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For prior background for today’s post, skim Jonah 1:1-3:9. Today’s post is in reference to Jonah 3:10-4:11. Click on the links and you may select your preferred translation from within Bible Gateway.

Jonah was not the typical prophet. He doesn’t exactly offer us a great role model to go by. So what were the Israelites to learn from this prophet, and what is our “take-away” for the book of Jonah?

  • No one can run away from God. He is everywhere.
  • God gives us second chances.
  • God loves even the worst sinners and expects us to love them too.
  • We can serve God with a willing spirit or begrudgingly. Our relationship with God suffers when we serve begrudgingly.
  • Serving God isn’t about personal satisfaction, we are the servants.
  • We don’t limit God with our resistance to his call, but we miss his blessings.
  • God wins, sometimes in spite of his “called”.

The first three points above are self-explanatory and were discussed in my last post. I mention them here for the purpose of review.

Does it matter how we serve God? Jonah was not a willing messenger, but at least at his second call he went. He hated the people he spoke to as he begrudgingly gave them God’s message. Jonah resented the very God who gave him the message to deliver.

Has your service to God ever resembled Jonah’s service? Have you ever participated in a church function out of a sense of duty even though you secretly resented that you were expected to be there? What happened to your sense of joy in serving the Lord?

Why do we serve God? Jonah wanted to have the last word. He told the Ninevites that God was going to destroy their city, and he wanted to see it happen. To Jonah, it was all about being seen as right when it was all over, it was all about Jonah.

When we serve God, it isn’t about us. It shouldn’t matter if we are recognized as great leaders. What really matters is our obedience to God and our relationship with him, even if the people we are trying to serve don’t seem to respond. The greater prophets in the Bible seldom experienced the joy of seeing revival among those to whom they ministered.

Is God limited by our failures to respond to his call? Not hardly. God is God and he will accomplish his ends one way or another. God was not surprised to see Jonah board the ship to Tarshish. Nor was he surprised to witness Jonah’s pouting when Ninevah was given another chance. Perhaps God chose Jonah because he knew this would be his response. Perhaps God knew the Ninevites needed to see an angry man who would shake his fist at them saying something like, “and He’ll do it too! He just had a whale swallow me in the bottom of the sea and spit me out so I would come here and tell you this!”

What kind of follower of Christ are you? Do you willing do what God asks in his Word? Or do you resist his commands with “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I think…” When you feel the voice of the Holy Spirit leading you to do something that takes you outside your comfort zone, how do you respond? When we fail to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we lose. We lose fellowship with God, we lose the joy of our salvation, and we lose opportunities to experience first-hand the mighty hand of God at work.

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11 Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

I can’t help but have a mixture of feelings as I read this passage. God’s love is so true, so faithful, so deep…  But my love is so faltering, and so conditional, so dependent on my fickle moods.

But one thing I can count on – if I immerse myself in His word and bathe myself in prayer, my feelings of relationship with Christ become like a full cup. And as I drink my fill, I find myself wanting more.

The problem is that even though I know this in my head, and it penetrates into my heart when I take the time; I all too often get too busy with stuff, and days pass with only spurts, bits and pieces of relationship.

This verse is Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Philippi. This should be a reminder for us – to pray for each other that we will continually seek, find, and grow in the love of Christ, that we will grow in knowledge of Christ, and that our insights will be deep. Then we will have Godly wisdom to guide us in all our lives and we will be able to joyfully serve Him and bring peace to our hearts and glory to His name.

Father God, lead us in your righteousness. Draw us unto you. Give us willing spirits to continually seek and love you with all our hearts. Help us to bear the fruit of righteousness that only Jesus Christ can give to us. In Jesus name we ask. Amen.

© 2009 by Janice D. Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Several years ago when I was struggling in a marriage that eventually failed, I was going through a time of depression and low morale. As I drove down the street that turned beside the Post Office in our town I was suddenly aware of two cardinals fluttering up and down immediately in front of me. One of the birds hit the hood of my car and dropped into the street.

I immediately parked my car and got out to lift the bird from the street and laid it on the grass. I was remembering a time when a bird flew into a window and only knocked itself out, later to recover and fly away. I hoped that the cardinal might revive in a similar way since I had been driving fairly slowly. But the bird showed no signs of life. The other bird watched from a near-by tree.

I circled the block several times in the next two or three hours but my cardinal did not revive. I was reminded of the scripture about how God notices when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Read Matthew 10:28-31.

If I cared enough to circle the block so many times for this little red cardinal that I night not have even noticed had it not flown into my car, how much more God cares about me and the things that were weighing me down. I returned home comforted by God’s love.

I’ve always loved the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” Perhaps you will find comfort in it as well. This is a link to Sandi Patti singing it on UTube.

Father, Thank you for watching over me through your infinite love and compassion. Thank you for helping me through many troubles. Help me to remember the times you showed me your love when I become burdened with the cares of today. Help me keep my eye on you like you keep your eye on the sparrow and on me so I can be filled with your eternal joy.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Luke 6:21b, Matthew 5:4  Click on these links to read the passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

How can we be blessed when we cry? In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says that those who cry now will laugh in the future. Matthew’s account in 5:4 says that mourners will be comforted.

Jesus promises over and over that there will come a day when everything will be turned upside down. We will all pass through a form of judgement when God separates the sheep from the goats. People who have lost a faithful loved one who walked with Jesus in this life can more nearly know morning and joy at the same time. The contrast between sorrow and joy is perhaps never so real as when they realize that their departed loved one has left his or her broken down crippled body behind and has entered into the presence of Jesus with a glorious new body. 

But God doesn’t expect us to have to wait until we die to enjoy his blessings. Read Psalm 30 and find your spirits lifted. The Psalmist shared that weeping may last for a night but joy comes in the morning. He also declared that God had turned his wailing into dancing.

I have often heard the difference between happiness and joy explained. Happiness is based on our circumstances. We are happy when people praise us and do nice things for us. But joy is based on our contentment with our lot in life and our relationship with God. As long as our trusting eyes are focused on God, we can be content knowing we are in loving and competent hands. But when our eyes stray as we compare our circumstances to those around us who have more wealth, status, or _______ (fill in the blank), we risk losing our joy as we covet what others have.

Whoa! I’m preaching to myself today!

Father God, help me to keep my eyes focused on you alone. Help me to accept my lot in life with true joy and thanksgiving in my heart, and help me to accept disappointments without grumbling and complaining.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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Philippians 2:1-4 Click on link to read passage. You may select your own version of the Bible after the link opens.

What a list of “ifs”! If we claim to know Christ as our Savior and Lord we should score on at least one of them. Are you encouraged from being united with Christ? Are you comforted? Do you have fellowship with the Spirit? Do you feel his tenderness and compassion?

Before I assume that everyone answered yes to at least one of these questions, let me digress to consider that some may feel a serious barrenness as you read the questions. If so, you have a serious heart problem that needs to be taken to Jesus in prayer. You can’t follow through with the rest of this passage without a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Trying to do so will only cause burnout in your faith. Don’t allow this void in your life be a stumbling block. Become proactive about growing in your relationship with Christ. Read your Bible, pray, and find one or more Bible believing Christians who can encourage you in your quest.

If you answered yes to any of the “ifs” in verse 1, then verse 2 challenges you to be like-minded with Christ sharing that kind of love with others. At this point I feel the need to review the list again. How can I show encouragement to others? Is there someone I should be comforting? Who do I know who is in need of Christian fellowship? Do I know someone who needs to be shown tenderness and compassion? If we are honest with ourselves, we should have had several individuals come into mind as we considered these questions.

In verse 3 we are encouraged to check our motives. I have to swallow hard on this verse. How much easier it is to offer service to others when people know we are doing it. Do we read our Bibles more seriously if we are being called upon to share it with a groups of peers, than if we are whisking through a daily passage or morning devotion out of a sense of duty? We are reminded in this verse not do operate out of ambition or conceit, but through a sense of humility as we place others above ourselves.

Verse 4 reminds us to bring the needs of others into our daily “do list.” In this day and time most of us feel so overwhelmed with the tasks that are already on our plate that we feel we have no time to give. I doubt if Jesus accepts this excuse, and I am as guilty as anyone with being fully absorbed in my own agenda.

Jesus, you tell us your yoke is easy. Help us not to encumber our lives with “do lists” we can’t handle, with “do lists” that prevent us from being like-minded with you, so we can show you to others in need around us. Make us willing to have a burden for the hurting around us, and inspire us to be like-minded in showing our love and compassion to them.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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A week and a half ago I had cataract and corrective surgery on one eye. As the eye heals my vision in that eye continues to improve so that my once extremely near-sighted left eye is becoming closer and closer to 20/20. Meanwhile my right eye continues to be extremely near-sighted without correction and 20/20 with correction which includes a bi-focal lens.  My glasses have become glasses as the left lens was removed following surgery.

My new “bionic” left eye should be a source of joy to me except that it wants to argue with my right eye. I have been continually evaluating each situation and deciding which eye(s) to use… Driving calls for my glasses and bionic eye, while indoor activities are more pleasant without the glasses.  Reading and using the computer are a draw considering my bi-focals are less effective than they used to be and I have been able to pull my glasses off to read anyway. I now feel cross-eyed when wearing the glasses.

Sunday morning I had a pity party as tears rolled down my cheeks during the worship service. I will not be able to have surgery on my right eye for several months for various reasons, and this could turn into a year or more, maybe never. So I have begun to feel very betrayed by my doctor who didn’t prepare me for this battle between my eyes which has become so distracting.

We have campmeetings this week at Hemingway Campground, so I have been wrestling with my anger toward my doctor as well as wrestling with depression and despair over the possibility that this disorientation may go on for some time. Meanwhile I recognize that I have been continuing to draw more and more into myself.

I feel myself coming under conviction – my attitude has not been bringing glory to God. We sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” and I see my hypocrisy in my complaining spirit. I am allowing my eyes to rob me of my joy in the Lord. Doesn’t God’s word tell us to give thanks in everything? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I am resolving to praise God for my eyes, and to wear my glasses with greater resolve that my eyes will make the necessary adjustments with God’s help. I also desire to walk more closely with Jesus so that I may sing “His Grace is Sufficient for Me” without reservations, with his joy bubbling in my heart. As he promises in his word may I draw near to him so that he will draw near to me. (James 4:8)

Psalm 119:25-32 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

We are about to begin a study of Josiah, the boy king. I believe this Psalm was selected for today’s scripture because it reflected so well the barrenness of the spiritual condition of the Jewish nation when Josiah began his reign.

This passage would not only have encouraged Josiah in Bible times, it is written for us today as well. Perhaps you are at an all-time low and you are tempted to believe that God has abandoned you because of your circumstances. The psalmist is writing from the perspective of the dust heap–he is feeling great sorrow.

But the psalmist is lifting his eyes to the Lord. He is pleading with God to teach him his laws so he could meditate on them through his time of sorrow. He is praying that God will strengthen him through the scriptures, that he will keep him from becoming deceitful, from trying to rise in his own strength. He resolves to continue in the way of truth with his heart set on the laws of God, and prays that God will not allow him to be put to shame. The psalmist is able to run in the freedom he has received from following God’s paths.

Are we willing to trust in the scriptures to lift us out of our own despair? I recall a Sunday when I was so deep in despair that I couldn’t bear to attend our worship service for fear I would make a spectacle of myself through my tears. Instead, I armed myself with my Bible and some scripture-based music tapes and drove to a secluded place to worship my God in private. I cried as I listened to one song after another. I looked up the scriptures the musicians sang. Even though the tears continued to flow, they gradually changed from tears of grief to tears of hope and then joy. I returned home with a new lift to my spirit. I was ready to face whatever came my way.

Father God, we thank and praise you that you know our hearts and that you care. Just as Jesus wept for Martha and Mary in their grief, you weep for us when we are hurting. Help us to never forget your love, and to never forget to lift our eyes to you when we feel discouraged. You have promised to never let us down. Thank you for always being there for us.

P.S. As I was uploading this message God blessed my heart with the song “You Are My Hiding Place” on the radio and my tears again flowed, as he had been my hiding place on that day I just wrote about. God will bless you if you will give him the opportunity. (Psalm 32:7 is the scripture that inspired this song)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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2 Chronicles 6:40-42 (Click to read NIV or select your preferred translation of the Bible. Please read the scripture first.)

Solomon ends his prayer of dedication by appealing to God to be attentive to the prayers offered in the temple. He invited God to come into the temple and make it his home along with the ark of the covenant.

When Solomon prayed that the priests be clothed in salvation, he was praying that their spiritual welfare would exceed their fine outer appearance. 

Then Solomon prayed for the saints, those who loved God, that they would always take joy in the goodness of God.

Solomon prayed for himself, that God would never reject him as his anointed one, and that he would always be mindful of the promise he made to his father, King David.

These prayers are still perfectly suited for our churches and sanctuaries today. I encourage you to pray this scripture over your own church.

Our God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in _____ (our church). Fill ________ (our church) with your presence. Clothe ________ (our pastor) with your salvation. May the people in our congregation rejoice in your goodness. O Lord God, do not reject us, your chosen people. Remember the promise you made to us through the blood of your son, the resurrected Jesus Christ. (Adapted from verses 40-42.)

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Psalms 150:1-6 (NIV)

How many ways can we praise the Lord? This stirring passage offers many great opportunities for praising him. Let us reflect on them.

Praise God in his sanctuary. In our regular worship services we offer him praise. We can also praise him anywhere we feel his presence – or where we wish to feel his presence.

Praise him in his mighty heavens. We must think outside the box here. Since we aren’t there yet, we are challenged to imagine him in his mighty heavens. Consider the immense greatness of the heavens he has created.

Praise him for his acts of power. The thunder and lightening, the ocean tides, even the massive hurricanes are but a breath compared to God’s power, as they are all under his control. God demonstrated his power when he parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could walk to the other side on dry land.

Praise him for his surpassing greatness. One can only stand in awe… gazing into a sunset… searching a starlit night sky or the recent eclipse… walking in a creek or admiring a waterfalls… visiting an aquarium… watching an ant hard at work…

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet… Do you play an instrument? Do so for his glory. If not, sing and make a joyful noise. Or if that is still not an option, play a radio (on a Christian station please) or a CD of Christian music.

Praise him with dancing. Does Jesus put a spring in your step? Then don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to praise him with dance, however flamboyant or humble.

Praise him with the clash of cymbals. If you don’t have cymbals, clap your hands. Make a noise that springs from the joy in your heart.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Are you breathing? Thank him with joyful praise!

We have so many reasons to praise our God. Find your own way(s) to express it to him, both in public and private worship.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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You are encouraged to share your own comments on ways you have found to praise the God of the universe.

1 O God, you are my God,
     
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    
  my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
     
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
     
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
     
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
     
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6  On my bed I remember you;
     
I think of you through the watches of the night. Psalm 63:1-6 (NIV)

This is a beautiful love song to God, written by David when he was going through very tough times.  Even though he found himself in a dry and weary land with no water, he comforted himself with memories of God’s beauty, his glory, and his love; and David made the choice to praise God in spite of his circumstances. We can be certain that some of his comrades at the time would have him curse God because of all the turmoil he was having to deal with during these times of exile from his kingdom. 

Yet David had a storehouse of memories from which to draw encouragement, and he used them to full advantage. David had learned about the strength that always came to him when he sang praises to God. He had also learned to store away memories of times when he had been richly blessed by God so he could remember them as he lay upon his bed when life became difficult.

Have you been saving up memories of what God has done for you?  Are you able to sing praise to God, even when you are down?  One of the best remedies I have ever found for spells of depression is to sing along with Christian praise tapes.  Do you have Christian music at your fingertips to lift your spirits?  If not, buy some.  In the mean time, read from the Psalms–those were the songs David sang.  He wrote most of them.

Lord, bring to my memory those special times when I felt close to you on those days when discouragement wants to creep in on me.  Help me to draw closer to you moment by moment.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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