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Monday, October 26, 2009

Barn in northwest Missouri
Barns in northwest Missouri

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"The Ultimate Race"
"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1,2).

We had an interesting time yesterday in our country church. For several months Mike and Nicole Martin have been attending. Mike is a chaplain to motorcyclists and leads a weekly biker's Bible Study. We decided to have a special service inviting bikers and urging them to ride their motorcycles to church.

In my message I challenged the church that we are all in a race (although I used the familiar biker term "ride") and pointed out that we are all running in a race; life's marathon, which is the ultimate race.

1) The ultimate race requires a deliberate start. Jesus is the "author of our faith."  In John 3 He calls this start being "born again". At some point in life we all need to place our faith in Christ, confess and ask His forgiveness for our sins, and follow Him. Some do this at a very early age, others after years of open defiance toward God and His ways. Yesterday we had a testimony from a former prison inmate who came to Christ after many years of rebellious living. He is now in Bible College preparing for ministry!

2) The ultimate race is on a designated course. This is "the race that is set before us." Another version states "marked out for us." We have guidance from the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and holy men and women who demonstrate the way. Fundamentally our race map is the Word of God, which is "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path" (Psalm 119:105).  The Holy Spirit's guidance is wonderfully expressed in this verse: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21). And the Lord has placed godly influencers in our lives. 
Hebrews 13:7 states, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

3) The ultimate race is run with dependable witnesses. As we run this race "we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses." These are the scores of fellow runners who witness our endurance and persistence as they encourage us on in the faith.

These witnesses include those from the Bible who've gone before us and completed the race.   Joshua pronounces, "My family and I chose to serve the Lord!"  Daniel speaks up, "As a young man I purposed in my heart to live God's way!"  Paul joyfully declares, "I counted all loss and I finished the race!"  Stephen, in perpetual rejoicing, sees the Lord on His Throne. And our Lord Jesus, who also ran this race victoriously proclaims, "I did all that my Father asked of me."

These witnesses also include finishers throughout the history of the church; some well-known, so many, many others known only by their generational peers.  I gain spiritual inspiration by realizing my dad is among these witnesses, as is my first pastor as a born-again Christian, James Howard. I gain inspiration as I consider a growing group of brothers and sisters I’ve known personally who have crossed the finish line. In my spirit I can almost hear them all crying out, "Come on Stephen, you can make it, stay faithful, it's incredible up here!"
We are also surrounded by scores of fellow runners still in the race. Look around you today! What a great blessing they are. Count me in as one of these runners. We're not in competition; we are in this together and we need each other.  Let’s encourage one another as we run this spiritual marathon together.  Let's keep running, believers!  Let us indeed run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

4) The ultimate race has a definite finish. I am so thankful that there's not just one winner in the ultimate race.  Everyone who finishes this race is a winner.  This finish will either be at our death, or if we are living at the time, in the rapture of the Church. Either way it will most certainly be a definite event! We need to look to the Lord who is the finisher of our faith. He faithfully finished His race and is now our main inspiration. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

Today we call all readers to join us in this ultimate race!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we acknowledge that endurance and persistence are attitudes derived from a faith filled-life with You. Our persistence is marked by the determination we have to finish the race though struggles weigh us down and doubts cloud our vision of the finish line.  Thank You for marking the race out for us and for the great examples of those who cheer us on as we participate in this Christian race.  They finished their race on earth through their enduring faith, though they experienced opposition from sinful people.  We endure hardships and struggles as discipline from You, our loving Father, that we may share in Your holiness.  Strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees as we lay aside everything that drags us down or tempts us to give up.  We persist in the name of Jesus Christ for the heavenly finish line, Amen.

We've had a busy several days and since I didn't share a message on Friday I have several photos (along with stories) to share.

First several photos and notes from
my trip out to the Midwest last week.

Barn in northwest Missouri
If you read this series regularly you may recall I like agricultural scenes, especially tractors and barns. Last week I traveled from Kansas City, Missouri up to Lincoln Nebraska to attend my Aunt Frances' memorial service. Although it rained practically the entire trip up and back the fall foliage was still beautiful and all throughout northwest Missouri, southwest Iowa and southeast Nebraska I passed old abandoned, often dilapidated barns such as the scene above. Although the area is still farmed, methods have changed and many of the old barns are apparently no longer needed.

Frances McKelveyMy Aunt Frances was a very colorful and vivacious person, which this photo captures. The memorial service was a real blessing. I will share a couple of links that may be of interest to family and friends who may have known her. My cousin George, (whom we call Dub) is a retired minister and shared the eulogy (mp3), which was a wonderful tribute to her. Frankly this eulogy is so good that I think I would enjoy hearing it even if I didn't know her! It demonstates the great generation she came from and the "character capital" that we are rapidly losing! In fact I have a message in the works concerning this vital topic.

Here's a photo of the family taken in the church right before the service. The "older" folks in the front are my cousins and their spouses, who are now all grandparents.  A visual reminder that, "Generations come and generations go"

Aunt MaryBefore I left Kansas City I stopped in Thursday evening to visit with my Dad's only sister and one of only two still living from that generation on his side (his younger brother Don and his wife live near Louisville KY.) Aunt Mary is a very spunky 89 year old. She now lives in a senior apartment complex in Raytown, Missouri. She fixed me a nice supper and then we reminisced for awhile.

She was married for sixty years to my Uncle Henry, who passed away about 10 years ago. Henry served in World War 2 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was among the first to encounter the concentration camps and personally witnessed the horrible scenes. He had photos of the camps which Aunt Mary threw away when he died.

Shortly after returning from the War (where he was not injured) they were hit by a drunk driver and Uncle Henry broke his neck and spent months in rehab. He was paralyzed and the doctors stated there was no more they could do and suggested he be placed in institutional care. Aunt Mary took him home and rigged up several home-made physical therapy contraptions and worked with him. All I recall was that he had a limp!

My Aunt Mary has two children, four grandchildren and four great granchildren.

Photos from our "Biker Day" yesterday.

Discover Joy Biker Day
We had a beautiful autumn day and following the service folks mingled, looking over the various bikes prior to sharing a meal together.

Harley with side car
This bike with a sidecar got a lot of attention.
Here's another view.

Discover Joy Biker Day
Another collection

Y2K jet powered bike
Mike Rowan, a dealer in Lancaster brought several interesting bikes including this Y2K jet-powered motorcycle. It was certainly the most unique bike on our groundsw! There are only a few that have been produced and they sell for $185,000!
See here or here for videos.

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.)

"Hebrews 12:1,2"   Audio
  The daily verse set to music from the Integrity Scripture Memory Series.

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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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