Tuesday, August 25, 2015

8/30/15---It's Relational: Jonah

One thing that I have learned during this series of preaching about Old Testament characters, is that I come to them with some assumptions about who they are, and with a closer look, there is much much more to their story. Even when my assumptions are right, there is more to who they are then what lies on the surface. So it is with Jonah.

I know Jonah to be the man God called to call Nineveh out of their wickedness, only to turn the opposite direction, be swallowed by a whale, spit back up, sent again to Nineveh. Eventually, he goes and does God's work. That is what I came to Jonah's story with.

Jonah, then, does not really provide me with a story I can relate with. I've never been swallowed by a fish, have you? Jonah's story relates to me when I listen to it; I am able to relate to Jonah when I pay attention to his journey. For this to happen, we have to shed our assumptions and listen. (It would serve us well to do this with the people around us, too.)

Jonah's journey away from God is something I can relate to. 

God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh in 1:2 and in the very next verse, Jonah says he's going to Tarshish, which is 2000 miles in the opposite direction. He just happens to find a boat going there.

What are the chances?
Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?

It’s a long way from Joppa to Tarshish. It’s not like they had a boat leaving for Tarshish every day. Think about that.

When we decide to disobey God, there is always a boat going to Tarshish.
And there is always room for one more passenger.

We all flee from God at some point or another. In his life, in this story (actually just in the 1st chapter) Jonah went "down" somewhere 4 different times. 

He went “down” to Joppa (v. 3).
He went “down” into the hold of the ship (v. 4).
He went “down” into the sea (v. 15). 
He went “down” into the belly of the great fish (v. 17).

This was not a coincidence. It’s a statement about what happens when we disobey God’s call, when we run away from God. Any time you run from God, you never go “up"; you always go “down." 

It's easy to go "down." There is always a way to run away from God. When we do that, God still has the grace to let us disobey. God will not strike us down, God will always give us a way back, even if it is more painful. God will be there, always. Praise God! 

See you Sunday.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

8/23/15---It's Relational: Job

The book of Job is, personally, one of the most difficult books to read in all of scripture. It is a story of a man that endures much pain and suffering.

In a short period of time, Job loses basically everything: his livestock is raided and struck down by lightning (taken away by people and, seemingly, by God), and  desert winds blows down a house and kills all of his children.

Still, Job keeps his faith in God: "Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped" (Job 1:20). Then, Job is afflicted with painful sores all over his body. His wife tells him to curse God, but Job did not sin with his lips.

At this point, his 3 friends show up, supposedly to comfort him, but end up having a theological debate over why Job has suffered. They claim Job is being punished for sin, but Job maintains his innocence. Like us, Job asks, "Why me?"

A fourth visitor, named Elihu, suggests that God may be trying to purify Job through suffering. While Elihu's counsel is more comforting than that of the other men, Job's question "Why me?" still is up in the air.

God then appears to Job in a storm. In this storm, God is revealed to Job in all of God's majesty and power. This humbled and  overwhelmed Job, and he acknowledges God's mysterious ways.

God ends up rebuking Job's three friends and tells them to make a sacrifice to atone for their witness to Job. Job prays to God to forgiven them and God accepts his prayer. At the end of the book, God gives Job twice as much wealth as he had before, along with seven sons and three daughters.

The way the story ends, sadly, is not the way every story of pain, suffering, and doubt ends. Job receives more than he ever had in the first place, but the reality is that his story ends in a unique way.

To be human means that we will suffer, we will have pain, and sometimes people will say that it is our fault. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. To God, that isn't the point. God showed up to Job in a storm, in the catastrophes of his life. His story is a witness to all of us that even though there is pain and suffering, there is also the very presence of God in our lives. This does not make those things go away, but it gives us hope in a God that will never leave us. Praise God!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

8/16/15---It's Relational: Ruth

Ruth's story, as recorded in the Old Testament, is a fascinating one. One of the reasons it's one of my favorite stories is that it only takes about 30 minutes to read, even at a leisurely pace such as mine! What impresses me about the book of Ruth is just how much, in 4 short chapters, is packed into this story. Her story has a poignant relevancy for our lives, too. 

John Piper has the following observation about the book of Ruth:

 It's a story that shows how "God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform." It's a story for people who wonder where God is when there are no dreams or visions or prophets. It's for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith. It's a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it's a story for people who can't imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives of faith.

And what a wonderful story it is. In it, I learn that God is soverign, God's ways for us are mysteriously good, and that living with God's goodness gives us freedom. 

Go and read Ruth for yourself. What does this book, her story, teach you about God? About life? About living with God? About having a relationship with God and others?

On Sunday, we'll dive deeper into the depths of Ruth's story. See you then!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

8/9/15---It's Relational: David

King David is one of the most known figures from the Bible, no one needs to debate that. He is one of those people that everyone has heard of, and for good reason. He impacted an entire people's history, and stands directly in the genealogy of Jesus. His story, his character, and his legacy is well documented, and for good reason. 

He is known for:

Being a humble boy, anointed to be king
Slaying the giant, Goliath
Alluding Saul
Becoming King 
Enduring many wars
Committing adultery with Bathsheba
Writing many of the psalms found in the Bible

His story, his faith, his struggle, his life...impacts our faith, even still today. 

For all that David went through and struggled with, it was important for him to be strong in the Lord. In 1 Samuel 30, David finds himself in the midst of a battle (what are the battles in your life?). In verse 6, it says: "But David found strength in the Lord his God."

David found the strength time and time again, and he did so in ways that are applicable to us today. He wrote; he prayed. How often do we do this? Do we really seek the Lord's strength in times of trouble, where the world seems to be crashing down on us? Where we doubt we can ever get through something? Where our worry paralzes us? Where we are too exhausted, annoyed, apathetic, scared to follow God? David teaches us to reflect, pray, and trust God to help us. David teaches us to continue to praise God through all that life throws at us. Even when it is our own fault, God will help us; God can strengthen us; God will show us grace and love through everything.

Psalm 63:8

My whole being clings to you;
    your strong hand upholds me.

Praise God! See you Sunday!