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Monday, August 8, 2022

Safe Harbor trestle
Safe Harbor Trestle
Click on photo to enlarge

"The Peril Of Silence"

Message summary: God's people in any age are called to confront evil and not remain silent.

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"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Today's verse is Mordecai's challenge to Esther when the Jewish people were threatened with annihilation at the time of Haman's evil plot. It refers to a specific situation but is a timeless example for God's people in any age as we confront evil and acquiesce into silence rather than take a stand for righteous living and speak up for truth.

I read a blog article about being a "safe church". Now who wouldn’t be in favor of having a safe church?

DefibrillatorWe are thankful for good leadership that strives to keep church safe in a variety of ways; safe, in the sense of having protections against predators; safe, in the sense of removing physical dangers that may cause harm; safe, in the sense of seeking to protect congregants from threats. We have check points in our church and enlist volunteers who are on the look-out for any such dangers. You might also consider people in your church who work hard behind the scenes. Many churches, even smaller ones, now have defibrillators available for any who may have an immediate need to have their heart shocked back into proper rhythm.

Sound doctrineAnother positive sense of being a safe church is a place where the pastor and leadership are committed to sound Biblical doctrine. You can listen to messages from the pastor’s sermons, guest speakers, Sunday School, youth and children’s ministries and be assured that your family is consistently being taught the truth.

However the “safe church” blog article I referred to was written in the sense of a safe church not being a good thing! He wrote in the sense of a "safe church" being one that anyone can attend and always, regardless of their lifestyle, feel comfortable with the messages being preached. Essentially a safe church is a silent church.

Biblical warningsThis type of safe church is where, "the messages are affirming everyone in who they are without regard to their… well, eternal state." A safe church in this sense is silent regarding the moral, hot button issues of our day. After all, someone might be hurt or offended and the message may seem unloving. Of course there are now many "churches" that affirm and even celebrate sinful behavior. But many, many more, including so many in the category of "evangelical", are just silent on these matters.

Alistair Begg said (to the effect), "Some feel that a good sermon will make people feel comfortable, but I feel that a good sermon will challenge the people".

The Scripture contains some hard-hitting truths that I suspect many safe churches would stay away from addressing if the leadership’s goal is solely intent on making the congregation feel comfortable. Here's an example from Romans 13:11-14. We encourage you to read it slowly and allow the grave meaning to sink deeply into your spirit: "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature".

Quoting again from the blog article, "You will never hear such words [such as the Romans passage above] in a safe church. They are too busy trying to give uplifting little ditties to make you feel good about yourself, no matter how sinful you really are."

About 13 years ago I had an interim pastoral role in a small country church. In the course of preaching the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)* God laid upon my heart a Biblical message dealing with sexual morality. As I preached I observed a young college-aged girl was noticeably uncomfortable. As I greeted the people at the conclusion of the service I detected a distinct coldness from her.

Later I spoke to her mother who told me that she indeed was quite uncomfortable with the message. "I would not be comfortable bringing my friends to a church like this", she related to her mother and indicated she had a friend who was experimenting with same sex attraction. She did not come back and it saddened our hearts to consider that she, along with growing numbers of youth and adults in recent years, are approving, embracing, or even celebrating lifestyles not aligned with the teaching of Scripture, due to its acceptance and endorsement through the media, education, politicians and the experimental social engineers of our day.

A vital part of the high calling to preach the whole inspired counsel of God’s Word includes, "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). The preaching of convicting passages from God’s Word should not be ignored, nor should "uncomfortable" passages be paraphrased in such a way as to be more palatable based upon the culture of our day or because some might perceive the message to be unloving. The truly loving message from the ministers of the gospel is to do everything possible to call sinners to repent and cease indulging in sinful attitudes and behavior that can lead to loss, destruction, and eternal damnation.

This repentance remains the Biblical call for all believers who want to truly follow God. We must be sober minded and behave decently. Let us "clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature". Let us not be silent!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we seek to be alert and sober-minded in this generation where messages come from every direction seeking to confuse, delude, and undermine that which we learn from Your holy Scriptures. Instead of remaining silent or feeling despair help us to see it as a challenge to more deeply embrace and live according to the timeless ancient Holy Word. Its truth does not change according to the whim of society. We resolve not to interpret Scripture in light of our generation, but instead we interpret our generation in light of Scripture, clearly defining right and wrong, good and bad as taught in Scripture not in the “scholarly” academia of our time. We must keep our head in all situations on a personal level as well as that which affects our society at large. We desire a clear mind, trusting spirit, and a steady aim at following You no matter the cost. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

* “Whole counsel of God” is a phrase used by Paul in his message to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. The sense seems to be that he preached on every aspect of God’s Word. The NASV renders it, "For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God". The faithful preacher will see that He preaches a balance from all of God’s Word. Certainly messages on God’s love, faithfulness, grace and forgiveness will be at the forefront but also messages on living holy lives and specifying what the Bible affirms as sin. One dynamic I have noticed in the last several years is an amplification of any preaching on moral matters to those who have been conditioned by the world to be sensitive to this truth.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Same God/Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video  Calvary Church worship team from our service yesterday. A nice medley of a new song followed by an old one, timeless biblical truths presented in each of them!

"What He's Done"  Video  Passion Conference  Praise God for what He's done! Let this song lift your spirit and give you perspective! Live version  Video  I am blessed to see the variety of people worshiping. Red and yellow, black and white, just like heaven!

My sins are forgiven,
my future is heaven,
I praise God for what He's done!

Early Saturday morning I took a long bike ride along the Susquehanna River to visit the recently renovated Safe Harbor trestle which is now open to rail trail traffic.

Safe Harbor trestle
The view from above looking down the Susquehanna River which runs into Chesapeake Bay. This section of the trail is very remote due to the bluffs along the river. Five miles to the trail head above here and three miles below.
Click on photo to enlarge

Safe Harbor trestle
The view looking up the Susquehanna River. The lower rail line is still active.
Seen to the left is the Safe Harbor Dam and Generating Station.
Click on photo to enlarge

Enola Low Grade sign
This section of the rail trail is called the Enola Low Grade, named for the special line put in during the early part of the last century. The Atglen & Susquehanna Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad (commonly referred to today as the Enola Low-Grade) is one of the greatest feats of engineering marvels in Lancaster County. The goal of this ambitious project? Create a low-grade railroad line with no slope steeper than one percent and no curve sharper than two degrees. It was used for freight while the historic main line (which still runs through Mount Joy) was used for passengers.
Click on photo to enlarge

Enola Low Grade sign detail
A close up of the way letters are formed on the sign!
To me it's a reminder of a key truth in Titus 2:11-14.

Backyard Red barn
This setting looks like a pleasant place to watch the sunset.
Click on photo to enlarge

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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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