God so loved …

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace, ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:11 (NIVUK): ‘”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?”‘

Now we come to the last day of this issue about being ‘Pursued by Grace’, and Selwyn provides us with an excellent summary, which covers the abrupt ending to the story of Jonah (we never hear his response to God’s question).

“So now we must stop being curious about how Jonah answered God’s question and give our own response to it.

How do we feel about a God who loves those whose lives are characterised with godlessness and sin? Are we more interested in seeing them get their just deserts than in finding pardon and forgiveness?

Hopefully through the life of Jonah, we have had a glimpse into the immense world of God’s grace. The story focuses our gaze afresh on the fact that the God we serve and worship loves not just one particular race or people but the whole wide world.”

Judgment regarding a person’s spiritual status is purely a matter for God, while we may make judgments about good and evil actions, we can never make a judgment about a person’s relationship with the one and only God – that’s God’s territory.

I believe we are called to a life of compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love, which reflects the unconditional love of Jesus. He died on the cross for the whole world, even though not everyone will respond to His call to follow Him. (I’m avoiding the predestination debate for the moment, but I will say that God’s children are all chosen by Him.)

Any final comments on this subject?

‘Tell it slant!’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:10 (NIVUK): ‘”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.”‘

I liked today’s conclusion: “Does Jonah show any signs of understanding the point God is trying to get across? Sadly not. And God will respect (in general) the right of a person to say ‘No’ to the last. With Jonah we do not know the final outcome. But we do know, because of Jesus, the lengths that God will go to bring us back to Himself.”

All of us can suffer from the form of spiritual blindness, which Jonah was suffering from; that’s why (in my view) it’s important to come before God on a regular basis and seek His Spirit’s help to illuminate any wrong thinking that may be limiting our work for Him. To come before His throne with an open and receptive heart to His guiding words, will result in spiritual growth because He loves us dearly and will respond to this sort of request.

Do you agree?

A time-honoured practice

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:9 (NIVUK): 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.'”

Here we see that Jonah’s anger is based on his own self-interests; he is still refusing to look at the ‘big picture’ or try to understand what’s happening from God’s perspective; he could have asked God to help him understand but he is convinced of the righteousness of his own position; so, he is stuck in self-manufactured anger.

Selwyn provides us with an excellent summary: “It is amazing to me that God permits us to debate with Him. He has position and presence to consign us to utter oblivion, but He has the grace and patience, to listen to our arguments, even to debate with us as He dis with Jonah and others.

I don’t know about you, but I find this quite staggering. A God like this can have my heart and trust any time – all the time.”

I also find it staggering that the Creator of all that is seen and unseen, has the grace and patience to listen to our ignorant complaints – He must truly love us!

 

Danger!

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:7-8 (NIVUK): 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.'”

In a way, Jonah is a typical Israelite (of that time), a person consumed by their own self-righteousness that comes from their view that they are (the only) children of Abraham, God’s special nation – a privileged position; yet spiritually blind to the personal relationship which God is offering to people of all nations.

People who see themselves as saved because of the covenant they had with God, yet failing to live out the requirements of their covenant, especially in the areas of justice, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: “The only explanation for Jonah’s continued resistance to God can be that he felt there were things on his agenda that were more important to him than the items on God’s agenda.

He was a runaway and an escapist when we met him in chapter 1, and he is a runaway and an escapist still. He doesn’t arbitrarily sever the connection between God and himself, but he separates himself from God by his petulance and pride.”

We stand in absolute awe and reverence before the throne of God, our Creator, and our business is to do His will, which is, to make Him known to everyone. We make Jesus known to people by following Him where He leads us; and we certainly don’t tell God the path He should set for us in the hope it will be an easier path – but that’s what many of us try to do. Do you agree?

Grateful but not changed

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:5-6 (NIVUK): “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.”

Jonah is indeed a complex person, who appears to be consumed by his own self-interests.

Selwyn writes: “In these last few verses Jonah appears such a sad figure. Despite having been given the awesome honour of presenting God’s gospel to a Gentile city, he ends up peeved and petulant. The man who has been saved from certain death and seen a whole city turn to God, is left feeling sorry for himself.”

We can see that from the beginning to the end of the story of Jonah, he has not changed his attitude one little bit, despite the dramatic events which have occurred. It’s basically the world according to Jonah, and he is not prepared to open his eyes and see people and events in the same way that God sees them. Sadly, there are many people who refuse to see the world in a different perspective even when there is ample evidence to suggest that their view is flawed.

I can’t help thinking of Judas, who betrayed Jesus; he followed Him for at least three years, was a witness to many miracles and heard hours of preaching, he was closer to Jesus than many people. Yet, although he was close to Jesus, he never shifted from his agenda, based on self-interest.

Some people’s pride has been built up to such a dominating force that it blocks their view of God’s purposes and in this cripple state they can only focus on their own interests.

I believe that this is a problem for a small number of influential people in today’s churches; they pursue their own self-interests and ignore the call of Jesus to humbly follow Him.

What do you think?

Sulking Jonah

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:4 (NIVUK): But the Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’

There’s not a lot I can say about today’s study, here are some points made by Selwyn: “God has shown great love and kindness to the people of Nineveh, and now Jonah is about to get a taste of this God-filled grace treatment himself.

How wonderfully God comes alongside Jonah and brings objectivity to the situation by asking a question rather than making a statement. Jonah, however, does not reply. … How tragic that one of God’s prophets should put his own interests before those of his Lord.”

In James 1:19-20, we read: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  There can be times when it’s natural for a child of God, to be angry over the injustices and suffering seen throughout this world, which are caused by evil actions, but we must always take these emotions to God in prayer. What’s your view on this?

‘The depressive triad’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

July/August 2015 Issue – Pursued by Grace,  ‘I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’  (Jonah 4:2)

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

Jonah 4:3 (NIVUK): Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Selwyn writes: “Jonah’s inner turmoil now leads him to the stage where he wants his life to end. When anger is not traced back to the goal that is being blocked and properly dealt with by changing the goal then it can quickly find expression in self-pity and depression.

One psychologist has found that depressed people, generally speaking, have a jaundiced view of three things: themselves, others and the future. (Jonah, as we have seen is also unhappy with his current situation, the forgiven Ninevites and his future.)

Never forget that one of the greatest barriers to depression is seeing yourself, others  and the future from God’s point of view.”

Selwyn is right when he says we should try to see things from God’s point of view, as illustrated for us through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Bible. If, we trust in Jesus’ great love for us and we believe it’s His will for us to be with Him then we will see true value in ourselves, as the price God paid for us on His cross. And because our worth is given to us by God – no one can take it away – not even ourselves. Do you agree?