Monday, July 27, 2009

What's your Ninevah?

I am leading a Sunday School class this quarter on the Book of Jonah and we are using a study guide by Dr. David Jeremiah called “The Runaway Prophet”. Now we all know the story of Jonah and the great fish, but for many Christians that’s really all they know about the book, and in some cases it’s viewed with some skepticism by both believers and non-believers. Today I thought I would share some thoughts with you on what we have discussed so far in class.

In Jonah 1:1-3 it reads, 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 for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Ninevah was a huge city, very populated and very well fortified. It had caused great harm to the people and nations around it, and they built their wealth by destroying and plundering others. God called His prophet Jonah to do a specific thing; go to Ninevah and preach against it. It was a direct and simple word from God and it should have been a relatively short trip for him, but Jonah didn’t like God’s idea and disobeyed.

Jonah’s actions are a warning for all of us. It doesn’t make any difference what our circumstances are, if we have a clear word from God about a subject we need to follow it. Jonah thought differently. He decided to go the exact opposite direction that God called him to go. He ran toward Tarshish as fast and as far as he could from God. Jonah thought he could outrun God. Maybe he was thinking God would go away if he hid and didn't acknowledge Him. Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t like what God was telling you, so you ignored him hoping that you wouldn’t have to do it?

Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah because he didn’t like them. He didn’t want to show any compassion to the Ninevites. He thought they should be destroyed. He didn’t see any good in them and he didn’t understand why God would want to save them.

That leads me to some thoughts for all of us. Who or what is our Ninevah? Who do we have in our life that has caused us some pain or distress and we don’t care what happens to them now? Maybe it is someone that we don’t like the way they live their life. See God loved the Ninevites so much, that He was willing to give them an opportunity to change their ways in spite of their evil and sinful nature. Are we willing to show that same compassion to those people in our lives who have harmed us or are living in way that we disagree with?

What about Jonah’s act of disobedience. Have you ever pulled a Jonah 1:3? Have you ever questioned why God would want you to do a certain thing? Maybe it’s helping out in some capacity at your church? Perhaps it is reaching out to an enemy, or a less fortunate person, or sharing your faith with your family or friends. Whatever it is, God has you right where you are for a reason and although it may not be clear to you, it will do you no good to run to your Tarshish! We need to seek God’s wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. We need to start looking for the blessing that God wants to richly bless us with. When we disobey God, He will pursue us just as He did with Jonah. He will correct us to get us back on the right path.

This week I challenge all of us to acknowledge what our own personal Ninevah is and run to it instead of away from it. We need to reach out to those that have hurt us and show them the same compassion that God has shown us. If your being called to do something for the Kingdom don't get on a boat, get on with serving our King. It won’t be easy, but when God calls us to do something for His Kingdom, we need to do it with the understanding that He loves us and we were made to serve Him.

In Christ,


Galatians 5:13

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Call to Action

In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus gave us what is known as The Great Commission. It reads as follows, "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

In these four verses, Jesus has left us a great command. Not all of us were put in positions to “make disciples of all nations” but we were all told to “go”! Each one of us has our own sphere of influence, but what are we doing to make disciples of those that are in it? Do we even know what their beliefs are? Do we know if our family, our friends or our neighbors are saved? Are we reaching out to people regardless of their social, economic or political backgrounds? I was dining in a local restaurant the other night with my wife, and God was really convicting me. As I looked around at the 50 plus people in there, I realized that there were only a handful of them that I knew for sure believed in Christ. God started to open my eyes to the fact that I am failing to live up to the command to "Go"! I started to think about how many people have passed through my eyesight on any given day that I didn't even give a thought to their salvation. It is sad but true; I haven't always been sowing the seed.

We all have reasons that we use to justify why we don't share our faith. Fear of rejection, our own pride, fear of not knowing the answers to their questions and even the sin in our own lives. In 1st Peter 3 :14 it tells us, "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." Listen, we are going to suffer for our faith. We are going to experience some discomfort and some outright hatred from those outside of Christ. We may even suffer some separation from family or friends because of our belief in Jesus Christ. But whatever that discomfort, rejection and persecution we suffer, it is only minor compared to what Jesus suffered for us on the Cross.

The following article is based on a sermon by missionary Del Tarr who served fourteen years in West Africa with another mission agency. His story points out the price some people pay to sow the seed of the gospel in hard soil.

(I was always perplexed by Psalm 126 until I went to the Sahel, that vast stretch of savanna more than four thousand miles wide just under the Sahara Desert. In the Sahel, all the moisture comes in a four month period: May, June, July, and August. After that, not a drop of rain falls for eight months. The ground cracks from dryness, and so do your hands and feet. The winds of the Sahara pick up the dust and throw it thousands of feet into the air. It then comes slowly drifting across West Africa as a fine grit. It gets inside your mouth. It gets inside your watch and stops it. The year's food, of course, must all be grown in those four months. People grow sorghum or milo in small fields.
October and November...these are beautiful months. The granaries are full -- the harvest has come. People sing and dance. They eat two meals a day. The sorghum is ground between two stones to make flour and then a mush with the consistency of yesterday's Cream of Wheat. The sticky mush is eaten hot; they roll it into little balls between their fingers, drop it into a bit of sauce and then pop it into their mouths. The meal lies heavy on their stomachs so they can sleep.
December comes, and the granaries start to recede. Many families omit the morning meal. Certainly by January not one family in fifty is still eating two meals a day. By February, the evening meal diminishes. The meal shrinks even more during March and children succumb to sickness. You don't stay well on half a meal a day. April is the month that haunts my memory. In it you hear the babies crying in the twilight. Most of the days are passed with only an evening cup of gruel.
Then, inevitably, it happens. A six-or seven-year-old boy comes running to his father one day with sudden excitement. "Daddy! Daddy! We've got grain!" he shouts. "Son, you know we haven't had grain for weeks." "Yes, we have!" the boy insists. "Out in the hut where we keep the goats -- there's a leather sack hanging up on the wall -- I reached up and put my hand down in there -- Daddy, there's grain in there! Give it to Mommy so she can make flour, and tonight our tummies can sleep!"
The father stands motionless. "Son, we can't do that," he softly explains. "That's next year's seed grain. It's the only thing between us and starvation. We're waiting for the rains, and then we must use it." The rains finally arrive in May, and when they do the young boy watches as his father takes the sack from the wall and does the most unreasonable thing imaginable. Instead of feeding his desperately weakened family, he goes to the field and with tears streaming down his face, he takes the precious seed and throws it away. He scatters it in the dirt! Why? Because he believes in the harvest.
The seed is his; he owns it. He can do anything with it he wants. The act of sowing it hurts so much that he cries. But as the African pastors say when they preach on Psalm 126, "Brother and sisters, this is God's law of the harvest. Don't expect to rejoice later on unless you have been willing to sow in tears." And I want to ask you: How much would it cost you to sow in tears? I don't mean just giving God something from your abundance, but finding a way to say, "I believe in the harvest, and therefore I will give what makes no sense. The world would call me unreasonable to do this -- but I must sow regardless, in order that I may someday celebrate with songs of joy." )

If sowing the seed of the gospel was easy then everyone would be doing it. But Jesus never said it would be easy. The path is narrow and the workers are few. So how do we reach out to those people in our lives that need Jesus? Well, if we learn anything from how Jesus dealt with people it should be that he reached out to all people. He was not a respector of persons. He didn't care what social, economic, ethnic or racial background they were from. He didn't avoid them because they were living their life the wrong way or in the wrong place. He didn't hold up religious signs, berate people for the way they were living or ambush them with religious material.

Look at how He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. He was gentle, he didn’t preach at her or belittle her for the way she was living her life. He reached out to her, built a bridge of love and compassion and shared the good news. He was a Jew, she was a Samaritan. Her life was a wreck and full of bad decisions. She had five previous husbands and now had a boyfriend. They were not supposed to associate with each other for many reasons. Yet Jesus left us the example and broke those barriers down. He reached out!

We have a tendency to believe that evangelism is a process with a certain number of steps to take to get to the goal. We need to scrap that way of thinking because Jesus didn’t follow a 10 step process. His instructions to us were very simple; they were to “GO”. We have no problem sharing the good news about the birth of a child, an accomplishment we have achieved or even our political opinions. We need to follow His example and start reaching out to those around us, build that bridge of love and compassion and share the good news of Jesus Christ. If we want to experience revival in our lives, our churches and our communities then we need to start sowing the seed. Revival will only happen when you and I put ourselves in position to let God use us. We can pray all we want, but if we’re not willing to “sow in tears” there will be no joy later.

In Christ,


Phillipians 2:1-5

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My thoughts from 3 days at Spirit Song

This past week my wife Katie and I attended the Spirit Song music festival at Kings Island amusement park in Mason, OH. It was a great three days! We spent each day at the parks enjoying the attractions and the time spent with our friends. Our evenings were filled with music from some of the most well known Christian artists and bands in the country. It was an opportunity for us to hear some great Christian music from several artists all in one place. There was a wide range of musical genre and while some of these bands were newer, up and coming artists, others were well established. If you get a chance, go next year because you won’t be disappointed.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure, my idea of fun at an amusement park consists of sitting on a park bench watching people and eating “Dippin Dots”! Although I have always been a little bit of a daredevil during my life, my daring feats were usually on a level not more than 15 ft off the ground, so riding a rollercoaster that has two hills over 200 ft tall is not my thing. If it’s your thing…Great…but God made this guy to stay on the ground! As a side note, I will have you know that I didn’t succumb to the peer pressure either…even though it was all in good fun...I think.

Moving on… there were two things that I observed and thought about over these 3 days of fun that I wanted to share my thoughts on. The first one is how fickle we are as humans. We live in a society where we will run over people to get to where we are going, and then we’ll willingly stand in a line at an amusement park without complaint for 2 hours! Some of these people standing patiently in line, will also be the first one’s to run you over in the parking lot when their leaving! Our society doesn’t like to conform to anything, so watching people being herded around through a maze of bars and ropes was interesting and thought provoking to say the least.

After watching this play out several times each day, I started thinking about my life as a Christian. Is my Christian faith conforming to the worlds view? The bible tells us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”. These park goers were willing to conform for a period of time so they could have the chance for a brief moment of exhilaration. The questions for each of us revolve around our willingness to be transformed to God’s plan for our lives. Are we willing to walk between the boundaries of God’s narrow path for the promise of eternal life with God? Am I allowing my life to be transformed to what God’s word tells me my faith is supposed to be or is it being conformed by the world?

Over the years, I believe that Christians have allowed our faith to be conformed to what the world and our leaders have told us it should be. Rather than seeking God’s divine plan for us, we have chosen to conform. If we did make a stand, we chose to use the world’s tools to address our countries problems and issues. We tried to use our alleged political clout to legislate morality and our Christian beliefs. I think history is showing us that this approach has not worked real well and I don’t believe that approach is biblical or was ever modeled by Jesus either.

We need to be what we are supposed to be as Christians…different!! We need to be different is such away that it causes those outside of Christ to want to know why we are different. Our lives need to project Christ daily during the good and the bad times. Instead, we conform to the what the world tell us we should be and we further alienate the very people Jesus cared most about…the lost. We need to be praying and building relationships with those that are lost. We need to turn our face back to God and put him back in the forefront of our country. Real change in this country will not happen until the individuals within this country start to change themselves first. That means that for those of us that profess to be born again Christians we need to get out of the line the world has us in and stop conforming to its ways. We need to put God back at the front of our lines.

The second thing that stood out for me came from a point that Jeremy Camp made during his concert. He told a story about how his young daughter would tell him “I love you this much” while she stretched out her hands as far as she could. It’s easy to relate to this because we have all done this when we were younger or heard our own kids say this. One day Jeremy’s daughter had an ice cream cone in one hand and he asked her how much do you love me? She paused this time, looked at her ice cream, and then repeated the same line, “I love you this much”, but this time only one hand was held outstretched while the other was held close to her, firmly clutching her ice cream cone. He went on to talk about how Christ held His arms out wide on the cross and as the nails pierced his hands He said to each of us, “I love you this much”!

What are we holding onto in our life? What do we have in our life that we love more than God? Maybe it’s our hobbies or our possessions? Could it be our spouses, kids or family? I think all of us have something that we are clutching onto. It’s easy to surrender the things in our life that are not going so well and say “Uh, God, I need your help down here!” It’s not an easy thing to let go of everything, but Jesus says we must. In Luke 14:26 Jesus tells us, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Jesus isn’t meaning “hate” as you and I understand it, but instead He wants you and me to love Him more than anything else in our lives.

One of the great gifts that a Mother has is the gift of sacrifice. A mother will sacrifice everything for her kids. She is often the last one to eat at dinner and no matter how hungry she is, she will surrender every bit of the food on her plate to take care of her children if they are still hungry. If we’re going to serve God the way he wants us to, then we have to be willing to surrender every single thing on our plate of life for Him. We have to stretch out both arms and let go of everything we’re hanging onto, no matter what it is. When we let God have every area of our lives, then He can truly use us to do some great things for His kingdom.

I have always been willing to let God have what I think He should have. It was usually never anything good though, because it has mostly been the areas in my life that I have made a mess of. While I am learning everyday how to let God have all of my life, it has not been without some struggles. It’s hard to let go of all the areas of our lives, but when we keep Him in front of us then the big picture becomes much clearer. That’s what faith is all about. We serve an awesome and a gracious God. He is not some abstract entity, but a loving and living being that knew us before he formed us. We were created for a relationship with Him and when we decide to engage in a true relationship with Him then we find a peace in our lives that we never knew existed.

I come away from this weekend knowing even more how much God loves me. I will be doing some soul searching this week and asking myself, “What’s my ice cream cone? What’s keeping me from stretching both arms outward and saying, “I love you this much, Jesus”!

Choose to have a good week!

In Christ,


Phil 4:13

Let's get Started

Well, hello for starters! This is a new endeavor for me and we will see what God does with it. You can read some information about me in my profile and I am sure over time more will come out about me through my posts. I will, however, give you a little background on me as it relates to the title of my blog. I was raised in a Christian church and was baptized when I was 9 yrs old. I have read the Bible, and studied it growing up, but it never really became the guiding factor in my life until about 2 yrs ago.

I went to church every Sunday, and I played the part of Christian, but that was the extent of my Christianity. The rest of the week was mine, and for along time I was able to keep those two areas of my life separated. However there came a point in my life where I really started asking the questions that we all ask. What am I doing? Is this all there is to my life?

There was no peace in anything! I was successful, I had plenty of stuff, but nothing ever gave me any peace. No matter how hard I worked I was miserable. Finally after several months of battling with this, and feeling God calling me back home, I got down on my knees while I was on a business trip and asked God to forgive me and use me however He saw fit.

The release of all of the built up stuff in my life was overwhelming. The peace that I started to experience over the next few days and weeks was refreshing and it continues to grow. As I have continued to study and pray and seek out God's will for my life, He has been faithful and has continued to provide me with a peace and understanding of His will for my life. God is good!!! All the time! I am so thankful for His grace and mercy and I look forward to growing in my relationship with Him daily!

In Christ,


Phil 4:13