“The Tree Of Life”

March 16, 2018

Saint Johns River sunset 3/14/18
Sunset over the Saint Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida

“The Tree Of Life”

Personal note: We are traveling this week and have not posted messages daily.

Message summary: Today the benefits of the tree of life are freely available to all of us in Jesus Christ. Many ignore His call, reject Him, or scorn His name but the Word of God declares: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12,13).

Due to travel we did not prepare a podcast for this message.

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).

We are enjoying our trip south and the warm temperatures. For the last several days we’ve been visiting my sister and brother-in-law, Genelle and Cesar Sankarsingh. Wherever we travel we enjoy the variety of trees along the highway. A species we do not see in our northern climate are the wide spread live oaks, which are abundant in the south. I first recall hearing about the live oak while touring many years ago the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor. This ship first launched in 1797 and is still a commissioned US Navy vessel. The tour guide explained that it was constructed with live oak, known for its durability and hardness.

Live oaks, Saint Augustine, FLI have had oaks wherever I have lived and was puzzled by the designation “live” oak since the other oaks wherever I have lived were certainly also alive. The name live oak comes from the fact that evergreen oaks remain green and “live” throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant and leafless. The oldest live oaks in the country are estimated to be between several hundred to over a thousand years old.

After the creation account one of the first notable trees in the Bible is the Oak of the Moreh, first mentioned in Genesis 12:6 which had a long and significant lifespan.* But today let us consider the “tree of life”.

I enjoy relating to foresters and learned a great deal from several who attended the church I pastored in northern Pennsylvania years ago. Foresters work with trees which have the distinction of being referenced in the Bible from the first chapter (Genesis 1:11) right through to the last chapter with many references between.

When Adam was banned from the garden the specific reason for this banishment was so that he could not “reach out  his  hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). At the end of the Bible we again see several references to this tree of life. Apparently it will be a major attraction in our eternal home (Revelation 2:7; 22:14). As such it surely must be the longest living tree! One Bible version titles this chapter “Eden Restored”.

The life-giving ministry of Jesus Christ fulfills for the believer the blessings of the tree of life. Fundamentally man has two great quests in life:

One is for eternal life and Jesus meets this need. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Man’s second great quest is for abundant life (full and meaningful). Jesus meets this need as well. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Today the benefits of the tree of life are freely available to all of us in Jesus Christ. Many ignore His call, reject Him, or scorn His name but the Word of God declares: “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12,13). Receive and share this merciful gift of life through Christ Jesus today!

O mighty cross
Love lifted high
The Lord of life
Raised there to die
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross
A tree of life to me

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer:  Jesus, Your sacrificial death on the cross became the tree of life for all who believe. It is the highest expression of love not only for those who bore the nails in your hands and shouted “Crucify, crucify” but it’s for all the generations who follow that were born under the sin curse. How grateful we are that You came from the glories of heaven to crush the head of the serpent, as You conquered death through Your miraculous resurrection so that we might be redeemed from the law of sin.  We will partake of the tree of life in heaven because You partook of the cross of death here on earth. All glory and praise is due Your name. Amen.

Saint Johns River lighthouse 3/14/18
Saint Johns River lighthouse

Saint Augustine lighthouse view 3/15/18
A view of Saint Augustine from the top of the Saint Augustine lighthouse.

Saint Augustine college 3/15/18

With Genelle and Cesar 3/15/18
We enjoyed a nice lunch at Columbia Restaurant in St. Petersburg with Genelle and Cesar.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

* “The Oak Tree Covenant”  A study concerning the tree first mentioned in Genesis 12:6

“O Mighty Cross”  Video

Bridge over Savannah River
The view of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River from Savannah’s River Street.

“The Blessing Of Affectionate Words”

Personal note: We are traveling this week and do not expect to post messages daily.

Message summary: Be romantic in your marriage with expressions of creative passion either in words or deeds. Or better yet, express creative passion in both words and deeds.

Due to travel we will did not prepare a podcast for this message.

“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead” (Song of Solomon 4:1).

We are in the south and enjoying southern hospitality. Yesterday we toured Savannah Georgia and will be heading to Jacksonville, FL this morning to visit with my sister and brother-in-law. Although we’ve met friendly people wherever we’ve lived in the south there’s a comfortableness with strangers that makes you feel like you’ve known them all your lives after becoming acquainted.

We ate at a restaurant and the young server persistently called me “Honey”. I realize that’s been the practice of some servers since I was little but it still made me feel uncomfortable and certainly wasn’t flattering since I was her senior. But mostly because for 44 years now being addressed as “Honey” (a term of endearment) has been used exclusively from Brooksyne to me and from me to Brooksyne (with the exception of some older family members such as an aunt or parents)!

But the experience did prompt a consideration of the blessing of endearing words. Author Gary Chapmen outlines and expounds on five ways to express and experience love that he calls “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. Certainlyaffirming words includes terms of affection.

Today’s message is primarily for our married men but women can certainly find an application as well. The Song of Solomon is undoubtedly among the most unusual literature in our Bible. In fact early on because of its erotic language and complicated structure, the rabbis questioned its place in the canon of Scripture.

The reformers generally saw this book as an allegory of God’s love for His people and some still interpret it that way. But now most Bible students see this book as a healthy expression of romantic love between a married man and woman.

Among its features is the incredibly creative ways in which Solomon verbally expresses his love. These expressions may seem strange and even humorous to us today since we are so far removed from the culture of that time, but in fact with research and study, we find that each expression was indeed a very creative and honorable compliment that would have been received with favor and appreciation.

For instance, when Solomon expressed his affection to his loverusing this metaphor, “Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead”, the rippling effect of a flock of goats moving down a hillside was, indeed, a thing of beauty.

The lesson today is that we need to honor our spouse with expressions of love and appreciation that are creative and come from our hearts. You can certainly get some ideas from the Song of Solomon, but generally I advise you to be careful in using them verbatim. For instance check out 1:9, “I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.”  That may not go over too well!

Be romantic in your marriage with expressions of creative passion either in words or deeds. Or better yet, express creative passion in both words and deeds.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, thank you for those special people with whom we walk this pilgrim pathway, those who are most dear to our hearts; the ones we call right away when we have good news or even when we must share bad news. We’re grateful for our life partners whom we promise to love and cherish till death do us part. May we be passionate in our expressions of love toward them. It’s a harsh world if we don’t have someone special to share our daily lives with so we pray for those who have parted with their mate due to death or other unfortunate situations. We’re comforted in knowing that You are closer than a brother or sister and provide spiritual companionship all the days of our lives. We draw on Your strength and find daily refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Amen.

Container ship
Many huge container ships go up the river frrom Savannah to the port, one of the largest in the country.

Savannah Park live oaks
The live oaks serenade many sidewalks giving a romantic setting all through Savannah.

Savannah azaleas
The azaleas are fully bloomed all through the city adding bright color everywhere.

Fort Pulaski inner corridor
We toured Fort Pulaski and this is an inner corridor.

Savannah tour guide
At breakfast, in our motel, a couple of locals dressed up like “the old south” and visited with those who were here to tour the city. This woman’s smile was radiant and reminded us of our Zimbabwean neighbor, Tho.

Savannah river walk steps
Walking down the steep steps toward the River Walk.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“When God Made You”  Video   Newsong and Natalie Grant
And I love that old cross
where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain!

“Firmly Embedded Truths”

Two personal notes today:
1) Today’s message is longer than usual!
2) We will be traveling next week and do not expect to post messages daily.

Message summary: We need God’s Word driven into our lives like firmly embedded nails. Keep this in mind as you live for Jesus today! “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise” (Hebrews 10:23).

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails–given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Ecclesiastes 12:11 in all English translations

Toy hammer with pegsOne of the earliest tools I suppose many of us used was the hammer. Perhaps we played with one of these hammer and peg sets as shown to the left although I really can’t remember. As we got a little older we honed our hammering skills by driving nails into old pieces of lumber.

There are teachings in the Bible that require a bit of historical research to understand even though they were likely more easily understood at the time they were written. Today’s verse is an example concerning the words of the wise. We believe Solomon is referring to God’s Word as he writes of “the words of the wise” and “their collected sayings”  –  “given by one Shepherd”. There are three illustrative metaphors used in this text to describe the words of the wise:

Goad1) The words of the wise are “like goads.” I suppose many of our readers would not know what a goad is, since it’s not a part of our daily vocabulary! The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide livestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plow or a cart. Today farmers still use a livestock prod which has a similar function. I joined my neighbor once as he was preparing to load finished hogs in a truck on the way to market and saw the workers using a prod to goad them along into the truck.

The goad is a long stick with a pointed end. Perhaps its most peculiar use involved Shamgar who killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (Judges 3:31). I still recall an Old Testament professor explaining this verse and pointing out an ox goad is a “stick with a prick on the end.” An obscure verse rarely considered indicates their value in the economy of the day.

By way of a spiritual analogy the goad is similar to the conviction of the Holy Spirit revealing truths that function like “goads” (pointed sticks) prodding us on to live in the right way. Consider Acts 2:37 describing the response of the crowd at Pentecost to Peter’s message; “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'”

Later the word actually is used at Saul’s testimony of his conversion, “I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads'” (Acts 26:14). When God uses His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, or as a means of directing us, it may initially be a very painful or uncomfortable stirring within our hearts!

Photo of firmly embedded nails2) The words of the wise are “like firmly embedded nails.” What a powerful word picture for those who have tried to remove a nail firmly embedded in a piece of wood. Just like embedded nails, may the principles of God’s Word be firmly embedded in our minds and hearts.

Nails in their crudest form date back to 3,000 BC, some 2,000 years before Solomon lived. Our spiritual application is in regard to having the truths of God’s Word firmly embedded in our hearts.

The photo to the left brings back some memories. Those rusty nails were driven many years ago into some gnarly hardwood, perhaps a fence post, such as would have been on my Uncle Gentry’s farm near Harwood Missouri when I was a child.  I would imagine the nails were bent at the time they were initially nailed and now after many years they show the rust as they’ve weathered moisture and age. At this point these nails are very firmly embedded in the wood.

We have a role in allowing God’s Word to be firmly embedded in our hearts. We read, study, listen to godly teaching, memorize and hide God’s Word deep in our hearts. The Word in time becomes firmly embedded like the nails in the photograph. When Satan’s siftings are experienced we might be put through the grinder of fear or doubt, but in Christ we remain steadfast, firm, and immovable!

Good Shepherd3) The words of the wise are “given by one Shepherd” It seems to me that the “words of the wise” and “collected sayings” ultimately refer to the Word of God. Due to the divine inspiration of Scripture these wise words and collected sayings are indeed given by one Shepherd, although various human agents were involved.

Ecclesiastes ends with this powerful truth that completes the thought: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14).

We need God’s Word driven into our lives like firmly embedded nails. Keep this in mind as you live for Jesus today! “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise” (Hebrews 10:23).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we recognize the spiritual, emotional, and physical strength that comes from relying on truths and principles established in Your Word.  Impress them deep into our hearts like  embedded nails so that we hold firmly to them. Otherwise we get lax and are led astray from the paths You’ve laid out for us. Much like the oxen we need the goading or prodding of Your Holy Spirit to keep our hearts in check and our will submitted to Your leading as our Shepherd. Keep us faithful we pray. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

A personal illustration of a word from the wise: I very specifically recall the time I was being examined for my ordination nearly 40 years ago. Only 24 years old at the time, I was sitting at a massive conference table with the elders who had served in ministry for many years. After interviews, written tests (4-5 hours), essays, background checks, references and so forth this was the final step in my approval for ordination. These tried and proven elders (we use the term Presbyter) asked various questions concerning my call to ministry, Bible knowledge, doctrinal understanding and so forth. It was very stressful and wearying.

As the meeting came to a close I recall one of the presbyters, Edward Menaldino, a very distinguished Italian minister who pastored a large church on Philadelphia’s south side. He slowly rose from the table, paused, and made direct eye contact with me. He then solemnly and slowly quoted this Scripture portion from memory with the Spirit’s anointing. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Given his age and the time probably the KJV.

Perhaps that’s why this passage has stood out over the years as it has been a source of encouragement through our many years of Christian service. Only God would know that the church we were planting at the time would have many ups and downs and difficulties would abound. Of course in various ways that has been the case wherever or however I have served the Lord. I would need the Spirit’s prompting to never shrink back, but “always give myself fully to the work of the Lord knowing that my labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

That’s a word for you as well, dear friend. As I type this Thursday evening on March 8 I have some special people in mind. No matter what God has called you to do, give yourself fully to it, and know that your work is not in vain. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. You may not see the fruit of that victory at the present, but trust God that He will reveal it to you in due time. (See Galatians 6:7-10)

Literal & spiritual meaning of the nail illustration:  I consider just looking at today’s photo of the old rusty nails how hard it would be to remove them! I would probably need to drive a flat-bladed screw driver in and bend them out enough to get a claw hammer in. Then I would probably need to strike the claw hammer on the handle with another hammer and hope the nail head doesn’t break off below the surface. I might have to hit the nail back and forth to loosen it.  I would then hope to hear a distinctive creaking sound as the whole nail is slowly removed. This is gratifying in the literal sense of this illustration, but distressing when I think of the spiritual analogy.  It would describe a person who, when sifted by Satan’s strategic weapons, forgot or forsook the bedrock spiritual foundation from which he or she was firmly planted.

Ester's birthday cheesecake 3/8/18Today is Ester’s birthday! Here’s a memory from about 27 years ago. Ester came to us from Guatemala in 1989 at three months of age with a severe heart condition and immediately required several surgeries, intensive medical care and months of hospitalization. In 1991 we made our first visit to Guatemala and stayed with a prosperous family in Guatemala City who generously hosted us during our four day visit. Ester was 18 months old at the time and stayed with a family in our church back in Northern Pennsylvania while we were away. It gave us an opportunity to explore her birthplace and pursue our future adoption with the officials there. During a conversation with our host, an MIT educated leader in the country who knew of Ester’s health matters, discouraged us from adopting due to her health problems and also because of her ethnicity (Mayan Indian descent which was looked down upon by his ethnic background). I still recall his words, “You don’t want to adopt her. We can get you a child that has a perfect heart.” I suppose he meant well and perhaps made his suggestion in our interest, but it did reflect a devaluing of life, both her ethnicity and fragile health.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“In Heaven’s Eyes”  Video  Demo version

“He Took the Nails”  Video  Browders

“Beautiful Terrible Cross”  Video  Selah

Old truck in field in Lancaster County PA

Looks like this old Chevrolet pickup we passed sitting out in a field here in Lancaster County needs a pick up!

“A Lesson From Seed-Bearing Plants”

Message summary: Creation – Of course it’s a miracle, wrought by a miracle working, supernatural God! “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day” (Genesis 1:11-13).

Burpee logoOur friend, Jesse, works as a stonemason and told me about a job he had recently completed at the Burpee Seed Company, He did concrete work on one of their huge growing houses and commented on how impressive it was to enter a Pennsylvania valley and look down at the large expansive operation early in the morning with all the pink growing lights.

Washington Atlas BurpeeWashington Atlee Burpee founded the company in 1878. It is still based in the Philadelphia area but has seed growing houses throughout the country. Jesse was working at an operation several counties west of us.

For millions of Americans, weary of long winters, nothing signals spring like the arrival of their annual Burpee Catalog in the mailbox. Many of you have planted Burpee seeds in your own gardens over the years as have we.

W. Atlas Burpee was also one of the founders of “The Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission” in Philadelphia, PA. It was established to provide breakfast and Christian influence on Sunday mornings before church. It’s still operating today as a city rescue mission and I appreciate a clear mention of the only Saviour in their mission statement, “Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a non-profit organization, exists to minister in the name of Jesus Christ to the physical and spiritual needs of homeless and disadvantaged people in the Philadelphia area.” Their vision aims “to transform lives by the power of God; so that those who have been loved, rescued and trained would become those who love, rescue and train.”

So Atlee Burpee was not only interested in planting physical seeds but also spiritual seeds! Likewise, seeds are used both literally and spiritually in the Bible. Considering the contribution of W. Atlas Burpee and his seed business brings to mind the daily Bible text which is the first reference to seeds in the Bible.

One of the common questions often considered regarding our origins is, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” A derivative of this might be, “What came first, the plant or the seed?” Actually the Holy Scriptures answer each of these questions in the Genesis creation account. The former in Genesis 1:20ff and the latter in our daily text, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed.” That is, God created fully mature plants with seeds in them ready to reproduce.

Creation quote by Mark CahillThis is a significant point for those who accept the Genesis account of creation as a true and reliable record. One of the points made by individuals who have faith in the evolutionary explanation of origins (which does take faith) is that it would take extremely long periods of time for everything to evolve from non-living matter to living (something still not explained but vigorously believed nevertheless). Then from a simple one cell organism to increasingly complex. This all supposedly has taken billions of years.

But according to Scripture God created life at the word of His command in a mature state. When He created the plants and animals they were mature and fully grown, ready to reproduce. At the time of creation “God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’…” (Genesis 1:22, 28). In regard to plants God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so.”

Revelation 4:11Of course the skeptic, who is heavily invested in a secular “There is no God” mentality, mocks at this belief. But more distressing is when those who claim to believe in God feel they must concede to the world’s belief system on this point. So many worry about appearing unscientific or unintellectual as the world is fond of casting believers in God’s account of creation. However in our view believing in the evolutionary explanation for our origins actually takes a lot more faith!

Creation – Of course it’s a miracle, wrought by a miracle working, supernatural God! “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

So next time you see a seed (probably today), believe, serve and praise the God who created all things.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer:  Father, we are so very grateful for the signs of life, color, beauty, shape and functionality that are evident in the plants and vegetation all around us; a result of Your creative handwork on the third day of creation. Though You are Creator, You have made us stewards and caretakers of that which You created. What a joy it is to plant a seed or seedling in the ground and watch as You also provide the carbon dioxide, rain, and sunshine to aid its health and growth. We affirm once again in our writings and prayer that You are the divine Creator of the universe and all things are in submission to Your creative power in accordance to Your will. In the name of Jesus we thank You for these life-sustaining blessings.  Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Creation Song”  Video    Fernando Ortega

“The Maker”  Video  Chris August

“Creation Sings”  Video  All Sons & Daughters

The Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission The mission was also founded by well-known businessmen John Wanamaker (Wanamaker’s Department Store); John B. Stetson (Stetson Hat Co.); and former Pennsylvania Gov. James Pollock. More than 250 men attended the first meeting at 11th and Wood streets, where they were served a hot cup of coffee and a roll before church.

The Burpee Seed Company

For the geographically curious here is the W. Atlas Burpee seed growing operation where Jesse was working. (Google map)

Floundering intellectualism: As the skeptic denies the creation account he flounders in seeking to make an explanation.

Finally today: Burpee is an interesting surname and there has been some speculation that it’s related to the burpless cucumber which is not the case. However it does remind me of a story I heard many years ago that may or may not be true. A missionary to Africa named Bertha Belch was going to be the special missions speaker in a local church and they advertised the service in the local paper with the headline, “Come Hear Bertha Belch All The Way From Africa”

Brooksyne & horse
You can take the girl out of the country,
but you can’t take the country out of the girl!

“A Lesson From Some Found Keys”

Message summary: Have you ever lost something and then experienced the joy of finding it? Today’s parable reminds each of us that we personally matter to God. There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God every time a sinner repents. If you have not repented and placed your faith in Christ, today would be a great day to bring about rejoicing in heaven!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“…Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:8-10).

Key HolderFor the last ten days we have been caring for our neighbor’s dogs while they’re visiting family in Florida. Twice daily I go down to John’s place to walk them, feed them, and make sure they have water. It’s gone very well… until early this morning when I found that I had misplaced the keys. I searched all through our house, the driveway, and our shed. I was trying to deal with my problem quietly so I wouldn’t get any lectures but I finally gave in and let Brooksyne know what had happened mostly because I needed her help. We began looking together with no keys in sight.

Finally, we awakened Ester to recruit her help since she’s good at finding lost items for me especially when I offer a reward which I was prepared to do. We all searched through our place looking everywhere I could imagine them being, even ridiculous places. Then we went over to John’s house and searched the grounds. It was snowing and we knew our time would be short before snow covered the grounds. It seemed hopeless and we were considering work-arounds and the humiliating need to call them.

We returned home and started looking again and behold, I found them! It turns out that when I had hung them up (or at least I thought I had) they slid off the key hook and fell behind a small box sitting below the key rack. It’s the most logical place we have should have looked at in the first place. I rejoiced greatly and Brooksyne thanked the Lord with a sigh of relief as well! (For the most part she held back on lecturing, probably because she knows she might be the next one who needs my help looking for a lost item.)

Do you ever misplace anything? Anyone who says “never” I suspect is personally deceived! But certainly some have a greater problem with misplacing items than others (“misplaced” being a gentler word than “losing”). As we age we’re more prone to losing things or actually more prone to forgetting where we placed an item. In our home the most frequent items we lose are keys, wallet or purse, and cell phones.

Lost coinLosing items is not distinct to our generation or geographical location. Jesus spoke in parables and remarkably, two thousand years later, people in every culture still identify with them. After all, we’ve all lost something of value and know the relief and joy in finding it. That’s how I felt this morning when I found the keys to our neighbor’s place! The series of parables in Luke 15 all illustrate the lost state of humanity and the great joy redemption brings, with an emphasis today on just one coin of ten that was found and just one sinner of millions who repents.

Due to our understanding of coins (which to us are usually small change of little value) it’s hard to identify with this woman who went to such effort to find one coin out of ten. We might see it like a frantic search for a dime. But without paper currency this coin was a significant loss to the woman either due to its value or her level of poverty.* She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched carefully until she found it.

Lost coinIt’s especially hard for us to imagine calling our friends and neighbors over to rejoice with us when we find a lost coin and I sure wouldn’t expect our neighbors to come and rejoice with me after I found John’s keys with the exception of John and his wife. But this single coin had great value to this woman reminding us of the great value of one sinner who repents. What’s more, aren’t you thankful for friends that rejoice with you even in the small rather than just the large blessings?

This parable reminds each of us that we personally matter to God. There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God every time a sinner repents. If you have not repented and placed your faith in Christ, today would be a great day to bring about some rejoicing in heaven! The great joy of declaring, “I once was lost, but now I’m found!”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, thank You for speaking to us through Bible doctrine, parables, fellow believers, and through life-altering events in our lives. You beamed Your searchlight from the portals of heaven to show us how lost we were. We’re tremendously blessed to know that celestial beings held a celebration in heaven when we chose to be Your followers. Though misplacing material items leads to time lost and great frustration, even panic; misplacing our faith leads to error here and eternal damnation there. Father, You’ve shown us the way and instructed us, “This is the way; walk in it.” Help us to seek out others who’ve yet to find The Way so that they too will follow You and cause rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. Even as they rejoice in heaven we will rejoice on earth.  Amen.

* The Life Application Study Bible points out that women at that time received ten silver coins as a wedding gift. Besides their monetary value, these coins held sentimental value like that of a wedding ring, and to lose one would be extremely distressing. Just as a woman would rejoice at finding her lost coin or ring, so the angels would rejoice over a repentant sinner. Each individual is precious to God. He grieves over every loss and rejoices whenever one of His children is found and brought into the kingdom. Perhaps we would have more joy in our churches if we shared Jesus’ love and concern for the lost.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Amazing Grace”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band  “I once was lost, but now I’m found!”

“Somebody Died for Me”  Video  Triumphant Quartet

Brubaker spring house on Musser Road in Lancaster County, PA
This quaint spring house is on a portion of Donegal Creek on the Brubaker Farm on Musser Road, about 1/2 mile east of our home, a relatively straight walk through our now dormant farm fields.

“A Perspective On Rebellious Children”

Message summary: Let us heed Joshua’s timeless call, to choose whom we will serve. Let us maintain his resolve and proclaim, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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“Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). “But his (Samuel’s) sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3).

Mr. Winters was my Scoutmaster when I was in the Boy Scouts in the mid-sixties. He had several assistant scoutmasters helping him lead Troop 210 in Belton Missouri. I enjoyed my Boy Scout years and reflect upon the sacrifice my leaders made with weekly scout meetings, monthly weekend campouts, and other activities such as five mile hikes which sounded like a marathon to a ten year old. As adults we think little of taking five mile walks during the warm weather.

Mr. Winters seemed old to a ten year old but he was probably only in his late forties or early fifties at the time he was my scout leader. Of course that doesn’t seem too old to me now! He was very dedicated to his mission of leading the local troop and I recall him being very caring.

But my most poignant memory of Mr. Winters happened during a scout meeting when he received news that his son was in some type of trouble. I sensed that his son was rebellious, even with my youthful understanding. I remember him burying his head in his hands and weeping as the other leaders took over and excused him as he left the meeting. What a heartbreak and humiliating experience that must have been to a man who was devoting himself to the moral development of young boys. Mr. Winters took a leave of absence as our Scoutmaster and I don’t recall whether he ever returned. Now over 50 years later it would be nice to know the rest of the story.

I thought of this memory this last Sunday when our pastor was preaching through some passages in 1 Samuel and referred to the daily verses.

Eli is a name we don’t hear much in our “English” (non-Amish) culture but is very common among the Amish and we know several named Eli. In our daily text Eli was the priest who spoke to Hannah, Samuel’s mother, when she was praying for a child. The Lord answered her prayer. After she gave birth to Samuel she dedicated him to the Lord’s service at a very young age and it was Eli who taught him the things of God.

Eli seemed to be a man of good character who walked with the Lord. However, “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12). A description such as this would break any father’s heart, especially one dedicated to fulltime ministry.

Eli sought to correct his errant sons, Hophni and Phinehas, “his sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke” (1 Samuel 2:25). However Samuel was receptive to his guidance and in 3:16 Eli calls out to him, “Samuel, my son.”

Often a person’s spiritual descendants are more receptive than their own children.

Samuel was raised to follow the Lord from his early childhood years and grew up to be an extreme contrast to Eli’s own sons. But then we read in chapter 8 of Samuel’s sons, “But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”

These biblical details sadden our hearts and raise questions in our minds. Our calling attention to them may grieve some of our readers who presently have prodigals in their family. Yet these passages describe the real world since our sons and daughters must choose for themselves whom they will serve. At times when children rebel evidence points to poor parenting, but other times the parents are living and modeling godliness day in and day out. And truth is, there are no perfect parents.

Sunday evening as we watched the hour special of Billy Graham’s life and ministry his daughter, Gigi, spoke out, “My daddy certainly wasn’t perfect. He’d be very upset to think that people thought that he was.” Of course, most of us know of Billy and Ruth’s son, Franklin, who departed from the faith for several years. Franklin has said more than once, his father’s love and affection never waned for him during his rebellious period though he was not upholding the highly respected and famous Graham name. Billy Graham’s life was marked by a humble spirit and he didn’t let pride get in the way of his relationship with his son, and truth be told many godly parents struggle with having a prodigal as they fear others will see it as a poor reflection of their parenting skills.

Everyone including children has a free-will. Let us heed Joshua’s timeless call, to choose whom we will serve. Let us maintain his resolve and proclaim, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, when we read that Eli’s sons became wicked men and had no regard for the Lord, and that Samuel’s sons did not follow in his ways but chose to turn aside after dishonest gain, accepting bribes and perverted justice, it grieves our hearts. These were spiritual leaders who did great things for Your kingdom yet were ignored by their own offspring. We too have prodigals in our families, whether it’s our own child, a sibling, a nephew or niece, or grandchild. Some of us bear the burden for families in our congregation who have prodigal(s). Jesus describes the father who was watching for his prodigal from a great distance. We too will continue to look and pray until our prodigal returns to his or her spiritual roots. May our genuine love and tender compassion help to draw them to the heart of Christ who wants to restore and make them whole again. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Prodigals”  Video  The Steeles

“Save My Family, Save My Friends”  Video   Tribute Quartet

“As For Me And My House”  Video  Collingsworth Family

“The Nation’s Leadership Crisis” Video of the message we heard Sunday

Yesterday’s photo of a mystery lawn tool was a nut broom which is rolled across the lawn to collect various nuts. The first correct response came from Stephen, a young agricultural engineer we see each week in the course of our chaplaincy work.

Afternoon sun (photo by Ester)
Our sunset view on Saturday afternoon
(from Ester’s photo collections)

“My Soul Is Purchased By His Blood!”

Message summary: Christ freely shed His blood and gave His life for us.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).

In our church service yesterday morning we sang “Before The Throne Of God Above”, an old hymn written in the 1800’s, that never really caught on in our generation until about twenty years ago when it was set to a new tune. It has a line pertinent to today’s message:

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Blood mobileOn Saturday Brooksyne and I made our small contribution in helping others who have need of healthy blood. As we have done since our teen years we each made a blood donation at our local bloodmobile. The bloodmobile is a bus-like vehicle with all the equipment necessary for collecting blood. In our case they use the parking lot of our local hardware store every two months. It’s not a pleasant experience but we consider those we may be helping and often think of the blood transfusions Ester required with her many heart surgeries.

Through the years I have used various illustrations from this procedure in our daily encouragements and sermons. Donating blood has a theological significance going back to the animal blood sacrifices of the Old Testament to the once for all atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Of course those “donations” were altogether more costly and sacrificial than those we make! Our blood donations help meet the physical needs of others and prolong their lives on earth for a season. Only Christ could donate His divine blood to meet the spiritual needs of the human race and prolong their lives for all eternity.

Today let us consider the daily text which is the basis of a strict prohibition in the law concerning the eating of blood, “For the life of a creature is in the blood”. I occasionally watch medical shows with Ester where we often hear doctors speaking of the patient being in critical danger of blood loss. The term they use is “bleeding out” meaning blood loss to the extent it causes death. Blood is indeed vital to life. The average adult has about 10 pints of blood in his or her body. Roughly 1 pint is given during a donation. A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days. However losing more than 3 to 4 pints can be deadly and generally requires a blood transfusion. Indeed, the life of a creature is in the blood.

Christ freely shed His blood and gave His life for us. “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith.” “The principle behind atonement is life for life. Since the wages of sin is death, symbolized by the shedding of blood, so “without the shedding of blood is no remission.” Shed blood (death) from a substitute atones for or covers the sinner, who is then allowed to live. Forgiveness does not come because the penalty of sin is excused, but because it is transferred to a sacrifice whose lifeblood is poured out.” (Precept Austin commentary)

His life for mine, His life for mine
How could it ever be?
That He would die, God’s son would die
To save a wretch like me
What love divine, He gave His life for mine

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, once the blood is drained out of creatures they are dead and lifeless, “for the life of a creature is in the blood.” Thank You for presenting “Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood”—that is received by faith for all who choose to follow in Your ways. Christ’s life for mine, how could it be that Jesus, Your Son, would die to save a lost sinner like me. Unworthy and unable to atone for my own sin, Jesus gave His life for mine. To my dying day here on earth and for all eternity I will forever praise and give thanks to my Redeemer. Amen.

Morrisons 3/4/18
Yesterday after the early service we met the Morrisons, parents to our friend Tim Morrison, whom we see during our chaplain visits to White Oak Display each week. Married 67 years Mr. Morrison will soon turn 95. We are blessed by the faithfulness of those who go before us in living and sharing the gospel message of Christ.

Dining room table tennis at the Lapp family 3/4/18
Yesterday afternoon we had a nice visit with the Lapp family at the Old Windmill Farm. Here I am playing a game of dining room table tennis with Moses. I managed to win each game against the three children I played but expect that the winning streak will end the next time we play. They only received the set at Christmas and they’re already playing very competitively.

Ester's birthday yogurt pie with the Lapp family 3/4/18
Before we left the family surprised Ester with a vanilla yogurt pie for her upcoming 29th birthday on Friday. It was enjoyed by all so she sent home a second one with Ester (hopefully she’ll share it with us).

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Before The Throne Of God Above”  Video   Selah

“Before The Throne Of God Above”  Video   Lou Fellingham and congregational singing

Interesting history of the song.

Another blog post about the Scriptural allusions in the hymn.

“His Life For Mine”  Video  The Talley’s

Finally today:

Mystery lawn toolThis is a lawn tool I could sure use. (This photo is taken from the end of a long handle) Any idea what it is?
Provide your guess to this email address and I will answer tomorrow.
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