Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Chastisement of Sons - A Jonah Story

The following testimony was sent to me by Tom McManus. I believe it will speak to many who read this blog, and affirm to them what the Father is speaking about the discipline of sons. Tom's experience reveals the chastening hand of the Father when one of His sons embraces the American ethos of seeking wealth, and making it a focus of one's life. I pray you might be profited as you read.

A Story of Jonah
Tom McManus

Once upon a time there lived a man that lived in a beautiful stone house on a quaint windy street in a trendy affluent neighborhood. The stone house had wonderful arches and a thick wooden front door that fit into one of those arches, like a hobbit door. The man added a second floor to the property which added much value to his house, since he built it for less than the s.f. sale price of other comparable beautiful stone houses in the neighborhood. The new addition had a big master bedroom and master bathroom with atrium doors that swung out to a covered deck with columns on the side. There was even enough room for an office and a sitting area. The addition had 5 different dormers, great roof lines, stain glass, ceiling fans and more.

The man decided to use the equity in his house to buy other houses that he could buy inexpensively from foreclosures, short sales or other distressed situations, rehab them, and then sell them for a good profit. This worked well and he decided to be at ease, eat, drink (but not too much), and be merry, along with going to church and having a bible study at his beautiful stone house.

When he first came to the Lord he was on fire and lived humbly, but he started to get to be the most luke warmest as one could be, he definitely wasn’t cold. Then things started to get harder, his properties didn’t sell, he dropped the prices, but they still didn’t sell. He decided to rent some of them and the people would rent them and then stop paying the rent. It was very frustrating to this man because he heard so many different stories of why the rent could not be paid and/ or why the houses would not sell. The man worked very hard and took more “get rich quick real estate seminars” not so much to be a millionaire, but to just pay the note on the beautiful stone house he was living in. One solution was to refinance with a very low monthly payment which, took the pressure off for a while or at least until the adjustable rate started readjusting. And still the houses wouldn’t sell and the different stories from the renters became more and more elaborate. The man had a hard time looking at the books and although he seemed to be working harder, he was just getting deeper and deeper in debt. He even charged some more seminars in the hope of finding the answers he needed, but the answers didn’t come. Even his prayers didn’t get answered.

A prophet spoke to him and said the Lord gave me two words for you, “reluctant prophet”, I don’t know what that means that’s just what I got. He then realized he had Hepatitis C which required him to take medication which made him feel even more depressed and more tired and everything seemed to be caving in. He took medication for his depression and pills to get asleep, but they became less and less effective. He realized he needed to sell his house. He thought to himself Oh no there must be another way; the Lord will make a way. Lord? Lord? Oh no, what will people think? Where will I go? What will I do? But this is a very very nice stone house, on a quaint windy street in a trendy affluent neighborhood. Oh God what will people think? He walked away saddened for he was a man of great wealth. He began packing the boxes and put his nice stone house up for sale. He thought somehow God would intervene, see his plight and deliver him. He paced back and forth throughout the night, with anxious thoughts filling his mind. The medication wouldn’t quench the fears and he could find no rest. He cried to the Lord, read scripture, sang, listened to worship music again and again. It gave him only momentary relief and then he would be overcome with fear, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, self pity, shame….He paced back and forth for three days and three nights, when at 3AM he balled up in his bed like a baby and fell into a pit.

Now this is not just a story about any man this is about me. I can not explain fully the depth of darkness I experienced. When I have been in dark places before, my eyes would be drawn to any semblance of light as my eyes adjusted to the dark, to a crack of light, the end of the tunnel , where was up, down.. This was different because it was pitch black and was getting blacker and blacker and blacker, not only that but it was expanding all around me, getting deeper and wider and higher. It felt like realizing you were on the edge of a cliff and about to fall into a bottomless pit, except I didn’t have feet to stand on and this pit was all around me, up down, sideways. I had nothing to hold on to and I froze for fear of falling. I was so afraid I could not speak. I remembered David’s’ plea “take not your holy spirit from me” God was not here, it was devoid of God. I’ve never been in a place like this. I was on my own, I wanted to escape but there was nowhere to go to. A thought flashed of killing myself to get away from this, but I thought I could be trapped here. Is this hell? What is going on? How could I be in a place like this? Had my religion been a fake, a sham-I never knew you? I thought to plead to God, but my thoughts were nothing but shallow canned prayers that were disgustingly selfish and lifeless and mocked God, I can’t say that, I can’t say anything..I couldn’t say anything ..I was being choked. I had nothing worth saying. I’m lost, I deserve this, this could be it, I don’t know how to get out…I’m drowning in darkness being swallowed up. I yelled out GOD HELP ME!! I was overwhelmed, my sin flooded me extending into the darkness, I couldn’t confess because my mouth was vile where do I begin, haven’t I been doing exactly what I want, I was over taken by my sins.  I started thinking, I got to do something, I got to do something, I need to get out. I need to get out. GOD HELP ME!!

Then I remembered a scene vividly, earlier that day, like I was there. I was packing boxes feeling depressed, lifeless and confused as to what to keep and what to throw away. I remembered what I was thinking. We didn’t know where we were going, or how much storage we’d have. Should I sell this? Give it away? throw it away? I can’t believe I’m in this mess, why? why? What am I doing? What am I going to do? Then I could hear Janie’s voice saying, “Tom, I don’t know about taking all those real estate books, I don’t think we should have them” It was a crystal clear rewind of what she said. I remembered thinking when she said that, that she was not only unimpressed with the various “ get rich quick” real estate books, tapes and manuals, but understood that there was a deeper root of greed, lust and mammon that was at work in them. When I heard her say that I thought, hey I chew the meat and spit out the bones, I’m just gaining some valuable insights and techniques, besides I really don’t care for big boats, cars or flashy clothes, besides I’ll tithe and be able to contribute to the kingdom, besides this is what I do and I’ve spent a ton of money on this stuff. Being in the depressed mood I was in at the time I decided to put it off along with every other decision for another day.

Wait what is happening here I’m covered in darkness, I’m lost. I’m over taken by my sins and a 10 second conversation is brought to my mind. Does Janie have a point here? My justification seemed obviously pathetic. Are these tapes worldly, full of lust and greed? Are they bad to have around? The more I thought about it the more darkness thickened, they were not only bad they were evil, corrupting, and vile. Lord help me! If you think these things are evil and you want me to get rid of them I will. Do you want me to get rid of them? NOW !!!!!!!! I jumped out of bed ran over to bookshelf threw on the light and started at top of the bookshelf and started pulling every book that had anything to do with “get rich quick”. I went left to right, top to bottom, filled up my arms and ran down three flights of stairs and threw them into a city trash container and ran back up stairs. When I got to the top of the stairs Janie was sitting up in bed and said Tommy what are you doing at this hour? I was so afraid I couldn’t even speak and I filled my arms up again and again and again. I went over every bookshelf, draw and cabinet again to make sure I got everything. The last load filled that trash barrel and I swung the lid shut. Exactly when that happened the darkness broke and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit!! I can’t tell you how that feels, how do you go from fear to no fear, from despair to peace in a moment, it was not something I did, it happened to me. When I got to the top of the stairs Janie was sitting up in bed. She had seriously felt I had lost my mind that the stress and the lack of sleep had pushed me over the edge. When I stood at the top of the stairs she looked at me in amazement and said, what happened to you? Within the time it took me to run down and up the stairs, I was transformed from someone who was running from death to someone who was at total peace. I knew that I was going to be OK. As I came to bed I took with me a pen and notebook. Janie said what happened? I kept saying WOW Oh WOW God just showed up. We started praising and thanking and weeping and rejoicing in the goodness of God. I brought a pen and paper because I had more instruction to get from Him and I wanted to remember what He was telling me. He specifically brought to mind two women that were renting from me who had not been paying me rent. They had been lying and stealing from me but, the Lord showed me I was to not only forgive them but, give particular things to them. The pressure to pay my bills to keep afloat my sinking ship made me embittered towards them. I am sad to say that one of the girls just had a baby and what really went through my mind was Oh no, she couldn’t pay the rent without a baby how is going to do it now? He showed me His heart for them. I repented with thanksgiving and continued to write down what I was impressed that I needed to do. We continued to worship until I fell into a deep restful sleep.

When I awoke my first thoughts were, what was that? One of my questions with what happened was what was that with the outer darkness, how does that fit with my eternal security doctrine; I thought nothing could separate me from you?

As I settled into prayer with that question in mind Janie felt the Lord was directing us to the book of Jonah. Since I wanted to hear everything the Lord had for me I read the description of the book from my NIV Study Bible which I rarely do. It said and still says… Jonah was a reluctant prophet….Woooooow oh I have heard that before, the prophet gave me that word. As I read the book there was some striking similarities. Jonah was also a religious man, who knew God. (Jonah 4:2) Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, I was up for that long without sleep.

The Lord was definitely redirecting Jonah (storm, whale, vine, worm, scorching wind) and perfecting him through these trials. Then Chapter 2 leapt out at me. Had I missed this before, Jonah is praying from inside the fish. Jonah was somehow stuck in the whale for he was ready to die by being thrown over the boat than do what the Lord had for him to do. And although this is a relatively short prayer that can be spoken in minutes, it was over a period of three days before he was vomited out.  I understood the darkness he must have been covered with, the pressure the depths, the not knowing whether he was he was up or down, floating and swept back and forth like seaweed on a rock

Jonah's Prayer
 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
       "In my distress I called to the LORD,
       and he answered me.
       From the depths of the grave [a] I called for help,
 3 You hurled me into the deep,
       into the very heart of the seas,
       and the currents swirled about me;
       all your waves and breakers
       swept over me.
 4 I said, 'I have been banished
       from your sight;
       yet I will look again
       toward your holy temple.'
 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, [b]
       the deep surrounded me;
       seaweed was wrapped around my head.
 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
       the earth beneath barred me in forever.
       But you brought my life up from the pit,
       O LORD my God.
 7 "When my life was ebbing away,
       I remembered you, LORD,
       and my prayer rose to you,
       to your holy temple.
 8 "Those who cling to worthless idols
       forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
 9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
       will sacrifice to you.
       What I have vowed I will make good.
       Salvation comes from the LORD."
 10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Now here is something that I never saw before. What caused Jonah to be spit out. Look at verse 8 Jonah says  8 "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah didn’t want to preach to Nineveh because he didn’t want God to have mercy on them.  He realized that his vain ideas were nothing but worthless idols, compared to Gods’ perfect plans. If he went his way he was forfeiting the grace of God, leaving it behind. Idols are man made and so was Jonahs reasoning.

Verse 9 He is thankful for understanding this, tosses his idol away which is really no sacrifice because its worthless, especially compared to the wonderful grace he is receiving in return. He repents, commits to turn around by saying “What I have vowed I will make good” Followed by “Salvation comes from the Lord”. This is a big proclamation of truth. Can you hear God saying, Hmm I thought Salvation came from Jonah J . Now even though Jonah would need this revelation worked into him some more through more trials, he had learned this lesson for now and pop he is vomited onto dry land.

You can imagine the wow when I read this. This just happened to me. Interestingly in verse 2 “From the depths of the grave [a] I called for help, .The word for grave in Hebrew is sheol. Here is the definition from Strongs:

1) sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
a) the underworld
b) Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
1) place of no return
2) without praise of God
3) wicked sent there for punishment
4) righteous not abandoned to it
5) of the place of exile (fig)
6) of extreme degradation in sin

So three days and nights of anguish and an idol is revealed. I get rid of it and pop I am vomited onto dry land. I go from darkness to light.

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1 comment:

Susan Reed said...

Praise the Great One and only Yahweh!!! I have just came out of sheol!! Only I have been there for weeks. I thought I would die from the fear and darkness. His mercy endure forever. I have been spit on dry ground again. (Jesus). I just finished Jonah also!! Thank you for you testimony.. Much love and prayers to you and Brother Herrin.. Sister Susan