In the Right Place

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And I’m going to invite the rest of you to Jonah chapter three as we go through our series on Jonah together. And we’re three weeks into this four week series as it relates to Jonah and I hope it’s been encouraging to your life. And uh, today we’re going to continue to encourage your life to the story of Jonah. Um, you think about Jonah. Jonah is one that reminds me a little bit of dreams. We start off life maybe dreaming of all the things that we can do, maybe even the start of this year. And uh, Jonah pursued his dreams. You see, God had a plan for Jonah and Jonah decided his plan included a the beach. And so he heads to Tarshish. And in pursuing his dreams, he winds up really empty. But Jonah reminds me his attitude towards God and what he desired for his life. He reminds me of the thought that your heart is created for worship. Um, by saying heart, I really mean the center of who you are. It’s created for worship. And part of that means that you’re to be inspired and to dream and to imagine to think of the possibilities what could be, especially when we recognize things aren’t the way that they should.

But when we talk about your heart being created for worship, it’s also important to recognize that if what’s leading your heart is not healthy, the results will not be healthy and no matter if you think you have all the good intentions of the world, you wind up much like Jonah feeling empty when truthful, anything less than God leads our heart, it ultimately will not end well. God is the root of joy and the meaning of life. And it’s a possible to live life to its fullest with the meaning and what you were intended to have unless it’s centered on the one who gives it meaning. And so when we talk about in our cliches of our culture, just follow your heart, the results of that. It’s kind of a flip of the coin of whether or not it ends in a, in a results, in a positive ending because the heart was created for worship. And what is leading the heart may not ultimately produce what would call that heart to find joy. We in desiring to find happiness oftentimes get self focus and we start thinking the answer to life as centered in our in lives and therefore we start to think even smaller. And the results of that really is that we never end with the joy we were created to have. I think in my own life. The thing that really brought me into relationship with God was this, this bugging question of not being able to answer why.

Remember I was in college going getting a degree and couldn’t, could not figure out what it was I wanted to do and I, it drove me nuts just considering it over and over. Why? What is it I’m supposed to do? And then as I thought deeper and deeper and I recognized that if I could figure out why I even existed, maybe I could figure out what it was I was supposed to do. Looking at people who’ve gone before me and how they have lived their lives, just pattering my life after. That wasn’t enough for me to, to, to live my life like them. I wanted to know why I would even want to do something like that. The idea of dreaming, imagining, being, being inspired at all, it all draws itself into the thought of the reason for which you were created, which is for warship.

Joan, as you read the story of Jonah, Jonah had his plan. He thought, which he could delight in. Yeah. Well, we discover it very early in the story of Jonah is that God had another plan for Jonah’s life. Jonah chapter four verse two Jonah declares he didn’t like God’s plan because it was to love on people and what’s Jonah didn’t want to love. And so Jonah went on his own journey towards his own personal pleasure, finding the seeking for the seed of joy and pursuing his heart’s delight within himself. When we see in chapter one verses three and five is that Jonah find himself in a place of depression and in a spot of displeasure. Those two verses in chapter one tells us that Jonah went down. It’s, it’s the author’s way of showing Jonah moving towards death. Although he thought he was seeking life. But at the end of chapter one verse 17 it tells us that God appointed a fish, that God pursued Jonah with a fish. And that before Jonah had even fallen, before Jonah had even gotten depressed before, before Jonah found himself dis satisfied, God had already appointed a fish to meet Jonah in his need. And then chapter two we see Jonah recognizes his despair, his fleeing from God, his sin, and where it had brought him. And in chapter two we saw Jonah calling out to God

in chapter three as we get ready to engage this tax, this is sort of the the chapter. That’s the reset button in the middle of the story because chapter one and chapter three sort of mirror each other in the way it begins. Chapter one verse one the word of the Lord came to Jonah. Jonah messed up, but God’s not finished with Jonah. And so chapter three verse one it says again, now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, God’s grace being extended to Jonah because the book of Jonah is not just about a fish. It’s, it’s not just about the city of Nineveh. The book of Jonah I think is primarily about the person of Jonah and so the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time saying, arise, go to Nineveh, the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you,

I want us to know as we look at the story as the last couple of chapters unfold and we see Jonah walking in obedience to God. Jonah in the very beginning was rebellious, but now in chapter three to four we’re going to see that Jonah follows after God religiously, but God really doesn’t have his whole heart completely. So this morning I really just want to look at two lessons we learned from, from Jonah’s poor example and recognizing that our hearts are created for worship and the purpose of life is found itself in the center of God’s identity. That his, his desire for our lives is the best for for us and the pursuit of that. One of the things that we see in this story is it tells us about Jonah. The second time has God comes to him. It says that Jonah arose and this time rather than going to Tarshish, he makes the journey 500 miles into the city of Nineveh. I think I’ve shared this with us before, but Nineveh is in Northern, Northwest Iraq. If you study a biblical history, you’ll know Iraq is a country that is rich with biblical history. The South East of Iraq is where Abraham was from an earlier the Caldeans, the more central Iraq is Babylon, and it’s believed to be where the garden of Eden would have been. Northwest is the place of Nineveh.

Jonah here finally in a obedience to God, he, he follows God to the right place, 500 miles through the desert into Nineveh and he’s barely recognized something. For us that was heart doesn’t really, doesn’t fully connect to this thought, but, but to live life to the fullest, God, God calls us to be in the right place. How do we find that right place? I think for us, discovering that right place, that journey begins first internally, zip to say in the first two chapters of Jonah. If there’s something that we’ve learned, it’s this. If what you believe isn’t what God says, please change what you believe. If something God cares about isn’t what you love, please change what you love could end up in the belly of a whale. And Jonah taught us this lesson that you can run from God, but you can’t outrun him.

I reminded of a recently in our house, um, I was, I was doing something and, and I could hear one of our kids were up to no good. And, and that was our youngest one. And he’s three years old. And I could hear Stacy trying to tell him what he needed to do and, and he wasn’t being compliant. And finally I could tell she was at the end of her rope and I just, I just yelled out from the other room, you better run like the wind boy and yeah, and he, and he, and he takes off. He’s like, Oh no, I’m in trouble. Well a few weeks went by and I’m, I’m on the couch reading. I’m kind of disengaged from what’s going on cause I’m involved in this book. And, and Levi gets in trouble again and about the tail end of him doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.

Um, I could tell Stacy was coming over to him to, to correct his, his behavior and, and to talk to him about his attitude. And all of a sudden when he sees that his mom gets the end of that rope, he starts, he starts freaking out and he’s just going like Stacy’s trying to walk over to him, talk to him and he looks like a, a football player trying to avoid being tackled. He’s all over the house. It’s just bizarre. And say Sarah just looking at like what in the world? And finally I just say, Levi, what are you doing? He said, dad, you told me you better run like the wind boy. He’s just living around the house and he realizes it at the moment he’s at, it’s a, it’s a place where he has met his maker, but the truth is, and there’s moments he doesn’t recognize it, but it would have been good for him to stop. And the reason is, is because of what we acknowledge as his parents is that what we’re pursuing in his life isn’t punishment, but rather discipline.

There’s something significant about that to understand the life of a believer because I feel like God is the same way towards us. Got it. Punishment is about just, uh, meeting justice for the sake of bringing that, that justice against someone for doing wrong or, or bringing a charge against an individual. We talk about the area of, of discipline. It’s about corrective instruction to produce a godly result. And so the goal of a, a parent who’s interested in discipline but not punishment, which should be the goal of parents, is to see your child molded into the image that you feel like God desires for them. And so in order to do that, when, when discipline comes into their life, it’s not just about modifying their behavior but about experiencing heart transformation. So your parents are in about behavior modification but rather heart transformation. And that’s what this whale represents for Jonah. It’s not God’s punishment to Jonah’s life. Rather Jonah saw it for what it was discipline and times of your life. You feel like running like the wind. God’s desire is to produce in you that which brings you joy so that your heart can delight in him because you were created for worship that belongs to him. So this story now reflects on God coming to Jonah a second time in his grace because the story isn’t just about Nineveh and the story isn’t just about Jonah’s actions, Jonah’s heart.

And so in verse three the story goes on from there and it says to us, so Jonah arose and went to no-no according to the word of the Lord. And now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city. A three days walked in, Jonah began to go through the city, one day’s walk. See, when we find, find God, and following after God, and looking at Jonah’s example, that that first begins by finding the right place and the right place always begins internally. And then it moves externally. And Jonah walks into the city. He tells us three days. Now, I’ll tell you historically, when you look at the city of Nineveh, Nineveh wasn’t three days big. It wasn’t the wall of the city wasn’t, wasn’t that large but, but it’s thought that maybe the population had extended so far beyond the city that that when the city began, it took literally three days breadth to walk the length of the city and Jonah journeys into the city. He’s going to the place externally which God has led him because of what God has done in him internally. The truth is when you study scripture, you see that God, God loves the city.

When the apostle Paul planted churches throughout the Roman empire, he went to the major cities of his time in order to proclaim the gospel. Because what you find is that what happens in the city eventually leads to the country and the city dictates the culture that will influence the people and if you can win the city, you win the country.

When Israel was captured, the Southern tribes of Israel and they were taken into captivity in the Babylon. The asked the question knowing that their captivity wouldn’t be an extended stay, but rather there was a timetable to what God said and [inaudible] they ask God the question, God, what do you want us to do now that we’re, we’re captive in the city of Babylon, the Babylonians. How do you want us to behave and and God’s seven Jeremiah, this and 29 verse six and seven, take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands that they may bear sons and daughters and multiply their and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf. For in its welfare, you will have welfare. Simply put, if, if you have ill will towards any part of your country, then it’s not to your benefit.

But if you live for the glory of God, where you are in the midst of where God has placed you, not only is that a benefit to the people around you, but it also becomes a benefit to you as well. And so God’s concern even in even when the people of Israel taking captivity into the Babylonian empire, that the gods concern are for the people within that empire. The same is true for none of them. Yeah. Nahum, the book of Nahum chapter three tells us that the Ninevites, it lists the things that they have done, uh, against the Lord, the killing, the sacrificing of kids, prostitution, nay, nay. Him chapter three, God’s judgment is being pronounced, but, but God still loves the city. We’ve seen in the life of Jonah is that Jonah is following the Lord into Nineveh, but he still doesn’t care about the people. When we think about God’s calling in our lives, it begins internally, but it extends externally and we can acknowledge that you can go to a place physically and still choose not to be present. You consider your own city.

What are some things unique to the area in which you live in order to speak the love of God and the hearts of people around you? Yeah. We live in an area that’s considered one of the youngest places in the United States.

Families tend to not have a whole lot of disposable income because we also have a lot of kids. Many people are focused on looking perfect, behind closed doors. Life gets messy. There needs to be a place where people feel comfortable to ask questions, to be vulnerable and honest. The area where we live is very community focused or can be ins to certain degrees, but people are often hurting. The oppression is high. Pornography is high, and yet in that there is opportunity. So let me just in recognizing God once it’s in the right place internally, God wants us in the right place. External. Let me just ask you the question. Are we in the right place?

Are you in the right place? How do you know Utah is the right place? Now, I don’t like to get mystical over specific spots in which God wants us to live. You know, I think God, God calls people to particular places sometimes. You know, I don’t think that’s the norm, especially when you look at it in scripture. I think individuals sat in, in the new Testament, old Testament, they were in places for decades and, and God would lead him to somewhere else. And you know, the apostle Paul was over a decade in one area before the Lord even called him on his missionary journeys. And so I, I don’t, I like to get mystical over particular places in which God leads us. Though I do recognize that God, God can lead us to particular places, physical places. But when we talk about primarily about God leading us to places, more often than not, God’s focus isn’t the physical place.

But to be honest, I think it’s a relational place. You know, when Jesus taught to the people during his day, he didn’t obsess about them finding the right physical place. I mean, Jesus didn’t start his lessons like, Oh man, I can’t teach you guys. You’re supposed to be living over here doing this stuff. I can’t teach you either. You’re not in the right physical location. I’m sorry. You’re out of God’s will, brother. That what Jesus taught us is that the place in which he wants us to recognize his presence and live for his glory had not to do so much with the physical place as it did the relational place. And so when you look at that, Jesus, his teachings in scripture, love others. Love your neighbor, love your enemy, care for the widows and orphans. Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect your husbands. Parents, be godly to your kids’ kids. Honor your parents, employers, employees, respect one another. I mean, Jesus, his commands are primarily seeking God’s will and finding the a specific place, but rather a relational place. Let me just say this, you don’t change the world by finding the perfect place, but rather being used by God in a broken place. A place is only important because of the people. The people are who God loves. We think in terms of places we should think in terms of people.

It’s why we don’t have to pray very much about caring for widows and orphans. We know God’s heart rest with him and to love them is to love the Lord. I mean, could you imagine getting to heaven and having never done anything for anyone such as in that position? I mean, you could ask the question, where are you in the right place? Even if it was somewhere you felt God led you physically. If nothing was done relationally, you can argue it’s not in the right place. In fact, Jesus taught his disciples in Luke chapter 10 verse 30 he shared a story of of a Levi, a priest, and a Samaritan who was walking along the road and a man had been beaten and he’s laying in the ditch and the Levi and the priests are so interested in getting to this physical place. They were neglected to minister in the relational place and the Samaritan, the one that would be considered the outcast from the Jewish community. He’s the one that stops, loves the individual in that need. And God shares the story for us to recognize that we get so obsessed with the physicality of where we are, that we neglect the people in front of our faces. And so we can be physically present, not participate.

So what’s the ask us this morning in walking in line with God rather than having the heart of Jonah. Who are the people God wants you to impact, to love, forgive, encourage, strengthen, serve. You know, when you think about the story of Jonah, this is, this is where the story fits. It’s everything of, of not what not to do. Because what we see in the story of Jonah is that he wants God’s presence, but not God’s calling.

Joan is even willing to go to Nineveh, but he doesn’t care about the people. Hundred and 20,000 people. It tells us in chapter four, 120,000 people come to the Lord. Yeah, Jonah doesn’t care. The find the place that God desires starts internally moves externally to love the city. Cause God loves the people to walk with Jesus in it.

So it’s to ask the question and then maybe answer it this way. How do I know I’m in the right place? How do I know God’s called me to this place? You’re ready for the answer because God loves the people. Acts 17 tells a story about God’s understanding of where we are literally in this world. And it says this, and he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation. God knew that you were going to be here regardless if it’s extended for your life. Whatever. What God desires for you to do is to care for the people around you because God cares for the people around you. I mean, statistically, just consider our area 600,000 people in this County and less than half of 1%. When I, uh, moved here, I don’t know, 10, 11 years ago.

I in my heart, I, I was looking for a place in which I feel like the Lord could use me to have an effect to love on the people as he loved on, on the people. And I read an interesting article, a, it was, it was an article on how to, how to be an effective person in an area. And they’ve honed it in on pastors because pastors tend to be easier to mimic in, in this study that they were doing. But this is what they recognize about pastors that go in an area that the ones that have the largest effect on an area for Christ are the ones who did ministry in a particular area for more than 10 years. Just means I’m just not hitting my effective stage. Whatever happened for it doesn’t count.

Why it’s the desire and willingness to be there with the people. Well, the care for the love and courage, strength and teach, direct, Edify, exhort, rebuke, whatever. It’s the concern for the people. I read a quote from Hudson Taylor before, before I even knew that God would lead me to Utah and, and it drew my heart for what I was longing for. I can, I can remember just thinking anywhere in the world, God, I’m willing to go anywhere in the world for your glory, your kingdom. I, I, I want to do that. Then I read a story of Hudson Taylor who went to China as a missionary and, and, uh, about his life. I read some comments that Hudson Taylor had written and what made him so successful. And then I saw this quote from him. He said, if I have a thousand lives and a thousand lives I’d give for China.

And I knew right there. Got it. If you could just lean my heart into a place like that, not just physically being in the right place relationally, the people you put in front of me, the interactions I have, if my heart could yearn for them in that way, how effective that would be for your kingdom? Well, sometimes we need to think in terms of it physically got where you have me, but other times it’s in spheres of relationships. It has got call you the impact and you can think through scripture, the significance of those relationships, what God desires, the priority that they should have, whether it be marriage, whether it be the family, whether whether it be work, whatever. Those are those those places. God’s not surprised where he has you. He loves those people and he placed you there.

Following God is not just, it’s not just finding the right place internally, living that out externally and then this, I would say following him by living in the right message. The numbers for Jonah shares that message. People of Nineveh, Nineveh believed in God and they called a fast and put off, put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least. When the word reached the King of Nineveh, he Rose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him and covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the Asher. So the sackcloth is a form of repentance. You can imagine. Could you or could you imagine? I should say, uh, the, the political leaders even getting down in humility and repenting before God. And it says in verse seven, he issued a proclamation talking about the King. And it said in Nineveh, by the decree of the King and his Nobles, do not let man beast, herd or flock taste a thing.

Do not let them eat or drink. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth. And let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from the wicked way and from the violence in which is in his hands. Who knows? Excuse me. Who knows? God may turn and relent and withdraw his burning anger so that we will not perish. So they don’t even know if God’s judgment is still going to be poured out on them, but repenting anyway before the Lord and they, they’re doing this so much that it tells us they’re like, get the dog. The dog needs her ripping everything. If it’s breathing, make it repent. And that’s pretty extensive.

But you look, when Jonah gives this message and verse four, the, the message that he preached, I mean, it’s a pretty gutsy message. He’s going into a violet group of people who’ve come against Israel seven several times and now he’s preaching this message of repentance is like a Turner burn message that that just would not be popular in that area, especially from a Jew. And when Jonah shares the message in English, it’s eight words in Hebrew, it’s less just shares a short message. That’s, some people have looked at this message and wondered was this the, was this the extent of, of the message that that Jonas shared was, was that the fullness of this message that’s recorded in scripture? I mean, he says yet 40 days and then if it will be overthrown or is it just a summary of his message?

Yeah, those that believed that this is the full extent of the message. They, they acknowledged that God draws life out of the individuals because, because it wouldn’t take much. God’s desire is for Minerva to come to know him and he’s using Jonah as the tool to do that. And so Jonah just shares the message and, and maybe it’s so short because Jonah is afraid. So he’s like, he’s Ipsen real quick. And just as a blah, blah, blah, I’m outta here. You know, I don’t want to go. He’s gone. I tend to believe if this is the full extent of the message, Jonah shared that God used Jenna to share the message and more than just words did a little study on those that have been swallowed by whales and lived in the Falkland islands.

I think in the 19 hundreds the um, there was a ship, I think it was called the East star. They were, well, it was a whaling ship and they were hunting a whale and early into the hunt, like I fell overboard and the crew lost them. And then they catch a whale, took them a while, and then over a day later, they eventually bring the boats to the side of the ship and they, uh, they start to dismantle this, this whale. And over a day later, as they’re dismantling the soil, they, they find that there is a man inside of the, of this. Well, and it was the individual who had fallen out of the ship. And when they pulled him out, they said it took him two to three weeks before he got his sanity back. The guy was just out of it and that his body had been eaten so much by the and within the stomach of the whale that he was unrecognizable. His skin is pigment was gone, his hair had started to fall out and he had looked like boils all over his skin.

He imagined this and the story of Jonah, Jonah gets spit out on the shore. He walks then 500 miles into Nineveh. I mean if you’re the few people on the beach that day fishing and you see this guy coming up out of the water, the story of that going to spread. I mean, you see him, you’re like, what in the world happened to you? And he explains it to you and you’re going to tell your friends, right? I think by the time he reaches Nineveh, everyone knows what’s happened to Jonah and if you didn’t, it’s apparent. By the way, Jonah is carrying himself into the city. I think people recognize this is a profit and he shares a message and God has definitely spared his life. Whatever he says, we are doing it. Jonah shares this message and it even reaches the leaders and God’s spirit draws life in the words in which Jonah shares that when God’s spirit draws life out of five words, but it’s important to recognize he chose not to do it.

Tell Jonah willingly proclaimed Jonah not only obeyed God by going to the location, but he also followed God by living in the right message. You know, as you see this story unfolding and what’s important to recognize is that God, I didn’t need Jonah. God can use anybody. Even in Jonah’s disobedience. Guy could’ve just said, fine, go to Tarshish. I’m going to call someone else. I didn’t need them.

Yeah. What we see is God wanted to go on this journey with him. The summer. Um, my, my boys liked to come outside when I’m out and join me in whatever I’m doing, which I find incredibly delightful and frustrating at the same time. Like, I love doing stuff with my kids and I don’t like taking five times longer to do stuff. So there’s this joy of enjoying the relational time I have with them to teach them something in this frustration of, please stop doing that. You know, so, but, but when I’m Mo, I have my, my youngest likes to Levi, the adventurous one who runs with the wind. He, he, uh, he likes to help me. Mo and I have had delight in the fact that I can teach him to mow. And his attention span is so short that he only gets about three to four strips in before he’s done.

And, and it’s, it’s kinda difficult when he does this with me cause he’ll sit, he’s so, so small, have to hold the handlebars low and he’s right in front of me as that we’re pushing this mower with a giant bag. And then as it accumulates grass, it gets heavier and heavier and everything. So I’m trying to like stretch myself out so he can fit in there. We can push this thing together. But sometime this summer there was this, there was this time, uh, he decided for whatever was in him, he was doing the whole yard. Thank God. So, so who were out there pushing this mower, and I didn’t share this with you yet, but a few leading up to this time for the last few weeks had been telling Stacy my heart, my heart had been acting a little funny and um, and some older Mo in this yard and I am just wishing he would quit by this point cause my body just feels so broken having to stretch.

So, so far my back has is striding more than I’ve ever felt that strain in my life. And finally with just two strips left, he quits. And as a father you think, well you just, you want your kid to have that sense of accomplishment. But I was so done by that point, I didn’t even, I didn’t even care. And as soon as he lets go, you know, I’m enjoying this journey with him, talking myself through it. Just your kid’s going to have this sense of accomplishment. Just go, you can do it. You know. And finally, as soon as it gets up, I’ll let go of the mower and I just follow the ground. My back is just done. It’s mush and Stacy happens to be in the kitchen and all she sees is her husband doubling over outside and you can see as she opens the door, this the sense of panic as she calls, calls out my name, only for me to share my desire.

It’s just about spending that time with my son. It wasn’t about really mowing the yard, it was about walking life with him. It’s about seeing the accomplishment even though I couldn’t make it. It’s about watching his persistence and endurance to spend time with his dad. It’s about seeing him mature into a man, emulating his father, and that’s the story of Jonah. It’s not just about the city, it’s about you in the city. The story isn’t about just rescuing Nineveh. It’s about rescuing Jonah. Jonah doesn’t even realize how much he needs God until the challenges of ministry reveal his own weakness. That’s the same time and walking with the Lord.

He gets to love others or him. Yeah, the neglect of Joan, and I think the reason this literature is given to us in such wisdom is because it wants us to recognize the frustration of Joan in those moments that he followed God to the right place, but he saw his place in terms of physicality, not in terms of the people around them. God’s desire was through those people to not only transform their lives, but in the process transform his life too, and that’s the joy of being where you are today. You’re in the right place because God cares about the people and you’re now here to care about the people and in that journey that’s just not doing a work in them. I think most importantly, he’s doing that work in you.

Pray Like It Matters

I am Jonah