From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. …… Salvation comes from the LORD.”
(Jonah 2:1- 2, 9c NIV)

Dear Friend,

The story of Prophet or Evangelist Jonah son of Amittai is a very exciting reading indeed. This is a man of God who decided to go against the will of God for his life. In short he refused, rebelled and disobeyed God in a matter of not doing what God wanted him to do. Instead, Jonah did what he himself thought was best for him. He bought a one way ticket, boarded a ship and off he sailed to a city called Tarshish. God however had other ideas for His rebellious prophet and he caused Jonah to pass through a horrendous experience at sea in order to bring him back in line and fulfill His purpose. Now Tarshish was a city of high commerce along the Mediterranean east coast. Maybe the prophet desired to make a quick buck; or he knew God was merciful anyway and would forgive the sinful Ninevites without him having to get involved. It may also be that Jonah was tired of shouting God’s messages to hardened sinners who never learned from their sinful ways of God’s possible wrath. But again we can never know for sure what compelled him to disobey God. All that we know in reading the book of Jonah is that he went his own way despite being called by God to do God’s bidding. Most of us are like Jonah; we often rebel against those in authority and at worst even disobey God’s clear instructions. This month let us learn from Jonah’s experience, I would ask you to read the short book of Jonah in order to get the story of this bold man of God who dared God and lived to rue the day he was born.

MY EXPERIENCE
But first let me share my own ‘overboard’ experience. I almost drowned in a river in the early part of my life; that was in the late sixties while trying to follow my older brothers in swimming expeditions. Believe me; I know what Jonah was going through in the water when he was tossed overboard from the ship. I also know what it means to be saved from certain death; I owe my life to an older brother who chose to be a brother’s keeper. You see, in those days old boys were required to take care of livestock while younger ones like poor me were supposed to be at home. At best they were expected to look after chickens and shoo away hawks or give water to calves, lambs and kids, in a bucket. Such safe tasks were not as exciting as visiting the forests with the older boys. Trust me; I never liked my home tasks one bit because I imagined I was missing out on all the fun and excitement especially when the boys came home with stories of ‘heroic’ deeds and laden with assorted tropical fruits. So it was not surprising that once in a while I would follow them screaming my lungs out to be allowed to accompany them, though I was still very young and would be a burden to them. Obviously I would be ordered to stay home and look after chicken, calves, lambs and kids which was not fun all. One day I followed them all the way and unfortunately, I knew not how to swim and had to sit on the banks and watch them frolic and squeal to their fill in the fast flowing river. After a while I could no longer take idling no more and as the older boys were diving in and out of the fast flowing river, I suddenly dived in without even alerting the ‘expert’ swimmers of my intention so that they could offer assistance. I reasoned that they would not allow me anyway yet I desired to be just like them! And even though I was young I thought one cannot learn to swim while seated on the ground, you got to be in the water! As soon as I hit the water, the strong currents swept me away so fast that I screamed for my brothers to come save me. One of them did and I was saved and thoroughly caned for my trouble. To date I do not know how to swim. The experience of drowning was scary; it was enough to make me shy off much water. I am sure if I had involved any of my ‘expert’ brothers in my swimming plans, am sure I would have been couched on how to float…

DIVING INTO LIFE TODAY MINUS GOD
Today many people just dive into life without proper planning, guidance or counseling, hence we see such stories as … come we stay till money do us part…as seen in the ongoing saga of the Mercedes Benz won by the young couple of Ng’arua. People; especially the inexperienced youngsters are busy doing their thing without seeking wise counsel first. Some relationships; be it in marriage or business are wrongly founded and majority end up in serious problems. But thank God for He is a good God who will give us a chance even after we have gone our own way. Ponder these points:-

· Involve God from the beginning in your life plans and accept His leading. We often wait until it is too late before we involve God in our lives. I have heard of people who do their thing and when things go terribly wrong, that is the time they remember that they have a God of mercy. Some even launch into ‘fasting and prayer’ right in the middle of a sticky situation. Thank God He hears our sincere petitions; otherwise Jonah would have become fish-food.

· Do not despair even when in a pit situation. God still loves us even when we are out of line and His greatest desire is to see us restored back to Him. Just like any father who loves his child would do, God often would chastise us not for the sake of punishing us but to make us aware that we are out of His favor. The prodigal son was fearful, but the father loved.

· We must accept that we have done wrong and ask for forgiveness in order to be restored. Unless a sin is confessed and repented, it shall remain and cause us trouble in our walk with God. (Heb 12:1 NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. David stole another mans’ wife, committed adultery and planned a murder. When confronted with his sin, he repented sincerely from the bottom of his heart and God restored him.

· God wants to get us out of our troubles. Many of us get ashamed after being entangled by sin and just let go of their hope and continue to slip deeper and deeper into sin. Let us learn from Jonah. He had gone to the lowest point that there was no lower that any person could go. For all intends and purposes, he was a dead man. But God still heard his prayers despite his serious sin of rebellion and the precarious position that he was in. Nothing is beyond God; Lazarus was dead and buried for four days, yet he lived again!

JESUS CHRIST THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD
Jesus went through all kinds of troubles even the death of the cross so that you and I can be saved. I heard a testimony of a couple of church leaders who were traveling to a neighboring town for a meeting in a car and on the way they had a nasty accident. One of them saw the accident about to happen and he remembered the below scriptures and he shouted the name of Jesus at the very top of his voice. The car was a write off, but everyone escaped with no serious injury. All who saw the car later said there was no way any one could have survived the wreck. But they did because of the name of Jesus.

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:32 NIV)

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:21 NIV)

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:12-13 NIV)

Early last year a plane load of newly appointed ministers and members of parliament crashed on take off in western Kenya. As the accident was happening one Muslim minister yelled; ‘I am dying, I am dying’; a born-again female colleague told him not to confess death but call upon the name of Jesus who saves. She did and lived, unfortunately the Muslim man died.

HIDING AFTER FALLING.
When we end up in a sinful situation, or fall as we normally say, the tendency is to run away and hide. Adam and Eve did exactly this. Some tend to live in denial; Cain was in denial after murdering his brother Abel. We are no different. But please do not hide! God sees everywhere and whatever we do in darkness is made manifest in daylight. We may be able to play hide and seek for a while but eventually our sin will be revealed. But do confess, repent and be restored back to God. Sin is a tough snare; a mistake done will live with us forever. It contaminates that which was otherwise perfect. The greatest tragedy is for one to continue living in a fallen sate. Imagine what would have happened to Jonah in the belly of the fish if he had not called upon God to have mercy on him and save him. He would have died and become fish-dinner for sure. Refuse to be ‘eaten’ by the world or even religion. Yes, some religious sects or groups are downright demonic and that is why Jesus spoke of those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ who will end up being locked out of heaven!

Be Spirit led always. Often we allow our soul to lead and soon we find ourselves on the bumpy road. Jonah reasoned that God was merciful anyway and would forgive the Ninevites who in his opinion deserved what God intended to do to them for their waywardness; so he ran away to Tarshish which the bible refers to as a city of commerce. (Ezek 27:12 NIV) “‘Tarshish did business with you because of your great wealth of goods; they exchanged silver, iron, tin and lead for your merchandise. May be Jonah desired to do business there. Test every spirit because not all spirits are of God. Religion is full of different spirits that have lead many to be bound, chained and gagged; even blinded to the saving grace of Jesus! How sad. Paul speaking to the Corinthians mentioned those who peddle the gospel for profit! We are hearing of them daily in the news. Some are so tied to the Mosaic Law and its do’s and don’ts that they cannot easily understand what we mean by the ‘new’ covenant. My prayer is that God would lift this veil so that all may enter into a better covenant with Him.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Heb 8:13 NIV)

WHERE ARE YOU IN CHRIST?
Are you still faithfully trudging along in the path of salvation? Or are you already on your way to Tarshish, rebelling from God’s calling? Are you already dead, entangled, bound and buried in sin? Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Going to church, being a member of one, tithing or coming from a Christian home is NEVER a substitute for salvation! Salvation is a personal experience requiring a personal action. Let me explain, Jacob was born to Isaac, he did everything he chose to do under his father, he even prospered under his father and later his uncle. But until he made a covenant with God at Bethel and later dealt with his sins at the River Jabbok, Jacob was but another nice fellow from a godly home minus God! Not until his name was changed to Israel did he experience God in a more personal way. Another example is that of ‘doubting’ Thomas as many do refer to him. Not until the doubting experience did he become truly close to the Lord. This is the time when he refers to Jesus as; (John 20:28 NIV…”My Lord and my God!”

I wonder what the Lord was to him before this experience. Jesus told Nicodemus-who by the way was a leader in the synagogue- that unless a man is born again, there is no entering the kingdom of God! You see some people only love the Lord, sing nice songs, give good offerings but when it comes to the Lord being their Lord and God; then and only then does a problem arise. The passport to heaven is through Jesus Christ only and not being number one on the church register!

JONAH WAS SAVED
Like Jonah, you can call on God today; He will save you no matter what has swallowed you. A job can be a fish. Addictions can also be a fish.

Like Jonah, let go of the world’s worthless idols and receive God’s grace. Many are bound in religion and worship of things or beings that cannot save.

Like Jonah, purpose to make good that which you had vowed to God. Others abandon God just as soon they have been delivered from whatever is ailing them. Some after being healed from drugs, alcoholism etc, proceed to dive right back into the things that led them into trouble in the first place!

If you are outside of God’s will for your life; The forces around you will continue to toss you up and down and carry you completely out of salvation. Jonah was engulfed in waters with strong currents. Seaweed wrapped around him and he begun to sink. Bad friend can be worse than strong currents. I recently read of Wanja the lady who was released from Lang’ata Women’s Prision. For eighteen months the prison was a fish to her! She had rebelled from her parents and ended up with the wrong crowd, finally she ended up in prison and while in jail she eventually was selected the first ever winner in the Miss Lang’ata Beauty pageant and was eventually released after her sentence. That is when I read that she was the daughter of a Bishop! What does this mean? Having Christian parents is not an automatic ticket to heaven. One has to make a personal commitment to Jesus to be their Lord and God! Christian parents can only teach their children the ways to follow; it is for the children either to obey or rebel. For Wanja, she rebelled from godly parental authority and ended in prison. Thank God she eventually realized her folly and confessed. It was instructive to note that the very parents she rebelled from were the ones who came for her at the prison gates, not her former ‘friends’ who forgot all about her as soon as she was settled in the ‘fish belly.’ Let us all learn from her experience and that of Jonah.

Jonah’s only way out was the God whom he had abandoned. Thank God that He has not abandoned us even today! He has prepared for us a way to salvation. His son who is our Lord Jesus Christ!

His eyes are seeking out those who are looking for Him
His ears are attentive to the call of those in distress. They are not dull or deaf.
His hand is never too short that it cannot save.
He saw Jonah, He heard his prayer and He brought him up from the pit and placed him on firm ground again.

He is here for us even in the tumult that is in the world today. Are you saved? Or do you still trust in the law or belief in sacrifices and worthless idols? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Put your trust in Him today, call on Him and you shall be saved. He is the God of our salvation. Hallelujah!

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 6:1-2 NIV)

If you are not born again or you have backslidden; confess your sins today, call on Jesus and you shall be saved. Do not allow the world to hold you captive. Since I got saved, my life has never been the same again; I have no regrets whatsoever! If anything I keep asking myself why it took me so long to experience the saving grace of Jesus. I shared my testimony in a past journal of how I was addicted to smoking for seventeen years and one day when I finally took my heavy burden to Jesus; He delivered me from this yoke in an instant! I still relish that miracle to date. This Scripture become real to me: (Mat 11:28 NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. I have rested from this burden for nine glorious years because I called on Jesus the Savior of the world who delivered me from the heavy yoke of smoking.

Do you desire the experience of the saving grace of Jesus? It is my great pleasure to welcome you into the kingdom of God. Just repeat this prayer sincerely and by faith you shall surely be saved:-

PRAYER: Father, I come to you today confessing my sins through your son Jesus Christ who died for me. Forgive my rebellion and save me today. Restore me to yourself and write my name in your Book of Life. Wash me clean by the blood of Jesus. I renounce every covenant not of God and accept Jesus as my Lord and my God. Lord Jesus I welcome you into my heart today. Take control of my life from now and keep me save always. I pray this prayer sincerely in your name. AMEN.