Friday, August 7, 2015

The Macedonian Cow

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10 (NASB)

I can still hear Mom's voice calling the cows. She stood either behind the barn or often on the front porch and let loose, “Come, Boss! Come, Boss! Soo-oook! Soo-oook!” Her voice could be heard a half mile away – far enough to be heard in the back pasture. Within minutes the obedient Bossy appeared leading a line of cows.

Like most farmers, I have a lot of cow stories. In particular, “the cows are out” stories. Those words bring mixed emotions. On the one hand, our day is interrupted and the cows have to be dealt with. Cows don't like being dealt with. On the other hand, it was a nice break in the hum-drum day-to-day routine of farmlife. As a kid I enjoyed the adventure. You'll be seeing several of the memorable adventures of the Dwire farm, but here I'd like to focus on a couple of wanderers.

Cows can be downright dumb, but young steers – like most teenagers -- are especially adept at making poor decisions. One pair of young steers broke out of the pasture and went on the run. A neighbor spotted them near a sawmill about a mile away. Unfortunately, there was also a large wooded area and nothing to slow them down. We searched for hours, and for the first time ever, Mom's cow call failed to draw them in.

I thought of those steers last Sunday as my Pastor preached on the Scripture text above. He pointed out verses 6 - 8, where Paul desired to turn east into Asia to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit let him know that east was not the right direction. So Paul decided to stick to cities on the west coast of Asia Minor, but that wasn't God's plan for his ministry either.

Verses 9 and 10 share the vision Paul had of a man across the Aegean Sea beckoning him to “Come help us.” We know it as the Macedonian call, and countless sermons have been preached on it.

I glanced ahead to the following verses in chapter 16. Paul and his team crossed the sea and their first ministry stop was in Philippi. There we find another story that has been the topic of many sermons and books - the story of the Philippian jailer. You know how it goes. Paul and Silas are arrested for preaching the Gospel. They were beaten and jailed and in the midst of the miserable conditions and sufferings they sang hymns of praise.

Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey
The Lord responded with an earthquake that blew the doors of the cells open. The jailer hurries in, is about to kill himself because he knew what punishment he faced if the prisoners escaped, but Paul's voice stopped him in his tracks. The jailer and his family are saved as a result. Was the jailer the man Paul saw in his vision pleading for help?

The story of that Philippian jail begins with the Macedonian call. Paul's response to that call set off a series of events that led to the spread of the Gospel and took him all the way to Athens. If not for his obedience to the Spirit's call we wouldn't have the books of Philippians, Thessalonians or Corinthians, for all of these cities were stops on Paul's 2nd missionary journey in Macedonia

What does this have to do with our missing steers? Those stupid steers ignored Mom's call and so were left wandering in a strange woods, crossing roads, jumping over at least one person's car and dealing with other frightening experiences. Three days after their escape, a neighboring farmer called to say they had broken into his pasture and were relaxing with his cows. My brother retrieved them without incident, but whether they learned their lesson or not is a matter of opinion.

How often do we ignore God's call and end up in a strange wilderness? Sure, Paul's response to the call also got him a beating and thrown in jail, but would Paul say the suffering was worth the harvest of souls that came with it? We find his answer in Philippians 1:18 (Philippi, remember - the place of his beating and jailing). “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.”\

The first call you need to heed is the call to salvation. Tune in next week to learn more about that. If you've already answered the call to salvation, then God is calling you to His service, whether across the ocean or across the street. Do you hear His call?

“Come Christian! Come Christian! Soo-oook! Soo-ooook!”

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