What the Bible says about light and seed

The True Light "In him, (the Lord Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world,…the world didn’t recognize him." John 1:4,9.

The Good Seed and the Weeds “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seeds in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. Matthew 13:24,25.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A ship named "Relations"


Lessons from the threshing floor.
Written and posted by Jean-Louis.
Original written first in 1995.

A ship named “Relations” Part I
A study on human relation-ships from Acts 27.
Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.


I. PAST SITUATION.

1. Circumstances outside anyone’s control.
“Much time had been lost and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast”. Verse 9

Paul’s warning: “ Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship, cargo and to our own lives also”. Verse 10.


2. Men’s efforts to correct the situation.
The crew’s response: “but the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship”. Verse 11.

3. Pressure to do something.
Result: wrong decision: “since the harbor was unsuitable for winter, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there”. Verse 12.
Lesson to be learned: Sometimes the majority can make the wrong decisions based on logical reasoning and accurate data.
Consequence: “the ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along”. Verse 15.
 
II. PRESENT SITUATION.
1. No help from above
Natural condition:when neither sun, nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging”. Verse 20, (a).

Result: Loss of hope: “we finally gave up all hope of being saved”. Verse 20, (b).

The much needed “I told you so in learning our lessons”. (Apparently Paul hadn’t had many lessons on how not to damage people’s brittle self-esteem by telling them the truth.) We don’t like to hear those words because we hide our sense of pride under the thin veneer of our fragile egos. (A little shame at first would save us a lot of pain at last.)

Paul to the crew: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete, then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. Verse 21, (b).

Notice that Paul (or rather God who spoke through him) waited until the men were ready to listen to him, just as the Father in the parable of the prodigal son waited for the son to be hungry and at the end of his rope and to come to his senses. He exhorted them only “after the men had gone a long time without food”. Verse 21, (a).

Exhortation with assurance of knowledge:
Paul says: “but now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be lost”. Verse 22.

2. Help from above: divine intervention
Paul’s explanation: an angelic visitation.
Result: Hope restored

Last night an angel of the Lord whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said:” Do not be afraid, Paul… God had graciously (here we see the common grace and specific personal grace of God at work) given you the lives of all who sail with you”. Verse 23.

Remember one important principle:


Being always precedes doing. Just as we are sinners not because we commit sins but because of who we are in our sinful nature, we do righteous acts not because we are righteous of our own merit but because we have the righteousness of God imputed to us. God was very clear in revealing His Name to Moses, He told him: "I am that I am, not I do that I do". If Christ whose name we bear could say those words out of the burning bush, who are we to go ahead and have our “doing” before our “being”?

Response from Paul to the Angelic visitation:
The only response that pleases God, namely FAITH.

Paul to the men: “I have faith in God that it will happen as he told me. Nevertheless we must run aground on some island”. Verse 25, 26.
Not only Paul’s exhortation to the crew came from the assurance of his knowledge of divine revelation (this was not blind faith, neither was Abraham’s faith, neither should our faith be), but from the faith that it inspired and motivated.

3. Escape attempt: (Running away from God and His will).
“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”. Verse 30.

What are some of our lifeboats, the easy way out, the exit strategies that we keep hidden in the back of our minds just in case the boat that God has given us in our present relationships proves to be less than adequate for our lives? After all, we know better than He does what is good for us and how to run our ship.
-- Is it divorce?
-- Is it children running away from a difficult situation at home?
-- Is it ending a commitment with a Church or a job situation that turns out to be   

    unpleasant for the moment, (see Hebrews 12:7-13)?
-- Is it ending a relationship at whatever level of commitment because it requires unselfishness and sacrifice on our part and does not fulfill our
unrealistic expectations and needs although it may be the very ship that God has ordained for us to navigate the rough seas of life, for our own benefit to help us grow and mature into the person He desires us to be?

Notice that in such cases there is always an attitude of pretense, a denial of the reality, indicated by a lack of honesty and willingness to take responsibility in an attempt to justify and rationalize one’s own actions and bad choices. This mostly happens through blaming the other person’s for one’s predicament. (For a more thorough and better understanding, read and study the story of Jonah).

In this story, every one attempts to save his life using his own survival skills. The sailors wanted to use the lifeboats. Further on, the soldiers wanted to use their swords to prevent the prisoners to swim ashore and escape because they needed them to save their own lives from military justice if they failed to carry on their military duties to the end and to take the prisoners to their final destination.

4. Paul’s warning: Condition for God’s rescue.
Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved”. Verse 32.
The promises and blessings of God are conditional, only His mercy and love as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross in payment for our sins resulting in our forgiveness, salvation and the gift of eternal life are unconditional. The condition required is faith, resulting in trust and obedience. This involves volition, the conscious act of submitting our will to the will of God and choosing His ways rather than our own.

5. Encouragement and reassurance from Paul:
Whatever the reason for the crew deprivation of food for 14 days, whether it be “constant suspense”, unending struggle in keeping the boat afloat against the elements, or purely visceral reaction in keeping any food down, now that all 276 persons are still aboard, Paul encourages them in those terms: “ I urge you all to take some food. You need it to survive. No one of you will lose a single hair from his head”. Verse 34.

6. Paul demonstration of Faith and authority in spiritual leadership:
A good and faithful servant of God will always show the example to follow; his actions will prove his words.
First, Paul turns to God who gives the blessings and promises and exemplifies the correct attitude, the response of a grateful heart towards the grace of God who supplies all our needs. “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”. Verse 35.

Results: Faith turns to action:
 

Increased response from the crew in renewed faith and trust in God’s providence through Paul’s leadership and example:they were all encouraged and ate some food themselves”. Verse 36.
 

Further proof of their faith and trust in God’s provision for the rest of the journey: “when they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the grain into the sea”. Verse 38.


Change of attitude and actions in the centurion entrusted with secular leadership:
Even though the fate of the ship was out of his hands and in the hands of Almighty God, the centurion didn’t shirk his responsibility and delegated governmental authority by asking Paul to take charge of the ship and its human and physical cargo. Whereas at the beginning, the centurion was opposed to Paul’s advice, now because of his training to recognize and respect true authority, he shows wisdom and a right attitude in the end in responding to God’s mercy with faith and mercy of his own as the following verses describe his actions: The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest of were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship”. Verses 42-44. He did this knowing full well that he risked losing not only his career but also his own life. What a great admirable example of courage, leadership and sacrifice!

III. CONCLUSION: Everyone reached land in safety. Verse 44.

Faith and trust in God’s revealed will and obedience to His command will bring the desired fulfillment of God’s true word and sure promises in any situation. Sometimes, this might be done through following the leadership and good example of a legitimate, called servant of God, whose actions consistent with his words demonstrate that he has received his calling and delegated authority from God himself.


A ship named “Relations” Part II
A study on human relation-ships from Acts 27.
Paul’s shipwreck on Malta.

Life Application. "When our boat shipwrecks"

 

To understand the previous context, first read Acts chapter 27:1-7.
Picking up at v. 7, we read: "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. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens near the town of Lacea.
The circumstances out of men’s control were such that time had been lost.
Without being overly insensitive to the unfairness of this life, this is the stuff reality and life are made of. At one time or another during the course of our lives every one of us will experience things that are out of our control. Notice that everyone in the boat was there as a result of their past thoughts, intentions, actions, reactions, desires, habits, patterns and life styles resulting from choices they had made, whether good or bad. Basically, we are all in the same boat.

The question is: Who is going to be in charge of the boat?
There was nothing wrong with the boat. The timing of the voyage was wrong.

Note that after the first unheeded warning, Paul let things run their course.
He didn’t have any other alternative solution to offer.
Not listening to, nor heeding wise godly counsel, advice and warning has its disastrous consequences.

When finally Paul heard the Angel, at the proper time he relayed the message, exhorting and encouraging all to be courageous, have faith in God’s mercy, grace and providence. This shows the compassionate heart of a true pastor full of grace, mercy and love, ready to intercede for the people under his spiritual leadership. His revelation was in answer to intercessory prayer.

The one who hears the message of warning has the responsibility to be obedient, advise, exhort and encourage the people believing in faith that God will accomplish what He said he would do.
However, as far as our receiving the blessings and promises of God, there are conditions.

In answer to Paul’s prayers, God could have calmed down he wind and the storm as He had done previously on the Sea of Galilee. Paul himself with the power of God could have calmed the storm. In either case, the boat could have reached safely its destination.

Instead, God chose to let the boat shipwreck.

As it is with us, when this happens, God through that experience wants us to abandon our old patterns of thinking and living, trying to patch up our old ways of relating to each other. He wants to give us a new lease on life, just as all who were saved from the shipwreck got on board a new ship. “After 3 months, we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island”. Chapter 28:11. We can perhaps assume that their lives and relationship with each other had been tremendously impacted and affected by this experience. (I have personally experience several really bad storms at sea and I can testify of the profound effect it had on my life).

What is lost is lost. Give it up. Let it go. Start anew. Learn from the experience
Warning!
After we have made a wrong decision in whatever relationship (wrong choices, actions or wrong timing perhaps based on faulty logic, self-interest and/or accurate data), pleasant beginnings in our new journey can deceive us into believing that everything is fine until it’s too late and we realize that we are in the middle of a deadly storm. We must not presume and take God’s grace lightly and go contrary to God’s will.
“When a gentle wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted”. Verse 13.

Now, just because God later on gives us a revelation of His will doesn’t necessarily mean that it will automatically be done in our lives. Obedience following faith exercised in actions is necessary to be in God’s will and to do God’s will. There is no such thing as real faith without a corresponding response through action.


Sometimes, God has to destroy the false sense of security by removing from us the props on which we build our lives in order to start rebuilding on the right foundation.
On the ship there were free men and men in chains. There were sailors, soldiers and prisoners. Every one of them thought of doing what was right in their own eyes guided by their own desires and motives.



Some like the owner had something to gain but could lose everything.
Others like the sailors didn’t care about the owner’s cargo or profit when it came to choose between that and their survival. All they wanted to do was to save their lives. The prisoners had nothing to gain and everything to lose whatever the outcome of the voyage.
It’s only when nothing else worked that all the others started listening and were receptive to Paul message.

  • Paul was physically bound by chains but spiritually free in Christ. Paul was the one with the words of spiritual authority.
  • He was calm and contented with his station in life.
  • The only one with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  • His life didn’t depend on anybody or anything.
  • He had placed himself in God’s hand.
  • He was called of God for a purpose, already knew and accepted that suffering was going to be involved in that purpose.
In conclusion, we can see that God’s grace was at work, demonstrating this time not His awesome power in wrath and judgment, but His love and mercy by sparing the lives of all the persons on board the ship, whether free or bound, criminals or innocent of crimes.

Let us pray in the same way as Habakkuk did in Chapter 3: 1-2 and ask God to make us instruments of His mercy and love to others:
Lord, I have heard of your name, I stand in awe of your deeds.
O Lord, Renew them in our day,
In our time, make them known;
In wrath remember mercy.

“Let us speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, the perfect law of Christ, the law of love), because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”. James 2:12.

MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT. James 2:13
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