If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn away from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and I will forgive their sins and will heal their land – 2 Chronicles 7:14
I pray. I pray for myself, my family, my friends, my country. I pray for peace, for understanding, for acceptance. I pray for those who have lost loved ones in these many recent tragedies our great nation has faced. I pray for those who have to put on a badge and face these tragedies head on. I pray for those who have to worry about making it home safely at night because a tail light is out on their vehicle. I pray for future generations of Americans who I’m afraid will have it so much worse than we do now. I pray for those activists who are trying to make a change peacefully and civilly who are now being labeled “thugs, trouble-makers, and murderers” because of a small faction of a group. I pray for the officers who truly vow to serve and protect who are being labeled “profilers, racists, and murderers” because of a small faction of a group. Most of all, I pray for a healing of America. I pray that God’s people will take a moral stand, will turn from their wicked ways, and will experience the love, mercy, and undue forgiveness that only He can give.
I believe that a big part of being a Christian is being able to understand someone else’s point of view. That while you may not necessarily agree with someone’s lifestyle or choices or ideas you still love them regardless. Sacrificial love is what our last Sunday School books called it. Sacrificial love like Jesus gave and continues to give to everyone today. We don’t all have to agree on every minute detail in our country and the way it’s ran – it’ll never happen anyway. But, what we all do HAVE to agree on for anything to truly change is the fact that we, as American people, have to HUMBLE ourselves, PRAY, and TURN AWAY from our wicked ways.
God likes to use “if….then” statements a lot in His Word. The Bible is full of examples of this. God commissions a person or nation to do something – He keeps His word and provides the “then” portion should they hold up their end of the bargain. Over and over and over again we see where nations of the Bible failed. Failed miserably. Kind of like how America is doing now. Well, really a lot like America is doing now. The state of our nation is nothing new to God. He’s been doing this a lot longer than we have. Even so, He still longs for American people to desire to be in His will. God wants to bless us. He yearns for it. He loves us that much. But we have to hold up our end or face His judgement and wrath.
America was founded on Christian principles. It’s why in just a little over 200 years we have accomplished more than nations that have been around for thousands of years. We are pretty impressive for such a young country – and we’ve let it go to our heads. America has to remember that we are blessed by God and He has the power to take that away. I’m afraid that our cup is almost full and America will soon experience the true wrath of God – which is going to be so much worse than anything we’re experiencing now.
But all hope isn’t lost – keep the faith and keep on praying. God hasn’t forgotten us. Pray that our nation will humble itself, that our people will turn away from wickedness and run towards God so that our nation may truly experience change in a way that only He can give.
Bible journaling: you heard of it? It’s where people journal, color, draw, and paint pretty pictures in their Bibles to help them remember things that the Lord revealed to them or pressed on them during their times of Bible study. There are classes and conferences and seminars you can go to on it – it’s kind of a big deal. So after attending one such seminar I left and went straight to LifeWay and bought a journaling Bible (yes, there is such a thing, check out mine here). I bought it mainly so that I could fill the pages of God’s word with beautiful colors and words He revealed to me but little did I know the impact that this little journaling Bible would have on my Bible study.
I have never, ever, ever been a studier. In grade school I didn’t have to. In college I needed to but didn’t, whoops. But the base of the problem is that I don’t know how to study. I’ve tried flash cards, I’ve tried re-typing notes, I’ve tried recording lectures and playing them back – nothing really and truly works for me. Nothing for school studying anyway. At the same seminar that I learned about Bible journaling I also met the lady who wrote the book 20 Minutes a Day for the Rest of Your Life. This little book is full of different methods for studying God’s word. It even has examples done for you so that you can really see how to do the study (order it here). So now not only did I have this renewed eagerness to study my Bible but I had a cute new little Bible and a little book to show me exactly how to study.
The very last section of 20 Minutes was a study on Jonah. I thought, really? We need to study Jonah? Who doesn’t know that story? How many things can you really shake out of a book that’s only four chapters long? But I saw an opportunity. Until this point I had only painted abstract blotches with watercolors in my Bible and since I’m fairly proficient at drawing the Jesus fish, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone by studying Jonah and getting to draw an underwater scene as my first big picture in my Bible. Little did I know what God had in store for me in this short little book.
My word for this year is courage. The Lord has impressed upon me that that’s something I need to work on – being more courageous. But Jonah was the exact opposite of courageous at the beginning of the book. The Lord had called Jonah to preach at Nineveh to try to get the people there to repent. But let’s talk about Nineveh. This place was the worst of the worst. It was a large city (God calls it “that great city” c. 1 v.2 and says that it was “three days journey in breadth” c. 3 v. 3) and the people there were ugly. They were heathens, there were a lot of them in that huge city, and they were scary. Heck, I probably would have run away too. I don’t blame Jonah at all for being afraid to go. So he ran. Not only did he run but when he realized that the storm was going to rage until he did something – he had to have the crew throw him overboard. Not that they wanted to. This crew was special. Even though they were scared to death that they would sink and drown they still tried to get to shore even after Jonah revealed to them that he was the problem and to save themselves they had to toss him. Pretty stand-up dudes, in my opinion. But this is where it gets special.
So we know that the Lord sent a great fish to swallow Jonah. In children’s books everywhere the “great fish” is portrayed as a whale. Do we know this is the case? Not necessarily but it is a feasible explanation. Then Jonah stayed in the fish’s belly three days and three nights and in those three days and nights Jonah found his courage. He prayed to the Lord, asked Him for forgiveness, and promised he would go to Nineveh and preach to the scary people. Now maybe this was because the thought of spending the rest of his life under the sea in a fish’s belly was more scary – but either way, Jonah got his act together. Can you imagine being Jonah when that fish spit him out on the land? I think I would have run to Nineveh after that. So that’s what Jonah did.
Now when he got to Nineveh, Jonah goes into the city, I can imagine he’s probably still pretty scared of the scary people, but he starts preaching to the people that they need to repent or the Lord was going to destroy them. He told them they had forty days to repent. So imagine his surprise when the people immediately started repenting – even the king. In fact, the king decreed a nation-wide fast to begin immediately to show the Lord that they were serious. And they were, so the Lord spared them from disaster. Jonah should be pretty happy right about now but he wasn’t.
Have you ever been really dreading to do something? Maybe something that’s not even that serious or important but you’re still just dreading it anyway? And then when the time comes to do the thing it turns out to be much easier than you were anticipating. Have you ever been kind of mad about a situation like that? Like when you’re trying to handle some business and you drive all over town to all these different places and in the end you only needed to do one simple, menial task and the whole thing was over and you’re like, really? That was it! Why couldn’t I have just done that in the first place?! That’s what Jonah was feeling at this point.
Jonah was angry that he had to go through all of this trouble and stress and worry when the task at hand was so easy and simple. Jonah even told God look, I know you are a merciful God and that you would spare these people so why did I even have to come here? Just take my life because I don’t even want to live anymore. So Jonah starts pouting and leaves out of Nineveh and goes and sits. Then Scripture says that “the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort (c. 4 v. 6)”. So Jonah gets real excited about this plant that’s shading him from the sun and he spends the night under this plant. But the next day God withered the plant and Jonah was back in the hot sun. So God’s like, hey, Jonah, you mad about the plant bro? And Jonah is like YES! I AM MAD ABOUT EVERYTHING AND NOW THIS PLANT THING HAS JUST MADE IT WORSE AND I JUST REALLY WISH YOU WOULD TAKE MY LIFE!!!! But here is where the Lord revealed to Jonah and to me the lesson He was trying to teach.
God tells Jonah this “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle? (c. 4 v. 10-11)”. This is where the chapter ends. That’s it. No further explanation – no response from Jonah – nothing. I was like hold up, what? So I asked God to reveal to me what He meant with this plant situation and this is what He said: Jonah had nothing whatsoever to do with this plant’s life. He literally spent one day with it. But he was super upset that the plant withered. How do you think I felt about those 120,000 people in Nineveh that I had everything to do with? I created each and every one of those 120,000 people and I did not want to see them perish. Are people not worth more than plants? Whoa buddy! I hear you loud and clear Lord!
So I basically said all of that to say these things:
1. Greater is He who is living in me than he who is living in the world – God is greater than anything we will face in this world – even the big, scary people of Nineveh
2. Don’t be afraid of the tasks the Lord assigns you. Face them with courage and with strength from Him.He will not leave you or forsake you.
Jonah had to learn this the hard way, but God left us His Word so that we don’t necessarily have to. I know sometimes we think we know it all and we can handle it but we can’t. But I am super grateful for a good, good Father who loves me even in my iniquities and leads me and guides me with His wisdom and power.