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Jonah: Part 1

 

 

Read Jonah: Chapter 1

I think we have all heard the story of Jonah, the guy who was swallowed up by the fish because he ran away from God. In verse 2 God tells Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” In response, Jonah boards a ship headed in the opposite direction. This did not go over well with God! He sent a storm that terrified the ships crew. They eventually confronted Jonah and at Jonah’s command, they threw him overboard. The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

In this chapter, we need to address the sin, the consequence, and the presence of innocent bystanders:

The sin:

Jonah was disobedient to God’s command. Instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded him, Jonah took off in the other direction.

The Consequence:

God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah sat in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

The Innocent Bystanders: 

The ships crew were innocent bystanders that got sucked into the mess Jonah made when he tried to run from God. They were thrown off schedule because of the storm. They lost precious cargo because they threw it into the sea, trying to lighten the weight of the ship. They dealt with emotional trauma because of the storm and ensuing chaos and didn’t know how to make it stop. These men suffered because of Jonah’s sin.

My Challenge To You:

We ALL have sin in our lives. That is simply a natural part of being human. I am challenging you to search your heart of any sin(s) that you might be struggling with today.

Journal the following:

The Sin: 

What sin or sins are you struggling with today? Be specific. This is between you and God. But, you can’t heal it unless you confess it.

The Consequence:

What consequences are you dealing with because of that sin(s)? How do you feel knowing that you could have avoided the consequence had you made a different decision? How will you address the temptation to sin in the future?

The Innocent Bystanders: 

Who are the people affected by your sin? Be sure to name everyone that was affected by your sin, even if you feel the harm to them was minimal. If someone was affected in ANY way by your actions then they have suffered and need to be acknowledged. How were they affected? For every person on your list, write down how they were affected. BE SPECIFIC! Write down every way someone else has suffered because of your actions. Lastly, what can you do to repair the damage that you have done? If you have caused someone to suffer, you need to take responsibility for your actions. You need to be proactive in repairing the damage that you have done. You need to seek forgiveness for your sin, regardless of whether you are forgiven, you need to seek forgiveness.

 

Jonah found out the hard way that sin results in consequences. I’m sure if we are honest, then we all can admit that we have suffered consequences as a result of sin in our lives. Consequences that we could have avoided, had we made a better decision. Unfortunately, other people often have to suffer the consequences of our sinful behavior too. This is not fair to the other people who get hurt because of our foolish choices. Other people should not have to clean up the messes we make because we CHOOSE to sin. SIN IS A CHOICE!

SEEK GOD:

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Hebrews 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

James 4:7

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We are not tempted without having a way out. God loves us enough that He sent His Son to die for our sins. HE GIVES US A WAY OUT! We need only to ask for His help. Seek God and He will show you the way out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Matthew 26:69-74

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Let’s take a look at a few verses back. In Matthew 31-35 Jesus was telling the disciples that they would all fall away on account of Him. Peter answers that even if the rest fall away, that he never will. Jesus tells Peter that he will disown Jesus three times before the rooster crows. Peter declares that he WILL NEVER disown Jesus.

Then we get to verses 69-75 where we find Peter in the courtyard, surrounded by people. The people start to accuse him of being with Jesus. He denies it three times. Not only does he deny Jesus, he calls down curses and swears to them that he doesn’t know the man Jesus. Immediately after the third denial a rooster crows and Peter remembers the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter was distraught. He went outside and wept bitterly.

I can imagine how Peter felt. He loved Jesus deeply and I believe that he was sincere in his belief that he would NEVER disown Jesus. He got caught up in the moment. He was afraid of what would happen if he acknowledged Jesus. He was overcome with guilt, regret and shame at what he had done and he wept bitterly.

I have made mistakes that caused me regret. I have lashed out in anger, yelled at my kids in frustration, and I have been mean spirited to those I love and strangers who happened to cross my path at the wrong moment. I have found that there are usually three reasons for regret:

Things we have done in the past – We have all done things in the past that we regret. Those actions that haunt us for years after they happen. We carry them around and they condemn us and keep us judging ourselves harshly.

Things that we did not do in the past – Those things that we SHOULD have done, but didn’t. Those things we wish we would have done, but now it’s to late. These can be just as condemning as those things we actually did. They haunt us, making us forever tell ourselves, “I wish I would have.”

Things we are doing now – Those bad decisions that we continue to make that we regret each and every time, but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from making them. These regrets will condemn us until we don’t care anymore and we give up trying.

Regret. Guilt. Shame. Condemnation. These are all feelings that the devil piles on us to keep us stuck in our choices and mistakes, keeping us separated from the God who loves us. God does not want us to be stuck in our feelings of regret, guilt and shame. God does not condemn us for our past or present bad choices (Romans 8:1). We have a new life in Jesus, IF we choose to accept Jesus as our Savior. We WILL be forgiven and cleansed of our sins, IF we repent and change our ways. God will NEVER weigh us down with those negative feelings of regret, shame, guilt and condemnation, so if you are feeling any of those right now, they are from the devil and he is trying to keep you from the love of God. Go to the Father and cry out to Him in your distress. He is a loving, compassionate, forgiving, merciful God who is full of grace. He will come to us in the midst of our bad decisions and He will cleanse us right where we are.

Make that decision not to live in regret. There is no reason to allow regret to keep you from all God has for you. Keep your eyes on God and let go of those emotions that are from Satan. If there is anything I can do to help you, I am just an email away! In the meantime, God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been in Georgia for almost 6 weeks now. Things have not gone according to MY plan! I planned on coming down here and immediately getting plugged in to a non profit ministry for single moms. I had this set up before I moved here. When I got here, the organization only needed volunteers in the thrift store. I did volunteer in the thrift store a few hours, but then had to seek God’s guidance and re-evaluate. I wanted to work with single moms. That was my heart and so I let this go.

Before I moved down here, I had planned on being involved with an emergency shelter for women. It was a mix of women from different backgrounds, not just single moms and that was fine with me. I have a heart to see ALL women made whole through Christ. I was actually offered a job as an assistant house manager. I was given a sample schedule to give me an idea of the hours I would be working. When I started to calculate the hours, I started to panic a little. Every other week from Monday to Monday, I would work 108 hours; 4 over night shifts from 5 pm to 8 am and then the weekend from 8 am Saturday morning to 8 am Monday morning. The pay period was a total of 123 hours, ALL at minimum wage (7 something an hour). Over time was not given. After talking to my 3 daughters, who all said that they would not do it, I declined the offer.

At that point, I was discouraged. Okay God, what now?

I found another single mom ministry in the other direction and tried there. This ministry has monthly meetings for single parents, so I contacted the executive director and offered my help. I received one short reply and then nothing. I messaged a couple of days before the event, again offering my help and asking when I needed to arrive. I know that she saw my message the same day, but I did not receive a reply declining my offer of help until 2 hours before the event.

In the meantime, I have been filling out applications for every job possible and getting nowhere. Not even an interview.

Okay God, what’s the plan?

I had found a program for certification for Biblical lay counselors back in January. I had pursued a degree in Psychology at one time, but really wanted to become a Biblical counselor. When I found this program, I prayed and prayed and decided that if this program was in God’s will that He would provide the funds for the program. I told God that I would know it was His will if He provided the exact amount I needed for the program. I never told anyone. It was between me and God. I waited and prayed. Right before my birthday (which is June 8th) I received the exact amount of the program in cash. I am now pursuing a certification for Biblical lay counseling. I know this is God’s will, but what am I going to do with it?

In my daily devotional time, I was crying out to God for an answer. Eventually, my money will be gone and what then? I felt this whisper in my spirit, “get connected to a church.” I had visited one church and didn’t feel like it was the one for us. We visited another church this past Sunday and I am going to give it a chance. I am going to connect there and see where God leads.

So, I am digging into God’s Word and growing in my relationship with Him. I am the kind of person that needs to see the big picture. I need to see 10 steps down the road so I can prepare for what is to come. God doesn’t work like that. He gives us one step at a time and then tells us to wait for the next step to be revealed. Maybe, my plan to serve single moms is not God’s plan for me. Maybe, I am to counsel women from ALL walks of life who are hurting and have been broken by the chaos in this world. God knows that I am more than just a single mom. I have had enough painful life experiences that I have a true compassion for ALL women who are suffering. If this is the plan, I am okay with that. I just wish God would give me a clue!

I have to admit that my biggest worry is money. But, I hang on to faith and trust in a God who provided the funds for my counseling program and who has never once failed me in any way. It is a stretching of my faith. I pray. I dig into the Word of God. I work on my counseling program. I grow in my relationship with God and I wait (somewhat patiently) for God to reveal the next step. It is making me completely vulnerable and dependent on Him. It has thrown me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to surrender ALL of MY plans. I am empty of myself. I am completely and wholly at God’s mercy. I am a vessel totally surrendered to Him and ready to be used. He has brought me to a place of complete and total dependence on Him. Isn’t that where He wants us to be?

I will continue to update as my journey in Georgia continues. I have to say that I love it here. I already feel that it is home.

Day 7: Reflections

 

 

I have learned so much about prayer in the last few years. I have learned how to pray, who to pray for and why God says no. I have barely scratched the surface with this devotional series on prayer, but I have tried to present some of the basics and I hope I have given you some motivation to do your own research on this vast topic. There are not only many Bible verses that I left untouched, but the internet is full of stories of prayer giants throughout history that God worked through and partnered with because of their prayers. I encourage you to do some digging and find out for yourself what a rich topic this is. In the meantime, I will leave you with my own reflections on what I have learned in writing this devotional series:

  1. Intercession – As Christians, we have a call to pray for ALL people. We can’t just pick and choose who we pray for. God doesn’t want any of us to perish. We are to pray for EVERYONE!
  2. Three Ways To Pray In Difficult Circumstances – God never promised that life would be easy. When we are faced with tough circumstances, God expects us to REJOICE ALWAYS, PRAY CONTINUALLY, and GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Is it easy to do? NO! But, it is the only way to find God’s peace and comfort in the midst of the storm.
  3. Simple Prayers From A Humble Heart – We do not need to pray one certain way or be a certain way for God to hear and answer our prayers. He made us all unique and we all have a unique set of spiritual giftings. Some of us are extroverts and the Holy Spirit does guide them to lead others in corporate prayer for a specific issue, but there are also some of us who are introverts whose prayers are just as effective, even if we are quietly praying from the pew.
  4. Community Prayer – We are made for community. God made us to encourage each other and to do life together. One of the most important things we can do together is pray. Prayer can transform communities. Corporate prayer has led to revivals. Our prayers become so much more powerful when we join our prayers in unity for the cause of Christ.
  5. Pray For Your Enemies – God expects us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. We already know that prayer can transform communities. The transformation of communities only happens when individual hearts are transformed because of our prayers. There is so much pain in this world today because of hate-filled hearts. How can we not obey?
  6. God Answers Prayers – We know that God WILL answer our prayers, but they MUST be according to His will and we MUST believe that we have received it. Believing requires faith. Faith is that trust that resides deep in our spirits because of prayers answered in our own personal lives or because we believe the God of the Bible will is still the same God today. We have faith that God will answer our prayers if we pray according to His will.

 

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU: Do your own research on prayer, prayer giants throughout history, and revivals through history that have come about because of corporate prayer. More importantly, begin your own prayer journey. Pray on your own and get into a church or prayer group and pray corporately for transformation in your community and the lives of those around you.

Prayer is such a huge part of the Christian’s life that we are called to pray constantly. We are to be in continual communication with our maker, our heavenly Father. This is such an important way to find that peace and comfort when everything around us is falling apart. If I can pray for you in any way, contact me and let me know your need. I am always here. God bless you in your prayer journey!

 

1 John 5:14-15

14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Mark 11:24

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

In my 19 years as a single mom, God has answered ALL of my prayers. Yes, He has answered ALL of my prayers. I know you’re thinking that I mean that God has said “Yes” to all of my prayers. Not exactly. He doesn’t always answer with a yes. Sometimes, His answer is no or not yet. There are some issues that I have been praying about for years and it has not come about “yet,” but I know it will.

That is the promise: We can have confidence that God WILL hear us. We can be confident that we have what we asked of Him. We can be confident that whatever we ask for in prayer WILL be ours.

BUT (Yes, there is a But!)

God does promise all of the above, BUT there are conditions. When God promises something, you can bet that there will be a condition. He won’t just make a promise without asking us to do our part.

According To His Will – Our prayer has to line up with God’s will. We can’t pray for something of a sinful nature and expect God to answer affirmatively. We can’t pray for God to help us get away with robbing a bank if we promise to give 10% to the Church. This would not be in God’s will. If our prayers are coming from a place of hate or any other place that goes against God’s nature, be assured that the answer will be NO! We can not expect God to answer our prayers with a YES! when they go against His will and His nature.

Believe That You Have Received It – BELIEVE! HAVE FAITH! If your prayer lines up with God’s will, then you can pray with confidence. In January, I started praying for the funds to go through a program to become a certified Biblical lay counselor. I have an associates degree in Human Services and love psychology. I found this Bible based program that was highly recommended, but it was $375.00. I wanted to make sure that this was God’s will and not my own. My goal is to help other single moms, other women who suffer with anxiety etc. and other women in general. So, I waited and I prayed. My birthday is June 8th. On June 6th, I received a gift in the mail of $375.00 in cash. I had not told anyone of this prayer on my heart. No one knew of the need. I prayed according to God’s will and I believed that He would provide the funds. I am now studying for my certification in Biblical lay counseling, which may lead to a certification in Biblical counseling.

My CHALLENGE to you: When you pray, make sure that your prayers line up with God’s will. Also, have faith! If your prayers line up with God’s will and nature, then you CAN have confidence that it will be answered with a YES! BELIEVE!!! No prayer is to BIG for our God. We serve a God that has access to ALL of the resources in the universe, so pray BIG! He CAN and WILL answer with a YES!!!

 

 

Matthew 5:44

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

 

I think this is one of the hardest things that God expects us to do. I don’t want to love someone who has hurt, bullied or caused me pain. I don’t want to pray for someone who is going out of their way to make my life a living hell. As Christians, we must obey the commands of our Lord and He has commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Granted, I have never had a family member murdered or been in a mass shooting situation. I can only write this from my shallow experiences of being bullied at my work place or having a child treated badly by another person. Even in those situations, my tendency is to let the anger simmer just under the surface and think of smart retorts to their hatefulness. I can not even imagine how I would react if a family member was physically hurt by someone else. My prayers in cases of mass shootings or hearing of racism or violence, is usually for God to bring swift justice and not for reconciliation or for God to change their hearts.

As I write this, I feel the Holy Spirit working in my spirit and giving me the answer to my own question of WHY?

Why should we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?

The only reason I can think of is that our God is a God that performs miracles. He loves for His people to partner with Him in these miracles. When God takes a murderous person like Saul and turns him into Paul, one of the greatest Apostles and missionaries the world has ever seen, God gets the glory for that. When we step out in obedience and show kindness to someone who is downright hateful and malicious to us and our kindness transforms their heart, God gets the glory for that. When we pray consistently for someone who is hell bent on persecuting us for our beliefs or other reasons and their heart is transformed, God gets the glory for that. Any time a heart is transformed it glorifies God and that is ALWAYS a good thing!

My CHALLENGE to you:

If you are being tormented or persecuted by someone in your life, I encourage you to be kind to that person. A smile or a kind word can melt a hardened heart over time. An offer of help can open a door for a relationship to bloom and grow into an opportunity to share your Jesus story. If that person is dealing with a hardship, offer assistance in any way that you are able. And pray for that person. Pray for a difficult situation they are dealing with. Pray for blessings and peace for that person. Pray for opportunities to build a relationship and to share the Gospel. Pray that God will use you to help soften and transform a heart.

I can guarantee that as you show love and pray for that person, you will undergo transformation too. Your own hardened heart will begin to soften toward this person when you begin to know them and the issues they may be dealing with. You will start to care when that relationship blooms into a friendship. You will rejoice when that person accepts Jesus into their heart.

You doubt and say that these things will never happen? You say that such and such person will NEVER change so why bother? 

We bother because God tells us to. Step out in obedience and leave the outcome to God. Trust Him, because MIRACLES HAPPEN EVERY DAY! 

 

 

I want with all of my heart to be the woman who loves like Jesus. I don’t want to be the woman who judges someone before I know their life story. I don’t want to be the woman who snaps at people when I have had a bad day. I don’t want to be the woman who is impatient when teaching others. I don’t want to be the woman who gossips about others. But, let’s get real. As much as, I don’t want to do those things, I am human. I am an imperfect woman who does her best to love like Jesus, but I am not Jesus, so I fail, sometimes more than I succeed.

How do we love like Jesus?

There are days when I’m not really sure how to love like Jesus. It should be easy to make loving others a lifestyle. It should be easy to make loving others a priority in your every day life. But, it isn’t easy. There are days when I get so wrapped up in my own activities and thoughts that I miss that opportunity to love someone who needs my love. I miss opportunities because I am so focused on ME and what is going on in MY life. I am then filled with regret at having let an opportunity go. I regret the possibility that I have added to someone’s burden or sadness. I regret that I in any way disappointed God. How did Jesus love? The New Testament tells us how Jesus loved. Five examples are listed below:

  1. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost so that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9). If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, then that is our God-given purpose too. John 3:16 tells us that God so LOVED the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God LOVED us so much that He sent His beloved Son to seek and save the lost. Our mission and ministry as Christians is to seek and save the lost in our own sphere of influence. How do we do that? We build relationships. We set the example that Jesus set for us. If we are intentional in building those relationships and we are intentional in acting like Christ in ALL areas of our lives, those around us WILL ask why we live like we do? Why we have joy in the midst of sorrow? Why we choose to love instead of hate? They will ask. And that door will open for you to share your Jesus story.
  2. Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. – I don’t think any of us can argue that Jesus suffered more than most of us will ever suffer in our lives. He was also tempted by Satan to sin. The thing is: Jesus DID NOT SIN! Jesus NEVER GAVE IN TO SATAN’S TACTICS! Of course, we are not Jesus and when we are tempted we have that tendency to give in. We are human and imperfect after all. But, because Jesus suffered and was tempted, He can now help us when we are being tempted. We have all suffered in some way in our lives. No one is immune to heartache and temptation. And while there will be times when we give in to temptation, we can still use our experiences to help those around us who are suffering and being tempted to sin. Be willing to walk alongside that person who needs accountability and encouragement. Remind them of 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 
  3. Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 15:32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 14:14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. – I think I have proven my point that Jesus felt compassion for people who were hurting in any way. These are not the only verses that attest to the compassion that Jesus showed the people He came across, but I will let you find the rest. My point here is that the compassion that Jesus felt LED HIM TO ACTION. When He felt compassion for someone or a group of people, He acted on that compassion and fed the multitudes, healed the sick, delivered the demon possessed, taught about God and living a Godly life, and rebuked from a place of love and not condemnation. We are called to do the same. We are called to feel compassion for the hurting and heartbroken in the world around us. We are also called to ACT on that compassion. Our compassion must lead us to feed the hungry, minister to the sick, build relationships, disciple others, and even rebuke from a place of love. There are so many ways that we can show our love to those around us IF we allow our compassion to lead us into ACTION. 
  4. Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. – The Jesus Centered Bible uses the term understand instead of empathize. Jesus understands our weaknesses. He was human and He was tempted. He understands our imperfections. He understands that we can not face the temptations and trials of life on our own. We need to have that same understanding for others. Because we know what it is like to be tempted and fail in our efforts to fight temptation, we need to be understanding when others fail. We all have weaknesses. We need to be willing to understand someone else’s weakness and step out to be that strong tower for them when necessary.
  5. Romans 8:34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. – The definition of intercede is to intervene on behalf of another. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for US. Despite the fact that we are NOT worthy of His intervention, Jesus intercedes on our behalf. Jesus asks for mercy and grace on our behalf. If Jesus is sitting in Heaven interceding to the Father for us and our imperfect, sin-filled selves, don’t you think we owe it to those in our lives to intercede for them. We are called to intercede/intervene on behalf of others. I have prayed prayers of intercession on behalf of my kids and miracles have come about because of those prayers. Don’t miss the miracle in someone else’s life because you refuse to pray for them. We are not any better than anyone else and we are never to good to intercede on behalf of another.

Jesus LOVES us! Jesus shows His love by: 1. Seeking and saving the lost, 2. Helping those who are being tempted, 3. Having compassion for the hurting and ACTING on that compassion, 4. Understanding the weaknesses of others, and 5. He intercedes for us.

We are called to BE examples of Jesus in this world. To Be an example of Jesus means that we need to LOVE OTHERS just as He loved. My CHALLENGE to you is to use the above five examples to love those in your sphere of influence on an every day basis. We each have at least one opportunity every day to show the love of Jesus to someone else. Time is short, my friends! GO OUT and LOVE OTHERS TO JESUS!