In Ten Years…

As we move into 2020…
A new year and decade…
What is God asking us to do?
In response to God’s call…
What must I leave behind?
What must I strip back to the true core?
What must I hold on to?
What new thing must I embrace?
What fear must I face?
What risk must I take?
What must I commit to daily, weekly, monthly, to arrive at God’s and my desired end?
God lead me, these days, for what you want to accomplish in the next 10 years.

– – – – – – –

I discovered a new artist this year. His name is Simon Beck. He describes himself as a snow artist. That’s right – a snow artist.

Being a snow artist doesn’t mean he makes snow angels all day long. No, that would be the extent of my snow art.

He looks for large snow canvas’s and works his magic.

Image result for simon beck snow art
Image result for simon beck snow artImage result for simon beck snow art

He has 300 pieces to date, some in the sand as well.

This got me thinking…

  • How long does it take him to complete one?
  • How much thought and planning go into this?
  • What kind of patience is needed to start these pieces, and then push through until the end?
  • Think about what they look like at the beginning? Not much I’m assuming.
  • And how long until someone like me sees progress and the art starts to take shape?

I’m like a kid when watching something like this. I’m the same when work is getting done in my home…or any kind of construction site. Intrigued, curious, enjoying the process and progress, and once in a while wishing there was more to see, more aspects of the job complete. And when it’s all done, I’m always amazed at the vision and planning behind the job – the ability to see a project come together from beginning to end.

This quote may capture what I’m thinking…

“He who works with his hands is a labouror. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

I wonder if we have the patience to see our lives in this manner? And if we have the discipline to plan, pray, strategize, and slowly but surely craft our lives, our relationships, our impact, our plans, together in this way? Look ahead to what can be, and slowly plod our way there.

We are WORKs of ART.
We are also WORKs in PROGRESS.

– – – – – –

How do we apply this to, not only a new year, a new season, but a new decade, with all the possibilities and potential that it holds?

We should take these ‘crossing points’ in our lives to plan, budget, dream, strategize, etc. But how much more important is this moment as we look at a whole other decade to live out our dreams, God’s plans, our hopes, God’s desires, all wrapped up together?

I felt we should walk through just a few scriptures today – ones that I believe are connected in some way, but will also connect the dots for us as we place our lives, our year, our decade, in the very loving and capable hands of God.

(Take note on how the words are separated. This is intentional. I’d like you to read the verse by thinking about each phrase on it’s own and then how it connects to what line comes next and what line came before it. FYI: this is a good way to meditate and reflect on scripture.)

Ephesians 2:10
We are God’s
Handiwork
Created
In Christ Jesus
To do good works
Which God prepared in advanced for us to do

We are God’s art work. God’s work of art. This is how he views us. Do we see ourselves in this way? Do we live in this truth? Do we act and do and serve and work and love with this in mind?

With that thought in mind, even though we are God’s work of art, we are still a work in progress – we are His work in progress!!!

Philippians 1:6
Be confident of this
He who began
A good work
In you
Will be faithful
To complete it

We need to know this at every stage of the game…every season and stage of our life – as kids, teens, young adults, adults, married, single, parents, not parents, seniors, elderly – ALL seasons.

God started something good in you. He won’t give up on you or the work he’s doing in and through you.

We are partnering with God in becoming who he wants us to be, so we need to play our part in this good work he is doing in and through us.

Psalm 90:12
Teach us
To number our days
That we may gain a heart of wisdom

What does it mean to number our days?

To plan them well.
To understand the significance of a moment, of a season, of the time we have and the time we’ve already lost.
– Today, tomorrow, this month, this year, this decade, our whole life.
We are smarter when we do this!!!
– Unwise people don’t think about their days at all, they let them slip through their fingers.

Perhaps you’ve had these thoughts: I don’t want Monday to arrive? I’d rather let this day pass in hopes that tomorrow is better? You want me to number my days? Take them seriously? Plan well for them? Take them on? Each one of them, like they mean something? YES!

Psalm 90:17
May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us
Establish the work of our hands
Establish the work of our hands

David doesn’t say, establish the work of ‘your’ hands, but of ‘our’ hands. Our work. Our planning. Our sweat. Our labour. IN CONNECTION with GOD’s work, God’s heart, God’s plans, God’s vision for us and this world.

– – – – – –

As we look at the next 10 years, and we begin to work towards the ART God calls us to create and make, what will we do to get there – to accomplish our/his goals, in and through us?

In 10 years, what do you want your…
– Relationships to look like
– Finances to look like
– Parenting to look like
– Work/Career/Vocation to look like
– Neighbourhood to look like
– Spiritual formation to look like
– The Village to look like

 

 

 

Think about Simon Beck’s SNOW ART. Think about how beautiful and grand it looks. Now think about this: as big and beautiful as it is, it takes a step at a time to get there. Simon started with one step, then another, then another. But not just any kind of step, a well planned and thought out step, one that he knew would get him to his desired end.

What steps will you take – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, to get to where God wants you in the next ten years. You can do it. The good work God has started in you is far from over. Keep moving forward. So, God willing, when we get to 2030, you’ll look back and be able to say, “Look what God did in and through me these last ten years.”

Breathe in & out

One of the most important things we can do post Christmas is…

…to ensure we get our garbage & recycling sorted out.

How happy was I to see that my street’s garbage collection would not be affected by the holidays.

However, that morning, I woke up to…hearing…you guessed it…the garbage truck only a few houses away from  mine… (I woke up later than I intended:)

What was not going to happen that day?
The recycling, compost and garbage was not staying in my house…it had to be gone.
What did I do…? I used my the bottom of neighbour’s driveways to put out my garbage and compost. Note that I’ve pre-asked some of them in case this ever happens. So we’re good.

This is a weekly rhythm for all of us…
– Buy groceries / Consume food
– Collect the remains and bring it to the curb

Some times it’s the opposite…we take things out, to make room for something new to enter our home.

– – – – – – –

Life, at it’s basic level is breathing in and breathing out.
(Remember the Karate kid: wax on, wax off, breathe in, breathe out)

This New Year I wasn’t pulled in or attracted to resolutions or lists or goals…but this simple idea:

Breathe in what you want. Breathe out what you don’t.

Kathy Escobar says it this way, “Take in what we need and let go of what we don’t”

If you follow The Village on social media, you would’ve seen this image pop up on New Year’s day…

Breath in Peace               Breathe out  Anxiety
Breath in Hope                Breathe out  Despair
Breath in Courage           Breathe out  Fear
Breath in Mercy               Breathe out  Unforgiveness
Breath in Peace               Breathe out  Division
Breath in Rest                 Breathe out  Hurry
Breath in Jesus

These words from Isaiah will help us here…(43:18-19)
Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland…

Forget the former things…
– Let go of 2019
– Not like it didn’t happen, but don’t let it hold you down or hold you back
– What pain or fight or hurt or conflict, may have helped you grow, but now is time to say goodbye to it? Is it  occupying too much space in your mind and heart?
See
– open your eyes to God’s newness
I am doing a new thing (what is it? ask God?)
I am making a way in the wilderness
– verses 16-17 speak to this as God reminds Israel about their deliverance from Egypt)
And streams in a wasteland
– 2020 won’t be perfect, but God will lead you through whatever comes your way.

None of this newness can happen to us when we’re in a hurry.

For us to breathe in God’s newness, we need to stop, think, pray, be quiet, and hear from him about what that newness actually is!

Slow Down
Pause
Be Quiet

Listen to the first words of Psalm 23…
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul…

I love what David does here. He tells us that we must ‘lie down’, and we must be ‘led to quiet waters’, and when we do that, our ‘souls can be refreshed’.

Listen now to Psalm 46:10
Be Still and know that I am God

The word still comes from the word vacate. So maybe God is telling us to take a vacation from trying to be god, and let him be God instead?

Finally, the word Selah, that pops up 71 times in the Psalms – this is a ‘middle’ word or an ‘in between’ word between verses and phrases in the Psalms. No one knows for sure what it means. It’s possibly just a technical note for readers and musicians.

Best guess? Selah is an invitation to pause, to weigh the words we are praying. An intermission, if you will. A moment to reflect on what just happen, and plan well for what we may hear next or what may come next.

Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Only when we pause, when we rest, when we Selah, when we are quiet…is when we can Breathe in Jesus!!!

– – – – – –

Why do we call Sundays an Intermission at The Village? Because our hope is that in the few minutes we have together, we want to breathe out the week before, and breathe in Jesus! Time well spent eh?

– – – – – –

This week, take time, make time, to…

Breath in Peace               Breathe out  Anxiety
Breath in Hope                Breathe out  Despair
Breath in Courage           Breathe out  Fear
Breath in Mercy               Breathe out  Unforgiveness
Breath in Peace               Breathe out  Division
Breath in Rest                 Breathe out  Hurry
Breath in Jesus                     

Jonah: a wrap up…

We have come to the end of our series in Jonah.

It’s been quite a journey through this small, but profound OT book.

Today is going to be simple, but intentional. As we remove ourselves from the story, what important themes can we draw from the whole story of Jonah?

But first…a recap of the story…

Jonah gets a word from God.
Go to the great city of Nineveh
Jonah says…nope…goes the other way
Boards a ship
A storm brews and erupts on the see
The sailors start to pray (to multiple pagan gods)
Jonah ducks down to the lower deck, not to pray, but to sleep
The captain wakes him up, asks him to pray
The sailors draw straws to see who to blame the storm on
Jonah admits this is his fault
They reluctantly throw Jonah overboard
Enter into the story – big fish
It swallows Jonah, he’s there for 3 days, Jonah Prays, Fish spits him out
God calls on Jonah a second time
Jonah obliges this time
Jonah shares his message (8 words)
At the surface, it wasn’t good news
But Nineveh responded well
They turned around, repented, recognized their wrongs, and took steps towards God
God sees their heart, changes his mind on their judgement, and embraces the Ninevites.
Jonah is angry and resentful
Why? Because he knew God would be gracious and give them a chance to repent.
He complains, says he would rather die
God asks him 2 important questions: Why are you angry? Shouldn’t I be concerned for Nineveh?
THE END

– – – – – – – –

Here are a few final take a ways I’d like to point out.

WHY I LOVE THIS STORY?

It’s comical, strange, unpredictable…

  • I love that the Bible includes stories like this
  • I believe the Bible to be true, because stories like this made the cut

The story can be true without every part being true!

On the other hand, why not believe the unbelievable parts?

  • “Take note of the strange parts of the story, because they’re usually there for a reason.” (Rob Bell)
  • A few questions we can ask are: How does a story like this survive? Do we only affirm things that can be proven in labs?
  • “If we reject all inexplicable elements of all stories because we have made up our mind ahead of time that such things simply aren’t possible, we run the risk of shrinking the world down to what we can comprehend.
    • What fun is that?
    • How many good things we will miss?

I can live with the fish, but it’s about so much more than the fish.

  • God & People
  • People finding God
  • God pursuing people
  • This is almost always the case in biblical stories


WHO IS YAHWEH/GOD?                

The writer’s desire is that we get to know GOD; especially in comparison to pagan gods.

3 places:

  • the boat/storm (ch. 1)
    • sailors polytheism vs Jonah’s monotheism
    • try your God Jonah…
    • jonah’s response (creator, land & sea)
      • Genesis 1, God created Heaven & Earth (hebrew = top to bottom) basically, EVERYTHING
    • the 1st prayer (ch. 2)
      • God listens, responds, saves, etc.
    • jonah’s 2nd prayer (ch. 4)
      • God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love (a character reference on God)
      • Compared to pagan gods who got angry and stayed angry

Jonah’s story teaches us about a God…
– who is patient
– who weeps
– who is generous
– who is complex, because he’s both good and just

(Every time we read the Bible, we should ask ourselves, what did I learn about God in this text/story, what did I learn about Jesus today?)

WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

There’s a strong contrast between Jonah, who doesn’t change, and Nineveh, who does change.

Reading this story should lead someone to repentance.

Paul’s words in Romans 2 ring so true here:

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
God’s kindness leads to repentance. (NIV)

The thing that Jonah finds so upsetting is the thing that compels us to repent and turn around – It’s God’s compassion and mercy and grace.

Some commentators compare Jonah’s story to the prodigal son. In the same way the son ran away, so to did Jonah run away, in the way the son returned, so to do did Jonah return.
– We see the prodigal son physically turn around and go back home – repent and go back to his loving father.
– Jonah after praying in the fish, reconsiders God’s call and says yes to him.
– Of course there’s Nineveh too…who repented and turned around.

Turning around is a big theme in this story. It should lead us to our own repentance story.

(Every time we read the Bible, we should ask ourselves, ‘how does this text or story lead me to repentance or change of heart or life or action or character?)

WHAT’s WITH THE ENDING QUESTION?

This story ends with a question. What do we make of this?

It’s Fascinating; the only biblical book to end with a question.

We see lots of questions in the scripture directed at us from God.

  • Where are you? (Genesis)
  • Who told you were naked? (Genesis)
  • Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? (Job)
  • Whom shall I send? Who will go? (Isaiah)
  • Do you have a reason to be angry? (Jonah)
  • Should I not be concerned about Nineveh? (Jonah)

Jesus asked a lot of them too….

  • Who do you say I am?
  • Do you believe?
  • Do you want to be well?
  • Why are you afraid?
  • Are you going to leave too?
  • Who touched me?
  • Do you love me?

People don’t ask enough questions anymore?

Perhaps Jonah ends with a question to tell us that what we need more than clarity is curiosity. Curiosity is what moves us forward. If this book is about anything, it’s about God moving Israel & Jonah forward in their thinking towards others. Ending with a question, a rhetorical one, could be Jonah & Israel’s best chance to change.

– – – – – – –

(Q&A portion of this talk was not recorded. It was very engaging.)

– – – – – – –

Final take-a-way:

DO WE LOVE WHO GOD LOVES?
DO WE CARE ABOUT WHAT GOD CARES ABOUT?
DO WE THINK&DREAM AS BIG AS GOD DOES?

The final question in this story leads us to this conclusion: God’s love is boundless. Grace is scandalous. Mercy is mind blowing. Forgiveness is for all people.

Back to the prodigal son comparison, it’s likely that Jonah may be more like the older brother, who has a difficult time with forgiveness being extended to the rebel kid/brother in the family.

  • The Father’s response to the eldest son is, “You’ve always had all you want, but my son has come home, shouldn’t we throw a party?
  • God tells Jonah, “You’ve always known my love and kindness, but these Ninevites have turned from evil, shouldn’t I (we) forgive them?”

After reading and hanging out in this story the last few weeks, how is God pulling you forward? How is God leading you?? Are you turning around from some places that you’ve been stuck to for far too long?

– – – – – – –

small(er) group discussion:

All we’ll do tonight is talk through the final take-a-ways from Jonah.

Why do you like or not like this story?

What did you learn about God? How are these GOD traits compelling or attractive? What do you make of the comparison in Jonah between GOD & gods?
What can or has become a ‘g’od in our lives today?

Talk about Repentance? What is beautiful about it? What is hard about it?
Do you see why Jonah would’ve had a hard time with this in regards to Nineveh?

How can God’s message of love and mercy and forgiveness help us today in such a polarized and divided world? In our personal lives and community life?

What does it mean to love like God loves, care about what he cares about, dream like he dreams?

Overboard : Jonah is angry? At what? (chapter 4)

As we’ve been walking through the book of Jonah this fall, we’ve entered into a story that is compelling, interesting, comical at times, and reads like a parable or a tale.

Some people have a hard time believing that the Jonah story is based in history. It’s the fish’s fault. It’s hard to take in. I know.

Let’s say, for argument sake that it’s just a tale, a parable perhaps. We know of someone who used parables and tales to teach truth. That would be Jesus.

One of my favourites, not because it’s cute or fun, but because it’s a powerful metaphor of forgiveness, is Found in Matthew 18. In a nutshell, the parable is about a man who was forgiven a loan of, let’s say $10,000. He’s ecstatic, and he should be. Any of you ever been forgiven for a loan of that much money? Thought so. So he turns around and buys everyone coffee at the local cafe. NOT. He finds a man who owes him $100, and hounds him for the money, even threatens him. Ridiculous right? Exactly. What’s Jesus trying to say through this tale? Those who are forgiven of much, should not only be thankful, but should pay that forgiveness forward. You probably agree to this in principal, right?

This story riles up strong feelings in me. I have a hard time with someone who’s been shown grace, and then turns around and doesn’t pay it forward. If we posted this kind of story on social media that #hastags would be: #ungrateful #unappreciative #canyoupayitforward #seriously? #howcouldyou #unbelievable (etc.)

Do you know someone like this? Someone who receives, but is so unaware that what they’ve just received was a gift, that it was undeserved, and instead of living out of the gratefulness, they mistreat others or aren’t generous or live in an aura of selfishness?

Imagine an artist who isn’t grateful that their art was showcased in a big museum, a musician who isn’t grateful for playing Massey Hall and then doesn’t appreciate the standing O at the end, a wealthy athlete who, 1) doesn’t give back to the community, and 2) doesn’t appreciate the victories and the people who helped him/her get there.

– – – – – – – –

This is where we find ourselves in the Jonah story. He’s angry that God did something good – and angry that God used him to do it. Unwilling to show grace, even though he’s received it himself. The drama continues!

Recap…

Jonah gets a word from God.
Go to the great city of Nineveh
Jonah says…nope…goes the other way
Boards a ship
A storm brews and erupts on the see
The sailors start to pray
Jonah ducks down to the lower deck…to sleep
The captain wakes him up, asks him to pray
They draw straws
Jonah admits this is his fault
They reluctantly throw Jonah overboard
Enter into the story – big fish
Swallows Jonah, Jonah Prays, Fish spits him out
God calls on Jonah a second time
Jonah obliges this time
Jonah shares his message (only uses 8 words)
At the surface, it wasn’t good news
But Nineveh responded well
They turned around, repented, recognized their wrongs, and took steps towards God
God sees their heart, changes his mind on their judgement, and embraces the Ninevites.

This is where we left things off…good right? Positive? Jonah should be happy, correct?

NOPE. Let’s jump into this 4th and final chapter.

– – – – – – – –

ANGRY ABOUT COMPASSION? (4:1-4)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Why? After all that happened? Would Jonah be angry?

His ‘prayer’ points to the answer:

  • He wishes he never left the house
  • He predicted this outcome
  • He knew God was gracious and would change his mind and not go through with judgement

(Can we first say that this ‘prayer’ isn’t anything that you’d expect in a prayer. It’s harsh, angry, mean, ungrateful. But maybe the writer is trying to show us that prayer is simply conversation with God, uplifting or honest.)

You ever feel like you wish you didn’t leave the house in the morning? Me too. But normally it’s when something goes bad (i.e. a car accident, you made a huge mistake at work, you lost money somewhere…)

  • I can think of a lot of reasons, but 120,000 people repenting of their sins isn’t one of them.
  • Knowing God would redeem a huge city wouldn’t be one of them.
  • Recognizing your God is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love, isn’t one of them
    • This verse is from Exodus 34, also found in numbers 9, Ps 86, 103, 145, Joel 2.
    • This verse is a character reference for God. What people know God to be. Funny how Jonah is using it to rant back at God.

Here’s why Jonah is angry, under the surface. Are you ready?

  • He’s prejudice
  • He’s a little racist
  • He’s a Nationalist
  • We can all agree that these should not be qualities of an OT prophet? Right?

Remember: Jonah is not good at his job. And this is why. He doesn’t fully grasp God’s goodness and compassion. He’s gotten too complacent in his faith. He puts nation above faith, border above love, Israel above humanity. (Tim Keller says this becomes idolatry)

IMPORTANT to NOTE: Beware of being a follower of Jesus, who really doesn’t follow Jesus, who forgets what Jesus is all about, who gets comfy and cozy on one side of the fence and forgets that God loves people on the other side just as much. (e.g. Jesus’ Parable)

JONAH RUNS…AGAIN (4:5-9)

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

Jonah is so mad that he runs…again. This time, he finds a spot outside of the city, watching to see what will happen, probably hoping that Nineveh doesn’t follow through with their posture of repentance.

Some people will always choose misery. Some people will always want to close themselves in. Some people will never see what God sees, and because of that will miss out on so much beauty and life change, in them and in others.
– 3x we read that Jonah would rather die.
– That is some serious reluctance on Jonah’s part

We might never know why someone who was so close to God responds in such an ungodly manner, and our response must be…sadness and grief. Why? The same way God weeps for Nineveh, we must weep for people like Jonah, and then leave it up to God to figure it out. Sometimes Jonah’s aren’t fix-able, not by us.

WHAT ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT (4:10)

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah is concerned about a plant. Actually, I think the writer is trying to tell us that Jonah is concerned and distracted by anything & everything…except the things that God is concerned about.

God says, SHOULD I NOT BE CONCERNED FOR NINEVEH?
Because it was a big city? Because it had advanced infrastructure? Because it was evil? Because it was great?

Here’s the main reason: because there were 120,000 people in Nineveh who 1) were created in God’s image, and 2) had no idea that they were.

That is what God cares about. People. People matter to God. Period. All people. Not just church people, not just one nation, not just Christians, not just conservatives or republicans or liberals. They. We. All. Matter.


Every time I drive by this sign, I’m reminded of the Jonah story. I can’t help but think that God is telling me that he cares about the 125,000 people who live in Whitby (630,000 in Durham), and that I should care about them too.

 

A FEW THINGS TO TAKE HOME & THINK ABOUT:

What should you be angry about? What should you have a holy discontent for? What should have you weeping? Are you numb when you should feel pain? Are you angry when you should feel joy?

Are you open to see that God can be involved in every area of our life? Do we see him as provider, director, architect, captain, leader & Lord?

  • There is something interesting about this section that alludes to something we see in the book. We read the words, ‘GOD PROVIDED’
    • a leafy plant
    • a worm
    • a scorching east wind
  • ch 1: a word to Jonah, a wind/storm, then a fish
  • ch 2: a fishy upset stomach
  • ch 3: a second word to Jonah
  • They’re all unique and different and a little strange, but God provides them all for a purpose

Do you love people like God loves you?
Do the things that matter to God, matter to you?

Jonah’s story teaches us about a God…
– who is patient
– who weeps
– who is generous
– who is complex, because he’s both good and just

– – – – – – –

Jonah ends with a question, so next week we end with some wrap up thoughts and some Q&A.

– – – – – – –

small(er) group questions:

Anything in Jonah 4 that gets your attention? What got you thinking? What caused you to go hmmmmm?

What do you make of Jonah’s anger? What are something that we should have a holy discontent for? That we should weep for?

Let’s pause at these words, “you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love,”.

If we truly understand this, how should our lives look different because of it? Why is it always easier to receive grace than it is to show it? Do you see underlying prejudice, racism and nationalism in Jonah?

What do you think it means to love our city the way God loves your city?

OVERBOARD : Jonah 3

For those of you who are up on upcoming movies, you may be anticipating the December release of Star Wars, or perhaps your favourite super hero flick. This is the time of year when big movies are scheduled to be released. That said, I’m sure there’s a movie that slipped through the cracks this fall for many of you – RAMBO 5. Or…you all rushed to the theatres to see this. Rrrrright!

My childhood friend, Danny, is a HUGE fan of Sylvester Stalone. Stalone has two stories to tell…Rambo & Rocky…in various forms and settings. I remember the first time I realized he actually wrote these movies…I was a teenager…it was the credits at the end of Rambo 2…I tried to recap his lines and all I could think of was UH…ERR…OH…ARGH.

Of course, his stories are more than his words…but there are some great lines…the best one coming in Rocky 4. If you can change, and I can change, then we can all change. (CLIP)

That was an important message in 1985. So much tension between the US & Russia at the time. I guess you can say it seems like an important message today too. Oh Rocky, if you’d only come out with another movie to inspire us to live civilly 😉

This gets us to a very important verse in the Jonah story…3:10…where we read that God relented…God changed his mind. (This may bring some of you to say, WHAT? Hmmm?)

With that mind blowing bit of info, lets jump back into our series: OVERBOARD, learning from Jonah’s blunders & God’s grace.

– – – – – – – –

(Where we’ve been so far)
Jonah gets a word from God.
Go to the great city of Nineveh
Jonah says…nope…goes the other way
Boards a ship
A storm brews and erupts on the see
The sailors start to pray (to various gods)
Jonah ducks down to the lower deck…not to pray, but to to sleep
The captain wakes him up, and asks him to pray
The sailors draw straws to see who’s fault this all is
Jonah draws the short one, then admits this is his fault, and suggests they throw in into the raging sea
They reluctantly throw Jonah overboard
Enter into the story – the big fish
The fish swallows Jonah, Jonah Prays, Fish spits him out

And here we are…

So we left things off with a Fish vomiting out Jonah from its belly…gross, but for Jonah, it’s better than not getting out at all.

– – – – – – – –

HERE WE GO AGAIN (3:1-2)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

The word from God comes a second time…
– It’s not too often where the same word comes to the same prophet for the same people
– this is interesting, because the beginning of ch1 is the same as the beginning of ch3.

When God wants to get a message across, he’ll keep poking and prodding and nudging. He obviously wanted Nineveh to get this message: first and foremost for them, but also for Israel to learn from this moment, and from this story.

JONAH OBEYED. WHAT? (3:1-3a)

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.

The first two verses are a repeat from chapter 1, but here is where things get different – JONAH actually says yes.

  • He doesn’t run
  • He doesn’t board a ship
  • He doesn’t say no
  • This time he obeys God’s invitation

What’s the invite again? Go into Nineveh and share God’s message.

WHY NINEVEH? (3:3b)

Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.

  • It’s Large
    • it takes 3 days to walk through
    • there’s 120,000 people in it (chapter 4)
    • it’s the functioning capital of Assyria
      • let’s face it, God cares about people, not buildings, economic success or other claims to fame.
      • when God identifies a great need, it’s always connected to people…his creation…if they’re living right or not, by living right, we mean are they treating other humans with love and respect.
    • It’s a mess
    • Words to describe Nineveh are…
      • evil ways = darko = sexual deviance
      • injustice = hamas = stealing
      • we see these words used in Genesis 6 when God talks to Noah about the evil ways and injustice going on then.
    • Nineveh was the perfect example for Israel to learn from.
      • God wants to use this moment to teach Israel about repentance, about grace, about ‘others’…and we get to learn about it too.


THE MESSAGE (3:4)

“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Not sure if you can figure this out, but it doesn’t sound like good news!!!
– it’s a warning, a judgement
– God is pointing out their blindspots
– Sometimes that’s what we need. If no one ever points out where we’ve gone wrong, how can we get to a place of confession, repentance and new living?

It is definitely what Nineveh needed.

Only 8 words (5 in Hebrew), but it spread so fast. In today’s language we’d say the message went viral.

Forty Days is really interesting & significant

  • 146 times in scripture
  • a symbol of trial, testing, transformation
  • Flood = 40days, Israel in wilderness = 40 years, Moses on Mt Sinai = 40days, Jesus = 40days in wilderness, etc.
  • God’s message for a pagan nation included a method that his people have used or seen in their own story.
  • Note that in scripture, a time of reflection, of testing, of trial, often leads to repentance.

The word ‘overthrown’, can also be read as ‘overturned’ and can be viewed in two ways. Nineveh will be overturned if they don’t repent…or…Nineveh will overturn, will ‘turn-over’, change, repent, if they listen to this warning and respond.

THEY BELIEVED GOD (3:5-9)

The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

They did two things: FAST, and put on SACKCLOTH. Both practices that represent confession of sin, and repentance towards a new way to live.

  • Prophets wore SACKCLOTH to one, associate with the poor, and two, grieve for sin.
  • Nineveh is responding with humility, acknowledging their evil ways, their injustice, and they CRY OUT TO GOD!

The point is that REPENTANCE is the striking message of this chapter. Nineveh is ‘overturned’, they in fact did ‘turn over’.

GOD’s MERCY COMES THROUGH (3:10)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Here we are…back to where we started. God sees their response and accepts their confession.

This is one of the few places we see God changing his mind. Not sure how you feel about that, but I think you should feel ok with it.

God’s character never changes, but he can change his mind. And you’re glad he does…

  • If not, then he can’t hurt when you hurt or feel deeply what you are feeling, or be sad when you’re struggling.
  • When we are in pain or have gotten ourselves in trouble, it moves him
  • When we confess and recognize our failures and brokenness, he embraces us
  • Why pray, why ask, if God never changes his mind?

Jonah finally delivers God’s message. We’ll learn next week that he didn’t deliver it with much love or compassion or confidence, but that doesn’t matter, because God’s words, heard by Nineveh, turned their hearts towards him, and that’s what matters here.

TAKE HOME:

Back to Rocky Balboa’s famous line in Rocky 4. If you can change, and I can change, then we can all change.

This chapter in Jonah, is about changing: repentance, turning away from sin, and turning to God.

It’s about how we can change in response to God’s words, and how God changes in response to our confession and repentance.

It’s about God using a big city, a great city, an evil city, to teach Israel, and us, a lesson about grace. If they can change, then anyone can change. If Nineveh can be humbled towards repentance, then anyone can.

NO ONE is too far from God
NO ONE is too broken
NO ONE is too messed up
NO ONE is has made too many ignorant mistakes

It might only take a few words from God, and that lost friend, than terrible boss, that vicious neighbour, they just might ‘turn to grace’ & ‘turn to God’

Even if it takes us a few times to figure it out, will we obey God, go to where he’s calling, say what he’s instructing, be who he’s calling to be?

– – – – – – – – –

small(er) group discussion:

What are some of the things from Jonah 3 that speak to you, peak your interest or make you ask a few questions?

Jonah chapter 3:1-2 shows a repeat of chapter 1:1-2. God speaks a second time, and asks the same thing of Jonah. Can you recall God coming to you a second time with the same message? What do you think about God prodding, poking and nudging us to get our attention or get his purposes across?

Jonah didn’t say too many words in his big announcement to Nineveh. Eight words (five in Hebrew) What does that say about God’s ability to use the few things we have to offer, in order to make a big difference?

In that message, we read the words “40 days”, which signifies in scripture, a time of reflection, thought, confession, humility, learning, etc. How has time away, forced or planned, helped you in your spiritual journey, and/or other discerning seasons of your life?

God uses Nineveh’s response to teach Jonah, Israel, and us, a lesson on repentance. Chapter 3 is about repentance – change – a turn around. No one is too far, too broken, too messed up, too scarred, or too tainted, to receive God’s grace.
– What is beautiful about the word repentance, and it’s idea?
– What brought you, personally, to repentance?
– Why do some of us have a hard time with grace when it involves someone we don’t like?

God changed his mind in this story. Anybody wanna talk about this? Why it’s key in this story, in our lives, and maybe why some people have difficulty with a God who changes his mind? Is there a difference between a God who doesn’t change and a God who changes his mind?

Overboard : Leaner from Jonah’s blunders & God’s grace #3

What does it mean to hit Rock-bottom?

You may have felt this in your life, seen this reality in others, observed it on film or in books. It’s never fun, it’s never easy, it’s never desirable…

One thing we know about the bottom…of a pool, a cave, a sea, a circumstance…the only direction once you get there is up.

JK Rowling, in a commencement speech at Harvard, looked back to her life and struggles. She said there was a point in her life where she had, “failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. But…I began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena, writing, in which I believed I truly belonged.” In short, she said, her success was built on her failures.

2 ways to get to the bottom:
– an unfortunate sequence of events that has happened to you
– a sequence of events that we had a hand in…things like bad decisions, bad investments, wrong turns, quick tempered reactions, etc.

We’re walking through a story about someone who has brought his troubles onto himself. Jonah has no one to blame but himself for the predicament he finds himself in – for the bottom he now resides in.

– – – – – – – –

We left the story off with Jonah on a boat…actually, he was just being thrown off the boat.

Up to this point…

  • God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh
  • Jonah ran away
  • On his run-a-way journey, he hops on a boat to Tarshish
  • The boat he is on gets stuck in a storm
  • The sailors pray to their various gods
  • They ask Jonah to pray to his God
  • They draw straws to see who’s fault this is
  • Jonah draws the short straw
  • He tells them to throw him overboard
  • The sailors try not to, but eventually have no choice but to throw him overboard

We’ve learned so far that…

  • Jonah is a reluctant prophet
  • God is a graceful and merciful God
  • Jonah runs away
  • God runs to us

– – – – – – – –

And here we are…Jonah thrown overboard – picture it. If this was an old school TV series that you actually have to wait until the following week to see the outcome, we’d have left things with Jonah half way down the boat, almost in the water, with much anticipation as to what happens next.

Then we read Jonah 1:17

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

We go from a scene on a boat, then off a boat, to a man being swallowed by a fish, not dying, but stuck there for 3 days.

This is both the best part of the story and the hardest to believe. This is where people who know the story, but don’t necessarily have faith get stuck. And of course they would, it’s normal. A man, swallowed by a fish, lives to tell the story. Seriously?

The word ‘great’ comes up again (14x in Jonah), but here written as the word ‘huge’. (great city, great storm, great fish)

God ‘provided’ a great/huge fish. Provided is also an important word. We can use the word ‘sent’ or ‘appointed’ here as well. If so, that means that God ‘sent’ the fish?

Dagon, a word worth mentioning here, was a pagan god, a popular Semitic-fish-god among the Philistines. The Hebrew word for fish is Dag. Knowing this, some might say that God is using another nation’s idol/god as a tool for his bidding. Someone else’s god as Yahweh’s tool?

  • remember Jonah’s statement on the boat in chapter 1 when responding to the sailors questions? I worship God of Heaven and earth, who created earth and sea.
  • The writer of Jonah is being somewhat deistically playful. Jonah’s GOD uses your god as tools 😉
  • Or, he’s simply using his creation to fulfil his purpose.

Here’s what we know: God provided the fish to save Jonah, to protect Jonah, to transport Jonah, to transform Jonah, and to give him a place to pray and reflect for 3 days.

The great FISH provided:

A HAVEN…

  • Jonah was swallowed up by the fish
  • Jonah was removed from the deathly sea and storm
  • Jonah was given protection
  • All this from a FISH.

This begs the question: what has God provided that protected you, that saved you, that removed you from harm, that, at first felt like a strange thing, but looking back was actually the thing that saved you?

If you take this story literally or not, the writer wants you to know that God can and will use whatever he wants, to surround you, envelop you, and protect you.

TRANSPORTATION & TRANSFORMATION…

Verse 10 says, And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

The fish took Jonah from the point in which he was thrown overboard and eventually led him to the dry land.

Of course God could’ve used anything, but his vehicle of choice was the fish.

(old joke warning) You heard the one about the guy that made it to heaven after unfortunately drowning. When he arrived, Peter asked him why he’s there so early. He didn’t expect him for another few years. The man said that God never saved him. What? Peter said. Ya, I was waiting and he never came? Are you sure? said Peter. Yes, said the man. A person on a canoe came by, a person on a ship came by, and finally a person on a little dingy came by. And? Said Peter. The man said, I told them to keep going, cause I was waiting for God to help me.

The Fish transported Jonah, but it also transformed Jonah. How? We’ll see next as we read Jonah’s prayer.

PRAYER & REFLECTION…

We’re told that while in the FISH, Jonah prays and reflects.

He’s compelled to pray.
He’s forced to reflect.
He uses his three days of solitude well.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
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.’”

It’s here where we get into Jonah’s heart and mind. Through this prayer he reveals what he was feeling, how low he felt, how dark things looked, how desperate he was.

– distress – deep in the realm of death
– currents swirled about me
– waves swept over me – I was banished – I was engulfed

But you, Lord…brought me up…

These words come up in scripture A LOT. When the characters and people we read about look back on their life, it seems like they often say, “BUT GOD” came through. BUT GOD healed me. BUT GOD saved me. BUT GOD helped me, led me, protected me, filled me up, over and over again.

– Jonah was down, God brought him up
– Jonah was wrapped up, God freed him
– Jonah was banished, God brought him to light

What would our prayer look like? Or would we waste our time in the belly of that fish?

Do you ever look at the feature on your i-phone that says how much social media or internet time/percentage you use? It really makes you wonder how you get anything done if we waste so much time on this stuff.

Walking downtown in our city…everyone around you is…on their phone…while walking. Instead of taking the time to reflect, think, even pray, we are occupied by the little technological advancement called the smart phone.

Love this recent tweet…have you seen it?

I saw a guy at Starbucks today.
No iPhone.
No tablet.
No laptop.
He just sat there.
Drinking coffee.
Like a Psychopath.

If the fish and the three days did anything, it brought Jonah to prayer & reflection.

May we use our “FISH” time as well. May we use dead time to reflect and imagine and create and pray.

The Fish was God’s grace for a prophet who is bad at his job. Of course Jonah doesn’t deserve it, but neither do any of us.

If we let him, even though we are broken and flawed, God will work in us, with us, for us, and through us.

Here’s the big question…

Are you open to a fishy idea from God to help get you on your feet again and moving in the right direction?

I sure hope so.

– – – – – – – – –

God will use what he wants, to transform and transport us.

The bottom doesn’t have to be the end. It can be the middle of your story. Be there long enough to learn, but let God pull you up and out of the deep and dark place.

The Fish plays a part in this story, but the main actors are always God and us, and the main purpose is always grace and mission.

PRAY
– when you’re stuck & when you’re free
– when you’re sick & when you’re well
– when have time & when you don’t
– when you need God & when you think you don’t

– – – – – – – – –

small(er) group discussion questions:

Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room…or the big fish rather. Is this an obstacle for you or simply a mysterious part of the story?

Literally or not, the fish is a metaphor for protection, transportation and transformation. How has God been that for you (protection/haven) or done that for you (transport & transform) in recent years? Or maybe you need him to do this for you this season?

How do transportation & transformation work together? God bringing us some where to change us…or…God changing us to eventually bring us somewhere?

Prayer takes up all of chapter 2.
– Anything about this prayer that speaks to you? That challenges you?
– Do we take advantage of space and time in our life to pray and reflect? Share some ideas. Share some new steps you may like to take towards this.
– Jonah comes to terms with a few things in this prayer: failure, mistakes, disobedience, God’s grace, and more. How does prayer do that for us? How does conversation with God help us understand ourselves, others and God more?