That’s No Fish Story

I like to go fishing. And the most enduring memories I have is when I have caught some BIG
fish! In fact, I’ve got pictures!………at least I think I do. (Somewhere, I know I have pictures!)
Over the years, I’ve caught two good size tiger muskies, several large northerns, and a decent
number of good size Largemouth Bass – not to mention some jumbo panfish.
There’s nothing like hooking into a big fish – the battle with the mysterious monster as it dives
deeper, the tension of keeping the fish hooked without breaking the line, and the excitement as
the fish is pulled in close and you get a glimpse, and the exhilaration when the lunker is landed.
Oh, there’s nothing like it! And the only thing that might be actually better is the joy of telling the
story. And for all you non-fisherpeople out there, that is exactly why we fisherpeople love fish
stories! And so it should be no wonder that the size of the fish tends to grow with the number of
times we tell the stories.
And that’s where we get the proverbial phrase, “That sounds like a fish story!” To translate:
“That story sounds exaggerated at best, and pure fiction at worst.”
Let me clearly proclaim: The Book of Jonah is no fish story. Along with Noah and the Ark, the
story of the prophet Jonah in the Bible is perhaps the book most commonly produced as a
children’s book, complete with illustrations. And over the course of history, it’s one of the most
commonly doubted stories of the Bible. The tale of the reluctant prophet and his 3 night stay in
the belly of the fish has produced endless speculation as well as skepticism.
But according to Jesus, it was no fish story at all. Not only did Jesus regard the tale of Jonah as
a historical reality, he regarded it as a precursor that pointed to the greatest moment in history –
his own resurrection.
History tells us that the blubber of whales produced oils for 18th century lamps to light up dark
places. Thousands of these mammals were hunted, making some very wealthy. But their value
pales in comparison to the treasure that we have in the Biblical book of Jonah. The truth that
we can harvest from it produces eternal results and present profit for our walk with God. Join us
as I preach through this little book that is packed with wisdom.
Your Partner in the Gospel,
Pastor Ryan Sarenpa
God is Good, All the Time!


Here, There & Everywhere

The Sunday School teacher asked, “Where is God?”

A little girl raised her hand excitedly. “I know! God is in heaven!!

But a young boy disagreed, saying, “God is everywhere!”

So which is right? They both are. King David understood this well. In a beautiful psalm about the reality of God, he wrote: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

The fact of the matter is that heaven is the dwelling place of God, and God is everywhere. Heaven is like another dimension, unseen but very real. So real, in fact, that it’s more real than anything else! Jesus was aware of this all the time.

 Is this Good News to you? It might not be. Jonah didn’t want it to be this way. He wanted to run away from God! So he got on a ship headed for a distant destination. But it didn’t work, and it took a few days in the belly of a big fish for him to change his mind. The fact of the matter is that while we can’t run away from God, we can ignore him. But God Is not distractible, nor is he detained or detached.

But it can be Good News for you! God is here, there, and everywhere. And he’s not only watching, he’s listening. Here’s what God says:

“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.” (Romans 10: 12-13)

We invite you to join us here at Warren Covenant for worship. I’m preaching a series entitled, “Here, There and Everywhere.”

 Your Partner in the Gospel,

Pastor Ryan

God is Good, All the Time


Real Jesus: Real Church for the Real World

You have an overactive imagination! Have you ever found yourself saying (or at least
thinking) that? Did you know that there is actually something called an “overactive
imagination disorder?” Neither did I. But here’s the definition: Overactive imagination
disorder is when you are so lost in your imagination that it begins to feel real. In other
words, you become captivated by a world of unreality. That’s actually a very real
temptation in the world today.
From video games to movies to artificial intelligence to virtual reality to the seemingly
unlimited proliferation of pornography, it seems like the combination of technology and
human imagination is producing more and more unreality. It’s everywhere, and we all
partake of it to some degree. Some of it’s really beneficial. But I think we can all agree
that this “unreality” created by our technology can be really distracting, deceptive, and it
can even be deadly.
Recently, there was a report from the Centers for Disease Control declaring a mental
health epidemic. A CDC spokeswoman bluntly stated, “young people”— especially young
women — “are in crisis.” An article in The New York Times summarized, “Nearly three in
five teenage girls felt persistent sadness in 2021 … and one in three girls seriously
considered attempting suicide.” Thankfully, there’s an antidote to the danger of unreality.
In fact, it’s one of the meanings of Easter. The Bible communicates it clearly.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the
doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and
said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The
disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19-20)
The first and most obvious thing about this – and almost all – of Jesus’ post-resurrection
appearances is that Jesus takes pains to prove that he is real. He’s not a ghost, not a
vision, not a result of the disciples’ powerful emotions. Here, he shows them his hands
and side. He invites Thomas to touch them. He cooks breakfast and he eats fish. And
he has two-sided conversations. Let me plainly state the obvious: JESUS IS REAL.
The Good News of Easter is that Jesus is a Real Savior for Real People who commands
us to live Real lives of faith and love in the Real World so that we can make a real
difference. Centuries of Christianity have borne this out. From hospitals to universities,
from slavery to freedom, from marginalization to justice, and from hatred to love, and
most importantly from hell to heaven, the Real Jesus makes a Real difference in the
lives of real people.
For the next several weeks, I’m going to challenge you to exercise your God-given
imaginations as we immerse ourselves in the reality of the Risen Christ. The Sermon
Series is called, “The Real Jesus: Real Church for the Real World.” I’m going to be
reminding us of our church vision and mission. I invite you to join us!
Pastor Ryan
God is Good, All the Time!


Celebrate the Substitute!

Let’s name an unsung hero: The substitute teacher.  Suddenly thrust in front of an unfamiliar class, the substitute teacher faces a tall task.  Working on short notice with perhaps a subject they have little knowledge of, the substitute has many challenges.  Let’s be thankful for the work that they do for our schools and our students.
We are in the midst of Holy Week.  From Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Christians are engaged in the solemn yet joyful remembrance of the work of the greatest substitute in all of history.  Now, while Jesus was certainly renowned as a teacher, this act of substitution was not in the place of an absent instructor in the setting of a classroom.
Instead, this was an act of substitution for everyone.  Jesus, the King of Kings, had come to Jerusalem to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves.  He came to offer himself on our behalf so that we might be forgiven.  
Why was this substitution needed? Because we as humans have substituted ourselves in the place of God.  Each and every one of us has in effect said to God, “My will be done.”  In other words, we have put ourselves in the place of God.  That’s the essence of sin.  And our sins put us in debt to God, because we have unjustly withheld that which is due Him.
But, thanks be to God, Jesus said, “Thy will be done.”  During Holy, justice was upheld because the debt of our sins was not only forgiven, but they were paid for.  On Good Friday, Jesus offered himself in our place.  On Easter Sunday, the tomb was found empty!  Christ arose!  This was God’s way of saying: PAID IN FULL!
And we each can receive the benefit of Holy Week in one and the same way: through faith.  Through admitting our indebtedness, turning from our sins, and turning toward the King of Kings.  Put your trust in Jesus and receive his gift!
This Holy Week, let’s not allow the greatest substitute ever to be an unsung hero.  We invite you to join us, and congregate as God’s people to sing his praise and offer him our thanks!
Pastor Ryan

Warren Covenant Church

God is Good, All the Time!