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Thursday, July 9, 2015
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"Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Hebrews 3:13). "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right. You are full of all kinds of deceits and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10).
Last week at the chaplain training conference in Springfield, MO I had an interesting conversation and opportunity to encourage Wesley Modder, a fellow chaplain. Many of us read earlier in the year about this Naval chaplain who is in hot water for speaking the truth.
Chaplain Modder has a distinguished career and is well respected by the sailors he served. In the course of his chaplain duties he was approached by a junior officer with questions regarding sexual morality. Chaplain Modder answered truthfully according to his convictions and long held beliefs (beliefs that would have been overwhelmingly standard less than 20 years ago).
He assumed he was talking to an earnest inquirer. It turns out it was a set-up by an activist looking to be offended and then ratting on the chaplain. In our morally bankrupt nation certain groups are easily offended. And with our present administration the purveyors of evil certainly have an ally. (See below for a link to more information on this case.)
The writer of Hebrews gives us a command we can all seek to obey. It makes a tidy three point message:
What are we to do? "Encourage one another." We tend to limit the meaning of the word, "encourage" in the English to be "an uplifting, positive message". However the underlying Greek word, while certainly including this sense has further depth and is translated in some versions "exhort". Biblical encouragement is an exhortation to live faithfully for the truth. An online resource states, "Parakaleo can include the idea of giving help or aid but the primary sense in the NT is to urge someone to take some action, especially some ethical course of action. Sometimes the word conveys the idea of comfort, sometimes of exhortation but always at the root there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry." *
When are we to do it? "Daily, as long as it is called Today." I have always thought the writer might be employing some humor here demonstrating the ongoing need to encourage, after all, each current day will always be called "Today"!
Why are we to do it? "So that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." The practice of encouraging is beneficial to both the encourager and the one being encouraged, similar to the proverb cousin, "Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." "So that none of you" We must always be on our guard lest we develop a hardened heart toward spiritual truth due to sin's deceitfulness.
The deceitfulness of sin is rampant in our world and has been since Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the garden. I have purposefully chosen a rather unusual verse to comment on today. Please read it over in its fuller context (Acts 13:1-12).
Today let us examine our second, rather obscure text for a lesson on deception. On his first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas were in the city of Paphos on the western tip of the island of Cyprus. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul [military commander], summoned for Paul and Barnabas because he wanted to hear the Word of God. What a great joy it must have been for a leading government official to have an earnest desire to hear God's messengers expound on the Word of God. No mention of separation of church/state debate in this passage. And you can be sure Paul and Barnabas didn't present some "feel good" message!
But where truth is proclaimed there is always some form of opposition. "But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith" (Acts 13:8).
The daily verse is a very direct rebuke by the Spirit-filled Apostle of Christ to this sorcerer. The Scripture tells us that "Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right. You are full of all kinds of deceits and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?'" (Acts 13:9,10).
Today Paul's words sound so harsh and unkind to many. He sure wasn't practicing the mealy-mouthed tolerance and diversity so common in our day. But he was doing what preachers and all true men and women of God should do when confronting evil. For the sake of Sergius Paulus and the other hearers and for the integrity of the Gospel Paul spoke the truth. He was not on the defensive when he called evil, evil in the boldest way.
We are distressed as we see many being hardened by sin's deceitfulness in our day and the impact of culture can readily be seen on the church. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). Micah wrote of those "who hate good and love evil" (Micah 3:2) and the people during Malachi's time had wearied the Lord with the convoluted notion that, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them" (Malachi 2:17).
May God help each of us to boldly stand firm while contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We urge, exhort, and warn you to be on your guard against the heart-hardening effect of sin's deceitfulness.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as believers, we are put to the test daily regarding our adherence to the Scriptures that teach right from wrong, truth from error. Included are numerous examples of those who represent both camps. We have the golden opportunity to learn lessons from those who were obedient to Your laws and from those who chose to disregard them. Help us to remember that disobedience, disregard, or dilution of the Scriptures will weaken us and eventually harden our hearts to spiritual truths. We choose either to be shaped by the world or by the Word. Our will and desires cannot be shaped by both. We choose this day to be Your obedient servant no matter the consequences, for Your blessing is more to be desired than the applause of the world. Amen.
More photos from Pennsylvania's "Big Valley"
We shared some photos of our drive through this valley in Central Pennsylvania yesterday, officially called the Kishacoquillas Valley. Driving through it is about the most picturesque road we've traveled in all of Pennsylvania! It's a wide closed valley with abundant fertile farmland with a very high population of the Plain people (Amish and Mennonite).
All along the road are green signs with Scripture verses. The first one coming from the west into the valley was a huge sign with Matthew 5:27,28.
Yellow buggy in rain.
You can identify the Amish group by the buggy color. These are the Byler Amish.
Shocked wheat is always a pretty sight.
Click here to enlarge photo
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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