Jonah didn’t get it. He preached judgment like God said to. That led to the greatest revival ever, because God is merciful. But Jonah isn’t. He preferred justice to mercy, like we sometimes choose. He will meet them in heaven. Maybe he will apologize.

What happens when God doesn’t cooperate with me? Or when He disappoints me.  God is God. I am not. My moods do not change who God is. I need to adjust rather than telling Him to change.  Being in a bad mood does not alter who God is. God knows what He is doing, even if it doesn’t look that way to me. When God and I disagree, guess who’s wrong? I am a child of God, not the Father. I am called to serve. I do not lead, I follow. God doesn’t have to do things my way; I do things His way. I easily trip over my emotions.  When things happen that I do not like, I need to examine my thinking, not God’s theology.

Dr. Herb Klem started his seminary class at The Master’s Institute this way: There are two things to know: 1) There is a God. 2) You know less about Him than you think. I am not in the position to give God advice. He is the wonderful Counselor, not me. He doesn’t serve my purposes; I serve His. Jesus and Peter had a difference of opinion. Peter got a strong rebuke for trying to tell Jesus, “This shall not happen to you.” Peter was dead wrong. If we don’t learn how to follow, we can’t lead. An unhealthy inversion–for Peter and for Jonah. First he is running, then repenting, then responding, then rebelling–the many moods of a reluctant prophet.

God’s actions displeased Jonah. What could he have done? “God, this is difficult for me. I wanted you to judge them. Help me work through this.” God would have helped. “Do you do well to be angry?” “Maybe not, but I am. Please help me with my emotions.”

You’d think three days in a fish might have softened the prophet. Jonah’s narrow heart contrasted God’s boundless heart. Grace does not connect with one living by law. Jonah’s theology is orthodox but his love isn’t. Pride and prejudice. Jonah likes plants; God likes people. Anger turned out leads to aggression; turned in leads to depression. He wants God to take him out. He was asking to live when he just about drowned. Now he is asking to die. He is turning in his resignation as a prophet. He doesn’t want to work for someone as kind as God. He sounds like Elijah running from Jezebel and feeling suicidal.

What can we learn from Jonah? It is better to form our ideas by God’s character rather than to interpret His actions by our prejudice. God’s mercy does not make sense to people who only wants things fair. Sometimes God’s grace can upset us. He is way too forgiving. Aren’t you glad He is?



For God to not get angry at sin would invalidate his holiness. Not to react strongly to the New York vote regarding full-term abortion would suggest brain death. Anger serves us well in such conditions.  We cannot say, “That’s okay; they didn’t mean it.” They violated God’s clear laws of life, justice, and decency. Murder cannot be taken lightly at the throne of the Creator who made humanity is his image.”For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of man who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).


Difficulty with the wrath of God may mean we have seen human wrath up close at its worst. James wrote that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:20).  Human anger tends to take people out of control. They go from a 2 to a 9 in ten seconds, and they say and do things that should not be said and done. God is slow to anger. His wrath is deliberate, appropriate, justifiable, and godly. He doesn’t “lose it” like an oriental despot popping off in rage or an angry and screaming mother dragging her six-year old through the market. If he did, we would be ducking all the time. We can trust God’s anger as we trust his patience and kindness.


God did not express anger before the fall of Lucifer or Adam. Anger is not a necessary part of God’s character, as is love or mercy. Love is who God is. Anger is not who God is. Where sin is present, the anger of God shows up. Where sin is removed when God pours out his wrath once and for all at the end of time, he will no longer need it (Ps. 30:5). 4 IT


A little girl, thinking about God’s anger in the Old Testament, said, “That was before God became a Christian.” But God’s anger is shown consistently on this side of the cross, because sin is still rampant. God is storing up anger for the last day when his anger will be poured out (Romans 2:5; Rev. 6:16)). We won’t see God’s anger in the new earth. He won’t need it.


For God to forgive sin, justice had to be served. God doesn’t trade one part of his character for another. He is not loving one moment and angry the next. Justice and mercy do not collide with each other. They both describe the God of glory. Paul calls God “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). So wrath had to be shown for sin, but it could be taken out on someone other than the guilty ones. Habakkuk wrote, “In wrath remember mercy” (3:2). At the cross God did. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). Salvation is being saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9). We praise God for his kindness. We can also thank him for his anger and learn to exercise it as he does–slowwwwly.


Imagine if God kept record of sins. Picture the reams of paper. Warehouses of files, stored as evidence of our foolish behavior, our shameful thoughts. What if He decided to go public, to expose all of it? The court is in session and the judge enters. The guilty one is offered no lawyer for the defense. Condemnation awaits you.

Breaking the dreadful silence, the judge announces that all evidence against you has been lost. You knew that no one could aid you with the insurmountable charges. Now all documents have been annihilated. Case dismissed! You hear further that the judge himself wiped out the files. You discover that the one you feared is responsible for your release. Strangely, it causes you to fear more, to honor his greatness.

The psalmist cried out, not to a casual friend but pleading for mercy from a holy God. He called from deep within, refusing the solace of the night and unable to silence the piercing arrows of a guilty conscience: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 130:1,2).


Then the revelation breaks through: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (3,4). Peace replaces anguish. Those who see God as righteous, themselves as sinful, and discover afresh the mercy of God do not take advantage of such kindness. We don’t pull out the forgiveness card every time we step over the line, so we can step over again. His goodness has led us to repentance.

Then his posture changes from crying out in need to waiting in confidence. He uses the word “wait” five times in two verses: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning” (5,6). How do they wait? Hopefully, expectantly. That is how he positions himself before this gracious God. Anxiety has been replaced by hope, anchoring his soul in the mercy of God rather than the dread of revenge. Those who think God is punishing them for something they did a decade ago may worship a monster, but they won’t love him. The psalmist confidently hopes for what he knows—a rich future with a merciful God.

He grows so confident that he now wants to go public: “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (7,8). He knows of others oppressed by guilt, weighed down by shame. He proclaims to fellow Israelites that sins do not keep a broken sinner from a merciful God, that God fully redeems us in His love.

We don’t ignore the need to cry out in our sin as if it doesn’t matter. Guilt can drive us crazy, so we go to the one place in the universe where it can be properly disposed. And once again, contrary to our heart that condemns, we find a God who receives—and who relieves us of the tyranny of a criminal sentence. To our amazement, we discover afresh one of the most liberating truths in all the world—God does not keep score! So we don’t need to either!


I have appointments each week. Sometimes I put them off when not ready. One will not be postponed, and I won’t be late for it. “It is appointed to men once to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrew 9:27). The next appointment after death is to stand before the court of heaven. No one can cancel out. Everyone who has ever drawn breath will be there.

The Basis of judgment. God “will give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). “The dead were judged…according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12). Our lives give ample evidence to our choices. The sheep and goats are separated for eternity on the basis of what they have done or not done (Matthew 25.40,45). It will be righteous, fair, and just. “And I saw a great white throne, and Him sitting on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…And I saw the dead, the small and the great, stand before God. And books were opened, and another book was opened which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the  books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:11-14).

The Judge. “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). The Father honors His Son, the man Christ Jesus, by delegating to Him the responsibility for judging every person in the human race. You will be there. So will Socrates, Hitler, President Trump, Queen Elizabeth, and Lebron James. Greatness is dwarfed in the presence of the Son of Man. The date has been fixed from eternity. Knowing this reality, Peter asks, “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness…? (2 Peter 3:11).

The Finality of the Decision. Court scenes are dramatic. Destinies are announced in one declared statement. A guilty verdict could mean a life in prison. On the last day a guilty verdict means an eternity–a really long time. No higher court can overturn the decision once the Supreme Court of the universe has spoken. Christ’s decision will be uncontested and not overruled–forever!

Any other judgments? Jesus will hold a separate judgment for Christians, called “the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). This is will be more like an awards banquet than a courtroom scene. Some make it by the skin of their teeth (“as through fire”–I Cor. 3:15), while others will have awards awaiting them (14).

I am deeply grateful that Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Aren’t you?! Being judged righteous by the blood of Christ means that “we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (I John 2:26). Maranatha–Come, Lord, Jesus!


Surprisingly, yes! Should we be like God? Not in this way. In mercy, yes; in vengeance, no.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (from Deuteronomy 32:35, where God makes it clear in the context that He takes care of the underdog). To the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’ (from Proverbs 25:21). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).

How counterintuitive can you get? Our instinct is to do what is fair. The law tells us what that is: an eye for an eye, (Exodus 21:25). You take his eye; he takes yours. Jesus quotes this Old Testament passage, then introduces a new ethic. Instead of justice, mercy. As the brother of Jesus wrote, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). God is after something much higher than getting even. Jesus says, “Be merciful, even as your father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), and that includes enemies. Loving adversaries proves our sonship, our connection to a loving Father.

We have a capacity to forgive those who hurt us, not an item in most people’s toolbox. That enables us to respond with the opposite spirit to what came our way. People are not expecting it. The purpose is to throw them off balance by returning good for evil, hopefully helping them to come to terms with a kind Father “who makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Today God will water the gardens of people who despise him. And he wants children who act like their Father. Hopefully, our response rather than our reaction brings them up short (the hot coals), and we are able to introduce them to a merciful and mighty God! What a plan!

The heaping of burning coals is meant to lead to the softening of an enemy. What if it doesn’t? Can we take revenge at that point? No, we are not qualified. We do not see the situation with perfect clarity. We are too personally involved to bring justice into the mix. But God can. He would rather punish the enemy, if that is the only option, than having us try to administer justice. Ours could get vindictive. We might take two teeth out because it hurt so much, and we would excuse our angry reaction. Only a just God can bring proper vengeance on an unrepentant rebel. But He would rather turn the table of evil by overcoming it with good. Oh God is good!! If God is this kind (as well as all-powerful), he can work that kind of response in you and me.


Jesus is different from us. The Pharisees did “all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5). Not Jesus; he looked for the praise from only One. And God was more than willing to grant it to him. Two times are recorded in the Scriptures in which God spoke out affirmation from heaven. The first was at his baptism, when God said, “You are my beloved Son. In you I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It must have proved deeply satisfying to the Son. He had lived in fellowship with the Father from eternity but had chosen to willingly go to earth and serve as the sacrificial lamb. Now for perhaps the first time, he heard the audible voice of his Father commending him as he prepared to launch his public ministry.

The second time came when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration with three of his disciples. They would play leading roles in the New Testament church. Peter was blessed by the experience, in which Moses and Elijah showed up to meet with Jesus. Peter identified Jesus with these great men of the past, thinking he was giving Christ a notable place. Then a cloud hid them from view, and the Father spoke, not to Jesus but about him, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5). Peter got the point. Jesus was not a great man among great men. HE is singularly great, and unlike anyone else receives the verbal affirmation of his Father at the commencement of his ministry and again near the climax of it. Peter later referred to this glorious experience, remembering when “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

When a pastor friend, Jeff, said at a monthly mentoring meeting that he wrongly sought the approval of others too much, we agreed with him. We all struggled with an over-the-top need for affirmation. But then Dan asked, “Isn’t it right and even necessary to have the affirmation of others?” It was a balancing question to offset our weakness. So what do you think?

The affirmation of a father helps his children to rightly believe in themselves. A lack thereof may create a skewed image in a child struggling to discover a true identity. The affirmation of an employer can help a worker know how well the job is being done and even provide motivation for greater work. The praise of a pastor can help the sanctification process along, when it feels like we aren’t getting it. The commendation of a teacher helps a student stick with the geometry until it is mastered.

The value of affirmation can hardly be overestimated. We need to be affirming, not flattering but diligent to “encourage one another and build one another up” (I Thessalonians 5:11) and especially “the fainthearted” (14). At the same time our ultimate, if not immediate, need is to find comfort and strength from the Father, the all-sufficient One. Then when others withhold words, we don’t fall into discouragement. We go to a Father who affirms his children like he did his only begotten Son.


The Bible does not say that God has no anger. But He has it on a regulator. His love is eternal; His patience is not. There comes a time when He acts on His anger.

Some want God’s patience with them but not with their enemies. They feel tension between justice and mercy. Jonah voted for justice. The Assyrians had butchered too many people. Think ISIS. God had a reputation for being too merciful. Jonah quoted God’s own words in his complaint: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…”(Jonah 4:2).

God was grieved with Israel the whole time they lived in the land of promise before finally throwing them out–seven centuries after they had entered. He waited thousands of years before sending His Son in the fullness of time. Pentecost marked the beginning of the end, “the last days.” God has waited for 2100 years so far without sending His Son back because “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). No one waits better than God.

Imagine if God were quick to anger. We’d all have bruises. He’d yell at us. He would say things like, “If you ever do that again…” or “Just one more time…”  We would have pressed the delete button on the human race long ago, but God suffers long. I remember God speaking to me in the gentlest way about something that needed change. I said, “You could have said this twenty-five years ago, and you waited until now.” It made me want that kind of patience.

A wonderful lady at our church in San Pedro was angry with God for nine years for something regarding her child. God waited. He didn’t shake His finger in her face. When she came in for personal confession, the road back began. Her heart was flooded with joy, tears of release, and deep peace. God waited until she was ready–nine years.

“For my name’s sake I will defer my anger…” (Isa 48:9). God procrastinates. He controls His emotions; they do not control Him. He decides when He will demonstrate anger. People say, “You made me angry,” which gives them the freedom to explode, as if they couldn’t help it. This is not our God. Patience is one of the marks of His righteous character, unlike oriental despots who in a moment of rage would dismiss a whole court.

How can God keep from acting when daily the world defames His name, mocks Him, ignores Him? Because He is longsuffering. One day He will pour out his anger without measure. He is angry with the wicked every day, and with great cause. He is never neutral about sin. It is an offense against His holiness. But He chooses not to call upon His anger in full measure at this time.

Sometimes we parents have disciplined poorly, because we were irritated, and we let it lead the parade instead of patience. God’s correction is deliberate–a sign of his love. We can feel compassion even when He exercises discipline. Could anyone use some of that? Praise Him for His patience! (Part 3 coming).


Before marrying, sit at a computer with slow internet and find out how patient he or she is. Most of us are patient–providing we get our own way. When your wife says she’s picking up only one thing, so you can wait in the car, time to learn patience. When you text someone at 8:44 and at 8:45 he still hasn’t responded, take a deep breath–and wait. When you call for health care questions, wait for an hour, and the voice message announcing, “Thank you for your patience,” say, “You have no idea!”  Of all the needful fruit of the Spirit, this gets most votes.

God was prepared to end the race. Found one righteous man and instructed him to build an ark. It took a hundred years. That’s 36,500 days after deciding to start over. Peter wrote about “when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (I Peter 3:20).

Moses climbed the mountain to get the law. By the time he came down forty days later, the people had made a calf. He exploded and broke the tablets. God was more angry, but His was on a slow burn. He thought of abandoning the nation, but Moses talked Him out of it. Then he added, “I’m not going if you don’t.” He asked God to show His glory. and God put him in the cleft of a rock, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…’”(Exodus 34:6,7). He didn’t say everything about His character, but He did say that He was compassionate and slow to anger. I would not have expected “slow to anger” to be among the top five.

Some time later when spies were sent out, they returned and announced that the land could not be taken. The discouraged people wanted to return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron hit the dust. Joshua and Caleb tore their garments and protested, and the people considered stoning them. God told Moses that He was done. But Moses pleaded with God, taking His words: “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared, ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion’” (Numbers 14:18).

Nehemiah rehearsed the story in his prayer at Jerusalem with the returned exiles: “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles…But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (9:17). We find the same refrain three times in the psalms, likely a part of their liturgy (Psalm 86,103,145). They had heard of the gods of the Canaanites who were so angry they had to be appeased with gifts, so they were proud of their slow-to-anger God.

He performed miracles to release the children of Israel from bondage, finishing with the Red Sea walk and wiping out the army. How long did it take for complaining to begin? As soon as they started the journey. They continued to test God’s patience. He finally decided that they would die in the wilderness, but He put up with them for forty years. That’s 14,400 days of waiting. Stop for a moment and praise the God who is slow to anger. I want to be like Him. I don’t want be quick to anger. You probably don’t either (part 2 next).


We often feel powerless. Then take a look at the power of God. He shows His power in…

HIS FREEDOM. “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3).  The Lord said to Abraham after he and his elderly wife laughed at the thought of having a baby, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Gabriel told Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke l:37).  Any impossibilities challenging you? They don’t challenge the Almighty.

CREATION. “…by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).  “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary…” (Isaiah 40:28). Good to know.

NATURE.  He is the one who “makes Lebanon to skip like a calf” [an earthquake?], whose voice “breaks the cedars,” “flashes forth flames of fire [lightning], and “shakes the wilderness.” Fireworks!

PRESERVATION.  The Son sustains “all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). God asked Job regarding His power of preservation, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther?’” (Job 38:8-11).

COMMAND OF THE ARMY OF HEAVEN. The psalmist wrote about our warrior God: “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Ps. 24:8). Angels, powerful servants of God, join in praising His strength: “Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones [angels], ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 29:1). Attention!

SALVATION. “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm…and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). The gospel is “the power of God for salvation…” (Romans 1:16). Impressive!

The Old Testament refers often to two great acts of power: the creation and the exodus. In the New Testament, God’s power centers in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that we might know “the power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).

RESTRAINT OF EVIL. Kings and rulers chafe under the divine restraint.  But “the one enthroned in heaven laughs” (Psalm 2:4).  When evil blossoms forth as a sign of the curtain call of history, twenty-four elders will say, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:17).

JUDGMENT.  St. John of the Apocalypse continues, “The nations were angry; and your wrath has come” (11:18).  Jesus is returning in “power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30) and His name will be vindicated in his judgment of all humanity.


He never abuses it. His power has not tainted His character. Our words can carry the freight of shame or guilt. By contrast, “every word of God is flawless” (Prov. 30:5).

He gives power to the powerless. Mary praised the God who “has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Luke l:5l,52). Let us praise the power of God!


Friends make themselves easy to contact: “Call me any time, and I mean it.” We don’t want to overuse that privilege, but we believe it. It demonstrates love at both ends, our friend’s availability and our boldness in bothering in the middle of the night. We apologize—they take it as a compliment.

How humble of God to put Himself within reach. He says, “Connect anytime.” “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jer. 33:3). He loves staying in touch with us. We don’t have to go to a holy place or change clothes. We simply call. In fact, God says that “before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).  To get to the president, you’d go through guards and desks and memos and security checks. To get to the creator of the universe, you call. No office hours. He doesn’t take days off or leave for vacation.

I called Orlando, a finance manager and member of our board. I asked if we could meet up that day. He said, “That wouldn’t work; I am in Hawaii.” I said, “Orlando, why did you answer the phone?” He responded, “Because I have learned to make myself available to people.” What a humble response.

On the hill (D.C.), there are people who are known for their inaccessibility. Really hard to connect with them. Don’t return messages. Does that make them more important? It makes them one thing–hard to reach. It might be pride.   

The more important you are, the less available you are to normal people. The CEO of Apple can’t be accessible to everyone. Some people must choose their contacts because of their high-level job. The lower you are on the totem pole, the less likely you isolate yourself from common folk. You are the common folk. So where does that put Orlando? And where does it put God?

“God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1). 911 is used for emergencies. So is 46:1. God has chosen to make Himself available to the needy. David wrote, “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice…” (Psalm 18:6). Thanks for listening, God!

When we see Jesus carrying a towel and basin and washing the feet of the disciples like a lowly servant would, he just put a face on God. When we see him riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, we know what God is like. When we see him submitting to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the religious leaders, then submitting to death itself, we understand that God is humble. He makes Himself available–not to the high and mighty but to the low and needy.

Important people usually only make themselves available to other important people. God does the opposite: He “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Makes me love God more. How about you?