Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Humble Leadership

Devotion: Jonah 3:6-10

Jonah marched through Nineveh pronouncing God's judgment and imminent destruction. The people heard the prophet of YHWH, believed God and repented. As we will see next week this was not to Jonah's liking. Yet, this week we see what happens when leadership is humbled before God.
"The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, 'By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.' When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it." -Jonah 3:6-10 ESV
The king of Nineveh humbled himself before the Lord. He did not need statistics, proofs or arguments. He heard the word! We cannot underestimate the power of the Word of God. That very Word took a mighty king and put him in sackcloth and ashes, traditional symbols of repentance throughout the ancient near east. What's more, the king used his power to call the people and their livestock to a fast. The fast was to commemorate the repentance that was breaking out in the kingdom, but the king adds weight, calling everyone, "to turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands." Repentance must be the rule of the day.
Some will be quick to see fee-for-service thinking behind the king's actions. The final statement about the relenting of the Lord from his fierce anger seems to point to a self-preservation motive. The king could be calling the people to repentance in an effort to assuage YHWH and then return to business as usual. There is no way to prove that this was not the case, but the king's action was first to take sackcloth and ashes to himself and this likely means a true change of heart. At any rate, God does relent from the disaster. 

The relenting of God is sometimes lifted up as evidence that God can/will change. That idea is nonsense, as Scripture firmly proclaims, "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6). So, if God firmly proclaims He does not change, what can we make of Him relenting here (or the relenting of Exodus 32:7-14 among others)? Perhaps it is worth our time to consider means and ends. Means are those things/actions that lead to an outcome, or end. Too often we ascribe God sovereignty over ends, but fail to see that He is equally sovereign over means as well. Hence, the Apostle Paul can say, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). The Lord can use all things (i.e. means) to bring about good in the lives of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (i.e. the end). God can do this because He not only has the end (good) in mind, but also the means (all things). In the case of Nineveh, God has used the means of Jonah's preaching of destruction to bring about the end of Nineveh's repentance, from the least to the greatest. Yet, should Nineveh have rejected Jonah's preaching, destruction would have come. A good explanation of this is found in our Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter 5: Providence.
"God  is  the  first  cause,  and  in  relationship  to  him  everything  happens  unchangeably and infallibly.  However,  by  this  same  providence,  he  orders  things  to  happen  from  secondary causes. As a result of these secondary causes, some things must inevitably happen; others may or  may  not  happen  depending  on  the  voluntary  intentions  of  the  agents  involved;  and  some  things do not have to happen but may, depending on other conditions." -WCF 5.2

The end result, as God ordained, is that Nineveh repented and He relented from the disaster. This ought to lead us to take repentance and humility seriously in not just ourselves, but also our leaders. That is true inside and outside of the Church. We need to pray for humble leaders who will repent when the Word of the Lord comes to them. Barring that kind of humble leader, we need to pray that our proud leaders are humbled by God by any and all means necessary.

Music this week is from Indelible Grace, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way."

News for You:

  • Look for small group sign-ups soon. We are still in need of some leaders.
  • Camp Chelan is getting ready to launch registration. If you have youth in your life sign them up!
  • The Women's Walk and Talk group will be meeting at Eastside Park this Saturday at 8. All women are invited to spend time in fellowship and getting some exercise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Woe and Repentance

Devotion: Jonah 3:3b-5

One of the largest misconceptions about Jonah is his ministry in Nineveh. Nineveh was a massive city, capital of the fearsome Assyrian Empire. We are told that if you started on one side of the city, it would take you three days to walk to the other end. That walk could be that length for sheer size or just the twists and turns you would need to navigate an ancient city. At any rate, the city is big and important.
When Jonah arrives in Nineveh he begins to preach a sermon of woe. In essence, that the destruction of the Lord will fall on Nineveh.
"Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them." -Jonah 3:3b-5 ESV
Never once does Jonah call the people to repent. Jonah simply announces the coming wrath of God and the impending destruction and overthrow of the great city. He is announcing that the people of Nineveh are hopeless. Of course, this is not God's message to Nineveh or to us, but it is what Jonah wants to preach.
Jonah is right to pronounce that the city of Nineveh would be overthrown. As we will see later in the text Jonah is actually quite angry about the way that overthrow takes place. Jonah wants brimstone, or perhaps, fire to be called down from the sky (see Luke 9:51-55). Yet, God is not really interested in destroying people. The destruction of wickedness is God's choice because He will not abide sin. That destruction takes place with either the wicked being destroyed completely or the wicked no longer being wicked.
What happens in Nineveh as Jonah pronounces woe and impending destruction is the people repent. They see the sin in their lives and their need for God. They take up ancient symbols of repentance and remorse, namely, fasting and wearing sackcloth. We will see the exact extent of this repentance next week. At any rate, the people feel the righteousness of God and His judgment over wickedness and they move to the second option of no longer being wicked and thus worthy recipients of destruction.
Today in the Church we have much the same duty as Jonah. We pronounce judgment of evil, sin and wickedness. We trouble those who are complacent in their disobedience and rebellion before God. Unlike Jonah, however, we preach grace. We do not merely inform people of the wrath to come, but we offer Jesus Christ, the friend and savior of sinners like us, and the only hope we have. Jesus Christ in his salvation removes sin from us and gives us righteousness in its place. In this way we are no longer wicked, but filled with Christ. Again, the choice is stark, face God's wrath and destruction as a sinner, or be made new in Christ Jesus.

Music this week is from Indelible Grace, "From the Depths of Woe."

News for You:

  • We want to give members the opportunity to pay their Per Asking fees of $43 per person. Please mark your checks or envelopes Per Asking.  
  • CPC is looking for a part-time nursery worker to fill in for Terri Cunningham. If you, or anyone you know is interested, please contact church staff.
  • Pick A Party:  CPC Youth Camp Fund Raiser: Volunteer your time and resources to host a party during May and June.  If you don’t want to host a party, sign up to attend one.  Watch the fellowship hall for sign ups!  All donations received will be used to offer an incredible camp experience to our youth! Sign up for a Pick-a-Party event in the fellowship hall. Thanks for all your support to help with fund raising for the Youth Camp!  Parties run from May 13 through June 8.  Cost:  $15 for adults, $5 for children, $35 max for a family.
  • Walk & Talk: For the next 4 weeks, join a group of ladies to "walk and talk", every Saturday at 8 AM, at Eastside Park. Starts May 12th. Fellowship & exercise together. Invite a friend!
  • Small Groups: We are on the lookout for a few more small group leaders to lead our next Bible study on Titus. If you would like to facilitate a 5-week small group covering Titus, let Pastor Bill or Elder Dave Lamb know!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Devotion: Jonah 3:1-3a

Since the fall of Adam God has been reconciling His creation to Himself. While within His right to wipe away creation completely (see Genesis 6:5-8), God continually redeems and offers second chances. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and this led God to deliver him personally and give all of creation a new start. Jonah also has found favor in the eyes of the Lord and so God gives him a new start.
"Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.' So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD." -Jonah 3:1-3a ESV
The message Jonah is given is similar to his original call from the Lord. In Jonah 1:2 the Lord calls to the prophet, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." The first call contains a reason for Jonah to go to Nineveh, namely that the wickedness of the city had come into the presence of God, polluting His holy habitation in heaven (see Hebrews 9:23-24), a problem that will only be ultimately solved in the death of Christ Jesus and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. At any rate, the parallels between Jonah 1:2 and Genesis 6:5 should help us to see the biblical pattern present here. Sin/evil/wickedness have come before God and He makes moves to stop the invasion of the fallen pollutant from spreading. In Noah's case, the Lord calls him to build a gigantic box to preserve the creation through a purification and scouring of the fallen world. In Nineveh's case, the Lord calls the prophet Jonah to go and call out against it.
The call of Jonah is usually described as a call to go and preach repentance. Such a call is actually absent from the text. Repentance, for the most part, depends upon an existing faith relationship with the Lord. Faith precedes repentance in the Reformed understanding of Scripture (see Acts 11:1-18) and is true repentance necessary prerequisite. At any rate, Jonah is called to go to Nineveh and he does not.
The second call of Jonah after the big fish incident subtly changes the call of the Lord. Jonah has been disobedient to the clear call of God. Jonah is worthy of condemnation and destruction by the Lord. Yet, the Lord's electing grace restores Jonah and calls him back to obedience. The call loses its focus on Nineveh's sin and instead focuses on Jonah's sin. Jonah has been flippant about the Word of the Lord and so now the Lord is more pointed that Jonah will say what the Lord gives him to say. Jonah has not done what the Lord called him to do, now the Lord wants to be sure that Jonah gets the message that obedience to the call of God is his only real option. If the big fish incident was not enough to convince Jonah of the Lord's power, then this call to obedience should cut through his own sin and impress upon him the seriousness of the Lord.
The amazing thing, then, is that Jonah obeys the call of God this second time without saying a word. The suffering of Jonah has brought him to the point that he sees the futility of resisting God's call. Jonah goes to Nineveh at last. I think, perhaps, that we can see our own faith and God's call in all this as well. Resisting the Lord's call will end in the Lord's will being done. Perhaps it is better to submit in obedience to His call now.
This week's music is from Paul Zach courtesy of the Good Christian Music Blog.

News for You:

  • Spring Small Group sign ups for our study in Titus are coming soon!
  • The Chelan Camp fundraiser, "Pick-a-Party" will have sign-ups following worship this Sunday, May 6. The cost is $15/adult/party or $5/child/party with a maximum family cost of $35. All funds go to support our youth camp this summer.
  • The Okanogan Community Homeless Shelters Board of Directors are seeking two new board members to help lead and manage the homeless shelter ministry. If you are interested, contact Pastor Bill.