Who Cares

Jonah 4:10-11
But the Lord said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?'”

Over the past year we have seen summits on global warming, protests against the cruelty to animals, and the unjust treatment of certain groups of individuals. It is clear that people feel justified in demanding the ethical treatment of the planet and its inhabitants. While it is clear that we bear a responsibility before God for the way we treat what He has given us to care for, it is also true, we can become consumed with other things and forget that the most valuable, and often most neglected resource in the world, is the human soul. Jonah wept over the mistreatment of a plant and cared little for the eternal souls of the inhabitants of Nineveh.

We, like Jonah, have been commissioned by God to declare a message of salvation to the world. This message is so powerful it carries the ability to save a person from eternal destruction, while at the same time, transforming their lives. Jonah watched it happen to hundreds of thousands of people in Nineveh. When he shared the gospel, the king, his colleagues, and the inhabitants of the city turned from their evil ways and began to worship YHWH. The Gospel we have been commissioned to share is no less powerful. Paul said it alone has the power to bring salvation and Peter called it the words of eternal life. Along with this powerful message, we have also been given the supply of the Spirit of Christ. When the gospel is declared, the Spirit of God convicts the heart of the hearer of their need for God.

I wonder if we, like Jonah, have become distracted by caring for lesser things, while neglecting the most important thing? Perhaps it is time we spent a little more time caring about the souls of our neighbors, co-workers, and friends than we do about whether TiVo recorded our favorite show or who is the quarterback for our favorite sports team. Jonah’s failure was caring about the wrong things, while neglecting the most important thing.

Pastor Jim

 

Salvation 

Jonah 3:9
“Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?”

God has chosen to reveal the plan of salvation through the foolishness of preaching. Nowhere, is that better illustrated than in the story of Jonah. This reluctant preacher delivered a message that turned a nation toward the Lord. As the king heard this message, his heart was stirred to turn from his wicked ways and begin to follow Jehovah. In his desperation, he asked a deeply profound question. Is it possible to know for sure that our sins have been forgiven and we have been set free from the judgment of God?

Years ago, I was at a home fellowship where we were enjoying a time of worship. As it came to an end, the leader instructed us to take a few minutes to pray for one another. When I, and another young man, began to pray, I sensed the need to pray that he would know for sure he had been forgiven of his sin and, in fact, belonged to God. As we finished praying and I looked up, I could see he was overcome with emotion. He began to explain that he had been struggling with the idea of being truly forgiven. He kept reminding himself of all the ways he had failed, and questioned whether he was really a believer. Like the king of Assyria, he was hoping to be set free from judgment, but was not certain he had met the requirements.

The message of Scripture says we can indeed be forgiven of sin and we have an assurance of our salvation. Both Scripture and experience testify to the heart of the child of God, that we belong to God. Jesus declared from the cross, the work of salvation is finished. All that is required for us to be forgiven and set free from divine judgment, is to simply accept the gift. When we choose to believe upon Christ, our sins are removed and we become a child of God. To affirm the reality of this, God begins to change our life, replacing old desires and behaviors with new ones that testify to our hearts, we belong to Him.

If you want to be forgiven of sin, just ask; salvation is free to all who choose to receive the gift.

Pastor Jim

 

How Much Longer 

Jonah 2:1
“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.”

Although very few people have ever been swallowed by a great fish, the story of Jonah is still a pretty common one. It tells of a man who refused to do what God called him to until the chastening of the Lord got his attention. It is remarkable how long Jonah endured this chastening before he called on God and amended his ways. I have often wondered at what point along the way I would have obeyed. He had his first opportunity when he heard the word of God, his second, when the storm hit, and his third when the sailors awoke him, cast lots, and determined the storm was his fault. His fourth opportunity came when the sailors, who had been idol worshippers, turned their lives over the the Lord. His fifth chance came when he was cast into the sea, and his sixth, when a great fish opened its mouth and swallowed him whole. This is where the stubbornness of Jonah really stands out. He tells us, with his body wrapped in seaweed and stuck in what seemed like his eternal grave, that it took three days before he cried out to God and repented of his disobedience.

As wild as this story is, Jonah is not alone in it. The stubbornness of the human heart is almost beyond comprehension. I have watched families be dismantled over the sins of a father, who will not let go of an ungodly act or relationship. With his wife and children pleading with him to come back to them, he continues in his rebellion until everything he has worked years to erect, comes tumbling down around him.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, “At what point will you repent?” How much farther do you need to walk away from the Lord before you will turn to Him and cry out for His help? Don’t wait until the seaweed is around your head or the stomach juices have bleached your skin. Turn to Jesus now, and let His mercy wash over you, and let His power restore what you have broken.

Pastor Jim

 

Unnecessary Suffering 

Jonah 1:3
“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

The story of Jonah has two main themes. The first is to reveal the heart of God for the lost. However, before this can be fully developed we are introduced to the second theme, the disobedience of Jonah. Three of the four chapters teach us of the sin and suffering of a wayward prophet. His is the story of a man who experiences unnecessary suffering that could have been avoided through simple obedience.

The stage is set when Jonah is commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to Nineveh. In one of the most shocking turns we will ever witness we read, “But Jonah…” Without explaining the reasons behind his unwillingness, the story takes us immediately to the consequences of his disobedience.

First, we read he began to run from the Lord. This running took him to places he would have never otherwise have gone. The Hebrew people were not known as maritime travelers, yet Jonah paid the fair and got aboard the ship. His journey would prove to be much more costly than the ticket price. Soon he found himself going down into the lowest part of the ship, and before long to the depths of the sea, and the belly of a great fish.

One of the reasons sin is so dangerous is because of the strong grip it has on us. Jonah’s heart had been so hardened by his disobedience, it took three days in the belly of the great fish before he would cry out to God. He describes that time as one of intense suffering, fear and anguish. While the text does not tell us this, the science behind the scene suggests that the stomach acids of the fish would have bleached Jonah’s skin, forever marking his life with the scars of disobedience.

When Jonah finally cried out to the Lord, he was forgiven, rescued, restored and even used in the lives of the Ninevites, but not without having suffered in ways God never intended.

We, too, can avoid all kinds of anguish by simple obedience. The command given to Jonah may not have been easy to obey, but it was not difficult to understand. For the most part, we do not really struggle with what God wants us to do, as much as we struggle to simply do it. If you are running from the Lord it is time to stop, turn around, and obey.

Pastor Jim

 

Salvation

Jonah 3:9
“Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?”

God has chosen to reveal the plan of salvation through the foolishness of preaching. Nowhere, is that better illustrated than in the story of Jonah. This reluctant preacher delivered a message that turned a nation toward The Lord. As the king heard this message, his heart was stirred to turn from his wicked ways and begin to follow Jehovah. In his desperation, he asked a deeply profound question. Is it possible to know for sure that our sins have been forgiven and we have been set free from the judgment of God?

Years ago, I was at a home fellowship where we were enjoying a time of worship. As it came to an end, the leader instructed us to take a few minutes to pray for one another. When I, and another young man, began to pray, I sensed the need to pray that he would know for sure he had been forgiven of his sin and, in fact, belonged to God. As we finished praying and I looked up, I could see he was overcome with emotion. He began to explain that he had been struggling with the idea of being truly forgiven. He kept reminding himself of all the ways he had failed, and questioned whether he was really a believer. Like the king of Assyria, he was hoping to be set free from judgment, but was not certain he had met the requirements.

The message of Scripture says we can indeed be forgiven of sin and we have an assurance of our salvation. Both Scripture and experience testify to the heart of the child of God, we belong to God. Jesus declared from the cross, the work of salvation is finished. All that is required or us to be forgiven and set free from divine judgment, is to simply accept the gift. When we choose to believe upon Christ, our sins are removed and we become a child of God. To affirm the reality of this, God begins to change our life, replacing old desires and behaviors with new ones that testify to our hearts, we belong to Him.

If you want to be forgiven of sin, just ask; salvation is free to all who choose to receive the gift.

Pastor Jim

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Unnecessary Suffering

Jonah 1:3
“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

The story of Jonah has two main themes. The first is to reveal the heart of God for the lost. However, before this can be fully developed we are introduced to the second theme, the disobedience of Jonah. Three of the four chapters teach us of the sin and suffering of a wayward prophet. His is the story of a man who experiences unnecessary suffering that could have been avoided through simple obedience.

The stage is set when Jonah is commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to Nineveh. In one of the most shocking turns we will ever witness we read, “But Jonah…” Without explaining the reasons behind his unwillingness, the story takes us immediately to the consequences of his disobedience.

First, we read he began to run from the Lord. This running took him to places he would have never otherwise have gone. The Hebrew people were not known as maritime travelers, yet Jonah paid the fair and got aboard the ship. His journey would prove to be much more costly than the ticket price. Soon he found himself going down into the lowest part of the ship, and before long to the depths of the sea, and the belly of a great fish.

One of the reasons sin is so dangerous is because of the strong grip it puts upon us. Jonah’s heart had been so hardened by his disobedience it took three days in the belly of the great fish before he would cry out to God. He describes that time as one of intense suffering, fear and anguish. While the text does not tell us this, the science behind the scene suggests that the stomach acids of the fish would have bleached Jonah’s skin, forever marking his life with the scars of disobedience.

When Jonah finally cried out to the Lord, he was forgiven, rescued, restored and even used in the lives of the Ninevites, but not without having suffered in ways God never intended.

We too can avoid all kinds of anguish by simple obedience. The command given to Jonah may not have been easy to obey, but it was not difficult to understand. For the most part, we do not really struggle with what God wants us to do, as much as we struggle to simply do it. If you are running from the Lord it is time to stop, turn around and obey.

Pastor Jim

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