Jonah: The Drama King

It’s hard for me to read the book of Jonah because I find myself written all through the pages. You remember the story…God sent Jonah to call the wicked people of Nineveh to repentance. Jonah did not heed the voice of the Lord and ran to Tarshish where he fled from the presence of the Lord by hiding away on a boat. The Lord caused a huge storm and the sailors soon realized Jonah’s disobedience was causing the storm. As if Jonah wasn’t already dramatic enough trying to hide from God, he tells the sailors the only way to calm the sea is to throw him overboard. How dramatic!

Then we read that after Jonah (a.k.a Mr. Drama King) was hurled into the sea, the Lord chose a great fish to swallow him up for 3 days where Jonah repented and re-affirmed the call God placed on his life to bring the news of salvation to the people of Nineveh. Once Jonah arrives in Nineveh, he offers the world’s briefest “sermon” as he declares that in forty days Nineveh would be destroyed (3:4). That was the extent of his exhortation; there was no call to repentance, yet the people repented anyway! All seemed like a total win for Jonah the prophet, but while Jonah was obedient to tell the Ninevites what he was commanded to proclaim, his heart wasn’t in it. In fact he was actually angry at the Lord for not destroying them—so angry he asked the Lord to take his life.

Now, if you’re keeping score here, this is twice in a few chapters where Jonah (a.k.a. Mr. Drama King) has asked the Lord to end his life. He was actually angry that his God was “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Have you ever been angry that the Lord did something you didn’t think was fair? Continue the story with me…

My favorite part of the story comes next. The Lord provides shade for Jonah as he waits outside the city and Jonah is pleased with how the Lord has provided for him, even gives thanks to Him for the shade. But then God sent a worm to eat the plant that was providing shade for him and AGAIN for the THIRD time in this book, Jonah (a.k.a. Mr. Drama King) decides he cannot live and wants to die. Geesh! So, here’s where it gets me every time—the Lord asks Jonah, “do you have a good reason to be angry about the plant?” To which Jonah basically says—“yeah, I do, so much anger that I’d rather die than burn in this sun.” Here’s the zinger: God says, you didn’t work to cultivate this plant which provided you such shade—yet you had compassion (and were thankful) for that plant, weren’t you? The Lord’s point was—I should show compassion on the city of Nineveh just as I’ve shown to you—YOU JUST THINK YOU DESERVE IT and they don’t. Just like Job, “the Lord gives and takes away.” God’s perspective cannot be understood with a finite mind.

My name is Will and I’m a “drama king” like Jonah! While I’ve never officially asked the Lord to take my life, I’ve wallowed in self-doubt and self-pity wanting to give up the calling God has called me to because I’ve been angry with God because I haven’t gotten my own way or thought I knew better than God what His will is for my life (ouch!). Yes, I admit it. My benchmark of “fair” is not always Kingdom focused. I often think I deserve XYZ because I worked hard for it—or earned it in some way. God’s perspective is always so contrary to my human nature. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

He wants faithfulness from me.
Holiness from me.
Obedience from me.
He wants me to DELIGHT in Him and not the world.

Friends, we don’t deserve the compassion and mercy of God. Not one of us deserves it and none of us can earn it. Yet Jonah’s behavior and responses are often indicative of our own reactions. Yet the Lord’s question to Jonah will haunt us…”do you have a good reason to be angry?” Well…do you?
No we don’t. Not when we have a God that is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Ps 103:8 ESV)

The Lackluster Hall Tree

Over the years, we’ve inherited several pieces of antique furniture, which are proudly displayed in various places in our home. These pieces of furniture are not only beautiful, but also quite sentimental. One piece in particular is a hand-carved hall tree from the 19th century that came from my great grandmother’s house in Enterprise. When she passed away in 1996, she willed the piece to me because every time I’d visit her, I’d comment on how beautiful and practical the hall tree was—especially the umbrella stand! Once my wife and I got married, the hall tree made its way to our first home and has been a part of every home we’ve owned since. Unfortunately, over the years the mirror has lost MUCH of its luster. Many days I’ve passed by it to check out my hair or adjust my clothes in the hall tree mirror only to discover later than I missed several pieces of lint on my shirt. Obviously that mirror didn’t provide a clear image for me!

Four years ago I had a similar experience when I went for lasik eye surgery. I’d worn contacts and/or glasses since I was 10 and I was finally going to “see” again clearly. Without corrective lenses I couldn’t read a book unless it was about level with my nose—Yeah, I was that blind. Right after the surgery I noticed that even though I couldn’t see perfectly immediately, I could see better—and day after day during the healing process, I developed better vision than I had before. I really noticed a difference when driving at night; I had no idea how bad my astigmatism had gotten until after the surgery. I had gotten to where the halos on headlight made me not want to drive at night—but finally things were clear.

As I’ve thought about how blind I was, I became keenly aware that before I trusted Christ as my Savior, I was just as blind. Just like my view through the lackluster mirror or haloed headlights, I had a blurry, myopic understanding of who I was and what Christ has done for me. What I needed was to place my faith in Christ (lasik for the soul!). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see.”

This being Holy Week, believers everywhere recall and celebrate the hope we have in Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus reminded his followers of His purpose as Messiah, but their perspective/sight was blurry. They kept missing the point that Jesus’ death was not the end even though Christ was clear about what would happen next. Even though we have the Bible that clearly outlines what’s to come, believers today still struggle with “blurry” faith. Thanks be to God this will not be the case forever. In 1 Cor. 13:12 Paul writes, “now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Then in 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul writes, “while we are limited in our perspective here on earth, God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith requires that we believe even when we have a myopic perspective.

So this week as we remember and celebrate: TAKE HEART! Even though we see blurry today, one day we will live forever face to face with our Savior with clarity of sight!

Pine Trees And Easter

One of my favorite Easter memories is also related to my story of how I came to faith in Christ. You see, my journey to salvation was just that—a journey. I grew up in an evangelical, bible-believing church. I knew all the answers at Sunday School, but I knew early on there was more to knowing God than simply knowing about Him. I started really questioning my faith in the 4th grade, but I was a skeptic and needed convincing—I needed something tangible and physical. Here’s part of my story:

Every Easter after church, my extended family would gather at my grandparent’s house for Easter lunch. I’m sure many of you have similar traditions. This particular year when I was in the 6th grade, my grandfather walked his eight grandchildren out to the backyard and told us to look at the tops of the pine trees in the yard and how the new growth at the top forms a cross at Easter signifying new life in Christ. He reminded us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and these crosses on the tops of the trees are there to remind us of His love that went to the cross for us. I needed empirical evidence God existed and this was did it for me.

At that moment the Holy Spirit penetrated not only my mind, but my soul as well. I knew there was nothing I could do to earn or merit the grace of Jesus because I truly understood that I was a sinner and had disobeyed God, but finally I was ready to let go of my sin and trust Christ. It was shortly after that Easter that I publicly professed my faith in Jesus. To this day, I think back to that Easter and the impact it had on my faith formation. I’m so eternally grateful for parents and grandparents who cared enough to share the greatest story ever told to future generations.

Once I became a believer, scriptures I’d read before became real to me in a new way such as:

Hebrews 12:2–fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Ephesians 3:16-19 speaks this – Paul writes asking that God would strengthen us by the power of his spirit so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

AND John 3:16- for God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son that whoever would believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

2 Corinthians 5:17–Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!

And Romans 5:8- That God demonstrates his own love for us in this- that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

Do you know Jesus? Have you experienced His grace? His love is evident in creation-all creation reflects the glory of God!

One of my favorite newer hymns, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”  Stuart Townend echos this truth- of the vast and great love of Jesus Christ:

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

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