Salvation Situation

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. Go here to read the first and second installments in my #JonahSeries. So we're into chapter 2 of Jonah by now, and I wanted to share something that hit me profoundly during one of our devos this last summer. Although I had always thought of the whale in the Jonah story as one that was sent as punishment for our wayward sailor... a dear friend of mine had always thought of this giant as something completely different.... a savior.

Let's take a look...

Jonah has been thrown overboard, Though the physical storm on the seas immediately stops raging, Jonah's storm is just now beginning. Though the sailor's lives are now safe, Jonah's is now very much in peril. His storm has just started- he's in a pretty bad place. Out in the middle of nowhere, miles from land, sinking like a rock. Death closing in second by second.

Verse 5, "The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever..." Yes, Jonah is most certainly on a fast track to the bottom of the ocean. Certain death.

And then comes along a great beast of the sea, who swallows him whole. And suddenly, though his situation may have become significantly more odoriferous and dark (I mean, let's face it, having personally never been INSIDE a whale before, I cannot speak to the living conditions, but I imagine them as less than ideal) Jonah is ALIVE. He is no longer actively dying. What an unusual turn of events!

Jonah is suddenly smack-dab in the middle of a salvation situation.

Verse 7, "When me life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple... . But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord."

Jonah's prayer in the belly of that big, 'ol whale, which makes up the entirety of chapter 2, is nothing if not an obvious and immediate recognizing that this fish has saved him. Literally. Though I had not noticed it before, Jonah did immediately. He went from dying to living because of the whale. It wasn't a punishment at all, it was his salvation. As he says in verse 6, "... yet you brought up my life from the pit." I think it's no stretch to think here that not only was God bringing his life out of the pit spiritually, He was very physically bringing a behemoth from the deep to save Jonah's life.

Look back on the storms of death and chaos that have (or still are!) surrounding you. Where is the whale? What does your salvation situation look like? Do you need to reexamine those dark places in your past with a new outlook? Perhaps God sent a big, smelly, fishy, slimy whale to save you. Have you been looking (as I did) at the creature as a punishment or a savior?

Salvation Situations rarely look or feel like we think they will. More often than not there's rot, decay, blood, bones, sweat, and tears involved. But if we look more closely, we see the meager beginnings of change, growth, strength, and renewal. We see life! God often uses unusual saviors for us, I regret that we probably see them in their obvious form instead of the spiritual work they've been sent to do.

Today, take a look back and spend some time thanking God for the whales in your life. Thank Him for the big, slimy, wild, smelly, wet creatures that He sent to save you- swimming miles and miles of treacherous ocean, braving wind and sea while you are stowed safely inside to bring you to a new land. "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land."

How Arriving Late Still Counts

Last week I wrote about Anna's creative new crawling style (check out How Doing It Badly Still Counts!), well my friends she's officially "doing it well"! January 19, 2017 at approximately 6:30pm she pulled her little heiny up and got those 4 limbs working together and that babygirl got to moving! Apparently she hadn't had the proper motivation up until now... which ended up being her brother's red car. Who knew? #growingupwithbrothers (If you want to see the moment it happened...)

But I digress (I promise not every blog will be about my kids!) Today I wanted to talk a little about an idea that up until just recently I had some trouble getting my head around. I'm talking specifically about the parable of the vineyard workers from Matthew 20. This is the story of a vineyard owner who hires laborers throughout the day, some late into the afternoon, and then pays them all the same wage in the evening. For obvious reasons, those who had worked all day long- morning to evening- were a bit miffed that they received the same pay as those who had come late in the day and only worked a little while.

In this story, a single denarius was the promised pay; it equated to an entire day's wages for the workers. Every worker got one- the whole day's pay, the pay for a total day's work. I can imagine the ire this must have caused for some of them! It was not without just cause...

Jesus told this story to show that heaven is open to all who accept the invitation- at whatever time and in whatever circumstances. Not unlike the thief on the cross who Christ promised to be with in paradise that very day, so also does God welcome even the late-comers. Man oh man that does seem a bit unfair- like I said... I get it. My justice meter seems to run a tad high when this kind of story comes around. I can sympathize. Though I mentally understand the grace factor in the story, my heart cries just a bit at the seeming injustice of it.

And while God is just... He is also a Father... and in this case, I think He was playing by parenting rules (which as we all know are much more heart-driven, full of mercy/grace/forgiveness and all around inexplicable patience <thank God for that, can I get an AMEN?!>)

I finally understood this properly on the 19th of January, 2017 at approx 6:30pm...

Anna is crawling late in the game. Most (if not all) of her peers have been crawling for awhile, many of them are already walking. Both her brothers had been walking for months by this age. She's behind... really behind.

But I tell you what, from a mothering point of view... I don't care that she's tardy, I don't care that she's delayed, I don't care that she's late. The ONLY thing I see is that she is finally doing it! And it THRILLS my heart!

She's arrived!

She's come!

She's DOING IT!

I imagine God is the exact same way with us. Every single one of His precious children He wishes- no, desperately desires- to show up, to accept Him, to join the party. He doesn't care how late we are, He doesn't care what baggage we bring or what we look like, He doesn't care that we might have taken longer than we should have in arriving. In the same way Gabe and I have been hopefully and expectantly waiting and watching for Anna to take her first timid and awkward shuffles- so also is Abba Father waiting and watching with great expectation for your arrival.

Today, dear one, are you late? Don't let your pride, your present condition, your fear or guilt keep you from accepting His invitation of salvation. He doesn't care the circumstances of your arrival, He just wants you with Him. He wants you arrived.

Be awkward, crawl timidly, step slowly- but GET THERE.

Thankfully, there's no such thing as tardy for the Kingdom of Heaven.

But... there is TOO LATE....

Don't be too late!

Today if you need to accept God's invitation to join His workers, I promise (better yet- He promises) full wages at the end of the day. An eternity in heaven beside Him, a forever, unbreakable union with Him. For more information, please ask a Christian friend, seek out a local church, or I would love to talk with you as well! Don't hesitate dear one- you're only guaranteed this moment... don't be too late!