Archives for posts with tag: Jonah

runaway

 Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble, and some days that trouble is just more than I have the strength or wisdom or patience or desire to deal with. When I consider the difficult or unpleasant situations and relationships of my life, running away seems like such an attractive option. The grass is always greener in someone else’s world; pretending that I don’t have problems is so much easier than actually dealing with them. And there are so many ways to run! Busyness and escapism can separate me from the situation or the relationship, and I can pretend it doesn’t affect me.

 But when I run away, the problem doesn’t follow suit. Sometimes it festers and becomes worse. Sometimes it just eats away at my joy and peace. But it never disappears.

 God does not allow his children to run away from Him or anything else; He insists that they confront their fears, their enemies, their failures, and their past. Over and over in the Bible you see various ones try (unsuccessfully) to run away. Over and over you see God lead them back to deal with what they tried so hard to escape from. Hagar ran away from a contentious relationship with Sarah; God saw her in the wilderness and told her to go back home. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing and ran away when Esau promised to kill him; twenty years later God led Jacob back home to make peace with Esau. Moses committed murder and ran away from Egypt; forty years later, God sent him right back to Egypt. Elijah successfully defeated the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and then promptly ran away from Jezebel; God followed him until he stopped running, fed him, gave him rest, and then told him to get back to work. Jonah didn’t like the task God gave him, so he tried to run as far away as it was possible to go; God sent a fish to bring him back, and repeated his instructions for a fresh start.

 Running away is a sign of defeat, and God empowers his people to have victory. When I run away, people don’t see the power of my God; they see my weakness. When I run away, I can’t see how God is at work in that situation. When I run away, I prove that I don’t trust God to work in me or through me for victory; what oppresses me controls me.

 There are times when we need to intentionally withdraw from a situation to allow the heated emotions to settle. Jesus walked away from the crowd that wanted to stone him in Nazareth because it wasn’t yet time for his sacrifice. Withdrawing to wait for a more opportune time to stand firm can be a good thing. There may even be a time when we need to leave a relationship behind because the other person may not be receptive to God’s activity and healing. Jesus told the disciples that if a town didn’t accept them, they were to shake the dust of that place from their shoes and move on. Often, Jesus intentionally withdrew to a quiet place in order to be in his Father’s presence, to gain insight into his Father’s will for that situation on that day.

 But running away is not an option. We can intentionally leave, or we can intentionally stay. Whatever God calls us to do is the only option that will bring resolution and allow our circumstances to improve or to permanently leave our problems behind.

 

Switch on the Sun. Element of design.

Sometimes I get so caught up in making sure I’m doing things “right” that I’m more concerned about the process than the content. I want my efforts to look good and to be effective. God doesn’t call us to look good or be effective…he calls us to obey him and share what we know with others. He offers no tips on clever presentation or marketing strategy because his love for the world is not about selling; it is about accepting his love. He is not dependent on our ability to communicate his love to the world, but he chooses to share that process with us so that we can see a glimpse of his glory and love…in us and in the hearts of those around us.

One of my favorite sermon/testimonies in the Bible was delivered by a Samaritan woman. Jews despised Samaritans in general, and this particular woman seemed to be despised even by her own village. She went to the well when she hoped no one would be there, and Jesus was waiting for her. He looked past what she had done and saw who she was, who she could be. Her response was to leave her water jar at the well and return to the people she was trying to avoid. She told them,

John 4:39 He told me everything I ever did.

That’s it! No clever presentation, no eloquent analysis of scripture or the Roman Road to salvation. She simply told what she knew. And that made all the difference. Because she told them her story, those that had rejected her accepted the Christ that she introduced them to.

John 4:42 We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that his man really is the Savior of the world.

Are you ready for the sermon that is the catalyst for the largest mass conversion recorded in the Bible?

Jon 3:4b “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

That’s it! This pathetic, dispassionate attempt at a sermon converted 120,000 people, including the king of Nineveh. But the key to it is in verse 5. The Ninevites heard Jonah, but “they believed God”.

 One of these told people of her encounter with Jesus. The other simply repeated words that God gave him to say. Both led others to choose God for themselves. Seminaries offer courses in how to effectively preach. These two would undoubtedly be examples used in those courses of what NOT to do…but God’s ability to enter into the hearts of those who resist him isn’t dependent on presentation or how eloquently we can speak. It’s not about the packaging or the clever strategy. It may be nothing more or less than whether or not we do what we are told to do and share what we know about him. God can speak to others without us, but how amazing, how awesome it is, when the God of the universe pulls us out of the crowd and says, “You, I want you to be a part of this one.”  He doesn’t need our capabilities; he just wants to share the moment with us.

God didn’t call me to be a great theologian or evangelist. I don’t have amazing intellect or a string of impressive letters after my name. I’m not famous, and I’m very prone to mistakes and missteps. But I worship the God who is amazing, the God who is so holy and powerful that the Bible gives him many names, just trying to capture various aspects of his character and his heart. He can’t be reduced to a catchy slogan or captured in a clever strategy. His relentless pursuit of my heart has given me a story and a perspective on the amazing God who cares and loves each of us more than we are capable of completely understanding. His strength perfects my weakness. God has given me a story with him that he wants to use to touch the hearts of some others. Ultimately, it’s never about me; it’s about God. When people are impressed by clever, they admire the speaker. God doesn’t call us to build a kingdom for ourselves; he doesn’t tell us to make sure others admire us. He calls us to encourage others to know him. Lives are changed through loving God, not admiration of the messenger. God wants to use my obedience in sharing what I know to make others aware that he loves them, as well. He wants the same for and from you.

scale bug

I wanted to know God’s will in four specific areas of my life. I wanted clarity and understanding. I wanted a deeper prayer life. I wanted to spend my month of fasting intentionally in God’s presence…and he sent me a bug.

Actually the bug had already been there about a year. We thought it was a fungus on the plants in our backyard. We sprayed for fungus and nothing happened…until God needed me to know it was a bug. I have learned that scale is a vile, pernicious, disgusting little creature. It is a parasite that actually secretes a wax coating that will protect it from pesticides. It typically attaches itself to the underside of plant leaves, and its prolific feces coats the leaves below, preventing the penetration of sunlight that will allow photosynthesis. Killing the bug is not enough; the leaves have to be cleaned or the lack of photosynthesis will kill the entire plant.

In order to save the plants in my yard, we have had to hand scrub every leaf with soapy water so that sunlight can get to the leaves again. I have a LOT of BIG bushes in my backyard. Multiple hours of scrubbing every day for 10 days have rescued almost half the backyard. And it has given me lots of time to pray.

My prayer life usually suffers from severe ADD. I have a hard time staying on topic and find it difficult to spend long spans of time in prayer. The scale bug fixed that. I wanted to know God’s will and find clarity and understanding, and God provided me long periods of time to be quiet and pray. During these 10 days God has given me some of the most beautiful weather imaginable. Because I had to reach the bottom of leaves, I was always in the shade. When I began to whine about the grossness of the scrubbing or stage my own private pity party, God frequently regained my attention with a gentle breeze or a chipmunk who was totally unafraid of me or a bird who chose to perch above me and sing.

I don’t have all the answers I want, but I do have better perspective on my requests because during the last 10 days I’ve learned to see them from God’s point of view. My prayers don’t change his mind; they change my expectations. God gave me a chore and the time that would allow me to be alone and pray without distraction. I had nothing to think about except what was on my heart. Once I shared with him all that was on my heart, I have been able to truly listen for what is on his heart. Now I’m not just “hoping for the best” and ticking off topics and names on my prayer list; I ’m watching for his activity.

This reminds me of the story of Jonah. God sent him a worm. God gave Jonah shade and a chance to pray, but his perspective never included God. He didn’t want God’s will; he wanted God’s obedience. His story in the Bible ends with him all alone, under a shriveled vine.

God led me into his presence with a bug. What Satan intends for destruction, God can redeem for good…in the world and in my backyard. The presence of that bug led me into the presence of God. Once I’m finished scrubbing, I fully intend to NEVER deal with this bug again, but I’m so grateful for the prayerful moments and holy insight that God has given me.