Friday, February 24, 2012

Surviving a Shipwreck

Have you ever been through a shipwreck?

Recently, with the dramatic wreck of the cruise liner, Costa Concordia, off the coast of Italy, the trauma of such an event was telecast daily into our living rooms. The ship did not go down suddenly, but gradually. If the evacuations had begun immediately, perhaps everyone would have made it. But as it was, dozens obeyed the orders to "not panic" and returned to their quarters, only to be trapped as the liner listed onto it's side.

In the 27th chapter of Acts, Luke describes in vivid details, the harrowing voyage of Paul and his companions--driven by gale-force winds across the Mediterranean Sea. Eventually, the ship is driven into a sandbar off the shore of Malta and battered to pieces by the surf.

Have you ever thought that your life was being driven along like that ship?

Even though the shipwreck was dramatically more violent that the Italian cruise liner, the thing that is incredible is that "everyone reached land in safety" (Acts 27: 44).

The key to survival was that Paul was on board. And Paul, rather than panicking, spent his time in prayer. He had a visitation during the voyage. "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has 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" (Acts 27: 23-25).

Actually, Paul was also instructed that everyone needed to stay on board together so that everyone could survive. By then, the centurion and his soldiers knew that Paul was the one to follow, so they cut the lifeboats that were being lowered by the crew as a ruse to escape. And when the soldiers planned to kill the prisoners, as was customary to prevent their escape, the centurion prevented that as well.

Perhaps the key to making it through the storms in your life is to seek God's face. Paul followed the instructions of that angel of God and all of them were saved. And his prophetic vision exerted a moral authority that exuded true spiritual leadership.

Have you cried out to God as you are battered by gale-force winds? Have you heard Him speak above the din of the surf? Are you obeying His instructions despite all opposition?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Faith in an Upside Down World

Dallas Willard opens his wonderful and important book, The Divine Conspiracy, with a story of a fighter pilot flying on instruments. When she went to pull up, she instead flew straight down into the ground. She had been entirely disoriented and had been flying upside-down.

I'm currently in the middle of reading a tremendous sociological study by Melanie Phillips entitled The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power. She very powerfully documents how "out-of-whack" the world is becoming from a Judeo-Christian (as well as a politically conservative) perspective.

But is all of this really new? The truth is, ever since Abraham left the city of Ur in Chaldea, those who choose to walk with God have had to become "sojourners and pilgrims" here on earth.

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11: 8-10).

Abraham, the father of faith, demonstrated the essence of the faith journey. We must leave home (the familiar and safe) behind and strike out for a promised destination. This life is not about the arrival, the fulfillment, of those promises. Instead, it is all about the journey which can only be walked out by faith.

And so we are walking in the tension of the now and not-yet of the Kingdom. We are in the world but we are not of the world. We have received the incredible promises of God, but we are awaiting their complete consummation. We live between the first and second comings of Christ.

No wonder Paul cries out, "Maranatha!" (Come, Lord!) at the end of 1 Corinthians. And the book of Revelation ends with a similar cry, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22: 20).