GOD SENT A STORM
AND THEN GOD SENT A GREAT FISH
WHEN JONAH WAS IN THAT FISH
HE CAME TO HIS SENSES
REPENTING OF HIS IDOLS
ASKING THE LORD THAT HE MIGHT GROW
MOST OF US HAVE DONE THE SAME
PRAYING, AS WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT,
THAT WE MIGHT GROW
OR PRAYING, AS WE KNOW WE SHOULD,
THAT OUR CHILDREN MIGHT GROW
This is our last week on Jonah before we begin a new series next week. We wrap up with a major point of Jonah. Though God cares about our happiness, He is more interested in our holiness. One day, in eternity, we will understand.The Gospel is what helps us both see our sin and trust Him to repent and turn to Him. It helps us “hold on” in trial, to, as Susan has said and pictured in her testimony this week, “reach out our hand.”
John Newton was A slave trader who, though a believer, could not see his sin for decades. He even prayed that God would help him catch Africans for his slave trade. He wrote to his wife Polly from one of his inhumane slave ships: “I feel like Noah, shut up with so many unclean creatures, but in a much smaller space.”
John Newton also knew, as a believer, that he should pray that he would grow. As an older, transformed man, the man who gave us the hymn Amazing Grace, he wrote another hymn I’d like you to listen to carefully. Here is one beautiful rendition:
In this contemporary version, one line is changed. Where you heard:
Instead of this he made me feel, the hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part
The original was:
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Here is the whole song (courtesy of the link Elizabeth gave us to an article by Carson and Keller)
I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith, and love, and every grace; Might more of His salvation know, And seek, more earnestly, His face.
I hoped that in some favored hour, At once He’d answer my request; and by His love’s constraining pow’r, Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart; And let the angry pow’rs of hell Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand
He seemed intent to aggravate my woe; Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord why is this,” I trembling cried, “Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?” “’Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy, That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
These lines refer to the surprising end of Jonah. Jonah has preached to Ninevah (albeit a lousy sermon) and then gone outside the city to see what happens. He is angry — fearing God will forgive the Ninevites. His idols are back. As Calvin said, our hearts are idol making factories. So God designed a trial just for him. It was hot — blistering heat — something like the summer many of you have experienced this year.
JONAH WAS SO GLAD FOR THE VINE THAT
SPROUTED UP QUICKLY OVERNIGHT GIVING HIM
RELIEF FROM THE BLAZING HEAT
AND THEN GOD SENT A WORM…
The Lord is serious about refining His children.
In this life, the Potter puts us continually over the fire.
Did Jonah ever mature to a godly man with some stability in his maturity?
Do you know how we know?
Find out with this week’s final sermon from Keller on Jonah. You will also hear a testimony from our dear Susan on how to respond in the midst of trial. She’s living it out, day by day.
Sunday/Monday Contemplation and Ice-breaker
(Dee will be talking on Women and Friendship on Monday and Tuesday on James Dobson’s Family Talk — you can listen online: drjamesdobson.org)
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Think about some of the greatest blessings God has given you. Then think about how you have been tempted to trust in those blessings, and how the Lord has had to teach you not to trust in that blessing but in Him. Share here.
Monday-Wednesday: Dee’s Bible Study and Susan’s Testimony
3. Review Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the fish (Jonah 2) What honest repentance do you see?
4. Yet, describe Jonah’s half-hearted sermon when he “obeys.” (Jonah 3:4)
5. When we watched Rachael’s video, she said, “It is such a daily battle.” Many of you really have grown in regard to your idols — and yet, write here how you must battle daily with a besetting sin.
6. How did the Ninevites respond and how did Jonah respond to this?
7. Describe the dialogue between Jonah and God in Jonah 4:1-4
8. Describe the blessing God gave and then how he took it away. What was His point?
I have, indeed, been pondering how I have trusted in nearly every blessing God has given — instead of in Him: my health, my marriage, my children, my ministry, my savings…and God has had to show me, with each one, that it is “sinking sand.”
9. Listen to the song “I asked the Lord that I might grow” again, and write your reflections.
Susan came on the blog during The God of All Comfort, when her nephew died. Susan is particularly conscientious, doing her lesson carefully. She has a challenging life, for her husband is an unbeliever who often is hostile, and her teenage sons often model him. She faces this each day, but most of the time (and she is vulnerably honest) she reflects the grace and love of Christ in the midst of this pain.
During a time of fear and depression, a friend sent me this verse, torn from a book, tucked securely in her
purse, until one day it fell out and she knew it was for me.
Fear returned when my nephew died of a drug overdose. “Lord, I am afraid” – of my parents’ declining health, my sons leaving home, of not having intimacy in my marriage, of being alone. My fear shows my idolatry – depending on some thing or someone other than God. Like Jonah, I must exclaim, “Salvation is from the Lord.” How do I move to a new level of faith? By holding out my hand.
10. Comment on Susan’s testimony.
11. How might you apply Susan’s wisdom to your current trials?
Thursday-Friday Listen to this sermon by Keller:
Link: Click Here
(This was in the series many of you purchased at the beginning of this Jonah study. If you didn’t get it then, you will need to purchase it individually.)
12. What are your notes from the sermon?
13. How do we know Jonah matured?
14. List three major take-a-ways from Jonah — referencing the specific passage, and putting each in a single sentence. Then write down a personal prayer for yourself, incorporating at least one of the take-a-ways.
GOMER WAS UNFAITHFUL
BUT WHEN SHE WAS NAKED ON THE AUCTION BLOCK
HOSEA, OUR CHRIST FIGURE
Part of “getting the gospel” is understanding how deeply we are loved. We doubt His love because we know ourselves, our sin, and can’t imagine how Someone so wonderful could love us so deeply. But that is the gospel — the same God that loved Gomer the prostitute and Jonah the racist loves us. He sees us as covered in His righteousness. Anne helped us with that last week, talking about the covering, and showing us it visually through Rembrandt’s painting. (Nouwen said to look at the father’s cloak — like wings, that cover us.)
I have so enjoyed having Diane, our Canadian, with us on the blog. This is also a chance for you to get to know her a little. Diane has a rich Christian heritage. Her parents were missionaries in India when she was a little girl, and she sometimes writes of how thankful she is for the way they loved and modeled Christ. Diane lives, as I believe as her mother did, a life of quiet service. I remember when Jesus said of Nathaniel, that he was without guile. I sense that sincerity and purity in Diane, and am so thankful for her.
From the stories she has told of her husband Aubrey, and just by looking at his face, I told her he looked like a gentle man. She said he was very gentle. What a gift! Here they are, in their beautiful country of Canada. O Canada!
As God is on the move here, revealing idols. He is helping Diane see how her idols block His love. People can never love us the way God love us, even the gentlest of hearts pale in comparison to God’s GREAT HEART for us. Diane tells a simple every day story with which I think you will identify, based on the verse:
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
Sometimes it is in the petty annoyances that God whispers His lessons of grace to us. Keller defines
grace as “an undeserved gift from an unobligated giver.”
It is easy for me to forget God’s grace and slip into fear that I am not good enough. I fear being
criticized. Recently, it has fallen into my lap to type the bulletin for our small church. I constantly make
mistakes or omit something. Last Sunday, several people came up to me to point out an error in the
I made a joke at the time about it keeping me humble, but inwardly I was upset. I personally
hope someone else volunteers to do the bulletin soon, but I am learning that God never wastes a
pain. Now I am wondering what God is trying to teach me about my fear of not being perfect. God
is whispering His love to me in spite of my failures and insecurity. I don’t have to be perfect. I am
unconditionally passionately loved by God, even though I don’t deserve it.
Diane’s story convicted me — for I realize how often how quick I can be to point out an error. I did that in side-ways ways to my administrative assistants, and it beat them down. Little things I should have just covered, as God covers me, for love covers a multitude of sins (or typos)! We are all fragile, and we all need grace.
Diane also is a model of speaking truth to her soul — something we need to constantly do. We fail all the time in little ways and big ways. And the closer we get to the Lord, the more His light illumines our impurities. Often the godliest people are the hardest on themselves. George Whitefield said, “I sin when I pray, I sin when I preach…” It is good to see our sin, for it helps us repent — but if we do not also comprehend His GREAT LOVE, His covering, we are beaten down. We run to our idols for we fear He will not be there for us.
The Gospel shouts His love.
1. What thoughts do you have on the above and why?
2. How have you grasped God’s love, His covering, for you this week?
Tuesday: Diane points us to an interesting passage.
3. Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-27
A. Describe King Jehosphat’s crisis.
B. Describe his honesty.
C. What did Jehosaphat know about God that helped him pray strongly? (Look at his praise.)
D. Take a part of this prayer and pray it for whatever little or big crisis you are facing.
Wednesday-Friday Last thirty minutes of Keller teaching on Jonah. Here is his outline (for the last thirty minutes) for your note-taking
Gospel Communication — with these sub-points
- What does he say about intelligibility?
- About Credibility
- About plausibility
- About intimacy
Link: Click Here
What’s your take-a-way and why?
THE GOSPEL IS NOT THE ABC’S OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S THE A TO Z OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY
IT’S NOT JUST THE WAY TO GET IN
BUT THE WAY TO DAILY LIVE IN VICTORY
ANGELS PEER INTO IT, LONGING TO UNDERSTAND IT
IF YOU THINK YOU UNDERSTAND IT, YOU PROBABLY DON’T
IF YOU REALIZE IT’S DEEPER THAN YOU IMAGINED
YOU ARE STARTING TO SEE
IT’S A NARROW PATH, JESUS SAID
STAYING ON THE PATH IS LIKE WALKING A FENCE
HOW EASY IT IS TO FALL OFF TO EITHER SIDE
“THE GOSPEL IS CRUCIFIED BETWEEN TWO THIEVES:
ANTINOMINISM (AGAINST THE LAW) AND LEGALISM”
BOTH OF THESE ERRORS
THESE WAYS TO FALL OFF
ARE SELF-SALVATION STRATEGIES
Last Sunday night I went with my sister to a “hymn sing” at her little Zion Methodist church. It was well attended, robust and wonderful singing of the great hymns for ninety minutes. My heart was moved. My sister touched my hand when we sang Be Still My Soul, knowing how that ministered to me after Steve’s death. And then, when we sang It Is Well With My Soul, she had tears again, remembering Steve’s funeral. I keep praying the gospel will be formed in her heart. She hears and sees everything through a filter she has been taught. She thinks the crucifixion and resurrection are metaphors. That the atoning blood is a primitive concept. That the church is a place for fellowship and to do good and to enjoy the beauty of the metaphors.
I love my sister. I have honestly felt all my life that she is made of better material than me. She is warm, gifted, giving, and lovely. This is not about my being better than she is — it is about wanting her to see how each of us is in desperate need of the atoning work of Christ. I need it. She needs it. Every person needs it.
I know there are wonderful Methodist churches that have not rejected their heritage. But many have. At this church, though their heritage was still visible — a cross at the front (with faded letters beneath: in the cross of Christ I glory), though there were hymnals and Bibles in the rack, though we were actually singing the hymns — I also know that all of these are now interpreted through a filter. Everything is a metaphor. The leadership of that church and many of its members do not believe in the literal resurrection of Christ or in the blood atonement — even though they were singing about it. The song-leader, a gifted man, assured people not to worry about theology. Last year he said, “These hymns are just part of our heritage, we don’t have to believe the words.” He became very uncomfortable when a visitor wanted to share a story about a hymn and what it meant to him. I also knew that my sister and her husband were uncomfortable when a visitor requested and we sang “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” The gospel, the heart of Christianity, is rejected.
How does the gospel break through? What causes us to realize we cannot save ourselves? How are the lies all around us overcome?
I know it can only come by the Spirit of God. The wind blows where it will. But I also know we are told to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us — and we must do it wisely.
It seems to be much harder today. Keller quotes Martin Lloyd-Jones: “The demon is in so deep.” We’ll listen this week to the first half of a free teaching session from Keller on why the demon is in so deep, and next week, take careful notes on how to share the gospel wisely in times like these.
I also know that the Gospel is not just the way into Christianity, but it is the way to live every day. I can’t believe I missed that for so long, but I did. But now I am changing. I know I am still only glimpsing how it works in my life, but I see it better now than when I thought I saw it clearly! I understand better how it is the way to live, each day. I am understanding why Luther said, “All of life is repentance.”
I must never minimize my sin. My idols have been mushrooming these last weeks as I have run to them instead of God to deal with my anxieties about the video edit — allowing my anxieties to multiply, hanging up on my son’s fiance, standing in front of the pantry mindlessly munching tostida chips from the bag like a woman without a Savior… all of these are quite ineffective self-salvation strategies. And these”infractions” are not small — each is so bad that Christ had to pay with His own blood.
We’re going to finish Jonah in three, at most four weeks, continuing to use Jonah to peer into the gospel. This week we’ll get help from our own dear Anne. We have more than one Anne participating on the blog (such as my niece, Anne Meredith) but this Anne has been with this blog for years, and so we know her simply as Anne. (Anne with an e, which is appropriate for her for those of you who are familiar with Anne of Green Gables.) I’ve cherished her contemplative spirit. She’s a compassionate nurse, a woman who sees what we often miss in art or in poetry, and is such a gift to us on this blog.
(Please pray for me Sunday morning as I speak at a large conference at Wheaton College on Idol Lies. Quickening, please!)
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. How would you describe, with illustrations from your own life, ways to fall off the narrow road of the gospel?
Tuesday/Wednesday: Anne’s Story and Bible Study
Anne uses the story of the prodigal sons, and the beloved Rembrandt print, to help us peer into the gospel.
For many of you this is review, but you may still have to look back at the passages of Luke 15 and Jonah to answer these questions.
1. Falling off the fence on the rebel side:
A. How did the younger son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?
B. How did Jonah, in chapter 1, “fall off the fence” on the rebel side?
C. What do you know about the Ninevites (before their repentance) that shows they had fallen off the fence on the rebel side?
2. Falling off the fence on the religious side:
A. How did the older son in the story of the prodigal sons “fall off the fence” on the religious side?
B. How did Jonah (after he had preached the gospel and the Ninevites had repented) fall off the fence on the religious side? (If you don’t get this, don’t worry –we’ll come back to it in a future week)
For all of my Christian life I have been either religious or irreligious. I started out religious but soon became discouraged and gave up because I realized that I could not be good enough. The worst 10 years of my life followed this decision and those were the irreligious years followed by more religious years. I was able to convince myself that I was pretty good if I didn’t look too closely but I never grew and I was not joyful. I was working hard but not experiencing the grace that is the key to becoming like Christ. The problem was that I was trying to save myself.
As I began to work with Dee here on the blog to gain freedom from idolatry, the Lord spoke to me about covering. He asked me to stop trying to cover myself before Him. I did not understand at the time but now I think I may. Idols covered me, keeping me from seeing my desperate need of grace. Turning from them was very much like surgery without anesthesia as Keller said, but very soon the Lord came near with His presence and gift of grace and oh how precious it has been to me.
Henri Nouwen made this point to me in his book about Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal. I may not remember it quite right but I think he said that we all struggle with being like the prodigal and like the legalistic older brother but that our destination, in Christ, is to be like the Father. Understanding just how desperately wicked I am and how costly the gift of grace that I have been given changes me. I lose fear because I trust He who has lavished so great a gift on me. I don’t tend to judge others because I know how great a sinner I am. Bigotry falls away too because I know I am loved therefore I don’t have to put others beneath to build up myself. This is the organic change that will make us like Christ. As I found out the hard way, I can’t do this myself, because salvation is of the LORD.
3. Comment on Anne’s testimony:
4. I what ways do you think your life would your life be easier or more difficult if you left the religious or irreligious life right now? Please explain your answer.
Thursday/Friday First Half of Keller Message
This is a long message, and it is teaching instead of a sermon — so I’m going to have you listen to 44 minutes this week, and then the final packed 30 minutes next week. You will listen to his first three points:
- Gospel Theologizing
- Gospel Realizing
- Gospel Urbanizing
Link: Click Here
5. What notes do you have?
6. What’s your take-a-way and why?
Jonah knew it was his fault.
So he did what was right.
“Pick me up and hurl me into the sea
and the sea will quiet down for you,
for I know it is because of me that
this great tempest has come upon you.”
The smartest thing we can do
is to surrender to God –
even if it means being thrown into the sea
for there will be love beneath the waves.
Sometimes tempests come that are not our fault.
But this week I want to concentrate on the tempests that are our fault. For learning to quickly acknowledge our sin, confess it, and accept the consequences is a huge secret in making progress in the Christian life. When we do this, we will find “love beneath the waves.” Our souls will be enlarged and the presence of God will return, flooding us with peace and joy. These are the people who change, these are the people who have the radiance of Christ, these are the people who find love beneath the waves.
It’s always hard to admit when we are wrong — especially if we have to do it, as Jonah did, to unbelievers!
It’s painful. But we will always find love beneath the waves.
I had to go to my sister Bonnie when I was a young Christian and apologize for coming on
so strong — for being argumentative and proud and difficult.
It was humbling — but I found love beneath the waves.
I have had to turn around (more than once!) and go back into a store to apologize to a clerk for
being snippy. (Kim shared the same thing last week!)
A real apology where I name my sin, admit the pain I brought, and don’t make any excuses always
brings me to tears, and it’s humbling. But I also always find love beneath the waves.
When we resist, as is our natural tendency because we have what Martin Luther calls “curvature of
the soul,” we harden our hearts, grieve and push away the Holy Spirit, reap bitterness and
depression, and stay stunted spiritually.
Again and again I ask myself — who do some believers grow and the others remain mudbound?
What makes me grow — and what keeps me mudbound?
If our deepest desire is for God, then we will do what it takes to stay right with Him. We will be
good repenters, as humbling as it is, as hard as the consequences may be, for nothing will be more
important to us than the sense of His presence. Resist and we “forfeit the grace that could be ours.”
(Jonah 2:8) Part of that grace comes in the form of more light. He gives more light to those who
have shown they are willing to walk in the light.
This week you will listen to one of my favorite Keller sermons, which you may have already
purchased for it was one I listed at the beginning of this study. It is called Love Beneath the Waves.
It’s worth the price. If you haven’t already gotten it, here is the link.
In this message, Keller says there is a strong parallel between Jonah and Achan, whose story is
found in Joshua 7. Achan’s sin, like Jonah’s sin, brought a storm. When confronted, like Jonah,
Achan confessed his sin. But instead of being rescued, like Jonah, this is how Achan’s account
And Joshua said,
“Why did you bring this trouble upon us?
The Lord brings trouble on you today.”
And all Israel stoned him with stones.
Yet I discovered that even for Achan, there was “love beneath the waves.” I think it’s a fascinating
study this week, and I’m so eager to join with you who have gentle hearts and seeking souls for this
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
The main filming for Idol Lies is scheduled for June 23rd. Please pray! God has so surprised me even this week — he’s provided a wonderful video photographer, Martin French told me I could use his great drawings for free, God has provided some wonderful sharp women from various ethnic backgrounds for the audience, and my publisher announced she was coming! My son J. R. and I prayed about him doing the edit and agreed this was how the Lord is leading. This is a step of faith for me, but I’m encouraged to take it for I have been so encouraged at how clearly God is moving. I’m learning I really don’t have to be in control.
I am also aware of what I think is increased spiritual warfare. That’s a good sign that the enemy is nervous, but how we need His shield of protection. How important are your prayers!
- For the key people to be healthy and to get here
- For the weather to be good — this area is known for storms that can cause power outages
- For the Lord to provide the women He wants to be here and will quicken them to be responsive and quicken them when they share
- For His quickening on me as I prepare, on the photographers, for Cynthia who will be interviewed, for Ed who may be interviewed and is going to cook, and everyone participating
- For quickening for my son J. R. as an editor and for our relationship
- For my make-up artist (Vanity in part, but I also still have bruises and want to feel confident!)
- For Tim who is working on three testimonies in Kansas City
- For a HEDGE from the enemy
- For God to be so glorified through all this and each of us to continually remember this is what it is all about
And this — just to bring a smile to your Sunday. One of God’s sweet surprises. Almost two Sadie escaped from Sally and Phil in CVS — and they found her like this:
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. There was trouble between the sailors and Jonah. When there is trouble in a horizontal relationship, Keller says it is always our move. How has this applied to your life — or how does it now?
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study
3. Read Jonah 1:10-12
A. Why did the men know that Jonah had sinned?
B. One definition of sin is “running from God.” Where are you tempted to run from God?
C. Read Jonah’s response to the question of the sailors. What is admirable about his response?
D. What constitutes a good apology? A bad one?
One of my favorite apology stories is from Letitia Baldridge who was the personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy. Her friend had planned a dinner to introduce Letitia to well-known people in Washington D.C. — but Letitia had put the wrong date in her planner and didn’t show. (She was in a movie with her husband, so she failed to pick up on the ten urgent phone calls.) When Letitia realized what she had done, she went in person and told her friend how terribly sorry she was for the pain she had brought upon her, the embarrassment, and the grief. Her friend was cool and Letitia kept sending flowers or gifts or notes acknowledging again and again her sorrow at the pain she had caused. She asked for the guest list so she could write every guest and explain it was totally her fault.
I believe in a real apology we make no excuses, acknowledge the pain, and do whatever we can to make what the Bible calls restitution.
4. How would you rate Jonah’s apology and why?
5. Read Jonah 1:13-17 and find the beginning of “love beneath the waves.”
6. Share a recent time when after genuine repentance you found “love beneath the waves.”
Jonah and Jesus
Jesus himself quotes Jonah 1:17 to point to himself. The irony is that Jonah fled God and a storm came, whereas Jesus submitted to God and the storm came. Jonah brought pain to the world. Jesus brought love. Yet both were rescued after three days and three nights in the depths.
Jonah and Achan
In the sermon this week Keller compares Jonah to Achan, the man who also brought a tempest because of his disobedience. Jonah was rescued whereas Achan was stoned — but even when God chooses to take the life of a disobedient believer, that is not the end of the story. There can still be love beneath the waves.
7. Read Joshua 7:1-9 Following the tremendous victories of chapters 1-6, there is defeat. Describe the defeat and the reason for it.
The “devoted things” describes all the valuable objects like gold and silver that were to be dedicated to the Lord’s treasury. This was evidently to be done as a kind of first fruits of the land, and as an evidence of the people’s trust in the Lord’s supply for the future (cf. Lev. 27:28-29).
8. Read Joshua 7:10-26
A. Summarize what God told Joshua in verses 10-15
B. Joshua could have told Achan that he had brought great trouble and grief upon God’s people.
What does he say instead? (verse 19) Comment.
C. How does Achan respond? (verse 20-21) How does this evidence genuine faith?
For Narnia fans, feel free to note the parallel between Achan and Eustace.
D. What happened to Achan? How could this be “love beneath the waves” for Christ’s bride?
E. Can a believer sin terribly, lose his life for it, and still be in heaven? Explain.
F. How do you think Achan’s death affected the body of believers?
Love Beneath the Waves: Turning a Valley of Achor into A Door of Hope
God’s discipline is always meant for good — not just for our good, but for the good of God’s corporate Bride. Achan’s death no doubt brought a holy fear of God — and Achan himself, I believe, went from his death into heaven.
9. Read Hosea 2:14-15
A. What will God do when we face wilderness times if we do not back away?
B. How have you experienced this?
C. What promise is given in verse 15? What do you think this means?
Thursday-Friday: Keller Sermon
Keller emphasizes this verse: My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. (Joshua 7:19) Pray through this for yourself, for your life today.
10 Share your notes here.
11. CHALLENGE: When Joshua confront Achan, he centered not on the pain and death his sin had caused, but his failure to give God glory. LIVE WITH THIS QUESTION BEFORE YOU TODAY — how am I giving God glory? See what happens and tell us.
What is your take-a-way and why?
A BLOGGER PICTURE
Laura-dancer has been growing so — it’s a delight to have her here. She faces enormous challenges but with faith and courage. Here she is in a happy moment last weekend with her daughter graduating!
WHATEVER THE STORM
HE IS LORD OF THE STORM
IF HE SENDS IT TO HIS CHILD, HIS PURPOSE IS ALWAYS GRACE
IF HE ALLOWS IT FOR HIS MYSTERIOUS PURPOSES,
HE HAS AN ULTIMATE PLAN FOR GOOD
Over the next two weeks let us consider three kinds of storms:
- Daily storms we experience when we cling to idols
- Monster storms we experience when we cling to idols
- Storms we do not understand
1. DAILY STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Last week “Laura-dancer” honestly answered the question: “When do you flee from God?” with:
“Wow — probably daily.”
Rebecca vulnerably shared the jealousy she felt when a new young worship leader was so talented — but quickly, she realized her idol temptation, repented, and was able to enter into worship with this leader.
As we are seeing more clearly into the murky waters of our souls, we are seeing how we are daily tempted by idols, and when we succumb, “forfeit the grace that could be ours.”
For the last two weeks I’ve been helping my grand-daughter Emily prepare her high school senior thesis speech. She is graduating as valedictorian of her Christian classical senior class. She has become passionate about how America has changed its perspective toward immigrants from an open “Golden Door” that proclaimed “Give me your tired, your poor…” to a very closed and cold attitude toward immigrants. Emily’s content was so strong, but not her delivery. Why? She is naturally reserved, uncomfortable with the spotlight. (As a toddler, she turned to us before she went to her new potty chair and said, “I’m going to potty — but I don’t want you to cheer and clap.)
But I knew there was something else holding her back. The idol of approval — the fear of man. I told her how Keller used to look at his congregation before he preached and say (silently) “You are not my life — Christ is my life.” Emily nodded, and yet, I still saw her retreat, and fail to connect with me when she spoke, quenching the Spirit. She was forfeiting the power that could be hers. She was also daily, in great angst about her speech. She wanted to do well, but worried she would not.
The day before she spoke we practiced again — and I said, “Emily — I know you care about what you are saying. I know you want them to care about this. THINK ABOUT EVERY WORD YOU ARE SAYING WHILE YOU ARE SAYING IT. Not only will that help you feel what God feels, it will help you forget about yourself. DO IT AGAIN — AND THINK THINK THINK ABOUT THE WORDS.”
Suddenly she locked eyes with me and passion rose in her. She began with the words on The Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor…” but it was different. A burst of light breaking through the dark clouds. What happened? Instead of thinking about herself and what others were thinking of her, by thinking about the words, she was setting her affections on God, on what He cared about, and she was transformed. I saw it before my very eyes. And that can happen to each of us moment by moment throughout the day. As we allow ourselves to be passionate about what He is passionate about, our fears and gloomy doubts are expelled.
I wanted to weep. I was flying to Virginia when she gave the actual speech, but her dad texted me: SHE WAS SO PASSIONATE. IT WAS TREMENDOUS!
And then she e-mailed me afterwards: “Grandma — I want to go into missions this year before college. I know it.” I wept again. Passion rising… the power of God breaking the fears that hold us back…
Many of you shared how letting go of an idol brought the sun out. Chris S. shared a story of her drawer being short on St. Patrick’s Day — fearing suspicion — but then reminded herself her identity was in Christ. She wrote: “My identity is hidden with Christ in God, no matter what misunderstanding or failure might befall me, no power of hell or scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand. What relief there is in that!” Getting our identity from Christ — not from man — and not even from ourselves is huge. Both Renee and Susan had an epiphany of understanding about this last week and articulated it beautifully.
Daily, whenever we are aware of an idol temptation, we must turn and surrender to Him, and we will experience grace. It may be a quick fix, as with Emily and Chris, or it may take time, but it will come.
He is Lord of every storm.
2. MONSTER STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Monster storms threaten to wreck our whole lives. They are especially grievous when we know, as Jonah did, that they are a direct result of our clinging to a worthless idol: that they have, indeed, been sent by God to bring his erring child to his senses.
Four years ago on Mother’s Day I got the surprising news that my nephew, who has always been a favorite of mine, was going to prison in Texas for four years for doing something “stupid and wrong” (his words). This week marked the end of those four long years and he was released and reunited with his wife and three young children. He knew that it was a storm sent by God and responded immediately in deep repentance. Though we felt his sentence severe, he did not. Though we were deeply grieved by the treatment in Texas prisons, concerned he might be a victim of violence or succumb, as many do, to the 130 degree summer temperatures. But he took it without complaint. When I visited him in prison, I thought, What a godly and humble young man.
This week he was released to his wife and three young children. He wondered if he would ever see them again, if he would survive, if he would ever see his home again, and is tearful and so grateful. Though there are many challenges ahead, he is a transformed man, and is experiencing the power of God, no longer forfeiting the grace that God longs to daily give him.
And as so often happens, a storm sent by God to His child will impact all who love that child. But our amazing God can use that for good. My nephew’s storm hit his whole family and others as well. But those who have run to God have been changed for the good. I know that before my nephew went to prison, my prison ministry was lacking in passion — and now I am seeing inmates more and more as God does and I have PASSION.
He is Lord of every storm.
3. STORMS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND (Next Week)
MY NEWS — AND HAPPY HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Before we plunge into our study, I will share my personal news, which also explains why I must do a two week study right now. (The first week has more homework than the second, so if you want to slow down more this first week, go ahead.)
Last week my daughter Sally called me with some concerns the doctors had concerning her pregnancy. They said the baby was very small — at the 11th percentile. The baby was also breech, so they planned to try to turn her. But then Sally’s water broke.
Had we lived a century ago it would have been a fatal scenario. I wept to think of that and thanked God so for modern medicine and the C-section that rescued them. How thankful we are for His mercies. Sadie was a gift after years of infertility. Claire’s life was rescued by modern medicine. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. I am here with them now and filled with gratitude. Thank you for your prayers and love.
I also have a renewed appreciation for mothers — this brings back so many memories — dealing with sensitive children’s feelings, with the constant clamoring for needs to be met — with the mess and the multitude of tasks — all to be done calmly and with gratitude! I used to get bent out of shape on Mother’s Day because I expected GREAT ACCOLADES and didn’t always get them. The children were too little, and for the first several years Steve didn’t relate because “I wasn’t his mother!” (But he soon realized it was a day he needed to fuss over me!) But whether you are recognized or not, I THINK WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS AMAZING, and God sees and is pleased with even a cup of water given to a little child.
We are also so blessed if we have physical or spiritual children. This is a special day. Happy Mother’s Day to every mother reading this blog. And for those of you who are not mothers, but long to be, I pray God will give you the desires of your heart or change the desires of your heart. I know this is a hard day for you.
1. What thoughts do you have about the opening and why?
2. Share one reason you are thankful for your mother.
Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study
DAILY STORMS WHEN WE CLING TO IDOLS
Both Emily and Chris had to overcome the approval idol, the “fear of man.” How did each do it and how does either speak to you?
3. Read 1 Peter 3:14-15 in this Good News, or in your own translation:
Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry.
A. What reassurance is there in the first part of this verse?
B. But if we do suffer, what reassurance should still help us overcome the fear of man?
C. Is this fear of man, this need for approval, an idol in your life that daily tempts you? Explain, and then speak the truth to your soul.
4. A second idol that tempts us to forfeit grace is control or power. I myself often want to “fix” people, instead of trusting God. I often think of the example of Christ — who faced so much more. Read 1 Peter 2:21-23 and explain how Christ was able to do this.
5. How could this help you overcome your control/power idol? Be specific.
6. A third idol that daily tempts us is comfort/security. Rebecca’s testimony in regard to food was that she had to stop running to food and start running to God. She read books that helped her grow in intimacy with God. She also had to endure pain, but then experienced peace and freedom. How does Hebrews 12:1-2 speak to this?
Monster Storms When We Cling To Idols
7. Read Jonah 2:1-4 again. Who sent the storm and why, do you think?
8. This week I’ve been reading to Sadie and she has a book about Jonah. I find so many children’s books distort the real story, wanting to make all the Bible characters simplistic heroes. Sadie’s book said, “Jonah loved God but he was afraid of the Ninevites so he ran way.” This makes Jonah sound nobler than he really was. According to Jonah 4:1-2, what was his real reason for fleeing?
9. In the same way, though I love this little girl and her telling of Jonah, in the beginning of the story I see the author of this children’s version made the same error — but the rest is great. Watch and comment.
Thursday-Friday: Keller Sermon
Listen to this in the series: They Greatly Feared. If you are purchasing this individually instead of in the set, then go to this link
10. The stormy sea (What do storms reveal about every human heart?)
11.The religious sailors (Why doesn’t their religion help them?)
12. The willing substitute (How do you deal with fear?)
13. What is your take-away for week 1?
WEEK 2. STORMS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND
I do not understand why Joyce’s husband left her when her child with so many physical needs was born. I do not understand why Chris’s son was assaulted and died. I do not understand why Elizabeth is plagued with physical pain that feels like fire ants all over her body. Each of you, I know, has experienced a storm you do not understand. Jesus makes it very clear that not every storm is a result of personal sin, but that it can be used to reveal the glory of God.
And so part of trusting God is to accept the mystery of suffering, and to know that in the end, He will do all things well. That even perhaps, as Tolkein says, “Everything sad will be untrue.” These mysterious storms we will consider in this 2nd week of this study. But we know: He is Lord of every storm.
Perhaps the worst storm our country has endured in the last twenty-five years is 9/11.
In God’s providence, Keller began preaching on Jonah two weeks before 9/11. A story that talked about what happens to us when we are overcome by hatred and fear. During that week Redeemer had a special service — and that is part of the Jonah package. It is also a free sermon.
This is the whole service following 9/11: LINK
Also for those who are interested in another message, this is one that ministered to me deeply in the midst of my worst storm — my husband’s death. It is called “Heman’s Cry of Darkness.” We will look at Psalm 88 this week. Here is the link — it is 2.50 so it is optional:
(A funny story with this sermon. One time our own dear Anne, our nurse from Carolina (I think South) was going through a terrible time and I recommended this sermon to her, but she had it in her mind that I wrote Haman instead of Heman. So she listened to a stern sermon about Haman and the sin of pride. (It was as opposite as you can imagine to the soothing message I wanted her to hear.) But vulnerably, and I will always remember this about her, wrote: “I needed to hear that so badly.” Her humble heart is one of the reasons she is so mature.)
1. Find one or two comments that stood out to you from your sisters’ comments last week and explain why.
2. Each of you has no doubt experienced a storm you did not understand. Yet if you look back, you may also be able to see ways God prepared you for that storm. If so, share something about that.
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study
Last week the sermon showed us how religion fails us in the midst of fear, but the “greater Jonah” never does. I want you to begin to contrast the first and second Jonah. Read again, Jonah 1:1-6 and also Matthew 8:23-26.
3. Find all the similarities in the two stories that you can.
4. Find all the differences — and why “the greater Jonah” is One we can trust in the fiercest storm.
5. Psalm 88 is one of the two psalms of lament that do not close with trust in God. Derek Kidner explains that even God understands that there are going to be times when our pain is too great to end our prayer with a resolve of trust. This ministered deeply to me, that God should so understand and forgive our weakness. Read Psalm 88. Find the lament, the despair — and see the graciousness of God to us when we rail at Him, the giver of every good gift. In miniature I’ve seen that a bit in 23 month old Sadie this week — as she is upset with Sally for having another little girl. She doesn’t understand and she cries — and Sally simply holds her and reassures her of her love. If anything quickens you in Psalm 88, share it here.
Thursday/Friday: Listen to one of Keller’s sermons listed above and share your thoughts.
Rebecca found the link to Heman’s Cry of Darkness as a free sermon!
Saturday: What is your take-a-way and why?
Why would one ever flee from the presence of the Lord?
Away from hope and into despair?
Away from light and into darkness?
Why did Jonah?
And why do we?
We do it when our deepest desire is for something other than God.
What did Jonah want more than God? You don’t really discover the answer until the end of the book, but there was something that was more important to him than serving God, than loving God, than experiencing the presence of God. Did Jonah love God? I can imagine him preparing a defense, saying, “For twenty-five years I’ve gone to Temple…for twenty-five years I’ve kept the rules — for twenty-five years I’ve prophesied your Word…”
But did he love Him? C. S. Lewis used to say of his dog — “He doesn’t really obey me, but sometimes he agrees with me.” That’s how we can be. Obeying God when we agree with Him…but fleeing when He asks us to do something that goes against what we really want. Our real god, our idol, whatever that is.
It is so easy to think we are loving God because we are doing “the Christian things.” Have you ever fixed a meal for your husband or children — but it wasn’t done with love? Anyone looking at you might not know — but you would know…
One of the most penetrating conversations in Scripture occurred between Jesus and Peter after Peter’s betrayal, after the resurrection, when three times Jesus asked him:
DO YOU LOVE ME?
This always reminds me of the three times that Tevya, in Fiddler on the Roof, asked Golde:
DO YOU LOVE ME?
Please watch the first two minutes of this song. After two minutes the parallel stops — for when they then sing ” “It doesn’t change a thing, but after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know…” it doesn’t work. The truth is, if we really love Jesus and are not just serving Him to get something in return, then it changes EVERYTHING. Morality is serving to put God in your debt. Embracing the Gospel is to comprehend that He did it all, that there is nothing you can do to win His favor or put Him in your debt — in fact, you are completely in His debt. But the first two minutes work perfectly — so watch, for the picture will stay in your heart!
This week we are still laying the foundation for the book of Jonah — and I want you to go slowly, for the truths expressed are paradigm changers. Tim Keller explains that there are two ways to flee the presence of the Lord: one is by being very very bad (like the younger son in the story of the Prodigal sons) and the other is by being very very good (like the older son in that same story.) The “older brother” and Jonah felt God owed them something because they had served Him. Keller also explains, and I know this is true, that unless you explain that there are two ways to avoid God, that non-Christians will think you are inviting them into morality when you invite them into Christianity. Likewise, we ourselves can begin to think of the Christian life as obeying the rules instead of an intimate relationship in which we are experiencing the presence of God. When Jonah ran away from God it was not spatially (because you can’t — He’s everywhere) but relationally. He didn’t want to be intimate with God, to find His identity anymore as the servant of God — he wanted to be his own god. He didn’t like what God was asking and he was angry — like the older brother was angry. We all carry in our souls some of the older brother/Jonah syndrome.
After I spoke in Georgia last weekend, I took two extra days to be with my friend Sylvia who lives in NE Florida. Our mutual friend Ann joined us. I told them about my new insight into The Sermon on the Mount — and of how, Jesus is preaching about the older brother/Jonah syndrome, about how we find our identity in things other than God, about how we seem to love God, but really, love our own way. We may appear to be “good Christians,” but in reality, we are the house on the sand, the barren fruit tree…
At first they were skeptical, for they had never heard that — but then, as we sat down and looked at the four examples the sermon closes with, they saw it. As Sylvia and I were changing my bed before I flew out, smoothing the sheets for the next guest, she said, “Dee — why have we walked with the Lord all these years and never seen this [meaning heart idols -- and how we find our identity in things other than Christ] before? Why have we not heard this before?”
I said, “I don’t know. But once you see it, you see it all over the Bible”
“It is!” She said adamently. “EVERYWHERE! That’s why I cannot understand why I was so blind. But seeing it has changed my life.” Then she paused and said, “Do you think this awakening, which is definitely spreading in the body of Christ, is leading to revival?”
“I’ve wondered… it certainly has done that in my heart.”
Seeing this changes so many things: our approach to evangelism, our own sense of being loved, our freedom, our desires — EVERYTHING. Our own Kim Taylor just wrote me the dearest note on how this has changed everything for her, and set her free. I’d like to quote one of her paragraphs:
How different I am than a year ago. My life is peaceful, no matter what storm comes my way. I feel full of Him and His love, no longer the elder brother looking down at others who are less righteous than me. I know my name is sealed on His great heart and so I no longer fear losing my salvation.
Go slowly. This is a life-changer. It may take some weeks for the penny to drop, but when it drops, you will never be the same.
For those who are new — I suggest doing certain things on certain days — but if you prefer to listen to the sermon first — do. His messages are so rich, you may want to listen more than once. I’ve listened to some of his messages ten times. My penny needs lots of jiggling to drop!
1. What comments do you have on the above and why?
2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…” How would you feel about that response and why?
3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why?
Monday – Wednesday: Bible Study
There are two ways to avoid God: by rebelling and being immoral, or by being very good and trusting in your own righteousness — so you think you don’t need a Savior. Probably the easiest place to see it, and for many of you this will be review, is in the parable of the two sons — so let’s look at that first, if only for review. Neither son, initially, truly loved the father. As Keller says, “They only wanted the father’s stuff.”
4. Read Luke 15:11-18
A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?
B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his
C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?
5. Read Luke 15:25-30
A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.
B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?
C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?
D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”
Now — a less familiar and surprising place — The Sermon on the Mount. At the conclusion, Jesus keeps giving illustrations of “two ways.”
I want to anticipate a question: “Are you saying someone who has a heart idol is not saved?” I’m not. I’m saying he might not be saved, and think he is because he is “moral,” like the older brother or the Pharisee. But he might have a heart idol and be saved — for we all have them. The younger brother had one — but his struggle and his repentance showed he was like the good tree.
Keller said he once preached on this as the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly — which is correct, but later he saw that the ungodly did not represent the person who is like the younger son (being very bad) as he had thought, but rather the older son (being very good — self-righteously moral.) This is sobering. This sermon is, in part, to awaken those who think they know Christ, who say “Lord, Lord,” but in fact, do not love Him, do not trust Him. They love themselves and are trusting in their own righteousness.
We’re going to study this from the conclusion up — looking first at the summary, and then seeing if we can see the truth throughout The Sermon on the Mount.
6. Read Matthew 7:24-27
A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what
they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?
B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.
C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can
know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?
7. Read Matthew 7:21-23
A. How are these two groups the same?
B. How are they different?
8. Read Matthew 7:15-20
A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?
B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?
9. Read Matthew 7:13-14
Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you
10 Share your contemplations on this study.
Thursday-Friday: Listen to this free Keller sermon given in London to pastors and share your notes.
Notes and Thoughts on Message
11. What’s your take-a-way and why?
It was a Friday night in mid-winter, and Steve was troubled about a patient. “She’s a sweet woman named Mildred and I think she has but a few days before she faces God. I sent her home today for there’s nothing more medicine can do for her. I’ve gone into her room several times in hopes of sharing Christ with her, but her husband is always there and always talking non-stop.”
“What are you going to do?”
“How would you feel about driving to their farm with me to visit tomorrow?”
“What about the talkative husband?”
“I’ll ask him to show me his barn, and while we’re out at the barn, you can share the gospel with her.”
“Hmmmm,” I said, feeling some Jonah like reluctance.
Slowly, I nodded.
He hugged me and prayed God would give us favor.
And so, in the morning, we headed out in the country to visit Mildred and Mike.
When we arrived, Mildred was in the living room on the sofa, wrapped in blankets. Her husband was talking… but Steve interrupted him: “Mike — I’d love for you to give me a tour of your barn!”
“Nah,” he said. “It’s a mess.”
“Oh — I’d still really like to see it.” Steve stood up — ready to go.
“Nah. Not going to show it to you. Come back in the spring. I’m staying right here with you and Mildred.”
Mike never stopped talking. I sat down on the floor next to his wife, took her hand, and tried to have a private conversation. But that dear farmer plopped down right next to me, cause he had things he wanted to tell me about the farming life. I looked at Steve and pled with my eyes. Now what?
He shrugged. After an hour we left. Failure — or so it seemed.
But God had a plan that would not be thwarted. Though Mildred did die a few days later, after the funeral the daughter told Steve that her mother had put her trust in Christ after we left. “She told me she knew why you and your wife had come. After you left, she prayed and asked Jesus to forgive her for her sins.”
I share this with you to encourage you — that God is sovereign, and if He is drawing someone, that even the worst evangelist will succeed.
Jonah was certainly the worst. His life had none of the fragrance of Christ. He hated the Ninevites, didn’t want to share the good news with them, and when he finally did, gave the worst possible presentation in history. Not a word about the love or grace of God. Not a word about their need to repent and trust Him. Only: “Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown!” Or, as The Message puts it, “Forty days and Ninevah will be smashed.” (Jonah 3:4) Not exactly a winsome gospel presentation.
But the people of Ninevah believed God and were saved.
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. J. I. Packer has a classic book by that title — and it is a subject we will cover in our study. Whether you call it election or predestination — it’s a thorny issue, but one you can’t avoid if you are going to take a good look at Jonah or Scripture. It is also one that has brought me great peace in evangelism. I know God calls me to share the good news, just as He would call me to share a cure for cancer if I knew it. And I know He calls me to be gentle and humble and honest and to live what I speak. But the results? That’s up to Him. And I must trust Him with my loved ones.
Please don’t think that Jonah’s success gives us a license to be lousy evangelists. God commands us to share with “gentleness and respect.” (See I Peter 3:14-16) And then we leave the results to Him, for in Him is “dominion forever and ever.” (1 Peter 5:11)
One of the characteristics that Steve loved in many of the farmers of Nebraska was their respect for God’s sovereignty. They knew they were completely dependent on Him. They would work hard, plowing their fields, planting their seed, caring for their crops — but they also knew that unless He granted favor with the weather, they would not succeed.” That’s what we are called to do — to sow our seed with love, but then leave the results to Him. That has actually taken enormous pressure off of me. Early in my Christian life, I thought it was up to me, and I would get physically ill out of concern for my parents’ salvation. I truly believe you will be blessed when we look at this doctrine in the context of Jonah.
But we aren’t going there yet. I also want to give you a taste of another truth in Jonah. Jonah’s problem was a heart idol that was blocking the compassionate Spirit of God. So Jonah is about idolatry — I am seeing, in fact, the whole Bible is about idolatry. Whenever we have a problem, we can discover a heart idol at the root.
Even though I grew up in Wisconsin and then lived 25 years in Nebraska, I don’t know a whole lot about farms. I know more than my New Yorker friend Kathy Troccoli. Whenever she’d visit me in Nebraska she’d have a lot of fun with the farmers. She wanted to meet my friend Keith Johnson, because we wrote about him in Falling in Love with Jesus — painting him as a contemporary Boaz, who married a contemporary Ruth (my friend Jill.) When Steve had cancer, we all made a visit to Keith and Jill’s farm. Here is Kathy on what she kept calling “a concubine.”
In the great free message you will listen to this week from Keller on Jonah and Idolatry, he uses a farming metaphor I didn’t understand. I had to write my sister Bonnie’s husband, because he grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, and I knew he would understand. Keller quoted Martin Luther who was fond of this metaphor, and said that when you talk to someone about sin, they stare at you “like a cow stares at a new gate.” I asked Jim, “What does that mean?”
Jim explained: A cow’s life is based on certainty–trods the same paths every day. A new gate will stop it in its hoofs.
I get it. When you talk to someone about sin, especially today (and no doubt, especially in New York) they stare at you, not comprehending. “A sinner? The wrath of God?” Where did you come from, they think, Nebraska?
But when you talk to them about idols of the heart, you get a different reaction. They no longer stare at you like a cow stares at a new gate. As Keller say, “You get traction.” Keller explains that while many New Yorkers don’t think of themselves as sinners, they often can identify what they feel they have to have for life to be meaningful. Keller may not use the word idol right away, but he does show them why that overwhelming desire cannot be their Solid Rock, and is leading to all kinds of misery… He’ll touch on it in this week’s sermon, and come back in future sermons.
I am in a secular book club in Wisconsin with women who the world might think “have it all.” I could never talk to them about sin — they would think I was saying they were sinful and I was not. They would be offended and angry. It would be a train wreck.
But I have had a few conversations with them about my heart idols (and I did use the word) and they did listen. I told them about why seeing these invisible idols is a more effective way to change than to attack the symptom. They listened — even had searching questions.
So this is another topic we will consider when we consider Jonah. A fresh approach to evangelism.
For those of you who might like to do some additional reading, I have a suggestion:
from Scotland, South Carolina, and now Texas. This is a brief but very
readable and insightful commentary on Jonah. I read half it on the
plane yesterday. Optional — but I recommend it.
Ferguson said he thought a good title for Jonah would be
“Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.”
A couple of personal notes:
Last week when I told you why Rebecca had come to the blog, I then asked: “Why are you here?” Your answers warmed me, surprised me, and showed me why this is such an amazing gathering. Your vulnerability, your honesty, and your longings make me so thankful to have you here and to be privileged to mentor women like you. I thank God for you.
I also want to tell you something so you can share in our joy. My manager, David, is expanding his website business and has wanted to take a piece out of his job with me: the handling of retreats. I felt anxiety, for David has been so good, and I don’t worry about things going wrong technically at a retreat. But God is truly showing me (chip by chip on my control idol) that I can trust Him to be in control. I began to pray, and our own Rebecca came to mind. She lives right here in Kansas City, where I am. Her passion for God and the talents He has given her drew me to her for this position. Last week you watched her testimony. David has been training her and now she is on her own — she has done all the work for my engagement in Augusta tonight (if you are reading this on Sunday — please pray for tonight — quickening, and that the tech part will go well). Rebecca’s not traveling with me, but is making sure everything is set up and running before I get there. Please pray for Rebecca and for the ministry. I thank God for her.
Rebecca is already proving to me such a wonderful help. She found this great link to sermons I was going to make you buy — but here they are free. You will have to buy some sermons during this study — but not yet. Go to this link.
It’s a wonderful message — and just a prelude to the journey we are beginning on Jonah!
Finally, I’m scheduled to speak in Augusta tonight but my plane was cancelled in Charlotte and I am still here. Am scheduled to try again to fly out this morning. Had several mix-ups and a short night. I need God’s quickening more than ever. Thanks so much for praying for that — and for my travel. I am so thankful for your friendship.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Do you have any comments on the following two topics we will be considerng in our Jonah journey? If so, comment.
A. Election and Evangelism
B. A fresh approach to evangelism, using idols of the heart
Tuesday/Wednesday: Bible Study
Jonah is only four chapters. Read two a day and write down a few things that stand out to you. (Remember, if a verse becomes radioactive, stop, for God is talking to you.) And for those of you who have just studied Jonah, remember you need to read a Scriptural book about one hundred times before you begin to get it. :-) I’m also seeing the fact that several of you have just studied Jonah or are in the midst as God’s sovereignty — for you can bring fresh water to our spring.
Thursday/Friday: Listen to the Keller sermon entitled Gospel Realization — here’s the link again:
1. What was Keller’s experience with talking to New Yorkers about sin — and then — about idolatry? Why, do you think?
2. What is the supreme irony in the book of Jonah?
3. Keller says that before you can be an effective evangelist, you need to deal with the idol in your own heart.
Share your reflections on this.
4. A sign of a heart idol is when you don’t want to go on if it is taken from you. Keller tells a story he’s told before of two women married to difficult husbands. One was able to forgive her husband and the other was not. Why? Do you relate to this in any way?
5. Keller said the Lord has to become your “Rachel.” What did he mean? How are you doing with this?
6. What else stood out to you from this message and why?
7. What’s your take-a-way and why?