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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Autumn pond scene in Lancaster County, PA

Pond scene in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Tuesday we passed this scene about five miles north of Mount Joy.
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Please note - Yesterday we were unable to prepare a message due to our schedule. Today's message is a bit longer than usual to make up for it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Hidden In My Heart"

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11).

Our dog Roxie enjoys playing a little game with Brooksyne.  I hold her back, then cover her eyes and ears while Brooksyne hides behind a car or a tree.  After I know that Brooksyne is out of sight I then holler, "Ready or not here she comes." As though she's competing in a race Roxie takes off, initially where she senses Brooksyne was heading. Then she dashes to and fro with her nose sniffing the air, trying to pick up her scent. She gets closer and closer until I hear Brooksyne gleefully holler out that she's been found! Then Roxie circles around her and acts like she hasn't seen her in days.  She's usually quick to find Brooksyne since she knows her scent and the common hiding places.

"Hide and Seek" is a fun game that most all of us grew up playing with our friends and siblings.  But there is a very important spiritual exercise of "Hide and Seek" that isn't just a game, rather it's a survival tactic against the enemy of our souls.  

I went to a meeting at Lancaster Bible College yesterday and during lunch I visited with Mike Brickley and his wife. Mike is the president of the Pocket Testament League and is speaking in a three days series of messages in the chapel service. He had challenged the students on Tuesday to come to the chapel service the next morning prepared to share a memorized Scripture they had hidden in their hearts.  He was unsure of the kind of response he would get but was so blessed when students, one after the other, shared with the college body a verse that was very personally meaningful in their walk with the Lord.  His story brought a recollection of chapel services in my Bible College over thirty years ago and how formative these experiences were for my spiritual walk.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and is focused on the value and power of God's Word. In fact each of the 176 verses has some reference to the Word using various synonyms such as commands, precepts, laws, decrees, promises, and so forth.

"Your Word I have hidden in my heart."  This spiritual discipline is such a lacking element among so many today.  The Word is the sacred Scriptures and although we use our minds we need to see that it reaches the heart and is hidden away. When we face temptation or discouragement; when we experience loss or need direction; when we want Biblical role models we then seek out the pertinent Scriptures we have hidden deep in our hearts. 

Hiding God's Word begins with regular reading of the sacred text. Of preeminent importance is the text itself.  This is a lifelong practice, for God's Word is an inexhaustible treasure of spiritual wisdom. Paul indicated this when he wrote to Timothy, "How from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:15). In the very next chapter in his final written words Paul asks Timothy "to bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:13).  D. Edmond Hiebert writes, "Even as an old man facing certain death, the apostle has not lost his interest for study and mental pursuits. It presents a standing challenge to the minister to be an indefatigable student, especially of the Word of God."

Hiding God's Word includes studying of the sacred text.  There are many wonderful supplemental resources that we may find helpful and a blessing as we study the Bible such as devotional booklets, study guides, notes in study Bibles and so forth. The serious Bible student must be very careful to use these tools only as a supplement, never a replacement.  Each morning as Brooksyne and I pray over these daily encouragement messages we pray that the various components would be a blessing; our stories, exposition, photos, personal reflections and music links. But we realize the most important element is the Scripture text itself.  Above all else read the Scripture!

Hiding God's Word includes meditating on the sacred text. David wrote in Psalm 1 concerning the blessed man, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."  In my understanding meditation is taking a single verse or small portion of Scripture and thoughtfully pondering and considering it, turning it around over and over in the mind. Jim Gambini, my former pastor, used the phrase "masticating", which is the technical term meaning "to chew" much like dairy cows and other ruminating animals chew their cud.  Contented dairy cows can chew their cud eight hours a day totaling 30,000 chews daily.  Now, if we could turn God's Word over and over in our minds throughout the day I believe we'd have a lot more victory and joy in our lives and it would certainly spill out to those around us!  We would also memorize Scripture in the process.

Hiding God's Word includes memorizing the sacred text. That's hard for many and frankly for me it gets harder as I grow older. We may have different giftings in this regard but I challenge each reader to at least memorize the Scripture that is your life's verse. Early in my pastoral ministry I memorized many Scripture verses which are deeply hidden in my heart to this day.

My life verse and the final challenge in today's message is, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.  Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word. Let me live that I may praise You and may Your laws sustain me. My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.   Amen.
(Prayer based on verses from Psalm 119)

Note: We would encourage pastors to consider the exercise Mike did yesterday at the Lancaster Bible College chapel. In fact last night Brooksyne spoke to Angela, a young lady in our church, who is a student at LBC.  She was in the chapel service and said it was a very moving service as the students shared memorized Scripture that was pivotal in their walk with the Lord.

Jay and Lu Kopp
Tuesday evening Brooksyne and I joined our friends Jay and Lu Kopp and drove over to the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in eastern Lancaster County. Jay and I share the same birthday although he is two years younger than I am.  The Shady Maple offers a free meal on your birthday when you come with a paid customer, so Brooksyne and Lu,  the paying customers,  treated Jay and me to a free meal!

Roots Farmers Market in Lancaster County, PA
Tuesday afternoon Brooksyne and I went to the Root's Farmer's Market one of the many interesting aspects of living in Lancaster County. We got a basket of Gala apples, some of which Brooksyne canned yesterday, making apple pie filling.

Stanley Tam and friends
Yesterday morning I went to a meeting sponsored by BBL at Lancaster Bible College and heard Dr. Stanley Tam, a 93 year old businessman from Lima Ohio, who has an incredible testimony of faithfulness to God. He is shown here with two of his younger friends who were travelling with him. It was really amazing as we listened to him and how well he spoke, although at one point he hesitated and acknowledged he was "having a senior moment!" Stanley Tam shared how he had honored God in his life and business.  He has shared his testimony over 7,000 times all over the world.  I read also that through his business over 125 million dollars has been given to Christ's cause.

Mike Brickley and his wife
I visited with Mike Brickley and his wife at yesterday's meeting. Mike is the president of a great ministry known as the The Pocket Testament League.  The main focus of this ministry is the power of individual Christians reading, carrying and sharing God's Word.  I first met Mike about 6 years ago when he was the speaker at a meeting I attended. I recalled his main theme from that message was that we all have an expiration date and we need to use our time on this earth wisely.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to play)

"Wonderful Words Of Life"

"Ancient Words"  Video

Here are some links that may be of interest related to today's message and photos:
Where today's pond photo was taken  (google map)
BBL  An organization of Christian business leaders seeking to honor God in their business.
Lancaster Bible College
  I am always blessed by the Scripture on the sign as you enter the campus, "The Word of the Lord endureth forever"
Stanley Tam's testimony  A small portion (blog format)
The Pocket Testament League  This is an excellent way to share your faith.
Shady Maple Smorgasbord  The largest and probably most famous of Lancaster County's many eating places. If you've ever eaten at the Shady Maple you're going to remember it!  On their website we read this testimony of their faith, "Ultimately, Marvin, Miriam and their three married sons, Philip, Curtis, Linford, their wives and families (eleven grandchildren), give the Lord Jesus Christ the glory for any success that has been accomplished over the years.
Root's Farmer's Market  Here's an arial photo to give you a sense of how large this place is! These farmer markets are huge and since it was a beautiful day on Tuesday it was packed with people

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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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