The Big Sea Adventure

Acts 27

acts 27 20

I love this chapter! It reads like an exciting adventure novel full of rising suspense, anxious expectation, unfortunate loss, and desperate hope. Now I don’t know a lot about sailing, but it sounds like as soon as they board the Alexandrian ship things don’t go so well. In verse seven we see that they had to sail slowly for a “good many days and with difficulty.”  They arrive at Cnidus with difficulty and then they arrive at Fair Havens with difficulty. This voyage is a lot harder than it should have been and they have lost a lot of time. Verse nine clues us in on the time of year it is by saying “the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over.” Matthew Henry’s commentary says that it was now late September. They knew they would need to stop soon for the winter because it wasn’t a good time to sail anymore. And Paul warned them to stop, but they weren’t listening to a prisoner’s advice at this time. The captain wanted to get around to a better location for spending the winter.

Isn’t this nice plot development? There is some nice character development, too. Let’s consider the nameless centurion for just a minute. He was in charge of the prisoners and he had already previously “treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.” Sure, he didn’t listen to Paul’s warning that they should stop travelling, but it seems reasonable to think that the centurion knows a fair amount about Paul. He probably went to the hearing Paul had with Agrippa. He saw the faith, love, and determination of a prisoner unlike any other prisoner he had ever been in charge of I would wager.

The storms get worse. The despair rises and Paul speaks up to assure everyone that God will save them, but not the ship. He tells them to be courageous. Soon, it looks like land is approaching and, while this is good news, a new threat is upon them. Can they safely make it to land? Some try to jump ship and this time it seems like the centurion listens to Paul when he says the men must remain in the ship in order for everyone to be saved.

We are approaching the climax of the story and Paul tells the men to eat and strengthen themselves. He encourages them and thanks God in front of all of them during a time of intense uncertainty. When day breaks will they see land? Will they be able to get to it? The next day finds the ship stuck and being torn apart by forceful waves. The soldiers think they need to kill the prisoners so they don’t go free. This seems like a reasonable plan, but the centurion steps up to protect Paul. What a climax! The ship is tearing to pieces, death is perilously near, and everyone must jump overboard. And the story ends just the way I love for a good story to end; with a happy ending! All 276 on the ship “were brought safely to land.” Was it all just physical salvation? Is there a future salvation for some who witnessed firsthand the power of God? Here is where the reader must speculate and come up with his/her own assumptions.

-Melissa New

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God’s Presence Even in “Failures”

acts 23 11

Acts 23

Paul knew what it was to be a Jew, but he also knew the benefits of being a Roman.  At the end of Chapter 22 we saw two ways you could become a Roman though you were a Jew. You could purchase the privilege at a great cost or you could be lucky enough to have been born a Roman as Paul was. Tarsus was designated a “free city” by Rome. Anyone born there was automatically Roman. We know it wasn’t luck, though. The commander (or chief captain depending on the version you read) must have thought Paul was a lucky dog! We know better. God was working in Paul’s life before he was even born!

Since Paul was a Roman, he was to have a fair trial. A nice little perk for being a Roman, you can see. Paul can sense right away at the start of Chapter 23, though, that he won’t get a fair trial among the Jews. They will surely find him guilty. Paul seems to be doomed. Fortunately, there was that commander that seemed interested in Paul. What a lucky dog! How very fortunate for him that God put that commander there! And this commander feels a powerful urge to protect Paul as a precious Roman.

What a terrible failure his time in Jerusalem seems to have been! No one would listen to him and people want him dead. But God’s active presence in his life is undeniable during this seemingly unsuccessful adventure into Jerusalem.

-Melissa New

 

My name is Melissa New. I am a Sunday School Teacher/Youth Leader at McGintytown Church of God of Abrahamic Faith in Arkansas. I homeschool the kids God has blessed us with and particularly love English and History. I’m pretty passionate about church camps too! 🙂 My favorite verse of the Bible is Jeremiah 29:13 and my favorite Psalm is Psalm 37. 

Boldly Be His

Saturday –

Boldly Be His & Who He Made YOU to Be!

Let’s recap who you are.

You are a new creation in Christ, created with a purpose.

You are God’s masterpiece, His poem.

You are an overcomer!

Once we begin to see who God had in mind when He created us, and we agree with Him to lean in to that (as opposed to running from it), we are then able to start living boldly for Him.

One of the dominant themes of the book of Acts is the boldness of the believers.

A short aside here:  Boldness does not mean crazy, irrational, illogical, or rude behavior.

Boldness is when we truly know something and our actions are determined by that belief.  The Greek word translated as ‘boldness’ in Acts is “parrhesia” and it conveys the idea of confidence, assurance, courage and acting without fear.

Remember Peter, who we talked about the other day.  The early Peter was characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions.  (Example, “Hey Jesus, everyone else may abandon you but not this guy, not me.”…..Proceeds to deny knowing Jesus repeatedly).  Yeah, that guy.

BUT, not long after that, Peter preached one of the boldest messages in history and said things like, “You are a corrupt generation.  Turn from your sin, repent and get baptized!”  (Acts 3-4)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The word that’s translated ‘ordinary’ is the Greek word “idiotas.”

Any guesses what that means?

Yup, Peter and John were idiots.  Idiots for Christ.  So we could give the book of Acts the subtitle, “The Idiots Guide to Boldness.”

When’s the last time someone was amazed at your boldness?

I think we often put the cart before the horse when it comes to boldness.  We want so badly to be used by God, to serve, to be bold…that we run ahead.  The key is that boldness that accomplishes something, boldness that matters, comes from knowing who we were created to be.  It comes from everything we’ve been talking about this week.

Your boldness won’t mean anything if you don’t know who you are…or should I say, whose you are.

And if I can offer one bit of advice from someone a bit further down the road…this process is not quick.  As we seek Him, God reveals bits to us.  It’s a lifelong pursuit, not an assignment to check off of our to-do list.

But that’s also kind of cool.  That there’s always more to know, more ways to grow.

Praying for you to see yourself through His eyes.

-Susan Landry

 

Note:  These lessons this week were drawn from Craig Groeschel’s book, “Altar Ego”.  If you’re looking to read more on the subject, I highly recommend it.

 

When I Don’t Feel Courageous

Joshua 6 – Courage Recap

Be Strong & Courageous

Saturday, October 14

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

It is interesting that no “strong and courageous” pep talk is included in Joshua 6 as the Israelites were receiving and acting upon instructions for overtaking the walled fortress of Jericho.  Rather, the Lord said, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands…March!” (Joshua 6:2).  And the people did it – God’s way – and the walls came a tumbling down.

Were the people scared as day after day they approached the city to march around it’s walls?   Perhaps some were.  Perhaps some were remembering their fathers who had crumbled in fear and discouragement when faced with the prospect of fighting against the fortified cities of Canaan.  Yet, they had determined that something else was more important than fear – and they were following God.  Likewise, you have the opportunity to be a new generation.  You don’t have to follow a history of fear, failure, or inaction.

Perhaps they were making a conscience effort to instead focus on how they saw God and his faithfulness at work as well as how they had personally been prepared for this moment.  Remembering the crossing of the Jordan River.  Remembering Joshua’s meeting with the commander of the army of the Lord.  Remembering how they consecrated themselves in preparation to see amazing things the Lord would do.  Remembering the importance of relying on God’s Word rather than your feelings of fear (Joshua 1:6-9).  Remembering the Lord’s words that Joshua had passed on to them:  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

My daughter and I just read The Hiding Place by Corrie TenBoom.   We both highly recommend it!  In German occupied Holland Corrie and her family hide and care for many Jews during World War II – a job that certainly required a great deal of strength and courage.  Corrie’s life is a beautiful example of God providing for and preparing those who are seeking to follow God and His Word, regardless of the fears or consequences.  No doubt our memory verse this week was a great comfort as well as battle cry for Corrie: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

What courageous works is God preparing you to do?  You may have no idea today.  But use the day to follow Him, remembering His faithfulness.  Actively seek and pray for direction on what courageous act God would have you do for Him today, next month and 5 years from now.   And then – DO it!

Be Strong and Courageous!

Marcia Railton

Courageously, Humbly Compliant

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 14 (1)

Friday, October 13

There are a lot of great tidbits in today’s reading of Joshua 5.  Go ahead and read it and see what you find.

I love the part about the foreign kings’ hearts melting as they lost courage to fight against the Israelites and their powerful God.   (vs 1).

I love the part about the men following through to show they were committed to a new start in following God with their whole mind, body and strength – being set apart as God’s unique and chosen people (vs 2-9).

I love the part about the Israelites eating food grown in Canaan for the first time – and the manna from the sky – which God had provided for 40 years – stopping on the very next day  (vs 10-12).

But my favorite part is when Joshua is approaching Jericho and meets an armed man – but he can’t tell if he is friend or foe.  So he courageously approaches him and asks.  The man, with drawn sword replies, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (vs 14).   I am impressed with Joshua – not only brave and courageous, but humble as well.  Joshua, and all of the Israelites likely, considered Joshua to be the commander of the army of the Lord – until meeting this man/being with drawn sword.  But rather than arrogantly questioning this – he falls at his feet and instead asks what message the Lord has for Joshua.  I pray that I would be as courageous as Joshua – along with as humbly compliant.  Not standing up to God, or his commander, not proudly speaking of my battle plan or claiming titles – but at his feet – asking for directions – and then courageously stepping out to do them.

-Marcia Railton

What Do These Stones Mean?

Joshua 4

Joshua 4-24

Thursday, October 12

As of yesterday’s devotion we left the Israelites consecrating themselves in preparation to see amazing things the Lord would do for them the following day.  And, when the people were prepared – God was certainly ready to do His part.  The last part of chapter 3 reads:

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,  the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.   Joshua 3:15-17

What emoji would you choose if an Israelite just texted you that update on how their day was going?  Surprise!  Shock!  Awe!  It is an incredible account, isn’t it?  When I read it I was sorry to hear that the Israelites crossing didn’t get to gaze upon the water that was “piled up in a heap” as that was about 20 miles upstream (NIV text note on 3:15).  Wouldn’t that have been awe-inspiring!  Why not, I thought.  Perhaps God had planned to share this awesome display with those outside of the Israelite community – “so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful.” (Joshua 4:24)

In chapter 4 we also have the rest of the story on the waters of the Jordan that had instantly dried up when the priests’ feet touched the waters’ edge.  Could have been coincidence, someone might try to argue.  Lots of busy beavers just upstream?   But then Joshua 4:18 helps clear up any doubt: “And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.”  This wasn’t the work of beavers or tides or circumstance.  At just the precise time needed the flood waters unexplainably stopped – and then re-started, also, at precisely the correct time.  This was the work of the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He was having fun doing amazing things for His consecrated people who had decided to be bold and courageous rather than cowering in fear and discouragement as their parents had.

Joshua followed the LORD’s direction to have each tribe take part in creating a rock tower to commemorate what the LORD did at the Jordan.  This was done to keep the memory alive and spark conversation, down through the generations, of how Almighty God had provided just what they needed at just the right time.  Joshua said their children would ask, “What do these stones mean?” (Joshua 4:6,21).  It would be a great opportunity to tell of God’s power and provision for His people.

In what miraculous ways have you seen God at work?  Perhaps on your own behalf, or someone you know, or even someone you read about – Biblical miracles still count today! What reminders do you have displayed for you and your family?  What opportunities do you have to overflow with stories of God’s power and faithfulness?  We must not forget God’s power.  We must remember – and tell others.   When we fear Him, we can be strong and courageous.

-Be Strong and Courageous – Marcia Railton

 

Do You Know a Rahab?

Joshua 2

Joshua 2-11 b

Tuesday, October 10

There aren’t a lot of Bible stories which showcase a prostitute as the heroine.  But, here, in Joshua 2, we are introduced to Rahab.  She  is a prostitute in Jericho – one of the fortified cities just inside the Promised Land.  Most likely this was one of the fortified cities that the Israelite spies had seen 40 years ago when their fear and small view of God kept them from entering the Promised Land under God’s watchful eye.

So, now, Rahab is visited by spies from the Israelite camp.  It is very interesting to see who is afraid now.  Rahab tells the spies that she KNOWS that her native land will be given to God’s People – the Israelites.  They have heard many stories of the amazing power and might of the Israelite God – stories that the Israelites themselves would have done well to remember 40 years ago!  And now the Jericho natives are shaking in their boots because they realize that they are not protected by a living and active and all-powerful God.

Rahab is thankful for this opportunity to meet with spies who have connections with this all-powerful God of heaven and earth.  She courageously hides them from her king and helps them escape – with the understanding that when they come back to conquer her city they will return the favor by saving her and her family.

Do you know a Rahab?  Maybe someone who has heard about God but hasn’t had or taken the opportunity to become a follower, yet.  How can you help show her/him the way?   Their world will be conquered – don’t let them be left behind.  Don’t take for granted the God of Heaven and Earth that you know – and others NEED to know.  He is an amazing God.

-Marcia Railton