Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Devotion: Jonah 1:17

The story of Jonah and the big fish is often taught to Sunday School students. Similar to the story of Noah's Ark, the story is usually cleaned up and sanitized for children. The grit, fear and gore are cleaned out of the text and these stories are presented as adventures with animals for children. If, for a moment, however, we set aside the cleaned-up 'children's Bible' version, we see these accounts for what they are--a massive display of God's power and might and humanity's frailty and dependence. In Jonah's case, he is consumed by the call of God and must rely upon God's faithfulness to survive. Let's take a look at the very brief account of Jonah being consumed by the great fish:
"And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." -Jonah 1:17 ESV
Jonah had fled the call of God. God sent a great storm to force Jonah back to his call. The result of the storm was a mass conversion of the sailors and Jonah being tossed overboard to appease YHWH. In the end, YHWH sends a great fish to swallow Jonah and carry him back toward Israel, and beyond it, Nineveh. While we do not have every detail of the great fish, it is not idle speculation to think it must have been something like leviathan, described in Job 3:8, 41:1-11, Psalm 74:13-14, 104:24-26 and Isaiah 27:1-though admittedly Isaiah describes leviathan as more of a serpent than a fish. At any rate, the great fish is large enough to swallow Jonah whole.
Jonah is then said to spend three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, no doubt as the fish travels back toward Israel to deposit Jonah on the shore to make his way inland to Nineveh. As we will see next week Jonah lifts up a prayer from the belly of the fish and so his life must be preserved there, no doubt supernaturally by the Lord. Yet, Jonah's consumption by the great fish is a death of sorts and a resurrection when he is spewed out on dry land. How do we know? Jesus tells us so in two disputes with religious leaders of his day:
"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, 'Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.' But he answered them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.' " -Matthew 12:38-41 ESV
"And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' So he left them and departed." -Matthew 16:1-4 ESV
Jesus takes the time Jonah spends in the belly of the great fish as a prefiguring of the time he will spend in 'the heart of the earth' following his crucifixion and leading to his resurrection on the third day. Much and more ink has been spent working out the math of three days and three nights for Jesus in the tomb, but suffice to say, the point is not precision in math, but that Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish was a type pointing forward to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Like the sailors with Jonah, the religious leaders are to accept the sign that is given to them and not seek for one on their own terms.
Like many things in life, we often want more surety and certainty than we are given. In finance, most want a guarantee that a particular investment will make a profit, hence Bernie Madoff was able to dupe many out millions because he seemingly (though fraudulently) could guarantee a good return on investment. I imagine the religious leaders of Jesus' day wanted a guarantee that Jesus was the Messiah before they put their support behind him, but perhaps they simply wanted a confirmation that he was not so they could dismiss him as a fraud. Jonah, on the contrary, had no guarantee apart from the faithfulness of YHWH when he hit the water and was consumed by the great fish that he would survive. He merely had his call and trust that the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, YHWH, would preserve his life until he fulfilled his mission.
Surety and certainty that come in the form of portends and signs are not only unnecessary for our faith, they are a hindrance to it. Such signs make God perform tricks to woo us to His call and cause. In the end, these demands place us in a superior position to God and simply continue the sin of Adam in our lives. This is why Jesus rejects the call for a sign in both instances from the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, Jesus does say they will have one particular sign, namely, the resurrection.
As we participate in God's call on our lives to proclaim Jesus Christ we have few guarantees apart from the resurrection of Jesus. Our entire faith hangs on the veracity of that event (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-20). So, like Jonah, we must be consumed by God's call on our lives and trust only in His faithfulness to deliver us from death.

Music this week is "Levithan" by Josh Garrels.

News for You:

  • Shout Out: A big thank you to all who helped with the sound upgrade in the sanctuary this last week. Butch, Pete, Jim, Joe, Kurt, Nick and Elizabeth put in the hard work to help us all hear the Word more clearly.
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • SonRise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.
  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • We are getting the Blue Angel up and running again! If you are needing a ride to church on Sunday, contact Dave at 826-1290.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Devotion: Jonah 1:10-16

I think I have spent a lot of my life taking responsibility for things that were not my responsibility and dodging responsibility for things that were my responsibility. I have spoken often of late of the sin of Adam. Adam, created in essence to be king of creation, the vice-regent of God to reign at His right hand over all that He had made, falls into sin. King Adam's basic sin is to follow his wife, Eve, into sin by taking hold of ultimacy. King Adam the Fallen sought to usurp God's role in defining the good. The knowledge of good and evil is unnecessary for human flourishing. After all, Adam knew the goodness of God and could be in His holy presence without fear. What more could Adam want? Indeed, even wanting more than what God had provided and choosing a way other than the call of God on Adam's life was sin itself. The so-called forbidden fruit did not have magical, mystical or spiritual powers inherit to it. The sin is not eating the fruit, it is desiring to eat the fruit, and, therefore, desiring to take God's place as the ultimate and final authority on all things.
When we go overboard in taking too much responsibility or shirking our responsibility we are simply following King Adam in usurping God's authority and denying His call. We must resist both sides of the responsibility temptation, but the way forward is not merely a compromise position between the two, but rather to be properly oriented to God in the surrender of faith. This is the way of King Jesus the Redeemer and the way Jonah discovered on board a ship caught in a storm:
"Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows." -Jonah 1:10-16 ESV
Jonah knows God's call on his life. He was a prophet, one who heard and reported the Word of the Lord. He was called to go to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire and denounce the city for its evil. Yet Jonah went the opposite direction, fleeing from God and choosing to shirk his responsibility to the call of God. Shirking our responsibility to the call of God is something that resonates with all of us, at least some of the time. Jonah decides to choose his own path and this is his sin, and, frankly, his echo of the sin of King Adam the Fallen.
The storm that rose against the ship must have been monstrous to terrify the sailors. It was so bizarre and strange that they decided immediately it must be of supernatural origin. Jonah is finally singled out as the one who had displeased his God and therefore the root cause of the storm. The question that faced those aboard the ship at that point was, "What now?"
Fear is the initial action, followed by disbelief. The sailors discover that Jonah had shirked his responsibility to God's call and they are flabbergasted. The fear quickly gives way to the practicality of disbelief, that is, if we try hard enough we can fix this. Something must be done to end the storm, something that must involve Jonah. It would have been easy for Jonah to steer the sailors in a way that denied taking responsibility. Jonah could have lied, could have invented a strategy out of thin air. He could have prescribed sacrifices, prayers or even conversions. What he did was shocking--telling the crew to throw him overboard. His suggestion is so shocking that the crew tries desperately to escape the storm one more time, only to find that the storm worsened as they denied the call of God.
This is the most difficult part of the entire first chapter. Jonah's solution, (toss him overboard), seems to be almost suicidal. The sailors recognize that throwing Jonah overboard would all but certainly lead to his death. So they pray to God and ask to be excused from what seems an immoral act to them. The sailors invoke the name of God (YHWH, here represented in the English as "LORD") in their prayer and surrender to His will as spoken by the prophet Jonah. Jonah is thrown into the sea and all is calm. This leads the sailors to fear the Lord, offer sacrifices to him and make vows--in other words, they come to worship the Lord as their God.
Jonah, in surrendering to the will of God and taking proper responsibility leads others to surrender to God in faith. When we lay down the sin of Adam and take up the way of King Jesus we do much the same. Evangelism is rarely accomplished by marketing and gimmicks. It is accomplished by the followers of Jesus surrendering to his will and his way. We must hear the call of God and follow even if it appears to lead us unto death. This is our responsibility in faith and it is in taking this responsibility that we proclaim the truth of our God.

The music is "Where Were You" by Ghost Ship. It is a beautiful depiction of Job 38ff.

News for You:

  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • Sonrise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

To Tell the Truth

Devotion: Jonah 1:7-9

As a kid I remember spending time watching old episodes of "To Tell the Truth." If you are not familiar with the program, it features three contestants who all claim to be a particular person with a particular story, usually with some unusual or fantastic twist. A panel is tasked, then, with asking the contestants questions and determining who is telling the truth. To my surprise, the program was revived in 2016 and is currently running on ABC. At any rate, what fascinated me as a kid was the moment of truth, that point when the real person would stand up. I remember when the panel was completely wrong and when the panel got it just right. It is the moment when truth is revealed that mattered though, regardless of how well the panel did.
In our passage from Jonah this week we have the moment that truth is revealed. It comes about through casting lots (throwing dice or other objects to determine who was the odd-one-out) in the midst of a raging storm. The lot falls on Jonah and it comes time to tell the truth:
"And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, 'Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?' And he said to them, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.' " -Jonah 1:7-9 ESV
Jonah only really answers one of the many questions he is asked. He tells the other passengers and sailors about his people, saying, "I am a Hebrew." He then goes on to bear witness about his God. Jonah tells them the name of his God, YHWH, here written as "the LORD," and that his God is the one who made heaven, the sea and the dry land. What Jonah cannot bring himself to do is to tell them why this calamity has fallen on the ship bound for Tarshish, namely that he is fleeing from God's call.
Also, Jonah, to his credit, does not ascribe 'evil' to his God. Jonah knows full well that the storm has come upon the ship because of his own disobedience to the call of God and he will shortly move to remedy that disobedience in a self-sacrificial way (that will be next week). Therefore the storm is not evil, but rather a time of suffering to serve the good purpose of God, delivering his prophet to Nineveh to proclaim the word of his judgment. At present, in the midst of a raging storm Jonah tells the truth about his God and this is a witness that will bear fruit shortly.
I think we lose sight of the setting for this passage too quickly. This casting of lots and discussion is not a calm discussion after dinner while everyone pokes at a piece of pie. Instead, the storm continues to rage all around them and the need for truth, quickly and succinctly stated, is paramount. The storm is unnatural and with the supernatural worldview of the ancients, they know it must come from some divine force. The pagan sailors are sure it is because someone has displeased a god/goddess, and, in a way, they are right. Yet, it is not a fickle pagan deity, but the Lord, the maker of heaven of earth that has brought the storm upon them. The storm is not intended for evil, but for good. The storm is intended to call God's man, Jonah, back to his senses and to the Lord's service.
We need to see and tell the truth in our own lives. When suffering, tragedy and crisis come upon us, are we more apt to shake an angry fist at heaven or plead for deliverance than we are to receive the suffering as a reminder of our finitude and our need for God? I think too often we simply want the suffering to end rather than asking how God is using suffering for His own good purpose. To tell the truth about suffering is to acknowledge that suffering often serves God's purpose of calling us back to Him and to His service.

The song is "Prodigal" from Tina Boonstra.

News for You:

  • Thanks for all the support and donations to our Sanctuary Sound fund. We have reached our goal, ordered equipment and will begin the project very soon!
  • CPC member Marian McClanahan recently published a book about her life, titled “Vignettes of an Ordinary Life.” If you wish to support Marian and her book, you can find it on Amazon!
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • Sonrise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Waking Up to the Lord's Presence

Devotion: Jonah 1:4-6

The Book of Jonah begins with Jonah, the prophet, denying the clear call of God to go to Nineveh to proclaim their imminent destruction. Instead, Jonah boards a ship headed to Tarshish. We pick up this week on board ship:
"But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, 'What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.' " -Jonah 1:4-6 ESV
Denying the call of God and blatantly going the opposite direction does not pass below the Lord's radar. Jonah has fallen asleep in the hold of the ship and thus is unaware of the presence of the Lord. Ironically, it is the pagan sailors who rightly read the storm as a divine message. The captain is unclear who is sending the message and so he rounds up everyone on board to call on their own god(s) to put an end to the calamity.
Jonah knows the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will soon declare that this storm can only be from his God. While the prophet may have thought he escaped the presence of the Lord, the captain's call to him has awakened him that he cannot flee from God's presence. While he slept terror and loss characterize the scene around him. The chaos of the storm threatens to destroy them all. And in the midst of it, Jonah sleeps. It is reminiscent of a story of Jesus, with a few crucial differences.
"On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?' " -Mark 4:35-41 ESV
Unlike Jonah, Jesus' slumber is not an escape from the Lord's presence, but rather comfort in that presence. The terror of the disciples is much the same as the ship's crew around Jonah. What changes everything, however, is that Jesus is the Lord's presence on the ship. The chaos of the storm is nothing to the one through whom all things were made. The wind and the sea obey Jesus when he tells them, "Peace! Be still!" Jonah's actions will soon awaken the ship's crew to the presence of the Lord. Jesus' own actions demonstrate that he IS the Lord's presence.
In the midst of God's call in a chaotic world, we would do well to remember that it is the presence of the Lord we still need and we find that presence in Jesus.

The music "Have Mercy on Me," is from The Porter's Gate Worship Project

News for You:

  • Do not forget to spring forward this weekend or risk the horror of walking in late to worship!
  • Our monthly Men's Breakfast is this Saturday, 3/10 at 6 a.m.
  • We are raising money to update/repair/replace sound equipment in the Sanctuary. As of today (3/7/18) we are within a $1000 of our fundraising goal! Thanks to all of the generous contributions and let's reach that goal!
  • March 11th is potluck Sunday with the theme of green. Last names A-M are asked to bring a salad or a side dish and those beginning N-Z can bring a dessert. For bonus points, make it GREEN.
  • CPC member Marian McClanahan recently published a book about her life, titled “Vignettes of an Ordinary Life.” If you wish to support Marian and her book, you can find it on Amazon!
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • Sonrise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.