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Keeping the Faith

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

When I first came to Greencastle almost three years ago, I came with a definite sense of a call: I wanted to help you hear the promises God has made to you through Jesus Christ, and how to hold onto those promises in faith. And I wanted to help you mature in your faith. I felt a call, in other words, to be your pastor.

As I read through the book of Hebrews today, I bumped into this great admonition that comes in the 12th chapter. The whole book of Hebrews is certainly a "pastoral letter," just as many of the New Testament letters are. It has one clear goal in mind: to help Christians keep the faith.

Good pastors, like good coaches and good teachers, do that by meeting the people where they are, bringing a word of encouragement when it is needed but also a word of correction and instruction when that is needed too. But, good pastors do their work best when they keep the eyes and hearts of God's people directed towards Jesus - "looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith," as that good pastor wrote.

It's so easy - and I'm acknowledging this for myself just as much for all of us - to find our eyes drifting towards other points of interest. It is in our nature to let our focus drift towards a myriad of things: programs and projects in the church or in our own life, "issues" that grab the headlines in newspapers and at work, those many things that can grab our heart's affection or our mind's worry, even the daily demands that lay before us in our calendar book. We are constantly swept up by a host of things that beg for our focus and attention. I am not immune from these distraction. None of us are. And maybe that is why pastors must be continually encouraging and calling the people back, to keep them looking at the right things.

So, today, I simply do what I should always be doing in some form or fashion. I direct your attention to your pioneer and perfecter. I invite you today to take time to consider the promises that God has made to you in Jesus Christ? I invite you to take time in your day to pull from a shelf your Bible, to open it, and to read it with your heart and mind attuned to the assurances God is speaking to you. I invite you to turn to the 23rd Psalm and to the 14th chapter of John's Gospel. I invite you to Paul's opening words to the Ephesians and his prayer for them (Ephesians 1:3-23).

And, I invite you to remember that you are not running this race alone. There is a body of Christians near and far, past and present, who are seeking the same hope you are holding onto.

Press on brothers and sisters, and keep the faith.

in Christ,

Wes

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