Voyage to Rome | Departure

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Paul’s Journey to Rome / © Can Stock Photo / Portokalis

So after waiting out the winter storms at the island of Malta, it’s time for departure.  The Apostle Paul and two hundred seventy-five other prisoners, Roman soldiers, and crew begin the last leg of the journey to Rome.

And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. ~ Acts 28:12 NKJV

Syracuse is only 80 miles or so from Malta, so this is only a day trip out.  Being a trading vessel, The Twin Brothers puts into Syracuse, the ancient capital of the island of Sicily.  Cargo is offloaded, and new merchandise is brought aboard.  Then the captain of the ship awaits a favorable south wind for immediate departure to the next port …

Not happening …

My heart says that if Paul can manage permission to go ashore, he is anxious to evangelize at Sicily.  Indeed, modern Sicilians claim that their present day church was founded by the Apostle Paul.  On the surface, that may sound like a walk in the park, but not necessarily.  Ancient Syracuse is a city of great commerce, wealth, beauty, and splendor.  The city is full of grand marble structures, statues and fountains.  Temples to Jupiter, Fortune, Diana, and Minerva evidence the idolatry at Syracuse.  There must be resistance to Paul’s Gospel if the centurion, Julius, allows Paul shore leave.

Finally after three days the winds turn around, the captain barks departure orders, and the crew casts off.

13From there we circled round and reached Rhegium.  And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.  ~Acts 28:13-14 NKJV

How encouraging to meet up with brethren! The week is certainly full of mystery about who these believers are.  There has long been a Jewish colony at Puteoli, but nothing is said here about the history of this group of believers.  Imagine how warm the greetings are at Paul’s arrival!  Perhaps they host the entire ship of people with food and celebration while Paul makes new disciples and teaches about Jesus.

Then everyone aboard The Twin Brothers disembarks at Puteoli, as the remaining journey to Rome is overland.  Julius organizes his soldiers and prisoners for the 129-mile march to Rome.

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View of Naples Gulf from Pozzuoli – Modern-day Puteoli ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / PerseoMedusa

Excited believers in Rome hear that Paul is getting close.  They rush out to meet the group of travelers as they arrive forty miles outside of Rome.    Luke states that Paul is very encouraged by this gesture and thanks God for the love shown to him by the believers of Rome.

Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. ~Acts 28:16 NKJV

Ah, that Julius!  He surely cares for Paul’s well-being.  And the Lord provides for Paul’s needs through Julius!

So what is to be gleaned from retelling this story of Paul’s Voyage to Rome?  I see God’s divine guidance upon this journey.  The Lord mapped out the route and the timing; mastered the weather, and selected kindly authority – namely the centurion, Julius.  God placed Luke there as physician and recorder of the events.  Nothing happens by chance with Almighty God.  He let it be known to all people on and off both ships of His Supreme Power juxtaposed to the impotency of pagan idols encountered on the voyage.

And God is just getting started!  Paul remains at Rome for two more years while God prepares Roman authority to hear Paul’s legal case.  Roman and Jewish leadership is moved around by God as on a chessboard.  Paul meets with the Jewish leadership in Rome right away in order to explain about his reason for being there and about Jesus, Who fulfills both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  Paul preaches from his rented house to any and all who come to hear the Gospel of Christ.  During that time God’s powerful plans for the spreading of the Gospel press forward, with Paul standing up for Jesus as the Messiah against powerful worldly opposition.

The best thing about Paul is that he is willing to do God’s work.  He focuses on the prize, and not his surroundings.  He trusts the Lord.  Isn’t that exactly what our Lord expects from Jesus’ followers today?

“Father God, today I trust that Your will be done as it was for Paul; that Your hand will direct the route, the timing, the means, weather, and favorable authority over my steps.  Forgive me for passing up opportunities to share Your Gospel in favor of my own vain materialistic pursuits.  Give me the heart of a servant, so I may grow by Your Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus; and increasingly share Your Word in the time remaining.  In the Blessed Name Above All Names, Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah, Amen.”

We may have to check in on that meeting between Paul and the Jewish leadership at Rome.  In the meantime, thank you for following

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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!

 

 

Don’t Die This Semester!

My college economics professor let it be known on the first day that there would be no excused absences in his class.   He stated that being absent was an automatic course drop and therefore an incomplete grade – a horror in 1969.

Of course there are always the exceptions …

“I have heard every phony excuse there is for missing my class.  Don’t do it!  There are only two legitimate reasons for missing my class per semester:”

  1. “You got married”
  2. “You died”

Naturally, about two weeks later I missed class.  As I approached him timidly about it, he said, “WELL, I SEE YOU AREN’T DEAD, SO BRING ME YOUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE.”

I felt like saluting as I said, “YES SIR!” and hurriedly escaped to obey his command (Yes, I was just married).

Strike One!

Over the coming months all went well, even though it soon became painfully obvious that econ was not my forte.  However, one fateful day I missed class again. I was terrified to approach his desk.  Did I mention that I was diligently striving for at least a 3.5 GPA; and this problem was not supposed to be part of the picture?

As I opened my mouth to blurt my excuse he cut me off with, “I SEE YOU ARE NOT DEAD AND YOU ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO GET MARRIED ONCE PER SEMESTER.  YOU ARE NOT EXCUSED!!!”

I instantly teared up and flushed beet red.  I backed up and headed for the open doorway …

“ER … HOWEVER, I HAVE HEARD IT ALL, BUT TELL ME.  IF I’VE NEVER HEARD YOURS, IT MAY EARN YOU AN EXCUSED ABSENCE.”

Did I hear him right?  I could possibly get a reprieve?  I blew my nose and tried to talk, but nothing came out.  I cleared my throat and managed, “My clothes were stolen.”

“WHAT?” he roared.  He was glaring, and then his eyes widened in disbelief.

“TELL ME ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW!”

Jesus, help me!  I was about to collapse from fear or heat stroke on the linoleum floor.  Remember the old kind with square linoleum tiles the janitors used to mop with chlorine bleach-water and then wax and buff with that big machine every night?  Yes, that floor.  I was hot and tired from an hour of gym class; running downhill to go home to change; and running back uphill in temperature of 100+F.

He had kindled hope, so I rallied with the truth.

“I have gym class before econ and when I went back to my locker after showering my clothes were gone – stolen.  I had to run home in my gym shorts; change; and by the time I got back, class was over.  So here I am – dressed but missed class,” I stammered.

“I am so sorry,” I trailed off as I realized I was not that sorry.  Had he heard this before?   Locker thieves were evidently on the loose.  Had this happened to anyone else yet?  I was thirsty.  I searched his face … no reaction.  Nothing.  His face was frozen in a peculiar questioning grimace.  I hung my head.

All of a sudden he belly-laughed.  He roared out, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!  THAT’S A FIRST.”

“ABSENCE IS EXCUSED!”Sherron College Photo

Strike two!

I was about to faint from thirst and relief.

“SHERRON!”

“Yes?”

“DON’T DIE THIS SEMESTER!”

Seriously?  So now you know why I couldn’t die that semester.

Over time I realize that our Heavenly Father doesn’t appreciate excuses for not showing up for class either.  He has generously given life, clothing, and our beautiful earth to sustain us.  We can repent from sin; marry Jesus once this semester; and escape the everlasting death part.

“So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” ~ Romans 14:12 NKJV

Enjoy the holidays and remember:  DON’T DIE THIS SEMESTER!

Thank you for following

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Clinging to Good

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The season of giving and thankfulness is upon us – My favorite time of the year!

9bCling to what is good. 10Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; ~ Romans 12:9b-10 NKJV

Is that even possible in our society today?

Of course it is.  And no better time than now.  Tis the season to invite friends over for food, drink, and conversation by the fire.  Give cheerfully – not expensively.  Bake cookies.  Be kind.  Mend fences.

Some folks suffer from depression during the holidays and my heart goes out to them.  It isn’t easy to be cheerful when your heart is heavy or the budget does not allow for much gift giving.  Toss the materialism and enjoy giving the most valuable gifts:  Time, love, laughter and hope.  God does not want any to suffer pain or fear.

Be of the same mind to one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. ~ Romans 12:16 NKJV

Continue to pray for God’s strength while clinging to good.  He is faithful and your example will bless others.

Thank you for following

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Measuring Faith

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Splendorous Siberian Larch

Do I have enough faith to serve God?  Absolutely!  Am I being conceited to make such a statement?  NO! – For God gave each believer just the right amount of faith.

3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. ~ Romans 12:3 NKJV

No believer is greater or lesser than another brother or sister in Christ.  To think so WOULD BE conceited.  Our Father in Heaven has given each of us a calling, or gift of the Spirit, or any one of a myriad of special assignments in order to serve Him during our life here on earth.  What is important is that we serve humbly and that we bear fruit – and not compare spiritual fruits within the Church.

There have been many times that I felt intimidated instead of encouraged by the exemplary service of other believers.  The Holy Spirit is quick to remind me that’s stinkin’ thinkin‘!

The reality is that Jesus has done it all and simply allowed His followers to participate in His victory.  He supplies redemption, transformation, divine purpose, and a customized, perfectly individualized measure of faith to each one of us.  For without faith, there is no hope; prayer isn’t answered; and we are still disconnected in our relationship to Him.  So faith has very little to do with us and everything to do with Him.  Mostly, it seems that we just need to be willing to show up for duty and be ready to do our part.

4For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. ~ Romans 12:4-5 NKJV

Hey, I have no idea how much faith exists in the universe.  But I don’t need to know.  All that matters is that God knows, and that in love and grace He measured out just the right amount of faith to get me through – and you, too.

Thank You, LORD!

And thank you for following

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Conformed vs. Transformed

This year is my 60th birthday in Christ Jesus!  I wish I could testify that my life was powerfully transformed the moment I accepted Yeshua as my personal Savior and that I lived according to His perfect will this past 60 years.

Truthfully, I have been more conformed than transformed.

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ~ Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

Most of my life was not spent serving God, but in serving myself.  As a new believer, I was eager to learn God’s ways, but my enthusiasm waned as I progressed through childhood and on into adult life.  I became primarily focused on personal achievement, starting a family, and “the cares of this life” took over.  Focusing on the cares of life became such a priority that I slowly conformed to cultural “norms” of this world.  My body was not a living sacrifice to God.  I sporadically walked out my faith by thinking I was keeping the Ten Commandments, but for the most part I was “missing in action”.

Encouraged by the Apostle Paul, my focus now is to finish my faith race much stronger than I began.  To know the heart of God, read Romans 12.  The whole chapter spells out in plain language how to live a life that is pleasing to Our Holy Father God.  He states what our reasonable service should look like:

We should be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  How do we do that?  – By reading His Holy Word, the Bible.  We are to live, serve, and forgive fervently by the power of His love and Spirit.  So praying the sinner’s prayer puts our names in The Book of Life, but real transformation requires more from us.  We must draw close to Him and learn His ways.  That, dear friend, is accomplished through the daily reading of His “Good Book”.  There is no short cut to learning how to behave like a Christian.  Don’t waste valuable time missing the mark like I did.  Jump into Romans 12 with me and next time we will continue studying what God says about finding His perfect will in our lives.

Until then, HAPPY 60th BORN-AGAIN BIRTHDAY TO ME! and thank you for following

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