• Shanley McConnell

Devotion: The Mystery of His Grace and Omnisciency

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In Ecclesiastes 11:5: 'As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the bones are formed in a mother's womb, so, too, are you unable to understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.'


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Good morning ♡ My friends,


I hope this post finds you well & rested from the beginning of your week.


A number of months ago I wrote a post called After the Northeaster set in Acts 27. This month I'm returning to the chapter because the message is dear to my heart in this season. Let's reread the verses to refresh?


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"And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, Paul and other prisoners were delivered to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium, which was to sail for the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macdedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we harboured in Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly, giving him to leave to visit his friends and be cared for before the following venture. And after, setting out under the lee of Cyprus, we sailed across the open sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, coming to Myria in Lyrica because the winds were against us. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria bound for Italy and put us on board.


We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off the coast of Cnidus, and because the wind would not allow us to go farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along with difficulty, we finally came to a place called Fair Havens near the city of Lasea. As much time had passed, and the voyage was now deemed dangerous because the Day of Atonment was over, Paul advised the sailors, saying,


'Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also our lives should we continue.'

But the centurion took the advice of the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to the words of Paul. The harbour was not suitable for spending the winter, and the centurion decided to sail from there on the chance that somehow they might reach Phoenix, a harbour of Crete facing both southwest and northwest.


Now, when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, the sailors weighed anchor and sailed along Crete closer to the shore. Soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land and caught the wind in its cold, violent turbulence. The ship could not face the wind, gave way to it and were driven along. Running akin to the small island of Cauda, the prisoners and sailors managed secure the ship's boat. After hoisting it up, we used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that we would be run aground on Syrtis, we lowered our gear and were once again driven along. Since we were violently storm-tossed, we began the next day to jettison the cargo.


On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, all hope of our being saved was, at last, abandoned. Having gone without food for a long time, Paul stood among the prisoners and sailors alike and said, with equal compassion and boldness:


'Men, you should have listened to my discernment and not set sail for Crete, incurring this injury and loss. Yet, now, I urge you to take heart. There will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must still stand before Caesar. Behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you. So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must and will run aground on some island.'

When the fourteenth night came, as we were driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight, the sailors suspected something of land. Nearing. They took a sounding and found twenty fathoms (6 feet). A little farther on they took another sounding and found fifteen fathoms. We feared we might run on rocks, and let down four anchors from the stern as we prayed for day to come.


Some sailors, seeking to escape the ship, lowered the ship's lifeboat into the sea under pretends of laying out anchors from the bow. But Paul and the centurion saw through their deceit, and knew that 'unless these men stayed in the ship, no one could be saved.' So the soldiers cut away the ropes and let the lifeboats go.


As day dawned, Paul urged all to eat, saying,


'Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore, I urge you to take nourishment. For it will give you strength. Not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.'

And when he said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat with all 276 persons on the vessel. When they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship once more, throwing out the rest of the wheat to sea.


Now when it was day, they did not recognise the land, but noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to run the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same, loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then, hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. Only did they strike a reef and ran the vessel aground. The bow stuck and remained, immovable; the stern broken by the surf. In fear, the soldiers gathered to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land; the rest, hauled on planks or pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land."


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In the beginning of Acts 27, the prisoners and crew set sail guided by a gentle wind. Despite Paul's warning to remain in Fair Haven, they returned to the waters. Although what they had in Fair Haven was secure; a safe place to wait out the winter, the captain and his crew chose to chance the unsteady sea because it looked calm and composed.


But a sailor cannot control the ocean, nor wind. Nor can they control their course. This, too, moves in wavelike measures. A sailor's control lies with their ability to make decisions and respond to what is uncontrollable.


Sometimes we convince ourselves that it is our responsibility to control the world based on what is seen. We forget that unforeseen forces have the influence to sway, transform and unfold the things we anchor our lives to.


1. We cannot control what others do. Their actions, words and responses often surprise or blindside us.


2. We cannot control how others feel, or the ways in which they choose to perceive our own words and intentions.


Lauren Daigle, on Sadie Roberton Huff's podcast, says this: True freedom is giving people the permission to misunderstand us.


Although we cannot control (nor will we always know) how others perceive us, we can trust in the faithfulness of God, who created our inmost being. We can praise him because we know that his works are wonderful (Psalm 139:13-14).


3. We cannot control the spirit of God at work in the world. In John 3:8, Jesus tells his disciples that 'the wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.' As it is written again in 1 Corinthians: 'No eyes has seen no ear has heard, no heart can imagine what God has prepared for those who love him (2:10).'


God wants to reveal mysteries to us. He promises us his Spirit, which searches all things, even the deep things of God. Instead of trying to control 'God,' let us tune our hearts and minds to embrace his constant nature. For when all the world is unchanging, God is steadfast. He alone has the power to control, not only the wind and waves, but the divine forces of good and evil that wage war for our soul.


We find ourselves guided into the surpassing peace of Christ when we choose to listen for the Holy Spirit. Even in the midst of his imprisonment, Paul continued to seek the wisdom of God. Even after his words were rejected by the captain, Paul continued to rest in the promise of God.


Maybe, like Paul, you feel weary from a life that has been steered into places out of your control.


Maybe you feel imprisoned by unpredictable natures in employment, economy, family and friends.


Maybe you wonder how it is possible to abide in the presence of God and still feel asunder.


Maybe the hierarchy of those in your life makes being obedient to God feel impossible.


Remember, the Lord calls to you.


Take heart, he says. For I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

These are the same assurances given to Paul during the tempest.


'Behold, Paul,' said the Angel of the Lord. 'You must walk towards the plan God has for you, to stand trial before Caesar. Take heart, for God has granted life to you and all who sail with you.'

In moments like this, God's presence is safe.


'One thing is certain,' continues the Angel of the Lord. 'You will lose the boat.'

This is significant. Often, we want to bring our worlds with us when we kneel at the feet of God. And yes, yes-----God, in his grace, comes to us where we are. But our worldly securities cannot co-exist with the nature of worship.


In this chapter, the things and possessions of security were case away. The cargo, in verse 18, life-boats, in verse 32, the wheat, in verse 38, the anchors, in verse 40.


Slowly, and with great fervor, the sailors threw all of their weights into the sea as a sign of faith in the God to whom Paul belonged, to whom many of the men on board would come to call their own.


Remember when the sailors sought to evade the storm in life-boats? How Paul and the centurion called them back to the boat with the promise that no one would perish if all aboard remained aboard?


The safest place is under the eye of God's will. When God assured Paul that his protection was to cover all who remained on the boat (to let the life-boats go), he was asking them to trust him in the midst of their fear. God renewed their mind before lifting them from the physical prison that was the boat. It was in this moment that the men - caught and trapped in the uncertainty of their flawed, past decision to leave Safe Haven - realised God was. using the most unsettling place of their mistakes to protect and bring them closer to his heart, his people and his plans.


Does 2020 feel like Northeasternly? The year has brought much unexpected sorrow and pain. Even in this season, my friends, I pray that we may cast our eyes to the sky and our weights to the sea. That we may live in faith that God's spirit is in us, revealing the mysteries of his grace and omnisciency.


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