Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Poor me - Jonah story 4

"Jonah didn't want God to forgive"
Digital Painting - Corel Painter

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah got to be part of a revival!  One problem, he didn't really want the Assyrians to repent.  He wanted a barbeque.
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, "Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"
He became angry with God.  One finger pointing at someone else, three pointing at himself...

4 Then the Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?"
The Lord questioned him on this.  Jonah essentially told God He was wrong.  God of the universe, all powerful and mighty. Not such a good idea to tell God He's wrong...  God is patient.

5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.
It's like he's testing God to see if He will do what Jonah wants or what God wants.  He was looking for a lightening bolt to take out the Assyrians.

6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
God loved Jonah and thought some shade might help him out.  It didn't- that's one stubborn man!

7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.
So God sent a worm to kill the plant.

8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live."
Next came extreme heat and sunlight.  Jonah was stubborn, he still didn't give up on his anger.  I know how that is holding on to something that makes me mad.  I just have to let it go and move on or drown in self-pity.  That's too miserable. 

9 Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!"  10 But the Lord said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left — and much livestock?"
This is an awesome insight into God's heart.  He loves all of us even those in nations that are violent.  He nurtured them and made them grow.  I honestly wanted to write about Jonah because it's a fun story, but this really stood out to me.  In this crazy time where nations are fighting against nations. I have to ask myself, "Do I want to see repentance or a lightening bolt?"

It challenges me to think about how I pray, how much compassion do I really have?  Jesus spoke of the story of Jonah:
39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed one greater than Jonah is here." 
Matt 12:39-41 NKJV
Jesus is the Son of God, He is God.  Jesus went through far more physical suffering than Jonah.  He was whipped with metal spikes, then nailed to a cross.  His body was in a tomb for 3 days.  Then He was resurrected and ascended to Heaven.  Why did He go through all that?  Because that's how much God loves us.  He became the final sacrifice for our sin.  That's how much He longs for us to turn to Him and allow Him to be our Savior.  While Jesus hung on the cross in excruciating pain, He forgave a robber who hung next to Him and invited him to Paradise.  Because the robber believed.

Even though Jonah was hard-headed, God still loves him.  God still offers second chances.  That's what repentance is.  A chance to turn from bad choices and behavior to seek Jesus as Lord and Savior.  When I first became a Christian I had no idea what this meant.  I was afraid I would need to wear outdated clothes and poof out my hair.  Jesus is more concerned with our hearts than our hair- although He does have compassion for bad hair days.  He seeks to change our actions, fears, and anxiety.  Faith is reaching past the old things and allowing Jesus to change our lives.  It's not a religion.  It's a life-changing relationship with God Himself.  The more I came to know Him, the more I naturally changed.

As an example, I used to listen to a lot of hard rock as a teenager.  After I became a Christian, I realized how depressing it really was.  That's one way my heart changed- I started longing for music that encouraged and inspired me instead.  My anger and emptiness faded into joy.  My first Pastor told me he had never seen such joy.  I came from a really rough background.  Other people have different experiences.

After reading through this story, I must admit, you gotta love Jonah.  One very honest prophet.  Someone like us.

Here's a great song by Phil Whickham Safe (link).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nineveh Revival - Jonah story 3

"Something's fishy, err someone..."
Digital Painting- Corel Painter

© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Jonah 2:10-3:10

2:10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Ok, not much to say about that, "Ewww!"

3:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.  4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
So if a prophet comes to town smelling like fish vomit, with bleached clothes, skin, and seaweed hair, from being inside a fish, what would you do?  I'd repent.  God really knows how to make an entrance.  The Nineveh Revival took place.

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

"Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?"
I think it's safe to say we all pretty much know when we've fallen into evil and sin. Legendary cruelty and torture are definitely things God doesn't like.  We have a built in warning light- our conscience, which lets us know we crossed the line.  When I've shared Christ, I've never met anyone who didn't know they had fallen from God.  It seems sometimes we get so caught up in the wrong stuff, we don't know how to get out of it.  We've all sinned, all fallen.  God's answer is simple, stop, and turn around.  Let Him be Lord.  Even after 36 years as a Christian, I'm still not perfect.  
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23
10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. 
God stopped the disaster from happening and saved the Assyrians.  His love has no bounds.  He forgives.  Jonah brings us hope; He can use anyone.

And they all lived happily ever after.  Well maybe not.  Jonah still had a problem...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Prophet overboard - Jonah story 2

"First leap of faith!!?"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
Digital Painting - Corel Painter

Jonah 1:12-17

The lot had fallen on Jonah.  The men in the ship knew he was the one who messed up and brought on the storm.  So they asked him what to do.
12 And 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 this great tempest is because of me."
Jonah probably thought it would be better to be thrown into the sea than be tortured by the Assyrians.  So he told the men to throw him overboard.  He was sure it was all over for him now... curtains, the end.  He also confessed that he had sinned.

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, "We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man's life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You." 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.
It's pretty cool the men worked hard to try and save Jonah.  They finally gave up and turned to God.  I know how that is.  Sometimes I'll try anything before I simply pray.  I love how even though Jonah ran, God was still able to use him.  The men believed in God after they saw the miracle.  It must've made Him smile : )

Here's how God worked it out...
17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
I'm pretty sure this isn't what Jonah expected.  God can bring about His purposes in any situation. Nothing is impossible for Him.  He can use anyone.  And Jonah got to go on the first living submarine ride : )

Reminds me of this verse:
A man's heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

So Jonah did what I'd do if I was in the belly of a big fish.  He prayed, like crazy!  Here's his prayer:
Jonah 2:1-9

1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly.
2 And he said:
"I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
"Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.

3 For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

4 Then I said, 'I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.'
Actually Jonah was never out of God's sight.  God had it all figured out. He knows before, during and after about us.  But Jonah was the one who lost sight of God, he lost his faith.

5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.

6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord, my God.

7 "When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.

8 "Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
Idols are worthless they don't think, love, or comfort.  God does all this and more.  Yet I sometimes turn to TV or other things.

9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord."
This is a sacrifice of praise.  Clearly sitting inside a whale didn't smell real good, it was dark, damp... generally yucky.   Plus Jonah experienced extreme fear.  He was afraid of Assyrian torture, then he was sure he'd drown in the ocean.  He probably thought the fish was sent to eat him alive!  To Jonah's credit, his praise to God truly is a sacrifice.  It took courage and faith to give Him praise.  Any time we praise God during a difficult time, He knows it's a sacrifice.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Running away - Jonah story 1

Corel Painter- digital painting
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

There are 2 really bad jobs in the Bible: the prophet, and poor Moses leading Israel in the wilderness for 40 years.  The people were constantly complaining and got into all sorts of trouble.  Every time I think of Moses, I am reminded of the Pastors who work so hard in the Churches.  They deserve our thanks and prayers.

Being a prophet was also a tough job.  They had some incredibly difficult assignments.  God told Jonah to go to Ninevah in Assyria and speak His Word.  It turns out Assyria was known for their legendary cruelty.  They brutally attacked outsiders.  Poor Jonah was tasked with going to the capitol.  Yikes!  Assyria would of been where Iraq is today.

I love this story because it's so real- I might run too.  We get scared easy.  God included this story in the Bible for a reason.  To give us hope and help us in our faith.  

Jonah 1:1-11

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." 3 But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
So when Jonah got the news, he decided he'd just head for Tarshish.  It was nice and comfortable.  Scholars gathered there.  They read and talked about philosophy.  I imagine the best dressed Hebrews were there.  Maybe it was like New York City today.  But, as I learned so many years ago, God doesn't give up and found surprising ways to get me on the right track, my testimony (link). He allowed Jonah to run, and get into a ship.

4 But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.
So here's the catch.  Once he got in the ship a great wind came and almost destroyed it.

5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.

6 So the captain came to him, and said to him, "What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish."
It's interesting everyone had different gods.  They prayed but the storm didn't stop.  There's only one God.  Jonah tried really hard to be invisible.  But God sees it all; He probably whispered in the captain's ear to go check below deck.

7 And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, "Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?"
Jonah still didn't confess, I imagine him staring at his sandals.  Maybe he was debating what to do in his mind.  It would be really annoying to have the lot fall on you when your trying so hard to be invisible.  We can't hide from God : )  That's a good thing.

9 So he said to them, "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
The truth comes out.

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, "Why have you done this?" For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?" — for the sea was growing more tempestuous.
So Jonah has to decide what they should do to him...  It's so interesting how people fear God, but don't accept or believe in Him.  I've heard that in our generation too.  It also makes me wonder about the impacts of the times I don't follow through on what God wants me to do.  Maybe He has some great things for us to do in His Name.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Pressing on!

"NJ Marathon Runner"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Don't know about you, but I've given up on New Year's Resolutions : )  I never keep them and noble as my thoughts might be, it just doesn't happen.  So I prayed and asked for inspiration for my blog.  Then I wandered around the house a few times, did laundry,  fed the cats...  My husband likes me to do this blog and asked if I did it yet today, at lunch.  Then there's the little nudge that says, "the blog, don't forget to blog."

So I sat at my drafting table opened my Bible and realized the perfect verses were the ones I highlighted this morning in my quiet time.  Shew! There's a lot we'd like to forget from last year and some things we'd like to cherish.  It's good to start new.  God's forgiveness gives us a new chance when we confess.  Spring brings new flowers; Winter brings a new year.  

These verses were written by the Apostle Paul.  After he became a Christian, he was put in prison, in chains.  Actually this happened more than once, he really got in some trouble.  Paul visited many of the local prisons along with Peter because of their faith.  Paul was an all or nothing type of guy.  He persecuted Christians, and then became a martyr for Jesus.  So I can understand how he would write "forgetting those things which are behind."  

He had to let go of his past; it would have kept him from ever doing anything.  Sometimes memories freeze us up.  Like when a photo gets rejected, it's so tempting to give up.  I have to stop, figure out what went wrong, and try again.  If you think about Paul's words he's saying, "Let it go.  Move on.  Press toward the goal."  

Just like the amount of training the runner has to go through to compete in a marathon, so it is with our faith.  It's about: staying steady, reading the Bible each day (even a verse or two), talking to God, maintaining our relationship with Him, listening to His Word,  thanking Him, asking for help, and helping others.  It's about taking our dreams off the back burner and running, until our feet hurt, and we win the prize.  There's one more promise that gives me tingles.  "... the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!"

I'm so honored to think He has a call for me.  Simple old me.  That's some God!  He has a calling for all of us.  God bless!  And Happy New Year!

Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold I will do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV