Lent Reflections @ CEC 2021 3/22/21
“So often we want Jesus to manage the effects of sin without actually addressing the root issue. But Jesus loves us too much to offer only a superficial solution. He knows the hidden sins of our hearts, and He lovingly insists on dealing with those first.”
― Asheritah Ciuciu
Devotion & Scripture focus: Jonah 2: 7-10
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the Lord.”
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Today’s passage from scripture contains the last part of the prayer that Jonah prayed from inside the belly of the great fish. It is a powerful affirmation that God hears those who call upon him and saves those who put their faith in him. I thought it would be interesting to look at each of the lines in this passage and see what they can teach us about God and our relationship with him.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple…”
When life is good, we sometimes become complacent and act as if we are cruising along on peaceful waters under clear skies. Interestingly enough, the night of April 14, 1912 was just such a time: the northern Atlantic was at flat calm, its surface like black glass reflecting the stars shining brightly in the midnight sky. And the great “unsinkable” ship Titanic struck an iceberg, descending her way into history and claiming more than 1,500 lives. When things are going well, it is easy to take our relationship with God for granted. Although there are potential dangers that could rise to threaten us, we proceed along in ignorance, unaware that our life may actually be “ebbing away.” But when trouble comes, it is then that we “remember” God and turn toward him for help. How comforting it is that he will not turn away from us when we do so!
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs…”
In our world, many people search for identity and gratification in places other than in a relationship with the Lord. Some so dedicate themselves to their careers and to financial gain that their marriages and families suffer; others become dependent on substances or behaviors that impair their judgment and negatively impact their health. Even the prevalence of social media and the availability of online amusements can interfere with our ability to function effectively. Anything that pulls our focus away from God can become a “worthless idol” if we allow it to consume our time and attention to a degree that we neglect our calling to love God, love people, and serve both. God’s grace means that we always have a place, a worth, an identity as his children because Jesus died to provide these for us. We don’t need to seek elsewhere for fulfillment.
“But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed, I will make good.”
Our God is so generous that it is sometimes easy to forget that any true relationship is a two-way street. The apostle Paul affirms in Romans 8:35 that “nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”; however, we can fall into a pattern of allowing our relationship with God to become one-sided, with God doing all the giving and us always on the receiving end. I am often guilty of failing to thank God on a daily basis for his many blessings. Even something as simple as a song of thanksgiving has value in God’s eyes, for it demonstrates that we believe in him, acknowledge his work in our lives, realize our responsibility to act in submission to his will. Let us strive every day to “make good” on our commitment to him and to his service, even though he will continue to love us nevertheless.
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Salvation is a gift. There is nothing we can do to earn it. But in order to receive it, we must reach out and accept it from the giver. As Christians, it is hard for us to understand why anyone would refuse to do so. But our world is full of those who don’t recognize their need of saving. Most view themselves as good people who do their best to lead moral, productive lives. For most of us, trying to convince others of their need for salvation isn’t an effective way to witness. But we can tell our own stories of how God reached into our hearts and delivered us from whatever was threatening to consume us – selfishness, despair, temptation, a sense of worthlessness, dark spiritual forces, addiction, bitterness, emotional or physical pain. God is in the redemption business; he even went so far as to command a huge fish to deposit Jonah back onto dry land in order to restore him to the life he was meant to live.
As we consider the death & resurrection of Jesus, may we be awed by the truth that You are in the redemption business. You rescue, restore and redeem each one of us, and we are grateful for your gift of life that is truly life.