Breckenridge, CO“Lofty Mountain Grandeur”
Breckenridge, CO
Photo by my cousin Georgia McKelvey

“The Peril Of Complaining”

Message summary: We can have an attitude of complaining or that of thankfulness. The choice is ours!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“The whole congregation of the Israelis complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert” (Exodus 16:2).


"Thou Shalt Not Whine"
Although “Thou Shalt Not Whine” is not included in the Ten Commandments it’s certainly a good Bible-based rule to live by!

Babylon BeeThe Babylon Bee is a satire site that has a way of hitting the nail squarely on the head! A recent Bee article’s headline reads “Study: Average American Now Complains More In A Week Than People Living Through The Black Plague Did Their Entire Lives”. *


“‘There’s just so much more going wrong now,’ said Karen Maxwell, a college student. ‘Things were just much simpler during the Black Death. All they had to deal with was squalor, starvation, and the constant threat of disease. Nowadays we have microaggressions, student debt, gluten, unequal pay for women, GMOs. The list just goes on and on. So it’s no wonder we complain more.’

‘It just makes sense,’ she added before going back to using her smartphone, a device that would have seemed like dark magic to people living just a hundred years ago.”


It does seem complaining has increased in our lifetime and the sources become more and more trivial. Just consider the last time you complained, even in your heart?

Complaining (AKA as grumbling, whining, murmuring) is essentially our reaction to a perceived unfairness. “I don’t deserve this” or “It’s not fair”, we may say or certainly think. But there’s a wonderful theological truth expressed early in the Bible by Abraham that we should hide deep within our souls. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). The answer to that question is always “Yes”.

Complaining is not new but it is an ancient affliction. The daily text begins, “The whole congregation of the Israelis complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert”. They had just been delivered in a remarkable, miraculous way from Egyptian bondage. They should be immune from complaining, at least for awhile, but it didn’t take long.

The source of their complaining in this instance was their hunger. They recalled a very selective and likely embellished memory from Egypt, “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.” This is quite a contrast to the description of their living conditions when they actually lived there! (see Exodus 2:23)

Today, we ask you, are you living with a healthy, non-complaining outlook, expressing God’s love and providential care, even during seasons of “difficulty” that may prompt complaining? Or are you, like the Israelites in our text, focusing on the hardships you face? If so, that focus usually leads to complaining, self-pity, or even embellishing comparisons from the past.

William Law, who lived in the early 1700’s observed, “Whenever you find yourself disposed to uneasiness or murmuring at anything that is the effect of God’s providence, look upon yourself as denying either the wisdom or goodness of God.”

Often our concept of fairness is based on how we perceive others are doing, especially if we think they’re doing better or they are not having a trial like we are. If they are doing better or are not undergoing a trial we may think, “That’s not fair”. But we rarely tend to apply this sense of fairness when we are doing better than others!

The other day we watched a TV program that documented the abject poverty in a third world country focusing on the daily life of a small child who wakes up hungry and goes to bed hungry. It was heart-breaking. Later we enjoyed our evening meal out on our deck under our Gazebo. As we offered thanks to God I paused in my prayer and thought about the TV program we had seen and contrasted that to our prosperous setting. I found myself expressing to God, “It’s not fair”, realizing we have it so good!

Menno Brubaker at 100We have two attitudes we can live with: One is that “We have so much to complain about”, although few would be this blunt in wording; they just demonstrate a complaining spirit.

The preferred attitude is “We have so much to be thankful for.” Menno, who lived to be 102, often sat near us in church. Long before we met him, in his youth and prime of life, he was a worship leader, Sunday School teacher and very active in the kingdom of God. During his later years he used a walker and was nearly deaf but he still attended every Sunday and often greeted us by saying, “We have so much to be thankful for”.

Do you have a healthy non-complaining outlook? Do you speak often of God’s love and providential care, even in seasons of “difficulty”?

What’s your choice?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, it is impossible for me to give sincere thanks to You unless I have a grateful heart. Open my eyes to see and verbalize the little blessings that come even when I’m walking through dark clouds of difficulty. My daily blessings, by far, outnumber my troubles. Good health, comfortable shelter, abundant food, a loving family, steady work, caring friendships and many other blessings seem all too common so I often take them for granted. At times I even feel entitled to these blessings. Help me not to wait until trouble erupts before I look to You. Instead I want to be thankful for Your goodness toward me for past blessings and to remain confident that You will be just as faithful in providing for my future needs. And remind me to never take personal credit but realize that all good things are from You. In Your name, Jesus, I thank You today!  Amen.


 
Cow chasingWe have some interesting experiences on our commute to serve companies as chaplains throughout our rural area. Very early yesterday driving along Echo Valley Road north of Mount Joy we saw an Amish (or Mennonite) mother and daughter moving their cows across the road from the milking barn to pasture. However several cows were stubborn, such as this one, who must have reasoned the grass along the road must be better, so Stephen got out to assist. The sun was brilliant making it hard to photograph.
 
Lebanon County farm We enjoy how the sunshine brightens this farm in Lebanon County. Not visible in the photo but part of the beauty when we first passed the place was an older couple sitting out on the porch with the farmer in his straw hat.
 

 
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources


“That’s Just What Grace Does”  Video  Brian Free & Assurance

* Study: Average American Now Complains More In A Week Than People Living Through The Black Plague Did Their Entire Lives Babylon Bee article (satire) mentioned in our first paragraph.

 
Finally today:

Kraybill Church RoadLast night, right in our own back yard, we  enjoyed the country sounds of the horse clip clopping along as it pulled the buggy past our house.

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Unlimited Broadcasting System
Photo at the George Washington Carver National Monument

“Tuning In To God’s Unlimited Broadcasting Station”

Message summary: Today, join Brooksyne and me and once again affirm, “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.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“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).

One of my most memorable childhood trips was going to the George Washington Carver National Monument, a small, out of the way historic site in Southwestern Missouri near the town of Diamond, Carver’s birthplace. I have admired this man ever since. On two occasions Brooksyne and I have walked through the historical site in amazement while receiving much spiritual edification. George Washington Carver was a remarkable scientist who overcame major obstacles and injustices during his life, while all along maintaining a devout faith in God.

Most astounding are the powerful quotes all through the museum. Perhaps once or twice we hope to say something just a little profound that might be repeated by another, but Carver’s quotes “wow” you every time you read his words.


George Washington CarverGeorge Washington Carver was born into slavery, kidnapped as an infant, and even traded for a broken-down racehorse. He once witnessed the public lynching of a fellow black man. Those experiences, alongside all the other injustices he suffered provided him with ample reason to feel rejected, forsaken, and hateful toward the white man. Surely, if a person’s traumatic life experiences doom him for failure, it would have been Carver’s.

But when he was 11 he moved into a three room house with Mariah and Andrew Watkins who became parents to him. In exchange for his help with household tasks he now had a roof over his head, good people who loved and raised him as their own child, and a solid religious upbringing. His faith and love for God grew and his appreciation of nature would sustain him throughout his entire life. His forte was the peanut and he was a pioneer in the field of chemurgy, a branch of applied chemistry that is concerned with preparing industrial products from agricultural raw materials.

Once he testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee, saying that he got his knowledge of peanuts from the Bible. Asked what the Bible said about peanuts he replied, “The Bible does not teach anything regarding the peanut. But it told me about God, and God told me about the peanut.”

I especially appreciate Carver’s outlook in life. He was able to see the hand of God in nature. He certainly believed in intelligent design and an intelligent Designer! Carver said, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour if we will only tune in.” As a devout Christian, Carver considered his laboratory, “God’s Little Workshop.”

I read this in an encyclopedia concerning Carver’s faith:

“God and science were both areas of intrigue, not warring ideas in the mind of George Washington Carver. While contemporary scientific endeavors may practice methodological naturalism, an approach which believes the universe to be unguided or chaotic, Carver reasoned that the God who created the universe also created the rules by which it was governed. He was opposed to the theory of evolution and believed the creation of the world to be the Biblical creation account from the book of Genesis verbatim. He would testify on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.”


God is still speaking today through His creation and one of the keys to a positive, faith-filled outlook in life is to tune in to “God’s Unlimited Broadcasting Station”.

Today, join Brooksyne and me and once again affirm, “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.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us with the spiritual exercise of observing how You are working in our own heart and in the lives of those around us. And we especially need to observe the ways You are present in nature and in our everyday lives. The daily routine can easily squeeze out those special sightings of Your glorious presence and supernatural workings where You make visible that which is not seen with human eyes, but only through the eyes of faith. Faithful and True God, just as You formed the universe with Your own hands, You also shape the human heart with Your own Spirit, bringing it into conformity to Your will for our lives. Make us confident of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see with human eyes. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Note: Yesterday we had an incorrect reference. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2). (Corrected form Hebrews 11:2)


 
George Washington Carver quote
We were greatly inspired as we read the wise sayings from George Washington Carver.
 
George Washington and Nellie Mae Steincross
George Washington and Nellie Mae Steincross
As a child visiting the George Washington Carver Monument part of my interest also may have been that he has the same first and middle name as my grandfather who was named George Washington Steincross by his German immigrant father. Although he and my grandmother Nellie Mae Steincross passed away in the early seventies and through the years all their children (my Mom and her siblings) have also passed away their grandchildren (my cousins) still get together for an annual reunion. They are meeting early this week in Breckenridge, Colorado. We had planned to go until our plans were disrupted due to my emergency room visit mentioned in last Friday’s message and advice from the doctor not to go to a high altitude area with my respiratory condition. Breckenridge is at 9,600 feet!
 
I prepared something for my family that I would like to also share with Daily Encouragement readers. It’s a personal reflection but my hope is that you may see it as a prompting to consider your own heritage and the blessing of those who have gone before us. You should even consider writing your story out.
 

 
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources


“How Great Thou Art”  Video  George Beverly Shea   This song fits today’s message but has also been on my mind since I was looking forward to seeing “lofty mountain grandeur” on our trip to Colorado!

“Creation Calls”  Video  Brian Doerksen

“All Heaven Declares”  Video

“All Creatures of our God and King”  Video  David Crowder

Here’s info about the George Washington Carver National Monument. We were so pleased that there appeared to be no soft-petalling his devout faith in God and, unlike most federally funded sites, there was no apparent attempt at indoctrination in evolution.

Finally today:

Here’s an online article about George Washington Carver Scrolling down for a description of his Christian commitment we read:

Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science. Carver became a Christian when he was still a young boy, as he wrote in connection to his conversion in 1931:

I was just a mere boy when converted, hardly ten years old. There isn’t much of a story to it. God just came into my heart one afternoon while I was alone in the ‘loft’ of our big barn while I was shelling corn to carry to the mill to be ground into meal.

A dear little white boy, one of our neighbors, about my age came by one Saturday morning, and in talking and playing he told me he was going to Sunday school tomorrow morning. I was eager to know what a Sunday school was. He said they sang hymns and prayed. I asked him what prayer was and what they said. I do not remember what he said; only remember that as soon as he left I climbed up into the ‘loft,’ knelt down by the barrel of corn and prayed as best I could. I do not remember what I said. I only recall that I felt so good that I prayed several times before I quit.

My brother and myself were the only colored children in that neighborhood and of course, we could not go to church or Sunday school, or school of any kind.

That was my simple conversion, and I have tried to keep the faith.
— G. W. Carver; Letter to Isabelle Coleman; July 24, 1931

He was not expected to live past his twenty-first birthday due to failing health. He lived well past the age of 21, and his belief deepened as a result. Throughout his career, he always found friendship with other Christians. He relied on them especially when criticized by the scientific community and media regarding his research methodology.

Carver viewed faith in Jesus Christ as a means of destroying both barriers of racial disharmony and social stratification. He was as concerned with his students’ character development as he was with their intellectual development. He compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to strive toward:

Be clean both inside and out.
Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
Lose, if need be, without squealing.
Win without bragging.
Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
Be too brave to lie.
Be too generous to cheat.
Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

Beginning in 1906 at Tuskegee, Carver led a Bible class on Sundays for several students at their request. He regularly portrayed stories by acting them out. He responded to critics with this: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

“Pay Attention!”

July 16, 2018

Missouri hay (Click for larger photo)
Hay on farm in Southern Missouri
(click on photo to enlarge)

“Pay Attention!”


Message summary: God has clearly revealed and imparted His will and shown us the way through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you paying attention to this most important information?

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1:9,10). “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

There is much discussion about what many are observing concerning the addictive nature of social media. I had initially prepared this message for Thursday (postponed due to my emergency room visit that morning as mentioned in Friday’s message). Yesterday’s message, at the church we attend, also pointed this out with a blunt assertion (which we believe to be true) that this behavior is not only addictive but can easily become idolatrous (we provide a link to that thoughtful message below).

On an observational level this is very apparent and studies bear it out. How often do we see people walking along with their eyes looking down to their device. Break rooms used to be a time when employees got to know one another on a personal level, but now most pull their phones out and spend the entire break on their devices. Distracted driving is a major problem causing many injuries and deaths.

A few days ago friend relayed that she and her husband were on their way to a function and passed a house where a number of people had gathered. All were all on their phones. That’s a common sight these days, but what really caught their attention was on the way back from their activity they passed the same people who were still on their phones. None socializing with the other, but occupied with their individual phones.

Although I don’t get on Facebook much I can sure see how it can become addictive. But it’s not just Facebook or even social media. For me the caution is more about keeping up with current news. For others it may be shopping. EBay, Amazon and many other stores regularly inform me about the latest great deals they are offering and admittedly at times it piques my curiosity enough to distract me from the real reason I picked up my phone in the first place.

I read an article that asserts this addictive inducing element in social media is very purposeful. Aza Raskin invented the infinite-scroll feature on websites which allows you to scroll down seemingly endlessly. (I had never given any thought that somebody invented this!) Raskin wrote, “Behind every screen on your phone, there are generally, like literally, a thousand engineers that have worked on this thing to try to make it maximally addicting.” *

The endless scroll function is brilliant in regard to inducing addiction and has been compared to strategies used in casinos to keep people gambling such as endless music, color schemes, lighting effects and no clocks. You don’t want to give people any hint of a break which disrupts their attention and may prompt them to stop what they are doing.

But my thought today is not so much on the addictive or idolatrous nature of modern tech, though we all need to mindful of that possibility, but rather a reminder of what we should pay attention to foremost.

We are flooded with information more than any other time in history. We can now follow people and events anywhere in the world instantaneously. But some information is more important and holds greater significance. But then, there’s the most important information in this information age. It begs our full attention. And it’s not new. But tragically, for so many, this information is shrugged aside.

Today let us consider the ancient words of Scripture.

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.


Consider the degree in which the human race has ignored and rejected the most important information of all time, the instruction manual for life inspired by our Creator. Of course it’s the Holy Bible I am speaking of. It is widely available and applicable to every generation since the beginning of time. If you are reading our message you almost certainly have access to it as well as those around you.

Yet for the most part the Bible’s instructions are ignored and considered irrelevant by many in the “enlightened” modern generation. And increasingly these timeless decrees are not only ignored but mocked. They’re commonly misinterpreted by modern philosophers who are secularized rather than Christianized. Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus “so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” (Ephesians 2:4b).

Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians almost 2,000 years ago from prison, bound to a guard while doing so (Ephesians 6:20). Consider the great effort he made to impart God’s truth “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). It surely took a lot of time for the message to be delivered and read aloud as the people assembled in church. Now, as part of the Holy Scriptures, his words are for us as well.

Our desire today is like Paul’s and many, many others who have gone before us and like those who presently serve as ministers of Christ. We want to share a perspective that we must pay attention to from God’s instruction manual and especially focus on the phrase “And He made known to us”. What an extremely rich blessing this impartation is.

Thank God that He has spoken and made known to us “the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure”. Primarily and fundamentally we have His Son and the written Word of God. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed Heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe” (Hebrews 11:2).

God has clearly revealed and imparted His will. He has shown us the way through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have an absolutely adequate instruction manual that the majority pays no attention to. It is so often under-utilized or unread, even by believers, leading many to ignore, mock and ridicule His Word.

Today in all the hustle and bustle of life with all the beeps and notifications of our modern life, consider and rejoice that the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth has spoken and made known His will to the human race. Are you faithfully paying attention to this most important information?

The next time you open the Scriptures, prayerfully consider the words of Lynn DeShazzo, “O let the ancient words impart.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, turn my eyes away from worthless things, whatever they may be and preserve my life according to Your Word. Help me to delight in your Law, in Your Word, in Your message. Help me not to neglect your Word. Show me Your ways, O LORD, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long. As we see so much attention given to that which is relatively worthless and the deliberate neglect and ignorance of the ancient words that Scripture imparts, help us to not lose hope, but be fervent in our study of Your Word, so that it changes us from the inside out and strengthens our resolve to live as light in this darkened world. Amen.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).



Today’s Suggested Music and
Supplemental Resources
 
“Technology” Video Message referred to in the opening paragraph.

* “Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users” from BBC news.

“Ancient Words”  Video

“Yours (Glory and Praise)”  Video Calvary Church worship team (Closing song from yesterday’s service.)

Health update: I will be seeing a pulmonologist concerning the breathing problem that prompted an emergency room visit last week. I am feeling better and breathing better but I still am short of breath.

Finally today:

Sunset 7/15/18
Our sunset last night!

“On Making Plans”

July 13, 2018

Proverbs 16:9
“On Making Plans”
Message summary: We don’t get to pick our problems and we don’t get to schedule them. But we do have a choice on how we handle them.

Note: Podcast not prepared today since Brooksyne is out on chaplain visitation and Stephen is dealing with condition described below.

“We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go” (Proverbs 16:9). “Order my steps in thy word” (Psalm 119:133).

We have been looking forward to a trip to Colorado for a family reunion, leaving very early this coming Sunday morning. We had all our plans made; airport parking, flight, rental car, hotel reservations. For me part of the fun of a trip is the planning, now using Google maps to scan the area and determine where we will going. I experienced the first part of the daily verse, We make our own plans”.

Tuesday afternoon I moved some large landscape paver stones and afterwards felt extremely weary, just fully pooped out. As you get older it’s hard to acknowledge that you just can’t do the same things you did in your younger years. Wednesday I was very short of breath and even a short walk was wearying. Through the night my conditioned worsened while Brooksyne and Ester provided nursing care. Early Thursday morning we went to the emergency room at Hershey Medical Center.

Thankfully it wasn’t heart related, which was a concern, but a respiratory condition. I received a double dose of some type of breathing treatment and a prescription for an inhaler. It will require a referral and follow-up by a respiratory physician. I was advised that making a trip to a location (Breckenridge, Colorado) that is nearly 10,000 feet above sea level was not a good idea in my condition. I then experienced the second part of the daily verse, but the Lord decides where we will go”.

That’s my current story, which of course impacts my whole family as well. But you all have a story as well. For some of you, like me, it’s current. And of course for many it’s far more severe than mine. But all of you can recall times when your life just didn’t go as planned. To use the words from a song popular when we were younger, “When things have not turned out the way that you had planned.”

For many years, ever since I went through a severe health problem in 2002 I have shared a lesson I learned at that time, we don’t get to pick our problems and we don’t get to schedule them.

Our second verse today is a prayer, “Order my steps in Thy word”. Certainly one aspect in the personal application of this brief but power packed verse is having a submissive heart to learn more about God and to obey His Word. Surely we cannot merely pray this portion without have a growing knowledge of the Word and a determination to obey. Earlier in this very Psalm we read, “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes” (Psalm 119:59).

May the Lord God help each of us to consider our ways and ask Him to direct our steps according to His Word. When thing don’t work out as we had planned let us Joyfully trust God for His outcome.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us through the times in our life when things just don’t go as we had planned. May we see the big picture and that you are working all things out for our good. When experiencing disappointments help us to joyfully trust. Our prayer, like the Psalmist, is that You will order our steps in Your Word. May we stand on the unflickering hope of Scripture that reassures us, “God keeps every promise He makes, He is  like a shield to all who seek His protection.” Praise God!  Amen.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Tears Are A Language”  Video  Booth Brothers This is the song with the line “When things have not turned out the way that you had planned.”

“It Is No Secret”  Video  Booth Brothers

Ester’s trip to Texas to see her aunt was also postponed since I was not up to taking her to the airport last night. She was disappointed but is overcoming. Due to her heart condition we were advised months ago that a trip to high elevations was not recommended.

My condition, for any who may be the medically interested, was diagnosed as bronchospasm and acute bronchitis.

“Why Lord?”

July 11, 2018

Martindale Road wagon traffic
The sights of Lancaster County.
An old-order Mennonite family taking watermelons to market.
“Why Lord?”

Message summary:  During a time of trial and loss we wonder why and where God is in the midst of our pain. However, whereas Psalm 10:1 is an expression of how we feel another Psalm is an expression of God’s character. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.
“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

 

Mike Muhlhammer was about nine years old in the mid-eighties when, along with his family, he began to attend the church we served in northern Pennsylvania. We recall his pleasant attitude and vibrancy toward life. Active in Royal Rangers, a scouting type program in our church, Mike stood out as a very bright young man with lofty ambitions.

He and his family moved to North Carolina in the early nineties. Following Mike’s high school graduation in 1993 he attended a 1 year program at Wisconsin Wilderness Campus of Philadelphia College of the Bible. Following this he was preparing to transfer to another college and, in the course of his application process, a routine physical led to some testing that revealed Mike had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball at the base of his skull.

His mother summarized the story: “Within a week Mike was in surgery. We were told that he would be in ICU for a day or so, then out of the hospital in under a week and able to attend college later that month with a decreased academic load. Life has just not been the same since that day. Mike suffered 2 strokes during surgery and came out of surgery in a deep coma. Over the next several days he slowly began to wake up. Then, nine days after the surgery, he came down with meningitis. He had been able to breathe on his own prior to that, but now needed a trach and was put on the ventilator. Additionally he was given a stomach tube for liquid feedings.”

In the weeks, months and years that followed Mike had a lengthy recuperation where he  patiently endured all that came from his diagnosis, treatment plan, and the outcome that was not what he or his family hoped for. Formal education aside, Mike was now enrolled in the school of hard knocks where he earned his degree in that of being an Overcomer. We visited with him and his family about ten years ago and saw Mike and his sister again this spring, following the death of their devoted mother, Christine. Last week we received news that Mike was called home to be with the Lord at 42 years of age. For 24 years his life reflected that of an overcomer in all the health, cognitive, and other issues he battled, with the support and assistance of his devoted mother, loving sister and many other caregivers. Mike will be greatly missed in his community where he was active, especially the YMCA where he was the friendly and joyful greeter for many years.

As a pastor and chaplain, situations like this are among the greatest challenges we have when attempting to minister to the family and loved ones. Many of us have had situations in our lives where we have uttered a deeply felt “Why Lord?”. I’m not speaking of the many trite situations where we are inconvenienced in some manner or things just aren’t going our way. Really, these situations amount to mere grumbling if we honestly examine our hearts!
These “Why, Lord?” expressions test the very limits of our faith in God who is good. I myself have had to deal with a few situations like this in my own life.
Life experiences similar to what Mike and his family have been through can prompt the gnawing question, “Why, Lord?” It is the common expression of those who have had deep, explainable hurts, often with lifelong consequences.
The severity of the testing may vary among Christians but the grace of God is all-sufficient to meet every affliction we have. Annie Johnson, a woman severely crippled at a young age by rheumatoid arthritis, says it so well: “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; to added affliction He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.” In other words the grace of God more than matches the depth of our need.

The best step I have found in dealing with these troubling situations is to humbly acknowledge “I don’t know why”, get my focus off the situation (which will otherwise eventually lead to bitterness), and focus on the character of God. He can turn the situation around or He may be shaping my character in ways that can only come about in times of difficulty.

Today’s text expresses the heartfelt honesty of the Psalmist and is an expression that we have all had at some point in life: “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
During a time of trial and loss we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain. However, whereas Psalm 10:1 is an expression of how we may feel another Psalm is an expression of God’s character. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when burdens increase and answers don’t come we may, like the Psalmist cry out, “Why Lord?” I have a choice to let a bitter root grow up or to remain firmly rooted in You. Focusing solely on my troubles is sure to germinate doubt, fear, resentment and unbelief. But when I clothe myself in the spiritual armor You provide I have a powerful defense against Satan; I can stand firm against his evil schemes. Though he plots evil You plan my eternal good. We are cautioned repeatedly in Scripture that we will have many troubles, but that we should take heart because You help us to overcome them. Father, though You’ve proven Yourself over and over, I ask for grace to trust You even more for that which troubles me today and endurance for that which is yet to come.  Amen.

Katie, Chris and Mike Muhlhammer
Katie, Christine, and Mike Muhlhammer in a photo we took back in 2009.
Martindale Road wagon traffic
A front view of the wagon in our lead photo.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Mike Muhlhammer obituary

“He Giveth More Grace”  Video  Haven Quartet
“Blessings”  Video  Laura Story
“Why Me Lord?”  Video  David Crowder  This old song has a different perspective than today’s message of asking, “Why Me?” It considers why are we recipients of God’s blessings, which is a good perspective when we deal with the other sense of “Why me?”.
Note: Since getting a new web editor I am having trouble with formatting in WordPress, especially it seems line spacing. I am working on this!
Lancaster County harvest scene 7/9/18 (Click to enlarge)
Harvest scene yesterday near our home.
(Click to enlarge)
“The Vital Necessity Of ‘Opting In’

Message summary: Some of you haven’t opted-in. Perhaps you’ve been under the mistaken notion that you’re automatically in. You may be relying on your religious heritage or good works. We urge you to receive and place your trust in Christ today!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.
“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).
Have you gotten an email you never asked for? Of course you have! For many years the terms “opt-in” or “opt-out” have been used in email publishing.

“Opt-out” describes a method where you receive email, usually completely unsolicited, and the sender will keep sending it to you unless you “opt-out”. This is the method preferred by junk emailers and in some cases by sincere people who want to build up their email list. They just add every address in their contact list to their email list assuming others will be interested in their materials, as well as “harvesting” addresses by collecting whatever email addresses they can find. (The term “opt-out” is also applied to privacy statements in which banks and other institutions will sell personal information about you they have gleaned unless you tell them otherwise.)
“Opt-in” on the other hand, describes a process where you choose whether you want to receive email and then initiate the subscription by “opting-in” or “subscribing”. That is the way our daily encouragement email list works. We have a page that allows those interested to sign-up or “subscribe” to receive our daily messages and of course a key feature is the ability to unsubscribe as well.
“OK”, you may be thinking, “what does all this have to do with spiritual things?” Actually there is a vitally important principle here. God’s Kingdom is opt-in (although the word trivializes the seriousness of this decision). We must receive Christ.

But many live or are under the assumption that being a part of the Kingdom of God is opt-out. In their faulty theology everyone is a part of God’s family by default and goes to heaven except perhaps only the most wicked or those who purposefully reject God, those who have willfully opted-out.

The daily verse is one of many that teach the truth of spiritual opt-in. The great apostle John is writing late in his life and reflecting on the ministry of Christ in the prologue to his gospel.  He writes of Christ as the “true light” that came into the world He had made. Yet He was not recognized and His very own did not receive Him. “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).

The word “all” indicates the marvelous extent of this opt-in offer. Regardless of one’s religious, ethnic, economic, racial or any other background the offer stands. Our part is to receive, to believe in His name. “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name.” To those who do so, “He gave the right to become children of God”. We subscribe to His Lordship. Most certainly this itself is an act of grace. “I know not how God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.”

But I do know my call is to receive Him, to believe in His name and today I again do so, reaffirming a decision I made nearly forty-seven years ago as a teenager in August 1971 in the Municipal Auditorium, a large arena in Kansas City, Missouri. Brooksyne about 49 years ago. Most of you reading this today have also received Christ and we welcome you to join us in reaffirming our opt-in.

However some of you haven’t opted-in. Perhaps you’ve been under the mistaken notion that you’re automatically in. You may be relying on your religious heritage or good works. We urge you to receive and place your trust in Christ today!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Jesus! I do now receive You, more than all in You I find. You have granted me forgiveness, I am Yours, and You are mine.

(Adapted from hymn “Jesus What A friend Of Sinners”)

Spiritually opting in: Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws? 


Oregon Dairy albino deer 7/8/18 (Click to enlarge)
Oregon Dairy albino deer

(Click to enlarge)

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Give Me Jesus”  Video  Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

“We Turn Our Eyes”  Video  Travis Cottrell featuring Lily Cottrell
Finally today:
Gazebo on our deck 7/9/18We enjoy eating outside on our deck. For many years we have used a patio umbrella over our table but we purchased a Gazebo with a fan that really keeps the table area cool and blows the flies away!
Donegal Creek Trees
Donegal Creek
“A Consideration Of God’s Rescue Mission”

Message summary: Let’s verbalize this wonderful truth: God has rescued me from the dominion of darkness and transferred me into the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of my sins.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13) NASV.
You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise
Many of us are following the news concerning the dramatic rescue mission to save the boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. What an outstanding demonstration of human kindness and value of life is being witnessed by millions, as experts from many nations converge upon the area and cooperate to assist in the dangerous rescue.
When I was a boy I used to enjoy exploring caves with my friends as a Boy Scout at a summer camp in southern Missouri. We would probably go in the cave 50 feet or so during the dry Missouri summers. My biggest concern was getting stuck! Presently the extent of my cave exploration interests are the tourist type caves.
However reading the reports concerning this Thai cave rescue mission it is practically unimaginable what the boys, their coach and rescue workers are going through. Already one death is reported regarding retired Thai navy SEAL Kunam who lost consciousness after placing oxygen tanks in the cave complex and could not be revived.
However at the time of our writing eight boys have been rescued. To get to them the divers have a five hour journey when diving in line with the current and 6 hours against it making for an utterly exhausting 11 hour round trip. One navy SEAL likened the cave expedition to that of climbing Mt. Everest. (See linked report below for details.)
Colossians 1:13Considering this rescue mission to rescue the lives of 13 people trapped in a twisted, dark, flooded cave prompts a consideration of another successful rescue mission; when God set out to rescue the souls of the human race by sending His only begotten Son: “For He (God) rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

“Rescue” translates the Greek word “rhuomai” which emphasizes the deliverance from peril which is given by a mighty act of power. In the New Testament “rhuomai” is always associated with God as the Rescuer and with a person as the object of His rescue. The wages of sin made us liable to eternal death and trapped us in the kingdom of Satan making us subject to his rule and authority placing us in bondage to our old (sin) nature inherited from Adam. God marvelously rescued us from this awful, hopeless condition.

This rescue involved a spiritual relocation “from the domain of darkness” where, due to our sinful nature, we have all lived out our lives. But God gloriously “transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” where we were rescued from the dominion of darkness which is Satan’s realm and transferred into the kingdom of light which is Christ’s realm, for He declared, “I am the light of the world”!

Today among all the noise and busyness and worries and strife and all the other peace robbers of life, let’s verbalize this wonderful truth: God has rescued me from the dominion of darkness and transferred me into the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of my sins.

He’s our rescuer, He’s our rescuer
We are free from sin forever more
Oh how sweet the sound, Oh how grace abounds
We will praise the Lord, our rescuer

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, by sending Your Son, Jesus, You sought to reconcile all things to Yourself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross. For we, who once were alienated and enemies of the cross, are reconciled to You because we died to sin and rose again to new life in Christ. That great deliverance took place when You rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We want to continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, not being moved away from the hope of the gospel which we heard through Your Holy Spirit, reading of Scripture and through messengers of the Gospel. Amen.
(See Colossians 1:19-23)

Donegal Creek geese
Donegal Creek geese
Donegal Creek wild flowers
Donegal Creek rudbeckia and bees balm

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Rescuer”  Video  Rend Collective
“You Alone Can Rescue”  Video  Matt Redman
“Still”  Video   Legacy Five
“I Trust the Cross”  Video  Legacy Five

Finally today:

Fresh Lancaster County corn 7/6/18
Last Friday morning we picked out some freshly-picked Lancaster County corn from the Corn Wagon near New Danville, PA 13 ears for $3.00! If you look closely you’ll see the dew droplets since the corn was picked early in the morning.
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