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Feature Friday (1/9/15)

imagesModesty. An issue that almost makes you cringe. However, when you speak of such a topic around Christians and in regards to church attire, the debate will rage. So this week’s collective post brings great insight into the question of modesty in answering the question: “What To Say to That Immodestly Dressed Girl at Church“.

Enjoy and be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day!

Back from Brazil!

It’s summer. Summer means vacation, visits, weekend get away’s, and mission trips. And this past month I had a great opportunity and privilege to embark on a mission trip to one of the most desirable places this year…Brazil. With all the World Cup hype and futbol frenzy Brazil is a country of great focus this summer. While I, my wife, and the six students that went, did not go to Brazil for the World Cup; we realized the great prospect for furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ God gave us. Here is a brief recap of our trip. I hope to share more in the posts to come, but for now enjoy the sights of Porto Alegre Brazil!

Feature Friday (2/28/14)

discipleshipFollowing up last weeks Feature Friday’s post about discipleship, here is another good article discussing how discipleship can happen in your everyday life. The main thrust of the article talks about being willing to pursue people Monday through Saturday and not just Sunday!

Enjoy, and as always be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day!

Jonah: Repentance is Favored

252706361_wrong_xlargeEver been proven wrong? Well, if you are anything like me, this is more than a daily occurrence. Multiple times a day it seems as though I am told, shown, or it is brought to my attention that I was or am wrong. And truth be told…I hate it. Who likes to be told they are wrong? Who likes it to be brought to their attention that what they thought, said, or did was not right? Not many people enjoy being told they are wrong (if you are this type of person, yippee for you). However, it is not so much what we are wrong about that matters most in life, but how we respond to that revelation. And Jonah is the living example of this truth.

A man whose job (being the prophet that he was) depended on his obedience to God’s call and message, Jonah seemed to respond in all the wrong ways. God gave him a message to preach to Nineveh and what does he do? He runs the other way. He is given an opportunity to tell about the God of the universe and what does He do? Sleeps on the bottom of the boat. Over and over again Jonah showed that Resistance is Futile. But last week we saw Jonah exemplify that God is still in the business of rescuing, even if the Rescue is Fishy! Today we will see that while resisting God is futile and God’s ways of rescuing may be slightly abnormal, He still Favors Repentance. We will see this truth through a Recommissioning of God, a Repenting to God, and a Relenting God.

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We find Jonah on a beach off the Mediterranean Sea, still covered in big fish gastric juices. Having just been spewed out by a very large fish (2:10), God recommissions Jonah. God’s word comes to Jonah a second time (3:1). We see God show grace yet again, despite the prejudice of His prophet. God is giving Jonah a second chance. God is not in the business of a one and done relationship. He keeps coming back to the prophet over and over and over again, He is relentless in His pursuit of Jonah and thus His pursuit of the people of Nineveh. God informs Jonah, once again, to go to Nineveh and preach the message He will provide (3:2). And this time, Jonah wises up and goes to Nineveh (3:3). As much as we may easily point the finger at Jonah for trying to run from God, he at least learned his lesson (seemingly) after just one disobedient response. It is here we get a bit of a hint of why Jonah may have ran as well, he had an unpopular message to preach from God (3:4; Prov. 12:7; Gen. 19:23-29). So God was Recommissioning Jonah by giving him a second chance to proclaim severe judgment. But the question is how will the people of Nineveh respond to the Jewish prophet?

As he comes into Nineveh, Jonah is preaching his unpopular message of repentance or judgment from God (3:4). Now one would expect the Ninevites to repel God and his prophet, but instead we see a miraculous response…Repenting to God (3:5). The people of Nineveh respond not just in word to their captive (remember Israel was enslaved by Assyria, which Nineveh was the capital city of) preaching against them but in action (3:5). They put on sackcloth and ashes and it was trans-social economic in extent as well. We find in verses 6-9 that everyone from the king to cattle are repenting. However, it is the king of Nineveh which gives us an example to follow of true repentance. First, he is humbled (3:6). The king takes himself off the throne, removes his royal clothing, puts on mourners clothing, and sits in ashes. servant-leadershipAll of these actions symbolize the humble heart that recognizes its own sin (James 4:6-10). Secondly, the king proclaims repentance to others (3:7-8). He is distressed and humbled so much about his sin before God, not one area of his life goes unaffected, he is preaching repentance, bearing fruit in repentance, and showing repentance in his actions (Luke 3:3, 7-14). Finally, the king hopes in God’s goodness (3:9). The king recognizes that God has every right and ability to utterly destroy him and Nineveh from off the face of the earth, but that there is a change God in His goodness and grace may  relent from His judgment. So the Ninevites and their King all show Repentance toward God. But the question remains…what will God do?

It is in the very last verse of chapter 3 of Jonah that we see the Relenting of God. Here one sees God favor repentance and respond by relenting of His impending destruction of Nineveh. The Ninevites repented from their evil and God listened (Psalm 66:18-19). God reviewed the repentance and hearts of those in Nineveh and relented of His judgment. What God does here is give grace. Does this mean God does not follow through on His word? Is God not faithful to what He told Jonah? “Nineveh shall be overthrown”. Was that not God’s message for Jonah? Then how is Nineveh still permitted to remain? This dilemma is solved when investigating what God means by saying “overthrown”. Overthrown could mean destroyed or judged (which is how we have been dealing with it this entire time). But the word has an alternate meaning as well. “To overthrow” could mean that Nineveh would repent and turn from their sins to God. So God did overthrow Nineveh, but it happened to overthrowing their hearts, minds, and lives to see and appreciate His character and nature, shown through  His grace (Luke 15:18-24).

So we see that God is a God of second chances and He offered Jonah a second chance Recommissioning him. But Jonah was recommissioned for the purpose to see Nineveh Repenting to God. And it was in this recommissioning and repenting that we see God Relenting of judgment. If we are honest we know that God has given us all numerous “second chances” and is constantly gracious and patient with us. All He asks of us is to repent of our sin and turn to Him. But truth be told our repenting and God’s recommissioning of us would never come without His relenting of judgment toward us.

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But that relenting came at a great cost to God Himself, when He commissioned His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to come and take our sin and shame upon His body on the cross of Calvary (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). It is only through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that you, I, or anyone can be recommissioned by God and that comes only through our repentance of our sins and recognition of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

Jonah shows us that Repentance is Favored, have you repented of your sins and trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If not, don’t wait any longer. We are not promised tomorrow. In case you missed the beginning parts of this series you can find part 1: Resistance is Futile and part 2: Rescue is Fishy by following the links. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the fourth and final part of Jonah’s story next week.

Jonah: Resistance is Futile

Winter Retreat Tshirt 2013Prejudice and Grace. When the former comes to mind, what do you think of? Maybe racism, the Civil War, city gangs, or other such cultural problems. On a larger scale, people like Hitler, murderers, and supremacists come to mind. But what about the latter? What about grace? Maybe forgiveness, love, or even God come to mind. All in all, positive traits come into play with grace. When we think of these two categories and consider which one we most display, the natural inclination is to answer quickly…”Grace, of course!” But the truth is that there was a man who, when faced with the same dilemma, answered the same way, but was quickly and repeatedly shown how wrong his self-evaluation was. That man’s name is Jonah! Jonah demonstrates the importance lesson that…Resisting God is Futile. And for the next few weeks we will examine the experience of Jonah and see Jonah’s prejudice, but God’s grace throughout.

Right from the get go in the book of Jonah we see two main characters: God and Jonah. Yet it is God that initiates action (Jonah 1:1)–he is the one who comes. God gives Jonah a message to proclaim and calls him to be His messenger to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and it was prophesied that she would conquer Israel (Hosea and Isaiah). Therefore, to Jonah, Nineveh was the last place he wanted to go. So instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded, Jonah ran the other direction to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). But Jonah was not trying to merely run from his enemies, he was trying to “flee from the presence of the Lord”. He was attempting to flee the omnipresent God (Psalm 139:7-12). How often do we do the very same thing? We run to money, job, success, relationships, drugs, alcohol,etc. Why? To flee from the very One who loves us most and desires to save us from our running.

But the story does not end there. In the midst of Jonah’s running we see God is the one who controls. God hurls a great storm on the sea on which Jonah’s ship sails (Jonah 1:4).  And this was no ordinary storm. The mariners who spent their lives on the sea are frightened so much they even cry out to false, nonexistent gods (vs. 5). But where is Jonah? He is in the bottom of the boat fast asleep. This illustrates a false teaching we often hear about God’s will–how is the will of God known…”I have a peace about it”. But here we see the prophet of God on the run from God and “at peace” in the midst of a terrible storm. (Lesson to learn: subjective internal peace is a terrible guide to finding and knowing the will of God.) But what is the purpose of the storm? To get Jonah’s attention and call Him back to the One whose presence he is trying to escape. But the problem Jonah forgets is that the God He is running from is the God who is sovereign over it all, including the very sea he is in (vs. 9, cf. Job 38:4-11). That God is the same God today. run

It is at this point in the story that Jonah finally clarifies. Surrounded by unbelieving sailors and confronted with his disobedience toward God, he fulfills his prophetic role and speaks the truth of God (vs. 9). It is ironic how God uses even a disobedient, wayward prophet to call others to Him. God uses a circumstance that was designed by man (Jonah) to thwart the plan of God (proclaiming His message) to actually accomplish the very thing He intended the man to do. Jonah is used by God, despite his stubborn spirit, to reveal the God he is trying to flee (Psalm 89:9). This illustrates a reality of our daily lives–God turns what was meant for evil into good. He makes disobedience still accomplish His ultimate purpose.

Finally, we see in the story of Jonah the ultimate irony. Some of the very people Jonah was meant to show the love of God to, actually turn and show him care. While the declaration has been made that Jonah must be thrown into the sea (vs. 12), the men do all they can to avoid what they see as Jonah’s death (vs. 13). Here we see that the one who should have cared most for them, was actually the one who was cared for more by them. Is this not what God does for us? He creates and provides for us, supplies and sustains us. And we should love and care for Him in return. But instead, it is we for whom God had to care by sending His one and only Son to take our place on the cross. It is He for whom we should care above all else, yet it is He who shows care for us above all else. It is the same caring God of Jonah, that has called you and me to care for others. How are we doing? Are we running from God and despising our enemies? Or are we running to our enemies and declaring our God?

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So as you sit and think about whether you are more prejudice or gracious, remember Jonah. That it was God who Came, God who Controls, God who calls us to Clarify, and God who calls us to Care for others. But He does this all only because He first Came for us, has Control, Clarified Himself to us, and Cared for us.

LIFE on MISSION: Destination Florida

photoMy apologies for not posting again yesterday, but there is a great reason. Our youth group is on a mission trip this week in Margate, Florida. We are ministering to the Haitian culture, spreading the gospel through sports evangelism. Enjoy the picture of our team. Regular posting will resume next week!

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