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Monday, December 15, 2008
"Standing At The Crossroads"
"This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jeremiah 6:16).
Yesterday we attended an Amish church service held in the home of our Amish friends Jesse and Anna Ruth. It was altogether unlike any service we had ever visited and we will share some observations on the experience below our message. On the way over to their home on the eastern side of Lancaster County we listened to a portion of a church service on the radio. It was a live service from one of our local mega churches and had the latest music, most of which we didn't even recognize, even though we don't consider ourselves entirely "out of the groove"! But it did underscore the incredible contrast we experienced yesterday morning.
Jeremiah's ministry was to the Kingdom of Judah in the years just prior to the Babylonian Exile. His ministry essentially urged the people to repent of their sins and turn back to God. In today's verse the direct appeal is from God, "This is what the LORD says."
They were instructed to "stand at the crossroads and look." I believe in this instance the crossroads was that critical period in which they lived. An old commentary states that this is the "image from travelers who have lost their road, stopping and inquiring which is the right way on which they once had been, but from which they have wandered." The crossroads of life is a critical time of decision making not just outward, but also involving inner contemplation. It is a good time to examine our lives. In the case of Jeremiah and the initial recipients it was the sobering reality of the imminent judgment and destruction of the kingdom.
In our own lives crossroad experiences may be the death of a loved one, a life-altering trial, our own aging and sense of mortality, or choosing to tackle a longstanding, destructive addiction.
God called the kingdom of Judah to "ask for the ancient paths." Today the last thing most people are interested in is the "ancient paths". Our culture is obsessed with the lure of the new. For so many the ancient paths have no appeal at all and are generally scoffed at. "Out with the old, in with the new."
"Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." I believe the meaning here is spiritual and a call to obedience as found in God's Holy law. This is the "good way" and by walking in it one will truly find rest for the soul. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
But many then and so many today emphatically declare, "We will not walk in it." The "ancient paths" are maligned from so many sources. I always expect before Christmas and Easter to see major publications and newscasts launch an assault on Biblical truths. I was perusing through books at a local warehouse store where book after book attacked the foundations of the historic Christian faith. Modern scholars malign the ancient way and sit in judgment of the wisdom of the ages.
Just this morning we received a letter from a trusted Christian ministry informing readers that PBS will run a program on December 18 titled the "Bible's Buried Secrets" which will declare that the patriarchs, Moses, and the Exodus are all myths, and that God and "his wife" were a part of the pagan Canaanite pantheon; the program declares further that the Israelites were simply a sub-tribe of the Canaanites and that the Old Testament was a fictitious concoction made up by dozens of Israelites during the Babylonian captivity around 500 B.C. or later. This is blasphemous historical revisionism at its worst.
We need to return to the "ancient paths." We must commit our lives in obedience to Jesus Christ our Lord, to the entire infallible, authoritative Bible, and to the great example set for us by scores of dedicated, sold-out believers throughout the ages of the Bible and the Church.
My earnest prayer today is this, "I stand at the crossroads and look; I ask for the ancient paths where the good way is, and by God's grace I choose to walk in it and accept Your promise that I will find rest for my soul."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Lord, as I stand at the crossroads of decision I am pulled in many directions, but then I see the well-worn path marked out by the faithful followers of God throughout the centuries – the faithful ones who remained true to Your ancient law whose hearts did not betray the One True God. With godly determination I earnestly desire to follow in the steps of the Master that leads me to find rest for my soul on earth and secures a heavenly home where my soul no longer grows weary.
Regarding the PBS episode mentioned in today's post the article furthermore states: "This effort is a direct assault on the historicity of the Bible and intended to be the nuclear option that would finally remove the Bible from serious, scholarly discourse and to destroy the faith of those who trust it as the Word of God. Sadly, we have come to expect such broad, sweeping dismissals of the Bible due to the secular-humanist worldview of the program's producers. Adding insult to injury is the fact that PBS relies upon public funding to promote and broadcast such openly biased programming. Think of the audacity of the claim being made by these ideologues: The Bible, whose historical accuracy is overwhelmingly supported by the science of archaeology, is relegated to religious propaganda. Its historical claims are declared false and therefore, must not be trusted by modern, "informed" scholarship (nor by anyone else for that matter!) The conclusions of these self-appointed determiners of truth, will be disseminated far and wide, poisoning the minds of students across our country.
Some more observations and photos
of our Amish church experience yesterday.
Our experience: We estimate there were about 150 people, including lots and lots of babies and kids. The men sat on one side of the front part of the house, the women on the other. It was packed full, but done so in a comfortable sort of way! We were the only outsiders and the kids had quite a time staring at us throughout the service. It's pretty hard to blend in! The men and boys all had the same type of outfit on; a white shirt, black coat and pants and black shoes.
The service started at around 8:30 AM but we arrived about 10:00 as suggested by our hosts. The preacher spoke in high German and all the words we recognized in the hour we were guests were "Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Joseph". It turns out it was a Christmas message. At one point we all turned around and bowed at our seats during a 7 to 10 minute prayer. The little boy (about 4) next to me fell asleep at this point. When we resumed a small German hymnbook was handed to me. The congregation sang one song for about ten minutes in German in some kind of ancient multi-syllable melody. Of course there were no instruments.
When the service was over they had a short council meeting for members only (I took that to be a business meeting). I went out and poked around the barn where all the boys and teenagers had gone. They were having a good time together and I struck up a conversation with Sam, an 18 year old who explained some of the service to me. He told me that we sang just one verse in the song although I had noted that it had 33 verses. (I couldn't figure out why they never turned the page.) Sam was leaving when the council meeting was over and taking some girls to a youth meeting about eight miles away. It would begin at three and last into the evening. I couldn't tell whether one of them might have been his girlfriend or not but he was sure excited. He told me they would sing, have a meal and probably play volleyball.
After the Council meeting was over the men all poured into the barn where they congregated. I was escorted back into the house for a meal by a friendly man smoking a cigar who confessed to me that his wife was really on him to give up the habit. As we passed a buggie he snuffed it out and placed the unfinished cigar in the spokes. I presume he was going to take it up again after the meal!
The church benches convert to a table and I was seated with men in the "first sitting" since they can't feed everyone at once and guests are always seated first. We were scrunched together and when we were all seated something is uttered in German and all bow and say a silent prayer for about a minute. It is not followed by "Amen" and I am not sure what cues them that the prayer is over; I just watched out of the corner of my eye and listen for rustling sounds.
The meal was considered light by their standards. A huge plate of homemade bread, butter, peanut butter mixed in with marshmallow, beets, sweet pickles and a runny, spreadable cheese unique to the Amish. Since it was Christmas we had cookies as well. It was all good and I had plenty. When everyone is done the German phrase is again uttered and all bow their heads again.
I got up and visited for a few minutes and the men were friendly although I had a hard time explaining what I did, writing messages over the internet and being a chaplain to businesses.
I walked out to tha van and waited for Brooksyne who was in another part of the house with the women. She came out and Jesse also came out to bid us farewell.
Next week Jesse, Anna Ruth and their four children will visit with us at our church since Brooksyne is directing our Christmas musical. They'll join us for a ham dinner and Christmas carolling at the Assisted Living before I take them back for evening milking.
The horses are all placed in stalls in the barn and most were covered with a blanket.
About a mile away we passed another Amish church service gathering. The Amish meet in home meetings every other Sunday.
Last week we showed a photo of an old order Mennonite meeting house. Here's the same view yesterday morning. I assume the first to arrive get the covered stalls.
Here's what the meeting house looked like as we approached it. Based on the amount of buggies all around the building it must have been packed! Notice the colorful blankets on the horses.
Many rode their bikes to the service although it was below freezing. There were many more bikes parked elsewhere with blankets and jackets thrown across them.
Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to open and play. In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)
"What A Friend We Have In Jesus" Audio
Resources for Christmas Celebrations
It is our desire to share resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day.
Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?
Here's an idea! The best gift you can ever give your parents
Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea!
Christmas Memories Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story.
"In Remembrance of Me" pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Stephen and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.
"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
My First Christmas In Heaven This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.
Christmas Knowledge Test
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).
Are you Christmas shopping online?
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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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