#SheSharesTruth: Jonah 3&4

For background information on why I am writing this post click here and read the first part.

This week we are digging into the second half of the Book of Jonah, read chapter 3 and 4 here.

Chapter three is the repentance and redemption story of the Ninevites. Jonah warns them of the wrath of God that is coming and their response is wildly unexpected and truly amazing; “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.” (Jonah 3:5) Just like that. They don’t hesitate, they don’t make excuses, they believe in God and they turn away from their evil ways. Just like that. Hallelujah!

The repentance of a whole city is great, but we don’t see Jonah rejoicing, quite the opposite actually, he is angry. Although we may not exactly get angry with God for saving ‘the wicked’, I think we do a whole lot of judging who could or couldn’t, should or shouldn’t be saved. We look at our neighbor or coworker or family member and think, “Surely not him or her”. We (like Jonah) run in the opposite direction when God asks us to share the Gospel with someone we don’t think deserves it. Jonah didn’t just run because Nineveh was a terrifying place, no he ran because he didn’t want God to save them. “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)

Guess what? None of us deserve grace. You don’t either. Did you know that’s what grace means? Undeserved favor. We don’t get to decide that someone is too sinful or too far away from God. We just get to share God’s word and leave the rest up to Him.

Jonah is a man of extremes, he goes from being exceedingly displeased and angry when God spares Nineveh to being exceedingly glad when God provides a plant for shade (which he also takes away from him again). And when God asks the (rhetorical) question “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” (Jonah 4:9) Jonah’s answer? “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Emotional much? Angry enough to die? Really, Jonah, really? Sounds a little dramatic.

And still, I think I can be put in the category of ‘short fused’, it doesn’t take a lot to make me frustrated but it does take me a while to calm back down. I get frustrated when things don’t go the way I expect. I get frustrated with my circumstances, with God, with myself, with my husband or my daughter. I can get pretty pouty, because obviously it will never get better. Ever. *insert sarcasm*

It’s so easy to read about Jonah and see how obvious the answer to God’s question is. But somehow not so much in our own life. So when I was reading this sentence today: “Do you do well to be angry?” God showed up, and he called me out. Because of course the answer is a loud resounding NO, not in the least. Jonah wants to be angry, he feels like he has every right to. And I realized, that that’s exactly how I feel. I want to be angry, I keep a tight grip on ‘my right’ to be angry with whatever situation I am in. But the truth is I have no right to be angry. The only right I have is to be thankful. thankful that I have been saved, not because I deserved to be saved but because I serve a merciful God.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

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#SheSharesTruth: Jonah 1&2

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We all know the story of Jonah: God asks Jonah to preach repentance to a city of ungodly people, Jonah is terrified so he takes off in the opposite direction, and God punishes him by letting him spend 3 days inside a whale to teach him a lesson on disobeying God, right? Now hold on, let’s read the first two chapters of Jonah and see if that’s actually what happens.

I know it’s a little bit of a read, two whole chapters, but if we want to understand what’s going on, we really need to get into the text. You can read it by clicking here.

These first two chapters aren’t so much a story of God punishing Jonah for being disobedient as it is a story of God using all kinds of different people and different situations to fulfill His will. Do you think it was a coincidence that there was a ship departing in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh? Do you think it was chance that when the mariners cast lots to find out who was to blame for the storm, they fell on Jonah? Was it just pure luck that instead of drowning in the sea Jonah was swallowed up by a fish and survived for three days and three nights and then the fish “vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”?

Not coincidence, not chance, not pure luck – but providence. God’s sovereign hand moving on people, speaking to the sea and even to a fish, to work out His will. God isn’t surprised or taken off guard when Jonah runs away, I am pretty sure it was part of the plan. Maybe so Jonah would trust God to take care of Him, maybe so we could learn from his example (or rather not learn from his example)? I don’t know, but we are talking about God here, there certainly is a big picture purpose for every little thing in Jonah’s story. 

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice…you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” – Jonah 2:2,6-7 ESV (with my edits)

While still inside the belly of the fish (maybe a whale, we don’t know) Jonah is giving thanks to God for his grace towards him. For saving his life, not from the fish but by the fish. How often do you give thanks when you are in the thick of it? I know that I am not very good at seeing how God is showing grace and providing for me in the midst of trials. I have a tendency of complaining and pining about how hard it is, and yearning for “the other side”, without even considering that maybe where I am at right now is right where I need to be, that maybe God is providing for me by letting me go through trials not just once He gets me safe on the other side, or “on dry land” so to speak.

“But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5 ESV

There is learning and growing happening in the trials and in the hardships if only we are willing to learn, willing to be stretched so that we can grow. Maybe it’s supposed to be messy, so that it can be made beautiful.

What is God calling you to that you are tempted to run away from? Where is He challenging you and giving you a chance to trust in Him, and you are refusing to? Pray, talk to your Creator, ask Him to give you courage, strength and boldness, to do what He is asking you to do for Him.

Oh, and Jonah does end up going to Nineveh, but that’s another post at another time.

Day 27: Spring Cleaning

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I think it is about time I get back in the swing of things with my 365 Days project. I  did some simple math to try and see where we are at: I started the project on January 4th 2014 and I am currently on day 27, so if I continue at my current rate I will be done some time around mid August… 2016!

We have been so busy doing nothing in our house. Magnolia got sick with a stomach bug, then Michael was sick, and then I was and then Magnolia got sick again, but then she got better right until she got sick again. So between checking her temperature, seeing the doctor and giving medicine, somehow all of January and February disappeared. I didn’t even have time to realize that spring was on it’s way until it was here full force, with little flowers blooming, birds chirping in the trees and the sun shining in through the big (dirty) windows in the living room.

Our house is a work in progress, but little by little it is turning into more of a home and not just a house. We ripped out the carpet in two rooms and I finally hung my picture frames in the living room (though withour pictures as I still need to get the pictures printed). We have lived here just over 6 months now, it feels like forever and no time at all, all at once. And I think that’s when you know you are on the right track, and in the right place.

Last week it was sunny almost every day, so I (ahem my Dad) prepared the patch of the lawn that will be our vegetable garden, and now it’s just sitting there waiting for me to sow the seeds I got from my mom. But this week, it’s been raining everyday and although I like the outdoors and this season, I don’t think I would enjoy gardening in the rain. Maybe next week will be sunny. I have also been experimenting with some water colors for a couple of days (check out the photo up top.) So I guess it’s not completely true that we have been doing nothing, it just hasn’t felt like much and maybe it isn’t, but it’s a place to start.

All this to say, IT’S SPRING! And I think it is time for some spring cleaning. In my house, in my yard and most of all in my heart. Michael mentioned the other day that I have been (how did he put it?) “a lot happier lately”. I would have probably phrased it more like “not so cranky and emotional and up tight all the time”, but thankfully Michael is a vey gracious husband. I think what I have been and am still learning is that I need to let go; let go of my unhealthy desire to control every aspect of life, let go of feeling entitled to whatever thing I think I need and don’t have whether that be sleep, money or something else. I need to let go of my feelings instead of clinging to them as if they were the truth, when I know that the only true Truth is found in my Bible and not in my own heart.

So I am going to open the windows wide and let the fresh air of spring fill my house and my lungs. It’s a new season and I am ready to embrace it. And that right there, folks, that brings me joy.

#SheSharesTruth: Psalm 38

As an introduction to this post, I have to share with you a little bit more about SheReadsTruth and what it’s all about. I think that for me this might be the easiest way to explain it: A group of women make the Bible reading plans that a bunch of women, including myself, then read and as we dig into God’s word we are challenged, encouraged and convicted – God is speaking into our lives. (For a more lengthy explanation read this post)

Then we join in the conversation in the comments, to share what we are learning, to ask for prayer, to give words of encouragement etc. In this current reading plan for Lent leading up to Easter, the writers have challenged us, the readers, to study a psalm and write about our reflections and share it on our blog, Instagram, Facebook etc. Last week over 200 women shared their reflections, and this week I am joining them.

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Start by reading Psalm 38.

I read the psalm in my ESV Bible. Then I read it in my Danish bible. Then I read it in the Message Bible, and then the ESV again. There is no way of getting around it, this Psalm is written by an utterly depressed David. And it is actually quite depressing. At first I had no idea what to write in this post, which is why I tried reading so many different translations, I was hoping that somehow with different wording, maybe it wouldn’t be as heavy. But it was, and all of a sudden I realized why. Because sin is heavy. And we are crushed under the weight of it if we carry it alone.

I started looking for help with deciphering this depressing Psalm and ended up finding a Spurgeon commentary called “The Treasury of David” that changed my perspective of the Psalm.

“For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.” Psalm 38:2

“It seems strange that the Lord should shoot at his own beloved ones, but in truth he shoots at their sins rather than them, and those who feel his sin killing shafts in this life, shall not be slain with his hot thunderbolts in the next world.” C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

Of course David feels depressed and weighed down, sin does just that.

But, we don’t have to carry the burden alone. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let’s fast forward to verse 15:

“But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

God will answer. God will answer. There is confidence here, David isn’t saying I’ll wait and see if God answers. He is absolutely confident that he will. That he is going to, so David will wait. He will sit through the suffering and wait for the Lord to answer because he knows beyond the shadow of all doubt that God is going to answer.

I pray that same confidence for myself. That I would know beyond the shadow of all doubt that God will answer my prayers. He will hear my cries for help. He will not forsake me, He will not leave me to fend for myself. He will come to me, as I wait for Him.

Acts of Love

Note: This was originally posted on an old blog of mine over 2 years ago. Today I rediscovered it and felt like reposting it to my current blog. I hope you enjoy. (I took the liberty of doing some editing, mostly for grammatical reasons.)

Love is a choice. I have stated this in a previous blog post, and I still believe it to be true. We decide whether or not we are going to share our love with the people we are surrounded by. Whether that be our friends, co-workers, family, boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse. We can choose to be selfish or we can choose to die to ourselves in order to serve the people we love. That is our choice.

I have been reading a wonderful book called, ‘the Meaning of Marriage’ by Timothy Keller (it is also written by his wife, Kathy, in part) In this book he talks about acts of love, how we can love our partner, even when we don’t feel the love. Then by acting love towards them, our feelings are fueled, and we are somehow able to ‘feel’ the love again. When the feelings are lacking, we rely on our willful choice to still love the other person.

This also translates to our lives with God. We won’t always ‘feel’ God. We won’t always ‘feel’ like reading the Bible, but we do it as an act of love.

Because we love God, not so that he will love us, but because he already has loved us. Even before we loved him.

So we choose, consciously, willfully and with determination to show Him love, even when we don’t feel it. We do this by praying, not because we have to but because we want to talk to our Creator and show him our love. We do it by spending time in the word, not because we have to, but because we want to get to know Him more. We choose to seek him, not just when we feel like it, but even more so when we don’t feel like it, we decide to act out the love that we have for him.

And then in time, the Acts of Love will (most likely) bring back those warm feelings of nearness, love, and acceptance. All the things we ‘feel’ in his presence. Feelings are a fleeting thing, we can’t trust them. They will ebb and flow, just like feelings do. But we commit to walking hand in hand with God. Good and bad. And that it is where the most satisfying interactions are born. In relationship with God, and in relationship with each other.

The ultimate human example is most wondrously displayed in marriage. We let one other person into the inner courts and let them see all the dirty stuff. We decide to love them when we feel the warm and fuzzy stuff, when they do something sweet and we can see only how good they are.

But more importantly we decide to love them when they aren’t perfect. When they fail and need to have forgiveness extended to them. This is where the closest human thing to magic happens. Two people entering a covenant, not because they expect it to me easy all the time, but because they have decided that even when it’s not easy, they are still going to stick around and fight it out. A covenant relationship. Bound to succeed. An impossibility. Yet the truest reality.