Monday, 21 June 2021

Thought for the Day 21/06/21 - Anxiety and the powerful Patron



So today is the longest day ...

For some of us that feels great. 

For others, a long day is not a good day because it feels like there's going to be a lot to get through ... and, anyway, that means the days are going to be getting shorter now, and then it will be winter and ...

You see the point?

It is really easy to drop into a downward spiral of anxiety if we do not take care of the way that we think.

It seems like an astonishingly high number but in any one week in England, six in every one hundred people have General anxiety Disorder.

That does sound like a lot, doesn't it?

Now, even during a pandemic, NHS Wales offers a range of treatments to people when it gets unmanageable ... if that sounds like you, don't hesitate to talk to your Doctor!

But a certain measure of anxiety seems natural in life and we do need to recognise the difference between the anxiety you can talk to and the sort that you can't.

In any event, feeling powerless is what lies at the root of anxiety ... whatever pattern of anxiety a person's up against.

The good news is that God stands ready to help us in this situation, because ...

God's plan is not for His people to fell powerless


Anxiety in our broken world is really understandable, but what is equally clear is that anxiety is not generally something the Lord wants His people to feel powerless about, and that He (as well as the medics where they become necessary) gives His people a lot of help to deal with this matter.

In 2 Timothy, Paul was in a situation he might have reason to be anxious about.

Imprisoned for his faith by a hostile state and abandoned by many people who did not want to be tarred with the brush of association with him, Paul wrote to the younger man Timothy:

"For God did not give us a Spirit of fear 

but of 

  • power and 

  • love and 

  • self-control."

2 Timothy 1:7


Why not be anxious, Paul?

The verses that follow spell it out for Timothy.

For the follower of Christ it is clear that the Gospel addresses directly the sense of powerlessness that empowers and drives our anxious thoughts.

So here's Paul's point with Timothy at a time when many have been to anxious to go on associating with the persecuted prisoner, Paul:

The Point

God is personally invested in you - as your 'Patron'

In his world where powerful people's patronage was everything, Paul is saying although we may not have influential friends and people who can come along and carry weight for us, we have the most powerful of patrons in God Himself.

How do we know that, as believers?

He has put His Holy Spirit in you

In the words of our Verse for the Day 

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, 
but gives us 
power, 
love and 
self-discipline.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬


Paul make clear Who 'the Spirit God gives us' should be identified as in v. 14 

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:14‬ 


But there's more to indicate we're got a great 'Patron', Who delivers on looking after us:

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:9‬

Saved you

Called you

Defeated death the ultimate enemy for you

And it's all predicated on the faith that is in you 

Paul's whole chat with Timothy on this matter rests on the issue he's already referred to:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:5‬

https://www.bible.com/113/2ti.1.5.nivuk


The Takeaway

Whether you have the anxiety you CAN talk to, or that you can't ... grasping and thinking on these things helps either address the anxiety itself or to strengthen the person who can't talk to it but is nonetheless afflicted by it. It makes us stronger in general in the face of life's struggles!

And if you don't yet know what anxiety feels like, be thankful but not complacent! 

Thinking on these things, reminding yourself of their realty, is precisely what you need to do to keep on strengthening yourself from the inside out as a believer, because the outside always seems to be getting worn away and that constant exercise of faith is what both makes and keeps us strong in the Lord.

If you're struggling with anxiety, we find that our prayers often help.

Let us know, and we'll gladly add praying for you to our list.




Saturday, 19 June 2021

Drive In Church at Llandovery 20/06/2 ... Jonah 1:4-17 - Severe Mercy

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       Jonah 1:4-17

           Introduction

In the criminal underworld back in the day when gangs and their members got annoyed with one another, they’d organise an event called a “straightener’.

It was generally - in the days of the Crays and the Richardsons - a bare knuckle fight in the street.

Or at least that would be the way that it started.

Of course this sort of thing cleared the air a bit, but It has to be said, it seldom ended well.

What you’ve got going on in this first chapter of Jonah is that God has put Jonah on ‘a Straightener’, but while the gangs of the last century did this to sort things out and make themselves feel better with no thought for the well-being of their protagonists, that is the opposite of the intent of Jonah’s God.

God is subjecting Jonah to what is not a plain old severe beating, but actually to what amounts to a severe mercy.

Two things happen in this account.

Firstly a storm happens … and it is a frightener.

Then secondly the storm gets stopped … by a terrifying means.

But God uses PRECISELY that horrendous and terrifying means, and then apparently WORSENING things … to restore and bring to His mercy this wayward prophet.

Now, we belong to the aspirin generation, in the age of the minor pain-killer.

We tend to think that scary stuff and painful stuff is inherently bad.

But there are many sorts of things that start out not nice, that God works out and by means of which He delivers people from worse.

We need to be aware that God is able to DO that … to use horrendous experience that He over-rules and re-directs … to bring much bigger mercy and grace.

Let’s see how that works …

First there’s a storm, then a calm, and there’s a fish.

                 THERE’S A STORM

“Such a violent tempest arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break up! 

The sailors were so afraid that each cried out to his own god and 

they flung the ship’s cargo overboard to make the ship lighter. 

Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold below deck, 

had lain down, and was sound asleep.”

 

Jonah 1:4-5

 

https://www.bible.com/107/jon.1.4-5.net

 

                 The sailors response to the storm, vv. 4b -5d

Creation conspires with God to get through to the prophet, but even then the prophet proves slow at his lessons while the pagan sailors get the message very quickly.

The wind rages at Jonah’s outrage.

The sea threatens to overcome the means of Jonah’s flight.

And in fact the ship itself, the means of Jonah’s desertion of God’s Word and of his own prophetic calling, is said to have ‘seriously considered breaking apart’!

The ship itself is personified in the Hebrew text!

So Creation serves as the messenger of God’s wrath and model of faithfully keeping to God’s commission and calling … both of which were roles he was intended for but both of which were rejected by Jonah!

How do the sailors then respond to all of that?

Well, they catch Creation’s message and turn to God!

Here’s the journey they take towards Him …

First of all, afraid of what’s going on in Creation, they cry out to their various gods.

These were lesser personal deities, but soon … realising that these low-grade deities were incapable of producing such a storm … the sailors sought better information, asking their low-level gods which cosmic level deity was behind the storm and asking their low-level deities to plead with the big God on their behalf.

Their desperate prayers to their gods turned into desperate action and they started throwing the cargo (which was weighing the ship down) overboard.

God had flung the storm at the sea, now the sailors flung (the same word) the cargo INTO the sea to lighten the ship.

In due course they’d fling Jonah over te side too … but as they were down in the hold throwing cargo out, towards the bottom of the ship they found Jonah, fast asleep.

                 Jonah’s response to the storm, vv. 5e-6g

Jonah is hiding in the cargo room below decks … it’s the lowest down point in Jonah’s flight from God so far.

But only so far!

There are two things we’re told about this:

·       Firstly we’re told Jonah lay down.

·       Secondly we’re told ‘he fell fast asleep’ … a word that usually describes a Divinely induced deep sleep which is usually accompanied by either a special revelation from God or a close brush with death itself.

In Jonah’s case, it may be heralding both, adding to the irony of Jonah’s situation.

The helmsman of the boat can’t BELIEVE it!

‘How can you be sleeping?!’ he says.

“Up!

 Cry out to your God!”

And do you know what?

Those two verbs the helmsman uses match EXACTLY the first and last commands in God’s original commission to Jonah!

Jonah woke up to the same two commands from which he’d been hiding.

God was making sure that Jonah could NOT get away from this.

Trying to escape the Lord’s call on your life and ignore God’s Word to you is FUTILE.

But the sailors are still …

                 Working out what to do about the storm, vv. 7-9

 

Well, the sailors still didn’t know what to do about this awful storm.

·       They’d called out to their pagan god to no effect.

·       They’d asked Jonah but he wasn’t very forthcoming with what he kne about their situation because he’d withdrawn from his prophetic responsibilities.

·       So now they turned to something they knew about how the Jews found out stuff from THEIR God.

Casting Lots seemed their only viable option.

This was the only sort of divination allowed in the Bible.

Of all ancient near eastern people, only the Israelites are known to have done it.

Marked objects indicating the options were placed in a bucket which was rattled until one of the options dropped out, and that then designated the individual or the option.

The SAILORS are the ones doing the right spiritual thing again.

Having given up on their gods which were no help to them, they turned to an Israelite practice which opened the door to God’s revelation, to their praying to Him, sacrificing to Him and making their vows to Him.

God pointed the finger at Jonah … and now Jonah was in a place where he HAD to spill the beans and tell them something of what was going on with the mighty storm.

Jonah has to acknowledge the God he was running from was the God of Heaven (not some little minor deity) the One Who MADE the sea and the land … but the sea and the dry land are the regions where Jonah and God interact as their conflict plays out!

Jonah doesn’t seem bothered by that at all … but the sailors are now more bothered than ever!

If THAT’s the situation they take it SERIOUSLY and really want to know what to do!

                 Jonah offers a solution, vv. 10-12

When answering the sailors questions Jonah had said he was a God-fearer, but if he was, then HIS fear looked a lot less serious than the sailors … it wasn’t as real as theirs at all!

The sailors’ reverence for the God of Israel led to increasing obedience, but Jonah’s so-called fear of the Lord didn’t do that at all.

So keen to act to please Jonah’s God, and as v. 11 says:

 

“Because the storm was growing worse and worse, they said to him, 

 

“What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?””

 

Jonah 1:11

 

https://www.bible.com/107/jon.1.11.net

 

The response comes in three command-words:

·       Pick me up

·       Fling me

·       That the sea might settle.

Why did Jonah involve the sailors and not just jump into the sea?

All sorts of suggestions are made … we just don’t know

But interestingly the same language used of picking up the cargo and flinging THAT in the sea now gets used of Jonah.

IT had weighed down the ship and endangered the lives of the crew and of course, so had Jonah as he slept in the hold, where the cargo was.

The storm which veres 4-12 are about now gets fixed in verses 13-17, but there’s a snag to be overcome first and the snag is that the sailors were of better moral mettle than to just pick up a man and throw him in the sea …

 

                 IT GETS FIXED

The conscience-stricken sailors want to chase a nicer-feeling solution

                 Chasing a nicer feeling solution, v. 13

These sailors really don’t like the idea of taking a human life, even if the owner of that life had done daft stuff that put their own lives under serious threat.

One potential solution remained that had not yet been exhausted … it’s a desperate last shot but they don’t want to drown Jonah, so they decide to get out the oars and row.

An interesting word gets used for this rowing … its a word that normally means ‘to dig’ through a wall or in the ground.

In Amos 9:2 it even refers to digging your way to Sheol … the place of the dead!

The sailors are attempting to evade God’s severe mercy to Jonah by rowing back to shore, but in fact they’re simply digging their own hole there!

Their attempt is futile, because the storm only intensifies as they attempt to ‘dig’ their way through God’s tangible opposition to Jonah’s sin.

They can tell God isn’t having any of that, so they’ve got to go with the option they didn’t want.

                 Settling for the way that God wanted things, vv. 14-15 

 

“So they cried out to the Lord, “Oh, please, Lord, don’t let us die on account of this man! 

 

Don’t hold us guilty of shedding innocent blood. 

 

After all, you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.” 

 

So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea, 

 

and the sea stopped raging.”

 

Jonah 1:14-15

 

https://www.bible.com/107/jon.1.14-15.net

 

The sailors’ prayer here in v. 14 is parallel to their more frantic prayer at the beginning of the storm in v. 5

 

And this second prayer shows what changed men they were:

 

1. The desperate calling on any and every god in v. 5 is replaced with only seeking after the One True God here now.

 

2. The mere mention they were praying in v. 5 is now replaced by the serious and spiritual content of their prayer in v. 14. The prayer is now directed solely to the One true God Who alone is able to save them out of their predicament

 

3. And the crew’s prayer contrasts with the prophet Jonah’s lack of prayer. Jonah’s STILL in his sullen poody with God!

 

How did this change of life work out for those pagan sailors?

                 Outcome for the sailors, v. 16 

 

God had ‘flung’ the storm at the sea.

The sailors had ‘flung’ the cargo over the side.

And now they ‘flung’ Jonah into the water.

Immediately the sea stopped its raging, we’re told.

 

“So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea, 

and the sea stopped raging. 

The men feared the Lord greatly, 

and earnestly vowed 

to offer lavish sacrifices to the Lord.”

 

Jonah 1:15-16

 

https://www.bible.com/107/jon.1.15-16.net

 

Do you notice this fear of the LORD that comes upon them is no craven, cringing fear … but the awe the leads to gratefully worshipping the Lord?

 

 

                 Outcome for Jonah, v. 17

 

“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, 

 

and Jonah was in the belly of the fish 

 

three days and three nights.”

 

Jonah 1:17

 

https://www.bible.com/113/jon.1.17.nivuk

 



Again, God ordains a severe mercy for Jonah … he’s been swallowed alive by a huge fish.

 

Now I don’t know if you saw this report, but on June 12th. the BBC website had an article about a Cape Cod lobsterman (Michael Packard) who was diving off Princetown, Massachusetts when he got accidentally swallowed by a hump-backed whale.

 

He was in there for about 30-40 seconds before the whale shook its head to fling him out.

 

One expert apparently told the Cape Cod Times that it was practically unheard of for a whale to swallow a human.

 

Now, Jonah was inside a fish, but given the scary description the Cape Cod lobsterman gives of his 30 second ordeal, this wasn’t a nice experience for Jonah … but as we’ll see next time it took a hard time to bring Jonah back to walking with God.

 

           Conclusion

Throughout this story the author deliberately contrasts Jonah God’s prophet and the pagan sailors.

The sailors were working hard to stay alive: Jonah by contrast wants to find his way out of God’s call by embracing death.

The sailors want to hear from God so they cast lots and question Jonah: Jonah, on the other hand, is fleeing what he’s heard from God and tells what he knows of God and the storm very reluctantly.

The sailors pray frequently and fervently … initially to the false gods that they know about but finally to the LORD (Jonah 1:14,16): the prophet Jonah seems not to pray at all.

By the end the pagan sailors seem to be people of integrity and piety but Jonah appears stubborn and selfish.

The prophet Jonah lives like a pagan and the pagan sailors turn their lives around to worship God.

With God it’s not where you start but where you finish that counts.

And by the end we’ve learned that running from God and enduring its consequences is not something we should wish on anyone.

Not even people like the beastly Babylonians.

Ironically, the sailors have shown a healthier fear of God’s judgement than Jonah has.

Jonah was REFUSING to listen to God’s Word to him.

That now looks like a dangerous thing to do.

The sailors are shocked that the religious man Jonah would do that.

Jonah wasn’t listening to what he knew God was saying to him, and he steadfastly refuses to repent or even turn to and pray for help to God.

Only in the fish does Jonah take a change of direction.

And then fresh mercy springs from the severity of his experience.

How harsh a mercy did it take, or would it take, in order to bring us back to God?

And how frustrating it is that Jonah didn’t turn sooner, back onto the path that would bring him back to God.

What is God calling on you for?

Would it be better to listen sooner or later?

What’s stopping you from making THAT move you know you need to … today?



Thought for the Day 21/06/21 - Anxiety and the powerful Patron

Click HERE for AUDIO Click HERE for the STUDIO CAM So today is the longest day ... For some of us that feels great.  For others, a long day ...