Things God Prepared in the Book of Jonah: A Fish and a Gourd

May 7, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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1. God prepared a great fish.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 1:17

After experiencing a terrifying storm and being thrown overboard, it must have seemed to Jonah like things were going from bad to worse. We don’t know if he was bobbing quietly on the surface of the newly-calm sea, watching his former ship leave him in its wake, or if he was thrashing violently in the classic non-swimmer’s panic, or if he was simply plummeting like a stone toward both the figurative and literal depths of his despair, but it can hardly have been a comforting feeling to see a huge fish rushing toward him, mouth agape, to consume him whole! Yet the vehicle of his doom also turned out to be the means of his salvation. This fish had been prepared by God to trap Jonah, but also to preserve him; to teach him a lesson, but also transport him to safety. When the Lord sends something distressing, destructive, or downright devouring into your life, don’t lose hope. If you belong to Christ, then the storms that appear to pose the worst danger have often been prepared by God to strengthen your faith, teach you some important truth, and make you more like Jesus. At times like these, turn to prayer, repentance, patience, temperance, and even praise to demonstrate your trust in the One Who can cause you to be swallowed up and then spit out on the side of victory, even when all seems lost.

2. God prepared a gourd.

And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.

Jonah 4:6

Jonah was not happy. In fact, he was both sullen and angry that the Lord would show mercy to a group of people that Jonah despised. He sat down in something of a pout to watch what God do to the city where his own preaching had resulted in repentance. The plant which quickly grew to provide much-needed shade for Jonah’s head had been prepared by God. It is in God’s nature to sometimes comfort those who are grieving, even when their grief is very misguided and founded on the wrong basis. When God, despite His prerogative to send chastening rather than blessing in response to our sin, decides to bless us anyway, we must seize upon that opportunity to repent. The option to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord is a much more favorable option than having Him be the one to humble us.

Next time we will look at two more things God prepared in the Book of Jonah.

Are People Still Possessed by Demons?

February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am | Posted in Q&A | 5 Comments
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Question: While studying Mark 5:1-17, I realized that how this “wild man” was described sounded a lot like someone who today would be called mentally ill. People say there are no demon possessions anymore, but our hospitals are full of people cutting themselves and crying out in despair (Verse 5). Could mental illness be less of a “chemical imbalance” and more of a demonic presence?

Answer: That’s a great question. I do not think the Bible says anything to indicate that demon possession can’t still occur today, although it is true that it may be misdiagnosed as another problem, because, like you said, “people SAY there are no demon possessions any more.”

There are a couple of issues here, though. First, a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that person can not be truly “possessed,” although he or she may be what we call “oppressed,” meaning that sometimes God allows demons to have access to the lives of Christians to cause problems for them as part of God’s secret plan for our good. You can see this happening in Job Chapters 1 and 2, for example. But Luke 5 clearly shows that people without saving faith in Christ can certainly be possessed, controlled, and driven mad by demons. Thankfully, they can also be delivered and set free by Jesus!

Second, some mental illnesses are caused by physical things, such as chemicals in the brain. The doctors examine the levels of certain elements in their blood, and, when certain chemicals in their blood are low or high, they act crazy (crazier than the average person, anyway). They are given medicine, and after a while it gets into their systems, and they start acting normal (or at least some reasonable semblance of “normal”) again. There are Bible verses that encourage us to treat certain illnesses with medication, since God created the chemicals that the medicines are made out of, and since He gave doctors or scientists the wisdom to figure this out. So there’s nothing wrong with doing that, when it is in fact a physical, rather than a spiritual, problem.

Of course, if there are no conclusive medical results, it’s hard to tell demonic activity apart from a chemical imbalance, or conditions caused by past mental trauma, which is why we always need to pray for healing and trust God before we go to the doctors, and even while they’re trying to treat it. He is the one who ultimately gets credit for the healing, regardless of the means used to accomplish it.

Furthermore, one thing that often gets overlooked is that physical illness – in both the body AND the brainCAN be caused by unconfessed or unrepented-of sin in our life, even though that’s not always the cause. Some verses that show this are: Psalm 38:3-8; Pslam 6:2-3; Psalm 51:8; Psalm 32:3.

Personal anecdotes are not authoritative like Scripture, so you don’t have to read this part unless you want to, but I will share one very strange experience I had. At the church where our family served at the time, a young man (mid-20s) came forward at the end of a worship service. His father-in-law, who was one of those big muscular motorcycle-gang-looking men, had dragged him to church against his will. I took him back in a little prayer room we had and talked to him about being saved. He said that he went to church when was a kid, but when he was about 12 he went to some kind of heavy metal rock concert, where they were singing about the Devil and hell and had those pentagram things on the stage. He said that, afterwards, he got out of church and started drinking and doing drugs and other stuff. He looked truly miserable to be in church that morning, and his in-laws and his wife were outside the room praying for him. This dude’s face was just strange. His brows were furrowed down, his teeth were kind of bared, he had a wild look in his eyes, even his hair looked all disheveled and strange. It was so weird, because I don’t think he was trying to make a monster-face, but he just sort of looked like that. However, the longer I talked to him about Jesus and showed him from the Bible how his sins could be forgiven, the more intently he listened, and he started to look more scared and sweaty than mean. Finally, I asked him if he wanted to trust Christ, and we prayed. When we finished praying, he looked up, and it was so bizarre! His whole face looked different! He almost didn’t look like the same person. He was smiling and crying at the same time, his hair was laying down, his facial features were uncreased. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I was thinking, “Is there an invisible demon flying around loose now!?” I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. When we came out of that room, his family saw the same thing. They kept saying how different he looked, and he kept saying how free he felt. He started coming to church regularly after that, and got involved in some kind of motorcycle-riders-for-Jesus outreach program with his father-in-law. About 4-5 years later I saw him at the local convenience store by our house early Sunday morning on his way to church, and he was still serving Jesus! So, I don’t know if he was really demon-possessed or not – but it sure seemed like something happened to him in that room.

Pastor John Wilkerson: Don’t S.W.I.M. with Alcohol

June 7, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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People that drink alcohol to drown their sorrow need to understand that sorrow knows how to swim. Don’t drink alcohol. Jesus can take our sorrow.

Pastor John Wilkerson

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Proverbs 20:1

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

Proverbs 23:29-35

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

I Peter 5:7

Heman and the Master of the Universe (Part One)

September 8, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Heman and the Master of the Universe | 7 Comments
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[[A Song [or] Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.]] O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:

Psalm 88:1

Heman* was a musician and a Levite. He was an overseer of music (not lyrics) in the Temple. He was also a prophet, and was renowned for his wisdom.

For he [Solomon] was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about.

I Kings 4:31

In Psalm 88 he was inspired to write a psalm for the sons of Korah, meaning it would be included on a regular basis as part of Temple worship. It is a song based explicitly on Heman’s life and personal experiences, but also inspired by the Holy Spirit. We get the true feelings of Heman, although the articulation of them is breathed through him by the Holy Spirit, and Heman’s feelings are grief, pain, terror, sorrow, frustration, and utter despair.

Psalm 88 is roundly considered by all its commentators to be the saddest Psalm, and perhaps the saddest chapter in the whole Bible. It is in some ways the least hopeful, the most discouraging, the least joyful. So why study it? So that we may prepare for our own coming distress or depression, or make some sense of – and glean some truths about – some period of suffering we may already be experiencing. Because, whatever your view of Heman’s reaction to his suffering, his complaining, his groaning, his self-pity, you will have to admit that he did the one thing the Lord would unquestionably have us to do if we ever find ourselves in this condition: He prayed.

Heman prayed openly.

O LORD God of my salvation…

Psalm 88:1

This might be the one glimmer of brightness in the whole psalm – and it comes at the beginning. Heman knew God was his Savior. Therefore, he addresses the only One Who can help, and, as he views the entire universe to be against him, he addresses his pleas and petitions to the Master of the Universe. You and I, when we find ourselves in despair or danger, must openly seek help from the only One who can truly provide it.

Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;

Psalm 88:2

Do not sit there sobbing, hoping that the Master will notice you. Address him specifically and boldly. Heman asks God to “incline” (in modern English we would probably say “recline”) His ear – to stoop down – to condescend. This may sound presumptuous, but it is an open statement of the obvious fact that, if the sovereign Lord of all creation is to deal with us, He must (and He has proven that He will) stoop down to our lowly and pitiable level.

Heman is honest about his mental condition:

For my soul is full of troubles…

Pslam 88:3

He admits that he has become consumed with his fears and has trouble focusing in his prayers.

… while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.

Psalm 88:15

How easily are we distracted in prayer? Did you know you can actually ask the Lord to help you focus in prayer as part of your prayers?

Next time, we will see that Heman also prayed obstinately.

*NOT this Heman

heman

Beware the Furious Fiend

December 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Mark, The Fives | 7 Comments
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As Jesus and His followers entered the country of the Gadarenes, they encountered a man possessed by demons. This man, because of his condition, was both pitiful and terrifying.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5

A person controlled by Satan is a person who is constantly (“always, night and day”) subject to the oppression of his cruel and terrible master.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Ephesians 2:1-3

A demon-controlled person is a person who would exalt himself to a high place of rebellion against God (“in the mountains”).

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Isaiah 14:12-14

He has a fascination with death (“in the tombs”).

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8:36

The pawn of Satan is subject to bouts of depression and abject sorrow (“crying”) and self-abuse (“cutting himself”).

And they [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

I Kings 18:28 (bracketed description added)

We get the idea that this demon-possessed man was unpredictable and violent, a scourge upon his community – for which the Gadarenes had no solution. However, Jesus had no fear at all. The man even recognized Him from afar, running toward Him and worshiping Him. Christ cast out the demons, and set the man free, commissioning him to serve the community he had previously tormented.

We must be like Jesus. Do not fear the fury of those who do not yet know Christ. Often the person who is at the greatest pains to show his hatred for God may be the person who is acting out of desperation in an attempt to convince himself or others that he is too fearsome, depraved, or far-gone to be reached with only thing that can really help: the Good News that Jesus saves.


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