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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fall foliage with pond in Delaware (photo by Duke)
Delaware pond with fall foliage
(Photo by Duke)

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This week we are sharing a series of messages from Romans 13:11-14

"Understanding The Present Time"
(Part 3)
"Alert And Sober"

"The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here" (Romans 13:11,12). "So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:6). "But you, be sober in all things" (2 Timothy 4:5). "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13) "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers" (1 Peter 4:7).

Drunk man on floor In the course of nearly 40 years of ministry we have some colorful stories as we seek to reach out. Brooksyne recalls an incident very early on when we were reaching out to a man named Curtis who was attending our new church plant in the very beginning when we held services in our apartment. One night we heard a loud banging about 2:00 AM and I reluctantly went to the door.

Curtis, in his early 20's, was stone drunk and came to our house for a place to stay. We had two young foster children at the time which made us very uncomfortable with such an arrangement so we pulled out a sleeping bag and had him sleep downstairs until he slept it off. We had a long talk the next morning and prayed with him about the matter. He came a few more Sundays before he lost interest in spiritual things. We lost track of him long ago but pray even today that he has turned away from such a dangerous and irresponsible lifestyle and set upon a course of living alertly and soberly!

Today's passages, especially 1 Thessalonians 5:6, call us to live alert and sober. That is such a necessary element in understanding the present time. Today we often use the word "sober" in regard to being free from the intoxication of drugs and alcohol and that would certainly be included. We have seen so many, many lives detrimentally impacted and ruined by drugs and alcohol in our line of ministry.

But today we consider "sober" in the broader sense, as that of having a clear mind. So many have their minds clouded by a vast variety of the world's input such as media and entertainment nonsense. Electronic devices along with their bells and whistles so easily distract and dilute our alertness to other far more important matters. 
We consider by observation those who are glued to a tiny screen hour after hour playing video games. Even what is called academia can severely cloud the mind with so many of the most foolish notions come out of acedemia. Paul urges Timothy to "Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge" (1 Timothy 6:20).

The Precept online Bible commentary states concerning this spiritual sobriety, "Take things seriously being aware of their real importance and be ever mindful of their consequences in time and in eternity. The sober saint approaches life, not as a jest, but as a serious matter for which he is answerable to God. Let us not become intoxicated by Satan's three vintage wines - the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:15,16)."

D. Edmond Hiebert Bible teacher D. Edmond Hiebert writes that sober "denotes a condition free from every form of mental and spiritual loss of self-control; it is an attitude of self-discipline that avoids the extremes of the 'reckless irresponsibility of self-indulgence on the one hand, and of religious ecstasy on the other.' It inculcates a calm, steady state of mind that evaluates things correctly, so that it is not thrown off balance by new and fascinating ideas. Such 'level headedness' is a constant Christian need."

We must be on our guard lest we be seduced into this topsy-turvy, touchy-feely system of beliefs based on popular and politically correct notions of morality, especially to the exclusion of critical or sound judgment. To hold to ancient, proven truths is being viewed more and more as old-fashioned and will likely bar you from the "cool, hip or cutting edge" in-crowd (not that I'm really trying to get in that setting anyway!) Here in America and around the world a battle for the heart, soul and mind rages.

I believe among the greatest challenges for believers in any age is being sober-minded. It is certainly true today. We live in a time of moral confusion and I believe Greg Nelson and Phil McHugh got it right when they wrote, "We are called to take His light to a world where wrong seems right...." in the inspiring song, "People Need the Lord".

In the final verse of our daily Scripture selection, "self-controlled and sober-minded"
(ESV) comes from Paul's final letter to Timothy. Other versions translate the phrase "be of sound judgment and sober spirit" (NASV), "control yourself at all times" (NCV), "keep a clear mind" (NLT). The NIV states, "Keep your head in all situations." Greek scholar Fritz Rienecker points out that in this passage Timothy is called "to be in a vigilant, wakeful, considerate frame of mind, taking heed of what is happening and pursuing a course with calm and steady aim."

Today as men and women who strive to understand the present time let us heed the clear Scriptural call to be alert and sober!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You have called upon us to be sober and vigilant believers who are instant in season and out of season. We're ready to spring into action to do Your bidding when we might least expect to be called upon. May the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, be evident in our attitudes and actions as we live out our daily lives and relate to others while living self-controlled and sober minded lives. Through Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.
See Galatians 5:22, 23

Let us address a point in the message that may cause confusion for some and even a point that some skeptics may sneer at. "The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here" (Romans 13:11,12). What was Paul referring to, especially in the latter phrase,
"The night is nearly over; the day is almost here"? See here v.11 and here v. 12 for some interpretations! Regarding verse 12 the Full Life Study Bible observes: "Paul believed in the Lord's imminent return to transfer the faithful of his churches to heaven, an event that Paul believed could happen even in his generation. Christ warned that He would return at a time when the faithful were sure that He would not come. For this reason, God's children must always be spiritually ready and must 'put aside the deeds of darkness'".

I've never met Duke, but he has befriended and discipled Ken, a man we met several years ago in the course of our chaplain work. Ken moved to southern Delaware (or perhaps the eastern Maryland shore) but through Daily Encouragement we've stayed connected and he has introduced his friend Duke (don't even know his full name) to us. Today's photos were shared by Duke and gives a bit of a different outlook considering the frigid, winter-like weather we are having in our area!

Sandpipers along Delaware shore (photo by Duke)
Sandpipers on the Delaware shore

Ocean wave along Delaware shore (photo by Duke)
Waves like this remind us of a sermon we heard nearly 40 years ago based upon John 1:16.  "And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." The Living Bible states, "blessing upon blessing heaped upon us!" Jeff Ronald, who preached the message, illustrated this concept by the never ending ocean waves thrust on the seashore.

WW2 lookout tower in Delaware (photo by Duke)
A World War 2 lookout tower that guarded the entrance to Delaware Bay. We wrote about these towers here.

Kember print Isaiah 53:5
Duke found this Kember print is a Thrift Shop in Delaware, adding to our Kember print photo collection. Do you have a photo of a Kember print you can send us? Please send an email to this address with the photo as a jpg attachment. In subject line put "Kember print" and specify where you are from and if you want to tell the story behind it or how it has been meaningful to you.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Asleep in the Night"   Video   Keith Green Over 30 years after Keith left this earth his lyrics continue to powerfully speak to our age.

"May The Mind of Christ My Savior"  Video   Jake Armerding

"Speak O Lord"  Video  Kristyn Getty

"People Need the Lord"  Video  Steve Green

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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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