Lessons from Jonah–becoming conduits of grace

Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love,
but as for me,  I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.


Jonah didn’t have anything to offer but thanksgiving at this point. He was hostage in the belly of a huge fish after his unsuccessful attempt to evade God’s call to warn his enemies of impending judgment!  But I’m not sure his heart was compelled yet by love for his enemies. He sets himself apart from those despicable idol worshippers, he who has known faithful LOVE.

Then came Jonah’s second chance.  Vomited up on dry land he received his orders: “Get up! Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach the message that I tell you.” From what we can see of it, his message was pretty straightforward: “In 40 days Ninevah will be demolished!.”  I wonder if Jonah felt a little smug at being the bearer of the tidings.  The Assyrians were after all a feared and hated aggressor in the region. It would be good to have done with them, to see them get their dues!

I’ve been there. A dozen or so years ago I was in a small fellowship group telling how I’d had my bike stolen from our back yard but how the thief hadn’t gotten very far with it since he’d been drunk and had taken a spill.  I wrapped up my small town tale with a smug:  “He got what he deserved!”  I’d have long forgotten the whole incident were it not for how Andy responded.  Soft-hearted, gracious, people-loving Jesus-follower Andy.  He didn’t chuckle with the rest of us but soberly responded that he could never think that way.  He could never delight in someone getting their just deserts, because of how much Jesus had done for him, despite what he had deserved.  We didn’t get what we deserved. Andy has a deep understanding of the grace of God for sinners.  And with gentle words he cut my self-righteous heart to the quick.  I’ve never forgotten it.  How does one who’s been forgiven a death-sentence look at another and gloat over what they have coming.

Jonah had himself just come through a near-death experience of God’s mercy inside that fish. He knew his God as ‘merciful and compassionate, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster.’  But.  He wasn’t quite ready to extend that to his enemies. And this was why he had run from his calling to preach to them.  Better to let them face fire and brimstone unawares!  But God.

And sure enough Jonah’s message was believed. Repentance was the order of the day, with sackcloth and fasting, in hopes that God might relent of His burning wrath and spare their lives.  And He did.

Jonah was angry enough to just die.  This wicked enemy kingdom had been spared judgment.  (God loves even his enemies.)

Jonah was not the first, nor will he be the last to stand in grace and point fingers at sinners worthy of death.  But his story is here in all its red-handed shame for our sakes, for my sake.  May God teach us to love as He does, even our enemies and those that despitefully use us.  May He give us eyes to see the depths of our own depravity and the heights of His redeeming love so that we might become conduits of His grace!


And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…according to the spirit now working in the disobedient.  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires… and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses.  You are saved by grace!

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion…Col.3:12 HCSB

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.  Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children…Eph.4:32;5:1 HCSB

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Mt.5:44-45 ESV






Fickle Me, Faithful He

We set our hope on the LORD, He is our help and shield.  Ps.33:20

Lord God Almighty,
Thou has taught me the necessity of a Mediator, a Messiah,
to be embraced in love with all my heart,
as king to rule me,
as prophet to guide me,
as priest to take away my sin and death,
and this by faith in thy beloved Son

who teaches me
not to guide myself,
not to obey myself,
not to try to rule and conquer sin,
but to cleave to the One who will do all for me.

Thou has made known to me
that to save me is Christ’s work,
but to cleave to Him by faith is my work,
and with this faith is the necessity of my daily repentance…

(from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. “Reconciliation”, p.80-81)

If you don’t stand firm in your faith then you will not stand at all. Is.7:9 CSB

But let him ask in faith without doubting, for the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:6-8 HCSB

…but God gives grace to the humble.  Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your heart, double-minded people! James 4:6-8 HCSB

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.  II Tim. 2:13 CSB

Faithful is He who calls you and He also will do it.  I Thess. 5:24

I waffle, I waver. He stands my steadfast hope and shield.

I commit and then re-consider, forge forward and then falter.  He stays steady by my side– unworried, unhasting.

Faltering, fearful, fickle me.  Forever Faithful Father He.

And I am grateful.

Fixing my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith,


Treasured by God

My Covid-project these past couple of years has been to learn to read Hebrew, the primary original language of the Old Testament.  Years ago I tried briefly but failed even to distinguish one letter from another.  There was no one to hold my hand and show me how to write the letters and being a visual learner,  that sealed my fate for decades.  But now there is the Internet!  And with YouTube there are teachers and chalkboards and explanations at your fingertips. With these I got the leg up I needed so that when a trusty textbook wondrously appeared at the local Thrift I was ready to gallop away!  And thanks to Covid I could stay the course undistracted by social distractions (what introvert doesn’t welcome the relief of that!) until the task was accomplished.  And now I’ve got just enough knowledge to be dangerous, as they say, but also to be delighted.  One of the very best things learning the language of the ancients has done for me is to S-L-O-W  D-O-W-N my reading of the Word.  As I try to decipher the grammar and vocabulary I hear in my head God talking to real people…and little details I would have rushed past become morsels to savor.  My knowledge is rudimentary but the Word is still living and active, even for a Kindergartner learning to read.

Well, where I’m headed with this is the book of Daniel (which incidentally is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, the language of Israel’s pagan captors.)  Our Ladies Bible Study group has just finished our trek through this challenging book.  It turned out to be quite a doozer!  (Yay for intrepid leaders willing to step in over their heads in order to see what God will do.)  Well, the Fiery Furnace, the Lion’s Den and the Writing on the Wall are pretty familiar bits.  But dreams and visions infuse the bulk of the book with a great deal of content that is not in Children’s picture books.  These chapters are a little overwhelming to take on in a ladies’ Bible study that is used to reading letters from Paul written to encourage the saints…

“What’s in this for us?” is a question that’s bound to come up.

Now where we may or may not fit in the visions of Daniel is a topic for another day and I’m pretty stoked to tackle it (another day!), believing we should all have a handle on what’s in this book whether or not we understand every last detail.  After all, it is God’s Word, written for our equipping as saints and of especial relevance for the saints living in the times immediately preceding Christ’s return.  Having said that sometimes even the most ardent scholar hopes for a gem of intimate right-now application to drop from the pages.

Daniel 10 held just such a gem for me.  To do due diligence to context, we are in the third year of King Cyrus of Persia here.  Daniel, renamed Belteshazar in hopes he would forget the significance of his own Hebrew name, “God is Judge”, has served for seventy years and counting in the court of pagan kings.  He is an old man now but he has not forgotten his identity as an Israelite chosen by God to bless all the nations of the earth.  And he has lived to see his people freed from captivity in Babylon, just as God promised, to return to their own land to rebuild the Temple of God!  Two years have now passed since that glorious edict (See: Ezra 1:1).  But Daniel is in mourning and has fasted for three full weeks… We’re not told exactly why but perhaps he is distressed about the opposition the rebuilders are facing back in Jerusalem.  He is clearly concerned for the welfare of his people and humbly pleads for understanding.  So God gives him another vision, which leaves him passed out with his face on the ground! Even after the heavenly messenger reassures him and tells him to stand up and listen he finds himself speechless, weak and breathless.  It is in this context that these beautiful words drop:

Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God,
Peace to you; be very strong! (HCSB)

Other translations render ‘treasured’ as ‘greatly (be) loved’, ‘highly esteemed’ or ‘precious’, but I love the Holman Christian Standard’s use of the word treasured.  We grow accustomed to hearing that God loves us. He has to doesn’t He? He is love.  But the word used here is not ‘loved’.  It is חמד (‘chamad’) which has the sense of something that is desirable, delightful, pleasing or precious. It is used of the fruit Eve found irresistible in the Garden, and of the Word of God in Ps.19:11—“more to be desired than fine gold.”  It can have the negative connotation of coveting (desiring something that is not yours) and ironically is also used to describe the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 whom we know to be Jesus.  He had ‘no beauty that we should desire him’, nothing in his appearance to attract us to him…. In short, God was delighted with Daniel.

I doubt if I would have paused at this word had I not already encountered a variant of it a few verses earlier.  I had been picking my way along in the Hebrew text like a Kindergartener trying to decipher Dick and Jane stories, when I came upon the word Daniel used to describe his fast.  He was not only NOT eating meat or drinking wine, he was not eating anything delectable. He had given up all his comfort foods, all tasty treats…”I ate no pleasant bread” is how it literally reads, bread being the term used to refer to food in general.

And now God uses this very term of Daniel.  You are delicious to me.  I find delight in you.   You’re a real treat!

Daniel had qualities God delights in.  Daniel had faith, he had humility, and he cared intensely about the future of God’s people in a world intent on decimating them.  God was well pleased.  Daniel’s heart reflected His own.

Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God.
Peace to you; be very strong!

Daniel would need all the strength he could muster to imagine the future events God unfolded via the messenger. Israel’s persecution and suffering were not over. Tyrants would still oppress them.  Many saints would die.  But in this process, allowed by God, they would be refined, purified, and cleansed (Dan.11:35) and in the end, just beyond a time of unparalleled distress, the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, when all their human dependencies and strength would be shattered once for all, then…

But this was more than Daniel could comprehend. He cries out “My lord, what will be the outcome of these things?!”  More trouble?! Really?!  But he was basically told that his role in the life of His people and in that of the world powers of his day was through.  The prophecies made were to be sealed up and preserved for those who would be alive when their time of fulfillment had come.  Daniel was dismissed: “Go your way till the end.  And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”  He would not live to see all the promises of God to his people fulfilled, but he would die knowing he had brought God great delight by his childlike trust in God and His faithfulness to represent Him to the heads of pagan kingdoms.

I am reminded of the Hebrews 11 hall of faith–that synopsis of the feats of faithful saints who by their hope in God won His approval. For ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’

Faith pleases God.  By it we too can know His voice of approval:

“Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. 

Peace to you; be very strong.”

And that is a gem I just had to share.  Thanks for the listen. May you know His good pleasure in all you do in His name.


“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
For by it the people of old received their commendation. “ (Heb.11:1 ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God! (Rom.5:1,2)



Righteous Father

Righteous Father!  The world has not known You.  But I have known You and these have known that You sent Me. I made your name known to them and will make it known so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them…

Holy Father, protect them by Your name.

You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy…

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”  The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children… heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.–The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature.–We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him…Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons….Shouldn’t we submit to the Father of spirits and live?…He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness…Discipline yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Let us hold onto grace. By it we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Jn.17:25,11; Mt.6:9; Rom.8:15; Heb.1:3; Jn.1:4; Ps.103:13; Heb.12:7,9-11,28-29 HCSB

A good, good Father we like.  The love of God we warm to.  But Jesus calls His Father Righteous Father, Holy Father.  He instructs His disciples not to be afraid of haters who may kill them but to ‘fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Always there’s this tension between attributes we feel safe with and those associated with pain!  But of course God is perfect in all of His ways.  Being both loving and holy is only a paradox in my limited brain. For much of my life I have subconsciously associated holiness with its less than beautiful counterfeits.  Think: stern, frowning, restrictive, uniform, prudish, ugly, no fun and nothing’s funny. The holiness movement I grew up in inadvertently fostered these sorts of behaviour.  But thank God there were exceptions–people both loving and holy, people like Jesus, who made you want to be like that too. True holiness is beautiful. It is what we were created to personify, us as we were intended to be from the start.

I suspect if we could see more truly the glory for which we are destined we would surrender more readily to the Consuming Fire, this fire that consumes all that persists in us that is truly ugly and hurtful, selfish and self-sabotaging.  It is this Consuming Fire that is at work in us to give us the desire and the ability to be like Jesus.  It is this One who is fitting us for a glory that will take our breath away and leave us forever beholding and worshipping the God who loves us this much, enough to make us Holy so we can see Him as He is and not be consumed.

Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before Him.
Ps.96:9 CSB

What do I Want?

A free lunch, a miraculous cure, a wise word–all these Jesus was known to dispense. No wonder people flocked to him.  Jesus always had an answer but it was not always what was hoped for.  Take for instance the three conversations Mark captures for us in Mark 10.  First there is the hopeful ‘young ruler’ wanting to know what more he can do to merit eternal life.  He was looking for something he could tick off as he had presumed to do with each of the commandments.  Jesus stunned him with the ‘one thing’ he lacked: Sell all your treasures and give the money away, then you’ll be able to follow me.  He went away deeply dismayed.  His treasure was too great to trade for a life of following.

James and John then step up.   They’ve left everything to follow Jesus.  They have a request–‘Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You.”  Don’t we all?  But sometimes we just don’t know what we’re asking.  They didn’t.  They wanted first dibs on the seats beside Jesus when He entered glory.  They had high hopes but no idea of the cost of such seating.  Request deferred.  And with that, quiet talks about the upside-down greatness of the Kingdom of God.  The truly great are the greatest servants.  Jesus showed the way.

Final entry, a poor blind beggar named Bart, crying out at the top of his lungs by the roadside:  “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” The passers-by, straining to hear Jesus’ every word, find Bart’s behavior odious. But  he would not be silenced and Jesus heard his plea.  Calling him near, Jesus gave the beggar His undivided attention:  “What do you want me to do for you?”  Bartimaeus might have asked for lunch or some pocket change but he knew what he wanted most of all and he believed Jesus could do it for him.  “I want to see!” he blurted out.  And Jesus, seeing his faith, restored his vision. Then with his newfound sight Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus.

What might I have asked Jesus for?  What do I want more than anything in the whole wide world? The successful business man wanted riches here and hereafter.  James and John wanted a slice of privilege, a bit of glory for themselves in exchange for their dutiful following.  The blind beggar wanted mercy.  He wanted an undeserved hearing with Jesus.  He was then granted the desire of his heart.

What do I want? How will I get it? What will it cost?*

These questions help me to sort out my frustrations when life doesn’t seem to be satisfying my soul.  They help me to zero in on the ‘one thing’ that is needful.  And these stories of real people who came to Jesus with their desires help me to see how mine may need refining.

Do I take consolation in my own achievements, fearing for the loss of what I have if I should follow more faithfully?  “But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ…in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!” (Phil.3:8)

Do I value serving above recognition? Can I serve unseen for ‘an audience of One’ and trust Him with any future reward.  “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk.17:10)

Or, am I coming to Jesus pre-eminently for Mercy and too, that I may see Him more clearly and follow Him more closely. “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (Mt.5:3)

I’m not sure of all the right answers but by faith I’m following after Jesus just as I am, trusting God to shape and fulfill His purposes for my life.  Bless Him for thwarting my desires when they are bent on accumulating treasures that will burn, or sidetracked with motions that don’t matter.  May Jesus be our highest treasure and serving Him in all the mundane minutes of our days our greatest joy. Amen?!
Pondering His Words with You,

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.–You desire and do not have…you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.–Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.

Jn.15:7,8; James 4:2,3; Prov.37:4 HCSB

*I owe to Elisabeth Elliot the succinctness of these questions.  She says that in answering them we establish the basis for a steadfast heart and greatly simplify our lives.  See: ElisabethElliot.org https://elisabethelliot.org/resource-library/lectures-talks/a-steadfast-heart-part-1-2/

It’s been many moons since I’ve posted here; I’m not even sure who’s still along for the listen.  But if you are, and wouldn’t mind saying hello, I’d be so encouraged   ( :  –LS