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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rural sunrise
A rural sunrise

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"An Exhortation To Faithfulness"

"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right.  You are full of all kinds of deceits and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10).

Today's encouragement will be a bit different than most others. There's a tendency to limit the word "encouragement" to the sense of heartwarming or positively inspirational.  And it is our desire that the vast majority of these daily messages come across that way. 

However this ministry is fundamentally based on a simple command of Scripture. "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13).  The word translated "encourage" also has the sense of warn, admonish, urge.  The KJV translates it "exhort".  The purpose of this is that the recipient of encouragement will not "be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."

Our hearts are hurting due to sin's deceitfulness in our world and we have purposefully chosen a rather unusual verse to comment on today.  Please read it over in its context (Acts 13:1-10).

On his first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas were in the city of Paphos on the western tip of the island of Cyprus. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul (governmental official), summoned for Paul and Barnabas because he wanted to hear the Word of God.  What a great joy it must have been to have a leading government official with an earnest desire to hear God's messengers expound on the Word of God.

"But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith" (Acts 13:8). What a rascal!  Just as the seed of truth was being planted in this man's heart Elymas sought to pluck it out.

"Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas" (v.9). Timidity did not overtake him but  he  dealt with the opposing force with Spirit-filled boldness.

He forthrightly spoke out to the sorcerer, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right.  You are full of all kinds of deceits and trickery.  Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10). 

Today Paul's words may sound so harsh and unkind to many. He didn't undergo sensitivity training that embraces many schools of thought. Instead He was trained by the Holy Spirit with the Scriptures as His text book.  He didn't practice the mealy-mouthed sensitivity, non-judgmental, tolerance and diversity toward Elymas and people like him so common in our own day.

But he was doing what preachers and all true men and women of God should do when confronting evil.  For the sake of Sergius Paulus and the other hearers and for the integrity of the Gospel Paul spoke the truth.  He called evil, evil in the boldest way. 

We are distressed as we see so many being hardened by sin's deceitfulness in our day and the impact of culture can readily be seen in the church.  There are so many Elymas-like people bearing these characteristics:
1) Children of the devil.
2) Enemies of everything that is right.
3) Full of all kinds of deceit and trickery.
4) Perverting the right ways of the Lord.

Consider these verses: The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (5:20).  Micah wrote of those "who hate good and love evil" (3:2) and the people during Malachi's time had wearied the Lord with the convoluted notion that, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them" (2:17).

May God help us to boldly stand firm and contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  We urge, exhort and warn you to be on your guard against the heart-hardening effect of sin's deceitfulness. This is our exhortation to faithfulness.

Be encouraged (warned) today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we learn from Paul's experience that when Your hand is against the evil perpetrator, there are consequences.  When you temporarily blinded the sorcerer so that he could not see the light of the sun he came to rely not on his own guidance but was at the mercy of those who would lead him by the hand, perhaps even Paul. You used this harsh experience to bring the government official to faith, for he was amazed at the teaching You brought about. The teaching went beyond just theory but was revealed illustratively.  Help us not to fear our enemies, but to boldly speak the truth to them and then commit them to You for judgment.  In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Note: The prayer is based on "the rest of the story" as told in Acts 13:11,12).

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Two Roads"  Audio

"He Leadeth Me" Video The Martins  Audio instrumental  Greg Howard

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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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