Monday, January 30, 2012

Are You Angry at God?

Jonah had gone up and down the streets of Nineveh preaching that God would destroy them in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). When the people of Nineveh repented, God decided that He wouldn't destroy the city because their hearts had changed. How did Jonah respond? "But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry" (Jonah 4:1). The Hebrew word for angry means "furious." Jonah was burning with anger against God because he thought He had made a mistake.

Do you understand why you get angry? We get angry because someone is doing something that we don't want them to do, or they are not doing something we want them to do. Someone is not meeting our expectations! We get angry at God for the same reason. We're mad at God because we think He has made a mistake. We want Him to do something for us, but He isn't obeying our wishes. He hasn't answered our prayers by our deadline.  He's not meeting our expectations.

How can we stop being angry at God? 
First, realize we don't have all the information that He has. Dt. 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord"... and He's not obligated to tell us. If we knew that He knows, we would sheepishly say, "Oooooohhh, that's why!" When we stand before Him, He will answer all our questions, but until then, we must continue to trust Him.
Second, we've got to stop blaming God. God gets blamed for so many things He doesn't do.  Just read Job 1-2 to see how Satan likes to cause destruction and then pin the blame on God.
Third, we must lower our expectations. We get angry because we want God to meet our demands. That's pride, and we know that "God resists the proud but give grace to the humble" (James 4:6). It could be that your anger at God is actually keeping you from being blessed.  Humble yourself and ask God's forgiveness.  If you will, you'll find that your anger will vanish.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mission Impossible

After the whale vomited Jonah on dry land, God gave him another chance to fulfill his mission.  His challenge was almost like Mission Impossible.  "Your mission, Jonah, should you decide not to accept it, you will be swallowed by a whale that will bring you back to Israel, and we'll keep doing that until you finally do accept your assignment!"

His "impossible" mission was to be the first foreign missionary to an evil, pagan nation. Jonah saddled his donkey and rode 500 miles to preach to the Assyrians. When he arrives in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, he sees temples, shrines, and idols all over the city.  They worshipped the fish god, and when archaeologists excavated Nineveh several decades ago, they found many stone images of a large fish with a man coming out of its mouth. Proof of Jonah, perhaps?

Jonah went up and down the streets of Nineveh preaching a five-word sermon: Forty--Days--More--Nineveh--Destroyed. (Jonah 4:3) He didn't need to learn the entire Assyrian language. He probably just yelled these five words in their language as he walked down the streets.  Amazingly, the Ninevites heard his sermon and repented! The king of Nineveh stepped down from his throne, took off his robe, and put on sackcloth as an act of humility (Jonah 3:6).  Repentance always begins by stepping off the throne and asking God to take that seat.  When God saw that the entire city changed their hearts, He decided to not destroy them.  Jeremiah 18:7-8 says that if a nation will repent, He will stop the judgment from happening. God gave the Ninevites another chance because they changed their ways.

God gave Jonah another chance. He gave the Ninevites another chance. And He will give you another chance too. But first you must repent and submit to God's will, just as Jonah and the Ninevites did.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When You Hit Bottom

After Jonah was thrown overboard and before he was swallowed by the whale, he "descended to the roots of the mountains" (Jonah 1:6).  In other words, he "hit bottom." Maybe you've hit bottom. You're at the end of your rope and don't know what to do. Jonah tells us three things.

1.When you've hit bottom, cry out to God.  "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish and said, 'I called out of my distress to the Lord and He answered me'" (Jonah 2:1-2).  God hears our prayers when we are desperate! When things are going well, we aren't too serious about praying. But when we hit bottom and are more desperate than ever before--that's when our cry comes to God's ear. Jonah said God heard his prayer and answered him.

2.When you've hit bottom, put your hope in God.  Hope means "to expect something good to happen." Here's Jonah's situation. He's in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. He's inside a whale in complete darkness.  He has no idea where the whale is taking him. Yet, Jonah makes an astounding statement of hope, "Nevertheless, I will look again toward your holy temple." Even though he was in a hopeless situation, he had hope that God would somehow, in some way, get him out of his problem. Does your situation seem hopeless? That's the time when you need to put your hope in God. (See Psalm 42:15)

3.When you've hit bottom, make a commitment to do God's will.  Jonah goes on to say, "But I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay" (Jonah 2:9). Commitment is a decision to follow through with something you have started. Apparently Jonah had made some promises to God that he hadn't fulfilled. This is another statement that Jonah had hope of getting out of the whale. He told God that once he got out of the whale's belly, he would fulfill his vows.  Have you fulfilled what you've promised to God?  Jonah would have been much better off if he had obeyed God at the beginning.  And that's true for all of us, so obey Him now and you'll avoid having to go into the whale's belly.

The whale took him back to Israel and vomited him on to dry land (Jonah 2:10). Ironically, Jonah ended up right when he started. But he was a lot wiser now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unwelcome Assignments

God gave the prophet Jonah an unwelcome assignment. He told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but instead of accepting his assignment, he ran the other way to Tarshish (Jonah 1:1-3). The Ninevites were extremely wicked and cruel. When they conquered in battle, they would literally skin their enemies alive, or cut off their heads, or cut of their hands, noses, ears, or tongues. It's no wonder that he ran!

Jonah got on board the ship to Tarshish, thinking God would leave him alone. But the Lord caused a great storm, which rocked the boat (Jonah 1:4). God will rock your boat when you try to run away from Him. Jonah admitted to the sailors that he was responsible for the storm. He told them if they would throw him overboard, the sea would become calm. Jonah had gone overboard in rebellion, and now he going overboard in repentance!

The sailors tossed him into the sea, which immediately became calm. God, through His amazing sovereignty, had a whale waiting for him at that exact place at just the right time. The whale swallowed him and then acted like a submarine to transport him back to Israel. It would have been much easier for Jonah if he would have just obeyed God in the first place! The cost of disobedience is always higher than the cost of obedience.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, God is going to give you some unwelcome assignments. Learn from Jonah's mistake and tell God "yes," you'll do it.  The unwelcome assignment might be being kind to someone who hates you, doing a difficult job, being patient with people who drive you crazy, or taking a stand that will make you unpopular. If God calls you to do it, trust Him to get you through it. And remember that whatever that task may be, it's not as difficult as Jonah's assignment to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Breaking the Chains of the Past

The past doesn't exist anymore except in your memory. Although you can only live in the present, your mind can drift to another time and place--and you get stuck there!  You may be the only person in the entire world who is thinking about something that happened in your past, but you won't let it go. Three chains can bind a person to the past--guilt, regrets, and hurts.

1.To break the chain of GUILT, you must receive God's forgiveness.
To "receive" means to "take it for yourself." If I buy a gift and offer it to you, it's not yours until you take it. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse you, but you won't experience that cleansing until you receive it for yourself.  Acts 10:15 says, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." When God cleanses you, you must change the way you view yourself. You must no longer consider yourself unholy! Guilt is a result of sinning and now that God has cleansed you, you must not condemn yourself any more.

2.To break the chain of REGRETS, you must accept your current situation. 
People have regrets because they received the consequences from a past mistake. How does God deal with our consequences?  He adopts the consequences from the past into His plan. Adoption is when someone voluntarily chooses to accept a person born outside of the family into the household. It's an act of love. When God saved you, He adopted you into His family (Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5). And when He adopted you, He also adopted all that came with you, including the consequences.  So you must now accept your current set of circumstances, understanding that God will accept you where you are right now and will lead you.

3.To break the chain of HURTS, you must forgive and let go.
Time doesn't heal wounds. It only makes you bitter. Forgiveness is the miracle cure that will heal your hurts from the past.  Forgiveness means to release the anger from your heart. Just like you can hold on to things with your hands, you can hold on to things with your spirit. "Letting go" means to release what you are holding on to with your spirit. Let go of whatever happened in the past on move on.

As you obey the three things mentioned above, you will break the chains from the past and you'll experience joy and freedom!  Are you chained or free?