Today, we have a devotional reflection from Lucy Oyelade.
“Being intentional” is turning into one of those very-used phrases in Christian circles, which will inevitably lose meaning the more you hear it! But it is so important that we understand this concept. I was reminded through reading Shannon Evans’ excellent blog post (https://joyfullifemagazine.com/encouragement-for-life-with-an-autistic-child/ ) that God is completely intentional! She writes, in the context of parenting:
“The One who created your child with laser-like precision and atom-level detail is the same One who chose you as that child’s parent, and He will sustain you through every moment going forward, dark or bright.”
Let me say that in a way that applies to us all. He created you with laser-like precision and atom-level detail. He has chosen you. He will sustain you. Psalm 139 tells us:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
The psalmist knew God’s intention in making him, and we should know the same! God knows what He is doing. He excels in it! If someone were to give God a grade, He’d be way off the chart.
I know what you’re thinking – God may be intentional, but I am not! We don’t have to despair, because if you start to intentionally seek time with God, even in a small way, you will become more like Him. God made man in his image (Genesis 1:26), so we have this natural inclination. But, as we know, things happened which mean that humans no longer live in His garden. And now we have to pursue our relationship with Him. We have to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, and nurture our faith. We have to choose to hang out with God. All it takes is a start.
What could we do this week to be an intentional act of hanging out with God? We could listen to worship while we do boring jobs (laundry, washing up, cooking). If you like to craft, as I do, pray at the same time. Even if you put a post-it on the mirror in the bathroom to remind you, and you use the two minutes while brushing your teeth to lift your heart to God, that is actively seeking Him. It doesn’t always have to be hard. Stop making it bigger than it needs to be, and just make a start. He’ll make it easier for you to do, the more you do it. And where will it bring us? (Pop back for part 3.)
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week?
3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP
A LESSON IN COMPASSION
MAIN IDEA: GOD WANTS TO REMIND AND TEACH US OF HIS COMPASSION SO THAT WE CAN SHOW COMPASSION.
Please read Jonah 4:5-11
The main purpose of God through the event of this book was to get Jonah to understand His compassion and grace. The main purpose of the book of Jonah for us is to get us to understand God’s grace and so show His compassion to the lost.
GOD IS TEACHING US ABOUT MERCY
We all need to learn about the grace of God that is offered to us through Christ, which is necessary for our salvation. It is only when we realise that we are helpless sinners who deserve God's wrath but have received the gift of righteousness and eternal life in Christ that we can enter into the faith. Nevertheless, just as Jonah needed multiple lessons about God's mercy, we too need to continue learning more deeply about grace.
God uses various ways, even the likes of big fish and leafy plants, to teach us about His unconditional grace. For example, a challenging relationship puts our forgiveness to the test, and we realise that we are not as forgiving as we should be; as we allow negative thoughts and fears to consume us, we discover that we are not as convinced about grace as we thought we were. Oftentimes it’s the exemplary example of others’ mercy tower us that we learn. Nev, in his message on Sunday, gave the example of receiving gentleness instead of ‘wrath’ when he damaged the family car just after passing his driving test. Tim Keller wrote:
‘Most of us are like Jonah. We must have multiple exposures both to our need for God’s grace—which usually come through experiences of disappointment and failure—and to the gospel message. To get God’s love and Christ’s grace down into the motivational principles of our hearts, to the foundational layer of our identities, is a process, and often a slow one.’ (Keller, Timothy. The Prodigal Prophet)
LET’S SHOW GOD’S MERCY
We can all, I’m sure, empathise with Jonah’s angers. He’s been through a lot! This plant is an object lesson. God is teaching him about compassion. Jonah grieves the loss of this plant. Likewise, God grieves the loss of the heart of this city. A small worm destroyed the plant, so sin destroys lives and God is moved with compassion.
God wants us to be active in showing mercy in our words and works. We are to Serve, Invest and Invite (SIV) in the communities that God has put us into. We will only do this if we are filled with God’s compassion. Nev reminded us that as, at this time of year, we experience greater warmth from the sunshine, so, God, by the Spirit, is warming our hearts toward the lost.
Firstly, how can you and I regularly reflect on God's mercy?
This will lead us to, secondly, faithful, compassionate prayer.
Which, in turn, will lead, thirdly, to loving words and works in our communities (SIV)
In conclusion, I leave you with the words of Tim Keller, which I hope will be the ultimate outcome for all of us after having gone through this book::
‘If your compassion is going to resemble God’s, you must abandon a cozy world of self-protection. God’s compassion meant he could not stay perched above the circle of the earth and simply feel bad for us. He came down, he took on a human nature, he literally stepped into our shoes and into our condition and problems and walked with us.’ (Keller, Timothy. The Prodigal Prophet)
What was God teaching Jonah through this object lesson of the ‘leafy plant’?
In what ways had God shown mercy to Jonah through this letter?
Why will a remembrance of the grace of God keep us from pride and disdain?
How have you Served, Invested and Invited in your communities this week?
How have you got on with making a list and praying for your non-believing friends each day?
Let’s now pray for specific people that God has put on your heart and in your life.
Let’s pray for each other that the Spirit would fill us with His compassion this week.