The Compassion of God (Jonah 4:1-11)

WW2015-wk28Have you ever had someone in your life whom you despised and, yet, God shows them grace? Maybe it was a family member or spouse who treated you so cruelly, a co-worker who deceived and cheated you, or a neighbor who gossiped about you? What do you do and what would you do if they turned from their ways and turned to God? How would you react? Quite plainly we see the manner in which Jonah replies. In response to Jonah 3:10, where God relents of His wrath because the Ninevites turned from their evil way, Jonah grows “displeased” and is even “angry”. Don’t miss what is occurring here. The thing Jonah is displeased and angry at is in what God has done. God has shown the Ninevites mercy. Jonah knows this is the character of God, for he says, “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (verse 2). His beef here is not primarily with the Ninevites, although they play a part, but with God. Jonah does not rest it there either. He complains that it would be better for him to die than to live (verses 3, 8). God shows His patience with Jonah and uses a life illustration, a plant, to drive home the point He wants Jonah to get. Jonah 4:10-11 summarize it, “And the LORD said, ‘You pity the plant for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (verses 10-11). God essentially confronts Jonah with the question, “Should not the Lord have had compassion on Nineveh?” While we do not receive Jonah’s response in the biblical text, we would do well to ponder the answer for our own lives to that question. In doing so, may we be reminded of God’s character and the grace and mercy He has shown us in Christ!

Reflection Time:

  • Should not the Lord have compassion on those, including our enemies and people we may have a hard time liking, if they respond to the Lord in repentance, turning from their sinful ways?

The Will of God Always Wins (Jonah 3:1-10)

 WW2015-wk27“Father, make me a crisis man.  Bring those I contact to decision.  Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”
~ Jim Elliot

Has God ever given you a second chance? For many, the answer to that question is yes.  Though, we can agree on the fact that we don’t deserve this second chance; it is given to us through God’s incredible grace. This is exactly where Jonah finds himself in this week’s look at the third chapter of Jonah. Jonah has had the privilege of being in God’s good graces for the best part of his life. Following God has been Jonah’s life’s goal, but as we all come to a place in our lives, often we consider fleeing from God rather than following Him. Jonah made a decision to flee from God’s will for his life by choosing not to go to Nineveh. Things have not gone his way from that very moment. Are they going well for you right now?

Jonah has been given a second chance in his life. God has given Jonah a second chance to follow Him rather than flee Him. What this says about God is that He is patient, He is gracious, and He is kind. God’s will for Jonah’s life is bigger than Jonah’s decision to deny it. God has a plan for each and every one of us and that plan is far greater than anything we can ever conceive! Jonah is about to learn that as he moves into God’s will for not only his life but those who reside in Nineveh.

Jonah reaches Nineveh as God called him to. Upon his arrival, Jonah began to cry out the words that God had given him to speak. This message wasn’t taken lightly. This message was received with very heavy hearts. God’s message for Nineveh was that the city would be overturned if they failed to repent for all the wrong doing they were doing! This message was so powerful that it had reached the king of Nineveh and transformed an entire city! Repentance and change was ringing throughout the streets and into every home. God showed compassion upon Nineveh that day leaving behind the wrath. This is where you and I are today. God has a message for you, and it isn’t one of death and destruction. Rather, it is of life and of love. As God promised in John 3:16, He didn’t come to condemn the world but to save the world!

How are you going to respond in light of God’s message for you and your life today?
What will be the outcome of your response?

Remember, God’s will for your life far outweighs anything you could have ever expected! Help bring the message that God has written on your heart to those who need it so desperately, and watch the will of God work as only His will could. He can use you and wants nothing more than for you to follow, not flee!

This week’s devotional was written by JR Rouse. His heart is in the pastorate and is attending Capital Seminary and Graduate School to pursue a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies.

Praying from the Pits (Jonah 2:1-10)

WW2015-wk26“I would rather lose in a cause that will someday win, than win in a cause that will someday lose.” ~Woodrow Wilson

Where do you go to meet God when you need to pray? Where is that very special place where you can go anytime to speak to the Creator of the Universe? We all have that place or location where we like to go when we have to talk to God. That’s not saying that you cannot talk to Him anywhere, but for most, there is that place where we can have an “all access, no interruptions” talk with God. For me, I prefer to take a walk at my local park. The park offers a small trail that goes into a small patch of forest. There, I can walk with God hand-in-hand without any distractions. So, that brings me back to my original question, where do you go to speak with God?

As we look at the second chapter of Jonah, I want you to ponder the “where”.  For Jonah, that question was rather an easy one. Jonah enjoyed direct revelation from God and was open to communicate with Him wherever he wanted to. That is until Jonah chose to flee from God and turn his back to Him. Now Jonah finds himself in a very unique place where he has no control of any of the circumstances. This is exactly where God wants Jonah, and us, for that matter. God wants us to get to a place where we are truly reliant on Him, rather than our own flesh. The apostle Paul gives us a great reminder in Romans 8:12 that we are no longer under obligation to live under the flesh, rather to the Spirit of God! This is how Jonah ended up in the belly of that great fish, because he was living under his own flesh in a state of fleeing rather than following.

What Jonah learned while in the belly of that great fish was that God never took His hand off of Jonah, nor does he ever take His hand off of you, His child! God allows us to go through trials of all kinds but this is for His purpose, and His glory, not ours.  But know that as you go through these trials of many kinds that God will always be just a prayer away. Jonah found that God listened to his prayers, He heard everyone of them. There are times when we get to what seems like the depths of a trial or a struggle and we simply think that God has given up on us. We could not be more wrong! God is always there and always wants you to give all your worries and troubles up to Him.

Jonah gives us a great reminder in verse eight that we need to be so ever focused on what we are clinging to today. Are you clinging to God when troubles come your way? Or are you clinging to the flesh and things that cannot save you or bring you TRUE hope? Only in Christ can your hope and salvation be made whole. Only in Christ can you find calming in the midst of your storm!  He’s waiting on your next conversation.

This week’s devotional was written by JR Rouse. His heart is in the pastorate and is attending Capital Seminary and Graduate School to pursue a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies.

You Cannot Outrun God (Jonah 1:7-17)

WW2015-wk25“God does not give up.  He works to turn sorrow into joy and tragedy of unfaithfulness into the triumph of love.” ~ James Montgomery Boice

Last week we encountered how the book of Jonah started out.  We saw just as times got uncomfortable for Jonah, he sought out to find his comfort. Jonah ran from God, just as man has done since the very dawn of creation. This week I want, in our time together, to examine the rest of the first chapter of Jonah, starting in verse 7 to the completion of the chapter.

As we took a closer look at our own hearts last week, what did you uncover?  In what areas of life are you running from God? Where are you right now? Are you lined up in your own comfort or God’s will for your life? I want you to ponder these questions as we take a look at what happens when you rebel and turn your back on God.

Jonah ran from God, and despite his best efforts of fleeing, it only drew him closer to God. This was not exactly the desire he had hoped for but, never the less, we don’t get to choose the ending of our own story. As Jonah found himself on the wrong side of his fellow man, what he had hoped for was a peaceful resolve. Only God’s plan was stronger than Jonah’s will!

Jonah could not outrun God’s plan for his life. Jonah ran up against the odd that he had never known before and was completely humbled in the process. Jonah was so humbled; he knew that his rebellion should be punished by death. As Jonah told the men in the boat to “pick me up and throw me in the sea” (verse 12). Jonah knew this meant death, as that was what he deserved. But even though Jonah deserved death, that’s not what God gave him. That is exactly where we find ourselves today. Despite our best efforts of alluding God, despite all the things we think we are doing in our lives that matter, we are facing odds that are insurmountable. Jonah defied God and was humbled to the realization that he deserved nothing more than death.

That is exactly where God wanted Jonah. God doesn’t want you to go through life rebelling against His will for you, rather He wants you to know you are greater than you could ever imagine. The grace He shows us daily is the only picture of perfect love that has ever been shown. Jonah, and we, deserve death but God gives us what we don’t deserve in order to show us His love through us! Just as Jonah was thrown in the sea and was faced with death, God’s ultimate plan succeeded in his life. God wants His plan to succeed in your life too!

Is the stubbornness in your life too great that you think you cannot overcome it?
Do you think that God doesn’t have a plan for your life?
Are you still struggling to find your identity in this every-changing world?

All answers point to One source, One love, One hope, and One purpose!

This week’s devotional was written by JR Rouse. His heart is in the pastorate and is attending Capital Seminary and Graduate School to pursue a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies.

What Are You Running From? (Jonah 1:1-6)

WW2015-wk24“For far too many of us, there are only two attitudes toward prayer-those who ‘pray their way in’ and those who ‘pray their way out.’  Most of us, unfortunately, take our prayer lives most seriously when we are trying to ‘pray our way out.’ ” ~ Leonard Sweet

Man has been trying to flee from God since the creation of man. As we reflect back on Genesis 3:8-10, man has attempted to flee rather than follow. Since the very creation of mankind we have found a way, or at least we have tried to find a way, to attempt to flee from God in every facet of our lives. So this poses the question: What are you fleeing from today?

For the next few weeks we will be taking a look at the book of Jonah and attempt to unpack just why man rebels as he does. This week we are going to begin our reflection on Jonah 1:1-6 and search out Jonah’s heart while taking a look at our own hearts!

This book begins with Jonah receiving direct revelation from the one true living God. This revelation given by God, commands Jonah to “Go”. But this command has a specific audience, a specific place, and a specific time. Jonah is commanded to “Go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it”. Without hesitation, Jonah flees from God, and tries to go the complete opposite direction. Now this is where we find ourselves in many, many of life’s circumstances. Often times we are in some form of spiritual funk and our first response is to get right back to our “comfort zone”. This “comfort zone” often times creates a desire in us to flee from what God is doing in our lives and seek safer passage. Jonah is doing what his flesh does best, and that is when we become uncomfortable with our circumstances, we flee. As Jonah began to flee from what he thought was to a safer passage, the Lord never lost sight of what or where he was.

God is never going to give up on you, even when we give up on our selves! God is never going to lose sight of where you are, no matter how hard you try to flee from Him. Today you might be in a place where you think God has abandoned you, or you have tried to flee from God. Are you tired of running yet?

Are you running out of places to hide from God?
Do you even know what you are running from?

Before you lose hope and give up, understand that there is going to be a rainbow on the other side of this storm you are facing or are currently in. God hasn’t given up on you and is beckoning you to come home. Don’t become discouraged by your own desire to flee, but rather try to understand what it is you are fleeing from!

This week’s devotional was written by JR Rouse. His heart is in the pastorate and is attending Capital Seminary and Graduate School to pursue a Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies.