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The Attempt: Day 27

I asked if any of our friends of the cast would like to say a prayer for us here. I was so happy to hear from my Portland friend Michelle Kern. Michelle and her husband, Don, are disciples back home and also two of my motorcycle buddies. Michelle is going to open our devotional for us today:

Lord

I pray for all those you have chosen, for us whom you have found worthy of your calling. That through your glory we will become one unit with you and that we Lord, through obedience to your word will turn our lives upside down and in doing so…turn the world upside down.
Lord I pray our attempts will please you. May we contribute to your new creation of oneness and unity through the many gifts you have given us. May we pray boldly to witness the last days, When you will pour out your Spirit on all people. May we witness our sons and daughters prophesying and our your young men seeing visions, our old men dreaming dreams….
Lord I pray the 2016 reach and upside down production will please you, I pray you will scatter your disciples across the world… Back to their home church’s full of your strength and love and the will to become one so that the world might know you and your love for them. In your son’s name I pray,

amen.

Thanks Michelle.

At the end of the last chapter, Agrippa and Festus agreed that Paul had done nothing deserving death, and in fact could have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar. What they don’t realize is that it’s not freedom Paul is looking for; he’s determined to preach to the highest powers on earth about the highest power in the universe.

When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. 2 We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us.

Luke and Aristarchus are accompanying Paul.

But Paul is a prisoner. Was that common?

These two companions most likely booked passage as any free people could do on these vessels, in order to go where Paul went.

3 The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs.

There’s several possibilities here. This could be another reference to the fact that the gospel had spread everywhere and that Paul had disciple friends, a church, in Sidon. But I think it’s just saying that Julius let Paul join Luke and Aristarchus when they landed, and Paul was refreshed from being with them.

4 From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. 5 When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board.

Ok, I really got into this. Alexandria is in Egypt; these Egyptian grain ships could be enormous. They fed Rome and some were recorded to be 180 feet long. That’s over half the size of a football field.FullSizeRender-3

To get my mind around this I looked up every drawing of first century grain ships I could find and read a second century description by Lucian of a grain ship coming into port in Athens. It would have looked something like my drawing above (hey, it was a singing day at rehearsals here in St. Louis when I started this particular devotional and I was kinda goofing off).

The vessel was nothing like I’d ever pictured before. It was around 8 stories tall! I lived on the 8th floor of a building for years… 215 West 98th… and I remember looking out the window, down 80 feet at the street below. This is what looking down from only 60 feet, six stories, looks like:town-innsbruck-zoo-austria-copyright-ngaire-ackerley-2008

And this is what a six story building looks like:building (1)

So imagine a grain tanker of the first century slightly taller, deeper, than this building above and about this long:jet

They were built for massive storage capacity… one of the ships hauling grain to Caesar was recorded as transporting 1100 tons…  and also took passengers, like Luke and Aristarchus. We’re going to read in just a few paragraphs that 276 people were on board.

7 We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.

The pilot and owner: these guys were business men. The owner has a full hold of grain that has a shelf life of some limited time at sea and is worth more the faster he gets it to a port from where it  can be hauled on to Rome. This is money to him and he’s pressing on. The pilot is always torn between what the owner, who pays him, wants; and what is safe and wise.

12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
13 When a gentle south wind began to blow…

This is the beginning scene of “The Perfect Storm”. It looks like a good day to go fishing, but it’s not.

…they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.

Crete has mountains 7000 feet tall. Winds can come down off the mountains and create the kind of storms we’re now going to hear about.

14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure,

On a vessel this size, this was a fairly large boat dragged behind the ship.

 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.

Now the pilot and owner are still hoping for a profit on this run. There’s an argument, shouting, because the pilot already knows it’s the grain that’s could pull them down to Davey Jone’s locker, and he wants to dump it and everything else.

Owner: Dump the cargo above the grain. Everything, throw it all over board!

Pilot: You’re stinking right I’m throwing the cargo overboard, but we’re dumping the grain, too, or we’re both dead men!

Owner: Dead men?! You want to know dead men? I don’t get this to Caesar, I’m  a dead man. You dump this grain and you’re a dead man, you hear me? You’ll never work again! Get this grain to port or we all might as well go down with this blasted ship!

ENTER: Julius the Centurion. Remember, they’re all YELLING. Not only are tempers hot, but the gale force winds and crashing waves; popping timbers and cargo crashing around are making a non-stop thunderous noise.

Julius: What are you arguing about?

Pilot: Nothing. We have to throw the cargo overboard. Have your men jettison everything. We’re dumping everything but the ships tackle.

With a nod the owner walks away. The pilot starts, but Julius grabs his arm firmly and pulls him to his chisled face, nose to nose.

Julius: You do whatever it takes to get us on land. You hear me!? Whatever it takes.

Pilot: Just get your men… and the prisoners… everyone to help throw everything overboard now! I’ve seen worse than this centurion.

Julius: Have you? Really, man, (pause, close up on Julius, teeth gritted) Have you?

And scene.

So they throw all the other cargo overboard. They keep the grain even though it’s weighing down the ship in the bottom of the hold.

19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands…

You get the idea now, right?

… when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar…

There it is!!!!! God did have a plan all along and nothing is going to thwart that plan.

I believe in divine intervention, but I take issue sometimes when we misunderstand and say “God is control!”

Is God divine and omnipotent? I believe so. Is God able to do more than we ask or imagine? I say amen. Is God always the force behind every action? Of course not. Does God love one person more than another, saving one from cancer, letting the other get hit by a car? A plane crashes and everyone on board dies except, miraculously a baby; the only one that had a free ticket to heaven anyhow! Our loved ones get sick and we say “God is in control.”

Sometimes that’s hogwash. God can intervene anytime it suits his divine plan, for, he is the Lord and here with Paul you see God intervening; whether the storm is part of the plan or not doesn’t matter; God has had a plan for Paul like few other mortals ever on earth, because of the need to spread the gospel to the whole earth during that time. I have my own ideas about ‘that time’ as well, but we’ll save that. Point being, the angel appearing to Paul, strengthening him and allowing him to boost the spirits of all on board, that certainly seems like a big dose of “woo” to me and proof that God will intervene, or at least set a plan in motion that the ‘gates of hell will not prevail against’. On the other hand, I’ll never believe that God spares my wife and let’s your aunt die because He’s in control of one, but doesn’t care to control the other.

…and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
27 On the fourteenth night…

This was supposed to be a short forty mile run to get to get to Phoenix at Cape Mouros, but it’s been a terrifying two whole weeks!

…we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow.

Sneaky, sneaky, however…

31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

… a little more drama, huh?

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

The owner is defeated. Finally they let go of the last hope of getting his precious cargo to market and, morosely, he considers his future.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping.

There’s several historical records of what happened to Roman soldiers who lost prisoners. This is a big deal. It’s another dramatic scene, with Julius again doing some shouting and cussing and threatening. But I’m hungry.

43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan.

Julius is a hero.

He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

Julius: Jump over board man!

Pilot: Go ahead. I’ll be the last to leave.

Julius: Everyone else is gone. I’ve got to stay with those prisoners, and look… that Paul is a fast swimmer! Come on!

Pilot: You go on!

Julius: Come on!

Pilot: No!

Julius: You going down with the ship?

Pilot: I can’t swim!

Julius laughs. The pilot gets ticked off and turns to spit salt spray from his mouth and when he does Julius grabs him and jumps over board and pulls him all the way to shore.

I had one more easy one in me,  now I’ll eat.

We’re drawing nigh unto the end of this attempt to follow the exploits of the women and men who turned their world upside down. Join us for one more episode tomorrow. For now, I asked Debbie Mackintosh, my partner’s wife, and one of my best friends ever, to say a prayer to close our penultimate devotional time together.

Deb’s prayer:

Father,

thank you so much that we can all participate in this amazing opportunity to tell the story of our 1st century brothers and sisters. As we all gather in St. Louis over the next few days, please bless our efforts to bring ALL the aspects of this show together. Thank you SO MUCH for All the hard work of SO MANY people over the last year to make this happen. I especially want to thank you for ALL the families of the cast and crew for all their sacrifices personally to make this happen. Please bring us all to St Louis safely and bless each day of rehearsal between now and the show – that each day will bring glory to You in every way.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

Steve has been a minister for over 4 decades; 39 of those years married to the wife of his youth and partner, Lisa. Steve has spoken in Madison Square Garden. He's swam the Hudson River to raise money for his favorite charity. He’s the writer, producer and director of an award winning short film. He’s an author, speaker, and father whose messages are hilarious, soulful and life changing. When he's not trying to sell, ride or make friends on a motorcycle, you can find him in Portland, Oregon where he is happily serving with the http://portlandchurch.org
  1. Rob Narita Reply

    Thanks, Steve. You really have a gift of storytelling. In panoramic CinemaScope (are either of those still around?). I actually read this yesterday because I got caught up in the story and had time for one more chapter, and I don’t recall any such visions or images. You da best!

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