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

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.