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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cabin on pond in Lancaster County
We passed this peaceful early morning scene yesterday along Meadow View Road here in Lancaster County on the way to a chaplain visit in Lebanon County.
Click to enlarge

"Not Neglecting"

Message summary: Since Resurrection Day believers have gathered each Lord's Day to worship the risen Lord Jesus. Some in small groups, others in very large. Songs of praise are sung, prayers are offered and God's truth is proclaimed. What a joy to meet together!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"We will not neglect the house of our God" (Nehemiah 10:39b). "Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25).

After the long coronavirus lockdown churches are opening again. The church we regularly attend (Calvary Church in Lancaster) opens this Sunday. But others have been open for several weeks. My nephew is a pastor and they have been having services outdoors on a large lawn on the church property and people can space out however they choose. This Sunday we will return to a service together that will be a farewell to Pastor John Keefer, who is retiring after many years of faithful pastoral service.

Phil Menditto is a friend of ours from Bible college. He is founder of a church in Philadelphia and has been serving that congregation for 40 years. We visited the church shortly after it started when they were meeting in a function room at a Howard Johnson's hotel and had the nursery in a hotel guest room. The Philadelphia Christian Center is now a large, multi-ethnic, multi-racial church with many outreaches into the needy city.

Phil and Carol Menditto
Brooksyne saw this photo on Facebook of Phil and his wife Carol back in the pulpit after the quarantine as he is moved while speaking to his flock. His son-in-law wrote, "This picture brings me to tears every time. I don’t think people know how much this man loves his church. Times like quarantine are not easy for a pastor who loves his church people."

During the quarantine many of us watched a church service over the internet or in our case also attended drive-in services. Many found creative ways to minister such as our friend Tommy Carpenter who now has a Facebook live message from his home. We are pleased to see churches and ministries adapt as best they can but in our view gathering together in any way, apart from actually being with one another, just isn't the same.

Many of us have missed attending services with others. Phil Givler is a friend who has been driving to another county for several weeks just so he can attend a "real" service. At Costco the other day I saw Paul, a man I am accustomed to seeing in "real" church, and the few minutes of face to face fellowship (although masked and socially distanced) was still a blessing.

The latter chapters of Nehemiah records one of the greatest periods of spiritual awakening or revival found in the entire Bible. A careful study of this portion of Scripture reveals many characteristics of revival (see below).

Our first daily text is a solemn pledge the people had made regarding their attention to the house of the Lord.
"We will not neglect the house of our God". The specific context indicates they had in mind the financial offerings to the work of God and for the distinct functions of the leaders.

The New Testament parallel is Hebrews 10:25 a verse commonly used by preachers to stress the importance of church attendance!

Each Lord's Day believers have gathered since Resurrection Day to worship the risen Lord Jesus. Some in small groups, others in very large. Songs of praise are sung, prayers are offered and God's truth is proclaimed. The coffee may or may not be good or might not even be offered. Our regular attendance may or may not be what we consider "fun". But fulfilling God's call in "
not neglecting to meet together" remains an essential component of growth and stability in our Christian life.

We hope all of you that follow Jesus are part of a Bible-preaching, Christ-honoring church! Those who attend just to get a blessing are missing an essential part of God's plan since we are to edify one another. We not only attend to be blessed by God and His people, but we also seek to be a blessing to the Pastor and congregation. Sure, there will be sheep bites now and then among an imperfect body, but there will also be love and forgiveness, prayer and healing, guidance and growth, fruit-filled service and forbearance, and so much more iron sharpening iron, as we come together to serve our risen King.

Why accept the virtual when you can have the real thing? I hope you are able to go to church this coming Lord's Day! One of the great characteristics of revival is a renewed commitment to the "house of our God". I pray that earnest Christians around the world will take up the call and join the people of Nehemiah's day in proclaiming and practicing, "we will not neglect the house of our God".

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we have been blessed and encouraged by the body of Christ as we fellowship and grow together like one big family. We weep with those who weep and we rejoice with those who rejoice. With the coronavirus pandemic our habit of gathering with other believers on Sundays and otherwise has been halted but we are grateful for various means in which we still participate in worship, hear the gospel being preached, as we continue to pray one for another. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: During the 30 years that Stephen had a pastoral role we were at the church every week preparing, organizing, doing office work, following up on needs, and on and on the list goes for those in ministry. It was a place where we served, but without the people present taking their places in the sanctuary, classrooms, worship band, nursery and other areas of service it was just an empty building. I consider how it must feel for pastoral and church administrative roles during this virus pandemic carrying on duties in an empty building, especially leading in worship and preaching to an empty sanctuary. Here's a screenshot photo from a short transitional video that was used on our online church. When congregational members enter the empty building on a Sunday service or other church event the building takes on life, vibrancy, and provides the real reason we had a building in the first place. May we see that again for all Bible-teaching churches very soon, while we are also thankful for the creative means for which churches of all sizes and capabilities have developed with online ministries and otherwise to reach those who are unable to worship in a public setting.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Characteristics of the awakening in Nehemiah's time from a personal Bible study over 20 years ago: (It was too long to preach as a sermon!)
  • This "awakening" was characterized by unity (8:1a).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by the reading of God's Word (8:1b).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by attention to God's Word (8:3b).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by worship (8:6).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by expository preaching (8:7,8).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by brokenness (8:9).
  • This "awakening" was characterized by great joy (8:10,17).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by obedience to God’s Word (8:14-17).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by fasting and other outward signs of a contrite heart (9:1).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by confession of sin (9:2b).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by separation (9:2a).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a profession of God as sovereign Lord and Creator (9:6).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a declaration of their spiritual heritage (9:7ff).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by “great distress” as the people contemplated how seriously they had violated God’s commandments (9:37b).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a binding, written agreement to obey the Law of God. (9:38). 
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a commitment to stewardship. (10:32-39).
  • This awakening was characterized by a renewed commitment to the “house of our God”.  (10:39b).
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a spirit of volunteerism. (11:2)
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a real focus on music. (12:24-47)
  • This “awakening” was characterized by holy anger at sin. (13:8)
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a burden to properly support those that work for the Lord. (13:10)
  • This “awakening” was characterized by a consecration of the Sabbath. (13:17)
A Sunday School teacher challenged her children to take some time on Sunday afternoon to write a letter to God and bring the letter back the following Sunday. One little boy wrote, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today. Wish you could have been there." From The Happy Christian: Pearls of Christian Wisdom

Yesterday we wrote about pilot Henry Dempsey. Here's a more detailed version along with a video "Hang on Hank" is a legend in Maine aviation lore

"Philadelphia Christian Center Sunday AM Service 6/21/20" Phil's message "Maintaining Faith In Troubled Times" begins here. I watched this and noted how similar Phil's message is to the Daily Encouragement we shared yesterday, "When Lawlessness Increases - Hold Firm"!

"The Old Country Church"  Video  Gaither Vocal Group

"Old Church Choir"  Video  Zach Williams

"Nobody"  Video  Casting Crowns with Matthew West

Lancaster County farm (click to enlarge)
A long farm lane in Lancaster County near where our lead photo was taken.
(Google map)
Click to enlarge

Nesting bird in holly bush
Last week I shared how I had trimmed our holly bush with a hedge trimmer and when cleaning off the clippings had discovered a bird nest with eggs (photo). I have been discreetly observing the nest daily and the mother bird has been faithful in her laying duties. When I went out early yesterday morning there were no hatchlings yet.

Newly hatched bird in holly bush
But late yesterday afternoon I checked and we have our first-hatched and already begging for food! The mother bird looks like a brown thrasher, but only seeing her from a distance we cannot be certain.

Finally today:

Amongst so many sources of sadness in our world our area is dealing with the disappearance of an 18 year old Amish girl who went missing this last Sunday, walking home from church. We can only imagine the agony this family is enduring. Daily Encouragement readers are welcome to pray for a resolution. Story here.

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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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