Praying God's Names- Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah TsidkenuThe Lord Our Righteousness

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But you, oh Lord, have kept your covenant with us. Sacrifices offered cannot change the heart or make us acceptable to you, only you can do that.

You saw our failure and sent judgment. You are Jehovah Tsidkenu and in you there is hope. In your name are righteousness and the promise of grace.

In your grace we receive a new heart. We can be right with you. We can be more than good. We can be made straight. We can be what you say is right and good. We can live according to your standard.

You write your law in our heart, our innermost being. You forgive our wickedness and forget our sin. You remove our heart of stone and turn us to you. You give us a new heart and your Spirit to live within us. You enable us to walk with you, to follow your statutes and obey your laws.

You, Our Righteousness, gather us to you. You attend to us. You give us wise and able spiritual leaders. You take away all fear. You give us Jesus, who is the Righteous Branch, our Messiah. He is wisdom and justice. He will reign on the throne of David as King forever.

Though Jesus was made sin for us, by believing in Him we are made righteous in your sight. We are given a heart not made of stone. We have a new master. We are cleansed by believing in Him. By receiving Jesus, we are made right with you.

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked but you are our Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness.

By Karen Guthrie January 7, 2009

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Sabaoth

Jehovah SabaothI Am the Lord of Hosts

When I come to the end of my self, When I am at the end of my strength, When I need power for deliverance, Then I rest in You.

When no other way seems clear, When I see no other help, When I am at the end of my resources, Then I rest in You.

You are the One who Delivers. You are the Lord of Hosts.

I come to worship and offer the sacrifice of myself as I plead with You. I know no one else who can help me. I face impossible odds and no one believes I can do what you called me to do. I know you are my power and my strength.

I cannot rely on religion. I cannot depend on icons or symbols. I cannot trust my own strength if I want victory. I must come to you in righteousness.

You are the One who Delivers. You are the Lord of Hosts.

You are my righteousness. You are my deliverer. You are the judge of my enemies. You see my heart and save my soul.

You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the One who Judges. You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the One who Delivers. You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the Lord of Hosts.

By Karen Guthrie December 17, 2008

Finding God In... SEXUAL ASSAULT

I have spend the past few months of my life building emotional barricades. To protect myself, to avoid, and to ensure that no one could fully reach me. Yet beyond those walls a whirlwind of confusion, betrayal, and hopelessness consumed me. The pain of acknowledging my sexual assault gripped me and stripped away pieces of myself that I desperately clung to- yet somehow I still felt them slip between my fingers. The greater the storm weathered behind my walls of self protection, the greater I felt that I was incapable of being loved. I was repulsed by men, myself, and the idea of shining light on my dark and ugly situation; so I did my best to bury it. With the burying of my hurt though, I started to drown myself too. I spent many days covering the gifts that God equipped me with, determined to never allow someone to hurt me again. Instead of radiating joy, compassion, and gentleness- I hid myself in layers of sadness, shame, and anger. It wasn’t until I hit an unexpected low of raging anger through a panic attack that I chose to pray into my pain of being sexually assaulted by someone I considered to be a good friend. As God unveiled those jagged blankets of protection I casted upon myself, He took my hand and began leading me into my freedom. At first, I only slowly inched forward. I extenuated the situation in my mind in attempt to relieve some of the intense emotions I experienced. It took weeks to turn my resistance around into acceptance. And once I hit that milestone- again it took excessive tears, long therapy sessions, fits of rage, and even throwing things to allow acceptance to meet the beginning of healing. It was ugly. Some days I felt angry for the injustice, some days I simply felt sad for myself, and others were spent feeling frustrated at being 'stuck' in a season of healing. My emotions took deep root in pain and felt too heavy to bring before anyone. But in my brokenness is where God spoke softly to me and held me together. He gently took apart my defense mechanism so that His love could flow freely.

It is through each shattered piece of my heart that God shed His light. He taught me to become acquainted with each step of the healing process. To stop and look around, to sit in the stinging pain when I felt it, to cry out to Him in it. On the days where I felt stuck and helpless, He sent people to sit in the mess and cry with me. On the days where I felt intense anger, He sent a dear friend to pray peace over me as I launched big rocks over a cliff in between my tears. On the days where I felt so frustrated with what felt like a lack of progress, He scattered little gifts of joy to sustain me. Currently, He is showing me how much He absolutely delights in me. And through this whole process, He has directed me to passages throughout scripture that tell beautiful stories of redemption and healing.

Sometimes I wish for this hurt to be gone. I wish I didn’t second guess people who try to love me through it. I wish little things wouldn’t set me off. I wish this wouldn’t scar my heart, and instead it would quickly disappear. But, this will be used for good. This pain that I have become so familiar with will one day allow me to walk with someone who has too, been broken. This suffering will not return void and the enemy can no longer dangle fear over my head. I know that God is piecing this story together to bring glory to His Kingdom. He has promised me His peace. Finding Him in this mess has been an long journey leading to many new places that are uncomfortable and sometimes scary. But never has He left my side and never has He given up on me. This is a journey that is leading me closer to Him. And I believe in the glorious freedom He has for me despite all of the lies that tried to chain me back.


Finding God In... CHRONIC PAIN

As I sit here trying to put into words my journey that has led me to this moment in time, I cannot help but be overwhelmed and brought to tears. Life can bring some unexpected, terrifying, and completely crazy experiences sometimes. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. For the past several years, I have struggled and suffered through many trials...all health related. I was the kid who was never sick. I was always on the go, involved in several things at a time, ran myself thin at times but could always bounce back with ease... until a sudden vertigo attack came out of nowhere (on my honeymoon in Mexico of all places!) Talk about scary! I didn't know if I was coming down with something or had eaten bad foreign food that was not setting right. Well, those attacks didn't go away once we returned home and in fact, they became worse with increasing symptoms that knocked me off my feet. Am I having a stroke? I remember thinking one day teaching my class of 2nd graders as my whole left side went numb briefly. After progressing symptoms and a new introduction to the feeling of extreme anxiety, I began to search for answers and visited numerous doctors. No one could really help me. Talk of migraines, hormones, thyroid, or stress and anxiety were mentioned and of course medication was recommended. But still no real answer. Now, at this point I had always considered myself a Christian...went to church, sang in choir, and read my Bible occasionally. But, I'd never had that strong, intimate connection with God that others spoke of. When I couldn't find answers to explain what was happening to me, I began to turn to my God. He started to lead me to doctors that were able to diagnose me with Chiari Malformation, a rare brain disorder that I was probably born with but never showed symptoms of until that dreadful day in Mexico. Confused yet relieved I had an answer, I continued to ask God to give me the strength to move forward with what to do about this scary thing going on in my head.

After years of MRI's and several other scary tests, I was finally blessed to find a specialist who decided to monitor my case until symptoms proved bad enough to require surgery. In the meantime, I became pregnant with our son and enjoyed the blissful and exciting nine months anticipating his birth. God showed His light throughout this pregnancy for sure. My loving, amazing husband and I had a strong relationship; we both had great jobs, and we were expecting our little boy. Although I continued to have symptoms, they were bearable and I found ways to cope. Noah was born...I had a tricky, long, painful labor and he was born early with minimal complications. I seemed okay.

Until I wasn't.

Symptoms returned, and anxiety rocketed. Doctors believed it was post-partum so I went with that. I remember thinking Lord, please help me through this.

It's crazy what motherhood does to you. You can go from being completely filled with joy praising God for His amazing blessings to crying uncontrollably for no reason. It was during those hard days, sometimes weeks that I began to notice I was struggling mentally. My body was beginning to do strange things. I experienced pain chronically and my thoughts began to be more focused on the negative, what ifs, and worst case scenarios. Still I clung to Him for strength...even though the layers of darkness were beginning to cast a shadow on my seemingly perfect life.

Another pregnancy 2 years later brought my beautiful daughter into our lives...but the overwhelming intense labor of pushing for 2 hours with a 9 lb baby unknowingly made my brain problem significantly worse overnight. Needless to say, I should have had a c-section. Scary symptoms and severe anxiety began to take over and blanket my now mama of 2 gorgeous babies life. More darkness... Still I clung to Him for hope. I was not going to give in to the darkness and fear. My Lord carried me through, some of those days I have no idea how.

After getting to the point of debilitating symptoms and only the grace of God carrying through my days, 18 months after my daughter was born, I faced the decision to go through with brain surgery....7 hours away from home, saying goodbye to my kids not knowing how I would be returning home to them, and putting my life in God's hands (through my surgeon.) I did it. I remember feeling so out of my own body on the drive to Milwaukee, the prep op visits, and preparing for the scariest moment of my life. Watching the worry on my parent's faces, as they tried to be strong for me, clinging to my husband with tears of utter disbelief this was my reality, and questioning God if this truly was what He had planned for me (to be healed of these symptoms that were ruining my life.)

Then, that early morning before my surgery I experienced that peace that people talk about. Praying pretty much the whole night before due to insomnia, I somehow knew that all was well. That He was in control. The next 18 months were long, slow, and at times doubtful and terrifying. However, I can honestly say that I found my true relationship with God. I began journaling and having deep conversations with Him about how this would all play out. But I still kept a tight grasp on trying to control it all. And as much as I said I was giving it all to Him, I wasn't fully in my heart. Until one day, I remember the exact place and time...I did. I surrendered my brain healing process to my Heavenly Father. And I began to see a big turn-around and a peace I couldn't describe.

Fast forward through the next 5 was pretty darn good. I got a new part time job, we moved houses, we found our church home, our marriage became stronger...and although I still had some residual symptoms, I considered myself recovered and in a good place. I began to sing again, one of my true passions, and it made a huge difference in my life. Then, we became pregnant again! Equally excited and nervous about facing a pregnancy, labor, and delivery post brain surgery and the risk of having problems return, my doctor suggested a c-section with our 3rd daughter. It was a great experience with no complications for either of us, and I now had another perfect, healthy baby girl. God continued to bless our lives everyday we discovered what life was like as a family of 5. Life was good.

This past fall I began another new job. All was going just fine until I woke up needing an emergency root canal from extreme tooth pain. Not knowing at all what was to come following this fairly routine procedure, I had it done and returned home a couple hours later. That night, I began to feel so so strange and ill. After trying to stick it out for a couple days, I contacted my dentist and he thought I was having an allergic reaction to the strong antibiotic given to me following the root canal. He told me to stop taking it. That didn't help. I continued to feel awful. I couldn't eat (would gag every time I would try), I couldn't sleep, began having extreme panic attacks, my heartrate and blood pressure were elevated on a regular basis, I suffered from heart palpitations, etc. Many scary symptoms that kept getting increasingly worse started landing me in the ER... still with now answers. I kept trying to push myself to work. Inside I started to feel the internal battle coming back. I began to feel those layers of darkness suffocating me.

What was happening? The Lord seemed so far away. I would cry out...praying for relief but would never see it. After speaking to some friends, talk of Lyme disease came up with a reference to a doctor who treats it. No way I thought. But then I did remember that tiny tick bite I had found the previous summer. Well, long story short. Yep. I diagnosed with Lyme. And not only that, but several other co-infections associated with Lyme. I remember thinking, Are you kidding me? Another bizarre medical problem. Great.

The next four months was a blur. I dropped 35 pounds, suffered from severe anxiety and depression, and completely detached myself from reality. It was terrifying. As I began treatment, I actually started to feel worse leaving me stricken with intense fear all day everyday. Is this all really true? Is this treatment hurting me? Will I ever return to normal? Dear dear God, why aren't you helping me? I can honestly say those four months were the scariest of my life. Yes, even scarier than brain surgery.

So now we've arrived at today- I now have eight weeks left of treatment. Am I healed 100%? No. Will I ever be? God only knows that answer. But I do know that I am changed. I thought I had surrendered my life to Him that day years ago recovering from my surgery. Now I KNOW I have.

Jesus is my everything. In the midst of terror, sorrow, mental illness, and my body giving out on me...HE was there. He was there in the smile on my baby girl's face and her snuggle, He was there in my laughing kids playing outside together, He was there in the warm embrace of my husband, He was there in the reassuring, multiple conversations with mom and dad, He was there in the texts, cards, donations, willingness to help from friends and family, He was there as tears streamed down my face during worship in church. He was always there. Jesus has shown me the Light. That light to keep going, to persevere through the unbearable moments and days, and to keep fighting for my kids, my family. He is restoring my joy. I feel it. I am able to seek Him and find happiness even on the hard days. I read an article the other day about seeing the flowers in life instead of the weeds. And I am so so grateful that through the love of God, I am able to do that more and more everyday. Each day, that's all we can do anyway. Each moment. My husband said to me the other night, The only time we are truly living is when we see the good of our soul reaching out and connecting with the soul of those around us. That is my goal, that is my purpose. To connect with any and every person in my life in the most positive way I can. God has carried me through many layers of darkness for a reason, a purpose...and it's now my turn to begin to find that purpose and do my very best to live for Him, every moment of every day.

Filled to the Brim

Any cup-hoarders out there? If you are anything like me, I love me a cute cup. Mugs in particular. Being an avid coffee drinker and a nurse to boot, I have my fair share of cups to go around. We have more than my family needs, but I just can't seem to part with many of them. Whether given to my by a friend for a birthday, or purchased during a special trip, many of my cups hold significance to me and it is rare that I part with them. I especially love my mugs that have an encouraging word or scripture written on them. In addition to the caffeine inside, often the words on the outside are just as mood-boosting for me. More often than not, my morning cup of coffee energizes mind, body, and soul.

Walking around with a full cup is no small thing. Navigating small children, desks, carpet, animals, co-workers, traffic, with a cup filled to the brim is quite the undertaking. It takes patience and no small amount of concentration to keep all the liquid inside. Add in contents that are scalding hot or can permanently stain and the stakes are raised even more. We have to be so careful!

Now take our spiritual life- our 'insides' if you will. A cup (our physical, visible testimony) that has beautiful wording, or a fantastic saying, scripture, or lovely pictures on the outside, can still spill horrible liquid right? When bumped or pushed, knocked around or dropped... it doesn't matter one bit what the outside of that cup looks like... the fallout will involve the contents on the inside. Hot coffee will spatter and burn anything around it. Red Kool-aid will stain anything it touches, often permanently. It doesn't matter what the cup looks like- when things get dicey, the damage done is dictated by what is on the inside.

Dear ones, I hope you see the parallels here. Faking this Christian walk can only be so successful. The prettiest, most pious, 'Christ-like' exterior and actions are simply that.... exterior. Sooner or later when adversity strikes, be it getting cut off in traffic, being betrayed by a friend, or something much worse, those 'bumps' will always spill out what is truly on the inside. What your reaction to these bumps is will spill what is truly in your heart.

Do you spill grace, mercy, forgiveness? Or wrath, anger, frustration, curses, revenge?

Matthew 6:21 tells us, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

Contents of your character will always overshadow the exterior vessel. I challenge you today to take a good look at what you are filled with. What does the content of your heart look like? You're filled to the brim with it... is it Jesus or something a bit more destructive? The splatter will most definitely affect all those around you... will is scald and stain or edify them? Only you have control of this.

Jesus warns us that He doesn't care a wit about our exteriors... only what the condition of our hearts are. He will come for our hypocrisy, make no mistake.

Mark 12:38-40 And in His teaching He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

My prayer for all of us today is that when tried and tested our inner contents will spill Jesus all over the place. We cannot be perfect every time, but we can change our reactions with help from our Great King!

In a World of a Thousand Yeses, What are You Saying No to?

If I were to take a quick look at your schedule what would I see? Basketball games, employee meetings, church, PTA meetings, bills due, doctors appointments? Our lives are nothing if not a culmination of a thousand scheduled moments- each one individually agreed to and committed on. Each entry chosen to be a part of our life, however big or small. Let’s face it, we’re all over-extended. We are too committed. We have such a hard time saying no.

To often there is just too much. Too much to choose from, too much to entertain, too much to be a part of, too much to do... and simply not enough time to do it. We over-exert, over-emphasize, over-do, and over-commit.

In this frantic world we race here and there, agonizing over trying to fit it all in. We over promise and usually under-deliver... simply because we just. cannot. stop. doing. stuff.

A quick look at our calendar shows a soul woefully busy but a life, I would imagine, woefully empty of meaning.

Too often we strive to fill our lives with purpose. We want to spend time on important things, we ache to fill our days with that which is weighty and worthwhile. But all too often, in order to fit it all in, we drop the very things that actually hold eternal ties.

Question: When things get busy and you find yourself exhausted- too tired to do anything else... too worn out to commit to one more thing... what ‘goes’? Looking at that calendar, what is crossed out? What do you see as the most expendable? What is lowest on the level of importance?

What we do and spend time on is perhaps the fastest and most honest way of assessing where our hearts desires lie. Does that devotional get left behind? What about that Tuesday night prayer team? Do you cut out Sunday school because it’s just too hard to get there on time? How about spending time discipling or being discipled?

What goes first when the chopping block of exhaustion comes out?

I challenge you today to take a look at your schedule and determine what you are devoted to. Ask God to take any blinders off regarding how you spend your time and energy. When you’re over-extended, look at what is sacrificed on the Alter of Constraint. What activities lie on top of it? These are what you are telling yourself, your spouse, your children, your friends, your world.... are the least important- the most worthless. Let the Lord look over with you the priorities in your days and readjust (as He enlightens) areas that need a refocus and rededication. Let your yeses be eternal- of weighty consequence. Let your no’s merely temporal- a passing of the wind.

Acts 2:42-47 ESV And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Press In

My husband and I attended a marriage retreat this last weekend and the speaker told a story that hit me profoundly. He told of a time when he was sick, discouraged, mad, frustrated... and he purposefully turned all his angst and venom towards his wife. He knew his words would hurt her... he spoke them anyway, admittedly trying to hit as deeply as he could. Her response was to come in from the next room, take him in her arms, and hold him. "I don't know what's up with you right now. I know you're trying to hurt me. I still here and I'm not going anywhere." Stick around Christian groups, meetings, sermons, or books long enough and you'll eventually hear this idea of 'pressing into Jesus'. For those that might be new to the faith, often times we're not great at giving real-life application to these church-y sayings. Yet, this man's story gave me a visual of exactly what to 'press in' looks like.

This sweet wife, in the face of discouragement... even attack you could argue, pressed IN. She pressed towards her attacker. She shortened the ground between them. She moved closer to the fight. Even with the very real possibility of more harsh words, total rejection, perhaps physical wrath- she pressed in.

Just like Jesus.

When assaults come our way there's usually two responses. At worst we attack back. Words are exchanged, sometimes blows are thrown; we match the assault- thought for thought, word for word, fist for fist. We FIGHT! At best, when we are confronted with criticism, ridicule, bullying, back-stabbing, anger, rage, attack... at best we step back and throw up all manner of defense. We COWER.

Self-preservation is an interesting thing- even spiritually. Fight or Flight.

Jesus did neither. He exemplified a third option. Jesus PRESSED IN! To attack, criticism, anger, frustration, deceit, betrayal, even to death... he pressed closer to his enemies. He didn't run, he didn't cower, he didn't stab back, he didn't mince words. He stepped towards, he moved forward, he wrapped arms around, he pressed in- and loved harder. He loved closer. He loved better.

There was no self-preservation about Jesus.

Even at the moment of his betrayal, by a trusted disciple no less, knowing this arrest would ultimately lead to his death, Jesus showed this kind of love. "...Jesus asked him, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?' When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, 'Lord, should we strike with our swords?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And He touched the man's ear and healed him." Luke 22: 48-51 NIV

What an example! What a lovely picture of what pressing in really looks like. What or who in your life today dear one needs to be loved closer. Who has betrayed you? Press in. Are you under attack? Press in. What is beating you down? Press in. Don't step back, don't swing out, fight the instinct of self-preservation and take the third option... the Jesus option.

Pressing in to these situations, just as Christ did, enables you to press in to God more as well. Each step takes you closer to the nature of Jesus and isn't that what this is all about?

PRESS IN today dear one!

Losing What You Never Had

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. We're almost done dear ones! This is the last part of our Jonah series! I pray you've been encouraged, convicted, and refined through our Bible study of this wayward prophet. We looked through Jonah's hissyfit in our last installment. I pray that my attitude is never quite so juvenile as Jonah's, however I'd best not look too closely...

Let's take a final look at the God's goodness and His sovereign will in the last chapter of Jonah.

 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah is angry at God. As we saw in the last installment, he's throwing a hissyfit when things didn't go as planned. And yet, in this passage we see God still providing good, rest, respite to him... even in the midst of his disobedience and angst. God made a shade vine grow over him. His grace overflowed in a very physical way- and Jonah relished in it.

He was refreshed- and yet a change of heart didn't occur despite God's provision. Has God ever provided goodness, even in the midst of your disobedience? How did you respond... with joy and heartfelt change of attitude? Or perhaps with continued selfish entitlement? How often are your feelings affected by whether things are going well or not?

The shade ended, the hot winds blew once again... and Jonah sank further into his resentment of God, even going so far as to say "I'm so angry I wish I were dead." Whoa! Ungrateful much?!

Jonah demonstrates here what so many of us still struggle with today. This strange idea of entitlement, that God somehow owes us something. That the good things in life we deserve and are owed. I liken it to my children at Christmas- they wake up and find presents under the tree for them. They don't necessarily deserve them, they've been lovingly picked out just for them just because I love them. They surely didn't earn or pay for them, they were purchased with my money through my hard work. The gifts are freely given... and often (depending on their behavior) they are freely taken back. How often after receiving a great present have I found my boys fighting over them, resulting in me taking them back for a time. They pitch a fit, they cry hysterically, they bemoan how unfair it is that I took "their" toy away. How quickly possession occurs in their little minds. What they do not understand is that me, as 'sovereign' mom, gave them that toy and I can just as quickly take it away.

You see the picture here? As the scripture states, the shade provided Jonah was not of his doing, it was God's grace. It was not tilled or nurtured by him, it was through God's gardening that it grew. It was God's gift to give and to take away. Yet so quickly after it appeared Jonah claimed it as his own- his very own, his precious (cue Gollum voice...)

How quickly do you claim God's goodness in your life as your 'own'... your deserved gift? How quickly do you close your fist around the present He gives you, and cry out in frustration and angst when He takes it away? Health, wealth, children, cars, houses, possession, spouses, everything. We received NOTHING of our own volition. It is ALL through the Father. His to give, His to take away.

Unlike Jonah, who received a stern reprimand from God about his attitude, dear ones we must learn to hold our palms open at all times to the Holy One- both in the receiving of His gifts, but also in the easily giving back to Him when He takes away.

It's all by His hands that we give and receive. Let us keep open hands and open hearts in the good times and the bad.

Spiritual HissyFits

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans.  We've got 2 lessons left to go- stay with me! There's SO MUCH good stuff in Jonah! I hope you're learning as much as I am! Click here for lessons one, two, three, and four! YAY! Ninevah's been saved! As we read last time, they all (from top to bottom) repented and mourned. They changed their ways and God relented from His promised destruction. What an awesome thing! What a glorious testament to God's power! What bragging rights Jonah just earned for listening and obeying! I'd be strutting around with bells on proclaiming what a marvelous thing just occurred!

Pretty sure Jonah was too... (4:1-3) "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry {wait... what?!?!} He prayed to the Lord, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

If I didn't know better, I'd say Jonah just threw himself a spiritual hissy-fit. (For being a bit of a fraidy-cat, the man clearly had no worries confronting the God of the universe....yikes!) It is fascinating to me how, at the pinnacle of his success, Jonah is wallowing in his own selfishness; he was actually MAD about God forgiving them! And this from a man who not 2-seconds earlier in the story was himself running away from God. I'm guessing he didn't see the parallels in his own life...

As much as I'd love to point fingers at our wayward prophet's hypocrisy here, three more would be pointing back at me. I'm not going to belabor the obvious point. Rather let's do some self-evaluation-

The question here is this, what "Nivevites' in your life are causing you to stumble and throw a spiritual hissy-fit? Who has done you wrong, or what enemy do you have that has found God... and how do you feel about it? Anyone come to mind? How are you taking the news of their repentance- with skepticism, with joy, with anger (like Jonah), with thanksgiving?

I admit there's been a few over the years that I had a hard time accepting into God's family. It's just the truth. But as we'll read about in the next installment, the problem of dealing with our new family-members lies directly with us... in our hearts, between us and God. Meditate on the following for a bit and search your thoughts (and more pointedly, your behavior!) on them...

Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Start working on that now dear ones- search your heart and get it right with God. Instead of Jonah, use the Ninevites as your example. Hear the word of the Lord and repent, confess, and make it right with Yahweh. I'm right there with you!