Friday, November 22, 2013

Jonah 1:7-12

v. 7-12 "Then the sailors said to each other, 'Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.'  They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  So they asked him, 'Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?  What do you do?  Where do you come from?  What is your country?  From what people are you?'  He answered 'I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.'  This terrified them and they asked, 'What have you done?'  (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)  The sea was getting rougher and rougher.  So they asked him, 'What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?  Pick me up and throw me into the sea,' he replied, 'and it will become calm.  I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.'"

Casting lots was used to settle disagreements in the ancient world.  Proverbs 18:18 says "Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart."  The men wanted to know why this stranger had brought calamity upon this ship.  They wanted all the details so they could figure out what happened.  There was only one detail that mattered, Jonah disobeyed God.  This one thing was the reason for this fierce storm that surrounded them.  They knew Jonah was running away since he told them already.  They asked what he had done and his response was that he was Hebrew and worshiped God.  There was no admitting his part in this giant mess just yet.  

If someone asked you what should they do to calm down a violent storm at sea I doubt the phrase "throw me overboard" would come out of our mouths.  Jonah knew that his decisions had put this group of men into danger.  He had no wish to see them die on his behalf.   Only after the lot was case and it fell on him did he admit that it was his fault that this storm had come upon them.  Sometimes we are to confess out loud in front of others before it really sinks into our core.  How can we seek God's love and run away from Him at the same time?  We either have to come before Him fully or we will miss out on numerous blessing during our lifetime.  Jonah knew that he could not run from God.  For us to finally obey we must stop going down the path we were headed, pause to accept His will and be able to think clearly.  Then we can turn off the wide road of destruction and onto the narrow path.  If we want God's love and power in our life we must follow the tasks He lays out before us.  How can we say that we believe in God if we don't choose to follow Him completely?

How interesting that Jonah would choose to give up his live for this group of men who were not Jewish, yet his refused to possibly give up his life for the people in Nineveh who were also not Jewish.  We should not dare to put ourselves in God's place of judgment or we will be the one's judged harshly.  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. "Your life involves you but is not ultimately about you.  Knowing this allows you to be more willing to relinquish control over your life and yield to the divine intervention."  Priscilla Shirer

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jonah 1:4-6

v. 4-6 "Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.  And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.  But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.  The captain went to him and said, 'How can you sleep?  Get up and call on your god!  Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.'"

I am picturing a calm sea, nothing at the time is out of the ordinary.  The men go about their business on this ship unaware of what is to come.  Then the wind set it's sights on the sea, the waves must have gotten bigger by the minute.  Once strong men will wither to their knees to seek a God who can help them out of misery.  It only takes seconds for life to change forever and then we find we are on a new course.

After Jonah ran, verse four says "Then God", He gives us chances, He is patient and will wait for us. Although, if we choose badly then He can instantly bring on any number of storms into our lives.  We are much better off if we choose to follow God in the first place, rather than wait and be hit with consequences.  If you are wondering why I am only writing about a few verses each time it's because there are so many interesting things in this small book that I don't want to overlook the valuable lessons here.  I think after the Gospels (Jesus' time on earth) & Revelation's (what is to come) Jonah is one of the most important books in the entire bible.

God has power over the weather.  He is able to get our attention with any means necessary, even when we don't want the interruption.  The men on this ship were not Jewish so they cried out to their gods.  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.  Many still follow such gods, that brings great sadness to my soul.  The God of Israel can hear, see, feel and has power that we can never truly understand on this side of the Kingdom.  Many who do not know God for various reason often use Him as the last resort.  He should be the first one we think of in good or bad times.  The men threw the cargo overboard to lighten the load.  Many times we do things that make sense like making the load lighter, but that may not change the storm that is all around us.  The wrong acts are completely inefficient when our hearts are not in the right place. 

After being disobedient to God, Jonah went to rest and fell into a deep sleep.  I am in awe how this man found peace in his outright defiance to God and was able to sleep.  I remember a time when I was defiant against what God was trying to do, yet I had no peace at all, I only thought that things of the earth brought me peace.  Our justifications for sin does not justify sin, it's our minds way of reasoning the unreasonable.  This mirrors when Jesus fell asleep in the boat with the disciples, yet these men were very different.  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.

Jonah's decision to run from God put the lives of an entire crew in jeopardy.  Our selfishness does not care if we pull down others with us.  Our sin will hurt those around us if we do not comply with God's will.  The captain of the ship told Jonah that maybe his God will take notice and save them.  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.

"We don't mind following Christ as long as His path eventually converges onto the one we already had chosen.  Interruptions have a way of revealing whether we really mean it when we say, 'Lord, not my will but Yours be done.'  Make sure your life writes a story worth reading.  Correctly viewing and appreciating God's awesomeness and His love compel you to realize the distinct privilege of being used by Him.  Jonah had done what we often do-take ownership of that which we've only been asked to manage."  Priscilla Shirer

Jonah was a man who followed God for a living until the task seemed too great that he could not bear it. Can you imagine if God asked us to do something so unbelievable and instead of fighting Him or making excuses we followed Him.  The world we live in would be vastly different from the current one we are in.

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Heros - Jake Olson

At a high school on a Friday night everything seems to be pointing to a typical football game.  But at one school there is a young man named Jake Olson, he is long snapper.  For those who don't know, the long snapper's job is to snap the ball as far back as needed depending on either a punt, field goal or extra point to the punter or holder.  This does not sound interesting until you hear that Jake is blind.  Due to cancer, he can't see at all.  His teammates help him onto the field, help him get lined up, the punter claps so he knows the distance he needs to throw the ball and the left guard taps his leg when it's time.  He did not let blindness stop him from doing something he loves.  His team helps him and protects him, because when you are on a team that is what you are suppose to do.  Christians are on the biggest team of all and we are suppose to act like it, yet many of us feel alone and left out.  We are family, to support and care for each other.  When you are on a team you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.  We have an enemy who's goal is to try to divide us from God and each other.  We are stronger than we think and when we are surrounded by our team we can thrive and win any game that is before us.

For a 16 year old he seems to be wise way beyond his years, here are some quotes from this young man:

"I've learned that if you want to win forever always compete, your either competing or your not.  I've chosen to always compete."

"When I learned I was going to loose my sight, I decided it wasn't going to stop me in life.  Brokenness does not exist in the body.  It exists in the mind, heart and spirit.  My mind, heart and spirit remain whole."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Song - Wide River to Cross

The sound hits me first then I listen intently.  When the music, voice & lyrics are in perfect unison then I have heard a profound song.  I don't listen to bluegrass that often, but I do like this type of music.  My favorite lines are "But I'm just a refugee, won't you say a prayer for me? & 'Cause sometimes even the strongest soldier falls."  I love most types of music, but mostly I listen to Christian.  I like uplifting music, although there are many songs out there that are just bad for your soul and have no value in the Kingdom.  This song is a beautiful picture of the struggles we go through in life and yet we shouldn't veer off course.  The end game is far to valuable for us to steer away from our destiny. 

Wide River to Cross by Balsam Range

There's a sorrow in the wind
Blowing down the road I've been

I can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun

But I can not look back now
I've come too far to turn around

And there's still a race ahead that I must run

I'm only halfway home, I've gotta journey on
To where I'll find the things I have lost
I've come a long long road still I've got miles to go
I've got a wide wide river to cross

I have stumbled, I have strayed
You can trace the tracks I made
All across the memories my heart recalls
But I'm just a refugee, won't you say a prayer for me?
'Cause sometimes even the strongest soldier falls

I'm only halfway home, I've gotta journey on
To where I'll find the things I have lost
I've come a long long road still I've got miles to go
I've got a wide wide river to cross

I've come a long long road still I've got miles to go
I've got a wide wide river to cross

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Jonah 1:3

v. 3 "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.  He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord."

"Jonah was the only prophet who received instructions from God and ran from what God told him to do."  Priscilla Shirer

God gave Jonah a mission and the very next thing that happened was that Jonah ran away.  He went down to Joppa (the opposite direction of Nineveh) and got on a ship that was heading to Tarshish.  Many scholars are not sure where Tarshish is, although they think is was around Spain and it is also referenced to a long journey instead of a specific city.  Jonah was heading as far away as he could get.  Why would a man of God run knowing that God can go anywhere?  I believe he was running away from God's presence in the temple in Jerusalem.

Where do you think is the worst place on earth?  Then think how you would feel if God asked you to go there to preach to the people that they were going to be destroyed.  Maybe then we would be as disobedient as Jonah was and we would run away at the very thought of such a dangerous mission.  This book shows us a God of mercy and grace, we don't earn this, but are often given it anyway.

Nineveh was thought by some scholars to have at some point attacked Israel so Jonah might have seen family & friends die at the hands of the very people he was suppose to go and preach to.  So his wanting to flee from this mission starts to make sense to us.  Many of use have a Nineveh in our lives, whether it is family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, a situation, etc. 2 Kings 14:25 "[King Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was in Gath-hepher."  The territories that were taken by Assyria had been restored and life was pretty good in Israel at the time.  "Israel's wealth exploded because it controlled important trade routes through Palestine that connected the ancient world." Priscilla Shirer

"During the 8th century, Assyria was experiencing a time of national weakness and Jonah would have wanted to have seen their decline continue.  Jonah placed no value on Nineveh or on its inhabitants."
Priscilla Shirer

Jonah was not some especially wicked sinner, he was a prophet of God.  That meant that when he heard a word from God he would share it with the people.  This man knew God and still ran away.  Don't think that we are excluded from his company for we are very much Jonah at different moments in our life.  You many ask, how can someone who hears directly from God disobey?  It happens every day in this world, God loving God fearing people turn away from the thing God asks them to do based on their fears, feelings and priorities.

"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

I have run away from God many times so I am in a familiar place in this story.  I haven't had anything as drastic as Jonah, but even in the little things we are being disobedient and that is just as important.  We get interrupted through out the day, but a Godly intervention is different from the distractions of this world.  He has a purpose for every intervention.  Will we yield to Him or keep on the path we have created for our lives?

If you trained as a child to become a dancer and you ended up having an accident that prevented you from ever dancing again then what would you do?  Would you sulk and be angry with God and the world or would you let God show you the life you were suppose to lead from the very beginning?  Our plans for our life are many times uprooted by God so that He can work wonders through us.

Jonah held great importance in his job working for God until God asked him to do the unthinkable.

"Interruptions only become positive when we consider the person or the circumstance interrupting to be more significant than that which currently occupies our attention."  Priscilla Shirer

Does God need us to complete His mission?  No, He is fully capable of doing anything He chooses.  In that moment God is calling you to a specific task that no one else is asked to do.  Although, if we say no, He can find another to do what He is asking and we would miss out on the blessing.  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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

Can you imagine if the only present your entire family got for Christmas was the contents of a small shoe box sent from someone you didn't even know.  In America, Christmas has gotten away from the true meaning of the holiday.  It's all about how many presents can I get, instead of giving to others without any thought of a return gift.  The focus has been taken away from Jesus and given to the advertisers.  Operation Christmas Child is a great program that shows that even one person or family can contribute in a massive way.  My kids enjoy packing boxes for children their age that will go to a child somewhere in the world.  I hope they will learn to appreciate what they have because there are many children who have next to nothing.

I hope that you and your family choose to do this one act of kindness for a child that you probably will never meet, but I know that they will cherish a gift that goes beyond a box.  There are churches that are collecting boxes in many countries.  If your country doesn't have this program then I bet there is someone in need that you may know or could find.  Go to the local orphanage, hospital, etc and ask for their needs.  Is there an elderly neighbor who might need help, a child who would love a soccer ball or a single mother who would love it if you provided a meal for her family.  Even if you can only donate a book, toy or meal that will mean so much to the receiver.  I can assure you that there are such great needs all over the world that seem overwhelming, but there is such a beautiful thing that happens when we step past this "I'm just one person" mentality.  We can do big things if we each choose to take time to share to love of Jesus.

When we give presents to others with no thought of a present in return then we both are given the best present of all, His presence.

To find out more about Operation Christmas Child please click in the link below:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Quote - Anne Frank

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world."

~ Anne Frank

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jonah 1:1-2

Jonah was in Joppa which was northwest of Jerusalem along the sea and Nineveh is north of the word Assyria.

v. 1-2 "The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."

This is not the childhood version that many learn in Sunday School with a happy man living in a whale for three days on a coloring page.  This looks at our heart attitude.  Many probably think this is a fairy tale due to the grand scale of the story, but it is not.  This short book (only 4 chapters) focuses on the prophet rather than on the message he was suppose to give.  I believe our attitude will hinder our growth if we continue to choose our feelings over God's will. 

With overwhelming violence going on all over the world then and now, is there any wonder why we should be judged by God?  Do not think that sin hidden in the dark will blind God, He can see even into the darkest of places.  Even if sin seems to be thriving in our society, sin will always make it's way before God. Before digging into Jonah we have to look at the setting because it is a very important part of the story.

Under King Jeroboam II, during the time of Jonah, life was probably pretty good.  There was great economic prosperity in the land.  He was a well respected leader, a prophet.  He had a good position and was now being asked to leave his home (none of the other prophets were being asked by God to leave) to preach to people he more than likely hated with a passion.  How do you leave a good job, position of respect and comforts of home to preach to your enemy?  God, He is the only answer that could apply.

Assyria was Israel's most dreaded enemy at that time.  Nineveh was a great city in Assyria.  The prophet Nahum spoke of the great wickedness that was going on in Assyria; evil plots against God, cruelty in war and against the helpless, idolatry, prostitution and witchcraft.  This must have been the last thing Jonah would have ever thought God would ask him to do.

God spoke to Jonah, back then God did not speak to everyone.  He spoke to some of the people and those people were to go out and share what God had given them.  Now God speaks to many although few hear His voice among the yelling of this world.  The only other time in the Old Testament that Jonah is mentioned is in 2 Kings 14:25.  This gives us Jonah's stats; his name, religion, family, job & hometown.  These five things we find out about him before he gets a divine interruption.

"What we know about Jonah that will make a difference for eternity only comes after the interruption."   Priscilla Shirer

I am Jonah and so are you.  We have been interrupted in the plans for our lives and we all have disobeyed God at some point, although it may not be so obvious to us at the time or as big as what Jonah went through, but we all fall short of His expectations.  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.

Priscilla calls a life interrupted a divine intervention, what we see as an interruption, God is using for an intervention so that we can live the life we were meant to live.  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.

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?