Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 140 Consider the Cost and Consequence of Disobedience – Part 5

Jonah 2:10-3:10

2:10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. 1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” 3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. 6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” 10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.

Chapter two ended with a praying prophet and a puking fish. Sometimes God’s redirection involves regurgitation and it isn’t always pretty. We like the results of repentance it’s the process of puking that we find revolting. But we need to remember that sin never smells good, it stinks and its gut wrenching. Sin wants to swallow us whole, to surrounded us with its stench. What is it that is holding you hostage, trapping and tying you down? You don’t have to live stuck in the stomach of sin, you can confess and come clean. After Jonah’s confession we find him free of the fish, and free to follow the Father. So let me ask you, where do you want to be, on the beach or in the belly? It is here that Jonah’s discovers that:

  • God is a giver of grace

“The Lord spoke to Jonah a second time” Sitting in the sand still stinking from his decision to disobey Jonah experienced the God of second chances.  Have you ever longed to make right a major mistake? We have all made mistakes, whether it’s in our finances or family, some right now are dealing with a marriage mess, or parenting problems. It’s in the midst of these mistakes that we wish we could have one more chance for change, an opportunity to begin again. Our failures can leave us feeling that God our Father could never use us again. That we have ruined any chance to be used by Him, that we could never be bless again. But Jonah found that the forgiveness of the Father involved a second chance to serve. Repentance brought both redirection and a re-commissioning. But notice that it is only after Jonah repents that God commissions him to call others to repentance. We have a Savior who is willing to stoop to use those who have rejected his calling and turned a deaf ear to His word. Redeeming the rebellious and seeking disobedient, directionally-challenged sheep is what our Shepherd does. He is the pursuer of the prodigal, the Lord of the ‘Lost and Found.’ If there is one area that we consistently underestimate the Fathers love I think it’s in His loving longing to forgive. Jonah failed when he was first called to go to Nineveh, but his failure wasn’t final. May be you are struggling with failure today; know you are not alone, for Jonah was not the only person in the Bible who “failed” God at some point. After God promised Abraham that he and his wife Sarah would have a son, he disbelieved God and decided to follow his own plan. He disobeyed God and had a child by his wife’s servant. Even though he “failed” he found a Father that did not give up on him and God made Abraham the “father of many nations”.  Jacob not only lied to his earthly father but he stole his brother’s birthright and blessing. He experienced family failure, but after God had wrestled him into obedience he received a new name, Israel. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then he had her husband murdered to hide his failing, but after he finds God’s forgiveness we find God describing David as a man after God’s own heart. Peter proudly proclaimed that he would never deny Jesus but he did, three times in public. Peter failed Jesus but after he is forgiven he goes on to preach with power on the day of Pentecost, where many lives are changed for Christ. Sometimes we feel like our failure is forever, that it’s fatal and its final, that we can never be forgiven, but we have a Father that longs to forgive. May be today you find yourself stuck in sin, desperate for a second chance. Are you ready to exchange your life in the belly of sin for the shore of second chances? Then right where you are surrender to God and seek His face of forgiveness, repent and reject your life of sin. 

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 139 Consider the Cost and Consequence of Disobedience – Part 4

Jonah 1:17-2:10

17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. 2 He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! 3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 4 Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. 6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God,     snatched me from the jaws of death! 7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. 9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.    For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” 10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

After running from God and refusing to repent we see the pouting prophet pitched into the sea and swallowed by a fish. It took more than just having his ship swamped by a storm for this hard-hearted prophet to surrender, God had to send a fish to swallow him. It is here in the belly of the fish that Jonah stops pouting and starts praying. Sometimes the Master has to take extreme measures to bring us to our senses, a truth that prosperity preachers tend to avoid teaching. The reality is that God is often in the midst of our circumstances of misery, moving to bring us to repentance. You may not like to hear that and you may even want to disagree, but go back to chapter 1 and read verse 4: “But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.” Then verse 17: “Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.” Who was it that caused the storm? Who was it that sent the fish to swallow Jonah? Here’s the Biblical truth, sometimes those difficult and dark circumstances are God ordained to get you back on track. Now look at chapter 2 verse 3: “You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.” notice the words “You” & “Your”. Jonah knows that it wasn’t chance, or blind fate that caused his dilemma. He doesn’t blame the sailors for they were merely God’s instruments, His means of discipline and restoration. The Master is ok with His disobedient kids experiencing some misery because He knows just how miserable the path of rebellion really is in the end. A father who loves his kids doesn’t turn his back when they are disobedient but disciplines them. God’s heavy hand of discipline is actually evidence of His love for us. But how do you respond to His correction, do you whine or submit to His way? This story of suffering actually shows us the ultimate value that God places on us being in a right relationship with Him. God brings judgment upon Jonah not to pay him back but to bring him back. God knew exactly what it would take for Jonah to stop running and rejecting His rule and reign over his life. I also want you to see that when God brings a trial into our lives, He gives us time to contemplate the lessons He is teaching. Jonah had 3 days in the bowels of the fish to figure things out. God’s means of taking us out are actually not mean, they are an act of mercy, because you will never reflect on where you really are when you are still on the run. Today you may feel swallowed up by your circumstances, but you have the assurance that what God brings into your life is more than just a lesson; it’s for your good and His glory. It’s only when you’ve run and run and you finally hit rock bottom and are forced to face the consequences of your running that you realize that you don’t have any leverage with God. You don’t have any leverage when things are going good or bad, but it’s only in those times when things are going bad that we fully realize this truth. Here in lies the Biblical truth that for many Christians tastes like a bitter pill, God doesn’t owe any of us His blessings.  As Jonah is in the fish suffering the consequences of his running he realizes that he can’t blame anyone. God had made it perfectly clear what He had called Jonah to do and Jonah chose to rebel. It is here that we finally see Jonah repent and pray and instead of guilt God shows him grace. Verse 2 says, “God answered” that’s grace, Jonah deserved to be digested, he had rebelled against a righteous and mighty God. But Jonah finds a God of grace, willing to forgive. Go ahead call on God and confess, He is there waiting for you to turn to Him.  The gift of grace is that God hears the prayer of those who have run, but then repent. Even when we spiritually sink as deep as Jonah did in verse 6: “I sank down to the very roots of the mountains” God will not abandon us. Jonah was thrown out of a ship, but not out of the sight and grace of God. Jonah’s deliverance was directed by the Hand of God, the One who rules His creation. The fierce wind, surging sea and fearsome fish are there to faithfully serve the Father. God was willing to chase and redirect creation which caused Jonah to repent and return to a right relationship with Him. One of the evidences of true repentance is that our pouting turns to praise. Not only does Jonah sing songs of praise but he vows to sacrifice and serve God. It is interesting to note that both chapters one and two end with sacrifice and vows. Jonah the prophet is now at the same place that the Gentile sailors are, he may be out of the boat but he is on board with serving God. God’s children should be known as people of praise, and despite the misery we may be in we can magnify the Lord. Psalm 34:3 says: “Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.” But often instead of magnifying the Master we tend to magnify our problems. Now when you magnify something you don’t actually change the size of whatever it is you magnify, you actually change your perception of it. So when people magnify their problems the result is that God looks small in comparison. But when you magnify the Lord, your perception of Him changes, you gain a proper perspective, and you start to see His power over the problems. As Jonah concludes his prayer he states that “Salvation comes from the Lord” this is the theme of the entire Bible, salvation is a gift, and God isn’t obligated to limit it to only those that we think deserve it. Jonah’s sour attitude in chapter one centered on his not wanting to be a part of God saving the Ninevites so he refused God’s call and ran, until he ran into the saving arms of the Almighty. God reaches out to us because we can’t reach Him. The grace of God is that He accepts and entitles the undeserving. God loves us not because of who we are and what we have done, but because of who He is and what He had done. The most terrifying aspect of Jonah’s plight is when he realizes that God could have given him what he wanted, to be free from God. Jonah wanted to run from God but it’s the results of running that bring Jonah to repentance. Jonah started out being unwilling to say “Thy will be done” but in the middle of the Mediterranean he realized the awful significance of hearing the Almighty say “All right then, your will be done.” When we try to run from His righteousness, God may grant our wish for a while, but what we think we want will be our ruin. The belly of a fish isn’t what I would call a pleasant place to live, but it can be a good place to learn. You may not like where your life is right now but the lessons you learn will change your life.