Sligo19: Are we listening to God's call?

VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams is at the New Wine Ireland summer conference in Sligo this week. She brings you summaries of all the Evening Celebrations and the morning Bible Teaching, so you won’t miss a thing!

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Thursday 18 July

Charlie Cleverly lead St. Aldate’s, Oxford with his wife and a vibrant staff team.  Their  vision is to be a ‘house of prayer for all nations at the heart of Oxford.  He is the author of several books and has pioneered the idea of a ‘Rule of Life’ helping people to practice the presence of God in daily life. Here’s what he had to say on Thursday evening at #Sligo19:

Jonah 1 : Tonight, I was to talk about someone who is dear to my heart - Jonah.  The word of the Lord called him to go to Ninevah was an enemy city of 120,000 people.  

The word of the Lord is calling - are we listening?

I make a plea for hearing the word of the Lord.  God is a speaking God.  We are living in a post-Pentecost time when visions and dreams come to both men and women, old and young. Through salvation history, extraordinary people heard the word of the Lord and things happened. The word of the Lord coming among us is a key to changing culture.  

John Bunyan said, “I saw with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ was at God’s right hand.”

I want to encourage us to get up into the glory of the Lord and to hear the word of the Lord. This is the key to fruitfulness.  Are we listening?

I’ve been reading Madame Guyon - Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ - “You may feel as you pick up this book that you are simply one of those who are incapable of a deep relationship with the Lord. We have all been called to the depths of Christ as we have all been called to salvation.  Intimacy is the turning and yielding of your heart to the Lord.”

These disciplines of intimacy with God are things that I’m passionate about.  Do we have them?

The word of the Lord comes to Jonah and says, “Arise, get up.”  It means in the Hebrew “become powerful.”  God is not wanting to use Jonah but to bless him.  In other words, “Be empowered to go to Ninevah.”  

Ninevah was a dangerous place.  In battle they would cut off the legs of someone and one arm, in order to shake their hands while they were dying.  They would force family members to carry the severed heads of their relatives.  It was a terrorising and terrorist state.

It doesn’t make sense that Jonah was called to this enemy city (like Paul the most Jewish of Jews being sent to the Gentiles).  Even though it doesn’t make sense… go to the difficult place. 

Go to people groups that you fear.  Ireland has been the place of divided people groups. This is a very strongly nationalistic person being called to go to the enemy.  I believe the word of the Lord is calling people here to go to the difficult places.

We often go in the opposite direction

In our nation, there are many challenges.

Moving into areas which are apparently impossible, I believe, is what God specialises in doing.  Often the most difficult journey is just across the room, to speak with a person in your office who is antagonistic to Christianity or to walk across the room at a family party.  

Why doesn’t Jonah go?  He only hears half the message.  The last verse of the last chapter of the book of Jonah shows us more about the heart of God.  We carry the beauty of the kindness of God as we go into difficult places.

Our first reaction is to mistrust God 

I remember years ago being woken up in the night with the word to go to France.  I knew that France was considered the ‘graveyard of missions’.  In Paris, I discovered such a diverse community.  I prayed a prayer, “God get me out of here.”  

“If you want me to come, when I preach in French tomorrow, let someone become a Christian.”  I preached on Christ cleansing the temple and clearing out rubbish and I said, “By the way, He comes into your temple, your heart and that is called becoming a Christian and you can invite Jesus into your heart.”  

After the service I met a guy who said, “I’ve never been here before but what you said about inviting Jesus into my heart, I want to do that.”  And I thought, “Oh no.”  To my shame, it took me another three years to obey God’s call to go to France.

When we mistrust God, storms come

Like the story of the two sons in Luke 15, there are two responses.  In the book of Jonah, you have complete rebellion (like the younger son) and at the end of his life, he demonstrated the resentment of the older brother.

But storms also come to others as a result of sin - the sailors suffered because of Jonah’s sin even though they were innocent. And while that was happening, Jonah was asleep.  

When are we going to wake up?

Bob Dylan wrote:

God don't make promises that He don't keep
You got some big dreams baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep.
When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up 
Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools
You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules.
When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up 
There's a man up on a cross and He's been crucified for you
Believe in His power that's about all you got to do.

Although blameless victims, the sailors never wallow in self-pity or target Jonah.  They are remarkable.  This shows us common grace.  In the culture, the image of God is evident

When he got the call to Ninevah, Jonah should have been in a place of lament and seeking God but instead he ran from God.

When Jonah is thrown into the sea and the storm ceases

This is a picture of the Lord Jesus who is a true and better Jonah.  Jesus entered into our darkness.  In the end, He allowed Himself to be put on the cross and as He took sin upon Himself, He created peace for us (our storms cease).

The storm ceases for others when we throw ourselves into the chaos of the storm.  May God help us and bless us as we do that.  At this time, Jonah became an intercessor.

“In my distress, I called to the Lord…”

There is a call to go to the Ninevahs… to be thrown into the depths and entrust our lives to God… in order that others might find peace.