The Day In-between

The room must have felt small. Crammed with His followers, men who left everything to follow the Messiah. All their life they were taught the Messiah would reign. A new, strong Israel would be established. But,

Sabbath made them pause. They could do no work, couldn’t travel back to their lake…home.

The thoughts of what happened Thursday evening through Friday afternoon must have bounced around the room.

He changed the Passover in front of their eyes. “This bread is My body…This cup is My blood…” What was all that about?

Before they could get clarification He led them to the garden across the valley. Exhaustion pulled them away from Him. He begged them to pray with Him, but they failed. Would it have made a difference?

Judas rejoined them with soldiers. He kissed Jesus’ cheek.

Before Peter was fully awake he sliced a man’s ear off. Jesus was there to fix it. Now He was nowhere to be found. Could He ever fix anything again?

Darkness made them run even though they didn’t know where to run to. They needed Jesus to guide them, but the Romans had Him now. What did the future hold?

Peer pressure made Simon flinch at even knowing Jesus. That look from the Son of God…why was it always there when he closed his eyes? Peter stared at nothing.

John saw it all. The nails that tore through flesh, the blood that fell to earth from above, the grace, the forgiveness, the call for a drink, the casting of lots for His clothes. Why was he placed over Jesus’ earthly brothers?

They all felt the earth move. Darkness enveloped each of them for three hours. Were the rumors of the massive temple veil even true?

What drew them to this room? Was it because it was the last place they spent with their master? Eating was the farthest thing from their minds today.

All they could do was wait.

 

The ingredients for a successful pity party per Jonah

On the forty-first day after Jonah made his proclamation to the king of the Assyrians in the capital of Nineveh Jonah sent up a prayer. “Isn’t this what I said wouldn’t happen, God? I knew You were compassionate and gracious. You hate to bring calamity on those who repent. Now the Assyrians are still in power because You won’t bring the judgement on them they deserve. This is exactly why I hopped a boat for Tarshish to begin with. Just let me die right here and now.”

Jonah heard God’s response. “Do you have a right to be angry?”

He marched east of the city, made a crude shelter and sat down. He stared at Nineveh just in case God relented about His relenting and destroyed it after all. A plant grew rapidly over our reluctant evangelist and brought great relief from the sun’s glare.

As the sun set over the great city Jonah drifted off to sleep. As the sun rose the next morning Jonah smiled at the plant God grew for him. He kept up his vigil to see Nineveh destroyed once and for all.

The wind became hot on his back as the sun scorched his head. The plant wilted before it gave the anticipated shaded relief from it’s leaves.

Jonah griped another prayer. “Just let me die and get it over with. Why drag it out like this?”

God’s voice was loud and clear. “Do you have a right to be mad at the plant?”

Jonah spit. “I do. I’m mad enough to die.”

God spoke once more. “You’re more concerned over that plant that you had no control over than you are about the 120,000 folks in Nineveh. Why wouldn’t I have compassion on so many people?”

****

So ends the saga of the soggy, sagging, pitiful prophet of God.

Which brings me back to my original question: was Jonah hard of hearing or hard of loving?

I would venture to guess he was hard of loving. These Assyrians had a history of being the meanest, nastiest, foulest folks on the face of the earth. Who wouldn’t want to see them get what they deserved? And, who would want to see them live to see another day during their lifetime?

Jonah’s hatred for these people was so strong he didn’t want to carry out God’s plan of redemption even after he carried it out.

So how did God respond to His chosen vessel? The same way He did with Job–with questions. The questions boil down to the same basic one: “Which one of us is God in this situation?”

I pose a couple of questions for us.

Is there a person, or people group, you’d rather see wiped off the face of the earth than reach with the gospel message?

Is there a situation you’re mad about how God is handling it?

Take some serious introspection time to delve into your answers before you do answer them. You may be surprised at your responses.

After you’ve faced your demons ask yourself: “Who is God in this circumstance?”

Trust Him to do what’s best. He IS in control.

Keep smiling.   Wade

How successful can a reluctant evangelist really be?

When we last saw our friend Jonah, the reluctant evangelist, he was gasping in his first breath of oxygenated air in three days on the banks of the Euphrates River. The fish either slipped back into the H2O he was acquainted with or was dragged on shore and made into a grand feast by the natives of Nineveh. We aren’t told of his situation after he gave Jonah the ride of his life, so I’m speculating here.

Knowing human nature like I do I’m pretty sure people pulled out their cell phones and took pictures of this man with white skin and hair, that’s assuming he still had hair after three days in fish stomach acid. I don’t even want to venture a guess as to what happened to his clothes.

Somebody probably called one of the local television stations. Being a slow news day they got a team of reporters out there post haste. Hopefully someone gave Jonah some clothes to cover up his essentials before the cameras started recording.

They may have thought he was an alien from outer space when the first words out of his mouth were, “take me to your leader.”

On the walk to the palace Rachel, the blonde reporter, was full of questions. “How long were you in that fishy thingy?”

Jonah shrugged. “What day is it?”

Rachel tapped her phone screen and checked her appointment list. “It’s Thursday.”

Jonah kept slogging down the street. “Three days.”

Rachel shook her head. “How did you survive in there that long?”

Jonah glanced up. “My God.”

Rachel cleared her throat. “Yes, I should have put more emphasis in that question. My god, how did you survive three days in a belly of a huge fish?”

Jonah gave her a sideways glance. “No. I mean my God used that fish to get me here so I can deliver a message to your king.”

Rachel stared into the camera, then back at Jonah. “What message is so important that someone’s god would use a fish to transport a man here? Where are you from?”

Jonah kept walking. “I am from the people of Israel. I serve the one true God who created everything we see. He controls the wind and waves. He used a great fish to transport me here to say…” he stopped and looked directly into the camera. “You wicked Assyrians have forty day and God will overturn your capital of Nineveh.” He turned and continued his trek.

Rachel faced the camera. “There you have it folks. Fishman says his god will wipe us out in just over a month. I wonder what the king will have to say about this?” She stopped, then turned and trotted after Jonah. “If you’ve been in a fish for three days you must be hungry. Can I buy you a meal? I hear the restaurants are all having a special on fish today.”

Jonah waved a backward hand at her. “I’ve sworn off fish for the rest of my life. I’ve seen what they eat. It’s disgusting.”

****

There you have it, the first-hand account of what really happened when Jonah went to Nineveh–as near as I can determine it from the limited details offered in the Bible.

So, what did the king do after Jonah delivered God’s message to him? He sent out a decree that NOBODY–and I mean NOBODY–was to eat or drink anything. Even their animals couldn’t eat. I guess the mice threw a major party knowing cats couldn’t eat them (you’ll find out someday why I find humor in that gesture).

Not only that but EVERYBODY–and I mean EVERYBODY–was to wear sackcloth. Yeah, even the cows, horses and camels. I can only imagine trying to get a cat to wear sackcloth. Good luck with that.

So, what did God do when He saw their reaction to His warning? He relented and let them live.

So, what did Jonah do when he saw his efforts resulted in people living longer? He went out and threw himself a party. Tune in next time to see exactly what kind of party he gave himself. I’ll give you a hint: it was held as far away from water as he could get.

So, what news do I have for those of you reading this? The God of second chances is as alive today as He was in Jonah’s day.

That’s right, no matter what you’ve done in your past God will graciously bring you into His family if you repent of your sins and accept His gift of salvation through the atoning death of His Son Jesus.

And, for those of us who’ve done just that, God is planning a major party for us when we all get to heaven. It’s called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Trust me you don’t want to miss it for the world.

Keep smiling.   Wade

The first recorded submarine invasion and non-hostile takeover of an inland city

When we last saw our buddy Jonah, the strong-willed, directionally-challenged prophet of God, he was about to hit the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. His thoughts led him to believe this was the end of God’s plan to change the hearts of the evil Assyrians in Nineveh. I guess he didn’t know his God as well as he thought he did.

There’s a brief pause once you hit the surface of the water before the water engulfs you. (Don’t ask me how I know this, but a word of advice to college-aged young men reading this–don’t announce your wedding engagement during soccer season.) If Jonah’s eyes were open the last thing he would have seen is a stormy sky and angry sailors.

Just as it looks like this is the end of our hero’s adventure God throws in an incredible twist that nobody saw coming. The first submarine voyage ever recorded took place as the mad sea-fairers watched. Yeah, Jonah  disappeared as a huge fish swam by. Those heathens were pretty sure Jonah’s God meant business with this guy.

Instead of this being the end of our protagonist’s jaunt God was using His own means of conveyance to get His man to His intended destination while giving Jonah a three day time-out.

Some questions come to mind at this point in the story.

Was Jonah awake during this time in the belly of the fish? Yes. He was awake enough to offer up a prayer for God to give him a second chance. Which God was already in the process of answering. You see, the attitude adjustment did work it’s course according to plan, God’s plan.

How did Jonah breathe in there? Apparently God had the fish gulp enough air for Jonah to survive. You can ask God when you get to heaven for a more definitive answer cuz that’s all I got for ya.

If the boat sailed out less than a day why was Jonah in the fish for three days? You’re apparently thinking God had Jonah taken to the shortest route back to shore. I think God made His own temporary version of the Suez Canal to get Jonah around the Saudi peninsula through the Straits of Hormuz and up the Euphrates River so the fish could barf our buddy on the beach in downtown Nineveh. God knew He needed to use our man before he had a chance to change his mind.

What would you do if you’re fishing the banks of your favorite river and a humongous fish deposits a breathing person right next to you? I don’t know what I’d do either, but I do know he’d have my attention.

Tune in next time to see how well this twisted evangelistic endeavor turns out in As The Fish’s Stomach Churns.

So, what lessons can we glean from this portion of the story? You tell me cuz, other than displaying God’s sovereignty, I’m at a loss.

This story is so filled with God’s awesome amazement that many liberal scholars have written this all off as a fictitious tale. I don’t know about you, but the God of the Bible I read is completely capable of accomplishing everything I’ve read here.

Then again, I got saved so young I don’t remember not being a Christian. This story made sense to me as a boy. It still does today.

God still has incredible opportunities available to us today. The odds are still stacked against us in our own power. But, when you serve God instead of a god anything is possible.

I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. I have numerous things in my life that are completely out of my control. I trust God is working behind the scenes to accomplish His will–He always has in the past. Why would He stop now?

My advice to you: release your grip of the situation you can’t control. God can’t steer your car if you have the controls. Trust Him.

Get as many people praying for your situation as you can. God answers prayer. Jesus taught that numerous ways. Pray to Him.

Be open to an outcome you don’t expect. God’s ways are His ways not our ways. You may not get your answer in your lifetime. Brace yourself for anything.

God loves you.

Keep smiling.   Wade

Was Jonah hard of hearing or hard of loving?

Have you thought about the book of Jonah in the Bible lately? I hadn’t until a recent sermon brought it back to my attention. If you’re looking for humor in the Bible Jonah is full of it in my humble opinion.

The book starts right out with a direct directive from God to Jonah. “Go to Nineveh.”

Jonah knew his geography. Nineveh was east-northeast of modern day Israel. So what would you do if God told you to go east? To stay on God’s good side I’d go east. Not our buddy Jonah. He was apparently one of those strong-willed types.

Instead of walking to where God told him to go he went west and hopped a boat to moved as far away as quickly as possible from those folks who were known to be extremely wicked.

You see, it’s not that Jonah was directionally-challenged, he knew exactly what he was doing. Because he knew the God he served too well.

Jonah didn’t want those heathens to get on God’s good side so he risked getting on God’s bad side just so they wouldn’t not get what they had coming to them, in Jonah’s opinion.

He didn’t wait for a cruise ship, neither. Nope, the first cargo boat pushing off shore was quite all right for our pal Jonah. He pays their fare and collapses down in the bowels of the ship.

Apparently Jonah was so worn out from wrestling with God that a storm at sea couldn’t keep him awake.

In the meantime the sailors on deck were heaving their cargo overboard to save themselves and the boat. That didn’t help much so they all start praying, or doing whatever their personal god required of them, in an attempt to make the wind stop.

Suddenly one of them realizes our buddy Jonah isn’t among the panickers so they commence a search. Cap’n finds our friend deep in the ship sawing logs so to speak. “How can you sleep at at time like this? You told us you were running away from your God, so pray to Him for us to make this wind stop before it kills us all.”

Out of desperation they cast lots to discover who caused this storm. Sure enough, our  good friend Jonah gets the credit for ruining everybody’s cruise.

Finally Jonah gets his chance to be a witness for the LORD when they ask him point blank about Him.

Jonah confesses to serving the creator of everything, including the sea and wind. Then he proposes they throw him overboard.

These guys didn’t mind tossing inanimate stuff in the water, but sending a man to his watery grave while he’s still breathing was a bit much for them to stomach. They try to row row row their boat ashore to no avail.

To show how strong of an evangelist Jonah was God has the heathens pray to Him before they toss him in the drink.

I’m pretty sure Jonah was thinking, “at least the Assyrians in Nineveh won’t get preached to.”

Tune in next time to see how God gets His way with strong-willed, directionally-challenged, soggy prophets who try to run away from Him.

So what about you? Are you not doing something God has laid on your heart to do? Is there a need at your church that needs to be filled that you know you’d be good at?

God created you for a purpose, probably many tasks when you admit it.

Take a step of faith and discover where He can use you today. I’m confident writing and speaking are in my near future. In the mean time I volunteered to step in at our early childhood ministries so regular volunteers can take a summer hiatus.

I’ve volunteered for some Easter and Christmas services in the past. God broke my heart in the membership classes when I heard they have to turn families away because we don’t have enough adult volunteers.

I’ve been placed in various age groups over the years doing this. Toddlers seem to be drawn to me in their time of despair. I never would have discovered this if I’d simply sat on the sidelines and prayed for someone else to step in.

Don’t make God take desperate measures to get you to do what He’s asking you to do. Please follow your inner heart’s desire to please God.

Lives are waiting to be changed by your action.

Keep smiling.  Wade