Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Parenting 2.1

This past Sunday I gave a sermon on the third chapter of Jonah. I talked about how God chooses to work through us instead of doing all the work himself because he loves us and wants to give us opportunities to grow into the people he created us to be.

I didn't  talk about this from a parental perspective but my own sermon has given me lots of food for thought over the last week.  As I prepared and preached, I kept thinking about how God truly is the model parent. He gives all of us unlimited opportunities to learn and grow, succeed and, sometimes, fail - all so that we can become better disciples and a better missionaries for him in this world.

I thought about some of the ways I have been 'too busy' to teach my son to do things because it is so much quicker, cleaner, and more efficient if I do it myself. Then I think about  how dire all of our situations would be if God had this attitude towards us. Just as we need God to teach us and work through us, our kids need us to teach them and allow them to do the work alongside us for now so that they can do it themselves when they are older. None of us springs forth fully knowledgeable about anything. We all have to be taught and guided along the way.

I am so thankful (particularly in the absence of my earthly parents) that I have a Heavenly parent who loves me so much that he will pursue me until I get on the right path and then walk alongside me while I'm on it. I don't make myself a better wife, mom, co-worker, friend, etc. god makes me better at those things when I ask for help or simply let him work through me.

I love the Book of Jonah because Jonah tries so diligently to do what he thinks is the right  thing and disobeys God in the process, and yet God works through him in phenomenal ways to offer salvation to thousands of people. His tactics could have totally backfired but God totally had Jonah's back.

As many of you know, this is my last week on 'staff' at Live Oak.  It's weird but sometimes the thing you think you are supposed to be doing, or have been called to do previously, becomes a barrier to what God is calling you to do next. I know many people are confused by this in my particular case (since I am a 'professional' minister) but I am am excited about this new bend in the road. I keep thinking about how Jonah fought God long and hard about his new journey to preach to the Ninevites and I suspect I've been ignoring God's call to change directions in my own life for a while now. I had forgotten what it was to be joyful in the Lord and I have re-discovered that lost treasure this summer.

As I turn the page on this part of my journey I want to remind you that sometimes we make everything too complicated. If we just stopped the 'buts' and the 'what ifs' and decided to not worry about disappointing anyone other than God,  I can pretty much guarantee we would all be more joyful in whatever we do and whatever situation we find ourselves in.

I know that if I  just focus on and trust in Him, I will be much more effective at whatever God has in mind for me in the coming season.

I am so looking forward to what God has in store for me, for Live Oak, and for our families and communities as we walk forward into the future, inviting God to take up residence in our souls and work through us in countless small ways throughout the days as they turn into years. Jonah's failure to trust that God  knew what God was doing didn't change the plan God had in mind, but it did prevent Jonah from having JOY.

Trust God. This Father does know best.

Chesney Szaniszlo


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Playing hide n seek with God

Playing Hide-n-Seek with God (Jonah, chapter 1)

I have always had a special place in my heart for the person of Jonah because of his honest and wholeheartedly, horrified reaction to God telling him to go preach repentance to the Ninevites.

We have all tried at one time or another to hide from God when He calls us to do something we don't like or don't feel equipped to accomplish. What takes a while for us to understand is that we can't hide from God. God will always seek and find us. Often, while we are running or hiding, God uses that time to prepare us to be instruments in  accomplishing His goals because God's will always prevails.

Even when Jonah was at his worst in the first chapter of his story – running from God and avoiding the call to minister to people who did not know the Lord – God worked through him. God worked through Jonah’s disobedience to minister to a whole different group of unbelievers - the sailors -  than the Ninevites whom Jonah was originally tasked with  calling to repentance. Through Jonah’s disobedience, God demonstrated His power and authority to the pagan sailors on the boat Jonah was using as an escape vehicle.
How cool is it that God is so powerful that He can even use our disobedience to accomplish Hs goals?! Even though God is capable of turning our willfulness into something positive, we should not linger in disobedience. Our lives are much more joy-filled when we are in sync with God's plans for us because God's plans for us are GOOD.

Since God is faithful to us even in our disobedience, how can we not begin to whole-heartedly  put our trust in Him? 

When God asks you to do a task for Him, don't run.  Instead ask Him to help you have the courage, honor, and integrity to do what he asks even when it is hard or you don't understand because we trust that God knows what He is doing.

-Chesney Szaniszlo