Week of July 11th
Jonah and the Whale
“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me: out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” Jonah 2:1-2
We were doing an expository study on the Book of Jonah at our church awhile back that was especially refreshing. The Lord reminded me how amazed I was the first time that I heard not only the story of Jonah, but others like Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, and especially the stories of Jesus and His miracles.
I had forgotten how exciting it was from a child’s perspective to hear about a man who was swallowed by a fish and lived to talk about it. I was in awe of Noah’s big boat and how God saved him and his family from the flood, baffled by Moses parting the Red Sea with his staff, and amazed by the miracles of Jesus. It was a wonder how He could feed the multitudes with only a few fish and a little bread, or how He could turn water into wine. And, who, but Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead?
During the study in Jonah, we were discussing Jonah’s disobedience and that he wouldn’t have ended up in the belly of a great fish if he had just obeyed God in the first place. We tend to view the time in the whale as Jonah’s punishment for his disobedience. But in this study, we were fixed on the great fish as God’s means to save Jonah from drowning in the sea. And, he surely would have drowned had he not been swallowed by that fish.
It is easy to misunderstand the difficult or frightening situations in our lives. We disobey God and then grumble because we find ourselves in circumstances that are less than pleasant. In other words, all that we see is the whale. We give no thought to the fact that the whale may have been sent to save us from the mess that we have made for ourselves and to teach us a lesson.
The study gave us a new perspective. The inside of a whale would be a dark and scary place. When we disobey God, we often find ourselves in dark, scary places. Sometimes it is literal dark, scary place. Other times, it is dark, scary place in our own hearts or minds, but remember, that dark, scary place got Jonah’s attention.
Consequences are intended to get our attention and keep us from disobeying the Lord. The next time that you have a “Jonah and the whale experience”, when you are, figuratively, face to face with a great fish, when you feel like you are going to be swallowed up in your own disobedience, praise God for it. God sent that whale to get Jonah’s attention, to bring him to repentance, and to save him from drowning, so that he could do what God told him to do. God’s grace and mercy can be found in every situation. Jonah found both in the belly of a whale.
Week of July 18th
A Mule or a Horse
“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Psalm 32:9As believers, we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We know that it is absolute Truth. We know that it is full of wisdom. We know that it is Power. We know that it transforms lives. Today, I was thinking about the Bible as our source of wisdom. We could search it all day ever day and still never learn everything that can be found within its pages. I was also thinking about the fact that because it is the only living book, not just a cover with some paper pages in between, but a living book that teaches (or speaks) to individuals in just the way that each one needs to be taught (or spoken to).For instance, there are direct commands, simple does and don’ts. There are songs. There are wise sayings. There are accounts (true stories). There are prophecies. There are histories. There are comparisons and there are amazing word pictures. For some people, word pictures make Scripture easier to understand. When a concept or a Truth is descried by comparing it to something that is a part of everyday life, it becomes relatable. Psalm 32:9 is one of those verses that speaks in that way. When our youngest son was about six years old, his heart’s desire was to be a farm boy. That little boy prayed and prayed for a farm, a dog, and horse and the Lord graciously answered his prayer. Our “farming” has been more of a hobby. Our farm is really a farmette: a couple of acres, some fruit trees, a barn, and a couple of out buildings. It has been such a blessing. We have had horses, rabbits, a dog, cats, kittens, and tried some gardening and canning.Even though we are not experts by far, we have learned a little bit about horses here on our hobby farm. When I read this verse, I thought about how the horse and the mule look very much alike. Until we had horses, I didn’t know the difference. But even though they look alike, they can behave very differently. The mule is stubborn. It tends to pull back or stay put. It needs a lot of pushing and prodding to move forward. The horse is the opposite. It can be impulsive. It sometimes tends to rush ahead.I was thinking about how similar people are also. We all have emotions. We each have a brain that thinks, lungs that breathe, and hearts that beat. We all get hungry. We get cold. We get hot. We get tired. We are alike in many ways, yet people are also very different. How do you respond to the Lord’s work of sanctification in your life? Are you like the mule who wants to pull back and stay put? Does moving forward into the unknown make you fearful? Are you comfortable where you are at? Do you just not want to do the hard work in front of you?Or are you like the horse that just wants to run wild, impulsive, rushing ahead? Do you think you know where you are going? Have already decided how you will get there?Remember, according to the verse, the mule and the horse both need a bit and a bridle. Why? To keep them under control. Left alone neither will ever get anywhere. The mule will stubbornly stay put and the horse will run wild and aimlessly. They are made obedient to their master by the bit and the bridle. Our God doesn’t leave us to our own devices. The Lord has given us boundaries. He has given us instructions. They are our bit and our bridle. Each are found in His Word.
Week of July 25th
Attitude of Gratitude
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35b
I went to a craft fair awhile back to visit my crafter friend’s booth. I entered my name for a door prize drawing and while I was there my name happened to be called. Each winner drew a booth number out of a basket and go to that booth to claim their prize. At booth number three was three ladies and two tables with woven rugs displayed on them. My prize was a beautiful woven rug woven by the eldest lady at the booth. Her skill was impressive and the rug that I won was even the perfect colors to match my home décor. I thanked the nice ladies, claimed my prize, and went back to the booth where my friend was selling her wares.
The ladies saw my friend and me admiring my rug. You could tell that they were pleased by how much I appreciated the elderly lady’s hard work. So, I explained to them why I was so thrilled to receive that woven rug.
My grandma passed away when I was twenty-five, right before our second oldest daughter was born on my eldest son’s birthday. Their birthdays often remind me of her. She was a lady who was multi-talented. She learned to do many things out of shear necessity because she was very poor. Her life was hard, raising children and later adopting three of her grandchildren with very little means to support them.
She could cook just about anything, including wild game. She could bake a great homemade pie, garden and can what she grew, sew, and of all things: weave rugs. While the lady at the craft fair made her rugs for pure enjoyment, my grandma had to make her rugs because that was the only way that she could have one.
Even though she didn’t have much, she was always willing to share what she did have. She always baked my favorite cherry pie for the holidays. She made them from cherries that she picked from her own tree. She would make homemade gifts for those that she cared about. Her gifts were simple, made from thigs that she had around the house: Styrofoam, fabric pieces, tin cans, milk jugs, etc. You might say that my grandma had “gone green” long before it became a trend to recycle everything.
One day she presented me with a gift that she had made. It was a woven rug. She had made it out of a kind of fabric and of all things, plastic bags. I was a young wife and homemaker at that time, and I remember thinking what an odd gift a rug made with plastic bags was. I thanked her and used the rug, but it wasn’t until many years later that I truly appreciated it.
I shared with ladies at the craft fair that I had not had a woven rug since the one that my grandmother had made me when I was young woman. I hugged the lady who made it and thanked her for the gift of her time. I think that she thought that I was a little overly excited about the rug, but she graciously hugged me back and told me that she was glad that I liked it.
I have been given many gifts in my lifetime, all of which I am grateful. But it wasn’t until I arrived at middle age, that I really understood how precious the gift of someone’s time is. For my grandma, that was all she had to give. I didn’t realize until after her time was gone, how generous that gift truly was. I regret that I wasn’t willing to give her more of my time while she was still here.
We take time for granted: our own time and the time of other people. It is evident when we expect others to drop everything to meet our needs or our expectations. It is evident when we assume that every conversation should be all about me and mine. It is evident when we are eager to receive help but are never willing to give it.
Think about it this the next time that you put your dishes in the sink with no thought as to who is going to wash them. Or the next time that you call up a friend to vent without asking if it is good time for her talk. Or the next time that someone needs to call in a favor and you are tempted to tell them that you are too busy.
Time is precious. It can never be replaced. Once it is given or taken, it is gone. Treasure your time and the time of others. Be thankful. Be grateful. Be humbled by those who choose to invest their time in blessing you.
Week August 8th
“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! IF I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Psalm 139:17-18
Have you ever pondered on how often the Lord thinks of you? What a blessing and a comfort to know that in all God’s vast creation, He personally thinks of us. There are many places where we are just a number or another face, but not with God. We matter to Him.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. We matter to the God of the universe. We matter in personal, intimate way.
If you have ever tried to count the sand, try scooping up a cup and count it. The Bible says that God thinks of us more than there is sand. More than the sand is innumerable. How precious we must be to Him.
What does He think when He thinks of us? If we read the rest of the Psalm, we can find out. We see that we can’t hide from God. He is everywhere. We find that He searches our hearts and knows all things in it. He knows our deepest thoughts, all our ways, everything that we say or don’t say, but want to say. Everything we feel, our emotions, and our affections.
Fear not and don’t be ashamed. For those who are born again, we can find great comfort in knowing that He knows us so intimately. It means that He will continue His work in our hearts until every corner has been transformed.
Do you want to be more like Jesus? As the Psalmist says, His thoughts of you are precious. Don’t be afraid of what the Lord may dig up in your heart. He won’t show you everything all at once. You can rest assured that whatever He reveals to you about yourself, He has the power to transform it.