God, Jonah & A Big Fish Too!

-Trying To Run From God!

If you’re at all like me, you have a hard time passing up the story that is the book of Jonah. I find myself identifying with Jonah in several ways! Not in the most obvious, of course; I’m not a prophet in the Jonah sense of the word! I’ve never received an oracle from the Lord! I’ve never been thrown into the sea by a bunch of sailors; or, swallowed by a big fish! But, I have tried to run from God! I have been reluctant to go to a new place of ministry!

-Leaving The Deep Roots!

Sara & I were almost newlyweds when we moved across the country to do ministry in Denver, CO. We started our family there; and, for the next 20 years we did youth ministry, adult ministry; and, we owned 2 different businesses! But, the Spirit of God began to stir a desire in my heart to sell the business and become a lead Pastor at a local church somewhere. So, we began to pray about where IN DENVER the Lord would have me to pastor; because, I was very reluctant to leave Colorado! After all those years we’d developed some deep roots. I loved Colorado— I still do— but, God had a way of preparing us to go where He was leading! Once He depleted our savings, God broke my will; and, moved us here, to Sioux City, IA.

-Feeling Too Comfortable!

So, in a small way, I get Jonah’s response, in v.3, of the opening chapter:  “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me.’ However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the Lord’s presence”.  In Jonah’s mind, there was nothing great about the city of Ninevah for many reasons! He was comfortable where he was; and, clearly, he wasn’t on the same page with God on this one! God would have some work to do in Jonah to change him. We need the message of Jonah; because, if we’re all being honest, we all look a lot like Jonah! And, the same kind of “spiritual surgery” that Jonah needed, we need!

-God’s Sovereign Directive!

Jonah’s story reveals how God includes us in His disciple-making work; and, then prepares us for it! Until we submit to God’s Sovereign directive, for our lives, we’re going just keep getting swallowed up by one big fish after another, like Jonah. So, let’s talk about God’s Sovereign will & plans for you. The greatest fulfillment you will ever realize, in your life, comes only from obeying Him! We tend to operate life with this weird idea that God’s plans for us just aren’t going to be as satisfying as our plans are; like, obeying Jesus and sacrificing everything for Him will be a drag & a burden to us.

-His Commands Are Not A Burden!

The Apostle John addressed that sentiment:  “For this is what love for God is: to keep His commandments. Now His commands are not a burden” 1 John 5:3. It’s no burden to love God & obey His will for your life. God has created you! He has downloaded the best path for your life into your heart by His indwelling Holy Spirit; and, your plans will never offer you the meaning in life that you long for! The best path for Jonah was the road to Ninevah; NOT, the boat ride to Tarshish that he chose for himself! And, because he rebelled, God would need to apply some pressure to get him back to the best place possible for his life; which, was the center of God’s will. Jesus has commissioned us to make disciples; and, we’re living in disobedience if we’re not doing it! And, the blessed life you’re looking for is realized, in part, in the obedient investing of your life in God’s work in other people! We’ll talk more about Jonah next post!

God Is Sovereign Over Viruses!

-This Should Comfort Us!

The doctrine of God’s Sovereignty is one of the most important principles to be found in all of Scripture! When we speak of His Sovereignty, we mean that nothing, in the universe, happens without God’s permission. That includes viruses like the COVID-19 that is currently wreaking havoc on our world! He has the power, the knowledge & the presence to prevent anything He chooses to prevent! So, at the very least, everything that happens in the world & in our lives is “allowed” by Him.

-God Is Never Surprised!

It’s because of God’s Sovereign control, that I like to say that He’s never surprised by anything! We’ll never find God wringing His hands over something that happens to us; or, anxious about how He’s going to be able to fix it! This Bible doctrine will absolutely change your life once it gets past your head & infiltrates your heart! You’ll learn to trust God with everything! That’s really the test! If you don’t trust God, with everything— including the “coronavirus”— then you don’t “get” His Sovereignty! Or, you don’t TRUST Him!

-Confidence In God’s Sovereignty!

Bible characters, like Joseph & Moses, got it! And, they proved it by living their lives, by faith, in God’s Sovereign control, regardless of the circumstances of their lives.  If you’re struggling, with anxiety & fear, over this coronavirus crisis, you may need to turn to some of these Bible passages & highlight them! For Joseph, who found himself in prison through no fault of his own, he expresses confidence, in God’s Sovereign control, over his dreams:  “Don’t interpretations (of dreams) belong to God?” he asked (Genesis 40:8).  When Pharaoh pulls him, out of prison, because he had heard that Joseph could interpret dreams,  he answered Pharaoh,  “I am not able to interpret dreams. It is God who will give Pharaoh an answer” Genesis 41:16.  Later, in verse 25, he tells Pharaoh, “…God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do.” He was about to bring a world-wide famine!

-Sovereign Over Affliction & Trouble!

So, God is Sovereign over weather patterns! And, no one can stop “…what He is about to do…” because He is Sovereign! And, I love what Joseph named his 2nd son:  “…he named him Ephraim, meaning, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction…” Genesis 41:52.  We could preach an entire series on that verse! He trusted God’s Sovereign control over all the “affliction” & trouble in his life! And, God made Him fruitful in spite of it! It wasn’t his circumstances that defined him; but, his faith! Go back over Joseph’s life & re-read it, looking for his submission to God’s Sovereign control!

-Moses & Sovereign God!

God also reveals His Sovereignty to Moses. In Exodus 3:19, God tells Moses, “I know that Pharaoh will not allow you to go unless he is forced by a strong hand.” In His Sovereignty, God knows all things; even, the future! God also tells Moses that He is even Sovereign over all human, physical disabilities: “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh?” Exodus 4:11. Later, in v.21, after Pharaoh initially hardened his heart against God, God tells Moses, “I WILL HARDEN his heart so that he won’t let the people go.” When evil men set their will against God, He will use them to accomplish His Sovereign purposes! God does it for His glory (Romans 9:17).

How Pain Brings Us To Our Knees!

Going On Vacation! Next Post July 17th

-Does God Really Love Us?

We are tempted to ask how it is that God could truly love us if He allows us to suffer through painful experiences. In fact, it is because He loves us that He choreographs pain and suffering into our lives. Let me explain. It is not our natural tendency to seek closer fellowship with God when our lives are filled with blessings attached to this world. No, it is our tendency to stray from God when life is good! We get more comfortable leaning on this world’s blessings for our daily support. So, God— in His Love & Sovereign grace— places a “wake up call”, in the form of a painful experience, in front of us. He shakes us back to reality with something to get our attention re-focused on Him. To force us to our knees in prayer to Him.

-Our Greatest Satisfaction!

He does this because He knows that nothing will ever offer us greater satisfaction than a Spirit-filled relationship with Him.  All of this world’s goods and services are but cheap substitutes for a walk with God. If you follow the narrative, from the first chapter in the book of Acts, you’ll see 120 disciples waiting, in an upper room in Jerusalem, for the promised Holy Spirit. And, in chapter 2, the Spirit comes to indwell and fill the believers so they’d have the supernatural power, of the Spirit, to obey Jesus’ commission to take the gospel to every people group & to disciple them.  Immediately, God begins to use them in His supernatural work as 3000 were saved & became disciples that day! And, then, more and more were added!

-Comfortable & Complacent!

But, as you read the next few chapters, it seems like the church becomes complacent & comfortable with their success and God’s work begins to slow down! So, God, in His Sovereignty, brought persecution! Stephen is stoned! And, then James is killed & Peter is imprisoned. And, it’s this crisis of faith that unsettled them & they returned to their knees in prayer! They were humbled! They got back to Biblical prayer! They expressed their helplessness & total dependence on God’s power to see Peter released from prison! “So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church” Acts 12:5.  In the verses that follow, God sends an angel to spring Peter from prison (vs 6-11).

-The Lost Confronted By Answered Prayer!

There’s another prayer principle that God reveals to us by His answered prayer to release Peter from incarceration. God will use a mighty display of His power to confront the lost with their sin! King Herod had imprisoned Peter and assumed he had more power than he actually had! So, God says, “No, Herod, you’re plans to kill Peter won’t work!” Someone once said: “We make our plans & God laughs!” I love that! Don’t lose heart, church! It may appear the world is out of control. But, God hasn’t lost it. In His Sovereign timing He will display His power again & confront the lost with their need for repentance. So, let’s get the bigger picture when we find ourselves in a painful place! Don’t pray that God will take it away! He may be doing a special work in your life or the life of someone watching! Trust His plans!