Judging Jonah

I have been pondering this thought about the Book of Jonah.

Does Jonah invite us to judge?

What an odd thought when the Bible often reminds us “not to judge” in an unrighteous manner. But what if Jonah is inviting us to judge him without knowing the full story? The book ends abruptly with God’s words of compassion.

God says a lot in a small book that contains only 48 verses and there is a plethora of themes to study. I believe one of the themes is about judging.

We judge Jonah, the Ninevites, the sailors and we even judge the big fish. We judge the sailor’s attitude when they cry to God. We judge the Ninevites turning from their wicked ways and we judge Jonah’s pouting and angry attitude. We might even say we judge God’s compassion on all the above.

What we do not know is the full story. We don’t know Jonah’s life story or when and where he died or what happened after Chanter 4 ends. Many of the Old Testament prophets rejected or doubted the call of God, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah for example. Even Timothy appeared to doubt his calling in the New Testament. We seem to be a little harsh on Jonah and see  him only as a wayward, rebellious prophet. It is evident that God is with Jonah the entire time! God saw him as he was called to be. Jesus refers to Jonah in a positive light as well. He does not condemn the prophet but sees him as a representative of Himself.

On July 24, 2014, ISIS destroyed a tomb in Mosul, Iraq. Mosul is known as the ancient city of Nineveh. The tomb ISIS destroyed was the Tomb of Jonah. This tomb is known as the burial site of the prophet and it was not just a tourist attraction; It was a revered site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It was described as an “antithesis to sectarianism”. In other words, it was a place that brought all peoples to a common ground in their shared history. ISIS wanted that common ground destroyed. They may have destroyed most of the tomb, but not the meaning behind it.

Why would a people build a tomb to remember someone who hated them? Did Jonah die in Nineveh? We do not know. We don’t know if the tomb contained the actual remans of the prophet or if it was built as a memorial. He may have  lived to a ripe old age in Nineveh and grew to love those to whom he preached. God’s patience and ending words in Jonah 4 may have resulted in the repentance of a stubborn heart. Or, Jonah may have died soon after his message from the injuries he more than likely incurred during his time in the fish.

I like to think that the former is true. 😊 It gives me hope in the redeeming of my own wayward and rebellious heart.

I believe Jonah invites us to judge so that we see how ridiculously futile it is and he guides us to see everyone as God sees them. Maybe he even invites us to see ourselves as God sees us.

From Jonah to Corinthians

What exactly does Jonah 1:3 and 1 Corinthians 9:16-17 have in common? It appears to be plenty.

God continues to amaze me in the things He can show me through the book of Jonah. I am planted here for a while, and I am good with that now. I no longer see myself stuck here; I am planted. He has proven Himself faithful. Like Phillip, when God whisked him away from the Ethiopian eunuch on the road south of Jerusalem to Azotus, he takes me from Gath Heper (Jonah’s hometown) to Ephesus as Paul writes to the Corinthians, in the blink of an eye!

From Gath Hepher:

Over the last few days, I have been reading the New American Commentary on Jonah. After the initial background chapters of the commentary, the author begins a verse-by-verse discussion. The author describes Jonah’s behavior in v 1:3, as Jonah’s tragic decision to disobey God. Jonah was a prophet, called by God to speak to the people on God’s behalf. Jonah was given a gift of prophecy and the calling of a prophet. In other words, Jonah was in the LORD’s service.

One reference the author uses says that by “fleeing” the LORD’S presence Jonah knew he could not actually flee from God himself.  The Hebrew people did not believe that God was limited to one place. Jonah later shows in v 9 that he believed God to be the Creator, thus everywhere. By fleeing from the LORD’s presence, Jonah announces empathically his unwillingness to serve God. His action is nothing less than open rebellion against God’s sovereignty.

To Ephesus and the letter to the Corinthians:

As I listened to John Bevere’s book X, Multiply Your God-Given Potential, I see a connection between what John Bevere says and my current study of Jonah. John is discussing our role as stewards of the grace gifts that God gives to each of us. He references Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:16-17.

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. (NIV)

He highlighted the part of the verse “woe to me”.

The definition of woe: grievous distress, affliction, or trouble. When “woe” is used, it is not a minor thing!

Jonah faced that woe head on when He rebelled against what God had compelled him to do.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

We each have gifts that we are to use to serve others! We most often think of money when we think of stewardship. It is not just about money! It is about all of things God gives us, including the Spiritual Gifts.

It is about developing in the calling God has placed upon us. It is multiplying that calling in the lives of others. To do otherwise, are we like Jonah? Are we trying to flee from service to Him?  Are we searching for peace but finding woe instead?

OUCH! My feet hurt from all the toe stomping this week!

Father in Heaven, how majestic is Your Name! You are Creator and the Sovereign King. You have given me gifts that I have ignored or ran away from. Instead of running from them, I run to them, I run to You. Renew in me a steadfast spirit. Give me direction and guidance in how I can best steward these gifts and the calling you have placed upon me. I know that it is not for my benefit alone but for service to You by serving others and like the parable of the talents, multiplying what you have so graciously given.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

From Luke to Jonah … and Back

Once again, I find myself in Jonah! When I am not studying for a particular purpose, I often find myself at a loss of where to start. Because Easter is approaching, I decided to read the Gospels and Acts. I landed in Luke and was drawn to Luke 1:1-4.

Luke 1:1-4 highlights his reason for writing the book and his method of doing so. That was a great study and I gained insight when I started  a couple of weeks ago, but again today, as I met with God, I was at a loss of where to start.

I hear in my heart…. yep, you guessed it, JONAH!. What? Again? Then I was reminded of something Joyce Meyer said in one of her lessons and of something God said to me in my heart.

Joyce Meyer says if you do not know what God wants you to do now, go back to the last thing you remember him telling you to do. For me, that would be Jonah. His direction was clear, loud,  and simple. I awoke one morning and the first thing that hit my brain before I lifted my head off the pillow was JONAH.

I spent a long time in Jonah and often asked God why He had me here and why I felt stuck. It is only four short chapters and contains 48 verses in the entire book! God’s reply was through a side study of  “cross-reference”. During one of my Jonah studies, I was researching the Introduction of the NIV Study Bible (older version) and it said that cross-referencing is inexhaustible. I even tested it and it’s true, cross-referencing never ends! God said to me, “Don’t worry about where you are, I will take you where you need to go.” He can do that in any manner he chooses too. Cross-referencing, and mostly in my case ADD! I often get lost in the side notes.

WOW! God is FAITHFUL

To begin the study of Jonah all over again, I started with the introduction to the book of Jonah in the NIV Study Bible Fully Revised Edition 2020. As I was reading the introduction and going to the cross- references listed (I have learned not to skip these!), I wondered if the revised edition was in LOGOS so that I could just hover over the references and they would open in a pop-up (lazy or resourceful, you decide 😊 ). I took a moment to research the Logos online store and yes, the Bible Study Notes for the revised edition was available and it was on sale! Doing my Dave Ramsey due diligence, I researched my budget to see if I had the monies to pay for it. Yes! I budget for LOGOS purchases and money was available 😊

Whoop There it Is

I opened LOGOS on my laptop to same place that I was reading in my Bible. My mouse hovered over a section of the introduction about authorship. I did not hover intentionally over this section, but I read what popped up anyway. And boy was I blessed!

It tied right back to my study of Luke 1:1-4!

Luke 1:1-4 tells us why and how Luke wrote the material. He researched, he was organized, he was a servant of the Word who was familiar with the work of other servants of the Word and he journaled.

The introduction to 1 & 2 Kings, tells us the writer of this historical account also did his research. He was a servant of the Word; he did his research and he even named his sources. He was careful and he wrote down what he gathered.

I think when we read in Scripture that the Bible is the God-breathed, inspired Word, we think that God just downloaded the words to the writer. We think He will do that for us as well without any effort on our part. After seeing both examples, I realize that is not necessarily the case. The writers did their homework! God blessed them in their work and careful study. The Holy Spirit cannot bring to remembrance what was never remembered in the first place!

Yes, I believe the Holy Spirit does give us inspiration, but I also believe that God blesses us the most when we are in the Word. When we seek Him, we will find Him! Set a date, keep the date, meet with Him and He will show up!

RESOURCES:

(NIV Study Bible Fully Revised Edition 2020 -Popup)

Whoever the author was, it is clear that he was familiar with the book of Deuteronomy—as were many of Israel’s prophets. It is also clear that he used a variety of sources in compiling his history of the monarchy. Three such sources are named: “the book of the annals of Solomon” (11:41), “the book of the annals of the kings of Israel” (14:19) and “the book of the annals of the kings of Judah” (14:29). It is likely that other written sources were also employed…

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. [1]

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God p may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

1 Peter 1:21

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Deuteronomy 4:29

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Jeremiah 29:13

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


Make a Date

My entire schedule has been messed up the last couple of years and like everyone else, especially in 2020.  I used to set aside every Saturday morning studying the Bible or researching lesson plans. This time alone with the LORD was always fruitful and a blessing to my spirit.

My schedule really changed when the pandemic set aside early shopping times for the “at risk” people (insert smirk emoji). Instead of spending time with God, I spent it going to the store before the crowd. This eventually became my new habit. My time studying suddenly vanished and I had a hard time focusing on it at any other time. Something always got in the way. This was supposed to be my date-morning with God.

I fast every January as a first fruit offering to the LORD and for guidance for the year ahead. I fast alone and with my church. This year I asked God to help me realign things again. I felt out of control with the inability to focus. I needed His help. Praise God, He never disappoints!

I am at the end of my first fruits fast and I was feeling a little disappointed in myself. I felt that somehow, I failed in focus, prayer, and study. Nothing had changed. I felt I hadn’t done enough through the fast (which is a works mentality and lacks faith in God’s grace.)

But God!

Last night as I was crawling in to bed, God reminded me of our Saturday date-mornings. So, I set a date for 6:00 am. I can go to the store later in the morning, I can run later in the day. I can clean house this afternoon. But today, beginning at 6:00 am, that is God’s time.

My life verse is Ezra 7:10, especially the part that says Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the law. But I love to teach it too 😊

Whenever I study for others I am so blessed because I learn for myself as well. If I try to just read the Bible as something to check off my reading plan for the day, I usually leave rather empty. It was a duty and not a joy. Oh, but when I set aside time to meet with God, on purpose, for the joy of it, I am so very blessed, each and every time. God is faithful.  

As I began reading Ephesians, I had focus today and I started to see Scriptures that related to the class I begin to teach on Monday! It was awesome. I was reminded of God’s love, His grace and the Power that He has bestowed upon us. I was reminded of the life I am called to live.

Make a date and be faithful. Give time to God and He will give to you in greater measure.

Ezra 7:10

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Discipline or Privilege

I have been reading James W Goll’s book THE SCRIBE and he said something that really hit home.

He had always used the phrase “spiritual disciplines” when it came to setting habits for prayer, worship, journaling, being in the Word and so forth. He recalls a time when the Holy Spirit said to him “you are not disciplined enough to have spiritual disciplines.”  Well, if that is true of James Goll, it is even more true for mel!

The Holy Spirit’s response to Mr. Goll was to call these things ‘privileges”.

This puts a whole new spin on things. A discipline is performance based. It often turns to a drudgery or just something to check off a list. Doing the same thing as a privilege, however, means doing it because you can do it. You do it because God has equipped you to do it and because you want to do it. You do not have to do these things for God to love you more. He loves you already! Praying, studying His Word, praising Him, worshipping Him are all things we get to do! They are things He invites us to do so that we can can have relationship with Him. They are benefits and gifts that our Father has lavished on us!

To take this thought a little further, what if we have that same attitude in everything we do? What if I do not see cleaning house today as the drudgery, I believed it to be? What if I saw it as cleaning and caring for the home that God gave me 10 years ago? What if my commute to and from work every day is not seen as a long drive and time wasted, but as time spent worshipping God with the radio or being taught God’s Word through audiobooks I’ve downloaded? What if its neither of these things and just quiet time with Jesus? What if I see going to work every day as the privilege it is! What if I see it as something God has enabled to do? It is God’s provision for me. The same with errands like going to the store.

I believe if we looked at more of the everyday things in life as privileges instead of routine things we must do, we will be more thankful, and in doing so, we will reap the benefits of a blessed and more joyful life.

Philippians 2:14-16

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 

Psalm 121

Meditating on Scripture is probably one of the most rewarding things a person can do. When you spend time with God in His Word your entire perspective on things change.

Recently, I have been going through one of those “phases”. With everything going on with the pandemic, the political craziness, the increase of lawlessness, and just life in general, a feeling of loneliness was settling heavy on my heart. A spiritual war was intensifying on the battlefield of my mind. I knew the only things that would win the battle would be the arsenal of the Word and a renewing of my mind.

I made a big mistake this year and did not have a study plan in place by January. I read the Word every day, but this year the plan was haphazard at best. I love the Word. I love seeing the story unfold and I absolutely love meditating on it. But these past few months, I seemed to have just drifted. Funny, how that happens. You just seem to drift and before you know it, you are not where you know you need to be.

Then one day, as I was putting things away and battling things in my mind, I glanced at the bulletin board in my home office and I see Psalm 121.1. I don’t remember when I actually wrote this, but God knew I would need it soon!

That one Scripture changed everything! I still have to fight the battle. The weapon I am using is meditating on Psalm 121; memorizing it, and letting the Holy Spirit recall other Scriptures that are hidden in my heart that strengthen my resolve to be the victor in the battle. The more I meditate on Psalm 121, the more the battle changes in my favor.

Not only is it renewing my mind, it is renewing my heart as well!

The next few posts on A Heart After Him, will be how God is renewing my mind with the washing of His Word. It’s a personal journey but you are welcome to come along.

Part 1

Theme

Two of the keys to effective Bible Study and effective meditating are to pay attention to the words and pay special attention to repetitions. You look for the theme

These eight verses pack a mighty wallop and the theme is obvious in one Hebrew word, shamar (שמר).  In this Psalm, the NIV translates the Hebrew word shamar (to keep, guard, watch over, attend to carefully) as watch. Other versions translate as keep, but really, any of the translated words reveal and mean the same thing and each brings its own powerful impact. More on this in the study of each verse in following posts.

“He watches” is mentioned five times in eight verses. Four times it says either “watches over you” or watches over your”.

In every verse it says things he will do or something that he is to you: He will not let your foot slip; He is your shade, he is my help. We see that He will not let the sun or moon harm (representing the dangers in the day and night.) Verse seven says he keeps us from all harm (evil).

The theme for Psalm 121 is that God watches over us, He guides us and He protects us from everything,  around the clock and He will never stop!

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

CLEAR THE FOREST

Praying Ephesians 1:17-23 and 3:14-19 is exciting! Why? Because God  does what you are praying for! However, sometimes the revelation he brings may not necessarily be what you were expecting!

In today’s reading of Joshua from the Year of the Bible reading plan from my church, we find ourselves with the Israelites taking the land as God commanded….well some of them were taking it. In chapter 17 we see that the clan of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) want more land because they were numerous. They asked for it, but didn’t want do the work to “clear the forest” or fight something stronger than themselves. They wanted the easy route.

Then God revealed how this passage described…….. my own actions and desires!!!! Wait a minute….. me, God? I thought this was about the Israelites!

I have been praying for something that I wanted God to do (give me)  and it didn’t appear that He was working in the direction I wanted him to work. I didn’t want to have to clear the forest and I definitely didn’t want to fight for it!!! I wanted to wait for God to just give it to me all wrapped and ready exactly how I wanted it and how I desired it.

Well, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way! God has something really good for us and sometimes it just might take some effort on our part to get it. I’m not talking about “works” or “earning” something from God. I’m talking about a faith partnership. God has provided and he will go to battle in front of me, I just have be willing to do what is required of me. For one, I needed an attitude adjustment! I also needed to remember Proverbs 3:5-6. I will trust in Him and not my own understanding. I will trust that He will guide me in all that I set out do in His will as I submit to Him.

The Israelites didn’t just waltz into the Promise Land…. they had to fight for it with a dedicated trust in the One who gave it to them. And so shall I.

FRUITS OF PERSONALITY

As we mature as Christians, we begin to display The Fruits of the Spirit, at least we should anyway!

As I was reading Galatians 5:22-23 it occurred to me the “fruit” described in these verses could also be used to describe the Holy Spirit. As we mature, we become more like Him and we have the same personality traits.

The Holy Spirit is love.

The Holy Spirit is joyful.

The Holy Spirit is peace.

The Holy Spirt is patient. (forbearance.)

The Holy Spirit is kind.

The Holy Spirit is good.

The Holy Spirit is faithful.

The Holy Spirt is gentle.

The Holy Spirit displays Self-control.

A NEW LENS FOR MY HEART

I recently had cataract surgery on both of my eyes. For a two-week period I had one “good” (right) eye and one “bad” (left) eye since most eye surgeons do not perform the surgery on both eyes at the same time. It was challenging during that two-week time frame because I could no longer wear my bifocal glasses.  They had been rendered useless the first day. My left eye is the dominate eye so it still needed them, but my right didn’t since I had upgraded to a multifocal lens that would eliminate the need for glasses for the most part.  I read a lot for both work and pleasure so I still needed my reading glasses to read my Bible and other really fine print for my left eye to be effective and because my right eye was still healing and adjusting. I didn’t need glasses at all for distance or for using the computer.

I often found myself covering up one eye and comparing it to the other eye. The difference was quite remarkable. I would tell people it is like the difference between regular TV and HD. However, the most notable difference happened last week while I was getting a pedicure. I must have been bored because I found myself covering my eyes one at a time to see how they compared after almost two weeks.

Thank goodness, I was there early on a Saturday morning and there weren’t a lot of people looking at the crazy lady covering her eyes one at a time while uttering “whoa” out loud in complete amazement.

When I covered my left eye, I could see bright white walls, sparkling color and HD like definition to the things around me. When I covered my right eye, it was looking through a golden-brown filter that left everything looking dull, dirty and fuzzy. Letters were often in double vision.  I was stunned by the difference. I hadn’t noticed the stark difference until I looked at the light-colored walls under the light of a brightly lit nail salon.

Then on Sunday, during my evening “prayer walk”, I thought about the upcoming second part of cataract surgery to replace the lens on the left eye. I thanked God for the success of the surgery on the right eye and I prayed that the second surgery would be just as successful. After a slight chuckle over my antics at the nail salon the day before, I remembered my optometrist trying to convince me over the last few years that I needed the surgery. I kept putting it off telling him I was “too young” and that I could see just fine as long as I had new glasses. He said that new glasses wouldn’t do any good since it was the presence of the cataracts that was impairing my vision. He said, “You will be surprised after you have the surgery. You have just gotten used to not being able to see clearly.”

As I pondered this, my prayer changed from my physical eyes to the eyes of my heart. Have I been walking with a cloudy, golden-brown filter that distorted what my heart could see? Have I become accustomed to not being able see the things of God clearly?  Am I confused by  double vision? 

So, I prayed Psalm 119:18.

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Oh, Lord, give me a new lens for my heart. I want to see things fresh, new, bright and clear. Open my eyes to see the hidden treasures in your Word. Remove the cataracts of my heart and help me see the world through your eyes under the bright light of Jesus.

 

TOOLS FOR A LIFETIME

Father, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Search me, O God and  know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 51;10, 139:23-24)

I begin this post today  with this  prayer from Psalms . Why? Because, honestly, I’m a little scared. God has placed a wonderful desire in my heart to learn to study His Word. But, the desire is not just for me to hold on to for myself; it’s a  desire to share and teach others what I have learned.

Disobedience to His call will kill the desire, pride will kill the desire, procrastination will kill the desire, doubt, sin, unfaithfullness and many more things will also kill the desire….all of which I am guilty.

God placed A Heart Him on my heart a few years ago as a tool to share the things that I have learned with others. I have not been faithful to the call.  I pray to change that with this wonderful second chance (or is it the third, fourth or hundreth chance?) I may not have been faithful to the call but God is always faithful!

Tools for Lifetime  are tips and methods that I have learned over the last few years from well known teachers. Each teacher has a style and method all their own, but I have discovered that they flow together beautifully. Each method I learn builds on or enhances the understanding of the one before, until BOOM, it makes sense and, above all….it WORKS. Scripture has opened up like never before. It’s mind blowing! It’s exciting! (see the SLOW DOWN post coming soon!)

Tools for a Liftime will be a small group at my church. However, I pray that those of you who read the posts will know that, from the bottom of my heart, the posts are not intended to be an “advertisment” for that group . My desire is that somehow, through these tips that are posted, God will stir a hunger in hearts and begin to open doors for people who want to read his Word and understand what it says.

Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.

I love you all and may God give us hearts that are open, eyes that see, and ears that hear.

Sherri