Abiding, Bible, Commands, Disciplemaking, God's Will, Listening, Obedience

THE SECOND TIME

JONAH 3:1

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,”

My dad was not one to repeat himself. He believed if he told you to do something, you should do it – period. He was not a demanding father, but he was a firm one. He always made sure you knew exactly what he wanted you to do and might even show you how to do it. Then he expected you to get it done.

Jonah should have listened to God the first time. He could have avoided that trip in the sea. But here we are in chapter 3, and we find Jonah hearing again from the LORD. The LORD had not given up on him. He still had a job for him to do. So, He speaks to him the second time.

APPLICATION

The Lord does not give up on us either. He is patient and kind. He is tolerant of our failures. He is right there ready to pick us up and re-instruct. If you are like me (and Jonah), I don’t listen to the Lord the first time every time. I think I can do it better. I think my way makes more sense. But after He tells me the same message four or five times, I finally get it.

Most of the time, the Lord tells us what to do so we can avoid the belly of the fish (trials). But sometimes, He tells us what to do and we still have to go through that trial. He is just preparing us for what is to come. He wants to teach us a truth to apply to what we are about to live.

I can think of several times in my life when that was the situation. I remember quite vividly how the Lord kept drilling in my head to focus on the eternal and not the temporal. This was right before I went through my second stem cell transplant. Living through that will definitely make you focus on the eternal. There were a few times I thought I was closer to heaven than I was to earth. My point? Listen to God. When He speaks to you, do what He says. He kind of knows what He is talking about.

O God, my Savior, You have spoken and I will obey. I want to listen the first time.

Standard
Abiding, Accountability, Attention, Bible, Confession, Discipline, Distress, God's Will, Hearing, Listening, Obedience, Prayer, Scripture

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.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Calling, Confrontation, Disciplemaking, Evangelism, Gospel, Judgment, Listening, Obedience, Repentance

REPENT

JONAH 1:2

“Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.”

Many years ago, while moving from South Carolina to Mississippi, I was following my wife through the hills of northern Alabama. She had our infant daughter in the car with her, while I was following in the moving truck with our four-year-old son. She was falling asleep and weaving all over the road. In the truck I could not get her attention by flashing my lights or honking my horn. I just knew I was going to watch her drive off the road and down the hill. I was trying to save her, but she wouldn’t listen. (She did finally wake up).

God tells Jonah to go tell the Ninevites how to get saved. He was sending Jonah on a specific mission to a specific people. God had seen “their wickedness” and decided it was time to take action. He wanted to give them the chance to be forgiven and come to Him.

APPLICATION

Are you trying to get someone’s attention about God? Some people are like my wife in that car. They can’t seem to hear the cries from God for them to come to Him. They are locked on to their own path and nothing is going to deter them. They don’t even know they are about to drive off a cliff.

Others God knows are just ripe for the harvest. He has already prepared their hearts. That’s why sometimes it is so easy to lead someone to Christ. They are like the Ninevites – eager to know the truth.

Boy, I am so glad I heard the words of the Lord. I am thankful He has caused me to turn towards Him and receive salvation. I am trying to be more mindful of those opportunities to share the Gospel. I’m not judged by their response. I am judged by God only by my decision to be obedient. How about you?

Thank You, Lord, for saving me and giving the opportunity to share with others.

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

Standard
Attention, Bible, Busyness, Calling, Commands, Hearing, Inspirational, Listening, Modeling, Scripture, Surrender

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

Standard
Advocate, Bible, Blessing, Confession, Encouragement, Faithfulness, God's Will, Hope, Judgment, Listening, Prayer, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture

ANSWERED PRAYER

AMOS 7:6

“The LORD relented of this. ‘This too shall not be,’ said the Lord GOD.”

How do you see God answering prayers? I have seen Him answer them in all kinds of ways. I have seen people healed from illnesses. I have seen people come to Christ. I have even seen storms diverted. I know my God still answers prayers, even if I don’t always like the answer.

We saw this same action by God back in verse 3. God changed His mind then and changed it again here. He heard Amos cry out for Israel and withheld His hand of judgment again. What does this show about the Lord? I believe it shows He listens to us, even if we repeat ourselves. I believe it shows God’s mercy, even when we deserve judgment.

APPLICATION

God answered Amos’s prayers the same way. He withheld the planned and current judgment. He may answer your prayers in the same way. Then again, He may decide to answer it in a whole different way. The Lord knows what is best for us even when we don’t. We may think we know how we want Him to answer. We just don’t see what lies ahead.

I have prayed for healing for my children, protection on the road and even for our pets. There is really nothing I haven’t prayed for. In my years as a Pastor, I prayed for all kinds of family needs. What a joy to see so many of those prayers answered.

But the most joyous answered prayers are the ones for salvation. When I have the privilege to pray with someone as they accept Christ as their Savior, my heart overflows. That’s a prayer with eternal value. That’s a prayer that will last forever. I praise Him for hearing us and answering according to His Will for our lives and the lives of others.

I know You are still listening, Lord. I know You are working even now to answer my prayers.

Standard
Abiding, Accountability, Advice, Attention, Bible, Disciplemaking, Following, God's Will, Listening, Obedience, Scripture

THE LORD HAS SPOKEN

Amos 3:8

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can do anything but prophesy?

My dad was a pretty reasonable father. But there was one thing I remember about him. When he decided something, that was it. When he laid down the law, he meant to enforce it. There wasn’t any negotiation happening regarding our upbringing. He made sure we knew what he expected, because what he said he meant. When Jack Willis spoke, you could bet on it.

Amos says the same thing here about the Lord. He simply says, “The Lord has spoken.” That was similar to the parable he says first in this verse. “A lion has roared! Who will not fear?” When the Lord speaks, that settles it. There used to be a bumper sticker around that read “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” But that is wrong. It should simply read “God said it, that settles it.”

APPLICATION

So the question is have you heard the Lord. You see, He is always speaking. The problem is our ears. They are so full of the world that we can’t hear Him. We get distracted and pulled away from any place where we can hear Him. Why do we let that happen when we say we are His followers? We can’t follow Him if we aren’t listening for Him.

I was recently in Kenya and remarked how amazed I was at all the sheep and goats that were seemingly just wandering around. I asked my Kenyan brother I was with at the time how the owners kept up with them. He told me that the sheep and goats know where home is and return there every evening. They always stay within earshot of their owner.

Don’t you wish we were as smart as these sheep and goats? We wander off and forget to stay within earshot of our Master. We drift away and forget His voice. All time time, He is calling for us. When the Lord speaks He means us to hear Him. God doesn’t waste His words. He isn’t blowing hot air. He means what He says and says what He means. Let’s all open our ears.

Forgive me Father for not listening for You and to You. I need Your guidance in my life.

Standard
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.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Confession, Consequences, Discipline, Following, Forgiveness, Godliness, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Listening, Obedience, Punishment, Repentance, Scripture

PUNISHMENT FOR EVIL

Amos 3:6

If a trumpet is blown in a city, will the people not tremble? If a disaster occurs in a city, has the LORD not brought it about?

I can remember several times when I was disciplined by my dad for disobedience. One in particular stands out. We had a dog who took her puppies in the woods and left them. I went in the woods to find them after being told not to. It was summer, and in South Georgia there was the risk of rattlesnakes and moccasins. When my dad got home from work, he gave me a whooping. I had willfully and decisively disobeyed my parents. That was sin.

The first part of today’s verse is pretty self-explanatory. But the second part may be confusing. This is referring to God’s punishment for sin. The Lord does not cause disasters to harm the innocent. That goes against His whole nature. But He will bring a disaster upon a evil, sinful people. Remember the flood?

APPLICATION

Are you in a position that deserves God’s punishment? Are you willfully sinning against a holy God. Numbers 32:23 is Moses warning the tribes that wanted to stay on the other side of the Jordan. He says,
“But if you do not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure that your sin will find you out.” You’ve probably heard the last part of that verse quoted a lot. That’s where it comes from.

Listen – if we know what to do and don’t do it, that could be a sin of omission. We must choose to follow Jesus. That means making the right choices up front. Sure, we received forgiveness when we sin and confess that to God. But it is so much better to choose to do right first. If I had chosen to obey my parents and not go in the woods that day, I would not have been spanked.

I am thankful for parents who disciplined me. But I am more grateful for a God who will not tolerate my sin. He holds me accountable. He uses His Holy Spirit to convict me and drive me back to Him. I do not always obey. But it is my desire to do so. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Before getting saved, we chase sin. After we get saved, sin chases us. Don’t let it catch you.

Father God, I thank You for keeping me disciplined and corrected. I can be stubborn and rebellious.

Standard
Abiding, Advocate, Bible, Courage, Encouragement, Listening, Modeling, Protection, Scripture

THE SOUNDS OF JUDGMENT

JOEL 2:5

“With a noise as of chariots they leap about on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble, like a mighty people drawn up for battle.”

Every seventeen years Cicadas make their descent on Tennessee. This year was one of those years. What is a Cicada? It’s an insect that looks like a huge, superfly. The biggest thing about Cicadas is the noise they make. Their mating call can reach 95 decibels. Compare that to an overhead plane that is around 80 decibels. When these Cicadas hatch in the thousands, you can imagine the noise. It can be quiet deafening.

So, I can imagine the noise of the swarms of locusts described here in Joel 2:5. Their noise must have been something for the people of Judah. The approaching swarms could be heard from as far away as six miles. That had to be quite scary for the little ones. An unseen noise that got louder and louder must have been terrifying.

APPLICATION

What noises scare you? Are you one of those who hears every little sound at night and jumps up to check all the doors and windows? My wife is a light sleeper. She hears every little sound. Me – I can sleep through a hurricane, lol. Things that go bump in the night do keep a lot of people awake. Some people are just restless. Others are just plain scared.

Matthew 11:28-30 comes to mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Do you believe that? Then rest in Him. He guards your soul. He is your great protector. Don’t let the noises of this world scare you.

I know I can rest in Him. I do need to be mindful to lock my windows and doors, but I can trust Jesus to protect me. When I lay down at night, I can truly say that I trust Him to keep me and my wife safe. That’s why I can rest so well. He is in charge. He never sleeps. He is watching over my well-being twenty-four seven. What a relief!

Thank You, Lord, for watching over me. Your watchful eyes are moving to and fro thoughout the whole world.

Standard
Accountability, Bible, Calling, Cleansing, Confession, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Hearing, Holy Spirit, Listening, Redemption, Repentance, Scripture, Surrender

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.

Standard