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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Risser Mill Road foliage
Fall foliage along Risser Mill Road, Lancaster County, PA

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"Staying On Course"

Note: Today's message is longer than usual but is a sober reminder for all who serve Christ, but especially those in leadership.

"But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). "Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:15,16).

Cockpit Many of you have read about the Northwest Airlines flight last week that flew past its destination by 150 miles. The pilots, in one way or another, were not paying attention, placing the entire crew and passengers in peril. (They have since had their pilot's licenses revoked). I happened to fly with Northwest to get out to Missouri last week and had read about the incident prior to coming back to Pennsylvania Friday morning. As I departed the plane I peeked in the cockpit and said, "Thanks for staying on course."  We usually take for granted that our pilots will stay on course, get us to our proper destination, and land the plane safely.  

We also expect that our spiritual leaders will stay on course, live godly lives and espouse solid Biblically based teaching.  But sadly there are far too many who have not "stayed on course".

Paul's prediction in 1 Timothy 4:1 and Ephesians 4:14 is evident in those who fall away: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.....tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."

Today we see a departure from the course that our forefathers could not have envisioned. Even in my own lifetime who would have predicted that something so foundational as the basic constitution of holy marriage would be a serious issue of departure.

The two daily Scripture portions have long gripped my heart.  I specifically recall their richness when I was preparing for my ministerial ordination in 1979. At that time I wrote down many verses pertaining to ministry and memorized many of them.

In the first verse Paul is addressing the Ephesian elders in a powerful farewell message, "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God."  The apostle Paul was determined to faithfully finish the course of life to which God had called him. In 2 Timothy 4:7 shortly before his martyrdom he in good conscience declared, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."

The second verse reminds us that we must be diligent and stay in good spiritual condition if we are to positively influence others for Christ and eternity.  We've all seen examples of those who didn't and its effect not only on their lives but those whom they influence. It is a solemn call to all who minister for Christ, whether vocationally or as dedicated lay people.  Paul is writing instructions regarding church life and ministry to young Timothy and through the Holy Scriptures to all of us. 

"These matters" certainly include the immediate context, but I believe they also include the entire content of the letter and due to the unity of Scripture the entire Bible.

Warren WiersbeTrue ministry is a very serious calling. The word for "diligent" conveys "to take care of."  I'm so glad our Lord has provided such an adequate instruction manual for those who serve Him!  We are called to devote ourselves "wholly" to this call.  Whatever your form of service for Christ give of your whole self so that others will see your progress.  "Progress" is  translated from a wonderful word ("prokope").  In fact one of our favorite preachers, Warren Wiersbe, had a newsletter with this title.  It essentially conveys advancement and increase.  Is your faith and the character traits of Christ advancing in your life?  Do others see this increase?

"Watch your life and doctrine closely." That is, pay close attention to how you live and what you believe.  So many start the race well but some neglected sin or doctrinal aberration creeps in.  We know those who have served for a "season".  I think of fellow Bible College students and associates in ministry who have not "stayed the course."

May God help us to regularly examine our lives and doctrine frequently and persevere in doing what is right! Don't let popular opinion of the day sway you.  God's Word is settled once and for all; its truths and principles apply to every generation.

The final phrase is amongst the most sobering in the Bible: "because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."  I certainly don't believe this negates other teachings about salvation through Christ by grace.  Of course Paul is not saying that "we" save.  Only Christ can save. 

But our influence on others is great, both for good and bad.  Certainly there are those who have abandoned the faith due to the fall of preachers and Christian leaders.  May God help each of us to stay faithful and stay on course, for both ourselves and for our hearers!  "God, help me to persevere today!"

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, stir in my heart the desire to be diligently immersed in the Word of God.  The deceiver is diligent in planting seeds of doubt, confusion and clever lies always intending to lead me off course in my spiritual walk. As I persevere in reading and applying truths inscribed throughout Your Word I ward off the incessant pleas from Satan to yield to sin.  I desire to be Your faithful follower not just for a season but all through eternity.  It is my heart's desire to influence as many as possible to join me in this noble calling.  May You find me faithful so that those who watch my life daily may also find me faithful!

Brooksyne's Note:  When I was a teen-ager I first heard a song that goes something like this; "Your life's the only Bible that some people read.  That's why we must be careful of what we say and do."  I've stored these words in my heart over the decades as I've sought to live faithfully for Jesus: "To whom much is given much is required."

Related to today's message I think of II Samuel 11 which reveals the progression of sin in David's life that led him to lust, commit adultery, cover up and when that didn't work he eventually murdered an innocent man.  No doubt David thought himself clever in the beginning but when we choose to commit sin we never know how far it will escalate as it takes us away from that which we know is right.  It's a sad testimonial in the life of a king also known as "a man after God's own heart."  I consider the privileged position God gave David and yet he used his kingly position for evil.  May God help us to be ever vigilant in recognizing the devil's seducing power when we are in positions of authority.  Our earthly authority is always subject to God's spiritual authority in everything we do!  So let's be careful in what we say and do.

A sober recollection from Stephen:
About twenty years ago I was going out to visit my folks in the Kansas City area. In Pittsburg I met Paul, a pastor friend who was headed to Springfield MO. We had the same flight to KC and sat together. With a broken heart he told me about a dear friend of his who had a very successful ministry and pastored a large church who had just fallen into moral failure. I recall how hard it was for Paul to believe that his pastor friend (whom I didn't know) had so grievously failed.

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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.)

"Slow Fade"  Video  This song powerfully describes the lure into sin and getting off course.  This song was featured in "Fireproof".

Slow Fade Teaching  Video  Mark Hall is the youth pastor who wrote the song and leads the group "Casting Crowns". He shares an interesting perspective from Psalm 1 that prompted this song.

"Take My Life"  Video  A beautful rendering of an old hymn. Here's an audio of the original version.

"Take Time To Be Holy"  Video
 This is another old hymn you don't hear much these days, but its message is very relevant and timeless.

Today's top photo with the road sign, which Brooksyne took this last Sunday afternoon, illustrates many roads here in Lancaster Country and would have been an appropriate photo to use with this message I prepared last week while in Missouri!

"Consequences Of A Moral Failure" This material, adapted from an article by Randy Alcorn, is helpful in enumerating the consequences of disobedience, especially moral but many of the points apply to any form of failure.

"Prayer for Pastor" I prepared this prayer about eight years ago when I was asked to pray
for Jim Gambini, my pastor at that time, during pastor appreciation month. I then made a version for the internet and have been blessed to see how often it has been requested, one of the most popular pages on the Daily Encouragement Net website.

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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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