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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Appalachian Trail, Berks County, PA 7/1/11
The Appalachian Trail in Berks County, PA
The hiker approaching me had a British accent and appeared to be a serious hiker,
 walking sticks and all!

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"Asking For The Ancient Paths"

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).

Appalachian Trail sign 7/1/11Last week I hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Berks County PA. The Appalachian Trail runs for 2,181 miles from Maine to Georgia. The portion I hiked was no more than a rocky one lane path, well worn by many rigorous hikers. It's an "ancient path" that morphed over time into a national trail nearly 100 years ago. However many paths that are now part of the Appalachian Trail were likely used by the native Americans and settlers long before that.

I like old paths and one of our favorites is right across the farm lane from our home. It's an old township road (still on the books as such), but now merely a tree lined right-of-way that provides us with our own personal walking path, since few others use it. Most of our visitors are invited to join us for a walk on our "private" country trail!

Of course there were many ancient paths
and crossroads in Jeremiah's days and he illustrated a somber point using them in a figurative sense.  His ministry was directed to the Kingdom of Judah in the years just prior to the Babylonian Exile. He 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 represented the 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 outwardly, but also inwardly as we contemplate our relationship with Christ, with others, as we assess our goals, etc. In the case of Jeremiah and the initial recipients it was the sobering reality of the imminent judgment and destruction of the kingdom.

Fork in the road in Centerport, PAWe use the phrase "a fork in the road" to describe a junction. In Centerport PA, a tiny village north of Reading, there is a literal fork in the road marking such a junction! But we also use the phrase "a fork in the road" as a figure of speech referring to an important decision before us. At such a point we can go in one of two or more directions.

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, a job loss, choosing to tackle a longstanding, destructive addiction and many other such crisis events.

God called the kingdom of Judah to "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths."  Today few people have any interest in the "ancient paths". Our culture is obsessed with the lure of the new. For so many the ancient paths have no appeal and are generally scoffed at.  "Out with the old, in with the new" is more than just a New Year's expression for many. *

"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 in the past and plenty today scoff at the "ancient paths" essentially declaring, "We will not walk in it."  The "ancient paths" are maligned from so many sources.  Modern "scholars" and the academic elite smear the ancient way and sit in judgment of the wisdom of the ages. Popular entertainment provides a steady stream of mockery for long-held standards that are derived from Biblical principles.

We who earnestly seek God must return to the "ancient paths."  We must commit our lives to be obedient servants of Jesus Christ our Lord, to the entire infallible, authoritative Bible, and to the great example set for us; the wisdom laid out for us by scores of dedicated, sold-out believers throughout the ages of the Bible and the Church. 

We can make today's Scripture verse our prayer, "Lord, today 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

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when I stand at the crossroads I'm given the option of choosing which direction I'll take. May Your Word be like a roadmap making the direction clear as to which is the well-worn path marked out by faithful followers who remained true to Your ancient Law, whose hearts did not betray the One True God.  With steadfast determination I choose not the right or the left, but I earnestly desire to follow in the steps of the Master Who leads me to find rest for my soul on earth and secures for me a heavenly home where my soul will no longer grow weary.  Amen.

* C.S. Lewis observed a tendency in his time for what he called "chronological snobbery", the notion that each proceeding generation thinks it is intellectually superior to the previous. I suppose I find it helpful to use the phrase generational snobbery in this regard and certainly see it abounding in our time, especially based upon modern technology and one's proficiency in using it.

The Appalachian Trail &
Northern Berks County, PA

Appalachian Trail sign 7/1/11
This sign will inform astute readers precisely where I was on the Appalachian Trail. The part of the trail I hiked really had no outstanding views but my route all looked pretty similar to the photo that I posted at the beginning of the message. However several year ago I took this vista view on an Autumn day a bit farther west on the trail (in this part of Pennsylvania the Appalachian Trail more or less runs east and west).

When I drove off Blue Mountain and down from the Appalachian Trail I encountered a beautiful agricutural valley with tidy farms and rich cropland along Mountain Road. 

Berks County PA red barn7/1/11
A colorful Dutch barn characteristic of this part of Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Berks County PA 7/1/11
On this farm I especially noted the huge purple Clematis growing on the lattice. (See here for a larger view of the Clematis.)

Berks County PA Blue mountain farm scene 7/1/11
This bountiful farm has a beautiful panoramic view of Blue Mountain in the background.
Note the Combine at the lower left in the photo (wheat harvest).

Berks County PA Blue Mountain Road 7/1/11
The only "traffic" I encountered along Mountain Road was waddling!

Berks County PA Dreibelbis covered bridge7/1/11
What would a driving tour through Pennsylvania Dutch country be without a covered bridge! This is the Dreibelbis bridge built in 1869.

Virginville, PA post office sign 7/1/11
I drove through another Pennsylvania town with a rather interesting name.

Blue Mountain witness sign 7/1/11
I passed this witness sign as I drove over Blue Mountain.
The abundant life is available through Jesus you wouldn't use this phone number to reach Him!

For the geographically curious: I was in this part of the world last Friday. (Google map)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Ancient Words"  Video  Michael W. Smith

"Lead Me Lord"  Video  Brookslyne Tabernacle Choir

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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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