Monday, June 6, 2016

WHERE CAN YOU HIDE?


“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship…paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1: 2

Jonah tried to run from God's call upon his life. He found he was unable to "burn his obedience bridge."

Fleeing From the Presence of God
Jonah boarded a ship headed to Tarshish, a city located on the far west end of the Mediterranean Sea, probably in Southern Spain near Gibraltar. To sail past this point would be to enter the vast unknown Atlantic Ocean. Jonah was going to a remote location that represented the point farthest from and most opposite to where God was sending him. He was fleeing not only from the purpose of God but also from the very presence of God.

 “Asleep”
Jonah went down into the ship and fell asleep. Usually a person running from God is unable to sleep very well, especially during a storm. Generally speaking there is no rest or peace to the wicked, but Jonah was able to sleep. He slept to escape his guilt and to avoid praying. He could not pray as did all the others on board who feared for their lives. He was in rebellion and he knew what God would say. He was trying to forget what he had already heard. So he avoided calling upon God.

 "Throw me into the sea"
Jonah probably saw death as a means of continued disobedience, just another, yet final, step in avoiding Nineveh. He probably assumed he could repent, die, and go on to Abraham's bosom. So he landed in the water thinking he would drown and be out of his misery. But instead he was swallowed alive by the whale.

 “Expelled From God's Sight”
Jonah "woke up" to realize that he was not dead, but in a very dark, remote, and frightening place. As the whale descended into the depths, Jonah came to the realization of what it really means to be expelled from God's presence. He had been hurled into the deep like a stone and felt himself falling to the base of the mountains. The mighty waters covered him with an intensity of distress.

Sometimes the greatest discipline God can mete out is to give us a heavy dose of the very thing we claim to seek in our rebellion. An appropriate judgment upon those who "flee from God's presence" is to be "expelled from His sight".
In reality, however, Jonah was under the discipline of a loving, yet determined, heavenly Father who had not forsaken him, but was allowing him get a taste of what he was asking for while simultaneously being placed back on track toward Nineveh and the purpose of God.
The wicked mistakenly think it will be a relief to get away from God, but it is a most awful terror. It is a cold, hopeless, and fearful place. Therefore, Jonah cried out in horror thinking he had been expelled from God’s presence. How relieved he must have been to discover that he was still alive and in the hands of God, and to know that he had not descended into Sheol in his rebellion.

 A Whale: A Rebellious Person’s Gethsemane
Jonah intended to burn his obedience bridges when he embarked upon that ship to Tarshish, The Mediterranean Sea is large, and during Solomon's time ships from Tarshish came to Israel only once every three years. Therefore, it is obvious that Jonah was trying put himself into a situation in which it would be impossible to change his mind and in which God, even if He should forgive Jonah, would be unable to send him back anytime soon. Jonah assumed God would probably find someone else to do the job.
Jonah was to learn a hard lesson. If we deliberately burn our “obedience bridges” behind us in an effort to make obedience impossible, God can still make a way, a very uncomfortable way, to get us back on track. A person may think he is safe from the will and purpose of God as he sails far out onto the blue Mediterranean Sea. But God sends a storm…and then He sends a whale. Many who tried to run from God have found themselves traveling via "whale belly.” Once Jonah got onto the boat there was no easy way out and no easy or comfortable way back. But there was a way. He had to marinade in whale-belly enzymes for three days. He would definitely return to Israel a lot more tender of heart.
A “whale” is a very uncomfortable circumstance which God uses to return us to His will while giving us incentive not to run away again. A whale is also a place for a second chance, a door to restoration that otherwise would have been impossible. A “whale’s belly” can be a rebellious man’s Gethsemane—a place where even the rebel is willing to pray “not my will, but thine be done.”           

The Goldfish
Like Jonah we cannot escaped the presence or the call of God (Ps 139: 7-12; Romans 11: 29). His incomprehensible mercy and steadfast love will follow us to the ends of the earth (Ps.23: 6). God's word will overtake those to whom He speaks (Zech I: 6; Prov. 13:13). He may give us room to run…but we will meet Him in the way. If God was so persistent with Jonah who was genuinely trying to flee, how much more will He work to apprehend and help those of us who desire to obey but yet struggle in the valley of decision.

 And for those of us who are determined to flee, it is foolish to think we can succeed in escaping and hiding from God. It is like the goldfish that decides to run away from home. He has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. But why would we want to run and hide from such a wonderful God who loves us so much? In the blindness of our humanity we fail to see the awesomeness of His love, power, and wisdom. He is good. His way is right and best. We should embrace Him and His plan for our lives.

“You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me…
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;If I make my bed in hell, behold You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me, And your right hand shall hold me.”    
 -Psalm 139: 5-10        

Thursday, July 23, 2015

FLY

Roaches can actually fly. I know I've seen some of those big ones do it. But I've seen them track out across hot asphalt, stick, and die...because they refused to fly. It's in their nature to stick close to the ground and places to hide. We can "fly" if we live for the Lord and walk in His ways. But when we live according to our lower nature and sin...we live "in the gutter" and track into snares and traps that cause us to "lose our lives" rather than saving them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Effects of Folly

Ecclesiastes 10: 1 "...So a little folly outweighs wisdom"
Our failures often make a bigger “splash” than our successes. People will often forget all the good a man has done and judge him based on the one mistake or failure in his life. Many contemporary men of God who have done great works and accomplished very significant things for God will be remembered primarily for the sin that was discovered in their lives. A man's folly is more entertaining to the public than his wisdom. His sins will be trumpeted much louder than his accomplishments, especially if they follow his accomplishments.
The enemy would take advantage of our sins and failures in order to produce shame and despair, and ultimately to make us quit. But we should humble ourselves before God, surrender to His discipline, and continue in faith and obedience. Our reputations, as well as our lives, are in His hands.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DEALING WITH REGRET

I look back over my life and see many regrets, things I would change or do better if I could go back and start over. I see areas where I was not a wise and faithful steward of resources, time, responsibilities, opportunities, and potential.
How do I resolve what in the natural seems to be un-resolvable? What do I do when I’ve lost or forfeited something I can never get back? How do I find comfort when something dear to me is gone? The answer: I give it to God.
The prodigal son left home and wasted his inheritance in the world of disobedience and sin. Sometimes I feel like the prodigal who stayed home. I did not waste my life in sin and dissipation, but rather was the “good son” who stayed in the fold but still squandered opportunities, resources, time, and potential.
So what do I do as I look back seeing these areas of lost and so many things I would change? I give it to God. My hope is in the redemptive power of Christ, and in the grace, wisdom, and goodness of God that helps me overcome myself.
“I am not ashamed, for I know Him whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Timothy 1: 12.
I give it to God, after I have given myself to Him.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

LEADERS NEED LISTENING SKILLS

The failure to listen when someone comes with a problem or complaint.
Discipline yourself to listen.  Prov. 18:13

Do not interrupt the person before he has finished.  Let him share all that is in his heart.  People, need to "drain" themselves of what's on their mind and in their heart.  If you interrupt him before he finishes communicating his ideas, his mind will still be on his own issues and he will not hear or be able to listen to you.

It is easy to formulate answers before you listen to the question or the complaint. But even if you have revelation, even if you already understand, it is still important not to interrupt before the person has spoken all he needs to say.
             
To speak before a person has finished is to risk being guilty of presumption, error, misjudgment and condemnation.

Usually people do not go directly or immediately to the heart of the matter. They start at the periphery and work their way the root issue. Therefore, if you answer too quickly, you are only dealing with peripheral aspects of the issue.
           
People become very frustrated if they feel you have not heard them or if you have not given them opportunity to share their heart.

When a leader speaks too quickly and forms a judgment without listening adequately, the person approaching him may become intimidated and close up.  He will become frustrated and withdraw feeling that he cannot talk.  The person may "drop the charges" but leave confused, questioning his own discernment, questioning what is reality--but still with an inner sense that things are not really resolved.

Pastors should listen because the person may have a valid criticism.

 A Pastor should develop the ability to make people feel comfortable and free to communicate.  Learn to help people open up and share their heart.

Be quick to hear, slow to speak.  Do not let your first response be to defend yourself or to attack the other.

After the person has said everything he has to say, then a leader should evaluate and make a response.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE
I could write a book listing the miracles I have witnessed and the ones I have been a part of. Reading it you would be pressed to believe in God and His desire to work intimately in the lives of people. But then I could also write another book about the times I was in “the deep” about to be swallowed up and close to losing everything. Reading this list of my failures and struggles, you might then say, “Where is your God?”

I could tell you of friends being healed through prayer and also of others dying in spite of it. I have friends who have experienced miraculous healings and friends who have been raised from the dead. Some have received immediate response to prayer, and others have suffered what seems an interminable wait as they call on the Lord daily for healing, help, or an “open door.”

I have experienced the church in its glory as the people of God abounded in their love for one another with the presence of God among them so real it was like heaven itself. Then on the other hand, I have seen church people bite and devour one another and leave the brothers and sisters bleeding in their wake. All of us have seen people of God who truly represent godliness and right living, but we also know of those who have stumbled through sin and hypocrisy. We have seen the church demonstrating the wisdom of God, and then watched as she behaved in an embarrassingly foolish manner.

Christians gasp in shock at these anomalies, and the world uses these inconsistencies as an excuse to deny God and to mock the church. We should not be too surprised. The New Testament writers address these very issues. None of this was foreign to the early Christians. They knew both the reality of a Sovereign God and the reality of human weakness. The high priest in Zechariah chapter 3 stood before the Lord clothed in filthy garments (representing the sin and failure of God’s people whom he represented). The enemy was there to accuse them. But God shut the mouth of the accuser by saying, “I have chosen them, and that settles it.” God is Sovereign and He has chosen us. This should give each of us hope. Remember the words of the old hymn: “I hear my Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in me thine all in all.’ ”

It is easy to be critical, but we need to guard our attitude towards the church. She is the apple of God’s eye. And even with her faults, God loves her and will one day present her to Himself as a bride without spot or wrinkle, a people upon whom His glory rests. We should not use her faults as an excuse for our own disobedience, but rather as an inspiration to “labor fervently in our prayers that she may stand fast, perfect and complete in all the will of God." (Colossians 4:12).

We should recognize the realities and problems, but intercede and pray with a heart for God’s plan for the church rather than “pointing the finger” with a judgmental and condemning spirit. The apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

The purpose of God will be accomplished not because we are worthy, but because HE is worthy. Instead of falling back because of our failures, we should rejoice that Almighty God will complete His plan for His people, and will bring forth His kingdom on earth. Not one jot or tittle shall fail of what He has said regarding the church. If Jesus, while hanging on the cross and facing the agony of death could in that hour say, “It is finished.” (i.e., all things are accomplished and the scripture is fulfilled here today. John 19:25-30), how much more, in the face of our weaknesses and failures, from His position at the right hand of the Father in heaven will He not be able to accomplish His plan and purpose. The eternal purpose of God was accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Its outworking and realization will be fulfilled because He is God.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What's Happening?

“What’s happening?” 
I remember my two-year old grandson in his mother’s lap sick with a high fever and in pain. With eyes red and face wet with tears he cried out to his mom and me, “What’s happening, what’s happening?” The anguish in his little face and voice was heart-wrenching.  Overwhelmed with compassion for the child I laid my hand on his head and prayed for him. The Lord healed him almost instantly as he lay in his mother’s arms. 
His cry made such an impression on me that I have at times imitated him as I have approached God in moments of grief, pain, or perplexity. If my grandson’s cry so deeply touched my heart, I knew that my cry would also in the same way touch the mercy and compassion of our Lord.  And so, I have on occasion looked up into the face of Jesus and cried like that child, “What’s happening? What’s happening?”  
He does not always let me know what’s happening. But I know He is always there. I take comfort in God’s incomprehensible love for us His children. 

“But Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands.”  Isaiah 49: 15-16.

“His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks Him.”  Lamentations 3:23-26