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Friday, May 22, 2009

Goslings on Meeting House Run Road
We pass these goslings on our trail walk along Meeting House Run Road

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"Wandering in the Wilderness"

"But with You there is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:4). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

In the late 70's we first moved to Northern Pennsylvania from Missouri. It was a year after we married and shortly after graduation from Bible College. We felt called to establish a church in St. Marys PA, a small town up in the Allegheny Mountains. We started the church in our house but nearly a year later we rented a storefront as the church grew.  We had no church furniture so we were excited when we received a call from a fellow pastor offering us a pulpit that was no longer in use at his church.  Interestingly this was the pulpit David Wilkerson stood behind many years earlier when he pastored this church in Philipsburg, PA. 

At the time we were foster parents to a baby about 6 weeks old, little Billy Joe.  We traveled down to Phillipsburg along with the baby to pick up the dark brown octagonal shaped pulpit and carefully packed it into the back of our small tan Chevrolet Vega with the hatchback tied down over it.  On the way back I decided to take a shortcut off the main highway and found a road on the map called the "Caledonia Pike", which appeared to cut diagonally through the mountains to where we lived. I reasoned that anything with "pike" in it must be a well-travelled road and when possible I like to vary my route.

Well, my reasoning was faulty;
the road we travelled was filled with deep muddy ruts. Thinking we'd surely drive out of this terrible section soon we kept going but it didn't get better. We traveled for miles with no commercial or residential building in sight.  Not one car passed. Dense acres of trees lined both sides of the mud-filled "pike."  The only structures we did see were run-down abandoned camps erected simply for the use of shelter from the harsh elements during hunting season.  Not only did we get stuck several times, but the road was so bumpy the baby cried continuously. Brooksyne clung to Billy Joe trying to comfort and protect him (this was before baby seats).  Our bodies flung back and forth, up and down, as I navigated the wheels through the deep ruts. The hatchback bobbed up and down the entire trip adding a few dings to our "new" pulpit while also providing a pretty steady drum beat and even a few drum rolls in the roughest terrain.

Not only was Billy Joe irritated by my bright idea of this shortcut, but Brooksyne wasn't talking.  Yet when she did talk her stinging words were full of lecture about my foolish idea! She was especially angry with me for upsetting the baby. We'd also just purchased our Vega and certainly hadn't foreseen such a ruthless work-out.  In addition to getting us into this mess I took several wrong turns (no street signs, of course) and finally had to admit to Brooksyne that we were lost.  Our "shortcut" was turning into a major cross country wilderness journey.  We wondered if we would ever get out of it. After several hours, just as it was getting dark we finally made it back to a paved road and found our way home.  A paved road looked about as good to us as the streets of gold in heaven.

But today we want to write of an even more critical way of being lost. The wilderness wanderings describe the period in Israel's history after they left Egypt but before they entered the Promised Land. They departed Egypt after witnessing numerous outstanding miracles, including the crossing of the Red Sea. Rather than travel immediately to the Promised Land they spent the next 40 years wandering as a result of their unbelief and disobedience to God's command.

Wilderness wanderings can also describe a period in life when one leaves the faith and wanders in a state of disbelief and disobedience.  A good example in Scripture is that of the Prodigal Son or Peter as he denied Christ before His crucifixion.

Now I am sure there are those who accepted Christ at an early age  who have stayed faithful and know little of the wilderness of sin.

But there are readers who are all too familiar with this godless wilderness. For many it was prior to the time you accepted Christ and your testimony has been one of steadfast service since the day of your salvation.

I am sure there are others who have wandered away from the paths of righteousness following your initial commitment to Christ. You fell away or to use the old term you "backslid".

I am thankful that I serve a redemptive God. He continues to seek and to save that which is lost. He continues to call sinners home. As the Psalmist declared, "But with You there is forgiveness."  Some reading this perhaps are still in the wilderness. I call out to you on behalf of the Father. "Come home." The Scriptures are abundantly clear that He is loving and merciful and will forgive.

Others have come home and yet struggle with guilt. If we have applied the conditions of the second daily text this guilt is self-imposed. The promise of God is so unambiguous and straightforward. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). I marvel at those wonderful words, "He is faithful." Let Him set you free from any guilt or feelings of condemnation!  He offers His everlasting peace in exchange for our unreserved trust.  Let our testimony also reflect that of John Newton's who proclaimed in song, "I once was lost but now am found."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, You do the impossible and provide for our every need.  You divided the sea and led the Israelites through to safety.  You guided them with the cloud by day and the fire by night.  You split rocks in the desert and gave water in abundance.  You rained down manna and gave them more than they could eat.  And yet in spite of all this they kept on sinning; in spite of Your miraculous wonders they did not believe.  What a picture this is for us today when we put You to the test, when we rebel against Your statutes, when we abandon Your truths.  Father, search our hearts today and see if there be unbelief or wickedness within.  Cleanse us by the fire of Your Holy Spirit so that we may be renewed in spirit and resolved in our absolute commitment to be faithful in our walk.  No matter the wilderness ahead we are guided by You to safety and we are consoled by the fact that the Promised Land awaits those who endure to the end.  Amen.

For further inspiration and instruction read Psalm 78.

For the curious I found a photo and map of the Caledonia Pike here. Yes, there really is such a road(s)!

Brooksyne's Note:  Last year about this time I was laid up during the recovery of my broken ankle and a reader who lives in St. Marys (not far from the Caledonia Pike wanderings) sent me an excellent book.  It came to mind this morning as we were writing about the Israelite wanderings.   She didn't know when she sent the book that Robert Morgan is among my favorite writers. "Red Sea Rules" ministered to me in a marvelous way and is now a staple book on my bookshelf.  It is a quick, easy-read but deep in contemplation.   I often need reminders that God is working behind the scenes; that He is a God of miracles and this book does just that. Morgan writes: "No sea is deeper than the ocean of His love. There is no army stronger than His hosts, no force greater than His throne of grace, no enemy who can overcome His direct and indirect work in our lives.  The reality of the Rea Sea, in a word is this:  God will always make a way for His tired, yet trusting, children, even if He must split the sea to do it." -  Robert J. Morgan

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult TimesThe Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times  By Robert J. Morgan / Thomas Nelson - Using the story of the parting of the Red Sea, Robert Morgan reveals how this remarkable story has implications for our lives today. In the midst of seemingly impossible situations God promises to make a way for us. Each of the ten chapters focuses on one "Red Sea Rule" that will soon have you moving away from fear and toward faith in God. Ordering info.

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.

"East To West"  Video  Casting Crowns

"Amazing Grace"
"I once was lost but now I'm found!"
Chris Tomlin version 
Another video version with testimony and powerful rendition by Wintley Phipps

"When God Ran"  Video  deals with the return of the prodigal (lost) son.  "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:32).

"Softly And Tenderly"  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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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