Over Memorial Day Weekend this year, I traveled with International Disaster Emergency Service to the panhandle of Florida to listen to people’s stories as they continue to recover from a hurricane which devastated the area last fall. IDES was on scene shortly after the hurricane went through and has been involved in disaster relief and recovery efforts through the coordination of resources and workers. The trip I was on had been designed specifically as follow-up to listen to stories in order to find ways to better serve the emotional and spiritual recovery as well as the physical needs.
This week, in a small way, I experienced first-hand the stories that I consistently heard from people. Sunday evening as we sat in the house, an isolated tornado formed and passed directly over our property. There was no warning, just a horrendous sound and sudden loss of electricity that got our attention in time to go upstairs and realize that whatever had just happened was already past. On one side of the house, large tree branches had been ripped from trees and blown to the north. On the other side of the house a towering pine tree had come down and fell to the south. As we’re surveying the damage, the tornado sirens finally go off making us wonder if another one is coming — there wasn’t, but in the moment there was nothing but uncertainty.
As I surveyed the house, it appeared the only damage to it was two crank-out windows that had blown out and off their hinges. Using my phone, I was able to access limited information and learned that a tornado did indeed go through and had destroyed a daycare building just north of us. I also learned that power wasn’t expected to be restored until sometime the next day — which for our neighborhood meant not just no electricity, but no water as we’re all on private wells.
Anyhow, that’s a lot of background simply to introduce a few things that I heard from people recovering from hurricane Michael that I also experienced in a much smaller context than they did.
- When disaster strikes, confusion will generally follow.
- Our immediate response is probably a combination of our temperament and adrenaline. I quickly grabbed a chainsaw and began clearing brush from the roadway.
- Once the adrenaline is gone, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. After a restless Sunday night, I found myself staring at the mess on Monday morning wondering where to start.
- Disasters can bring out the best in people. Once I began working on the cleanup Monday morning, it wasn’t long before the neighbors began theirs and we were soon working together throughout the day to clean up the three properties.
- Disasters can bring out the worst in people. It didn’t take long on Monday morning before what I call “the vultures” started showing up — a steady stream of people with business cards and price sheets wanting to “help”. I suspect some, and perhaps many, were legitimate businesses but not all appeared to be. In the already present confusion of disaster, it is easy to see how many people are taken advantage of.
- Public servants just might be an oxymoron. The help that one might expect to get from any level of government that those affected pay taxes to, will likely not be timely or helpful.
- The “fog of disaster” can make it easy to see all the loss and difficulty while blinding a person to the good that remains.
- Learning to praise God before the storm makes it easier to praise Him during and after the storm.
I suppose there is more that I could add . . . and who knows, I may just come back and do so at a later time. 🙂 While going through this tornado hasn’t been pleasant, it was meaningful to me in that it confirmed so much of what I had taken away from our times of listening in Florida. It helps me pray even more deliberately, and perhaps effectively, for those in the midst of disaster recovery.
“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.”
As we near the end of the book, I have to say it has been a joy to preach through the book of Acts! It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply. As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid. Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.
Paul continues his journey toward Rome in Acts 27 as the decision is made that it is time to set sail. Paul knew that he had a mission to complete. He had been called by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and to speak about Jesus before kings and authorities so Rome was the place to go to speak before the highest human authority of the day. While we may not board a ship, many times in our life God uses this same Act of SAIL to move us from where we are to where He wants us to be.
- Storms: As we consider the Act of SAIL, probably the best place to start is with a reminder that there will be Storms! For some reason, even when we know better, we begin to believe that the journey from where we are to where God wants us to be ought to be smooth sailing. Paul had warned of storms to come but it seems as if everyone on board were caught off-guard and unprepared when the storm did arrive. Jesus warns us that in this world we will have trouble but to take heart for he has overcome the world. We read that, and we know that, yet when trouble does come we are often quickly overwhelmed and surprised. It is as if we expect, and even demand, that walking the path Jesus calls us to has to be easy or He wouldn’t have led us in that direction. Instead of seeking Him in the midst of the storm we tend to give up and assume that we must have been sailing in the wrong direction. Sometimes that is true . . . remember Jonah? . . . but the only way we know that is if we turn to Jesus in the midst of the storm and see where we’ve been and where He wants us to be. As God moves you along in your journey with Him through the Act of SAIL, be sure that Storms will come but also that He will be with you in them.
- Advice: The Act of SAIL also involves us in the act of Advice — both giving and receiving. The dictionary defines advice as being “one person’s opinion of what another person ought to do.” At first read, you may wonder what does it matter what someone else thinks I ought to do. God tells us often, especially in the book of Proverbs, that good advice is necessary for great success. Yes, we must weigh the advice and consider if it is godly advice or ungodly advice but too often we dismiss it more because of the source than because of the content. As Paul set out on this journey, he gave advice to the captain of the ship that continuing to sail beyond a certain time of year would not be wise. We also read that this advice was not taken and I can think of a several reasons why! Paul was a prisoner trying to give advice to a ship captain. Paul’s background was that of a religious leader — pharisee turned preacher — what did he know about sailing on the open sea? And then you have the captain himself who seems to be pretty confident at the beginning that he knows what he’s doing and doesn’t really need any advice. Change the names and the occupations and do you see yourself in those statements? How often do you say or hear, “I know what I’m doing!”, “What do they know?”, “Who do they think they are?”, and the statements could go on of the ways we say, “I don’t need or want your advice!”. We are able to grow in the Act of SAIL when we are willing to give and receive Advice that we can filter through our time with God.
- Instruction: While at first it may seem similar to advice, the Act of SAIL requires that we can take, and give, Instruction. The dictionary defines instruction as “a spoken or written statement of what must be done.” Did you notice the difference? Opinion versus what must be done. Are we guilty at times of treating God’s Word as advice rather than instruction? Even though Paul’s advice was not taken by the ship’s captain, there comes a time in the journey when Paul moves from giving advice to giving instruction. As the storm presses in, Paul shares instructions he received from God. He even points out the difference, noting that they had not taken his advice but now he had instructions from God that must be followed in order for the lives of everyone on board to be saved. As we move from where we are to where God wants us to be in the Act of SAIL, it is critical that we realize that God’s instruction is not optional but is given that we, and others, would know what we must do to be saved.
- Listening: The key to moving through the Act of SAIL to where God wants us to be centers around our Listening! It was Paul’s constant listening to God that put him on the path to Rome to begin with. It was also his connection with God that would lead others to listen to the words he would share about how to be saved. We must begin with listening in order to hear clearly the direction God is calling us to. As we move toward where God wants us to be, it is our listening to Him that carries us through the storms that are sure to come. It is our listening to God that helps us to sort through the advice we give and receive so that we can distinguish between good and evil. It is only through listening to God’s Word that we know the instructions necessary that we, and others, might be saved. The Act of SAIL gains its real power from our willingness and consistency in Listening.
So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of SAIL? As you move from where you are to where God wants you to be, do you anticipate the Storms that you will face? Do you surround yourself with people who will give good and godly Advice? Are you willing to accept Instruction from God’s Word on the things you must do? Will you actively be engaged in the process of Listening as you proceed down the path God is leading you on? I pray that your involvement in the Act of SAIL will boldly take you from where you are to where God wants you to be as you show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!