Lord, Have Mercy


This picture may not truly depict the actual fish that swallowed up Jonah, but it sure does get my heart pumping!

If you love the ocean, this picture excites you! If you are fearful of the ocean, this picture doesn’t help…

Regardless of the size or look of the fish, the fact still remains that Jonah spent three days in the belly of one. As nasty as this seems, this was actually to keep him from drowning.

You see, Jonah was given a task to go Nineveh and give them a message. The thing is, Jonah was scared to go to Nineveh because the people weren’t very nice. So, he decided to go the other direction.

He found his way on a boat, and out on the ocean there was this great storm. The ship’s crew was worried about it so they cast lots to see who is causing this trouble. The lot fell on Jonah.

They couldn’t figure out what to do, so Jonah told them to throw him overboard. So, they did. When Jonah hit the water, the storm stopped. The ship’s crew began to worship God!

However, Jonah couldn’t swim well. So, God sent a fish to swallow him up. For three days and three nights Jonah sat in the belly of the fish praying to God.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9 NIV)

After the fish spit him onto dry land, he went to Nineveh. He gave them the message that God would destroy them in forty days if they did not repent! What a message to give to a hostile crowd!

Thankfully they did repent. What we take from this story is God’s mercy. Jonah wasn’t a fan of God’s mercy to the Ninevites. However, Jonah forgot God’s mercy that was given to him out in the ocean.

Mercy is showing compassion when you can give punishment. 

We discussed God’s mercy yesterday in Kids Worship. Here are the Conversation Starters:

  • How was Jonah shown mercy?
  • Do you think you would do well in a fish for three days?
  • How was Nineveh shown mercy?
  • Did Nineveh deserve to be destroyed?
  • Have you ever been shown mercy? (Parent: tell of a time?)
  • How did God show us mercy?
  • How can we show mercy around our house? Our school?

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

Who Do You Think Made All This?

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

Yesterday I read these words from Brennan Manning, author of Ragamuffin Gospel. I can’t improve on them. Listen in…

As they contemplate the order of the earth, the solar system, and the stellar universe, scientists and scholars have concluded that the Master Planner left nothing to chance.

The slant of the earth, for example, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, produces our seasons. Scientists tell us that if the earth had not been tilted exactly as it is, vapors from the oceans would move both north and south, piling up continents of ice.

If the moon were only 50,000 miles away from earth instead of 200,000, the tides might be so enormous that all continents would be submerged in water–even the mountains would be eroded.

If the crust of the earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, and without it all animal life would die. Had the oceans been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life would exist.

The earth’s weight has been estimated at six sextillion tons (that a six with 21 zeros). Yet is is perfectly balanced and turns easily on it axis. It revolves daily at the rate of more than 1,000 miles per hour or 25,000 miles each day. This adds up to nine million miles a year. Considering the tremendous weight of six sextillion tons rolling at this fantastic speed around an invisible axis, held in place by unseen bands of gravitation, the words of Job 26:7 take on unparalleled significance: “He poised the earth on nothingness.”

The earth revolves in its own orbit around the sun, making the long elliptical circuit of six hundred million miles each year–which means we are traveling in orbit at 19 miles per second or 1,140 miles per hour.

Consider the sun. Every square yard of the sun’s surface is emitting constantly an energy level of 130,000 horsepower (that is, approximately 450 eight-cylinder automobile engines), in flames that are being produced by an energy source much more powerful than coal. Still the sun is only one minor star in the 100 billion orbs which comprise our Milky Way galaxy. If you were to hold out a dime at arm’s length, the coin would block out 15 million stars from your view, if your eyes could see with that power.

No wonder Isaiah, in the darkness of the night sky, saw the greatness of God:

Look at the night skies: Who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name – so magnificent! so powerful! – and never overlooks a single one? (Isaiah 40:26, The Message)


Unconditional Love


The story of Hosea is one that rings out as a story about love. Hosea married a woman, Gomer, who was unfaithful.

This is the same kind of unfaithfulness that Israel shows to God. No matter how much God loves his people, they continually turn their back on him.

Gomer often ran away. However, God told Hosea to go after Gomer. So he did. Not only did he go after her, but he bought her back. Yes. He bought her back.

Hosea loved her even though she was unfaithful. God gave Hosea a love that would never give up. God wanted the people of Israel to hear about Hosea and his wife and understand that Israel was no different than Gomer.

God loves with a love that will never give up. Hosea pleaded with the Israelites to turn back to God.

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the LordSay to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.” (Hosea 14:1-2 NIV)

Like Hosea, God purchased us back. His love doesn’t give up. As Hosea purchased back Gomer with currency, God purchased us back through the blood of his Son.

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • Have you ever done something to make your parents mad? (Parents: give an example.)
  • Do your parents still love you even though you did something wrong?
  • Do you think it was hard for them to love you?
  • Why do you think Hosea still chased after Gomer?
  • Why do you think God still chases after us?
  • When you sin against God, do you pray and ask for forgiveness?
  • Do you think he forgives you?
  • How did he show he forgave you?
  • Take some time as a family and confess sins from this week. (Yes. Parents, too.) Then pray for God’s forgiveness.

As always, adjust where needed. God bless!

Can You Hear Me Now? Good.


Can you hear me now? Good.

Paul Marcarelli is the famous Verizon customer who used that iconic line. To me, those commercials are pretty nostalgic. I didn’t have a phone when they first came out, but now I realize that no matter what service you have, you are bound to have a call dropped…

I used to have Sprint, and it happened a lot. I now have Verizon, and it still happens on occasion…in my own home.

The good news is that no matter what cell phone service you have, there are no dropped calls with God. God hears you every time.

Yesterday in Kids Worship, we talked about Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and king of Judah. Ahaz was an evil king, but Hezekiah was not.

The Assyrians were a military powerhouse, and they had already attacked Israel. They were now knocking on the doorstep of Judah. Hezekiah was scared.

Hezekiah sent a message to the prophet Isaiah. He asked Isaiah to pray for God to protect them. Isaiah told them what God said. He told them to not be afraid.

Hezekiah eventually went to the temple himself and prayed. He prayed for God to show the Assyrians that he was the one true God. Isaiah came to Hezekiah and told him that God heard his prayer.

Even when you ask God, “Can you hear me now?” the call will never be dropped, he will never step away from the phone, he was and will forever be tuned in to what you have to say.

Here are the Conversation Starters with your kids:

  • Have you ever prayed to God?
  • Do you think he is listening?
  • Has he ever answered one of your prayers? (Parent: tell of a time when he answered yours.)
  • What happens when you don’t get what you prayed for? Does that mean he wasn’t listening? (No.)
  • Does God always have to say “yes” for him to have answered your prayer? (No.) God can answer our prayers by saying “yes,” “no,” “not yet,” etc.
  • Why would God answer your prayer by saying “no”? (Parent: tell of a time God answered your prayer by saying “no.”)
  • Spend some time in prayer as a family.

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

The Rock

I have struggled to picture being “in Christ.” For years I have believed it theologically–but I couldn’t wrap my conceptual brain around it. Then Life Group happened last week. One of the members of our group talked about being “held” by God, picturing herself in his arms. An Old Testament image and an old song immediately came to mind. I have to share. First, the Old Testament image.

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV)

I’ve been to Israel and seen massive mountains full of rock caves. Below is a picture of a cave just north of the Dead Sea. img_1668

If God is the Rock, then I can run into Him and be safe. As a matter of fact, I am “in Him.” When storms come, I’m in the Rock. When winds howl, rains descend, the sun scorches, the hail falls, I’m in the Rock. Jesus is the Rock! I am in Him. This is unspeakable comfort.

Moses, in one of his final speeches before his death doesn’t stop there. Listen to how he describes the Rock wooing Israel:

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest of the wheat— and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape. (Deuteronomy 32:10-14 ESV)

If you are in Christ, you are “found, encircled, cared for, kept, fluttered over, caught, borne up and guided.”

Now the old song. I sang this growing up. Make it your trusting prayer today.

Isaiah 53

Ocean Sunrise and Lighthouse

Isaiah was told to go and tell the people about the coming Messiah. However, the Messiah was still hundreds of years away. He gave specific details about what the Messiah would go through.

It is important to know that the details of what the Messiah went through are important when you know that it was all for us.

Isaiah told the people that the Messiah would be a servant. This was not what the people were expecting him to be. He was expected to be the king! Why would Isaiah say this person would be someone who serves?? The king doesn’t serve!

Next, he told the people that the Messiah would be rejected by men. The Messiah would come to serve the people and yet they would reject him! The story of Barabbas is a good example of Jesus being rejected by men.

Pilate offered to release Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd wanted Barabbas. This man was a murderer. They would rather have him over the Messiah.

Lastly, he said the Messiah would be beaten. 

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

Here are the Conversation Starters for this week:

  • So, if Isaiah lived hundreds of years before Jesus, do you think this was God’s plan all along?
  • What’s the difference between a servant and a king? Can one person be both?
  • Have you ever served someone? How? (Parent: tell of a time you served.)
  • If Jesus was rejected by many people, why do you think he still died on the cross?
  • Jesus could have stopped it all, but he never opened his mouth. Why didn’t he?
  • Jesus came and died for us on the cross. Have you ever accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

What A Vision

The call of Isaiah was a very unique story of how Isaiah volunteered to go deliver God’s message.

This was a difficult time for the people of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms: Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah. The king of Assyria was bound to take over the world.

The kings of these places were relied on heavily to protect the people from the Assyrian invasion. The king of Judah was Uzziah and he died. Isaiah found himself in the temple the same year that Uzziah died.

While he was in the temple, Isaiah had a vision. He saw God sitting on the throne. God’s robe was so long, the edges filled the entire temple. Then, seraphim (types of angels) came and spoke to Isaiah.

When they spoke, the foundations of the doorways shook. They said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord; His glory fills the whole earth.” Isaiah knew his sin because he was in the presence of God. One of the seraphim touched a burning coal to Isaiah’s lips and told him that his sin was wiped away.

God then spoke, “Who should I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.”

God had an important message to the people: “You will listen, but you will not understand. You will look, but you will not really see. If your eyes and ears and minds worked, you would turn from your sin and be healed.”

Isaiah asked, “How long should I preach to people who won’t listen?”

God said, “Preach until the cities are destroyed and no one lives in them. I am going to send the people far away.” Then God explained that He would bring some of the people back to Judah. These people were part of Abraham’s family. God was going to keep His promise to Abraham through them. He would send the Messiah through their family to be a blessing to all the nations.

I pray these Conversation Starters would bless you and your kids:

  • Have you ever volunteered for something but you didn’t know what you were doing? (Parent: explain a time when you have.)
  • Who is the main character of this story?
  • Where was Isaiah when he had a vision? (Temple)
  • How would you act if you were in the presence of God like Isaiah was? (Parents: you answer as well.)
  • Do you think that God knew that Isaiah would volunteer to go? (Yes)
  • Isaiah was told to deliver a message to people who basically wouldn’t listen. How would you feel if you were going to talk to someone who wouldn’t listen?
  • God promised to keep his promise with Abraham. Can you remember what that promise was?
  • Who is the Messiah?

As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

Simple Instructions

After Elijah ran from Jezebel, he went up to the mountain top to hear God speak to him in a soft whisper. God gave Elijah instructions on what he was to do next. He was going to anoint three people to key positions.

One of these key positions is Elijah’s job as prophet over Israel. A man named Elisha would take over this position.  As the prophet over Israel, the land of Aram attacked Israel and took people to be their servants.

A commander in this army from Aram was Naaman. He was good, but he also had leprosy. One of the Israelite girls who worked for Naaman’s wife told her about a man in Israel who could help him.

The king of Aram sent Naaman with a letter to the king of Israel. The letter said that Naaman was sent so that they could heal him. The king of Israel became upset because he was not God and had no power to heal this man!

Elisha heard about this, and he called Naaman to his house. Elisha told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times. Those were the instructions! Never before was a man healed from leprosy by dipping in the river!

Naaman was upset and began to leave. Elisha’s servants persuaded Naaman to do as he said. Naaman finally did what Elisha had said. Naaman’s skin was healed!

Naaman came back to Elisha and told him that he knew God was the one true God.

Here are the Conversation Starters for the kiddos:

  • Who was the prophet who replaced Elijah?
  • What disease did Naaman have?
  • Have you ever had chicken pox? Or a sunburn?
  • Do you know what leprosy is? (Explain that it is a skin disease that is very bad and eats away your skin. People with leprosy would be called unclean and shunned from society)
  • Was Elisha the one who healed Naaman? (No.)
  • Was the Jordan River the one that healed Naaman? (No.)
  • Who was the one who healed Naaman? (God.)
  • Has God ever healed you from something? (Parent: Talk about a time where God healed you.)


As always, adjust where needed! God bless.

When God Preaches to Me…While I’m Preaching

Sunday in the second service something remarkable happened. I’ve studied Romans 7 for years. God used this passage to rock my world many years ago and I have referred to it for years while counseling others. But God showed me something Sunday that I had never seen. It may be so obvious to you–but came to me near the end of Sunday’s sermon. The part in bold is what I’ve never before realized quite as powerfully as Sunday. (If you missed Sunday, you can hear the sermon here:http://graceforall.org/media.php?pageID=6)

So, as strange as this, I’m gonna quote from my own sermon:

Unless you realize that there is a victor who lives within you now, because you belong to Christ, who is also outside of you–the victor is both within and without–you will never win the battle over sin. When did he become victorious?  Jesus came, sinless one, and died on the cross. On the cross he didn’t have just one of your sins attached to himself, he had all of your sins attached to himself. He didn’t just have what you’ve done and plays through your mind like a broken record that you can’t get rid of, but for every human being who’s ever walked on the planet–imagine the multiplied guilt–put it on Christ on the cross and on the cross he died for those sins–every single one of them–once and for all.

But listen to this. As awesome as that is, if it ended there Paul said, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” That would be horrible–that the weight of our sin crushed him and that was it.

Friday followed by Saturday. The disciples fled. Mary cried. Joseph and Nicodemus buried his body. Judas is dead. Peter denied. Hope seems lost until early Sunday morning. Because early Sunday morning your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb! It wasn’t! And if your sin was not powerful enough to keep him in the tomb then, is your sin powerful enough to keep him down in your life today? NO!

This is why Paul writes in Romans 8:11:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So what is tripping you up? Wrecking your life? Derailing you? Jeremy Camp has put this brilliantly. Take a few minutes to listen:

A Loud Whisper

This week’s Conversation Starters focus in on the story of Elijah and how he ran from Jezebel. This story comes in 1 Kings 19. Last week we read in the previous chapter how Elijah was on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal.

After God showed who the One True God was, He told Elijah to kill the prophets. King Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done, and she was not happy. She sent word to Elijah that in one day, she would have him killed.

Obviously, Elijah was scared. He fled into the wilderness where Jezebel could not find him. He was so scared that he asked God to take his life! After he prayed this, he took a nap. It is crazy to think how Elijah went from one extreme to the other. He went from sheer panic and desperation to complete rest. Only God could provide such peace.

An angel came and spoke to Elijah and gave him food. Then, he went back to sleep. The angel awoke him once again to give him more food that would sustain him for 40 days.

He traveled to Mt. Horeb where he hid in a cave. God asked him why he was there and then told him to go stand out on the mountain. When he was on the mountain, a great wind came. It was so great it tore rocks off of the mountain. But God was not in the wind.

Then, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then, there was a fire, but God was not in the fire. All of a sudden, Elijah heard a whisper. It was a soft voice. As God began to speak to him, he asked Elijah again what he was doing there. Elijah answered, “I have done my best to obey you. But these people are trying to kill me.”

God gave Elijah instructions on what to do next and Elijah was not killed by Jezebel.

Here are the Conversation Starters to have with your kiddos:

  • Elijah was scared of Jezebel. Have you ever been scared? (Parents: Tell of a time when you were scared.)
  • Did God protect Elijah? How?
  • Do you believe God protects you? If so, how? From what?
  • Elijah went 40 days without food. Do you think you can go 40 days without food?
  • How was Elijah able to do that? (God sustained him.)
  • So, there was a wind, an earthquake, and a fire. However, God was not in any of them was he? How did God speak to Elijah?
  • Why did God speak to God through a whisper? (Maybe because he was scared, and a whisper is what would calm him down.)
  • Elijah was a prophet who was hated by his enemies. Jesus was also hated by his enemies. What are some other similarities between Jesus and Elijah?
  • What are some differences?

As always, adjust where you need! God bless.