could not conceive the thoughts of God or imagine the great thing that was about to happen.

They believed in the same God that Jonah was working for, yet excelled at something that Jonah found so difficult to do.

We often get ourselves into trouble, then when God gives us a way out we complain about what He has given us and we don't even thank Him for helping us in the first place.  This story has been taught to many people around the world, but I think the huge meaning gets lost in the sea and everyone focuses on the big fish.  God can do so many great things, we need to pay attention to what He has done for us or we will stop being humble and start to be proud.  The way out of a self inflicted situation may seem worse than the situation itself, but if we let God lead us out He can show us that there is light coming out of the darkness.

When we come to God with the faith of a child, we are to believe and not question, we are to have faith and not doubt and we are to hope in the God who can do anything.

It is never too late to turn towards God, but a life lived only turning to God in our misery means we will be missing out on so many things in this life.

Think of speeches throughout history that have inspired us to do better or those propelled by hatred to start a war. They wield the same weapon, just used to get different results. Jonah thanked God for who He was and what He had done.  It is important to take responsibility for our actions and acknowledge them before God.  When we realized how far we have come, only then can we put into perspective the depths we sank to and the heights that God cares for us in.  Jonah had an issue with pride that had to be dealt with in a severe way.

God does not have to use any of us, He wants to use cracked pots so that His light can shine through the cracks so the world can see that it is not us, but Him.

You are never so deep down in darkness that God couldn't pull you out.  Light can crush through any amount of darkness.

Pride, from beginning to the end of this book pride held Jonah in a twisted grip that wouldn't let go.

This book is a reminder to us all to follow God even if what we are asked to do does not make sense, does not appeal to us, is embarrassing or is the last thing in the world we would ever want to do.

Sometimes we get hung up on the notion that we are too far gone to be of any use to God.  His love covers all insecurity, if only we would let Him.  If you give God all your mistakes and ask for forgiveness, He completely wipes it ALL away, never to be see again.  That is unless you continue to dig it up because in some strange sense it is like a security blanket that we feel we can never part with.

It will cost us far more than we would ever want to pay to keep in our comfort zone and not follow God.

He wanted to go back to Jerusalem to make a thanksgiving offering, but God told him to go to Nineveh.  This shows that our obedience is more important than the sacrifices that we make.

The enemy is extremely happy for us to stand still in a spiritual coma.

There is no limit on the number of times we are given another chance, although I believe God would like that number to be as small as possible.   

He is constantly stretching out our borders so we can have a greater affect on those around us.

The four steps to reconciliation:
  • admit our sins (that means ALL of them)
  • accept responsibility for your actions, no matter what others do to you
  • ask for forgiveness
  • accept the tasks you are given by God, be obedient no matter what you feel like
We are a collection of mismatched pieces, when we let God move us, then we can all fit together to make a beautiful picture.

So Jonah appears to be like a child.  Going off of what he wants to do instead of what the Father has asked him to do.  He pulled off a massive fit and his lesson was a massive fish.

God will ask things of us that will be difficult, but He will give us the grace to complete the task.

Disobedience comes with a price.

God is a caring Father, yet even children must be disciplined if they do not obey.

Sackcloth was probably very uncomfortable to wear, sin should not be a comfortable fit. 

God has been at work in the situation long before we are scheduled to arrive, and He is preparing the way for our obedience to make a difference.     Pricilla Shirer

It's an interesting sight to see when we help other people in that process God can help and heal us. 

We think people can't change, but God does not hold to our logic nor is He bound by our rules.

Christians should read this book at least once a year to check our hearts for any Jonah qualities that need to be uprooted and restored back to being obedient to God.

God does not need our approval to do His will, He is perfectly capable of handling a situation without our opinion on the matter.

Are you having a tantrum now because:
  • you didn't get what you think you deserve
  • or someone else got what you think they didn't deserve 
Pride rules tantrums and only with humility will pride diminish.

Jonah was thankful that God saved him from the fish, yet he could not be thankful that God could save Nineveh.

When we wish other's to receive God's wrath we are only pushing ourselves closer to the flames.

 I think the Bible shows us that it is OK to show our emotions to God, even if we are angry with Him, but we need to be careful that we don't stay that way.

So instead of having a Godly anger towards the devil we take that anger and direct it towards the only One who loves us most in this world.

Why does God ask a question when He already knows the answer?  He is waiting for us to be accountable, to take responsibility for our actions.

We often will have no problem pulling up a seat and being comfortable in someone else's discomfort or destruction. 

When we become Christians we say, God I want your will for my life.  What happens when our plans get derailed?  What happens when we don't like; what God is asking us to do, what He is asking us to say, where He is asking us to go, what or who He is asking us to give up.  This is where due to the pressure, we will show our faith and put it into practice or we will fall away and say I can't do this.  These moments will define our life now and in the future and direct our path until our last day on earth.

Let's all try to stay on level ground even when all round us there are steep mountains and treacherous craters.

Jonah went through a painful realignment, which could have been avoided if he made better choices.

When we let the enemy in he often will not mess with the outer layers of our soul, he will go to the roots, down deep because he knows that if he can get us away from God, going to the source of our belief is his best chance. 

Our perception of reality is sometimes an illusion brought on by a reflection in a warped mirror to make everything appear in our favor, even if we are sorely mistaken.

God freely gives us a wonderful gift and in return we are to give that gift away to other people.

Our human brain can't comprehend all that God knows so we have to acknowledge that our opinions are given without knowing all the facts.

"The story of Jonah testifies to the power of our willingness to yield to divine interruptions and leads us to consider two things: the effect the Word has on unbelievers and the effect our simple obedience has in our personal circumstances."  Priscilla Shirer

This is a book of action, do not waste it by just reading it to get it checked off your Bible reading list.  Our thoughts and beliefs will turn into the actions we want to show the world.  What will yours be?

So now what?
Will you and I be changed by this book?
Will we make decisions based on God's divine interventions or blow them off as annoying interruptions?
Will we run away or follow the path we were meant to walk on?
Will we turn to someone we don't care for and extend grace to them as God gives it to us?

We are in Jonah's shoes and we have a decision to make.

What is your divine intervention right now?  What is God asking of you that seems too difficult to even comprehend?  Will you heed the call and follow God or run away like Jonah?

Even though it seems like you are all alone in this world right now with a massive decision to make, you are not alone.  You have fellow travelers on the same road and the brightest light ever created to lead your way.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Greatest Comedian

www.mirror.co.uk


So sad to hear that Robin Williams died.  The best comedian ever.  He was my favorite actor.  Growing up watching him I was always amazed at his ease to make others laugh and his depth in a dramatic role.  Genius and depression often run in close parallel lines.  Some of the most amazing people on the planet have the hardest time with depression.  We look at someone and they seem perfect, we even get jealous of those who have natural talents that we don't have.  We don't know what someone is thinking or the pain they are going through.  Robin had been dealing with depression for a long time.  He could make the world laugh, but he couldn't give himself peace.  I don't know if he was a Christian, but the demons were too much for him to contend with.  It is so sad when people take their own life.  We all have an enemy whether you believe it or not, he is looking for our destruction.  When people kill themselves there is a ripple effect that reaches beyond their comprehension.  With one act, many are destroyed.  I'm having such a hard time with this.  Maybe because he reminds me of my brother Chris or how my brother Bryan use to laugh at his movies.  I know that a bright light in this world has been extinguished.

Robin was in the movie What Dreams May Come, and here is a beautiful quote from that movie:

"Thank you...for gracing my life with your lovely presence, for adding the sweet measure of your soul to my existence."

For a short time in the history of the world, he was a beautiful laughing light who made us smile even when there were many things too serious and too sad to deal with.  I hope in death he has found peace
that he could not obtain on earth.

Friday, July 25, 2014

When God interrupts us.

We are mostly settled in our new house.  There is no Internet service here which has been frustrating for all those living in this new section of our neighborhood.  We are not out in the middle of nowhere, but live in a large town.  Yet the inconvenience is nothing compared to what is going on in other parts of the world.  We've come to expect to have everything right now.  So as I type this on my extremely slow little phone I am reminder to be patient and turn this over to God.  Yes this is inconvenient, but like Jonah my life has been interrupted.  Instead of letting the negative consume my thoughts I need to pay close attention to what God is trying to show me during this time.

I pray to see beyond the fog so I do not miss the shore.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Moving Update

Well as you can see I did not get the Jonah recap done yet.  With packing up the old house and putting away things in the new house I've been very busy.  Plus we don't have Internet at the new house yet, so I have to go back to the old house to use the computer.  I have noticed that when you move you get a lot out of the dark corners of your house.  For us in America we are keeper of large amounts of stuff.  You find you have multiples of things that you didn't even know you had one of.  The old house is very small for a house in this area.  The new house is larger for us, yet still pretty small compared to the other houses around us.  It is interesting to me to see the amount of things that do not add value to our family.  So as we are moving into this bigger home we will be getting rid of things that we don't need.

God cleans house and urges us to clean out the things in the dark, the things that we have forgotten about, the things that we don't want anyone else to see.  We hold onto things that we should give over to Him.  I think of how many people don't have as much as we do and we don't have a lot compared to the wealthy in America.  Having your house bogged down with stuff bogs down your soul.

We are almost done emptying out the old house.  After fixing up the house we will be putting it up for sale.  I know this is backwards to what most people do.  I'm giving it over to God and trying not to stress about it.  I'm praying that the house will sell fast so we will not have to pay two mortgages, gas, electric & water bills any longer than we have to.  Thank you for those who have been praying for us.  I hope to be back to regular posts as soon as everything settles down.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quote - G. Campbell Morgan

"We've become so enamored with the big fish we've lost sight of a big God."

~ G. Campbell Morgan

I hope after reading Jonah we all will have a vastly different view of this book than we did before we started.  So that every time we hear the simple story of the man and the great fish, we will know that it's just scratching the surface and it turns out it's anything but simple.  This sets us up for defining moments in our lives that will test what is in our hearts.  We should be forever changed by the failure of this one man in order to learn to focus our hearts on God and whatever He asks us to do.  We were meant to thrive on this planet, not just survive.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Moving Day

We are moving in a couple of weeks so I will not be on here as much until we get settled in the new house.  I'm hoping to finish the Jonah recap this week between cleaning the house and packing boxes.  We will be moving to the new house then putting our old house up for sale.  I pray that it sells within three months because paying two mortgage and utilities will not be a fun thing for us and will make money tight during that time.  This is a big step for our family and prayer would be much appreciated.  Thank you for coming by to visit my little corner of the world.  Have a wonderful day!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Quote - C. S. Lewis

"I felt the steady unrelenting approach of Him who I desired so earnestly not to meet.  Finally, I gave in and became the most reluctant convert in all of England."  

~ C. S. Lewis



Friday, June 6, 2014

Jonah 4:10-11

v. 10-11 "But the Lord said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow.  It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?'"

We have no control over the things God makes and takes care of, yet we are quick to criticize when things are not going our way.  How often do we get angry at things that we have no control over?  Again, God is trying to get Jonah to see how his thinking was wrong.  He was so worried about his own problems that he still did not care if over a hundred thousand people died.  Our human brain can't comprehend all that God knows so we have to acknowledge that our opinions are given without knowing all the facts.  Have you refocused your outlook to what God has brought to your life?  We should look at interruptions as an opportunity instead of a distraction.  God may be trying to get our attention to do something great in His kingdom.  Will we really see what it is or just get mad and complain.  Incorporating this into our lives will be a difficult task.

"The story of Jonah testifies to the power of our willingness to yield to divine interruptions and leads us to consider two things: the effect the Word has on unbelievers and the effect our simple obedience has in our personal circumstances."  Priscilla Shirer

Three times in this book God calls Nineveh great.  Nineveh was a very important city in the region, but I keep thinking that God is calling Nineveh great for some other reasons.  God sees all of us as His creation and the people in Nineveh were also His people even though they did not claim God until Jonah came to town.  This shows that those we think are not worthy are so because of who God is.  How quickly we look at another person and size them up in a matter of minutes, when we really have no idea who they are or what they have gone through.  God see the greatness in us, even when we fail to recognize it.  Why are we great?  God made us and if you follow Him then the Holy Spirit is inside of us, it's that simple.  God sees our hearts, unlike those around us, He knows who we are.  Another reason I think God kept calling Nineveh great is because Jonah could never see them as great as long as he held onto his anger.

Jonah knew such a powerful kingdom could destroy his home.  "In 722 B.C., approximately thirty-eight years after Jonah preached to Nineveh, the army of Assyria pillaged the kingdom of Northern Israel, laid siege to Samaria, and dragged every last citizen into captivity.  Assyria's assimilation strategy was to intermix their conquered people in order to erase each one's former national identity."  Priscilla Shirer

Assyria's plan sounded terrible, to erase one's identity is such a vicious thing to do.  Many countries have done this in varying degrees.  The United States had done things similar to this on a massive scale several times.  All but destroying the native people in this country and in bringing slaves here they made them property.  They took away their dignity, denied their history so that many forgot where they came from and they were unable to pass down traditions and knowledge from their homeland.  In Jonah's time the people handed down stories and traditions so the younger generations would know where they came from.  History was very important to the Jewish people so taking that away was one of the worst things that you could do to them.

Jonah still did not see what God was trying to show him.  How often do we get upset when a beloved pet dies or if a special keepsake from our children's youth is damaged.  Yet do we go around daily sad at the fact that those around us don't know God?  Sometimes I will be overwhelmed with the amount of people who do not know God and that makes me cry.  Yet, is it daily?  No, far from it.  Many things from my daily life seem to block out those moments.

"Considering things from God's vantage point give us a filter to view the tangled web of earth's realities, thereby allowing us the divine momentum we need to move forward toward His goals in our lives."  Priscilla Shirer

Unlike other books in the Bible, this one ends abruptly without knowing what happens next.  We don't know if Jonah finally gave in to God.  Whether he went back home or did he die right on that hill?  This abrupt ending makes me think that he never turned his heart over fully to God, this might have been the last thing that God ever asked him to do.  I also think what happened to Jonah after this was not important.  What is important is that after we read this story where will we be in our relationship with God.  As long as we focus on what we can see in this book and not worry about what we can't see, then it should be enough to keep our attention on the things that need to change in our hearts.  We are in Jonah's shoes and we have a decision to make.

"Knowing whether Jonah responded at the end isn't the question, it's whether or not we will respond."
Priscilla Shirer

God answered the sailors when they prayed, Jonah when he prayed in the fish, the people of Nineveh were saved because they turned towards God.  God is waiting for us to call upon His name.

So now what?
Will you and I be changed by this book?
Will we make decisions based on God's divine interventions or blow them off as annoying interruptions?
Will we run away or follow the path we were meant to walk on?
Will we turn to someone we don't care for and extend grace to them as God gives it to us?

This is a book of action, do not waste it by just reading it to get it checked off your Bible reading list.  Our thoughts and beliefs will turn into the actions we want to show the world.  What will yours be?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Quote - Priscilla Shirer

"There's some stuff that is eternally significant about your life that can not come until your life is divinely intervened by God."

~ Priscilla Shirer


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Quote - Priscilla Shirer

"While His ways are unsearchable and his methods beyond our ability to comprehend, He will graciously lift blinding veils and give revelation to those who come in humility with open hearts to hear, receive, and obey His word."

~Priscilla Shirer

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jonah 4:7-9

v. 7-9  "But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint.  He wanted to die, and said, 'It would be better for me to die than to live.'  But God said to Jonah, 'Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?'  'I do,' he said.  'I am angry enough to die.'"

We are so happy when we get what we want.  God provides for our needs, yet He can take something away from us at any moment.  I think that when we push God away He has no obligation to keep blessing us.  It is not that He doesn't want to help us, He doesn't want to encourage bad or sinful behavior.  Jonah went through a painful realignment, which could have been avoided if he made better choices.

The worm that God sent might have started at the base of the plant.  When we let the enemy in he often will not mess with the outer layers of our soul, he will go to the roots, down deep because he knows that if he can get us away from God, going to the source of our belief is his best chance.  Did Jonah know the reason the plant withered at first?  I don't know, but he must have been so frustrated that again he was in a miserable situation.  All the while he was focusing on outward issues when he should have been working on his heart and mind.  Our perception of reality is sometimes an illusion brought on by a reflection in a warped mirror to make everything appear in our favor, even if we are sorely mistaken.

Priscilla Shirer talks about how God used a specific plant that would be large enough that it would provide shade, God kept animals from harming Jonah and the wind came from the east which meant that he could not have been protected from the city walls.  She also said that God was strategic with the details that He used to carry out His divine purpose.

The worm, the sun and the wind all came one after the other.  Many times in life when one bad thing happens there is a landslide of other things that come charging at us and we feel like we won't make it through this moment.  This is where we are tested.  Yes, God does test us, but He will not tempt us.  So between God's testing, attacks from the enemy, the choices we make and the actions of others we often feel that we will not make it through to the other side.

God again showed grace to Jonah and again Jonah was unable to give grace to Nineveh.  He had plenty of opportunities, yet he could not let go of his anger.  We will be held back when we keep things from God and do not turn them over to Him.  He is more than capable to take care of the anger, sadness and pain in our lives.  God's grace is given to you, will you extend that grace to others?  Not one of us deserves grace, not one of us can even come close.  God freely gives us a wonderful gift and in return we are to give that gift away to other people.

When I wrote a post about Jonah 2:10, where God made the fish spit Jonah out onto land.  I received an interesting comment that said that I made God sound like an abuser and that this person would cut out someone from their life if they were treated this way.  I can see how some view God in this light.  Many preachers have preached the fire and brimstone theory, where you will never be good enough and you are probably going to hell.  The only thing right about this is that we are not good enough, that is where God's grace comes in and covers us.  If this person has been hurt by some one who says they are a Christian then that just reinforces the view that God is mean.  Do I get mad when I receive a comment like that?  No, I think that we should see past the actions of others and see their hearts.  This person doesn't sound like they believe, yet they were brought to my blog for a reason.  My goal is to share God's word and share my Bible study notes, not misrepresent Him.  If no one else needed this then I definitely do because I am in need daily of His word.  I thought it was very interesting that this person saw a mean God and not a disobedient person who received an action for defiance.  The enemy likes to try to disguise discipline from God as if it were punishment so that God looks like He is mean instead of a caring Father.

Everyone looks at the Bible a little differently due to our life experiences, views from our family growing up and where we are at in our walk with God.  Yes, God can be angry and discipline us when we are not in His will.  The ENTIRE Bible shows that He is waiting for us to turn to Him.  His love has no limit and He is happy to bless us, if only we will turn towards Him.  I wonder if this person who sees God in such an unfavorable light can see throughout the Bible how many times the people turned from Him.  If there were not such disobedience then the Bible might be a whole lot shorter, but then we wouldn't see ourselves in the colorful characters that are spread out among the pages of this book.

Again Jonah wanted to die, when he doesn't get his way he either runs away or wants to die.  This makes for a very unhappy spiritual life.  He is our example of what not to do, we should not let our feelings rule us.  Again God asked if Jonah had a right to be angry about his circumstances.  We may never be in Jonah's exact situation, but how many times a day do we get mad because people are being slow, traffic is backed up, someone unleashed an emotional mess in our direction or our kids are having a meltdown when we are trying to leave the house.  Friends, this is a heart check.

Are you mad right now at someone or something that happened to you that you can not give to God?  I pray that we all will turn everything over to God and that nothing will get in the way of our relationship with Him.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quote - Ignorance

"Ignorance is not innocence."

I saw this on a piece of paper that my mom typed a long time ago.  There is so much said in just a few words.  I have heard people say they don't want to know about the bad things going on in the world.  I don't think that you need to be inundated with our 24 hour news cycle, then it all seems too big and that we can't help at all.  Christians are not called to sit on the sidelines with our backs to the world.  We have a mission to help others.  Now you don't have to help every cause that comes your way, but should we do nothing and be content in our own little world.  No, I believe we all can help.  Just pick a cause that is close to your heart and do what you can.

Not everyone can go on a mission trip to the other side of the world or can give thousands of dollars every year.  If everyone who could help did so then many would get food, medicine, shelter, education, etc.  I believe every type of charity would be covered if we all followed God like we are suppose to.  There may be someone waiting for you to help, I know that God has been waiting a long time for you to take a step out of you comfort zone.  My heart goes to charities that help adults with special needs like my brother Bryan who died last year and since I'm an Army veteran I like to support charities that help my brothers and sisters who have been wounded in combat.  If you can't think of anything then give it time, something will be brought to you attention.  There are so many to choose from, but God has one specifically for you.

Just remember even one small action can have a ripple effect that you will never know about.  Which can cause a chain reaction from helping that one person to helping a village, city, country or nation.  All because you stepped out in faith. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Jonah 4:6

v. 6 "Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine."

Many of us rely on the comfort of our surroundings, if there is a massive change then our emotions will be on a roller coaster until we adjust to our new situation.  Where ever you go you will hear people complain that it's too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry, too desolate or too crowded, too boring or too busy.  I know that these are general topics that people talk about, but when we become affected by them and it rules us then it goes beyond polite conversation.  I am guilty of being an emotional roller coaster rider.  Feelings have too much of an influence on how I behave.  This is one of the many things I need to work on.  In one moment we can be so happy and it only takes a phone call to devastate our hearts.  Let's all try to stay on level ground even when all round us there are steep mountains and treacherous craters.

"The Hebrew noun translated "calamity" in 4:2 is the same word translated "discomfort" in 4:6."  Priscilla Shirer  God might have allowed Jonah to experience some of the distress that He withheld from Nineveh.  Jonah is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible.  At first he ran away then when he did obey, he was just going through the motions.  Think of the miracle of being swallowed by a fish for a few days then being spit up on land.  This man was a man of God and he was a rule follower so when God asked him something that was outside his rule book he resisted even though he knew he should follow what God had commanded him to do.

We should be comfortable in God, not what is going on all around us.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Jonah 4:5

v. 5 "Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city.  There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city."

I can picture this man, stomping out of the city and muttering to himself how he had been wronged by this mission from God.  Thinking that God didn't understand why he was so angry.  Jonah went to the east of the city.  In many situations in the Bible it wasn't such a good idea to go to the east.  Cain went to live east of Eden after killing his brother and the people moved east to build the Tower of Babel.  When the Bible was written it would have been in Hebrew, which reads right to left (east to west).  The sun rises from the east and sets in the west so maybe that is how they saw time.  So going to the east could represent going to the past or away from your present situation.  For us this could mean that when we continue to dwell in the past, in our sinful nature, we give up everything God wants to give us.  When we are facing the past what is in the rear view mirror will never show the future, but when we face ahead everything in the rear view mirror will start to get smaller and smaller until we can't see our old nature any more.

Instead of going home since his mission was over, Jonah decided to stake out a spot in the distance and wait.  Jonah was still in defiance of God here.  Do you think he was waiting to tell God, I told you so?  Maybe, he seemed determined to see these people destroyed while he watched with eagerness.  I know what it is to be Jonah.  I have been stubborn against things that God has asked me to do or I wanted to do them in my timing, not His.  When we don't get our way, we often will sit right down and have ourselves a temper tantrum.  Just like a child who will sit down in the middle of a store and cry, we dig our heels in the dirt and refuse to move.

I think Jonah made a shelter while he waited so he could see Nineveh be destroyed.  We often will have no problem pulling up a seat and being comfortable in someone else's discomfort or destruction.  This book shows us that God is gracious to those we think are unworthy and to check our heart's for any unwillingness to fully turn everything over to Him.  It does not matter if we agree with what God is asking us to do, He wants our obedience and to give ourselves over completely to Him.
When we become Christians we say, God I want your will for my life.  We don't have a clue what we are asking Him to do at first.  Do we really mean it?  What happens when our plans get derailed?  What happens when we don't like; what God is asking us to do, what He is asking us to say, where He is asking us to go, what or who He is asking us to give up.  This is where due to the pressure, we will show our faith and put it into practice or we will fall away and say I can't do this.  These moments will define our life now and in the future and direct our path until out last day on earth.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quote - Kindness

"Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind.  Always."

~ author unknown

I saw this quote online and I'm not sure who wrote this, but this is similar to a quote by Plato.  During a typical day we can run into numerous people who are going through things we could never imagine.  Sometimes they will be caught off guard and maybe we are their sounding board for the hurt they are feeling in their life.  Let's be calm and kind the next time someone is rude or angry at the store, school, church, office, etc.  Who knows, we may be the only caring people they meet that day that will not respond with anger.  It is easy to judge others without knowing all the facts.

Pride sneaks up to justify our judgement so we feel better, when another person may be crying out for help.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jonah 4:4

v. 4 "But the Lord replied, 'Have you any right to be angry?"

The word right means: in accordance with what is good or just, in conformity with fact or truth, correct in principle, judgement or action; most convenient, desirable or favorable.  Just because the world would agree with our anger does not make it right in God's kingdom.  Many times we go with our feelings instead of His truth.

God showed compassion to Jonah when asking if he had a right to be angry.  God could have showed great anger towards Jonah, but didn't.  I think the Bible shows us that it is OK to show our emotions to God, even if we are angry with Him, but we need to be careful that we don't stay that way.  It is good to vent, then move on, many get stuck with anger against God and will never move forward.  He asked Jonah like we would ask a child if they had a right to be mad if they didn't get their way.

"Knowing that the holy, completely powerful God could be angry and yet is slow to yield to it should cause us to reconsider the anger we feel when betrayed, belittled, or just ignored.  It should also cause us to question any anger we feel toward God.  Knowing He could and should be angry at us and yet chooses not to be should cause us to rethink our position."  Priscilla Shirer

Have you any right to be angry?  This is one of the most profound questions in the entire Bible.  I know this will strike a nerve with some who read this.  There are things that you may have never turned over to God or refuse to repent for your feelings due to the actions of others.  I can only express that His love covers ALL of our sin, anger and pain.  There are many things that happen in life that are terrible, but that doesn't mean that we should have anger towards God.  Remember that there is a prince in this world who has a goal of separating you from God in pure destruction.  Jesus said in John 12:31 "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out."  A prince has limited power, but the King has no limits to His power.

So instead of having a Godly anger towards the devil we take that anger and direct it towards the only One who loves us most in this world.  This is another deception from the enemy, to direct our hate to God instead of himself.  Those who take a step in the direction of Grace will be healed from all the pain in their hearts.  They will be able to see what the enemy has been trying to do to them for decades and will finally be free from that wicked grip of darkness.  It feels unnatural to let go, but once you do you will see God's love wash over you and that is beyond compare.

Why does God ask a question when He already knows the answer?  He is waiting for us to be accountable, to take responsibility for our actions.  God wants us to bring things to the surface that we are trying to forget or hide.  Problems will never be fixed by burying them, only when we can bring them to the light can we deal with them and be set free of their power.

"God does not compromise His nature to help with our sin.  He doesn't excuse us."  Priscilla Shirer

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quote - Will Rogers

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned to buy things they don't want to impress people they don't like."

~ Will Rogers

I think this could be America's motto.  Trying to impress others with what you can't afford does you no good and can put you in major debt.  Since we are the Jones', if people kept up with us then they would not care what other people think.  They would live within their means and get out of debt.  Trying to impress others is a foolish task.

If people do not like you for who you are, then why would you want to impress them?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Quote - Dr. Seuss

"Today I will behave as if this is the only day I will be remembered for."

~ Dr. Seuss

Such a wonderful quote, but I often fall short of this kind of day.  I strive to do better, but often find my days do not even come close to what I would want to be remembered for.  Maybe the key is to think how you would want people to remember you, then start doing things in your life that follow that line of thinking.  Looking back on life in regret is a sad way to live.  Maybe we should just start to think differently, we have the ability to change even when those around us think it's not possible.  With God anything is possible.

It is amazing how many things we have learned from reading Dr. Seuss books as children.  Although when we grow up those lessons are often forgotten.  When we are adults reading these books to kids we should remember the valuable lessons that are hiding in plain sight and start to live life as if we never forgot them in the first place.  I think we would all be happier adults if we keep childlike faith.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jonah 4:1-3

v. 1-3 "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.  He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?  That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish.  I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.  Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'"

God does not need our approval to do His will, He is perfectly capable of handling a situation without our opinion on the matter.

Jonah was acting like a child who didn't get what he wanted, but this example is not for our amusement.  The Bible is showing that we often follow the desires of our heart, instead of following God's will for our lives.  We may think that we would never do what Jonah did, but I think may of us have been in his shoes.  When someone betrays us and later receives God's mercy are we happy for them?  Do we wish they would get what they deserve?  Or think they are not as Christian as us?  We don't deserve His grace either, yet he gives it freely to us.  This is why this book is so powerful and often overlooked.  We should never wish ill will towards others because then we are just like Jonah.  God is not a genie or a puppet on strings.  We can not put Him in a box or conform Him to what we want Him to be, He is I AM.

Are you having a tantrum now because:
  • you didn't get what you think you deserve
  • or someone else got what you think they didn't deserve 
Both of these show our heart attitude.  Pride rules tantrums and only with humility will pride diminish.

Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh because he did not think these people deserved God's compassion and he was determined that he would have no part in the people having any favor with God.  Jonah knowing that God would show compassion on those that turn to Him must have inflicted Jonah with such anguish that the people would receive the same mercy that the people of Israel receive when they return to God.  When we hate others there is often a sense of pride involved, but wanting others to suffer and not receive the grace of God when they repent is selfish, prideful, cruel and arrogant.  I know this is a strong statement, but it's true.

Jonah was so despondent that he was ready to die.  God choose Jonah for a reason, he was able to follow God's command, eventually, but his heart was never in it.  This is such a profound moment in the Bible.  Jonah had finished the mission, yet he never fully gave all of himself over to God.  Jonah was thankful that God saved him from the fish, yet he could not be thankful that God could save Nineveh.  I think many of us walk through life with half-hearted faith.  Not only do we not have our hearts fully in it, but this means we won't experience the full blessings of God.  For many years this is what I did, but as I learn more I hope that I am growing more like Jesus every year.  Genesis 22:18 says "and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."  The Jewish nation was to be a light for the rest of the world, yet they continued to turn away from God.  They did not want Gentiles to know God and many Christians are like this today unfortunately.

We may go to church, but neglect spending time with God at home on a daily basis.  We pick and choose the things we want out of the bible and ignore the things that are too hard or the things we don't agree with.  Following God is a difficult journey.  He asks things of us that will be hard to do: forgiveness to those who hurt us, don't give in to anger, don't gossip, tithe money back to God (many will never do this), to believe in something you can't see, to pray for things that may never happen while here on earth and to know that you will be attacked for the rest of your life by an enemy that wants nothing more than to destroy you.  Does this sound fun?  Yet when you experience God's love, you will gladly walk through this world battling every day because you know there is nothing better than to have God by your side.

When we wish other's to receive God's wrath we are only pushing ourselves closer to the flames.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Quote - Steve Martin

"Be so good that they can't ignore you."

~ Steve Martin

This quote works in any area of life.  This is an example of what we should aspire to be, but not in a prideful way.  Sometimes you meet someone and they just seem to be different from other people, there is something about them that glows.  We are suppose to be the light on a hill in the darkness.  When we are following God and living His word then people notice, it will draw people to us because they want to know what we are doing.  We can be mighty ambassadors for God or we can blend in with this world.  This choice is up to you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jonah 3:9-10

v. 9-10 "'Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.'  When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."

I LOVE THIS!  People who the world considers "especially wicked" turning to God with hope and faith and because of this they were saved from being destroyed.  I can imagine during this time period that many thought there was no hope for the people of Assyria, yet they came to know God.
 
The king's hope (I love looking up the meaning of words to gain knowledge of what I'm studying):

Who - of what character, origin, position, importance
knows - to perceive fact or truth, to establish or fix in memory, be acquainted with by sight or experience
yet - at the present time or particular time, in the time remaining
relent - soften in feeling, compassionate, forgiving
compassion - deep sympathy, feeling to alleviate suffering
turn - move on an axis, reverse position, to bring lower layers to the surface (as in plowing)

In 1956 five missionaries were killed by some men in a jungle tribe in Ecuador.  Later these same men who had killed the missionaries became Christians.  When they heard about what happened in Columbine, CO in the United States, where two teens killed many people at their school their response was "We use to be savages like that too before we came to know Jesus."  We think people can't change, but God does not hold to our logic nor is He bound by our rules.

"You've not outrun the grasp of His grace or overstepped the boundaries of His mercy."  Priscilla Shirer

The king said that maybe God would have compassion on them, such amazing insight for someone who didn't even know God, yet could still hope for a loving God to show compassion on his people.  When you give control over to God, He can do mighty things in your life.  Jonah's message was scary, but there was also an element of hope mixed in.  God was giving the people forty days to repent, plenty of time for the word to spread to the entire city and the outlying villages.  For many of us God has gone past the forty day mark, waiting for us to make a move back to Him.

"The people of Israel had heard many messages from the prophets, but they had refused to repent.  The people of Nineveh only needed to hear God's message once.  Jesus said that at the judgement, the men of Nineveh will stand up to condemn the Israelites for their failure to repent (Matthew 12:39-41).  It is not our hearing God's word that pleases him, but our responding obediently to it."  NIV notes

Some believe that God changed His mind as if He were wrong.  Jeremiah 18:7-8 says "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned."  He has already written the end so how could He not know what happens up to that time?  He knows when we will turn from Him, when we will come back and those who will never come to Him at all.  Some think that God was repenting, but He does not sin so this would not apply to what He did.  A word used for God in this case is nacham which means 'to be moved to pity'.  So to say that God was mistaken does not make sense to me.  God knows the outcome of every event that unfolds before us.  God is never caught off guard for even one moment.  The Bible is our instruction manual for our lives so I think this shows His vast compassion for those the world thinks of as lost forever.

God didn't change, it was the people in Nineveh who changed.  In Hebrew a word frequently used for repentance is shub which means 'to turn' from sin to God.  It is God's nature to extend love and compassion to us, although we often don't accept it.  The book of Jonah is read by Jewish Rabbi's every year during Yom Kippur to show no one is beyond God's reach and to show His unending mercy for us so that even after we mess up He is willing to forgive us.

Christians should read this book at least once a year to check our hearts for any Jonah qualities that need to be uprooted and restored back to being obedient to God.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jonah 3:5-8

v. 5-8 "The Ninevites believed God.  They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.  When the news 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.  Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh:

'By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink.  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth.  Let everyone call urgently on God.  Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.
'"  

Jonah was going about the city proclaiming the coming destruction if they did not turn from their ways and immediately the people believed in a God they did not know.  This must have been some sight for Jonah, while he was walking by their must have been such commotion from the people who heard these words, the people stopped what they were doing and changed into sackcloth.  The king and all of the people put on sackcloth and did not eat or drink anything.  Sackcloth was probably very uncomfortable to wear, sin should not be a comfortable fit.  One of the reasons to wear sackcloth was to show repentance for sin, either personally or nationally.  Even the animals did not eat or drink, this was showing that every being was submitting to God.  Jonah was walking around this city, he would have had the attention of everyone due to the words he spoke and the possible harsh state of his body.

This message was for all the people, not just a select few.  All of the people were now equal in their repentance, the king did not say that only the greatest should put on sackcloth.  This king could have kicked Jonah out of the city, but he enforced Jonah's words.  This man also saw the truth and was trying to ensure that his people would all be saved.  A leader should care about the welfare of their people and do the right thing, unfortunately we have many in power around the world now that are not God loving God fearing leaders.  I think that many countries would benefit by having female leaders, there may be less wars and I think that the welfare of the needy would be on the heart of any woman who ran a country.  I pray daily for God to take those out of power who do not know Him and are cruel to their people.  A true leader should serve in the best interest of their country, not to see how they can inflict their power on the weak.

"Forgiveness of past sin qualifies us for present service."  Priscilla Shirer

Many commentators believe this was the greatest revival in history.  Looking back to see what happened during this time period will help us understand why these people didn't hesitate.  There were two plagues in 765 and 759 B.C. even though they were protected by the city walls this would have been devastating probably killing thousands of people and on June 15, 763 B.C. there was a total eclipse of the sun.  The plagues showed that there were things that they could not control, their well defended city was brought to it's knees.  The eclipse must have been scary to the people who probably didn't know what it was at the time.  This takes nothing away from God when Jonah preached to the people.  I believe God uses situations to soften the hearts of the people so that when He sends someone on a mission, the people receiving the words are willing to accept Him.  He has done this from the beginning and He still does it today.

When we are up against a task that appears too grand for us to undertake, we must remember:
  • We are right.  It most likely is too big for us to handle.
  • If God is calling us to it, He will equip us for it.
  • God has been at work in the situation long before we are scheduled to arrive, and He is preparing the way for our obedience to make a difference.     Pricilla Shirer
God's word is for everyone, anytime, no matter what we have done or how long our sin has gone on.  

I don't think that we need to put on sackcloth and ashes on our forehead, but we can do this in spirit.  We can mourn those lost by death, those who choose to turn from God, cruel leaders that continue to still be in power wielding their weapons of hate.  Many things people did in the Bible we can do in spirit today to show God obedience.  

Many times God may give us a task that seems small, insignificant or something we don't want to do.  What we don't see is the ripple effect from our obedience, it may spread through one person to their family, friends and possibly their children and grandchildren.  It's an interesting sight to see when we help other people in that process God can help and heal us.  

We can't truly repent if we intend to keep our sin.  Repentance is accepting that we need God and asking for Him to forgive us.  His offer is hard to comprehend, He gives us love and mercy if we turn from sin.  This deal is unlike any other and if you take it you will reap rewards that will astonish you for decades to come.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quote - Today

"This is the beginning of a new day.  You have been given this day to use as you will.  You can waste it or use it for good.  What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.  When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever.  In it's place is something that you have left behind.  Let it be something good."

I saw this sign online.  I think this is one of the best daily reminders we could have to think about how precious each and every day is.  Living our lives and not paying attention over time will result in looking back with regret that we did not live our lives according to what God wants for us.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jonah 3:4

v. 4 "On the first day, Jonah started into the city.  He proclaimed: 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.'"

I had never thought of Jonah's condition after his release from his watery cell.  Priscilla Shirer spoke about a man in 1926 who had been swallowed whole by a shark.  This man was recovered after two days and of course he was dead, but the description was vivid.  All his hair was gone, he had patches of yellow and brown all over his body, there was a terrible stench from the body starting to break down.  Just imagine Jonah walking into the city, he would have stood out among the inhabitants.  He preached a warning to the people and I think his physically appearance must have had a great impact on the them.  Now when you think of Jonah try to think of this man who is physically scarred, someone who is forever changed on the outside.  Disobedience comes with a price.  His physical appearance may have been changed for the rest of his life, a continual reminder of his defiance.  If we see someone and assume they are filthy and hopeless just remember Jonah.  This man of God went through a massive change so those we may look down upon may have been in Jonah's shoes and have a story to tell.

"God's plans for us are so overwhelmingly beyond anything that we could ever imagine that our feelings or ability to reason His directives cannot be the determining factor for choosing obedience.  Making sense of what God has asked or feeling compelled to cooperate cannot be the prerequisite for choosing obedience.  His Word must be enough."  Priscilla Shirer

Jonah is finally there in the city of Nineveh, ready to preach.  Priscilla Shirer said that God gave Jonah only five words (in Hebrew) and nothing else to say to the people.  We get glued to the words when we hear a perfectly crafted speech.  Jonah did not have an elaborate lengthy speech to move the hearts of the people, these words had power in them because they came from God.  He had five words that changed their lives.  Sometimes simple is better.

The inner wall of Nineveh was about 8 miles to walk, a large city for that time period.  Jonah walked along the streets of the city proclaiming the coming destruction if they did not repent.  God did not outright destroy these people, He gave them a time frame to change their ways.  He could have decimated them, but then there would have been no reason for God to send Jonah.  God is a caring Father, yet even children must be disciplined if they do not obey.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Jonah 3:3

v. 3 "Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was a very important city-a visit required three days."

When Jonah was in the fish he said, "What I have vowed I will make good."  The word vow implies a gift of sacrifice.  He wanted to go back to Jerusalem to make a thanksgiving offering, but God told him to go to Nineveh.  This shows that our obedience is more important than the sacrifices that we make.  This probably didn't make sense to Jonah, they were so steeped in the ritual of making sacrifices to God that obedience didn't seem to be the focus in their lives.

Many in Jonah's position at this moment would still choose to ignore God.  After all Jonah had gone through he still did not want to go, but he obeyed God's call.  Sometimes a wake up call does not rouse us to movement or we freeze in place and can't make the first step in obedience.  The enemy is extremely happy for us to stand still in a spiritual coma.  If you are in a moment of rebellion against God, I pray that you will study this important book of the Bible.  Learn from Jonah, so you don't have to be swallowed up by the world into darkness.

Are you amazed that God would choose to use Jonah even after he ran away and his heart still was not in this task he was given, I know I am.  There is no limit on the number of times we are given another chance, although I believe God would like that number to be as small as possible.   

"Oftentimes the greatest hindrance of a new move of God in your life is the last move of God."  Priscilla Shirer

God has His own timing which does not go by our calendar.  Sometimes we are called to an area then when He asks us to move on we don't want to go.  He is constantly stretching out our borders so we can have a greater affect on those around us.  Jonah was a reluctant missionary, he was called to go to a foreign land to speak with those that did not know God.  Sharing God with others should be an underlining mission as a part of our life, not just something we do to get it off of our to do list.

The four steps to reconciliation:
  • admit our sins (that means ALL of them)
  • accept responsibility for your actions, no matter what others do to you
  • ask for forgiveness
  • accept the tasks you are given by God, be obedient no matter what you feel like
In doing this you will be ready for what the world has to throw at you because you are not alone, you have a Father who loves you dearly, you have brothers and sisters around the world who are often in your same situation.  We are a collection of mismatched pieces, when we let God move us, then we can all fit together to make a beautiful picture.  

"When God speaks or allows you to see his hand, giving you the opportunity to participate in His purposes, you don't have an array of options to choose from on how you will respond.  It's clear-cut, plain and simple...black and white.  You can either choose to obey or disobey.  No neutral ground."  Priscilla Shirer

This time after being humbled, Jonah obeyed God's command.  This would be funny if he wasn't outright defiant to God.  Just thinking of my kids when I ask them to do something, they resist at first, then after a consequence they have found that they can do what I ask of them, stomping and whining the entire time.  They still have to do what is right, even though they don't want to.  They will learn that if they do it from the start then there will be no consequence.  Life is so much easier this way.  When God puts us in a "time out" we should think about what we did wrong, how it affected those around us and what we could have done differently.  So Jonah appears to be like a child.  Going off of what he wants to do instead of what the Father has asked him to do.  He pulled off a massive fit and his lesson was a massive fish.  I think this is a good example for parents to make the punishment fit the crime.  We are so hard headed that we often pick and choose what we want to do, instead of following the task that has been appointed to us.

Nineveh was 500 miles northeast of Joppa.  If Jonah sold his possessions to pay for his passage to Tarshish then maybe he was without any money for his journey to Nineveh.  I don't know if this is the case, but I'm thinking that Jonah didn't take anything with him when he was thrown overboard.  He may have had to rely on God and the kindness of strangers to make it to Nineveh.  It must have been a difficult trip, looking on the map it shows mountains and desert.  He might have stuck to the coast with it's mountains or went across a massive desert, either way it was not an easy journey.  God will ask things of us that will be difficult, but He will give us the grace to complete the task.

Nineveh was a city of around 600,000 people, an extremely large city for this time period.  Outside the city were towns that were influenced by Nineveh.  It was powerful, wealthy and a very important city.  This city was full of brutality and violence and outsiders avoided it.  Jonah was walking straight into this even though he felt like going the opposite direction.

"A way to determine where our allegiance lies is to consider how we respond to a divine intervention."  Priscilla Shirer

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What are you shopping for?

This is for all the exhausted, stressed, angry, frustrated sweet women out there who don't think they are good enough and compare themselves to other moms.   Or am I the only one who has cried at the end of the day covered in Cheerios and baby food?

God has placed you in this exact moment in time with these specific children to raise them to know Him and when you look back you will be amazed at what God has been able to do with you, although it might not seem so in this present moment. 

My mom gave me a copy of this and I thought I would share this with you.  It was from a handout she had received a while back from Old Paths Tract Society, Inc.  When we are too busy during our day to spend some time with God we really start to unravel.  Moms are so busy with car pool lines, another trip to the store, homework, etc.  We need to remember that the items in this grocery store are vital to make us the moms that God has created us to be.  If we fill our carts with the things below we will be a mighty force in God's Kingdom.  Do not let the insignificant things of this world take your time and attention.  I know that I need this daily or I'll loose my temper and anger will abound.  I can guarantee that if our kids went with us to this store that they would surely behave!  Don't worry, men you can also go to this grocery store.

Shop in Heaven's Grocery Store

I was walking down life's highway a long time ago.
One day I saw a sign that read Heaven's Grocery Store.
As I got a little closer, the door came open wide,
And when I came to myself, I was standing inside.
I saw a host of angels; they were standing everywhere.
And one angel said, "My child, shop with care."
Everything a Christian needed was in that grocery store.
And all you couldn't carry you could come back the next day for more.
First, I got some patience, love was in the same row.
Further down was understanding, you need that everywhere you go.
I got a box or two of wisdom, a bag or two of faith.
I just couldn't miss the Holy Ghost for He was all over the place.
I stopped to get some strength and courage to help me run the race.
By then my basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed some grace.
I didn't forget salvation, for salvation that was free.
So, I tried to get enough of that to save you and me.
Then I started to the counter to pay my grocery bill.
For I thought I had everything to do my Master's will.
As I went up the aisle, I saw prayer and just had to put that in.
For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run right into sin.
Peace and joy were plentiful, they were on the last shelf.
Song and praises were hanging near so I just helped myself.
Then, I said, "Now how much do I owe?"
He just smiled and said, "Just take them everywhere you go."
"How much do I really owe?"
He smiled and said, "My child, Jesus paid your bill a long time ago."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Quote - The Trail We Follow

Priscilla Shirer talks about an Indian man that said, "I have come to know the carvings of Jesus, I have come to know His marking, I follow his trail."

Such a beautiful way of expressing our desire to follow Him when everything else around us is against this.  Last summer horseback riding in the Rocky Mountain National Park we passed an open field.  Our guide said that this use to be a road for stagecoaches and you could still see in the tall grass two lines going across the field.  Those two lines were lighter than the rest of the grass, but the grass was all the same height.  There seems to be a permanent mark of the path to follow.  It was amazing to see that long after people stopped using this trail there was still such a defining imprint upon the earth that may never go away.

This trail is like following Jesus.  Once we humbly go to God and ask forgiveness, He gives us the Holy Spirit, to guide us through the rough terrain in this world.  His mark will forever be on the path, all we have to do is follow it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Olympic 2014 - My Favorite Moments

During the 2014 Olympics there have been some amazing stories.  Here are some of my favorites:

Evgeny Plushenko, Russian men's figure skater, won gold in the team event.  He backed out of the individual event due to injury, he has had two spinal surgeries over the last two years.  There is no point to go on if you might be permanently injured as a result of competing.  With the Olympics in his home country and such an intense focus put on winning medals in the figure skating events, he was brave to walk away, despite what others thought of him.

Heidi Kloser, American mogul skier, who was hurt in a practice run before the Olympics started and went to the opening ceremony on crutches.  Yes, Heidi you are an Olympian.

Alex Bilodeau, Canadian Mogul Skier, won his second gold medal.  What is even more special is that he got to share it with his brother, Frederic, who has Cerebral Palsy.  This one hits close to home and reminds me of my brother Bryan.  One of the most memorable moments for me.

Gus Kenworthy, American slopestyle skier, shined a spotlight on the stray dog problem in Sochi.  He is bringing a mom and her pups home to the US, along with a few other US athletes trying to adopt dogs.  I love when someone can use their celebrity status to raise awareness for a good cause.  I know in the US there are millions of cats and dogs in shelters.  This might seem strange to bring dogs from other countries to the US, but this may lead to more people adopting pets here and all over the world.  Many countries in the world do not fix their pets so the population continues to grow until there are strays everywhere.  Hopefully people will start to get their pets sprayed or neutered.

Anton Gafarov, Russian cross-country skier, who continued to ski on one ski after two falls and the Canadian coach, Justin Wadsworth, who came to Anton's rescue and helped him with a new ski.  See the post Victory Beyond the Podium, for more details.

Adelina Sotnikova, Russian figure skater, who was over shadowed by fellow Russian skater, Yulia Lipnitskaya, when she helped Russia win the gold medal for the team event.  Adelina went on to win the gold medal for figure skating in the individual event.  Having the spotlight off of you and being the underdog can really motivate you.

The Jamaican bobsled team, so great to see them again at the Olympics.  They had to wait on their gear and luggage since it arrived late.  Even though they came in last, they did not give up.  Such an inspiring story to see that despite the odds, they pursued their dream.

Donations came in from around the world to help out some of the athletes.  The Jamaican bobsled team got donations and American speedskater, Emily Scott, who was on food stamps due to her monthly paycheck from US Speedskating that was cut by more than half got help as well.  Emily and her dad were able to be at the Olympics due to complete strangers.  It takes courage to reach out and ask for help to make your dream come true.

Viktor Ahn, Russian speedskater, moved to Russia to skate due to problems back home in South Korea.  Viktor won four medals for Russia.  I think South Korea regretted letting him go.

Dario Cologna, Swiss cross-country skier, won a gold metal.  In true sportsmanship fashion, he waited around to congratulate last place finisher, Roberto Carcelen of Peru.  Roberto was competing with a broken rib and came in eleven minutes after everyone else.

Vanessa Vanakorn (Mae), Slalom skier from Thailand, she was happy to have finished the course, despite being in last place.  For some competing and finishing the race is more than enough.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quote - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“We have a choice. We can seek for the bad in others. Or we can make peace and work to extend to others the understanding, fairness, and forgiveness we so desperately desire for ourselves. It is our choice; for whatever we seek, that we will certainly find.”

~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf