Jonah-itis – By Thomas Koester

I was at a restaurant with my wife in Pacifica California many Sundays ago. We sat at a beautiful table ready to enjoy dinner, our table faced directly towards a floor-to-ceiling plate glass window. On the other side, less than 100 yards was the Pacific Ocean pounding the surf. The sun finally broke through at about 6:00PM. Beautiful, majestic; our hearts filled with praise and gratitude towards God.

Outside, slightly to our right, were fisherman casting their lines into the surf. Suddenly, one of the fishermen caught what looked like a 30-pound striped bass. Awesome, praise God! What a catch! Several minutes later, another large bass. All this beauty, a gift from God.

The table to our right were seated with two men, one man slightly older than the other. I could tell that it was their first date. As their conversation carried into our booth, I was annoyed, angered and critical! My wife could sense the tension and change in my attitude.

Suddenly, beauty faded. Gratitude left. Praises ceased. My sense of awe dwarfed into awfulness.

What are “they” doing here?

God, their soaking up and wasting all this beauty. GOD… …the beauty, the ocean, the sunset is being lavished on them. Do something!

Judgment rose within me. They are “those people” who are bringing God’s judgment on us all. I tried to block them, ignore them; wish them gone, hoping they’d finish their meals and leave. Then, it hit me. Yea, it shouted from inside my mind:

“I want; no, I can’t wait for God’s judgments on ‘those people,’ they’re destroying our country!’”

Then a voice inside me said:

“This is My time of grace for the Lost…”

His Spirit touched my heart and immediately He gave me insight and the grace to see my sin.

He continued:

“…My Grace comes for the Lost, even the vilest sinner; yes, even for those two men, whom for a moment were by my choosing, your neighbor.

I lavished them with my glory, the works of my hands, and my breath over the waters that they may see the mighty waves pound the sand. I hooked those great fish to those lines that they too might see that I provide. I, not you, broke through the clouds, and at just the right moment, displayed my splendor and majesty to the crowd.

And you, my dutiful son, did not lift one finger to welcome, or even offer a “good evening gentlemen.” You, my son, are lost. You’ve so easily forgotten the depth from which I drew you; the vileness of your own sin, which let me remind you, has been fully pardoned and atoned! Should I not have compassion on those whom I choose?

You’ve forgotten I came not for the righteous; I came for the sinner. I came not for the well, neither the well-to-do nor the do-gooder. I came for the lost, the vilest the better. I’m not too weak to save the homosexual or even the promiscuous heterosexual. I see no degree, no difference between the sins of men.

You’ve questioned my judgment! You want me to withhold grace for judgment on those whom you choose? There already exists an appointed time of judgment for the rebellious, the coward, the unbeliever, the faithless, and the murderer, those who love to live a lie. But, it is not now. I have my “Grace Agents” all over the world, commissioned to seek and to save all the lost.

You suffer from Jonah-itis! You think you can sit comfortably beneath my heaven, waiting for judgment to fall on the unrighteous? You are on the wrong team. You’re cheering for judgment! I don’t know you, because you don’t know me. You’ve lost touch with my heart. You better draw near; you better search me out, humbling yourself and repent from your wicked bout.

You’re correct about one thing; judgment is coming, it’s nearly here. The world, and yes, even the United States will get a taste of what’s near. But this judgment is not for the lost, the homosexual or adulterer, not for the murderer or thief, liar or cheat. It’s coming for you. You, who call yourselves by my Name, who refuse to say “good evening gentlemen” or hello neighbor. You, who are amazed by my amazing grace, only to keep it hid, and selectively gracing only the attractive and well dressed; the sinless and smell-good-people.

It’s the people who attend my Sunday worship services, raising their hands in awe, lowering their heads in sweet repose, singing me “love songs” of sweet devotion, and giving such melodic lip service. You can sing and worship all you like. I want your obedience, and not just your sweet “I love you Lord.” You’ve sat too long in those cushiony pews. You’ve basked in my presences long enough! Now, GET UP. GET OUT. Ask me for my heart and eyes, and I will place them into my tabernacles, into your hearts!

Then, once again you will remember. You will feel what I feel and see what I see, and cry for the lost sons and lost daughters. You will no longer see homosexuals or prostitutes, murderers, adulterers, liars and cheats. You will see the lost and hurting, broken and the needy. Let me unveil something new to you, “repentance with action,” yes righteous deeds will only revert my day of disaster against my Church. Stop your prim and pose services, your judgments and stingy hording of grace.

If you recall, Jonah’s sailing companions were fearful and terrified of the sea’s great fury! They feared for their lives and prayed in a hurry. Only finding Jonah a sleep in the hull, they shouted and roused the man of God from his slumber; “What have you done, and what god have you angered?” “I serve the Lord God, said Jonah; God said I must go to Nineveh and preach all over. But the people of Nineveh are vile and sinful, said Jonah. They’re undeserved of God’s grace, so I’m off to Tarshish after this nine-day-cruse, for some rest and some peace. I know this God who chases me, turning up the seas and bringing you to your knees. He thinks I’m not smart or wise to his ways, if I go to Nineveh, he’ll forgive and he’ll save! So why should I bother and upset my vacation plans, if the sinners go unpunished, why save and heal the land?

Your disobedience and running is threatening our lives, you, not we have brought God’s judgment to light; here cast in your lot and let’s see if it’s so! The lot fell to Jonah, and they tossed him over the bow, he hit the water sinking to depths far below. No prayer could be heard, no pleading was pled, he sternly and steadily held in his head, no confession, and no repentance to bring change to his dread. He hits bottom, surrounded and tangled in seaweed and mire, he offers a faint cry, higher and higher; a great fish appears, swallowing him whole and entire.

The wayward prophet calls out to God;

“When my life ebbed away I remembered you Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

O Church, wake up! You’re asleep in the light God’s anger is coming, but not for the lost. We’ve been headed in the wrong direction! The world cries for a Savior and we cry for a heaven. We spend dollars and hours prettying our sanctuaries, staining our stained-glass-windows, and tuning our instruments. We Christianize our music, our cars and our shops. We invent new ways to heavenize everything we touch.

We think we can vote in morality by Christianizing our politics or change our Nation’s future by “born-again-and-again-and-again” candidates. We’ve forgotten that God appoints the rulers we deserve according to our righteousness, then His judgment will swerve.

You say, the homosexual, the transvestite, the tattooed and the pierced; the thief and robber the liar and cheat have brought us Katrina, Northridge and Ike. The earth shakes and quakes because the sinners are unrighteous? No. We’ve got it wrong! The earth shakes and quakes, rumbles and floods; becomes hotter or colder because we’ve left things undone! Judgment is coming because the righteous practices unrighteousness.

It’s because the sin of “omission.”

We’ve omitted God’s grace from our neighborhoods, schools and market place. We’ve omitted God’s grace from our downtown, uptown and the lowdown; from the down-and-outers, underachievers and meat-eaters; from our dinner tables, family rooms, boardrooms and horse stables. Grace can’t be found, not because sin abounds, but because we want judgment to fall down against the unrighteous! We yearn for the rapture, “operation-rescue.” Christ Jesus, he yearns for a victorious and triumphant bride! Her beauty and brightness is her righteous acts and deeds.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” Jonah 4:9-11 (NLT)

Should we be angry that sinful people flourish? Or shall we feel what God feels and offer them Christ in us, their only Hope and glory?

God heal us from our Jonah-itis!

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