Last week whilst I was sat in the service, a thought pop into my head. There is a fairly impressive miracle in this book which isn't really mentioned. Jonah gets swallowed by a huge fish, and survives for three days in a stomach of a whale.
How did he survive the stomach acid or more importantly the lack of oxygen for three days?
In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
As Jesus clearly believes that Jonah was
Swallowed by a huge fish
Was there for 3 days
Survived the ordeal
I think that we also should believe it, therefore (from my admittedly limited research and knowledge about huge fish) I’ve come to the conclusion that surviving the ordeal was in equally impressive miracle on God’s behalf to providing the fish to swallow Jonah and then vomiting him onto dry land. And therefore, this story can be one of encouragement and hope to us today.
Whilst today in our lives we're not likely to be swallowed by a giant fish, we're are likely to be in places that really pretty tough. Places where we get to rock bottom, and can't see any favourable way out (let's be honest being vomited onto a beach isn't great but is considerably better than the other option), places where we can't see a way of surviving let alone thriving.
If God stepped into to prevent Jonah from dying, he can step into the situations we find ourselves in today and will help us survive. As Christians we should expect life to get tough in places, and therefore when survival seems challenging remember these words of Jesus from John 16:33:
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
We believe in a God who has immense powers, who can control the natural world. But that same God came to this earth and went through suffering greater than we can imagine by dying on a cross. So when we go through suffering we can cry out to a God who understands and goes through our suffering with us, and we can take hope that Jesus has beaten death and will one day return in glory.
Jess Vaughan is a Student Forgee. She graduated from the University of York last summer
We all like to be comfortable. As far as I'm aware no one aspires to be living on the edge of society and have nothing to their name. Everyone wants to have people or keep possessions around them to make them feel comfortable and 'live life to the full'. But what if we are called to 'live life to the full' by giving away. By giving away possessions, by giving away love and friendship that you keep for certain individuals. I've been reading a book recently called 'If you want to walk on water you have to step out of the boat' by John Ortberg. Apologies for anyone who was in my seminar on the weekend away, it's going to be a lot of the same stuff.
This book talks about stepping out in faith using the narrative of when Jesus and Peter walk on water in Matthew 14:22-32. This was the only time in history when a person has walked on water but what affect does it have on our life.
What I have learn't over the past few months is that if I want to grow in faith in Jesus Chirst then I need to step out in faith. I need to trust that Jesus has got my back and that if I am doing something because I want to further his kingdom then I just need to do it, don't wait for God to give me a sign. For me this has worked out best in my life when Matthew Porter gave a sermon about giving financially, I remember that I promised God two years ago that I would give a certain amount of money to the church. I really didn't want to do this as it would mean that I would have very little money to live off of for the rest of the month and I didn't want to just be eating Morrisons value noodles for 3 weeks!! But all the same I did give that money and I felt such a relief taken off of my shoulders. I felt it was the right thing to have done.
Then the trouble started, I was called into the office of my paid job and told that I might loose my job in 2 weeks. Not good. A week after that happened someone from church came up to me and offered me a job, that would be perfect, what good timing God! I have now taken that job and have kept my other job as well. This means that I would have got back pretty much all the money that I gave away.
This has been a great time of God providing and I firmly believe that God will protect you and look after you, psalm 121. In this case he gave me a job, I might have been given some money randomly or lots of people cook for me that month. The ways God could have protected me are countless but I am told He will protect me, all I've got to do is trust. Through this process as well I have grown to trust God so much more, which I think was the whole aim of this.
So this time I talked about stepping out in faith with possessions and money and next time I'll talk about what stepping out in relationships and what it means to me.
Blog post by Lawrence
Lawrence is on the student team at St Michael le Belfrey and became a Christian while he was a student in York.
For my first blog post, Ben asked me to explain what God has been teaching me and doing in my life recently.
Being an economist, a son of an accountant and a debt center manager, money has always been a big area of concern for me. Making sure I wasn't spending too much, using my money efficiently and effectively and following my (very tight!) budget constraint was very important to me. It got to the stage where I was spending less and less on essentials like food each week because I thought I was trying to honour God in that I wasn't living dependent on money.
One of the talks within the ‘Facing your fears’ series at the Belfrey was about the fear of ‘not having enough’ and this, combined with a chat with a friend, led me to feeling God was convicting me and challenging me about the way I was viewing and using the money I have been blessed with. I realized that financial stability had become an idol in my life. At the end of each week I would take huge amounts of pride and satisfaction from my bank balance and how well I’d been keeping to my budget. I felt comfortable and safe because of the knowledge of a bank figure rather than because I’m in personal relationship with the creator of the universe!
6 The point is this:whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,not reluctantly or under compulsion, forGod loves a cheerful giver.8 AndGod is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiencyin all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.’ 2 Corinthians 9
How can I be generous when I have very little money? I can’t remember who told me this but I find it really helpful: ‘You’ll never be generous when you’re rich if you’re not generous when you’re poor’. Generosity is a mind-set independent of income level. I think Paul highlights this well in 2 Corinthians 9 by saying that we give ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion’ but as a natural result of our love for God. This love manifests itself in obedience to him and giving cheerfully. The widow gives hugely in proportion to her income in Luke 21:1-4 and we are also supposed to model this generosity and use the blessing we have received from God to bless others and to help further his Kingdom here on Earth.
How can I be generous without being reckless? I’m not saying that we shouldn't be responsible with money; we have been called since creation to steward all things wisely. God is the provider of all things and as his children he promises us financial provision. As his children the Bible teaches us to honour God in the way we view and use the money God has provided. After all it is not even our money we just steward it!
How does a mind-set of generosity lead to a lifestyle of generosity? One question that I ask is: ‘How can I bless the people I am with and be as generous as I can in this situation?’ whereas before I would ask ‘How can I spend as little as possible?’ I love meeting people for coffee/drinks at the pub and a simple application that I found was buying someone a drink. Something simple like this can make someone feel so appreciated and loved. Another example of how I saw what God has done in my life recently was when a couple of my friends needed to borrow some money. I wasn't sure when they were going to repay me but I trusted that God would provide if I had need.
This may be obvious to many of you, or the effect of this may look different to how it affected me, but as Christians we should be operating with a mind-set and lifestyle of generosity. I pray that our generosity will glorify God, his provision and all he has done for us.
Blog written by David Lasky
David is a first year student at the University of York and is studying Economics. He loves football and is an Arsenal fan but also has a soft spot for Hull City.
I love sleeping. I think if we’re honest everybody loves that feeling of curling up in bed, nice and warm and just drifting off to sleep. Unfortunately I probably love sleeping a bit too much, and recently I’ve been challenged by a number of different parts of scripture. All of which are telling me to get out of bed and start my day with prayer, bible study and thanksgiving. ‘That sounds like a great idea!’ you think, ‘starting my day with prayer and spending time studying Gods word, what an excellent way to start off my day!’ Unfortunately to enable myself to do that it involves getting out of bed half an hour earlier and apparently, even though my brain likes the idea, my body likes it a lot less.
Some people might say, well it doesn’t really matter what time of day you study your bible or pray, as long as you do it, then it’s fine. That may be true but for me the bible has some fairly definite ideas about when it is the best time to do these things.
In Mark 1:35-36 it says ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.36 Simon and his companions went to look for him’ Jesus sneaks off so early in the morning to pray that His disciples don’t even know where he’s gone and have to physically search Him out. In Luke 5:15-16 we see that ‘the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses.16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ Jesus fame is spreading and He and His followers are seeing miraculous thing happen but still Jesus feels the need to find a solitary place to pray. In the hectic-ness of modern life the only moment of solitude many of us will find is first thing in the morning with our bedroom door firmly shut. Psalm 119:147-148 says ‘I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. 148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.’ I think this portrays beautifully the urgency that psalmist feels, and the fact that it doesn’t make getting up early or even praying through the night sound easy, but it does sound like the psalmist feels it is necessary.
I’m not saying that we should forgo sleep in order that we pray and read the bible more; however what I do think is that I, especially, need to get better at is self control. If I went to bed at a reasonable time whenever possible how much easier would it be for me to get up just half an hour earlier each morning. If we look at 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 Paul says ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.’ Paul is saying here that we need to discipline ourselves so that we are able to live our lives more effectively for Jesus. If I’m struggling to get up in the morning, maybe I need to enforce a bed time on myself. If I’m struggling to read the bible every day because I get distracted or bored maybe I need to ask someone to keep me accountable.
If we work out where our weaknesses are then we can be intentional about overcoming them and in doing so we can start living our lives that bit more effectively for Gods Kingdom.
Michael is a 'Forgee' and is on the Student team at St Michael le Belfrey. He has spent the past two years working for Riding Lights Theatre Company!
'Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked. The whole outfit.' C.S.Lewis – Mere Christianity
Earlier on in the year I gave my testimony at a couple of events and I used this quote to emphasise the point that there was a gap of about 6 months from when I believed that God existed and when I gave my life to follow that God; the triune God, Father, Son and Spirit. It took me 6 months to realise that God wanted everything of me, not just bits of me here and there, but everything. It was after realising this that I first prayed that I was going to give my life to serve God. Even though I have prayed that, I can safely say that over the past 3 years I have not given God everything that I have. Malachi 1:6-14 is a passage that springs to mind as God is talking to the priests of that era angry that they are not giving the best of what they have. That is just as applicable now as it was then!
It seems that when we want to give the best of what we've got it is always to the person or people we love or want to be loved by. That for me is quite often my friends or girlfriend, what is it for you? I've noticed that for me it is not always Jesus. So part of the reason why I am writing this is to work out how to love Jesus with my whole being, how to desire him more. As he first loved us with his amazing grace, so it should be our natural instinct to love him back!
So how do I love Jesus more? Trying harder? Going to more church events? No, it can't be that. That is essentially what the Pharisees did and they weren't in Jesus' good book! I think it is to desire God more; to desire God on a level with the psalmists (Psalm 42:1-2, 63:1,27:4 to name a few). Another example of desiring God is Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Mary is going against the culture of the time and is just sitting there soaking in all that Jesus has to say rather than serving him, unlike her sister Martha.
So what is desiring God more going to look like for me? I think it will be me wanting to study and meditate on scripture more. Not merely desiring scripture itself and knowledge of scripture but desiring the one who wrote the scripture, who gifted us the bible to know more about him (read my previous blog on 'Studying the bible' to get some thoughts on that). I don't want this to become a legalistic endeavor of collecting knowledge but an endeavor of wanting to know the God who desires my heart and my all. I'll keep you updated on how this is going for me and I'd love to hear how you are doing with it.
Blog post by Lawrence Hutton
Lawrence is on the student team at St Michael le Belfrey and became a Christian while he was a student in York.
I don’t know about you but reading the bible on a regular basis can be really hard. Getting up in the morning and groggily reading the bible and not much of it going in, this is all far too familiar for me!
Recently I have had some teaching on the importance of the bible and what it actually is. And it is amazing to think that it is Gods living word and we have it at our finger tips but I don’t read it as much as I should. Ghandi once said:
"You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature."
Knowing that I have Gods living word at my finger tips I wanted to study the bible more but I just didn’t know where to start. I was recently recommended a book called ‘Bible Study Methods’ by Rick Warren. It’s a great little book. It has really helped me look at the bible in more active ways, which has made me want to read the bible more (and so far I’ve only managed to read the first few chapters)! The book has 9 different ways of studying the bible using resources varying from the humble pen and paper to a more miniature library. It also has sections on how to read the bible in the mornings, which are called morning devotionals. This section is really helpful for just doing a quick 10-20 read and meditation on a part of the bible of a morning. I find it hard to have much cognitive function in the mornings but I’ve started to find that waking up 15 minutes earlier than usual really helps and reading the bible right at the start of the day sets my day up perfectly as I find I have my eyes focused on God.
The book reiterates multiple times is that it’s though hard graft and persistence, with Gods grace, that we are able to read the bible regularly and effectively. Although this can seem like just too much work, it really is worth it – God can transform your life through his word!
Blog post by Lawrence Hutton
Lawrence is on the student team at St Michael le Belfrey and become a Christian while he was a student in York.