JONAH #5

12/15/2020

Because Jonah refused to do what the Lord was calling him to do, he was thrown into the sea and got swallowed by a fish.  Last time, I asked if you’ve ever been inside a fish. You probably have, but didn’t know it. For Jonah, it was an actual, literal, physical experience. But for us, it’s a spiritual condition.

The only thing we can do inside the fish is think and pray and maybe feel sorry for ourselves and try to hang on to what little faith we have left; try not  to become too bitter or too cynical about life. But it’s so dark inside the fish.  It’s a very dark time in our lives. We can’t see out, so we start looking in.  All our thoughts go inward.  We think and pray about ourselves when we’re inside the fish. 

Very little intercessory prayer, very little thought about the problems and needs of others goes on when  we’re inside the fish.  We’re pretty much focused on ourselves.  Time would pass more quickly if we’d stop obsessing about our failures and our problems and begin to fix our eyes on Jesus; if we’d fix our eyes on things that are unseen, on things that are eternal.  It seems to last much longer when we spend our time worrying about our circumstances instead of praising the Lord. 

It was inside the fish that Jonah had a chance to think about all that had just happened to him and how close he came to completely destroying his life.  He thought about what could have happened, what should have happened and what’s going to happen to him if he doesn’t start making some changes in his attitude and his behavior.

 (10)  Inside the fish is a place of survival, but it’s not a place of contentment.  Jonah realized that the Lord’s mercy was the only reason he didn’t drown in that sea.  God’s grace is the only reason he’s still alive. Calmness without peace, survival without contentment, but it gives us a chance to think about where we were, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  How important is God and His will for our lives?   

The Lord was creating a pure heart in Jonah, inside that fish.  He was putting a new spirit, a correct spirit, a right attitude in Jonah. When we’re inside the fish, we’re slowly being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It may have seemed like nothing much was happening inside that fish, but while Jonah was thinking things over and, waiting on the Lord to renew his strength, the fish was bringing him back to where he was supposed to be.    

Jonah 2:8  “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

People who have invented their own understanding of God, those who have designed a god that makes sense to them, a god they can control, a god who approves of what they’re doing and how they’re living, those who are following other religions or other forms of spirituality, those who are working to make themselves acceptable to their god, they forfeit, they miss out on the grace that is being offered to them by simply repenting and trusting completely in what Jesus has done for their sin when He shed His blood on Calvary’s cross and rose from the grave.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves (not from worthless idols), it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jonah 2:9  “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.”

Jonah decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and start praising the Lord. How long does it take for you to get to that place when you’re inside the fish? Once we’ve finally gotten to that place, it will soon be time for us to come out of the fish.

“What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.”

“Salvation comes from the Lord.”  The Lord causes all things, even our sins and our failures; the Lord causes all things to work together for His will to get done and His purpose to be accomplished in our lives.  Everything Jonah went through was bringing him closer to where the Lord wanted him to be.  When we’re inside the fish, we may not like it, we can’t change it, we can’t control it and we can’t stop it. 

The only thing we can do when we’re inside the fish is sit back and enjoy the ride; just let the Lord accomplish His purpose.  Let Him finish the work that needs to be done in us.  How faithful, how obedient to God, how willing, how teachable am I going to be for the rest of my life?  How many times do we have to go through something like this before we finally get it, before we finally learn our lesson? 

I’ve been thrown into the sea at least three times during the course of my ministry.  Jonah got to sit inside a fish for three days.  For me, I always seem to end up working for Sears for at least three years.  I think Jonah got the better deal.  Things are about to go from bad to worse for Jonah before this is all over.  Lord willing, we’ll get into that next week.

JONAH #4

12/08/2020

Jonah 2: 1 “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN “INSIDE THE FISH?”  Maybe you have. Maybe you are.  You just don’t realize it.  For Jonah, it was an actual, literal, physical experience. But for us it is a spiritual condition.

(1) “Inside the fish” is a transitional time in our lives.  It’s an in-between place in our lives.  It’s time and a place in our lives when we’re not running away or rebelling anymore.  We’re no longer were we used to be but we’re not where the Lord wants us to be either.  There’s a lot more work to be done inside the fish. 

(2)  Inside the fish is a place of confinement.  The Lord has us securely locked in and we can’t get ourselves out.  We can’t change or control anything when we’re inside the fish.

(3)  Ironically, inside the fish can actually be a relatively calm time in our lives.  “The raging sea grew calm” when Jonah got swallowed by the fish.  But we can’t confuse calmness with peace.  They’re not the same.

Things may be calm for us, but they’re far from peaceful inside the fish.  There may not be any fierce storms in our lives, but the sun isn’t shining yet either.  Things may have quieted down for us, but there’s still very little joy in our hearts right now.  The future is still very much up in the air.

(4)  A lot of intense prayer goes on inside the fish.

Jonah 2:2 ‘In my distress I called to the Lod and He answered me. From the depths of the grave, I called for help and you listened to my cry.’”   

“From the depths of the grave” Jonah called to the Lord and the Lord answered him.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lod will be saved.” (Acts 2:21)  Jonah cried out to the Lord and he was saved.  The Lord provided the fish, but Jonah asked to be swallowed.

(5)  Inside the fish is a time of reflection and regret.   

Jonah 2: 3-4a “You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight.’”

“I have been banished from your sight.”   I can’t sink any lower.  Things can’t get any worse. 

(6)  It’s also a time of anticipation and hope.    

Jonah 2:4b  “Yet I will again look toward your holy Temple.”

I believe the Lord still loves me.  He still hears my prayers.  I know I won’t be in here forever.  It’s not going to end like this.   I will look again toward His holy temple.  

(7)  Being inside the fish is also a time of awareness and appreciation.  

Jonah 2: 5-6      “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.”

engulfing waters… seaweed… wrapped around my head… To the roots of the mountains I sank down.”   I finally realize how close I came to destroying my life completely.  Lord, I’m still alive because “you brought my life up from the pit.”.

 Jonah 2:7     “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose toward your holy Tempe.”

When Jonah realized how desperate and helpless he was, he prayed.  He remembered the Lord.  His prayer rose to the Lord’s holy Temple.  Jonah hadn’t been praying like that since he started running away from the Lord.  He was too stubborn to pray; too proud to pray; too guilty to pray.  But as his life was coming to an end, he remembered the Lord.  Jonah cried out for the Lord to save him. 

(8) We’re inside the fish, when the Lord takes away something He never wanted us to have or gotten us out of a place we never should have been in the first place.

(9) When we’re inside the fish, the one thing we have is time.  We have lots of time.  In fact, we have too much time.  All we have is time. Time seems to be standing still when we’re inside the fish.  For Jonah, it was only three days.  But when it’s happening to us, it can seem like an eternity.  It’s always just a brief, temporary moment in proportion to the total length of our lives, but it seems like it’s never going to end. 

Lord willing, we’ll be back to learn from Jonah again next Tuesday. Hope you’ll be back and invite a friend to get in God’s Word with Pastor  Buj.

JONAH #3

12/01/2020

The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah didn’t want to do it so he tried to run away.  It doesn’t matter if we’re running from what the Lord wants us to do or  if we’re running from the life the Lord wants us to live or running from the person the Lord wants us to be.  The point is that running away from the Lord, running from what we know in our hearts is the truth, causes all kinds of turmoil in our lives and in the lives of people we love and care about very deeply. 

When the storm began and the sailors realized it was much worse than any storm they had ever been in before, they started crying out to their gods and throwing the cargo overboard; trying to do everything they could think of to make it stop.  Jonah was asleep below deck.  He was in a dangerous state of denial, completely oblivious to the trouble he. had caused.  Everybody else was frantically trying to solve his problem for him. 

Nothing the crew tried to do was going to make any difference.  The storm wasn’t their fault.  It was Jonah’s.  Jonah was the reason the ship was in that storm.  Nothing was going to change until Jonah stopped running from the Lord and surrendered his life to Him.  

But, instead of throwing Jonah overboard when he was crying out for help; instead of doing what had to be done, they tried to row back to shore. But there was no other way to stop the storm.  Things had to change.  Jonah had to change.  They had to let him go.  They had to throw him in.  

Jonah 1:15 “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”

The last time anyone on that ship saw Jonah, he was sinking into the sea and they’re all pretty sure he’s dead.  I guess, in a way, you could say he WAS dead.  The old Jonah, the rebellious, stubborn, have-to-have-my-own-way Jonah died in the sea that day.  By the time this is all over, by the time Jonah gets back on dry land, he’s going to be a totally different person; a transformed, a re-born person, a brand new creation.  When he gets back on land to serve the Lord, he won’t look anything like the man who got on the ship to run away from the Lord. 

Everyone on the ship, the people he was sailing with and hanging out with, his old friends, only saw him hit the water.  They only saw him at his worst, at his lowest.  They never got to see him after he got saved. 

Jonah 1:16  “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to Him.”

The fear of the Lord is the first sign of wisdom.  It’s easier to accept the love of a gracious God who saves you after you’ve met the holy God who refuses to tolerate sin.  It’s easier to accept the Savior when you realize you’re a sinner who needs to be saved.  Let’s see what happened to Jonah when someone found the courage to do what needed to be done.  What happened to Jonah after he received a hefty dose of tough love?   

Jonah 1:17   “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”  

When Jonah finally hit bottom, when things were at their worst and he had sunk as low as he could go, when everyone else had given up on him and Jonah was all alone, the Lord was there for him.  The Lord was there to save him.  The Lord provided a place for him.  The Lord did not leave him or forsake him.   No matter where Jonah tried to make his bed, the Lord was there.  He’s always there for us because He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.    

Lord willing, we’ll talk more about Jonah’s adventure next Tuesday. Thanks for staying in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

JONAH #2

11/24/2020

The Lord let Jonah run away to Joppa.  He let Jonah buy a ticket and get on the ship.  But….

Jonah 1:4     “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”

Storms and trials are great attention getters, aren’t they?  The Lord knows what will bring us to our knees and get us to start thinking seriously about Him, doesn’t He?  

Jonah 1:5a   “All the sailors were afraid and they each cried out to their own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship”  

“They each cried out to their own god.”  I’m pretty sure their gods can’t hear or talk.  This was supposed to be a safe, peaceful, routine voyage for the captain, the crew and the passengers of that ship; “a three  hour cruise.”  And that’s exactly what it would have been if Jonah hadn’t gotten on board.  He didn’t belong on that ship. 

We create a lot of panic and confusion for ourselves and for others every time we go where the Lord doesn’t want us to be.  Saying “No” to  the Lord causes turbulence in our lives and a lot of innocent people get caught up in it.  Running away from the Lord and His will puts us on a collision course with destructive forces that can’t be avoided or ignored. 

What’s Jonah’s way of dealing with those destructive forces that have collided with his life?  

Jonah 1:5b    “But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”

Jonah’s way of handling it was to escape it.  Denial in the midst of turmoil.  He put himself in a “I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it” kind of deep sleep.  I’m not the one with the problem, you are.  “They” are.  Somebody else is.  You’re the one who needs help.  I’m fine.  Things are great between God and me.  Jonah’s asleep in his own private dream world.  But he’s about to get a wake-up call.  

Jonah 1:6  “The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe He will take notice of us and we will not perish.’”

You can’t keep acting like this, Jonah.  We’ve got a problem and as long as you’re on this ship; as long as you’re a member of this family and living in this house, as long you’re working here, as long as you’re a part of this church, it’s your problem too.  So wake up and help us find a way to solve it.   

Jonah 1:7    “Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.”

It’s a rather unorthodox way of handling it but when you deal with something long enough and think about it hard enough, wondering what else you could possibly do about it, you eventually come up with the answer.  No matter how you got there or how you look at it, everything points to Jonah.  

Jonah 1: 8-10    “So they asked him, ‘Tell us who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country?’ He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running from the Lord because he had already told them so.)”

Jonah refused to see any connection between the storm they were battling and his running away from the Lord.  Even non-believers could see what was causing the problem.  When are you going to face it Jonah?  

Jonah 1:11    “The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do for you to make the sea calm down for us?’”

Jonah is being held accountable for his foolish and rebellious behavior.  It took a combination of a disastrous situation like that storm and a hefty dose of tough love.  It took someone who was willing to say what had to be said, to get Jonah to wake up.  

Jonah 1:12  ‘”Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied. ‘and it will become calm. I know it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’”  

Jonah is finally accepting responsibility for his choices and his behavior.  He’s finally willing to admit he’s got a problem that he can’t solve by himself.  “Throw me into the sea.”  I’m too afraid to jump so I’m crying out for help.  

Yes, it is your fault and you deserve to be thrown into the sea, but this is not about you, Jonah. This about the Lord wanting the Ninevites to hear His word and repent. And, for some unimaginable reason, you’re the one He’s chosen to do that.

Jonah 1:13   “Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not for the sea grew even wilder than before.

Instead, they tried to row back to land.   They were strong enough to say what had to be said, but not strong enough to actually do what had to be done.  So they continued to be enablers and the situation continued to get worse.  

Jonah 1:14   “Then they cried to the Lord, (to the God who could actually hear them) ‘O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you ,O Lord, have done as you pleased.’”  

It’s important to acknowledge a problem; to be aware of the problem; to admit a problem exists.  It’s important to analyze a problem; to understand what’s causing the problem and what we have to do to solve it.  It’s important to be held accountable and to accept personal responsibility for the problem and to understand why our behavior is causing such a problem.

But the problem won’t go away.  The storm won’t end.  The problem will continually get worse until we DO something about the problem; until we do what has to be done to correct it.  We may feel very guilty about it, but we cry out to God and just do it. 

Jonah 1:15   “Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.”

“They… threw him overboard.  We have a very hard time doing something like that, especially to someone we love and care about deeply.  But they couldn’t keep bailing him out and paying his bills.  They couldn’t keep sheltering him or making excuses for him, trying to protect him.  They couldn’t let it go on any longer or they all would have drowned in that storm.  They had to let him go. 

For their sake; for Jonah’s sake; for God’s sake they had to throw him overboard.   “Throw me into the sea.”  That’s the first step toward recovery.  That’s the first step to a second chance, a new life.  Give up and surrender your life to Jesus.  Let the Lord have His way in your life.

Lord willing, we’ll all be here next week before Jonah hits the water. Come on back and invite some friends to get into  God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

JONAH #1

11/17/2020

Jonah 1: 1-2     “The word of the Lord came to Jonah…’Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’”

If you ever find yourself talking to someone who believes that all gods are the same, ask them if their god can talk? Our God can talk.  The God we pray to, the Lord we worship, can talk.  The God of the Bible, the Savior who redeemed us, Emmanuel who is God with us, can talk.  He’s not just sitting up in heaven somewhere watching everything we do and listening to everything we say, He a God who gets up close and personal with His children.  He’s a God who still talks to His children today.  

Can your God talk?  Does He talk to you?  Has the word of the Lord ever come to you like it came to Jonah?  The Lord can speak to us as we read and study His word.  He can speak to us through a preacher or teacher, through our spouse or through a friend.  He may be talking to you right now and like Jonah, it makes you a little defensive and uncomfortable just to be thinking about it. 

The Lord may be speaking to us about our priorities or about accepting responsibility for our lives and our eternal futures.  He may be talking to us about loving our spouses and our families or about forgiving our spouses and our families.  He may be talking to us about loving our enemies or about forgiving our enemies. 

Regardless of how God is talking to us or what He may be saying to us, the Lord knows how to talk to us in ways that will get us to listen and, after the word of the Lord has come to us, things will never be the same for us again.  Our lives will never be the way they were before the Lord’s word came to us. 

We don’t have to believe it.  We can pretend we didn’t hear it.  But the fact still remains that, once the Word of the Lord comes to us, once His word is spoken, things will never be the same for us again.  Each time the Lord’s word is spoken, we’ll either be drawn toward it, drawn by the Holy Spirit to accept it and live by it or, we’ll be pushed away from it, driven by our proud, selfish, sinful natures to reject it and ignore it. 

But whether we accept it or reject it, believe it or deny it, our lives are going to change and whatever we decide to do after the word of the Lord has come to us will affect, not only our own lives, it will also affect the lives of many other people around us; people we don’t even know, as well as the people we care about and love very deeply. 

Our God talks and His word is active and powerful.  It is never spoken in vain.  Whenever the word of the Lord is spoken, something happens.  His word always does something.  It always creates something.  It always reveals or revives something and we can’t do anything to prevent it or escape it. 

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah” telling him to “Go to…Nineveh and preach against it” and whatever Jonah decides to do about it is going to affect the lives of many other people as well as his own. 

The Book of Jonah is a very short book.  There’s only four chapters.  But it could even be shorter.  In fact, it should be shorter, a lot shorter. 

There are three possible ways to tell this story. 

(1)  The story of Jonah’s life could have been told the way the Lord wanted to tell it.  If this Book had been written the way the Lord wanted it written, there would only be one chapter with five verses.  The story would be:

Jonah 3: 1-3a  “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…’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.”

Jonah 3:The Nivevites believed God. The declared a fast, and all of them…put on sackcloth.”  

Jonah 3:10 –  “When God saw what they did and how they turned away from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened,” 

God said, “Go!”  Jonah went.  The Ninevites believed and repented.  God saw what they did and forgave them; end of story the way the Lord wanted to tell it. 

(2)  If the story had been told the way Jonah wanted to tell it, it would have been even shorter; one chapter with three verses.  

Jonah 1:1-3    “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…’Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it’…But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”

The Lord said, “Go to Nineveh!”  Jonah sailed for Tarshish and lived happily ever after, living his own life and doing whatever he wanted to do.  That’s the story the way Jonah thought he could tell it. 

But what we actually ended up with are four chapters with a total of 48 verses.

(3) the story the way it had to be told because Jonah has a mind of his own but the Lord refuses to give up. Jonah’s choices and decisions are making a short story long. 

Which way is your life’s story being told today; the way the Lord wants to tell it, the way you want it to tell it or the way it has to be told because of the choices and decisions you’ve made?  The story of Jonah, told the way it had to be told, is the story or what happens to us and to everyone around us every time we say, “No” to something the Lord is telling us to do. 

Jonah wanted to be left alone so he could live his life the way he wanted to live it.  There was no room in his life for God, especially a God who could talk.  That’s the last thing Jonah wanted was a God who said things that disagreed with what Jonah believed or interfered with what Jonah wanted to do. 

But the Lord loved Jonah and had better and a more complete plan for his life.  The Lord is extremely patient and understanding and He loves us with an everlasting, unconditional love, but He’ll only let us go so far.  He’ll only wait so long and then He’ll hold us accountable for our selfish choices and behavior.

Are you intrigued so far? Stay with this to see how the Lord gets through to Jonah. Lord willing, we’ll be back in God’s word with Pastor Buj next Tuesday.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #22

11/10/2020

Paul is on a ship headed for Italy where he will be standing trial before Caesar. For two weeks, they’ve been caught in a violent storm and the crew has been desperately trying everything they could think of to save the ship but everyone had given up hope.

Acts 27:38  “When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.”

They’ve already thrown the ship’s tackle and the cargo overboard.  Now they’re throwing the grain into the sea.  Why not?  It’s no good to us anymore.  If this storm doesn’t end and we don’t find land pretty soon, we’re all going to die in this sea. 

Either God saves us or we die, either way, we’re not eating another meal on this ship.  I want to live.  I’m expecting to live.  But I’m ready to die if that’s what it comes to.  So, throw the grain into the sea because it can’t or it won’t stay like this much longer.  

Finally, they got what they prayed for.  Out of sheer desperation, they dropped four anchors and prayed for daylight. (Acts 27:29)  Well, their prayers were answered because “daylight came.”

Acts 27:39  “When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could”

The storm was over, the sky cleared and the sea grew calm.  It seemed like it would never end.  It seemed like the storm would BE the end but “daylight came.” It always does because God promises it will if we continue to trust in Him.  Jesus doesn’t cause the storms. He calms them.   

Acts 27:40a   “Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea.”

We all have anchors in our lives we have to deal with, things that hold us back and slow us down and prevent us from doing what the Lord is calling us to do. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with patience the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Anchors are the limitations in our lives.  Anchors are the reasons we can’t do something.  

Anchors determine how far the ship can go.  Anchors allow us to move and function in a very comfortable, but limited, area.  The more anchors we take on, the more restricted our lives become.  Whenever we try to move out beyond that narrow area, the anchors stop us cold.

It may be necessary for some of those anchors to stay in place for a while, at least for right now anyway.  Anchors do serve a purpose.  They provide stability and prevent us from drifting aimlessly through life so we have to sure of what the Lord is asking of us before we start cutting those anchors loose.  

Acts 27:40b  “and at the same time, untied the ropes that held the rudders

The rudder determines the direction of the ship.  The rudder determines which way the ship will go.  If a rudder is tied, the ship can only go in one direction.

The rudder represents our will; the way we’ve chosen to be.  A stubborn will is like a rudder tied with ropes.  It represents a mind that’s made up, ears that won’t hear, a heart that’s unreachable and a spirit that’s unteachable.

In order to be saved, they had to cut loose the anchors and untie the rudders “at the same time.” When we’re asking the Lord to help us cut loose our anchors, we also have to ask Him to help us untie our rudders at the same time.  I want to serve you Lord, but I have a bad attitude.  I’m unreachable and unteachable and I always think I’m right.  “Create a clean heart in me and put a new and a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)  Untie my rudders Lord and make me more like you.  

Acts 27:40c   “Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.”

The anchor determines the distance.  The rudder determines the direction, but the foresail or the mainsail determines the speed. It determines how fast the ship will go.  The sail gets its power from the wind. If you try to hoist up the mainsail without cutting loose the anchors and untying the rudders, the ship will tear itself apart and never go anywhere. 

Sometimes believers have a tendency to be anchored to the past. They keep holding on to things they just can’t let go of.  They may be praying for the wind of the Holy Spirit to move them forward.  But every time the wind begins to blow and they start to move forward, the anchors kick in and say, “That’s far enough.  You can’t go any farther.” 

A church with its rudder tied is resistant to change.  It tries to ride out the storm saying. ”This us what we want. This is who we are and who we always will be.”  The Lord is asking us to trust Him for the future.  The wind is starting to pick up.  Cutting loose the anchors and untying the rudders allows the Holy Spirit take us where the Lord wants us to go. 

Acts 27:41-44   “But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the Centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.”

The old, the young, the weak and the strong; “everyone reached land in safety” exactly as God said they would.  As soon as they stopped trying to save the ship, they ended up where the Lord wanted them to be.  We have no future if we’re spending all of our time, all of our energy and all of our money trying to keep the ship afloat, trying to maintain and save the ship.

  The Lord’s not interested in saving the ship.  He’s only interested in saving all the people on the ship.  He wants the congregation alive, preaching the Gospel and making disciples. They ended up where they were trying to go but the Lord brought them there a different way.

  They’re trying to get to Rome.  They’re not in Rome yet but when finally they get there, it will be on a brand new ship, a ship that doesn’t look anything like the old ship. There are plenty more storms ahead for Paul before his race is completed, but the Lord will always be with him as he crosses the finish line.

Lord willing, next week we’ll be looking at Jonah. I’m scheduled to have hip surgery next Tuesday, so the blog will probably be posted on Monday. Plan to stay in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #21

11/03/2020

The Apostle Paul has been arrested for starting a riot in Jerusalem and he’s on a ship headed for Rome where he plans to appeal his case to Caesar. Their ship has been violently battered by a severe storm for the past 2 weeks because the commander in charge refused to believe the warning Paul was trying to give him and the majority was anxious to get started.  The captain and crew have done everything they could think of trying to save the ship, but nothing worked.  The storm just kept getting worse.  It’s all in God’s hands now.  

27:33a – “Just before dawn…”  

Isn’t that when things are supposed to be the darkest?  They haven’t seen the sun or the moon for two weeks.  While the storm was still fully raging, before there was any sign that things were even starting to get better; before they saw any evidence that God was keeping His promises, that the Lord was answering prayer; during the worst, most unbearable moment in the storm, when they were at their absolute breaking point and they couldn’t take it any longer,

Acts 27:33 – “Paul urged them all to eat.”   Instead of sitting here waiting to die, let’s get up and start living again.  

Acts 27:33b    “’For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food – You haven’t eaten anything.’”

“You have been in constant suspense.”  Your body is tense, your mind is racing and your spirit has been crushed. You’re just sitting here waiting to die.  You’re actually looking forward to death so this whole terrible ordeal can finally be over.  

Acts 27:34 “’Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”   

“You need it to survive.” We’ll not only make it through this storm we’re going to overcome and conquer it.  I don’t know how much longer this is going to go on.  I don’t know why the Lord is letting it go on this long.  But I do know that the Lord has promised that we’re all going to live and, somehow, He’ll find a way to make it happen. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m putting on my shorts.  I’m going up on deck.  I’m setting up my chair.  I’m firing up the grill and I’m thawing out some steaks because I know the sun is going to shine on us again. 

Right now, this storm is worse than ever, but I know it’s coming to an end.  I’m thanking God for the victory.  I’m thanking God for my salvation.  I’m thanking God for my deliverance right now, before the dawn, before I can see it, before it happens.  I’m going to start praising Him right now because I know He will not fail. 

Acts 27:35  “After he said this, he took some bread in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.”    

“Be joyful always; pray constantly; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” regardless of the circumstances; CEV “Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ.  This is what God wants you to do.”  Paul wasn’t thanking God for the storm.  He was thanking Him for bringing them safely out of the storm.

Not thanking Him for the circumstances but thanking Him and trusting Him while we’re going through those circumstances is really what God wants us to do.  During the most stressful and distressful times, during the most discouraging times, we can keep thanking God because we know He keeps His promises and He will not fail. 

It doesn’t take any faith to thank God when the trial is over.  Even non-believers can do that. Faith is always praising God before the storm is over. Faith begins praising God “just before dawn” because it knows the dawn is coming. 

Faith knows that daylight is coming.  Faith will always be praising God for the victory before the battle is over because, in its darkest hours, faith knows the victory is guaranteed.  We praise God in every painful and overwhelming situation because we know that He is always in that painful, overwhelming situation working for our good.  Paul gave thanks to God “in front of them all.”  He set the example.  He led the way.

Acts 27:36-37  “They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”     

A little while ago, they had given up “all hope of being saved,” but now “they were all encouraged and ate some food.”  They were no longer discouraged.  All 275 of them were encouraged because of what Paul said and did in front of them during the darkest hours of the storm.  He ate and then they began to eat.  When he stood up and started living again, the rest of them started coming alive. 

Instead of acting like everyone else on that ship, the demonstration of his faith, his unwavering trust in God’s word made everyone else on that ship start to act like him.  Paul’s testimony, his godly example made a difference on that ship. 

When we’re going through difficult and unpleasant times, when we’re struggling through an overwhelming trial, when we’re fighting one battle after another and we’re with our family and friends who don’t share our faith in Jesus, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Are they starting to act like us or are we starting to act like them?  Are we encouraging them in this storm or are they discouraging us?” 

Are they starting to sound as hopeful and positive as we are or are we starting to sound as negative and cynical as they are?  Are we getting to them with the good news, with the hope and the assurance of the gospel or are they getting to us with their bad news, with their pessimism and despair?  Are we lifting them up or are they pulling us down? Lord willing, let’s pick it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pasto Buj. Spread the word and encourage others to get on board.

THE APOSTLE PAUL #20

10/27/2020

The Apostle Paul and his friends are on a ship headed for Italy where he is going to stand trial before Caesar. They’ve encountered a violent storm that is threatening to destroy them. The crew is desperately trying to save the ship.

Acts 27:29 – “Fearing they would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.”

Out of intense fear they dropped 4 anchors and prayed for daylight.  In football, that’s known as a “Hail Mary pass.”  It’s amazing how many so-called “enlightened” and otherwise intelligent people are doing the same thing today.  We all do something like that when we’re afraid. We drop 4 anchors and pray for daylight.

It’s an act of desperation, the last resort.  It’s what we do when we don’t know what else to do but we believe we have to do something.  It never does any good, but the ridiculous seems so reasonable when we’re desperate.

Praying for daylight isn’t going to help much.  We can drown just as easily in the daylight as we can in the dark.  Who are people praying to?  What’s the name of that higher power people are so passionately trying to get hold of?  Turning to religion can’t save us, regardless of which religion it is.  Religion can’t save us.  Going to church can’t save us, but the ridiculous sounds so reasonable when we’re desperate.    

Acts 27:30a “In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea.”  

 Sadly, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homeland desperately trying to escape the violence and persecution they are forced to endure.

In this country there’s a different kind of escaping going on.  People are heading for their lifeboats.  Some bury themselves in their work.  Some immerse themselves in social and political causes.  Some look for escape through food, drugs or alcohol.  Some indulge themselves in sexual gratification or perversion.  Others dabble in the occult.   Many are hoping the New Age philosophies will bring them some relief.  They’re searching for inner peace, but they can’t seem to make that peace last.  They never seem to have any peace when the really need it. 

Acts 27:30b – “…pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.”

The sailors were pretending to lower some anchors.  People without hope are great pretenders.  They pretend to be happy.  They pretend to be confident and secure about themselves and the future; confident about eternity and their own mortality.  You’d never guess from the outside that they’re running away on the inside.  People without hope are great pretenders.  

Acts 27:31 “Then Paul said to the Centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”  

There’s only ONE way out of this.  There is only one hope for salvation.  Salvation is on God’s terms, not ours.  There are many ways that seem right to us, but they all come to a dead end.  They all end in death.  We do not all come to the same God by walking different paths.  Trusting in Jesus alone is the only way to reach Him.  There is only one God and He is not called by many names. 

The name of Jesus is the only name that can save us.  There is only one God and we are not all His children.  To become a child of God we must be born again.  The right to become a child of God and to be adopted into His family is given to everyone who invites Jesus into their hearts.  There is no God within us until we invite Him in and accept His free gift of everlasting life. 

They saw the signs, 120 feet, 90 feet, (Vs. 28). The water level continued to drop.  They knew they were going to crash against the rocks and there was nothing they could do to stop it.  They heard the word of God.  They all knew what they had to do to be saved.  The only questions that hadn’t been answered yet were, “How long are you going to wait before you do something about it?  How much more time do you think you still have?  What will it take to make you turn your life over to Christ and accept what He’s offering you?  Who or what are you trusting in to save you?”  

Acts 27:32 “”So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.” 

They may not have been totally convinced.  They may still have had some serious questions and doubts, but they did it anyway.  They cut the ropes that held the lifeboats and let them fall into the sea.  They had to make a decision.  By faith they let go of, they turned away from everything they had trusted in before to save them.  Now, their only hope was – that the word of God was true.  If the Bible is not the truth, truth does not exist.  If the Bible’s not the truth, it’s all over.  There’s no hope for anyone anymore. 

Repentant believers are on the ship, repentant believers are in this world to speak the word of God even when no one seems to be interested in hearing it.  We’re in this world to speak the word for God, the word that warns the world about the things that will cause its destruction. 

Repentant believers speak God’s word of mercy and grace to an arrogant, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, hostile world that has chosen to ignore God’s warning.  Repentant believers are in this world to present God’s plan of salvation to a world that is fearful and insecure, a world that is desperately clinging to leaky lifeboats that will never be able to save them. 

Do you recognize the signs of the times that the Bible is talking about?  What’s your explanation for the way things are happening in the world right now?  The level is 90 feet and dropping rapidly.  There’s no time for compromise; no time to indulge ourselves in other religious points of view; no time to be doing something ridiculous just because we’re desperate.

If we’re clinging to anything else except complete trust in Jesus, it’s time to cut it loose and let it fall away.  This world can’t sink much lower before it crashes into the rocks.  Let Jesus bring you safely on to higher ground today.             Lord willing, we’ll be back for more next Tuesday. Thanks for following and being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

THA APOSTLE PAUL #19

10/20/2020

            The Apostle Paul and some of his companions are on a ship headed for Italy where Paul will be standing trial before Caesar. The ship encountered a violent storm and, despite the best efforts of the captain and the crew, they were unable to keep the ship together. Everyone, including Paul’s friends, had given up hope of eve r being saved.

            When we stopped last time, Paul stood up and spoke words of encouragement. He spoke the Word of God. “God has said that this ship will be destroyed”, but we’ll all make it through this alive if we’ll just keep trusting Him and do what He says.

Acts 27:23 “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.”

“The God whose I am and whom I serve;” my life is completely in God’s hands. When that gentle south wind is blowing and you try to tell someone an angel of God stood beside you, they just laugh at you and treat you like you’re crazy.  But when you’re talking to someone who’s just lost everything and given up hope; when you tell them an angel of God stood beside you and spoke to you, they envy you.  They hang on your every word. 

Christians stand in the middle of a storm among those who have lost all hope and testify to a God who is real; a God who is here; a God who is able to deliver them from all evil.      

Acts 27:24     “and said, ’Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”

Don’t worry!  Don’t be afraid!  Don’t give up.  God is with us and He will not fail.  “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  When we’ve ignored His word of warning, God sends us a message of mercy and grace.  We “shouldah” listened to Him, but we didn’t.  We all deserve to die in this storm, but if we’ll listen to Him now, we’ll live.

He is a God of mercy and grace. God loves us and doesn’t want any of us to perish in this storm.  He wants us to admit that we’ve sinned and turn away from that sin.  He wants us to live with Him in heaven forever.   

Acts 27:25   “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”

Do you know what people are looking for today?  People who are facing death, or whose loved ones are facing death; people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol; or whose children/grandchildren are addicted to drugs or alcohol; people whose marriages are falling apart; people with no sense of purpose or direction for their lives; people who don’t even know if they want to keep on living; people who have started to wish they had never been born; people who have given up hope; do you know what they’re looking for?  They’re looking for; they’re seeking out; they want to get close to anyone who can stand up and say, “I have faith.”   “I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me.”

That’s what makes a Christian different from the rest of the world.  That’s the difference a Christian makes in this world.  That’s the difference the world is looking for.  We’re all facing the same storms, but we have a message; a message of hope; real hope; guaranteed hope.  We have a positive vision of the future.  In the middle of the worst of life’s storms, we have confidence and joy.  We are trusting in a God who never fails; a God who keeps His promises. 

Acts 27:26  “Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

“Nevertheless;” life is not going to be easy and it won’t always seem fair.  There may still be rough sailing ahead but we’ve got to be willing to endure to the end and not give up.  Our troubles aren’t all over just because we’ve asked Jesus into our hearts.  But all of our troubles have a brand new ending.  When it’s finally over, we’ll be saved.  We’re going to make it.  The Lord is with us and He’ll bring us victoriously through it.

We’ll be back next Tuesday to continue Paul’s journey. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj. If you haven’t done so already, why not sign up to be a regular follower of this blog?

THE APOSTLE PAUL #18

19/13/2020

Paul and some of his friends are on a ship traveling to Italy where he is going to stand trial before Caesar. He tried to warn everyone that they should not sail until next spring, but the captain decided to ignore Paul’s advice. As a result, they now find themselves caught in a violent storm that is threatening to destroy the ship and their lives.

Now, picking up from last week…  Acts 27:20a   “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging…”

The troubles kept piling on. The trial just wouldn’t let up. It was just one thing after another  After a while, we become numb.  The days all seem to run together as the storm just keeps on raging.  Pretty soon we can’t tell if it’s day or night and it doesn’t really matter.  We don’t even care anymore.    

Acts 27:20b  “we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” 

The world’s hope is an empty hope, an uncertain and insecure hope. It doesn’t take much to give it up. But Luke doesn’t say “They gave up all hope.” He says, “We finally gave up all hope.” A believer’s hope is guaranteed. Our hope is a sure and steadfast hope. Our hope is built on the promises of God that will never fail.

But there is only one superman. There’s only one who is brave and confident all the time, and that’s Jesus. The rest of us are human. The rest of us are weak and imperfect. We’re just dust. Sooner or later, even the strongest believer reaches the point of giving up hope.

The good news is that even when our faith is gone, the Lord will still be faithful to us. (2 Timothy 2:13)  We may give up hope but HOPE WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON US. Jesus will never leave us. He will always keep His promises.

Acts 27:21 “After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said, ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourself this damage and loss.’”    

No one wanted to hear what Paul was saying when they were getting ready to sail.  Then, who in their right mind would listen to him when the south wind was blowing so gently?  When the storm came up and the ship started falling apart, no one had time to listen to what Paul was saying.  They were all too busy trying to save themselves because they still thought they could fix it.

Are you ready to listen now; now that everything you’ve tried has failed; now that you’ve run out of bright ideas and you can’t come up with the answers; now that everything you’ve been trusting in and counting on has let you down? Are you ready to listen to what God has to say NOW?

This is not what God wants for you. You’ve brought this on yourselves. But it does no good to regret the past. We can’t go back and undo the past. But we can decide to let the Lord determine our future. It’s what we do from this point on that will determine the ending of our life’s story

Acts 27:22a “But now I urge you to keep up your courage.”     

Our God is a God of the now.  He’s the Lord of today.  He’s a God who’s present to help us get through the troubles we’re facing right now.  He’ll begin putting the pieces of our life back together again right now; if we’ll let Him; if we’ll surrender our lives over to Him; if we’ll begin to listen to Him; begin to trust Him, right now. 

We’ve gone a long time without food.  We’ve been fasting for quite a while.  When the flesh is weak enough; when the mind is desperate enough; when the spirit is hungry enough; when the fight has gone out of us, it finally becomes obvious to us that our lives and our eternal futures depend on God’s word. If Jesus doesn’t save us, we will never be saved.

Acts 27:22b   “Not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”

 “Not one of you will be lost.  The ship will be destroyed.”  What are you; some kind of psychic?  How do you know what will be?  I’m not psychic.  I’m just someone who’s trusting in Jesus and I know what will be because it’s promised in God’s Word.  The world is lost and afraid of the future, but a Christian is confident and secure about the things that “will be.” 

This global ship will be destroyed someday.  In spite of all our so-called advances in science and technology; regardless of how progressive and enlightened we like to think we’ve become; in spite of all the laws were passing and all the money we’re spending trying to save it, this temporary, earthly, physical world will someday be destroyed.  Jesus is coming back to earth again and that changes everything.  This global ship will be destroyed, but those of us who believe in Jesus; those of us who are trusting in what He did for our sin on the cross will be saved.    We will not perish.  We’ll have everlasting life.  When we’re absent from this earthly body, we’ll be present with the Lord.  We will not be going down with the ship.    

   Lord willing, we’ll continue from here next week. I hope you’ll stay with us to finish Paul’s journey. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

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