The past couple class sessions of Missions 1, we have been doing a study of the book of Jonah. We were looking at chapters 3 and 4 today. Two things really struck me funny as we were reading chapter 4. One was the place where God asks Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" And Jonah has the gall to answer: "I do." The vine was a pure act of grace on God's part, but Jonah just assumes ownership and is greatly offended when God takes the vine away. The other thing that made me laugh was the phrase "God provided a worm." What I had never noticed before was what a beautiful object lesson the whole story of the vine and the worm were. The book of Jonah is just filled with an intertwining of the themes of God's sovereignty and His grace. For example, we see God's plan to judge Nineveh, his power over the weather, and his control of the fish's behavior up against his grace in giving Nineveh a chance to repent, giving Jonah a second chance to go to Nineveh, etc. Anyhow, you come down to chapter 4 and you see God act in sovereignty and grace to provide a vine (just to make Jonah comfortable) and a worm (to make him uncomfortable?). Jonah is sitting there fuming about God apparently changing his mind. He's mad that God repented of his threats toward Nineveh, and now he's mad that God repented of his provision of shade for Jonah. You can almost picture the people of Israel reading this book. Chapter 1: "That stupid guy. Don't you know you can't run away from God." Chapter 2: "Ah, this sounds like the Psalms. Now, he's acting a little more like a prophet." Chapter 3: "Um, I'm getting a little uncomfortable. Why isn't God destroying the Assyrians?" Chapter 4: "What a moron. Won't he ever learn that . . . hey . . . what's going on here? This book isn't about Jonah after all, is it? It's a book about me, about my racism, against my hoarding God to myself, about . . . uh oh." And it closes out with that great question: "Should I not be concerned about that great city?" I've seen Jonah; I've been Jonah. God help me!
I preached in chapel today. Our theme for the month is "What on earth am I here for?" which is bad grammar, but Rick Warren used it, so I guess that sanctifies it. Anyhow, there have been a lot of perspectives shared this month, but I decided to focus on the idea that I am here on earth to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yeah, that's not original to me. Anyhow, it was a sermon about worship, and it was a little different from my usual style, a little more teen-friendly, I hope.
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