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Monday, July 3, 2017

Waterfall at Rickett's Glen 6/28/17 (Click to enlarge)
Waterfall at Rickett's Glen State Park
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"There's No 'Living on Easy Street'"

Message summary:
There's no living on Easy Street for the Christian. Like the Apostle Paul, we seek to provide teaching to Christ's followers in our own generation by encouraging you to remain true to the faith, as "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

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"And the Lord said to him (Ananias), 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying'" (Acts 9:11). "They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said" (Acts 14:21,22).

I don't know the story He's unfolding
but, I know in His will, He has a plan
so every day my prayer is to surrender
even when it's hard to understand

Straight Street in Damascus c1900Geographical roadmarks such as street names interest me. Periodically in these Daily Encouragement messages we have mentioned interesting street names we see along life's way such as "Bible Road" in Central Pennsylvania, "Thankless Lane" in Maryland and "Delilah Road" in New Jersey.*

There is only one named street in the entire Bible, "the street called Straight" in Damascus where Ananias was instructed to go and meet Saul, who of course became Paul. The photo to the right is an online picture of Straight Street taken around 1900.
(Here's a larger version of the photo). It appears to be a rather pleasant, peaceful scene. Based upon events in recent years in Syria this is probably a very dangerous place today.

According to Wikipedia during the Greek period in Damascus, the city was re-designed by Hippodamus, who gave the city a grid structure. The longest of these streets, about a mile in length, was called Straight Street. The eastern half of the street, leading to the Bab Sharqi gate is named "Bab Sharqi Street". This can be seen on a Google map and indeed appears to be quite straight and is still utilized to this day.

Easy Street sign near Bloomsburg, PA 6/28/17
Today let's consider another street, not mentioned in the Bible, but a street many aspire to live on; "Easy Street". Last week near Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania we actually drove down "Easy Street" (see here on Google map) which has several houses so there are a few people who can truthfully claim they actually "live on Easy Street"!

According to an online definition "'Living on Easy Street' is an informal description of a condition of ease, usually one marked by financial security and affluence, a life without problems."

We live in an age when "easy" is highly valued, expected or even considered an entitlement by many. Most of us strive to do whatever is needed to make life easier, whether it’s the way we carry out our chores, perform our jobs, build our relationships, or go about our physical exercise.

This mentality can affect our spiritual outlook as well. Rather than considering the harder demands of Biblical discipleship many tend to look for the easy way out. When facing a leading from the Spirit that is hard, requires great sacrifice, or moves us out of our comfort zone we may choose an easier solution. Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was addressing such an attitude when he admonished the Hebrew believers, "You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food" (Hebrews 5:12).

After forty plus years of ministry we have seen various presentations of the gospel that seek to easily persuade people to follow Christ. While repeating a prayer of forgiveness is certainly the sinner's initial step toward salvation verses such as, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me" (Luke 9:23) is Christ's description of what it is to be a believer. Sacrifice and denial of one's self is not as easy as simply repeating the words in a prayer, but in time one's commitment to Christ will surely be tested many times in various settings, some which will require great sacrifice and unswerving loyalty. 

The words to the song, "Takin' the Easy Way", made popular by The Second Chapter of Acts, includes these thoughtful lyrics
based on Matthew 7:13,14: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it."

Takin' the narrow road isn't an easy way (repeated)
Takin' the easy way isn't an easy way

In the second text Paul (whose conversion is the basis of our first text) and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey and are returning to some of the cities where they had earlier established churches. Their basic purpose in returning to these young churches is summed up in this phrase: "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:22a).

But Luke sums up the essence of their verbal message in a single phrase, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22b).  This portion bears careful attention in an age when the call to follow Christ is often presented to unbelievers as "simple" or "easy". Most all of us would be hesitant in sharing the above verse with those we are seeking to lead to Christ!

Notice the part, "you must go through". This hard reality seems to be an acknowledgement that in life there is no "Easy Street". Testings of all kinds are present from our childhood to the final breath we draw in this life. Thankfully, during our times of hardship, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

We are sure some of you today are wondering how the particular matter that troubles your heart is going to work out.  You sure would like to live on "Easy Street".

We must remember the timeless message to the early believers in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. Like the Apostle Paul, we seek to provide teaching to Christ's followers in our own generation by encouraging you to remain true to the faith as, "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

I choose Christ when everything around me says give up
I choose faith, I choose to trust
to believe He is good,
He'll come through like He said He would
every time, oh I choose Christ.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, in Your divine providence although I will go through many hardships, there isn’t one that I face alone. For in my weakness You are made strong, in my folly You are the God of infinite wisdom, and in my insecurities I take hold of the hope You offer to me which is firm and secure. You will not abandon the work of Your hands but fulfill Your purpose for me as You strengthen, sustain, and instruct me during times of testing. I do not want to be casual in my spiritual commitment or lazy in my spiritual duties, but instead I want to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited what has been promised, though they went through many hardships in their sojourn here on earth. Keep me faithful to the end. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, Amen.

Some views from our "neck of the woods"

Pond flower garden 7/3/17
For many years behind our house we had a small fish pond the previous owner of our property had placed in this raised area. Several years ago we filled it in since we had a hard (and expensive) time keeping the water clear. So Brooksyne developed it into a flower garden which still provides a bright, colorful spot in our back yard.

Deck flowers 6/21/17
Here's another view of our deck and backyard. We still have some work to do on our deck with some siding needing replaced on the back of our sunroom and railings installed. Waiting for some skilled labor help! Our small raised garden is now in the far back corner and our tomatoes are growing fine in their new raised bed location.

Deck 6/21/17
Here's our deck dining area with Mollie photobombing the scene as she often does.

A view of the front of our home 7/2/17
The front of our home at sunset last evening.

With Rick and Rachel Caldwell at Lancaster Barnstormer baseball game 7/2/17
This weekend we went to a Lancaster Barnstormer baseball game with our friends Rick and Rachel Caldwell.

Lancaster Barnstormer victory celebration 7/2/17
Going into the bottom of the ninth our team was down 6-4 but the game ended with a walk-off homer by Garrett Weber and 7-6 Barnstormer victory. You would have thought they won the World Series as they gathered around home plate! We claimed Weber as a long lost nephew after his homerun that brought the victory. Scenes like this prompt a consideration of a future victory celebration.
"Finally Home"  Video  MercyMe

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"I Choose Christ"   Video   Karen Peck & New River  This is the song quoted in today's message.

"Takin' The Easy Way"  Video  2nd Chapter of Acts  (Some of you "old-timers" like us will likely remember this song.)

"The Son Shines Down On Me"  Video  Canton Junction  We may not live on Easy Street all the time but all the time the Son shines down on us!

"Still"  Video   Legacy Five  Great song reminding of a vital truth!

* Messages on:
"Bible Road" in central Pennsylvania, "Thankless Lane" in Maryland and "Delilah Road" in New Jersey.

This afternoon we are going over to the Star Barn Raising Festival.
(Article here)

For local readers: This coming Sunday evening (July 9) The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers will be in Lebanon, PA for the Music in The Park summer concert series. See here for info. This is a free concert! (A free-will offering is received.) We plan to go over with our Zimbabwean friends and perhaps we will see some of our other Daily Encouragement friends as at other times. Here's a sample of Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers music, "I Won't Go Back"  Video  (The Singers are the travelling troupe of the more famous Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.)

Finally today:

Biblically correct T-shirt 7/2/17
I saw this at church yesterday, liked the message and with the wearers permission snapped the photo. I say a hearty Amen!

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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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