JONAH’s SOUL SEARCHING PRAYER!

Jonah belly fish
In times of crises, cry out! (Image source: WordsOfTruthCovenantChurch)

 

Yesterday, I was in conversation with a friend, and we wondered why it is that we often draw closer to God in difficult times rather than in good times. We see this with many of our favorite Bible characters, in the many life stories of Christian leaders, and in our own lives. Why can’t we maintain strong faith in good times?

We didn’t arrive at deep profound answers, but the conversation made me think about  favorite Bible characters that drew nearer to God in bad times, like Jonah, and his beautiful soul searching prayer from the belly of the giant fish.

In 2 Kings 14:23-29 we see that Jonah was a prophet, under King Jeroboam II of Israel. While the king did not set a good example, God had mercy on Israel and they were successfully rebuilding the nation. At this time, God asked Jonah to go preach to Nineveh, one of Israel’s most feared neighbor; Jonah refused and ran away.

Unfortunately, we read in the book of Jonah that his escape turned into a nightmare. Tragically, he was swallowed by a giant fish, and that was when he offered this soul searching prayer recorded in Jonah 2:1-10 (NLT shortened) –

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths… I sank beneath the waves… As my life was slipping away… my earnest prayer went out to you… I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows… Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.”

Jonah remembered to pray when he was in deep trouble; he promised to offer sacrifices with songs of praise; and to fulfill his vows – which as a prophet included preaching God’s message wherever he is sent. In the midst of tragedy, Jonah drew closer to God, offered a deep soul searching prayer, and heaven answered.

Merciful God, like Jonah, we sometimes find ourselves in deep trouble and its our fault; in those troubled times give us a clear mind and the courage to pray for help; rescue us we pray in Jesus name, Amen!  

    

WHEN DAVID LOST EVERYTHING… (2)

King David 2
David, a man after God’s heart (Image: LogosChristianFamilyChurch)

In the previous message we saw how King David lost everything – home, status, and dignity. He was being hunted by King Saul; to survive he fled to Gath, Goliath’s hometown. He jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, and had to live like a madman. How did David come out of this terrible situation?

The story continues in 1 Samuel 22:1-5 (MSG): David fled from the city of Gath and went to a cave near the town of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of the family heard that he was there, they joined him. People who were oppressed or in debt or dissatisfied went to him, about four hundred men in all, and he became their leader. David went on from there to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Please let my father and mother come and stay with you until I find out what God is going to do for me.” So David left his parents with the king of Moab… Then the prophet Gad came to David and said, “Don’t stay here; go at once to the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.

David fled Gath; he ran for his life; and hid in a cave near Adullam. This place  had numerous caves, it was easy to hide there; his family and other refugees also joined him. David was the last of 7 sons, his elderly parents must have found life in the cave difficult, so he took them to Moab the home of his great grandmother Ruth.

In the midst of all this catastrophe for David, he said to the king of Moab, help care for my parents “until I find out what God is going to do for me”. This is the incredible thing David did; he had 400 men under his command, they did not seek revenge on Saul, they did not become pirates, kidnappers, or a gang of thieves.

David wrote Psalm 18 during this time and says in verses 4-6 (NLT):  “The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap… I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.”

LORD – we see in Psalm 18, how heaven responded with great power to David’s incredible show of faith in the valley of death; in times of extreme difficulty, Lord respond to our prayers like you did for David, Amen! 

WHEN DAVID LOST EVERYTHING…

 

King David
Learning from King David (Image: NewLife AnglicanChurch)

 

Everyone loves a winner, especially in their moments of triumph. So, when we go to the Bible, we love to associate with strong victorious persons like King David, a successful warrior, poet, musician, and loving king. We tell and re-tell the story of David and Goliath, over and over, to encourage and motivate one another.

There were many seasons of desperation in David’s life too; when he was homeless, hungry, lonely, and a penniless beggar. Seasons of tears, more tears, doubts and confusion. Seasons when he was in the valley of death.

A desperate period in David’s life is in 1 Samuel 21:13 (NIV): “So he pretended to be insane… and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.”

Yes, this was David, as a refugee, seeking asylum in the city of Gath. This was when King Saul was hunting him down to kill him; there was nowhere for him to hide in Israel. So David fled to Gath in the land of the Philistines; Gath was Goliath’s hometown – seemed David had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire!

David had to go live in Goliath hometown to get away from King Saul – think about this; the desperation, the fear, the pain, this is a suicide mission! This is walking in the valley of the shadow of death every single day. The man who killed Goliath is now an insane beggar totally humiliated among the people in Goliath country.

How could this man, David, keep the faith and not curse God, in these circumstances, where he had lost everything – his home, job, status, human dignity. How did David do the impossible? To be continued next week Sunday.

Lord God, when life overwhelms us, be gracious and rescue us, Amen!    

CHOOSING TO FOLLOW THE SHEPHERD’S LIGHT

The Shepherd's Light
The Shepherd’s Light (Image source: Pinterest)

 

At University, I had a friend studying for a law degree. One day I asked him ‘how are laws made?’ In our conversation, he talked about ‘jurisprudence’ – this is the logic, wisdom, or philosophy behind the making of the law. I was able to learn that laws don’t just happen, there is a reason and a purpose behind every law.

Using this new light, I began searching for the purpose behind the laws influencing my life. This included laws passed down from my parents, ancestors, culture, schools, society, and government; and also included laws I had learnt from Church like the Biblical ten commandments.

In my search, I came across Matthew 5:17 (NLT) where Jesus said“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose…” 

Jesus came to accomplish the purpose of the Biblical laws – the day I saw this, a great light switched on in me. There is a purpose, a logic, a wisdom, a reasoning, behind the teachings of the Bible. To understand the purpose of Biblical teachings, I need to learn from him who “came to accomplish their purpose”.

Thankfully, Jesus states in John 10:11 (NLT): “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep…” – Jesus is fully dedicated to the well being of his followers. To understand the purpose of the Bible, in order to walk in their light, we only need to ask him who “came to accomplish their purpose”.

Lord Jesus, help us understand WHY you do, what you do, Amen!   

 

CHOOSING TO GO MY OWN WAY…

Sheep Astray
Sheep astray, sheep in danger (Image source: wordlynotworldlyblog)

 

I was 11 years old when I went off to boarding school. I was excited to be going, thinking no more washing dishes at home or helping mum in the kitchen, no more anything, just read my books and play. The first day was exciting meeting friends from back home and making new friends, I was over the moon happy.

Night came and I missed my mum, dad, and brother and I cried. In the morning I could not remember where I was when I opened my eyes, I was in shock. Then the ultimate horror, we were all assigned dormitory duties to sweep, clean, rake, and empty the garbage. Wow! wow!! wow!!! this was very far from what I expected.

I could have chosen a regular day secondary school, and my parents would have been ok with it. I wanted to be independent, and thought ONLY about freedom, without thinking about responsibility, danger, conflict and emotional trauma.

In Isaiah 53:6 (New Living Translation), the Bible says: “All of us [humans], like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own [total independence]. Yet the LORD laid on him [Jesus] the sins of us all.”  

The Bible teaches that there is a path of life that brings out the best in us as individuals and as a society – a path guided by love, sharing and forgiveness. A path where we balance the interests of “me” and “us”. However, we have chosen to elevate “me”, “me”, “me” over “us”, kicking God out completely.

In thinking only about self, we now have a world of pain. Our wisdom has enabled us to powerfully transform the Earth, but our wisdom is insufficient to meet all the challenges we face, we need divine support too. Jesus is the entry point (the door) for a return to the path where the human and the divine are in harmony.

Lord, help us stray sheep, to see your light, and follow, Amen! 

THE LORD – THE WARRIOR SHEPHERD

Good Shepherd
The LORD is my shepherd (Imagesource: ForestHillsBaptistChurch)

 

The sheep is not strong, fast, tough, or very smart. Thus in a world with Lions, Bears, Wolves, and Snakes, the sheep is in terrible danger. The sheep needs a protector outside of the sheep family if it is to thrive and have a future.

When Israel settled in Canaan, they were like sheep compared to their immediate neighbors like the Philistine, and the powerful countries that surrounded them including Egypt and Assyria. These countries were modern, strong, and aggressive.

To survive, Israel had to depend on Yahweh, for protection in their dangerous location. King David, their most successful leader understood this deeply, and penned those gracious words in Psalm 23:1 – “The Lord is my shepherd…”

This was a confession based on a clear understanding of the dangers Israel faced, as a nation on a daily basis, and the dangers David also faced as a king ruling this small  nation in the middle of Lions, Bears, Wolves, and Snakes.

We too, are sometimes like the sheep in the midst of wild beasts, in those moments when we face incredible challenges, caused by people around us. In those moments, who is our hero, who is our shepherd, whose shield protects us?

I have experienced being saved from Wolves and Bears, through friends and family that have stood by me. However, in my most terrifying moments for survival and progress in this life, like David, I have looked and received help from, Yahweh, my good shepherd – a loving God and an amazingly skillful warrior.

May Yahweh, be your warrior shepherd, as you walk the Earth, Amen!

THE CROSS – LOVE IN ACTION…

Love in action
The cross shows Jesus practiced what he preached (Image source: JahMarthepoet)

We sacrifice for those we love. We would go hungry so the loved one can eat; we would deny ourselves luxury, so as to meet the needs of the loved one; we would persevere pain so the loved one can have a better life – love is a great motivator.

Love is the motive that sent Jesus to the cross. Its not a complicated story – humanity chose independence from God; without this central guide, we have billions of people defining their purpose for living in billions of different ways. Every choice has consequences, the more the choice is based only on what I need without considering the needs of others, the more we fight and hurt one another.

Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV): “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

Jesus preached that love is the greatest commandment, and was severely tested if he practiced what he preached. He was full of compassion and love for the suffering masses he preached to; and when some opposed him because his light and honesty revealed their lies and greed, he did not lift up a finger to hurt them.

Jesus words while he was being tortured on the cross, included this prayer note in Luke 23:34 (NIV): “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” At the cross, Jesus continued to love everyone, including those who were torturing him. The cross is the great evidence that Jesus practiced what he preached.

Lord God, teach us to love in this difficult world, Amen!