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South Fellowship Church

Jonah

Pray Scripture | Matthew‬ ‭9:10-13

We often envision Jesus as a teacher, but rarely do we imagine him giving people a homework assignment. However, that’s exactly what he does in this passage. He gives his listeners a metaphor to explain what he’s doing, and then he gives the Pharisees an assignment: “Go and learn what this means.”

Pray through this passage and then go do the homework Jesus assigned.

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.””‭‭ (Matthew‬ ‭9:10-13‬)

Ask Jesus what it means that he desires mercy, not sacrifice.

Ask Jesus how you may be offering sacrifice, not mercy.

Ask Jesus how you can more fully become a person of mercy.

Pray: Jesus, I recognize that I need your restorative work in my soul. I need you to be the great physician you claimed to be. I know that you don’t heal me because of religion, but rather through relationship. I want that real relationship with you today. I want to hear your voice and know your presence. As I do that, help me become a person who generously gives mercy to all those whom I encounter. Today, help me see the world through your eyes that I might be your hands and feet. In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, Amen.

By Ryan Paulson

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Pray Scripture | Matthew‬ ‭9:10-132019-07-22T16:35:16-06:00

Worship | Matthew 26:36-46

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

In one of my lowest, most broken moments, I yelled at God, “Why is this okay with you? Because it’s not okay with me!” In the years since, I’ve essentially asked that question of God many times. Maybe you’ve had a similar moment of anger or desperation. Now think about Jonah. He’s been saying the same thing to God all along! Why is the repentance of the Ninevites okay with you, God? Because it’s not okay with me! Why is the death of this plant okay with you, God? Because it’s not okay with me! My will should be done, God, and you should get with the program!

Seeking our own will always seems justified in the moment. After all, our will is usually in line with the perfect future we imagine for ourselves. And it’s not that those things are always, or often, bad. But what if God’s future is a better future? Jonah clung to his own will at the expense of the better option and bigger vision God was inviting him into. Even if we can’t see it in the moment, God’s will has something bigger and better for us than even the best we can imagine on our own.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult, or even costly, to pray “your will be done, God.” Today is Good Friday. The night before his death, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed “your will be done,” not once but three times. And then he walked in obedience, even though it meant his death on a cross, so that we might have a better future: restored relationship with God instead of hopeless separation from him.

Today, soak in the fact that Jesus responded differently than Jonah and that changed everything. Slowly read through Matthew 26:36-46. Maybe attend a Good Friday service and worship God in community with others. Thank Jesus for the impact of praying “your will be done” and ask him to give you a heart like his, seeking God’s will and his (and our) bigger future.

By Jessica Rust

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Worship | Matthew 26:36-462019-07-22T16:35:16-06:00

Prayer Walking | Jonah 4:6-9

Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:6-9

I like to believe the book of Jonah is the beginning of his story, and he became more mature in his spiritual walk after this experience. The book of Jonah demonstrates God’s relentless pursuit of his prophet and God’s extravagant love for all people. Jonah does not understand this God; his whole world view has been shattered. He is angry, disappointed, and depressed. I can relate with Jonah; I have had periods of time where I was angry at God and not understanding the pain I had to walk through. For many years after our special needs son Joshua was born, it was nearly impossible for me to see any way that this situation could possibly be used for good. I had times of being angry and often I asked God “Why?”

As Joshua grew, and we learned how to care for him, and how to navigate the insurance and school systems, it became a little clearer to us. Each lesson we learned, we were able to share with other parents of younger children and ease their path through the systems. As we learned to trust in God and his love for us and for Joshua a little more each day, we were able to see how God provided for us. Often other parents would come our way who needed spiritual encouragement to stay the course, have faith, and look to God to provide for their child. God would orchestrate these meetings and conversations and we were able to comfort and encourage them.

Paul explains one purpose for our pain this way, “Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” II Corinthians 1:3-5

Take a walk today, talk to God about your personal pain, your personal struggles. Ask him to show you people in your life you are uniquely qualified to pray for, to encourage, to walk alongside in their pain. Spend some time praying for those people. Reach out and encourage them this week.

By Grace Hunter

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Prayer Walking | Jonah 4:6-92019-07-22T16:35:16-06:00

Solitude | John 12:23-25

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  John 12:23-26

Today, get alone with God, the author of life itself. Contemplate the theme in the last chapter of Jonah about the death to life process in nature. We see it in seeds, plants, insects, animals, and fish. The giving of one life brings new life to another.

Jonah could have died bringing God’s word to a barbaric people, but he didn’t. He wanted to die because the Ninevites received God’s compassion. Jonah could have spent the rest of his life teaching and worshipping in the city of new God followers, but he didn’t. He went out of the city to watch it be destroyed, but it was spared. He wasn’t willing to give himself to their new life; instead he sulked. He was so disappointed and angry at the compassion God showed to his enemies he wanted to die. He was so mad when his shade plant withered he wanted to die. He wanted his life to end not once but twice!

It is ironic that Jonah cared more about the one plant giving him comfort than a whole city of lost people. It is even more ironic how easy it was for all the citizens of that huge lost pagan city to come to God than one prophet of Israel named Jonah to respond to God. Jonah ran, disobeyed, argued and pouted, yet God kept pursuing. Jonah continued to resist God in spite of the grace shown to him by God saving his life miraculously at sea, and providing the shade plant to comfort him. How does death to life transformation take place?

The most important dying that needed to happen in this story was Jonah dying to himself. The Apostle Paul said, I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Christ himself said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). God orchestrated these teachable moments in Jonah’s life. Has he been doing this in your life too? “For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation” (Luke 11:30). Pray the dying to self Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi in your solitude today:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen

By Donna Burns

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Solitude | John 12:23-252019-07-22T16:35:17-06:00

Self-Reflection/Confession | Jonah 4:9

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:9

Does God ask you questions? Over the past few years I’ve been learning to listen more intently to the voice of God. One of the more surprising things is that I feel like God often asks me questions. Jonah’s story is no different. Aside from his command to preach to the Ninevites, God’s primary interaction with Jonah is that of questioning. What about you? How would you answer God’s questions to Jonah?

Take a moment to think of a situation that frustrates you or makes you angry. Once you arrive at that, attempt to answer the questions that God asks Jonah.

  1. Do you do well to be angry? In other words, how is that working for you? Does it help to be angry?
  2. God says, “Should I not grieve _______?” It might help to focus this question to your source of anger. For example, is God wrong for not taking away your source of anger?
  3. How might God be inviting you to grow in empathy? If you are angry at someone, ask God to teach you to have the same empathy that he has for them.

As you go through this process, how do you feel? Does your heart find more relief from an honest dealing with anger? Do you sense your attitude about the situation softening in your heart? If not, ask God why? Ask him to reveal what else might be going on inside of you. If you find your heart softening, meditate on that fact for a few minutes. Let the truth solidify in you that letting go of anger feels healthier for your heart then clinging to it. Now, enjoy the increased freedom of walking through your day having dealt with that anger.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Self-Reflection/Confession | Jonah 4:92019-07-22T16:35:17-06:00

Imaginative Exercise | Jonah 4:5-11

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:5-11

Let’s do an imaginative exercise today. If you don’t view yourself as a very creative or imaginative person, no problem. Let me paint the scene for you. Imagine Jonah going out of the city and sitting in the dust and the dirt. He then begins to construct a shelter for himself – what’s it made out of? Wood? Branches? Some other material? Now imagine a plant growing instantaneously to be tall enough and large enough to give the pouting prophet some shade. What must have that been like to witness the growth of a plant that large within a less than 24 hour period? Think about Jonah’s response to the plant, how glad he was for the provision of comfort. Now, picture night falling and the sun rising the next day. With the new day comes a completely opposite experience for Jonah. Destruction rather than comfort. A gnawing little worm to destroy the plant. Picture this scene and Jonah’s reaction to it. As if that disappointment isn’t enough, think about what it would have been like for Jonah to have a scorching wind beating against him as well as a sun so strong it sapped his strength. These situations combined with Jonah’s inner turmoil over God’s treatment of the Ninevites leads Jonah to desire death. He wishes for an escape from the reality of his circumstances and the reality of the character of God.

Now, take a few moments and relate this scene to your own life. What could be compared to a plant in your set of circumstances? What seems comforting? What are you treasuring right now? What would it feel like to have it suddenly taken away? What could be compared to a worm in your life right now? What feels like it is eating away at your happiness, your comfort? What is your stance toward that “worm”? How about the howling wind and the beating sun – can you relate these to any circumstances in your own life? As you ponder these questions ask yourself how similar or different your reaction is to Jonah’s. Pause for the Holy Spirit to speak to you and direct your heart into repentance of any anger or jealousy or fear or bitterness. Call out to Jesus to speak life to you and bring you out of destruction and into gratitude and peace.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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Imaginative Exercise | Jonah 4:5-112019-07-22T16:35:17-06:00

Lectio Divina | Jonah 4:5-11

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city.  There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.  Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.  But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”

“I do,” he said.  “I am angry enough to die.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow.  It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Jonah 4:5-11

Quiet your mind and heart. Close your eyes and clear your thoughts.

Read the passage from Jonah 4:5-11. Did any word or phrase stick out in your mind? Think about that word or phrase. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you why that word or phrase struck you.

Now, read the passage again. Notice if the same words or phrases touched your heart again or if different ones did. Pray about what you have noticed. Ask God to reveal to you what you need to understand about this passage today.

As you read the passage once more, ask yourself, am I concerned about the things that concern God? Pray about your answer. Be honest with God. Ask for forgiveness if you need to.

By Grace Hunter

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Lectio Divina | Jonah 4:5-112019-07-22T16:35:18-06:00

Pray Scripture | Joel 2:13

Rend your heart

and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God,

For he is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger and abounding in love,

And he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:13

Jonah knew these words well. We can find them in many places all over the Old Testament, often word for word. David writes them in Psalm 103, they are found in Exodus 34, and Nehemiah 9 has almost the same language, as does Numbers 14. Anytime phrases appear frequently in the Bible, we should pay attention, decipher their meaning, and let these phrases sink into our minds, hearts and souls.

When we pray, first we need to acknowledge our dependence on God. Joel says “rend your heart…return to the Lord your God,” (Joel 2:13) David prays, “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1) Both are humble expressions of our need for God. When I am trying to solve a problem on my own, I need to be reminded of this truth. I will pray, “I return to you God, forgive me for trying to do all this by myself, help me to rely on your strength.”

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s character displayed is compassionate and gracious. “…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities,” (Psalm 103:10). Recognizing God’s grace and mercy puts us in the right position for praising him for his forgiveness of our sin. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2-4) Thanking and praising God for giving me strength and being my refuge in my difficult days, is an incredible way to worship God.

Micah shows us another way to pray, by posing a question only God’s character can answer. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depth of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19). When you pray today, thank God that he is slow to anger and delights to show us mercy; this is a truth we can all rejoice in and praise God for. Finally, put your security in God’s everlasting love, “May your (God’s) unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant.” (Psalm 119:76)

By Grace Hunter

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Pray Scripture | Joel 2:132019-07-22T16:35:18-06:00

Worship | Micah 6:6-8

“With what shall I come before the Lord,

   and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

   with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

   with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

   the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

He has told you, O man, what is good;

   and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

   and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:6-8

The brief book of Jonah is action packed. He’s disobeying, running away, drowning, rescued by a huge fish, given a second chance, preaching, witnessing the amazing revival of a huge pagan city and pouts. Chapters 1 and 3 we find Jonah relating to others. In chapters 2 and 4 Jonah interacts with God alone. God pursues Jonah first inside a fish, and then under a vine on a hillside. And he keeps after him, and keeps after him, and keeps after him, why?

We could say this is a heart story. God is giving Jonah trials and the opportunities to learn to get his heart right. Jonah experiences God’s sovereignty, graciousness, mercy and compassion, but did he understand? It’s easy to get down on Jonah and it’s also easy to relate to him. There are times we don’t get our way, get angry and disobey. Just like Jonah our self is on the throne instead of God. God called King David a man after his own heart. But David lied, committed adultery, murdered, yet he was quick to repent, turn to God and worship him. David understood worship.

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51:15-17)

David sinned but his heart was humble. He knew God was God, and he let God be God in his life. Worship with our whole life comes down to our heart. To whom or what does our heart bow down? It took the deep dark depths in a fish for Jonah to remember God. He watched the revival of a city, repenting and fasting before God but his heart didn’t worship at this giving of mercy. The story of Jonah exposes some important things in his heart, what does it expose in yours? Gratitude? Humility? God desires our worship because he knows our heart and what it needs. Worship God for his mercy for you and for all people by listening to Jesus Only Jesus.

By Donna Burns

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Worship | Micah 6:6-82019-07-22T16:35:18-06:00

Prayer Walking | Psalm 86:15-17

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

   give your strength to your servant,

   and save the son of your maidservant.

Show me a sign of your favor,

   that those who hate me may see and be put to shame

   because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 86:15-17

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” You may have automatically just sung the next lines, or even the rest of the song! And I bet as you did, you were stirred to thanksgiving at the grace and mercy that God has showed you. And rightly so. Grace is at the center of what we believe as followers of Jesus and I will gladly take as much grace as possible! I read the words of Psalm 86 and breathe a sigh of relief that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (v. 15). At least, I feel relief as long as that grace and mercy is applied to me. Or the people I love. Or at least the people that I like. However, when I see what I think is wrongdoing, whether that’s in the headlines or someone’s sin against me directly, I want nothing more than to see that person receive their due justice.

As much as I don’t want to admit it to myself, to God, or to you, I have a double standard. And really, most of us do, possibly even you. We rejoice at the grace we have received, whether that is from God or from other people, but it often hits a nerve when others receive that same grace, especially when they absolutely don’t deserve it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to desire justice. But refusing to accept God’s mercy to others, even after you have experienced his mercy yourself, will only hurt your soul in the end.

Take a walk today and ponder this desire for justice instead of mercy. It may be helpful to ask questions like: How are we like Jonah in this text? Where are we wanting God to be gracious and slow to anger with us, when we want God to react differently or more justly toward others? It may feel uncomfortable to examine your heart towards others. Ask God to help you confront those attitudes with honesty and courage, and to teach you to love people in his way with his heart.

By Jessica Rust

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Prayer Walking | Psalm 86:15-172019-07-22T16:35:18-06:00
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