Directed by Detours

Sermon 1806 Acts 16.6-10 May 29, 2022

I will admit I have been lost more than a few times. You have to remember, I am such a dinosaur I started my cross-country trips before Google maps were invented. I have been lost after the invention of Google maps, too, and I can only advise not using your phone and your car’s GPS at the same time. I confused Sioux Falls for Sioux City and ended up at in Mitchell, South Dakota at the Corn Palace. Then we made a mad dash across the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation to pull into Valentine, Nebraska around midnight looking for a room. That was on me. Never focus so much on the alphabet game that you lose sight of where you are going.

But I will never take the blame for the Port Huron debacle. There was so much road construction and confusing (to my mind) detour signs in Port Huron, Michigan, I ended up on the one-way lane going over the bridge into Canada! “Reason for your visit?” the Canadian Border Service guy asked. “Hopelessly lost,” I told him. With a laugh, he gave me directions how to turn around after getting off the bridge and returning to the States. I found a pizza place--my first calzone. It was great!

Sometimes we stumble upon things we never would have discovered had we not been detoured. The Apostle Paul banged his head big time on detours during his second missionary journey. Let Luke tell us about it.

Directed by Detours

1. We think we know where we are going (6-8).

2. God knows where we will be (9-10).

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bythinia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas (6-8).”

I am not going to give you a lesson in ancient geography. But let’s make a comparison, as though Paul was working in our country. After having visited Las Vegas, Henderson and Pahrump, he heads into California. He wants to go either to Los Angeles or San Diego, but he can’t. For some reason there are detours. As he goes along he thinks San Francisco would be a great place, but, now he can’t get off the 5. He ends up in Hornbrook, California, the middle of nowhere, just south of the California Agricultural Inspection Station on the Oregon border. What a waste. You get the picture.

When I was involved with the synod’s mission and evangelism administration I heard Bob Hartman talk about a Pentecostal church planter. We did demographics and site research--even needed to a nucleus of WELS people before we would send a pastor to start a church. The Pentecostal church planter’s secret? As he was driving through a town and his steering wheel got really hot, that’s the town where he felt the Spirit wanted him to start a church! It seems Paul did not use the steering wheel approach. He had plans. He thought he knew where he was going. He even had contingency plans. He had selected the areas where the most people where, either gathered along the Mediterranean coastline of modern Turkey or the densely populated southern shore of the Black Sea. Paul thought he knew where he was going. But at every step the Lord prevented him from carrying those plans out. This was not a messenger of Satan tormenting him. This was not the wicked world opposing him. Luke, who was accompanying Paul on the journey, says it was the Holy Spirit, the Spirt of Jesus, working with the full knowledge and approval of God the Son and God the Father, who was keeping Paul out of these rich, populous districts of the Roman Empire.

We are in the midst of the graduation season. Graduations started this past Wednesday and will end this coming Friday. Those high school seniors know where they are going. They’ve been accepted at this college or that. They will pursue Education, Chemistry, Engineering degrees. They’ve enrolled in trade schools. Electricians, plumbers, diesel mechanics. They’ve hired on with Fed-Ex or Target or are apprentices with the Culinary or Teamster unions. They knew where they are going. We admire their poise and their courage. They make us proud.

There is a way that seems right to man, but its end leads to destruction. The sinful human nature knows where it is going. It is determined to be the captain of its own ship, the commander of its own destiny. But I’m not talking about where it is going to get that Friday paycheck. I am talking about making its spiritual way in the world. The sinful human nature demands to set its own moral standards. Love your friends. Hate your enemies. What’s good for me is good. Something is good for you if it’s good for me. I can do what I want as long as she or he says it’s OK. Marriage is such an old-fashioned institution. It’s OK to use adult language around the young ones--they are too little to know what it means. Everybody does it.

And so we go our own way, bumping into that person’s self-interest, offending this person’s fickle morality. Unable to back down a bit we separate into tribes of the like-minded, as long as you keep thinking like me.

How will God grade a life like that? What will our job evaluation be? The Lord knows nothing about moral relativism. He upholds one moral code for all. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love God with everything you have. The sinful human nature fails so badly to keep that impartial standard it has to finally keep silence. Condemned. Rejected. Every one of us. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 52.6).”

The Law is a big detour in our spiritual life. It is a map showing we are on the wrong path. I thought I was doing pretty good, driving west on I-94 to get to Las Vegas, until I looked at the larger map and saw the interstate drifted further and further north. I wanted to go through Beaver, Utah, not Bozeman, Montana.

Directed by detours. God knows where we will be.

“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (9-10).”

On the wind-swept shores of Troas, out-of-the-way Troas, nobody-goes-there Troas, God gave Paul a vision. A man, a Greek man, was begging Paul to come and help them. You didn’t have to be a genius to figure this one out. The next day Paul and his missionary group booked the boat to bring the Gospel to Europe.

As loathe as I was to teach you about ancient geography, so happy am I to give you a quick lesson in ancient history. Paul would enter the Greek world and, through his preaching, start congregations in Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica and Corinth. Those are just the ones we know about. Paul’s work in Europe would include Rome and Spain. Most of the modern Christian Church traces its history from this vision. The Orthodox churches, Greek, Russian, Serbian, Armenian, the Catholic Church in Rome and all who were expelled in the Reformation, Lutherans being chief, we all trace our history to this vision. God knew what he was doing. Paul had his plans, but God knew where Paul needed to be.

God knows where we will be.

I hate to spend so little time on the text, but today’s Scripture is so simple, so understandable. The only job remaining for me as a preacher is to apply these words of God to our lives today.

God knows where we will be. We will be in heaven. That’s why he gave us the road map, the Law, to show us the path we were on was not going to get us anywhere near where we wanted to be. We wanted to be in heaven, but we were on the highway to hell. And, in a twisted sort of way, we liked the progress we were making and how we could apparently drive as fast as we wanted, for there were no speed limits (I think that’s the way it was on the Rosebud Reservation, no posted speed limits). We were going nowhere fast.

God provided the Way to heaven for us. “I am the Way and the truth and the life,” Jesus told his disciples (John 14.6). Because of the words of Jesus, the first name for the Christian church was not Christian, but “The Way.”

Jesus forged that way to heaven through his holy, sinless life. That’s what God demanded in his Ten Commandments—a perfect life. Jesus gave it to him. And it was fair. Jesus became truly human and lived among us. He suffered what we suffered. He was tempted as we are tempted. Yet he did not sin, not even once.

Jesus paved that way to heaven through his death and resurrection. We know roads are expensive. That’s why I was so happy when we purchased our church site from American Nevada back in 1991. They provided all the off-site, street, curb and gutter, even the two sixty-six inch drainage pipes running underneath our front parking lot. We got the entire property for $200,000. When Beautiful Savior built their church thirteen years later, in 2006, they spent $600,000 just on the roadway! Building a road is expensive.

Building the way to heaven was expensive. It cost the Son of God his life. While Jesus hung on the cross he had do suffer the hell decreed for all the sins of all the world. And then, on Easter Sunday, he had to do the impossible, the one miracle no one had ever done. He had to undo death. He had to raise himself from the dead. He had to come back to life again to show that all sin had been forgiven and there were no more detours for us to get to heaven. But he built that way. He was the way. All who believe in him will be in heaven and live with God forevermore.

The same Spirit of Jesus who kept Paul from entering Bithynia kept us from entering hell. He came into our lives and created faith in what Jesus had done for us. We believed Jesus died for our sin and was raised to life to prove to us we were justified, declared not guilty of sin in God’s sight. That same Spirit came to live in us and guide us in our walk with God so that we stayed on the right path, no matter how confusing or clouded the way seemed.

This is important. Remember this. Just because our plans are not working out, that doesn’t mean God’s plans aren’t working out. Our plans may not be coming together because God has something better for us. A family with four boys tries one last time for a little girl and they get—a boy! Now they can field a basketball team! You may not get into your professional school because, well, just because they have too many qualified applicants. You go into something where the Lord has tremendous blessings for you. I never thought I was settling when I became a pastor instead of a lawyer. And I will never think I am walking out on you when the pastor who takes our call to replace me is installed. I bet every one of our preschooler boys at the ripe old age of 30 will feel happy they became dads instead of Batman. The house that fell through may not be where God wants you to live. Two miles down the road he has a best friend in the house next to your new one. Two time zones away may be close enough for your daughter-in-law. God knows where we will be. And he will lead us there.

Directed by Detours

1. We think we know where we are going (6-8).

2. God knows where we will be (9-10).

I am sure my days of getting lost in the car are not over. Interesting discoveries await because of it, maybe a fruit stand in Utah or a scenic overlook in Missouri. But on the way to heaven, I know our God is so wise and considerate, even if it looks like a detour from my point of view, he is getting me to where I should be. And he’s doing the same for you. Enjoy the ride.

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