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"The edge of the whirl was represented by a broad belt of the gleaming spray; but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice, half shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to heaven.

"The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked. I threw myself on my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an excess of nervous agitation.

"'This,' said I at length, to the old man — 'this can be nothing else than the great whirlpool of the Maelstrom.'"

— From "A Descent Into the Maelstrom" by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe has, since childhood, been one of my very favorite writers. And "A Descent Into the Maelstrom" was one of the earliest of his tales to capture my imagination. The idea of being dragged inexorably to destruction, held in the merciless power of a whirlpool, is such a powerful mental picture.

In Poe's tale, two factors caused the disaster that pulled a man and a ship to destruction. The maelstrom was utterly predictable in timing; but the fishing on the other side of it was exponentially better than anywhere else. Because of that, because of profit potential, some people chose to risk sailing that way.

But when a watch stopped running, and someone became unaware of the nearness of the impending danger, disaster occurred. The danger was there all along; and at some point people were bound to pay the price for getting too close to it.

In every life, choices will be made. But in no life, not even one, will choices ever be made without consequences. Galatians 6:7 says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

The reaping process often takes many years, and because of that people feel comfortable, but the maelstrom is out there nonetheless.

I often tell my children and my church, "The choices you make, plus the consequences that follow, equal your life. Therefore, better decisions equal better results."

The best decision a person can ever make is to get saved and then live his life wholly for God. You do not have to choose that; you have a free will, God will let you reject him and live however you please, if that is your decision. But the law of sowing and reaping still applies.

A lady in our church was told nearly 30 years ago that she needed to abort her child. She chose life; and her son is alive, well and the joy of her life to this day. Others choose to snuff out an innocent life in the womb; and I have counseled with a great number of them still swirling in the maelstrom of guilt and regret to this very day.

Each Sunday night, we bring a bus load of homeless individuals to our church, feed them a meal, love them and preach to them. The overwhelming majority of them, by their own testimony, are homeless for the exact same reason: drugs and alcohol. At some point, they chose to put the bottle to their lips or the needle to their arm, and their lives were soon wrecked in a maelstrom of their own making.

Three of our church teenagers recently made a public vow of purity. They joined a large number of others who had previously done so. That choice, if adhered to, will keep them safe from being wrecked on the rocks of promiscuity.

By contrast, another young man I know made the choice years ago to indulge his flesh at every turn. He now has multiple children with multiple women and has trouble holding down a job due to constantly being in court. The maelstrom was always there, waiting; he made the choice to sail that way.

Everyone thinks they will be the one to reap all of the pleasures of sin without ever being wrecked on the rocks of sin. But Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Don't risk it. The safest sailing is a saved, sanctified life.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist and author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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