Jonah and Jesus

The story of Jonah is so neat. Obviously, this is just a snapshot of his life. It doesn’t tell us everything about him. But, it’s what God chose to tell us. What’s so neat to me is the way that Jonah is described as essentially the direct antithesis of Jesus. Everything about Jonah’s perception of man and God and the relationship between man and God is the exact opposite of Christ. Thank God for that!

Here are the top five theological markers for Jonah and the “response” from Jesus.

Jonah: God can’t be bothered with this extreme type of evil that the Ninevites were consistently displaying.

Jesus: God can’t be bothered with any evil, including yours. But I’ll take care of it for everyone.

Jonah: Justice means people get what they deserve.

Jesus: You’re right. But I can’t live with that.

Jonah: The Ninevites are too bad for to receive forgiveness.

Jesus: If you knew how badly I wanted for you to be forgiven, then you wouldn’t think this way.

Jonah: It’s not fair to all the good people that they receive forgiveness.

Jesus: What good people? I only see forgiven people.

Jonah: It’s not fair to all the people that they have hurt.

Jesus: You might right. But I want you to see something.


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Do you have any passages that you just don’t like reading? It’s almost like whenever the opportunity comes up to watch The Passion of the Christ, I try to check out on that one. I’ve seen it once – at the obligatory church showing when it first came out on DVD. I know it’s powerful, and convicting and so needed in my life . . . but, I just struggle with dealing with the emotions that it brings out of me. It’s kind of a similar thing with some passages; and maybe it’s just me and my heathen nature, but I get real uncomfortable with Romans 7, really the last ten or so verses.

Check out this passage from The Message (don’t skip this and then starting reading my thoughts again, trust me).

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?”

Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

The Idol of Nationalism

“We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us…,” the Puritan John Winthrop wrote. The Puritans who disembarked in Massachusetts in 1620 believed they were establishing the New Israel. Indeed, the whole colonial enterprise was believed to have been guided by God. “God hath opened this passage unto us,” Alexander Whitaker preached from Virginia in 1613, “and led us by the hand unto this work.”

Promised land imagery figured prominently in shaping English colonial thought. The pilgrims identified themselves with the ancient Hebrews. They viewed the New World as the New Canaan. They were God’s chosen people headed for the Promised Land. Other colonists believed they, too, had been divinely called. The settlers in Virginia were, John Rolf said, “a peculiar people, marked and chosen by the finger of God.”

This self-image of being God’s Chosen People called to establish the New Israel became an integral theme in America’s self-interpretation. During the revolutionary period, it emerged with new force. “We cannot but acknowledge that God hath graciously patronized our cause and taken us under his special care, as he did his ancient covenant people,” Samuel Langdon preached at Concord, New Hampshire in 1788. George Washington was the “American Joshua,” and “Never was the possession of arms used with more glory, or in a better cause, since the days of Joshua, the son of Nun,” Ezra Stiles urged in Connecticut in 1783. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson wanted Promised Land images for the new nation’s Great Seal. Franklin proposed Moses dividing the Red (Reed) Sea with Pharaoh’s army being overwhelmed by the closing waters. Jefferson urged a representation of the Israelites being led in the wilderness by the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. Later, in his second inaugural address (1805), Jefferson again recalled the Promised Land. “I shall need…the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessities and comforts of life.”

The sense of divine election and the identification of the Americas with ancient Canaan were likely used to justify much of the dealings with Native Americans. And the experiences of multiple wars (and the great communal sacrifices during them) served to cement this nationalistic fervor in the psyche of the more recent generations.

I can’t help but wonder how this strong sense of nationalistic pride has affected the Christians in the United States?  As I reflect on my childhood and the strong relationships that did much to form me, I recognize an odd phenomenon that existed in my subconscious – to be an American was to be a Christian. What have I taken from this as it relates to how I treat people who are different from me, people who have different values or different cultural norms?

A short answer is that my sense of nationalism may have become an idol.

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Democracy and the Corruption of the CHurch

Vote on everything
Western churches vote on everything
not biblical
do parents take a poll with their children to decide if the would rather have green beans or french fries?
The Holy Spirit has gifted people with the spiritual giftedness. Part of that is shepherding the sheep. That means they should have the biblical discernment, wisdom to determine the best way to feed the sheep. And the fortitude to tell the sheep no – even when they whine or throw fits.

There was no voting in the bible – God lead the leader and the leader(s) lead the people.

Romans 12:1-2 isn’t just talking about girls wearing short shorts. It’s also speaks to this problem of nationalized forms of government invading the Church. When democracy invades the Church then people become their own shepherds and there really isn’t a need for any others.


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Tis the Season

Tis the season for . . .

Eating way too much, long lines at Wal-Mart, losing our religion at Wal-Mart and swearing we won’t do it next year (shopping at Wal-Mart that is), giving our kids gifts from Wal-Mart that they will only play with for a week, eating way too much (oops said that one already), precious time with people that we love dearly, time with people we barely love and setting the same goals that we set this time last year.

Well, maybe that’s not your season. Would you think less of me if I said it was mine? Yes, okay, it was just something I read somewhere. But, here’s my top ten list of things to accomplish – that I can’t afford not to follow through on.

1. Complete a year-long fast from soda. No, I’m serious, I’m done with soda.

2. Actually try to eat healthier. Notice I did say try.

3. Exercise at least three times a week.

4. Pray with my wife at least once a day.

5. Pray with my kids in the mornings before they go to school.

6. Actually be off work when I tell my kids I’m not working.

7. Pray with the sense of desperation that I feel in my heart and in the depths of my soul.

8. Consistently present messages that inform and inspire, not just one or the other.

9. Help lead my Church family to more authentic, purposeful and motivating worship during our Sunday morning assemblies.

10. Help lead my Church family to embrace our Vision, and in the process refuse to accept the status quo.

These are the things in my life that I want to accomplish, and I’m very serious about them. I haven’t put anything on my list that I don’t know that I can make happen. Let me say that in the positive. I will accomplish these objectives. I can’t afford not to. I’m ready to sacrifice in order to make them happen. I’m ready to re-prioritize my life so that these goals receive the necessary amount of attention and resources to make them happen.

What about you? What do you want to accomplish in your life. What changes to you want to make happen? What achievements do you want to experience? Just be sure no to plan for yourself to accomplish anything that you’re not willing to sacrifice for.

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