Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16th 2012

NOTE: This will be the last journal entry for awhile.

What does this story have to say to us in our lives?

Read Jonah 1 and journal some thoughts

There are times in our lives when God calls us to do hard things, some of them may seem impossible. In those moments we have a choice, we can choose to follow God and begin to do the impossible or we can choose to run. For Jonah, preaching salvation to such a horrible nation (and they did do very terrible things) was so much for him to bear and so he ran.

So many times in our lives, whether we mean to or not, we run from God. Like Jonah, when we run from God (Israel) we run towards hell (deep) here on earth. When we run, God sends storms. God doesn’t send the storms of life to punish us, or to get even with us in some sort of cosmic balancing act. God sends the storms of life to call us back to where He wants us to be, because the place He wants us to be is what is best for us.

Does this sound familiar? Does this at times remind you of the pattern that God works in our lives today? May you come to understand that God has bigger things planned for you than you could imagine, and may you see that the storms of life are God’s way of bringing you into that plan.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15th 2012

What has Jonah thinking telling them to throw him into the deep?

Read Jonah 1:7-16

Did Jonah really think God was going to send a large fish to swallow him up and spit him out a few days later right where he needed to go when he asked them to throw him in the water? Seems like a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it? If Jonah really wanted to, don’t you think he could have told the sailors to turn around and the storm would stop? There are so many possibilities for what could have happened, and yet Jonah asks them to throw him in the water; why?

Maybe a better question is why did Jonah ask them to throw him into the deep? To put it another way, why did Jonah ask them to throw him into hell? Remember, being a Jew he would have grown up being afraid of the water, so he’s not planning on swimming to Tarshish, so what is Jonah thinking?

Did you figure it out yet? Jonah wanted to die. His whole view of God was turned upside down by this call to preach salvation to the pagans, so he sells everything and goes to the deep. The storm breaks out and Jonah is sleeping down below while everyone else is in a panic. When blame falls on him, his request is to be thrown into the water and left to die. Jonah is completely done with life.

There are times in our lives when we just want to be done, as if things couldn’t possibly get any worse. It’s in those moments when we meet God, just maybe not always in the way we expect.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14th 2012

What is casting lots?

Read Jonah 1:7-8

Casting lots is something we see throughout the Scriptures, and it’s one of those things in the story where we need to ask ourselves what it’s all about. At its core, casting lots is about finding out what is the will of the gods, or of God.

Throughout the Scriptures we see God’s people casting lots to discover God’s will. One of the best examples of how this process worked is found in 1 Samuel 14 (especially 36-42), when Jonathan had tasted honey after his father made a decree not to eat anything. Trying to figure out who was guilty of sinning before God, they began to cast lots.

Now, casting lots for the was a matter of throwing 2 stones, one called “Urim” meaning “guilty” and the other “Thummim” meaning “innocent”. In the story of 1 Samuel, Saul and Jonathan stood on one side and the people on the other. The people were found innocent and Saul and Jonathan were found guilty. Next they cast lots between Saul and Jonathan and Jonathan was found guilty. This is how casting lots worked.

So what does this mean for us? We should note that the last recorded use of casting lots in the Bible comes from Acts 1:24-26, when the disciples were trying to choose Judas’ replacement. Why isn’t this method used after this? Why did Paul use this while he was trying to figure out where God wanted him to go next? It’s interesting the last usage of casting lots happens before the pouring of the Holy Spirit.

We have this amazing ability to be able to communicate with God in a clear way through His Spirit, the question for us is are we using this gift?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13th 2012

When we run from God, how does He draw us back to Him?

Read Jonah 1, especially verses 4-5

Storms really get a bad rap sometimes, don’t they? Traditionally we tend to view storms as God’s way of punishing us or getting back at us from something we’ve done. There are even people out there who try to find a cause behind every major catastrophe in our world. They may say that God sent this tornado because of this sin in their state, or in their country.

What’s interesting is as you look at the story of Jonah; God isn’t using this storm to punish Jonah is He? This raises the question; what is the purpose of this storm? (Hint: If you don’t know the rest of the story of Jonah, read it.) God isn’t using the storm to punish or cast judgment on Jonah; instead God is using the storm to bring Jonah back into His will for his life. God uses the storm eventually to bring Jonah to Nineveh.

There are times in our lives when we will face storms, and sometimes (if not most of the time) these storms will be God’s way of bringing us back to Him. In our world we have this mentality of building our own empires (whether big or small); we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. So it’s easy for us to forget that God is even a part of our lives. It’s in those moments when storms may come to remind us that God desires more from us than to have the most toys, but a deeper relationship with Him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12th, 2012

As we move on and begin to look at Tarshish and what running there meant for Jonah.

Read Jonah 1, especially verses 1-3

So many times when reading this story, it’s easy to put ourselves in Jonah’s place. Let’s face it we’ve all been in that spot where we’ve ran from God. When we run from God, how many of us simply ignore Him in whatever area He’s pushing us in, while still going to church on Sundays? We’ve compartmentalized how we run from God. That’s not what Jonah is doing here.

If we were to look on a map at the distance between Tarshish and Israel we would see that for an ancient Hebrew, it’s on the other side of the world. In fact scholars believe the trip during Jonah’s time would have taken about a year to complete. Think about what we talked about yesterday and the deep and how terrifying this would have been for a solid year.

Because this trip would have taken a year, let’s think about how much this would have cost. In our world, think about the cost of a yearlong cruise. Pretty expensive, right? Same is true for Jonah, only he didn’t live in a world of abundance and credit cards like we do. In order to pay for this trip, Jonah would have had to sell everything he owned.

This brings us to the sticky spot for us in our lives. For Jonah, running from God cost him more than he expected (WAY more if you read the entire story), and the same is true for us. When we run from God it usually cost us more than we realize and drags us further than we ever intended.

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11th, 2012

Yesterday we looked a bit at why Jonah ran, today we’re going to explore what it means for Jonah that he runs.

Read Jonah 1 especially verses 1-3.

We have to begin here with how a good Jew would have viewed Israel. This begins with the question; where does God live? Obviously a Jew would say that God lives in the Temple in the Holy of Holies. So if you live in Israel you live with God. So following that logic, the further you move from Israel, the further you move from the presence of God in a very real way.

If Israel is the presence of God, what is the deep? For an ancient Jew the ocean is called the “deep” and the deep is the leftover chaos from creation, or to put it another way, hell. So taking a boat over the deep wasn’t just a boat ride, it was something deeper, something spiritual. It was to risk facing hell itself. For Jonah this should be a terrifying trip.

In our lives, there are times when we run from God. When we do, like Jonah, we risk facing chaos. Like Jonah our lives are surrounded with chaos

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10th, 2012

Have you ever read the story of Jonah and asked yourself the question; why did he run? We expect this from some people, but a prophet of God? In order to help us to better understand this story, we are going to be spending a week in chapter one looking at how chapter sets up the rest of the story.

Read Jonah 1 especially verses 1-3 and journal some thoughts

As you read these 3 small verses, do you get the feeling that you’re missing something? The story begins with a prophet of God who hears from God, we get this. Then something happens, because in the very next verse he decides to run away. So, what’s that about? Why would a prophet of God run from God? What’s going on here?

The key to understanding this whole story comes from a single word in verse 2, “Nineveh”. Why is this such a big deal? Because many scholars believe this is the first time that God sends a prophet into a pagan nation to essentially preach for the salvation of that nation. Seriously think about it, how did God usually have His people deal with other nations? Yet here, God commands Jonah to go to this fish worshipping nation to preach about his God.

Could you imagine how much this call would have rocked Jonah’s world? This totally would have changed the way Jonah would have viewed how God worked in the world. So what does he do? This sort of thing isn’t in his job description, is it? These are the type of people who he wasn’t called to love. In fact it’s safe to assume based on what happens throughout this story that Jonah probably hated them. Yet God was calling him to go and preach their salvation.

What things is God calling us to do today that we never would have imagined. Who is God calling us to love today who we never would have thought of?