Sometimes God Sends a Big Fish (Old post from 2009)

You may remember the biblical account of Jonah, the man who set his jaw and decided not to do what God had asked him. Instead of preaching repentance to those wretched Ninevites, Jonah hopped aboard the next boat to Tarshish, trying to escape the presence of the LORD. But the Bible says you can’t hide from God (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Bible says, “the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” The mariners traveling with Jonah were terrified. What in the world was going on? Jonah confessed that he was the cause of the storm.

“Cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you,” Jonah said (Jonah 1:12.)

That ended his shipmates’ problems, but Jonah plummeted to the depths of the sea, facing certain death. God was there to catch him when he fell. The Bible says, “the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

Was it happenstance that strong winds rocked the ship bound for Tarshish and nearly destroyed it? No. God sent that storm. Was it mere fate that caused a huge fish to happen along to catch Jonah when he fell? No. God sent that fish. The lesson wasn’t wasted on Jonah, either. He knew exactly what was going on. God had a plan for Jonah’s life, and God’s plans can’t be thwarted.

There was a time when I wasn’t walking with the Lord. I received Christ when I was eleven, but my parents stopped taking us to church not long after that. I didn’t have the love and support of encouraging youth group leaders, and I wasn’t sitting under the teaching of a good Bible-believing pastor. I was just kind of out twisting in the wind. But the wind was in God’s hand, and so was I. I wasn’t hidden from His sight. One day He sent a big fish. The fish’s name was spina bifida. When my first child was born with this birth defect, it caused me to get my priorities straight in a big hurry, to return to the God who loves me and died for me. I wanted to rear my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, as the Bible tells us to do.

I want our family in church. I don’t want my children out twisting in the wind because they have no direction. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made. I want them to walk with God always and never turn away from His will for their lives.

We have to understand that God loves us and cares for us. We may get lost in the storms of life, but sometimes those storms are our own doing—as in Jonah’s case. Praise be to God, on the wings of the storm sometimes God sends a big fish. While it’s no fun to be trapped in the belly of a big fish, sometimes that fish turns out to be our deliverance from an even greater catastrophe: sudden death, or, worse yet, imminent eternal death.

Jonah cried out to God and God had His ear bent toward Jonah to receive his pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Had it not been for the great fish God sent, Jonah would have perished in the depths of the sea. God spared Jonah and supernaturally kept him alive—in a fish’s belly. Then, after three days, the fish vomited Jonah up on dry ground (Jonah 2:10). For the sake of all the people in Nineveh who were headed for hell and needed to hear about God’s love and mercy, Jonah needed an attitude adjustment.

Maybe you’ve been through something horrible. Maybe you’re going through something horrible right now. You know, God has His ear bent toward you, too. Are you ready to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness? He sent His Son that you might have it. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Sincerely trust in the Lord Jesus, and He can and will deliver you from your bondage of sin.

Bats in the House (old post from 2009)

When we lived on 13th Street and had very tall oak trees on all four corners of our house, we had a bat drop in for a visit one summer. Let me tell you, it’s very freaky to have a BAT in your house! It took a day or two to get him out because, of course, he only came out at night, and it was a frightening experience all around, with all his swooping down at our heads while we screamed and chased him around with bed sheets, trying to shoo him out the front door.

The first night no one saw it but me. Chelsea was in her room and Chuck and Cameron were at a Royals game. I told them all about it, and they believed me. All day the next day Cameron walked through the house with his hand shadowing his eyes, lest he catch sight of the horrid winged creature. He did this, even though he had never seen the bat for himself. I had told him that I saw it, though, and he believed me.

After this episode I started thinking about how easily we can apply this experience to the historical account of the beginning of Christianity. I often think of the disciples and wonder how anyone can doubt the truth of the Christian faith, based on their testimonies and the lengths to which they went in spreading that truth, even choosing to die for it rather than recant.

When I think of the type of men Jesus chose for His disciples and apostles, I see that He chose some very credible men. Luke and Paul, for example, were both educated men, certainly no fools. Luke was not only a physician by trade but also a noted historian as well. Paul was educated in matters of the law, an intelligent man. Their lives, and the lives of their brothers in Christ, were spent, poured out for the cause of the Gospel. They poured out their lives for what they—not just believed—but knew to be true.

1 Corinthians 15:3: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co:15:4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co:15:5: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Co:15:6: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1Co:15:7: After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
1Co:15:8: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1Co:15:9: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Take a look at that last verse. I believe that Paul was an even more credible witness for Christ because of his background. He, in essence, had to admit that he was wrong, that his convictions had been misplaced.

How credible a witness are we? How do we live our lives? Do we live like we actually believe what we preach? Do we live like the Gospel is just something to which we mouth allegiance on Sundays or is it the very essence of our life?

A final Scripture that kind of ties into this is Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

As Christians, truth should always be on our lips. Never should we be caught in a lie, a white lie, a half truth, an unfulfilled (or forgotten) promise. If we tell someone we are going to do something, we better make sure that is the thing we do. I think it’s best not to promise anything in the absolute because as the Bible says we should not boast of tomorrow since we don’t know what tomorrow holds. I think we should pepper our speech with “As far as I know I will be able to do such and such” or “I will try my best to do such and such…”

The only time we can deal in absolutes is when we are dealing with the Gospel of Christ, and then we can be absolutely certain that it is the absolute truth. The disciples died for what they knew to be true. They knew it was true because they were there and they saw the risen Lord firsthand. The people they told believed them then, and I believe them now.

Do Good People Go to Heaven?

When my son was very small, he had somehow picked up (probably from Hollywood) that good people go to heaven and bad guys go to hell. I had to explain to him that the matter of heaven and hell is not a good guy/bad guy scenario. No one is good enough to go to heaven. Compared to our Holy God, we’re all “bad guys.”

The fact is that we all have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Ultimately, it’s not the good we have done or the bad we have done that affects where we spend eternity; the only question that matters is, have we received forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ? What have we done with the gift of God’s only begotten Son? He who trusts in Jesus is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned (John 3:16-18).

The Bible says that our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The only righteousness we are able to claim is the imputed righteousness of the sinless and blameless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Our faith is credited to us as righteousness, not our works (Hebrews, chapter 11).

Except for the favor we have found with God for believing on the name of His only begotten Son for the forgiveness of our sins, not a single one of us would or could make it to heaven. And we can’t even take credit for our faith because the Bible says in Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Even our very faith is a gift from our heavenly Father. God has enabled us to believe. He has also enabled us to reject Him by giving us free will. Matthew 23:37 gives us an illustration of this point: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

God has given each person a free will and a measure of faith. It is not that the most hardened atheist can’t believe; it’s that he won’t. The Bible says that man will be without excuse (Romans 1:20). No one will be able to stand before the Father and say, “Well, I just didn’t know.” The evidence is there: in creation, in our own consciences, throughout God’s Word and in the prompting of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and testifies of the Son.

The Bible makes it clear that no one can get to the Father except through the Son.

The words of an old hymn say it all: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Revelation 1:5 records for us: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood…”

We are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Jesus, not by any work we can accomplish on our own behalf (Romans 3:25, Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). He couldn’t have made it any clearer.

Since salvation comes through the blood of Christ alone, we can be confident that no one is so bad that God’s grace can’t save him, and no one is so good that he doesn’t need to be saved.

Trust solely in Christ today for your salvation and you will secure a home in heaven for eternity. Jesus can wipe your slate clean, and you can start a brand new life today. Won’t you turn to Him now?