He Loved Big Brother (Jonah 1:1-5, 9)

Seminary was never in my grand plan for life; in fact, I really did not want to go into ministry at all. Throughout college, I had visions of grandeur (or actually self-delusion), convincing myself that I would one day be the next Hemingway, Vonnegut, Flaubert, blah blah blah… But even back then, I always had this faint feeling that I was running from something. I felt like I was running away from God Almighty Himself.

            If you were to ask me who my favorite character in the Bible is, the answer may baffle you: it is not Abraham, who by faith was willing to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac; it is not Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament; it is not even Jonathan, who had an amazing first name. No, my favorite character had a small book named after him and a whole Veggie Tales movie based on him: poor foolish Jonah.

            What makes Jonah so special to me? Look at his track record: God gives him one job: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2, ESV). All you had to do, Jonah, is do your job as a prophet: get up and tell God’s message. And we see him do the first command, because Jonah does get up, but instead he “rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). And because Jonah tries to escape God’s presence, all we see is him going down, and down, and down, and down. When you try to escape from God, your life only becomes a downward spiral of failure.

            Even though Jonah thinks he can escape God’s presence, the Lord is right there with him. You will not (because you cannot) escape the presence of the Lord. You can run from your calling to ministry like I tried, or run from the church itself, or run from all of Christianity, but you will never escape the Hound of Heaven that is relentlessly pursuing His children. King David even wrote a poem about this:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
  Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me,
    And your right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10). 

Just like the Police song “Every Move You Make” (a song about a stalker!), God is right there watching you.

            And that’s the best news you could ever hear.

            Look at the Gospel of Matthew: “And when he [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (Matthew 8:23-27).

Jonah failed miserably with his mission; he forgot Christianity 101, and with the great storm wailing around him, all he wanted to do was go down into the boat to die (Jonah 1:5). While Jonah slept resigned to death, Jesus slept in perfect control of the storm (Matthew 8:24). In fact, the answer to the disciple’s question in 8:27 is found in Jonah’s response thousands of years earlier: “I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9).

You may think that you’re better off without religion, God, the Bible, or whatever makes you feel great. But all us, religious or irreligious, believer or non-believer, have more than Big Brother watching; we have the Lord God, whose presence is inescapable. But instead of a stalker who just wants to ruin your day, God is the one who controls the universe. The God that commanded the sea to be still is the same God who died so that we might live.

For the final words of Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith finally gives into the brainwashing of the omniscience and all-powerful Big Brother, and all that Orwell can tragically say is “He loved Big Brother.” Thankfully, God is watching all of us, but instead of that fact causing dread, it should be the source of all lasting peace, hope, and comfort. Jonah is my favorite Bible character because he reminds me of myself, and this story reminds me that there is hope for flaky people.

Dirty Laundry (Psalm 51)

Dirty Laundry (Psalm 51)

            Cleanliness is truly next to godliness. If you have ever taken a creative writing class, you know I have completely failed the first day’s lesson: avoid overused sayings like the plague (Trite) because the road to hell is paved with them (Trite). Yet that first sentence captures a fascination for people. We like to be clean.

God Is Bigger Than Our Boogeyman (Matthew 8:29-25)

God Is Bigger Than Our Boogeyman (Matthew 8:29-25)

We are a culture that is captivated by creepy. If you look for only a few minutes at  Hollywood movies (IT, A Quiet Place, The Conjuring), you probably can see this for yourselves. If you’re my age, you may enjoy reading Creepypasta to pass your time. And this isn’t a passing fad; just look at Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. There is something in us that likes being scared, creeped out, or uncomfortable. What’s interesting is that horror stories did not begin with American culture; it didn’t even begin with any of our modern sense. Even all the way back in the Bible, we see the same fears, same thrills, same “creepypastas” that our popular culture plagues today.

“If we should deal out justice only in this world, who would stand?”

 “If we should deal out justice only in this world, who would stand?”

I don’t get to read much while in seminary. I should rephrase that; I don’t get to read much outside of what my professors tell me to read. For those that know me, that fact truly hurts me deep within my soul. However, in the time driving back and forth from Delaware and Chadds Ford, I’ve made time not to read but to listen to audiobooks. One book I’m going through is Mark Twain’s autobiography. And in this book, there is a moment where Mark Twain complains about Twain’s editor for a different book. During this monologue, Twain casually comments, “If we should deal out justice only in this world, who would stand?” But even within that thought is so much truth; we cannot survive in a world of only justice.

HOPE IN THE LORD … even when you don’t understand

HOPE IN THE LORD … even when you don’t understand

   Throughout history, God’s people have faced injustice, suffering, disease, pain, loss, poverty, threats, and loneliness. Job lost everything, and his friends blamed him. Joseph was sold into slavery and was imprisoned. David was chosen to be Israel’s king, but Saul sent an army to kill him. Daniel was taken captive and sent to a foreign land, and when he was caught praying he was thrown to the lions. Mary lived a godly life, but her family abandoned her when she became pregnant. Our trials and struggles may not rise to these levels, but we all face times when we just don’t understand what God is doing and why He allows evil and wicked men to threaten and harm us and those we love.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend (Psalm 88)

In today’s culture, it’s almost impossible to be disconnected. Unless you plan on going off the grid (might I suggest the Mid-West if you did), you will leave your footprint in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of the internet has kept us connected with even acquaintances; but with all of this, why are we such an unhappy society? Even with our friends close to us, we feel the crushing weight of loneliness every day. We are a culture driven by depression.

Even in Psalms, we find people crying to God for deliverance. Particularly in Psalm 88, we see a man full of trouble (V. 1), put in a pit (V. 6), rejected by friends (V. 8), with darkness as his only friend (V. 18). The psalmist even sees God as the one who put him in this situation. And with a surface level reading, this Psalm seems to be without any redemption

But God, in the very beginning of the chapter, is called “God of my salvation.” Because of that, the psalmist daily cries to the Lord, knowing where he can find lasting hope. Even when the author knows who put him there, he knows who will bring him out.

You may feel hopeless with so much fighting against you. You may feel betrayed by your friends, alone in this technological age, and depression is your only friend. You may even ask, “Why would you do this to me God?” The biblical authors faced the same sadness that we face today.

But the Gospel gives hope of ultimate happiness and forgiveness. Because despite who we are, God sent his Son to die for our sins, and we have the hope of a future promise: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

You may feel alone, shunned, rejected, and hated today. Life on earth is a pilgrimage that brings tears, but the Gospel presents a Savior who will personally wipe your tears away.