Stay in the Ship!

This will be my last blog for 2017.  As we enter a new year, I find myself a bit melancholy, asking the Lord to help me discern His thoughts and to communicate them to those I lead and love. 
While reading Acts 27, the Lord gave me three thoughts to share with you regarding the New Year.  I’m not a prophet, but like you, I experience the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit and know the Lord is speaking definitively into my spirit.  As a pastor, it brings me joy to pass these insights along to you.
I believe the Lord is asking us to simplify our lives.  “Busy-ness” tends to produce unnecessary stress.  Acts 27 records the story of a shipwreck.  The Apostle Paul is aboard a tattered and sinking vessel.  Two hundred and seventy-six (276) men fear for their lives, but Paul assures them that all will be spared.  Then he does something very significant. 
He tells the fear-filled men to throw aboard anything that’s not necessary for their survival – to lighten the load.  “And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed…they lightened the ship” (verse 18).  I believe we live in storm-tossed situations and days, and need to rethink our “load.”  Let’s rid our lives of those things that may even be good, but they’re not the best for us in the scheme of everyday life.
Throw overboard anything that may be causing you to “sink.”  Pre-occupations that steal precious time and unnecessary activities that drain you of needed energies are two culprits that need to be tossed.
Church attendance is lower today than ever before in America.  Seventeen percent of Americans regularly go to church.  The Apostle Paul makes another statement to the men in peril:  “Unless you stay in the ship, you cannot be saved” (verse 31).  I will liken the ship to the local church.  Many have allowed already full schedules to view church attendance as optional.  However, we were made to live in community and the people of God need each other more than ever.  We need the spiritual and relationship dynamics that only the local church can offer.  I understand that church attendance never saved anyone, but it sure helps us as Christ followers to hang out with those who encourage us along our faith journey.
While growing up in Ashtabula County, we observed “blue laws.”  Most business establishments were closed on Sunday to allow their employees and the general public to rest.  I feel strongly that the pendulum of daily activity has swung too far the other way.  Generally speaking, people tend to be too busy, and church attendance has been compromised for lesser matters. 
My heart goes out to the many who have to work on Sundays and who are unable to participate in their preferred community of faith.  What am I saying?  If work schedules or health allow you to attend a local church, then do so!  Your family needs the benefits that come with belonging to a church family.
The third major point is found in verse 24: “I urge you to take nourishment, for this is your survival.”  Paul encouraged the men to eat, as they needed to stay strong.  We too need to “eat” in order to face uncertain days and life situations.  The source of our strength is the Bible, the Word of God.  In the midst of storm-tossed days Job said, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food”  (23:12). 
In other words, find time each day to read and meditate on God’s Word.  Let its life-sustaining nourishment feed your soul.  Many good daily devotionals are available, but let me recommend “Our Daily Bread,” one that has been in circulation for over 50 years.  Thousands have used this source, which provides daily “meals” from God’s Word.  It also provides a program that will allow you to read the Bible through in 2018.  Hope Community Church makes this devotion available.  In addition, stay under balanced teaching and preaching in a local Christ-honoring church.  Make Bible reading and church attendance a priority in the New Year.
Finally, allow me to put a plug in for Hope Study Center.  Beginning in January, we are offering higher-level Bible courses for those in our community who wish to become more grounded in their faith.  To begin, we will offer:
The Life of Christ
How to Study the Bible
Freedom Ministry I and II

Please consult our website at for dates and times.  As already stated, I’m not a prophet, but a pastor who loves people.  I desire God’s best for you during the coming year.  Remember, toss out time stealers and energy wasters, make church attendance a priority, and get into the habit of daily reading God’s Word.  Yes, you will still experience difficult days, but you will have a heavenly resource to draw on that will keep you safe in “storm-tossed” times.



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