THIS IS YOUR LIFE
(THIS IS CATHARTIC)
As I continue to preach messages from the book of Acts, and I’m nearly finished with the book, for my Jail Ministry; I became intrigued by Paul’s journey to Rome…where he was imprisoned before executed. Earlier in the book, Rome’s representative, King Agrippa (last king of the Herodian rulers and his wife, Bernice, whom he had an incestuous relationship with, had traveled to Caesarea to pay their respects to Porcius Festus who had succeeded King Felix. Festus seeks Agrippa’s counsel concerning the final disposition of Paul. After he meets Paul and Paul boldly witnesses to the King about his need to seek salvation in Jesus Christ: he refused the opportunity, he remarks that Paul, in his court of judgment, would have been set free from all the false charges the Judiazers had brought against him if he hadn’t claimed a ‘privilege’ all Roman citizens were entitled to: he rejected Festus’ court and made an appeal to be sent to Rome for final judication.
Paul’s enemies were so fierce and determined to see him dead, the Roman Centurion, Julius, spirited him away in the middle of the night under heavy armed guards. They end up taking him to Rome via a sailing vessel.
The ship’s journey began in idyllic conditions; it ended in a state of great peril and near loss of life.
As I read and researched Acts twenty-seven and eight, it reminded me of one of my favorite early T.V. shows: THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Ralph Edwards was the M.C of the show as each week some famous personality’s life’s story was told. People from out of their past visited the show as the life story unfolded. This was the formula: THE JOURNEY; THE STORM; THE SHIPWRECK’; and THE OUTCOME.
I was nearly awestruck when I realized this formula mirrored that of Paul’s last journey to Rome told in the book of Acts. As I spent time conjugating about this find, I soon realized this formula fit nearly all people, especially inmates.
I can assure all that when I was ten or sixteen, I never fathomed my journey would end with me being a preacher for half my life. I did intend to play baseball in the major leagues: didn’t happen. I never intended to get a college degree: earned two or play college basketball; and at age thirty-five, I never intended to become an ordained minister. How in all that is holy did these unexpected outcomes happen? Proverbs tells us that man plans and God controls.
I want each Pilgrim to spend time this week thinking about your outcomes; and see how God has let you chase your own sinful folly; but, how He has intervened to use your worthless clay to fashion a vessel of beauty…in his His eyes.
Our passage in Acts reveals this story. Unlike most of us, Paul had his nose to the grindstone: he was busy preaching about Jesus Christ: crucified, resurrected, and glorified for his listeners sins. For his efforts, the Judiazers put out a ‘contract’ on his life. Because of this evil scheme, he used the legal system he had at that time to escape from being murdered by the Judiazers: he appealed to the judicial system in Rome: he was a Roman citizen, which was his ‘birth-right’ and his venue was changed so he might get an opportunity for a ‘fair trial’. This was Paul’s plan; God’s plan was different: so Paul might witness before the ‘high and mighty’ rulers in Rome about his only Son, Jesus Christ’s work on the cross so salvation might be offered to any who would have the wisdom to accept this gift of grace.
Scripture describes Paul’s journey, its beginning, in the accompaniment of Julius, a Roman Centurion and a select group of soldiers under his command, as idyllic. The water for sailing was considered ideal for a wooden vessel to navigate to its destination. Because it was late in the ‘sailing-season’: too close to Winter and bad stormy waters, Paul suggested the Captain not sail after the Fast (Yom Kippur) but the owner and Captain chose to sail to Phoenix and then spend the winter in that harbor.
The ship’s cargo: commodities many customers eagerly awaited and needed for their clients, and pressured by the merchants to ignore Paul’s advice…and his many years of earning a living as a Fisherman, the ship set sail for Rome. Paul was happy to be sailing…even as a prisoner; but, he knew the trip wasn’t going to be easy or end well: the Holy Spirit had prompted him.
Pilgrim’s how many times in our lives have we set out on a journey and for some reason we just didn’t feel right about its purpose and potential outcome? Perhaps, it was a date that ended with you in the ‘backseat’… before you married, you ignored his or her desire to micro-manage you; the flash of anger for little reason; friends and families warnings about a fiancé’s integrity and character; marrying and being unequally yoked; allowing the ‘heathen’ to draw you away from a commitment to Christ, accepting a job or rejecting it; financial decisions you regret; covering for and enabling children, family, and friends from consequences for sin to avoid embarrassment. Shall I go on? Do you think the Holy Spirit was prompting?
Scripture says folly is bound up in the heart of a child; I think that should include all Pilgrims!
I have been on the Pacific Ocean in the China Sea when the water looked like shining glass in the moonlight. There are few things more serene and beautiful in all the universe; I have also been on angry seas where one was frightened nearly to death and you cried out for land and safe harbor: I was part of a Navy flotilla out of the China sea and we were forced to leave safe harbor and run out into the storm because we couldn’t take the chance the ships would survive being harbored as the hurricane swept across land. We spent three days in that fury.
Paul tells of his experience and it is more horrifying! He was on an old wooden vessel dependent on canvas sails to navigate. Paul and the ship’s crew spent fourteen days in the eye of the same storm; and unable to navigate. What a storm it must have been! I recently saw the movie: The Perfect storm. It culminates with a wall of water a hundred feet high drowning all in its path. I’ll never see it again: I had nightmares. Before they could find safe harbor, all on the ship threw all that was once deemed precious overboard to lighten the vessel’s load in hopes they might be able to live through the storm.
Pilgrims… would that we all have a ‘second’ chance to rid our lives of that which, in hindsight, wasn’t valuable. In fact, it was useless and it caused our lives to end up in a large ‘shipwreck’ like Paul experienced.
Some of the ship’s sailors sought to save their lives and they plotted to lower the Life Boats. Paul warned the Centurion all must remain on board if they were to weather the storm or all would die. He believed Paul and he had the ropes that secured the boats cut so they’d be dashed into the angry sea. How might Pilgrims get there head-around this act? If the Captain of the Titanic had ordered the Life boats to be dropped into the sea, none of the passengers would have survived.
Our large Repair ship: Hector, took forty-five degree rolls in my storm; my younger brother’s ship: a Tin-can (Destroyer) was part of our flotilla: he and his crew were strapped into their bunks. Before Paul’s ship crew reached safety, his ship was blown apart and they used planks of the wooden ship to help navigate to safe harbor.
If God hadn’t of been in the midst of this great storm, the ship’s cargo and the ship’s crew would have drown in the angry waters. If common sense and wise counsel had been heeded, none would have been traumatized or the ship wouldn’t have been lost.
Pilgrims…how about you? When your ‘Great Storms’ arrived, what ‘shipwreck’ did you experience because you ignored the wise counsel of God’s holy bible? Did you choose the wrong person to marry because you married for the wrong reason: not to build a Godly marriage? Did you lose a business because you partnered with people who didn’t share your biblical vison? Did outcomes happen that seemed to be not your fault; and you chose to seek succor and nourishment from the world rather than God? Jesus himself told us that in this world we would experience storms; he also told us to ‘take heart’: he has overcome the world.
What is the lesson from this story we need to learn? All our lives are going to experience adversities of every ilk and kin. Some Pilgrims storms and will be worse than others. We may cause the majority; other’\s may bring them into our lives; but we get the choice whether we allow them to cause a ‘shipwreck’. Our storms may cause our lives to blow-up; we get the choice whether we will do all that is necessary to find safe-harbor
When Paul finally reached ‘safe-harbor’, though he was poisoned by a deadly Viper snake, God protected him; and his ability to not show the ill effects of the bite made the local natives think he was a god. His outcome brought special treatment for him and the entire ship’s crew.
When the ‘sting’ from you storms and your shipwreck happened, did others see the power of Christ in you? Did you find your salvation in a bottle or in the company of others who love the Lord despite their ‘shipwrecked’ lives? Did you allow God to heal your broken dreams and outcomes; or are you still angry at God? Have come to terms with some profound truths: forgiveness isn’t for others… it’s for you. If you don’t forgive the poison will kill you: spiritually for sure. Suffering the bite of a Viper (Satan’s schemes) and showing he can’t kill your will to be a ‘Child of God’ will give you closure for what caused your ‘shipwreck’. Life is only for the living! While it is a tradition with the Jews dealing with death: ‘mourners’ are hired to be at the ‘Wailing Wall’ to signify a person’s grief about the loss of a loved one, I’m sure God doesn’t want any Pilgrim to wear ‘sackcloth and ashes’.
Praise God none of my Pilgrims will face Paul’s outcome from his JOURNEY (a trip to Rome and the Executioner), THE STORM (fourteen days in the hurricane), THE SHIPWRECK (using parts of the blown apart ship to navigate to safety), and his OUTCOME (More prison time in Rome; but an opportunity to witness about Christ to sinners); but, we can all learn valuable biblical lessons from his LIFE’S STORY.
Earlier in Paul’s ministry he had endured many storms as a witness for Christ. I’m sure when he made his appeal to Rome he never dreamed his greatest storm was yet to be seen. He didn’t know his decisions that would save his and the ship’s crew would make him a hero in other’s eyes.
Pilgrims…are you a ‘Hero of the faith’ in others eyes? Will you use the ‘shipwreck’ of your life to inspire others to tell people about how you weathered the seemingly unending storms and your ‘shipwreck’ and demonstrate how you are now better equipped to serve as a warrior in God’s kingdom?
What is keeping you from this spiritual achievement? Might you be like a recent guest at our bed and breakfast? The woman told us that it took her twelve years to finally allow God to help her find closure about her failed marriage. When it happened, God brought love and a Godly man into her life: she and her new husband (a Godly man and church leader) were celebrating their love at our place: Raven’s Nest. What have you failed to find closure for that God is waiting on you (to seal the deal) so he can better equip you for his kingdom’s work?
Paul’s life story was blown off course; yet, he survived and thrived! Might we trust Christ to heal us? Perhaps, our problem is we have lost the value in the truth of the lyrics of a song I love: “You don’t have to walk on water; you just have to walk on land.”
One more profound truth: if you will just let go and let God handle it.
HE WILL CHANGE THE OUTCOME.
Way to go Pilgrims! 300 new registered Pilgrims since last posted article.