Monday, July 25, 2011

JONAH'S PRAYER (PRESENT TENSE PARAPHRASED - Jonah 2:1-9)

In my distress I call out to you LORD, and I know you will answer me.
From the depths of the grave I call for your help and I know you hear my cry.
I am in the deep, in the very heart of the seas, and the currents are swirling around me; all your waves and breakers are sweeping over me.I know I have been banished from your sight; yet I focus again toward your holy temple.
The engulfing waters threaten me, the deep surrounds me; seaweed wraps around my head.
I sink down to the root of the mountains; the earth has barred me in forever.
But you have brought my life up from the pit, O LORD, my God.
My life is ebbing away, but I remember you LORD, and my prayer rises to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I will sacrifice to you with a song of thanksgiving.
And what I have promised in my heart and mind to you LORD I will make good, for I know that Salvation comes from you LORD.

v. 10 - "And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."

*Be sure to read the original tense (past) and text.
*I wrote this in the present tense because the book was written after Jonah had returned from his mission and had time to reflect on its significance and I wondered what it would sound/read like if he or we were in the great fish now.
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I don't know if you have ever been in the situation Jonah was in, to pray such a prayer, but I'm sure others can testify to the urgency and direness.  I have not, nor do I know anyone who has been swallowed by a "great fish" in order to be humbled and brought into God's obedience.  That does not mean it did not happen to Jonah and could not happen to anyone else.  However, there are some awesome take-aways from this prayer and Jonah's story.

Have you ever been in distress and called out to the LORD?  I know I have.  I don't know if I have ever been near death and prayed for God to hear me, but I have been extremely sick and experienced His healing.  

Physically, I have not tasted the roaring of the waves that Jonah describes, but I feel sure a lot of us have felt the "breakers" of financial hardship, relational difficulties, and habitual strongholds to crash again and again against our lives.  I know I have.

Out at a lake some years ago I actually came very close to drowning, therefore the sinking "down to the root of the mountains" was real in that respect for me.  However, for me and for many other people I have also experienced another "sinking down" - attacks of depression.  Jonah speaks of the physical "engulfing waters", "the deep surrounds", "his life ebbing away" - but he always returns his focus to God and God's location, His "holy temple". 

Not only does Jonah have amazing focus, but he sings a song of thanksgiving in the midst of his trial and recognizes where his salvation will come from should the LORD decide to still use him.

Those were some points pulled from Jonah's prayer.  Now allow for some observations from the book as a whole.

The shipmates tried their best to save him (1:12).  They even made sure that should they throw Jonah overboard, they would not be held accountable by the LORD (v.14).

Can we really run from God?  Immediately my favorite Psalm comes to mind - Psalm 139.  In particular verses 7 through 12 really jump out at me here.  "Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?..."  Here was a good case of delayed obedience (my own term here).  This is down and out disobedience on our part while God disciplines us to the point of alignment with His will/plan for our lives. Notice how God stuck with Jonah for this task.  God could have called on another person, maybe someone with a more willing heart or prepared mindset, but God really wanted Jonah for His plan for Ninevah and desired Jonah to go through this personally in order to mature in the LORD too.

There seems to be some stages that might be observed here.  One, God and His message is heard.  Jonah and the rest of us might acknowledge that, yes, who we heard was God and His message lines up with His character.  Stage two, unfortunately is the time when we reject God and His message, disobey Him or try to do it our way (i.e. Abraham and Hagar).  The third stage is God choosing to discipline you, shape and mold you to the point He can use you.  In Jonah's case, God humbled him so that he could be used for the original purpose, in the original destination - Ninevah.  However, I personally believe that God could have humbled Jonah, have the great fish spit him up on the shore of Tarshish (where Jonah wanted to go in the first place) and use him there.  However, that is not what happened.  All these stages are not necessary if we would just do for God what I have heard my mom say to me and my brother many times - "well, if you would have done what I told you to do the first time, this would not have happened."

Even after Jonah obeys God's will concerning delivering His word to Ninevah, Jonah's will clashes with God's. Jonah is not pleased with the outcome and goes as far as to be angry with God because he knew that God was going to respond this way from the beginning. AND YET, God loves Jonah enough that He teaches Jonah - "have you any right to be angry?", does it do you any good to be angry at how I, God Almighty, choose to have events play out? God then proceeds to grant Jonah a Job Experience (I can give and I can take away whenever) by planting a vine that provides shade and then taking it away later with a worm, which left him in a "scorching east wind" that the LORD also provided (Jonah 4).

What a God that allows us, as children unto a Father, to work out our limited understandings, our shortcomings, our misplaced anger, our delayed disobedience, and so forth - instead of zapping us out of existence (some people's temperament, but not my God's).  "Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin." (Marvelous Grace)  This is not to be taken advantage of and for some that continue to reject the grace provided through Jesus, even unto death, they will be left with "gentleman's choice" - their own way.

 

Friday, July 22, 2011

WATCHMEN, SOUND THE ALARM!

"The word of the LORD came to me:  'Son of man speak to your countrymen and say to them:  'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.  Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head.  If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.

Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the [citizens and church in America]; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.

Son of man, say to the [people and church of America], 'This is what you are saying:  "Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them.  How then can we live?  Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, [O people and church of America].

Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, 'The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it.  The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.  If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done.  And if I say to the wicked man, 'You will surely die,' but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right - if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die.  None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him.  He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.

Yet your countrymen say, 'The way of the LORD is not just.'  But it is their way that is not just.  If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it.  And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so.  Yet, [citizens and church of America] you say, 'The way of the LORD is not just.'  But I will judge each of you according to his own ways." - Ezekiel 33:1-20
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All true believers in Christ need to fill this role of "watchman" for their country, whether it be for America or any other nation on the globe, and sound the alarm to our societies as a nation that life has got to change and we have the answer!

The issues that are plaguing us now worldwide and as a nation are not new.  However, the frequency and intensity of the issues are increasing.  Scripture likens the signs, not of the end of the world, but the end of the age, to labor pains - contractions (Matthew 24:8).  The closer the contractions are together the more painfully intense each one becomes until finally the baby arrives.  The more and more we see the headlines line up with the signs the Scriptures warned us about and see them happen more frequent and more intensely, the Word of God says for true believers to "look up for your redemption is near" - Jesus Christ (Luke 21:28).

I know to some it is a fine line between "fear mongering" and teaching a doctrine of "turn or burn" even if a person is justified by the numerous prophecies of the Bible that have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled today.  However, with someone's eternal soul in the balance, with a nation's soul, with a world's soul, in the balance, all true believers - "Watchmen" - need to sound the alarm loud and strong - time is short, accept Christ as your Ultimate Hero/Savior!

Jesus died for the worse rebellious lifestyle to the least.  Jesus paid it all for us all and does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance through belief in His payment!  He says there is no other way (John 14:6).  "...man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment," (Hebrews 9:27), so don't miss out on this Way Out provided by Jesus!  There is No Reincarnation!  What a sad, low standard thing to believe anyway.  Believing that one has to come back in some form or fashion and do penance for your mistakes.  I would rather believe what the Bible teaches - Jesus paid it all for all!!!

Even in light of Rapture nay-sayers, Jesus promised His return, through Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  However, the Bible predicts even the "scoffers" that would come and say, "Where is this coming prophesied throughout the ages?"  To me scoffers on the scene speaks of the length of time from the description of the end of the age by Christ Himself until His coming to be long by human standards.  We have had scoffers in the past, but with the recent emphasis on the Rapture in Christian circles, scoffers are primed to really start coming out.  Plus, the lack of Christ's arrival with all the terrible world and national conditions will contribute to scoffers coming on the scene in droves and proclaiming their mockery.  However, Christ is coming.  Are you Rapture Ready?  Do you want to be?  Even after the true believers in Christ have left this planet and it will be obvious to the world what has happened, many will still choose to believe a lie that will be submitted for consuming (i.e. aliens, the universe, evolution, etc..).   

Christ came the first time to do the work required for our salvation - living the perfect life, dying on the cross, and being resurrected from the dead. 

Now seated at Father God's right hand He waits to come back and receive unto Himself the church that has been establishing His kingdom on earth, in people's lives, throughout history since He ascended.

Then after a seven year period known as the Tribulation, Christ will return with the true believers to rule and reign with Him as He sets-up His Millennial Kingdom on earth.

So, Watchmen, Sound The Alarm!  Time is short and the eternal perspective is at hand.  May God be with you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

MODIFIED PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

There is something very sacred about your name and I honor it.

I am praying for the release of your power through your body, the church. 
I am praying for the release of your purpose everywhere.  
And I am praying for the release of your daily provisions.

I need your blessing, grace, understanding and forgiveness - so I forgive.

Help me not to give in to what I know is against your plan for my life.

Plus, please help me when I cannot help myself from all kinds of trouble.

You are the Rock I lean on, my sure Foundation.

I receive my strength from you Father.

Help me to always give you the credit for the favor and blessings in my life.

Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

REAL MYSTERY

Authenticity, this is the key in today's world.  The current technology can manipulate video and audio so much as to make anyone believe or accept anything.  Explaining away a mystery is fun, challenging at times, and sometimes dangerous.  It requires evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt and that is where authenticity at every level comes into play.

Bigfoot.  The story about and reports of this creature have been around at least since the Native Americans ruled the United States.  The legend of Bigfoot has been circulated within the tribes of our native Americans before settlers from anywhere else on the globe visited this land. That's the first major piece of evidence - a culture and society that already existed here long before anybody else had a record of a being they called Sasquatch. 

Even though the Patterson film came along and some claimed it to be staged, the shear number of sightings, documented on video or not, is the second piece of evidence to me.  In addition, throughout the years not only have the number of sightings been impressive, but the quality of people that have dared to place their reputations on the line by speaking out have been present.  Why would good, upstanding citizens with good paying jobs and a good family and friends decide to jeopardize all that they had with a story about witnessing Bigfoot somewhere - if it weren't true?  Too many "quality" people seeing something way before social networking on computers was available (i.e. YouTube.com, Facebook.com, etc..) gives me a moment of pause here.

All the physical descriptions of this creature match close enough to place it at number three in my considerations.  The drawings and verbal portraits of Bigfoot are eerily similar.  Some may say it could be a societal psychological mass agreement of some sort.  But I tend to think there are enough individuals out there who would stand up and say, "No, my Bigfoot looked like....", if their encounter was different enough to warrant that response.

What we don't have that would help tremendously - a body.  Other than the whole body of a Sasquatch, hair samples, scat (poop) samples, bones (from a deceased creature).  In order to scavenge for these items, their territory, for the most part, must be invaded.  Of course a huge part of our recreation is situated in the woods and along rivers - right in the middle or along "Squatchy" land (especially in the northwest part of the U.S.).  I have heard it said, "Walk softly and carry a big stick."  This could be applied here perfectly.  However, I would suggest two types of weapons, instead of a "big stick" - a tranquilizer gun (with darts containing the scientific amount of knock-the-heck-out juice) and a regular gun of your choosing (preferably extremely powerful).  All participants in your party (adult) which are traveling into Bigfoot land should have these weapons and be prepared to use the tranquilizer gun first, so as to preserve the body for science.  If for some reason things go south and that doesn't work, the back-up weapon of choice is at your disposal. 

I have a feeling this mystery could be ended really quick if we put our minds and effort to it and just hunted the thing down, but I also think that there are people out there that desire it to stay a mystery or unknown to the majority of people.  Somebody, somewhere knows more than what the t.v. shows, books, and legends are telling.  All I'm saying is with what has been presented over all the years since before this nation was a nation until now - something is out there and it very well could be this Sasquatch, this Bigfoot.