Devotional

“Holy Marriage”

“Holy Marriage”
 
Message summary: Today let us consider the Biblical, God-ordained design for marriage, the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime. Today let us again remember that, “Marriage should be honored by all”.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). “Marriage should be honored by all” (Hebrews 13:4).

Yesterday we engaged in a conversation with a young man who had just completed a 30 day drug rehab program for opiate addiction through Teen Challenge. He now lives in a half way house and is working as a temp in a company we serve. We sought to encourage him by sharing several of what we have seen as helpful and even essential keys to keeping on the right path and staying faithful.

Like so many we hope he will overcome. This brought to mind those we have seen overcome for the long haul. Today we share an example:

 
Photo of Wayne and YvetteBrooksyne saw a post on her Facebook page celebrating the anniversary of a wedding I had conducted in January 2006. In fact the post had a rather unbecoming photo of me at the service. Yvette had been a part of the church we served in Massachusetts who had a very hard life. (We have a link to her story below.)
The wedding service was very special. Yvette and Wayne had both been associated with Teen Challenge where they first met. Family, friends from church, and a large contingent of friends from Teen Challenge made up the witnesses to their wedding ceremony.

Teen Challenge was originally so named due to its outreach to teens back when it was founded in the late fifties by David Wilkerson. But soon after the ministry started it began to reach out to people of all ages who are trapped in various addictions.

The message remains “Jesus is able to save and deliver” and through the years scores of men and women all over the world have experienced miraculous and long-lasting deliverance. I served on the board for the New England Teen Challenge and have many friends who went through the program going back all the way to my college days when I met Sonny Oliver. (We also have a link to his story below.)

The Teen Challenge folks sure made up an interesting group at the wedding. They tend to be socially less restrained than many (in a good sense in my view); not impolite, just very expressive. As the service progressed one of the groomsmen was very concerned that I had forgotten the “You may now kiss the bride” part and gestured to remind me. I whispered (but inevitably loud enough for all to hear since I was using a microphone), that it was coming up.

Toward the end of the ceremony it seemed that practically everyone thought I would miss it and there was an anticipatory rumble throughout the congregation and even from Wayne and Yvette. At the appropriate time I said, “Wayne, you may finally kiss your bride.” As I introduced the new Mr. and Mrs. the congregation erupted into earnest applause as the couple departed down the aisle.

The kiss was anticipated in large part due to a commitment that Wayne and Yvette had made during their dating period. They knew the effects of immorality and had made a commitment to refrain from physical intimacy during their courtship, including kissing, deciding their first kiss would be their wedding kiss!

The Scripture’s forthright statement in the daily text is just as needed today as 2000 years ago, perhaps even more: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). *

Indeed there is so much immorality in our world (unless we merely redefine immorality as many are doing). But using God’s standards as expressed in the Holy Scripture we clearly see that there is so much immorality. Thus “each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband”. This is a reinforcement of the Biblical, God-ordained design for marriage, the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime. Today let us again remember that, “Marriage should be honored by all”.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

 

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, how grateful we are for the union of a man and a woman in holy marriage. You designed the family unit to work together, play together and support one another as they go through the celebrations and difficulties of life. Help me to be absolutely committed to my marriage partner and to the family You have chosen for me. May I bring vitality and blessing to my family this day. In Your name I pray. Amen.

 
* 1 Corinthians 7 also teaches that some have the gift of celibacy.
 
When I had last conducted a wedding ceremony in Massachusetts in 2000 prior to our move to Pennsylvania the Massachusetts marriage license designated the couple with the traditional titles bride and groom. Massachusetts was the first state to pervert the definition of marriage and this happened shortly before I conducted Wayne and Yvette’s wedding. At that time Massachusetts designated the couple on the state issued marriage license as party A and party B!
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
We wrote a story about Yvette many years ago titled “No Hopeless Cause”
 
A message about Sonny Oliver.
 
“He Can Take It”  Video  Brian Free and Assurance

“Chainbreaker”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band
 
“In Heaven’s Eyes”  Video  Sheila Walsh
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Devotional

“Offended By Truth”

“Offended By Truth”
 
Message summary: Truth is hate to those who hate the truth!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“We must speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
 
I see a nation on the brink
I see a people prone to think
That truth is like an ocean wave
Changing with the tide.
 
But for me there has to be
An absolute, a center line
And it’s the Word of God eternal
The cornerstone of Christ
 
Several weeks ago a church in rural California used their changeable message sign to post a truthful but very culturally unpopular message. It hit the social media circus, many were offended by it and the pastor lost his position as pastor. The sign’s message was blunt but true and just 25 years ago wouldn’t have caused much attention. Some would have agreed with it, other would have disagreed but would have accepted, perhaps even respected, the church’s right to express its beliefs.

But we now live in the age of the easily offended and day after day we read of someone causing a stir because they are offended about something. With social media this can quickly become “viral” and mob-like. This works especially well for those offended by conservative views.

In the nineties I pastored a church in Massachusetts that had a changeable message sign at the entrance to our parking lot. We placed up Scripture verses and short truths expressed in catchy phrases and changed it weekly. Our church was located on US Route 44, the busy east/west highway passing through the city, so we had lots of traffic. Through the years we would occasionally get a positive comment about a message posted. But my most informative feedback memory was not positive.

 
Abortion Stops A Beating Heart
 
One year during a “Sanctity of Life Sunday” we posted this simple, unambiguous, irrefutable message: “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart”. A few days later a lady called our church office and told me she had seen the sign and was deeply offended and extremely upset about it. She thought there should be a law against posting such a message and threatened that she was going to check into it. She said her children were so upset they cried. Well, the truth really hurts and in this case illustrates the awful blindness that sin causes. However, that was it and it blew over and we left the message up without further incident till it was time to put up a new message.

When reading about the California church sign I considered how different things might be today for posting “Abortion stops a beating heart” and similar type messages. With social media as a catalyst someone would have twittered out a photo and in no time an offended group would have probably gathered around the sign at the entrance of our church in angry protest. They might have yelled at our church people as they entered the parking lot and no telling what else!

Today, whatever Biblical issue is being assaulted in your corner of the world, keep standing for the truth. A lie: no matter how it is packaged, no matter who repeats it or how often, whether or not a majority holds to it, it is still a lie!  Let us commit to being proclaimers and examples of truth in the midst of a world that redefines or “modernizes” what is perceived as truth to promote its own truth-denying agenda.

Today’s text is a phrase from a verse that we purposely quote to make us think. In its initial application it was directed to the church in Ephesus and addressed their interpersonal relationships. But we feel the principle applies to the church’s stand in the world as well. “We must speak the truth in love.” Unfortunately the concept of love and hate has been so muddied that this is very hard. Truth is hate to those who hate the truth!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we learn from Scripture and we see by Jesus’ example that we are to speak the truth in love, even when it is easier to go along with the crowd or the trends of our society including the post modern thinking that doesn’t rely on facts as much as one’s personal experience, emotions, and ideology. Help us to be courageous believers who live the truth and speak the truth. Give us strength not to apologize or shrink back when we’re attacked as ambassadors of Your unchanging truths as presented in Scripture. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Several additional considerations on offending and being offended:

1) Of course this message should not be construed as an excuse to bully or intentionally offend others.

2) All through life I have been insulted and/or offended. I think this has been virtually everyone’s experience. Sometimes the insults are intentional and mean, but most of the times unintentional, a misunderstanding.

3) And I have also insulted and/or offended others. I also think this has been virtually everyone’s experience. Most of the time these insults and offenses to others have been unintentional, or likely a misunderstanding. But frankly, especially in my pre-conversion days, I look back at my insensitivity and immaturity and admit that I was intentionally mean at times, such as getting a laugh at someone else’s expense. In some cases I have sought forgiveness from those I hurt, in other cases such as a lost contact I must leave it in the Lord’s hands.

4) Now “being offended” can be used to silence those with whom one disagrees and if lawyers get involved can be a potential source of big money.

 
Several years ago I recall when Daniel Riley, a singer with the Gospel group “Gold City” shared how that in his small town in Alabama, they had, as long as he could remember, a nativity scene on display. One person was “offended” by it and an outside group called the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” demanded its removal. Like so many small towns they complied rather than pay the legal fees to fight such an outrageous demand.
 
He shared that the same evil, Satan-inspired group demanded a town remove a sign often seen in smaller towns all across America. “The Churches Of ______ Welcome You”. Now how in the world could that be offensive to anybody? When we drive by a sign or billboard with a message offensive to our faith (which we see a lot) we either disregard it or at times it prompts us to pray.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“I Will Stand”  Video  Gold City
 
Here’s another example of the sheer evil and twisted thinking of the religious left “Nadia Bolz-Weber Asserts Life Begins at Breath” in regard to the pro-life viewpoint. (Note: I am not related to this Weber!)
 
 
Observations.
  • I believe the sign message expresses the truth, but am not sure that was the best place.
  • We don’t have the full story about the pastor’s dismissal. Maybe there were other issues and the sign message was used to egg someone on, which it sure did!
  • Interesting when looking at reviews of the church on Google maps, the amount of negative reviews the last couple of weeks almost certainly by people that never heard of this church prior to this. You sure don’t want to get the social media mob coming against you!
  • The church web site now states “forbidden”.
Devotional

“Fearfully And Wonderfully Made”

Iowa River dam (Photo by Steve Ephraim)Icy Iowa River Dam
(Photo by Steve Ephraim)
Today we have the most frigid temps of the season with a current 8° and wind chill of -16°. It sounds like we have factory fans blowing outside our doors and windows!
“Fearfully And Wonderfully Made”
 
Message summary: Let us pray for a return to Biblical obedience in regard to God’s gift of sexuality, marriage and children. Let us respectfully recognize and celebrate that motherhood begins at the point of conception when God places a new life that he forms within the mother’s womb.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13,14). “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'” (Luke 1:42-43). 

 
Baby bottlesYesterday many churches here in America acknowledged “Sanctity Of Human Life” Sunday including the church we attend. As we walked into the foyer a couple of cribs were loaded with baby bottles. Those attending were encouraged to pick up one or more bottles and fill them with change over the next several weeks to help support Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services, a tremendous local organization that stands for the values of life providing pregnancy tests, prenatal & parenting education, sexual integrity education and post-abortion counseling.

Last Friday the annual “March For Life” was held in Washington, a march I have attended many times going back to the eighties. This event has people from many different faith backgrounds taking a visible stand for the individual’s “Right to Life”. This year’s theme was “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science”. Brooksyne and I unapologetically take a strong stand for the Sanctity of Life; for the protection of the unborn, the infirmed, and the elderly; for those the world regards as being unworthy of life.

Today’s first Scripture is straightforward. The Psalmist David acknowledges that he was formed by God while in his mother’s womb and gives thanks. Even with his rudimentary knowledge of prenatal development at that time he knew he was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

The second text is from a familiar narrative section read often during the Christmas season though some may fail to see the doctrinal significance in it. Check out the context. The angel assured Mary of God’s special plan for her (Luke 1:35) and she submitted to this plan (1:38). She was told that her relative Elizabeth was also with child in her sixth month of pregnancy (1:36).

After the message Mary “hurried” to see Elizabeth and her greeting prompted the baby to leap in Elizabeth’s womb. The Greek uses the word “brephos” here. This word is used nine times in the New Testament for both pre-born and infant children. No distinction is made between the two in New Testament Greek. This joyful baby was John who had another three months of prenatal development and security inside his mother’s womb at the time of Mary’s visit. Today many babies are routinely slaughtered at this age and even older.

However, it’s Elizabeth’s response to Mary that is most interesting and instructive. “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'” (Luke 1:42-43).

Notice Elizabeth’s recognition of Mary as “mother of my Lord”. How long had Mary been a mother? Of course we don’t know exactly. This is not revealed to us; days, weeks, a month. Yet Elizabeth calls her “the mother of my Lord”. Most all abortions are now performed after the point of Elizabeth’s declaration!

 
Let us pray for a return to Biblical obedience in regard to God’s gift of sexuality, marriage and children. Let us respectfully recognize and celebrate that motherhood begins at the point of conception when God places a new life that He forms within the mother’s womb.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when You took the dust of the ground to form Adam and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life You had a purpose for his existence on earth. And You have a purpose for all human life. Forgive us for assuming that we know more than You, the Creator of life, in willfully choosing whether one is allowed to live and another is destined to die before one breathes his or her first independent breath. We thank You for the millions who take a visible stand for life, based not on a popular theme but on truths established in Your Holy Word. Help us to be vigilant in doing what is right and good in Your sight, even when it is inconvenient and costly to our personal lives. In our disposable society help us never to dispose of human life that You created or to dispose of truths that You intended for us to live by in favor of a political, intellectual, or financial agenda.

We pray for those in the abortion industry who are motivated by financial gain by the taking of innocent life much like Judas who took the 30 pieces of silver as He handed Jesus over to those who would crucify Him. Like Joseph’s brothers who took the 20 pieces of silver in exchange for selling their innocent brother. Father, we look to You in faith asking that You speak to the indifferent and bigoted hearts that cause innocent lives to be slaughtered every minute of every day. We pray this impassioned prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.


 
Mollie eyeing squirrel from front window 1/18/18 (Ester)Last week we shared a photo of Mollie eyeing a squirrel nestled in a tree and asked if readers could see the squirrel. Some could and others not at all, but today viewers can easily see the squirrel Mollie has her eye on in this photo Ester took from our front window!

We enjoy our bird feeders and with the variety of birds that come in for feed, usually black oil sunflower seeds. But birds are also attracted to peanut butter. Our cat Dottie had been a good mouser for the past 17 years and kept our utility barn relatively mouse-free. Since she died last week I have had to set traps and already have caught three. However we also caught something we would rather not. (photo)
 
Bear trying to get to bird feeder in northern PA
Larry, a friend from White Oak Display, shared this photo with us that he took from his cabin in northern Pennsylvania. Apparently squirrels aren’t the only unauthorized critter attempting to get the bird seed!
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Untold”  Video  Matthew West
 
“From My Mother’s Womb”  Video  Jannie L. Guzmán
 
There are so many thought-provoking, touching songs on this topic! See here.
 
 
Note: Today’s photo of an icy dam on the Iowa River was taken by Iowan Steve Ephraim, who sent an encouraging reply to Friday’s message, “Nice job on your engineering analogy from the perspective of a lifelong mechanical engineer!” When posting the photo I teasingly asked Brooksyne “is that spelled dam or damn?” prompting a memory from some 25 years ago when a lady was proudly showing Brooksyne her scrapbook with photos including several dams. However in her scrapbook she consistently misspelled the photo captions and used the expletive spelling. Not wanting to embarrass her Brooksyne just quietly smiled to herself as she flipped through the scrapbook.
 
Finally today:

Amish transport van at Costco, Lancaster, PA 1/17/19
A common site in our area are vans used to “haul” the Amish and other plain groups who use these vehicles for longer trips when the horse and buggy mode of transport is not feasible. Most of the time they are black vans with little identification. We saw this van last week while filling with gas at Costco. I engaged in a brief conversation with the driver, a New York City first responder who was disabled in the 9/11 attacks, and as you would probably expect from anyone driving a van like this, he is quite a colorful man!
Devotional

“The Consequences Of Forsaking God’s Pattern”

Pennsylvania red bank barn in snow (Photo by Greg Schneider)Pennsylvania Bank Barn
Overnight we had snowfall with a storm forecast for this weekend.
We have milk and bread!
 (Taken by our friend Greg Schneider)
“The Consequences Of Forsaking God’s Pattern”
 
Note: Today’s message is longer and perhaps a bit more mentally challenging than many using an illustration from engineering.
 
Message summary: Let us renew our resolve to follow the Lord and walk in accordance to His pattern of belief and His way of life.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to Him” (2 Kings 21:22). “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).

All this week we have been studying the concept of “pattern”:

* God is pleased and honored when we follow His patterns.
* We are not to conform to the pattern of this world.
* Scripture provides a pattern for what we are to believe.
* Scripture provides a pattern for how we are to live.

 
Today let us consider the consequences of forsaking a pattern and to do so I use an illustration from engineering. We visit with many engineers and product designers in our role as company chaplains. Presently, most are mechanical. However, all through my ministry, I’ve associated with many different kinds of engineers; electrical, chemical, civil, software and others. Engineers apply science to specific functions and products. I suppose I enjoy my engineer associations because I have found engineers to be usually very sensible. They are smart but generally not pretentious. I appeal to any engineers reading this to give me some slack if my illustration below is not precisely put into the proper terms you prefer to use.

Drinker valve
We serve as chaplains at Val-Co, a company that makes watering equipment for poultry. Some tend to think that getting water to chickens wouldn’t involve any more than a farmer using a hose and just filling up drinking containers for the birds.  But in large chicken houses the birds get their water by tapping their beak on a drinker valve that opens so that a single drop of water comes out and then the valve closes completely. It’s designed so that the bird gets adequate water without drips which would create dampness in the facility conducive to disease. Of course thousands of these valves are needed in a large chicken growing operation.
 

Drinker valve assembly machine

The machine that makes these parts runs very, very fast producing thousands each hour yet each single part must stay within the design tolerance which prompted me to discuss with Tom the importance of this machine making these parts so precisely.
 
The engineering specifications (pattern) call for a very specific measurement but a very slight acceptable deviation is allowed. Yesterday, when I was visiting with Tom, a manufacturing engineer, he explained that these parts have a design tolerance of +or- .0005 of an inch which is less than the diameter of a human hair!

“Engineering tolerances are assigned to parts for manufacturing purposes, as boundaries for acceptable build. No machine can hold dimensions precisely to the nominal value, so there must be acceptable degrees of variation. If a part is manufactured, but has dimensions that are out of tolerance, it is not a usable part according to the design intent.” (Wikipedia)

We believe in life there is a parallel. Of course none of us attain the precise design specifications as ordained by our Creator since we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Only Jesus completely lived entirely up to the design specs originally intended for the human race!


Today we want to consider the consequences of forsaking God’s design specs (pattern). Both Bible and secular history abundantly demonstrate these consequences. Especially in the Old Testament we can easily recall the cycles of
rejection and disobedience followed by renewal and obedience, repeated over and over. In secular history we observe the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms.

Even the “good” characters in the Bible forsook God’s design specs at times, most notably David, in the Old Testament. Scripture records the life-long heartaches King David endured as a consequence of his sin. His family and others also experienced grief, conflict, and loss as a result which is often the case when a person sins. From the New Testament we consider Peter’s denial of Christ, the guilt and shame it brought, and his blessed restoration.

Forsaking God’s design specs always has consequences, some immediate but others delayed. Delayed consequences can lead to one’s faulty thinking that it really doesn’t matter since there appears, for a time, to be no negative consequence to one’s choice.

One factor is how it seems as though there is a “grace allowance” (for lack of a better term) even for those who reject God’s design specs, at least in the sense that life may still work and seems to be going OK. I struggle as I place these thoughts in writing lest I be misunderstood. The grace allowance for the human race is similar to the engineering tolerance. Life still works even when we don’t match up to the divinely ordained specs. However, Scripture teaches us that there is a most certain judgment, if not now it will be at a future date!

Now let me seek to make a spiritual analogy: mankind as noted above has always (since the fall) failed to wholly live up to God’s pattern. As Romans 3:23 famously states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Grace provides a safety factor for those who repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and serve Him as Lord.

But I consider that there is also an allowable tolerance and failure factor to society as a whole even the unrepentant and those who willfully reject God in regard to God’s design.

Looking at the human race as a whole we see more and more willful, open defiance of God’s design specs on many issues. Consider marriage and the family, sexuality, truthfulness, responsible living, hard work and in so many other areas.

Of course the failure factor will ultimately be revealed in the final Great Judgment when Jesus separates those who receive His eternal inheritance in heaven from those who perish in hell. But since there is a delayed period between sowing and reaping many assume all is well even while charting their individual course that ultimately leads to eternal destruction.

The daily text is an obscure verse succinctly describing the life of King Amon, son of Manasseh. “He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to Him.” What a sad legacy King Amon left for all to read, right down to our own generation.

Let us renew our resolve to follow the Lord and walk in accordance to His pattern of belief and His way of life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we seek to honor You in our lives. We don’t want our lasting legacy to go down in the history books like that of King Manasseh and his son Amon, who forsook You, the God of his father, King Hezekiah. Though he repented late in his reign so many he had already influenced for evil, went on to influence their children and their children’s children. Instead we want our lives to reflect that of King Hezekiah who trusted in You, the God of Israel. Thank You, Father, for letting us make choices for ourselves, but we dare not trust our own wisdom in making these choices. We rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to establish the desirable pattern for right living here and now for that will also determine our future for all of eternity. Amen.



Randy inspecting machined partRandy is inspecting a part he just made and informed me his tolerance was also +/- .0005. Being within this tolerance means the part is acceptable, although of course the conscientious machinist strives to precisely make the part to the exact specified dimension.

However I suspect that the part would still “work” even if it was slightly lesser or greater than this accepted allowance, though there would certainly be a point when the part would fail. There’s only so much margin; the next step is the failure factor.

 
Chicken drinking from Val-Co drinker valve (Photo by Joe Ulicny)Our friend Joe Ulicny, who leads the marketing team, at Val-Co took this photo of the part mentioned in today’s message being used.
 
Brooksyne visiting with "Baba" 1/17/19
Brooksyne visiting with Baba who, for many years, has run the machine that “spits” out the drinker valves designed for the watering systems in chicken houses. (In many cases with languages we don’t know we learn their names but probably spell them wrong!)
 
Brian and Tan 1/17/19
It’s great to see people getting along! Brian is a supervisor on the second shift who has become great friends with Tan, a Vietnamese immigrant. Tan calls Brian his big brother, although they are only a couple of months apart in age. In several weeks they are both going to Vietnam to visit Tam’s family.
 
Smucker team 1/17/19
Last night we joined the Smucker team for a gathering that included lots of food, bowling and laser tag. We didn’t care to display this photo on the site but for the first time in life we actually played laser tag! This photo shows the prize winners who won gift cards from a game played during bowling.



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“He Has Shown You, O Man, What Is Good”  Video  Maranatha Singers  Micah 6:8 set to song
 
 

“May The Mind of Christ My Savior”  Video  Jake Armerding


May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self-abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Devotional

“The Pattern Of Walking Worthily”

“The Pattern Of Walking Worthily”
 
Message summary:  We must submit our ways to God in our walk, in our behavior, in our productivity and in our godly knowledge. Let us be faithful so that we bring honor to our Father in heaven, as we practice a pattern of walking worthily. Let us never, never, never give up!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7). “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
 
Monday we mentioned that our 17 year old cat Dottie had died on Saturday. It seems many can identify with the loss of a pet and we are thankful for the “condolences”. Among our three pets Dottie had the least exciting pet-ality (the pet equivalent of person-ality). Our older dog, Roxie, now 14 years old, is slowing down a lot, seemingly afflicted with arthritis, although she still has a pleasant disposition and pet-ality.
 
But Mollie, our eight year old border collie, is still very full of pet-ality and vim and vigor. According to the customary one human year equals seven dog year formula she is now some 56 years old but still acts like a teenager. Yesterday we tossed a frisbee on our snow-covered lawn and she still dashes across the lawn at full speed to catch the frisbee in the air.
 
From the time she was a pup Mollie has always wanted to catch a squirrel. She will spend hours and hours running around the lawn chasing them and then staring at them up in the trees. Every morning when I let her out, it’s the first thing she does as she runs to the squirrel laden oak tree and tries to spot a squirrel.
 
But they never choose to come down and play! Although Mollie has never caught a squirrel she never gives up, and she doesn’t even seem to be discouraged about it. Her relentless and enduring pursuit of squirrels provides an illustrative lesson for us in regard to our relentless and enduring pursuit in seeking to do good and walk worthily.
 
This week in our Daily Encouragement messages we are examining the concept of “pattern” as set forth in the Scriptures. We believe God has provided in the Scriptures a pattern for how we are to live our lives. Today let us examine the pattern of walking worthily. In this regard as Winston Churchill is often attributed to famously saying, “never, never, never give up” (Although the actual quote is slightly different. Listen here, 17 seconds).

The apostle Paul uses the theme of walking worthily several times in his writings: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). “Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are in a category of epistles known as the Pastoral Epistles. Our second daily text is a word to Titus, a young pastor. “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7). These epistles are especially highlighted for those entering into ministry since they set a pattern for godly leaders. Yesterday we shared a portion from 2 Timothy read at my ordination service nearly 40 years ago.


Colossians 1:10

 
Let’s spend a few moments examining today’s final text which provides a pattern of good works and the nature of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. This involves:

1) We walk in a manner worthy of the Lord when we seek to be fully pleasing to Him.” In Ephesians 5:10 we are told to “find out what pleases the Lord”. As followers of Christ this is an ongoing pursuit and the main source of finding out what pleases Him is found in the Holy Scriptures. Increasingly the effort to walk with and please the Lord will run contrary to the world’s way of thinking. It would be an extremely rare media interview where the “expert” directs us to dig into the Scriptures to find the Lord’s answer for the problem at hand.

2) We walk in a manner worthy of the Lord when we seek to be “bearing fruit in every good work.” Jesus Christ called His disciples to fruitfulness and good works. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples” (John 15:8). “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). All over the world today our brothers and sisters are doing this, often unseen and normally unheralded. Their reward here on earth is seeing lives changed. Their greater eternal reward is yet to come. We are called to bear fruit in the tough prison setting, in the lonely nursing home, in the hospice setting where life’s journey ends for so many, the pregnancy crisis center or any door you walk through where you can shine the light of Christ in an otherwise dark place.

3) We walk in a manner worthy of the Lord when we seek to be “increasing in the knowledge of God.” To do so we must read, meditate and even pray the Scriptures. Avail yourself to Study Bibles so that you become familiar with the historical settings or benefit from seeing outlines of a Bible book. Character studies of familiar and not so familiar Bible personalities are commonly featured. Above all read the Scriptures but supplement your Bible readings with information that might help you better grasp and understand the Bible.

To summarize our text:
We must submit our ways to God in our walk, in our behavior, in our productivity and in our godly knowledge. Let us be faithful so that we bring honor to our Father in heaven, as we practice a pattern of walking worthily. Let us never, never, never give up!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I ask myself, “Am I living in a manner worthy of Your name? Do I seek to please You rather than myself? Does the fruit of my labor reflect the Spirit of Christ living within my heart? Do I have a zeal for the things of Christ and a desire to know Him better, to reflect His character every day in my life? Am I steady or do I sputter in my Christian influence?” Father, in all these things I want to be more like Christ, consistent in the ways that bring glory to Your name and growth in my spiritual nature. I want my spiritual walk to be the most important pursuit of my life as I journey here below so that I may influence as many as possible to live for Jesus. It is in His name that I pray. Amen.

Colossians 1:10-12 provides a list of items for our consideration. I will phrase them as personal questions:

*     Am I living in a manner worthy of the Lord?
*     Am I pleasing Him in all respects?
*     Am I bearing fruit in every good work?
*     Am I increasing in the knowledge of God?
*     Am I being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might?
*     Am I attaining steadfastness and patience?
*     Am I joyously giving thanks to the Father?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).



 
Mollie playing frisbee in snowHere’s a photo of Mollie chasing after a frisbee in the snow.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Search Me, O God”  Video  Steve Green

“Lord, I Want To Be Like Jesus”  Video  Fernando Ortega

 
What does it mean to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9)? From the gotquestions.org teaching site.
Devotional

“The Pattern Of Sound Teaching”

“The Pattern Of Sound Teaching”
 
Message summary: Today the Church is in dire need of more faithful proclaimers of sound doctrine, not swayed by emotional hype or by the patterns of this world and its passing fancies.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3).

Philip BongiornoAs a young man of 21 I got my license as a minister in Southern Missouri and began my first pastorate in Fair Grove, MO. After our move to the northeast I was ordained to ministry on May 8, 1979 which was also our 3rd wedding anniversary. At the service
Phillip Bongiorno, our District Superintendent, read a solemn passage of Scripture verses from 2 Timothy. Pastor Bongiorno, who is still living, is a short Italian man who, prior to his conversion to Christ, had some mafia associations. He would often begin any message he preached with a brief testimony and inevitably wept as he shared it.
 
Standing in a long line with other ordinands as I held my Bible and faced the congregation though it was in 1979, it has become a lasting memorable experience. Pastor Bongiorno didn’t rush through the Scripture reading but slowly enunciated each phrase and sometimes a single word, pausing at times to let them sink in.

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).


What a powerful Scripture selection; then, now and for all time! Today I especially consider the phrase, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” I suppose to some extent that has always been true but it seems, in my nearly forty years of ministry as an ordained minister, that the ability to “endure sound doctrine” has diminished greatly.*

 

What does that phrase mean, “endure sound doctrine (teaching)”? Other versions render the phrase: (see here for this phrase in many English translations).
“will not put up with sound doctrine” (NIV).
“will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]” (Amplified)
 
For one thing we must endure due to the constant pull of the world to conform us to this world’s pattern. It takes great endurance to resist this pull and stay faithful. But the mission of the faithful minister of the Gospel in each generation is to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). That is, obeying from our hearts, the pattern of sound teaching.

This pattern of sound teaching is established in Scripture. This pattern is fundamentally found in the changeless Word of God and has been expressed by the Church down through the centuries in creeds, catechisms and doctrinal statements. It is a declaration of what we believe.

The Greek word for “sound” is “hugiaino” which gives us our English word “hygiene” which of course refers to “clean or healthy practices”. It connotes healthy, sound, wholesome, free from flaw, defect or error and emphasizes the absence of disease, weakness, or malfunction.

Bible commentator Albert Barnes describes sound teaching as “words conducive to a due observance of the proprieties of life; doctrines leading to contentment, and sober industry, and the patient endurance of evils (trials).”

Today the Church is in dire need of more faithful proclaimers of sound doctrine, not swayed by emotional hype or by the patterns of this world and it’s passing fancies. “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

A.W. Tozer, who died over 50 years ago, had such insight in the condition of the church (in his own time and looking to the future). He wrote, “Increasing numbers of [Christians] are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe, but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition.”

Let us resolve to faithfully follow and proclaim the pattern of sound teaching as established in the Holy Scriptures! Paul challenged believers in Romans 6:17, “Obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed our allegiance“. Let us do so today and until we all get to heaven.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we as followers of Christ, must be careful to follow the Bible’s pattern of sound teaching. At times we find ourselves arguing with Your truths and teaching from Scripture, our thoughts being at odds with Bible teaching that doesn’t fit in with the views and lifestyles we’re drawn to which are patterned after the world’s thinking. Yet You are the Author of truth, You know that which will bring us good and that which will bring us harm. Help us not to read and interpret Scripture so that it aligns with our view point, instead we want to align our view point in accordance with the Scriptures. We want to love You with all our heart so that we will follow the pattern of sound doctrine and walk in accordance with the Scripture. Amen.



* Additional note:
 
We indeed see a hastening in the departure from sound doctrine and Biblical obedience that seems to be increasing exponentially which can be seen in some national ministries which have succumbed to the spirit of this age. I read reports of a national conference for young people that for many years had been a strong proponent of Biblical Christianity. This year they had speakers spouting practically unimaginable heresy. See here or here if you are interested.
 
So many “Christian” Colleges are now that in name and heritage only and are more interested in being politically and academically correct than Biblically faithful, often mocking the teachings of the Bible and essentially the college founders. The word “politically correct” is commonly used to “describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” It also seems to have the sense of whatever is currently popular. See here for an example.
 
I use the term “academically correct” to describe those teachings and notions which are currently accepted among the “academically elite”, whether these teachings are true or not and so often they are just plain crazy! In other words those who lead and teach at any college desire to be accepted and approved by those deemed academically more qualified (in the sense of having more formal education and degrees from institutions deemed prestigious like Harvard, Yale, etc). Who wants to be shamed into being considered “backwards” and “ignorant”!
 
Let me illustrate by a current saga I have observed for several years from a distance although I will not use the name.
 
I read about a man who at that time served as a minister in the same denomination of which I hold my credentials. We have thankfully held to Biblical and traditional views on marriage and sexuality. This man is an academic, having advanced degrees, and seems to consider himself far smarter than others due to his degrees and progressive ideas.
 
He began advocating for a change in our position on marriage and sexuality even though he knew the view the denomination held when he signed up to be a minister. The honorable thing for him to do would have been to resign since his views had changed. But instead, as is often the case with apostasy, he was using his influence to advocate for his new position. In his estimation, since he was so smart and academically qualified, the rest of us should just go along with his newly evolving views which were indeed politically and academically correct.
 
Thankfully this came to the attention of the denominational leadership and he was dismissed, which garnered him considerable victim status among those who were like minded. The leadership was seen as backward and mean-spirited by this group. At that time he was teaching at a “Christian” college in our area and received support from his colleagues.
 
I hadn’t paid any attention to this matter for several years but recently read and confirmed that he had left that college, left his wife and children and was now pretending to be a woman (the non-politically correct way of saying “transgendered”) and is struggling with alcoholism. We pray for him and for his family even as I write this message that he would see the invasion of darkness that has covered the light of God’s truth in his life, and that there would be a return to sound biblical faith.



 
Antique rolling pins at Lebanon, PA restaurantBrooksyne uses a rolling pin in the course of baking at times, but my earliest memory of a rolling pin was watching my mom roll out dough to make pie crusts. Sometimes she’d save a little extra dough, roll it out to make a small crust, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, and after it baked it was mine to enjoy – kind of like a cookie. The “All That and a Bag of Chips Cafe” in Lebanon was originally a bakery. The present owners do a lot of baking including making all their own breads. They display these rolling pins and use them regularly.
 
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)”  Video  Calvary Church Choir and Orchestra (We’ve shared a link to this song the last several days but this is the version
used this last weekend at Calvary Church where Brooksyne sings in the choir. It was a touching way to remember the deceased from the church from the last year. Some of our local readers may just recognize a familiar face among those presented in the power point presentation.)
 
With Jesse Dourte at pulpit
A loving farewell to our dear brother in Christ, Jesse Dourte: Many times we have featured photos and stories about Jesse and Wilma Dourte in our messages. Jesse pastored for many years and was a faithful proclaimer of the truth. At 95 years of age, his health was failing and this morning we learned that he was promoted to heaven. Stephen visited him at the hospital on Sunday and prayed with him. Jesse told him that he was looking forward to attending a concert this Spring which features the older hymns that his generation grew up on. It was just like Jesse to always be looking forward to something! He was a faithful contender of sound doctrine and, instead of hearing a church choir, he now gets to hear the angelic choir in his new imperishable and ageless body. We thank God for his life and pray for Wilma during this time of transition.
 
Background of photo: Jesse stands with Stephen behind the pulpit in Mastersonville church where he pastored for several years in an interim role. Jesse had been pastor there many decades earlier and was very supportive of our ministry there. They preached behind the same pulpit the unchanging Word of God. Jesse was like a “father in the faith” since we came to know him and his wife Wilma nearly ten years ago.



Finally today:
We often crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge, a very busy long narrow bridge across the Hudson River north of NYC when traveling to and from New England when we lived there in the nineties. It famously swayed in the wind on occasion and we recall traffic backups on it. A new bridge has replaced it and yesterday a portion was imploded. Video
Devotional

“Not Worldly Conformation But Spiritual Transformation”

“Not Worldly Conformation But Spiritual Transformation”
 
Message summary: The believer’s lifelong goal should not be worldly conformation but spiritual transformation. Compromise leads to conformity and conformity leads to defeat.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“Do not conform any longer 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).

BMI calculatorI walked into a company last week and Karen, one of the employees, greeted me with an interesting observation informing me, “You look taller”! I smiled and thanked her although I reckon I had actually reached my lifetime peak height of over 6’2½” at around 18 years of age and now struggle to reach 6’2″. (I read that as you age you tend to lose height.)

However it did get me thinking of another dimension in which I have increased since I was a skinny 18 year old; my weight. I mused that rather than take off weight, what if I could just put on height? I calculate that if I could just put on about 6 inches I would have a much healthier BMI (body mass index)! (Note: If you’re interested click on the “Compute BMI” image to the left and it will open to a real BMI calculator.)

 
Now with all the commercials for “weight loss” programs and products it would sure be interesting if there was competition with similar “height gain” products!
 
Well, in life there are things we can change and there are things we can’t change and we do well to remember that and to know the difference. Today let us focus on a lifelong, ongoing change for each follower of Christ expressed in our daily text, spiritual transformation. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Yesterday we shared a message about the detailed pattern that the Lord gave Moses concerning the Tabernacle and the good report regarding the Israelite’s obedience as recorded in the Book of Exodus. This fundamental teaching reminds us that God is pleased and honored when we follow the pattern for living as set forth in the Holy Scriptures for His people.

But in opposition to this pattern for living as set forth by God is “the pattern of this world”. By our fallen human nature we conform to this pattern.

Other versions translate this phrase thusly: JB Phillips: “Stop being poured into the mold by the external and fleeting fashions of this age, but undergo a deep inner change by the qualitative renewing of your mind.” The NLT states, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” A listing of this verse in many English translations is here.

Paul Fritz observes, “There is always a danger of giving in to the temptations of the world to just feel like being ‘normal’ in our modern society. Today it is easier to try to fit in, blend in and give in to the popular trends in the world rather than to live by Biblical principles. We are faced with a choice today. We can either decide to give in to the patterns of self-indulgence, carnality and selfishness or we choose to prosper by obeying God’s Word.”

We have a responsibility in not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world and in renewing our minds. This transformation is not for a short season, but a lifelong commission. We are being transformed and it seems that this phase will not be complete until the next stage of our existence, when we get to heaven.

JC PhilpotJ.C. Philpot, a Bible teacher who lived in the 1800’s writes, “In proportion as we are conformed to the spirit of this world, our understanding becomes dull in the things of God, our affections cold and torpid, and our consciences less tender and sensitive.”

The struggle is ever before us as the tempter never fully leaves us alone no matter how much transformation takes place or how long we’ve walked with God. Bad habits visible to others may be broken but dealing with inner attitudes can even be more difficult; those attitudes we don’t want others to witness. Yet the transforming of the Spirit must take place within and without, for “everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

We must daily come before the throne of God, confess our sins, acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask His help in the transformation. We can align our desires with His by drawing near to Him daily as James 4:8 tells us, “If we draw near to Him He will draw near to us.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we invite the work of Your Holy Spirit to descend upon our heart, to wean it from ungodly attitudes, destructive habits, and worldly passions. In love and compassion You stooped to our weakness, mighty as You are, in the person of Jesus Christ who lived a life of holiness, and willingly laid down His life that we might be forgiven, that our hearts and minds might break conformity from this world and be transformed into the pattern of holy living. As we surrender our heart, soul, and mind to You we see the cross of Jesus, and as we cling to His cross we deny ourselves, take up our own cross, and follow in His footsteps wholeheartedly. We thank You for the wooing of Your Holy Spirit that assists and encourages us as we withdraw our allegiance from the affections of this world. It’s through the power of Christ that we are able to make this mighty, eternal transformation. Amen.



Stephen’s Note:  Today’s text is one of the very first Scriptures I put to memory in my early days of walking with Christ. In fact I recall when I was in High School an older mentor named Dave sat down with me in a restaurant in Independence Missouri. He taught from this verse using a paper napkin with the outline of a head. Dave described how in our sinful nature we had been conformed to the pattern of this world with a variety of clutter that fills our minds with the pattern of this world. He stressed how we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and he shared various means through which our mind is renewed.



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)”  Video  Matt Redman (A different version than used yesterday; this one is  recorded in a live worship setting and has a much fuller sound as people join in.)
 
Brooksyne’s note: Our choir sang this again for Monday evening worship and it was a great blessing as it was on Sunday morning in both services. After we warmed up on this song Monday night a “fellow” soprano, Joyce, leaned over and whispered in my ear, “the line that really gets me excited when we sing this song is:  ‘One day all this struggle will cease and we will see Your glory revealed on that day!'” Joyce’s husband died a few years ago and left her as a young widow, and no doubt, she has faced the struggle of being alone ever since.
 
One day You’ll make everything new, Jesus
One day You will bind every wound
The former things shall all pass away
No more tears
 
One day You’ll make sense of it all, Jesus
One day every question resolved
Every anxious thought left behind
No more fear
 
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory
 
One day we will see face to face, Jesus
Is there a greater vision of grace
And in a moment, we shall be changed
On that day
 
And one day we’ll be free, free indeed, Jesus
One day all this struggle will cease
And we will see Your glory revealed
On that day
Dottie as kitten 2001
 
Finally today: We didn’t expect it but were warmed by the many kind expressions emailed by our readers yesterday about our 17½ year old Dottie dying in the early morning hour Saturday in Ester’s arms. As could be expected Ester is digging through all our printed photos of Dottie back when we actually printed out photos and she came across several including this one. Dottie is only a few weeks old and Ester has her wrapped in her Precious Moments baby blanket. Ester is 12 in this photo in 2001.

As many of you know Ester deals with atrial flutter causing her heart to soar over 220 BPM. It first happened when she was 11 after my dad died. She has often dealt with A/F after there was a loss in her life for which she was grieving. In more recent years it occurs when she is being active or otherwise. She commented to me today, “Mom, I can’t believe I didn’t have atrial flutter since Dottie actually died in my arms.” I hadn’t given it much thought but after she reminded me I considered it a blessing that she could deal with deep emotion and sadness and not go into atrial flutter. Thank you for your kind words and even the prayers spoken for the grief Ester is experiencing over the loss of her cat. Several of you mentioned you have had the same kind of loss with longtime pets which gives you empathy for our loss. Thanks for taking the time to write!