October 31, 2011
We had an early seasonal snow this last Saturday and, although it’s clear and cold early this Monday morning, it’s still on the ground outside our office window. The above photo was taken Saturday as the snow began to cover. Some parts of our region got nearly 10 inches and broke all records for the date and month! However we only got a few inches.
“But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).
I’m a baseball fan, particularly in the postseason. In the recent World Series I really had no favorite team although, growing up in Missouri and having a Grandpa who was an avid Cards fan, I suppose I leaned a bit toward the St. Louis team winning. However I have three older cousins who are Texas fans who attended World Series games in Texas while their younger brother attended game six in Saint Louis!
Well, as sport’s fans know, it was a great series going to a final deciding game seven. Game six was certainly the most suspenseful game I’ve ever watched. Twice the Texas team was one strike away from victory but Saint Louis kept coming back. The Saint Louis team demonstrated an important character trait throughout the season, series and in individual games, especially game six. The ability to comeback.
“Comeback” is used in sports to describe an athlete or team that’s behind and comes back to victory. These comebacks can be encouraging to sport’s fans everywhere (except for those cheering for the team that lost!) Comebacks remind us that it really isn’t over till it’s over. But of course I see a spiritual application as well.
In our daily verse Peter is preaching to the curious crowd on the day of Pentecost. Fifty days earlier he was among the first witnesses of the greatest event in history. Apostolic preaching emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was and ever will be at the very heart of the Gospel. A faithful witness will always, “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
Peter, who infamously denied the Lord at His trial, had made a great comeback and now is preaching on the day of Pentecost. He makes a great statement of faith concerning Christ: “God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death.” Jesus had experienced the agony of death and apparent defeat. His lifeless body was placed in a tomb and sealed. To His enemies a comeback now was an impossibility.
But Peter declared, “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Peter surely recalled the teaching of Jesus he had heard time after time. Early in His ministry Jesus had said “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). After Peter had made his great confession of faith, Jesus clearly taught that He would “suffer many things, be killed, and be raised again the third day.” Even his enemies were aware of the claim and had made provision for a guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66).
But no paltry Roman guard was going to stop this Comeback! Death had forever lost its sting. Jesus Christ mounted the greatest comeback ever and today we serve a risen Savior. Let us rejoice in this truth and live for the One who once died and now lives forevermore. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him! It is for this truth that we must earnestly and continually contend!
Now let me address another type of comeback. Many years ago I spoke to a group of supervisors at a meeting in a large lumber mill. This company gives the chaplains a brief opportunity each week to share a devotional at this meeting. I find sports are a great way to connect with men and I shared an illustration about a baseball comeback at that time.
We also have comebacks in our own lives. It might be a comeback from a reckless lifestyle, an accident, or a spiritual failure. I acknowledged that many of these men likely had issues they overcame in life or would need to overcome. I could see the men were listening intently.
After the meeting a man came up to me and told me how significant this message was to his own life. He lifted up his hand which had been seriously injured in an industrial accident. He was missing his fingers and part of his hand. He testified how he had comeback from the injury and was now holding down a productive job.
Peter’s denial had a potentially deadly spiritual failure. His deep remorse is expressed in the phrase, “He went outside and wept bitterly.” Peter was down but he didn’t stay there. His “comeback” is one of the great stories of the Bible. He came back to be a leader in the early church and wrote two letters that are in the Bible.
Today I’d like you to consider comebacks in your life; issues that seemed so insurmountable but you dealt with them and with God’s help overcame (or you’re presently overcoming). That’s part of your testimony. If you are dealing with circumstances right now that seem hopeless, always keep the faith! God is ready to forgive, restore, and guide You in the way You should go. If Peter could come back after his disgraceful fall you can as well.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, You proved that death could not keep its hold on our Lord Jesus Christ, when You raised Him from the dead. The resurrected power that You gave Jesus also dwells in us, the redeemed. It gives us the power to overcome the most impossible situations where Satan has had influence over us. At times You miraculously intervene and other times You provide us with the strength to hold up when we experience trouble upon trouble. When we lose our way You lovingly, gently, and persistently nudge us back to the Great Shepherd of our souls. Thank You for specializing in things thought impossible and for doing what no other power can do! Amen.
Saturday as forecast we received snow, a rare occasion in this area for October.
One of the unusual aspects of getting a snow storm this early is that the leaves are still on many of the trees. We were concerned for our oaks which were sagging under the weight of the snow but this morning as the snow has melted they are just fine. However the weight and felled trees did cause damage all through our region and there were (are) many power outages.
Thankfully our only damage is the flattening of the pampa grass near our driveway. We cut it down each fall anyway. Of course the heavy frost also finished off our summer plantings but we expect that by this time.
The blessing of having friends who know how to fix things!
I had trouble with my old riding lawn mower so Chris Bert, who has an amazing range of mechanical proficiencies, stopped by Friday afternoon to fix it for me. He also sharpened the blades as you can see in the above photo. Chris has an interesting “comeback” testimony.
After the repair Chris helped me mow the lawn as Brooksyne and I prepared for the storm. This old mower has an interesting history that involves another mechanically proficient friend (see here)
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
October 28, 2011
The weather report called for our first frost last night so Brooksyne scurried to her garden to save as many flowers and vegetables as she could and covered the mums as well. She made several arrangements* this morning to share with neighbors so I asked her to let me get a photo for our readers before she gives them away. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution version.)
It is a beautiful sunny day but a storm is coming in and weather reports call for 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow. We’ll see about that!
“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your Word” (Psalm 119:114). “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:6-8).
Yesterday in the course of our chaplain work we saw a lot of Amish buggies, one after another, on the rural roads in eastern Lancaster County. It was a rainy day and we considered why we might be seeing so many out in the inclement weather when it occurred to us that Thursdays during October and November are the time when Amish have their weddings.
Several years ago we attended an Amish wedding. One of their customs is rooted in their history of being persecuted. At one point in the service we all turned around in our seats and knelt at our bench while the bishop read a prayer in German. The prayer lasted nearly fifteen minutes and was recited in a sing song manner.
Following the prayer the congregation rose from the kneeling position and we turned around to face the front. That is, Brooksyne and I turned around. However we immediately noted that the Amish continued to stand in silence facing the back which seemed especially peculiar to us. Of course we turned around quickly and joined them, although at the time not understanding the meaning of this custom.
We spoke to our Amish hosts following the service and learned that this practice is rooted in a tradition started centuries earlier when the Amish were heavily persecuted. Though we confirmed with an Amish friend that this tradition originated from their days of persecution he was uncertain as to what it means. (Isn’t it that way with a lot of religious traditions?) However, one reasonable conjecture we have heard is that they were recalling a time when their ancestors kept an eye on the entrance where the persecutors could break through.
Probably the most fulfilling aspect of our online ministry is the relationship we have developed with persecuted believers and the knowledge that our messages are being read and passed around in places closed to traditional ministry. It’s amazing that from our peaceful home office in rural Lancaster County we can instantly communicate with fellow believers all over the world. Through the years readers write us who are in places of persecution and we then establish a relationship with them both by virtue of sending our daily messages but also through personal notes of encouragement. We especially consider a regular reader who sent a testimony of his experience in persecution in a brutally oppressive country. (Sadly, even receiving our emails or otherwise accessing ours and similar materials on the web, can be dangerous for him.)
In our lifetime we have been spared the types of persecution many are experiencing and have experienced through the long history of the church. But I have a gut feeling that this could change very quickly, especially for true contenders who will not compromise, like the three Hebrew young men in Daniel 3.
“You are my hiding place” is a wonderful descriptive phrase found in both daily Scripture texts. The Psalmist is speaking of God. Charles Spurgeon comments, “Terse, short sentences make up this verse, but they contain a world of meaning. Personal claims upon our God are the joy of spiritual life. To lay our hand upon the Lord with the clasp of a personal “my” is delight at its full. Observe that the same man who in the fourth verse was oppressed by the presence of God, here finds a shelter in Him. See what honest confession and full forgiveness will do! The gospel of substitution makes Him to be our refuge who otherwise would have been our judge.”
Today we can rejoice that the ancient observation of the Psalmist, “You are my Hiding Place” remains a descriptive source of comfort and assurance for us all. Today we especially remember our persecuted brethren and pray that they will be filled with an assurance of God’s steadfast love and care. May it bring peace to their inward souls no matter the outward circumstances of their day.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Father, in the midst of danger and troubles, we find refuge in You, for You are our Fortress and our Deliverer. You are our hiding place when we seek security and safety from the troubles that surround us. We are confident in Your protecting and guiding hand as You carefully watch over us all our days and deliver us from all our troubles. We pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, as they endure hardships and tribulation, that Your songs of deliverance will bring a calm and peaceful assurance to their weary souls. Your teaching and counsel is our guiding light in this very troubled world. Thank You, faithful and loving Father. Amen.
We were invited to attend the Amish wedding of the sister of a friend of ours. The service actually began at 8:30 AM but it was suggested that we arrive at 10:00 since the service is long and entirely in German. We walked in through a huge makeshift kitchen where food was being prepared and opened the door into the large barn-like workshop (the bride’s father had a business building prefabricated horse barns.) We were escorted to a center seat in the barn facing the front along with five other non-Amish (English, as we’re referred to by the Amish). There were about 400 guests present with the men seated opposite the women.
The bishop, an older man with a very long beard, was giving his message without any sound reinforcement at all. We were unable to understand what he spoke except “amen” though Brooksyne recognized the words from the book of Ruth, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Though referenced in another language somehow the repetition of those words came through so she knew what the bishop was saying. It’s quite a challenge to listen to a 90 minute sermon in English, so you can imagine the experience of listening in a foreign language! The service went on for another 1 ½ after we arrived (which is about as long a service I normally attend including singing and preaching in English!)
Children and babies sat with either parent and overall were outstandingly quiet. One small girl must have folded her handkerchief about 100 different ways as she sat quietly next to her mother. Periodically a parent would have to take a crying baby out. And there were lots of babies!
The bride and groom sat in the front also facing each other with the groom having two unmarried men and the bride two unmarried girls beside her.
The bishop spoke earnestly it seemed but with very little of the inflection and verbal variety we associate with preaching in our customs. I watched for expressions I might be familiar with among the congregation such as a verbal “Amen” or even a nod of agreement but did not see any. The people merely appeared to be respectfully listening with very little emotion on their faces. And, as you can imagine, there were quite a number (men mostly) who were “resting their eyes” off and on. The young men (teens) “rested their bodies” as several rows of boys slumped over with their heads in their laps sleeping soundly.
I am told the message, which is similar at all Amish weddings, is a recounting of the Biblical stories of weddings and marriages such as Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Boaz and Ruth and so forth.
After the message there was a brief time when the bride and groom stood up to face the bishop and I assume this was similar to the taking of the vows in our customs.
After this we knelt and had the long prayer I mentioned above. Then several of the men shared what I found out later were testimonies and experiences in marriage with the bride and groom (which I think is a great idea).
They then sang a very slow song in German which I found out later was a wedding song. The song had 24 stanzas, I believe, and was sung acapella, as is all their songs.
When the service ended the church became a fellowship hall. The benches are designed to convert into tables and a group is assigned this task. The team work is outstanding and in a short time the room was transformed into a banquet hall.
I went to another part of the workshop where all the men gather to wait their turn to eat and struck up a conversation with several of the other Amish guests, who by now were wearing their large black dress hats. I sure felt out of place! (When you see hundreds of identical hats hanging up on posts you wonder how they keep from getting mixed up.)
I was called in to be seated and joined Brooksyne at a table set for the English. We all bowed our heads together and prayed silently. The entire room silences anytime seated guests fill a table and prepare to eat. So this was repeated many times during the serving of the food; lively chatter grinds to a halt respecting the newly seated group of people. (We never determined how this worked.)
The food was served family style as both men and women brought out large platters which we passed from one end to the other. The main dish was a delicious stuffing that had pieces of chicken in it. It was very good along with the customary wedding food – and a lot of celery served which is very customary at their weddings!
We left at this point thanking the bride’s father, who had invited us, as we departed. But for most of the guests the day would go on with an afternoon hymn sing, the opening of the gifts, another meal and other Amish wedding customs late into the evening hour!
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Hiding Place” Video Selah
A touching feedback: “Thanks for the tribute you have provided to the world of Nelma Carpenter and grandson, Buck, the last few days. The Carpenters served as pastors to our family for 10 years in Jonesboro, AR and we know them to be people committed to Kingdom service. Even though my family and I attended the memorial service yesterday, I was blessed once again to watch the tribute on your Daily Encouragement web site. Thank you for speaking encouragement into a world where there is no hope, unless the world knows Jesus.”
(That tribute video is here.) Note: The first part of the tribute is to grandson Buck and the second part, beginning at 3:52, is to Nelma.
It’s not over till it’s over! I realize many of our readers don’t follow baseball and international readers may not even know what baseball is, but last night’s world series game sure demonstrated perseverance! It was one of the most suspenseful sporting events I have ever seen. We are not following any team especially but have relatives in both Texas and Missouri (Some of my Oklahoma cousins were able to attend some games in Texas.) Anyway the 2011 World Series winner will be determined this evening (game 7)!
A great testimony!!! This morning Brooksyne and Ester listened to an outstanding testimony on Focus On The Family reminding listeners that God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Our God is a God of miracles. Listen here.
*Final note from Brooksyne: The main flowers in the arrangements were taken from two mums our neighbors had tossed due to fact that they had broken in the center (as seen in photo above). I was purchasing some mums from Annie, our Amish neighbor, and spotted some she had tossed to the side of the barn. I asked if I could have them and she couldn’t figure out why I wanted broken mums. As you can see from the first photo today they make great cut mums and last for at least a week, if kept watered. They were a nice addition to the celosia and crackerjack marigolds that I cut last night before the frost hit. So I will drop off an arrangement to thank her.
October 27, 2011
“Making hay while the sun shines” on an Amish farm in Lancaster County PA.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).
On Tuesday afternoon we took a long walk on our country path along Donegal Creek with our dogs. It was a pleasant fall afternoon but suddenly the dogs noticed something out of order. Four sheep from our neighbor’s flock had gone astray and were in a meadow across the creek. Instinctually Mollie especially had the urge to herd them back to the flock. But she was on a leash so she resorted to barking rather ferociously instead and it was effective. The sheep immediately responded, darted away from us, and ran to be with the rest of the flock in their own pasture!
Seeing these sheep “gone astray” reminded me of the many Bible stories and illustrations about sheep. There is much to consider as we look at sheep in relation to the Great Shepherd.
The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of a shepherd and sheep to demonstrate man’s relationship with God. In fact it begins as early as Genesis 49:24 and continues through the final book of Revelation 7:17. Of course the most beloved and comforting passage using this metaphor from the Old Testament is Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd”. In the New Testament the most familiar passage is our Lord’s words, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).
Isaiah in the great chapter concerning the Messiah states, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Indeed we have all gone astray, for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sheep gone astray are sheep surrounded by danger since they have no ability to protect themselves. They’re at the mercy of other predatory animals and aren’t built for speed even if they do run. They’re easily lost with no GPS to find their way home. Poisonous weeds look just as inviting as green pastures for grazing. And I don’t need to tell you that moving vehicles are obviously a deadly force that sheep cannot defeat! Much like the sheep that face lethal enemies daily, we too deal with an enemy Peter describes as “the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Have you returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul? Although the Shepherd seeks the lost sheep, we have a free will. Are you in His fold of safety today? If you’re in His fold, rejoice; life’s biggest problem has been resolved!
If you have gone astray and away from the sheepfold return to Him. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling to you, “Come home!” Respond to the beckoning voice of the Great Shepherd today. Any fleshly temptation to indulge in passing pleasure pales in comparison to being under God’s steadfast love and care. Jeremiah writes, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight…” (15:16). He was feeding on some “soul food” while his own people were indulging in the enemy’s poisonous revelry.
Take note of the word “overseer” in our daily text as well. This is the only place in the entire Bible that the underlying Greek word “episkopos” (“bishop” in the KJV) is used in a description of God. It means “one who watches over or superintends”. That’s what I need for my soul today and so do you. I have returned to that Great Shepherd and I don’t want to be lost again! Praise the Lord!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we thank You for the great Shepherd of the sheep, who equips us with everything good for doing His will, and who works in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We give Him glory forever and ever. Amen. (See Hebrews 13:20,21).
Yesterday a pastor friend stopped by for a visit. John Keefer read our story “Ho-ly Socks” several weeks ago and wrote to inform us he was still wearing socks his mom purchased when he was a boy some 50 years ago!
Ester took this photo of our pets in front of our home. They enjoy being in the front lawn but Mollie must be restrained! (Missing from the photo is Dottie, our 10 year old cat, who is not too fond of being photographed with the dogs.)
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us” Video Discover Singers
We’ve mentioned in several recent encouragement messages about a friend who died last week in auto accident in Little Rock Arkansas. Here’s a video tribute to Nelma Carpenter and her grandson Buck. Note: The first part of the tribute is to Buck and the second part, beginning at 3:52, is to Nelma.
October 26, 2011
It was a beautiful fall afternoon yesterday; a perfect day for our Amish friend Anna Ruth to hang her laundry out on the long line. But as the farm odors increased (you know what I mean), the laundry had to come down lest it cling to the clothing.
(For more photos of our visit on the Lapp farm see below the message.)
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:55,56). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Last Friday we shared that our friend Nelma Carpenter had died in an auto accident in Little Rock Arkansas. Nelma and her husband Tommy had visited with us the week before and encouraged us greatly during our fellowship. Her celebration service is today and although there will certainly be grief and the sense of loss there will also be victory as a result of her faith in Christ and that of many of the family members. Last fall Tommy spoke in our church and shared how the song “Victory in Jesus” was written at his uncle’s kitchen table by Eugene Bartlett in 1939. We shared this story in this encouragement “Even Unto Death” (see below for link to this message).
Many of you reading this today have had similar experiences in life. Some are more pronounced than others, but these are the blows in life that can knock us to the ground. We wonder in hurt and exasperation, “Where is God and what is He doing in all this?”
But allow this truth to penetrate deeply into your spiritual being as you read this message today. The final outcome for true children of God is always good though the sometimes grim circumstances we may encounter on life’s journey could lead us or those who observe us to think otherwise. Today we’ll consider the gripping story of Stephen in the book of Acts.
Stephen was one of the first followers of Christ. The Scripture records nothing concerning his background or conversion. He is first mentioned when he was chosen by the early church to serve as a deacon. The historian Luke records that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He soon had a preaching opportunity and bears a powerful witness for the Lord, likely his first and certainly his last sermon.
But rather than getting appreciative pats on the back or seeing the altars full of repentant sinners, he faced a very unreceptive crowd who was “furious and gnashing their teeth at him.” He was forcefully drug out of the city and stoned.
Consider the human dimension in Stephen’s experience. Surely he and others who observed his martyrdom had to overcome the question “Is this what serving God is all about?” As the first recorded Christian martyr he and other believers watching might have wondered “Is God really going to allow this to go on?” Surely Stephen loved his family and friends and had a promising ministry. At his burial “godly men mourned deeply for him” (Acts 8:2). Surely he had to overcome tremendous fear as the situation turned from bad to ugly to deadly. And, practically speaking, imagine the horrific physical pain and agony he endured as large stones were hurled at him.
Note Stephen’s faith-building vision of “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” In spite of the visible defeat that onlookers could not deny, the eternal outcome was truly a victorious win!
Stephen was not delivered in the way he might have expected or would certainly have desired. Yet this was part of God’s ultimate plan. Jesus wasn’t “off duty” and oblivious to Stephen’s plight. I’m thankful for the witness who heard Stephen declare that he saw “the windows of heaven open and the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” What tremendous confidence and anticipation this must have given him in his final moments of life on this side!
So, back to our lives and our struggles this day. The outcome of whatever we’re going through may or may not be as we desire or expect. But let us, like Stephen, look up to heaven in faith where we can get a glimpse of our Lord, who is never “off duty”. And remember the final outcome for the true child of God is always good! Truly there is victory in Jesus!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, in faith, we look to You for strength today and bright hope for tomorrow. Just as Stephen, as written in the book of Acts, had a glimpse of Your glory in heaven and Jesus standing at Your right hand he was filled with confidence to remain true to his convictions and calling though painful death was imminent. Help us to turn our hearts toward heaven so that we seek Your approval and blessing above the temporal thrills this world has to offer. May we perish every fond ambition, all we’ve sought, and hoped and known in exchange for the glories of heaven where we will reign with You forevermore. Amen.
Yesterday we did our chaplain visitation in the morning and then met up with our friends Larry and Tina Kester for an enjoyable afternoon. We joined our friends Jesse and Anna Ruth, and their younger children, on the farm for lunch. We had chicken pot pie, sweet potato casserole (sweet potatoes just picked that morning), and Brooksyne brought a salad she had prepared.
The field work for the day was not amongst the most appealing but a necessary part of farming. Farm hand Amos and the team are _________________. * (answer below)
Four year old Eli, with unbounding energy, chasing the pony for a bareback ride. Since he rode without a bridle he slid off more than he stayed on. Only a child with such dexterity could find the thrill in falling off more fun than staying on.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Jesus I My Cross Have Taken” Video Indelible Grace An outstanding hymn rarely heard today written by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) whose father abandoned him at an early age and never let his son call him “father”. This song is a testament to the power of the gospel to address even situations where the rot of sin has spread into family relationships. Consider the words of this hymn in regard to Stephen as he boldly proclaimed the gospel message in the face of death. (This version does not use every stanza).
“Even Unto Death” This daily encouragement message shares the story of how Eugene Bartlett wrote “Victory in Jesus” as well as a story of the song’s impact when his wife died many years later.
* Spreading manure!
October 25, 2011
“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).
The church of Jesus Christ has a great mandate directly from Christ for all who choose to follow Him. They are to be “the salt of the earth.” Hundreds of thousands of small units known as local churches dot the globe. (Even the largest local church is a relatively small unit.) Hundreds of millions of individual believers meet in these churches to receive encouragement and exhortation to go forth as the salt of the earth.
We especially consider the “underground church” in closed countries such as China and all throughout the Muslim-dominated Middle East and north Africa that meets regularly in secret places to encourage, challenge and inspire the saints to live for Jesus Christ. A stunning reality is that there may actually be more of God’s people meeting under these conditions than in “church” settings readers in the West are more familiar with.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used two common items to illustrate the impact His followers were to have on the world around them; salt and light. Although there are many usages of salt there are likely two purposes that Christ’s initial hearers could identify with; salt used as a flavoring and as a preservative. In both cases it is vitally important that the salt be evenly distributed over that which is to be salted.
In a physical sense our bodies need salt but we can ingest too much and that is not healthy. However in a spiritual sense it is impossible to be too salty! In fact the opposite is true; believers aren’t salty enough!
Our dominant culture has become so Biblically illiterate that for the majority of people spiritual salt has become distasteful and even objectionable. This will continue to happen as the restraining salty influence of older believers is diminished as they pass on to their reward. An increasing number have no knowledge of God or His law; having been raised on the Simpsons, MTV and an often godless public education system. Most have no idea what Sunday School is and very few parents, particularly fathers, take their Scriptural mandate seriously (Ephesians 6:4). I recall years ago an official of a Paducah, KY school where several students were slain, noted that schools are allowed to post everything but the one document they need, namely the Ten Commandments!
Today we spread out like grains of salt through the culture that surrounds us. You may see your work as just a necessary but unrelated part of your Christian ministry. But I believe God uses our work to evenly distribute our presence throughout the culture around us. How salty are you?
You may look around and see but a few grains of salt where you work. In a few cases you may be the only grain. You may feel, “What difference am I making?” At times the difference we make is recognizable. What a blessing it is to experience the joy of ministry for Christ in leading someone to faith or in bringing encouragement to a fellow believer. But at other times we must practice a steady obedience in being salty and wait to see the impact of our saltiness.
Each of us is like a tiny grain of salt today. Brooksyne and I so enjoy the feedback we receive in this ministry. You come from all over the globe with various backgrounds and you present various ways of serving. You may feel your contribution is insignificant, but it’s not. In concert with millions of other believers you are presenting, flavoring, and preserving the truth, righteousness and order in this increasingly chaotic world. Stay faithful and remain salty!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, I want the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be pleasing to You this day. I pray that my conversation is uplifting so that I build others up rather than tear them down. Just as salt is tasty to food making it more pleasant to eat, I pray that my dialogue is wholesome making conversation pleasant and beneficial to those who listen. Because of Your redemptive work in my life I am blessed and highly flavored with the preserving salt of Your holy Word. I want to spread the message of Your salvation to others so that they are snatched from the evil one and their lives are preserved for this life and the next. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
We pass these large mums along Main Street in Mount Joy. They’re the size of shrubs! Somehow the fire hydrant just doesn’t fit in with the fall color theme. But then we do want the hydrant to be visible don’t we! (Much like Jesus wants the believer not to join the crowd but to stand out among them as they hold out the truth and witness of the Holy Bible)
Yesterday we took a long walk along a farm trail and came upon a wedding taking place in a meadow below a spring house.
Now they only have a couple left and they are, as they say, “cute as a button”.
(If interested see here and click on the video.)
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Make Me A Servant” Video Maranatha Singers
October 24, 2011
We passed this scene along Sunnyside Road on Saturday. I stopped to take the photo and moved close to a fence and snapped several shots. As I left my elbow touched the fence right on my funnybone and guess what? It was an electric fence! I can tell you that getting a shock on the funnybone prompted a shrieking “WHOO”, which Ester got a kick out of! Yesterday afternoon we passed the scene again and all the bales were neatly stacked at the side of the field.
“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. ‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God’” (Joshua 24:25-27).
The two oak trees in our front yard are probably about twenty-five years old since our home was built in 1986 and prior to that time was farm land. That’s pretty young considering the lifespan of an oak, but they’ve become large stately trees over a relatively short period of time. Some species of oak have a life span of 600 years and they may have had an even longer lifespan 4,000 years ago.
The church property where I pastored in New England had a huge oak tree in the back. I often wondered if this tree might have been around at the time of the American Revolution or even at the time the first Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, which was just 25 miles east of the church. Taunton, the town where we pastored, was founded less than twenty years after Plymouth. My family had devotions under this large tree one night and I sought to teach the spiritual lesson found in the daily text.
An oak tree at Shechem is first referenced in Scripture in Genesis 12:6 where Abraham received assurance from God that He would keep His promises. Later, as Abraham’s grandson Jacob grew in his faith, an oak tree at Shechem was the place where Jacob’s family made a firm stand for God in burying their false gods under it (Genesis 35:4). And in our daily text many years later an oak tree at Shechem was the place where Joshua made a tangible memorial to the people concerning their covenant renewal to faithfully serve God.*
As Joshua’s life was coming to an end he called the people to Shechem and made a powerful appeal to serve God which includes a proclamation memorized by many Christians: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” In my family we often end our prayers by reciting this verse together. I am blessed when Ester adds the word “forever” at the end. Although it’s not in the original text I certainly believe it is a proper expression of commitment.
After Joshua made the personal proclamation and challenged the people to do the same, he then took a large stone and set it up in a place clearly identifiable to the people, under the oak tree. He said the stone would be a “witness against us.” The purpose of Joshua’s action seems to be that of a memorial that would remind the people of their solemn commitment to follow the Lord.
You may choose to display a symbol so that you’ll have a visual reminder such as Joshua did when he placed the stone under the tree. Matthew Henry states, “Joshua binds them to it by a solemn covenant. He set up a monument of it. In this affecting manner Joshua took his last leave of them; if they perished, their blood would be upon their own heads. Though the house of God, the Lord’s table, and even the walls and trees before which we have uttered our solemn purposes of serving Him, would bear witness against us if we deny Him, yet we may trust in Him, that He will put His fear into our hearts, that we shall not depart from Him. God alone can give grace, yet He blesses our endeavors to engage men to His service.”
Today, let us all personally renew our covenant to serve and obey the Lord!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, the habits we regularly repeat indicate what establishes our values. Good habits seem hard to make but very easy to break, while bad habits seem easy to make but very hard to break. Would You place regular reminders in our path that keep us repeating the excellent habit of spending “alone” time with You in prayer and in Scripture reading. Even as the people said to Joshua on that notable day, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him” we make a renewed covenant with You on this ordinary day and repeat, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him!” To repeat this verse, but ignore its instruction would be breaking our covenant with you, so we pause and reflect on this verse before we solemnly make this declaration: “Through Your grace we will serve and obey You, our God.” Amen.
* I realize of course that it cannot be stated with certainty that this was the very same oak tree in each instance. However given the lifespan of an oak tree, and the clear landmark status this oak tree held in Shechem, it very well could have been. I also believe it’s significant that the definite article is used in each instance, signifying a specific oak. Here is the text of the verses referenced above: “Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6). “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem” (Genesis 35:4).
Clarification/explanation: Friday I shared that it was Brooksyne’s birthday and used an unusual way to share her age, stating that she was 5 and ½ dozen. Well I had intended for this to be taken as 5 and 6 (1/2 dozen) or 56 (so now you know!). However several alert readers correctly understood this to also mean in the sense of 5 dozen + 1/2 dozen or 66. I first heard this quip from a friend of ours who had just had a baby adding to his already large family. When asked how many kids he had he told people he had 3 and 1/2 dozen which initially makes your head spin (42 children!!!) Of course he was creatively stating that he had nine kids.
We stopped to visit with a friend yesterday who is 88 years old. You might expect him to be retired but he still keeps busy caning chairs. I thought when I saw this rocking chair it was a single sheet of factory made material but actually it’s individual strands hand-woven. Pretty impressive workmanship regardless of age! See video of this project.
Last night we had dinner with friends who had beautiful roses at the entry of their home.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“The Family Prayer Song” Video Maranatha Singers This is a song using Joshua’s proclamation of faith, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
“I’m Determined, I’ve Got a Made-up Mind” Video Brooklyn Tabernacle A great song expressing steadfast commitment.
Shortly after moving to our current home in 2002 I took a photo of the oaks at the peak of their rustic red leaf color and created a picture using pdf (may load slowly). I can tell by the size of the trunk that they have grown a lot!
October 21, 2011
The view from our home office window early this morning.
It is a bright blue sky with lots of sun and the feel of a crisp autumn morning. This morning Brooksyne sliced some freshly picked tomatoes from our own garden, sprinkled a little feta cheese and bacon bits on top and placed them in the broiler. What a nice treat – to enjoy a tasty summer delight in late October! A frost is sure to arrive soon and wipe out our summer plantings!
I had initially planned to use this photo today prior to deciding to use the view outside our window. This is the old Conewago railroad grade here in Lancaster County. I am not sure whether it is still used but farther along it has been converted to a rails to trails route. I am asking for suggestions from our readers regarding a Scripture caption for this scene.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
Today is a special day for our family and ministry. First of all it’s Brooksyne birthday so that’s real special in our household! Women are bit more hesitant to share about their age so I’ll just reveal (with her permission) that she’s 5 and ½ dozen.
This is also the day this ministry started in 1996 with a short email to two friends (both of whom still receive these messages). I had preached a sermon in the Sunday evening service the night before on encouraging one another daily and that was the leading I had from the Holy Spirit as to how I was to encourage daily. Today, October 21, 15 years later, it’s still called “Today” so here we go again!
We want to consider the word “hardened” in the daily text. This translates the Greek word “skleruno” which is the very same word from which we get the word sclerosis in English. You may be most familiar with this word in the description of a disease called arteriosclerosis, which is the hardening and thickening of the arteries.
If you’re over 40 you’ve probably had your cholesterol checked. High cholesterol contributes to the build up of gunk (note: that’s not the actual medical term) in the blood vessels and that’s not good. This is a health issue I deal with, although it has decreased and I’m still working on it. The problem is that the kind of foods I like seem to have a lot of the stuff that causes high cholesterol. It’s a constant battle due to the abundance of great food.
Taking care of your physical health is important (see 1 Timothy 4:8) but it’s even more important to take care of your spiritual health. The warning in the daily text is every bit as needed today. We all know people that have become hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Satan is a crafty, creative, and persistent foe. His specific weapons will change, but his strategy and goal are always the same. He wants to harden our hearts. And from the very beginning sin has been deceitful.
Brooksyne noticed an interesting typo when she sat down to review the message this morning under the opening caption. I had mistyped, “It is a bright blue sky with lots of sin and the feel of a crisp autumn morning.” Well, she corrected the typo but actually the statement is true. In the midst of God’s colorful creation there is sin lurking whether we see it or not – we must be be vigilant when it comes to the devil’s schemes, otherwise we’re sure to fall into a trap he has set for us.
Today, we urge you to consider one who needs encouragement. Perhaps the Spirit will bring to mind one who has been discouraged in a matter, one who may even be struggling in their walk with God and whose heart is becoming hardened. It seems from reading the text the act of encouraging is beneficial both to the encourager as well as the one being encouraged. Let us be vigilant in the fight against spiritual arteriosclerosis caused by the cholesterol of sin!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we want our hearts to remain soft and pliable so that we do not lose our spiritual sensitivity to hear and obey Your voice. We think of those who once had softened hearts that became hardened over time. They no longer hear You or sense Your presence in their life. Their spiritual vision has darkened. Help us, Lord, once again on this day to taste and see that You are good. You are the Bread of Life that does not spoil. You satisfy our hunger and forever quench our thirst as we drink from Your springs of living water. The world only has temporary substitutes that can entrap and draw us away from Your eternal pleasures. We want to remain vigilant to Your Word and heed Your ways so there is no build up of sin in our lives that eventually hardens our heart toward You. In Your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Tommy & Nelma Carpenter photographed in our front yard last Wednesday, Oct. 12. Just as we prepared to publish this message we received word that tempers the joy of our day with the reality of life. (See Romans 12:15.) They stopped to visit with us on their return home from a mission’s conference in the Philadelphia area and what wonderful visit it was. We also mentioned them yesterday in a tribute to pastors who have been a blessing to us. We just received the tragic news that Nelma and her grandson were killed in a car accident yesterday. Another grandson was also injured in the accident. Our hearts are broken for this dear family and our prayers are uplifted on their behalf. Please join us in our prayer for Tommy and the Carpenter family. The outpouring of tributes and remembrances on their Facebook pages are so touching and full of eternality as people express their thoughts, prayers, and influence Nelma had on their lives. They clearly have touched many, many people for the Kingdom of God.
Nigel and Laifong Lee were the very first recipients of a daily encouragement message on Monday morning, October 21, 1996. They have been on the list ever since and I reckon they have received nearly 4,000 daily messages! They live in the Boston area and are shown with their son Caleb. Laifong is from Malaysia and they met at Chi Alpha, a Christian campus ministry while in graduate school at Princeton. Both have earned scientific doctorates; Nigel’s in electrical engineering and Laifong’s in molecular biology. Nigel has an interesting association for students in Christian literature. His grandmother’s sister was married to Watchman Nee. We remain in contact and rejoice that they are staying faithful to the Lord.
Andy Larrimore has been a friend since 1993 and was a part of our church in New England where he continues to serve. He helped me to secure the domain name and set up the intitial Daily Encouragement website in 1999. Andy had been in the banking industry but felt a leading to change careers. Daily Encouragement was the very first website he built but he now has his own web design business “Webs By Andy” and also works in IT for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He and his wife Joanne have two grown children, Ashley and Eric. Ashley recently graduated from medical school and Eric served in the Marines in Afghanistan. Ashley had a dream to be doctor when we first met her as a young child. Here’s a photo from 1997 of Ashley along with Ester and other friends in what looks like a birthday party! Here’s a photo of Ashley and her family at her graduation from medical school this last Spring.
Brad Park is a Canadian IT professional whom we have never met face to face! Many years ago he contacted me and offered to help with technical issues. He now hosts the website and covers the fee for the podcast. He’s always available when I have a question or technical problem. One morning the website was down and although he had a splitting headache he labored to get the site back up! People periodically inquire about the “staff” of daily encouragement. Well, actually that’s just Brooksyne and me, along with Brad at this time.
October 21, 1996 – First email sent to a married couple and developed into a list (which initially merely a group list added to manually one by one.)
1999 – Website developed
2002 – Moved to professional listserve (automated list manager for large lists)
2003 – Began one minute radio spots extracted from Daily Encouragement messages
2004 – Resigned from full-time job with EAP agency
2005 – Developed html email (formatted with photos), began podcasting daily messages, set up blogs/RSS feeds, Brooksyne “officially” joined in the message preparation.
2006 – Received official endorsement as an “internet chaplain” from chaplaincy endorsement agency (I had already received an endorsement for corporate chaplaincy and Civil Air Patrol chaplaincy.)
Note: I never learned to type right. However I peck really fast with my index fingers, which is so inefficient that Brooksyne can’t bear to watch when I’m doing it. Anyway, over 15 years, the accumulative total of words typed is now over 2,000,000. (I keep a composite file of all the encouragement messages since the first one and as many of you know Microsoft Word has a nifty word count feature.) However even this total is probably understated since as many writers know you tend to type many words that get chopped in the editing process!
Ministry Update: For those interested we direct you to this revised ministry update in light of the 15th anniversary of this ministry.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Video by Fernando Ortega
“All Your Promises Are True” Video A faith-building song by Shannon Wexelburg.
“Find Us Faithful” Video Steve Green (used yesterday but still on our hearts today!) A tribute to Nelma Carpenter mentioned above.
“Perfect Peace” Video Laura Story An outstanding song I had never heard prior to seeing it posted on the Facebook page for Tommy Carpenter. Well worth the listen for anyone enduring pain and loss.
Sign up here for the free daily email encouragement.
Ministry Update (Revised 10/21/11)
October 20, 2011
Pumpkin Stand in Lancaster County, PA
I stopped by to visit with Joe and he informed me that most of his pumpkins were going to Whole Foods, but local folks can buy them at this farm stand along Hossler Road near Manheim.
(We shared several other photos of Joe’s pumpkins in Tuesday’s message.)
Brooksyne and I sure have some great memories of such expressions. One of the earliest that comes to mind goes way back to the early 80′s. At that time I was an avid tennis player and for several years coached our high school tennis teams in Saint Marys, PA. In 1983 the church presented me with a huge cardboard tennis racquet and the church “forced” me to carry it down a main street through the small town into the sports store to redeem it for a state of the art (at that time) graphite tennis racquet. I was a lot skinnier back then!
When we transitioned from full-time pastoral service to the chaplaincy ministry in early 2001 we knew the importance of getting involved in a good local church. We visited a small friendly country church the first Sunday after our move which was just up the road from our rented farmhouse at that time and it became our church home. The church has had several pastors in the last ten years and I have benefited from their ministries, although each is individually different from the other.
Pastor John Keefer is the current pastor. He and his wife Faithe have a real downhome ministry style that we are really blessed by. John periodically emails or calls and we are heartened by his pastoral concern we see for us and for others. Faithe sends out emails when there are needs in the church and each expresses a pastor’s caring heart and call to faith. Due to our present role in pastoring a small country church (part-time) we do not attend that church but we still feel included and I am pleased to call John my Pastor.
Pastors are under severe attack; many are burned out, others discouraged and still others maligned. One of the greatest issues is the tyranny of expectations placed on them by themselves and by others, who often hold unreasonable expectations that one always seems to be unable to meet. But should they meet one’s expectations they’re sure to displease another holding an opposing view.
How we need the local church’s heeding of the daily text: “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.”
So what can you do to bless and support your pastor? Here are a few starters:
* Don’t compare him negatively toward others.
* Look to his strengths, not what you perceive as weaknesses.
* Don’t participate in negative criticisms, rather seek to squelch them.
* Speak specific words of appreciation and encouragement.
* Be loyal.
* Pray for him.
Two other verses so helpful in this regard: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17). “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, we thank You for the spiritual leaders You have placed in our lives. We thank You for those who express personal concern when they see that we’re troubled and offer Bible-based counsel and encouragement. We thank You for those who contend earnestly for the faith, who do not follow the trends of their day but the teaching of the Bible. Father, we thank You for those who kneel before You and lift us up in prayer. You’ve given them a burden to care for our soul, to love us unconditionally. We hold them in the highest regard as they carefully deliver Scriptural truths that will keep us from being shaken as the slide to decadence continues to increase. Keep them safe from the evil one so that they remain a solid example to those whom they shepherd. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
My first memorable pastor was John Howard and his wife Genevieve (photo on right). Pastor Howard was the first pastor I had as a born-again Christian in the early seventies. I kept up with them through the years and they were so pleased that they had mentored those now in ministry. Pastor Howard died about ten years ago and Sister Howard (as we called her) went to be with the Lord this last summer, living into her nineties. They modeled love for people and earnest service.
Pastor David Selleck was my immediate supervisor (presbyter) for many years as a young pastor. He was an earnest prayer warrior. He conducted monthly meetings where pastors in our area gathered to pray and encourage one another.
Pastor Clayton Sheridan was our home missions rep and was so encouraging in showing interest and offering advice in our young church plant in St. Marys, PA.
One of our favorite professors in Bible College was Dr. Charles Harris (photo on left) who stressed the need for sound Biblical exposition and drilled it into his students. He was a pastor for many years and a real contender for the faith and remains so to this day. I still recall one of his sermons he preached over thirty-five years ago from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Pastor Ron and Sally Piedmonte pastored the church we served in Massachusetts some 25 years prior to our time of service. They went on to serve one of the largest churches in Binghamton, New York but showed such a personal interest and concern for our work. Pastor Peidmonte passed away several weeks ago.
Pastor Ed and Gladys Berkey. He was my district superintendent in New England and remains a friend and colleague in ministry. He spoke a word of affirmation and encouragement at the very beginning of our daily encouragement ministry nearly fifteen years ago.
Pastor Jim Gambini and his wife Wendy (left photo) served the church we attended when we first moved to Lancaster County in 2001 and demonstrate genuine Christianity. Jim set the standard for pastoring to Ester and she loves Jim and Wendy dearly.
Tommy and Nelma Carpenter, friends from Arkansas who stopped by last week. They are like salt shakers dispensing salt wherever they are! (see Matthew 5:13)
Alvin Worthley (left photo) is my chaplain supervisor and so encouraging in expressing interest and offering advice in both our business and internet chaplaincy. He has introduced me to various folks from across the country who are now my friends.
Bunny O’Hare is a chaplain to the trucking industry. He and his wife Peg have a vibrant faith in the Lord. Every now and then Bunny calls just to ask, “Did you know that Jesus loves you”. I never get tired of hearing that!
Jesse and Wilma Dourte are a retired pastoral couple who attend the country church we now serve and have been so supportive, encouraging and kind. Both are now in their late eighties and they demonstrate “it’s not over till it’s over” (service for Christ).
Pastor Stephen Bogdan and his wife Florence served in a neighboring town when we first started a church out of Bible College nearly 35 years ago. They had us over for dinner, encouraged us, and prayed for us. Pastor Bogdan has gone to be with the Lord but Florence continues to faithfully serve the Lord in the Philadelphia area. We kept in contact over the years and served on missions trips in their church in Center City Philadelphia with our youth. We visited Florence last summer and talk via email or phone from time to time.
During our years in New England I visited at a mission’s banquet with Dr. J. Christy Wilson Jr., who was a pioneering missionary to Iran and Afghanistan. Although my visiting time was relatively brief I could see why this man had such an impact upon many.
In 1951 Christy and his wife Betty flew to Afghanistan where they served for 22 years. Their three children were born there. Dr. Christy taught English in one of the local high schools for about five years and then he became the pastor of the ever-expanding foreign community. His greatest ministry, however, was prayer. It was a great joy for him to pray with individuals who came to him with their needs and concerns. The Lord used Betty to start Braille education with the blind in Afghanistan. Many of the blind became devoted followers of Christ. Christy was responsible for building the only Christian Church on Afghan soil, dedicated in 1970. Because of Afghanis coming to Christ, the Wilsons were expelled from the country in 1973, and the church building was destroyed.
The day after we moved to Lancaster County over ten years ago we experienced the wonderful encouragement of neighborly kindness. Earl Martin, a retired pastor who was also our new neighbor, stopped by to greet us with a shoofly pie his wife Helen had made. (Shoofly is a molasses type of pie very common among the Pennsylvania Dutch.) He had heard from the landlord that the Weber family renting the farmhouse were Christians and that I was also a minister. He surely must have wondered about a preacher from Massachusetts moving to conservative Lancaster County!
When we first moved to this area we came to know and greatly respect Al and Thata Book. They had served God together for over 50 years, mostly on the mission field, and maintained a sweet, serving spirit to the very end. In their late seventies, while on a missions trip in Africa, they both died in an automobile accident. Though it was a two-fold loss for their families and the Christian community, it was also a double celebration for their godly influence as a couple. They were tremendous energy givers and fervent prayer warriors. Brooksyne keeps the Books’ photo and her grandfather’s photo within view as she works at her desk so she can be reminded and spurred on by their faithful examples.
Finally, my own brother Pat, whom many readers know is also a pastor. He has faithfully served since the mid-seventies, almost the entire time in just two churches here in Pennsylvania. He will turn 65 next year and unlike many of his ministry peers (including his own brother) has stayed exclusively in pastoral service since he started vocational ministry when he was in his late twenties. He inspires me with his pastoral care. Often when I call him he is visiting someone in the hospital or in one case several years ago traveled a long way just to support someone who had gotten in trouble with the law. Believe me that’s hard work and can so often seem fruitless. In the photo he and his wife came down to visit Brooksyne after she broke her ankle several years ago.
We encourage our readers to develop their own “Personal Pastoral Hall Of Faithfulness”!
Heavenly Father, we thank you today for your work in creation and the abundant blessings that we have as Your children.
We thank you for the glorious gospel; the gift of your Son Jesus Christ as the one mediator between God and man.
Thank you for the church, the company of the redeemed, and for the local church where believers gather to express their faith and obedience such as we do here at ____________.
Thank you for the gift of pastor, which your Word says you gave to your church “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, 13).
Thank you for Pastor __________ and his faithfulness to your cause, for the Bible says, “it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).
Thank you for his personal commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour and to the Word of God.
Thank you for the love he has for his wife and family demonstrating a stable and healthy family. For the Scripture says of church leadership, “he must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect” (1 Timothy 3:4).
Thank you for his thoughtful exposition of your Word, as he heeds your call to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Thank you for his leadership in our church services and the orderly manner in which he leads us, seeking to fulfill the Biblical call that “all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Thank you for his interest in the flock under his care and the burden that he carries for your people.
Thank you for his wife _____________ and her compliment to his leadership and her service and thoughtfulness as well.
May you continue to confer your richest blessing upon this ministry couple as they seek to fulfill their call amongst us and thus bring You glory.
In the powerful name of Jesus Christ we pray, AMEN.
(This is a prayer I prepared for my pastor on Pastor Appreciation Day several years ago.)
“Find Us Faithful” Video Steve Green
“Find Us Faithful” Video Choir version
October 18, 2011
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
What a heartfelt plea of desperation I heard from a loving father concerning his wayward daughter. And salvaging lives is at the very heart of the gospel!
Today’s message is for those who need to be reminded of a wonderful spiritual truth. There’s a tendency to view certain people as “losers”. In fact there are some who walk about as though they had a label attached to their shirt with bold print shouting, “LOSER!” Please hear the Word of the Lord today. Although some of you will be unable to identify with the burden we share we urge you to read and pray for those who will relate.
Danny came into our church one evening, invited by a caring friend who had reached out to him, attempting to “salvage” a life. He was wracked by a series of difficult circumstances resulting from poor choices and sinful behavior. He was surely what the world would call a “loser” and that’s the way he saw himself. Addicted to heroin and dealing with deadly disease he was a sad sight to behold when he walked into that evening service.
I preached the gospel and he responded to the altar call. What a wonderful transformation took place as he put his faith in Christ! We followed up on him and since he didn’t live near us, we helped him get grounded in a local church closer to where he lived. A few times he came back to visit and once he joyfully reported to our congregation, “They made me an usher!”
Today some of you may be wearied by discouraging circumstances. Your story may be quite different than Danny’s but you really do see yourself as a loser. You just don’t know when it’s going to turn around for you. You’ve placed your faith in Christ, began the salvage process, and yet circumstances just don’t seem to be working out. You’re, like the Biblical character, who in a moment of weariness and despair said, “I have had enough, LORD.”* You are weighed down by pounding waves of trials. Life just doesn’t seem fair to you.
“All these things”, the Apostle Paul referred to in the daily text, were delineated a few verses earlier: “trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword.” The essence of any situation we’ve ever encountered or ever will is included in this list.
But the inspired Scriptures declare that “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” That’s true regardless of any circumstance we encounter, how we view ourselves or how others may view us. That’s the good news I proclaim today! God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He continues to salvage lives, for only He can make beauty from ashes.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, Your grace is sufficient to meet all my needs in the midst of trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword. I am truly more than a conqueror because of Your love for me! I choose to believe Your Word and apply its wondrous truths to my life. I reject Satan’s cunning lies that seek to convince me that I am an exception to Your redemptive power or that my troubles can never be repaired by Your almighty hand. Your power is unbiased, all-reaching, and ever merciful to those who call upon You in times of trouble. I’m so grateful that Your sufficiency exceeds my need. Thank you for salvaging my life by taking my feet from the sinking, miry clay and setting them upon the solid rock to stay. Amen.
* I like to challenge people to dig so I didn’t identify the character or the reference where this statement was made. Here’s a bit more context: “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” I wonder how many can tell me who this pertains to and where it is found?
The phrase “more than conquerors” in our daily text translates a single Greek word “hupernikomen” which I have used for many years as a source of encouraging others. A couple of weeks ago we were traveling through New England when I had an inclination to call a longtime friend. Without identifying who I was (although I do have a distinct voice) I asked, “What are you?” Andrea replied w/o hesitation “I am a hupernikomen!” Andrea indeed is an overcomer having sustained severe injuries in an accident as a toddler that resulted in her being a paraplegic. However she has a sunny disposition and vibrant faith in the Lord.
Reader’s Note: Yesterday we shared concerning my Mom and Dad’s anniversary. Bev, a reader from Missouri and friend of my folks responded: “Your parents and my parents share the same anniversary except my parents year was 1947. Mom is 86 and dad 90. She has dementia and he still mows his lawn, drives, and cares for his tomatoes. But tonight we are going to the old Fun House Pizza on 40 Highway for pizza, dollar tacos and cake to celebrate with family & friends. Last minute plans! We did it up good for their 40th, 50th, & 60th and this is spur of the moment. Hope it goes okay. Why Funhouse? They used to love going there but probably don’t remember it now. I am glad I am retired and go to their house everyday. They only live 2 miles away.
I miss your folks too. I have lots of tales about your Mom’s Great Depression frugality!”
Stephen’s note: I recall that the Fun House Pizza on Rt 40 was a teenage hangout when I went to high school in the early 70′s. Interesting to hear that it’s still around!
These pumpkins will be used for decorations and in many stores are sold right out of the large boxes seen here. In fact many of you have seen these in retail and grocery stores.
Safety tip: Don’t tailgate a pickup with a load like this!
When I spoke to Joe yesterday we agreed there’s just something about seeing large orange pumpkins that brings a smile.
“In Heaven’s Eyes” Video Matt Spencer A great song reminding us that in heaven’s eyes there are no losers.
“Rescue The Perishing” Video Billy and Cindy Foote An old Fanny Crosby song with new arrangement. Nice sound!
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October 17, 2011
Two photos, far and near!
This is an early morning view looking north from our driveway.
The trees are rapidly changing.
They were great parents! My love and appreciation for them has grown through the years and actually continues to do so since their departure. In fact I often think of things they did for me and wonder – “Did I ever thank them for that?”
There are many observations about cute things that children say or do, but have you ever considered the cute things our parents say or do? I have some memories in that category! Consider that my parents were raised during the Great Depression which gave them an interesting perspective on life and frugality. We recall two examples from the days when you paid by the minute to talk long distance.
First we recall a message they left (unknowingly) on our answering machine about fifteen years ago. When we checked our machine and listened to the message we could tell they were both holding separate phones, prepared to talk to talk to us.
Here’s the message: Dad in a frustrated tone: “It’s that thing, Georgia.” Mom: “What? What do they have now? That caller ID?” Dad: “No, no it’s that, that answering machine.” Mom with an anxious voice: “Hurry, hurry, hang up, I suppose we’ll have to pay for a whole minute”. Click.
Then we remember another time when Brooksyne and I were visiting Aunt Hazel (Mom’s sister) who lived in Davenport, Iowa. Mom had called her in the early morning when long distance rates were discounted. Well, they got to talking longer than planned and the magic minute arrived when rates returned to full price (8:00 AM as I recall). Aunt Hazel was in mid-sentence and Mom hung up on her without as much as saying good-bye. She wasn’t about to pay full price for long distance!
It’s not Mother’s or Father’s Day but it’s always time to honor our parents. One of the dominant sins of our time is the failure to honor our parents. Let me give you a positive. I just got off the phone with Mike, a long-time friend who is honoring his mother who is at a very fragile stage of life. Although he lives in a distant state he and his wife and daughter make regular trips to see her and are there now. She also has a daughter close by who is overseeing the care given to her in a setting intended to meet her physical needs.
But so many of the elderly sit in nursing homes who have not heard from their busy children or other loved ones in weeks, months, even years. I recall a TV program we watched several years ago on “Elder Abuse”. It described grown children who grossly neglected and abused their elderly, dependent parents. It was hard to stomach. The show indicated that it’s a growing problem and I believe it will likely worsen as we continue to reap the results of violating God’s holy law in this regard.
A fundamental law in the transmission of truth and order from one generation to another is the honor shown to the older from the younger and the blessing given to the younger from the older. So very often this is not the case. Parents who had no time for their children will increasingly find that their grown children have no time for them.
Do you need to call on your parents today? Are you able to visit them? Tell them you love them and appreciate all they’ve done for you! “Honor your father and mother — which is the first commandment with a promise — that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Brooksyne’s Note: I want to commend our readers who are attentive to their parent(s) needs as they increase during the golden years or as some say the “bonus years”. As I visit the nursing home on a weekly basis I often see the same daughter or son of a resident visiting with their parent(s). I consider how much of their personal lives they put on hold so they can lovingly honor the remaining days or years of their parents time on earth. They not only bless their parent(s), but they’re also a steady presence to others in the home who look forward to seeing them on a regular basis.
Click on the link to o
“Honor Your Father and Mother” Video Steve Green a song for kids of all ages!
“Appreciating Our Parents” Video It would be great if our kids had teaching and reinforcement like this in schools today!!!
“Music Box” Video For some reason the film above brought this to mind. This is the first of four parts and well worth the time! It will make you smile. Many years ago Jim Lutton, a board member in a former church and also a music teacher, suggested this film. It always blesses me!