Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 2)

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 Disobedience and Repentance in Jonah

When we left Jonah last week, he had boarded a ship in a feeble and hopeless attempt to run away from God and his calling. We often talk about people hitting rock bottom – Jonah has epitomized this metaphor. After receiving the word from God, he has gone nowhere but down. He went down to Joppa, down into the ship, down into the sea, and his redemption has carried him down to the bottom of the deepest sea. Jonah can go no lower. The voice of God has left the prophet, but the presence of God remains. In Jonah’s prayer, we find his repentant heart and have an opportunity to learn something very rich about what it means to repent of our disobedience to God’s will.

Accept God’s discipline. In business, in relationships, and in finances, we know this to be true. Take your medicine. When we see that we have made a mistake, we know that consequences will come. But this time, unlike times before, maybe those consequences can be outrun. It doesn’t work. It never works. And trying to outrun what is coming has only shown to make things worse. But we run. We turn tail and run away from the discipline we cannot avoid. Spiritual matters are no different. Discipline will come when we disobey God’s call. We will be better served and more quickly able to move on when we acknowledge our disobedience, repent of our sin, and accept the discipline that comes from what we have done. Only then can true healing begin.

Trust God’s promises. The path of least resistance is skepticism. It is the most comfortable and most chosen path. Trusting in God’s promises requires a great measure of faith. It is most difficult to act on what we know, because the promise has not yet been fulfilled when we are called to action. But God’s promises are rich and glorious. Read through Jonah’s prayer in Jonah chapter 2. It is littered with remorse and repentance. However, mingled in the despair is the acknowledgment of a faithful God who keeps his promises. Jonah goes all the way back to Solomon’s dedication of the temple to call on God’s faithfulness and mercy.

Yield to God’s will. Ultimately, we have to do what we should have done in the first place. The call didn’t change for Jonah, and it probably won’t change for you either. But, like Jonah, you will always be offered another chance to act on your repentance and yield to God’s will. If we have truly trusted in God’s promises, we will likely see no other choice but to do just this.

Embrace God’s redemption. This may be the most difficult part of the whole process of repentance. It can seem impossible to understand how far God has come for us. It is difficult to wrap our minds around God’s redemption. We find it inconceivable that God, as good, holy, and majestic as we know he is, would be able to look beyond our own failures and even our rebellion against him, and find us worthy of his love. But he does exactly that. It is the promise of a faithful God that when we have yielded to his will and repented of our disobedience, we receive redemption from our Creator. If he does not hold this against us, why should we then hold ourselves hostage to sin that has already been put aside.

Read Jonah’s prayer again. Write it in your heart. Learn how to pray an earnest prayer of repentance. Trust in God’s promises and act on his faithfulness. Yield to the will of the Father and embrace – truly embrace – the redemption the Almighty God.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

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Evangelism, Narcissism, and Mission (Pt 1)

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 God’s Love For the Lost in Jonah

Jonah is one of those prophets we know little about. We really only know of one major episode in his life as a prophet. We know his father and his hometown, Ammitai of Gath-Hepher, but of his prophetic message to Israel, we are unenlightened. However, the one narrative we have of his life is deep and rich with application and character.

God loves all humanity and pursues the lost. Not that this is really earth-shattering news. However in the story of Jonah, the fact that God pursues ALL humanity becomes a striking reality. He is not, in this case, looking after a lost sheep or a straying child. He is pursuing a sworn enemy, the vilest offender of human decency, and the most wicked people known to man at the time. And he is asking Jonah to be his ambassador.

We are called to share our faith even when we don’t want to. My gut instinct is to resist all inclinations that my response to God’s command could ever rival Jonah’s. I would like to think I am better than that. But, while I have never boarded a ship and set sail in the opposite direction of the urging of the Spirit, I have certainly acknowledged what God was asking me to do yet kept my mouth shut. And isn’t that really the same thing? When we are faced with situations where God is calling us to do something so brazen, so bold, and so counter to our desire, we too frequently choose rebellion.

In our rebellion, we ignore God’s call. We may think we are better than Jonah because we aren’t literally running away from God, but our offense in ignoring the call is equally as sinful. Maybe it would be better if we had run away. At least then we wouldn’t have fooled ourselves into thinking everything was okay. We convince ourselves that no harm is done when we overlook a divine opportunity to impart the knowledge of a Savior and the grace of The Creator to those who are lost and in need of such. In our refusal, we endorse their condemnation and participate in the advancement of the reign of evil.

In our rebellion, we become a curse rather than a blessing. From the time of Abraham’s covenant, the people of God are a promised blessing to the world at large. It is a shame when children of God who have been offered entry into the presence of God by the mercy and sacrifice of Jesus Christ become messengers of destruction and condemnation instead of forgiveness and acceptance. The Gospel is a blessing, not a curse, to all of humanity. It is a blessing to our neighbors and to our family. It is a blessing to those we agree with and those with whom we differ. It is a blessing to those whom our culture embraces and also to those who are despised. And we are called to take the Gospel even to those whom we might call enemies.

May we have the maturity to discern the voice of the Spirit of the Almighty God when it calls us out into the world to bring the message of salvation and purpose. May we have the courage to shun the temptation and emotion of our fleshly desires. And may we have the boldness stay near to the will of God especially when the road we are called to travel looks most difficult.

Joshua Fowler

Joshua is the preaching minister at the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA

If you enjoyed reading, please click the share icons found at the top and bottom of the page to share on social media.

If you would like to join our mailing list, please click here.

The Attributes of the Godhead

The Attributes of the Godhead

We recently finished a study of 2 Corinthians on Wednesday nights at Rockville. The last verse of the letter is a closing blessing that Paul is sending to his Christian family in Corinth:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)

Even in this heartfelt closing to a letter we find profound theology. All 3 persons of the godhead are mentioned along with an attribute that maybe best captures what each provides:

 

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What I Want vs. What God Wants

What I Want vs. What God Wants

Over the last few days and weeks, I've debated on what I should write, how I should write it, and if I should share it. Today the culmination of those answers come to fruition in a blog titled, "What I Want/What God Wants." Every church and ministry comes with its own set of problems, culture, dynamics which in turn makes each congregation unique. Every youth group is uniquely different based up on the students and families that are involved (or not that involved). So, what I want to share with you is what I would like to see in a Youth Ministry (no matter where I'm located) and the compare it to what God wants to see in us. 

I want a Youth Ministry that:

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Yahweh the Incomparable

Yahweh the Incomparable

“Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.” (1 Kings 8:23)

The context: Solomon is praying to God that He may dwell in His temple in Jerusalem at this dedication ceremony of the new temple. 

The cultural context: Israel is called to believe in and practice the worship of ONE God in stark contrast to the polytheism of each surrounding nation.

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How many miracles happen each year?

How many miracles happen each year?

Question: How many miracles happen per year?

Answer: To answer this question we must first have a better understanding of miracles. First, take an overall look at the miracles which happened in the New Testament. Are those those type of miracles happening today? Miracles were used for 4 purposes:

1. The first purpose of the miracles was to prove that Jesus is Deity/God. (John 1:1-3; 20:30; Acts 2:22). Why would John have made a record of these miracles, if Jesus were still performing miracles today? 

2. The second purpose of the miracles was to confirm God's word to those who heard (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:1-4).

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Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?

When we look around the world today, our vision seems to be clouded by negativity and just plain bad stuff. It seems that cancer is getting stronger and taking more of our loved ones, people are attacking one another, and violence is prevailing.  The world seems to be falling apart right beneath our feet. When all this is taking place we hear a few different things such as: 1.”pray for us” 2. “We’re praying for you” 3. “We need God” 4. “Where is God?” to name a few. I see so many hurting every day, and I have heard the statement, “If God is a loving and powerful God why is He allowing these things to happen?” John tells us in 1 John 4 that God is Love. John tells us that God is the definition of Love. If this is the case, the media sure does not make it seem that way.

I believe we use God as a scapegoat to cast all the blame on. Over the past few years I have looked in on the subject and have received serval bits of advice. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to give you some reasons that bad things happen. Although this list is not complete by any means, it may help you out!

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” – 1 Peter 4.12

If God is loving and powerful why do these things happen? Notice I did not say why does GOD make these things happen.

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Trusting God - All the Time

Trusting God - All the Time

Almost seven months ago, as you may know, I lost my mother suddenly and unexpectedly to death. One thing that we can expect in life is death, but we don't always know when it will occur or how (Romans 5:12). The events surrounding death and the days/years after can be a somewhat confusing time. It can be a detrimental time for people who especially are lacking in their faith.

It has not been an easy time, in particular, for myself. I struggle with questions that I will never get an answer to, the phone calls and texts that I can't make, the holidays that will forever be different, moments and new memories that won't be shared together, and I could go on and on.

Many people write blogs, lessons and sermons on what they learned through grief, so I naturally assumed I would have one of these, as well. I tried to force myself to write one a month or so after the funeral, to no avail. It wasn't until a few months ago that things began clicking. The next morning I sat reading different things and I came across an Instagram post with Psalm 55:22, "Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you..." Wow! What a powerful thought. As I think back, that was exactly what was happening. (I don't say this to boast) Despite my struggles with the mundane things of life and worldly desires, I have never questioned God as to why my mother had to leave this life.

TRUST GOD!

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Gaze at God, Glance at Life

Gaze at God, Glance at Life

It’s homecoming week here at Freed Hardeman and life on campus gets a little stressful. Every single day this week, we have something to do.  Although we started the week with a bonfire devotional to put our focus on things above, throughout the week we seem to choose to put our social clubs over everything else. We are so invested in our clubs; we scarcely sleep as we compete with other clubs.  We seem to always forget to read our Bibles, or just have a talk with God. But, homecoming week isn’t the only time we forget to talk to God.  We are constantly putting anything and everything ahead of God. 

God’s throne is not a loveseat. 

What I mean by this is that we can’t idolize something else and still have God first.  God is a jealous God, He doesn’t share.  Worldly things such as: technology, social media, jobs, friends, relationships, social clubs, shopping, all seem to rule our lives. We’re always gazing at life and only glancing at God when we need Him. 

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Serving 2 Masters

Serving 2 Masters

In Episode 4 of the "Connecting Covenants" podcast series, we talked a little bit about the biblical contrast of monogamy (Genesis 2) and polygamy (most of the rest of Genesis) and the problems that ensue with the practice of the latter. Today I thought I would share a humorous and relevant fable from the Greek storyteller Aesop about “The Man and His Two Wives”...

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What's Your Treasure?

What's Your Treasure?

My favorite time of the year begins on Thursday. The grass will be freshly cut. Lines will be painted. Logos will stretch across the 50 yard line and the name of you favorite team will be on display in each end-zone. Can you smell it? The smell of tailgating fills the air along with the sounds of fans as they gather to support their respective teams. It's time! Time for the marching band to play the fight song, cheerleaders to run with their team's flag, and for two teams to enter the coveted gridiron that we know as college football (Roll Tide)!

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Finding Comfort in Pain

Finding Comfort in Pain

You know, as a teenager, a lot of the time I can make a big deal out of nothing major. Then, when something major happens I’m just kind of in shock and can’t seem to fathom what’s actually going on. Although, there is one thing I can sure fire understand. I understand what pain is.

Now I’m not talking about physical pain, but more of a spiritual, emotional, and mental pain. Even at the pretty young age of 17/18, I have gained a firm grasp on the concept of pain. I know the heart wrenching feeling that comes with certain tough events in my life, and it causes an ache that sometimes just can’t seem to settle. From what feels like I’m failing God, to failing people closest to me, and even failing those who look up to me even if they aren’t able to see it, it causes an unbearable pain at times. And sometimes dealing with it is even harder.

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The Bubble of Christianity

I love camps, youth retreats, devotionals, church services and basically everything I can do in order to strengthen my faith and grow closer to God and other Christians. I dislike leaving each of these things for one main reason, I’m leaving the “bubble”.

We all know the bubble. We are in a secure, Christian environment, and while sin can still be present, it is practically invisible. Leaving the bubble means returning to a world of temptation and sin. Leaving the bubble means we are no longer surrounded by people who are as on fire for God as we are, and we are set apart from all of the Christians we have grown so close with. Camps come to an end, as do youth retreats, devotionals, and church services. Leaving the bubble is terrifying, but we have to endure it anyway.

How do we find comfort in leaving the bubble and going into the harsh, scary world of sin and great trials?

{Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” Hebrews 12:28} We as Christian’s are the unshakable kingdom. As we go throughout our days here on this earth, we will always have members of the Lord’s church here with us. We are never alone.

In Christian Love,

Rachel