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Showing posts with label Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Service


Introduction
When I was a kid I love the Transformers cartoon series and children's toys.  The Transformers were alien robots that could transform into cars, jets, and other cools things.  Even more amazing, each individual robot warrior could combine with other robots in their unit to form a huge super robot.  Some Transformer would be the legs, and others the arms or body.  And this reminds me of what the Bible says about the Church.  All who follow Jesus Christ are filled with the Holy Spirit, who transforms us from our old nature into a new creation of God.  Furthermore, when believers work together as the Church, we make up the body of Christ.  The Holy Spirit gives each believer a special ability we are to use in cooperation with others in the church to help transform the world.  Isn't that cool!  Christian are the real Transformers!

List of Gifts
Romans 12:8-9 list seven gifts the Holy Spirit gives to transform us so we can transform the world. There are other lists in the New Testament list additional gifts.  The number of gifts is not as important as the idea that we are all give gifts by the Holy Spirit that we're to use to build up the Church and make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  The gifts we are studying from Romans 12:8-9 are: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, and Kindness.  Click here if you would like to take a quick and simple assessment to discover how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you.  Today, we will study the transforming gift of Service.

Luke 17:7-10
7 “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

Important Ideas About Servants
There are several ideas Jesus teaches us about servants.  First of all, a servant does things that need to be done—important things that might get overlooked because they aren’t necessarily the things most people think about.  However, if these important tasks are left undone these it will lead to serious problems.  What important yet easily overlooked tasks do we see in the passage?  There is plowing.  Plowing is not a glamorous job; but if you don't plow, you won't have much of a harvest and no food.  The passage also mentions taking care of the sheep.  Again, not a fun thing to do, but if you want wool and milk and meat from your sheep, you've got to do the dirty work of taking care of their hooves and health and making sure they are safe and have food and water.  Menial tasks like these and cooking dinner are essential for daily life and the servant is the one who see to them.

Second, a servant puts the needs of others before their own. Jesus says after working all day, the servant prepares the master’s meal and serves the master before the servant eats.  The servant doesn't complain that they've been working all day.  They know their job's not through.  It's who they are and what they do.  They're servants.

Third, a servant doesn’t expect to be thanked. They are just doing what they are supposed to do.  It's their job.  In the biblical world, it was their very identity.  Many people were servant their whole life.  In the Transformers cartoon, there was a robot names Rachet.  Rachet was the medic who transformed into an ambulance and repaired any injured or malfunctioning Transformers.  He was a real servant.  He reminds me of the firefighters, police, and EMTs from real life.  They are always serving, doing those things we don't think about until we desperately need them--when your house is on fire or you have an intruder or you're injured and need emergency medical attention.  We call them public servants we we express our gratitude.  Sometimes we even call them heroes when they do something heroic like save someone from a burning building.  Yet the most often simply respond by saying, “I’m not a hero; I'm just doing my job.”  That's the attitude of a true servant.

Jesus shared the characteristics of the best servants.

Matthew 24:45-46
45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.
  
The Best Servants
All believers, who follow Jesus as Lord, are called to serve.  In fact, Lord Jesus came to serve.  He set the example. He left the glory of heaven to come do what we couldn’t do for ourselves.  And while he was here, he didn’t sit back and expect everyone to serve him.  No.  He served everyone else.  The Greatest among you will be the servant of all.

All believers are called to serve.  But some believers have the exceptional, Holy Spirit empowered gift to serve others.  Gifted servants have a special talent for pinpointing exactly what needs to be done and then finding ways to get those things done.  Their serving frees others to work more effectively.  Gifted servants usually don’t need or even want recognition.  Their greatest reward is knowing that the job was done and it made a difference in the overall mission. 

The best servants are the ones you can trust to get the job done without anyone supervising them.  You don’t have to ask them.  You just trust them to figure out what needs to be done, how to best do it, and to make sure it gets done.  Most of the time, they do the work without you even being aware it’s getting done.  Now, some people would feel taken for granted if they did something without anyone else noticing or saying thank you.  But a true servant sees that this is just part of their purpose.  When they do their job really well, no one will notice, because no one even knew the job needed to be done.

Are You A Servant? 
Are you a servant God wants to use to help transform the world? Do you have the gift of the Holy Spirit to serve exceptionally well? A true gifted servant tends to say things like:
  • "I like to do useful, helpful things for people.
  • I show my feelings by what I do for others more than what I say to them."
  • "I prefer doing a job instead of delegating it to someone else to complete."
  • "I like to assist people in practical ways."
If that’s you, you might be a Holy Spirit empowered servant God wants to use to help transform the world! We need gifted servants in many places around Pleasant Grove:
  • Fixing things - In a large church facility, there are always things that need to be fixed.  We need self-motivated, faithful people who can spot things that need repairs and just get it done.
  • Children/Youth ministry - We already have a gifted youth minister and childrens' minister, but their gifts are teaching.  Our biggest need right now are servants who can assist these ministers by watching over the kids, chaperoning retreats, helping out behind the scene so the youth and children's ministers can focus on leading and teaching.
  • Wednesday night suppers - We always need helpers out our church to set tables, help in the kitchen during dinner, serve food, and clean up after dinner.  Is this something you would help with in your church?
  • Checking lights and doors - Sometimes, you don't need any special skills at all to be a faithful servant.  In a large church facility, there are always light that get left on and doors that don't get locked.  One helpful way to serve is just to go through the building regularly and check that all the lights are off and doors are locked.  This is tremendously helpful.
  • Counting money - We are always grateful for the generous giving to our worship offerings, but the money doesn't magically transport from the offering plates to the bank.  It takes faithful, conscientious servants to count the money, record it properly, and deposit it.  Could this be a way you could serve?
  • Planning events - You don't have to be a creative, visionary person who comes up with great ideas to help plan.  We often have innovative thinkers with great ministry ideas.  Unfortunately, creative types don't always know how to translate their ideas into practical ministries.  They often need help with the details and with carrying out the plans.  Are you a servant who likes to work and get things done?  Perhaps you could help with planning.
There are countless ways to serve through the church, the Body of Christ, especially for people who like to get things done and aren't concerned about getting credit.  All glory be to God and his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who empowers us to work together to transform the world.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Prophecy


Introduction
I loved the transformers when I was a kid.  The brilliant people at the toy company Hasbro really came up with a winning formula when I was a kid.  Eight-year-old Pastor Chris loved the transformers and so did millions of other kids.  Now, Hasbro didn’t just manufacture toys.  In a bit of marketing genius, they made toys and developed a cartoon TV series featuring their toys, which told the fictional story of the transformers.  So of course, kids all over America where watching these little mechanized robots that could transform in to cars and truck and jet airplanes.  And then they would go to mommy and daddy and beg for the toys so they could play with them at home.  The transformers have been a lucrative franchise every since—spawning seven movies and numerous television series.

The Transformers are definitely, “More than meets the eye.”  But I don’t want to talk about transforming robots today.  I want to talk about how the Holy Spirit of God transforms us and how we in turn can use the special power God gives us to transform our world.  The Word of God tells us some of the gifts the Holy Spirit offers each of us to help transform our world.  Listen.

Romans 12:6-8
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

All Believers Are Given A Gift.  What’s Yours?
Now this is not an exhaustive list of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it gives you a good idea of some of the special powers God may give you to help you transform our world.  Click here to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help you begin to identify which gift(s) the Holy Spirit may have given you.  It will give you some indications about your spiritual gifts.  Each week, I plan to talk about a different gift of the Spirit.  Today, I want to talk about the transforming gift of prophecy.

Acts 2:17-18
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,
    and your old men will dream dreams.
18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit

    even on my servants—men and women alike—
    and they will prophesy.

Everyone's a Prophet
This is an important and incredible statement. In Old Testament times, God only chose a few special people to be prophets. But now that Jesus, the Son of God has come, the Word of God says the Holy Spirit will be "poured out" on everyone who believes in Jesus. And the gift of prophecy will be found in young and old, men and women. And it seems like everybody's going to be seeing visions and dreams and prophesying. 

Notice it says, “poured out”.  I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine the Holy Spirit hovering up above you.  Now imagine the Holy Spirit of God pouring His power down around you and it’s splashing all around and soaking over you.  That’s the image.  If you've decided to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord, you’ve been drenched with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And Acts chapter 2 indicates prophecy will be one of the most frequent results.

What is Prophecy?
The Word of God is True. Every believer of Jesus Christ has been Spirit empowered to prophesy. But the gift of prophecy is frequently misunderstood.  When most people think of a prophet or prophecy, they think of someone predicting the future.  However, prophecy is not about predicting the future.  Prophecy is simply telling people what God says.  (Sometimes in the Bible, God told a prophet to tell people what was going to happen in the future.  But the main point is not telling the future; it is telling what God says.) 

Prophecy is the Spirit-given ability to determine and proclaim God’s Truth.  A prophet “hears” what God says.  And when I say “hears” I want you to understand it’s not necessarily an audible voice.  Remember, Jesus liked to say, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”[i]  Well everyone has ears, but not everyone listens.  A prophet listens and understands what God is saying—whether it is an audible voice or (more likely) God’s truth as revealed in the Bible through a sermon or a study or something else.  A prophet perceives what God is saying and shares it with others.

Now, every believer has some ability to prophecy.  If you can read the Bible and understand John 3:16 and then tell someone who needs to know, then you can prophecy.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  If What have you done?  You've understood God’s truth, shared it with others, and even foretold the future (which is just a bonus).  (Yes!  You did predict the future!  You spoke about eternal life that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive; that's the future.)

Everyone can prophecy, but the Holy Spirit gives some people a special gift for prophecy.  What are some marks of a person who is truly gifted as a prophet?  Someone the Holy Spirit has gifted with prophecy has an extraordinary knack for hearing and expressing God’s Truth. 

Hearing God’s Word
First of all, a gifted prophet hears God’s Truth.  This is very important.  2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”

A true prophet is not sharing their own brilliant opinions and ideas.  A prophet is sharing God’s Truth.  We see this again and again in Scripture.  God told the prophet Moses, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exod. 4:12).  The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer. 1:9).  To the prhophet Ezekiel, God said, “You must speak my words to them” (Ezek. 2:7).  God tells prophets what to say.  So someone with the extraordinary, Holy Spirit imparted, gift of prophecy today, first has to listen for what God has to say.

God can speak in many ways, but the primary and most important way God speaks is through Holy Scriptures.  So a gifted prophet will be an avid student of the Bible.  They will become familiar with its teachings and discern the deeper meanings of what God says through the Bible, and not just what people say about it or God.  A true prophet will want to know, “What does the Bible say?” because they know what the Bible says is God’s Word.

And I must say a word of caution here, beware of any prophet or prophecy who consistently and fundamentally contradicts what God has already said in the Bible.  God inspired the Apostles and early church leaders to write and compile the Holy Bible.  It’s very unlikely that God is going to tell a new prophet to contradict what God has already said in the Bible.

Speaking God’s Truth
So first, a gifted prophet hears God’s Word.  Second, a prophet speaks God’s Truth.  Someone with the special Holy Spirit gift of prophecy feels compelled to share what God has told them.  The prophet Jeremiah described it “like a fire in my bones.”[ii]  Prophets are often ridiculed or persecuted, because God may lead them to say things people don’t want to hear.  The first Christian martyr, Stephen, said, “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).  But because God has told them to speak, someone with the gift of prophecy candidly speaks the plain truth when God compels them to speak.  They will speak the truth (even at personal risk) and speaks the truth even if it causes pain or hurt feelings. Furthermore, they will speak in such a way that people clearly understand what God is saying and have no one else to blame but themselves if they don’t listen.

The Problem of False Prophets
Now, the Bible warns us to watch out for false prophets.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  And 2 Peter 2:1b says, “…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

In the Transformers cartoon series, it’s real easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  There are the honorable Autobots sworn to fight for good and protect the earth and its inhabitants from evil.  Then there are the evil Decepticons who want to rule the universe and will destroy anyone and anything that gets in their way.  The very name “Decepticons” makes it pretty obvious that they are the bad guys.  Buy if that weren’t enough, they always punctuate their evil schemes with a maniacal laugh. 

Unfortunately, in real life, the Decepticons (or false prophets) don't give themselves away with a maniacal laugh.  But there are some clues to help you watch out for false prophets.

First of all, false prophets will twist or even contradict Scripture.  Now, sometimes there is room for different interpretations of Scripture and not every preacher or teacher will get it right every time.  But there are also many places in Scripture that are plain and easy to understand.  And if someone is consistently contradicting and twisting the plain teachings of God's Word, watch out.  If they're telling you that the teaching of the Holy Bible are outdated and no longer apply, be on guard.  They might be a Decepticon (false prophet).  That's why it's so important for Christians to know the Scriptures so you won’t be fooled.  I understand that not everyone is going to be an expert in Scripture.  However, there's no reason why almost every Christian in America shouldn't at least be familiar with Scripture.  At the minimum, you need to know enough to question when someone says something that might contradict scripture, and then be able to take those questions to a Christian teacher you trust (or a small group for study) and know how to look for answers in your Bible.  This is becoming more and more important in the world in which we live, where there are so many who would seek to lead you astray.

A second way to spot a Decepticon (false prophet) is by their fruit.  Jesus said you can identify a good person from a bad one the same way you tell a good tree from a bad one—by their fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. Luke 12:35, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

I Have a Prophecy for You Today
I have a prophecy for you today.  It's very simple and straight forward.  First of all, if you believe in Jesus and follow him as Lord, you will have eternal life.  His Holy Spirit will live inside you and transforms you and give your a special ability to help transform the world.  And Jesus wants you to know and use your spiritual gift(s) to help him transform our world.  And if he is truly your Lord, you will gladly get to work.  You can use the spiritual gifts assessment here to better understand what gift(s) you may have.

The second part of the prophecy is this:  If you do not believe in Jesus or follow him as your Lord, that's not good at all.  You do not have eternal life.  Something much darker lies ahead in your future.  You will not experience the blessings God wants for you in this life and after you die, you will face God's judgement and eternal punishment in hell where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal separation from God, the source of love and live and peace.  The Good News is you can repent and turn to God today.  Through Jesus Christ, you can receive the free gift of God's salvation and eternal life.  Won't you turn to Him today?  All you have to do is decide, close Your eyes, and ask God to save you and then start following Jesus as your Lord from this day forward and you will be transformed.


[i] Matthew 11:15, 13:9, etc.
[ii] Jeremiah 20:9

Monday, August 5, 2019

Transformers, The Spiritual Gifts


Introduction
When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys/shows was The Transformers.  It was a cartoon about alien robots that came to earth who could transform from robots into a cars, jets, construction equipment, even dinosaurs.  The Autobots were the good guys who fought against the evil Decepticons who were trying to steal the earth's energy resources.  Each individual robot had special powers and characteristics that made them an important asset to the team.  Plus, the individual robots could combine together into a super robot.  It was a cool show, at least for a 8-year-old boy!  Click here to see a trailer for the 80s TV series cartoon!

I was thinking about the transformers a few months ago and meditating on how the Holy Spirit of God transforms us.  Because of what Christ did for us on the cross, Christians are transformed. We’re not robots, but the Holy Spirit transforms us from our old sinful ways into new creations, with a new nature and new power to serve God.  Part of that transformation is receiving special abilities and powers to serve God and make a difference in this world.  We call these special abilities spiritual gifts.  The Apostle Paul teaches about them in the Bible.

Romans 12:6-8
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Lists of Spiritual Gifts
The spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit.  We are born with some of our talents.  However, the Holy Spirit can enhance a talent you already have so that it becomes a great asset to the Kingdom of God.  The Holy Spirit can even bless you with a talent you’ve never ever had before.  Maybe you were not born a natural leader or with a great singing voice or the ability to read and understand and tech Scripture.  However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can enable you to do these things and many others.  It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit to all who follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

The Bible offers several different lists of Spiritual Gifts. Romans 12:6-8 lists seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 4:11 lists five.  1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine.  1 Corinthians 12:28-30 (the same chapter) list 8.  The Apostle Paul offered each of these lists.. The fact Paul gives numerous lists with differing gifts is a clue that the specific number and types of gifts is not important. Here's what's really important that we need to know.

First of all, no gift is better than any other; and no person is better than another.  When talking about spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul reminds the Church that we are a body.  Some people are hands and some people are feet and some people are eyes, etc.  In order for the body to function properly, it takes all the parts working properly.  1 Corinthians 12:21, “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”  We are all essential to the body and we ought to appreciate everyone for the vital roles they play in the work of the Church.

Second, there is a division of labor in the Church.  No one person is supposed to do all the work.  The Holy Spirit intentionally equips different people with different gifts so that we all have to work together to accomplish the mission of the Church.  If the hand keeps trying to be an eye, the Church will be blind and have no vision.  If the feet keep trying to be hands, we will stumble and fall.  In order for the Church to be most effective, all the different parts need to do what God called them to do.

Third, the gifts of the Spirit are not for individual advancement. They build up the whole Church.  Perhaps Holy Spirit gave you the special gift of a great singing voice.  Then, you should use that gift for the glory of God, not your own glory.  You should use the gift of music to build up the Church and accomplish God’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  Did the Holy Spirit give you the gift of preaching or teaching or fixing things or healing or administration?  Whatever gift the Holy Spirit gave you, He gave it so you could use it for the Kingdom of God, not your own selfish benefit.  The Spiritual Gifts are for completing the work of the Kingdom.

Fourth, The Holy Spirit Lives Inside All Believers.  When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you.  Spiritual gifts are evidence of God’s grace working through our lives to benefit others. Our gifts are not for us. God intends us to use them for the good of His church. My gift is for you. Your gift is for me.  But the gifts are evidence of the supernatural power of the God of the universe working in our life.  They are an assurance that we truly are God's children destined for eternal life.

Now, there is something else I need to say here.  If Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, you don’t have the Holy Spirit.  You are not all you can be, all that God wants you to be.  You lack the power of God’s Holy Spirit in Your life.  If you’ve never decided to surrender to God, repent of your sins, and follow Jesus as your Lord, you have not received God’s forgiveness.  You have not yet received the gift of eternal life.  And you have not been filled with the Holy Spirit.  If that describes you, I pray you will make a decision to follow Jesus as your Lord today.  Then, He will save you and God will fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit.  And you will receive a gift from the Holy Spirit to help you serve in God’s Church.

Conclusion
Over the next several weeks, we will look at the seven gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in Romans 12:6-8.  My prayer is that through this, we will all find new insights into the way the Holy Spirit has equipped us to serve together.  I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts assessment to help discern how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you to serve in His Kingdom.  Here are a few you may try:




Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Jonah's Really Short Sermon


Introduction
One of the shortest books in the Bible is Jonah—only 4 chapters.  You can read the whole story in less than 10 minutes.  And within the short book of Jonah, is one of the shortest sermons I’ve ever heard.  In fact, it’s only 8 words.  And yet the message was so powerful it caused an entire city to repent and turn to God.  Maybe you think, “Well then, Jonah must have been a very good man!”  You might think that, but you’d be wrong.  Jonah was quite flawed; there was hate in his heart.  And so we see in this story, something I have found to be so true in my own life and ministry.  God is often working just as hard to reform the preacher and He is the congregation who hears the message.

Since the book of Jonah is so short, I’ve invite you to read through the the entire story below and I will add a few comments in italics.  Let me begin by saying Jonah lived in the mid-700s BC (about 2,700 years ago).  He was a prophet from Israel during a time when a city called Nineveh was a great threat to Israel.  

Jonah Chapter One
The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
Joppa is the exact opposite direction from Ninevah and Tarshish is all the way over in Spain!  Jonah really did not want to go to Nineveh!  But why?  Many people run away from God.  When He tells them to do something and they don’t want to, they try to run.  Maybe because they’re afraid, or they just don’t want to do it.  When God first called me to be a preacher, I didn’t want to.  It wasn’t part of my plans or my wife’s plans.  But I’m so glad God woke us both up and we answered His call together.  Are you running from the Lord?  Why? We’ll hear why Jonah ran from God in a minute.  But first, let’s see what exactly happened to this run-away prophet.
But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.” 
This sounds like the story of Jesus from Luke 8.  Jesus and the disciples were in a boat out on the sea of Galilee when a severe storm arose that threatened to sink the boat.  And like Jonah, Jesus was asleep in the boat.  The disciples exclaimed, "How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and do something!"  Now Jesus got up and said peace be still and the storm obeyed.  Let's see what happened in Jonah's story.
Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
I used to think this Jonah was noble to sacrifice his life to save the others.  But now I'm thinking Jonah wasn't being noble.  Maybe he was thinking, “If I’m dead, I won’t have to go to Nineveh to preach!”  But God wasn’t going to let Jonah off the hook.  
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
Even through Jonah’s disobedience, God is accomplished great things.  All the sailors, who formerly did not believe and worship God, now were “awestruck by the Lord’s power and offered sacrifices to Him and vowed to serve Him.” 
Only God has the power to command the see and save the sailors.  God made the sea.  He can certainly tell the sea what to do.  When Jesus and the disciples were on a boat in the middle of a storm, Jesus calmed the waves.  Do you see how this shows that Jesus is God?  
Now, what to do with this unfaithful prophet Jonah.
17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Three days and three nights.  This reminds us of Jesus, who was also enclosed inside a dark, dark place until the third day.  Jonah's time in the belly of the fish foreshadows Christ's burial inside the tomb.  When Jesus predicted his death and resurrection on the third day, he called it "the sign of Jonah."  
Jonah Chapter Two
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
    and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,[b]
    and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,

    and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
    I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
    Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
    and the waters closed over me.
    Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.

    I was imprisoned in the earth,
    whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
    snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
    I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
    in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
    turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
    and I will fulfill all my vows.
    For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

Jonah Chapter Three
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:
“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah’s eight-word sermon had a powerful effect.  It wasn’t the beauty of his words or the way he put the words together in a well-crafted sermon with excellent illustrations.  There wasn't an amazing praise band to drive home the closing points and draw people down to the altar for prayer.  What was it that made his eight-word message so effective?  Two things: 1) The Word of God spoke through Jonah.  Remember, God spoke the universe into existence.  God's Word is powerful!  People often wonder, "Why doesn't God just speak to us in an audible voice?"  Have you thought what you are asking?  God doesn't speak idle words.  When He speaks, a hundred billion galaxies are formed by the vapor of His voice.  And you want Him to speak to you?  Be careful what you ask for.  You are just a speck of dust on a speck of dust, orbiting around a sun that is just a speck of dust in a galaxy that is just a speak of dust in the universe.  A whisper (nay, just a thought) from God might just obliterate you if not perfectly controlled.  That is why God took the form of Jesus Christ--the Word made flesh--in order to speak to you.  And His Word is contained in the Scriptures of the Holy Bible.  Read it and God will speak to you so powerfully it will change you forever, without utterly destroying you,  However, you must be willing to listen.  
And that's the second reason Jonah's sermon was so powerful.  It says in verse 5, “The people believed God’s message…” and they repented.  From the King all the way down to the lowest, they believed and repented.  They set aside their pride, repented, and turned from their evil ways.

Jonah Chapter Four
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”
So now we see the real reason why Jonah tried to run away.  He wasn’t scared.  It was much worse.  He hated Nineveh.  He would rather see all the people in that city die than have them repent.  That’s not a very holy attitude; it's awful.  Jonah was just as broken as the Ninevites.  The human heart is full of evil.  God is constantly reaching out to us (even preachers and prophets) and calling us to repent and let Him fill us with His love.
The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”
Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.
Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”
“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”
10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness,[a] not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
Man, Jonah’s got some real issues.  Bipolar?  Depression?  Anger issues?  Suicidal?  However, God loved Jonah and even used him and to this day Jonah’s story is in the Holy Bible.  I guess maybe there’s still hope for me and you.
But what about all the other people out in your community?  What about your neighbor?  The person ringing up your groceries in the checkout line?  The police officer who pulled you over and gave you a ticket?  The mechanic who cheated you?  That guy in church who really annoys you?  Is there any hope for them?  Does God love them too?  Maybe, just maybe, God’ is calling you to love them enough to “Get up and go to” them and preach His message of love.  What is God calling you to do?  Will you listen?  Will you obey?