A cry from the deep

I think God laughs sometimes as we run from our calling, then He cries in the storms that rage about us. One way or another we will be going, and to obey is such an easier way. 1 Samuel 15:22~What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, (NLT) 

Think about the prison Jonah is entombed in, the belly of a whale. Now, before you say that is just a Bible story for children, ask Luigi Marquez a 56-year-old Spanish fisherman, who in 2016 spent 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a whale. Luigi said, the smell, I’ll never forget that horrible stench of putrid decomposition. I had to wash for three days before the odor went away. Being in the wrong place, time, or for the wrong reason can put us in a place we don’t ever want to be. In fact, we will oftentimes find ourselves having to be vomited up in a moment that is so putrid it cause our whole life will stink. 

What is God asking you to do for Him, for His glory, for another’s needs?  Jonah will pray and ask God for the grace and mercy that he has refused to share with others. Jonah 2:1~I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. (ESV) I want you to know when you get serious with God, confessing your own shortcomings and misgivings, He will always hear your voice and answer. It still may not be the answer you want, but when we are desperate to hear, we will hear the voice of God. 

Jonah 2:7, 9-10~When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple…what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord! And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. (NKJ) Sometimes we need to be reminded to listen again to the voice of God sharing with us what the Lord is trying to accomplish on, in, and through our lives. We heard from the Lord but did not follow His instructions in our life and we need to go back, repent like Jonah and listen to Him again. See when we return and repent, like Jonah, we will often find that we have been stripped of all color like Jonah’s hair clothes, our circumstances have caused us to stink to high heaven, and though all this is true, what we need now is to not put off the task of the Lord another second.

Jonah is an Israelite of the 10 northern tribes living under the reign of Jeroboam II 800-740 BC. We know that Exile is near, only a couple of decades away. Jonah is being sent by God to Israel’s enemy those who have been cruel and threaten their border. Yet God has raised the nation of Assyria up for Israel’s punishment. Between 640-626 BC the Assyrians will be dismantled as a superpower the revival brought by Jonah to Nineveh in 760 last for about 100 years then corruption will return, like our humanity rising up, and Nahum will prophesy the fall. 

The capital of Assyria is Nineveh. It is a massive city dominating the middle east, yet God reaches out, even to the sinners, it’s truly amazing the steadfast lovingkindness He shows to sinners. Nineveh has 100 foot high walls that are so thick 3 chariots could ride on the top. Still this city of 650, 000 people will be plundered and punished by God. Is there a life near you that is about to be plundered? Perhaps God is sending you to share that they are facing a pitfall and not a windfall. God loves to use people just like you to share His hope, and to extend His grace so that they can avoid the doom staring at them.

Today, ask God, “who are you sending me to share the message of hope?” Lord, please give me their face and the words of grace that I may proclaim freedom to those being held captive. Let me be the priest, the divine agent of grace who is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let me say what you should say, Oh Lord, and minister as you have appointed. Lord, let me do the work of the ministry in your good, pleasing, and perfect will.

The Meaningless & Mundane — The Time Is Now — Ecclesiastes 7.1-14…Handout

Ever wondered why God allows bad things to happen? Yes / No. That is precisely the tough question Soly the wise tackles in Ecclesiastes___, saying life is a mixed bag of good and bad. Most want a good life that gets better. The Time Is Now: Deceptively,______, Required.

1) Deceptively______(7:1-7) Ecclesiastes 7:1a~A good name is better than precious ointment. (ESV) In a dry, arid culture something soothing is so appreciated. Remember, Jesus, washed feet to cleanse us from the dirty world we walk through each day. (John 13:1-17) Would you rather go to a birthday party or a funeral?_______ Most would say birthday party! Why?_________________ Because we prefer to laugh, carry on, and having a good time. Yet which occasion is more likely to cause us to examine our lives or perhaps change around our priorities?_____ See the point God is making here?  Yes / No. Why is sorrow better than laughter?_______________Because times of sorrow can cause us to examine our lives and make changes for the good. Soly shares in Ecclesiastes 7:4 that fools love the party, living for the next thing, and not in the now. This is a fantasy world that holds no meaningful purpose for their lives. The pandemic has verified this. We all need days, times, or seasons that cause us to consider our priorities and values and to readjust our lives Godward. Proverbs 27:6~Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (NIV) The best friend we will ever have is one who will risk our friendship and wrath to speak the truth. The thorns of Ecclesiastes 7:6 are like small kindling used to start a fire. They burst into a flame but burn out very quickly. Ever started a fire and it just flamed out? Yes / No.

2) Bad Times Can Be_______(7:8-10) Are you a big picture or narrow window person? ___________ Perspective is vital because over time our trials produce patience or steadfastness. James 1:4~Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV) Being patient is better than being proud. Patience and pride are opposites. So, do opposites really attract, and can a relationship built with opposites work? Yes / No. If we are patient, we will finally realize moral integrity is the best way, while pride causes us to think we deserve an easy life. Ecclesiastes 7:9~Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. (ESV) The fool’s response to problems is anger. When we get angry we fly off the handle and do or say foolish things. Ever been guilty? Yes / No. Tell me about it:___________________________________ Don’t be angry, nor yearn for yesteryear. God wants us to be looking and moving forward. 

3) Required—We need_____Good & Bad (7:11-14) Soly says in Ecclesiastes 7:11 that wisdom is even better when we have money because both can benefit us throughout our lives which can help protect us. However, wisdom is even better, because it cannot be lost like money. Proverbs 8:11~for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (ESV)  Are there things in life that you cannot change? Yes / No Some things in life can only be straightened out by God.

Love in action

As we listen to Jonah and witness his life, we know that Jonah has a firm grip on how amazingly gracious and loving God is. In fact, Jonah has personally been the beneficiary of God’s steadfast lovingkindness. (חֶסֶד ḥeseḏ) What Jonah doesn’t want is for his mortal enemy to obtain mercy instead of the justice they deserve. Is there a red wagon that belongs to a certain somebody you know, that needs to be fixed, you just wished the Lord would put them in their place? Could be a boss or manager, a neighbor or friend, even a sibling or classmate. This is our humanity in us all. However, when our hearts are filled with the love of God, something good and pure happens to us. 1 John 5:3-4~In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts. We must be all in for God’s love. Our example is Jesus. His well-lived life and teachings reveal the way we ought to live. (John 14:6) He even forgives the wicked, vulgar who sought to hurt and do Him harm. Luke 23:34~Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (NIV)

Jesus said it’s easy to love those who love us. Matthew 5:44~But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (NIV) His words echo through centuries and are meant for us today. Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you. When our hearts are filled with the love of God, here is what happens. Ephesians 4:32~Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

Pure love is the removal of the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who possess potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine Because God loves us so much we too must love and forgive each other this is the message God gave Jonah to share with his mortal enemy, that revival would be cultivated and salvation is given. But instead, like many Christians living in our own righteousness deciding who is worthy to be saved so Jonah rebelled and was swallowed up, consumed by his circumstances. Jonah 1:17~ And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (NKJ) 

Have your problems stalled you up? Finding yourself in the wrong place, wrong time, with the wrong reason? Perhaps you bought a one-ticket heading the opposite way from what God wanted in your life. That is what Jonah did, he thought He could outrun God and leave the calling God has on his life. Jonah, like many, forgot the words of Soly the wise in Proverbs 19:21~Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (NIV) 

Understand that when we go against God there is often a lot of hell to pay. We will often run from God and His plan for our lives because we don’t really know who we are. We feel all alone in this world as an orphan boy or girl, because we don’t really know who we are. Jonah knows God is full of mercy and grace and still it has not truly changed his life. Many who come to church know the message of Jesus, but fail to let the power of the gospel change them completely. 

Today, ask God to change you completely through the power of the Gospel. List to Paul who writes in Romans 1:16~For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (NIV) You don’t have to live in the belly of the beast. Where life washes them in a set of circumstances aimed at changing them and their perspective. God can take everything that happens in this life and utilizes it for His good. (Romans 8:28) Ask God to work in your and respond to His nudging for change.