I lived in Florida nearly 19 years before ever setting foot on a cruise ship. It is hard to avoid seeing such ships when you live on the Gulf coast, but I never gave much thought to taking a cruise until a few years ago. Around that time I began listening to some in our church who periodically went on cruises. What most captured my attention were the comments about how relaxing the time out at sea could be. No phones, no email, no appointments.
It was about the same time that my friend, Mike O'Fallon, began encouraging me to consider organizing a Founders Ministries cruise that would incorporate a Bible conference while onboard the ship. Quite honestly, the idea seemed incongruous to me, like the collision of two opposing worldviews. On one side is a commitment to reformation and the advance of biblical truth. On the other side, sheer carnality and a commitment to ease, luxury and indulgence. Though I knew that "Bible cruises" were common, and that respected men often helped sponsor them (men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, James Kennedy, Adrian Rogers and James White), I could not put these two seemingly polar opposite views together.
Of course, what I was failing to do is appropriate a legitimate theology of leisure. A commitment to hard work and stewardship of time and energies does not mean all work and no play. To think otherwise is to think amiss. To live on the basis of that wrong perspective is a formula for personal disaster. It was not uncommon for Jesus to retreat (Mark 1:35) nor did He condemn occasional feasting as necessarily "carnal" (John 2:1-12). All of life should not be retreat and feasting, but the intentional disruption of schedule for the purpose of resting is not only appropriate but necessary (Mark 6:31). I am struck that our Lord actually practiced intentional neglect in pursuit of His Father's will (Mark 2:36-37).
So, under Mike's attentive leadership (he is the Director of Sovereign Cruises--don't you just love that name!), last fall the Founders Caribbean Cruise set sail from Tampa. The Bible Conference onboard was given to the seeker-sensitive theme, "The Practical Implications of Calvinism." Over 100 people joined us, and we even picked up a few that heard about us on the ship that were not part of our group. It was a wonderfully relaxing week. The conference portion was outstanding. I highly recommend the CDs (available from Founders Ministries). Roy Hargrave, Fred Malone, David Wooten and Steve Camp gave excellent messages on the theme. The fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters was rich, and our night time discussions were incredibly helpful.
Several people who participated said that it was the best vacation they had ever taken. Some indicated it was the best Bible conference they had ever attended. Because of the success of that cruise, another one is being planned this September to Alaska. Once again, Sovereign Cruises is making all the arrangements for us (and, by the way, they have worked out some of the lowest fares to be found anywhere). The theme is "The Glory of God." Bill Ascol, Fred Malone and Steve Camp will join me in speaking and leading times of worship. For more information about accommodations and reservations, click here.
If you are looking for an opportunity to pull back for some R&R, or if you are looking for a way to bless a pastor and his wife or ministry couple who need to do that, I unhesitatingly recommend this Alaskan cruise. Based on what we experienced last year, this year's cruise promises to be a wonderful, worshipful and restful week.