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Monday, July 28, 2008
Nebraska Amish church gathering in the Big Valley
I took this photo several weeks ago in the the Kishacoquillas Valley in Mifflin County Pennsylvania.
The Nebraska Amish are an "old order" group who gather in the homes of members to have church services.
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"Prone To Wander"
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7).
Brooksyne and I love the old hymns. We're spiritually indebted to hymn writers who have written heartfelt expressions of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God. We find ourselves often limited in our human language and unable to verbally express what we feel emotionally. Then we find the very expression of our hearts described in the text of a hymn, and by singing those words, we make it our own message to God.
We identify with Robert Robinson who in 1758 with blunt candor writes about the faulty human condition. Buried in the third verse of his famous hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" Robinson describes the agonizing pulling of his heart strings, "Prone to wander how I feel it, prone to leave the God I love."
I certainly identify with Robinson's proneness to wander and live for self rather than the God I love. Each time I sing this line I'm reminded of the two natures that are always waging war within: the sin nature vs. the spiritual nature. How can I defeat the sin that is crouching at the door of my heart? (Genesis 4:7). Who will rescue me from this intruding enemy?
Jesus, through His unending supply of grace, will give us strength to defeat the temptation to wander into enemy territory. Though there are times when Satan's luring temptations turn into tortuous warfare we will remain firm in our faith when we choose to bind our wandering hearts to the God we love.
The Law of Moses prescribed the wearing of phylacteries to serve as a constant reminder of God's Holy Word. These were small boxes containing slips of parchment on which were written portions of the Law. They were worn ostentatiously by the Jews on the head or left arm. In fact among the orthodox Jews they are still used to this day.
The closest I relate to the wearing of phylacteries was when I was a Bible College student. I, along with other Greek and Hebrew students, often walked around with a ring of index cards that had the Greek or Hebrew words we were learning. We would thumb through these cards repetitively while standing in the long cafeteria line. It was a good way to memorize the Greek language and an efficient way to use free time.
By the time of Jesus the usage of phylacteries had become a source of pride and a legalism to the Jews. In fact Jesus spoke negatively regarding them. There is no specific mention of the practice continuing in the New Testament Christian Church. However we would do well to remember the principle behind their usage: Don't forget the meaning behind the practice!
In the daily text Paul had been recounting his worldly credentials that were very impressive for his time (although they may seem foreign to us today). "If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." These were impressive credentials in his day but he goes on with the daily verse, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
What do you consider to be "gain" in your life today? The world presses us into its mold and gives the following answers: important position, academic credentials, big salary, abundance of things, big retirement account, sensual pleasures, exotic travel, etc.
But I want to hear from God's perspective and listen to His Word today concerning what real gain is. I want to hear the voice of our Lord who says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God", as well as "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Paul describes the absolute change in his life's perspective in the daily text: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." Peter, the old fisherman says, "Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear." James weighs in with, "Don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?" John's cautions the believer, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." *
A double minded person is unstable and untrustworthy. Let us be resolute in our commitment to serve our God wholeheartedly, living for Him and not ourselves. His streams of mercy, never-ending, will supply us with the strength we need to keep this resolve.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wan-d'ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we choose not to live according to our sinful nature that will lead to a hopeless death, but we choose to live by Your Spirit that leads to a hope-filled life here on earth and for all eternity. Help us in our daily struggles that tempt us to wander from the heart of God. Keep our hearts in oneness with Yours. In the name of Your precious Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
* Each of these quoted portions is directly from Scripture. I chose not to place in the references for ease of reading.
1 Peter 1:17
1 John 2:15
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to play in your audio player)
"Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" Video
"Knowing You" Lyrics Audio
"Be Thou My Vision" Audio
"I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger" Video
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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