GOD’S PLAN OR MINE

  Remember Jonah and the Whale?  It was the most unbelievable, spellbinding story leaving a multitude of unanswered questions in my childish mind.   Was it true? What was it like inside that big belly? Could Jonah breathe? Was he scared? Why didn’t he obey God? Did it really happen?

Yes!  I knew it really happened for it was recorded in God’s word.  That was enough for me, and yet there has been a running controversy since Jonah’s time, for upward of 2800 years.

In all the discussion, it has been determined that it is possible that a sperm whale, for instance, could swallow a man.  Sperm whales sometimes swallow squid whole, so it could definitely manage a human.

Perhaps it wasn’t a sperm whale.  It could have been some now extinct marine reptile or a dog headed sea dragon that swallowed Jonah.

  Admittedly, it’s possible he may have been swallowed by one of those sea creatures, but scientists are adamant in their declaration that he never could have survived any longer than if he were held underwater.

According to some, an alternative to this strange survival story may be that Jonah actually died—drowned in the sea—before he was swallowed.  Then God resurrected him three days later when the fish reached the shores of Nineveh. Still, others ask, “How could he have prayed in that belly, if he were already dead?  And—the argument continues.

Some now regard the Book of Jonah as a novel written with a theological purpose.

For me, miracles, rather than scientific theories, are the best explanation for Jonah.  God “prepared” a great fish.” I don’t know if He refashioned one of His existing creatures or if He made something brand new equipped with an oxygen tank able to sustain a man for three day or if He just kept Jonah alive supernaturally.  In any case, I still believe in miracles.  

However, this story is not about whether or not a fish can swallow a man.  It is about obedience to God’s will. God had said, “Go to Nineveh—that wicked city, and tell them, if they don’t repent, I’m going to destroy them.”

Jonah had other ideas.  He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about God’s plan or His will.  He hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to be merciful to them.  He wanted God to destroy them. He was convinced he was 100% right, so he ran away, and his disobedience resulted in a wild, dark, three-day ride from the depths of the billows and waves of the sea to the quiet shoreline, and a direct route to Nineveh.  

Imagine what he must have looked like lying there on the beaches of Nineveh in a puddle of fish vomit.  After three days in the belly of this great fish, he was one scary dude! Digestive acids had bleached him white.  He was shriveled like a prune with seaweed tangled in his hair and wrapped around his neck, and barnacles growing on his head.

Jonah had no one to blame but himself.  This whole calamity originated with his attitude toward God’s will.  

I can safely assure you that Jonah’s attitude toward God’s plan took a 180 degree turn as he slide down the gullet of that terrifying being.  

Jonah 2:1 says, “Then Jonah prayed…”  He describes his helpless situation, and in 2:7, he cries, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”

Do you sometimes feel that you are in the belly of a big fish?  I do! When I decide to do something on my own without asking God’s guidance or I knowingly disobey what I know to be His will, then the big fish shows up, and everything goes out of control.

I like the words to the song that says:

“Are you in the big fish?

Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad?

Have you turned your back on His wish, or His will for your life?

 Have you made Him sad?

Do you want to get out of the big fish?

Listen to God and follow His plan,

And you won’t be part of the main dish.

He’ll spit you out on dry land.”

 

Jonah got the message.  He still hated the Assyrians.  He still wanted God to destroy them, but in spite of that, he did what God asked him to do.  The Assyrians were saved, and Jonah learned some great lessons about compassion.

Whoever you are, God has a plan for your life, but you may not like His assignment.   Like Ford, you have a better plan, and you are convinced that you are 100% right. Your plan is superior, more reasonable, more just.  Besides, you are sure you cannot do what God asks. Let me tell you, “God intends to make you ideally suited to carry out His plan.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

Today we will celebrate America’s 243rd birthday.  The 4th of July is ordinarily a fun day, a day of gladness with grand fireworks displays, picnics in the park, parades, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Independence Day ought also to be a day of thanksgiving—a day of looking back, of taking stock, remembering how we got here—how a handful of colonists became a great nation—the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”

For me, and I believe for many others, this year’s celebration will be mixed with a sense of sadness at the climate in which our beloved nation now finds itself.  Instead of “Yankee Doodle” I catch myself singing “God Bless America, land that I love.  From the mountains to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”

“God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, while serving in the U.S. Army during WW I.  However, it was only at the rise of Adolph Hitler, in 1938, that the song was made public. It was actually a form of prayer for God’s blessing and peace for our nation.  The song tapped into the national psyche offering a kind of collective prayer for the fear over threatening war.

“God Bless America” has had a long shelf life.  It was even hailed as the new national anthem, and used, through many decades, for a wide range of purposes from presidential campaigns to sporting events. Following 9/11, the song took on a new life once again signaling renewed patriotism, but I don’t know if it was ever really—sincerely sung as a prayer.

I know, of course, that this is the season for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and Let Freedom Ring,” but for some reason, my heart is crying out, “God Bless America,” and I have been thinking about just how much God has blessed this beloved land of ours.  As turmoil and strife swirl around us today, we need to retrace the road of blessing that has brought us thus far, for God has clearly blessed America during the past two-plus centuries.

First, I think of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower who arrived at Plymouth Rock on November 9, 1620.  Roughly half of these were Pilgrims or “Separatists” and the others were servants and crewmen. More than half of those aboard died before spring arrived.

While some would deny the truth of their purpose, this handful of people separated themselves from the church of England, escaping persecution and imprisonment, wanting to practice their religion as they chose and establish a new church  in a new world.

Perhaps for the sake of these committed Pilgrims, God chose to pour out His blessing on their descendants and their new country.  These Pilgrims became the “stepping stones” in the formation of what has arguably become the greatest nation on earth.  

When I think of the “handful” of colonists who stood against “King George III and the whole British Empire, I am convinced that we were blessed by God.  Not that God was against the British, but that He enabled our countrymen to battle through to victory to form a nation free from tyranny—a nation “Under God!”

We are further blessed, because our forefathers came together through much turmoil, injustice and hardship using the wisdom of the Bible, history and other cultures along with their own experiences, and fashioned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These God fearing men, whether professed Christians or not, accepted the truthfulness of the Bible and the authority of God embracing the basic freedom of religion and a Christian outlook on life, morality and government. Some would rewrite history in order to change these facts, but they cannot change the truth.

Today, we live in a beautiful, bountiful land able to support a large population—a country that retains incredible freedoms.  We are the envy of the world. Why do you think so many want to come here?

We are free to worship as we choose never fearing death or imprisonment because of our faith.  We are free to speak our minds, to elect our leaders, to pursue our own dreams.

  Who, in his right mind, could deny God’s blessing on this nation?

I fear, however, that we have abused our freedoms taking them as license to behave in any way we choose regardless of the hurt to others producing a generation that thumbs its nose at God.

Now we live in a divided nation having denied the blessings of God.  From morning until evening we abuse, belittle and accuse our fellow Americans.  The acquisition of power seems to be the desired goal. Never mind how it is attained.

I tremble at the thought of asking God’s blessing on this country, why would He bless us, and yet I do, because I am reminded that there is still a lot of light and salt in our world.  There is still a multitude of people who love God and are ready to stand up for what is right. “Give us another chance, Lord,” I cry.  “Please heal the division in our land, and turn us back to you.”

When I read 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” I am encouraged believing that God can still intervene.

“God Bless America” is at its heart a prayer for the well-being of our country, especially in these politically and racially charged times.  So, let us “humble ourselves” and “turn from our wicked ways,” and with longing hearts, sing again this prayer believing God for better days and many more “Happy Birthdays” for the “Land that we love.”  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!