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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Kraybill Church Road view
With adequate rains in our area, including 1 inch yesterday afternoon, we see a vibrant green. This view is across from our home on Kraybill Church Road.
Click on photo to enlarge

"Strengthened By Grace"
(Part 2)

Message summary: Today let us not be carried away by strange teachings but rather may our hearts be strengthened by God’s amazing grace!

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"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so" (Hebrews 13:8,9).

Today we will primarily consider one phrase in our daily text, an area of strengthening that can actually increase as we age and mature us in our walk with Christ, "It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace".

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” The writer of Hebrews issues a solemn warning to his readers and we do well to pay heed. Strange teachings abound in our day, as they did in the time of the early church and all through the church age.  Paul urged the Ephesians to mature so they would not be "blown here and there by every wind of teaching" (4:14). Apparently the specific "strange teaching" the writer of Hebrews was alluding to had something to do with ceremonial foods.

The epistle to the Hebrews was written to encourage early Hebrew believers who were tempted to return to their old way of life. The writer is unidentified which has prompted a lot of speculation among Bible students but the Holy Spirit is most certainly identifiable as He gives the initial recipients and all of us a good dose of inspiration and spiritual stability.

These believers were enduring both persecution from without and false teachings from within that sought to undermine their faith. Certainly persecution exists today as do all kinds of strange teachings, so the Biblical admonition is pertinent to all generations.

Strange teachings have cropped up all through my life and indeed all throughout the church age. Some come and go, others persist and others, lose popularity and then come back. Tragically many get caught up in erroneous teaching resulting in some falling away from the faith, others being thoroughly confused and causing disruption in the body of Christ. The specific strange teaching mentioned here seems unusual to us, "not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so". A straightforward reading suggests that the writer is making a general reference to the food regulations (clean and unclean) that God had specified to Moses in the Law.

The apostle Paul instructed us to become mature in our walk with Christ, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

Strange teachings are those contrary to the “apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42) or Paul’s commission 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). Jude appealed to the early church and each subsequent generation to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Paul instructs Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Doctrine is not appreciated by many today; it’s seen as old-fashioned, unimportant, and restrictive. Ester's Sunday School class is studying doctrine and she's having a hard time not just grasping it but also keeping her mind alert with the instructional nature of doctrinal teaching, but we encourage her to listen carefully. Doctrine is important. We must know what we believe and why we believe it! Although the syrupy platitude found in a brief vision statement may be encouraging I really want to see more, preferring a point by point statement expressing Biblical theology, such as a specific declaration of doctrine supported by Scripture. Here's an example.

Our doctrine is our systematic belief system based on Scripture. When I encounter an unfamiliar ministry I want to examine their doctrinal statement as described above. It should be available if you visit a church, if you visit a Bible teaching website, or if you read a publication from a Christian periodical. If we read the doctrinal statement of a ministry or organization upfront it will help us to beware, should it include leanings toward false teaching.

But now, for our main thought today:

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace." Perhaps you would like to personalize it even further by declaring, "It is good for my heart to be strengthened by grace." The word “strengthened” conveys the sense of being established and stabilized.

God’s grace is so amazing in a multitude of ways. We primarily and properly consider grace in regard to our salvation; we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9). This is saving grace.This sense seems to be conveyed in the first two verses of "Amazing Grace".

But there's also sustaining grace.

The perilous conditions in our country may distress us; we may grow weary; discouragement may set in; friends may forsake us; financial security may crumble and false doctrines abound, but God’s grace continues to sustain and strengthen the heart and our resolve to live for Christ!

The Psalmist knew this; “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).  He cried out in soulful honesty, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). Paul’s beautiful prayer for the Thessalonians is always needed, “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

Today let us not be carried away by strange teachings but rather may our hearts be strengthened by God’s amazing grace!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, strange teachings lead me far away from Your truths that I learn as I walk on the straight and narrow path laid out for me in Scripture. It is on this path that Your grace is revealed to me, evident as far as the eye can see and it reaches way beyond my limited understanding. Your abundant grace brings me assurance when the world speaks of trouble. Your abiding grace brings me consolation when others forsake me. Your sustaining grace is manifested more in the trials of life than in the mountain top experiences. Thank You for supplying me with Your sufficient grace in the height and depth of my existence. Your amazing grace is supernatural; it never ceases to be amazing and it is good for my heart to be strengthened by Your grace! Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Grace Alone"  Video  Maranatha! Praise Band  We used to sing this in our church back in the 90's and it never gets old!

Grace alone which God supplies
Strength unknown He will provide
Christ in us, our Cornerstone
We will go forth in grace alone.

Scott Wesley BrownThe song was written by Scott Wesley Brown and here is a version with him singing it.  Video

I met him at a youth conference about 40 years ago and am pleased to see that he is staying faithful at 70 years of age. I thought he was a lot older than me but alas that is not the case.

His website states, "Scott Wesley Brown is a man dedicated to leaving a legacy of faith!"

When I found the photo of him it struck me the resemblance to Mike Book, a local friend, who is also a musician!

"Firm Foundation"  Video  Cody Carnes This song has really been blessing us the last several months. We dedicate this to our friend Rick.

Comment from a reader: Last week in a caption under a photo of me (Stephen) standing behind an oversized Canna lily that was taller than me I wrote, "I did just fine culminating at 6'2" but now perhaps we should post a shrinking chart at this season of our lives to chart our shrinkage due to aging factors."

Jim, a reader responded with this perspective: "I noted your final comment today, about losing some height as you age. Get ready! I'm now 91 years of age and 5'10" tall. Just a few short years ago I was 6"2" and quite spry. But ... I am now the incredible shrinking man! Keep up the good work."

Flowers near shed
The other day I stopped by to visit with my neighbor Eli. The family was busy preparing for a youth group meeting at their home and these colorful flowers by a shed caught my attention. Canna lilies bookend the Petunias and Black Eyed Susan in the middle.
Click on photo to enlarge

Strasbur Railroad steam engine
I never weary of seeing the Strasburg Railroad steam engine!
Click on photo to enlarge

Peach pecan jam
When I came home last Saturday I surprised Brooksyne with a box of peaches. They were seconds that an Amish woman gave to me that were of no use to her. I took the box and presented it to Brooksyne upon arriving home. She quickly finished canning her jars of strawberry rhubarb and made room for the unexpected peaches and made several jars of spicy peach jam which she does every year and it tastes a lot like peach cobbler since she adds cinnamon but the salted and roasted pecans take it to another level. If any locals stop by she would probably pass a jar on to you. Thankfully, she froze several bags for cobbler or peach pie for a later date.

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Weber couple photo 7/3/22
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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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