Shark or Fish?

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17. The Lord sent a huge fish to 
swallow Jonah, and Jonah was
in the stomach of the fish three days
and three nights.   Jonah 1:17

 

Upon reading this verse, I was inspired by the fish.  Last post, I was looking at the idea of Jonah being Covered by the Fish and how those looking, including Jonah himself saw it as being consumed, this post, I would like to highlight the fish himself, and expose my prayer and give forth thanksgiving for the role of the fish.

The scripture says The Lord “sent” a fish.

shockedHave you ever prayed for a fish?  No, not some fish, but a “fish!”  The fish as discussed was a covering for Jonah.  It allowed him to go before the Lord and renew his commitment to the Lord.  The fish didn’t judge him, nor did it expose him.  This was one special fish!

I don’t know about you, but I have been blessed to have several fishes sent to me.  In my journey with the Lord, I have found myself in periods of disobedience, and other times where I had my signal light on and was headed towards the exit.   In these times, I have been blessed to encounter those who were sent to me as a safe place.  A place to heal, and place to resolve, a place to be restored, a place to confess, and a place to recharge.   I thank God for the people and places that have been prepared for me to allow me to fall before the Lord without judgement and without running forward to expose my sin and failing.

This fish served Jonah this way.   He heard his confession and his prayer, heard his cries and felt his tears.  He heard every grown, and absorbed the vibration from his vocal petitions, and yet, not a word.  Maybe this was the genius of God providing a fish?  He could hear but could not speak, see and not report, and we all need this type of presence in our lives.

Have you ever been a fish for someone?

confidentAs much as I praise God for the fish in my life,  I am happy to have served as a fish for others.  Have you been a fish for someone?

In my life, I have been blessed to be in a trusted position for a few.  It’s the compassion and empathy of receiving someone who is either broken or back-slidden, and providing a place and an environment to aid in the restoration of a person.  Has God placed anyone in your heart and on your path to minister too?  Have you ever looked at someone and seen their hurts?  Felt pain from hearing someones story?  Been obedient to the pull of God to share your space with them?

We, people; we, the church, need to provide this space for God’s people.  We must help people to heal from their hurts and hangups.  We must allow people the opportunity to face God in their frustration and their anger, and to come to resolution with God as to why and how His will is the best for us and the best for others.

Are you more Shark than Fish?

discouragedThank God for “fish”, and thank God that we have been a “fish”, but Lord forbid that you or I would ever or have ever been a “shark”.  Today as we see “#churchhurt” on the post of many, it is my fear that we have been more shark than fish.  Our church body, over the years, have developed a reputation of hurting more than we have healed.  Though many remain quiet, some have spoken out about their experience as a youth and as an adult.

This has resulted in many staying away from corporate worship, choosing to practice their faith at home, while others have strayed away, looking for love, peace and acceptance among other faiths, organizations and structures.  Our lack of love, and our participation in the infliction of judgement and pain have lead to several movements, and the rise of spirituality.

We must receive the love of Christ, and be inspired to share that love with others.  As Prophet and People, we should never run from Nineveh, rather we should run towards it.  Our desire should be to see each person walking in the same freedom as we have enjoyed.   This will happen when we choose to participate in the process God designs to make people whole.

 

#PastorJDO3

Covered; Not Consumed

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17. The Lord sent a huge fish to 
swallow Jonah, and Jonah was
in the stomach of the fish three days
and three nights.  1. Jonah prayed to 
the Lord his God from the stomach
of the fish.  Jonah 1:17-2:1

Sadly this passage highlights someone being obedient that is not the Prophet of God.  Yep, here the giant fish is hearing the Word and instructions of the Lord, realizing that it was his responsibility and to respond to the creator and being obedient.  The fish, denies its natural instinct, goes against its own personal will and lends itself to the desires of God for 3 day and 3 nights. 

How do you respond to the Lord?

Many of us have a challenge finding 3 hours to yield to God, let alone 3 days and 3 nights.   Some of us can find 3 days, but they would not be consecutive days, and not consecutive hours.  Our personal desires compete with God’s will.  We find ourselves seeking God, opening to listening to God, but struggle finding agreement with what we hear because we often frustrated because some of our assignments are not beneficial to us.

Is your Obedience to God Relative to How it Benefits you?

discouragedSwallowing Jonah was of no benefit to the fish.  He could not consume him, he could only cover him.  It’s possible because he was in the stomach of the fish, that he spent these 3 days and 3 nights going without food.  In reading, the text reveals the details as they unfold.  In verse 17 of chapter 1, God sends the fish, and three days later it receives its next set of instructions.  This is important because the fish was just obedient.  The what to do was clear, but the how long was not.  The fish was committed to the will of God no matter what.  He was not concerned about the length of time, but was consumed with making sure God’s will on earth was done as it was in heaven.   We too must have this perspective.  God gives the Word to “go”, and we must continue to we hear God say “stop!”

I can imagine what Jonah, the Captain and Crew were thinking as he was thrown over the edge an a huge fish surfaces to consume Joshua.  They probably though it was the last time they would see him.  But they didn’t know that the fish was not sent to consume him, but to cover him while he reaffirmed his covenant.

He was Covered, not Consumed!

Maybe you are like Jonah!  There have been times where people wrote you off.   They left you for dead.  Thought your situation was so grim that it couldn’t be survived.  They saw you being consumed and thought you would be digested and discarded as waste.  Thanks be to God, He is a restorer!  He could have destroyed Jonah, but He chose to give him another chance.  He allowed Jonah to spend some time in solitude.  Gave him a chance to deal with himself, and consider the error of his ways.

What you thought was Consumed was Consecration

loudvoice


He gave Jonah time to reconsider his path of disobedience and to refocus on his will to align with the One he was called to serve. 
Have you had a moment like this in your life?  I thank God that He not only prepares a place for me in the presence of my enemies, but that He will create space for me to spend time worshiping Him!  He sent Jonah a sanctuary.  He provided him a place to cry out.  He provided him a place to make an altar, and gave him an opportunity to surrender to Him.  Jonah was able to cast off burdens and constraint and to reconnect with the divine, once again a living sacrifice pleasing to God.  

I felt guilty celebrating the fishes obedience to Jonah.  It occurred me that Jonah, much like the fish, was being sent to a group of people that were being disobedient, but they remained in displeasure to the Lord because Jonah refused to be obedient.  Jonah was given the space to change his mind and ways, but the people of Nineveh were being denied that by his decision.  Who is being denied a chance to change because of your selfishness and judgmental ways?  I wonder how many people have remained in sin because of my actions?  My refusal to go and speak to those whom God has sent me too.  My thoughts about who deserves God’s grace and mercy, my beliefs about who are beyond being made righteous.

shame on youI want to challenge each of you to reconsider your thoughts and ways.  Be open to listen to the Lord, and be obedient to his instructions.  Make sure that each person has the chance to hear God’s Word and to respond to His Word, lest people suffer because you didn’t love God and people enough to share with them, that which was given to you freely.

 

#PastorJDO3

 

Enabling Disobedience

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15. So they picked Jonah up and
threw him into the sea, and
the sea stopped raging. 16. The
men greatly feared the Lord,
and earnestly vowed to offer
lavish sacrifices to the LORD.
Jonah 1:15-16

 

shocked

Continuing on this journey with Jonah, we find him in the hands of those whom life he placed in danger.  He has been lifted from his seat, elevated above their heads, and now is being cast into the sea.

 

To Stop the Storm, you have to Surrender The Problem to the Sea.

In this passage, we find the problem on the boat is Jonah.    The Crew followed a pattern that I believe we should immolate.  In the previous passage they petition the Lord about what they should do about the problem they face.  They heard the Word from the Prophet, but verified with the Lord that it was His will.  Then they took their problem, and surrendered it to the only one they knew had the power to handle it.  What’s your process?

discouragedAre you willing to surrender your problems to the Lord, or are you still trying to row back to shore?  Most of us are still rowing back to shore.   The effort, resources and time it takes to row against the wind can be crippling.  Not only is it unlikely to make it back to the shore, but the remaining cargo and ship are sure to be damaged beyond repair, and those traveling could loose their life while you struggle.

What did you sacrifice trying to keep what should be sacrificed? 

I can’t tell you how many survive living with the remorse of hanging on to something they knew was causing storms in their life.  Be it a relationship, forgiveness, pain, job, business, sin, purchase or etc, there are times when holding onto these things cause not just pain, but result in further loss.  Worst, after loosing other things to protect the desired item, one often finds that it end up loosing both the item and more.  When God tells us to release, you must release.  When God says sacrifice, it’s time to sacrifice.  Yet most of us kill valuable things refusing to sacrifice what has the potential to destroy us.

The Captain and Crew not only sought God’s approval, but they followed through on what they heard.  The cast Jonah into the sea, ultimately saving their lives, and saving Jonahs life too. 

They were Enabling Jonah

loudvoiceIt never crossed their mind that their unwillingness to throw Jonah overboard was enabling him to remain disobedient to the Lord. 

What or who have you enabled?  What have you allowed to maintain power or gain power in your life, that should be released to the Lord.  In this case, it was a person.  One of God’s servants whom they stood protecting, even though that protection was sure to bring their life and prosperity to an end.  They rallied around Jonah, and considered his rights and will ahead of the Lords will, and decided it better to face the wrath of the Lord, rather than require Jonah to face his Master.  We are still doing this today.

Upon throwing Jonah into the sea, they found that the storm subsided.  In this, the Word recounts that the “…men greatly feared the Lord…”.   The fear they had for the Lord was not only that the Lord had the power to create a storm that could take their life, but this fear was also one of reverence and submission, found that the men who once worshiped other gods, took a vow and made sacrifices to the one true and living God.

When we face God, it demonstrates a Reverence
that leads to Conviction and commitment.

confused personTheir fear, vows and sacrifice to the Lord were a combination of Jonah’s testimony and their experience of the Lord’s power.  Not to be forgotten in all this, is Jonah’s willingness to give his life for those on the ship, and His trust in the Lord of heaven and earth (allowing himself to be cast into the sea).

What would people learn from your willingness to be sacrificed?  How many would believe if you allowed yourself to be corrected by the Lord and submitted yourself to him?

 

#PastorJDO3

 

Righteousness from the Unrighteous

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13 Instead, the men did their best to row back
to land.  But they could not, for the sea
grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they 
cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord, please do not let
us die for taking this man’s life.  Do not hold 
us accountable for killing an innocent man, 
for you, O Lord have you done as you pleased.’
Jonah 1:13-15

 

Jonah has taken responsibility for his actions.  He spoke up, and the Captain and Crew now know what they need to do.  Though instructed by Jonah what should be done, they consider his instructions, and despite him being inconsiderate of them, they are considerate of him. 

The word says, “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land.”

shame2The men have been made aware that the way to calm the sea, save the ship, save the cargo, and possibly their own lives.  They consider this option, and determine that they would rather row against a wind sent by God, as opposed to the potential sacrifice of life of a fellow human being.

How many of our lives can be depicted like this?
Rowing back to Shore during a Violent Storm!

How many of us have wasted energy fighting God’s will?  God made a path for you, but your own desires made you take the long way around to the place God directed in the first place.

For the record, they are not trying to because there was the absence of the wind, but they were rowing during a storm that was increasing and had already started to damage their ship.   Rather than sacrifice a man that had done no harm to them, other than to place them in harms way, they took a risk and attempted to take the boat back to the shore.

Nothing-is-InsurmountableShamefully, the men that are looking to save the life of Jonah are considered unrighteous.  They were unrighteous because they knew not the living God, but they acted as righteous, caring for their fellow neighbor.  Shamefully, I found myself in this situation in college.  Here I was, “righteous” but was living “as one that was unrighteous”, and a close friend was “unrighteous” and living as one that was “righteous”.  What a shamed it is to have those who don’t know God behaving with stronger morals and guided by stronger ethics than those who should know better.  Sadly, this is a story I am sure many have lived, and one that has causes the Kingdom to grow slowly and sometimes deteriorated.

Though he had wronged God (with his disobedience),  he had done nothing to the Captain and the Crew, and thus they did not want to sacrifice the life of an innocent man.  Furthermore, they were keenly aware that Jonah was no ordinary man.  They understood that he was the man of God.  Though they did not fear Jonah, they did fear the Lord.  After all, they were in the midst of a storm that they knew God Himself had caused.

Decision-MakingThough they didn’t know God, they were experiencing His power through God’s response to Jonah, so they begged God not to punish them for carrying out what they concluded to be the will of God.  They saw God’s wrath for disobedience and had sense enough to consider God’s response to the murder of an innocent man.

They began doing what Jonah should have be doing.  They cried out to Jonah’s God about their circumstances like He was their God.  They didn’t want to do what they were being instructed to do, but unlike Jonah the petition the Lord, and then were obedient to His will.

I wonder how many of us are like the Captain and Crew.  Are we committed to God such that we would trade our will for His will?  Are we wiling to find agreement with difficult choices?   Are we willing to make the sacrifice necessary to save our life and the lives of our families?  Being obedient can be difficult.  Being obedient can cause you to agree with a reality/truth that we don’t understand or have yet to come into focus.  But, they decide trust God and do what is difficult, as opposed to being disobedient and facing His wrath.chess1

Maybe they learned from Jonah’s mistake?  For obedience is truly better than sacrifice.  The sacrifice that we must all carry out daily is our will.  Our will, we find, often is not aligned with God.  It is our selfishness that makes us rebel against God, and have thoughts that are not righteous in nature.  Jonah’s dislike for a people group put his life on the line and placed the life of those around him in danger.  Many of us have committed the same offense.  What is your Nineveh?

 

#PastorJDO3