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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Meadow View Road pond 10/10/17 (click to enlarge)
Early yesterday morning we passed one of our favorite Lancaster County scenes, this farm pond along Meadow View Road.
(click to enlarge)

"Watching Over Souls"

Message summary: We are called to witness of our faith in Christ and follow-up on those who are receptive to our message. Whatever type of service we are in for Christ, there is a sense that we are all "watching over souls".

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"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

This last Sunday we heard a message by Pastor Mark Canada. His points were lessons he had learned and observed in running a Marathon as a parallel to the great race we are all participating in (Hebrews 12:1). (A link to the audio of Mark's message is in the resource section below.)

Running the race is a theme I have used throughout my ministry since when I was in High School I was a long distance runner in track and cross country (but never a marathon). Five years ago we wrote a five part series on "Lessons from Life's Marathon". (Link below)

In one of his points Mark shared about towers along the route with trained spotters watching for any runners who may be in medical distress or in need of attention. He pointed out how we also need spotters in our race. And for many of us we will
also have a spotter function for others as we "watch over souls".

This month is Clergy Appreciation month. We served for 25 years in pastoral ministry (over 30 years including interim roles). Although Brooksyne did not feel a need to be identified as a "pastor" we nevertheless worked together as a team. We now serve in another form of Christian service (internet ministry and corporate chaplaincy) which finds us sitting out in the pews in a typical worship service so, as a former pastor, I have an interesting perspective on pastoral/lay relations.

Today's text is speaking of spiritual leaders. "They keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account" (Hebrews 13:17b). The Amplified Version states the phrase as, "they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare." Although we believe this text is primarily speaking of the ministry of leaders in a local church, it does remind us of the interest we should all have in souls.

The Expositor's Bible notes concerning this text, "Why is it so needful to continually keep watch over our souls? The Christian has not just one enemy but three incessant, inveterate foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil, each irrevocably, intractably determined to bring harm to our soul."

 Pastor Steven Cole of the Flagstaff Christian Center writes that...

Pastor Steven ColeGodly church leaders help church members by keeping watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:17). The Greek word translated "keeping watch” (agrupneo) means "to keep oneself awake," and thus, “to keep watch, guard, or care for".

The image was drawn from shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. Shepherds had to stay alert in order to guard their flocks from predators. They had to know the sheep and observe them carefully enough to know when a sheep was sick or missing. They had to go after the strays and try to restore them to the flock. They had to lead them to pasture and clean water (see Ezekiel 34:1-16).

These tasks require the discernment to know where people are at spiritually and when they are heading toward spiritual danger. Leaders must love God and people enough to have the courage to confront those who are drifting. While you can only lead those who are willing to be led, godly leaders must always make the effort. *

We are called to witness of our faith in Christ and follow-up on those who are receptive to our message. Whatever type of service we are in for Christ, there is a sense that we are all "watching over souls".

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we pray for those who watch over our souls and care for our spiritual needs. May we be a source of blessing to them as we faithfully uplift them in prayer and in our conversation with others. When we find fault increase our desire to pray rather than maliciously gossip to others about our leader. Help us to attend worship services with an expectant attitude and find our place of service. May our minds be attentive so that our thoughtful responses will spur our pastor on as he looks out upon the congregation while teaching from Your Holy Word. Bless our pastor's family, provide for their needs and guard them against the many temptations sent by the evil one. May they know by the fruit of our lips and good deeds that they are greatly loved.  Amen.

Here's a prayer to publicly pray for your pastor. I encourage you to use a prayer like this, adapting it for each situation. It would be powerful to have the board gather around your pastor and offer prayer together. I can tell you from experience such a prayer would be a real blessing to your pastor and the congregation. (This is adapted from an actual prayer I prepared for
our pastor at the time, about 15 years ago. I have left the name blank so it can be used by others and encourage further customization.

Additional note:

Writing, radio, TV, and Internet based ministries such as Daily Encouragement may be a helpful supplement in our Christian lives, but we believe it's still God's plan for believers to meet together regularly in worship as they did in the very beginning. In fact we both chafe at the term "internet churches" and those trying to set up a church over the internet seeking to simulate a local church. We believe everyone calling themselves a Christian should be in regular association with other believers in a local church with pastoral leadership and care. (However there are those who, due to confinement and political oppression, cannot attend services.)

One of the greatest sources of discouragement and grief for the pastor is dealing with criticism. I received my share of it during my years of pastoral ministry. I know all of my peers in ministry have as well. I heard a very candid message from H.B. London, a veteran pasto,r share a perspective on this.

I know of one dedicated minister who had a very effective ministry in a church he had founded and served faithfully. But after he left there was division in the church and a group arose that criticized both his appearance and speaking ability. The Corinthian church!
In his second letter to the Corinthians he referenced this criticism made of his ministry gifts, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing" (2 Corinthians 10:10). I sure bet those people feel foolish now!

Such criticism just goes with the job but can still be very personally painful. Pastors are often criticized in ways that are mutually contradictory such as "His sermons are too long/his sermons are too short". I believe that most criticisms are merely personal preferences by members of the congregation. Another source is unfair comparisons.

Let me ask you. Does your pastor faithfully preach God's Word and teach sound doctrine? Is he faithful to his wife and family? Does he care of the flock of God? Does he oversee the financial and business affairs of your church with honesty and integrity? If so you are blessed. Why don't you pray for your pastor and let him know of your appreciation!

Recess at one room Mennonite School, Lebanon County, PA 10/10/17
Yesterday morning we passed this recess at a one room Mennonite School in Lebanon County, PA. The kids were playing volleyball. We are invigorated by the scenes we view as we go about our work including so many not captured on camera. Yesterday we were going down a rural road when a tractor pulling two corn wagons weaving back and forth approached us. I pulled over to give room and a young Mennonite lady was driving the tractor!

Appalachian Trail overlook 10/10/17
Yesterday we walked a portion of the Appalachian Trail near Bethel, PA out to one of our favorite scenic overlooks. However it will be several weeks before we have the optimum foliage such as seen in this photo taken from the same spot many years ago.

Bindnagle Evangelical Lutheran Church 10/10/17
The Bindnagle Evangelical Lutheran Church is a historic Evangelical Lutheran church located in North Londonderry Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1803. We are not sure the church is in operation since the sign still posts the Christmas Eve service time!

Home near Bindnagle Evangelical Lutheran Church 10/10/17
We assume this home next to the Bindnagle Evangelical Lutheran Church had been the parsonage. We both like the full wrap-around porch.

Ron and Bonnie Hoover 10/10/17
We joined Ron and Bonnie Hoover and a group of friends for a cookout last night at their place. They have been friends for over ten years and have a very active role mentoring and encouraging many, including us. They both have some health challenges but keep such a positive faith-filled outlook and interest in others. They are examples of finishing well, although we hope they are far from finished! An interesting detail about Ron is that about twenty years ago he served as CEO for the Augat Company in Massachusetts, which was founded by the same man who started the church in the 1920's that we pastored in New England.

Ron and Bonnie Hoover cookout 10/10/17
Nice to still dine outside on a pleasant evening as we approach mid-October.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Finish Well"  Video  Karen Peck and New River  Dedicated to a friend.

* Precept Austin online commentary notes on Hebrews 13:17

"Lessons From Running A Marathon" Here is the link to Mark Canada's message from this last Sunday. I have enjoyed preaching and listening to messages drawn from running illustrations since early in my ministry. This is one of the best I have ever heard on this topic. He makes some very helpful points.

Pursue Growth By:

1) Setting a direction. (Ephesians 5:15,16)
2) Laying aside unneeded weight. (Hebrews 12:1)
3) Pacing yourself for a marathon not a spring. (Mark 1:35-37)
4) Understanding your stride. (Romans 12:3-6)
5) Inviting spotters into your life. (Hebrews 3:12-14)
6) Persevering through pain. (James 1:2-4)
7) Finishing the race. (Hebrews 12:2)

five part Daily Encouragement series back in 2012, "Lessons from Life's Marathon" began with this message.

Here are some resources in honoring your pastor:
Ministry Appreciation Gifts from Dayspring
Resources from Focus On The Family 

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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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