Monthly Archives: December 2011

More than just a whale of a tale…

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We’re reaching the end of the first semester at Great Commission Bible Institute, and I can hardly believe it. In some ways, it seems like only a few weeks ago we finished the Bible Experience (reading through the whole Book in 8 days!); we just got used to the routine, and now I’m packing to go home! Home… Alaska’s almost a whole world away. What a whirlwind the past 6 months have been. What a set of adventures!

In class, we’ve been studying the separated kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and all the minor prophets who called them to repentance (of course, they didn’t and they were each carted off into exile).

Among the long list of Minor Prophets we’ve covered is Jonah. We all know the story: God speaks, Jonah balks, stormy ocean, big fish, repentance, off to Nineveh. And happily ever after, right? Not so much. Sure, Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches the message God gave him (“unless you repent, you’re all gonna die” Jonah 3:4), but when the people of Nineveh actually repent, Jonah throws a major hissy fit.

So God decides He’ll show Jonah a piece of His character that Jonah’s obviously overlooking, using a plant and a worm. Nineveh is parked right in the middle of Iraq, so as you can imagine, it gets a bit toasty. God provides some shade for Jonah (think plant), and when he later removes it (that’s the worm’s part), Jonah wins himself an Academy Award for playing the part of a two-year-old.

Death is better to me than life… I have a good reason to be angry, even to death.” Jonah 4:8-9.

But God’s response to his temper tantrum goes much deeper than, “Get a grip, Jo”. It reveals a part of His character. He says,

You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11.

I wonder if God’s response took Jonah off guard, but the book ends with God’s question, so we have no real way of knowing for certain. Perhaps Jonah thought his purpose in going to Nineveh was to preach coming doom and then just sit back and watch God smite yet another Gentile city. After all, they weren’t His chosen people, so why do they matter? They should have seen it coming.

The New Living Translation phrases “persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand” as “people living in spiritual darkness”.  After spending two months in India, the concept of “living in spiritual darkness” has a tangible flavor to me. When I read this verse, I see the faces of people I love dearly and my heart breaks. Certainly God sent Jonah to Nineveh so he could preach repentance to the city, but I also think he wanted to transform Jonah in the process. He wanted Jonah to see that God desperately loves those Gentiles, those heathens, those Ninevites, and He’ll do whatever it takes to save them. To save us!

Like I said earlier, this principle really resonates within me, and I wanted to find a way to express the idea of God’s love for those who do not know Him in a modern way. Jonah Collage Who are our Ninevites? What does “spiritual darkness” look like in the 21st century? It looks like the teenage girl immersing herself into a world of Wicca and the Occult. It looks like the Haitian man practicing voodoo with his dolls. It looks like Hindus worshipping stone deities. It looks like saffron-robed monks meditating on Buddha’s teachings. It looks like a Muslim woman, faithfully praying five times a day. It looks like the middle-aged American, trying to give his family the American dream, living his own life. “Not knowing the difference between [his] right and left hand”. Not seeing the difference between death and life. Blind to his own blindness.

This project is a reminder that we too were once Ninevites. Blind and deceived in our various ways. Not knowing anything but death and destruction. But Jesus Christ offered a way to repentance and restoration for us, and by His grace we are saved! And it is a call for those of us who have received sight to pray for those who are “living in spiritual darkness”. To “have compassion on [them]”, to pray for that their eyes would be opened, that they would repent and be given new life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has call you out of darkness in to His marvelous light…” 1 Peter 2:9

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“Fixing” Mirrors

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So this morning I decided that I was just going to do it. There’s no way to start unless you just start….

God’s been convicting me on our relationship; I’ve let my time in the Word in class and homework take the place of my personal time with Him. And, not that it’s some legalistic sin, but I can tell the difference. I’ve still been learning like crazy, and God has been convicting/speaking/guiding me, but the intimacy that I know I’ve been designed for is lacking. So, I’ve decided to do something about it. Nothing magical, no instant fix. I’m just going to, by His grace, get back into spending time daily with Him, reading His word. I’ve decided to read through 2 Peter, and then hit the Christmas story (fitting for the season.)

So, this morning I cracked open Peter’s second book, only to make it 9 verses in, and then my whole day changed….

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”

The Holy Spirit took hold of me with that last verse: “…. short-sighted and blind…” That’s what I’ve become: short-sighted. I’ve lost sight of the big picture, I’ve become content with “ok”, forgetting both who God really is and who He’s called (purified) me to be.

And it kept coming. During the first service in church this morning, Pastor Randy spoke from Exodus 20:18-21, the Israelites’ response to God revealing the Law to Moses.

“18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speakto us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”

In classic Randy style, he pulled all kinds of principles from those four verses, but the first one was enough for me. See, God’s show of power and holiness was supposed to inspire fear into the Isrealites (“so that [they] may not sin”), but they weren’t supposed to stay there. They were supposed to move from terror into awe and submission. But they stayed in the first position, because they based their decisions on what they saw. This hit me like round two; again, with the sight thing. What is the Biblical definition of faith? Seeing things the way God says they are, not how my eyes natually see them. The Israelites here did not have faith. In hearing thunder and lightening, they saw danger and “trembled and stood at a distance”. God challenged me that I am called to live a life of faith, and I can’t possibly live as He wants me to if I base my decisions solely on what I see. I can’t be short-sighted.

But it’s not over yet. Bring on round three. During second service, I’ve been helping with Youth Group Sunday School, where we’ve been going through Francis Chan’s “BASIC” series. He’s put together a DVD series of videos and discussion questions based on the basic fundamentals of the Christian life. Today’s was on…. living/walking in the Holy Spirit. So we spent a whole hour discussing how the Holy Spirit leads us, and what walking in His guidance looks like practically.

As the day progressed, I realized that I have placed mirrors in front of my eyes. I have made myself the center of my sight, falling deeper and deeper into pride and complacency. And with my own image reflecting back to me, my vision’s scope had shortened dramatically. Short-sighted.

Father, take down my mirrors. Help me “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles [me], and let [me] run with endurance the race that is set before [me], fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:1-2.