Voyage to Rome | Euroclydon!

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© Can Stock Photo / irabel8
13When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete.14But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon.15So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. ~Acts 27:13-15 NKJV

Euroclydon is a violent Nor’easter – a Levanter, or Mediterranean typhoon.  We’re not talking a few whitecaps here.  No, this is more like Perfect Storm weather.

The captain sets a course a lee of a small island named Clauda.  They scramble to bring the skiff onboard, as it is swamping off the aft tow line.  Counting the waves, the more experienced crew tag a good one coming alongside and heave the skiff onto the deck.  Off they go – cabling up the ship; but soon realize the ship is about to run aground upon the looming sandbars of the Syrtis.

Hey Captain!

Once I was in the Bering Sea on a crabber and holding watch with the skipper.  We were running northerly about 10 knots heading to Unalakleet in a driving rain storm chatting about nothing much when I happened to notice what looked like waves breaking over a sandbar!  I hollered and the skipper opened his side window to stick his head out for a better look.  It was raining so hard the water was standing against the windows, blurring our vision.  Nothing on the radar; I grabbed a chart and saw nothing noted; but in a shallow sea like the Bering, it’s common for bars to materialize and then disappear year after year.  They go uncharted but vessels beware!  Sure enough, we could hardly believe our eyes, but the boat was about to ground on a ghost bar!  The skipper hit the jog lever hard port and reversed throttle, jarring our vessel into a change of course while throwing all loose parts and persons down onto the floor from the braking action.  The boat shuddered once, then veered to port, nearly grazing the bar.

Likewise, Paul’s captain orders to strike sail in defeat of Euroclydon, and narrowly misses the Sartys.  Off they go again; away from the Sartys Sands and into the hungry jaws of the tempest.  After jogging up and down the Adriatic all night pitching and tossing to and fro; they lash each other to the deck to avoid being washed overboard by walls of water.  The next day all unnecessary goods, cargo, and ballast are thrown into the angry sea.

The ship is far off course now and no effort to lighten the ship has eased their plight.  On the third day in a last bid for survival, captain gives the order to throw all the ship’s tackle overboard.  Without gear to assist, the crew throws it over by hand and fear begins to gnaw at their shrunken bellies.

Amazingly, for many days not much changes.  Imagine the darkness.  The skies are totally black.  No sun by day, or moon nor stars by night.  The sea is a dark, clawing hole.  No light anywhere day after day.  Wave after wave washes over the deck as the lurching ship threatens to roll over … but doesn’t.

Euroclydon reminds me of a bully grabbing someone and shaking them upside down until everything in their pockets dumps out onto the ground.  If you have ever been on the sea in the grip of a serious storm, you know what I mean.  The sheer power of a great typhoon like this little ship endured is terrifying and humbling.  The keel visibly twists and groans while those on deck pray that it does not snap!

I wonder what Julius, the soldiers, captain, ship owner, crew, and the other prisoners are thinking by the first week of this storm? … The words hopeless, helpless, or defeated come to mind.  They may be praying to their gods, who they must believe are very angry.  How about by day ten? After that, it would most likely be downright fear.  Only Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus would likely be praying and trusting in our Heavenly Father YHWH for deliverance.

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Greek Ship Mosaic ©CanStock Photo/finaeva_i

Until next post we must leave our beleaguered group in the deathly grip of Euroclydon; which is still raging with no end in sight.

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Voyage to Rome | A Late Start

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Matala Beach, Crete, Greece ©CanStock Photo/gatsi

The Jewish leadership of Jerusalem has accused Paul of sedition according to their law (Acts 21-26).  After possibly being held for ransom in Caesarea for two years by then Governor Felix, Paul’s case is heard by the new Governor Portius Festus and yet another politico named King Herod Agrippa II.

Paul eloquently defends himself to these authorities and also gives witness about Jesus to everyone there with no evidence of belief in the room.    However, Paul is granted his appeal to be tried by Caesar and handed over to a Roman centurion of the Augustan Regiment named Julius.

How many times have I thought I was headed in the right direction and then out of the blue I’m derailed into some kind of weird time-loop-thing I can’t seem to make any sense of, but is hindering my progress!  Not just me, but other people tell me they experience the same thing.  Praise God! His timing is perfect! …. I tend to blunder along and sometimes God sends me a big, “WHOA, SLOW DOWN!” command … anyway, back to our story of Paul, who appears to be two years late from the git-go on heading over to Rome …

Time to shove off!

Julius wastes no time in setting sail for Rome with Paul, Luke, Aristarchus, and some other prisoners in tow.  Within a day, they reach the port of Sidon, where Julius shows a bit of kindness toward Paul and allows him freedom to visit with friends before setting sail again.  A bit of a wind tosses the ship, so the captain steers along the leeward shoreline of Cyprus and hugs the southern coastline of today’s Turkey before pulling into Myla, a city of Lycia.   Julius quickly books passage on an Alexandrian ship heading to Italy, and as soon as his responsibilities are all aboard, probably kicks back for a game of dice with his officers; thinking that the voyage to Rome is going along better than he could have expected.

Not so fast!

7When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.” ~ Acts 27:7-8 NKJV

Now winter is pressing upon this little ship of fools – Ooops! I mean souls.  So much time has passed by now that even The Fast is mentioned in verse 9, or Tisri (The Day of Atonement), indicating the date to be September 24th in that year.  After much time spent debating whether to put up here for the winter or to press forward to Crete, Paul warns Julius against proceeding.  Paul predicts loss of cargo, the ship, and even lives if the ship continues.

Against Paul’s warning Julius accepts the captain’s and ship-owner’s advice to continue onward to Crete.  There is a better winter harbor at Phoenix on Crete and perhaps Julius values the judgement of experienced sailors over a prisoner who may or may not want to delay legal proceedings in Rome.  Regardless, the winds let down, majority rules, and off they sail … thinking they have favor with the sea gods!

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Ancient Greek Ship ©CanStock Photo/Diomedes66

How often do I launch my boat against good advice? – Or even worse, against God’s will?  Hah! Too many times for me to confess here.  At least with the Holy Spirit’s help I chose the right harbor – Jesus is my rest.  How about you, friend?

Stay tuned to hear Luke’s account of what happens next as the wind changes and calamity strikes!

 

 

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Pray for Kings

1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  ~ I Timothy 2:1-2 NLT (emphasis added)

Acts Chapter 13:

The Holy Spirit sent the Apostle Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey away from Jerusalem to the island of Cyprus.  When they reached the town of Paphos, they encountered a Jewish sorcerer named Bar-Jesus (Elymas in the Greek).  He was also known in the Bible as a false prophet who was very close to the governor.  Elymas interfered with the witness of Paul and Barnabas by keeping them away from the governor.  Elymas feared that the governor was a very intelligent man and may become a believer if told the truth about Jesus.  Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and stared Elymas down; then called upon God to strike the man blind so they could continue their mission.  His prayer was answered instantly and the man was blinded.  Elymas begged for bystanders to lead him away from the embarrassing scene.

Evidently the governor was watching the whole thing from a safe distance.  He was so shocked by what he saw that he became a believer in Jesus.  He had not heard the Gospel teaching about Jesus before this time; or had discounted it as being untrue.

This is a great example of why we should pray for our leaders.  Prayer changes things, Amen?  Not only will things get better in our nation, but as a result of prayers and spiritual support, some leaders may become believers like the governor of Paphos.  Do not be discouraged that all of our leaders do not become believers.  Leave that in God’s hands.  That is what Paul had to do later in the town of Caesarea.  Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and after declaring himself to be a Roman Citizen, Paul demanded a trial in Rome.

Acts Chapters 23 & 24:

While being transported as a prisoner to Rome, Paul was taken as far as Caesarea and left there in prison to await further passage to Rome.

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Ancient Ruins of Caesarea, Israel ©Can Stock Photo/georgemuresan

In the meantime, Paul was able to witness about Jesus to Governor Felix and his Jewish wife, Drusilla.  Now Felix was very familiar with the Gospel of Christ, and he became fearful of Paul.  Instead of embracing the Lord Jesus as his Savior, Felix sent Paul back to his prison cell.  Two years passed, until Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus.  The new governor also heard Paul’s legal defense as well as Paul’s testimony of Jesus; as did the visiting King Agrippa, and the king’s sister, Bernice.  In summation, Paul literally gave an altar call to the Governor and royal guests,

27King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know you do – “

28Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

29Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

30Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left.

~ Acts 26:27-30 NLT

So not everyone will immediately embrace our testimony as truth when we witness – even our leaders; but we can still pray for them, as Paul did.

It is importantstuff to pray for our leaders.  Why?

3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For,

 5There is one God, and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus. 6He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

~I Timothy 2:3-4 NLT

 

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God Hears

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“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and He answered me. I called out to You from the land of the dead, and Lord, You heard me!” ~ Jonah 2:2 NLT

When people are at their lowest, God hears their cries to Him and saves them.  This message of a benevolent God of love and mercy seems to resonate with most people.  But His holiness also calls for judgement when necessary.  So why do we linger in sinful misery before crying out to Him?

Let’s look at the prophet Jonah in the Bible.  He refused to preach God’s message of salvation to the Assyrian people of Nineveh – a particularly evil, idolatrous, and violent capital of Mesopotamia (located in modern-day Turkey and Iraq).

“Nineveh was so large that it took three days to see it all”.  ~Jonah 3:3 NLT

Imagine!  It may have been the equivalent of Las Vegas – known today as Sin City; full of glittering neon lights and sinful attractions along with idolatry.  Anyway, God had decided to judge the people of Nineveh for their sins.  Our merciful Father in Heaven had, however, allowed them a way to escape judgement.  They could repent within 40 days or be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jonah was having none of it.  He evidently hated the Assyrians.  As a consequence, it cost Jonah his life and almost cost the lives of his shipmates and an entire city of people.  Oh, I shrink from the horrifying thought of what my actions cost others when I behave like Jonah!

And yet, the lesson continues …

Jonah eventually repented and God gave him a second chance.

“Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.” ~ Jonah 2:10 NLT

Jonah finally obeyed God.  He went to Nineveh, and preached God’s Word.

5The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. 10When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction He had threatened.” ~ Jonah 3:5,10 NLT

Happy ending, right?  Jonah is resurrected from a watery grave; the ship and all it’s crew are saved from the storm and worship the one true God; and a whole city is also saved.

Wrong!  Well, no doubt it was a joyful event for the people and animals of Nineveh.  But Jonah was so angry he complained to God about (of all things) God’s mercy and compassion to sinners.  See, Jonah was certain all along that if he preached to them, the people of Nineveh would repent.  God would forgive them because of His benevolent nature, and forego their destruction … RATS!  His worst fears were realized.

“Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” ~ Jonah 4:3 NLT

Then God gently rebuked Jonah:

4Is it right for you to be angry about this? 11But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” ~ Jonah 4:4,11 NLT

That is the last Word given to us in the Book of Jonah.  I rest upon God’s wisdom.

“Father, although we are worthy of judgement and destruction, today I glorify You for showing Your power to mankind in love, mercy and salvation instead of what we deserve. Thank you for the hope we have in Your gift of a new year 2019; to recognize Your willingness to give each of us another chance to be obedient to Your Word … Especially that we would realize that all men are equal in Your sight and deserve our love and respect. In the name of JESUS; ALPHA AND OMEGA; THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, Amen!”

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The Reveal

The angel of the Lord to shepherds guarding their flocks nearby:

“Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Luke 2:8-14

Soon after, the baby Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem by his parents, Mary and Joseph.  They dedicated Jesus to the Lord, according to Jewish Law.

Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Luke 2:28-32

The world may prefer to take Jesus out of Christmas, but Almighty God places Baby Jesus right smack-dab in the middle of his biblical account of Christmas.  Without Jesus we would not have:

  • God With Us
  • Salvation
  • Peace to all nations
  • Good News
  • Great Joy
  • Mercy toward mankind – God’s Pleasure
  • Light to all nations

It’s all there.  God revealed in the flesh.  No word of a holiday or festivity on earth.  Just God doing his business on time as he promised.  Just a little something to bring us GREAT JOY.

God’s blessings to you and yours this season.

2018 Christmas