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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sister quilt made by Marsha Neizmik
What a nice surprise we received in the mail yesterday; a cozy handmade lap quilt made by Marsha Neizmik back in Northern Pennsylvania. The church we planted right out of Bible College at the young age of 22 is celebrating their 35th year of shining the light of Christ in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. Marsha was kind in remembering us and our 16 years of pouring our hearts into the ministry there.

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"Christ's Gospel Presentation"

"And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). "Then He said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me'" (Luke 9:23).

Years ago I preached a sermon titled "Mushy Christianity" examining the call to discipleship by the Lord Jesus Christ and the early messages of the apostles in the New Testament.  I contrasted these with the state of the contemporary church, especially here in America.

The daily verse is a call to discipleship directly from Jesus initially given to the crowd and the original 12 disciples. It's so clear and unambiguous. 
The phrase "take up his cross" particularly grips my attention. Of course Jesus said this before His death on the cross and by all accounts it seems that the disciple's eyes had still not been opened regarding the type of death Jesus would die. The cross was known as the Roman instrument of execution and the metaphor indicated a truth that the apostle Paul later expressed when he told the Corinthians believers "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31)

Jesus and Paul surely weren't speaking of so much that defines contemporary Christianity; an emotional response to an altar call, a weekly trip to church, adherence to a set of culturally based values, wearing a WWJD bracelet or plastering a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker on your car. These may bear witness to who we are, but they don't define Biblical Christianity. T
oday we want to focus on a daily decision each of us has in common, regardless of where we live on this planet. Every morning when we awaken to a new day we are confronted with this same choice.

We memorized the daily verse many years ago. It's a clear call to discipleship from the words of our Lord. Jesus was speaking to the disciples very plainly about how He would be rejected by the priests and chief elders. He then spoke of His suffering, His death and resurrection that would follow.  It was a very intense setting as these disciples were trying to absorb and understand such disturbing information about their Master, all the while in denial that it would actually happen.

Then Jesus surely added to the intensity of the moment when he then issued this call to His disciples; "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me."  Both Matthew and Mark record the same statement (Mt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34), but only Luke records a detail that includes a vital element to this call. 

Today and everyday those of us who earnestly claim to serve Christ need to:
  • deny ourselves,
  • take up our cross daily
  • and follow Him.
Notice the word "daily". By providing this detail Luke emphasized a concept that is often seen in Scripture. The day is a unit of time that the Word seems to stress as important in making a steadfast commitment to our Lord. Here are several phrases from the Scriptures in this regard: "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). "I call to you, O LORD, every day" (Psalm 88:8). "This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).  

"Our Daily Bread"
In the New Testament Jesus taught us in the Lord's Prayer to request, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). The apostle Paul emphasized this daily walk in urging the Thessalonian believers to "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12). And in the Pastoral Epistle to Titus he taught, "Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. (Titus 3:14).

Our daily encouragement series is prompted by a command found in Hebrews 3:13 which states: "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." We are just two ordinary people making a decision this day to follow Christ. And we want to encourage all of you to do the same. Today and every day!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, there are many choices I will make today based upon the variables that I cannot foresee. But above all I must deny my own selfish desires, take up my cross daily, and follow Christ. In denying myself I will be careful never to deny Christ nor the work He wants to do in me. I don't know what my cross will look like today, whether it be in the form of physical pain, ridicule of my faith, rejection from one that I love, a major letdown, or another difficulty that may arise. The wonderful blessing is that I don't carry my cross in my own strength but You carry it for me as I lean upon You for strength, guidance, endurance and the assurance that today's cross will soon be exchanged for tomorrow's crown. Until then I remain faithful through Christ Jesus our Lord in whose name I pray. Amen.

Peach pies for sale
Peach pies for sale

Today's Suggested M
usic 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.)

"The Old Rugged Cross"  Video  Dallas Holm

"Today I Choose"  Video  Brian Doerksen

"I Have Decided To Follow Jesus"  Video  Selah

"Take Up Your Cross And Follow Jesus"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

"The Lord's Prayer"  Video  Michael W. Smith

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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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