My Assignments In Light Of Others [Podcast #01]

In the first I Am Jonah podcast I explore dealing with ‘my assignments‘ in light of others. The truth is, every now and then, we will take note of others’ work. Being involved with the sacred mission doesn’t cure us (or at least me) from having to deal with my humanity.

Looking at how others are fairing with their assignments compared to myself can result in pride or condemnation. Not only that, it detracts from what I should be focusing on.

Being involved with what God is doing with and through my life is only a part of the puzzle. It is only when I do well my part, and others the same, that a more complete image forms.

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God’s Work Among People

It is no doubt that God works in the lives of people. Myself included, I’ve seen his transformative power in the lives of countless people.

He works supernaturally. Some people confuse supernatural for spectacular. The supernatural is not always spectacular. ‘God’s work’ in people’s lives may not always be spectacular but it doesn’t mean it isn’t supernatural.

How He works transcends our complete understanding. We see the evidence of His work but we don’t fully understand how He brings it about. He is God. He would never be God if we had Him completely figured out.

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Silence and Solitude

Silence and solitude

Tranquil.

Silence and solitude. Uncomfortable when neglected. Much noise fills our lives already.

Silence and solitude. A friend; far from foe. The friend who makes us focus on where we’re falling short.

Silence, making us aware of thoughts we’ve had but not known we had.

Solitude reminding us there’s a friendship with our own selves we must never neglect.

Silence and solitude, causing us to reflect. On ourselves. Environment… Life…

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On Being “A Child Of God”

When I was little boy one of the biggest fights I had with my friends was not wanting to play outside. I hated the sandpit. I never saw the point of the sandpit. You played with sand and got dirty; why would I want that?!

I made up for it with fascination with other things. I used to steal mom’s wire coat hangers and make car wires and stuff. Other memories; the world through the eyes of a little boy…

on being a child of God

Dad was a giant. Because he could open the ketchup bottles and jam jars mom couldn’t, I’m sure he could stop a car with his pinkie finger. There’s nothing dad couldn’t or wouldn’t buy for me when he promised. He stepped in and ’took care’ of the kids who tried to bully me. Many memories… Mom and dad were / are just the best!

Now that I’m grown up I’m more aware of their limitations. I’m aware of some of their blind spots in their perspectives and worldview. There was a time I was naïve enough to think there was nothing mom and dad couldn’t do for me. I had and still have no doubt they have the best in mind for me.

This includes the times mom and dad had to discipline or correct me. Sometimes I knowingly misbehaved. I got disciplined. There were also times I was let off the hook; mom and dad gave me a hiding by being good to me. I felt bad for being mean to them when they chose kindness.

Being a child was key to unlocking expectation to my parents. It meant that I had the expectation of protection from my parents. I never felt guilty for asking anything of them because, well who else was I going to ask? Though I didn’t appreciate the pain of the hiding I deserved, I knew it was their responsibility to discipline.

I didn’t appreciate the manners they taught me when they did, but now I’m grateful… I was ever aware of my limitations and always leaned on my parents. With time they pushed me, helped me grow… So much…

On Being “A Child Of God”

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. — Matthew 18:3-4

Jesus taught the importance of being a child. In fact, He said that unleashing the power of His kingdom was linked to us being children. Sometimes I want to be stronger than I really am. Yet, the truth is I really am more helpless than I portray. Humility…

Sometimes I’m a brat. I resent being disciplined and taught. Being challenged to grow and take responsibility.

Yet Jesus calls me to be… a child. It is when I am a child that I allow God to truly be the Father. My responsibility is to be a child. To have innocent and expectant faith. To never stop believing in His goodwill and plans for my life. To be ’naive enough’ to take God at His Word.

For God to truly be my father, I have to be a great child.

My Routines Build Me Up And Tear Me Down

I hate mornings. I can hardly get my body and brain to engage. I used to be a morning person. Not so much now. The challenge of falling asleep manifests itself, in an even greater way, in the morning.

As I try to wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, with the hope that my wake up time is still many hours away. Squint-eyed I try to make out the time. I shower, brush my teeth, get dressed… Coffee

I have a routine that is forced. A lot of the things, I just have to do. I have many other routines; recurring things. I have rhythms I’m forced to change sometimes because life just happens. Something unexpected, a fuller diary, crises…

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Sometimes I Wish We All Weren’t So “Christian”

This is a guest post by Wendy van Eyck

I sometimes struggle to talk to people who believe in Jesus.

Sometimes I wish my friends didn’t sound so Christian. Sometimes I wish they’d tell me how they feel instead of telling me what they think I want to hear.

I find it hard because I don’t always feel like we can have a conversation about really matters to them.

Often it feels like we are all trying to sound “Christian” rather than “human”.

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I know from experience how tempting it is to brush people off with a “Christian” sounding, “Yes, what I am going through is hard, but God sustains me.”

I learnt through holding my husband’s hand through two years of cancer treatment, that speaking words that sound “Christian” prevents people from being Jesus’ hands and feet to us.

I think when I read Matthew 5: 3-5 in the Message this really clicked for me:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can the One dearest to you embrace you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

Those don’t sound a lot like descriptions of people who have it all together. They read more like descriptions of me on my best days.

It sounds like the kind of person who would be good friends with the biblical Job, the kind of person who understands the despair David wrote of in the Psalms.

It sounds like the kind of person who would just come straight out and say, “I don’t know how I’m going to get out of the mess I’m in.”

It sounds like the kind of person who lives openly with brokenness.

It sounds like the kind of person who isn’t out to impress God, or anyone, with holiness.

It sounds like the kind of person who accepts being a Christian is more about what God does in a person than being perfect.

It sounds like the kind of person I want to be.

And I’m realizing that if I want to have the kind of conversations, with people who believe in Jesus, that go beyond “praise God” and “Amen”, I need to start giving honest answers myself. And as I live with honesty in my brokenness maybe it’ll encourage others to share what’s on their hearts.

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  • As I live with honesty in my brokenness maybe it’ll encourage others to share what’s on their hearts [Click to Tweet]

wendy van eyckCheck out Wendy’s blog here. She writes devotionals about finding God in ordinary moments. In an inspiring way, she also writes about her and her husband, Xylon’s journey as Xylon fought cancer.
Thanks for stopping by Wendy!

The Things I Allow To Fill My Life

This verse speaks into giving the message of Christ permission to “marinate” my life. This just made me think of the things that I allow to fill my life. There are many things I give permission to occupy and fill my life in different ways. I do this by allowing certain things about my character and way of life. There is also the danger of allowing my inner world to go unchecked.

Unchecked by the Word of God. Unchecked by not praying as I ought, as a follower of Christ. More for my good than anyone else’s. Sometimes I’m not intentional enough. At other times I am. The challenge of being consistent. There’s wealth I miss when I don’t let Christ’s message completely affect me.

The message of Christ in all it’s richness means embracing God’s plan for me and through me, for others. The message of Christ is rich. By “the richness of the message of Christ” Scripture also speaks into the access the message of Christ gives me to God’s grace. The grace to become more into His likeness.

Not only that but the grace to grow together with other Christ followers. It means I depend on other Christ followers as much as they depend on me. We become more like Christ as we help each other. The outworking of Christ message not only demands responsibility for working out my salvation -Philippians 2:12-, but also my responsibility to my brothers and sisters.

Thus, the richness of Christ message filling my life helps me become in matters of identity. It affects my behaviour, in the matter of lifestyle. It reminds me of the need of others, lest I get self-absorbed. Being self-absorbed means I have the ability to allow myself to fill my life. Contrary to what Scripture teaches and God wants of me.

I need to be more mindful of the things I allow to fill my life. Attitudes, cares, relationships, hobbies, words, works, everything.

God, may I be filled and consumed with the richness of your Word. Help me see the wonderful things in your law – Psalm 119:18.

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Talking About Nuthin’

I’m a fan of Lecrae’s music. He has a new album, Anomaly, dropping soon. “Nuthin” is one of the songs on the album but has been released as a single. He’s done what no Christ following artist has done in terms of speaking to both the world and Christ follower. By the world in Lecrae’s context, I mean hip hop culture (I’m not saying he only speaks into hip hop culture either).

As a Christ follower one of the things I wrestle with is being overt with my faith in a way that people in the world at large don’t shut down or check out. There are more reasons than I can count why culture, that is the world, in a general sense, doesn’t want to hear anything from followers of Christ. We, as Christ followers, are partly to blame. (That’s for another post…)

I grapple with “earning a voice”, a right to be heard, with the world and at the same time not selling out when it comes to representing Jesus, the Christ. I want to tell the world and at the same time I don’t want to sell out.

In the song “Nuthin” Lecrae speaks about how hip hop culture is talking about nothing. He belittles the things that are celebrated and bragged about in favour of speaking about encouraging people and Jesus. Lecrae has been rapping for at least ten years. He has, in a sense, earned a right (or cred) to speak into the culture the way he does.

He’s been exposed to the hip hop culture and understands it. He speaks the language. His message is the differentiator. Together with Lecrae and all Christ followers I have the unique differentiator: the message of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 [NIV] )

In speaking the message of Christ to the world I wrestle. How do I earn the “right” (or cred) to be listened to without selling out to the message and Christ Himself. I know it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and not me or how I deliver the message. However, how do I know I have done all I can?

I strive to please Christ and I know it is not by my works I’m saved. But I also know that others are saved, in a sense, by my work. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be able to speak into the culture and be given a fair chance (whatever that is) to be heard. We have this treasure in earthen vessels… (2 Corinthians 4:7)

We are ignored, even though we are well known… 2 Corinthians 6:9 (NLT)

Paul says that he, and his colleagues and the message of Christ they preached were ignored despite being well known! It seems Paul’s fame didn’t guarantee a “a fair chance to be heard”. Yet he was one of the most effective preachers and church planters, ever!

Fame is not the goal. Attention on myself isn’t either. I just want to make sure the message of Christ is heard the best way I can. The world is talking about a lot. And I agree with Lecrae; they’re talking about nothing. In representing Christ I want to be effective…

In saying something about Christ and the privilege of following Him I also want to make sure I’m not one of those people who talk about nothing.

Jesus, help me to represent you and represent you well. May I not talk about nothing so many will follow you. Amen.

Marching Orders

I’m starting to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost Of Discipleship”. Excited to see what the rest of it will be like.

The introduction is already up front: it is not about what people or even we, ourselves, want for or of ourselves but what Jesus, the Christ, Himself wants of us.

God, would you help me, and many others serving You, to stay on track with what you want of me and them.

Focusing on what Jesus wants means ignoring a lot of demands on ourselves. Help, Lord, sometimes I Am Jonah.

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Stunting The Gospel

I love well researched and written works. I believe that God entrusts us with gifts and means to communicate. With that our obligation is to do the best with what we have and leave the rest to God’s Spirit. Any communication of any message, any preaching of God’s Word must be done well.

Matt Chandler (with Jared Wilson) have done a splendid job in a great work, The Explicit Gospel. I will do a review of it when I’m done with it. It is probably one of the best books (besides the Bible, of course) that communicates the Gospel in a non-complex, yet accurate way.

creation waiting

The reason I write this post is because of something that struck me as I read. It is a statement that wowed and convicted me, all at the same time:

The gospel doesn’t terminate on individual salvation… – The Explicit Gospel

I know that ultimately, God’s plan is for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). I’ve also read the Romans 8:19-25 and just focused on how creation just can’t wait for the sons of God to become perfected…

Something I’ve overlooked for a while is how the culmination of the Gospel is not just individual salvation. That our salvation (as a result of the Gospel) is connected to nature as well. Man’s fallenness also brought bondage and decay to nature. I feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve, in a sense, ‘forgotten’ that part of God’s plan is that, with man’s restoration through his salvation, God wants to and will restore creation as well.

Another trap that we can easily get caught in is to think that God is just about saving us and restoring creation. This kind of thinking puts us at the centre of the Gospel. Though we benefit from the Gospel, though creation will ultimately benefit from our salvation, we are not the ultimate object of the Gospel.

The ultimate object of the Gospel is God’s glory and the consolidation of Christ’s supremacy [Click to Tweet]

Creation sings of God’s grandeur, power and majesty. It has been somewhat limited in doing this because of sin. I must remember that though I am a beneficiary of God’s grace through the Gospel, I’m not the object. No!

God’s glory is. I would love to think that God went through all the trouble He did to save me and that is all, but that is only a part of the story.

This also means I should be careful that my worship of God is God-centred and focused. I could think of God’s saving me from sin and its power for the sake of me and forget that His glory trumps that, to say the least.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:15-20 [NLT]

God, help me to keep you at the centre and circumference of everything.

We’re stunting the gospel when we think it starts and ends with our individual salvation [Click to Tweet]

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