The title best describes my devotional life this week. A very busy week, with early morning meetings; my devotional habits had shifted somewhat and my writings seemed to come to a halt. At times I would walk past my open Bible, as it lay on the footstool where I have devotions each morning, a beckoning reminder to come back to this place of spiritual habit once the week had ended.
Yet even during weeks like this latter, God’s providence seems at work, for when I picked up this morning, mid-chapter in Acts 27, it was if God had somehow preserved this series of verses with a purpose. Possibly, waiting my heart’s preparation to receive a pivotal word that I might otherwise have read completely over?
Luke’s narrative of his journey with Paul toward Rome and the shipwreck that occurred, reminded me of where we are as a church in America. It had been a stormy voyage, the seas were raging, with “the sun nor stars appearing for many days.” Paul, one of the few able to keep any spiritual wit, had been approached by an Angel during the night and assured that there would be no loss of life, but that they would run aground soon. This certainly seems to be the case with many churches both economically and spiritually at this time.
The more secular sailors on board, somehow also sensed that grounding was imminent, but feared, given the raging seas, that the ship would be pounded apart if grounded. So, they cast off multiple anchors from the stern and “prayed for daylight.” Its rough seas, when skilled sailors resort to prayer, but that best describes where we are across this nation!
Some even pretended to drop additional anchors, when really they were actually preparing life boats for desertion. There is a message that would really preach if I had time! I too, was at this very point a couple years ago, but arrived at the conclusion, that there was nowhere else to go, for even those “jumping ship” were simply recreating the same storms for themselves and those who followed. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is a definition for insanity. Riding out this ship of Zion seemed to me imperative if transformation was to occur. Those “ships” and their congregations, unwilling to weather this current storm, and to further embrace the glorious transformation forth coming, may in fact be lost?
You may hear some welcomed resolve coming to this prophet as I write today? I believe in fact, that some churches in our nation have turned the proverbial corner and are now headed confidently toward the dream that their elder’s lives have been spent pursuing. It may look and sound different than they thought or even desired but, that is always necessary as culture changes.
Paul, unshaken by the storm, and in a way that reflects the last Supper, calls these battered men from their fourteen day fast (who could enjoy food in this storm). Though I am sure few other than himself and Luke understood, Paul takes bread, gave thanks, broke it and they began to eat…communion occurred on the sea that night… and finally came daylight. Hear my heart…something has recently broken through…and the promised Dayspring has come from on high!
My desire is no longer to dwell on the change that must occur, but to communicate the breakthrough that I believe awaits the churches who have labored through the changes necessary to reach our culture. When true commitment to transformation occurs, providence comes into full partnership with God’s people; but, only once all efforts to save the existing ship have ceased! Our faith and fears must have been lifted to the heavens, with a firm resolve to stay the ship and believe God to complete the journey, which so many of us have exhausted our lives to see!
Not to say that ample bizarre moments will not arise before we come to land, as was the case in verse 42. Had God not reached the heart of one superior officer, the soldiers would have killed all these “prisoners of hope” to prevent their escape. Think about that. Had the Lord not come through, most of the Epistles written by Paul, to include this record of the Acts of the Apostles would have been lost.
When it was time, evacuation orders were given and some arrived at shore on nothing more than “planks and pieces of ship.” Battered and torn may be the good ship Zion, but its cargo will be saved and its culture redeemed!
What lies ahead for the Church: transformation and victory. What will the ship look like when the journey is complete, much different than when we left shore years ago!