Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian parenting, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, politics, Uncategorized

The Heart of the Matter

“And I am so angry I wish I were dead.”  Jonah 4:9

I’ve shared before about the miraculous year I had doing God’s will during our 100 Lunches project.  When Jesus first spoke to me, directing me to make 100 lunches and deliver them to the homeless in downtown San Diego I had no idea the lessons He had in store for me.  Initially, I thought it was just a need that He directed me to fill.  My spiritual gifts were perfect to complete this task – or so I thought.  What began as a one-time submission to God became a year-long lesson in trust, compassion, faithfulness and humility.  Definitely not traits I would’ve confidently listed amongst my gifts.

With each passing day that year, God placed new trials and new opportunities for me to finally grasp what He really wanted of me.  I could administer any program at my church, work or other organization.  I’m organized, comfortable with leadership, a successful multitasker, and can teach readily.  As long as I was in charge life was good, so it seemed.  Until someone was unhappy with me or disagreed with me.  Or I hurt someone’s feelings.  Or I felt overlooked and unappreciated.  Praying came after the fall, if at all.

But the Spirit of God came upon me that fateful day.  I like to think of God seeing my potential.  My new beginning.  And He knew with some pruning and care I could shake off many of my old ways and start working on new ones.  Starting with praying to Him to help me make the change.  And learning that God wants our heart first, above all, so that it’s our heart that pours out to the world.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Jonah 1:2-3

The story of Jonah and the whale rank up there with Noah and his ark as being widely known by Christians and non-Christians alike.  Jonah tried to get away from God, jumped overboard, was swallowed by a giant fish, prayed to God and God spit him out onto the shore.  A nice story of turning back to God in faith, right?  But in these four little chapters there’s so much more!  There are lessons on being a “I’m fine, it’s fine” sleepy Christian.  Lessons like Moses experienced when he told God he wasn’t up for the job.  Lessons on how one person can help save so many.  

Jonah was actually a man of great faith.  He knew that if he went to Nineveh, a sworn enemy of the Jews and well-known for its evil ways, God would most likely use him to rescue the people there.  But Jonah’s patriotism got in the way of his faith.  So, he resigned as God’s prophet.  He didn’t want his new beginning to look like betrayal back home.  But God gets His way no matter how hard we try to thwart Him!  

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 3:3

So yes, Jonah sees how amazing His God is while sitting in the mouth of a giant fish and prays, remembering how God saved him before and asking for him to do it again.  And Jonah finds himself once more pressed on toward Nineveh.

While there he spreads God’s message that in 40 days the city would be destroyed because of their wicked ways.  But there’s something missing.  Within this story you will not find a message from Jonah on how to stop this destruction.  You won’t find compassion and love for these 1,000s of people.  He states the fact, does it efficiently and without pause.  In three days this one man had reached the ears of every citizen, including the king.  Pretty impressive right?  And although God loved the fact that they believed and turned from their evil ways you can’t help but think the real target of this lesson was just one man – Jonah.

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. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 3:10-4:1

Jonah had the gifts of prophecy, faith, evangelism and apparently administration.  And he begrudgingly used them.  Where God saw an amazing new beginning as a man who could help bring so many to faith, Jonah saw embarrassment and shame.  He didn’t want to go home to face his people who hated the Nineveh citizens and be known as a traitor.  He stopped remembering that God loves everyone and God can work miracles in all our lives, even our enemies.

In chapter 4, Jonah is like the Prodigal Son’s elder brother – critical, selfish, sullen, angry and unhappy with what was going on.  It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart.” Eph 6:6

Warren Wiersbe

So as Jonah sits on the hill outside town in the last chapter of this amazing story God takes another shot at softening Jonah’s heart.  He provides another lesson for him to experience and learn.  Because God is love He doesn’t give up on us.  He wants our new beginnings to be filled with love and compassion.  I love this quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Jonah:

“The deeper your trouble, the greater are your possibilities of adoration.”

When I first went into our 100 Lunches project, I was certain I could complete this simple task with efficiency and ease like Jonah.  But God put me on the hill, overlooking all that I had done that first week and said, “You have much more to learn.”  

With each distribution of lunches He said, “do it again, this time like this.”  He showed me how to be ok with people turning me down when I asked for help.  And how to be grateful when people came out of nowhere to help. He taught me how to slow down and look the hurting in the eye and offer a kind word or even a gentle touch.  He reminded me to trust in Him, to love Him.  He answered prayers which encouraged me to pray even more.  He allowed me to be loved by society’s “unwashed”, giving me the opportunity to tell them of God’s glory and provision. 

Jonah’s story ends without a word from him letting us know he “got it.”  His last lines are the first in this look at Jonah – “I wish I were dead.”  God’s last words are about His love and care for all people – no matter their nationality, financial status, religion, or sins.  Think of the amazing new life Jonah could’ve had when he left Nineveh.  Not just knowing about God, not just having faith that God is in charge.  But loving God and loving the fact that He wants us to live like Him, in love.  

Jonah’s faith was a divided one.  He held onto his patriotism and pride with a vengeance.  It caused him to withhold his love and compassion.  When we think of the Bible’s greatest lessons about love, 1 Corinthians 13 probably comes to mind. In verses 4-13 Paul tells us what love is. So many think these passages are about romantic love but in the context of the entire letter it’s about how we serve out God’s will with our gifts. In a way, the more important lessons are in verses 1-3. The lesson God was trying to teach Jonah. The lesson which can help us all in our new beginnings as God’s servants.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor 13: 1-3

Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

Our Quarrelsome World

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

There’s certainly been a lot of “quarreling” the last 20 years in the United States and the world in general.  These last few years have seen a steady rise in conflicts.  Conflicts used to be among countries.  The most troublesome trend seems to be that now more than ever they are among neighbors.  

We live in a world where all bets are off when it comes to social niceties.  One article I read reminds us of some of the following “old fashioned etiquette rules”:

  1. Don’t point
  2. Don’t curse
  3. Dress to impress
  4. Stick to tasteful topics
  5. Cover your mouth when you cough
  6. Avoid private conversations in public

All of those, plus the others I haven’t listed, are to allow for a calm and peaceful and respectful social environment.  But a cell phone video I saw the other day is just one example of how we’ve thrown so many of these out the window.  

The video, taken by a woman shopping at Target, shows an older man following her and pointing at her.   He has a mask on and a sticker stating, “I’m vaccinated.”   His issue with her? She isn’t wearing a mask.  Now, this post is not about the pros and cons of mask wearing. And in this instance wearing a mask was not mandated in that store.  It’s about his approach and her response.  This man had many choices prior to harassing this woman.  If he was really worried about getting sick he could 1) stay home and order on line or 2) avoided being near the woman.  Interestingly enough he didn’t seem to be doing any of his own shopping.  It appeared he was there to “catch” people without a mask.  

What does this have to do with being a Christian?  What does it have to do with being resolute in Christ?  Our choices each and every minute of the day define what type of Christian we have chosen to be.

In our verse today we are reminded to be kind to everyone.  To teach gently without resentment.  We are all most likely familiar with the term being a “Karen.”  That’s someone who is a tattle tell, a modern day Pharisee.  This man was being a Karen.  And he certainly wasn’t succeeding in teaching anyone anything positive.  Yet the new social norms say this is ok.  We are to vilify those with whom we disagree.  We may not all be Westboro Baptist Church members standing outside the funerals of homosexuals with messages of hatred but how many of us in the last year have made disparaging remarks about people who 1) don’t wear a mask or do wear a mask, 2) aren’t vaccinated, 3) voted for a different candidate, 4) don’t like shutdowns or do like shutdowns, and on and on. I’m not talking about private conversations with friends or family members.  I’m talking about in public and social media.  I’ve clicked on people’s profiles who have written horrible things and they proudly state they are Christians.

And the woman?  She wasn’t successful either.  She just kept arguing with the man.  She could’ve 1) smiled and moved on since he wasn’t physically threatening her 2) put a mask on to make him feel better 3) left the store and come back later 4) called security 5) invited him over to talk.   So many choices for both.  But they chose the least peaceful route.

I, myself, have gotten wrapped up in issues and have deleted comments I realized were not in keeping with my desire to walk well in my faith.   And so, I reflect back on that cell phone video taken in Target.  I ask myself which person in that video am I?  The Harasser?  The Victim?  The Bystander?  In fact, I’ve been all three.  But as a follower of Christ, I’m learning He wants something completely different of us.  He wants us to be the peacemaker.  He wants us to do things so different that it shocks people.  Our Jesus–directed actions in this quarrelsome world need to be set apart.

When we get annoyed, outraged, hurt, abused, Jesus tells us to respond differently.   He first wants us to be responsible for our own words and actions (James 3:6).  He then wants us to be gentle, not angry and resentful.  Truth doled out without love will never be received how we intended.  

I picture myself the subtle Karen, rolling my eyes at people wearing two masks as they walk outside at a park and I need to stop and have compassion for their fears.  I imagine myself in a store being spoken to harshly by a customer for not wearing a mask and instead of responding in kind, draw on the Holy Spirit asking for peace.  This isn’t just about these current large issues.  It’s how we respond in all life’s situations.  Do we lash out, with uncontrolled emotions, seeking to justify how we feel?  Or do we use wisdom and compassion to guide us?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

The temptation is so great to join this new quarrelsome social environment.  It’s easy to blast a comment at someone.  The devil loves an angry Believer.  But if we remember that Jesus stands by our side, we can be resolute in living the Christian life He expects of us.

30daysofpraise, Bible, bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, christian men, christian podcast, Christian women, Faith, Jesus, Jesus Follower, podcast, Uncategorized

A Gentle Touch

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:17-18

The story of the woman at the well speaking to Jesus is one of my favorites.  It’s a highlight in the series, The Chosen.  I cried as I watched the scene unfold.  I realized I was so emotional for a number of reasons.  First, that Jesus sought the woman out.  That He waited for her in the heat of the day to speak to her.  That He loved this one, insignificant woman so much that He wanted to heal her.  But also, from the woman’s point of view, the pain she had, honestly, brought upon herself which then resulted in overwhelming shame.  And lastly the joy in her voice of the gift of forgiveness and grace given freely by Jesus.  

When you read the verse or watch the scene in the series there’s a quiet gentleness.  Jesus probably didn’t have the thought in His mind, “I need to confront this woman with some hard truths!!”  He spoke the truth but plainly, without condemnation.  Most likely it pained Him to see one of God’s children suffering.

Today I praise God for His gentleness.  There have been times when I got a good, swift kick from God.  But on a daily basis, when I struggle to obey and trust Him I feel His gentle ways.  I ask Him to put His hand on my shoulder and lead me.  When hard times fall on us, God uses those times to love us even more, if that’s possible.  He also uses those times to show us His Holy ways.

I was talking with a friend last week about a very difficult time in her life.  After a devastating miscarriage she turned to her church family in desperate need.  And she was rejected.  So, she grabbed hold of God.  About five years later she found herself face to face with a number of the women she had sought comfort from and had rejected her.  She at first was distraught to see them.  But her trust in God led her forward.  What she found was God’s gentle way of completing her healing.  One of the women herself had just recently gone through a miscarriage.  And in that conversation wounds were healed.  

My friend discovered the strength God gave her through her ordeal.  A new strength she could show others.  A perfect opportunity to now be His hands and feet and help heal broken hearts.  She said to me, “God is so gentle.  He guided me through the hard trial and brought me full circle.”

It’s a lesson for us all when we say we want to “be like Jesus.”  When those around us are hurt, broken, angry, outraged, and more, we need to be gentle.  There’s plenty of other people around us willing to pile on to our pain.

God knows just the right time to speak hard truths to us.  But thankfully He seems to most frequently use His gentle touch.


bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Faith, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Hanging By A Thread

Can a mother forget the baby 
at her breast and have no compassion 
on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will 
not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on 
the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
Isaiah 49:15-16

I just was having a bad day.  Nothing really seemed to fall into place.  My husband got some bad news from work which makes me worry about him and our financial situation.  And then we decided to go get my car washed.  My husband was vacuuming the back of my hatchback.  I decided to walk around the back in order to reach the passenger front window.  Unbeknownst to me he had pushed the button to close the hatch as he walked away.  I walked square into the corner of the door with the top of my head.  My husband was completely unaware as he was now on the opposite side of the car.  I bent over holding my head trying to 1) not cry like a baby and 2) stay conscious. 

I cried out to him like a mewling lamb.  My first reaction was to blame him and then I apologized, saying it was just an accident.  But that was the last straw for me that day.  I  wanted to sit down and sob.  It has taken so much out of me to stay in tune with God during the trials and tribulations of the Covid pandemic that I just wanted to give up.  No more joyful grasping for God.  No more peace resting in His Word.  I just was done.  

Come to me, all you who 
are weary and burdened, 
and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

And God whispered to me, “I’m still here. And I still love you.  And I know you are having a hard time.  Come and talk to me.”  

I still find it so hard to pray when I’m truly struggling.  But God is so compassionate to us.  He knows when we are holding on by a thread.  He will take even the tiniest snippets of prayer from us to help us hold on.  Like the mother in the Isaiah verse today, He longs to hold us in His arms if we would just run to him – or even crawl.  

The process of sanctification this year made me realize quickly that I was shrinking away from not only God but my husband at that painful moment.  I didn’t want to burden my husband any more than he already was. But after a little while, I shared with him how I was feeling.  I know it’s hard for men to see their beloved wives in pain and not be able to fix our ills.  But he gave me what I needed — a listening and compassionate ear, and a hug.  

That’s what God wants to do for us too.  Although we shouldn’t turn our prayer time into a litany of complaints, we should bring him our pain.  

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, 
holy and dearly loved, clothe 
yourselves with compassion, 
kindness, humility, gentleness 
and patience.
Colossians 3:12

I like this visual of clothing ourselves.  The fruits of the spirit are God’s way of giving us that spiritual hug and listening ear.  He is compassionate, kind, gentle and patient with us.  And Jesus was certainly humble.  When we encase our minds and hearts in these gifts and then turn those fruit outward toward God’s people, we get them back tenfold. 

My husband is a godly man.  Because of this, God used him to give me the compassion and gentleness I needed that day.  And I was able to pull myself back on track. 

I could have easily given in to my despair.  I mean my head was killing me and felt like I had a concussion.  Nothing I could do would fix any problem around me.  But I have learned to grab hold of the promises of God for my rescue. 

Be on your guard; stand firm 
in the faith; be courageous; 
be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13

My head still hurts a few days later but I can almost (almost) laugh about it now.  I’m glad I don’t have to keep apologizing to anyone for losing it – since I pulled back my anger almost immediately.  My husband felt bad enough as it was.  And my compassion toward him helped me to stay in line with God’s Word.

I thank God for His promise to never forget me, always hold me tightly and guide me with the fruits of His spirit. 


Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!