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Friday, May 15, 2009

Down or Up?

The word “down” traces the path of Jonah’s life when tried to flee from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa (1:3), where he boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. Once on board, he went down into the ship’s hull (1:5). When a raging storm threatened to doom the ship, the sailors tossed him overboard. He went down into the sea, where a great fish appointed by the Lord swallowed him. Jonah’s rebellion ended after he went down into the belly of the great fish.

The Christian who obeys the Lord follows the upward way. God has brought us “up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay” (Psalm 40:2). He has exhorted us to wake up, because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11), to look up to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), to cheer up (John 16:33), and to live up to the potential He has invested in us (1 Corinthians 4:2; 6:20; 10:31).

Someday, Jesus will take us up to Heaven. Until He comes for us, let’s stand up for Him!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wasted Energy

Some parts of the Western United States are flat and treeless. A young woman from West Texas told me she ran away when she was a teenager, but the attempt failed. She said she was gone from home three days but her mother could still see her.

Jonah foolishly thought he could run away from God when God commanded him to go to in Nineveh and preach against its wickedness (Jonah 1:1:1-3), but he was mistaken. He simply wasted his energy, because God still saw him. No one can run and hide where God cannot see him. Psalm 139:7–12 makes this fact clear. Those who fear God’s all-seeing eyes may wish they could alter this fact, but those who value God’s care and guidance cherish it.

It is wise to run to God rather than from God and to run to do His will rather than run to avoid it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Favorable Circumstances

When Jonah arrived at the port city, Joppa, he found a ship that was ready to sail to Tarshish. How convenient! Tarshish was exactly where he wanted to go. It was as far from Nineveh as he could get. He would not have to preach in Nineveh, as the Lord had commanded. At least, that what he must have thought, but the Lord has ways of persuading us to do His will. Jonah would discover soon that it is always best to say yes the first time the Lord gives an assignment.

Wonder of wonders, the ship had room for Jonah! So he paid the fare and boarded. Weren’t the circumstances lined up perfectly for Jonah to do what he wanted to do?

Favorable circumstances are not always in tune with God’s will, but we are often more inclined to follow favorable circumstances than we are to walk by faith. We can easily talk ourselves into a decision based on favorable circumstances instead of choosing God’s way. For example, a couple may follow favorable circumstances when they buy a car instead of considering what the Bible teaches about financial responsibility.

Here’s what can happen. The couple is perilously close to being laid off, and their current income barely covers their expenses. But the car salesman shows them an expensive car with plenty of bells and whistles. “You can afford it,” he tells them. “You can lower the monthly payment by stretching the loan over 72 months instead of 48 months. And if you buy it today, I can throw in six free oil changes.”

Voila! All the circumstances at the dealership seem favorable, so the couple signs on the dotted line. However, they will surely learn that following favorable circumstances is a bad substitute for following the principles of Scripture.

These uncertain times summon us to put our trust in our all-wise heavenly Father and to do what He commands. It’s the only way to live victoriously above the circumstances.