Remember Abraham's wife, Sarah? How she laughed at God's messengers telling of her upcoming pregnancy at 90 years old? Then God asked why she was laughing and she lied about it! "I wasn't laughing..." Genesis 17-18 oh really!
Then there was a man named Jonah who was chosen to warn the people of Nineveh to turn from their evil ways. We all know how he tried to run from this calling and ended up in the belly of a whale. But that's not all the story. Afterward Jonah did follow directions and give his speech in the wanton city and the people had a change of heart. Good news, they repented and God decided to show mercy and forgive them, not sending calamity to the city as originally planned. Guess who was then sulking about this plan of doom not being carried out? Jonah was arguing with God about his compassion. The nerve of this guy! Was Jonah disbarred from the kingdom? Well no. God gently guided him back to right thinking through the image of a plant that had grown at Jonah's sulking shelter. Check out this story in the Old Testament book of Jonah.
Fast forward to 2015-16. There is this retired school teacher, a happy grandma who lives in Grapevine TX. Part of her regular life is prayer, Bible study, devotional reading to kick start the days, along with good strong coffee. Sometimes she doesn't particularly like what she reads, so it is put out of mind and replaced with distracting activity - household chores, TV, books, hanging out with people, etc., etc. But the still, small voice does not leave her alone.
What I was trying to ignore was Jesus' message in Luke 14. He was having dinner in the house of a prominent person (a Pharisee) and in watching the way guests chose their places at the banquet table he made it a teachable moment. The parable of the wedding feast urges people to go against the common custom of choosing the best seat possible, nearest to the hosts. Jesus says in this context, "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." A message repeated many times throughout his ministry.
Jesus also goes on to challenge his host to reconsider who he invites when he plans a luncheon or dinner. He tells him to skip inviting his friends, family and rich neighbors in favor of new guests - the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Even though those people could not pay, he would be blessed. Wow. How do I do that?
We have a particular event at church that I like called The Well. It is a catered dinner for women that includes an inspirational speaker. I have enjoyed bringing friends to attend with me. When I was working I used to pay for a whole table and invite people - some paid for themselves and other let me bestow a gift. Since I retired, my budget changed and during that same time the fee for these women's banquets went up, so before inviting people I started limiting who I called according to who I thought could afford to pay. I know it says to bring in the poor but the only poor people I knew in my vicinity were ones who did not speak English well enough to relate to the speakers. I argued with God that I did not know the right "poor" women to invite. "IF you really mean this parable message THEN show me !"
More wow. The next week I went to my regular Thursday Bible study group settling in at my regular spot at the table. Looking down to place my purse on the floor by my chair, then looking up to see two women who had filled the empty seats on either side of me. I knew them both. I knew the events of their lives that had worn in their wrinkles and colored their heads gray. I had visited at their separate apartments, witnessed their separate lives. By standards of many who live in north Tarrant county, they are poor. They don't regularly come to the Thursday morning Bible study but happenings in their lives made them show up that day. I almost lost my breath! Like Sarah, I almost laughed out loud at hearing/seeing God's message loud and clear! And they speak English!
We have not yet attended The Well together. My treatments fall on the same day, limiting my participation in the women's dinner, one of them has dialysis on Thursdays and the other works the night shift. It's going on tonight and I'm home resting, reflecting and writing instead of sharing the meal, socializing and listening to the speaker. The two of them have their own health issues that rule their calendars, and housing issues that trouble their minds, and family issues that twist their hearts - so it's not the literal banquet that is now my conviction. Friendship relationships have developed with these two special women. They have been prioritized in prayer, they have been moved to a "place of honor" in my list of people to call and regularly check in on their lives and their needs. I am showered with hugs when I see them in person. They call me out when they spot me at church and in places in the community. They remind me constantly that they are praying for ME! I am humbled to know them even better now and claim them as true friends. In our country of affluence they are poor, but they are rich in matters of faith and they are sharing that with me. I am blessed.
Did God get angry with my arguments? No. He was good and gentle and kind and patient with me. He answered my demands with an "Alright, there it is!" in a way that I recognized the message. God is so personal. If you haven't' already, I challenge you to ask him a challenging question. Go ahead and argue if you feel the urge. Can't wait to hear YOUR stories!
Btw, this is not my only argument with God. Part 2 to come later...
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 They destroy arguments and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God.
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (NIV)