Thursday, 24 September 2020

M Michele's Musings

If We Ever Needed A Jonah ~ Now is the Time

Recently I watched a ten-year old YouTube clip of a Corinth Baptist Church little parishioner telling the story of Jonah. She was probably about five or six, adorable and passionate in her telling of the story. As I listened intently to her, tears sprung to my eyes as my thoughts led to parallels with the church and America. In short, Jonah was Hebrew and a worshipper of God. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach because God wanted to give the wicked city of Nineveh the chance to repent. But Jonah didn’t want to, so in disobedience he tried sailing away on a ship in the opposite direction of Nineveh trying to escape God’s bidding. But God sent a storm that tossed the ship eventually leading to the crew throwing Jonah overboard. God had prepared a large fish to swallow Jonah and he stayed in the fish for three days and three nights remembering God’s faithfulness and crying out to Him. After Jonah’s heart felt prayer and repentance he was vomited up by the fish on the shore near Nineveh. God told him a second time to go to Nineveh and proclaim the message God would give him. This time Jonah obeyed. Nineveh repented. God saved the city. (Jonah 1:1-3:10)

I believe, Jonah, being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, was a foreshadowing of Jesus being in the tomb three days and three nights; but the most important message that is learned from Jonah’s story is that, just as Jonah was called by God to spread the word God gave him, the church today is also called to preach. Jesus commissioned his disciples and by extension, the church, “He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15 God was commissioning Jonah to preach. Jonah did not want to preach to Nineveh. The Bible tells us that Jonah didn’t think that it was right that the people of Nineveh were given the opportunity to repent. His own words declare his feelings, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:2b Sadly, I think sometimes, the church can be like Jonah. We think that people don’t deserve the opportunity to repent because we think that they are too mean, hateful or sinful. Our own preconceived ideas, biases against certain behaviors and unforgiveness of people and situations blinds us to a sinners need for salvation. Or perhaps we lack boldness and are afraid to share God’s word. Whatever the reasons we hold back, still we are commissioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, that means confronting sin. Confronting sin is never an easy or comfortable mission but it is vital in order to help bring about change. As we confront sin, we are NEVER to hate the sinner. Jesus’ words on the cross were poignant, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34a The Bible clearly states “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 However, we are commanded to hate sin and to confront it as the Lord leads. The Bible tells us, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way” Isaiah 53:6 If sin is never confronted then how will the sinner learn that they have gone astray? More importantly, how can sinners have the opportunity to come to Christ if we, the church, do not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and leading sinners to repentance?

Jonah kicked and fought against the will of God from the moment he heard God’s command even after Nineveh repented. But God remained with Jonah to ensure he was on the right track and then keep him on track until he completed the task at hand. Jonah unwillingly did what God asked him to do, he was petulant and angry. The mercy of God for Jonah astounds me. The compassion of God for a sinful city was awesome to behold as well. Jonah’s message was short and sweet, yet, the king right down to the lowliest person in the city came to repentance all because of eight simple words, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” What a tremendous miracle! And still Jonah was not happy. Thankfully, God used Jonah despite his failings and many mistakes. That should give encouragement to all of us! We are not perfect people. Every one of us, at one time or another, has pulled a Jonah. Thank God for His mercy. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, just obedient, especially when it comes to sharing God’s word, whether it is to minister His love or His correction. There is a broken and dying world out there. Like Nineveh, they are lost in sin and without hope, most of all they are without God. Being without Jesus, living in and partaking of sin always leads to death and hopelessness. God loved Nineveh so much that He sent Jonah. God loved the world (every one, you and I) so much that He sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ to be the propitiation for our sin. (John 3:16/1 John 2:2)

The Bible tells us that Nineveh was founded by Nimrod (Genesis 10:11) who was the hunter who built the tower of Babel and led people in rebellion against God. Nineveh was a great and populous city (Jonah 3:3; 4:11), a wicked city (Jonah 1:2), and the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36; Isaiah 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum was, in large part, devoted to prophetic denunciations against the city of Nineveh, prophesying its fall. The book of Nahum notes that there was a wicked counsellor who imagined evil against the Lord and that Nineveh was vile, given to false gods, idol and molten image worship. Nahum called it a bloody city; that there was no end to its corpses. Nineveh was full of drunkenness, wickedness, lies, robbery, whoredoms and witchcraft. (Nahum 1:1-3:19) History relays much the same. Nineveh was one of three cities to take its turn as the capitol of Assyria, which ruled over Mesopotamia. The city rose from modest beginnings into an incredible civilization and formidable empire that governed much of the known world until it was destroyed in 612 B.C. The wickedness may have stemmed from the fact that Assyria, as a society, worshipped multiple gods. Nineveh was the center for the worship of Assyria’s main goddess, Ishtar (Astarte) (Sumerian Inanna), the goddess of sexuality, fertility and war. Many of the Assyrian’s customs and rituals were filled with many forms of sexual perversion. Their military tactics were known to be merciless, cruel and vicious. Assyria often subdued other nations with absolute terror and brutality. Nahum’s last words echo the stark truth of what we know of Nineveh today, “Nothing can heal you; your wound is fatal. All who hear the news about you clap their hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” Nahum 3:19

America is like Nineveh in many ways. Nineveh was very prosperous. The Assyrians brought many advances to their society that the world still benefits from today. As in America, despite its wickedness, the people of Nineveh were probably doing their best to raise their families, survive and prosper. Sadly though, America seems to be nation drowning in the same sins that Nineveh was steeped in. My heart grieves that we, a nation that was once founded on Judeo-Christian principles, have seemingly stepped away from much that is right and from the dictates of the Bible. In many respects our nation, a “bloody city,” commits an average of 800,000+ abortions a year. Further there are deep seated drug and alcohol abuse problems, pornography, sex trafficking, child and spousal abuse, pedophilia, lying, thievery, bullying, and homosexuality. The list goes on and on. We have strayed so far from God’s holy dictates in the Bible and we are slipping into a moral morass. Right is being called wrong and wrong is being called right. Justice is perverted in almost every walk of life. Sadly, some of these sins have even crept their way into some church teachings and are now considered acceptable. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” James 3:10 For this reason I believe God has written ICHABOD (which means, The Glory of God has Departed) across the fronts of many church doors in our nation today. These churches are no longer truly serving the God of the Bible.

Over the last thirty or so years it seems as if disasters have been exponentially striking America and the world, uncannily confirming Jesus’ words in Matthew 24: hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, wild fires, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, 9/11, terrorism, Ebola, SARS, now the Coronavirus to name a few. And the fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic seems to be having a far worse affect than the virus itself, with suicides, spousal/child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, homelessness, poverty all on the rise with financial forecasters telling us that if we don’t turn things around soon our country could be headed into another great depression. And in the past couple of weeks or so, amid some peaceful protests against racism; looting, violence and anarchy is taking place in streets all over America. These things are resulting in the loss of our precious freedoms that this great country and our founding fathers afforded us.

Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:8 Others proclaim these disasters have been and/or are the judgment of God. Perhaps? I wonder though, could these disasters be God’s mercy and love calling out to America, the world, and most importantly, the church, God’s people, to repent? Could they be Jonah, in our streets, once again raising his voice loud and clear calling out, “Repent, Repent, or worse is yet to come.” Will we be like Nineveh? Nineveh listened. Nineveh repented. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.” Matthew 12:41 If we do not condemn the evil in our midst and repent, we will have no excuse; we have Jesus and Jesus took our sin and He calls each and every one to repent.

An interesting note, Jonah’s message was a sequence of eight words warning of impending disaster and that it took him three days to complete the task. He didn’t try to coax or cajole people. He didn’t even tell them things would change. He only warned as he walked through the city calling out the same message of eight words. Eight represents new beginnings and three represents divine fullness, perfection, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One God, the Trinity. When we turn our hearts to God and repent, He brings new beginnings in our life. He immediately comes into our life to change us and to help us overcome the sin in our lives. Best of all, we receive His forgiveness, become children of God and begin to walk in a new and wonderful relationship with God, learning to know Him intimately.

It seems lines are being drawn in the sand in America. Never in my life time, at least that I can remember, has our country been more divided. My heart breaks because of the division but at the same time, there cannot be agreement if it means going against moral stands of God’s commandments. If we love God, then we love His word, we love His edicts, we love His truth, we love His commandments and we want to obey Him. We cannot simply stand by, be complacent and keep silent when it comes to sin. Sin kills and destroys. God is a loving God, He has rules because He loves us; in the same way we have rules for our children, because we love them. We must stand for the truth of the word of God. We must preach the whole Word of God in love. We must be a Jonah for the Lord, we must preach as God leads, if and when the Lord calls us to be a Jonah. Hopefully, we won’t run as Jonah did. Hopefully, as we obey God we will see the results that Jonah saw, repentance of a sinner’s heart. And even if we don’t see results right away, hopefully the words we have planted will one day burst forth; breaking through a hard and crusty heart to bring new life into a sinner’s very being.

May those of us redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, “His people, which are called by His name, may we humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways; then will He hear from heaven, and will forgive our sin, and will heal our land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 Our country is in desperate need of healing. But before He can heal our land we must do what Chronicles admonishes each and every one of us to do. Healing begins with each person individually and therefore; I pray that each of us would want to be right with God in every area, myself included. I thank God that He loves each of us every moment of every day even with all our failings. I thank God that when we are off track, He finds ways to put us back on track, nothing so dramatic as a fish prepared just to swallow us, but still, He finds ways. I pray that He helps each of us see our sin that has usurped His will in our lives. I pray that we hear His voice if we are walking in sin or believing falsities outside of His word. I pray that He gets the church back on track with His will so we, with His help, can reach out to a world that so urgently needs Him. Will this also be your prayer?

What say you? Are you Nineveh? Jonah? A little of both, one foot in Nineveh and one foot in God? Are you believing the enemy’s lies? Or are you seeing the truth about the debauchery, immorality, depravity, wickedness and sin going on in our nation, the world and, regretfully, even in the church? What will you do? Will you listen to His word? Will you believe His word? Will you repent? Will you turn your heart completely to God letting Him change you from the inside out? Will you be a Jonah to help bring sinners to accountability? Will you tell others of the freedom from sin through Jesus? Will you share the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you preach forgiveness of sins and new life because of the beloved Son of God, Jesus who died on the cross for everyone everywhere?

Yes, if we ever needed a Jonah, now is the time. Please don’t run but let people know that it is time to “Repent, Repent, or worse is sure to come.”

“From that time on Jesus began to preach,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.””
Matthew 4:17

“Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest and repent.”
Revelation 3:19

“For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate.
He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
2 Chronicles 30:9b

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
That times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins
And purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9

“Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
Joel 2:13

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
James 4:8

“Thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord:
That it may be well with thee.”
Deuteronomy 6:18

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve...
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua 24:15

If We Ever Needed A Jonah ~
Now is the Time

Love in Christ, Michele
Copyright June 2020 ~ Michele LeDoux Abshire

 

Columnist: Michele Abshire

 

Michele Abshire is a housewife, mother, grandmother, and full time legal assistant. She has been published in Lake Charles, Louisiana publications, Christian Star Newspaper and Gumbeaux Magazine.  

Michele began writing notes of encouragement to people God put on her heart which led her in the direction of writing short encouraging stories, letters, essays and analogies.  This quickly became a ministry for her.  

Michele's vision is to reach people with encouraging messages that will lift their heart and bring joy for sorrow and hope for discouragement. Michele enjoys your feedback so leave a comment in the form at the bottom of the page or email her at  micheles.musings@gmail.com

 

 

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