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I Am Jonah Prayer

Answers | Prayer Rehab

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I Am Jonah, this blog is also, in some way, a journal of how I’m learning to follow Jesus again. Part of it is about chronicling the tension between what God wants of, in and through me.

Lately, it seems God is putting me through prayer rehab. Reclaiming an appreciation of prayer and its significance. Sometimes it is not that I or we don’t know anything. It is not that we have forgotten but we need reminders. We need renewed perspective, vision, and passion.

A renewed sense of weightiness… It seems, at least for me, God always takes me back to the “elementary” to grow me, mature me to the “next level”, whatever that is.

Back to prayer…

God answers prayer. He does. Many times I’ve been frustrated with Him because ‘He didn’t answer my prayers’. The truth: most of the times He has answered my prayers the answer has been “no”.

Like a brat nagging mom or dad because they answered my request but not with the answer I wanted… That is how my prayer life has been in many seasons of my life.

Nothing but a nag. No depth. Me-focused. Intense on what I wanted… There are times the sum of my prayer life has been me giving God marching orders. My shopping list.

There are times my prayer life is nothing more than a rant about my problems. My challenges. I must be transparent, honest with God as I connect with Him. God is not shocked by my frustrations with the answers I get from Him, sometimes.

My humanity doesn’t shock or surprise God… Those times I rant, complain, and yes, even those times I’ve scolded God for not doing what I asked. For not doing what I wanted. What I told him, no, for not doing what I ordered Him to do.

I’m being reminded that I sometimes God’s answer is, “no”. Sometimes the answer is, “not that way or in this time”. The answer has also been, “never”.

This morning (sounds like a guy on the podium on Sunday morning right, but I am actually writing this in the early morning hours)

This morning, I am being reminded that even Paul, the apostle, the missionary, had desires to go places and God squashed them. Surely, he prayed about his plans… God’s answer to his plans were sometimes contrary to what Paul wanted. This is true for me. For us and our plans… Sometimes our prayers are in our plans / planning…

Sometimes God’s answer is, “Go!” and that can also freak me out. Somehow, God has a way of answering by giving us assignments we feel are greater than us. We feel ill-prepared and perhaps don’t measure up to.

Yet, He still sends me. Sometimes God’s answers are exactly what we wanted… That’s the next post.

Today, God, I pray, give me courage to accept and make peace with all Your answers… Amen.

 

Related:

More, Deeper Than A Craft

More Than A Combination Of Twenty Six Letters

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I Am Jonah

Fearing Breaking Homiletics, Hermeneutics And Other Rules

I’m doing theology studies. I particularly enjoy hermeneutics. I like seeing things in “the Text” that never saw before. Understanding is key to spiritual growth.

Homiletics: the art of preaching or writing sermons

Hermeneutics: concerning interpretation of the Bible or literary texts

While studies are liberating I feel like they are also a prison. I’m convinced there are right and incorrect ways of approaching Scripture.

With that said, sometimes afraid of breaking homiletics and hermeneutics rules. It’s like I’ve been made to believe that God will only speaks if I exegete the Scriptures a particular way. But can God only speak one way through Scripture?

Fearing Breaking Homiletics, Hermeneutics And Other Rules

I sometimes feel like by not doing what the homiletics tell me to I sin and rob people of hearing from God as I speak. I can recall a few times when I’ve felt the need to break the homiletics rules. There are times I’ve had the sense that while I stood before people and spoke, God was fighting to get His message through me.

To many like me, how many times do we “shotblock” God’s message from getting to people because of the “science” we’ve made of communicating His Word.

There are many other big words that I sometimes live in fear of and perhaps slavery to. Dare I say… I sometimes wonder how I’ve not helped others get easy access to God because of the vocabulary I’ve used. Because of a “method” I’ve employed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that I misuse or abuse Scripture but that sometimes it seems I’m more afraid of breaking some of these “rules” than I am of not doing what God tells me to.

My cry doesn’t cease: May I help people closer to God and not push them further with a vocabulary they cannot relate to. May I never be afraid to break the rules to allow God and His love to break through me and change lives.

[photo credit: Reverend Pain]

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I Am Jonah Jonah Notes

On Starting “I Am Jonah”

I’ve been blogging for a while. Not here but on my other blog. When I was starting out on the other blog I knew I wanted to write about life and leadership as well as journey as a Christ follower.

Having blogged for a while I realized that was too much to load onto one blog. At least for me. I don’t like clutter.

I also felt I needed to have a unique expression of my faith that would resonate, be relevant to the journey of other people also.

I had no desire to have another typical ‘devotional-type’ blog. There are enough “devotional-type packed” blogs. At least for me. This blog “I Am Jonah” took a while to develop. Perhaps I should say for me to put enough “handle” on the concept and theme to start working on it.

I Am Jonah” is not a unique concept. I knew some people or churches ran series on this. I was intentional in avoiding checking out what they had done because I didn’t want to taint the ideas I had. In fact, I still haven’t checked out how other people have expressed their concept of “I Am Jonah”.

I hesitated and tried to develop the theme “just a little more”… In the end, it was the actual doing that would tell whether the theme could be pulled off and if it could be relevant. So I decided to stop conceptualizing and just get to it.

There must always come a time of action. Nothing changes until something changes.

I’ve been a Christ follower for over two decades but there has never been a time I have felt like I still need to grow more than now. I Am Jonah is a part of journaling my journey as I, in a sense, start again in my walk with God.

While capturing some of my challenges as I walk with God, I also incorporate stories of other people who are following Christ and still learning to follow like I am.

At the moment most of the conversations either happen offline, for people that I’m fortunate to connect with offline. Another place conversations seem to happen is on the social network I publicize posts on. For instance, someone follows a link from Facebook, reads the post on the blog and returns to comment on the referring network.

I’m obviously not telling the complete story. There will be more snippets into the story of I Am Jonah and the blog itself as I continue to journal with an audience as well as capture others’ stories.

If you haven’t already, do check out the blog post why I Am Jonah here, which also tells a part of the story behind this blog. You can also check out some of the other reasons I blog check out the post “Unmasked” on my other blog here.

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I Am Jonah Through Lenses

Who Am I Serving?

This scripture just struck me like a lightening bolt. Fear filled my heart as I read it.

It is the light of the Word that’s bringing to light that when I fear people, their opinions and even their threats more than God, in that instant I serve man. Do I sometimes serve fear more than God?

The answer to this question doesn’t come easy. Not because it is a difficult one; because it is not the one I’d rather give every time. Sometimes I do let fear get the best of me and I end up not serving God nor His purposes for others.

Thus when the motives for my action are in fear of people, I serve people more than I do God. Unsettling!

I must remember that God is jealous. He will only have me if He has complete ownership and not as a shareholder.

The only approval of me that matters is His. Not my approval of myself or anyone of me. His.

I Am Jonah.

God help me. Sometimes I want to please man, more than you. There are times I am aware of this and at other times I realise this when I’m already caught up.

Give me courage to disappoint man, especially when I am that man. In my life be supreme. I am wholly yours. May my love and respect for you be stronger than the desire to be loved by man. May you be the first and only say in my life. Amen.

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I Am Jonah Through Lenses

Light Does

Light reveals by showing enabling sight. It also reveals things by casting shadows.

I sometimes feel exposed when I read God’s word. My motives are often challenged.

My priorities come into question.

I can never come into alignment with what God wants in me, for and through me without allowing His light to probe me.

It is sometimes uncomfortable but what I need. I sometimes run from the scrutiny of His light but He reminds me it is for my good and His glory.

I Am Jonah.

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I Am Jonah

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

I’ve met many people with crazy, insane stories about how they encountered God. I’ve also heard many stories about how people have seen visions and got “a word from God” in some fireworks-spectacular-way. I get jealous, sometimes. Why can’t God speak to me like He did or does with others?

Something else that also kinda messes me up is how God seems to let others do cooler stuff than me. I’m not saying He shouldn’t have given some assignments to other people. I just wish He’d spread out some of those assignments to me too.

It’s almost as if other Christ followers get ice cream and I get peas and oats. Bleh. After all I want to do it for His glory. Well, honestly sometimes my motives are messed up. (There are times where I try to steal God’s shine.)

Demeaning Assignments God Gives Me

When I read Jonah 1:1 it says, God’s word came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh. There isn’t much detail on how it came. It seems somehow God was more concerned about His word getting to Jonah than He was about furore in its delivery.

Maybe it was dramatic. Fireworks, trumpets and all. Or may be it was when Jonah was having his first cup of coffee of the day while reading scrolls God penned through Moses. Or he was fishing, trying to catch his supper. (I just had to throw that one in. Jonah and fish, you know… Hehe…)

I’m sometimes responsible for demeaning assignments God gives me. I sometimes get caught up in that they did not “come to me” in any spectacular way.

I sometimes forget that the supernatural is not always spectacular [Click to Tweet]

I undermine the assignments God gives me when I’m more concerned about how they come than Who they come from. I undermine God’s assignments when I want to be the rock star. I seek ‘rock star status’ when I want to put myself and not the ultimate object, God’s glory at the center.

I forget that the worth of God’s assignment is in Who they come from and what they ought to accomplish [Click to Tweet]

It is not how God’s word comes when He gives me assignments, but that He does. What is important is that I’m an agent of His love to the world and not the magnet of spotlights.

God, help me keep everything in perspective… I’m sorry for messing with lives you wanted me to touch by being caught up in how I wanted attention. Forgive me. I Am Jonah. Amen.

[Photo Credit: See Modern Britain]

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I Am Jonah

Success When God Sends

Jonah’s story, the one in the Bible, starts with God’s word “coming” to Jonah (Jonah 1:1). (This is one of those moments my head says, “Whatever that means”). God reaches and speaks to us differently at different times, as different people.

God sends us. How humbling.

Related:

ME | What The Assignments God Gives Reveal (Part 1)

GOD | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 2]

OTHERS | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 3]

So, God sends Jonah, he didn’t go where he should have at first, but ended up seeing an entire city turn to God. What a story. I sometimes get caught up imagining that. Reaching an entire city, right up to its king.

Success When God Sends

I read this and don’t understand why silly Jonah got upset with that. Who wouldn’t want a city turning to God, as God’s sent person to that city? Jonah had what many Christ followers call, “A successful” ministry.

I want one. A successful ministry that is. I have these moments I imagine myself being “used of God” (that voice in my head again, “whatever that means”) that entire cities turn to Him. Ministry should be like that. Because God is with us, we must see “great responses and harvests”

(I feel “polluted” with jargon.)

I mean I’ve heard Daniel 11:32 preached… You know, “Those who know their God will do great things.” Does that “great things” mean I’ll get to stand in front of thousands to preach? Is great defined by the number of people who come to “hear me” preach or read my blogs?

Do I have the same definition of “great things” as God does?

It is the discrepancy between God’s definitions and mine that cause frustration in me [Click to Tweet]

In fact, these discrepancies are the source of my biggest disappointments with God. Why hasn’t God done this or that? One of the reasons is that simple: I have imposed my definitions of success and His will on Him. God doesn’t honor that.

What if my story is not Jonah’s? What if my story is Jeremiah’s, who from a young age preached as God sent him and so nothing as “dramatic and grand” as Jonah?

Jeremiah hardly had success like Jonah, if any. He preached throughout his life and every time he did, things got bad for him. He was arrested, thrown in a well and ridiculed. Had God sent him? Yes.

Am I willing to be in discomfort for the sake of God sending me?

There are times God has sent me, and I knew it was God sending me. However, somewhere along the way I battled separating what God wanted from what I wanted. I was clear about what the goal was. But somehow my selfish ambition and ego tried to feature in the execution.

Has “success” when God sends us, become subjective… to us and not by God’s standards? [Click to Tweet]

I pray I don’t get it twisted. I don’t ever want to get caught up in the belief that the more crowds I preach to the more successful and blessed I am. I don’t want the attention I draw or fail to draw to be the measure of God’s blessing on what I do or the assignments I know He’s called me too.

I’m confident that God was equally happy with Jonah and Jeremiah meeting their assignments. (Well He wasn’t happy about Jonah’s whining after, but you get the point I’m trying to make. Right?)

Sometimes I Am Just Jonah, when it comes to aligning God’s will and mine.

God, may doing exactly what you send me to do be enough. Help me never to make anything else more important. May my success be enough in being true only to you and where you send me. Amen.

[Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com]

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I Am Jonah

OK To Struggle With God, But In God

It is not always easy being vulnerable about struggles with myself in relating to God and what He expects of me. I wish I was super spiritual. The thing is, growing up as a Christian there were times I was made to believe that the more you matured spiritually the less you struggled with stuff. That you were impervious to temptation and unChrist-like behavior.

I wish I knew earlier that it was OK, fine, to struggle with stuff. I’m not saying that it is fine to give into temptation but that temptation and other struggles of being a Christ follower don’t make you a “lesser” Christ follower. What determines whether you’re immature or not, is your response to temptation and struggles.

I’ve been liberated to know that it is fine to have struggles with God. I mean Jonah, for example, struggle with God’s plans for the people of Nineveh and went to Tarshish (Jonah 1:2-3). Maybe that’s not the best example, what about Paul, kind of the rock star Christian right, he struggled with God because of some thorn (Romans 7:21-24).

Wait, I think I have the best example. A man asked Jesus if He could heal his son. Jesus said the son could be healed if the father believed. Wow. That simple? Sometimes not. The man’s response was that he believed but still had some hang-ups. Some issues, you know challenges, believing.

Out came his confession, “I believe but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). Awesome. This man was upfront about what His struggle to believe and rely on Jesus completely. This is liberating, especially for the times I’ve felt and feel condemned by others for not believing or having “enough faith”.

“Enough faith?” What is that? Who has the measure for that? [Click to Tweet]

How absurd that we can be the ones to determine how “enough” other people’s faith is. Ludicrous! Profanity! How dare we tell people they don’t have enough faith. How dare I tell anyone that they faith is not “strong enough”. How can I condemn others like this?

Moving on. This man was real with Jesus and Jesus had no problem with that. It is when we’re smug and try to act like we got it all together we push God’s hand away (Luke 18:10-14).

The most important thing about having struggles, whatever they are, is where we turn to. Some have challenges with some of the ways things are done in the local Church and choose to stay away. Some don’t understand how they lives have played out the way they have that they shun and hate God.

It’s OK to struggle with God, but in God [Click to Tweet]

Grapple with whatever you’re grappling with as long as you take it to God. As long as you use it to seek God more about it. As long as you go back to God, like the man in desperate need, “I believe but help my unbelief”.

God I’ve used excuses about the things I don’t understand about You, about how my unmet expectations in life, to turn from you. I’ve turned from you while, on the outside, I’ve done things that “normal” Christ followers do. Help me to always turn to you when I struggle with you. Amen.

I Am Jonah, I believe but help my unbelief…

 

[Photo Credit: jot.punkt]

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I Am Jonah

Deep Draughts Of God

deep draughts of God

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It’s not that I don’t love God I do. It’s just that sometimes I pursue the hunger of other things at the expense of pursuing Him.

I’m ashamed that sometimes I “feed” other hungers and not the one for God.

I’m desperate to want to want God so badly. For deep draughts of God that satisfy in a greater hunger and deeper love for Him.

Oh God, I want to want you. May I drink deep draughts of you, that satisfy and make me thirsty for even more of you. I’m desperate to be desperate for You. Amen.

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I Am Jonah Through Lenses

The Notifications

 

Everyday I respond to a number of notifications on my phone. Twitter, Pressgram, emails and more. Though embarrassing, it’s true; of the hundred or so I received today, the reminder for my Bible reading plan is the one I consistently ignored.

I ignored the reminder in favor of mostly entertainment. Why is it that getting myself into Scripture is, sometimes, perhaps, mostly, less attractive?

Oh God, I want to want you, badly. I Am Jonah. Amen.

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