Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mrs. Doubtfire

Divorce. Common place in our world today, but it is still an action taken between two adults that can have very adverse affects on others (namely, in the case of the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, children). 

This movie came out in the early 90s. Divorce then was common place and it has only risen to an almost expected reaction to couples who 'cannot work out their issues'. I should know. I've gone through a divorce.

What has been a most important step for me is to not feel entitled but act in every circumstance possible with respect. If I feel I am entitled, I all of a sudden have an enumerable list of things that I believe I deserve. If, by contrast, I act on respect (in relationship to my ex-spouse and her relationships that exist, as well as self-respect and those within my own circle), though the journey of separation and eventual divorce is a hard road, it can be woven with peace.

In the example of the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, it is most certainly evident that the father (played by none other than Robin Williams) loves his kids; he would do anything for them. And that 'anything' means dressing up as a woman, so he can see his kids every day...and at the tail-end of the movie, he confesses insanity to describe his motive. He was crazy about his kids and needed and would do anything to see them. But, to the judge, his version and definition of insanity looked far different and his pronouncement and judgment was clear. He believed Daniel was not 'crazy for his kids', but he was just simply crazy and needed extensive counseling to resolve what was going on in his mind.

As the movie plays out, there are many characters that we are introduced to - all playing a pivotal role in the healing and new-roads that will be charted with this divorce of two people. We have the 'new guy' on the scene, who, some would say, was too new (which is described in one of the most funniest scenes where the mother, played by none other than Sally Fields, asks Mrs. Doubtfire if she had ever had sexual relations after her (fictional) husband died; to which the awful word of celibacy was introduced to Sally Fields' character). We have the family, both children and the extended family. We then have the extended circle of relationships, some old, and some new, that come on the scene as this divorce plays out. I could give a detailed account of each of these people. I feel very guilty about not giving them more time in this post as they most definitely deserve more than a passing mention (esp. how each plays such a powerful role in support and love for both people). But, for the remainder of this post, I would like to delve into what, in my opinion, is the most glaringly obvious theme that the story gives to us on such a precious gift-platter that, if we miss it, we'll miss a whole lot more in life. It's the Gift of Peace.

Not often do we see a 'fight scene' between the husband and wife, but it is very clear that these two characters have grown apart and there is much more that the director could have put in the script to communicate the downward spiral of their relationship. Yet it is clear they have much conflict that has not been resolved. But both are keenly aware, as well, the effects of this divorce (seen in both of the characters' eyes as Miranda communicates she wants a divorce early-on in the movie) - namely on the children. Yet The Gift of Peace that I'm referring to is the final scene and turning point in the movie. After all that has transpired, after all the insanity that Robin William's character has gone through, after the final and most hurtful court ruling for supervised visitation, Miranda seeks out Daniel after another session that Mrs. Doubtfire has on her new children's program. She seeks to speak to him and asks in a very kind and considerate way, if they can talk. Daniel obliges and they meet in Mrs. Doubtfire's living room (an incredible director's choice; more on that in a minute).

Miranda begins to explain that she doesn't want to 'hurt [their] children...' and passion erupts. She sees, yet again, the passion that her (now) ex-husband has for their children. His heart is broken because of the judge's 'despicable sentence'. Then the characters begin, as they always did, with banter and bickering. All because they both have so much care and concern for how much this has and will effect their children; the common bond that they will always have. But, with her face in her hands, Miranda then exclaims, 'I don't want to do this anymore...' and begins to try to make sense of it all and explains the only thing that makes sense to her is a fictional character's presence that brought happiness. Both standing in the living room of Mrs. Doubtfire's home, we become keenly aware that this woman brought peace to an otherwise very, very difficult experience; she brought out the best in their children, the best in Daniel, the best in Miranda. Though a fictional character, in the lives of these people in this film, and for us, the audience, Mrs. Doubtfire is The Gift of Peace in an otherwise very convoluted and difficult circumstance. Though the valley of pain was horrific, Miranda discovers that the beauty of this character was not fictional at all...but was standing right in front of her, in the image of her now ex-husband. In purest confession, she understands that Mrs. Doubtfire was not a fictional character at all, but an aspect of her ex-husband that her children need. And we are left, not with a 'happily every after' ending, but with an ending of Peace. Peace in a surprising way as, in many other circumstances, divorce does not end peacefully and often has a very long, drawn-out difficult road that in some circumstances, never really heals; the parties are left to live with scars that will never completely heal. Yet, if they were to find the Gift of Peace, whatever and how ever that can be discovered, it truly gives great healing and promise to the characters' futures. This Gift of Peace that I am referring to in Mrs. Doubtfire is the personification of Forgiveness.

So...what is left to say? We all know how to forgive as we all know how to hold a grudge. One continues the journey of peace in our lives while the other continues the downward spiral of hurt, pain and more confusion. I, for one, know all too well the way pain and unforgiveness can truly taint a future that is could very well be filled with hope, new opportunities and new relationships. But these simply cannot occur, in their purest forms, nor can we accept and be truly thankful for them unless we seek out our own Gift of Peace.

I am truly thankful for this movie and have begun to see new roads in my own life that are beginning to be brighter and brighter, all because I have sought out Peace and Forgiveness instead of judgment, holding a grudge and further acts of pain inflicted on the other. This Gift of Peace has changed my life. Forgiveness is the only balm that can cover and heal.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump. Most of us have gathered in the living room to watch this movie - perhaps more than once. Me? I watched it today because I knew I needed to...

It is probably a most-known fact that the 'magic' of Forrest Gump is that we, as the viewers, can identify with at least one character or, failing that, can at least identify with a few scenes. Like no other, Forrest Gump spans generations, it spans memories, it even spans beliefs. Yet, at the same time, it is chock-full of lessons that each of us can both identify and grow from.

After just seeing it again for probably the 20th time, there are a few scenes that have really resonated with me. These scenes have helped me put back together some of the broken pieces of my life and I would like to write about them as a quasi-form of therapy here. You are welcome to journey along with me...

The Scene of Lieutenant Dan Dealing with Destiny

This man had a destiny. He had a long line of heritage - as his ancestors had died on the field, his so-called destiny was to die on the field as well. Yet 'Gump' (as he affectionately called him) 'cheated him out' of his destiny. Gump carried him off the field. He, along with many others, were rescued from imminent danger. And their lives were never to be the same again. It was clear that Lieutenant Dan struggled for many years after this until he 'made peace with God'. The scene of him leaping off of the ship is charged with much emotion, yet I have a different scene that I believe, in my circumstances that I find myself in today, speaks louder. The scene of he and his fiance 'Susan' arriving on Forrest and Jenny's wedding day. They exchange pleasantries. Each introduces the other to his significant other, and then they lock eyes. Nothing was spoken. No words were heard, at least not audible ones. But the look between these two friends is priceless. Why? Because in it we finally hear the Song of Peace playing its sweet melody on the heart-strings of Lieutenant Dan's (finally) scar-clad heart that is of purest gold. He understands. By the look in his eye we all get a front-row seat to see that there is hope after trial. We can move on. Though our idea off destiny crumbles before us, we can rise again. Though scarred and, literally, limping along, Lieutenant Dan looks his friend in the eye and sings the simple two-chord melody of Thank You. Overwhelming grace-filled thanks is what is exchanged. Lieutenant Dan has finally walked through the fire of trial and has learned the valuable lessons so few dare to stare in the face for fear of getting burned. Though the scars remain. Though the limp is evident. Lieutenant Dan smiles because he is at peace with his destiny and life. He has finally let go.

The Scene of Jenny Confessing Her Love to Forrest

If you remember, this isn't the first time that Jenny says 'I love you' to Forrest, but it is clearly the first time it is from the purest of intentions. After all that her life has come to. After all the choices that she has made. Contrary to the scene where she stands on the stairs and hears Forrest's proposal of marriage and rejects him because he '...wouldn't want to marry [her]', she knows that she is accepted. Lying in this bed, looking into his eyes, she knows she is unequivocally accepted. She knows that there is nothing that she has done to deserve this love Forrest has offered her continually through all of her life. Even despite the scene where he confesses his love for her and she says, ' don't know what love is', like she, with the choices she has made in her life to that point in the film, has somehow discovered its secret. In this beautiful scene, she reaches over, takes his hand, and says those magical words, 'I love you'. It is in response to Forrest relaying to her the things that he figured out while he ran. He described in detail the sun rising and setting, the sky so full of beauty, as best he could. And in response, Jenny, looking out the window, imagining what it could have been like, exclaimed, 'I wish I could have been there with you', to which Forrest responds, 'You were'. After he says this, she is so filled with love for him, that she says those three little words that he has longed for her to say all of his life. And yet, he, in response now, does not respond. He does not say a word. He is so caught up in emotion. And the story continues as the characters narration of his own story continues, that she died on a Saturday morning, and he placed her under 'their tree'...their love for each other will never grow dim.

The Scene of Little Forrest Getting on the Bus

This is, by far, my most favourite scene. We, the audience, knows that the film is almost over. We, the audience, are hoping that all will turn out right; that the characters' lives will somehow work out. But life, like this film, does not end this way. Lieutenant Dan's legs have not magically been put back together. Forrest's mind has not magically developed. Jenny has not magically risen from the dead. There has been pain, real pain, in this story. We cannot say that, '...and they all lived happily ever after', because that would be a lie. But I would say that they, each in their own way, had come to a realisation that there can be joy; there can be peace in the trial. Forrest clearly made sure that the bus driver and Little Forrest were on the same page (communicated by the nod once his little one climbs onto the bus), but there is this hesitation on Forrest's part that I would like to conclude my journal entry of the movie with. Forrest speaks out to his son and says, 'Hey Forrest don't...' We are left with what he might have wanted to say because he caught himself short. He changed his tune. In those few seconds Forrest hesitated. He, being a loving father now, wanted to protect his son from all the things that might have come his way. But in those few seconds, each of us is reminded of all that has transpired in this man's life and we, too, come to the same conclusion: Let life be. Let it flow. Let the circumstances fall where they must. And what remains? Love. Forrest tells his son, 'I love you'. And that is all that is needed. Love does conquer all. Instead of protecting his loved-one from harm, from pain, from circumstances that he, even in his little life, could be confronted with (juxtaposing back to the first day on Senior Forrest's first day of school), it is all worth it. And we are left with the answer to one of life's most difficult questions: Is it all worth it?

Maybe these thoughts of mine are a bit too deep. Maybe not one of these trails of thought really resonate with you. That's ok. As I mentioned, I knew I needed to do this. I have come to a place in my life where, unknowingly, there are many scenes (and characters) in my life that parallel the amazing story and script of Forrest Gump. Love gained and lost. Characters who have come in and out of my life in ways I cannot even begin to comprehend why. Circumstances filled with pain that have not yet had their eureka moment revealed. And yet, the proverbial 'bus scene' in my life has come many, many times and I have still come to the same conclusion that life is worth living. Pain is worthy struggling through. Love is worth risking. Even though each of these experiences may not have the outcome that we wish they had, they are each, in their own way, completely worth it. We just need to dare ourselves to reach out and take the opportunity, knowing all too well that it will cause pain, heartache and many other things, but it will be worth it.

I can identify with more than one character in this film. I identify with Lieutenant Dan's struggle for destiny, Jenny's search for meaning in all the wrong places, and Forrest's longing to be loved for who he is instead of what he's not. I can identify with each of the characters at the bus stop - some listening intently, others, not paying close enough attention. Yet I can also identify with more than a few scenes; I could have written about many more. The scene of Forrest and his mother talking of destiny. The scene of Forrest and Bubba on the beach in Vietnam. The scene of Jenny saying to Forrest 'I'll always be your girl' yet still getting on the bus. Like no other, Forrest Gump indeed spans generations. It spans life's memories. It even spans beliefs. Yet, at the same time, it is chock-full of lessons that each of us can both identify and grow from. I know I have appreciated its lessons this evening. And know that I will also seek to live out the truths that are clearly visible in this beautiful movie. Risk love. Risk trial. Risk pain. Each are worth it. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

TheStoryOfJonah: The Marvel of an Unhappy Servant 4:1-4

These few verses at the beginning of this chapter give us what I like to call the 'eureka moment'. Now we see Jonah's motive for running away in the first place. 

I like how Wiersbe entitles this last section - 'The Marvel of an Unhappy Servant'. He writes, 

'If in chapter 1 Jonah is like the Prodigal Son, insisting on doing his own thing and going his own way (Luke 15:11–32); then in Chapter 4, he’s like the Prodigal’s elder brother—critical, selfish, sullen, angry, and unhappy with what was going on.'

The truth of the matter here is that we see here a man full of pride. He was known to be a prophet and if his prophecy that the city of Nineveh would not be destroyed had become reality, he would be labelled as a false prophet and not really aware of who the LORD was. Then what do you do? It's interesting to note what Jonah knows about God and why his pride gets the best of him.

Note his prayer (in contrast to his prayer in the whale two chapters earlier):

Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.

Jonah was too caught up in his own self-identity to see the identity of God - being full of grace and compassion. I find this so interesting (and convicting). Jonah was a recipient of this grace and compassion from the LORD - but to give this to others who 'don't deserve it'? - no way! Do you see how warped a philosophy (and theology) this can be?

Jonah was thankful that God literally gave his life back, but now he's asking the LORD to take it away, because who he's created the LORD to be in his mind, doesn't match up with who the LORD truly is - and Jonah is having a crisis of faith. But rather than repent and receive the incredible realities of God, he runs, inwardly this time, because he cannot take the realities that are thrust before him. God is revealing Himself to Jonah, and it's too convicting for him and he tries, once again, to flee.

These characteristics of a Holy God simply didn't match what Jonah believed to be Who the LORD was regarding His people. It just didn't make sense to Jonah how God could change His mind. And, as they say, it all makes sense now. Jonah knew, deep down, Who the Father was and so he ran. Wiersbe explains it well, that we see both sons in the parable that Jesus teaches of the Prodigal Son. Both are ugly, but both need forgiveness and both would receive it, if they came face to face with their pride and accept the LORD's forgiveness. 

So you knew it was coming (as did I), but what about us? How do we respond to this aspect of the LORD? If I was honest enough with myself, I would see so very clearly that Jonah really didn't respond all that well to God giving grace to others - and it's a reflection of how I mostly respond to others in my own life. It's that ugly thing called entitlement. We're more than happy to receive grace ourselves from the LORD, but when that (more than undeserved) grace is extended to others...we all of a sudden expose our own prideful, entitlement monster in our own souls. The truth of the matter is that we don't deserve the LORD's grace either. None of us do. As soon as we baulk at others' receiving His grace, we reveal the trueness of our own hearts and we need to repent. 

And so, to end this section, the LORD asks Jonah a simple question:

Do you have good reason to be angry? We will look at the next section that deals with both Jonah and God - how they clearly are different perspectives - but may we dwell on this question, coming from a Holy, Gracious God now and soul-search. The LORD truly is asking us to know Him, trust Him, and believe Him - even if we can't quite put Him in our 'box of understanding'.

The fact is, God is Holy, Just and Righteous. We are not. But in that holiness, justice and righteousness, the LORD seeks to reveal Himself to us - in mercy and grace. And simply asks, 'How are you going to respond to the people around you, who desperately need this Mercy and Grace that I so amply supply you?'

Sunday, January 29, 2017

MorningbyMorning : 2 Cor. 4:18

"The things which are not seen."—2 Corinthians 4:18.

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. 

Looking further yet, the believer's enlightened eye can see death's river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne. The thought of this future may well relieve the darkness of the past and the gloom of the present. The joys of heaven will surely compensate for the sorrows of earth. Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and thou shalt soon have forded it. Time, how short—eternity, how long! Death, how brief—immortality, how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol's clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there.

"When the world my heart is rending
With its heaviest storm of care,
My glad thoughts to heaven ascending,
Find a refuge from despair.
Faith's bright vision shall sustain me
Till life's pilgrimage is past;
Fears may vex and troubles pain me,

I shall reach my home at last."


Spurgeon has done it again! What an incredible devotional! As a true Servant of the LORD, he has, with machete in hand, cleared the brush for us to see a glimpse of the Majesty that awaits us - this immensely wonderful promise-filled Hope of Eternity that is more than within our grasp!

When the gloom of life looms ever nearer, sometimes the only thing to do is bow in despair, it seems. Yet, our Saviour lifts our drooping soul in such wonderful words of His grace. Did you read and believe these words :  

'...hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne.' (italics, mine)

Look at each of these actions bestowed on us - crowned, embraced, glorified, made to sit - none that we have earned, but all for His glory. And what a wonderful word, 'together with Him on His throne'. Together. With Him. Such great eternity awaits us! And what is our response? We are so often filled with doubts, despair and gloom. What ever shall we do? Listen to great counsel:

'Hush, hush, my doubts! death is but a narrow stream, and thou shalt soon have forded it. Time, how short—eternity, how long! Death, how brief—immortality, how endless! Methinks I even now eat of Eshcol's clusters, and sip of the well which is within the gate. The road is so, so short! I shall soon be there.'

I love how Spurgeon concludes this devotional for today. As the Apostle Paul, he draws a contrast from what we experience today, here and now, with the immense blessing of what is awaiting us: Short vs. Eternity. Brief vs. Endless. Such wonderful words! And in a way only he can, Spurgeon paints a picture of us plucking from the fruit found in the Promise Land (see Numbers 13:23, 24), with more and more awaiting us for all eternity. 

And yet, I am struck with this comparison. As we know, there was a clan who went to 'spy out the land' and came back with an overabundance of clusters, large and small, with a report for the people to respond. How did they respond? With doubt, despair and gloom. And so 40 years of wandering became their epitaph. 

What are you and I writing as our epitaph? The Clusters of Eshcol are extended to us by our Saviour's nail-scarred hands. Dare to take them and taste and see what the LORD has done for you and for me.

TheStoryOfJonah : The Result of a Few Simple Words 3:5-10

Have you ever experienced this? Jonah's few, simple words was the birthing of true repentance in the people of Nineveh. As we reflected on the aspects of repentance in chapter 2, notice that each of these aspects appears in the Ninevites' response.

Pray to God - There certainly was prayer issued. Note that the people of Nineveh together believed in God (vs. 5). Note the decree of the king and nobles - Let everyone call urgently on God (vs. 8). There was an urgent decree for all people to pray and ask the LORD to forgive.

Accept Discipline - The  people of Nineveh certainly knew that they were close to being wiped out. Jonah's words, though simple, were a warning to them. They knew destruction was near if they did not accept the LORD's discipline. Yet, note the contrast in their acceptance. Jonah's discipline was brought on by God - these peoples' discipline was brought on by their their own actions (putting on sackcloth, fasting, etc.) which explains an interesting dynamic in discipline. I remember a story of a little girl, who knew that she had done wrong - and locked herself in her room. When her mother found her, she asked why her daughter was there, only to hear the response from her little girl that she knew she had done wrong and sent herself to her room. The people of Nineveh 'sent themselves to their room' because they knew they had displeased the LORD.

Trust in God - Again, we read the words that the Ninevite's desired to trust in God, but I can't help but wonder if there was much more that Jonah could have said to them, that would have put their hearts at ease. They said, once they had done all that they could to prove they were serious about repenting, Who knows? God may yet relent...I just can't help but see a misunderstanding here about God. God promised that he would overthrow the city in 40 days. Yet the people were given a chance, but it is clear they were not quite sure whether their actions would have been enough to appease an angry God. This is the part that we never really want to talk about, in our relating to God (and a concept that very few discuss in devotionals): Trusting in God is a fearful place to be. When we put our full trust in God, it's accepting the outcome, from the hand of a Holy God. Frankly, we have enough Old Testament knowledge to know that to put our lives in the hands of God is a very fearful and often disturbing thing to do. God is to be feared, no, He is to be greatly feared. And these people knew it. Yet, it gives us a new definition in trust, doesn't it? To trust God with the outcome is truly trusting Him, and placing ourselves at His feet to do His will, not ours. Which leads us to the next aspect.

Yielding to God - The people of Nineveh definitely yielded their lives to God. As already explained, there was an acknowledgement of their sin, and actions, on their part, to communicate that they knew they had been wayward in their actions. They proved through their actions that they believed they needed to be forgiven. Note that the actions done were from the king - he knew his city had fallen far and needed to seek the LORD - an the people of Nineveh yielded (or hoped) in the LORD, being led by his example.

Redemption - 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 (vs. 10). Just as when Jonah was in the whale, crying out to the LORD, the LORD heard his cries. What a beautiful word - relented. defines relent as

1. to soften in feeling, temper, or determination; become more mild, compassionate, or forgiving.

2. to become less severe; slacken i.e. The winds relented.

Just as the winds relent, we see here of a Holy God relenting. He could have easily seen the waywardness of the people of Nineveh and seen how 'prone to wander' they really were and judged them for it. He would have had every right to do so. But He redeemed them instead.

From the outset of this small book, we learn that this story is not about Jonah and repentance (though these definitely are themes that keep creeping up - stay tuned for more), nor is it officially about how God can give second chances, but the point of this whole dialogue (and this book) is that God is God. He is a Holy, Righteous God who is not to be toiled with - yet in our trusting Him, we can find redemption for our souls.

What fire can spread with a small, few words!

Friday, January 6, 2017

MorningByMorning : 1 Peter 5:7

"Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."—1 Peter 5:7.

It is a happy way of soothing sorrow when we can feel—"HE careth for me." Christian! do not dishonour religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to Him but as the small dust of the balance. Nothing is so sweet as to,

"Lie passive in God's hands,
And know no will but His."

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in His providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses.

There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, His heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of His family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not His grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that He loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness. 

What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust Him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, He has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! Have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

- C.H.Spurgeon


What wonderful words. What wonderful promises! This entry (the first in a new series) most-definitely deserves some meditation...

There are commands of Love all spattered through this text. Do you see them?

Do not dishonour [the LORD] by always wearing a brow of care.

God has not passed us over in His Providence

There is One who cares for us

He will bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts

He loves us in seasons of happiness as well as in seasons of trouble

What wonderful, wonderful promises we receive when we fix our eyes on our Heavenly Father! I, for one, know that I need to hear these words often in my life, as I am often too busy to stop and look around and see, with such wonderful, glorious clarity, that He has been here all along and has loved me (and is actively loving me now). 

Are you like me? Are you often doubting where the LORD is, how on earth He could still be here in this mess? May we look up today. May we dare to stretch out necks out through the miry pits of mud we've been swimming in, and see the Light, our Saviour, on the horizon. 

He has never refused to bear our burdens. It is us that have refused to cast them on Him. In His grace, He gladly takes them. In Faith, may we, today, gladly give our cares to Him and receive the grace that our souls so eagerly need.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

TheStoryOfJonah : A Man of Simple Words 3:3b-4

I found it helpful to do a bit of research on Nineveh to gain a better understanding of perhaps why Jonah was so reluctant to go there. Wiersbe writes in his Old Testament Commentary:

'Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nah. 3:10).'

Was this the reason why Jonah didn't want the job of being sent to Nineveh? Perhaps. One thought occurred to me as I read these few verses, though, that maybe there was a hesitation on Jonah's part as he might have thought he would be one of those who would be 'impaled live on sharp poles...beheaded...skinned alive'. Maybe. But truly it is a privilege to receive a call from the LORD to go - and now we see that Jonah, despite what may have happened to him, went trusting the LORD. Dare I say, where are our Nineveh's today?

Look at his message. How simple can you get?! Jonah says, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'I discovered another interesting bit of information from Wiersbe regarding this: 

'Throughout Scripture, the number forty seems to be identified with testing or judgment. During the time of Noah, it rained forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4, 12, 17). The Jewish spies explored Canaan forty days (Num. 14:34), and the nation of Israel was tested in the wilderness forty years (Deut. 2:7). The giant Goliath taunted the army of Israel forty days (1 Sam. 17:16), and the Lord gave the people of Nineveh forty days to repent and turn from their wickedness.'

Jonah, being a prophet, knew all about this city and about God's judgment on it (and other cities, for that matter). But I'd like to go back a few words to the 'second calling' the LORD had on Jonah's life. He fled from the first calling, and, as we've looked at it, it was pure grace that the LORD still considered Jonah worthy of this calling. Yet note what God says to Jonah: Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you (3:2). We don't read anywhere after this that Jonah and God had an additional chat. We don't read anywhere where God taps him on the shoulder and says, specifically, what He desires Jonah to say. This reminds me of Jesus' call to His disciples: ' not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you' (Matt. 10:19, 20).

Was Jonah depending on God when he said these eight words to these people? I'm not sure. But the outcome is sure, because Jonah's obedience is sure:  Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them (vs. 5)

Again, we are thrust into considering the amazing grace of our LORD who, knowing what Jonah would say, decided to use Jonah, frail and disobedient as he was, anyway. This man of simple words went. He risked a day into the great city of Nineveh and the people listened. And the LORD was glorified.

Some have argued that it might have been Jonah's state of mind (and physical attributes) as to why he stated something so simple, being still rather bleached from the whale for three days, that convinced the people to listen. I do liken this to Moses coming down off the mountain, after being in the presence of God, his face shone. Jonah's face was shining of a different sort, but I do see the co-relation. Yet I would argue that it was more than a physical characteristic of  Jonah that caused the people to listen. This was the LORD in action. 

The LORD knew that He could use Jonah. Jonah, still, clearly didn't quite understand, so he used what little words he could. But even in the little words, God can be proclaimed. This reminds me of the loaves and fishes. What little we offer, but with God, how much He does with our little offering!

May we, today, share truth, even if it's small, little nuggets. The LORD is with us and can make great change to people around us, if we just simply trust in Him, with what little we have.