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Monday, August 17, 2015

PA grand canyon 8/15/15
Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon looking north from Leonard Harrison State Park.
The rail trail can be seen along the Pine Creek as shown on the right.

"Strengthened By Grace"

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"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace" (Hebrews 13:9a).

Grace alone which God supplies
Strength unknown He will provide
Christ in us, our Cornerstone
We will go forth in grace alone.

This last weekend we rode our bikes on the 62 mile Pine Creek rail trail in northern Pennsylvania through Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. The views were stunning as we rode down the canyon on Saturday and then had a slight grade returning to where our van was parked. At that point we wondered if we had taken on more than we should
have but are thankful for the strength God provided us for the 40 miles we pedalled until we finally rode up alongside our parked van.

We were both about as physically weary as we have been for a long time! Fifty-five miles over a two day period gave us a lot of time to view spectacular vistas, listen to nature's sounds including some of our favorite bird calls and mountain streams as well as natural waterfalls.

A friend commented on our ride, "Good exercise and good for the heart." A Bible verse teaches that, "While bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).
Indeed biking steadily for many hours is a good cardio workout and strengthens the heart. It also benefits our lungs, muscles, and even chips away at the ever buldging waistline if there aren't too many ice cream stops along the way. Likewise the breathtaking scenery was good for our soul as we soaked in everything within view recognizing it to be the "work of His fingers", as described by the Psalmist.

Even as the ride was good for our hearts physically, today we consider an even more important way to strengthen our hearts Biblically. The writer of Hebrews states, "It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace."

In observing the instability of this present world, we long for stability and security. But don't be deceived, the world is unable to offer any real guarantee for this stability. Wars and rumors of wars, terrorist actions and threats, and financial upheavals will always exist on this side of eternity. It's real and is evidence of our fallen world; a result of man's continued rebellion toward God Almighty. And of course that rebellion is increasing in our lifetime.

The epistle to the Hebrews was written to encourage early believers who were tempted to return to their old way of life. The writer is unidentified but the Holy Spirit is most certainly identifiable as He gives the initial recipients and all of us a good dose of inspiration and spiritual stability.

"Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings." These believers were enduring both persecution from without and false teachings from within that sought to undermine their faith. Certainly persecution exists today as do all kinds of strange teachings, so the Biblical admonition is pertinent to all generations. Strange teachings have cropped up all through my life and indeed all throughout the church age. The apostle Paul instructed us to become mature in our walk with Christ, "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14).

Strange teachings are those contrary to the "apostle's doctrine" (Acts 2:42) or Paul's commission to Timothy; "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2). Jude appealed to the early church and each subsequent generation to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3).

Paul instructs Titus, "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).  Doctrine is not appreciated by many today; it's seen as old-fashioned, unimportant, and restrictive. Although the syrupy platitude found in a brief vision statement may be encouraging I really want to see more, preferring a point by point statement expressing Biblical theology, such as a specific declaration of doctrine supported by Scripture.

Our doctrine is our systematic belief system based on Scripture. When I encounter an unfamiliar ministry I want to examine their doctrinal statement as described above. It should be available if you visit a church, if you visit a Bible teaching website, or if you read a publication from a Christian periodical. If we read the doctrinal statement of a ministry or organization upfront it will help us to beware of leanings toward false teaching.  By not doing so we might be drawn into a group of people whose teaching is incompatible with Scripture, but due to establishing close relationships with the people or involving ourselves in the particular ministry we find ourselves disillusioned, bringing sorrow upon ourselves and the body of which we have served or fellowshipped with.  Many people find themselves in this dilemma and it is critical that we avoid falling into Satan's trap when we have guides to prevent such circumstances.

"It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace."  Perhaps you would like to personalize it even further by declaring, "It is good for my heart to be strengthened by grace." The word "strengthened" conveys the sense of being established and stabilized.

God's grace is so amazing in a multitude of ways. We primarily and properly consider grace in regard to our salvation; we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9). This sense seems to be conveyed in the first two verses of "Amazing Grace".

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

But God's grace strengthens our hearts all through life's journey. This seems to be the sense in the third verse:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Terror threats may distress us; we may grow weary; discouragement may set in; friends may forsake us; financial security may crumble and false doctrines abound, but God's grace continues to strengthen the heart and our resolve to live for Christ!

The Psalmist knew this; "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:14).  He cried out in soulful honesty, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26). Paul's beautiful prayer for the Thessalonians is always needed, "May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones" (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Today let us not be carried away by strange teachings but rather may our hearts be strengthened by God's amazing grace!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer:
Father, strange teachings lead me far away from Your truths that I learn as I walk on the straight and narrow path laid out for me. It is on this path that Your grace is revealed to me, evident as far as the eye can see and reaches way beyond my limited understanding. Your abundant grace brings me assurance when the world speaks of trouble. Your abiding grace brings me consolation when others forsake me. Your sustaining grace is manifested more in the trials of life than in the mountain top experiences. Thank You for supplying me with Your sufficient grace in the height and depth of my existence. Your amazing grace is supernatural; it never ceases to be amazing and it is good for my heart to be strengthened by Your grace!  Amen.

Photos of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon.

PA grand canyon rail trail 8/15/15
The trail was covered in crushed stone making for a very pleasant ride, though a fellow biker who often hits the trails, considered the crushed stone to be an added work-out element more challenging than blacktop trails.

PA grand canyon rail trail 8/15/15
Much of the trail was shaded with peeks of sun filtering through the trees.

PA grand canyon rail trail 8/15/15
Wildlife visible through much of the trail.

PA grand canyon rail trail 8/15/15
A covered wagon tour through the canyon kind of reminded us of the commercial buggy rides offered to tourists in Lancaster County.

PA grand canyon rail trail 8/15/15
After our long ride through the canyon we went up to the rim for the most stunning views.
Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon looking south from Leonard Harrison State Park.
The heart of the canyon is very remote with no intersecting roads for 15 miles.

At Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon 8/15/15
Yes, we really were there!

Over the next several days we will share more photos of our trip to the Grand Canyon.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Grace Alone"  Video  Maranatha Singers

"Amazing Grace"  Video  Wintley Phipps

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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 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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