November 24, 2017

 “But Jonah thought it was utterly wrong, and he became angry.”  Jonah 4:1 (CEB)

Have you ever been obstinate? One time when I was about eight years old my parents told me I had to eat my helping of lima beans before I could leave the dinner table. I didn’t like lima beans. I became obstinate. According to Merriam-Webster obstinate is stubbornly adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion. Yep, that was me that night. My parents believed that providing lima beans for their children was a good and virtuous thing which would assist in our growing into healthy adults. I held to a different opinion that lima beans are disgusting and no child should be subjected to eating them as a part of an otherwise delicious meal. In this one instance in my life my obstinance won. I sat at the table until well after nine o’clock when my parents dismissed me from the table and sent me straight to bed. My parents had one idea, but Tim had another.

God wanted to save lost people. God wanted to use Jonah to let the people know that God wanted to save them. But Jonah! Jonah was obstinate! He just flat out did not like God’s idea. He understood it in principle and even knew it was God’s nature to save people. Jonah just did not like the idea at all. In fact, he says it would be better for him to be dead than to live and see these evil people spared. Jonah wanted God’s mercy and grace and love for himself, even for the people he loved and liked. But Jonah didn’t want it for the people he believed didn’t deserve it.

The best part of the fourth chapter of The Book of Jonah is the little phrase, “But God!” Twice in this short chapter there is a “but Jonah” moment. How grateful I am that there are also two “But God” moments to counteract Jonah. Jonah objected, got angry and had a pity party. But God did what God does ... continue to show grace, love and mercy especially when we don’t necessarily deserve it. How amazing is it that we have a God who counteracts our sin. The world was dead in its own sinfulness, but God sent Jesus to take away the sins of the world. I, for one, am glad we serve a God of buts!

So this Thanksgiving weekend we should ask ourselves how many times our story has been of “but me” or a story of “but God!” I pray that we will all be thankful for the many ways that God has broken in and done what only God can do in our lives. We all face difficult times where the circumstances seem overwhelming and even hopeless. Just remember those times do not define us, but God does! We serve an amazing God and we have an amazing Savior in Jesus! We should all be thankful indeed!

This Sunday we conclude our series on Jonah with Dave Jans preaching. I pray that everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see you in church.

November 17, 2017

 “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” Jonah 3:5a CEB

Almost exactly four years ago Debbie and I purchased the car I now drive. At the time it was a new 2013 Honda Pilot. We had done a pretty good amount of research and narrowed it down to about three different vehicles in which we were interested. We ended up choosing the Honda Pilot because we thought it would last the longest as we intend to keep the vehicle as long as possible. I have to say, four years later, I really love the vehicle. As soon as we made the decision and drove it off the lot I began experiencing something I believe you may have experienced as well. All of a sudden Honda Pilots were everywhere! I may have noticed a few of them prior to our purchase, but afterward they seemed to be all over the place. Have you ever had this experience?

When I read the scripture passage for this week I had a similar thought about the people of Nineveh. No, I don’t think they saw Honda Pilots everywhere. I do believe that when Jonah finally showed up in Nineveh and told them what God had asked him to, something changed. The Scripture records it this way, “And the people of Nineveh believed God.” I don’t think it was any kind of spell that Jonah cast over the people of Nineveh. I believe that Jonah confronted them with their sin and they had to do something. They could either believe that Jonah was a messenger from God or they could dismiss him as crazy. As they are confronted with their own sin they realize that they must change. They choose to believe God! Have you ever had this experience?

So here is what I believe … when we are confronted with our own sin it changes us. As the people of Nineveh were confronted with their own sin it changed them – one by one. As individuals began to turn away from their sin and turn to God others would look around and be confronted with their sin and choose to turn away from their sin and turn to God as well. It’s as if a whole city had gotten sucked into the belief that what they were doing was acceptable. This is why God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh. God wanted Jonah to expose their sin and hold them accountable. Once they were confronted with their sin the Scripture tells us, “They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest among them to the least significant (translation – everyone).” Everyone’s eyes were open to see that their sin was upsetting God and they all turned from their sin and believed God. Because Jonah was finally faithful and finally followed God the whole city believed God. The whole city was spared and God received the glory.

Perhaps one of the lessons Jonah’s story is teaching us is to open our eyes. God may very well be placing us in situations, circumstances, and places in life so we can help others open their eyes. It may also be that God is placing us in situations, circumstances, and places in life so that our eyes may be opened. It is possible that we can be both the people of Nineveh and Jonah. We all have sin we need to confess and turn away from and we all have people we can influence for Christ. The key is to keep our eyes open and believe God. God will send a Jonah in order for us to open our eyes, but God may also ask us to be someone else’s Jonah as well.

This Sunday we continue the message series on the book of Jonah. Jennifer Blessing will help us understand the result of following God’s call. I am sure this will be a great message for all of us. There is no greater purpose in life than to follow God. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

November 10, 2017

“I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death.” Jonah 2:6 CEB

When I was in elementary school I was privileged to go through training to become a Junior Lifesaver. We had to demonstrate our ability to swim, learn how to rescue people if they were in trouble, and learn how to do all of this without endangering ourselves in the process. Those who were running the class had us swim for distance, dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a dummy, and hold our breath for as long as we possibly could. They also taught us some great techniques and what to watch for around the water. One of the toughest tests they gave us was treading water. They did not have us tread water in our swim trunks. No, they had us tread water for 10 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all. At first it was pretty easy, just like treading water in your swim trunks. With every minutes that passed it became more difficult. My clothes took on more and more water until they were completely saturated. Not only were they saturated they were also very, very heavy. In fact, they started dragging me down. I had to fight exponentially more to keep my head above the water. I am happy to say I survived and earned my Junior Lifesaver status and card.

I know what it’s like to feel as though you are literally sinking. No matter how hard you try, you still feel like you are sinking. Have you ever felt that way? A lot of people may not have experienced that literal sinking feeling, but almost everyone has felt that sinking feeling in another way. When we are overwhelmed with life and circumstances it can certainly give us that sinking feeling. It’s as if there is water that is rising higher and higher until it is way over our head. We have to begin treading water and with every minute we tread water it gets more and more difficult. Have you ever had this kind of overwhelming feeling in your life? Did you know that sometimes we are creating this feeling? Sometimes we are the very reason that we are experiencing this overwhelming, sinking feeling. We are trying to tread water as if the whole thing depended on our ability to stay afloat.

Let me explain by asking another question … how often do we truly consult God on our agenda for the day, week, month, year, or life? We may pray, read Scripture, go to church, be in a Life Group even. Do we really bring God into the planning process for our day? So many of us shoot up a quick prayer like, “God help me follow you today.” We don’t truly seek God’s agenda, instead we invite God to be a part of our agenda. We want God to sign off on and bless what we have planned. I believe that when we do this we are resisting God’s will for our life. We are starting with our agenda and not seeking what God has in store for us. God does not want us to resist, God wants us to respond. We are to respond to the call that God has placed on our life and follow where God leads.

Jonah resisted God’s call and thought he knew what was better for him. It didn’t work out for him so well. He began to have that literal sinking feeling. He thought he was doomed to death by drowning. God had a different plan. God made a different way for Jonah and saved him. God saved Jonah because he had a call on Jonah’s life. What call does God have on your life? If you are not certain about that, the first step may be looking to see if you are resisting God. I can assure you that when we stop resisting and respond to God’s call amazing things happen. I pray that we all respond to God’s call to follow after Him and avoid resisting. That’s when God’s amazing call comes to full fruition in our life.

This Sunday we continue the message series on the book of Jonah. Susan Lewis will help us understand the cost of resisting God’s call. What a privilege to know that God calls us to follow and be a part of the divine plan of redemption for the world. There is no greater place to be than to follow God. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

November 3, 2017

“The sailors were terrified, and each one cried out to his god. They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to make it lighter. Now Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel to lie down and was deep in sleep.”   Jonah 1:5 CEB

Many years ago, about this time of year, I was facing outpatient sinus surgery. We scheduled the surgery and the date was fast approaching. This would be my first surgery and I really did not know what to expect. I remember waking up in recovery with ice on my face and the doctor telling me everything went very well. To this day I have little to no recollection of the several days following that surgery. The doctor prescribed me a very high-priced pharmaceutical pain reliever, which I was sure to take. It was such a good pain reliever that it literally knocked me out cold for several hours at a time. I would wake up about 20 minutes before I was due for the next dose and then get knocked out again. I have joked that it was the Thanksgiving that time forgot, for me anyway. There is even a Thanksgiving family picture that I slept through that year.

I believe that it is possible to be so oblivious that we sleep right through some of the happenings in our life. Of course, I do not mean literally. I mean there are times where we are so comfortable with our life that we miss the things going on around us. There are times when we are so tunnel visioned that we cannot see the world in which we live. Has this ever happened to you? You are so focused on your life, or an area in your life, that you lose sight of everything else? It could be a season at work when you had to give extra hours, attention, and effort. During that time all else seems fuzzy or faded into the distance. We all have times in life where this happens. The key is to not stay oblivious.

Jonah received a call to follow God and serve God. Jonah flat did not like the call and felt God had dialed a wrong number. So Jonah made plans to head in the exact opposite direction. He headed off on his plan, knowing that it was not what God wanted for him. Jonah was so focused on his plan and believed it was the best thing for him. Jonah thought his plan was way better than God’s plan. He was so sure of this and comfortable with what he was doing that he fell asleep in the middle of a huge storm at sea. In other words, Jonah became oblivious. In chapter one of Jonah it says that God sent the storm through which Jonah was sleeping. God sent the storm to get Jonah’s attention and Jonah was oblivious. He was asleep in the bottom of the ship, oblivious.

We need to be on guard to becoming oblivious to God’s call to follow. God calls us to follow in many ways and many times a day, week, month, and year. We need to be alert and make sure that we are not deciding to go our own way. We need to make sure we don’t start believing that we know better than God and that our way is the better way. As silly as it sounds … we all have done this and will probably do it again. The important thing to remember is that God calls us to follow. It may not always look like the way we would choose to go, but it is the right way to go. God’s call to follow is not a call to safety and comfort. God calls us to be obedient, not oblivious.

This Sunday we begin a new message series on the book of Jonah with the message "The Call to Follow." The message will help us remember that God calls every one of us to follow. What a privilege to know that God calls us to follow and be a part of the divine plan of redemption for the world. There is no greater place to be than to follow God. I look forward to sharing this message with you Sunday. God is at work at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

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Pastor Tim Machtel