come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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Jonah

We just had to have a prop for the story of Jonah, so invited this whale to join us. And “thank you” to Sally for her placard – a timely reminder that God cares for all his creation.
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Telling the Story
Now although the Book of Jonah is only 4 chapters, it is still a bit long to read out in one go at a service, so we paraphrased it in a poem:

When God looked down on Nineveh town
He saw their wicked ways and He said, with a frown,
“They really must repent – I’ll send them a warning.
Jonah, my prophet, you can leave in the morning.”
Well Jonah made haste, and he left the next day,
Moving very fast – but he went the other way!
Visiting Nineveh wasn’t on his wish-list,
so he boarded a boat and headed for Tarshish.

A storm came up and the winds grew stronger –
the sailors said the boat wouldn’t last much longer.
Why did this happen – whose fault could it be?
Jonah took the blame and said “throw me in the sea.”
They threw him in the water and again set sail
But Jonah didn’t drown – he was swallowed by a whale!
Three days and nights he was in the whale’s belly,
Then was vomited out – boy! he was smelly!

This time Jonah headed in the right direction,
Taking to the Ninevites God’s message of correction
“Forty days is all you’ve got, then Nineveh is finished”
The people said “we’ll change our ways – we don’t want to perish”
The King himself heard Jonah’s words and made a proclamation
“Dress in sackcloth; eat no food; maybe that will spare this nation.
If we turn away from wicked ways God may be forgiving.”
And God, whose mercy knows no bounds, let them go on living.
(by Gail Weaver)

The Craft
IMG_1183We made this clothes peg fishes craft, and if you look closely you will see that Jonah is hiding just inside the fish’s belly. It is really simple – clothes pegs, pictures of big fish/whales, and small pictures of Jonah. Cut all the way through the fish’s body; glue the two halves to the peg – one to the top half, one to the bottom; glue Jonah on the back of the peg, but where he will be seen when the mouth is opened.

 

 

The Message
One of the books in the Old Testament part of the Bible is Jonah. The more I looked into the story of Jonah the more I giggled. He was a prophet – someone given the words of God to speak, but he didn’t want to. The hero, Jonah doesn’t want to obey God, and when he finally does he gets upset that God saved the people of Nineveh. How backwards is that! A whole book in the Bible talks about a man of God who doesn’t want to do what God has told him to – and even does the complete opposite. So I thought to myself, why would there be a whole book dedicated to someone who got stroppy with God?

God says go, Jonah says no, and heads in the opposite direction. Every step he took was a step further away from Nineveh. In the Bible it says Jonah ran away from God. Can we ever hide from our all-seeing all-knowing God? He see it all: the good, and the bad. He sees it all.

While still on the run Jonah was on a ship when a raging storm comes up, and Jonah is fast asleep. Everyone else is afraid and they wake Jonah up. He tells them in v12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” The other sailors ask God for his forgiveness before throwing Jonah overboard to what they thought would be his death, but then the raging sea grew calm. Jonah must have thought this would be end of his life too, and then he couldn’t go to Nineveh. The perfect excuse not to do God’s calling – die!

But God really wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, and so he sends another form of transport to get him there- a whale, which swallows him whole. God can even see Jonah in the stomach of a whale that was swimming in the sea. That truly is an all-seeing God with X-ray vision. We learn there is nowhere we can hide from God. In that smelly darkness, Jonah finally prays to God saying sorry for running away, and he will go and do what he was asked to. And so it says “and the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Yuk, Yuk, Yuk. The Bible has some really amazing stories in it doesn’t it.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh telling the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” And then Jonah went away to watch would happen to the city. This was no great sermon, just 8 words. But the spirit of God is in those words. And all the people, including the king, turn from the wrong they were doing – just as God hoped they would. Jonah should be happy with such great results, but he isn’t. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and despite his best efforts to do it badly, the people heard God in those words. God wanted to save them, even if Jonah didn’t want him to. God’s grace goes out to everyone, not just the ones we want it to.
Do we, like Jonah, want to keep God’s love from those we don’t like?
Do we hope for our enemies to get what’s coming to them?
For those who we don’t like and are doing well, do we hope that they might fail and lose it all?
Do we judge others harshly when we should be forgiving them?

As Jesus said in Matthew “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Give them love not hate.

Sometimes we don’t exactly rush out to answer God’s call either. Sometimes because we don’t believe it, sometimes because we don’t recognise it and, as in case of Jonah, sometimes because we do.

We have all been called by God. The call may be moving in a new direction, it may be doing something new or stop doing something old. Your journey with God is as unique as you are. And I truly believe that whatever God has called you to, God will go with you every step of your new journey. It’s your choice — you can do it God’s way or Jonah’s way.
(Vanessa)


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God – Here and Now (Malachi 3:6)

I heard a term the other day “Change fatigue.” It is the inability to cope with constant change which goes against the common saying “the only constant in life is change.” Change fatigue is becoming more prevalent in Christchurch as we continue to live post-quake. An example is the constant changes to roading with detours and road blocks that seem to last forever, or appear and disappear overnight. I have tried to be clever and beat the system by taking the long way round to avoid roadworks only to encounter bigger ones, and then find out the one I avoided had been finished. Changes in where we live as we have repairs, or feel our lives are on hold as we wait for outcomes so that any change can then eventually happen. There is such a blanket of uncertainty over so much of our lives, more so now than ever before.

Personally I have changed a lot in my 44 years. Of course I have, I am no longer a new born baby, toddler or teenager. I am a middle-aged woman with some grey hair and even more wrinkles. I am a wife and mother. I have had many experiences that have formed me to be who I am today – some good, some bad, some menial and some profound.  And the process is not complete, I will continue to change over the next year, the next 10 years – right up to the day I die.

And God – has He aged? Has He changed?  “I am the Lord, and I do not change”(Malachi 3:6)

When my father died, I couldn’t find God. I prayed, but the God I knew wasn’t there….. why would God leave me in my time of raw grief? Or had I changed?  And here is something I read at that time called “Footsteps”:

FOOTSTEPS…..
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, You said that once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

I had never been in this place before… I just needed to learn to be carried. Our relationship changed and as a result is now different.

These changes are given to us so that we can grow spiritual.
So we learn to have the confidence and courage to lay our burdens with God so He can give us rest -and that does mean putting them down and not going back to pick them up.
So that as our patience is tested, we learn how to wait in God’s timing.
So by loving the difficult people in our lives, loving the unpleasant parts of ourselves we can experience more of God’s love for ourselves and those around us.

The challenge you are having now (because I know we are all facing something – that’s life) is about us changing to be more like God, more like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the one who shows us what needs to be done, and gives us the strength and peace to do it.

Sometimes we learn these lessons quickly, sometimes it takes a bit longer, sometimes we think we passed it, only to find out we have a whole other level to master. And yes, that is life – it changes constantly.

In the midst of change and uncertainly, we can trust in God who never changes. Situations in our lives often change, but God’s promise never changes. Our feelings and emotions can change, sometimes quickly, but God never changes.

The only constant in life is God, and He is here and now. In this present moment, and every present moment. In the calm and the storm, in the noise and the quiet, in the crowd and in your solitude. He is here, he is now. He is in our present moment and our future. Your choice is if you want to be with Him.

Vanessa


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Let’s start at the very beginning….. – Genesis: 1

I have been asked to put on the text from the talk that went with our Creative Creation Craft, so here it is.

The reading was from Genesis Chapters  1 & 2. Genesis comes from a Greek word meaning beginning or origin. Genesis has roots in the word genealogy – the study of our beginning, our family tree. And in the story of creation we trace our beginning, our origin, our genealogy right back to God. That’s where we all started from, with a breath of God.

Now I will just get the seven days or seven ages argument over with. There are Christians who firmly believe one or the other: that Creation took 6 solar days (days as we know) or that creation took seven ages and that human kind came onto an Earth that was already very old. For me, and I make that clear FOR ME it is not important. I think the important thing is that we honour God as creator.

Firstly let’s talk about the order of Creation

The first three days God forms –

  • Day 1 God forms light and the cosmos,
  • Day 2 God forms  the sea and sky, and
  • Day 3 God forms dry land and plants.

Then over the next three days God fills it.

  • Day 4 The cosmos is filled with sun, moon and stars;
  • Day 5 The sea and sky is filled with birds and fish
  • Day 6 The land is filled animals and humankind.

The order of creation has been proven it had to be so. For example there needed to be plants   BEFORE we were created. Why – one reason, one really good reason is we need the oxygen they produce to be able to breathe. Photosynthesis (the process plants change carbon dioxide (what we breathe out) to oxygen (what we breathe in) was not known when Genesis was written. Aah but God knew.

And on the seventh day  – God rested. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s resting from his work is shabat which means to stop or to cease. It’s from this Hebrew word shabat that we get the word Sabbath. And the Sabbath is the known as the day of rest.  In Jewish tradition the Sabbath is Saturday, while Christians moved the Sabbath to Sunday to commemorate the day Jesus rose from the dead.  The Sabbath is so important it is the 4th of the Ten Commandments: Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. One way I try to honour this is by not doing anything on a Sunday that causes someone else to work – such as going to the grocery store. I know people who fast on a Sunday morning before coming to Church so that for them they are drawn closer to God.  How about doing someone else’s job for them – you know the dishes if they always do the dishes? I don’t think it matters what you do today as long as what you do is done to show God you love him, and to show others you love them too.

I love love love how God created us – from the earth (the lowest substance) and a breath from God (the highest substance).  Whether we acknowledge it or not – we have the spirit of God in us, God is a part of us. God created us in His own Image – So what does that mean. Do we all look like God: you know a head, eyes, mouth, arms and legs etc or do we have his spiritual image, the character qualities of God: morality, compassion, intelligence and so on. Amy Grant sang a song called “My Fathers Eyes” which is about people seeing God in her eyes – her soul as it is said our eyes are the window of our soul. That song has had a big impact on me as I long to have My Fathers Eyes. 

So here we are created with nothing to do so God gave us a couple of jobs: go forth and multiply (simply make more of us) and manage his creation, care for his creation: not neglect and destroy.

I marvel at God’s handiwork in the native fish in our stream that climb over rocks to go upstream, the Godwits in New Brighton who fly to Alaska each year, photos taken from space of the planets and stars, the smell of a rose, the grasp of a newborn baby’s hand over your finger, the view of our harbour as you come over the top Dyers Pass – it all takes my breath away.

Dick Tripp has written a fantastic book (The Biblical Mandate on Caring for Creation) on how the Bible tells us to care for creation. On page 123 he says that we all have different gifts and different opportunities and it is up to us to decide what we can do individually and collectively. Dick lists the 6 Rs as a way to do this:

REDUCE our consumption of non-essentials to healthy living

REUSE where possible to reduce waste

RECYCLE – this is what God does

RESIST: the temptations that abound  in our materialistic society

RESTORE what has been lost where that is possible

REJOICE in the goodness of God in all that he has made and all he provides.

I challenge you to do something specifically this week that shows God that you care for his Creation for in doing so you are not only following what is said in the Bible, you are showing God your love for him.

Vanessa

 


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The Girl’s still got it

Last year we went to a Retreat weekend run by CWCI (Christian Women Communicating International), and held very locally for us (5 minutes drive down the road!) It was a great chance to unwind and share our love of God with other like-minded women. Good food, good accommodation, good company, and good teaching.

The main speaker for the weekend was Liz Curtis-Higgs teaching on the Book of Ruth – “The Girl’s Still Got It”. I must admit that I hadn’t paid that much attention to this book before – widow women going “home” to be looked after by family; big romance; Ruth & Boaz turn out to be the great-grandparents of King David. So, basically a book about genealogy, right?

Wrong! Liz opened up the meaning behind this book, delving into the background of the story, the history behind the animosity between the Israelites and Moabites, and the social conventions of the times.  And she did it with such humour – isn’t it great to laugh so much that you end up crying!

During the weekend she shared the first part of her “Righteous Ruth Rap” with us (a very condensed version of the story) and I would encourage you all to watch this on YouTube, if you haven’t already. And if you’ve already seen it – well, it’s definitely worth another look.