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Monday, June 25, 2012
Longenecker Farmhouse in Lancaster County
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"Proclaiming The Unknown God"
“So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17:22,23).
Thirty-five years ago we began our ministry right out of Bible College relocating from Missouri to Pennsylvania, as a very young married couple, to plant a church in Saint Marys Pennsylvania.
At the time I was an ardent student of New Testament Greek which led us to name the church AGAPE' (pronounced a ga' pa,) the Greek word for the highest quality of love. The church is still called AGAPE', though it has required some explaining over the years since there are plenty who mispronounce the word. It's spelled the same as the English word, agape (rhyming with a cape), but the definition is vastly different meaning "mouth wide open". We certainly wanted the people to come to church with their hearts open to the Spirit, but not with mouths wide open!
I find church names interesting. Some churches have geographical names such as the Belton Methodist Church (which I attended as a child). Some now are using what I suppose are attempts to sound cool, contemporary and even unchurchy such as a church named “The Power Place”. (I would think this would be a gym). Now many just use initials, such as a large church in our area known as LCBC.
But my favorite church names seek to also convey a Bible truth such as Faith, Calvary or Grace, etc. Whenever naming a church using a word in the Bible it's important for the leaders to know the meaning behind the particular Bible word. Years ago I heard of a church that sought to be creative and used a Hebrew word from the Old Testament. They named their church “Ichabod”.*
Yesterday we heard Mike and Lori Cassel, a missionary family to Mexico, who are involved in church planting ministry. Mike shared concerning the naming of churches in Mexico and one particularly intrigued me. The Spanish name is “Al Dios No Conocido” which means “The Unknown God” Church. The earnest Mexican pastor was naming it after our daily text and Mike shared that he had some reservations about the name but didn't want to interfere with the nationals. It occurred to me a name like this can create a compelling witness opportunity!
In Acts 17 Paul preached to the Athenians, the intellectually elite of that age. An interesting parenthetical description in verse 21 states "Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." (SCW note: It seems to me that's what a lot of intellectual elites do to this day!)
Paul sought to connect by appealing to an altar with this inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Apparently the Athenians just wanted to make sure they had all the bases covered so they erected a generic altar for a god they didn’t know just in case. Paul used the situation to his advantage and proclaimed this God in one of the great sermons of the New Testament, “Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”
The Mexican church with the name “The Unknown God” may very well use this same approach. People enter the church building intrigued by the name and hear the pastor make known the mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Today we appeal to a world where so many do not know Jesus personally. Yet God created within our inmost being the need to follow after One greater than ourselves. Of course He desires that we worship Him not in ignorance, but in Spirit and in Truth. And the way we follow the True God is to open His Word to our hearts making it a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for those who go to the uttermost parts of the world and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, making known the "unknown God" to the people of that land. From the very beginning You created a hunger within our hearts to serve you, but far too many misfeed that hunger and instead "worship gold, silver or stone, images from by the art and thoughts of man". Instead we are to feed that hunger by loving You with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. As we draw near to You, You promise to draw near to us. We are grateful for the wooing of the Holy Spirit that convicts us our sin and reveals Your great love to us. Thank You for making Yourself known to us in Your Word as we immerse ourselves in Your truths. Amen.
Here is what Paul proclaimed following our daily text: “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God,. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31).
* Ichabod means “the glory has departed”!
We want to encourage readers wherever they may live to participate in a special prayer time this coming Lord's day in falling to our knees and praying for our nation and world. For more information see this website.
After church yesterday we stopped in to visit our friends Ken and Nila and their two sons David and Seth. David greeted us by showing off his two kittens! We were allowed to pet them but David made it very clear we were not allowed to take them home!! Truth be told he didn't have to worry about that.
Yesterday we visited Bill and Peggy Longenecker's farm. I saw Bill, who was a neighbor when we first moved to Lancaster County, in a hardware store several weeks ago and he told me about an old wagon he had restored and welcomed me over to see the wagon and visit his farm, one of the most beautiful in Lancaster County in our view. All this week we will share photos from our visit including the farmhouse photo at the top of today's message.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resource
Last night we drove over to Coleman Park in Lebanon County to hear the Hoppers, a gospel singing family who have been singing together for over 50 years (the mom and dad that is)! Today we will feature some of their music.
"Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin" Video
"I Will Serve Thee" Video Acapella with testimony
"God Raised the Ransom" Video
The concert was held in an outdoor amphitheater type setting with a very large crowd.
At the concert we saw our friends Gary and Fran Tryon among a number of other friends we ran into. I worked with Gary about ten years ago when we first moved to this area.
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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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