Abiding, Accountability, Advice, Asking, Bible, Bitterness, Deceit, Forgiveness, God's Will, Mercy, Scripture

RATIONALIZATION

JONAH 4:2

“Then he prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Please LORD, was this not what I said when I was still in my own country? Therefore, in anticipation of this I fled to Tarshish, since I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in mercy, and One who relents of disaster.’”

Rationalization! Do you know what that means? It is “the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.” People do it all the time. I have seen people rationalize drunk driving (well, I had to get home where I would be safe). People use it to justify their anger (If he/she wouldn’t act that way, I wouldn’t get mad).

Jonah is rationalizing his anger. He thinks he is justified in his anger. He is basically saying, “God, I told you so. I knew You would be merciful.” Jonah wanted these people gone. Remember, they were the enemy of Israel. They were hated by Israelites. Jonah felt his anger was justified because of what they had done to his nation.

APPLICATION

Be careful what you rationalize. Be careful of the behaviors or attitudes that you think are okay. The world today allows just about anything. In some states in the U.S., criminals are arrested and let go with a slap on the wrist, only to reoffend. They rationalize their behaviors because of the lax justice system. “If they don’t care what I do, why should I?”

Rationalization can be very dangerous. We only have one true way of knowing what is right and what is wrong. Do you know what that is? It is God’s Word. I am currently in a country where only a few decades ago, communism reigned. That government justified all its actions on their belief that it was “best” for the people. Ask those who lived through if they think that was best. Not hardly.

I will trust the Lord to show me how to rationalize the things around me. I will follow His lead. If the Lord says it’s right, it’s right. Jonah could have stopped and just asked the Lord why He decided to forgive the Ninevites. God would have probably gladly told him. Don’t be a Jonah. Don’t rationalize your behaviors. Go to the Lord.

Forgive me, Lord, when I try to justify my attitude or behaviors. If I line up my life with Your Word, I know I will be just fine.

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Affection, Alone, Asking, Bible, Confession, Despair, Disciplemaking, Following, God's Will, Mercy, Prayer, Rescue, Scripture

THE PITS

JONAH 2:6

“I descended to the base of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, LORD my God.

You may have heard the expression, “this is the pits.” But where does that come from? Well, I looked that up. It can refer to armpits which implies body odor, something that is undesirable. It also can refer to someone who is in the depths of despair. That is what I think of when I hear this. Well…Jonah was in the pits.

Remember where he is when he says what we read in today’s verse – the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea. It’s hard to get much lower than that. He was low. He was in despair. Look what he says, though. He says, “You have brought up my life from the pit, LORD my God.” Wait just a minute. He’s still in that fish. But now he realizes no matter the circumstance, God can lift you up from the depths of despair.

APPLICATION

If you are like most people, you have found yourself in “the pits” at some time. How did you manage that? How do you get out of “the pit”? So many of us turn to counselors or doctors for help. They can be very helpful. But so many of us don’t look at the spiritual side of our despair. We are spiritual creatures, as well as physical.

I want to encourage you the next time you find yourself in “that pit” to turn to Jesus. Ask Him why you are feeling the way you are. Ask Him what He would have you do to get out of that low place. He may reveal some hidden sin in your life that needs confessing. He may point you to someone who has gone through what you are going through at the time.

I have had the privilege to share my journey through chemotherapy and stem cell transplants to others who are going through the same thing. Let me tell you – chemo will bring you down into a pit. You need others to encourage you during that time. What have you gone through and what lessons have you learned that you can share with someone today? Do that.

Being in “the pits” is no fun, Father. I thank You that You have lifted me up each time I have called on You.

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL THE MOMS OUT THERE READING MY BLOG!!

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Advocate, Affliction, Asking, Belief, Bible, Darkness, Distress, Fear, Inspirational, Prayer, Scripture

DISTRESS

JONAH 2:2

and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I called for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.’”

Have you ever been in distress? Through my illness and my two stem cell transplants, I can honestly say there were times I felt in distress. I was in anguish. I felt afflicted. Those were very adverse times. My health was fading, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. All I could do was turn to the Lord.

Jonah was in distress. His words remind me of Psalm 118:5 that says, “From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.” I find that kind of humorous – “a large place.” Jonah was indeed set in a large place – the belly of a big fish. He probably preferred a different setting.

APPLICATION

When you are in distress, what do you do? Who do you turn to? Some of us turn to alcohol. Others turn to drugs. Some get so involved in church they forget their distress. None of these work. You cannot medicate yourself or busy yourself out of distress. There is only one answer – Jesus.

Even in the belly of that fish, Jonah knew God would hear him. He did not know how God would answer, but at least He knew his prayers were ascending. They were not bouncing off the walls of that belly. We often feel our prayers are hitting the ceiling and going nowhere. Do not doubt the hearing capability of God.

There are so many examples I could give you of how God came through for me during times of distress. He would send a friend to see me in the hospital. He might burden someone to email me or call me. Just call on Him amid your distress. He can work miracles in and through us, if we will just believe.

O Lord, I have called on You many times, and You have always come through for me.

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Advice, Advocate, Asking, Bible, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Faithfulness, Scripture, Wisdom

GOD, YOU’RE RIGHT

JONAH 1:14

“Then they cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life, and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, LORD, have done as You pleased.’”

Many times in our lives we wrestle with a decision, so we cry out to God. Psalm 118:5 comes to mind. “From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.” This Psalmist understood where to go. We should learn a lesson from this. Cry out to Him.

The sailors had tried everything to not do what Jonah told them to do to him (throw him into the sea). Now, they have been driven to Jehovah God to beg forgiveness for the action that was about to take place. God used a raging sea to draw these men to Him. These pagan sailors were about to see God in action.

APPLICATION

Don’t wait until you are knee deep in life’s cesspool before you cry out to God. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue you from all that. We must have the wisdom to pursue our God in all circumstances. That wisdom only comes through the reading and studying of God’s Word.

That Word must transform your mind so the first thing you think about when you are going through that hard time is the Word. What would the Word say do? What verse comes to mind? A friend of mine says, “Scripture memory gives the Holy Spirit a vocabulary to speak to us personally at any time or place. Since the Lord can use scripture we have put to memory, we can trust His communication with us.”

I am thankful for the scriptures I have memorized. They serve me well when I am in distress, or I encounter someone else in distress. That happened yesterday and I was able to share God’s Word with them without even opening a Bible. I had it stored in my heart and mind. Will you spend some time today memorizing a passage?

Thank You, Lord, for the Word. Thank You for using all those authors over all those years to tell Your story.

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Asking, Battles, Bible, Consequences, Deceit, Devil, Encouragement, Following, Inheritance, Judgment, Scripture

OUT OF REACH

AMOS 8:12

“People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will roam about to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.

Nothing is much more frustrating than not being able to find something. Recently I misplaced a metal box in which I keep our important documents. I knew where I had last seen it, but it wasn’t there. Of course, like most men, I thought my wife had moved it. Low and behold, it was right where I put it – in my closet on the floor.

I found my box, but the Israelites would not find the word of God. The Lord said through Amos that they would look “from sea to sea and from the north even to the east;…but they will not find it.” That “it” isn’t in the text, but it refers to the word of God. They just couldn’t find it or hear it. How sad!

APPLICATION

Lost and found! In the church where I served there is a box of lost items. We keep these items for a period of time, and if they are not claimed within a few months, we donate them to a charity. Some people have lost the Word of God and don’t even know it. They go on with life without contemplating the significance of their loss.

The Word of God is so important for our Christian walk. We can’t navigate the trials of this life without it. You can’t wait until you need it to pull it out and think that’s going to work. You need to equip yourself with the Word through memorization and meditation, so you can combat the evil one on a daily basis.

I am thankful for the verses I have memorized. I desire so much more. I wish I could just download the entire Bible to a memory chip in my brain. That’s not possible (yet). But I can work diligently at memorizing so I will always have a portion of God’s Word available to me. Is that true for you?

Father God, I praise You for Your Word. I need it every day in my life in order to face the trials that come my way.

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Abiding, Agreement, Asking, Bible, Doubts, Encouragement, Faith, God's Will, Modeling, Obedience, Prayer, Scripture, Submission

THE LORD RELENTED

AMOS 7:3

“The LORD relented of this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.”

All my life I have been told that prayers can change things. I had always just accepted that as fact. I mean, why else should we pray? Yes, we acknowledge God as our Savior and Creator. We praise Him for who He is. We confess our sins to Him. And then we make our requests to Him. But why bother with that last step unless we believe we can change things with our prayers.

Amos cried out to God in verse 2, and it says in verse 3 that God relented. What does that mean? It means God changed His mind. Further punishment was withheld. God decided to not do what He had planned to do. Amos’ prayer moved God to change. Wow! Do you believe that is still possible?

APPLICATION

I believe with all my heart that is possible. I believe with all my heart that as I pray, submitting myself to His will, that He will hear my voice, bend His ear to earth and answer my prayer. Sometimes He says no. Sometimes He says not now. And other times He says yes.

I don’t know why He doesn’t always answer yes. I won’t know that until I am in heaven. But I am thankful for the times He does says yes. I don’t understand the mind of God. Who can? We have such finite minds. God works on a whole different realm than we do. I have to trust that.

I will, however, continue to pray, believing my prayers are being heard by the Creator of the universe. I may stir His heart as I pray and move Him to intercede in a way I had not even thought of. Based on that truth, I pray. I cry out like Amos. I am thankful that He is listening.

God, I cry out to You. I beseech You to move in my life and the lives of those who are reading this right now.

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Accountability, Asking, Bible, Discipline, Encouragement, Eternity, Following, God's Will, Judgment, Oppression, Redemption, Scripture

SCHEDULING ERROR

AMOS 6:3

“Are you postponing the day of disaster, and would you bring near the seat of violence?”

Recently I tried to sync two calendars. One was on my iPhone and the other one was on my laptop (which is not an Apple product). You can guess what happened. Nothing. I couldn’t get the two products to “talk” to each other. I need these two calendars to sync so I can add appointments on either. Without that, I was definitely going to face some scheduling issues.

Israel didn’t want to hear about the coming day of disaster. They wanted put that off for as long as possible. Who wouldn’t? Who wants to hear that judgment is here? However, Amos, in asking this question, is not giving them an out. He is merely stating how foolish it is to assume we can ignore what is coming.

APPLICATION

It’s no difference for us. We can’t be the ostrich with his head stuck in the sand pretending what he cannot see cannot hurt him. Judgment day is coming. I pray we are all ready. We don’t know when, but we are sure it is coming. What do we do? How can we be ready?

There is only one way – Jesus. He points the way to freedom. He shows us the way out. He delivers His people. He protects us from that day of disaster because He has already paid the price for us. Hallelujah! Don’t you believe that?

The day of disaster holds no trepidation for me. I know in whom I have believed. He holds me tight and will never let go. He has promised me a life with Him in eternity. I have nothing to fear. He is there – always. Wow! Now, that is something to shout about. I hope you’re shouting.

There is no other person or thing in which to hope besides You, Lord. Thank You for being the one constant in my life.

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Asking, Belief, Bible, Calling, Direction, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, God's Will, Scripture

SEEK ME

AMOS 5:4

“For this is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me so that you may live.’”

One of the passages I have memorized is Psalm 119:9-11. Verse 10 says, “I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your commandments.” Why do I mention that verse? Because the same Hebrew word is used there for “seek” as is used in our verse in Amos today. It has no secret meaning. It simply means to seek or to investigate.

The Israelites had stopped seeking God. Here in today’s verse, the Lord is imploring them to seek Him so they may live. This may sound like a simple, short verse in Amos, but look at it. Living depends on seeking. Our lives are meaningless until we find Him.

APPLICATION

We tend to seek the wrong things – money, fame, independence – to name just a few. When we are young, we seek to be free from the bondage of our parents. When we get older, we seek youth through all kinds of healthcare products. Seeking worldly things leads us nowhere.

But when we seek the Lord, He is there. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” What are you seeking today? Is it temporal or eternal? Stop wasting your time on temporal. Seek Him.

So, the question begs to be asked. How do you seek Him? It’s pretty simple. Go to Him in prayer. Read His Word. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. He’s not hiding. He is just waiting for you to get ready to handle Him when He comes. When you surrender and seek, He is there.

I seek You with all my heart. Do not let me stray from Your commandments.

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Abiding, Asking, Bible, Encouragement, Faith, God's Will, Holy Spirit, Listening, Scripture

REVEALED

Amos 3:7

“Certainly the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret plan to His servants the prophets.”

I’m a planner. I like to know what’s coming. I don’t like to be caught off guard. I just returned from Kenya where I had the privilege to teach Pastors and Church leaders in a conference through the ministry AMG (Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel). One thing I had to decide about the conference there is to not get too uptight about NOT knowing what was coming. Schedules there are “flexible,” to say the least.

Amos, however, is telling the nation of Israel what was coming. God had revealed it to him just like He had revealed things to Moses and Joshua. He revealed the flood to Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. He told Jonah about Nineveh. He told Joseph about the coming famine. God revealed things to His prophets so the people could prepare.

APPLICATION

I believe the Lord still reveals His plans to His children. He wants us to know things. He isn’t trying to trick us or fool us. What has the Lord revealed to you? Nothing? Well…are you listening? God speaks to us through His Word. He speaks to us as we pray. Let’s talk about prayer a bit. What does your prayer life consist of?

You see, if our prayer life is only about our requests to Him, we have no room to hear. We need to be quiet sometime and listen. Carl, are you saying God will speak to me? I sure am. I don’t mean in an audible voice, but He will speak. In order to hear Him, though, you have to be listening. You have to know His voice. His Spirit speaks to us. Just be quiet and listen.

I have learned to check those “hearings.” If what I hear glorifies Him, then I am sure it is of the Spirit. If it just glorifies me, it’s my flesh or it’s from the evil one. Always check it according to God’s Word. God will never tell you something that goes against His Word. So…get quiet and listen. He wants you to hear Him. You may be amazed what He reveals to you.

O God, I love to hear Your voice. I love to know that You want to speak to me.

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Advice, Advocate, Asking, Bible, Encouragement, God's Will, Prayer

IF IT AIN’T BROKE

AMOS 1:12

“‘So I will send fire upon Teman and it will consume the citadels of Bozrah.’”

On my last day of work at a children’s home in South Carolina, some little boys in a cottage set a fire in the basement of the cottage. I’m not sure why they did that. I think they were just playing with some matches, and it got carried away. That cottage suffered severe fire and water damage. I can still see the flames and smell the smoke. Those images don’t go away too quickly.

I bet these images which Amos is laying out for the Israelites got them so excited. Finally, Edom is going to pay for their atrocities against their nation. Finally, God is going to rain down fire on them. They will feel what the Israelites felt when the Edomites came and besieged their cities and set them on fire. Payback – Finally!

APPLICATION

God has spoken the same punishment on the other countries. Why doesn’t He change His tactics? Certainly, by now they are on to Him. God’s methods don’t need to change. In fact, one of His attributes is immutability. That means unchanging. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His purpose and plan remain the same.

So, why do we think we can change God? We pray and pray and expect God to change His mind. Listen, we do need to beseech God. We need to pray hard. We don’t know the mind of God. We don’t know what His perfect plan is. He is listening to our petitions. He inclines His ear towards us. But we have to pray trusting that His way is perfect – no matter what.

Do you trust Him? Do you trust Him with your life? He is able to maneuver through our prayers. Who knows – you may just stumble upon His will by praying. Does that sound crazy? Maybe it is, but I had rather be crazy and praying than crazy and not praying. How about you?

Lord, I will trust Your methods. I will allow You to work in me to perfect me according to Your plan.

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