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Monday, July 6, 2015
A portion of the Appalachian Trail in Berks County, PA
"The Blessing Of Ancient Paths"
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"Avoid evil and walk straight ahead. Don't go one step off the right way" (Proverbs 4:27). "This is what the LORD says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.' But you said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jeremiah 6:16).
Today we plan to ride our bikes with several friends on the Lower (rhymes with "flower") trail, an abandoned railroad grade here in the mountains of central Pennsylvania near Raystown Lake and Huntingdon. Generally these rail to trail bike paths are clearly marked and easy to stay on. Throughout the course though we will encounter crossroads, places where a decision concerning direction is made. We may choose to stay on the trail or get off for a little while to explore a town or historical feature. On this kind of adventure getting off the path is OK!
In life we have a clearly marked path, what the writer of Hebrews calls "the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). If we pay close attention to the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit's guiding and the Apostle's Doctrine we have a clearly marked path. All along we will encounter many crossroads that may look appealing but in this case we must stay on the clearly marked path.
Many, many years ago Brooksyne taught a children's backyard Bible study in the community we lived in in northern Pennsylvania using a small Bible booklet of 31 Proverbs, one for each day of the month, from the Good News Bible. She put the verses to music and here we are some 35 years later and the tune came right back to me as I prepared today's message! "Avoid evil and walk straight ahead. Don't go one step off the right way" (Proverbs 4:27). (We still hear from a number of those folks now adults, of course, who still recall these verses due to the catchy tunes and animated motions she used to reinforce them. Listen to the podcast today to hear her tune!)
We are called in our second daily Scripture to "ask for the ancient paths". But crossroads abound and we must make an ongoing decision to stay on the ancient paths, seeking where the good way is, and determining to steadfastly walk in it. It is in these paths we find rest for our souls.
Jeremiah's ministry was to the Kingdom of Judah in the years just prior to the Babylonian Exile. His ministry essentially urged the people to repent of their sins and turn back to God. In today's verse the direct appeal is from God, "This is what the LORD says."
They were instructed to "stand at the crossroads and look." I believe in this instance the crossroads was that critical period in which they lived. An old commentary states that this is the "image from travelers who have lost their road, stopping and inquiring which is the right way on which they once had been, but from which they have wandered." The crossroads of life is a critical time of decision-making not just outward, but also involving inner contemplation. It is a good time to examine our lives. In the case of Jeremiah and the initial recipients it was the sobering reality of the imminent judgment and destruction of the kingdom. Quite bluntly, given the direction our country is taking, it can have a similar meaning today.
However crossroad experiences can also be very personal such as the death of a loved one, a life-altering sickness or trial, our own aging and sense of mortality, or choosing to tackle a longstanding, destructive addiction.
God called the kingdom of Judah to "ask for the ancient paths." Today the last thing most people are interested in is "ancient paths". Our culture is obsessed with the lure of the new. For so many the ancient paths have no appeal at all and are generally scoffed at. "Out with the old, in with the new" is the mantra for many.
The Precept online commentary makes this point, "The modern evangelical church in the new millennium is in grave danger of stepping off the ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16, Isaiah 35:8) especially as it seeks to "emerge" from the tried and true old paths. Things have not changed much because man's heart is still as deceitful as ever. "The heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9).
"Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." The meaning here is spiritual and a call to obedience as found in God's holy law. This is the "good way" and by walking in it one will truly find rest for the soul. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
But many then and so many, many today emphatically declare "We will not walk in it." The "ancient paths" are maligned from so many sources. But we need to stay on the "ancient paths." We must commit our lives to being obedient servants to Jesus Christ our Lord, to the entire infallible, authoritative Bible, and to the great example set for us by scores of dedicated, sold-out believers throughout the ages of the Bible and the Church.
Our earnest prayer is this, "I stand at the crossroads and look; I ask for the ancient paths where the good way is, and by God's grace I choose to walk in it and accept Your promise that I will find rest for my soul."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Heavenly Father, as I stand at the crossroads of decision where I am pulled in many directions, I direct my attention to the well-worn path marked out by faithful followers of God throughout the centuries – the faithful ones who remained true to Your ancient law whose hearts did not betray the One True God. With godly determination I earnestly desire to follow in the steps of the Master that leads me to find rest for my soul on earth and secures a heavenly home where my soul no longer grows weary or disheartened. By Your grace I move forward in Jesus' name. Amen.
Note: Jeremiah 6, from which our second daily text comes, is a powerful perspective describing conditions at the time Judah went into captivity. It sounds like it could be written today!
After our church service yesterday we joined friends for a fun, food-filled fifth of July. Dave & Kate (center), hosted us at their home in Manheim, along with their long-time friends, Sam, holding daughter Caylei. His wife, Lynette, is in front.
These are two chaplains I visited with at the chaplain training conference last week and they reflect the variety in chaplaincy models. Curtis Hubbell (left) is a chaplain to motorcyclists and gangs. Yandy Leyva is an Army chaplain. He has a remarkable testimony of the power of Christ's redemption. Born in Cuba to a prostitute he spent much of his childhood on the streets. At 12 he walked into a church in Havana thinking it was a party. When the music was over he left thinking the party was over. A lady met him at the door and prayed for him which he distinctly remembered as being very meaningful to him. However he did not yield to Christ at that time. At 14 he escaped from Cuba on a tugboat which was shot at by the Cuban Coast Guard wounding several on board. After drifting in international waters for some time thinking they would be lost at sea the boat was discovered by an American Coast Guard vessel. The tugboat's occupants were rescued and became refugees. However Yandy continued to drift spiritually through his teen and early adult years until he had a transformative experience with Christ when he was 21.
Yesterday afternoon we drove through the St. Mary's bridge in Huntingdon County. It was built in 1889. Brooksyne couldn't resist jumping out of the van and walking through the old covered bridge. See here
Notice anything different about these rail cars?
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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