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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Giant Dr Pepper bottle cap
This giant Dr Pepper bottle cap is among the many nostalgic items on display at "Lambert's Cafe - Home Of Throwed Rolls" in Ozark, Missouri.

"All-Stars Of Faith"

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"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for" (Hebrews 11:1,2).

Last night we watched some of the Major League Baseball All-Star game which was played at Citi Field in New York City. I've enjoyed baseball since I was a kid and have many memories such as playing firstbase in Little League Baseball. I was good at fielding but sure had a hard time hitting. I remember honing my skill of catching the flies and grounder balls while playing hour after hour in the side yard with my friend David.

I also recall the family piling into the family sedan and driving into Kansas City to see the Athletics play at the old Municipal Stadium. (This was before they relocated to Oakland.) My PaPa (grandfather) carefully kept the box score as he listened intently to his favorite team, the Saint Louis Cardinals, over the radio.

Baseball Hall Of Fame plaque in Cooperstown, New York

I, like so many boys, had dreams of someday playing in the big leagues. But out of the millions and millions of boys who have played baseball, many of them dreaming of making it to the big leagues, only 15,500 have ever seen this dream fulfilled, even for one game. (as seen in the plaque above from a 2010 photo I took at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY). Of those, only 1% are selected to be in the Hall of Fame, which is baseball's highest level of commendation at the conclusion of a career. During their playing career players aspire to be in the All-Star game.

I had a very, very small chance when I was young and athletic and absolutely no chance as I have aged to either play in the All-Star game or be in Baseball's Hall of Fame! But this got me thinking about other All-Stars and another Hall Of Fame. There's another type of commendation I strive to someday receive, something far greater. In fact it's a commendation we should all strive for.

Hebrews 11 is known as the "Faith Chapter" and contains a series of brief biographical sketches of men and women of faith. This is often referred to as the Hall of Fame of Faiths. The recurring expression in the chapter is the phrase "by faith" (found 22 times), which introduces each individual and the demonstration of their faith in God.

Throughout the book the writer of Hebrews typically uses what is known as the hortative voice, urging and encouraging his readers with the expression "let us" or including himself with his readers using the first person plural pronoun "we" or "us". His writing style communicates to fellow believers in a small group setting and encourages them on as a fellow believer. This is also my favorite style both as a preacher, writer and listener.

In this chapter the ancients are commended for their faith. Hebrews 11:3 makes a foundational faith statement, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Of course this foundational statement is under persistent and vicious attack by the secular modernist.

But the writer of Hebrews forthrightly states, "By faith we understand…" And praise be to God it is by faith that I do understand and believe this to be true though I never saw the process of creation with my own physical eyes! Just as Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers, "that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened" (1:18) so too our faith is nurtured and our understanding increases when our spiritual vision is not limited to just what we see or what is proven through modern science.

In the section from verses 4 through 39 the pronouns change to "he" or "they" as the writer illustrates the faith the ancients were commended for. This section ends with the concluding phrase, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised" (Hebrews 11:39).

In the very next verse the writer resumes his use of the 1st person plural with this powerful truth, "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (11:40). The "us" includes "us"! We may all be all-stars of the faith.

The context of the book indicates the "something better" is the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ! Believers in the Old Testament period looked forward in faith to the promised future work of Christ in coming to this earth to make atonement for sin. Believers, since the New Testament period, look back in faith to the finished work of Christ and look forward to His return. Ultimately this is the primary basis for which we are all commended. Thanks be unto God!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the people of faith listed in Hebrews died without receiving all that You had promised, but they never lost their faith vision of heaven as a "better country – a heavenly one." We take courage from these fearless heroes of our faith who remained faithful to You in this life so that they could inherit a future life with You for all eternity. We who follow You many generations later trust Jesus' promise that He returned to heaven to prepare a place for all who remain faithful. We anticipate with great joy the hour that we are joined with You to receive our commendation in the clouds of glory for all eternity. In Jesus mighty Name, Amen.

Some scenes along our journey:

George Washington Carver quote
One of many inspiring quotes we read last week at the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri.

Brooksyne's high school friends 7/16/13
What a wonderful afternoon I enjoyed with classmates, Beth, Gayle, Peggy, myself, and Lorna.  I hadn't seen these friends for forty years. We attended elementary, junior and senior high school together in addition to being from the same neighborhood. For nearly three hours we had so many laughs as we shared from our childhood perspective things we didn't say to each other when we were kids. We also shared some of the heartaches that our families have endured since we were kids and best of all the many overcomings we've experienced from these trials. Our families had different church backgrounds or no church background but each shared how they live for God today so when I wanted to pray for my classmates it was welcomed and we were one in the spirit....forty years later! (Ester took many photos and I was pleased to find this one was in the bunch!)

Route 66 Tulsa 7/16/13
We've been traveling quite a bit on route 66 during our trip (which routes less than a mile from the house I grew up in). After my class reunion with friends at Braums I wanted to show Ester my old "stomping grounds" including Daniel Webster High School. Just around the corner in West Tulsa was this very large Route 66 sign in the foreground of these old train cars beautifully restored. Ester gets almost as excited as her dad when she sees Route 66 or an old train.

Route 66 train 7/16/13
The engine pulling the TSU (Tulsa, Sapulpa, Union Railway)

Steincross farm (click to enlarge)
Last night we joined my cousin Anna Lee for dinner. She grew up in the farmhouse seen in the photo above. Today we will head toward home and plan to stop in Harwood Missouri, the tiny town my grandparents lived in and where my mom grew up. Above is a photo of the Steincross farm about 1 mile west of town.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Heroes Of The Faith"  Video  Legacy Five

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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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