Abiding, Belief, Bible, Calling, Commands, Courage, Distractions, Enemies, Fear, God's Will, Gospel, Obedience, Scripture

A LARGE PLACE

JONAH 3:3

“So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk.”

I’ve been to some big cities – New York City, London, Nairobi, Minneapolis. I could go on. Fortunately, I did not have to walk to them. I had a car or another mode of transportation. But you know, I seldom thought about how big those cities were or too much about all the thousands of people in them who needed to hear about Jesus. I usually was on a mission to get something accomplished and didn’t want someone or something to slow me down. I repent of that. That was wrong.

Jonah was now going to Nineveh, that “exceedingly large city.” It was known for its greatness. Even though it was physically great, it was spiritually weak. The gods the Ninevites worshipped were not gods at all. We know that. Jonah knew that. And he was sent to tell them that.

APPLICATION

Now, let’s think about this for a second. Jonah was sent into enemy territory, to one of their greatest cities, and was told to tell them to repent. He probably expected laughter, at the very least. Jonah may have expected to be arrested and perhaps even killed. Why shouldn’t he expect that? No one likes to be told they are sinners.

But Jonah responded in the positive as fast as he had responded in the negative. He “got up and went” as compared to “got up to flee.” He was ready now to deliver God’s message no matter the cost. How about you? Are you willing to risk it all for Jesus? He may call on you to do just that.

I am finally at a point in my life where I really don’t care if people think I am a little crazy about Jesus. I have seen some amazing things in the past few years which have required me to reexamine how I see the Spirit moving. Living that out may put me at odds with some people. That’s okay, as long as I am true to my Savior’s calling. Will you do the same?

Father God, give me a Nineveh! Show me where you want me to be used.

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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.

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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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SPLISH, SPLASH

JONAH 1:15

“So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.”

Have you ever thrown someone into a pool? You know how kids can play. I can remember picking up someone and chunking them, kicking and screaming. It was all in play. No one was intended to be hurt. We laughed and usually did it again.

This was not the case with Jonah. He did not kick and scream. In fact, he probably laid down on the deck of the ship very calmly as the sailors picked him up and threw him in. Can you just see the sailors’ face when the sea stopped raging? They probably instantly went to the side of the ship and looked for Jonah. But he was not there.

APPLICATION

Maybe you’re kicking and screaming right now as God tries to throw you into the deep end of the pool. Does God do that? He certainly does. Most of us don’t go willingly. We may not kick and scream, but we sure argue with God, don’t we? We have all kinds of reasons why His won’t make sense.

I have been thrown into the “deep end” many times. You think I would have learned to go in myself. But no, I am hard-headed. I guess that is why I can relate to Jonah so well. There have been times when God gave me a clear direction, but I went the other direction.

Splash! There I went! Deep end! But I found when I got in that the water was just fine. I did not drown. In fact, I got stronger by learning to swim there. I could not rely on my own strength. I had to have His power to survive. So, I swam and got stronger. Are you still wearing floaties on your arms or are you allowing God to strengthen you in the “deep end?”

Father, Your Will often confuses me. But I know I can trust it because it’s Your Will and not mine.

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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

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THE RETURN

OBADIAH 19

Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain; also, they will possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria, and Benjamin the territory of Gilead.

My family and I lived in TN in the 90’s. We loved it there, but God moved us to FL for a season. We spent eight years there and then were called back to TN in 2007. It was like coming home. Now, you Floridians, don’t take that wrong. Florida was our home while we were there. But Chattanooga always felt like our real home. Coming back just felt right.

In today’s verse, Obadiah is prophesying the return of Judah to their homeland. Not only would they return, but they would expand their lands. God will always stay true to His children. He may take us to the “woodshed,” as He did Judah, but He will restore.

APPLICATION

You may have a story of God’s restoration power. I know I do. I’ve been through two stem cell transplants for this disease I have (Amyloidosis). Borrowing a miracle, I will face another one in the years ahead. But each time, the Lord has restored my physical health. I am forever grateful for the lessons He taught me each time.

You may have been restored financially or emotionally. But the most important restoration we can have is our spiritual restoration. He promises to bring us from death to life. He gives us a true new life in Christ. He died and we live. Isn’t that incredible.

And just like Judah, when He restores us, He gives us so much more than we had before. I don’t mean physical stuff. I mean spiritual growth. We go from infants needing milk to eating the meat of the Word as we surrender to Him and seek Him daily. It truly is a restoration process in our lives.

Lord, thank You for restoring me. I was dead in my sins and You gave me new life.

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WATER HANDLER

AMOS 9:6

“The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, the LORD is His name.”

I have told you before that I am a fan of the Marvel films. I have seen most of them. But I am also a DC comic fan and have see their films. Call me nerdy, okay. I liked Aquaman when it was released a couple of years ago (Teaser – Part 2 is to be released in 2023). Aquaman, of course, rules the seas and all the creatures in it. Or does he?

Actually, according to today’s verse, God rules not only the waters of the seas but also all the waters in the heavens. He is the one who measures out the rain on the earth. He is the one who tells the waves where to stop on the seashore. Since He created them, He controls them – not Aquaman, not anyone else.

APPLICATION

The next time you see it raining, remember that God is the one who tells the heavens how much and when to rain. The next time you go to the beach or to a lake, remember it is God who gives the boundaries of that body of water. God is still involved with creation, even though it is a fallen version of the original.

How does all this apply to us today. Just as God controls the waters of heaven and earth, He still stands in control of your destiny. From the moment you were conceived, God desired for you to come to Him. We are designed to worship Him, but our fallen nature gets in the way.

I am thankful that His calling became so intense in my life on July 31, 1977 that I yielded control of my life to Him. With Him in control, my life has made so much more sense. It has not always been easy, but He is faithful. I know He will only let the waves of this life to crash so far on me.

Father, I praise You that You are in control of all things. Nothing escapes Your eyes or hands.

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I SWEAR

AMOS 8:14

As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, Dan,’ and, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’ they will fall and not rise again.’”

My mama didn’t allow any swearing in her house. If one of us said, “I swear,” she would wear us out. We weren’t allowed to say, “My God!” She had a high respect and awe of God and didn’t allow her children to say or do anything that went against that.

The Israelites were warned by Moses and Joshua not to swear by any other God besides Jehovah. This “guilt of Samaria” probably referred to the calf that was there and was worshipped by the people. “The way of Beersheba” more than likely referred to the avenue of their idols they had set up. God despised this and held them accountable for their idol worship.

APPLICATION

We still make vows and swear by God. When I married, I made vows to my wife before God. When I go to court and have to testify, I am asked to raise my hand and vow to tell the truth. Swearing to God isn’t bad. Swearing to another god is a different story. That still isn’t okay with God.

You are probably thinking I would never do that. I would never swear to another god. You may not do that consciously. But have you ever put something above God in priority? Have you chosen something of the world above something that has eternal value?

We swear in all kinds of ways. We can’t allow ourselves to get sidetracked or out of focus. Satan loves to get our eyes off what is eternal and onto the temporal. We can become so obsessed with worldly things that we totally forget what is important, what is righteous, what is pure. Take a step back today and evaluate what you put first in your life.

Lord, keep me on the straight and narrow. Help me to focus on the eternal things.

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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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