A Whale of a Time with Jonah

God is everywhere and knows all things. Still, we often believe that we’re so insignificant He doesn’t know our thoughts or see what we think we’re doing in private. There’s nowhere we can go to hide from God, as Jonah learned about 2,700 years ago.

Jonah was a prophet – a mouthpiece of God. His job wasn’t to tell the future but relay to the Assyrians what God told him. The problem was that the Assyrians (ruling most of what is now the Middle East) were bloodthirsty and violent—especially toward the Jewish people, God’s people. Through Jonah, He wanted to tell the Assyrians that they would have 40 days to change their ways or be destroyed. Afraid for his life and the possibility that the Assyrians would repent and be spared, Jonah ran from God. But God would have His way.

He sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, who had been thrown overboard his escape vessel by its sailors. Several days later, after Jonah had time to reflect and acknowledge that God wins, the fish vomited up Jonah. He was now free (again)—not to do what he wanted to do, but what he ought to do: obey God.

So, a scary pasty-white Jonah (think about what three days in stomach acids could do to the skin!) walks to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, to give them God’s ultimatum: repent or else. Thankfully, our God was (and still is) patient and merciful, allowing options and the opportunity to choose wisely. Anyway, the Ninevites decided well and changed their ways (and fate). Jonah was ticked and complained to God, who reminded Him that He oversees all and shows mercy on whom He chooses (the Assyrians, in this case).

God used Jonah to help bring people back to Him. He still calls us to partner with Him to reconcile His creation:

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. —2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

God wants us to respond to His call with a resounding, “Yes! I will give my self and all I have to you in complete devotion!” and then be His ambassadors in bringing the Kingdom of God to others. As we learned from Jonah’s example, we can’t run away from God or His desires, so we may as well get on with it!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part III: Love

Last week, we considered hope – confidence in our future with God. This week’s look at the love of faith, hope, and love, comes from an article I wrote several months ago titled, “How do I love Thee?” In particular, we’ll look at the unconditional, charitable action that must come as a result of our Christian faith.

Unconditional Love. This love doesn’t come and go with an emotional wind. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason despite feelings. Greek noun agape is this love that God has for all creation. Verb agapao is love action. God is love (agape); God loved and loves as we should (agapao).

For instance, God hasn’t always been happy with humanity but still loves so much that He gave His Son for all people and takes His time before bringing judgment.

We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34-35).

So, how should we love?

… ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).

According to Jesus and the apostles, we are to be kind and charitable to others besides honoring the Father with all we are and have. So, we will behave in specific ways if we remain with Christ and have the Spirit of God working within us. We will be patient, kind, charitable, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). Being self-controlled is essential to bringing the Kingdom of God to those who don’t know Christ (yet). We must not react angrily or speak hatefully – especially in this day of social media when and where we’re on public display! One hateful word, especially attacking character over behaviors, can make God’s Kingdom unattainable for so many people!

Remember that God has loved us first. In response, we must love people and give Him complete devotion. Do the right thing and watch what we say and write, understanding that we must remain patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled despite how we feel. Finally, our love from faith must move us to care for others.

Next week, we’ll have a ‘whale’ of a time with Jonah!

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part II: Hope

Last week, we were introduced to the belief – faith – confidence – we are to have in God. It’s not meant to be blind faith, but a solid one based on things like Bible study, fellowship, discipleship, prayer, meditation, and illumination by the Spirit of God. Why is a strong faith important? So that we can stand firm in the face of trouble and persecution and know how to honor God in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

Today, we’ll also learn that a solid faith in what God has done and is doing also gives us confidence (faith) in what God will do in the future. That faith in the future is called hope, and it would be just wishful thinking and not expectation without the confidence that faith-building brings. Here’s what the writer of the Book of Hebrews says about the role of faith in hope:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  —Hebrews 11:1.

Hope is the expectation of fulfilling all that we believe will come about: salvation (rescue from coming judgment) and a new age when God will make all things new and dwell with humans. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. —Titus 2:11-14.

Similarly, the Apostle Peter reminds us that our hope is possible only because the Son (Jesus) died to pay for humankind’s rebellion against the Father. The Father raised the Son from the dead to become the first of all who the Father will raise for the new world to come.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1Peter 1:3-5.

Faith is the confidence in what God has done and is doing; hope is that same confidence in what God will do. But faith and hope are worthless unless they move us to love (faith in action). We’ll revisit that faith-born action (love) next week!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley