Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; July 30, 2017; Jonah 3:1-10; Matthew 12:38-41

Scriptures for this Sunday is Jonah 3:1-10; Matthew 12:38-41

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Status on the Access Ramp.

This Sunday, July 30, 2017, our Access Ramp will NOT be ready yet.
Concrete supports for the ramp have been poured on Thursday.  At this time I am not sure when the ramp will be constructed; all I know that it is scheduled to be operational by August 6 (the Sunday after this coming one). 
As the situation develops, I will keep you posted.

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The story of Jonah is one of the best-known stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. Generations of Sunday School children have listened to the story of the fish that caught a man with awe and wide-eyed amazement. Sight and Sound has a production based on the story.

We know that Jesus loved and used the story of Jonah in his ministry (Matthew 12:40).

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The way the story goes, Jonah was told to go to the pagan, Assyrian capital of Nineveh and announce God’s judgment against it.

Assyria was the most powerful empire of the Biblical world at the time, and the Assyrians ruled over Israel. They were brutal; they were known for cruelty and atrocities that are hard for us to comprehend. When their armies captured a city or a country they would skin people alive, decapitate some, mutilate others, rip out tongues. They used cruelty to instill fear in conquered populations so they were too scared to resist. Ancient records from Assyria boast of this kind of cruelty as a badge of courage and power. I can understand why Jonah was “hesitant” to go there.

For a Jewish man like Jonah to be told by God to go preach to Nineveh was scary. He feared for his life; nobody would cherish the possibility of mutilation followed by slow painful death.

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That is why instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah went in the opposite direction. He went to Joppa and then boarded a ship bound for Tarshish.

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Chapter 1 of the Scroll of Jonah tells us that a violent storm threatened the ship that Jonah was on. Every sailor prayed to their pantheon of gods asking for help, and when that did not help, they threw their cargo overboard. To make a long story short, the crew figured out that it was Jonah who angered God.

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NIV2010 Jonah 1:11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

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Jonah spent three days in the belly of a fish. Chapter 2 of the Book records the prayer that Jonah wrote during this experience. It is a humbling experience to spend three days in the “belly of a fish.”

After Jonah humbled himself, God again told him to go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeyed. He preached to the Assyrians all through the city of Nineveh.

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NIV2010 Jonah 3: 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust (ashes in many other translations).

As a result, God decided to spare the city. Jonah was angry. Jonah 4:1 records, “… to Jonah this [repentance] seemed very wrong, and he became angry.”

His arguments with God are recorded in chapter 4.

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All of us can relate to Jonah. All of us have taken a ship to “Tarshish” once or twice in our lives. All of us have experienced the Lord’s disappointment when we disobeyed.

Am I the only one who has been challenged to do something outside my comfort zone?

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  • “Nineveh” is a place that we do not want to go to.

  • “Nineveh” is the people who have hurt you deeply and God says, “Go and give them my message.”

  • “Nineveh” is a place you deeply dislike and are scared to go to, that God sends you to tend to.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has been put in a time-out by God.

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  • The “belly-of-the-fish” is the place we are forced to crawl into when we have lost all hope and see no way forward.

  • The “belly-of-the-fish” is a place where we are forced to still our minds, accept the reality of our situation (whatever it may be) and then discover that God is with us, even though we were not aware of God’s presence.

Today I want to ask you, what does your “belly of a fish” look like? When was the last time that you called to the Lord in your distress, and because you recognized your own inabilities and inadequacies at the time, you had no choice but to rely on God and the presence of God became real to you.

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“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you heard my cry” (Jonah 2:2).

When was the last time that you felt that you were on the threshold of the “realm of the dead?” When was the last time that you did not know what to do next and things looked bleak, and suddenly there was Jesus: “Peace be with you.” When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and allowed God to touch your soul?

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During times of crisis and imminent peril and danger, “shoulds” and “oughts” do not really help. The more we think in terms of past mistakes, the more we increase our feelings of shame and guilt, and the likelihood of getting mired in an unending cycle of self-pity.

What helps is directing our focus onto something that we absolutely believe in, something that we are committed to. That focus and that faith is what will get us out of the “belly of the fish” and through “nineveh”.

Ours is a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. We want immediate results, we don’t want to go to our “nineveh” or spend time in the “belly-of-the-fish.”

But look at the main lesson that Jonah teaches us. God let Jonah run in the wrong direction at first. God also put Jonah on a long, painful, and complex journey to get him back to where he, Jonah, needed to be. God accomplished a lot through Jonah, in spite of Jonah.

  • Sailors believed (Jonah 1:16)

  • Nineveh experienced revival (Jonah 3:5-6)

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The main lesson from the life of Jonah is that the path to transformation and renewal always goes through reorientation. I have witnessed change helping people to find a new meaning and a new life. I have also seen change that caused people to turn bitter and distance themselves from everybody.

The difference is determined by the quality and resilience of our relationship with God. The main lesson that we can learn from Jonah is that spiritual transformation is a process of letting go, living in a confusing dark space for a while, and then allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore.

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