Abiding, Belief, Bible, Comfort, Fasting, Flesh, Forgiveness, God's Will, Hearing, Humility, Salvation, Scripture

PROCLAIM THE FAST

JONAH 3:5

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”

When is the last time you have fasted? For most people, this is a rare thing. We either don’t think about it or we don’t believe in it. I have to admit that I don’t fast regularly. Usually, I fast for a specific reason. I want to hear from God about something. I really should make it a regular thing in my life. Will you pray for me that I would do that?

The people of Nineveh believed in God because they heard Jonah’s message. He told them their city was going to be overthrown in 40 days. That would wake you up. They repented, which is evident by the fasting and the sackcloth. They humbled themselves before a holy God seeking forgiveness. Would God forgive them or not? We’ll get to that in a few days.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t just about going without food. It is much more than that. It is humbling yourself. It is making a sacrifice. It is denying yourself of physical things in order to receive spiritual things. What do I mean by that?

When you fast, your mind becomes clearer. The initial hunger pains remind you to pray. As you deny yourself food and concentrate on the Lord, those pains subside. Don’t get me wrong. You still get hungry, but now you know why you are doing this. God is speaking.

I really can’t fully explain the spiritual benefits of fasting. It is something you have to experience yourself. If you are able physically to fast, let me encourage you to do that. As you humble yourself, the Lord will speak. His voice will come through. Now, fasting isn’t required to hear God’s voice, but it clears the path. Give it a try. It’s easier than wearing sackcloth, lol.

I deny myself in order to hear You clearly, O Lord. I do want to hear You.

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PROCLAIM

JONAH 3:2

“‘Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.’”

Whenever I have a sermon to prepare, I spend as much time praying about the passage as I do studying the passage. I want to make sure I am hearing from the Lord as to what He would have me say. I can come up with a sermon. That’s not a problem. But I want to speak His message, not mine.

The Hebrew text could be translated “preach to it the preaching.” In fact, the Hebrew word translated as “proclamation” is only used one time in the OT – right here. Why is that? I always wonder that. I believe the Lord wants us to take a good look at His message to Jonah. Notice how His message differed a little from the first time. “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.” The Lord, I think, wanted Jonah to get to Nineveh and then He would reveal His message.

APPLICATION

What is the message the Lord has given you today? To whom do you need to go and proclaim it? As I write this blog, I am in Norway preparing to take part in a men’s conference. Our main speaker is always sensitive to receiving “downloads” from God. He wants to make sure what he is speaking is from Him.

Right now, he is still waiting on his luggage to get here. That’s a distraction. He is aware of that. So, we are gathering in few minutes to pray for clarity of thought and message. When we get that message from the Lord, the devil does not want us to deliver it and will do everything he can to distract us. Don’t let that happen.

Receiving God’s message is sweet. Hearing His voice and knowing it is Him is precious. But sweeter still is delivering that message and seeing people come to Christ. It is His message, not yours. It is His results, not yours.

Let me hear Your message clearly, Lord. I want to speak only Your words to others.

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PRAYERS HEARD

JONAH 2:7

“‘While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.’”

I have heard of some incredible answers to prayer. I am sure you have also. Some of those answered prayers are just about too good to believe. If I had not known the person and situation personally, I would have never believed it. But God has a way of making believers out of unbelievers, doesn’t He?

Don’t forget our scene – Jonah is still in the belly of that fish. He’s been praying to God for the several verses. In the written book we have what may seem to be a short prayer. This prayer may have been given over that three-day period. Here in today’s verse, he is fainting away. I am assuming he must be towards the end of those three days. No water, no food, no light! He is week and feeble, yet he prays, “and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.” Wow!

APPLICATION

Even in your lowest hour, when you are at your weakest. None of us have been where Jonah was. So, we can surely pray to the Lord. We don’t have seaweed and stuff floating around us. But we may have other things trying to drown out our access to our holy God. We can’t let anything distract us from praying.

God is always listening, no matter where we are. We must not forget that God placed Jonah in the belly of that fish for a reason. He places us in our “fish’s belly” for a reason also. He wants to draw all our attention to Him.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not learn my lessons in a fish’s belly. I want to walk in obedience and do what the Lord asks me to begin with. I have still got a lot to learn about obedience, but I am trying. I am listening. Are you? Or are you content to wallow around in your “fish’s belly”?

Thank You, Lord, for teaching me obedience. I want to learn quickly and do exactly what You tell me.

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PRAY ANYWHERE

JONAH 2:1

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish,”

One thing I have learned over the years is I can pray anywhere. I have prayed while being wheeled in for surgery. I have prayed sitting in a deer stand. I have prayed in the middle of a hurricane. I know my God is listening to me wherever I am. He doesn’t care if I am kneeling or standing, with my eyes open or closed. He just wants me to pray.

Jonah prayed “from the stomach of the fish.” Now, I haven’t tried that yet (and I don’t want to). He was truly in a pickle. God had assuredly rescued him from the deeps of the sea by sending the fish, but now what. How was God going to rescue him now? Or maybe He wasn’t. Maybe he was going to meet God with seaweed all over him.

APPLICATION

Pray! Just pray! There are so many passages of Scripture that tell us to pray. Some even tell us how to pray. Matthew 6:9-13 is what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer.” Have you read that lately? If not, take a minute and go do that. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How did you like that? Our Lord Jesus showed us how to pray. I think He is a pretty good teacher. He knew how to pray. He knew the value of praying. He did it often, probably much more than is recorded in Scripture.

If you haven’t discovered the joy of praying, you really should try it. It sets you free. And the more you pray, the more you want to pray. You begin to hear His voice so much clearer. He wants to talk to you. Did you know that? Don’t wait to get swallowed by a big fish to begin your prayer time.

I love to talk to You, Lord, and to hear Your voice. Lord, speak!

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THE WORD OF THE LORD

JONAH 1:1

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,”

“I give you my word.” We’ve probably heard those words spoken to us a lot over the years. Someone is trying to get you to side with them about something. Perhaps someone is trying to convince you of the reliability of something they are selling you. Whatever the reason, we may just not believe their word is reliable.

BUT…when God says those words, you can take it to the bank. It is dependable. Here, in Jonah 1:1, we see “the word of the LORD came to Jonah.” Don’t read those words and move on. Stop to think about that. The word of the Lord – now that’s something. God spoke to Jonah. He had something to say.

APPLICATION

Is God talking to you? You know, He has something to say to each and every one of us. We just have to be listening in order to hear it. That’s our problem. We are so busy, we don’t hear Him. We don’t hear Him telling us to do this or that. We go on our merry way without regard to the Master’s words.

God doesn’t waste His breathe. When He speaks, it is with purpose. God always has a reason behind His words. When He says “Go” we need to go. He’ll tell us where when it’s time. When He says “Give” reach into the back pocket of the guy in front of you and give like you never have. Just kidding. But we need to give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Listen for God’s word to you today. You can hear Him in His Word as you study. You can hear Him in your prayer time (stop talking and listen). But then, when you hear Him, DO WHAT HE SAYS!!! Amen?

Father, I want to hear Your word today. I want to hear Your instructions for my life.

Check out our ministry site at www.twr.org/carl-willis

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NO WORD

AMOS 8:11

“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.’”

I have a friend who goes on “Silent Retreats.” These retreats are designed for the participant to spend a weekend in total silence. After the initial instructions on Day 1, you spend the rest of the weekend without saying a word to anyone – no phone calls, no texts, etc. He says it really helps him hear from the Lord.

Amos is sharing God’s warning that there will come a famine of His words. That prophecy did come true during the almost 400 years of silence from God between the book of Malachi and the New Testament. Deafening quietness. No word for God. Despite the cries of the people, no word.

APPLICATION

I’m a talker, especially in the mornings. My wife bans me to another part of the house until she’s had her coffee because of that, lol. I can’t imagine going one day without talking to her. I love to talk to her. I want to know how she’s doing. I love to just hear her voice. Why? Because I love her.

So, I can’t imagine 400 years of not hearing from God. I get up every morning and spend time with Him. He talks to me through His Word. He talks to me through my prayer time. I hear because I’m listening. When those dry spells come, and they will, I search my heart for what is blocking His voice. It’s always me. It’s always my sin.

I want to hear from the Lord daily. That means I have to confess my sins to Him daily. The days I can’t recall a sin, I ask Him to forgive my forgetfulness. I know I have sinned in some way because I am still flesh and blood and subject to it. But with Christ as my guide, I can avoid most of those sins that so “easily entangle us.” Do you hear Him? Listen.

O Lord, I long to hear Your voice each day. I love the sound of Your voice as You guide and direct me.

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Hear ye, Hear ye

Amos 3:1

Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt:

The older I get the more hard of hearing I get. I used to blame it on selective hearing. But I have noticed in the past couple of years that I have lost a lot of hearing in my left ear. It’s not so bad yet that I need a hearing aid, but I know that is probably coming down the road. It is kind of convenient when my wife asks me to take out the trash. I can always say I didn’t hear her, lol.

The Lord wanted the sons of Israel to hear what He was about to tell them. He wanted their attention. He wanted the entire family to hear Him, not just certain people. This word from the Lord was for the entire nation, and He did not want them to miss one word. Listen up, Israel. Pay attention!

APPLICATION

Are you listening to the Lord today? He is talking to you. He has a plan for your life. But if you aren’t listening, you will miss the message. We get so busy with our stuff that we tune out the voice of God. Where do you hear that voice? In His Word. In your prayer time. When you are meditating on Him and His goodness. God still speaks, but you have to be listening.

Well, Carl, I’ve been a Christian for 30 years and I’ve never heard the Lord. Well, what have your been doing? God has probably been screaming at you but just haven’t heard the voice. Why? Because your ears are not in tune to hear Him. Does God try to hide His voice? Of course, not. He wants you to hear from Him. So, listen closely. God is speaking,

Sometimes when I tell people I have heard from God, I get strange looks. Some think I’m crazy while others think I am super spiritual. Neither is true. I miss God’s voice sometimes. When I do, it is because I have become so busy that my mind and heart weren’t clear. Or I was harboring ill feelings towards someone. I want to hear from Him daily. So, I have to keep myself tuned in. How about you?

Lord, I praise You for speaking to me in some of my darkest moments. I praise You for Your still, small voice.

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FASTING

JOEL 1:14

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”

Hey, I like to eat. I don’t enjoy fasting. I’m just being honest. The times I have done a fast, my stomach reminded me constantly that it was being neglected. Breaking that fast was awesome. I missed chewing stuff. But I know the benefits of a fast far outweigh the temporary physical discomforts.

Joel is calling on the priests to proclaim a fast for the people. Why? To humble themselves before the Lord and beseech Him to intercede on their behalf. He was asking them to cry out to the Lord. The Hebrew word for “cry out” could mean “to shriek.” This was meant to be heard. Combined with their fasting, it was a sorrowful action.

APPLICATION

Fasting isn’t meant to be enjoyable. We should feel something physically. Our hunger pains should remind us to pray. Suffering isn’t tolerated well in the West. We are way too spoiled. If we don’t get three meals a day plus a snack, we think we have been deprived. We forget that many people in the world get by with one meal a day.

But you can fast from things other than just food. You can fast from electronics. Wouldn’t that be tough for us? My wife says I couldn’t handle that. I have to agree that I am tied to my computer way too much. Ask the Lord what He would have you fast from. If you ask, be prepared to fast. It may be food. It could be television or the internet. Whatever it is, when you decide to fast from it, use that time to hear from Him in a fresh new way.

The Lord has been calling me lately to fast, and I have been avoiding it. It is time for me to submit. I know whenever He calls me to fast, He has something to tell me. Would you pray for me as I listen to Him? I’ll let you know what He says.

Father, I am listening. I want to hear Your voice.

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ROAR

HOSEA 11:10

“They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; indeed He will roar, and His sons will come trembling from the west.”

I have had the privilege to go to Africa several times. In all those journeys I have never heard a lion roar. I have actually seen a couple of lions, but all they were doing was lying around sleeping. But I have friends there who tell me if you ever hear a lion’s roar up close and personal, you will never forget it.

God’s people returned to Him. Hosea says they will respond to His roar, His roar to repentance. They came trembling from the west. From all their exiled locations, God’s people returned. They came to walk after Him. Finally! They are following their God.

APPLICATION

We are just like that. God has to take many of us into “exile” before we finally hear His roar to repentance. Why does it take us so long to return? We are stubborn, obstinate people who just want our own way. We refuse to submit to His commands until we see that He was right all along.

Are there things in your life right now which God is calling you to repent of? Do you have that secret sin that is eating you up inside? You’re hiding it from family and friends, but God knows. Isn’t it time to repent of that? Do you hear His roar?

I hear His roar all the time. Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit I am led to repent. I am so thankful I can hear His roar. It doesn’t scare me. I am not afraid of it. I welcome it. It’s a reminder that He loves me and desires me to be with Him and not the world. Listen! Do you hear Him now?

Lord, thank You for “roaring” after me. I know I am Your child and that You desire me close.

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EARS OPEN

HOSEA 4:1

“Listen to the word of the LORD, you sons of Israel, because the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, for there is no faithfulness, nor loyalty, nor knowledge of God in the land.”

Guilty! That’s me! I am guilty! Too many times my wife will be talking to me, and I fake attention. I pretend to be listening but really my mind is a thousand miles away. This works beautifully until she wants an answer to a question she just asked. Then I am busted.

The word “listen” in today’s verse means to hear intelligently. In other words, it means to pay close attention. Hosea is telling Israel and us to listen closely. We need to tune in to hear God’s Word speaking to us. He was warning them about the inhabitants of the land. He wanted to make sure they understood they could not allow them to stay.

APPLICATION

Have you ever faked attention to God? Come on, be honest. God is telling you to do something and you nod your head yes but you really mean no or you’ll think about it. You aren’t really listening. Do you really think you can fake it with God? He knows your innermost thoughts.

Will you listen intelligently? Will you not only listen but will you obey? Will you do what He says? Listening without obeying is merely hearing. We need to do more than that. Do what He says. Trust His direction. If He is talking to you, it’s worth listening to.

The next time my wife starts talking to me I need to stop whatever I am doing and listen to her. I need to do the same when the Lord is talking. He won’t scream at me. He speaks in a quiet way through His Word and my prayers. I will listen.

I am listening, Lord. Talk to me. I want to do what You say.

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