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Summary: 50-DAY SPIRITUAL ADVENTURE - JONAH

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Introduction: Veggie-tales Jonah, “Our God is a God of Second Chances”

Our God is a God of second chances–and third, and fourth, and so on! The mercy and grace of God is greater than all of our sin. Regardless of who you are or what you have done, God is ready to let you start over again.

We continue our 50-day spiritual adventure looking at my all time favorite fish-story, Jonah. God used Jonah, a reluctant prophet, to bring his mercy to the people of Nineveh. Unfortunately, Jonah missed being able to see what God was doing. Jonah couldn’t see past himself and his people the nation of Israel.

Like Jonah, we may at times be nearsighted and unable to see the big picture. Our shortsighted vision can go between two extremes:

[1] “Crossless-eyed Vision”: our vision is blurred and we are unable to clearly see the cross of Christ; our eyesight is crisscrossed so that all we can see is our sin and failure. We can’t see how God could forgive us.

We are like the prodigal son; we have taken our inheritance and wasted it on the pleasures of the world. We find ourselves penniless in the pig-pen of our own making. How could the father ever acknowledge that we were his son or daughter? We’ve lost sight of the love of the cross of Christ.

[2] “Me-optic Vison”: we are only able to see God’s grace at work in our own lives, and those like us. Our focus is on God’s blessing individually to the exclusion of seeing how God’s mercy is available to others.

“Me-optic vision” excludes some people from God’s grace either by categorizing and quantifying levels of sin, or by excluding certain people groups as unreachable.

All too often “me-optic vision” is caused by either our unwillingness to accept or forgive individuals who have committed the “big sin”, or a bias that shuts certain groups of people out. We reason, “they’ve made their choice, so now they have to live with it.”

“Me-optic vision” says that the abusive alcoholic, the drug addict, the homosexual, the rapist, the murder, or some other sinner is beyond forgiveness. “Me-optic vision” qualifies the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Mormon, or some other religious group as unreachable.

Do you suffer from “cross-eyed vision” or “me-otic vision”? Yours may not be a severe disorder; it may only be a slight imperfection of how you view the mercy of God in your life or the lives of others. Most people would never suspect that your eyesight is faulty, but imperfect is—well imperfect.

Today, God wants to touch our defective eyes so we can see clearly, or putting it another way, God wants us to “Expect the Unexpected.” Those things that we once saw as impossible we look for God to do: LET’S EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!

1. UNEXPECTED PLACE: Jonah 1:1-2 1The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." (NIV)

God called Jonah to take a message of judgement to Nineveh. Nineveh was an up-and-coming world power in Jonah’s day, the most important city in Assyria. Within 50 years, Nineveh would become the capital of the vast Assyrian empire. This is the last place on earth that Jonah thought God would send him; why would God send Jonah to preach to his enemies?

Nineveh was located about 50 miles south of modern day Baghdad along the Tigris River. Jonah’s mission to Nineveh would be as current as you or me being sent to Baghdad to warn Saddam Hussain and the nation of Iraq that God would bring judgement upon them if they did not turn from their sin.

Jonah doesn’t say much about Nineveh’s sin, but we know from the prophet Nahum that it would have been very similar to the headlines we read in our newspapers about the atrocities of Saddam Hussain’s regime. Nineveh was guilty of [1] plotting against the Lord (Nahum 1:9), [2] abusing their enemies and the oppressed (Nahum 2:12, 13), and [3] leading other nations to practice their idolatry, prostitution and witchcraft (Nahum 3:4).

God was sending Jonah to Nineveh, about 500 miles northeast of Israel, with a message of impending judgment if the nation did not turn from their sin and receive God’s mercy.

Because of Jonah’s nearsighted “me-optic vision” he could not see this unexpected place that God was sending him to. Jonah’s faulty eyesight caused him to make an unexpected response.

2. UNEXPECTED RESPONSE: Jonah 1:3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (NIV)

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