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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Saved on splinters and planks!

Good week to all: Welcome to the “front porch.”

For this week’s “front porch” visit, we come to one of life’s true realizations: Sometimes when our lifeboat is torn to pieces, we have to cling to “Splinters and Planks.” Please read on.

As the years pass, the more I understand how our Lord feels when He turns around one day and sees – as John records – that “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). That moment must have deflated the Lord, because He immediately turns to His disciples with that classic response of disappointment: “Will you also go away?” (v. 67).

A very similar feeling comes over us today, doesn’t it, when we – to use the metaphor – look from the deck of the ship out over life’s churning waters: Too many good people – great friends and loved ones – who once sailed on that blessed old ship of Zion are no longer on board. Somewhere along the way, when life’s storms blew in, they fell overboard amidst the strong, swirling gales.

We originally wrote these thoughts back in 2008, inspired after we had listened late one night to an eloquent and spirited preacher tell one of the Apostle Paul’s stories. Sometimes you can tell early on in listening to someone when he has a special lesson; so, quickly, you grab your notepad and listen intently.

So is it this night. The fiery preacher relates the grand old story of the apostle Paul’s long-awaited voyage to Rome. Paul had long desired to go to Rome to preach the gospel, and the Lord had promised he would go. But the sailing would not be easy.

I suppose it never is.

A contrary wind is there to greet the ship, and the sailors finally have to throw everything of value overboard. Nothing is more valuable than their lives. Still, the ship bound for Rome appears to be destined for the bottom of the ocean; so the sailors panic and prepare to jump – just as it is with many wind-tossed souls today, in line with our previous metaphor.

But the apostle Paul hollers out a life-saving command, similar to what he had done some years ago to a flailing jailer a moment away from entering unprepared into eternity (Acts 16:28).

“Stay on the ship!” he says: Don’t jump! (Acts 27:31).

Oh, that was about as sound of advice as these men would ever hear!

Today we want to sound out the same alarm, offer the same plea: Let’s stay on that old ship of Zion. Get in – and stay in – the grand old church that Jesus purchased graciously with His own precious, life-giving blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19). There’s not a safer place to be than in that old ship. Don’t jump overboard. There’s safety on this well-traveled, battered vessel. There’s blessing, forgiveness, and hope. Things may seem better for the moment in the world’s smooth, satisfying waters, but they’re not. There’s a deadly drop somewhere up ahead. But the God who rescued us from those hypnotizing waters in the beginning and made a way to get us onto Old Zion will make a way to get the ship to shore.

The ship that Paul and over 200 others sail on finally gives way to the boisterous wind and waves, and the ship is torn apart. They are close enough to shore that some could swim in, for God had promised that none would perish who stayed on board. What a promise that is! The rest hold on the best they can, “some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship,” and they make their way safely to shore (verse 44).

Our late-night, old-fashioned preacher described that scene eloquently, saying, “They made it to shore on splinters and planks.”

Ah, isn’t that the way it is with us. Sometimes we have to cling to a splinter of faith. That’s all we may have, but – with God’s help – that’s enough. Sometimes all we can do is hold on to what we have. It may not be much, just a splinter here and a splinter there.

But God is always true to His promise. No, He didn’t say Paul and those sailors would make it to shore in a yacht. And they didn’t roll in on a cruise ship or in the love boat. They made it in the humblest way, the way many of us will have to make it, too.

They make it on splinters and planks.

Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text 972-824-5197.

Ellis County Press

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Ferris, TX 75125