WHAT’S WITH THE RED LIGHTS?

Sometimes red lights annoy me because their timing is not conducive to my busy schedule. The idea of sitting and waiting is not appealing to me…so sometimes I accelerate and run a yellow light so I don’t have to wait at the red light. You know bad things can happen at red lights too. Someone could rear-end you while you are sitting there waiting on the green light and your turn to go. I had that happen last year. Ever had your car stall and the light turns green and you cannot go? If only you did not catch that red light, then your car would have kept running and you would not have to deal with the embarrassment and frustration of holding up traffic, right? Now having vented my frustration and annoyance with red lights, and before you condemn me as a dangerous lunatic of a guy behind the wheel, let me tell you I understand their necessity. They are there for our protection. They are there to prevent chaos on the road and an orderly arrangement of traffic.
But there is another kind of “red light” that becomes annoying for us too. That concerns the red lights God puts into our path as believers.
I always think of Jonah when I think of the red lights God raises up in front of us.
There was the red light of the storm in Jonah chapter one. God sent the storm. It was God saying to Jonah, you need to stop now because you are on a path I have not chosen for you. And it is not a good path. This kind of red light is really God’s way of showing kindness to Jonah. If Jonah would have repented and made an about face, everyone on the ship would not have had to suffer because of his refusal to obey,including Jonah himself. Running a red light could bring danger to your passengers as well as to you. And that is what happened here. Jonah just ran that red light, went to sleep in the hold, and put all his fellow passengers at risk. When awakened he refused to change his heart and the problem intensified.
Then there was the red light of the fish in Jonah chapter two. I can only imagine his thoughts when he found himself still alive and in a fish’s stomach. Somebody put the brakes on and it was not Jonah! Here was a red light he could not run or avoid. Red lights from God need to be occasions for prayer. When God halts our journey it should be a call to prayer as it was for Jonah. Reading Jonah’s prayer made me realize that Jonah had not had any recent conversations with God about his life direction. This was a distressing time, a lonely time, and a fainting time in his life. Yet, God heard, answered, spared his life, and returned him to the path he had abandoned. Those blessed red lights!
There is one more red light. The red light of the worm. In chapter four Jonah sits down in the sun to see what would happen to Nineveh. He is hot, tired, and a tad bent out of shape. God causes a shade plant to grow up and give him some relief. Then God erects another red light. The plant gets destroyed by a pesky worm. This red light was given to Jonah so he would rethink what is most important in life -plants or people. He was so upset over the dead plant and that blasted worm that he failed to see the people who had never dying souls.  God intends among other things that red lights lead us to adjust our  “to do” lists, our passions, our value assessments, and even our stewardship habits. It is too easy to let slip the most important priorities of our lives for plants and worm frustrations.  Can you welcome the red lights? They are God sent! Think it thru

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IS IT FAIR THAT THE WICKED GET GOOD STUFF?

life not fairThis question raises a lot of resentment in the heart of one who works hard to live for God and please Him. Often the short-term reward for such commitment is disappointing. In fact it can even inflame us against God Himself.  Asaph spoke about this troubling thing in Psalm 73. Asaph was David’s music director. He was a faithful believer and walked close to God as he led others in worship. Yet he confessed in Psalm 73:2 “My feet had almost sllipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.”  Why did he make that candid confession? What was happening to him?  He had noticed how well the wicked were doing in life, despite their evil life-style. It appeared to him that God was allowing the wicked to do well. God seemed to be much kinder to the enemies of God’s  people than He was to His own people. Asaph’s struggle was like many of ours: Why keep putting yourself out for God and living a pure life if God is not going to deal with the wicked? Where is the justice or fairness in that?

Recently I was reading something Colin Smith observed in his little book entitled Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life: “They were angry with God about grace.”  God reminds us that he causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust [Matt. 5:45].  The blessings bestowed on the wicked are the result of the grace of God that could lead to their repentance.  The next time we get a bit “ticked off” about how well God seems to let my wicked neighbor do, let’s stop and think about the overwhelming grace we have unworthily received. Then, pray for our neighbor that God’s grace on him would lead to his salvation. And let’s not be angry with God about grace. Think it thru