Monday, July 13, 2009

A Heart for Nineveh and Maybe Your People Too


Give me a heart for Nineveh. But even more than that, give me a heart for your people too. I know you want to do this, I just wish it didn't involve riding in the belly of a great fish. Light please.

From the belly,


I feel like I'm in the belly of the fish right now. I don't much like it. It seems like everything is pointing to areas I need to work on. Like Jonah, sometimes I need it hit over my head before I listen and do what I'm told. I'm stubborn that way, even with God.

Yesterday, my pastor, Mark, spoke on Living Like Christ in a Non-Christ World. This week specifcially focused on loving others. While Mark used the story of the "Good Samaritan" (I was listening), I found the story of Jonah wiggling in the back of my mind.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan. But I'm probably more like the two who passed the wounded man by. Even worse, I may be like Jonah and have God tell me exactly what to do but still hesitate or run the other way.

Here's the deal with Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach. But the people in Nineveh had a habit of conquering Israel. Jonah wasn't afraid of the Ninevites. But He was afraid of what God would do. You see, in his mind, they weren't worthy of being saved. Saving them was exactly what God had in mind. He didn't want God to save them, so he hopped the first boat out of there.

God caused a storm and then the sailors threw in overboard. Jonah knew the storm was about his disobedience. He spent 3 days in the belly of a great fish and God had the fish spit him on dry land. Reluctantly, he did as God told him. And God moved in the hearts of men, women, and children in Nineveh and many came to know him.

But Jonah couldn't rejoice over this. In Jonah 4: 13 it is written,

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to tarshish. I knew that you are gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

He went into the desert and God caused a vine to grow up to give him shade. The next day a worm ate the vine and the sun and the wind were scorching. And again Jonah said it would be better to die than live. God replies:

"You have been concerend about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. but Nineveh has more than a hundred twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Shoul I not be concerned about that great city?"

Scripture does not record a reply. Perhaps the question is enough. Jonah, you've got your priorities all wrong.

Where do I come into it. Sometimes it is hard for me to see outside of my life. Does that make sense? I wonder first how things will impact me and worry later about people outside of my influence. But I also said I need a heart for God's people. In someways, it is easier to care for those who are remote, like my Compassion children. I love them, but I don't know them and their families. Perhaps, I that makes it easier for me to give grace and compassion.Some part of me has decided that those children are worth it.

But then there are the people I know -- some in church and some out. My mind says I need to be concerned for this or that, but sometimes my heart has a hard time catching up. A woman I know likes to read. She reads everyday at lunch. I love to read. I read all the time too. This woman drives me crazy. She hasn't done anything, but we grate against each other. I have to consciously decide to engage. She came to mind during the service yesterday. Yesterday afternoon, I sorted through books. God prompted me to bag them up to give to her. It's a small thing, but part of me wanted to argue. I could just give them to the library for their used book sale. It would still be helping. But I couldn't let go of something she had said last week about scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of books. So I sorted 3 bags of books I thought would be of interest to her. Perhaps as a way of saying, "I take care of all things," I had enough for 3 more bags of books for the library sale.

3 bags of books. A small thing, but a choice to engage instead of turn away.

God, give me a heart for all your people, give me your eyes, and stop my pride when I want to pick and choose to whom I will be kind.


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