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Jonah and His Gourd

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The story of Jonah is one of the best known in all the Old Testament. As one reads about this prophet he can feel himself growing upset or even angry with Jonah for his lack of concern for others and his total rebellion of God. Even when the story seems to be drawing to a nice, peaceful, rewarding conclusion, the story rips at our hearts as the prophet of God actually gets mad that the people of Nineveh repented of their sin and that God had then chosen to not destroy them.

The mercy of God is, needless to say, incredible. When Jonah pleaded with God about the misery he was experiencing as a result of the people's disobedience and made a shelter so that he could sulk, God (all on His own) decided to make provisions for His erring servant. The scripture records, "the Lord God prepared a gourd and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery" (Jonah 4:6). Just when you think you've seen all the mercy that God could muster, He amazes us with this kind of thoughtful action!

Perhaps when God created and provided this gourd for his servant He thought to Himself that the break from the hot sun would give Jonah some time to "self-reflect" and consider his ways. Perhaps after some time in the shade, this prophet would think a bit more clearly.

And with the increased clarity, Jonah might realize how selfish he had been and would have grown sorrowful over his attitude. As much as one might hope that to have occurred, that just wasn't the case. Even though Jonah was "grateful" for the plant which God had prepared for him, the scriptures don't provide us with any evidence that Jonah followed up his appreciation with a change of heart (Jonah 4:6).

It's probably of no surprise that God's prepared worm took away Jonah's gourd the next morning which soon left Jonah (yet again) wishing for his own death (Jonah 4:7-8). We'd do well to remember Jonah and his gourd. We appreciate the salvation which God has granted us but are sometimes reluctant to share it with others. We are hopeful for heaven but sometimes get jealous when others are doing well on that same path. We thank God for His mercy but don't take the necessary time to use the quiet moments He gives us to self-reflect and consider the needed changes in our lives. In all that we do in service to God, let us never emulate the poor attitude of Jonah but instead seek to always tell others about the great news of our God.

Being A Follower of Christ

Saturday, July 19, 2014
By Don Case

There are three key elements that are critical in learning to follow Jesus the first step is getting to know Him. This takes a personal relationship, the knowledge of who He is, and understanding His motives and what makes Him do the things He has done. Getting to know Him on a personal basis is available by reading about Him and from pray. As we start praying we can ask His help in understanding.

Let Jesus Change Our Heart

It is a mistake to think that Christianity is just about following some creed or set of rules and regulations. It is about letting Jesus change what we are, how we think will change us from the inside out. Spending more time with Jesus starts changing us to a more personal and intimate level. We begin to take on His values, His priorities, His way of thinking. We start to act and talk like Him, it changes who we are. We can become close to Him and let Him change us or we can move farther away and not listen to our heart. We can surrender to having Him leading our lives, which is not always comfortable but it will be very rewarding.

The Christian faith is not just a set of mental disciplines or beliefs.

It is a lifestyle of doing the type of works that Jesus did, we must be willing to do the things Christ did. Jesus had compassion on the poor and those trapped in sin. One of the greatest works that any follower of Jesus can do is to lead another person to Him.

The process of being Christ like is progressive. As we learn and know about Jesus it changes our hearts, then we will start acting and conducting our lives in ways that are more like Him.

The Gospel Declaration

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

(an examination of 1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

Near the end of the longest of the New Testament epistles, the inspired writer speaks to his first century audience by saying that it is his desire and plan to fully declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. In making that statement, Paul goes on to outline some major components of the gospel message that was important for early followers to understand but also important for 21st century Christians to never forget and remember as we try to live out the gospel message and share it with others.

Paul uses the text to teach a very clear, fundamental lesson -- only the gospel can save us! (vs. 2). No other doctrine, set of beliefs, or compilation of religious or social advice can cause a person to be saved. Only the gospel, the same thing that the inspired apostle said was "the power unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Like the early followers, we should never be ashamed of the simplicity of the gospel message--it's all that was ever needed and still needed in order for men to escape the damnation that comes from our sinfulness.

In verse three, Paul establishes two important facts about the gospel message. The first is that Christ died for our sins. Jesus did not die because of His sins. Jesus did not die because God's plan failed. Jesus Christ was the willing lamb who died as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind -- period. Secondly, Jesus' death was according to, "the Scriptures." Long before sin entered the world and long before the world was created and long before humans lived, God had planned for a marvelous sacrifice that would showcase His love and provide us the model by which we can serve Him and others.

Of course, if verse three wasn't followed by verse four, there would be a serious problem for us as men and women of faith. Paul says that Jesus "rose again the third day." Men die all the time and that's no cause for us to really take notice. But for someone to bring Himself back from the dead, well that does merit our attention!

What's equally important is the fact that Paul follows up verse four with four additionally important "proof verses" wherein he outlines the countless men who didn't merely "hear about" the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was witlessness it with their own ideas. Our faith in Jesus Christ is indeed faith, but not an "empty" or meaningless faith that hopes on a the chance that something really did happen. Instead, we have a faith that is truly grounded in rock-solid evidence wherein men saw exactly what happened some 2,000 years ago.

When we declare the gospel message to others, let's make sure we remember what that really means and involves. We are not just sharing some happy news about this life, but instead are sharing the greatest news ever about a Savior that lived, died, and now lives forever. That's exciting news indeed!

Being Contagious Christians

Thursday, July 03, 2014
By Don Case

It was a total shock to the religious people of the day when Jesus associated with sinners, tax collectors, an immoral woman, and lepers, He allowed himself to become unclean. Under the Old Testament law, sin and being unclean was considered contagious. These acts violated the standard teaching of that day but some of that attitude still thrives today. Some people still believe that if we hang around people who sin, that their sin will somehow stain us.

Some of us do not want to dirty ourselves with people who have sexual dysfunctions, drug and alcohol addictions, poverty and many other social disgraces. We do not want to become unclean, influenced, by those people and their problems. Jesus showed that it was not sin that was contagious but His righteousness. Instead of sin being contagious, we should be infectious and allow righteousness to come through us. Through righteousness we will be the influencing factor in the lives of the unrighteous.

We should realize that when we see the poor, the downtrodden, addicted and the dysfunctional, that we are the infection that they need. Our faith, hope, and love is exactly what they need. In order for us to have contagious faith we must influence people to come out of their sin, we must offer something that is better.

How Do We Show Contagious Faith?

· We must show sinners the message they all need to hear and obey.
· We should point people to faith in Jesus as to the most important thing they need.
· We should show them that they can receive forgiveness for all their sins, past, present, and future because Jesus died for all the sins of mankind.
· We must share His wonderful, amazing unconditional love for them.

A Note About The Author...

Our Brother Don Case does a wonderful job writing articles that inspire, educate, and encourage us. On behalf of all of us at Santee, we really appreciate his efforts and thank God for giving him the desire and ability to teach and help us in service to Him!

Well Pleasing Sacrifices

Friday, June 27, 2014

Students of the Bible are very familiar with the concept of sacrifice as outlined in scripture. An appreciation of the idea is central to an understanding of the theme of the Bible which includes both God's sacrifice for mankind and His desire for mankind to willingly sacrifice in His service. In the context of a discussion about Old Testament sacrifice with New Testament teachings, the Hebrew writer records the following words of wisdom for God's children of all generations:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased
Hebrews 13:15-16

 

First, it's helpful to observe that to be well pleasing to God is not a one-time event, but rather a pattern and a commitment to a lifestyle of service. To "continually offer" is far different than to occasionally offer! One of Satan's greatest "arguments" is to tell people that, with only "limited" service to God, He will be pleased. We can trick ourselves into thinking that's true but that is certainly not the case and never has been the case.

Second, this text tells us that well pleasing sacrifices are not just the "things" we give up or offer, but also the words that we say. Or, more appropriately, to pattern our words and worship in such a way to give glory to God is to sacrifice. This is in many ways a sobering thought. That is, each saint should be very aware of the fact that each time he sings, prays, and worships God, our Father sees such activity as a sacrifice in His service. What a great responsibility and wonderful privilege!

Third, the inspired writer tells us that we should, "Do good." That's incredible! God hasn't asked us to do things that are impossible, or overly complicated, or incredibly challenging, but instead has asked to do good. The problem is that there are times when, frankly, we don't feel like doing good and instead want to merely focus on ourselves. But, when we choose to do good and to serve, we not only make life better for others, but we are enriched with God's favor knowing full well that He sees our action as a well pleasing sacrifice.

Finally, God's inspired writer tells us that we must share if we want God to be pleased with us. Did you catch that? Pleasing God begins with an understanding of one of the most basic, early-education principles. From a young age, our parents and teachers work to help us see the value and need of sharing. Yet, sharing is not a concept for young people, but for all people. We must recall that God is addressing adult believers in Hebrews 13 who, apparently, needed to be reminded about the need to share. The message for us is, then, clear. Sometimes, we get selfish and forget about the value of sharing. God's reminder to us is that, if we want to be active and well pleasing in His service, such a selfless attitude is a key component of well pleasing sacrifices.

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