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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photo of white goats in leaf-filled field
We passed this field with white goats and managed to snap a photo through the fence.

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"Strangers In The World"
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1).

Broasted turkeyI recall as a young boy being intrigued that there was a country named Turkey. Now of course as an American child my initial use of the word "turkey" was associated with the giant bird my mom prepared for the big meal each Thanksgiving Day.

On a much sadder note, Turkey suffered another earthquake yesterday morning. Sources say about 644 people have died in quakes in Turkey over the last month. The major earthquake in October followed by dozens of aftershocks in addition to last week's quake and yesterday's have left Turks terrified. Local churches are doing all they can to respond with Christ's love: handing out relief and trying to comfort those riddled with fear. Keep praying for Turkey, both regarding the earthquake aftermath and our brothers and sisters who serve the Lord in a very hard and often oppresive place.

Map of TurkeyThe apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to believers who lived in the region of present day Turkey (also known as Asia Minor), an area evangelized by Paul during his first missionary journey in Acts 13 and 14. The letter was not written to a specific individual or church as many other New Testament letters are, but "to God's elect, strangers in the world", scattered throughout the region.
This letter was written late in Peter's life about 30 years after the resurrection of Christ. Social conditions in the Roman Empire were rapidly deteriorating, though it would still be many years before Rome would fully collapse. Nero was likely in power and his reign was a time of intense suffering for Christians. In this very letter Peter encouraged his fellow believers with this somber reality, "Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12).
But today we want to especially focus on the phrase he uses to address them in the salutation as "strangers in the world."  The underlying Greek word for "strangers" (parepidemois) is used only three times in the New Testament; twice by Peter in this letter (here and 2:11, and Hebrews 11:13).  It fundamentally means "a resident foreigner."

Parepidemos describes one who makes a brief stay in a strange or foreign place, who sojourns or who resides temporarily among a native people to whom he or she does not belong. The parepidemos did not expect to be regarded as a native of the place where he resided. We must ever be on our guard to resist acclimating our minds or aligning our affections with this evil world system which is "devolving" and corrupting day by day. Remember that we are "strangers".

When Lot stopped being a stranger, and became a resident, even a leader among the inhabitants of  Sodom (Genesis 13:1-18), he lost his consecration and his testimony.  Everything he lived for went up in smoke! (Genesis 19:1-29).

Jim ElliotJim Elliot, a dedicated missionary martyred in the jungles of Ecuador as a young man, was a man of great faith. I suppose his most famous quote is:

"He is no fool to give what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are residing here as a stranger in this present evil age.

Our primary citizenship is in heaven. We do well to keep a proper Biblical perspective of our life span on this earth; that we are merely strangers passing through. It won't be a difficult concept to grasp several hundred years into eternity but at this point, in our temporal existence, all we see is this physical world. Today let us heed the message that Peter wrote to the early believers and remember that we are merely strangers passing through!  

We need to live our lives with a song in our heart, and I suppose no song puts it better in this regard than an old gospel hymn.

This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we're so thankful that when our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from You, an eternal house in heaven. We make it our life long goal to remain strangers in this world as we maintain friendship with You, our Heavenly Father. Like the Apostle Paul we strain toward that which is ahead as we press toward the goal to win the prize for which You have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. In Your appointed hour our bodies will be transformed so that they will be like Your glorious body. We eagerly await that transformation when anticipation becomes reality for the faithful!  Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"This World Is Not My Home"  Video  A nice acoustic version of the song we closed our message with today!

When, as a boy, Albert Brumley was out in the cotton fields picking cotton, he knew that wasn't the life for him.  He wanted to write songs for the Lord.  So he did ("I'll Fly Away" among others).  

Albert had grown up in poverty and witnessed two world wars and the Great Depression.  Life wasn't easy, but he saw that it became a lot easier when you had Jesus as your friend walking alongside you.

Two themes seem to pop up in Albert's songs over and over again.  One is the theme of heaven. Life here may be rough, but glory is up ahead.  The second theme is that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.  Establishing a personal relationship with Him now can bring a touch of heaven to earth.  

For the Christian, our citizenship is not ultimately here on earth, but in heaven.  It's the plain teaching of Scriptures:  "This Word is Not My Home."

(from "The Complete Book of Hymns")

"Come We That Love The Lord"  Video  Rowley Baptist Church

"O Savior Of Our Fallen Race"  Video  Keith and Kristyn Getty  Originally a 6th Century Latin carol, Kristyn Getty made alterations to the translation with the aim of turning the song into a prayer that emphasizes the return of Christ.

"Be Thou My Vision"  Video  

"When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"  Video  Kathryn Scott

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 24).

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" (printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

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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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