Going Deeper with the Message:
Stubborn People, Gracious God
by: Andrew Archer
On Sunday, Pastor Tim kicked off our new series on the book of Jonah. He talked about how Jonah, who was a prophet, chose to disobey God. God asked Jonah to go 550 miles east to Nineveh, but instead he traveled over 2,500 miles west to Tarshish. Jonah, the stubborn prophet, decided to try to run as far away as he possibly could from God’s will.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all can relate to the stubborn prophet, Jonah. There have certainly been times in my life when I knew God was asking me to do something, or to stop doing something, and I wanted nothing to do with what God wanted. Eventually, our stubbornness with God often leads us to a place of guilt, knowing that we are telling the Creator of all “no.” The weight of that guilt can be overbearing.
It’s times like those that we need to remind ourselves of who God is. In Psalm 103:8, David wrote, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” He is: Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in faithful love. That is who our God is and there is nothing we can do to change that. No amount of stubbornly running away from Him will change the depth with which He loves you and yearns for you to turn around and abide with Him, in His will.
That being said, this is no excuse to do what we please because we know God will forgive us. Doing that would be taking advantage of God’s grace and only lead to further trouble. Not to mention—life is truly better with God. When we run from God, as Jonah did, things often continue to get worse and worse until we, like Jonah, eventually reach rock bottom. When we live life in God’s will, we usually avoid having to learn things the hard way.
I want you to know that even when we stubbornly run from God, He will always be there waiting for us to turn back to Him. He is: Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in faithful love. Don’t let what you have done in the past keep you from a relationship with our gracious God in the present.
Living out the Message:
Not Just a Big Fish Story
By Michelle Lemley, Nursery Coordinator
My boys love to fish. We take them to ponds and rivers in the summertime, rig up their tiny fishing rods, and spend the day untangling their lines and baiting their hooks. They don’t usually catch anything, but they love being outside and the excitement of seeing the fish swim past. One lesson they’ve had to learn is that the image we see from the surface isn’t necessarily where the fish are located. I told my youngest, Isaac, that this is one of God’s ways of protecting the fish from predators—by bending the light at the surface of the water so that the fish can “hide” and swim away from danger.
During this week’s service, I was thinking about the book of Jonah. Many of us remember the story from Sunday school as kids, and how exciting it was to sing songs and make fish-themed crafts about Jonah’s adventures. But in studying this book as an adult, I am learning so much about Jonah as a real person who made real mistakes. And I’m learning more about God’s love and compassion and forgiveness when Jonah repeatedly refused to follow God’s path for him. This is so much more than a fish story.
God used a flawed prophet, a real person who made mistakes and who turned his back on the Lord, to carry a message of love and forgiveness. God’s sovereignty prevailed over Jonah’s selfishness and cowardice, while His grace was able to forgive and guide this broken man with love and mercy. All this insight from a tiny book of the Bible that I have always written off as a children’s story. But just as the water deceived my boys into thinking that the fish were somewhere they weren’t, my surface level understanding of this book led me to miss out on a deep, meaningful moment with my God through his Word.
And so I encourage you to join me in taking the time to read (and reread) parts of the Bible that may have seemed like “just a children’s story” to you in the past. Look below the surface of the stories you remember and allow the Lord to open your eyes to what you may have been missing out on.