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Monday, January 27, 2014

Red barns in snow on Harvest Road, Lancaster County, PA
These bright red barns are located on Harvest Road in Lancaster County.

"Awake, O Sleeper"

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"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. 'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'He's alive!' Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted" (Acts 20:7-12).

"But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:13-16).

Awake, my soul, and sing
 Of Him
Who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

Seth asleep in church 1/26/14
Following our church service yesterday morning folks from our congregation were visiting with one another as we slowly filed out of the sanctuary. Our church, like many others, has a receiving line where we have opportunity to greet and shake hands with our pastor and his wife. It also gives us plenty of time to fellowship with one another as we wait in line.

As we were walking out we had seen only empty pews until our eyes caught sight of little Seth peacefully sleeping on a pew cushion.* That brought back a similar "sleeping in church" memory from Brooksyne's childhood.

When I was a child growing up in Tulsa my family attended Sunday AM & PM services and midweek as well. Back in those days evening services could last till 9:00 or even 10:00 depending on how long the sermon lasted (and they were really long back then especially during revivals). Add to that the time people prayed around the altar.

My younger brother, Jody, about four years old at the time, fell asleep in the pew which was a pretty common occurrence back then. But on one such occasion our family had returned home (about four miles from the church) and after a few minutes we began to ask each other, "Where's Jody? Have you seen Jody?" The six of us began to look frantically and we finally concluded that he didn't come home with us.

Imagine my folks' panic when they realized that none of us had awakened him for the trip home. After all, any one of the six of us would normally see to it that we had done so. The pastor lived about 20 miles from the church so we couldn't get hold of him right away to open the church back up (no cell phones back then). All we could think of was how Jody would react when he woke up in a dark church building with no one else present. Thankfully he slept peacefully until we finally got access an hour or two later. (I called him this morning and reminded him of the experience. No lasting damage as might be considered today and months of psychiatric intervention recommended.)

When we read the Bible we see that people fell asleep in church back then as well. Acts 20 has an interesting "sleeping in church" story. The apostle Paul was traveling and stopped by Troas, where he stayed seven days. On the last day he was with them they gathered to break bread and Paul spoke to the people. Since he had much to teach them he kept talking till midnight. They had gathered in a room on the third floor with many lamps when a most unusual event took place.

Eutychus on window ledge"Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on."  I can imagine that lengthy service. I'm definitely ready for bed by midnight (usually by 10:00). Lamps of their time period surely would not have provided the type of light conducive to wakefulness. It would be more like candles. Of all places, Eutychus sat in an upstairs window (no screens back then); surely a recipe for disaster as "Paul talked on and on."

Paul and Eutychus
"When he (Eutychus) was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead." That sure would have been a startling wake up call for anyone else struggling to stay awake during that service! But due to a miraculous intervention the young man was fine and Paul had the opportunity to keep on preaching away till daybreak. I imagine for the rest of his preaching that night he had some pretty attentive listeners!

The full meaning of the story perhaps only God knows, but clearly this is an account of human weakness and divine intervention. The next time you get sleepy in church perhaps Eutychus’ story will come to mind and it will prompt you to sit a little taller and lean forward as you listen more intently to what God has to say through His messenger.

Our second daily Scripture portion is a clarion call for all who will live faithfully for Christ in an evil age. The phrase, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you' is thought by many commentators to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn. Others feel Paul may be alluding to Scripture, although this is not a direct quote of any known Scripture. One verse that Paul may have been alluding to could be Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you."

William McDonald comments on this passage, "The life of the believer should always be preaching a sermon, should always be exposing the surrounding darkness, should always be extending this invitation to unbelievers...awake...arise from the dead." May God help us to faithfully live for Him in this dark and evil age being "self-controlled and alert" (1 Peter 5:8a).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for godly messengers who faithfully feed Your children by diligently teaching the whole counsel of Your Holy Word. Some attend church with an intense spiritual hunger, while others may come out of a sense of duty or to be seen by others. Give us a hungry heart that yearns for more of You so that our lives are set apart to honor and glorify Jesus Christ in all that we do. May we be attentive to Your life-transforming truths as You impart them to our hearts. And help us to always be self-controlled and alert. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne playing piano along with Joe 1/26/14
After church Brooksyne went to Longwood Manor and played for the residents during their lunch hour. Normally she plays for about 45 minutes, but they stayed long after the lunch hour and she continued to play as they sang along for well over an hour until Stephen came to conduct the afternoon church service. Pictured is Joe, now blind, who asked a nursing assistant to bring him to the piano so he could comment on the hymns being played. If any of our readers or listeners enjoy playing piano or other accompaniment instruments one of the best ways you can use your talent to bless others is to play at a senior home. They are so appreciative and especially love the hymns. (Joe is quite an accomplished at playing the accordion, an instrument which has made a popular comeback in recent years.)

Day of rest in churchAnother "sleeping in church" memory from Brooksyne: (Shared several years ago but bears repeating!) I have very vivid memories of growing up in church with a father who frequently slept during the pastor’s sermons. Daddy was a laborer who would fall asleep in most any setting if he wasn’t in conversation or physically laboring. As we grew older my siblings and I would sit a few rows in front of my parents, but we’d know when Daddy fell asleep. There’d be a deep, masculine snore and then it would suddenly stop. Mom kept Dad’s snoring under control by kicking her foot against his ankle. He’d wake up momentarily but fall back to sleep in a short time. 

One Sunday evening Daddy fell asleep in the front pew of the church.  Even in the "resting of his eyes" he could often follow the order of the service. In his sleepy stupor he mistakenly thought the pastor said, “Brother Sherrell (Sherrell was my maiden name), would you close our service in prayer?” He suddenly awoke, stood up and began to pray out a dismissal prayer...…..only to be informed that the pastor was in the middle of his sermon! Imagine how mortified my family was at Dad's mistake! 

Perhaps that extremely embarrassing experience kept him a bit more alert at least the following Sunday!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Crown Him With Many Crowns"
  Video  Musicians not specified

"Asleep In The Light"  Video  Keith Green

"Awakening"  Video 
Chris Tomlin

"Awake My Soul (Christ is Formed in Me)"  Video  Phillips, Craig & Dean

* Seth's father Ken remembered to take him home yesterday!

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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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