Thursday, June 25, 2009

Salvation Is Of The Lord

Jon 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

Last week we talked about 3 things that the Lord did on Jonah's behalf. This week we're going to look at Jonah's prayer from the belly of the fish. Jonah's prayer reads like a survey of the Psalms. If you have a reference bible, you will see that the prayer in Jonah chapter 2 contains many quotations from the Psalms. I won't bore you with providing all of the references- check them out for yourself! I do want to bring a few things to your attention however, and here they are:
Jon 2:3 For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

Remember how we emphasized the great lengths God went to in order to deal with this one reluctant prophet last week? Here, Jonah acknowledged that it was truly the LORD who threw him overboard (He just used the men on the boat as His hands and feet). So often we fail to see God's redemptive hand print on our lives. Jonah had some time to reflect on his situation, and acknowledged that God has a way of bringing us where He wants us to be.
Jon 2:4 Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

Jonah's current situation is dark, uncertain, and probably smelly! But in his prayer, he demonstrates faith that things will work out in the end. Jesus instructs us that when we pray, we should indeed believe that we will receive those petitions that we desire (Mark 11:24). Jonah probably had no verbal guarantees that he was going to worship in the temple again, but he had a confidence in the abilities of God. Many of us have a "wait-and-see" attitude towards faith, but the true order of faith is believe-then-see .
Jon 2:8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

This is the tragedy of a life lived independent of God's will. One of my favorite teachers on prayer is Douglas Small. I once heard Mr. Small say (regarding prayer and the lack thereof) that often God is more disappointed for us, than He is "in us". Jonah's statement about those who observe or regard false ideologies is revealing. Those who do so, forfeit what could be theirs, if they would only receive it by faith. I'm reminded of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem and lamented their rejection of His offer of peace (Luke 19:41-42).
Jon 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

Jonah praised God for his deliverance, and is ready to fulfill his obligations. He also confesses that salvation is all God's idea. This is Good News for each one of us. The bible declares that while we were yet sinners, alienated from God, unable to do anything about our plight- Jesus died for our sins! (please see Romans 5:6-8). We love Him today, because He first loved us! (I John 4:19). God took the initiative to save Jonah, even though Jonah ran as far as he could in the opposite direction.

In the dark confinement of the belly of a fish, Jonah reflected on some pretty deep theological concepts. No matter how dark or lonely your situation is, please don't stop praying. We too, will realize (through prayer) that God is always at work in our lives redemptively, even through the most painful of processes.

Until next time....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jonah and 3 Things the Lord Did

Jon 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Even if you're not a theologian, you are probably somewhat familiar with the story of Jonah and the big fish. I guess it's only natural that the idea of a man living inside of a fish for several days captivates us. Now before you relegate this story as merely an allegory, understand that Jesus (the Son of God) interpreted the story of Jonah as being historically accurate and literal.

Mat 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.

So not only does Jesus validate the preaching and repentance that took place in Nineveh, but He also confirms the account of Jonah in the belly of the whale. Ok- now that I've gotten that out of the way....let's proceed!

The story of Jonah and the big fish is typically applied as simply a man running from God, and God getting him to do His will. There are many preachers who can relate to the story of Jonah because they wanted to do everything else but preach the Gospel, until God finally arrested them. But I have grown to appreciate the story of Jonah beyond the obvious implications of a man running from God. To me, it's a story about a God far more Sovereign than we could ever imagine- far more merciful than we could ever deserve, and far more loving than our finite minds could ever try to comprehend (try as we might)! I'm not going to address Jonah's "vacation" to Tarshish today. Instead, I'm going to focus on 3 things the Lord did in chapter 1 of Jonah.

#1- God sent a storm

Jon 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

This was no ordinary storm. This was not a result of atmospheric conditions being optimal for storm-production. This was a "Sovereign Storm". Now the beautiful thing about this storm, is that God designed the storm to save Jonah. Jonah has run as far as he can in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to be. But instead of allowing Jonah to "do his own thing", God pursues him. I don't enjoy the storms of life any more than you do. But I'm learning (ever so slowly) that God uses the difficulties of life to bring us closer to Him- not to destroy us!

#2- God caused the lot to fall on Jonah

Jon 1:7 And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.

These pagan men on the boat with Jonah were crying out to their gods and decided to use the method of lot-casting to discern who was the troublemaker. God intends for Jonah to go overboard, so the lot falls on Jonah. There is an interesting scripture in Proverbs that illustrates this point:

Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

Sometimes what seems like such a random occurrence, is not a coincidence at all! God orchestrates the events of our lives and uses whatever methods He deems necessary to get us where He wants us to be. (disclaimer: this should not be used as a proof-text for the divine approval of casting lots for decision probably goes without saying but just in case.)

#3- The Lord prepares the fish

Jon 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Instead of leaving Jonah in the sea to drown, the Lord prepares a fish to accommodate him (probably not Jonah's first choice). There are so many things I could say about all of this, but I simply want to point out the great lengths that God went to, in order to deal with this one man who disobeyed His voice.

We probably would have eliminated Jonah as a viable candidate, and selected a more suitable (and willing) vessel to carry out the assignment. But God pursues Jonah, orchestrates the events in and around his life, and gives him another opportunity to do what is right. Today, I want to remind you that God is more powerful and Sovereign than we give Him credit for. He is much more merciful than any of us deserve. And He loves us more than any of us can truly comprehend.

So whether you are in a storm, a seemingly random series of events, or in the belly of your fish- remember that God has your best interests at heart!

Until next time....

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What Does the Bible Say About Friendship?

We recently celebrated "Friend Day" at Liberty Worship Center. As part of my message that day, I shared 10 "FriendFacts"- basically, 10 Proverbs that deal with the subject of friendship. I thought I would share a condensed version of the Top Ten list for you today. These are not listed in order of importance- purely random.

1. In order to have friends, you must be friendly.

Pro 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

2. Choose your friends wisely!

Pro 13:20 He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

3. Don't be a "fair-weather" friend.

Pro 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

4. Friends tell each other the truth (even when it hurts)

Pro 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

5. Friends don't use flowery words

Pro 27:14 He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

6. Friends don't betray confidences

Pro 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

7. Friends are committed to making you a better person

Pro 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

8. Friends give good, godly advice.

Pro 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.

9. Money issues can ruin friendships.

Pro 6:1 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Pro 6:2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

10. One of the greatest values in a friend is faithfulness.

Pro 27:10 Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.