“Keep Pressing On”

McConnells Mill, Portersrville, PA (photo by Howard Blichfeldt)McConnell’s Mill

(Photo by Howard Blichfeldt)
The gristmill in western Pennsylvania was one of the first rolling mills in the country, processing corn, oats, wheat and buckwheat for local customers.

Keep Pressing On”

Message summary: Stay faithful today and keep pressing on! Our greatest victory lies just ahead.

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“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Kansas City ChiefsHere in America we have been in the NFL playoff season with the two conference championship teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers now poised to play in the Super Bowl. Being raised in the Kansas City area I am rooting for the Chiefs who last were in and won a Super Bowl 50 years ago when I was in high school. I went to the very first game played at Arrowhead Stadium on August 12, 1972 and although I tend to follow the teams in the region of the country where I have lived such as Pittsburgh, New England and now Philadelphia I have always been a Kansas City fan. Yesterday I spoke to my cousin, Dub, who lives in the Kansas City metro area and he told me how there was so much excitement in the city.

A football season’s success is a series of steps with the ultimate goal for each team of winning the Super Bowl. It’s preseason training, winning individual games throughout the season; getting yardage, first downs, scores, and the game win; then winning the playoffs, league championship and finally the Super Bowl. Each season is a long ordeal.

In numerous places the Bible uses sports analogies to illustrate a spiritual concept such as “running the race” (Hebrews 12:1) or “boxing” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). I believe Paul is using a sports analogy in our first daily text.

There is a similar pattern in the Christian life. Our ultimate goal, as we journey below, is “to win the prize” which is analogous to life’s Super Bowl. We live faithfully for Christ through many dangers, toils and snares by “press[ing] on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This victory is absolutely assured by the grace of God for those who faithfully believe, follow, and obey Jesus Christ.

Yet reaching this goal is a long series of “spiritual first downs.” In football the first down is an incremental step normally taken to reach the goal. Life’s “first downs” are the incremental overcomings that comprise the daily business of life.

Sometimes we get sacked, sometimes we may even get piled upon.  We need to get up, shake it off, and press on. I shared this concept when I pastored in New England and Joyce Reid, a woman who had grown up in church, shared  about a youth song she recalled from the fifties with a line that sure brings a smile, “Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goal post of life.” (See below for video)

R. Kent Hughes shares a wonderful illustration of pressing on toward the goal immortalized in the movie, Chariots of Fire;

“The year was 1923, and the competing track teams of Scotland and France were neck and neck. But among the events remaining was the 440. As the runners, clad in traditional 1920s white, came to the first turn, they were bunched tight, shoulder to shoulder, when one of them (Eric Liddell) was pushed to the ground and off the track. For a second he was down—and then up again, running (though twenty meters behind), his knees high, his head back—flying. And as the leaders sprinted to the finish line, he emerged ahead to win!

What would most runners have done? Most would have waved a fist, dusted themselves off, and watched the outcome. Perhaps there would have been a few words exchanged after the race. But the athlete in question was beyond the ordinary. It was as if he had been reading this passage—forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I focus all my energy on the race; and seeing the goal, I fly to the finish.”

Some of you are down today. Circumstances of life have sacked you. The forces of adversity have even piled up on you.  In fact, as I type this message, I have some specific friends in mind who would respond, “Yeah, that’s me, alright”.

Get up, shake off, and press on! Paul wrote our daily verse from prison. He surely knew from personal experience what it meant to be sacked and even piled on (read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). But in his last letter he confidently wrote, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).

David Livingstone, pioneer medical missionary to Africa upon returning to Great Britain was asked, “Where do you want to go now?” Without hesitation, like the good Christian racer he was, Livingstone replied, “I am ready to go anywhere provided it be forward.” (Amen!)

Stay faithful today and keep pressing on! Our greatest victory lies just ahead.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You bless those who revere Your name and delight in Your commands. In the midst of inner turmoil or outer conflict I will not be shaken for my heart remains steadfast trusting in You and Your overall plan for my life. As I meditate on Your Word and stand firm in the midst of trials and testings I know that I will not be shaken. I want to remain firmly grounded as I overcome the daily obstacles that come my way. Help me to learn the valuable lessons along the way as I press on toward the goal for which You have called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Many prizes of earthly value are earned on this side, but the prize of greatest worth that offers eternal reward is heaven. I’m headed there and will leave all sorrow, sin, and sadness behind. That will be glory, be glory for me! Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Press On”  Video   Selah
“Drop Kick Me Jesus”   Video  Bobby Bare   Just for fun but has a good message!
Finally today: Yesterday I shared about a chaplain friend who was disappointed that there was no mention of “Sanctity Of Life” Sunday in his church. He followed up yesterday writing, “I did ask the pastor about this (pastor to pastor) and his response was, ‘It gets too political’. So sad!”
Indeed, so very sad. So proclaiming Biblical truth about life is “political”. By this logic teaching the Biblical position on marriage, sexuality and being male and female would be “political”. This is the very essence of being conformed to this world. But God’s Word says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

“Keep Standing Firm”

Woodpecker (photo by Doris High)Doris High takes amazing bird photos including this woodpecker!
Keep Standing Firm”

Message summary: As we stand up for righteousness we may wonder if our efforts matter.
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“I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:10). “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18). “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Tomorrow tens of thousands will gather in Washington, DC for the annual “March for Life” commemorating the 47th anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. I don’t know how many will be there this year but in the past it’s numbered in the hundreds of thousands. There will certainly be a very large crowd gathered, though likely the secular news media will do one of three things: ignore it, focus on some strange fringe group that in no way represents the true cause, or give coverage to the miniscule group of pro-abortion demonstrators who’ll be out as well.

I first went down to the March For Life about 35 years ago when we lived in Saint Marys, PA. I have been down many times since most recently about 5 years ago. People come in from all over the country, such as my Aunt Mary. Even into her mid-seventies she traveled on a bus each year all the way from western Missouri.

You can count on them every year, rain or shine, bitterly cold or unusually pleasant weather. They take a visible stand to publicly proclaim, “We have not forgotten the estimated 61,628,584 unborn babies ‘legally’ murdered here in the US since 1973.” * I have enjoyed my association with these dedicated pro-lifers over the years, and I bless them in their stand for life and righteousness tomorrow.

Today’s text may seem an unusual one for today’s topic and certainly there are verses more specifically related to unborn life which we have used when writing on this theme in the past. But today we consider the discouragement that we may face any time we take a stand on an issue in opposition to the world. Any of us standing up against the waves of evil flooding our world may wonder if we are really making a difference.

For many years our nation has been confronted with two fundamental violations in God’s created order: the sanctity of life (God values all human life from conception to natural death) and the sanctity of marriage (God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman committed for life). In the last several years a third violation has been popularized, one denying the foundational “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

As we stand up for righteousness we may wonder if our efforts matter. We may sometimes feel alone; whether it’s in our own household where other family members are not believers or in the workplace where there may be no other coworker who takes a visible stand for Christ.

Elijah was discouraged on Mount Carmel. Although he had just seen a mighty demonstration by Almighty God he still felt alone in his stand and expressed his weariness and discouragement by exclaiming, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (v.10). But Elijah was wrong, he was not the only one left!

God’s word of assurance to Elijah is powerful and timely for us as well: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (v.18).

As we take a stand for Christ and stridently avoid bowing to the Baals of our age we may sometimes feel that we are alone. Be assured that God always has a faithful remnant that remains true to His Name. We want to be in that faithful remnant and continue standing firm for Christ and His righteousness today. We welcome each reader to join us. We are not alone!

Be encouraged and stand faithful today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, we look at Elijah who took a mighty stand for You during the plague of unbelief that spread throughout the land of Israel. And yet there were moments when he allowed the mindset of the unbelievers, instead of the absolutes stated in Your Word, to weaken him, leading him to think that he was alone in standing true for You. But You sent word to Elijah, that You have a remnant more interested in obeying You than bowing down to the ever-evolving philosophies of their generation. When we stand with You, Almighty God, we are a majority no matter the number of evil forces we oppose. Keep us looking upward as we walk onward in the truths of Your Holy Scripture. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Pro-Life Prayer: Father, we thank You for the courageous girls and women who, in the most difficult of circumstances, choose to give life over choosing to dispense of their “problem”. We thank You for the vast groups of men and women who lend support to crisis pregnancies, to those who take in and raise children who are given up for adoption. We thank You for those who have dedicated their lives to this tremendous cause, keeping it very much alive, so that those who accept it as a viable option due to its legalization in 1973 will come to realize that Your Word is the first and final authority on life, not the legislation and judicial fiats of our day.

Bless those who speak, those who march, and those who work among pregnant girls and women who are presently in the very midst of making a life or death decision regarding their unborn child. We also pray for those who made the wrong choice to abort, that they may find Your enduring grace that brings healing and restoration. In many instances, You have used their troubling experience to be an influencing voice for others to make a right choice. We commit the Pro-Life cause to You this day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We have shared several times before but this true event bears repeating: The church I pastored in Massachusetts was located on US 44, a busy highway that was the main east/west route through the city of Taunton (and main route from Providence, Rhode Island to Plymouth, MA). Our church had a lighted message sign along the highway that was changed virtually every week by Bill and Veda, a very dedicated couple in the church. Bill went on to be with the Lord in 2000 when we lived there. Veda is still living, now in a nursing home, and we hope to see her this weekend.
Through this sign many people were regularly exposed to spiritual truth in a very spiritually desolate region of the country. Through the years we got a number of positive remarks from passersby concerning these messages which was very encouraging.

However a message we placed up in January one year got some very interesting feedback. We posted this simple, unambiguous, irrefutable message: “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart”. A woman who’d seen the sign called my office extremely upset. She told me she thought there should be a law against posting such a message and threatened that she was going to check into it. She claimed her children were so upset they cried. Truth really hurts and in this case illustrates the awful blindness that sin causes.

Another note: In Monday’s message we mentioned that the previous day was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. A chaplain friend from New Jersey wrote expressing disappointment that this was not mentioned in his church. I am sure there were good causes that I failed to mention when I was a pastor. However I do see a trend of too many ministers avoiding truthful proclamation if it might offend someone or be perceived as “political”. This is effectively silencing the last bastion for truth in our falling society. But be prepared to face opposition. I read a story about a church in Columbia MO where the pastor preached a sermon about God creating us male and female and the church came under attack for this!  See here.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“The Man Without The Spirit”

Railroad bridge, Lebanon County PA 1/21/20 (Click to enlarge)Yesterday we passed under this old railroad bridge that now carries the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.
Click on photo to enlarge
The Man Without The Spirit”

Message summary:  Today we encourage each reader to boldly place their faith in the Lord and, regardless of faddish worldly notions, pass that faith on to your children.

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“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

In Monday’s message we shared the vital importance and Biblical duty of Christian parents to seek to instill their faith to their children. Up to recently that would have hardly been controversial. But Albert Mohler comments on an article where the writer urges parents, “Do not evangelize a child.” “Do not colonize a child’s spirituality. Do not threaten a child with a religious control. Your religion does not have a right to stake claim to a child’s allegiance.” (link below)

Avowed atheist Richard Dawkins is an enthusiastic advocate of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. But Dawkins doesn’t just stop there. He goes further to argue that an alternative belief in divine creation is not only untrue but also deeply damaging to people and to our world. He asserts religion is a “virus” and considers faith-based education as “child abuse”.

Such foolish rantings of an atheist merely strengthens my faith and resolve to serve the Lord. After all the source of disbelief goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Disbelief and mocking the things of God are certainly nothing new!

Today’s Scripture verse gives insight on this matter. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Those such as Dawkins consider the things that come from the Spirit of God as foolishness. They cannot understand them, regardless of what level of human knowledge they have, since they do not have spiritual discernment which is a result of the New Birth. Regardless of how much knowledge and education they have they’re fools. Harsh words to some but consider Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” An interesting footnote in a Study Bible is that the Hebrew words rendered “fool” in Psalms denotes one who is morally deficient.

Consider the glorious truth of Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

Today we proclaim, “Yes, we believe!” Years ago Brooksyne led our choir in a great song by that title of faith. It powerfully expresses belief in the midst of the various attacks we deal with. (A video link and the lyrics below.)

Today we encourage each reader to boldly place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and, regardless of faddish worldly notions, pass that faith on to your children.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, I recognize my relationship with You is based solely on the faith You impart to me through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Your Word declares that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I want to serve you this day and through my words and actions express to a disbelieving world that I do believe! I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for everyone who believes.  Help me to be merciful to those who doubt, snatching them out of the fire as You save them through Your atoning blood. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Yes, I Believe”  Video   Point Of Grace

When I said that I would follow
It was with an honest heart
But I didn’t fully understand the cost
‘Cause there are saints throughout the ages
And there are those today
Who show us what it really means to carry the cross
That only fuels my devotion
No matter what comes I will say

Yes, I believe
I believe with all that is in me
Yes, I believe
Though the world rises up against me
I will be faithful
To the choice I have made
I am determined
I will not be ashamed
To live so the whole world can see
That yes, I believe

There will never be a reason
To lose this confidence
For I have found where my assurance lies
It is not in my own power
But in who my Savior is
And the truth of this conviction
Makes me shout to the sky

Yes, I believe He is risen
Yes, I believe we are forgiven
Yes, I believe and one day we’ll see Him
And together we’ll say

“I Believe”  Video   Brian Free and Assurance
‘Do Not Evangelize a Child’? The (Controversial) Responsibility of Christian Parents to Teach Their Children the Faith (Article scroll down to part three)

“National Hugging Day”

Mom hugging Joey CullenI need that hug!
This hug has a story.
National Hugging Day”

Message summary: Who might you encourage today? Would a hug be an appropriate expression of care?
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“Then he (Joseph) threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping” (Genesis 45:14). “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos” (Acts 20:37-21:1).

Today is National Hugging Day so let us give attention to this common human display of love and affection. This is a blessing that we can all experience both as a recipient and dispenser.

“Humans are social creatures and as a result hugging offers a myriad of mental and physical benefits to people, as now science is beginning to discover. For instance, hugging can boost oxytocin and serotonin levels, boost self esteem and improve mental health. Hugging has also been shown to improve cardiac health, lower blood pressure and increase relaxation levels in both participants.” (From here)

Freinds bear hugAre you a hugger? The act of hugging varies in families and in various regions of our country and world. In the South hugging is pretty common. Our church in northern Pennsylvania, which we established as a young married couple, became a hugging church, even though hugging in church wasn’t common in that region. In New England which has the reputation of being the “frozen chosen” we assumed an older heritage type church and the congregation wasn’t all that accustomed to hugging, but that changed while we were there.

Our daily texts are indicative of verses that show us that hugging was practiced all through history.

Our first daily verse describes the joy-filled reunion of Joseph with his younger brother Benjamin after many years of separation. Notice the physical expression, “He threw his arms around and embraced him”. That sounds like a hug to me! (The weeping component of their reunion merits another study.)

Our second text records the homecoming of the Prodigal son. “Threw his arms around him” again, sounds like a hug to me!

Our third text section records Paul’s departure from Ephesus. We again see the component of weeping but today let’s focus on the physical expression of brotherly love in that moving farewell as the Ephesian elders “embraced him (Paul) and kissed him”.

I have visited churches that still practice the “holy kiss”, a platonic expression of brotherly affection. This is an earnest attempt to literally obey a common command found in several of the epistles (for example see Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20). Each time Paul uses this phrase he specifies “holy kiss”.

However, for most of us, hugging is as intimate as we care to get with anyone besides our spouse! Paul’s departure must have been a very moving experience. Due to the way the chapter is divided we may miss a gem of truth that’s part of this farewell; “After we had torn ourselves away from them.” Now not all versions render the passage this colorfully but I think it captures the sense well. The Greek interlinear NT states “being pulled away from them.”

Can you recall such an experience in your own life? Let me share one memorable example from over 20 years ago.

It happened when I went home to see my Mom and Dad, who lived in the Kansas City area. My dad had recently undergone heart bypass surgery and was now on kidney dialysis and having complications. It was a very hard time in his life and in mine as well. (He died the next year.)

We lived in New England at the time and I made a spur of the moment trip out of Boston intending to make a connection in Chicago to Kansas City. The plane was full, so at the last minute I hopped on one to Dallas, knowing I could connect there as well, but with a very short connection.

David SimpsonIn Dallas I departed from the plane and hurried to my gate. From behind me I heard a very emphatic “Steve Weber”. It was Dave, a friend from first grade, who “just happened” to be traveling from Springfield MO through Dallas, to a business meeting in Florida! At the sight of him I thanked God and was greatly encouraged. Frankly I can’t recall but am practically certain we would have hugged each other!

Neither of us had any idea that we would see each other that day nor would we have dreamed of such a surprise visit. All these years later I still treasure those ten or fifteen minutes sharing a moment of fellowship with a childhood friend, during a tough time in my life. It helped me to digest the rather soggy airport pizza which we ate in haste. We were mutually encouraged.

Who might you encourage today? Would a hug be an appropriate expression of care?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, You created within us a desire for the human touch. We’re grateful for hugs of love, affection, and friendship; for those who embraced us following a personal disappointment, a time of loss, a long separation, or a time of celebration and rejoicing. Sometimes words fall short or are inadequate for a situation, so You gave us the ability to show that we really do care by warmly embracing one who is in need of a loving physical touch. Prompt us to be mindful of these good people and to be willing to make the first move. Amen.

Brooksyne’s Note:  I clipped this article from a take-home Sunday School paper way back in my college years and have considered its simple message ever since. Perhaps it will touch your heart as well:

“Without Words” by Enola Chamberlin

One night when I was very young we went camping out on the desert. No earth lights gleamed anywhere. Our lone campfire pushed back the dark a little. The stars – brilliant, beautiful, utterly wonderful possessed me completely.

“Are the stars the lights in the cities of God?” I asked softly.

“What an idea!” my overly practical mother said flatly.

My brother two and a half years older than I and just beginning to learn from books, turned a back somersault in the sand. He giggled; he roared. Then, coming upright, he said, “Are you going to be a nitwit all your life?

By this time my eyes were so full of tears I couldn’t see the stars. My heart was so broken I’d lost the lovely feeling I’d had a minute before.

And then out of the dark came my father’s precious, long-fingered hand and found mine. Tenderly, reassuringly, his clasp tightened.  It let up a bit, tightened again, this time hard. He didn’t say a word, didn’t even look at me. But comfort, understanding, and reassurance flowed from his hand to my heart, and I was healed.

This incident has stayed with me all my life. It has grown in importance as I have grown in understanding. It is a wonderful example of how much one person can get over to another without a word being said. He sympathized with me, and did it perfectly by the simple clasping of my hand.

Every so often, it seems we find ourselves in the position my father was in that night. Disappointments and heartaches come to our friends and loved ones. We must let them know we understand, but far too many of us try to do this with words.  We fumble around, vainly hunting for the right thing to say. Then we find ourselves talking to cover our embarrassment. Finally the one we have tried to cheer is feeling sorry for us.

How much better had we simply clasped a hand, laid an arm across a shoulder, and given a comforting pressure.  The grieving one would have known how we felt and would not have had to listen to our rush of inadequate words – would not have had to try to answer when there was no answer.

A little girl went to call on a neighbor whose little boy had gone away to boarding school. When she came home, she told her mother she had done an awful job of comforting Johnny’s mother.

“What did you say” her mother asked.

“I didn’t say anything,” the little girl answered. “She was sitting in a chair crying, so I just crawled up in her lap and cried with her.

Maybe that will make you smile. But the next time you have to comfort someone, consider carefully whether words are needed or a sympathizing touch that might speak even more effectively than words.

Joey Cullen with Lorna and Brooksyne 6/5/10Our lead picture today is a photo of my mom hugging Joey, a teenager from our church who spent several years as a Prodigal. This photo is taken from Joey’s wedding about ten years later. Lorna led our youth group during a time in Joey’s life when he was rebellious but she was determined to show the love of Christ to this troubled young man. Looks like he’s showing his deep appreciation!
Joseph Cullen
Joseph, is now an ordained minister and serves at Philadelphia Christian Center, a large church in Philadelphia. He married Lori, the daughter of Phil and Carol Menditto, who pastor the church and now has two children.

Darrel Martin with Brooksyne

Here’s another treasured hug photo. In 2008 Brooksyne had broken her ankle. We attended the wedding of Darrel and Kelly, who both grew up in the church we attended for many years. The bridal couple greeted each attendee and dismissed us from the wedding ceremony row by row.  Brooksyne, unable to leave her chair, expected to just wave at Darrel and Kelly, but he kindly sought her out and extended a warm hug. What a joy that 12 years later Darrel and Kelly are doing well along with two children and a faithful walk with the Lord.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Greek 1723. enagkalizomai: to take into one’s arms, to embrace, hug. From en and a derivative of agkale; to take in one’s arms.
Here’s an early reference to marital hugging that was a PDA: “After Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac hugging and kissing Rebekah” (Genesis 26:8).
“When God Ran”  Video  Phillips, Craig & Dean

What Hugging Can Do

It’s wondrous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue
A hug can say, “I love you so,”
Or, “I hate to see you go.”

A hug is “Welcome back again.”
And “Great to see you! Where ‘er you been’
A hug can soothe a small child’s pain
And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug, there’s just no doubt about it —
We scarcely could survive without it!
A hug delights and warms and charms;
It must be why God gave us arms

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers,
Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers;
And chances are your favorite aunts
love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them, puppies love them,
Heads of states are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
And make your travel so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of ‘em;
The more you give, the more there’s more of ‘em.
So stretch those arms without delay
And give someone a hug today!

Dean Walley, The Messenger
Finally today: Yesterday we shared a photo and I was informed by an alert reader that the youth were probably hauling a volleyball net under the wagon. An Amish youth confirmed this. The Amish youth are tremendous volleyball payers.

“What Children Learn”

Amish youth heading to meeting 01-19-20Yesterday afternoon we passed many Amish youth heading to their Sunday afternoon youth meetings. We were curious as to what they were transporting under the wagon.
Looks like a turbo-charged muffler!

“What Children Learn

Message summary:
We consider today the awesome power of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14,15).

Yesterday we observed “Sanctity Of Human Life”, a Sunday in January, when many churches including ours, observed the Sanctity of Life, recognizing the value of life from conception to natural death.

I received a special message on my voice mail that has really blessed us. Stephen, who just turned 2 this last fall, left a message singing “Jesus Loves Me”. Listen here (55 seconds). We are sure his Mom helped him with the phone call! Stephen is the youngest of seven children in a loving home where he has been taught the ways of the Lord from infancy. What a blessing children are to any family or church especially as we see faith developing in them.

I contrast that to a scene from the movie, “The Case For Christ”. It’s a family eating in a restaurant when their little girl begins choking. They helplessly watch in panic before a lady identifying as a nurse comes to their aid and, just as it seemed hopeless, the little girl coughs up the food blocking her airway and resumes breathing. The parents thank the nurse and express how lucky they are that she was there. She informs them it wasn’t luck but to thank Jesus since He guided her to that very restaurant that evening.

Later the daughter asked her parents, “Who is Jesus?”  They tell her that they are atheists and don’t believe in Jesus. The little girl states, “Then I guess I’m an atheist too”.

Reading Bible to childChildren are always learning, the concern is what are they learning!
Today let us focus on a point that Paul made regarding Timothy’s earliest childhood education. He is urging Timothy to “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it”.  If we have had a godly upbringing that’s good advice.
He makes a point that is rich with meaning as he reminds Timothy that “from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures.” Timothy had a godly mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). They apparently had taught the Holy Scriptures to Timothy even as an infant. Today let us just consider the words, “from infancy”.

2 Timothy 3;14,15Infancy is a part of our childhood and other Bible versions translate “from childhood” in this verse. But there is a special significance in understanding the word more precisely as including infancy, which we normally consider the period from birth to two years old. By that age we usually refer to them as toddlers (I suppose that’s because we toddle a lot at that age!).

But there’s an even deeper truth here. The Greek word for “infancy” is brephos. This same word is used in Luke 1:44 to describe John while he was in his mother’s womb. When John’s mother saw Mary she said, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby (brephos) in my womb leaped for joy.” Thus in Scripture, infancy (brephos) includes pre-born life as well as the period shortly after our birth until we begin to “toddle”.
How rich in this regard is the Psalmist’s statement in Psalm 139, “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

There is such a devaluing of prenatal life which extends to all life. “Consumer Reports” had an article dealing with birth control, which also touched on the subject of abortion. Abortion was identified as a procedure to remove “uterine contents.” What a new low in Orwellian speech!

John was not “uterine contents” but a tiny developing baby, who grew up to make a mighty impact in fulfilling the purpose for which God had made him. Paul acknowledged that Timothy was impacted by the Holy Scriptures from infancy, which in his case we certainly believe is prenatal development as well. Even many in the world recognize the intricate development that takes place in the womb, not only physically, but in many other ways as well.
Consider today the awesome power of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. Some of you, like John, Timothy and young Stephen, have known Biblical instruction from infancy, due to their godly heritage. Others have come into this knowledge later and may be the first of their generation to have godly faith. Regardless, hold on to the divine truth that “you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, there is incredible blessing in the miracle of new birth and along with this gift of life comes extraordinary, lifetime responsibility for the parents. May we as parents realize the impact of imparting Scriptural teaching by instruction as well as example from the time of their conception. We’re grateful for our family, other Christian brothers and sisters, our church and Christian ministries that also inspire our children to live for You. We cannot force our children to walk in Your ways, but we can certainly show them the way to life everlasting and equip them with the Scriptural knowledge that will make them wise for salvation. May this always be our highest priority. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Amish youth heading to meeting 01-19-20It was cold as these youth rode to their meeting but they must like riding in the open carts and just bundle up to keep warm.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“One Day”  Video  Calvary Church Orchestra and Choir from yesterday’s service. This version is on the official church YouTube page and features the music along with the slides of those being remembered. This version has the best audio quality. We only knew a couple of the people shown on the slides but we both considered those we do know who went to be with the Lord this last year, such as our long-time friend Curt Haldeman. If you choose to watch it perhaps you will consider those you want to remember who passed away this last year.

“One Day”  Video  Calvary Church Orchestra and Choir  This version was recorded from the balcony yesterday by Ester and shows the choir and orchestra singing the song.
Dinner scene from “The Case for Christ”  Video clip  This particular clip does not have the later conversation where the parents tell their daughter they are atheists.
For those who may trust but want to verify regarding the point made about the Greek word “brephos” here is Luke 1:44 and 2 Timothy 3:15 in an interlinear Bible that shows the Greek.

“A Lesson From A Broken Buggy Wheel”

Buggy with missing wheel 1/16/20Buggy broken down along PA Route 340
A Lesson From A Broken Buggy Wheel”

Message summary: 
The providence of God can be a terrifying thought or one of tremendous comfort. It depends on your position in Christ. As believers we can rest in the calm assurance that God rules for our ultimate good. Today, may you find peace and assurance in this Biblical truth.
ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“He (God) made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt” (Exodus 14:25). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).

Yesterday morning we passed an Amish buggy broken down along Rt. 340, between two of our county’s most colorfully named towns; Bird In Hand and Intercourse. The right front wheel had fallen off and we saw it leaning against the guard rail about 100 feet behind the buggy.

I don’t know whether the Amish use AAA but the horse and occupants of the buggy were gone when we passed by. We’ve ridden in buggies and that must have been a bit scary when the wheel fell off! Hopefully they had a mobile phone to call for help. Actually the area was heavily settled by Amish so I am sure they got some neighborly help right away. We didn’t go back that way but I am sure it didn’t stay there for long.

Have you ever had a wheel come off while you’re driving down the highway? Although I’ve had a few flat tires I have never had a wheel fall off or a blowout while driving.
From a young age we have heard the significance of the invention of the wheel and the contribution it made to civilization. It’s a very useful tool of life in so many ways. Today’s text references the very first mention of a wheel in the Bible.

Exodus 14 chronicles the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites as they walked across the Red Sea on dry land as God parted the waters. As they departed Egypt the Egyptians chased after them. “He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them” (v.9). I wonder how the rank and file chariot drivers felt when commanded to follow their leaders through the parted sea! They witnessed a mighty miracle, nevertheless Scripture declares that their hearts were hardened (v.17).

“He (God) made the wheels of their chariots come off.” This is an example of God’s providence over the affairs of men. Now surely the finest mechanics in Egypt had serviced those chariots for Pharaoh. These mechanics would have been highly skilled using the latest wheel building techniques and the finest materials available. But when the Almighty God of the universe ordains that wheels come off, no human invention or mechanical skill will stop them!

“So that they had difficulty driving.” You don’t say!!!

“Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” The Egyptians rightly recognized that the Lord was fighting for His people against their enemies. They’d already witnessed God’s miraculous power in the ten plagues that preceded the Israelite’s escape. Why did they think that He was going to turn His back on them at this very critical point?

The great doctrine of providence states that God is superintending over all of His creation in every way at all times. He is indeed, “sustaining all things by His powerful word”. He’s got each hair on our head counted (present tense) and not a single bird falls without His knowledge. The Westminster Catechism states, “God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to His own glory.”

The providence of God can be a terrifying thought or one of tremendous comfort. It depends on your position in Christ. As believers we can rest in the calm assurance that God rules for our ultimate good. Today, may you find peace and assurance in this Biblical truth.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, in Your hands are the very depths of the earth and the tips of the mountain peaks. The sea is Yours, for You made it and Your hands formed the dry land. It is at Your beckoning that the sea can be turned to dry land or dry land turned to sea. When the enemy comes against us like a flood, Your Spirit will lift up a standard against him. We never want our hearts to harden toward You, like the Egyptians and later the Israelites. Keep us faithful and trusting You and Your providential care, in the good times and in the trying times, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“The Power Of The Cross”  Video  Keith & Kristyn Getty at the Sing! Conference
Brooksyne hopes to attend this conference in Nashville this year.
Finally today: We see a lot of hurt in the course of our chaplaincy work but what a blessing to see changed lives. We’ve seen a sixty year old man through a lot over the many years we have served his company. He’s had health problems, family problems and so forth. He was a problem life-long drinker but excitably told me yesterday he just celebrated two years of alcohol-free living. Even his doctor was surprised and asked him how he did it. He told him, “I just don’t open the can”. Now that’s good advice in whatever you are trying to overcome!

“This Sacred Place”

Menheim PA rural scene (Lamar Dourte)
We have not had much snow this season but we do have some forecast this weekend. Lamar Dourte captured this scene near Manheim, PA last week.
“This Sacred Place

Message summary:
We hope all of you who follow Jesus are a part of a Bible-preaching, Christ-honoring church!
ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
We just watched a powerful video of a song we had never heard before by the Gaither Vocal Band titled “This Is The Place”. It has outstanding photography and depicts the wide variety of church types, sizes and styles. It’s about the blessing of the local church and caused us both to look back and reflect on how the local church has been a blessing to us all throughout our lives.
This is the place where we pray
This is the place where we cry
This is the place where we start
“‘Til death do us part”
Where we say “goodbye”
Here we leave all our pain
Find forgiveness and grace
Here we walk down the aisle
Dedicate every child
Here in this sacred place
We were both raised in church-going families although our background as children was very different. I was raised in a formal, rather inexpressive mainline denominational type church in the Kansas City area. On the other hand Brooksyne attended more informal, expressive type churches in rural Oklahoma.
We met in Bible College in the mid-seventies and have gone to church together ever since beginning our dating years while students. We served together for some 25 years as I was the pastor primarily in two churches in northern, PA and in New England. But we’ve also had about five years in short-term interim type roles.
For many years we attended a small country church here in our area and for the last several have attended a much larger one.
But in each church we have experienced a refuge, a place of growth and caring. Sure, there are some hurts or as some like to say “sheep bites” in local churches and we’ve experienced that. As we get older we may not always appreciate all the changes, but the big picture is that we have been so blessed by the local church.
We continue to have associations from each church we’ve attended or served as pastor. Next week we will travel to New England to visit Veda Shibilo, our former church secretary, who is in nursing care and said in a recent phone call, “I know my time is near”. She and her late husband Bill were tremendous blessings during our years in Massachusetts.
We continue to firmly believe that God has ordained in this church age that each Lord’s Day His people gather together in thousands of local units all over the world to pray, sing, hear His Word, and most certainly to “fellowship”. Apart from family the church is the most important institution in life.
Ever since Resurrection Day believers have gathered  to worship the risen Lord Jesus. Some in small groups, others in very large. Songs of praise are sung, prayers are offered and God’s truth is proclaimed. Fulfilling God’s call to “not give up meeting together” remains an essential component of growth and stability in our Christian life.  We hope all of you who follow Jesus are an active part of a Bible-preaching, Christ-honoring church!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, times of refreshing and gladness of heart are present when we share with each other; whether it’s food, warm conversation, working together or sharing one another’s burdens. When we are in unity we become one in purpose and accomplish great things for Your kingdom. We want to be obedient to the teachings of the apostles, enjoy regular fellowship with one another and also faithfully pray for each other so that we are the kind of church that pleases You and is effective in our community.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“This Is The Place”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band Watch this video and see which scenes and words you can identify with.
“One Day”  Video  Matt Redman  This Sunday Calvary Church will be remembering all who passed away during 2019 in the church and the choir will sing this song. Typically there are many tears. Consider this verse.
One day You’ll make sense of it all, Jesus
One day every question resolved
Every anxious thought left behind
No more fear
At the end Matt moves into an extemporaneous expression which is very moving.