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Posts tagged ‘Jonah’

The Most-Read Bible Study Articles of 2013 .


In 2013, we featured more Bible study articles, blog posts, and videos than ever before to help you dive into Scripture. So, what made the cut as the most-used resources? We’ll count them down:

Bible Study Articles

5. How God Uses Stress for Our Good and His Glory

Ever been to a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field? They look great from up in the stands. But have you thought about what they look like from the sidelines? Pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless. We see life from the sidelines. God sees it from the stands. As we gain perspective, we leave the sidelines and start working our way up.

4. What Is Heaven Like?

With that as background, I turn now to consider some of the most frequently-asked questions about heaven. But before I jump in, I should make one preliminary point. The only things we can know for certain about heaven are the things revealed in the Bible. Everything else is just speculation and hearsay. The Bible tells us everything we need to know and I believe it also tells us everything we can know for certain about heaven.

3. 10 Essential Truths about Christian Giving

Very often, people ask or wonder “what are the basic biblical principles for Christian giving?” As we seek God’s answer to that question and as we contemplate our own giving to the Lord’s church in response to the clear teaching of His Word, perhaps it would be wise and helpful to review those principles here.

2. Five Steps to Peace in a Really Bad Situation

We can see what God was up to in part, and we get a measure of peace from that. But how can we get peace if we’re headed into or in the midst of a crisis? God tells us how to do just that in Philippians 4:4.

1. Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Battle

In warfare, battles are fought on different fronts, for different reasons, and with varying degrees of intensity. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Our spiritual battles are real, even though we cannot physically see the attacker. But, we can educate ourselves on how the battles are fought and how they impact our lives on a daily basis.

Blog Posts

5. Just Keep Sowing

What is the point of it all? Why should you keep investing yourself in a person when you are seeing zero fruit? Why should you keep working on a relationship that just doesn’t seem to be working?

4. Self-Deception

Have you ever noticed how many times and how many ways the Bible warns of being deceived? By clear admonition as well as by graphic example God repeatedly calls us to be on our guard against believing lies.

3. The Dangers of Prosperity

We often think of the unique challenges and opportunities that facing lack/need presents. In those situations we are faced with the choice of trusting God for provision, or grumbling as the Israelites in the wilderness did (cf. Exod 16–17). But less frequently recognized are the dangers that abundance/prosperity brings. There are at least four that come to mind…

2. Four Words That Change Every Situation

Have you ever had one of those, “Woah, wait a minute!” times when reading the Bible? You’re slowly meandering your way through a chapter, trying to clear your sleep-fogged head, when suddenly a verse jumps out and slaps you in the face. I had one of those moments this morning.

1. 5 Principles of Making Disciples and Enabling Spiritual Growth

Spiritual growth of believers should be the goal of any church. We are to reach unbelievers and introduce them to Christ, but the end goal according to the command of Jesus is making disciples.

Videos

3. Why Does James 2:17 Tell Us that Faith Without Works Is Dead?

2. Jonah and the Whale: Real or Symbolic?

1. Who Was Melchizedek and What Is His Significance (Genesis 14:17-24; Hebrews 5:10, 7:1)?

We thank you again for making 2013 such a great year for studying God’s Word!

Inside BST

Calling All Jonahs: Don’t Run if You Are Called to Speak!.


man running

I did it again. On a recent Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.

Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It’s what preachers do. No big deal. But even though I speak often, I’ve found that preaching the gospel is one of the most frightening assignments anyone could attempt. I feel as if I die a thousand deaths right before I do it, and I die several more times after I go home and evaluate what happened.

After one discouraging experience in which an audience stared coldly at me with their arms folded, I determined that preaching surely must not be my calling. I shared my struggle with an older pastor.

“Sometimes I feel discouraged after I speak,” I said. “Does that ever happen to you?” I was sure he would counsel me to stop preaching.

His answer shocked me. “Son, I feel that way every Monday morning.”

When I tell friends that I stubbornly resisted the call of God to preach because of my lack of confidence, they act surprised. They think most people who stand in pulpits want to be there.

Think again! We assume God chooses gifted orators who hone their skills like doctors who learn surgery or actors who learn to perform on stage. But true preaching is not a natural exercise—it is one of the most supernatural tasks anyone can ever be called to do. It requires an imperfect human vessel to yield himself (or herself) to speak the very words of God.

If we do this in the flesh, the results are miserable; if we wholly trust the power of the Spirit, prophetic preaching unleashes supernatural anointing.

Most preachers in the Bible were reluctant. Moses made excuses about stuttering, Gideon tried to disqualify himself, and Jeremiah complained about the responsibility of carrying a prophetic burden. Jonah bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea so he wouldn’t have to give his unpopular sermon.

And the apostle Paul, who was a silver-tongued Pharisee before he met Christ, was stripped of his eloquence before he preached throughout the Roman Empire. He told the Corinthians: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:3-5, NASB).

Charismatic revivalist Arthur Katz, who died seven years ago, wrote about the power of true preaching in his 1999 book Apostolic Foundations: “The only one qualified to preach … is the one who wants to run the other way, like Jonah. … The man who sighs and groans when called upon to speak, who does not want to be there, who feels terribly uncomfortable … is the man out of whose mouth the word of true preaching is most likely to come.”

That is certainly not the way most of us view pulpit ministry in contemporary America. We celebrate the smooth and the polished. We measure the impact of a sermon not by whether hearts are slain by conviction but by how high the people jump when the preacher tells them what they want to hear.

That kind of carnal preaching may win the accolades of men, boost TV ratings and even build megachurches. But the kingdom is not built on smug self-confidence. We need God’s words. The church will live in spiritual famine until broken, reluctant, weak and trembling preachers allow His holy fire to come out of their mouths.

If you have a message from God, die to your fears, doubts and excuses, and drink the cup of suffering that accompanies the genuine call of God.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.

J. LEE GRADY


J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years. He now serves as contributing editor while devoting more time to ministry. You can find him on the Web at themordecaiproject.com. His book is The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale (Chosen Books).

How Can You Tell if a Staff Member Is in Pain?.


in-pain-small

Stockimages

Recently, a friend told me of a major shift in his home life—one of the life-altering kind. The thing that bothered me most (and the whole thing is an issue for prayer) is that I didn’t sense that anything was wrong.

Sometimes people who care the deepest for others are the best at hiding their own pain.

How can you tell if your staff is in a place of pain?

1. Pacing. Sometimes when our personal lives begin to fall apart, we run to what feels safe. Our work feeds us with constant accomplishments (despite the pain), and when home is too stressful it is easy to hide in work. Think about ways to help your staff take time for their families—not just to fix problems, but to build good memories.

2. Flailing. Just the opposite of the above, some of us need all the emotional energy we can get, and when we are overdrained in one area, we suddenly don’t have what we need in other areas. A sudden shift in attention to details—either toward them or avoidance of them—can show that someone needs some special focus.

There was a time when my husband was in the hospital for a week straight—while I had four small children, attended seminary and worked part-time at the church. The problems didn’t hit that week—it was a few months later when life stabilized that I suddenly ran out of steam.

An excellent lead pastor and personal support team gave me the time and emotional support I needed to renew my passion for ministry. After an intense period of life—whether at home or at church—your staff will need a plan to refresh and refocus.

3. Depression or anger. Sometimes life just buries us. It could be a sudden shift or a gradual erosion, but each of us finds ourselves exposed to the primal elements at times. When one of your staff shows signs of depression or new or excessive anger, it might be time to get some outside help.

4. Avoidance. Have you ever tried to avoid God when you were leading people to Him every week? There are instances throughout the Bible where people did just this—Jonah comes to mind. These are the times when we need a retreat—time to get alone and holler at God until we know we have been heard—and in turn hear His response.

5. Prayer burden. With my friend, the only indication I had was a burden on my heart to pray. I was so grateful I was able to share this burden—it showed him his situation was not a shock but that God was already at work on his behalf.

Sometimes it isn’t your staff that reels from pain; it is you. I heard once of a pastor who suddenly couldn’t sleep and was drowning his anxiety with late-night QVC shopping. Another pastor and his wife shared publicly how inappropriate responses to the stress of early marriage and ministry had led the pastor to retreat to his office late at night to drown his pain in the world of porn.

The original sin wasn’t just about eating fruit. On a much deeper level, it was about dealing with stress—and particularly about trust. When we drown our pain in the world of escapism, we announce to ourselves and to God that we don’t trust Him. We indicate that we really don’t think He is looking out for our best and that if we take the reins, we will somehow reach a level of certainty that is better than what He provides. This is the original sin.

God is more infinite than we can imagine. He cares about even the diminishing hairs on your head, and He is well aware of the stresses of your everyday life. Whether your stress is financial, relational, health-related, personal or public, God is not surprised, and He is ready to walk with you—first through the stress, and then through the emotional waves that seem to follow.

Is someone on your staff showing signs of unusual stress? You can help them recover quickly and stay focused on God by being real, being honest, providing structure, accessing outside resources where necessary and showing compassion and love.

Written by Kim Martinez

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.

Five Principles Of Revival.


Stan Coffey
Jonah 3:1-10

This morning if you will turn in your Bible to Jonah 3, I am going to talk about five principles of revival or five principles of spiritual transformation. You can find these in Jonah 3:1-10. Can you imagine a revival greater than the revival at Pentecost? At Pentecost three thousand souls were saved. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples. The Bible says that they spoke in unknown languages. The Scripture teaches that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, great and mighty things were done. And one day, three thousand people were baptized into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet the Bible tells us of an even greater number of people being saved under the ministry of an Old Testament prophet named Jonah. We have heard so much in the first two chapters about how Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. I heard about the dear Christian lady who was going to visit her grandchildren in a far away city. She is sitting on the airplane getting ready to take off. A gentleman in a very expensive suit sat down by her side. And he saw that she was reading her Bible. He was not a Christian. He was a very wealthy business man. He said to her, you are not one of those people who believe every story in the Bible are you? And she said yes I am. I believe every story. He said, you mean you really believe that a fish was great enough to swallow a man. And that a man lived in side a fish for three days, that he survived that ordeal and that encounter? You believe that? About what the Bible says about that man named Jonah? She said yes I do. I believe every word. He said, well, what if you get to heaven and Jonah is not there? What if that story is not true, that Jonah is not in heaven and you can’t ask him about it? She said then you ask him about it where you go!

I. A GREAT PRINCIPLE
Now the first thing that we see in this story is a great principle. It says “and the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time…” that is a great principle because God had given the Word to Jonah the first time and he blew it. God said go to Nineveh and preach what I bid thee to preach. But we know that Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent because Nineveh was the arch-enemy of the people of Israel. He wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. Nineveh was an evil city that had done many wicked things to Jonah’s people. So Jonah went the other direction. He went the opposite direction from the will of God for his life. He went to Tarshish. He boarded the ship and he went down in to Tarshish and down in to the ship. And then down in to the water, and then down in to the great fish, in to the belly of the fish. And any time you go away from the will of God, you go down, down, down, down until you get so low that you are going to say okay God I give up. I will do your will. And when the fish three days later coughed Jonah up on the shore, Jonah had cried unto the Lord …

Our Salvation: A Study In Jonah.


The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD (Jonah 1:1-3).

The book of Jonah may be studied for many reasons, but a chief reason is for what it teaches about God‘s sovereignty. Sovereignty is a problem for some Christians in certain areas. There are areas in which it is not a problem, of course. For example, most of us do not have problems with God’s rule in the area of natural law. Gravity is one illustration. God exercises his rule through gravity, and we do not have difficulty at this point. In fact, we are even somewhat reassured that objects conform to such laws. The point at which we do have problems is that at which the sovereign will of God comes into opposition with a contrary human will. What happens at this point? God could crush the human will and thereby accomplish His own purpose with a ruthless hand. There are times when He has done this, as in the contest between Moses and Pharaoh. But generally God does not. So what happens in such cases? Does God give up? Does He change His mind? Or does He accomplish His purposes in some other way, perhaps indirectly? The answer is in the book of Jonah.

A Great Commission

Interestingly enough, this is the point at which the book starts. For it begins with a commission to Jonah and with Jonah’s refusal to heed it, In other words, the book of Jonah begins with a formal expression of God’s sovereign will and with a man’s determined opposition. We read, “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD” (verses 1-3).

There is some dispute as to the location of Tarshish. It has been identified with one of the cities of Phoenicia or with ancient Carthage. Most probably, Tarshish was on the far coast of Spain, beyond Gibraltar. And if this was so, it means that in his disobedience Jonah was determined to go as far as he possibly could go in the direction opposite from that in which God was sending him. Nineveh was east. Tarshish was west. We can visualize the geography if we imagine Jonah coming out of his house in Palestine, looking left down the long road that led around the great Arabian desert to the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and then turning on his heel and going down the road to his right.

Why did he do it? We can imagine some possible reasons. We can imagine, first, that Jonah was overcome by thoughts of the mission’s difficulties. They are expressed very well in the commission which God Himself gave Jonah. God told Jonah that Nineveh was a very “great city,” and indeed it was. In addition to what the book itself tells us – that the city was so large that it took three days to cross it and that it had sixty thousand infants or small children (Jonah 4:11) – we also know that it was the capital of the great Assyrian Empire, that it had walls a hundred feet high and so broad that three chariots could run abreast around them. Within the walls were gardens and even fields for cattle. For a man to arrive all alone with a message from an unknown God against such a city was ludicrous in the extreme. What could one man do? Who would listen? Where were the armies that could break down such walls or storm such garrisons? The men of Nineveh would ridicule the strange Jewish prophet. If Jonah had been overcome with the thought of the difficulties of such a mission and so had fled to Tarshish because of them, we could well understand him. Yet there is not a word in the story to indicate that it was the difficulties that upset this rebellious prophet.

Perhaps it was danger? The second word in God’s description of the city is wickedness. If Jonah had taken note of that wickedness and had refused to obey for that reason, this too would be understandable. Indeed, the more we learn of Nineveh the more dangerous the mission becomes. We think of the prophecy of Nahum, for example. Nahum is written against the wickedness of Nineveh entirely, and the descriptions against it are vivid. “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses – all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft. ‘I am against you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame’ ” (Nahum 3:1-5).

What was one poor preacher to do against such hardness? Would they not simply kill him and add his body to the already soaring heap of carcasses? Thoughts like these could have made Jonah afraid; and if he had been afraid, we would not blame him. But again, there is not a word in the story to indicate that it was the danger that turned Jonah in the opposite direction.

What was the reason then? Well, in the fourth chapter of Jonah, after God had already brought about the revival and had spared the Ninevites from judgment, Jonah explains the reason, arguing that it was precisely because of this outcome that he had disobeyed originally. That is, he declares that he knew that God was gracious and that He was not sending him to Nineveh only to announce a pending judgment, but rather that Nineveh might repent. Jonah’s own words are: “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

As we read these words carefully we realize that the reason why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh was that those who lived there were the enemies of his people, the Jews, and that he was afraid that if he did go to them with his message of judgment, they would believe it and repent and that God would bless them. And he did not want them blessed! God could bless Israel. But Jonah would be damned (literally) before he would see God’s blessing shed upon these enemies. So he fled to Tarshish. We can understand Jonah’s motives if we can imagine the word of the Lord coming to a Jew who lived in New York during World War II telling him to go to Berlin to preach to Nazi Germany. Instead of this, he goes to San Francisco and there takes a boat for Hong Kong.

We may laugh at that, of course. But before we laugh too hard we should ask whether or not we are in the spiritual ancestry of Jonah. True, we have never been sent to Nineveh, and we may never have run away to Tarshish. But the commission that has been given to us is no less demanding than Jonah’s, if we are Christians, and often our attempts to avoid it are no less determined than his were.

What was Jonah’s commission? “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it” (Jonah 1:2KJV). It consisted of three main words. He was told to “arise.” He was told to “go.” He was told to “cry.” This is precisely what we have been told to do in the Great Commission. We are to arise from wherever we happen to be seated. We are to go into all the world. And we are to cry against the world’s wickedness, teaching it all that we have been taught by Jesus. Matthew’s form of the Great Commission says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Wings of Dawn

Verse three tells us of Jonah’s attempt to get away from God, and it gives us the consequences of that attempt. It is surprising that Jonah did not know of these consequences before he ran or consider how impossible it is to escape God.

We must remember at this point that Jonah lived relatively late in Old Testament history, certainly long after the psalms were written, and that he therefore knew or had ample opportunity to know those great words in Psalms 139: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalms 139:7-10). Did Jonah know these words? Probably. Then why did he not remember them as he set out in the ship for Tarshish?

As I read that psalm I find myself wondering if the name of the ship upon which Jonah set out might not have been The Wings of Dawn. The story does not give the name of the ship. But that is a good name for a ship; and if the ship of the book of Jonah were so named, it would be an irony well suited to Jonah’s situation. Did he notice the name, if this is what it was? Did he notice the rats getting off as he stepped on? If I understand sin and disobedience at all, I suspect that Jonah noticed none of these things, so set was he in this folly. No more do we when we take our “wings of dawn” to sail away from God across life’s sea.

God’s Sovereignty

At this point we find our first great lessons regarding God’s sovereignty. For built into Jonah’s first attempts to get away from God are two results which will inevitably follow whenever anyone tries to disobey Him. These results are in verse three, that is, one verse before the one that tells of God’s special intervention in sending the storm after Jonah’s ship. God has His special interventions too. But the fact that these occur before this indicates that they are as inevitable in spiritual matters as physical laws are in the physical universe.

The first result is that Jonah’s course was downhill. He would not have described it that way. He would have said that he was improving his lot in life, just as we also do when we choose our own course instead of God’s. But it was downhill nevertheless. In verse three, we are told that Jonah went “down” to Joppa and that having paid his fare he went “down” into the ship (see Jonah 1:3 KJV). This is not accidental in a story in which the words are as carefully chosen as this one. Nor are these two instances of the word down isolated. Two verses farther on, in verse five (KJV), we are told that Jonah had gone “down” into the sides of the ship, that is, below decks. Then in chapter 2, verse 6 (KJV), in a prayer which takes place after Jonah has been thrown overboard by the sailors, Jonah describes how he had gone “down” to the bottom of the earth’s mountains beneath the waves. That is a lot of going down! Down, down, down, down. But it is always that way when a person runs from the presence of the Lord. The way of the Lord is up! Consequently, any way that is away from Him is down. The way may look beautiful when we start. The seas may look peaceful and the ship attractive, but the way is still down.

There is another result. In his excellent preaching on Jonah, Donald Grey Barnhouse often called attention to this by highlighting the phrase “he paid his fare” (KJV). He noted that Jonah did not get to where he was going, since he was thrown overboard, and that he obviously did not get a refund on his ticket. So he paid the full fare and did not get to the end of his journey. Now, says Barnhouse, it is always that way. “When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. On the other hand, when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and He pays the fare.”1

Jonah illustrates one-half of that statement. The story of Moses’ mother, Jochebed, illustrates the other half. Jochebed conceived Moses during a time of great persecution by the Egyptians, a time in which the young male children were being thrown into the river to die. When the child was born, Jochebed and her husband, Amram, tried to hide him as long as possible, suspecting, I believe, that this was the one who had been promised by God to be the deliverer of the people. But at last the baby’s cries grew too loud, and another plan was necessary. The mother made a little boat of bulrushes, covering it with tar. She placed Moses in it and set it in the reeds by the river’s bank. Then she stationed Moses’ sister, Miriam, at a distance to see what would become of him. Though she wanted her baby more than anything else in the world, Jochebed trusted the matter to God, allowing Him to do as He wished with her and the child.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to the river, and when she saw the ark in the water she sent her maids to fetch it. When it was opened she saw the baby. He was crying. This so touched the woman’s heart that she determined to save him and raise him in the palace. But what was she to do? Obviously the child needed a wet nurse. Where could she find one?

At this point, Miriam, who had been watching from a distance, came forward and asked if she could be of assistance. “Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?” Miriam asked.

“Yes,” said the princess. So Jochebed was brought.

At this point Jochebed is about to receive back the child she most dearly wanted. She would have done anything to have had him. She would have scrubbed floors in the palace, anything. In fact, suppose the daughter of the Pharoah had said, “I am going to give you this child to raise. But I want you to know that I have seen through your stratagem. I know that this young girl was not up on that hill watching by accident. She must be the sister of this baby and, therefore, you must be the mother. You can have your child. But as a sign of your disobedience to the Pharoah, I am going to cut off your right hand. . . ” Well, if she had said that, Moses’ mother would have held out both hands if only she could have had the child back. But that is not what happened. Instead Pharaoh’s daughter gave her the child, declaring, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you” (Exodus 2:9).

“I will pay you.” That is the point for which I tell the story. Jonah went his own way, paid his own fare, and got nothing. Jochebed went God’s way. Consequently, God paid the fare, and she got everything. So I repeat: When you run away from the Lord you never get to where you are going, and you always pay your own fare. But when you go the Lord’s way you always get to where you are going, and He pays the fare.

But the Lord

Now in one sense Jonah’s story is over at this point. That is, the story of his choice, his disobedience, is over. God has given His command. Jonah has disobeyed. Now Jonah must sit back and suffer the consequences as God now intervenes supernaturally to alter the story. This point is made very clear by the contrast between the first two words of verse three (“But Jonah”) and the first three words of verse four (“But the Lord” KJV). It is true that Jonah has rejected God. He has voiced his little “but,” as we sometimes do. He is allowed to do it. God’s sovereignty does not rule it out. But now God is about to voice His “BUT,” and His “but” is more substantial than Jonah’s.

What does God do? Well, He does three great things. First, He sends a great storm. The text indicates that it was a storm of unusual ferocity, so fierce that even experienced sailors were frightened. I never read about it that I do not think of that other storm that also frightened experienced men on the lake of Galilee. The men were Christ’s disciples, and Christ was with them, although asleep in the boat. For awhile they rowed. But they were in danger of sinking and were afraid. So they awoke Jesus and cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The disciples were amazed and asked “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (see Matthew 8:23-27).

The Lord who can calm the troubled waters of your life is the same Lord who can stir them up to great frenzy. What He does depends upon whether He is with you in the boat or, which is a better way of putting it, whether or not you are with Him. If Jesus is in your boat- if you are going His way and are trusting Him – then, when storms come, you can cry out, “Oh, Master, help me!” and He will calm the violence. But if you are running from Him – if He is not in your boat and you are disobeying Him – then He will stir the waves up.

Second, the Lord prepared a great fish. Farther on in the story we read that God also prepared a small worm to eat the root and so destroy the plant that shaded Jonah. So we notice that, on the one hand. God used one of the largest creatures on earth to do His bidding and that, on the other hand, he used one of the smallest. Apparently it makes no difference to God. He will use whatever it takes to get the disobedient one back into the place of blessing. Are you running away from God? If so, he may use the cankerworm to spoil your harvest. He may use the whirlwind to destroy your barns and buildings. If necessary, He will touch your person. He will use whatever it takes, because He is faithful to Himself, to you, and to His purposes.

Finally, God saved a great city. This last act, like the others, is an act of great mercy. For the city did not deserve His mercy. Yet He saved it, thereby preserving it from destruction for a time.

God is so determined to perfect His good work in us that He will continue to do so with whatever it takes, regardless of the obedience or disobedience of the Christian. Will you go in His way? If you do, you will find the way smoothed out and filled with great blessings.

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James Boice

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The Mercy of God.


And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented [changed His mind] of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. —Jonah 3:10

After much resistance, Jonah yielded to God to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to that great city in Assyria. Then the pronouncement was made that after forty days God would judge the city with His wrath.

With urgency, the king declared a fast that even included the animals. The people wept and begged for mercy, and with an open heart they prayed to God. Because they humbled themselves in prayer, God lifted His declaration and spoke life, and not death, over them.

Our God does not show favoritism, for His mercy extends the globe (John 3:17). The love and mercy of God can reach anyone—from the uttermost to the guttermost. He can reach out to wherever your unsaved loved ones are and set their feet on the Rock of their salvation.

Think of loved ones who are lost, and pray for their salvation today. Think of those in your city, nation, and world who are lost. Pray for their salvation today. Ask God to be merciful to them and to seed His Spirit to convict, deliver, save, and heal them today.

Jesus, I pray for the lost this day. I pray
for my loved ones who are lost. I pray
for all the lost in the world. Extend
Your mercy and send forth workers
into the harvest to proclaim
Your good news. Amen.

By ROD PARSLEY.

Prayerlessness Is Selfishness.


I have said it often and said it recently, that prayer has always been a struggle for me. It’s not that I don’t pray–I do!–but that I find it a battle to put my theology into action day-by-day and to live out my deepest convictions about prayer by actually praying. I experience little of the joy and sense of fulfillment that so many of the great pray-ers speak of. As often as not, I have to rely on the objective facts of what I believe about prayer more than any subjective feeling or sense of satisfaction.

Last week I received a jolt when I read H.B. Charles Jr.’s It Happens After Prayer. If I can read a whole book and hang on to one big application or one big challenge, I consider it a book that has been well worth the time I’ve invested in it. There were several helpful takeaways from Charles’ book, but the one I expect to stick with me is this: “The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own.” On one level it’s an obvious insight, but then again, the best insights usually are. I should have known it, and, in fact, I think I did know it. But I needed it clearly spelled out to me at this time in my life.

As I prayed last week, and as I gave attention to preparing a sermon, I was struck by a related thought: Prayerlessness is selfishness. I had been spending time praying as per Mike McKinley’s oh-so-helpful guidelines and found myself praying that I would grow in love for those who would hear the sermon, that I would have wisdom to apply the text to their lives, that I would see how the passage confronts the unbelief of those who would hear it, and so on. And it struck me that for me not to pray, and not to pray fervently, during the process of sermon preparation would be the height of selfishness. I would be trusting that I could handle crafting the sermon and coming up with just the right applications all on my own. I would be effectively denying the Lord the opportunity to do his work through this sermon. “You go do something else; I’ve got this one!”

The text itself gave me an illustration. I was preaching the first chapter of Jonah and there we see Jonah aboard a ship in the middle of a storm so powerful that it threatens to destroy the boat and all aboard it. There is only one man on that ship who fears God, only one man who has the ability to cry out to a God who actually exists and who actually has the power to calm the storm. And he is the one man who refuses to cry out to his God, the one man who goes below and falls asleep. Even when the captain wakes him and rebukes him for his prayerlessness we get no indication that he prays. His prayerlessness is selfishness and further threatens the crew of that little ship.

If I believe that prayer works, if I believe that prayer is a means through which the Lord acts, if I believe that God chooses to work through prayer in powerful ways and in ways he may not work without prayer, then it is selfish of me not to pray. To pray is to love; not to pray is to be complacent, to be unloving, to be selfish.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the pastor who does not pray through the process of preparing a sermon. He expresses love for his church when he prays and pleads for the Lord’s wisdom and insight.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the father who does not pray for his children, for their safety, their sanctification, their salvation, their obedience, their every need.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the church member who does not pray for the Lord’s grace to be extended to his friends, for those who are battling a specific sin and seeing both encouraging victories and heartbreaking failure.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the Christian who does not pray for his neighbors, that the Lord would save them and that the Lord would even use him as the one to share with them the good news of the gospel.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for each of us when we neglect to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are facing persecution. To neglect to pray for them is to tell the Lord that he may as well allow them to continue to suffer.

And if prayerlessness is selfishness, than one of the ways I can best love my church and family and friends and neighbors and distant brothers and sisters is to go to my knees and to intercede on their behalf.

Tim Challies

Tim Challies is author of the weblog Challies.com: Informing the Reforming and lives near Toronto, Canada. 
He is also author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

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