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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lancaster County sunset 1/16
Sunset from Kraybill Church Road.
Along with rain the temps are projected to be in the fifties today so the remaining snow from the big storm is melting quickly!

"Giving Attention To God's Truth"

Message Summary:
Are we giving attention to God's truth? Our prayer today is expressed by the Psalmist, "Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell" (43:3).

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against You. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him"
(Daniel 9:9-14).

This last Sunday morning we, along with a number of folks from our former church,  visited an old-order Mennonite church that has assumed ownership of the small church we pastored for several years in Mastersonville, a tiny village in northern Lancaster County. (We mentioned this in a footnote to Monday's message). Today's message is based on a text used during the message that really jumped out at me and prompted further study (which good sermons should do for most of us).

But before we do that we want to describe the church service since it's probably quite a bit different than most readers regularly experience. (Scroll down below highlighted portion to *Exposition starts here, if this description does not interest you.)

The members of Mount Hope Mennonite Church left the sanctuary of our former church building much the same as we used it with the exception of removing decorative wall furnishings including a hand painted mural at the front (see photo below) so that all the walls are plain. Whether this is by design as a "Plain" church or whether they plan to decorate later we're uncertain (though we suspect it's part of being a Plain Church). The women and men sat together, which is one way the old order churches differentiate, (others have men on one side and women on the other). The women wore cape dresses and head coverings and a number of the men wore a distinctive Plain suit, particularly those leading.

The singing was acapella with beautiful harmony, singing older hymns from a hymnal (no PowerPoint although the projector and screen were still installed). A young man gave a children's sermon based on "Jesus Loves Me This I Know" which was very good. There were many lively children present along with several yet to be born! No offering was taken so I am uncertain of their format for giving. Certainly a lot of money went into renovating the building. The service ended with a spontaneous singing of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" which was very moving. (See video link posted below for a similar sound.)

Mennonite man in suitThe preacher was a young man about thirty-five who is also a full-time truck driver dressed much like the photo on the left. It's unlikely that he has formal Bible College or Seminary training but his message was outstanding, a faithful exposition of the Lord's prayer, as he focused on the Scripture text with only two brief illustrations that really hit the mark. The Mennonite preaching style is quite somber with none of the casual attitudes found in many pulpits today.

While keeping a focus on the main text (Matthew 6:5-14 KJV) we were also instructed to turn in our Bibles to supplemental texts. What a beautiful sound to hear the turning of Bible pages, a studious sound lacking in most of our churches today due to Scriptures being posted on the screen via power point and some reading from their technological devices.

One passage read aloud was from our daily text and especially caught my attention, I suppose due to its appropriateness for conditions today.

* Exposition starts here:

Daniel is writing concerning the exiled Jews in our daily text. The first part of Daniel, chapter 9, is one of the great prayers of the Bible and the daily verse comes from this prayer. The Jews had been exiled to Babylon as a result of failing to live by God's Law for years. Moses had warned of this and now Daniel acknowledges, "All this disaster has come upon us."

Daniel summarized the foundational reason leading to this disaster as "we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God" and goes on to specify two ways in which we should seek God's favor:
1)  by turning from our sins
2)  by giving attention to Your truth

Today I want to consider just a single phrase, "giving attention to Your truth." Just consider how commonly this failure to give attention to God's truth is today. Evidence of people's rejection of God's truth is all around us. I once read a thought provoking quote, "Truth is hate to those who hate the truth." Indeed many today hate the truth and to their own demise they associate the truth with hate.

The God of the universe is fundamentally characterized by truth. Jesus said, "I am… the truth" (John 14:6).  He said of His Father "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).  He spoke of the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17).  Isaiah uses the descriptive title, "God of truth" (65:16). The Psalmist asserts, "All your words are true" (Psalm 119:160).  And the writer of Hebrews informs us that "It is impossible for God to lie" (6:18).  What great assurance this brings God's people as they build their spiritual foundation on God's Holy Word!

The ancient people of God did not give attention to God's truth and neither have the majority of God's creation nor those living today. One of the most descriptive verses in the Bible regarding the human condition is found in the Epistle to the Romans, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (1:25). Talk about moral bankruptcy! The apostle Paul gives a sobering indictment in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, "They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved."

But what about us today? Are we giving attention to God's truth? Our prayer today is expressed by the Psalmist, "Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell" (43:3).

Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your truths do not fluctuate nor are they subject to reinterpretation by the changing philosophies of our day. Your truths are explained through the inspiration of Your Holy Word and understanding given to us by Your Holy Spirit. May our ears be open to hear and our eyes focused to see that Your eternal truths are the same yesterday, today and forever and the truths which You speak, You speak in love to all who choose to hear.  We want to find favor with You by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your truth. Amen.

New Mastersonville church (Mount Hope Mennonite)
The "new" church looks similar on the outside to the old one but they did major renovations to the entrance/foyer area to bring it up to code such as having an elevator.

New Mastersonville church (Mount Hope Mennonite)
There were many children present which makes a church quite lively and youthful. The congregation was very friendly toward us "outsiders".

New Mastersonville church (Mount Hope Mennonite)
Congregational members shook hands with the preacher as they departed from the sanctuary, much like our own church.

New Mastersonville church (Mount Hope Mennonite)
The church invited us for a meal following the service in the fellowship hall which was transformed to a very pleasant meeting space. The ceiling had been very low which could give a tall guy like me a literal "headache", but they actually dug out deeper to give more height. It was higher and brighter and seemed like a brand new meeting room!

Mural in front of church
Here's the mural that was in the front of the church when we were there.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Break Thou The Bread Of Life"   Video  

"God Be With You Till We Meet Again"  Video  Antrim Mennonite Choir

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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.

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