Monday, July 10, 2017

A God of Second Chances and The Proper Response

I came home from a week in the 111 degree Tucson desert to have my granddog Ragnar with us for the day while his family was off to the beach. It was a cool 80 degrees when we went for a morning walk. Ragnar, a Siberian Husky, does not love the heat. He made it clear that two miles was his limit.

"You don't know heat," I chided him. Dry heat or not, 111 degrees is HOT. I dropped him home to finish out my walk, thinking how wonderful it is to have a granddog. None of the responsibility and all the joy of a dog.

After my walk we had an amazing sermon at church from a guest pastor. He spoke about the book of Jonah, but with a depth and clarity I had not heard before. Three points he made struck me. They mirrored concepts I voice often in my work at the sidewalks of the abortion center encouraging women that this pregnancy was not a disaster, but choosing to destroy their child surely was.

1. Jonah being swallowed by the "great fish" was NOT punishment. It was grace! Jonah was on a ship to Tarshish while running from God's presence when given a command he did not wish to fulfill. The sailors threw Jonah overboard to calm the raging storm when Jonah admitted that his God was probably ticked off and the one arousing the waves. In the middle of the tumultuous ocean, Jonah had NO hope of making it to shore on his own power. BUT GOD "appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah..." (Jonah 1:17)  It was God's gracious provision of the whale that carried him across the ocean and eventually spit him out on dry land. Being in the stinking gut of the whale saved his life.

Immediately I began thinking of how often I view calamity with the wrong lens. It might not be might be provision. I need to cogitate on that.

2. One wrong choice tends to lead to a series of wrong choices. The same is true of good choices. When Jonah chose to run from God, it endangered both him and the sailors on the ship in which he tried to escape. As the storm raged and the sailors were in a panic, Jonah was sleeping!

How often do we become immune to God's warnings and God's voice...dull our senses to the degree that we do not appreciate or respond to danger and sin!? This is another point I often make at the abortion center sidewalk. So many of these women have made terrible choices that move them further and further from God. Abortion, killing their own child, is not a choice probably any of them ever envisioned having to face one day, but that is the nature of bad choices. They tend to snowball until we have fallen so far from God that we are justifying unthinkable actions.

Blessedly, the opposite is true as well. One good choice tends to pave the way for the next good choice. Each moment with each new choice, we are given an opportunity. Will we move towards God or away from Him?

3. One of the greatest verses in the Bible that I had never really thought deeply about is in Jonah 3:
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

God is the God of second chances. Jonah had not only disobeyed God's command to go to Nineveh the first time, but ran away from the Lord, and admitted to the sailors that was what he was doing. Yet God didn't give up on Jonah. He gave Jonah another chance.

After church and that inspiring message, I hurried off to the river to kayak. I thought about all the second chances I have been given in life after so many truly God-less choices. As I paddled into my fourth mile,  I mused about how last year battling breast cancer, I thought I might never be able to kayak again. I remembered the pain of moving my arm at all.

But God...

From the depths of the despair of cancer, so much was revealed to me. The most important truth of that journey was that God would not abandon me and God was all I needed. If I could focus on Him and trust in His essential goodness, then where He sent me would lead to good. Instead of fighting God or running from God or blaming God or doubting God, I submitted to God. How freeing it was to put my life in His hands. It was never my life anyway. It was always His. Cancer gave me a second chance to trust God in the midst of a terrible storm. I didn't want to die, but if I did, I knew He would bring me safely to His shore.

God is the God of provision, and second chances. This is the message I hope to convey to the women at the abortion center today. As I struggled to sleep last night, a woman who chose life after being certain she would abort texted me: "Oh my!!! I know it's late but I had to tell you. I just felt the baby move!"

Don't run from God, run to Him.
Jonah 3:

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

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