Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Honesty of Jonah

So Jonah goes to Nineveh.

The people of the great city believe God.

God relented of the disaster He said He would do to them.

That's called mercy.

I need some of that.

I feel like I need to apologize to Jonah.

Last week, I wrote about how he disobeyed and a fish made him look bad.

This week, he's showing me how to be honest...even when it's not pretty.

Here's what I love about Jonah. He's being authentic; not hiding his thoughts, feelings or emotions. He's not saying to the Lord what he thinks He wants to hear. He's not saying one thing and secretly meaning the exact opposite. There's no mixing words or manipulation.

He's just being Jonah. Real. Raw. Authentic. Jonah.

He was angry. "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." (v. 1)

Angry. Check.

And then he prays. "And he prayed to the Lord and said..." (v. 2)

In his anger, he talked to the Lord. He didn't pretend to be happy or fake smile his way out of the city.

Angry and not hiding. That's a new one for me.

I hate to admit this but prayer is not always my first response. Just for realness sake, take a look at a handful of my first responses:

"No, I'm good."

"It's fine."


"It's all good."

"It ain't nothing but a thang."

But it is.

This is what I'm learning. God wants it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. What is the point of hiding stuff from an all-knowing, all-seeing, Creator?

He wants it all. Like all. Every bit. Not some pre-packaged pretty little "God, I'm good." 

He deserves realness. My authentic words. The real and raw words that I have crammed inside.

Jonah: "Lord, I'm so mad. Please just take my life from me." (v. 3)

Me: "Lord, I'm so mad. My life feels out of control. Finances are all jacked up. Lost a few hours at work.  Teaching math to my son is hard. I haven't been on a date with my husband in forever. I'm waking up in the middle of the night in fear from trying to fix everything. Trying to do it all, God, and doing nothing well." 

So Jonah, thank you and I'm sorry. Because of your example, I don't have to hide my thoughts, feelings and emotions from the Lord.

He created me and made me His own, not to make me look good, but for me to make Him look good.

We've got millions of souls on the line.

"And much cattle." (v. 11) :)

"Do we do well to be angry at that which is for the glory of God, and the advancement of His kingdom? Let the conversion of sinners, which is the joy of heaven, be our joy, and never our grief."
-Matthew Henry

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Voice of Thanksgiving

Jonah, Jonah, Jonah.

I mean really. The whale is making you look bad. He immediately obeyed by swallowing you up. 

Let me back up. 

I just want to talk with Jonah. He's at this critical point in his life. He has a choice; a decision to make; do I obey or do I do what I want. This choice is not exclusive to just Jonah. We all are faced with this opportunity moment by moment. 

And then I recall what Spurgeon wrote, "Remember that to do wrong will always be easy while our carnal nature is what it is. Man can always find ways of sinning against God." 

Oh Jonah. This is a heart matter. So I pretend he's standing before me and look him in the eye. I tell him what I say to my boys when they are contemplating disobeying: "Obey right away, all the way and in a happy way." Seems so simple... yet, the reality is, the temptation to consider disobedience is too great. We can't take time to ponder sin. 

In sin, a split second changes everything. Trust me. 

Jonah knows that now. He's found himself in the belly of a whale stewing in a slimy, stinky, sour state of sin.

"Our impulses are not to be depended on-our thoughts run wild. You must never obey an impulse to do wrong," writes Spurgeon. 

Sin will help us do and say more that we had originally planned. 
Life is a series of choices. Decisions. We choose. We decide. Do we realize what we are doing? Our responsibility is great. 

Matthew Henry says, "Sin is stupefying, and we are to take heed lest at anytime our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of it."

This explains our homeboy Jonah, with his hard heart, no compassion for the lost, thinking of only himself; his "what have you done for me lately?" attitude. He wasn't about to go to Ninevah to a people lost and dying. Too bad, so sad. This is the deceitfulness of sin. Yuck.

See, we can't follow Jesus and drag our sin behind us. 

He's looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. We love the one and hate the other. And that is where our choice comes in. He's given us a free will. 

We have to cut off our sin in order to go forward with Jesus. 

All of us were created on purpose for a purpose. We were put on this earth to fulfill His will. This whole thing is for Him. 

And because God is Sovereign and He is God, He will bring us to the exact place He wants us to be....come heck or high water. (No pun intended).  :)

After the sin is committed, Jonah comes to his senses in Chapter 2 when he realizes it was the Lord that brought him up from the pit.

He remembers the Lord. 

Oh, that we would remember the Lord. How would things change for us if we remembered the Lord rather than cherishing sin and relying on our impulses? Or if we remember the Lord before paying regard to vain idols? 

"But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you;" v. 9

Sweet Sisters, let us remember the Lord with thankfulness. We thank Him because we love Him. We don't say thanks to manipulate Him so we can get what we want. We truly thank Him because our hearts are grateful. 

It's no secret that I love Albert Barnes. He wrote, "But Jonah's was that special character of thankfulness, which thanks God in the midst of calamities from which there is no human exit; (hello, belly of the whale) and God set His seal on this sort of thankfulness, by annexing this deliverance..." (parenthesis mine).

"And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." v. 10

Ann Voskamp said it best when she said, "Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle."

Let's raise our voices in thankfulness to the Lord, even in the midst of calamities. We serve a great God and nothing is too hard for Him.

"I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17

Friday, March 14, 2014

When Nothing Is Hidden

“He reads the longings of our hearts; nothing can be hidden from Him; what we cannot tell to Him He perfectly understands.”-The Treasury of David

Secret keeper.
Heart knower.
Mind reader.
Heart searcher.
Word hearer.
Desire giver.
El Roi.
This is my God. 

When I read Psalm 38 on Monday, I asked the Lord to open my eyes to see what He wanted me to share. I’m extremely visual, a total right-brainer and so when verse 9 was the only one highlighted in a group of Scriptures, I took that as my cue. 

Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You.” Psalm 38:9

Have you ever kept something inside for so long knowing that if you didn’t release the words in the next second, your heart might explode? So you blurt out words, longings, desires, groans and suddenly waves of emotions surround you. That is confession. 

Don’t you feel better when you make a confession? I think of those feelings I had when I confessed Jesus to be The LORD of my life. Freedom. I confessed my sin to Him. Peace. I confessed that I couldn’t be, do or say anything without His hand upon me. Strength. 

I love that I don’t have to hide from God. Even if I wanted to. Even when I pretend He’s not watching me “right now.” He is. His eyes roam the earth looking for a heart that’s fully committed to him. 

The Lord is not unfamiliar with our ways. We can’t keep anything from you nor does He want us to. We are asked by our Holy Father to lay it all out: our secrets, fears, anxieties, sins. Yes, those are the things I’m aware of. So what happens to those things I am not prone to share because of fear?

What do I do with my longings and the desires of my heart?

Naturally, I hide them. I can’t seem to find the words to utter. I’m all, “O Lord, You know.” 

Yes, yes He does but I keep those words inside because I feel unworthy; almost like, ‘Did You give me this desire or am I making it up?’ And saying the desires of my heart out loud almost feels like when you say something you shouldn’t have and then can’t take back those words.

And then it hits me. It’s so obvious and simple that I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. 

It’s funny how my one word for 2014 is delight and it’s taken me almost three months to realize a Scripture that was placed in my heart last November. I recall now that in January I was going to write about why that word is so significant but I let fear keep those words locked up tight inside.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

The desires I have come from God; so when I remind myself of that, I’m not sure why I try to hide them. When all is before Him and nothing is hidden from Him, why do I still hide?

 I remind myself that my Heavenly Father wants me. He wants to hear the words that are in my heart, the ones that I am so afraid to share. Those are the words He wants to come out of my mouth.

Even though God already knows everything; He still wants me to use my words and tell Him. He knows my heartaches, shortcomings, wants, fears, and yes, my desires. We have to give Him the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help us God.  

We can speak openly and freely, sharing the whole story with Him. He won’t expose us but will wrap us up in His arms of love and He will listen. John Gill writes, “It is His delight to hear.”  

So I confess to Him:

Lord, I want to be a writer. 

The thought of writing about Jesus and for Jesus makes my blissfully giddy. God wants to see our faces light up, our souls renewed and refreshed. He takes joy when we delight in Him. I remember that He created me. 

He created you.

What are the desires and longings of your heart? Will you let Him fulfill them? 

Don’t rob Jesus of the joy of giving you your hearts desire by keeping silent. I let fear rob me of writing on my blog for months. Remind yourself that nothing is hidden from Him. 

Say what you need to say.

“If God delights to fulfill our desires, let us not be slack in desiring.”-Spurgeon

Friday, March 7, 2014

There is Forgiveness

I like to fix things. When I’m thirsty I pour myself a glass of ice cold water. If one of my boys has a paper cut, I go to the medicine cabinet and get a bandaid. Simple. 

Those are easy fixes for the little things that arise in life. But what about the big things? Why is it that when I sin, my first reaction is to hide? When I first read today’s text, I wrote down in my journal, “is Jesus enough for you?” Is He? I have a problem; Jesus has the answer. Is that good enough?

Psalm 130:4 says, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” 

Sweet Sisters, don’t try to cover sin up. Confess it. Pour out your heart before the One who already knows everything and loves your fiercely. Come boldly to the throne of grace and receive mercy. Our God is gracious, loving and kind. He has what we need.

We need His forgiveness. I remember one time as a child I made a poor decision. Instead of telling my mother about it first hand, I hid in the sunroom reading my newest Scholastic book, trying to occupy my mind and “look busy”.  Then the phone rang and I knew instantly who it was. My mother knew the whole situation at that moment. I confessed. I made restitution and I received the forgiveness that was offered.*

We need forgiveness. He has forgiveness. It’s a beautiful thing. 

The forgiveness He offers isn’t just some random door prize. We have to repent and turn away from sin. He gives us His forgiveness so that we will fear Him. No, not a slavish fear. A holy fear. 

Pulpit Commentary says, “The true fear of God, which Scripture requires in us-a reverential fear-could not exist, unless we heed a confident hope in God’s mercy and willingness to forgive us our trespasses, if we turn to Him.” 

There is forgiveness for you. Yes, you. There is forgiveness for me. He delights to show you His mercy; not what you’ve done wrong. Cry to Him from the depths of your heart. He longs to hear from us because He loves us. 

We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all sinned. Instead of hiding and believing lies that He could never forgive you for (fill in the blank). Let’s run to Him and receive what He is offering.

The fear of The Lord makes us clean. It keeps our way pure. It keeps our motives in line with His Word. Spurgeon writes, “He could not be merciful until sin had marred His perfect handiwork.” 

I fear Him because I love Him and want to give Him my very best. He gave His very best to me.

Accept His pardon. Receive His forgiveness. “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24

*I went to Smiling Hill Farm and fed the animals. I ran out of quarters and I could no longer feed them. Shortly after that, I went on a tour of the farm and I saw a pile of animal feed right in the middle of the barn.  Long story short, I filled up my pockets and continued feeding the animals. Yes, that would be stealing. It was my first and last time stealing. To God be the glory! LOL xo 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Offering

I just finished reading Emily P. Freeman's latest book, "A Million Little Ways". It was a word in due season for me. In the last chapter she talked a lot about fear. I've been fearful for a while now and for a lot of different reasons. I have been using fear to keep me from doing things that I love (like writing on my blog) for fear of what others might say, think and feel.

On page 194 she writes, "Fear will be a threat whenever you set out to pursue a desire that means something to you." I have been pondering that statement for the better part of a week now. I know God has placed within me a desire to write and teach what He reveals to me in His Word. I say that not because I think I know it all (because I don't) but I believe that I have the heart of a teacher who always wants to share what I am learning. I hope that makes sense.

She shares in her book this quote from Michael Card that comes from his book "Scribbling in the Sand": "Artists in medieval times did not sign their work. It never occurred to them to do so... Their art was a gift meant to point away from themselves and toward the God who gave it. They were safely hidden in Christ, free from the tyranny of the self. They knew the great truth that they were nothing more and nothing less than children of a great King who has been entrusted with a sacred task: to win praise for their Lord. Knowing who we are in the hiddenness of humility. It is believing that the giftedness we may indeed possess is not of our own making, that the purpose of its being is not that we might gain attention or praise for ourselves, but that we might respond ingratitude with our best creative effort to win the praise for the One who first gave the gift." (pg. 202)

I wanted to use that quote on my blog because it reveals a picture of my heart. I don't want this blog to be about me. I want to use it as a platform to share my love for Jesus and why loving and serving Him wholeheartedly has given me a glimpse into what wholeness looks like. I will be completely whole when I see Him one day in Heaven. Amen. I want to write here and share the greatness of my God. I just stopped writing last fall out of fear and I'm wrong. Fear doesn't bring honor and glory to Jesus.

Emily writes, "Reject your fear of scarcity, of sharing and competition. Instead, delight us with what you have to offer. Offer yourself as you are, not as you wish you were. The more we see you, the more we'll see ourselves." (pg. 203)

So this. This blog is my offering to my tens of readers. It's not about the number of people that read or comment or just blog-stalk. This blog is about what Jesus means to me and I'm sorry that I let fear get in the way of that; fear of what I share being laughed at or taken out of context or for plain old competition (which destroys many things). Lord, help. This blog isn't a fancy designed blog that cost me lots of money because I just can't swing that right now. This is a free blog and I'm ok with that. I need to stop hiding.

When I read that SheReadsTruth is looking for guest writers each Friday through the Lent season, I knew this was the push I needed to I told the Lord that I would write for Him and about Him. I am looking forward to Friday when I publish my devotional on Psalm 130. I hope you will come back and see a picture of my heart for the Lord and His Word.

Offering myself as I am,