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Monday, October 16, 2017

Stony Valley rail grade 10/15/17
Stony Valley rail grade in rural Dauphin and Lebanon Counties PA
(photo taken from the open sliding door of our van)

"The Peril Of Being Led Astray"

Message summary: Be on your guard lest the peril of being led astray overtake you.

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"The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray" (Galatians 2:13). "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us" (2 Timothy 1:14).

Yesterday we took an interesting driving tour along an old railroad grade about 30 miles north of us through Dauphin and Lebanon Counties. The Stony Valley railroad was developed in the mid 1800's and abandoned during the Great Depression. It is now a very remote rail trail through state gameland designated for biking and hiking. The trail passes abandoned towns and other interesting features. Last spring we took a bike ride on the trail and shared several photos (here).

Once a year, which happened to fall on October 15 this year, the trail is open to vehicle traffic which provides a rather interesting experience. Once we entered from the west end we rode the trail over a 17 mile section making it virtually impossible to go astray. Though there were a few rugged logging type roads leading off the trail,
to use spiritual imagery from the Bible, "the path was marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

But in
life's spiritual journey, even with the path marked out before us, it can still be a perilous journey, and one can easily be led astray. Paul gives this warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall."

When I read the Apostle Paul's words of warning, I'm reminded of how easily one's life course can get off the path
if negligence, wrong influences, or poor choices are made concerning one's goals in life.

For example I went to Bible College with a student who became a good friend of mine, in part because we were both Bible majors with the goal of becoming a minister of the gospel. Following graduation we went our separate ways and for several years stayed nominally in touch. However he progressively moved away from sound doctrine and godly living and the last I heard he was living in an apostate condition. We reconnected several years ago but from our conversation it was clear that we were not at all on the same page when it came to spiritual matters.

Our first daily verse is set in the context of Paul's encounter with the Judaizers, a false religious group that insisted on the keeping of ceremonial aspects of the Jewish law as a condition to salvation. The "him" in the verse is the mighty Peter, who had also been affected by this doctrine and at least for a time appeared to have embraced it. But the part of the verse that grips my attention is the phrase, "even Barnabas was led astray".

Barnabas is among my favorite Bible characters. He first appears in Acts 4:36 as "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus". But the apostles gave him the nickname Barnabas which means "son of encouragement".

He was an early encourager to Paul (Saul at the time) and they developed a warm and lasting relationship. Barnabas had stood up for him when nobody believed the persecutor Saul could really be saved. They had gone on a missionary journey together.  They had parted company over a heated argument about a one-time deserter, John Mark. But as we read the Scriptures we see there had been reconciliation.

"The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray." There's something significant about the two word phrase "even Barnabas" which is found in virtually all standard translations (see here). Paul seemed surprised that the Judaizers had influenced Barnabas, even more so than he expressed regarding Peter's involvement. What lesson might we find in this? Eventually Peter and Barnabas both resisted this error and each went on to have faithful ministry for our Lord. Praise God for that. 

But consider that if two of the great leaders of the early church (Peter and Barnabas) could be led astray by error, how on guard we should be. I am astounded at the many false doctrines and practices that are impacting the church in our day. Paul encouraged Timothy to "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you-guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us" (2 Timothy 1:14). We need to stay on our toes and be more in the Word than ever before! Be on your guard lest the peril of being led astray overtake you.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we seek to guard the truths and commandments entrusted to us through the Holy Scriptures. We want to be ever cognizant of the peril of being led astray. We don’t want to be swayed by man's opinions and will not be if we are firmly anchored to the Rock which can't be moved. We stand firm and strong when we, by conviction of Your Holy Spirit, embrace Your teachings and reject that which conflicts. Help us to be sober and vigilant as our adversary the devil seeks to divide believers and destroy their faith.  By the grace of God we will be strong, stand united, and overcome his attacks. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Study note: Each generation has a responsibility in guarding the good deposit of faith passed on by the preceding generation and in turn passing it on to the succeeding one. That's at the very heart of what Biblical Christian faith is all about. In fact Paul set forth the pattern 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). In a sense I am both receiving the torch and passing it on simultaneously. As I study the Bible I'm still reaching back and receiving from many believers in past generations who have guarded the good deposit. And I'm passing it on to those in our present generation who will also affect future generations. How about you?

Scenes From The Stony Valley Rail Grade tour

Stony Valley rail grade brook 10/15/17
Since the rail grade ran along a creek we passed many small mountain brooks trickling down to the creek.

Stony Valley Creek along rail grade 10/15/17
Amish children playing in Stony Valley Creek which we crossed at one point on an old railroad bridge. Yesterday we saw many plain families out enjoying God's creation. Whenever we walk on trails or explore natural sights in our area on Sunday afternoons we commonly see both Mennonite and less often Amish. Sunday mornings are set apart for worship but also for fellowship with church friends over lunch followed by relaxation and recreation. We saw quite a number of Mennonite youth yesterday.

Stony Valley rail grade traffic 10/15/17
In a few places the traffic bunched up but for the most part a natural view was visible. Of course there was no passing so we just followed the traffic flow. The trail was open from 9:00-3:00 so it appears a lot of people took it including some who have already contacted us. It took us about 2 hours to drive the 17 mile trail.

Stony Valley rail grade traffic 10/15/17
Ester is showing off her photographic skill by taking this photo outside our open sliding van door. We made much of the trip with both of these doors open for the natural feel since our speed was minimal.

Stony Valley Creek Appalachain Trail crossing 10/15/17
At times the rail grade crossed the Appalachian Trail, one in which you can be led astray.

Family at Stony Valley rail grade 10/15/17
Driving the Stony Creek bike trail was a fun Sunday afternoon family activity.
The rail grade portion we were on yesterday runs from Ellendale Forge to Goldmine Road.
(See here on Google map)
BTW: Who can figure out how Google works and what this means to privacy. This morning I looked up this trail on Google map and it informed me "You visited yesterday". I assume it must have gotten some data off my phone.

Harrisburg church prelude 10/15/17
Yesterday due to the trail tour we visited a church in the Harrisburg area we attended forty years ago for a minister's conference. We were especially blessed by the prelude by this gospel style pianist and soloist.

Mount Pleasant Zimbabwe work team 9/17
Sunday evening we attended a presentation by our friends who had gone on a mission trip to Zimbabwe last month. This photo is taken in front of Victoria Falls. (Click to enlarge)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Find Us Faithful"  Video

"Preach The Word"  Video  Gold City 
A special word to faithful preachers!

"Finish Well"  Video  Karen Peck and New River  An aspiration for us all.

"I Want My Stage To Be An Altar"  Video  The Akins  A very thoughtful song for all.

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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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