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Today, Matt takes a look at Jonah’s trip in a fish. More specifically, he talks about how Jonah ran away from God’s will for him and ended up in the fish to begin with.
Jonah has a whole book all his own in the Bible and you can read his story there. In my Bible, it starts on page 1421. That won’t really help you, though. Anyway, even if you’ve heard this story a bunch of times, it’s a quick little read and we highly encourage you to read it again. It will only take a few minutes, I promise!
Some points to consider and scripture to read:
* Like Jonah, we’ve been given a job to do and that’s to bring a message of hope and redemption to a lost and broken world. Even if we think the world isn’t worthy of the message (and we don’t really want them to get in on the best deal ever), we’ve been given a job and we must do it.
*Like the prophet Jeremiah, we must recognize that this life is not our own. We have been given this life for God’s purpose and pleasure. He is the navigator of our lives because he sees the map in its entirety. We just get to steer the car (be obedient).
A little thing to note: Not all of life’s storms are a result of our disobedience. Any number of things simply happen to or around us because we live in a fallen and sinful world. It is, however, always best to stay obedient to God so He doesn’t have to use painful means to get our attention, which He’ll do if necessary. Because He’s a good Dad and He wants the best for us. Email us you show ideas, guest requests, prayer requests or just to say hi! Join us on Facebook!
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Welcome to the first mini-episode in our little summer series called “Lessons from the Road.” We’re going to take the next eight weeks and share stories taken from the Bible as well as our own personal lives about lessons learned while on a journey.
Today we start with Brandy sharing the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
This story takes place in Acts 9:1-31.
To read the transcript that includes the passage, click here.
While many lessons can be gleaned from this portion of scripture, Brandy focuses on the fact that not only was Paul’s conversion from persecutor of the faith to a servant of God swift, but it was loud and proud. Paul made no apologies for his conversion to the faith. Once he met God, there was no denying Him as Lord and Savior.
Listen in on this quick minisode and see if Paul’s boldness is evident in your own life.
“…be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit,
intent on one purpose.”
– Philippians 2:2
It’s never easy, is it, coming to others to ask for help?
What will they think if they know my need is this great? Will their opinion change once they know just how dark my heart and thoughts can be? Or, will they think I’m silly; wasting their time with my needs which seem so insignificant?
I’ve had these thoughts on more than one occasion. Yet, at every turn I am amazed by the response I’m met with when I take a deep breath and share my heart.
Sometimes it’s a prayer need, sometimes a thought I’ve been mulling over for days and need to talk through. Other times it’s a sin that I keep finding myself struggling with. Often it’s the critical thoughts that tend to take up residence in my head, shoving aside God’s words of truth and bring me to tears and of guilt, shame, fear and overwhelm.
Consistently though, God has met me in those places of need as I’ve turned to someone at church and bared my burden. I’m met with encouraging words, reminders of God’s promises and faithfulness, prayer and often a hug.
Likewise, I’ve been met with gratitude for my willingness to be vulnerable and broken in front of others. Because, honestly, that’s just not a thing you see all the time.
These kinds of relationships are born in and grown through fellowship in and around church.
Three years ago, our little congregation of less than 50 merged with another local small church. A majority of church merges fail. Ours has been a story of success. And in that place, I’ve gotten to know a whole new group of people; people I’d never have met otherwise.
Some are well into their grandparenting years, enjoying traveling the world. Others are just starting out, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first baby. And there’s everyone in between. We’ve got nerds, geeks, intellectuals, blue collar, white collar, scrubs, lab coats, graduation caps, Bermuda shorts and button downs with a tie. And every single one of those people has impacted me, whether they know it or not.
You see, going to church is really good. You learn a lot about God. You sing some good songs full of good words and truths. You hear things that encourage you and maybe even challenge you.
But being the church…that’s even better.
Because then you get to rub elbows with people who are just like you and nothing like you at all. You get to see the vast array of people who God calls His own. Sometimes things get a little messy, but hopefully, as Christ stays the focus, even the messy is made clean again.
Being the church you can speak into one another’s lives. You can experience that ‘iron sharpening iron’ accountability and growth that’s talked about in Proverbs 27:17. You become invested in something that is so much bigger than yourself and it reminds you just how incredibly generous our God is.
Going to church is really good. Being the church is the best.
What about you? Do you just go to church on Sunday, letting the message slough off you as you walk out to your car, while the music fades in the background? Or do you take the church with you, presenting Christ to a broken and hurting land, recognizing that left on your own, you’d be just as broken, too?
Matt and Brandy dive into many of the reasons people aren’t going to church and then talk about why it’s a good idea to be there. The goal here is not to make anyone feel guilty or shameful about not going to church. Hey…we’ve been there, too! There have been years where our church attendance was sparse at best.
So, come along and let’s talk about why it’s sometimes hard to get there on a Sunday morning and why it’s important to try.
Statistics that are listed:
* 4 out of 10 Americans have been to church in the last week.
* 59% of Millenials who grew up in a church have dropped out at some point.
* More than half of the Millennials haven’t been to church in the past 6 months.
* “Regular attenders used to be people who went to church 3 or more times a month or even several times a week. Now, people who show up once every 4 to 6 weeks consider themselves regular church attenders.”
* Three reasons Millenials cite as why they’re not going to church (split evenly): believe church is irrelevant, full of hypocrisy, sick of the moral failure of the church’s leaders.
* Of Millenials, 2 out of 10 feel that God is missing in church
* Of Millenials 1 out of 10 feel that legitimate doubt is prohibited
* Of adults that believe church is important they cite two major reasons: to be closer to God and to learn about God
* 22% go because it’s taught in the Bible
* One in 10 go to find community, despite a growing epidemic of loneliness
* Across age and denomination, 40% say they feel God elsewhere, outside of church.
* 35% say church isn’t relevant to them personally.
The following are just a few of the resources I found (and used) through the larger church we began attending. Churches have countless resources for you to address whatever needs you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask!
The Genesis Process (I’m not sure why the pricing on this is so steep. There are any number of churches that offer these Genesis groups and I highly recommend them. If you find a group through a church, I can assure you, it likely won’t cost this much!)
“I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”
– Psalm 119:15-16
It’s safe to say we live in difficult times. No matter what side of the political fence you land on, no matter your socio-economic background, race, religion, gender or favorite ice cream flavor, it is clear that we are a nation in upheaval.
Because of all the turmoil that not only surrounds us but punches us in the face on a fairly consistent basis (anybody else suffering from a mild case of Facebook PTSD?), it’s the perfect time for us, as Christ followers, to keep a few things in perspective.
I admit that I’ve definitely voiced my own opinions on social media. Opinions that sometimes counter people I love deeply and admire greatly. I’ve felt my heart harden a little and heard a voice of judgement and condemnation, if not actually being spoken, certainly in my head. When I step back for a moment and take the time to self reflect, it’s pretty plain to see that I could easily become a part of the problem, and maybe already have.
So how do we counter this? How do we keep overwhelm and anxiety from taking over our minds, preventing us from being effective and joy-filled disciples of God?
I think the answer is pretty simple. Meditate on God’s word. Always.
Hey, I said the answer was simple. I didn’t say it was easy.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, and maybe even if you haven’t, what’s the first Bible verse or passage that comes to mind when you think of someone dying? I’d wager it’s Psalm 23, yeah? ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.’
Why is that the scripture we all think of? Because it’s the one we’ve heard time and again in that set of circumstances. Whether you’re standing bedside, keeping vigil over a loved one as they breathe their last breath or you’re standing graveside saying your final goodbye to their earthly presence, these are often the verses that are recited. They resonate with us. They remind us that our days are held in the hands of God.
Similarly, how quickly can most of us recite John 3:16? ‘For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’
Again, it’s written on our hearts because we’ve heard it so many times.
As we read and re-read scripture, as we hear it taught and as we apply it to our own lives, it grows in depth. It begins to penetrate in places that are secret, so that when our hearts begin to tremble because we hear of wars and rumors of wars we are reminded to ‘Be strong and courageous’ because the Lord will not forsake us (Deut. 31:6) and that ‘The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent’ (Ex. 14:14). Or, as we find ourselves struggling with the things of this world that strive to collapse us, we are reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church in Galatia, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9).
It’s important – vital – that God’s word be so etched into our hearts that if owning a copy of scripture should ever become a crime, we will not be shaken because His teaching is inextricably woven into the very core of who we are. Even if that possibility never comes to pass on American soil, and I pray it won’t, how much better off are we when we can call upon the word of God at a moments notice without having to flip to the concordance or hope the Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to access an app?
I want to know what God has to say. I want to know His heart. I want to be so in tune with His word that I always have a scripture at the tip of my lips.
I’m not there yet. But I’m closer today than I was a year ago. Walking with God is a journey of a thousand little steps. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is sweet reward in deepening this relationship with the One who made me and knows me best. In the words of David, the man after God’s own heart, let us “taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed [are we] who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8).
My life is littered with journals. Seriously…it’s kind of ridiculous.
A Love is Born
It started when I was about 10 and was given, as so many young girls are, my first diary. It was hard bound and featured Hello Kitty on the cover, in the classic red and white motif. I loved Hello Kitty, so I loved this diary. I wrote down everything: who I loved, who I hated, what horrible things my parents were making me do (the dishes…I mean, really!), the teachers I believed were secretly witches and those I adored. My diary held all my secrets, fears and hopes.
As well as the journals and diaries I’ve kept over the years I am also lucky enough to be the caregiver of the journals of both my grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were prolific writers and lovers of words.
But what is it that compels us to capture our lives in this way? What prompts us to put pen to paper and write down our hopes and dreams, fears, failures and deepest longings of the heart? We inscribe these knowing that one day they may well be reviewed by the very people we have written about. So why do we do it? And why should we?
A History Captured
Personally, I find it fascinating to read historical diaries. Looking at what the pioneer women wrote as they crossed the plains, as they buried their loved ones alongside the trail, as their cattle was stolen and their prized possessions were discarded to save weight as they climbed mountains and crossed rivers gives us a glimpse into the hardships they endured. My own great, great grandmother crossed the plains in 1851 as a young girl and wrote about one particular time that was especially harrowing, where-in a young man in their wagon train ‘jokingly’ sold one of the girls to an Indian chief they had crossed paths with. Needless to say, this joke ended horribly, with men on both sides dying and the pioneers having to abandon half of their possessions because they’d lost so much cattle in the showdown. She goes into great detail and as I read her account of it all, I am transported to that time and place and can almost taste the dust in my own mouth and feel the fear they experienced as arrows began to fly, guns were drawn and wagons were set on fire.
This account would be lost in our family history had Kate decided it wasn’t worth writing down for posterity sake. Fortunately for us, she took the time to write about this and other events, giving us a connection to her experience as a young woman over 150 years ago.
A Spiritual Legacy
Likewise, if we look to scripture we see something of a diary there too, when we read the Gospels or Paul’s letters to the many churches throughout the east. Consider what we would be missing had his disciples not written accounts of the events preceding Jesus’ arrest. We wouldn’t know of the emotional anguish that he suffered as he cried out for God, pleading for another way for man to be brought to salvation, a way that didn’t involve his torture and death and separation from his Father. We wouldn’t know of Jesus’ proclamation to Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. We wouldn’t see the look of pain on Jesus’ face as that third denial was made and Peter cried out, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about! (Luke 22:60)”
We each have a different journey. The twelve disciples who were with Jesus day in and day out for three years all had a slightly different perspective of the events they were a part of. They each had a different relationship with Jesus because they each came to him with different experiences and desires and fears.
So we, too come to Christ. Each of us are different. We’ve got different upbringings and life experiences that shape how we perceive the world and our place in it. As we take note of the ways and times that God has met us individually in our needs, whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual, we begin to see how uniquely God approaches us. We realize that we are not cookies cut from the same form by a cookie-cutter God, but that we are uniquely and wonderfully made, being molded by God’s very hand.
Writing down our journey allows those who will come behind us to see the transformative power of God. Listen, nine years ago, my life was mess. It looked nothing like it looks now. The one thing that changed is my willingness to submit to God. Be sure, I am still a mess, but that mess looks a lot different than it used to. It’s a benefit to me to be able to look back at where I was, to remember what my pit of destruction looked like, and how God lifted me from that pit and set my feet on solid ground. It’s a lot like the memorials that the Israelites would erect whenever God did some thing that they wanted to be reminded of. Journals are a marker of sorts; this is where you were and this is where you are.
We can see God’s faithfulness in our lives only as we look back. We see the countless times he has proven himself trustworthy and compassionate. Without writing these markers down, we have a tendency to forget just what he’s brought us through.
Additionally, in the same way I treasure looking back over the written accounts of my ancestors in order to gain perspective on the lives they lived and the legacy they left behind, I hope that my children’s offspring will be able to look at my journals and see a life that was transformed by a loving and gracious God who knows me intimately and personally. I want them to see that while I struggled regularly with sin and worry, ultimately I have lived a life at the feet of Jesus.
Who Tells Your Story?
We each have a story that is uniquely our own. When we’re gone, that story will shared with those we leave behind. If we take the time now to journal, to write about the thoughts that consume us, the faith that frees us and the God we love, we leave behind a marker for the next generations to see and be reminded of our faithful God. It’s up to each of us to erect that memorial and we do it one word at a time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about intentionality lately.
There are so many areas of my life that end up getting the ‘left-overs’ of my time, thoughts and action. I think some of that has to be with being a stay at home parent. It’s easy to get sucked into reactionary living – preparing meals when kids are hungry, driving everyone to their classes and activities, comforting a broken heart and helping to navigate a child through the difficult teen years. Not to mention breaking up fights, disciplining sass and saying ‘No’ to a toddler more times in a day than even seems possible.
I also tend to be highly gifted at the art of procrastination. I am currently writing this in the library with my daughter across the table working on her school. This is the first day we decided coming to the library might be a good place to do our work, as we’re both prone to distraction. I’ve been ‘meaning’ to write for days, yet there is always something that demands my time and attention. Sometimes that thing is Netflix, but that’s another topic for another day.
Needless to say, unless I am FOCUSED, DISCIPLINED and INTENTIONAL even basic things like laundry and dishes end up getting piled high before I think to do them. It needs to hit a critical ‘we-have-no-clean-underwear-or-spoons’ level before something will get done.
Now, I’m sure there are a bunch of pyschological things going on inside my brain that keep me stuck in this cylce of procrastination – anxiety, depression, fear of failure, fear of success, laziness, overly ambititous to the point of ineffectiveness – I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. What I KNOW though, is that I’m not alone. I have heard the word ‘intentional’ tossed around for the past several years. Clearly there are other people wrestling with how best to use their time to make the most of the life they’ve been given.
Recently I’ve begun the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. I exercise daily, eat more whole foods and am drinking water…at least I’m trying to, but let’s be honest, the siren song of coffee is real and I am captivated by it. I’ve also started writing out a routine for household chores. One would think that 20+ years of marriage would mean I’d have that figured out by now, but it seems that every new season of life uproots whatever system I’ve incorporated and now I find myself back at square one.
But the intentionality that I most want to pursue, that of a deeper relationship with God, seems to somehow elude me.
What does it mean to be intentionally relational with God? Is it daily Bible reading and prayer? Is it journaling? Is it volunteering my time at a shelter or in the church nursery? Is it weekly Bible studies or fellowship groups?
I think it’s all of those things and more. Honestly, if I evaluate my life, I’m doing most of those things on a fairly regular basis. I’m plugged in at church, both in serving and with small groups. I read the word and pray daily (honestly, the reading isn’t quite that consistent, but close). I have friends that call my bluff and don’t let me get away with things. And yet…
I still feel like something’s missing.
Listen, this is a journey, I know. That’s the nature of relationships – they are ever-changing and growing. I just don’t want to get stagnant or complacent in my pursuit of God. I want to know Him more. I want to hear His voice more clearly and see the works of His hands more evidently in and through me. I want to be ever-awed by His amazing grace, weak at the knees when I think how far He’s brought me and how far we still have to go. I want more.
Maybe that’s the first step of being intentional. Just the simple desire for more – more order in your life, more energy for your body, more depth in a relationship.
I’m going to spend some time over the next several months exploring this idea. I really don’t have any answers or insight right now, just a desire to invite you on the journey with me. What do you do as an intentional pursuit of God? What areas do you think you need to grow in (reading, prayer, fellowship, giving, etc)?
As for me, I am wanting to incorporate other spiritual disciplines into my life, beyond reading the Bible through and praying. I want to have a solitude retreat, to fast, to memorize scripture and hide it in my heart. I want to use my artistic bent to journal my walk with God.
I’ll definately come back to this topic again and give y’all an update. In the meantime, drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. I’m open to suggestions if you have any spritiual disciplines you practice that have been beneficial to you. Also, why not lift each other up in prayer?
After all, we’re all on this road home together. -Brandy