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

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

Dissonance

Dissonance

Music can teach some profound lessons. Because words fail to capture sounds, “Dissonance” is better heard than defined. You know it when you hear it. It’s a chord that seems chaotic instead of what most of us would call pleasing harmony. But musical pieces often use chords that are somewhat dissonant at strategic points in a symphony or even a pop or rock song. They may serve as a dark moment in a piece - perhaps punctuating the character of a villain in a film score. Or they may even build interest by creating suspense - capturing a moment of discord in the story - a question that is unresolved at the moment. 

An honest reading of the Bible from its beginning will reveal moments of dissonance - some tension in the text or unresolved questions.

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A Revolution of Love

A Revolution of Love

n Rodney Stark’s work on The Rise of Christianity, he chronicles some of the plausible factors that led to Christianity growing from a small Jewish sect in Jerusalem to the official religion of the empire in just 300 years. Have you ever considered the astronomical rate of conversion that must have taken place to spread a particular faith that rapidly without the use of the sword? We see evidence of “mass conversion” early in the preaching of the Gospel - 3,000 new converts during Pentecost (Acts 2:41), 5,000 more after another apostolic message some days later (Acts 4:4). But the number of those who at least claimed Christianity would grow to several million within just a few generations. An obvious factor was the commitment to evangelism among early Christians - the fact that most took their great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) quite seriously. But what did people actually find attractive about Christianity? Why were they convicted to make Christ their Lord? Of course the main appeal was an understanding of the significance of an atoning death for sin and a resurrection that defeated death. But Stark also uses historical and social research to assert some further reasons. Here are some of them...

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