I know God wants me to look up a passage, or read a story when it is on my mind for an extended period of time. I am even more confident of this when it’s a story I don’t really read often, or think about regularly. So when Paul’s shipwreck on his way to Rome kept popping in my head this week, I knew it wasn’t from me.
I have always had a heart for the beginning of Paul’s journey to Rome. I have been more interested and convicted by the beginning of his journey to this city. Paul was intentional with everything he did, and he knew that his actions, visits, and travels were of God’s will. This is how he began his journey, “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome (Acts 19:21).’”
What has always struck me about this is that Paul knew fairly early on that he was going to prison, and most likely death in Rome. On his way to Jerusalem he embarks on what I call his “farewell tour.” One of my favorite passages in the entire bible is Acts 20:17-38. Paul stops at one of the churches he planted, and he gave a farewell speech to the elders he appointed over the flock. He tells the Ephesian elders how he has been repeatedly warned by believers that he will be arrested in Jerusalem. He gives them a final charge over how to manage and govern their church. He warns them, loves them, cries with them, prays with them, and departs for Jerusalem and jail.
And that is where my passion for this story usually calms down. After Paul goes to Jerusalem and gets arrested, he is set on a path to Rome. I have heard many pastors give sermons and lessons on Paul’s shipwreck when he was sailing there, and while I understand and admire all of Scripture, this story has never been one that I think of regularly or that I love referencing periodically. But this week… It has been on my mind a lot. So I went and looked it up.
A lot of things make sense now. But before I get to that I will just cite the verses that really struck home:
“Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempst lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last Abandoned. Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for 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 stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ (Acts 27:18-24).”
What I heard as I read that was this, “Paul, you’re getting to Rome, God wills it.” And there it is. So my last blog was a little downtrodden. I won’t delete it, or even apologize for it because I think it’s glorifying to God to be real, in the good times and bad. And the reality is that we have had a lot to praise God for. A lot. He has never stopped blessing us, guiding us, or most importantly – speaking to us. He continually affirms His desire for us and this ministry. in the las four weeks we have purchased all of the supplies for the first phase of construction, we purchased café equipment at an auction for a great price, and we have begun doing the “small” tasks that have to get done before construction starts. At the same time we hit another delay, we need a “code footprint.” Long story short – we were going to start construction last Tuesday and the code footprint issue came up. So, yet again, we have not started construction. So I needed that passage in Acts. God knew it and made me think repeatedly of an obscure story in my memory bank. And in that passage the Holy Spirit said, “Chris, you’re going to Rome, God wills it.” The cool thing is that as we hit every new obstacle, I see how God has grown me since the last one. I see less worry, less stress, and a more consistent presence of peace and faith. This one is producing a mentality of steadfastness. I know where I will end up, it doesn’t matter how I get there.
In addition to His comfort through this passage, He made yesterday a day of clear affirmation. It started off simply enough, but by the end of the day we had enough groceries in our fridge for a month, had money given, and had a dear friend call and completely confirm everything I have seen about the café without being prompted.
This café is going to change things. I wrote down the vision statement that God has given me the other day. I believe everything in that statement was given by the Holy Spirit. Knowing this, I know that this café is going to change things in our community… drastically, holistically, and for God’s glory. the vision statements says this:
“The House is a not for profit cafe seeking to holistically minister to the community of Ogden through the selling of loose leaf tea, coffee, and simple food items. Proceeds from the café will be used to address the physical needs within the community including; poverty, violence, drug abuse, and unemployment through various community based initiatives. We will use available profits for equipping and encouraging economic and social growth in our community through education, scholarships, internships, volunteer programs, and other initiatives as able. While revenue will be utilized to address physical needs as capable, we will not neglect the Spiritual needs in Ogden. The only one that will completely heal our community is Jesus Christ. The House will be staffed with followers of Christ who will provide mentorship and counsel to our local youth and community members alike. The café will serve our community as a refuge, a home away from home, and a place where the Gospel is seen and heard.”
So if all of this is going to happen, of course I am going to endure a shipwreck. I am going to face delays, and obstacles, and challenges because this kind of transformation in our community is bad for what Satan is trying to do here… He can slow it down, he can throw obstacles and challenges at us, but he can’t stop it. We are going to Rome. God wills it.