Are you connected?

In today’s world we have many things to look upon with envious eyes and hearts. If we allow our focus to be on material things like homes, cars, latest technology, or even people it can be easy to lose sight of what we should be focusing on, our relationship with God. Once we take our eyes off of God we can begin to lose that connection with him. I am not saying God loses his connection with us, it is us who start to lose our connection to God. Like those old rabbit ear antenna’s on TV’s. Picture starts to get snowy and then wavy and before you know you’ve got to change to another channel to see anything. (Yes we did have to do that to watch television before cable was everywhere!)

So how do you stay connected to God? 

I am going to start with Worship! 

Psalm 100:2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs. (NIV)

How many of you like to sing? Although many think of this type of worship as taking place in a “church” setting. It really doesn’t say anything about being in church in this verse. It does tell us how our worship should take place….  “with gladness”  and “joyful songs”  So if you don’t already try singing to God in worship by yourself, maybe before you pray or before you read the Bible. Anytime is a good time to worship God! Keep that connection strong! 

Does God Call Time-outs?

God Calls A Time-out!

Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed to Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

So here you have an already established prophet, Jonah was known and respected in Israel already. God speaks to him and tells him clearly, I want you to go to Nineveh and warn the people there that I am going to strike against them if they don’t change their ways. So of course Jonah does what any good God serving person does and goes where God sends them.

Well no, I guess if he did that then we may not have even heard about Jonah. Instead of doing what God wants, instead of trying to meet God halfway Jonah basically says … Nope not me, I’m not going there. Wow, don’t you think that takes guts. I mean God says go here, do this and Jonah basically runs as fast as he can in the other direction. We would never do that would we? I mean we may not be prophets, but we are Christians. That means we do what God tells us, right? God even helps us out by giving us written instructions to follow, His Word, The Bible. So there shouldn’t be any reason we don’t do what God wants us to do. Well at least to a certain point. I mean I’d be glad to talk about Jesus with people I know, people who are like me, people who know who Jesus is. I’d invite my neighbors to come along to church, but you know he’s unemployed and they may feel uncomfortable about not being able to put anything in the offering plate. These points I’m raising are similar to what Jonah may have been thinking. God wants me to do what, go where. No you see God I’m a prophet for your chosen people, remember them. That’s who I’m suppose to minister to. I really just can’t go over there, them Assyrians are crazy, drinking, loud music, cussing. I’m liable to catch something if I mix around in their city.I mean how am I suppose to find something clean to eat if I go there. Heck they wanted to come and invade our country not too long ago. NO I just can’t do it. Maybe I just need I little vacation, time to think about it. Then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to help out. So off Jonah goes trying to get away from this responsibility God has given him. We would never do that, would we?

I’m going to summarize the next part of Jonah’s story. So we know Jonah pays to get on a boat, heading in the opposite direction from where God wants him to go. So the boat with Jonah on is at sea, God sends a violent storm at the boat. Now all the sailors are freaking out, they start throwing whatever they can overboard to try to lighten their load. While this was happening where was Jonah, he had gone down into the ship and was sleeping. Now the captain realizing Jonah’s missing goes looking for him, finds him asleep, wakes him up and tells him get busy praying to your God to save us, cause the gods we are praying to just are unable to do anything about this storm. Meanwhile the sailors still in a panic decide to cast lots to see whose fault it is that this storm is happening. Of course the lot falls on Jonah. Now Jonah had already told them he was running away from the Lord, so this only confirms it to them. So the waves are getting bigger and bigger so they ask Jonah what they should do. He tells them to throw him into the sea, they don’t want to do this for the fear this may piss off this God of his even more. So they try and try to row back towards land. Storm got even worse, so they basically said, well what have we got to lose? Lets at the next Scripture.

Jonah 1:15-17; 2:1-2 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew clam. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. But the Lord had provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave l called for help, and you listened to my cry.

I can just imagine this part as an action movie, storm at sea. Wind, Rain, Waves crashing over the ship’s bow. Lightning booming all around… and into this Jonah gets thrown overboard. I can see the director at this point yell… Cut! More importantly I think this is when God calls for a Time-out!

Jonah hits the water and soon after boom calm. “the sea ceased from her raging.” So God calls this time out and what do those pagan sailors do? They offer a sacrifice to the Lord and start making vows to follow him. They have been a witness to this all-powerful God, who controls the sky and the seas. Even more important this all-powerful God cares about these unsaved sailors floating around in the sea.

I mean why save them. Who would have noticed, if God had just allowed the ship to be torn apart and everyone aboard perished? Yet this all-powerful God loves and wants everyone to love him. Isn’t that really what makes him God? He doesn’t need us, yet he saves us? If not from a stormy sea, from ourselves. You see as soon as those sailors repented, and started fearing and worshiping God he was there to save them. Here we are almost 3,000 years later and God is still there just waiting with his arms open. In the storms of our lives God is there just waiting for us to repent and worship him.

OK back to Jonah, here is this guy, who by trying to run away from the responsibilities God has given him, has put other people in danger. Yet even though those people were in danger, now they have not only been saved, but have found the one true God. See God will make his plan work, whether we want to go along with it or not. His plan will work out for His Glory. Whether or not we want to be a part of what God wants us to do sometimes really doesn’t matter. God is going to make it work out. God’s sovereign will reigns supreme. We may decide we don’t want to be a part of God’s plan for our lives. After all most people are just much to busy to actually take the time to seek out God’s will for their lives. Guess what? I have a news flash for you, no matter how busy you think you are, if God wants to you stop and seek him out, to find His true plan for your life, guess what, he will call a TIMEOUT in your life so you can reassess your priorities. Even if it takes getting thrown overboard in a stormy sea to get your attention. Speaking of being thrown overboard, back to Jonah, poor Jonah how would you like to have been Jonah. You know you’ve made a mistake, now you’re drowning in the ocean thinking it can’t get any worse and boom, you end up getting eaten by a big fish. Most people think of a whale, I say it really doesn’t matter. If you get swallowed by anything I can’t imagine it is a nice experience, especially after a couple of days! Here is where some people, yes even some of us Christians will say, “well that’s a nice story, but you know it really couldn’t have happened like that.”

Well sorry, God’s Word is pretty clear about this part. There is not any question what was written.

But the Lord had provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” So how did Jonah survive for three days inside this fish? The same way Jesus survived being crucified, dying, going to hell and rising again to new life.

So you going to believe those who say something like this could not really happen, or are you going to believe the words of Jesus. Yes Jesus while answering those asking for signs from him, said the following:

Matthew 12:39-40 He answered,“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

You see our God is an Awesome God. He does not confine himself to what we think can happen. That is a problem you really have to guard yourself against. Taking something that God says is real and trying to dismiss it as just a nice story. Where do you draw the line? If God says it is true, then it is true! If God tells us something is a sin, then it is a sin, period. Well you can’t say that it’s not politically correct. Guess what I don’t think Jesus worried about being politically correct!

OK back to poor Jonah, first I left him rowing in the sea, now I’ve left him inside the big fish.

Jonah is not in good shape, drowned, eaten, now inside a big fish. God has called this time-out, first the sailors were saved. Now just like a child who doesn’t listen and gets sat in the corner, God has put Jonah in the ultimate time-out. Just like the child who knows they have done wrong, Jonah cries out to our Father God. Jonah should be a goner, yet God is not done with him yet. See we may think we are done, God has no more use for us, yet all it takes is for us to cry out to God and He will use us.

God is there always and forever, all we need to do is cry out to him, no matter how many times we mess up. Speaking of messing up let’s get back to Jonah.

So Jonah cries out to God, offers up a prayer of thanksgiving and the Lord has this big fish not only bring Jonah back up out of its belly, but even deposits him on dry land. So God again tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah does as he is commanded by God to do and guess what, the people of Nineveh repent and even begin fasting as a way to ask for forgiveness. As a matter of fact word even gets to the king of Nineveh and he even makes it a proclamation. Everyone is to fast, even the animals. They know they’ve been bad and now they are doing everything they can to ask seek forgiveness. The next part of the Scripture I want to look at is

Jonah 3:9-10 4:1 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

Wow talk about being ungrateful, here you are, saved by God’s grace, you go and do what God has asked of you and then what happens. God shows favor to this bunch of heathen people and doesn’t wipe them out. How dare he, isn’t His Grace just for good people, God’s chosen people? That’s the thing about God, he loves everyone. He wants to save us all, he knows that isn’t going to happen, some will turn their backs and walk away from eternal life, yet that doesn’t stop God from trying to save as many as he can. That is why I am here and why you are here. To give the good news to a broken world. God Loves you, he wants you to join him in eternal life. That is what we are called to do, take care of those who can not care for themselves. See those people of Nineveh must have known they were in trouble. They could see the signs, trouble over here, trouble over there, high unemployment. They did not know what they should do, until God sent Jonah too them. Then they repented and looked to God for their salvation. That’s all we have to do to be saved, repent of our sins and ask for God to come into our lives. Unfortunately for whatever reason, Jonah just doesn’t get it. He saw God’s miracle-working in his life, yet he did not think God should do anything to help those people in Nineveh.

Jonah 4: 5-10

Jonah left the city. He sat down at a place east of it. There he put some branches over his head. He sat in their shade. He waited to see what would happen to the city.Then the Lord God sent a vine and made it grow up over Jonah. It gave him more shade for his head. It made him more comfortable. Jonah was very happy he had the vine. But before sunrise the next day, God sent a worm. It chewed the vine so much that it dried up.

When the sun rose, God sent a burning east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head. It made him very weak. He wanted to die. So he said, “I’d rather die than live.”But God said to Jonah, “Do you have any right to be angry about what happened to the vine?” I do,” he said. “In fact, I’m angry enough to die.” But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine. But you did not take care of it. You did not make it grow. It grew up in one night and died the next.Nineveh has more than 120,000 people. They can’t tell right from wrong. Nineveh also has a lot of cattle. So shouldn’t I show concern for that great city?”

Who or What is your Nineveh? I hope Jonah finally got the message. The book of Jonah just ends with God asking Jonah that question. No response from Jonah is noted. I think maybe it ends that way so we all can question ourselves during the time-outs we take or are given. So next time you seem to have a little time on your hands, take time to assess your priorities. Are you doing what God would have you do? Remember we have access to God 24/7 by means of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is given to us to help guide us and counsel us. So take advantage of what has been given to you as a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. We never have to wonder what God wants us to do if we are allowing His Spirit to guide us in our lives. Yes sometimes we may not like what the Spirit seems to be telling us, however don’t be like Jonah and wait till you feel like you maybe sinking in the storms of life to cry out for God. See God was, is, and will always be there for those who worship him!