Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Road Trip to Joy

Are you planning on taking a vacation or “road trip” this year? Well, we are. We’re going back to Holden Beach, North Carolina. We’ve been going there for at least 15 years. Prior to that we went to Atlantic Beach for 6 or 7 years and once or twice to Myrtle Beach.

The beach holds a lot of special memories for us. It’s a time for us to reconnect as a family and even as a couple. There are no distractions for us or the kids. All we have is each other and it’s great. Carol loves to sit at the beach and read. The boys love to surf in the ocean and play soccer on the beach and I love doing both.

But not all of our memories at the beach are “good.” Some of them are sort of scary. One of the scary memories is the time I got stuck in the middle of a school of jelly fish. They were swimming all around me. The crazy thing was I was on an old inner tube. I had fallen asleep and drifted out a little too far. Carol was afraid she was going to have to call the Coast Guard to come and get me. I didn’t want to get stung so I got up on my hands and knees to get out of the water. Have you ever tried balancing yourself on an inner tube in the middle of the ocean? Well, that didn’t work too well for me either so I finally got back on the inner tube and swam away as fast and as hard as I could.

Another almost tragic memory is the time my sister-in-law nearly drown. My brother had gone out to “rescue the boys”, he has three and I have four, from going out too far. They were out on a sand bar and the tide was coming in. It got too deep for her so he sent her in while he went on to get the boys. She fell off the sand bar and got caught in the incoming tide. I was further up on the shore and didn’t realize there was a problem until I heard her calling my name. I thought she was just kidding around until I saw her go under. Finally I realized she was in trouble, so I grabbed one of the boy’s boogey boards which I brought out “just in case,” and swam out to her. We both hung on to the board and “swam” in together. The boys and Dale made it in safely too for which we are all grateful. In spite of all that, the beach is still a place that holds great memories.

I wonder then if that isn’t the way the apostle Paul felt when he said to the Philippians, in spite of everything that happened in Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you” Philippians 1:6. Truth is not everything that happened to Paul in Philippi was "good," at least not on the surface or at the moment. First, Paul never wanted to go to Philippi. His plan was to go to Asia. But God prohibited him from going where he wanted to go and sent him instead to Macedonia and ultimately to Philipi. Acts 16:6-12

Second, once he got there, it wasn’t what he thought it was. How many times has that happened to you? Plenty, I bet. Anyway, in a dream used by God to direct Paul, he saw a man begging him to come to Macedonia, but when he got there he didn’t find a man, instead he met a woman. Her name was Lydia. Scripture describes her as “. . .a worshipper of God.” She then became his first convert.

More tragic than all that is the fact that Philippi is also the place where Paul and his missionary companion, Silas were beaten and thrown into jail. Paul had cast out a demon in a slave girl which incensed her owners. Consequently, they had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten and thrown in jail. Yet, in spite of it all, Paul said, “I thank my God every time I remember you

The reason is found in verse 12 of Philippians 1. Paul didn’t look at what happened to him in the past or the present as an obstacle but as an opportunity. He didn’t see the cup half empty but half full. Look what he said in this verse. He said, Now I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.” Paul and Silas, BECAUSE they were beaten and thrown into jail, were put in a place where they could save both the physical and spiritual life of the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:29-34.

Let me ask you (and myself for that matter) a question. What closed doors in life have you experienced that though at the moment were disappointing, resulted in you doing something else or going somewhere else for which you are grateful today? Maybe a better question is what closed doors are you experiencing right now that if you knew God was at work directing and redirecting for His purpose and your good, would help to restore your joy? Well, I want to remind you (and myself) that God is at work in your life both opening and closing doors in order to direct your steps and you can and will someday look back and be able to thank God “every time I remember. . .” even the closed doors of life.

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