Happy Fruit of a Holy Fear

Re:Verse reading–Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-5, 4:1-11 (day six)

Fear is not all bad. After all the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We know why Jonah fled, he fled because he wanted nothing to do with God’s mercy towards the Ninevites. His lack of fear of the Lord produced a hardened compassion-less heart; he was much more concerned with his own comfort than the desperate need of an entire people.

So fear is not all bad. Fear the Lord, for it is not only the beginning of wisdom but the also the beginning of faith. It is there that we taste the goodness of God, his mercy and compassion through Jesus, each day moving us further away from self-centeredness to selflessness. We can’t help but love the Ninevites.

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God’s Fierce Mercy

Re:Verse reading–Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-5, 4:1-11 (day five) 

Often people will say the God of the Old Testament is judgmental, harsh, and filled with wrath, while in the New Testament He is merciful, gracious, loving, and forgiving. Yet, what we find is that there is NO Difference in His nature and character from Genesis to Revelation. There is a “fierce mercy” found in His nature throughout scripture. He demonstrates it in Jonah. He is not hindered or threatened by seemingly man made boundaries (geographical, moral, social) in His love and kindness for people. Jonah knew this to be true about God (Jonah 4:2).

In the New Testament, Jesus is the perfect picture of God’s mercy as He crossed many of the same boundaries to seek and to save the lost. His love for lepers, tax collectors, sinners, and criminals was clearly evident.

Are we filled with that same view and perspective to love and to minister to people?        Are there boundaries (moral, social, political) that we will not cross to share the gospel? God’s mercy says there are none.

 

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God Appointed a Worm

Re: Verse reading—Jonah 1:1–3; 3:1–5, 10; 4:1–11 (day four) 

As a college student just a few years ago, I was influenced spiritually by one of our BSU staffers, Chuck Kelley.  (Dr. Charles S. Kelley, Jr. is now president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary)  Chuck shared with me one of his favorite Bible verses…Jonah 4:7.  “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.”  Chuck said if God could use a worm, then surely He could use him…he was encouraged….I was encouraged!  I have shared this verse countless times over the years to encourage others.

God also used this worm to help re-orient Jonah to what was truly important…the hearts and souls of people.  How often do we lose sight of what is really important?  How often do we get distracted by our selfish pride so that we no longer see what has real value?  Once we are distracted from truth, fear rushes in.  Only faith can restore our vision!

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Difference

Re: Verse reading—Jonah 1:1–3; 3:1–5, 10; 4:1–11 (day three) 

“O Lord, is this not what I said?”  Does it matter who God involves in the running of this world?  Apparently Jonah didn’t think so: The Lord was going to do what the Lord was going to do, Jonah reasoned, with or without him, and the results would be the same no matter what.  But that assumes individuals and outcomes are interchangeable.  Are they?  Years later, Peter learned that Jesus was going get certain things done with John and certain other things done with Peter’s own life.  Peter heard that he himself––not John, not those other men––must follow the Lord.  No one else will do what you have the power to do when God calls you to act.  God in his wisdom has determined that this moment needs you.

 

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Protecting Pride

Re:Verse reading–Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-5, 4:1-11 (day two)

He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.”  1:12

Rather that confess or repent for his willful act of disobedience, Jonah’s choice is further rebellion. Knowing that his actions have set this storm in motion, his choice was to kill himself rather than follow God’s command. This act is both arrogant and cowardly. Jonah could not see beyond his own prejudice to God’s greater plan for the Ninevites. Are you where Jonah was? Are you willing to throw everything away to protect your own pride? Jonah knew exactly what he was supposed to do, I would suspect you do too. It’s a matter of figuring out which priority is ultimately going to rule the day: yours or God’s.

 

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I Surrender Part

Re:Verse reading–Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-5, 4:1-11 (day one)

Remember that great old hymn, “I Surrender Part”?  Yeah, me neither.

Usually unconscious, but still very common.  We surrender to Christ but withhold whole sections of self.

Hold back your willingness to love a black man, or a policemen, or a Muslim, or a Ninevite–doesn’t matter, actually–then you are in the same boat with Jonah. (pardon the pun) Hate doesn’t play well in Heaven.  Doesn’t matter what you have experienced.  Those who receive God’s love freely, but place conditions on who they will give it to are only partially surrendered.

Somehow, we expect more from Jonah.  He, after all, is a prophet!  Long and distinguished career of service.  (See 2 Kings 14:25)  Only proves the struggle is real for everyone.  Whether Abraham (sacrifice of Issac) or the good Samaritan (inconvenient, needy person) or Jesus (cross),  God only wants to know one thing–do I have all of you?  Have you surrendered it all?

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Calming the storm

Re:Verse reading–Daniel 3:1-2, 8-18, 25-29 (day seven)

In Mark 4, the Bible reports the night Jesus calmed a storm.  He spoke.  Winds and waves immediately became peaceful.  An amazing act of divine authority.  Only God!

Daniel 3 records a similar miracle.   Slightly different storm.  In a tense and fearful moment, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced potential (and painful) death for resisting the King, but God gave them peaceful, certain hearts.  He spoke (through His word) helping them know what to do and say.  Supernatural strength.  Spiritual comfort.  The anxiety died down.  Calm!  Certainty!  A miracle from God–one that we still need.

Miracle number 2 in this story? God takes them out of the fire.  Miracle number 1? God takes the fear out of their hearts.

“In everything by prayer and supplication. . .let your requests be made known to God.  And the PEACE of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:6-7.

He still calms storms.

 

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Lifted

Re:Verse reading–Daniel 3:1-2, 8-18, 25-29 (day six)

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” -Jesus, John 12:32

This wasn’t a new principle. Jesus, in his death and resurrection would literally draw all people to himself, reconciling them back to God. It was on old principle fully realized in Jesus, but we see it in Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego too. In great faith they were willing to lay down their lives exalting God over Nebuchadnezzar. The result? People, including Nebuchadnezzar, were drawn to the one true God.

What if the same principle applies to us too? What if when we exalt Jesus in our life, when we lay it down for His namesake, people around and near us are drawn to Him? I not only believe it’s possible, I believe it true.

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Where Did They Learn That?

Re:Verse reading–Daniel 3:1-2, 8-18, 25-29 (day five)

It’s been a wonderful week serving, working, and connecting with residents and children across the Calgary, Canada area. One of the tasks this week has been to shape the minds and hearts of children around the truths of God’s nature and character through singing. You know, the camp songs with the fun motions. One of my favorites has the following lyrics, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do”. Sound familiar?? (If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.)

I wonder where these three teenagers learned and became convinced of God’s strength, power, and wisdom. Perhaps as children, their parents, grandparents, or others from their community of faith imparted these truths into their tender hearts. I’m praying for the next generation to be filled with that kind of trust and courage in God’s sovereignty and wisdom. I’m praying for parents, grandparents, and a community of faith that will intentionally and strategically remind and encourage them with these timeless truths.

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No Smoke

Re:Verse reading–Daniel 3:1-2, 8-18, 25-29 (day four)

One of my favorite things about camping is sitting around the campfire at night.  Roasting marshmallows…gazing at the stars…fellowshipping with friends and family.  The one downside to the campfire is that all your clothes come back smelling like smoke…there is no avoiding it.  Verse 27 says Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, not only were not burned alive, but their clothes did not even smell like smoke.

Isn’t that just like God?  My first reaction if I faced a situation like this would probably have been, “Lord, save me!”  These men sought first the glory of God!  Their relationship with God was already settled.  He was in control of their lives as well as the world and circumstances around them.  God went far beyond what would have been my initial, feeble cry.  Not only did He save them, but their clothes were not burned and they didn’t even smell like smoke.  God’s glory was demonstrated to an entire nation.  Maybe I need to enlarge my vision of who God is!

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