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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Old truck in field in north central New York
A well-seasoned truck firmly grounded in a barren field in Northern New York.
Reminds me of a tractor we passed in Iowa a number of years ago. It also looks like the boxes in the truck might make a temptation for target practice!

"Evil Men And Impostors"

Note: Today's message is long but from our hearts and is not for the faint-hearted.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:12,13).

So many of our brothers and sisters suffer greatly with little news coverage about their ongoing ordeal. Practically daily churches and Christians in northern Nigeria face horrific persecution at the hands of an evil Muslim group. The persecution has become so commonplace that it's hardly news unless it's one of the regular mass bombings and even then it may get only a sparse mention in part due to the politically correct notion that Islam is a "peaceful religion". Today on our Christian news source I heard a report regarding a Christian church targeted in Kenya resulting in several deaths.

On another persecution front there is a major case before our U.S. Supreme Court today regarding religious freedom which includes a family-owned business right here in Lancaster County. In fact I've visited several times with Norman Hahn, the founder of Conestoga Wood Specialties in his office in the past. He is a devout man who has now passed the business on to his son. Increasingly, in our "land of the free and the home of the brave" earnest believers seeking to practice their faith are being persecuted by our own government and politically correct, but morally evil, social policies. These decisions pit good versus evil and it's very important to make the distinction. One of the saddest spectacles are those who claim to be neutral in regard to the battle between good and evil. (Truth note- You side with evil!)

2 Timothy 3 begins, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come." This verse warns of the coming apostasy (falling away) and exposes the ungodly behavior of those who live according to the god of this age:  "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power."

It would seem that a Christian bestseller could be written based on these behaviors and attitudes that are very much a part of our culture all throughout the world (though I am aware that all generations due to the presence of sin, to some degree, can relate to this passage).
As we read of Paul's description of the sinful state of humanity it sure seems the soul's diseases are epidemic in our present day.

Today let us consider a portion in this context (verses 12,13):

"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This verse has long intrigued me. Generally speaking I have personally experienced very little persecution. Some feel the persecution may include ridicule and certainly I have experienced that. But the vast majority of people in America and in many other countries have had the liberty to practice genuine faith, essentially unhindered in comparison to the scope of persecution during other periods of history and present in other lands today such as most of the Middle East, North Korea and parts of Africa.

But as I considered this verse in preparation for today's message another thought sprung up. Reading this in context it would seem that this verse is speaking of a special degree of universal persecution that Christ-followers will experience in the last days. Rather than consider this verse in context I have tended to read it as a stand-alone statement as have many of the commentaries I studied. This is not to say there has not always been persecution and certainly Paul experienced it. In fact all through the ages of the church many Christians have been persecuted. But might the statement,
"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" be referring to a specific time when "Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"?

"But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

"Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse." A critically necessary spiritual need is godly discernment. We must learn to recognize evil men (which isn't so hard) and impostors (which is much harder).
The Greek word for impostors is found only here in the New Testament and describes men who will be out to deceive by whatever trick or sleight of hand it takes to deceive the hearts of the simple. Godly discernment come through much prayer, careful observation, firm grounding in the Scriptures, and our testing of the spirit of one who claims to be of God (I John 4:1-3). Evil men and impostors have surely always existed just as Jesus taught the parable of the tares among the wheat.

But in the last days these evil men and impostors will "proceed from bad to worse."
Certainly the evidence of evil men going from bad to worse is seen in current events. Just today I heard of a major organization with Christian roots caving to the spirit of this age. It's heartbreaking to see the great apostasy we are entering into. But God's Word faithfully informs us that this will happen.

"Deceiving and being deceived."  When people get off the right track it creates a circular dynamic of both deceiving and being deceived.  Bible Commentator Stephen Slocum observes: "When one begins by deceiving others, in so doing they lose their sense of distinction between truth and falsehood, and with their moral compass thus distorted, eventually end up by being deceived by the deceptions of others. Sin sown, reaps its own punishment.  This is the general law of depravity - that if men are not converted, they are always growing worse, and sinking deeper into iniquity. The breach between light and darkness, so far from being healed, becomes ever widened."
(Precept Online Commentary)

But in a sense the reality of evil can actually build our faith and firm our resolve, although this is a concept very difficult to develop in a paragraph. The Scriptures are quite forthright in regard to evil and its consequences. God has told us the truth in regard to the reality of evil and we indeed recognize that it is all around us. But it is an individual choice we make to stay faithful to God.

I consider a portion of an old hymn written in 1901 that speaks truth to my heart today: "That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father's world; the battle is not done. Jesus who died, shall be satisfied, and earth and heav'n be one."

In expectant hope we await that time when "the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, in this decadent world where impostors are increasing in number and, in their menacing deception, we can easily be lured into their schemes or we can stand our ground for purity and holiness though we may be few in number.  Help us to always be on guard by familiarizing ourselves with Scripture, and arming ourselves in the attire of a Christian soldier as we do battle with the enemy of darkness.

And, Lord, for those who are dear to our heart; those who have taken the enemy's bait and now are entrapped in sin's deadly tentacles, we prayerfully intercede on their behalf as we cry out to You.  Free them from the deadly strangle of Satan's influence.  Grant us wisdom, discernment, and favor as we interact with them.  Send others to bring light to their darkened paths and to help us bear this heavy burden.  We will not be defeated, for Your power that is within us is greater than the power of our enemy.  We will not despair in our problems, but we will delight in Your promises. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

We also lift up in prayer the Hahn and Green families in Washington who are doing major battle today on behalf of many Christians who are company owners and seek to run their businesses honoring You. We pray for the legal team defending their freedom of religion (which is also our freedom of religion) and pray that justice will prevail as intended through the constitution of the United States that was agreed upon by our forefathers with absolute conviction that our country be free to express our religious convictions within and without the walls of the sanctuary.

Sam, a California reader commented about yesterday's message that also fits today's: "Your message today reminds me of something I heard Charles Swindoll say over 30 years ago, which I've never forgotten. 'Unless you yield to that which is above you, sooner or later you will yield to that which is around you'".

More photos from New York trip

As mentioned yesterday this last weekend I took a van load of two Amish families to upstate New York to visit family. Here are some more photos and we plan to share a final set tomorrow.

Union Station in Utica, NY 3/22/14
My hotel in Utica was across from the old Union Station so I went over to have a look. It was beautifully maintained but only a handful of people were getting on an eastbound train. A wedding party was using it for photography.

Steam train engine at Utica, NY
This old steam engine was parked out in front of the train station with the headlight on all the time.

Amish double team near Fort Plain, New York
We are of course accustomed to seeing Amish horse and buggy teams here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. It was much hillier in New York and I followed this family coming home from church for a while up a long grade. They were using a double team.

Amish mystery tool
When I dropped our Amish friends off I enjoyed moseying about the farm and found this interesting device in the barn. Do any readers recognize what it is? Respond here.

Vista view in north central NY 3/23/14 (Click for larger view)
This is the vista view from the Amish farm looking out over the Mohawk Valley to the Adirondack Mountain foothills to the north. Click here for a larger view. Or here for another view. It's beautiful country but many of the farms have been abandoned. The Amish are relocating to the area, breaking up abandoned and now fallow ground, where they are resuming farming.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Find Me Faithful"  Video  Tommy Walker

"I Am Resolved"  Video  Ernest V. Stoneman  This is probably about as country as you will find but for some it will bring back a memory of an earnestly sung church special from childhood. Brooksyne especially recalls music sounding like this in the little country church she would attend with her grandparents in Arkansas. One comment states, "It brings back old memories of singing at a small Baptist church in a small oilfield town in East Texas back in the 40's. Love that memory."
   Hymn story to "I Am Resolved" (Blog article)  Here's an acapella version Video

"Keep Me True"  Video  Jabu Hlongwane  (South African Gospel music)

"Glorious Freedom"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"This Is My Father's World"  Video  Lifeway Worship

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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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