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An Unlikely Comeback

There are certain things that God calls people to do that are awkward, challenging and unappealing,  Unless someone possesses a strong conviction or will to act, most individuals exercise freewill to decline this opportunity to serve God.  In the passage below, an Old Testament prophet receives a clear message from the Lord.  However, human nature compels Jonah to flee, heading in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  This decision sets the stage for an unlikely comeback.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim [judgment] against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah ran away to Tarshish to escape from the presence of the Lord [and his duty as His prophet]. He went down to ]Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish [the most remote of the Phoenician trading cities]. So he paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord, Jonah 1:1-3.

From time to time, I have met people whose lives have taken a similar path to Jonah.  Initial stages play the role of a prodigal, indulging their sinful nature until hitting rock bottom.  For those who come to their senses, confessions, repentance and reconciliation follows.  While in college, I spent a day at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio with two co-workers.  My friend Harry ran into an old youth pastor.  Eddy and I stared at each other in shock, unaware of Harry’s former life.  Prior to this encounter, Harry was in full blown prodigal mode, cursing like a sailor daily while living with his girlfriend.  This God instance planted the seed for another unlikely comeback.

Then they said to him, “Now tell us!  Who is to blame for this disaster? What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country?” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I [reverently] fear and worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men became extremely frightened and said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was running from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What should we do to you, so that the sea will become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming more and more violent, Jonah 1:8-11.

Stories like this and the apostle Paul’s radical transformation in Acts 9 communicate a powerful message, anything is possible with God.  The Psalmist uses the imagery of infinity, ” as far as the east is from the west,” to describe God’s endless supply of grace, love and mercy.  To the human mind, this fact is hard to comprehend and grasp.  Nonetheless, whether you are currently running away from God, stuck in a relentless storm or ready to give God another chance, its never too late for a comeback.  May the testimony of Jonah give you hope that you too are a candidate for an unlikely spiritual comeback.

by Jay Mankus

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So Close, But yet So Far

While I was tempted to name today’s blog, “So Close, but No Cigar,” common sense kept me from wavering off topic.  As I listened to Jentezen Franklin’s sermon on the Trinity Broadcast Network before attending church on Sunday, the Holy Spirit jogged my memory of the walls of resistance which deny believers from entering God’s promised land.  Moses dedicated his entire life to the nation of Israel, foregoing the riches of Egypt, Hebrews 11:24-27, yet the closest he came to a land flowing with milk and honey was a view from atop Mount Nebo.  Why did God deny him this privilege?  According to Numbers 20:6-13, Moses failed to carefully obey God’s command, striking a rock twice instead of just once.

Obedience is one wall to climb, but sometimes your own circumstances prove too much for a person to overcome.  Although hard to believe, my friend Harry endured a brutal set of events, triggering a back slide of historic proportions.  The person who led him to Christ committed suicide shortly after his conversion.  In the weeks that followed, one of his youth leaders who began to ease his pain, had an affair and abruptly abandoned the ministry, moving to California.  These poor witnesses kept Harry from entering a church for nearly 20 years.  My friend Eddy and I never thought Harry had been to church until a divine appointment at Cedar Point Amusement Park, reintroduced Harry to his former youth pastor.  In one moment, 20 years of severance was reunited, the first of many steps toward healing his bruised, confused and wounded heart.

Whether you feel like Moses today, with a mountain standing in between you and your dreams or as Harry did, coming to grips with a desolate soul, remember that sanctification is an on going process, not complete until the Lord takes you home.  Sure, you might have mountain top experiences, yet there is always a valley between mountains.  You may want answers, transformation and victory immediately, but sanctification occurs gradually, through a day by day process, Ephesians 2:3-7.  Therefore, live each moment on earth with a James 4:15 mindset, recognizing that you are close, but yet so far!

by Jay Mankus

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