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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Coffee and Cream shop
The old train station in Columbia PA has been repurposed as a breakfast stop and ice cream shop! As the weather warms up it is sure busy.

"The Freedom To Turn Away,
The Will To Follow"

Message summary: May we, like Peter, consecrate ourselves to God and continue as His follower.

Listen to this message on your audio player.

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. After many of His disciples walked away, Jesus then said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God'” (John 6:66-69).

On Sunday a man named Chris spoke to our ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship) class who was serving alongside his wife and children in a closed country seeking to be a witness for Christ. He does not disclose the name of the city and country but Chris told us there were nearly 200,000 people in the city and knew of only 8 national Christians. He engaged in a conversation with a store owner who asked if he was a Muslim. Chris replied that he is a Christian and the store owner told him he was the first person that he had ever met that was not a Muslim.

This country, like many, restricts individuals sharing their Christian faith or attempts to convert a national. Countries that have these anti-conversion laws are practicing one of the most oppressive forms of human oppression imaginable, which has been a root cause of much bloodshed over the centuries to the present day.

Freedom of religion is a blessing most of us take for granted. It is something that Jesus taught by example and it was consistently practiced by the early church. No one can be forced to be a Christian in a legitimate New Testament sense. Any religious system that seeks to do so is not genuine Christianity.

Freedom of religion is the freedom to practice or not practice any of the scores of faith systems out there. And really, any outlook on life is a faith system in one way or another, unless one believes they really know everything!

Consider the probing question in our daily text, “Do you also want to go away?” Jesus gave them the freedom to do so since He never forces anyone to follow Him.

Jesus practiced freedom of religion. He didn’t coerce or chase after the departing disciples or force them to follow Him. No, following Christ must always be a matter of the individual will. In the New Testament, preaching was persuasive but the decision to follow Christ was voluntary. When Paul shared the gospel we read statements like, "Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4). Obviously some of them weren't persuaded and didn't join Paul and Silas!

Later Paul shared his testimony and sought to persuade Agrippa, who said, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). With a classic missions heart Paul said, "Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains" (v.29).

Surely our daily text is one of the saddest expressions in the Bible. This was the response by many who, upon hearing the teachings of Jesus, said: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). This response remains the reaction of many when confronted with the teachings of Christ.

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him” (John 6:66). When the disciples (at large) came to realize the sacrifice of following Jesus was greater than they were willing to make, they turned back. This is the context of Jesus’ question to the Twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

Peter spoke up to answer this question and uttered one of the most profound and yet simple statements of belief recorded in Scripture. He replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68,69).

Amen! That’s also my sentiment today and I hope every day! May we, like Peter, consecrate ourselves to God and continue as His follower. As the hymn states, “A faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.” By the grace of God I am determined to never go back! But the amazing thing is, due to both the political freedoms I enjoy and the free-will that God has given me, I have the privilege and responsibility of making that choice.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, there is no one nor anything that deserves our complete allegiance, but You, our Lord, who holds the words of eternal life. Though others may refuse to listen or choose to turn away from the message of salvation we choose to persevere, for to Whom else could we turn? We persevere in trial and in victory, in the ups and downs and in the in-betweens of everyday circumstances. We seek to do Your will in all things so that we will bring You honor and be richly rewarded at the end of this life. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"He Leadeth Me"  Video  Sovereign Grace Music

"Christ is Enough"  Video  Maranatha! Music

"Christ be Magnified"   Video  Calvary Church worship team from this last Sunday's service.

Here are a few more photos from my rail trail ride on Sunday afternoon.

Marietta Candy Shoppe
Marietta Candy Shoppe
I noticed this new place along the town portion of the trail in Marietta, but decided any patronage at this sweet store would defeat one of my purposes for biking.

Old brick kiln
Along the rail trail there are remnants of 19th century industrial activity such as this large fire kiln likely used for iron-making.

Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River from the trail head in Columbia, PA

Susquehanna River bridge
The Columbia/Wrightsville bridge over the Susquehanna River.

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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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