Archive for December 6th, 2007
I have always loved Luke as a storyteller — Luke is the human partner with the Holy Spirit in writing Luke and Acts. No place demonstrates this better than our reading today from Acts 27. This story of Paul’s trip by ship to Rome as a prisoner is exciting and powerful and rival any sailor’s tale.
Jesus had said his followers were to be the light of the world and the salt that adds sweetness to taste and preservative to prevent decay. Even though Paul is a prisoner, his character and his friendliness obviously wins the trust and friendship of a Roman centurion. This friendship preserves everyone on board despite desperate times at sea and shipwreck. Though a prisoner, Paul’s walk with God places him in leadership and he uses this to bless and protect every soldier, sailor, and prisoner on board. In times of most imminent disaster and with the bitter taste of fear in each heart, Paul has won the confidence and ear of each one on board.
//Inspiration: Acts 27:22-25
[Paul said] “But now I urge you to keep up your courage because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”
//Incarnation: My take on what this says to me today
I love the phrase “the God whose I am and whom I serve.” Paul had sold out completely to God and his will. There was no other driving force other than pleasing God and accomplishing the Father’s purpose for Paul’s life (see Acts 20:24). I must confess that so many things distract me and derail me from this laser-sighted direction. I want my heart tuned to God’s will, but to have the redemptive influence — to truly be salt and light to those around me — I must be able to say with Paul that the Father of all is also “the God whose I am and whom I serve.”
//Invitation: My prayer today
O God Almighty, Father of all of grace, help me clear away my distractions and be tuned by your Holy Spirit to live for only you. I ask for this grace in Jesus’ name. Amen.
There are folks who plan and those who do not. The latter “fly by the seat of their pants” we like to say. My wife Donna and I are these two folks. Donna is a planner. I use the seat of my pants for a map. So when it comes to spiritual matters, we could both get all high and mighty and try to “out spiritual” the other by resorting to our basic operating systems and then giving proof text for them.
Donna could say, “I seek the Lord’s will and open the Scriptures to know his path. When he makes it clear, I follow it. But to haphazardly just set off in a direction with no clear plan is dangerous, arrogant, and irresponsible.”
I could say, “I seek the Lord’s will and am open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to where I should go. When he closes doors, I try something else. When he opens doors, I step through. To sit and do nothing while I wait for clear guidance is to deny the Holy Spirit’s work in my insight and to waste to precious time.”
So which one are you? It’s kinda like being a dog person or a cat person, many of us come down on one side or the other. And part of the reason God gave us each other is because we both need the influence and seasoning of the other. A planner can get stuck waiting for a plan. A seat of the pants person can get in tons of trouble because of poor preparation and thought. There is a balance to find in there somewhere.
What I find interesting about the book of Acts is that God has his leaders use both methods — a careful and clear plan as well as flying by the seat of their pants being led by the Holy Spirit. However, at the core of it all is Acts 1:8 and the strategic plan that Jesus gave his disciples, his most committed and passionate followers, to use: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (TNIV). You start where you are. You reach out to your region. You go and share the message to the world.
In Paul’s personal testimony to King Agrippa in Acts 26:19-20 [today's Bible reading is Acts 26], Paul describes following a very similar plan in his work at reaching others with the message of Jesus. Paul began where he was. He reached out to his home region. He went out to share the message of Jesus with the world.
//Inspiration: Acts 26:19-20
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.”
//Incarnation: My take on today’s Bible reading for my life
I’ve got to be aware of those around me who are seeking for answers, help, compassion, and friendship. Sharing the truth of Jesus on mission trips, through the internet, or by supporting international missionaries are crucial. But I am a hypocrite and a coward if I don’t do that with those around me in my own city and region.
//Invitation: My prayer for today
O Father of all peoples, open my heart and my eyes to those around me who are seeking you and need a friend to draw alongside them and share Jesus. Make this my passion more and more each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.