SLI — Ch. 18: “A Clean Escape”

I should have posted this…oh, in September of 2010. But I kind of tired of reading and writing about this book. I’m only doing this now because I want to actually finish something I’ve started on this blog. Life doesn’t always give me the time I’d like to dedicate to thinking and writing, and this post isn’t going to be incredibly insightful, but I’m pressing on.

I cannot summarize better than the author. Moore writes, “This has been a messy book.” Yes. Yes, it has. This is probably my least favorite of all Beth Moore’s books.

The final chapter is simple. Moore reiterates a couple of points and reminds her readers to use the methods described in the book to discern whether or not one’s decisions emanate from insecurity or security. If it’s coming from a place of insecurity, then don’t do it. “The methods worked,” she says, and they will work for you, too, as long as you remember that the Lord is your security.

 

 

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Jonah, idolatry, and me

Surprised by Grace
Scene 4: IN A GREAT RAGE

This chapter of Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels picks up the Biblical narrative following the amazing revival that occurred in Nineveh. We who grew up hearing Jonah’s story in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School have perhaps lost some of the shock that would no doubt accompany reading the next scene in Jonah’s drama for the first time. If we were unfamiliar with the drama to ensue, we might expect, for example, that Jonah, this prophet of God who has experienced both an amazing rescue and now an amazing response to his message, we might think him exultant and excited about Nineveh’s widespread repentance. Not so fast, my friend. The Bible tells us that “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” (4:1)

Jonah goes so far to give a reason for his intense reaction:

And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (4:2, emphasis mine)

Tchividjian writes in Scene 4: In a Great Rage that “[t]his has to be the most bewildering thing in the entire story”. Jonah is mad because he knew that what kind of God the Lord is! He knew God would have mercy! We see now why he fled in the first place; he was afraid not of failure but of success, that the Lord would indeed have compassion and spare the detested Ninevites.

It seems silly to me, this childish reaction on the part of Jonah. Particularly when he tells the Lord he just wants to die. Puh-lease, I want to say, with a roll of the eye. What is he, two years old? Such drama! And all because an entire city has repented in what may well have been the greatest revival the world has ever seen? Can Jonah be any more ridiculous?

Apparently Tchividjian isn’t as smug as me because in examining Jonah’s inappropriate response to the outpour of the Lord’s grace and mercy, he carefully exposes Jonah’s temptation to idolatry…and mine as well. Jonah took great pride in his national and religious identity and this worship of his pedigree led him to the foolish and ungracious anger at the Lord’s willingness to grant pardon to those he hated and despised. Yeah, worship. Worship? Isn’t that too strong a word? Consider what Tchividjian writes about true worship:

Worship is a posture of the heart. It is an attitude of loyalty and trust toward something–someone–in your life that you believe makes life worth living. Ultimately, worship defines you, makes your life meaningful, and gives you security. Thus, we all worship something or someone…typically, whatever we worship is our “nonnegotiable.” It is that one thing, should we lose it or part with it, which would bring both devastation and hopelessness.

And here’s an interesting test to evaluate what occupies your worship: fear. What do you fear the most? “Behind everything you worship is some fear that, without this person or thing, you’d be lost…your fears cause you to attribute ultimate worth either to things such as success, reputation, family, relationships, or to God.”  When that ultimate worth is granted to anything besides God, we are indulging in idolatry. I agree with Tchividjian when he asserts that “most idols are good things in our lives that we turn into ultimate things, things that take God’s place as we unconsciously depend on them to give our lives meaning and security.”

Jonah’s story reminds me of the insidious nature of my idols, how peevish I can become when I feel they are threatened, and what empty security they offer. Yes, Jonah’s reaction is silly and ridiculous and sad because the Bible is clear that the only reliable object of worship, the only secure source of justification, love, mercy, grace, approval, cleansing, righteousness, the only One worthy, is the one true God who secures all this—and more!—in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So I cannot judge Jonah. I am like him in my petty idolatry. I am thankful that, like Jonah, the Lord does not cast me off in my self righteous pity party, yet continues to seek and save me. How great is His mercy. How relentless is His love. How tender is His compassion. How much I need Him.


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Great Repentance

Surprised by Grace
Scene 3: In a Great City

SBG is going to try to finish blogging through Surprised by Grace. I am picking up where Melissa left off.

Jonah, coughed up from the fish’s belly and onto the shore, went straight to the great city of Nineveh to preach God’s message to them: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

“Nineveh was great in population, great in power, great in prestige, and great in importance.” It was also a kingdom great with sin. “It’s safe to say that no people in all the span of biblical history had a worse reputation for brutality and arrogance as the Assyrians. This effect was intentional — part of their design that ‘featured deliberate terror and atrocity as instruments of foreign policy.’ In the chronicles of their reigns, Assyria’s kings boasted of their brutalities for everyone to read and hear about.” Tchividjian’s description of King Ashurnasirpal II’s deeds is gruesome.

One might assume that a king as powerful as the king of Nineveh would not give heed to the ominous words of a traveling man in a seaweed-flecked turban. But “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

I think the ruler of Nineveh, great as he was, knew in that moment that One greater existed over him. And the only way to appeal to Him would to humble himself and command his people to humble themselves. After all, Jonah didn’t explain anything about repentance or the mercy of the Lord or the sacrificial system. He didn’t give the king a list of transgressions; he simply said, Judgment is coming in 40 days. And the king and the entire city responded in repentance.

Can you just imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and find the entire population of your city: people, pets, livestock, old, young, powerful, weak, all lying prostrate in the dust, fasting, denying themselves comfort of any kind for a full 40 days? A citizenry proclaiming faith in Christ Jesus? What kind of mercy would the Lord pour out on that city?!

“God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). Tchividjian writes, “[T]he effect of Jonah’s sermon is large; the turnaround in Nineveh is huge — perhaps the greatest revival that history has ever seen. God has thoroughly humbled a violently arrogant city; he has resurrected a spiritually dead city; and it happens to be the most powerful metropolis in the world.”

Tchividjian closes this chapter with encouraging words to us who wonder sometimes if God could really use us to do anything.

Both the Bible and church history show that God does everything through those who understand that they are nothing, and God does nothing through those who think they are everything…This makes Christianity a unique and liberating breath of fresh air. Why? Because this world values the dominant, not the defeated. Everything in this world caters to the beautiful people. Our world says that for you to be valuable, you must be healthy, attractive, prosperous, and influential. To be useful, you must become powerful. The world and all its religions say, ‘You must become great before you can do great.’ But this story shows us that in God’s eyes, and in Christianity, weakness precedes usefulness.

Jesus is our example. In the gospel, He demonstrates for us how we are to live. Though he was equal with God, King over all, He chose weakness and poverty. He chose to make himself nothing, a servant for sinful humanity (Philippians 2:6-8).

The challenge for me is adjusting (really turning upside down) my life and way of thinking so I am more gospel-centered. As a stay-at-home mom, so much of my life is spent serving. But, for example, what about those moments when I decide that I don’t want to serve anymore? What about when I declare that it’s time for some “me time”? What about those moments when I look at my husband and tell him it’s time for him to serve me (as if he didn’t already do so)? Can I humble myself (to the point of death?) in that moment, press on with the strength of the Spirit, and render myself dead to those selfish desires? Can I sincerely say, “Though I am Queen of this castle, I will be the servant of all for the sake of the gospel.” An entire city may not follow my example, but four pairs of eyes are watching my every move, four pairs of ears are listening to my every word, four growing hearts are interpreting my tone of voice, attitude, and expression. Am I living in a manner worthy of the gospel?

The exhausted SAHM application is the most obvious (and most challenging) for me. But the applications abound!

The solution for the Ninevites and the solution for me is repentance: “heartfelt sorrow for offending God and others.” Christ satisfied God’s wrath for me when he bore my sin on the cross. I know that I am forgiven and that I stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. I am free from his condemnation and I know his peace. His mercy has not been without effect. But he isn’t finished with me.

Posted in Surprised by Grace, Tullian Tchividjian | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hello! Anyone out there?

Hello?! Anyone out there? Are you as surprised as we are by the dearth of posting around here? It seems me, Leslie and Melissa have all found ourselves caught up–and rightly so–in the rights and responsibilities of our lives as wives, moms, and other roles the Lord has given us to be posting here with much regularity. We hope that will change soon as we are each striving to rekindle our blogging momentum (as the Lord wills and grants us time and inclination, that is).

In the meantime, I hope you’ll indulge me a shameless plug for a post over at my personal site. As I’ve read various articles and blogs across the wonder that is the internet, I’ve grown both perplexed and grieved by some of what passes as Bible study, particularly in terms of what is being offered to and by women. Don’t get me wrong, not all that is out there is of evil intent; I am encouraged by the availability of good resources and by the commitment of so many women to the disciplined study of God’s Word. In fact, [shameless plug for Melissa’s post] take a look at this post of Melissa’s, read the comments, and be encouraged by those bloggers eager for Bible study to be just that: Bible study.

So, in a response of sorts both to Melissa’s excellent question and to the wide array and sometimes seemingly incongruous applications of the term Bible study, I decided to share a bit of what drives and motivates the Bible study it is my humble privilege to lead. Yep, a shameless plug and you can find here. A follow up will be posted soon.

And thanks for visiting us here at Southern Baptist Girl! We hope to resume our discussions here in this space soon and very soon…

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Behind the Label

Labels are deceiving. They make us believe we know what we see. I think about how many times I’ve bought something – food, theology, relationships – based upon its label without considering all the ingredients. I’ve allowed labels, rather than the actual contents, to define my choices.

I was recently labeled as something other than a Southern Baptist Girl. Please visit me here to read more about it.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,500 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 47 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 7 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1mb.

The busiest day of the year was September 8th with 170 views. The most popular post that day was The gospel isn’t just for non-Christians….

 

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were philippians314.squarespace.com, twitter.com, breathoflifeministries.blogspot.com, Google Reader, and lisaspence.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for southern baptist girl, “southern baptist girl”, baptist girl blog, beth moore a fundamentalist, and “submitting to my husband”.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The gospel isn’t just for non-Christians… September 2010
8 comments

2

About SBG March 2010

3

SLI: Chapter 4 March 2010
18 comments

4

Sunday Study: How to Study the Bible March 2010
5 comments

5

SLI: Chapter 3 March 2010
10 comments

 

Not too shabby considering how little we blogged!  I’m not making any promises, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll finish blogging through Surprised by Grace.  I hope I can because it’s a good book that I think Christians ought to read.

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