Friday, April 21, 2017

STORY TELLING TIME

      I love the Wednesday night services at the church I attend.  We have a meal together with fun and fellowship. Then we have a time of Bible study and sincere prayer.
     Lately, in the Bible study time, we have been looking at the parables of Jesus.  Telling little stories about life situations was a great teaching tool.  We all tend to be like children and need these “make it plain for me” wisdom stories.
     Even King David came to a place in his life that he needed a “you need to wise up story”.  This particular story-telling incident is found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. 
     Before I get to the story, let me explain why King David needed this lesson.  This explanation we can find in chapter 11.  This chapter of scripture tells us that David lusted after a woman who was not his wife.  He gave in to the lust and then when the woman became pregnant he sought to cover his sin by insuring that the woman’s husband died in battle.  Sin on top of sin. The last verse of chapter 11 says this: But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.  Sin, the crossing of God’s boundaries displeases Him.  
     I doubt if anyone wants to displease the Lord.  But we go off on selfish ventures that does just that.  You might ask, “If we do displease Him will He stop loving us? 
    The answer is “No, He will love us still, but we will probably miss out on blessings He wants to give and, He just might have a “wise up” story for us.  He does not want for us to sin.  Sin causes havok and that is not what God wants for us.
    King David’s “wise up” story was delivered by the prophet Nathan at the Lord’s request.  Nathan told King David this story:  There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had many flocks and herds.  The poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children.  It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.  Well the story goes on that a traveler came to the rich man.  Well, this rich man refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
     Blind to the comparison and reason for the story, King David’s anger was greatly aroused against this rich man who would do such a thing.  King David tells Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!  And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
    Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”  O boy, truth, and shame, came crashing in and repentance was the result of this story.

    The parable that we looked at this week was one that opened my eyes a bit.  I had read it many times but had not understood it fully, and probably still don't understand it fully.  (Let me say here that I appreciate my pastor and the lessons that he brings on Wednesday nights.  The next few paragraphs of this blog come from my notes from his lesson.)
     It is the parable of the persistent widow.  It is found in Luke chapter 18: 1-8.  There are just two characters in this story that Jesus is telling. 
     The first character is a judge.  This judge is described as one who did not fear God nor regard man. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom I think we can safely assume that he is not a wise judge.  On top of that he didn’t care about people.
    The other character in the story is a widow woman with an issue that needed resolved.  She wanted justice.  We learn that the judge finally took care of the situation not because he cared or because he was a good judge but because she was bugging him.
    Then Jesus compares the lousy judge to God our Father. His words are wonderful yet sad.  “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with then?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man come, will He really find faith on the earth?”
    The widow, one who is alone is compared to God’s people, His elect, his beloved bride. We are never alone.  The widow was a stranger to the judge.  God’s children are not strangers to Him.  They are loved and special with an invitation to come boldly to Him. 
    That poor widow sought help from an unjust judge.  We seek help from a righteous Father.  She was alone fighting her cause alone.  God is for us, He is on our side, and Jesus is our advocate.
    In times past I somehow thought the lesson in this parable was to never give up and to keep praying until God answered.  That however puts the focus on the woman.  I realize that the lesson here is to focus on who God really is and to rest in the assurance that He cares. 
     The lesson is that I can trust Him completely even when He doesn’t answer right away.  He will answer with wisdom at the right time and in the right way because He loves us very much.
    If you have prayed long and hard for a situation, keep praying and remember as you pray who is at the receiving end of your prayer. Keep your focus there.  It is a loving holy God who beckons you to come to Him.  He says we can come without fear.  We can come as often as we need to, and we come knowing we are loved. We can be sure that He will use great wisdom when He answers.
    Viewing God for who He is will increase our faith. Faith pleases God. I mentioned that these words are wonderful yet sad.  They are sad because Jesus asks the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"  He wants us to know we don't have to badger Him.  He wants us to know how very much He loves us.  He is the very best judge.  Trust Him.  Blessings.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Drain Your Swamp


     One of the promises made by our newly elected president was that he would go to Washington and drain the swamp.  People seemed to like that idea and it was chanted at the president’s rallies.  There is a sense that our government has become corrupt, dishonest and untrustworthy, and that Washington has become a swamp, a nasty place filled with greed and egocentricity.  The mental picture is one of a filthy putrid stagnant swamp that needs to be drained and fresh clean water brought in. 
     There is an old saying attributed to an English historian, commonly known as Lord Acton that says, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. 
     Even if that Washington DC swamp could be drained, it would be impossible to find fresh clean water if that means finding perfect people.  There are none.  All people are flawed and all are affected by power.  Lord Acton’s quote fits all except one man, Jesus Christ.  His power, His authority, His position as King of kings did not corrupt. 
     There is however this encouraging promise that Jesus gives us. It is found in John chapter 4.  This scripture tells us about when Jesus met and spoke with a Samaritan woman.  (This is quite interesting because there was a divide between men and women and there was a divide between Jews and Samaritans.)  The customary separations did not deter Him.  He met her beside a well as she came to draw water.  He surprised her when He asked her for a drink. 
     It wasn’t Jesus who was in need though.  He gave this woman some good news, news that would help her drain her own swamp.  Jesus knew all about her personal swamp. (And He knows all about our swamps, yours and mine.)  He knew about all the murky feelings, the failures, the pain, all those past husbands and the fact that she was living with a man who was not her husband.  He said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  She didn’t quite understand what He was saying to her.  Then, referring to the well they stood beside, He told her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” 
     There are many swamps that need to be drained and fresh pure water brought in.  This starts with individuals.  Our hearts and minds and words and actions can become like swamps.  Drain the swamp and fill it with what Jesus has to offer, living water.
    It could be our homes that have swamps that need to be drained.  Our homes have become filled with filthy songs and movies and magazines and then we hope for our children to embrace purity and good.  If your home houses pornography you need to drain your swamp.

     For all the swamps that exist in our hearts, our homes and our cities and governments there is only one answer.  It is the living water that Jesus promised.  The enemy offers swamp water.  Jesus offers living water.
     If you have been blessed to have found this living water then take your cue from Jesus don't let cultural or racial divides keep you from sharing the message of living water.  Jesus didn't even let the woman's sinful lifestyle deter Him from sharing the answer to her need.  Don't be like the enemy....be like Jesus.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

CHRISTMAS BELLS

     I happened to be in town shopping over the noon hour one day last week.  I am not sure if the bells I heard tolling ring out every day at noon or if it is just through the Christmas holidays, but it was nice to hear them chime out a Christmas tune.  I savored the short melody as I went about my business thinking what a nice touch it was.
     Later in the week I came across a blog written by Justin Taylor from the Gospel Coalition about the Christmas song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and found it quite interesting.
     The song was written on Christmas Day in 1863 right in the midst of the Civil War by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It was a horrible time in history.  It was a horrible war that took an estimated 640,000 lives.  It was brutal and bloody.  Longfellow’s own son had just come home severely wounded.
     According to Taylor’s article that was not the only misery that Longfellow suffered as he listened to the Christmas bells tolling out a seemingly mocking message of peace.  Less than two years earlier he had lost his wife when her dress caught fire and she died from burns leaving him with six children to raise.
     I imagine he sat listening to those mocking bells in a state of brokenness and grief.  All around him was brokenness.  The nation was broken.  He was broken.  His wounded son was broken.  His very heart was broken.  And yet, those resolute bells continued to chime out that timeless message of peace.  Were they laughing at him? Were they making fun of him?
     We live in a broken world and each of us deals with some form of brokenness, but the peace of which the Christmas bells speak is real.  Our Prince of Peace is real.  The Healer of brokenness is real.
Isaiah 9:6 says:
                 For to us a child is born,
                 to us a son is given,
                 and the government will be on his shoulders.
                                     And he will be called
                 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
                 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Here are the original words penned that long ago Christmas Day.  They differ a little from the words in our hymnal.

Christmas Bells
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christiandom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

   I pray that this wonderful Prince of Peace who came to earth to bring you and me the gift of redemption will find an open door to your heart.  He is not found by knowledge, He is found by a searching heart.


  I think in the midst of suffering and the despair of war Longfellow found his way to that place of real peace.  I pray that any and all that read these words will find that wonderful Prince of Peace.  Jesus is His name.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Neither Jew Nor Greek (Not Your Typical Christmas Story)

Neither Jew nor Greek
Not your Typical Christmas Story
Galatians 3:28

   We have been studying about Paul in my Sunday school class.  He is a remarkable man who had a remarkable calling.  He brought the wonderful message of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world.  Being a Gentile girl, Paul is one of my heroes.
    I admitted to my class that on occasion doubts creep in and I have wondered; is this precious gift of redemption really for me?  That Jewish born baby from a Jewish home and Jewish world who grew up to be the pure and acceptable sacrificial Lamb to provide redemption……does it really include me too?
  When I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 15: 21-28, it caused me to wonder.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
  This does not sound like the Jesus I have come to know.  At first glance it would seem that Jesus was cold and uncaring toward this Gentile woman.  First He ignored her, then He as much as said, “What I have is not for you.”  Then He called her a dog not worthy of what He has. 
   As a Gentile girl needing God’s love I found this incident somewhat disconcerting.  I knew there had to more to this than just what meets the ear here because it doesn’t match up with other scriptures.
  I found some comfort in what I read in Luke 2:25-32
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

  This good devout man Simeon was waiting for “the consolation of Israel”.   This reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas songs written by Charles Wesley who lived in the 1700’s.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver.  Born a child, and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

  This Spirit filled man, Simeon, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel says these words upon seeing Jesus:  “Lord, my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
  Don’t you love the word “all”?  I do. Then he mentions us Gentiles specifically while holding that manger born baby in his arms, “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” Now that makes my heart rejoice.
   
     According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, the interaction between Jesus and the Gentile woman seeking help for her daughter was a glimmer of that light.  He likened it to a down payment of what was to come for the Gentile world.  He points out that her request was for mercy.  She doesn’t claim any merit.  It would seem that the brushing off and seemingly cold words would discourage this woman, but something different happened.  Her faith in who He was rose up and caused her to worship stronger and ask more fervently for His mercy.
  We can clear some things up to help us understand this puzzling story if we ask ourselves some questions.
1. Did Jesus know her need before she ask?  Of course He did.
2. Did He know what her response would be to His silence and His rebuff, and even the put down?  He did.  He knew she would continue in her worship and her plea.
3. How did Jesus commend her?  He praised her faith.  And then this strange incident went viral and became a message to all that it is faith that matters.  Whether you are a Jew or Gentile, man or woman, black or white, it is faith…not something that you deserve….not something that you have earned or strived for…but faith alone.  Not faith in ourselves or what we do but faith in someone else.  Faith in Jesus Christ.

  This baby Jesus born in a manger, this man Jesus who died on a cross, He did all these things for you and for me,  for all people.  Jesus pulled the faith right out of that woman and put it on display.  That is what God wants from us.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  Rejoice in Him and let your light so shine.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Stand Colin Stand


     Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Ephesians 6:11-13 NIV
   No one seems to have noticed the subtle way the enemy has slipped in.  But here is the evidence of his lethal nasty work:
57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers.
* Source: Family Structure and Children’s Living Arrangements 2012. Current Population Report. U.S.  Census Bureau July 1, 2012.
     What difference does this make you ask?  Let me show you the difference it makes.  The enemy knows what he is doing.
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. (US Dept of Health/Census)
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.
  If our spiritual enemy could use only one tool to destroy us I think this would be his tool of choice.  Strip homes of their fathers.  Influence young men to not take serious their role when they become fathers. 
  Over half of the black children in this country live in fatherless homes. Let me shout this as loud as I can type. YES!!! black lives matter.  Those precious little black lives matter greatly, as do Hispanic and white ones.  They deserve to have fathers in their homes raising them, teaching them, loving them, and showing them how to become godly men and women of honor.  They deserve better than the future those statistics give them.  Please wake up America and start doing the things that demonstrate that they really do matter. These lives aren’t just political pawns and a vote tallied for one side or another.  They are people with a soul. They have unlimited potential.
     Colin Kaepernick not standing for the National Anthem won’t change anything about the real problem.  It won’t fight the real enemy. That act doesn’t even recognize the real enemy.   Blaming cops or blaming guns won’t fix anything either.  Guns and cops are not the enemy.  That stealthy one who destroys homes is the real enemy.  His name is Satan. Maybe we should stop joining him in his work.  Blaming the wrong cause is useful for the enemy.
   Maybe our government should not be rewarding fatherless homes with tax dollars, but instead help people and reward people when the father is in the home.  As things are, the government might pay a few bills but it makes a horrible father.  The tax code should be structured to endorse and encourage marriage and two parent homes.  Instead it rewards single parent homes and penalizes two parent homes.
   We talked about Shiphera and Puah in our Sunday school class yesterday.  They were midwives for the Hebrew women.  Pharaoh told them “when you see that it is a boy child being born, kill it.  If it is a girl child, let it live.”  This was to be a form of population control.
   This evil plan didn’t work because these two midwives had a healthy fear and respect for Almighty God and refused to kill the babies.  By the way this was talking about partial birth abortion.  So if you ever wondered how God feels about abortion just read Exodus chapter one. 
     When called to account, these brave women told Pharaoh that Hebrew women are lively and their babies come before we get there.
   These women saw the evil for what it was.  They respected God’s opinion.  Pharaoh had to go to plan two for his evil population control efforts.  They bravely took a stand.  They feared God more than they feared Pharaoh.
   Maybe that good healthy fear of God is what is lacking in our land.  Maybe there is a gross lack of awe and respect for the Almighty.  What are God’s views of the home and marriage and dads being there.
   Proverbs chapter 1 verse 7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Have we become a country of fools?  Do we despise wisdom because we no longer have that reverent awe and respect for God?
     We will never know the mind of God by looking at the world, by watching the news, by listening to politicians, or even listening to preachers.  We will certainly not get God’s view from watching TV.  Fathers have been ridiculed and devalued for a long time now in Hollywood. 

     We will come to understand the mind of God by reading His Word, by having a personal relationship with Him and by way of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us when we open our heart to let Him in to be Lord and Master. Then, when we come to understand we need to stand.
     

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lessons From Mr. Job


  Over the past few weeks I have felt drawn to study and read in the book of Job in the Bible.  It is not a part of the Bible I am typically drawn to.  As I browse thru the fragile and worn pages of my Bible I notice that there are few if any highlighted or underlined passages and no notes written in the page borders in this particular book unlike other parts of my Bible that are well marked, underlined and notated.
  Even though I don't go there often, I am quite familiar with this story because Mr. Job is very well known for all the troubles he suffered.  People talk about someone having “the patience of Job.”  I guess maybe most days a lot of us have enough troubles of our own that we aren’t really drawn to seek comfort or guidance from someone worse off than we are.  Maybe that is why I routinely skip over that very old story and go to the writings of Paul or David or maybe the Gospels.
  However, after taking a closer look this week, I have come to realize there may be more to glean than I realized from this unusual old book.  The author of Job is not known and it is not known when it was written.  Since all scripture is inspired I will simply conclude that God in His wisdom and love produced and preserved it for our benefit.
  It is evident that the common thinking of Job’s time was:  God is just and good people are blessed and bad people are punished.  So, if this thinking is correct then Job must have sinned greatly to deserve so much pain and misery.  The flaw in this thinking is not that God is just.  Because God is just.  The flaw in this thinking is believing that trials are always punishment and cannot be for the reason of bringing about something good.
  We have the benefit of having the whole book.  Or, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story”.  Now we know that God had a very important special plan in mind from day one.  Revelation talks about a Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.  This Lamb would be a spotless (innocent) sacrificial Lamb.  For those who may be unfamiliar with this phraseology, it refers to Jesus Christ the sinless man who suffered greatly when He became the Lamb of sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  It was this plan that God had in mind even before Adam sinned and carried all his progeny into the enemy’s camp.
   We know that sin was not the cause of Job’s problems. Job had not sinned to bring this trouble to himself.  He was innocent.   We are told this in multiple ways.  First in chapter one, we are shown the dialogue between God and Satan.  Then in chapter 42 we hear God tell Job’s “friends” they must bring a sacrifice of seven bulls and seven rams to atone for their wrong representation of the Almighty.  They are to bring them to Job and Job would pray for them.  This brings to mind the role of a priest.
   If, as I presume, Job is meant to be a picture of, or give a glimpse of Jesus Christ, then this role as a priest also fits because we know from scripture that Jesus is our High Priest and our intercessor.
  God is just, but the innocent do suffer.  God will use pain and suffering to bring about eternal good.  Trials are not always punishment. Mankind needed to understand that there was coming, in the future, an innocent man who would live a sinless life and then suffer greatly.  The purpose of His suffering was to purchase our redemption.  Unfathomable eternal good would come from the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
   We know from the rest of the story of Job that all he lost was restored double and he had seven more sons and three more daughters.  It is interesting that we are told the names of the three daughters but not the sons.  And we are told that they would receive an inheritance which was unheard of in that culture.  We are also told that these girls were the most beautiful women in the land.  Those are strange details to tack on to the end of this story.  Strange,unless these girls represent something having to do with the suffering Savior and I believe they do.  I think maybe they represent the church, the bride of Christ. Scripture tells us believers that we are co-heirs with Christ.  If this is correct then God views us “the church” as the most beautiful in the land.  Blessings to you. 

   If by chance you are in a season of pain and trials my prayers are for you today.  If Jesus is your Savior the pain will not be in vain.  If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior you can know Him.  He died for you because He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.
Romans 3:23 tells us that all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 says, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9 says, if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
John 3:16 says, For God so loved the world (that means you) that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever (you again) believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

  May you find this wonderful unexplainable love.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Reluctant Messenger


   In our Sunday school class we have been looking at the lives of various women of the Bible.  My personal studies took me to the book of Jonah and I discovered that no women are mentioned at all in that little book.
   It is easy to judge poor Jonah and declare that maybe he could have used a good woman who would have told him it’s not a good idea to run from the Almighty.  In fairness, however,  I really wouldn’t want my life to be put under a microscope to examine all the character flaws like Jonah’s life was and then put on display for untold generations.
  We can actually learn quite a bit from Jonah’s life and God’s interaction with Him, as we look at 10 things that God did.
  First He 1. came.  God came to Jonah with an assignment to deliver a message to the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh.  God said “I want you to cry out against it because their wickedness has come up before Me.”  
  God sees wickedness.  God cares about the victims of wicked people.
  Nineveh had a reputation for cruelty, terror, violence and torcher.  Does this remind you of anything?  It does me.  It makes me think of ISIS.  It makes me think of drug lords who are cruel and vicious. From these current situations we can get a feel for what God was asking of Jonah.  It would be like asking Jonah to go tell the ISIS soldiers that God has a message for them.
   Well Jonah wasn’t too keen on the idea and he quickly got himself out of Dodge.  He wanted no part of taking any message to the reprobates of Nineveh.  They were the enemy.  I’m not so sure I can blame him.  If God called me to go cry out against ISIS I might run the other way too.  I might forget that I could trust God. 
   Jonah’s plan was to flee “from the presence of the Lord”.  Seriously, is that even possible?  No.  Do we sometimes try to flee from God’s presence?  Do we shun the things He asks of us?  Like obedience, faithfulness, looking out for others?  We may not get on a boat and head for another country, but do we mentally head in a different direction?  Do we fill our minds and time with so many other things that we block out the whispers of the Holy Spirit?  It can happen but it’s not a good thing.
  Next we read that 2. The Lord sent a great wind.  This was no gentle breeze, and it was not happenstance.  This was a great wind by the hand of God.
   The men traveling on that ship with Jonah were in a very strange situation.  This man of God who came aboard was saying “this storm that threatens us is my fault.  You must throw me overboard.”  They believed that Jonah was indeed connected to the one true God so what a dilemma they faced.  What would happen to them if they killed this man of God?  Well, they did throw him overboard but they immediately took some vows and offered a sacrifice to Jonah’s God.   The Almighty knew that no sacrifice was necessary because Jonah wasn’t going to die.  This was all part of God’s plan.
  The third thing God did was 3. He prepared a great fish.  This specially provided fish swallowed Jonah and from within this fish Jonah prayed.  This prayer is recorded in chapter two of the book of Jonah.  As part of this prayer, verse 4 says, “I have been cast out of your sight.”  I can almost hear God saying…. “Ummmm wasn’t that what you wanted Jonah to flee from me?”  Actually that is human thinking I believe God had much deeper thoughts going on right then.
  The next thing God did was 4. He spoke to the fish.  At God’s command the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land.  Poor Jonah, was now a seaweed covered, vomit dripping, fish expelled human hairball. 
   Then God  5. came again.   Jonah was given a second chance to be obedient.  Aren’t you glad that God gives second chances?  It demonstrates God's deep love in several ways.  He loved Jonah and He loved the people of Nineveh, and He loved the victims of their cruelty and torture.
   Jonah obediently took God’s message to the people of Nineveh this time.  Nineveh was a large city.  It would take three days to walk across the whole city.  On the first day he began telling them God’s message, which was: “In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
   He must have been pretty persuasive, (Or God did some work ahead of time) because the people believed what Jonah was saying, including the king.  This message began a great revival. The king ordered a city wide fast.
   Can you imagine how it would be if all the ISIS soldiers started bowing down before Jesus Christ, God’s Son and the world’s Savior.  How it would be if they were to put down their weapons and started lifting up Christ.  Imagine how it would be if today the Boko Haram soldiers were to release the abducted young women and allowed them to go back home to their families with the soldiers begging for their forgiveness and God’s.  Jonah’s frightening words brought just such a revival.
   6.  God saw their works.  God saw the need because of the cruel Ninevites, and God saw when they repented.
   7.  God relented from the plan He had for them.  God prefers repentance to discipline.  Not so Jonah.  We get a closer look at Jonah in chapter 4.  Jonah threw what southern folks know as a hissy fit.  He wanted God to destroy them.  He couldn’t wait to see that happen.  Have we ever wanted God to reign down judgement on someone?  If we are honest we probably have to answer yes.  But we all want God’s mercy shown to us.  We don’t want Him to rain down His judgement on us.
   In the midst of his hissy fit Jonah made himself a little pity palace to mope in.  He was hoping that he could sit and watch and maybe God would change his mind and destroy Nineveh.
  8. God provided a vine. It grew up quickly in one day and provided shade over Jonah’s pity palace and brought him comfort.  Jonah was pleased.
  9. God provided a worm.  The worm chewed on the vine and the vine withered.  Jonah was not pleased.  Then God 10. Provided a vehement east wind. Now Jonah was really not pleased and he whined that he just wanted to die.
   God was teaching Jonah (and us) a hard lesson about God’s priorities and ours.  The book of Jonah ends with God asking Jonah a couple of questions.   He asks “Is it right for you to be angry about a vine that you had nothing to do with.  You didn’t create or plant or tend it.”   You pity a plant.  Should I not pity Nineveh where you will find 120,000 persons who cannot discern between their right and their left? (Referring to children) 
   Jonah was throwing a fit over his lost shade from a vine but had no concern for the loss of 120,000 innocent children.  It is a rhetorical question.  It needs no answer.

   Maybe we should be praying that God would send some messengers into our world today.  
   One of the ladies in the class pointed out how even with all of his flaws God still used Jonah.  We are all people with flaws and bad attitudes and self-centeredness, but when we are obedient to God amazing things can happen.  Blessings.