Run for You Life

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When God called on Jonah to prophesy to Ninevah (in today’s Iraq), he boarded a ship going to Spain. That is in the opposite direction. Do you wonder why? Well, Jonah knew that the people in Nineveh were very mean. They didn’t need a real reason to behead or impale people. That was part of their wickedness and Jonah was not taking any chances. He ran for his life. Wouldn’t you?

What Jonah didn’t realize is that he couldn’t run away from God. The ship he boarded was caught in a terrible storm. Jonah confessed to the crew that it was his fault, that he was running from God. He told them they should throw him into the sea, which they did. The wind and the waves calmed down. Then a big fish swallowed Jonah and he lived in there for three days. When he cried out to God, the fish spit Jonah out onto the beach.

God commanded Jonah a second time to go to Ninevah and he did. He proclaimed that if they didn’t change their ways in forty days, God would destroy them. That’s what Jonah wanted to happen, but the Ninevites repented. They stopped their cruelty and did what God said. 

THINK ABOUT IT

Mission accomplished, right? Yes, Jonah preached to Ninevah and they repented. But it seemed very wrong to Jonah. It seemed to him like the people got away with murder. He said to God, “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 4:2). As far as Jonah was concerned, he’d rather be dead. 

There is more to this story, but my point in this part of the story is that if God can show mercy to 120,000 residents of Ninevah, even after all their cruelty, then He can forgive you. You may think that is impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. He loves the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life with Him. New life begins the day you believe.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Father God, for sending Jesus to be our Savior and Friend. Help us to accept your love and forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Bury the Dead

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Could you cast away a forest? After living in California, I know how forests are destroyed. It’s very scary! Fire has destroyed much of California’s forests. It destroyed the city of Paradise. My heart breaks at the destruction and the loss. The question still stands. Could you cast away a forest? The answer is, “yes,” but it doesn’t have to be by fire. If someone gave you a bag of seeds to grow a forest, you could get rid of the seeds. You don’t have to plant them. No fire. No danger. No loss.

So then, what about the seeds of death in our lives? Do we have the power to destroy them before they destroy us? What if we could bury things that bring death, physically and spiritually? What if we would resist the temptation of unforgiveness before it becomes bitterness? or lust before it becomes adultery or fornication? or worry before it becomes fear or anxiety? or anger before it becomes malice? The longer we entertain temptation, the harder it is to defeat sin, and sin out of control in our lives is death.

Life that dwells on unforgiveness, lust, or worry reaps a whirlwind of consequences: illness, pain and suffering. Scripture supports this truth: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:25). “I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly–my mind still guiding me with wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 2:3).

THINK ABOUT IT

Our Lord Jesus knows about temptation. “He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:17).

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

PRAY ABOUT IT

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus. Please send your Spirit on us in the issues of our lives: shame, despair, anxiety or loneliness, and keep us from temptation into sin. Empower us with your word to stand tall with the truth and with your compassion and your love. Help us to become the people you created us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Father, Forgive Them

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Wednesday last week was Ash Wednesday, and I saw people in town with ash crosses on their foreheads. It’s a solemn reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for our forgiveness. He had dinner with His friends, and then He washed their feet. He knew that Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny he ever knew Him, but it must have broken His heart to see His friends sleeping while He prayed with drops of blood for the Father to let His cup of suffering go away. The priests and elders of the temple took Him from the Garden of Gethsemane to Jerusalem and falsely accused Him. Pilate could see no reason to execute Jesus and sent Him to Herod who didn’t find any reason to kill Him either. Yet, the people kept yelling, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Jesus was beaten, mocked, spit on and crucified. From the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

THINK ABOUT IT

My heart breaks every Lenten and Easter season when this is the story. It is hard for me to imagine all Jesus experienced for my redemption. When He said, “Father, forgive them,” He wasn’t just talking about the priests and the Roman soldiers and the people who yelled, “Crucify Him!” He was speaking about me too. “Father, forgive her because she does not know what she is doing.”

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Yes, Jesus died for me while I rejected Him. I chose my ways over His for too many years. “O Lord, I am so sorry for my rebellion.”

Brothers and sisters, no one is too far gone, too bad or sinful that Jesus will not say the same words over you: “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”

PRAY ABOUT IT

Holy Lord, merciful Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for loving me even when I was unlovely, self-indulged and sinful. I pray for others that do not know your amazing love: “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing against you. O Lord, send your Spirit on them to open their eyes to your presence in their lives and your amazing love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Fire from Heaven?

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“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). A Samaritan village rejected Jesus because He was headed for Jerusalem. It was James’ and John’s idea to call fire down from heaven. They were known as “Sons of Thunder” for their quick temper.

Do you have anger problems? I have dealt with this issue many years of my life. I regret that my children might remember me for my yelling, screaming and throwing things. If it were not for Jesus’ continual pursuit of me, I would still be stuck in my anger. Today I am thankful for His forgiveness and a life of peace and love and hope. It is so good I want to share it with you. Nothing is worth losing your peace over. Instead of being angry with people who mistreat or misunderstand you, you can love them, pray for them and show them respect and compassion as Jesus would.

God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).

Some places in the Bible were so evil that God destroyed them, but He spared this Samaritan village. Later when Peter and John placed their hands on believers in Samaria and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, they accepted it (Acts 8:17).

THINK ABOUT IT

We don’t know God’s plan, but He makes Himself clear to us as we seek Him with all our hearts. Can you imagine what John must have thought when the Samaritans rejoiced at receiving the Holy Spirit? If he would have followed his first instincts and destroyed the village for initially rejecting Jesus, these Samaritans would have died in their sin.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy. Thank you for your amazing love and your higher purposes for this world. Teach us your ways, O Lord. Show us the right paths to follow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Idolatry

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I visited a friend who had lost her loved one. She gave me a tour of her sweet little apartment. She came to shelving unit and tenderly picked up a figurine. I said, “She’s beautiful.” My friend said she prayed to her every day. I was shocked at first. Finally I said, “Becky, she has eyes that cannot see you, ears that cannot hear you when you need help, and a mouth that cannot speak comfort or encouragement to you. She cannot help you in times of trouble.” “Yes, but I can see her and touch her,” Becky said. My heart broke.

In ancient times as well as today, people have prayed to hand made objects, but that is only one kind of idolatry. Did you know that anyone or anything that takes first place (God’s place) in your life is an idol? It could be a hobby, a sport, a career, success, health, wealth or relationships. We long for fulfillment and meaning in life. This is the way God made us, but He wants to be what matters in our lives. He stands at the door of our hearts waiting for us to receive Him, but He will never force Himself on us.

THINK ABOUT IT

God made each of us unique and special. He knows all about us whether we know Him or not. Does that make you uncomfortable? Though nothing is hidden from God, He sees us with grace vision. He loved us so much that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life (John 3:16). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to take away our sins, God the Father only sees us in our Robe of Righteousness. He does not see our shame and guilt. “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me in garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

PRAY ABOUT I

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and the sacrifice He made for our forgiveness. Thank you that because He did this, you do not see our shame or guilt. Help us to live for you in light of our salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jailhouse Redemption

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Paul and Silas were going to the place of prayer by a river in Philippi when a slave girl began to follow them. She had a spirit to predict the future and, day after day, she followed Paul and the others saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). Paul grew so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her,” and it did. When the owners of the slave girl realized they had lost their way to make money, they dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities and said they had advocated unlawful customs for the Romans in the city.

Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown in jail. The jailer put them in the center cell and locked their feet in stocks. At midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying while the other prisoners listened. A violent earthquake rocked the jail and opened the cell doors. The jailer drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul cried out, “Don’t do that! We are all here.”

The jailer called for lights and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. “What must I do to be saved?” he asked. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved–you and your household,” they said (Acts 16:31). The jailer washed their wounds and fed them. Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and his family.

THINK ABOUT IT

Do you believe God can use evil for good? That’s what He did in Philippi. Paul became so troubled by the rantings of the slave girl following them, that he turned and delivered her from the spirit of fortune telling. You might wonder what’s so bad about what she did, but she was paid to lead people to trust her stories. God, however, wants us to believe Him and trust Him instead of people. He even uses sin in our lives for good. When we meet a person who is going through something we have, we can witness to them that we have experienced their pain and how God showed His love to us and helped us.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Father God, for Jesus. When we are tempted to look to another person or power besides You, help us to refocus on Jesus and His sacrifice to save us from our sin and give us eternal, abundant life with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Unforgiven

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Have you worried that you committed the unforgivable sin? If so, be encouraged that you did not. The person who is not forgiven is someone who doesn’t care. Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost, and His ministry here lasted only three years. In those three years people came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. He taught with authority, healed the sick and cast out demons. His family thought He was out of His mind. The teachers of the law said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons” (Mark 3:22). Friends, this is the unforgivable sin–to deny the power of the Holy Spirit and to credit such miracles to Satan.

Jesus said, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand . . . And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come” (Mark 3:23-26). You and I know that Satan is alive and well. He works in our hearts to tempt us to sin against God, even reject Him. Jesus said, “All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).

THINK ABOUT IT

To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you would have to deny God–not believe in Him, not trust Him, not love Him. My friend Pastor Rich Sherman said, “The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.” The person who denies God has a serious heart condition.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Father God, thank you for Jesus. He came to make a way for us, even sacrifice His life on the cross for our sins. Help us to live in light of our salvation. Help us to be more like Jesus. In His great name, Amen.