A Lesson From Jonah

Liz Hamilton addresses City Women at a breakfast at Rangeville Community Church, Toowoomba on Saturday 13th April 2013. It follows the personal testimony of guest speaker, Kim Den Hertog, plus a panel of women with an account of why they do what they do in Christian service.

Jonah (like us, though he was male) would have been an ordinary middle class citizen sitting in the pews each week. We can assume that he probably had a pretty good job, a nice family and attended all the meetings.

Jonah 1:3 “Go to the great city of Nineveh!”

It is clear that Jonah had an understanding of what the city was like, the job in Nineveh and the ridiculous impossibility of it. Nineveh, God. Why me? What have I got to offer? They will not take me seriously, they won’t listen to me. Don’t you know that my past or my current anxieties or priorities disqualify me?

Nineveh, the kind of city that no matter how good the council or the mayor is – they will never bring about change! Where those rich bums get away with their lifestyles? How those yuppies just focus on the next best thing? And those sexually abused, doped up and dole-dependent ones are merely a product of their own bad, dumb decisions.

Besides, I like what I have here. Why should I give more?  I have been a very good faithful church attendee. I have done crèche, mothers’ groups, youth, dishes and pottery in the name of Jesus.

So Jonah ran literally to the ends of the earth. He ran. He ran. He ran. He was afraid to go. He wanted another job to do. Yet he could not hide. Do you want to know the distance that he ran? 9198km, the distance between Nazareth and Joppa where he caught the boat. Even there,  God was using Jonah to reveal more of Himself to a boat load of everyday community people.

Then the storm hits.

So begins the biggest orchestration anyone could pull off. A small small boat in a big big ocean, the man Jonah gets thrown overboard and a big big fish runs into him and swallows him. The chances of this occurring – well, I would love to see Tom Waterhouse’s odds on this one.

What insight can we gain from this text?  3 out of the 4 chapters of Jonah speak more about Jonah’s rescue than the rescue of the city, Nineveh. Why did Jonah run? Why do we run from the opportunity at hand? Because we are happy with the way things are. It is comfortable! There is behavior that we don’t want to let go. Perhaps we, like Jonah, cling to our patterns of familiarity or people pleasing activities?  Maybe we don’t want our homes to get out of hand. Our excuse may be as legitimate as a new job 9198km away. Perhaps we like the one off mission trip because it is convenient, fun and an adventure – but call me to missions long-term? Yeah… no.

Some commentators would say that Jonah was used by God to bring judgement to Nineveh. However, the more I look at it – from my limited theological background – Nineveh was used as a tool to confront the individual believer, and to reveal the great mercy and love that God has for a city. He didn’t end up wiping Nineveh out. And this upset Jonah.

Jonah 4:10 – Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry for yourself when your shelter is destroyed though you did no work to put it there, and it is at best, short lived.  Should I not feel sorry for a great city like Nineveh with its 120, 000 people and their shelter?”

The book of Jonah is a wonderful assurance that the job He has given us to do will not only bring about change and make our city a better place, but that there is a big big God whose unchangeable grace, provision and plan will also rescue us and redeem us. This is the story of all those sitting on the panel.  This is the story of many of you who have died to self. This is the City Women story. We are not Nineveh, we are Toowoomba – God has given us a job to do. Let’s go!

Liz Hamilton

Lies That Women Believe

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About 250 women met for a City Women Breakfast on Saturday 13th April at Rangeville Community Church to hear Kim Den Hertog, former drug addict and prostitute, share her testimony of God’s incredible grace and healing of her broken, shattered life.

The ladies were deeply impacted by Kim’s story of being ‘sold’, as a little child, to her adoptive father’s men friends, of being treated like a dog until something died on the inside of her and she believed the lie I am not worth anything. Her father once hung her by the heels over a snake pit at the zoo, as a ‘joke’ and none of the bystanders stopped him. That’s when she took on board the lie that you can’t rely on people, they won’t help you. As a little girl, she loved horses but had to ‘pay’ by allowing the horse’s owner to touch her inappropriately – hence another lie – I will never be given anything unless I pay in return.

By 18 she was on heroin, drinking heavily and had her first child. In and out of abusive relationships, she was shamed and abused by men after they had visited strip clubs and she believed the lie that I am fat and ugly. If I was beautiful like the strippers, I would be loved. As a prostitute, she had rocks thrown at her, was spat upon, called foul names and was driven out of shops. She was often severely beaten and, when threatened with a gun, pleaded with her partner to shoot her.

Kim was almost dead when Transformations, a Christian rehab centre took her in. There she discovered for the first time how much Jesus loves her, how He could heal her deep wounds with His truth and bring her peace. Kim says, “If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I wouldn’t be alive today. Now I want to set men and women free from the lies they have told themselves because of past experience. What we believe about ourselves will determine where we go in life!”

The theme of the breakfast was ‘Creating a Better Future for Our Daughters – What Does It Take?’ John 12:24, the answer, was expanded upon by some of the City Women leaders who spoke about their personal experiences of being ‘like a grain of wheat which falls into the ground and dies’, in laying down their lives for others in order to ‘produce much grain’, or changes for the better for women and girls of Toowoomba.

 One of the women present at the City Women Breakfast said,

 I was so challenged by what Kim had to say … As she was talking about all those awful things that had been done to her and how those things began to make her believe lies about herself – lies that made her think she wasn’t beautiful, that she wasn’t worth anything etc, I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, I believe so many of those same lies about myself”… I haven’t grown up in a family that mistreated me, I haven’t got any deep rooted hurt or pain in my life and I’ve not experienced any real hardship… And yet I still believe these lies about myself.

 City Women exists to encourage women to see themselves as God sees them. He says, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Even people from loving families can believe the devil’s lies about themselves, and City Women is fighting for the conviction that every single human life has infinite value and worth. To engage in this fight is costly, it involves laying down our lives for others at the foot of the cross. As Liz Hamilton challenges, we can be like Jonah, sitting in church each week, with a nice job and a good family, having done creche, mothers’ groups, youth, dishes and pottery, all in the name of Jesus!

Because we are happy with the way things are, it is comfortable! Perhaps there’s behaviour that we don’t want to let go of. Perhaps because we, like Jonah, like our patterns of familiarity or people- pleasing activities? Perhaps it’s because we don’t want our homes to get out of hand. Our excuse may be as legitimate as a new job 3,218km away (the distance from Joppa to Nineveh)! Or perhaps it is because we like the one- off mission trips – fun and an adventure – but call me to missions long-term? Yeah… no!

Some commentators would say that Jonah was used by God to bring judgement to Nineveh. However, as I see it – Nineveh was used as a tool to confront the individual Christian and to reveal the great mercy and love that God has for a city.

The book of Jonah is a wonderful reassurance that the job He has given us to do will not only bring about change and make our city a better place but that there is a big God whose unchangeable grace, provision and plan will also rescue us and redeem us. This is the story of many of you who have died to self. This is the City Women story. We are not Nineveh we are Toowoomba – God has given us a job to do. Let’s stop the running and let’s get to work, together.

 Nancy Thomas

Overcoming Adversity

While watching “The Biggest Loser”, my friend and fellow running buddy, Amy, was inspired by a quote that has really spoken to me:

“Stop thinking like you are a fat person in pain while exercising – realise that you are an athlete in training!”

Spiritually, we need to embrace the pain. We are meant to be athletes in training, not spiritually fat & giving up at the first sign of offence, trials or pain.

There is nothing wrong with our air conditioning, warm blankets and lovely modern comforts, but can you live without it? Does it keep you reliant on yourself and feed that selfish voice telling you that you have a right to this lifestyle? Or are you gratefully seeing everything as blessings from God?

Recently we had a lovely Christian couple visit our church for a family baptism on a stinking hot day. The lady commented off-hand, “I don’t know how you worship here every week without air con!” I don’t think she meant anything serious by it, but it made me ponder – there are people in conflict zones who are being killed for worshipping Jesus. I wonder if they wake up some mornings thinking, “Gee, its hot today and that trailer we cram ourselves into is pretty hot and stinky. Don’t know if I’ll go worship God today!”

Chambers said, “The great difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God and it is His blessings that make it difficult. Troubles nearly always make us look to God: His blessing are apt (likely) to make us look elsewhere.” (My Utmost for His Highest, January 22)

Has our modern comfort, the things God has blessed us with, taken our gaze off the One who has blessed us so abundantly?

I am still so overwhelmed by the generations before us. Our generation now is so not hard-core! Our generation has not survived a depression, the struggles of a world war, living without certain foods for a time or any kind of rationed living. Do you think we could do it? Would our faith survive or would we blame God for not helping us out in our cushy little lives?

Perhaps we need to live like it’s the struggles that are best for us, that strengthen us spiritually, mentally and physically. If our struggles direct us to and draw us closer to the Lord, than what better place is there to be?

Letoya Coates

Death To Self

What does it take to see a cultural revolution in the magazines of our nation? More money?  Highly skilled people? The best resources? Those things could certainly help. At the end of the day though, the answer is a group of people who are willing to die to self and spend their lives for a greater cause. This means giving up our worldly pleasures and comforts. A revolution takes death! We love this diary entry by the editor of Bella Magazine, Liz Hamilton. Thanks for your honesty Liz!

Glory – Yours or His?   

September 2012

Father let my mind be shaped and reframed in and by you. Search me and help me to forgive those that I need to forgive.

God I am not the Queen Bee – you are the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. I do desire to bring you honour and glory.

I want so many things Lord like a new car, a new couch, clothes, a new house, well-dressed kids, a loving husband. Oh my heart so wants to bring myself some achievement, status and a decent pay cheque. Why does everybody else around me seem to be getting it all? My heart is so ugly and overwhelmed. I am such a slow learner. I want to die but not that kind of death. I really don’t want to die to self… Arr! But I still want you to move. Bringing glory to someone else requires me to come second or even last.

Lord, let this home reflect your glory. Let my children reflect you. Let my marriage reflect you. Let every inch of my body reflect you.

Psalms 24:7
Open up, O ancient gates and let The King of Glory come in. Who is this King of Glory. The Lord strong and mighty and invincible in battle. Yes open wide the gates and let the King of Glory come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Commander of all of Heaven’s armies.

We Can’t Stay Silent

This year has started off at a very fast pace. We have been very involved in the fight against the strip club. It’s vital that we enter into these battles and don’t just stay silent. I’m thankful for a piece that was in The Telegraph last Saturday, 16 February, which is included below. This is why we speak out and must continue to do so.

‘Community Rallies To Oppose LA Showgirls’

By Sean Quinn

‘TOOWOOMBA residents rallied on February 7 to show their continuing defiance against a LA Showgirls strip club in the CBD despite the club already been granted the necessary permits to operate. The meeting was held at the Salvation Army and was attended by Member for Toowoomba North Trevor Watts, Member for Toowoomba South John McVeigh and several councillors who also objected to the club. Mr Watts and Mr McVeigh outlined their own personal objections to the club, and explained to the crowd the best way go about the objection process. But when it was mentioned that moral objections would not be enough to stop the licencing for the club, several members of the audience said that was not fair. One member mentioned that most attendees were there purely on moral grounds, and because of their devotion to God’s law. Mr Watts said because of the way the legislation was written, moral objections can be voiced but it would be not enough to all together stop the approval for the club. The best way to prevent the strip club from opening would be to read the legislation and to show ways the club would be against the law. Residents have until February 19 to further object to the already approved club.’

Letitia Shelton

Vision

At our recent City Women Volunteers night, those who attended received a mug with the following vision on it:

What City Women is Fighting For: By 2020 we want to see in Toowoomba…

A significant decrease in sexualised advertising.

An increase of images and media that promote the value & worth of women.

A decrease in the sexual, physical and emotional abuse of females.

An increase in the value & worth of a human life.

A decrease in depression, suicide & eating disorders in females.

An increase in healthy attitudes and actions to one’s body.

A decrease in women dependant on drugs or life controlling issues.

An increase in women living with purpose, free from damaging outside sources.

A decrease in foster children.

An increase in families taking foster kids in.

A decrease in the number of women having abortions.

An increase in the awareness that life begins in the womb.

A decrease in absent ‘dads’.

An increased awareness of the importance of the role of a ‘dad’.

A decrease in lack of purpose and direction for one’s life.

An increase in understanding your giftings, passions and role in the community.

Will you join with me in praying that as the church of the city, we can make a difference in the above areas? The world into which Jesus was born, was a culture that did not value and dignify women. Women were second-rate citizens. But when Jesus came along He changed that. He said that women were equal; He began to speak value into women and heal them.

Now Jesus lives and moves through us, His church. If we are really being Jesus, life for women and girls should be changing in Toowoomba. When you read the above it can seem overwhelming, but we must remember that as we step out, nothing is impossible with God!!!

Letitia Shelton

Renovation Nation

In Australia, the reno industry has an annual turnover of $30 billion! That’s a lot of nails, wood, paint and power tools. It also means a lot of visits to emergency rooms. In Victoria alone 15 people each year are killed, and at least 2,000 seriously injured, carrying out home renovations!

Why are shows like The Renovators or Better Homes and Gardens so popular? Would it be a stretch of the imagination to think that we could have an inbuilt desire to see things around us repaired and restored? I believe so…. we being created in the image of God, who went to immeasurable lengths to restore us to Himself.

Sometimes Christians try DIY repairs. We start to believe that if we knew more of the Bible or prayed a scripted prayer then we would no longer suffer from our fleshly passions. So we read the latest books, we buy the latest albums, we listen to the latest podcasts in the hope that we will hear that ONE thing that will give us what we need in order to be in working condition.

Well the truth is, Jesus isn’t into repairing, He’s into restoring. He doesn’t just want us to be functional and bandaged up! He wants us to realise the fullness of restoration. No bandaids, no plaster or nails.

By His grace and mercy, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we actually become undefiled, unfading, secure in our faith, filled with glory, no longer slaves conforming to passions of our former ignorance.  We become holy, without blemish or spot, imperishable, chosen and precious, never again to be put to shame. We are free to be a true servant of God. He promises to have His eyes upon us, to have His ears open to our prayers and to bless us… even in our suffering!  (1 Peter).

Restoration isn’t a feeling or an emotion, it is the reality and the truth of what Jesus has done for me.  What He has done for you! The fact is that my restoration is complete and my position as a daughter of the most Holy God has been claimed! My mood and opinion of myself doesn’t alter or change that.  My “faith is the assurance (the confirmation) of things we hope for, the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). That faith in Jesus Christ removes bandages.

The kind of restoration He promises won’t send you back to the emergency ward. It will free you, release you from the desire to repair yourself, so you can live in His marvellous light bathed in His restoring love. His restoration is not just for us inside the church, but for our whole city as well. Jesus restores us, so that we can restore others.

Brooke Jackson

Ordinary & Loving Jesus

Proverbs 31 – The Verse Before

You should defend those who cannot help themselves.  Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice.  Proverbs 31:8

This verse precedes the start of the Proverbs 31 woman – ‘If you can find a truly good wife…’

Quite regularly affirmation comes for the work that we are doing here in the city:

“It’s just so wonderful what you’re doing”

“Isn’t it good these girls get the opportunity to be loved as they really need some love and hygiene”

“You’re so committed”

Or my favourite, “You work way too hard.”

City Women began as a group of women just meeting for lunch in a home. Six women from different churches and age groups, seeing and feeling the pain of the city with the effects of family breakdown: girls with huge life-controlling and emotional issues, kids without parents and women in general not doing well.

Never labeling themselves superheroes or stereotype ‘Proverbs 31’ women (they excelled at being ordinary Christian women who did not do all they could to keep busy in church), they were simply women dependent on Jesus.

Church was not just Sunday attendance or running programs but rather an unquestionable commitment to being obedient and meeting the real needs of those around them (outside of the building).

As a good friend of mine puts it, “doing crèche, door greeting, raising a Christian family or making cupcakes for church morning tea is just ordinary Christian housework. The real work of the church is to glorify God and be His hands and feet across all spheres of influence.”

Lisa Bevere writes in Lioness Arising, “Jesus did not come to save us to tame us within the four walls.”

City Women is not a church, cult or short-term movement. There are no hidden agendas. There is no push for one church or denomination.

It is ordinary women with a simple faith who love Jesus with all of their heart, who see the pain and want to get going for God.

Proverbs 31 is about a good woman who gets her house in order, but  also takes territory by speaking up and by feeding the poor.

Liz Hamilton

Anti-Depressants or Good Fathers?

I have just finished reading a great book called ‘Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters’ written by Dr Meg Meeker. I’ve always known that dads are important, but this book through its practical research drives home just how essential a dad is in the life of a girl. It states:

* “Daughters who perceive their fathers care a lot about them, who feel connected to their fathers, have significantly fewer suicide attempts and fewer instances of body dissatisfaction, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse and unhealthy weight.

* Girls with involved fathers are twice as likely to stay in school.

* A daughter’s self esteem is best predicted by her father’s physical affection.

* Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention.

* Girls with involved fathers wait longer to initiate sex and have lower rates of teen pregnancy.

* 79 percent of teen girls said that fathers influenced their decisions on whether they should become sexually active.”

One thing Dr Meeker states strongly in her book is the direct link between pre-marital sex and depression. When you look at the above list you can’t help but wonder, do our girls need more anti-depressants and government programs OR rather a community of strong fathers and men who value and protect the daughters of our society? City Women needs great men!

Letitia Shelton

One Plus One

One plus one doesn’t always equal two. I’ve done the sums myself and I can see a great flaw in the mathematical equation taught from the moment we learn our 123’s.

No trick…I’m not the next Albert Einstein breaking down a rule of relativity held by men unquestioningly or untested. I’m just a young mum (ok, maybe not THAT young) who formed a hypothesis, tested a theory and has the evidence to prove it.

Here is my evidence: I am one person. I have only one brain, one heart and one soul. I have only one life to live and I will only have one physical death. I will only get one chance to kneel before the creator of heaven and earth, receive my once in eternity judgement and give account of my life.

Now, here is where the mathematical equation of one plus one equalling two fails. Almost 11 years ago I had another birth, that of a spiritual kind when I was born into a new family and received new life. From the moment I became a daughter to a King, my advocate Jesus Christ has been my plus one. He is with me when I sit up and rise. He is behind me and before me. Not even the uttermost parts of the sea would keep him from being my plus one. (Psalm 139). He is my constant companion.

In my powers of mathematical deduction, me plus Jesus Christ equals infinity. I can’t see it adding up any other way! There is nothing logical and sequential when you begin to understand Jesus. His plans and purposes for my life are nothing that I can plan, calculate and organise. I can’t simply do the sums and tick the boxes to have Him rule my life. Nor would I want to! His ways are higher than mine and His plans are greater than mine!

We can fall into the trap of thinking that if we do our one bible study a day, if we go to church once a week, if we do our one ministry then our spiritual life will balance with our secular life. There lies the danger. We are limiting the infinite with a number.

Imagine instead, if we lived seeking to be multiplied, to be greater than the sum of us. Imagine knowing that for all intents and purposes the maths doesn’t add up in our earthly brains yet we are being fulfilled. Somehow the provision is always there; somehow the impossible became possible.  Jesus can do that! He can and He wants to… with me… with you. So, I dare you to test my hypothesis, that if you add Jesus as your plus one, you will no longer equal two – your life will equal infinity.

Brooke Jackson