Category Archives: Musings

Fresh and seasoned thoughts about the practice of Sabbath.

God’s Grace Means Do Overs Are Allowed


Jonah chapter three is the part of the story of Jonah that talks about what is arguably the greatest revival of all time. Nineveh, as we will find out in chapter 4, is a city of 120,000 people. It’s such a large city that it takes Jonah 3 days to deliver his message.

It’s amazing that this great revival came through such a reluctant messenger.

Even though the book is named after Jonah, it’s a story about what God does, and how God relates to his people.

For this reluctant prophet, this reserved evangelist, this hesitant herald, God provides a Second Chance!

When God said Go, Jonah said No. When God pointed East, Jonah went West. God’s command to Jonah was to go across the desert, but Jonas’s flight from God took him across the ocean.

You would think God could have found a more fitting prophet to carry his message to Nineveh, but God had his sights set on Jonah. God never gave up on Jonah.

And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time…(Jonah 3:1 KJV)

God is in the business of Second Chances. In fact, God went to great lengths to provide Jonah his Second Chance. When Jonah was on the ship, God provided a wind to stir up the waves. When Jonah was cast into the sea, God provided a great fish to swallow him up. When God was ready to use Jonah, he commanded the fish to vomit up the sour prophet onto dry ground.

What God does for Jonah, he’s done many times for us. God, in his grace, provides Second Chances. You can call them Do Overs: opportunities to start again!

Here’s something to remember about starting again: We can only start again from where we are, not from where we were.

Each of us would love the chance to turn back the hands of time to be able to relive certain seasons of our lives; to improve on some past mistakes. There are periods of our history we are not proud of. We’ve failed and fallen and want a chance to go back and do it right.

But we can’t go back to do it over from where we were, but we can start our Do Over from where we are. God’s grace meets us where we are, and in spite of our shortcomings, says to us, “You can start fresh from right here.”

God’s grace means he never gives up on us. He extends his Do Overs to us, right where we are, right when we turn to him.

Overflow Thoughts from Jonah, #5

God Teaches Us Dependence through Trials

There is something within us that seeks to assert independence from the One who nurtures us.   We see this in toddlers.  I guess that’s why we call the stage that begins when a child starts to talk and walk the “Terrible Two’s.”  The Terrible Two’s survives within us our entire lives.  Sometime it shows up at the worst possible time.

baby's hand

When we think we have things figured out, we tell God, “Lord, just let me take over from here. I’ve got this figured out and I don’t need help anymore.”

In Jonah’s mind, the people of Nineveh didn’t need God or the things of God.  The best way to go about Jonah’s business was to get away from God and as far away from Nineveh as he could get.  He was moving and acting independent from God’s calling on his life.  Jonah was asserting his freedom by fleeing from the commandment God spoke to him.

We might not like depending on another to succeed or survive in life, but God’s plan always involves our dependence upon his strength to carry out our calling. The plans God has for us cannot be accomplished under our own strength.  Jonah could not bring salvation to Nineveh through his wise and persuasive words.  In fact, as we will see when we get to chapter 3, Jonah didn’t use very many words.  He spoke only those words  God spoke to him: “”Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”  In the Hebrew, it’s only 4 words.  This has to be the shortest sermon ever preached!

God broke Jonah’s independence and brought him to a place of dependence in order to do an amazing work through him. We see this again in the work Christ left to his disciples.   They were “Unschooled, Ordinary” men.  But God was able to do something Extraordinary through them.  What God accomplished through them, and what he continues to accomplish through us, has very little to do with the resources we bring to the table and very much to do with the depth of our dependence upon HIM.

Through the 4 words he gave a prophet, God brought salvation to a great city. Through an inconceivable message of resurrection and salvation he gave a handful of men 2,000 years ago, God continues to grow his church and do greater things through us than we could imagine possible.

Our strength lies not in what we can do for God, but rather in the depth of our dependence upon him to work in us and through us.

Overflow Thoughts from Jonah, #4

God Adds to Our Life by Taking from It

The moment Jonah surrendered himself to be thrown overboard and into the sea, he allowed God to take everything away from him. God’s math does not work like our math.  Very often God will take something away in order grow our life.

math symbols

As Jonah hit the water, God took away comfort, freedom, security, hope, etc…  He took everything away from the prophet and then stuffed him in a fish.  We can perhaps better understand this as a pruning.  God had to prune Jonah in order to use Jonah.

God prunes us in preparation to use us as well.

In our lives, we fixate on stuff. It’s easy to get attached to stuff.  God takes stuff away so we can focus on him.

We have ambitions and goals that are at odds with what God desires for us. God takes away our petty goals and our worldly ambitions so we can be ambitious for him and his kingdom.

We get comfortable in life and complacent with the way we are living. God can even take away our comfort to shake us from our complacency in order to spur us on toward the purpose he has for us.

What in your life has God taken away that brought you closer to him? What kind of divine subtraction have you grown from? What in your life, if you threw it into the sea right now, would allow you to pursue God wholeheartedly?

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
NIV Psalm 143:8

 There are days when we need to start over again. There are days when nothing goes right. There are times our best intentions blow up in our face. Sometimes the best we can do is to call for a Do-Over!

Psalm 143 is an evening prayer that teaches us to call on God for a Do-Over. It’s a prayer lifted to God by one who has been worn down by enemies, who has been pursued to exhaustion by adversaries. They are calling for a Do-Over. They need rest in order to start afresh.

When you are tired and weary, nothing serves the purpose of a Do-Over better than a good night’s sleep. The worries of yesterday seem a little more tolerable when we put a night of rest between us and our problems.

Sleep is a gift. Without it, we would go insane. Good gifts come from God.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows:
for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
KJV Psalm 127:2

Elizabeth Barrett Browning composed a sweet poem about sleep from the passage above:
Of all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward into sould afar,
Along the Psalmist Music deep,
Now tell me it that any is
For gift of grace surpassing this—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep”?

 Sleep is an act of trust. It takes great trust to close our eyes and be completely unaware of the world around us; the world with all of its pleasures and dangers and worries. A dreamless sleep is one of the best remedies for a heart heavy with worries and a mind burdened with concerns.

Any morning you wake from a restful sleep, thank the one who gave it to you. Before you lay your head down tonight, commit yourself and your cares to Him who watches over you.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…

Overflow Thoughts from Jonah, #3

God Sends Blessings Disguised as Misery

Being eaten by a fish is high on my list as one of the most miserable experiences a person can endure. But Jonah was able to see the misery he endured as the vehicle that brought him to dry ground.

What blessings have we received that seemed like misery at first?

Jonah’s story is not the only story of blessing in disguise. Remember the story of Joseph?  The way blessings are disguised and revealed in his story makes for some of the most interesting reading in all of scripture.

At first, Joseph’s brothers, who were jealous of him, sold him into slavery and dipped him robes in goat’s blood to convince their father that Joseph was dead as the result of an animal attack. The brothers concealed, or disguised their treachery from their father.  Misery!

coat of many colors

Joseph rose from slavery and imprisonment to the highest office in the land of Egypt just in time to save his family from starvation due to a terrible drought. As his brothers come to Egypt to purchase grain from Joseph, he toys with them as a cat toys with its prey before consuming it.  Joseph conceals his identity from them until he can bear it no longer.  In an emotional outburst he exclaims:

“I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
NIV Genesis 45:3

At the end of his life he consoles his brothers, who still fear that retribution is coming.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
NIV Genesis 50:20

God sent slavery and a dungeon into Joseph’s life (Misery) in order to save Joseph’s family, and the families of countless others (Blessing).

Holy Land Trip, 2015

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Geography has always been a difficult subject for me.  That has certainly been my struggle in following the stories of the patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament and of Jesus and the disciples in the New Testament.  My only experience with Dan and Beersheba, with Jerusalem and Jericho, have been the two dimensional kind you get from studying a map.  I have long desired a three dimensional experience with these significant places of the Bible. I want to feel the breeze blowing in from the Sea of Galilee, I want to taste the water from Jacob’s well, I want to be immersed in the same Jordan river where Jesus was baptized.

That’s why this trip is a dream come true.  I can just now imagine the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Joshua and Gideon, of Jesus and the disciples to coming to life in a whole new way.  I cannot think of any better means of doing that than by walking on the same ground they walked on and seeing the same sights they saw.

This may be a once in a lifetime trip for you or it may be a return voyage to the place that holds such significance to your faith.  Either way, I want to encourage you to come with us as we explore the landscape of our Christian heritage.  A trip like this has the potential to do much more than merely inform us.  I hope to come away from it with a deepened appreciation for the story of salvation, a clearer perspective of the Biblical witness and with stronger relationships forged through common experience.

Join us as we travel to the land where the Bible was written and our salvation was won.

Dr. Jason Burden
FBC Nederland



DAY 1 – Saturday, July 18, 2015

Today we will meet at Houston International airport for our connecting flights to Rome via wide-body aircraft arriving the next day. Meals served on board.


DAY 2 – Sunday, July 19, 2015

Upon arrival in Rome we are met by our guide who will be with us for the time we are in Italy. We proceed to our hotel where we check in for dinner and overnight.


DAY 3 – Monday, July 20, 2015

This morning we visit the Vatican Museum and Gallery, Raphaels Rooms with their wonderful frescoes, the Sistine Chapel -where Michelangelos recently restored masterpieces adorn the ceilings and walls – and Pincio Garden. If the Holy Father is in town we will go to a Papal Audience to hear him. Continue into St. Peters Basilica and view Vatican City.This afternoon we will visit the most interesting sites which are linked with the life of the Apostle Paul in Rome. Paul worked as a leather tanner and met with the first Christians in Rome and see “In loco qui dicitur Pauli” (In the place called “of Paul”). Visit the church where you can still see the big Doric Capital wsed by Apostle Peter to baptize Prisca. Continue to the CATACOMBS OF SAN SEBASTIAN the place where the bodies of Paul and Peter were kept during the Christian persecution where we see “grafiti” in Latin and Aramaic. Our next stop is at the ABBEY OF THE THREE FOUNTAINS is the place of Paul’s martyrdom, where tradition has it that three different springs gushed out at each spot touched when Paul’s head fell down. On to ST PAUL OUTSIDE THE WALLS is a Benedictine Abbey with the adjoining basilica. Visit the Basilica where the bones of Paul have recently been found and you will leave Rome with the real spirit of first Christians in your mind and in your Heart Return to hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 4 – Tuesday 21, 2015

This morning you have a walking tour through the real core of Ancient Rome. See the great “power” of Rome and Emperors who demanded divinity for themselves. Paul preached against in Romans 1, 25 See the Trajans Column, Via del Fori Imperiali (street of the Imperial For a) and ruins of the fori. See the Forum of Trajan, on to the Capitoline Hill, the seat of the Municipality. Contnue to the Piazza del Campidoglio, to see the statue of Marcus Aurelius. Continue to the Roman Forum, the Curia (seat of the Roman Senate), the basilicas, palaces of justice and the temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestals. Continue to Mamertine Prison it was here that Paul was held waiting for trial.

Visit the fabulous origins of Rome: the Palatine. Here Romolus founded the town in the year 753 B.C. and starting with Augustus the great emperors settled here, admire the Domus Tiberiana only partially explored and the ruins of the Imperial Palaces. We will find the Arch of Constantine, erected to commemorate the victory of the emperor over Maxentius in the 4th century A.D (tradition says that before the battle the Emperor saw a brilliant cross in the sky and said the famous words “in hoc signo vinces”). We will end our day at the Colosseum everlasting symbol of the greatness of Rome and the stage for the historical fights of the gladiators.


DAY 5 Wednesday 22, 2015
ROME / Athens / Corinth / Tel Aviv / Netanya

This morning we will fly to Athens. We immediately travel west with a rest stop and photos at the Corinth Canal. We then travel to the ancient city of Corinth, another treat for the New Testament scholar. Corinth is the city that inspired many of Paul’s most familiar letters. See the Archaeological Museum, the Market Place, the Bema, and the Temples. Then back to Athens taking in the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and Erectheum before viewing Athens atop Mars Hill where Paul stood and preached the truth to the Gentile nation. This afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight to Tel Aviv. Upon arrival we will be taken to our hotel for dinner and overnight.



DAY 1 – Tuesday 21, 2015

Today we will meet at Houston International airport for our connecting flights to Tel Aviv via wide-body aircraft arriving the next day. Meals served on board.


DAY 2 – Wednesday 22, 2015

Upon arrival in Tel Aviv we are met by our guide who will be with us for the time we are in the Holy Land. Board our bus and travel through Tel Aviv, the largest city in Israel. Our first stop will be at Jaffa (Joppa), the city of Jonah, where Peter had his housetop experience at the home of Simon the Tanner. We proceed to the city of Netanya, on the Mediterranean to our hotel where we will check in overnight.


DAY 3 – Thursday, July 23, 2015

This morning we proceed to Caesarea, capital of the Roman procurators of Judea. Visit the Roman port, Crusaders Moat, Roman theater and aqueduct. Continue to Muhraka on Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged Baal’s priests.

This afternoon, after a Middle Eastern lunch at a Druse restaurant, we proceed to Megiddo to visit the excavations that unearthed 20 different civilizations. We will pass a rolling stone tomb near Megiddo and then travel toward the Galilee and stop at Harod Springs where Gideon downsized his army to 300. Our next stop is at Tel Jezreel, the city of Ahab and Jezebel seeing the remains of the wall where Jezebel was thrown off. Below Tel Jezreel is Jezreel Spring where Saul gathered his men the night before fighting the Philistines when he and his sons were killed on Mt. Gilboa. We drive thru the Jezreel Valley passing by Shunem where Elisha raised a boy from the dead, and by Ophrah where Gideon resided. We ascend Mt. Precipice for a view of Nazareth, Mt. Tabor where Deborah defeated the Canaanites, and northern Armageddon. Then, it’s on to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee for dinner and overnight at our hotel.


DAY 4 – Friday, July 24, 2015

Following breakfast, our morning travels take us to two valuable northern sites. Dan is where the children of Israel fell to the depths of pagan worship and see the city gate that Abraham entered. Next we travel to Caesarea Philippi, the site of Peter’s Confession.  Next we travel to Capernaum where we will visit the ruins of an ancient synagogue and Peter’s home. Then we travel on to the site of the possible multiplication of loaves and fishes by the Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea. Then we visit Tabgha “seven springs” where Jesus first called his disciples and where Jesus appeared to the Apostles after the resurrection. On to Ginnosar where we will view the ancient 1st Century Boat at an operating Kibbutz, then enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Sea of Galilee.  A brief scripture reading and devotional on board brings to life the experiences of Jesus and the fishermen disciples concluding a wonderful day. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 5 – Saturday, July 25, 2015

This morning we follow the Rift Valley running parallel to the Jordan, along the route Jesus most frequently traveled to Jerusalem. We visit Bet Shean at the foot of Mt. Gilboa, where King Saul was slain, see the evidences of Egyptian, Roman and Byzantine occupations, and view the ancient tel, Roman Theater and church mosaics. We then drive north through the Biblical heartland to Nablus (Schechem), we visit the alter on Mt. Ebal where Joshua renewed the covenant. We stop at nearby Jacob’s Well, site of Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. Joseph’s Tomb is 325 yards northwest of Jacob’s Well,[1] on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus. We will also visit Tel Balāṭa, the site of biblical Shechem. From there we visit the Old Testament city of Shilo that was home for the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant and you may walk to the likely plateau where it was pitched and picture the cloud pillar of God’s presence rising up above the valley walls. This would also be the spot where Hannah came to pray for a son. Later, she dedicated that son, Samuel, to serve in the Tabernacle. It was from Shiloh that the Ark was taken into battle and temporarily lost to the Philistines. Continue to The Holy City for a panoramic view before we head to our hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 6 – Sunday, July 26, 2015

Today we drive to the Dead Sea. Masada and ascend by cable car to the magnificent ruins of the fortress where, from 70 to 73 AD, Jewish defenders made their last stand in the Judean revolt against Rome. We see the remains of storehouses, cisterns and a sixth-century Byzantine church. Continuing alongside the Dead Sea, 1300 ft. below sea level — the lowest spot on earth — we proceed to Ein Gedi where time permitting we will walk the path to see
the waterfall in the desert.

This afternoon we continue to Qumran and the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We will have a stop for lunch and for those that want to swim in the Dead Sea may. We travel eastward to Jericho to see the place of Herod’s winter palace, Zaccheus’ sycamore tree, Elisha’s Spring, then enter ancient Tel Jericho to see remains of fallen walls, and view the Mount of Temptation where Satan tempted Jesus.  We drive thru the West Bank and Judean Wilderness to stop for a scenic view of the Wadi Qelt, St. George’ Monastery, and ancient Jericho Road. We will head up to Jerusalem stopping for a view of Valley of the Shadow of Death (upper Wadi Qelt) and return to the hotel for dinner.


DAY 7 – Monday, July 27, 2015

Today we travel west to West Jerusalem to visit the tomb of the prophet Samuel and a view of his hometown Ramah. Then view to Gibeon where the Lord appeared to King Solomon before he built the Temple, and the Pool of Gibeon where on one occasion a deadly battle between David’s men and Abner’s men took place at this pool (2 Sam 2). Then to Emmaus and the road where Jesus appeared to two disciples. We then travel to the Sorek Valley to Beth Shemesh where the Ark of the Covenant was carried from the Philistines by two cows pulling a cart. The next stop is Tel Azekah and the Valley of Elah, where David defeated Goliath stopping at the river bed in search of smooth stones for our sling. We then drive to where battles were fought at Mareshah and Lachish, then thru the land of the Philistines, passing the city of Gath and. We continue on to Beersheba and see Abraham’s well. Next we visit Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs.  The cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, considered the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people, are all believed to be buried there. As we turn back toward Jerusalem, the drive thru the Negev is contrasted with Bedouin tents and herds of camels, donkeys, sheep, and stories of the Exodus and Israel wandering in the Wilderness of Zin.


DAY 8 – Tuesday, July 28, 2014

This morning, our guide will take us to an overview of the city from the hillside overlooking Jerusalem and the Gehenna Valley. This meaningful teaching time will bring together the many things that you have seen to date. We continue our sightseeing just outside the Dung Gate on the southeastern hill below the Temple Mount in the City of David. It was during the time of Solomon that the city limits extended past this part of Jerusalem. We visit Gihon Springs, the original water source for Jerusalem, view new excavations including a typical Israelite four-room house, the lower city wall and the cistern where Jeremiah was imprisoned. We will also see the tomb where King David was buried. A highlight today will be a water walk through the incredible Hezekiah’s Tunnel to the pool of Siloam, the place of Jesus’ miracle in John 9. Ascending up to the Jewish Quarter we see the gold Menorah built for the next Temple, the Temple Institute, the Burnt House, a 1st Temple period model of Jerusalem, the Broad Wall built by King Hezekiah, and the Roman Cardo. We will enter the Rabbi Tunnel by the Western wall plaza and go down to the foundation of the Second Temple. We will see a model that will demonstrate where we are in location to the Temple in the time of Christ. Continue along the tunnel as we proceed to the Gateway of the Priests entry to the Holy of Holies. Continue to Israel Museum and the Shrine of the book, and see the model city of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple. Return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 9 – Wednesday, July 29, 2015


“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace” (Luke 19:42) we start the day with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives with an opportunity of a group photograph overlooking Jerusalem. We then walk the traditional Passion walk passing the tomb of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. We descend to the church known as Dominus Flevit (“Our Lord weeps”). After viewing the Golden Gate, we walk downhill to Gethsemane, where we take time to meditate on the Gospel text. We will walk by the tomb of the kings and get off at a roman road, where we climb Mt Zion to the grounds of a church called Peter in Gallicantu, which affords the best view of early Jerusalem from the west. (Here, the Assumptions Fathers suggest, was the house where the High Priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus.)

This afternoon driving south, we visit Solomon’s Pools, Jerusalem’s main source of water for almost 2000 years. We will visit the Herodian the palace set in a conical mountain that was built by Herod to mark his tomb. We will proceed to the Shepherds’ Fields and time permitting sing a few Christmas carols. We conclude the day with a visit in Bethlehem, walking through its alleys and markets to the Church of the Nativity. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 10 Thursday, July 30, 2015

“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6) After breakfast we transfer to the Dung Gate, we visit the Southern Wall Excavations. This southern side of The Temple was the main entrance for the common folk, whereas the Priests and Levites had their own entrance from the higher eastern side. Parts of the giant stairs, which led to the Temple Mount from the courtyard have been unearthed along with the purification pools. From here Jesus entered the Temple Mount and drove out the vendors and money exchangers who were exploiting the people. It is also likely that this is the place that Peter stood and preached and where thousands were saved and baptized on the Day of Pentecost. Then we walk up to the Western Wall Judaism’s holiest site. We ascend to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site of Islam, located on the traditional site of the ancient Temple Mount. It is believed that here is where the Temple once stood. Stop at the Steps that entered the temple. It was here that Jesus would taught the disciples. See a video that shows the temple as it was at Solomon’s time. Just to the north we find the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church, the church is perfectly preserved from the Crusader period – with remarkable acoustics. We then follow the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) through the bazaars as far as the Holy Sepulcher. From there we walk through the Christian Quarter along the Arab Souks and past the Armenian Quarter. 

This afternoon we will walk out to the Damascus Gate and go to the Garden Tomb where we will end our day with a special visit and the possibility of having a private communion on the grounds outside the city walls. Return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.


DAY 11 – Friday, July 31, 2015

We transfer to the airport for our flight home with unforgettable memories to cherish always. Knowing we have walked in the footsteps of Jesus and the early Christians on such a memorable tour will bring new meaning to our Bible reading.


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Overflow Thought from Jonah, #2

Salvation Comes Through Suffering

suffering servant

I’ve spent a lot of time recently pondering the experience of Jonah inside the fish. I’m amazed that Jonah doesn’t expound more about this.  I think that’s a testament to the fact that the whole fish experience made him able to solely focus on God.  Perhaps it’s just assumed that Jonah was miserable inside the fish.  The fish became his coffin for three days while he was in the watery grave.

God could have done it differently. He could have sent Jonah Elijah’s fiery chariot.  He could have transported the prophet in an instant like he did with Philip after he spoke to the Ethiopian official about Christ in Acts 8.  He could have done even more than what we can imagine, but he chose the indignity of the great fish for Jonah’s salvation and deliverance.

God’s doesn’t move with aimless feet. He selected the fish for a reason. Jesus, when describing his upcoming ordeal with the grave, pointed to the sign of Jonah.  Our salvation came through the suffering of Christ. He suffered death on our behalf in order to overcome the grave. His suffering provides atonement for our sin and his victory over death on the third day is our glory.

Salvation comes through suffering. Praise be to God that the suffering that bought our salvation was paid by the one who loves us more than we can know.

 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
NIV Isaiah 53:5

Overflow Thought from Jonah, #1

Sunday night during worship I spoke about some of the thoughts that overflow from our study of Jonah. We have a limited amount of time during a Sunday morning worship service, so bringing up every theme a text presents is not possible.  The book of Jonah, though it’s only 4 short chapters, is full of ideas, and themes, and preaching material. It’s so full that I’ve preached twice on each chapter each Sunday since we’ve started this series, and I’ve still not touched on half of what’s there!

Here’s the first of 6 themes that come to us from our reading of Jonah:

God Works through Our Calamities

jonah falling

It’s a mistake to assume that God would only work through the positive experiences in our lives to grow us into the people he wants us to be.  Jonah, in order to get back on the right track, had to travel through the storm and be eaten by a fish! Neither experience was positive or pleasant.  Neither experience was something Jonah would have chosen for himself.

God sent the storm and the fish in order to refine Jonah. The storm brought him to a place of surrender and the fish brought him deliverance.  In Jonah’s life, the results of God’s work are found in the actions the prophet takes after being vomited out of the fish.  Jonah goes directly to Nineveh after being freed from the fish.  He doesn’t try to squirm out of his responsibilities.  He doesn’t try to direct his own path. He doesn’t try to escape from God a second time.  When Jonah is given a second chance, he obeys.

When God sends calamities into our life, perhaps he is polishing us up, making us fit for the tasks he created us for.

A Night Out On The Pier

You never know what a night time fishing adventure will bring.

A few nights ago I went out with a friend to Humphrey Pier. We caught more fish than you could wave a proverbial stick at. It was a magical night. We threw back 3 or 4 times as many fish as what we kept. I didn’t experience a dull moment the hole time; and I usually get bored after about ten minutes without a bite. No chance for that the other night!

Anyway, I wanted to share my new found fishing success with my kids. They just so happen to be off on Monday so keeping them out a little late on a Sunday evening was just the “bad dad” opportunity I’ve been looking for.

After church I checked my tackle, put my lures all in line, made sure we had plenty of ice for those piles of fish we were going to catch. We were planning for a war on fish like no other.

When we left the house at about 8:30 pm, the few clouds in the sky where low and puffy. The breeze was gentle to non-existence. And it was about 80 degrees. I wasn’t sure what made my daughters think to wear hoody sweatshirts, but oh well!

At 9:00 pm we arrived at Humphrey Pier. We grabbed our poles and our tackle and our cooler full of ice. We divided up the load and headed for the pier. I left the huge net in the car since I didn’t figure we would get to the specs or redfish till much later in the evening. It would be there when, of IF we needed it.

There we more people than what I figured there would be on the pier. But none of the people looked like they were vigorously fishing. We walked to our spot; a spot with a light shining out over the water. It was there we started to fish our hearts out.



By the time we made it to our Fishing spot, the wind was blowing strong, and the tide caused an impressive current under the pier. Using the same lure from the other night was laughable. The water ran so swiftly that my lure just skimmed the top of the current without getting in front of a fish.

I felt like the night was a total loss. No one at the pier was catching anything. Experienced fishermen were standing around talking without a line in the water. Bored fisherman had lines in the water but they were paying more attention to their conversations than to what might bite their bait.

I did a dangerous thing on the drive over to the fishing pier. I told the kids to rate the experience from one to ten after it was all over. If I got mostly ones, we would never go back. If we scored sevens and eights, it might me worth doing again.

When it was clear that our hope for trophy fish had deteriorated. The kids huddled for a vote.


It was a tough decision. A heartfelt 6 from Hayden. A sanguine 7 from Hallie. And a 10 from Rylie. I guess we get to do it again. I think well do it when the tide and the wind are right.

So what do you do when you’ve not caught any fish and you’re a mile from Louisiana? You go over I to Louisiana.


It’s a bad picture, so you’ll just have to trust me that there were French words on the sign that said. “We eat alligator round here ….” And other Cajun things, but I’m not fluent in Cajun yet, so I might be off.

We could only stay out of the state for so long. My heart started beating faster. My blood pressure shot up. My ears started to tingle and my mouth went dry. My body was telling me to get back to Texas!


I’m glad God loves Texas! All my ailments went away when I saw the sign. It was good to be back home (even though we were only gone for three minutes ).

The drive home was fun as we told stories and thought about how things might have been.

In the end it turned out well enough. I can see us going again when the tide is right and the wind doesn’t blow and we actually have a chance at catching a fish.

But even the worst moments fishing are well spent when they are spent with the ones you love.