I understand better the dangers Jesus discussed so incisively in the Sermon on the Mount: how quickly we accuse others of murder and neglect our own anger, or adultery and neglect our own lust. Grace dies when it becomes us versus them.
I went to some offices that the law requires me to visit. (No, it wasn’t the police. Sorry the story is not that juicy.)
As a Christian I must be law-abiding. Right? Because it’s right and Jesus said so. In my obedience to Jesus, and the law I went to submit my documents.
After waiting for half the day I made it to the counter. As if I didn’t have a difficult time already, the person who served me did everything right. Well almost…
She asked for all the right information and the documents. The only thing she didn’t do right, as far as I was concerned, was the way she asked me for anything.
I felt patronized by the way she asked me anything. Disrespected. I had just about endured enough ‘harassment’ and started to contemplate looking for an audience with her supervisor.
By that I mean, I was thinking about how snarky and mean I could be.
I believe people deserve great service. This includes public offices, right?
Somehow, for a change, I took a minute to carefully think about my response. My emotions were raging. My exterior was cool.
My mind was racing with the thousand things I was going to yell at the supervisor. I was intent on talking at the supervisor and the lady giving me the bad rap.
Then I knew, though I felt justified in speaking against bad service, I wasn’t justified to be as mean as I was planning to be. Jesus teaches. No, challenges me to do.
Jesus challenges me to bless those who curse me. To be kind to people who are mean to me. Not to serve the treatment I’ve received back to those who give it to me.
I’m glad I didn’t lash out, as I wanted. While I was still having the internal debate and discussions, she started asking me about my profession.
One of the documents I was submitting had the name of the youth ministry I serve in. That sparked conversation. She asked how we reached young people and commended the work we did.
It turns out she was also a Christ follower. Which, was also a reminder… Christ followers can sometimes be out of character and be mean also. If I had exploded the way I felt like then I would’ve done what she was doing…
There I was, for a moment, caught up between what God wants of me and what my feelings wanted. This was a reminder of how rouge my feelings can be and what God wants. I remembered, I am Jonah.
Have you had similar experiences? What was your response?
Jonah notes is about highlighting anything noteworthy fitting into the I Am Jonah theme. This is the first (hopefully of many) of summaries of things worth noting.
The series will focus on things that we need to grapple with, in search for alignment with what God expects of me, of us, as Christ followers.
The Meaning Of Christian Community
What is the place for our preferences in light of the community? He asks: “But what can community actually mean if the individual is ultimate?”
Check out his post here
The Perfect Way To Do Church
Carlos raises a point, which I feel we need to attention to. He makes what I think is the ultimate and most important point but I won’t spoil it for you. Check out the post.
The Pig Prayer
The legend, Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, asks, “I read the Bible and scoff in dismay at people who cared more about their pigs than the healing of two demon possessed men. “How could they be so blind?”
He closes his post, by stating how torn apart He is between what God wants and how he wrestles. Oh, and the title of his post? “The Pig Prayer“.
On I Am Jonah
The most shared post was “Why I Am Jonah” which introduced the blog, journal, whatever you want to call it. It gave a general “why” for this blog, explaining the rift that sometimes exists between God’s desire for us and hour desires.
“Someone Else’s Skateboard” was a glimpse into the reality of temptation, which some Christians will not give.
Similar to themes of Carlos and Joel’s post, incidentally I wrote before I saw the posts was “The Church: Loving Her While Hating Her Practices“. The post touched on the challenge of separating what the Church from her practices.
It is comforting to see how real others are about their faith and things they’re grappling with. From understanding the true meaning of community and the church to trying to really follow God.
My prayer: God help me to be a part and be the Church as you’ve intended. Help me know what it means to die to myself for the sake of community when I need to. Give me more courage to hold on to your desire and love for others and not my preferences or desires. Amen.
The Church is not the massive building with a steeple. Neither are the fancy theatre seats, lights, smoke and screens on the wall some think it is.
Ingrid, some friends and I recently had a long talk about what the Church is and her practices. We talked for hours but there was still a lot unsaid when we stopped.
The consensus, we were not happy with some of the things the Church at large did. One of the things that was easy for us to agree on at the onset of our discussion was that we loved the Church but hated some of the practices people did in the Church.
None of us could stomach instances where non-biblical practices were taken to be what every expression of the Church must be doing. Looking into the Bible, we cannot find some practices, such as the order of how a ‘worship service’ is done now.
Frank Viola and George Barna did a great work researching the source of some Church’s practices in their book, Pagan Christianity. I agree with them in some instances on what the Church needs to be weary of.
At some point after that I did become critical, perhaps too critical of the practices of some local Churches I visited.
I love the Church. My wrestle is when she is made to be what she is not nor should be… That irks me.
The challenge with what I see the Church as in some contexts is that it could be reason enough to distance oneself from her. It is like the trend of young people wanting to shed the label ‘Christian’, because of the connotations it carries in the present culture, for the ‘Christ follower’.
We concluded we could stay away from the Church, as we know it or we could simply model what we see the Bible teach us it should be.
I resigned to not care about practices if they are not in violation of what Scripture teaches the Church should be.
I have preferences as far as practices are concerned. However, I need to be careful that my preferences don’t violate what God wants me to be as part of the Church and what to do in the Church because that is how He touches the world; through me.
There is still the question I’m trying to shake off from the book Pagan Christianity, so what if present day liturgy has its roots in pagan worship? If it is sincerely directed at God, is God not pleased with the worship?
How much do the methods or local expressions of the Church matter? Of course, they cannot, must not contradict everything that is Godly…
The Church is God’s idea not man’s. Some practices are man’s and not God’s.
The wrestle is separating the two. It is staying true to what God wants foremost and not my preferences. I am Jonah.
I recently travelled. I like travelling. If travelling by air my favorite parts of travel is taking off and landing. I don’t know why but they just feel ‘adventurous’. Ask no further questions…
When I’m away from where I live I’m also on the lookout for things that are different and unique to places. I collect weird signs. Sometimes I am that guy who watches people going about whatever they’re about.
At other times I’m that guy who smiles at you or greets you if he catches you staring at you. (I haven’t worked up the courage to offer hugs yet ;-).
Where was I? Oh, another thing I like about travelling is the airport. I like the feeling of going somewhere and the busy hum.
I like the luggage pickup, only if my luggage doesn’t take long to come out.
Something unusual happened on this trip.
There it was, a skateboard. Now this is the heart of this post. Yes, a skateboard. Maybe not.
For one second I had the thought what if I picked it up? I don’t think anyone who checks in a skateboard that way really means to get it.
After all, the first skateboard I owned was a friend’s who shared it with all the kids on the blog. Did I pick it up? No.
What shocked me was that I was actually having that conversation with myself. And not only that, it was just downright wrong.
A reality: I was tempted. That is the truth. I entertained the thought of taking ownership, aka stealing, and someone else’s skateboard. I hope you read it right: I was tempted…
I know that God wants of me and I know what God would have me do in such instances but I was tempted. There is a part of me that sometimes whispers, “What about… What if…”.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire ~ James 1:14 (ESV)
I am tempted. I will not lie and claim that I am never tempted. I am tempted and sometimes more often and intense than I’d like.
The story of Jonah, in the Bible, is the inspiration behind this blog. God sent Jonah to Nineveh but he chose to go to Tarshish. One of the reasons I can make out for Jonah’s actions was that he didn’t believe the people of Nineveh deserved God’s grace.
Other reasons for Jonah’s rebellion are not obvious. While his internal journey and wrestling may not be apparent, his actions are there for us to examine.
We learn that Jonah paid a price to go in the opposite direction. That took him on an uncomfortable journey. His journey of disobedience involved a wrestle within himself. His disobedience impacted the people he came into contact with and put their lives at risk.
Not only that, the people he was supposed to reach were also at risk if Jonah didn’t complete his God-given assignment. What God wanted Jonah to do was a heart for what He (God) had a heart for. His desire was for Jonah’s actions to align with that heart.
Thus, the equation has Jonah wanting his own way and will. It involves God’s steering Jonah back to God’s will – a display of God’s grace and love for Jonah and the people He wanted him to reach as a result.
God’s grace didn’t allow Jonah to walk away from His purposes for his life and for other people through him. There is hope in his story in that, eventually, He will steer me to who I need to be and what I must do.
The reason I Am Jonah, why I identify with him, is because I’m constantly wrestling with who God wants me to be. He shows me what he wants me to do and I don’t always get it right.
I have assignments He gives me that I don’t always get to the instant He gives them. Circumstances, conversations with myself and other things help me go the opposite direction. It is not that I don’t agree with God, it is that I don’t always find it easy to accept the assignments and what he wants of and for me.
This is blog is an expression, a journal of ‘my- Jonah-self’. I hope to not only feature my musings and wrestling but that of others in their Jonah moments. I want to do this not just for the sake of it, but also as a way of trying to make sense of what it means to follow Jesus, the Christ. It is a way of being real with what Christ followers go through.
As we grapple with the various aspects of what it means to become more like Christ I hope being open books makes following Christ more desirable for others. I hope it encourages those already in the walk to dare, with greater tenacity, to align themselves with God’s will and heart for them.
My desire is that it helps us to appreciate the impact that we are and what we do, in relation to God’s ‘call’ on us, to those around us. To the ones He sends us to. This is about real, everyday life. It is not about being ‘hyper spiritual’ nor being belligerent, but being plain real…
I’m not perfect. I know God has a plan and for and through my life. I just don’t always get it. And, as much as I can point fingers at Jonah, in the Bible, more and more I realize that I, too, am Jonah. Though my name is Blessing, I am also, Jonah. I am Jonah.