“The Everlasting God”

April 25, 2018

Farm lane near Strasburg, PA 4/23/18 (Click to enlarge)
Monday afternoon Ester snapped this photo as we passed this long farm lane lined with flowering trees near on N. Star Road near Strasburg, PA
Click on photo to enlarge

The Everlasting God”

 Note: FYI we did not post a message yesterday. We had an interesting Monday afternoon and evening which we will share about below our message. Arriving home about 8:00PM we had a troubled soul stop by to talk to us for about 1½ hours. After that, we were just too tired to work on a message since we also had to leave early on Tuesday morning for chaplaincy visitation.

Message summary: God continues to be the everlasting God and He is waiting for all who will to call on the name of the Lord. Let us do so today! Can you think of places in your life that have a special spiritual significance?

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33).

Today’s lead photo shows a long line of flowering trees along a lane near Strasburg, PA. The overwhelming majority of trees are planted in nature as seeds fall from mature trees, a blessing to our planet and a potential nuisance for those who carefully manicure their lawns. Our Donegal Creek trail, starting right across the road from our house, takes us along an abandoned township road lined with trees on each side. These trees weren’t intentionally planted but grew naturally at the side of the tilled fields. Of course, trees in the forest start this way as well.

On the other hand, we also purposefully plant trees where we want them, usually from a seedling or small tree. Last fall we planted a flowering cherry in our front yard and are pleased to share that it is budding, but not yet flowering, in part due to our late winter type weather this year.

Trees can be planted simply for our enjoyment or we might plant them in relation to an event, in remembrance of someone special or for healthy produce such as fruit or nuts. Although trees had been around since creation today’s text is the first record of a human planting a tree.* “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba”.

The Tamarisk is a small tree that can grow as high as 25 feet tall. It is only mentioned 3 times in other standard translations. Based on photos it bears resemblance to a cedar tree. Frankly I’m not sure, nor am I able to find in a commentary with certainty, the relationship of planting the tree and Abraham calling on the name of the Lord.

However here is one thought from the text. Trees are the oldest living things on earth. When we plant a tree, regardless of our age at the time of planting, many of them will outlive us. I’m sure that’s the plan for a statewide 10 million tree restoration effort here in Pennsylvania featured in our newspaper today. (See link in our resources below.)

“And there he called upon the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” This followed the birth of Isaac and the treaty at Beersheba. For the very first time in Scripture Abraham makes a declaration using the term “everlasting God” that is abundantly revealed all through the rest of the Bible.

One commentary refers to the tamarisk tree as a “Memorial Tree”. Perhaps anytime Abraham came back to this tree it was reminder to him of this significant time when he called on “the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.” Perhaps the tree planting became “holy ground” where Abraham prayed regularly and grew in his relationship with God even as the tamarisk tree grew in size and strength.

Hopefully we have such places in our own lives. In many cases it’s not a tree but a wooden altar where we have done business with God. Years ago we had the final service in a country church we had been pastoring, in an interim role, and folks were given an opportunity to express what the church meant to them and memories they stored from the past, long before our arrival. A man pointed to the altar where he had given his heart to Christ at 17 years of age in 1974. Interestingly this was at a time when one of our first Lancaster County contacts, Pastor Earl Martin, was guest preacher and challenged the congregation to follow Christ.

Of course God continues to be the everlasting God and He is waiting for all who will to call on the name of the Lord. Let us do so today! Can you think of places in your life that have a special spiritual significance in your walk with the Lord?

One thing I know that I have found
Through all the troubles that surround
You are the Rock that never fails
You never failYou never change,
You’re still the same
You are the Everlasting God
You will remain
After the day is gone and things of earth have passed
Everlasting God

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we call on You, our everlasting Lord and God who existed before the foundations of the world were established. From everlasting to everlasting You reign supreme in the heavens above and in our hearts below. You are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last who loves us with an everlasting love. We want to be a faithful people who call on Your Name regularly and exalt You above the heavens as we glorify You here on earth. In the name of Jesus we praise You.  Amen.

* Noah, following the flood, planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20)

Brooksyne’s Note: I read that in ancient Israel, a tree was planted when a child was born; a cedar for a boy, a cypress for a girl. In fact this may be the basis of Abraham planting the tree in today’s text since it follows Isaac’s birth. As the children grew up, they cared for their own trees. When they were married, the bridegroom and bride stood under a canopy made of branches cut from the trees that had been planted in their honor years earlier. Thus, the Jewish tradition formed a strong bond between birth and marriage, and helped to develop a love for trees and a sensitivity to the wonders of nature.

Amish Schoolhouse visit:  Monday afternoon we travelled the back roads of Lancaster County to visit an Amish school where we were invited, along with our friends, Jim and Dorothy, to watch and even participate with the 18 children, K-8th grade, in their learning activities. One teacher with 18 students of various ages, would be a major challenge for educators these days. But this very pleasant teacher had the entire class under control, with each one learning at their particular age level, helped by older students in reading and math drills. Even we shared in the fun as the children visited us in the back of the classroom reciting answers as we held up flashcards. These one room schoolhouses are plentiful throughout the rural part of our county and serve the children in the immediate vicinity. Of course the parents take a very active role in their child’s school, providing classroom supplies, and making sure their child behaves well in school (something our public and even private educational institutions lack today).

Amish one room schoolhouse in Lancaster County PA 4/23/18
The schoolhouses are simple structures with no electricity and two small outhouses.

Interior of Amish one room schoolhouse in Lancaster County PA 4/23/18
When we are inside of the classroom it makes us wonder if this is what a schoolhouse looked like when our grandparents attended school, or for that matter, our parents (if you’re in our age bracket).
(Click on photo to enlarge)

A view as the children head home.
When school was dismissed the children gather at the front of the school and all leave together, riding their colorful scooters home alongside one another, until they head a different direction that leads them to their “Home Sweet Home”.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

A view as the children head home.
Another view as the children head home.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Old Windmill farm guest in Lancaster County PA 4/23/18
The Old Windmill Farm tours continue and it’s neat to meet international visitors, including two couples from Malaysia, who visited the farm on Monday and others from Australia. It’s so neat to observe the guests enjoying the animals.
Photo by Ester

Pig on slide at Old Windmill farm in Lancaster County PA 4/23/18
Jesse has taught the pig to climb the ladder and slide down a slide for a treat. I (Brooksyne) teased on Tuesday, “I’m impressed with the pig being able to slide down, but you would really amaze me by teaching the pig to climb up the slide.” But then, if the pigs did that they’d surely lose their reputation for being fat, as they would expend way too many calories climbing up!

Jim, the lamb, Old Windmill farm guest in Lancaster County PA 4/23/18
Jim, the Baby Doll lamb, perched on his mom’s back.
Photo by Ester

Brooksyne with Mylady at White Oak Display 4/24/18
Off the farm and back to work on Tuesday morning Brooksyne is visiting with a young lady named Milady (pronounced “My lady”), who was so named by her father as his only daughter. Interesting, since both of them have names in which they often need to explain its origin!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Everlasting God”  Video  New Life Worship

“Our Great God”  Video  Fernando Ortega

Eternal God, Unchanging
Mysterious and Unknown
Your boundless Love, unfailing
In Grace and Mercy shown.

“Lord of Eternity”  Video  Fernando Ortega

Statewide 10-million tree-restoration effort launches on Mount Joy-area farm

Finally today:

Amish bench wagon team in Lancaster County PA 4/22/18
The Amish have their church services in homes. This team and wagon is transporting the benches along North Star Road to the next location where services will be held.

Donegal Springs Creek Canada geese family 4/22/18
A hike along the Donegal Spring trail yesterday afternoon revealed we have some new young neighbors testing the waters! We spotted two young sets of goslings with their moms and dads. And at least one more batch still in waiting.
Click on photo to enlarge

“The Concert of the Ages

 Message summary: Let’s praise God for what He has done, for what He is doing and for what He has in store for our eternal future.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'” (Revelation 5:11-13).

We are blessed to have lots of Christian concerts in our area. Ester volunteers with a group that gets her into the concert free as long as she serves in some capacity such as ushering, handstamping, loading in or out, etc. Friday night she went to a Sanctus Real concert and she’s especially excited this next weekend to attend a Rend Collective concert. That’s a group that seems to appeal to all generations. Last night Brooksyne attended a Lancaster Chorale concert, which appeals more to the older generation.

Early in our marriage we often attended a large annual outdoor festival in the central PA mountains called “Creation”, hosting concert after concert of “big name” Christian artists over a three day period. We’d often tease another camper by saying “I feel like I walked all over Creation” since we really did over the three days we camped! As many as 50,000 to 100,000 attend annually according to wikipedia.  At one time this was so exciting to Brooksyne and me, but not now; camping out in tents, among big crowds, and using portapotties is for a bygone era!

Several years ago we heard the group eponymously named “Phillips, Craig and Dean” which ended with one of their songs titled, “The Concert of the Age” speaking of God’s display in His creation.

It’s about a future concert where we will not be spectators but participants instead. The daily text presents a powerful preview of a concert the Redeemed through all the ages will not only attend but actually participate in. Read the Scriptural text again slowly and carefully. Every creature will sing!

We can all begin now to work on the lyrics, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” You know what, I am already getting excited about this concert. What about you? Just imagine the most meaningful, touching, emotionally charged service or concert you’ve ever experienced on earth. I can recall many in my life.

But this “concert” will be something else altogether. Through this online ministry we hear from readers all over the world and that’s so gratifying. Years ago a sister from Romania wrote and made a request that, “maybe in heaven Jesus will introduce us.”  I certainly believe that can be arranged! But we will be at that concert together. I hope to see all of you there. It will indeed be the concert of the ages as we sing along together in worship to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world!!

Revelation 4:8 is also an awe-inspiring picture of praise around the throne of God that never ceases.  We usually delegate “Worship” to be an appointed time with others in a church setting, a Christian concert, and of course many of us enjoy worship during our time of devotions.  Those times of praise create cherished moments as we worship our Father.

But consider praise that is not delegated to a segment of time or initiated by a gifted worship leader or instrumentalist. The four living creatures day and night, without ceasing, cry out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  May God instill that pictorial description of praise on our hearts so that as we go about our workday and life’s routines we too can join with the living creatures now in declaring, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Let’s praise Him for what He has done, for what He is doing and for what He has in store for our eternal future.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the concert of the ages, from eternity past to eternity future will consist of a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels will be standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and fall on their faces worshiping God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!” Amen

Revelation 7:9-12

Canada goose on nest 4/22/18
Our lead photo today shows the Canada Geese couple with their goslings in the creek. This mother goose is still on the nest and cast a very wary eye across the creek as I snapped the photo. Father goose was nearby.

Kraybill Church Road walkers 4/22/18
Lots of folks walk along our country lane.

Flory Road lambs 4/20/18
We passed these three lambs along Flory Road near our house on the way home from a chaplain visit on Friday afternoon.

Mollie with daffodils, Mansion Road 4/22/18
After a long walk Mollie plopped down beside these daffodils on Mansion Lane near Donegal Springs.

Mollie under grass bag 04/21/18
Our cat Mollie will soon have her 17th birthday. She has a peculiar habit of curiously checking out anything new to lay on or crawl inside of. Saturday I was prepping for lawn work and placed the grass catcher bag down on the driveway. I went about my work and then I see Dottie hiding herself under. The leftover tail was the dead giveaway!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Rescuer”  Video  Rend Collective, coming to Lancaster next weekend. We challenge you: Can you watch/listen to this video without smiling?

“How Excellent, Great In All The Earth”  Video  Calvary Church Choir  These two songs were sang in our church yesterday, the first by the choir and then congregation. See if you can find Brooksyne!

Brooksyne’s Note: “Great in all the Earth” was new to me since I’ve only sung in the choir since late last summer. I was moved by the words as we sang it congregationally yesterday. Even as the universe declares how amazing God is so do we, His creation, since He is our Creator, Sustainer, and Saviour. If you open the link you’ll soon pick up on the melody and the words are posted for you to sing along.

“Concert Of The Age”  Video  Phillips, Craig and Dean  This is the song mentioned in our message.

“Revelation Song”  Video  Phillips, Craig and Dean  Another epic type song

Finally today:

Ken Cook 4/21/18
Last fall a transmission drive belt on my riding tractor broke and it looked a bit too mechanical to fix for me (Actually a lot). I recalled Ken Cook, a friend whom I visited weekly at his work place about 15 years ago. He fixed lawn equipment and he graciously came over Saturday and fixed the mower. Mowed my lawn later that afternoon and it ran great cutting better than before, since it actually had the wrong belt!

“Souls On Board”

April 20, 2018

Mark 8:36 Kember print
I’ve had this Kember print since I began my ministry in the seventies.
What a solemn reminder from our Lord!

“Souls On Board

Message summary: Soul is used all through the Bible to describe the inner non-physical component of who we are.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36,37).

I have been interested in aviation since I was a little boy living near an Air Force Base in the Kansas City area. My first plane ride was over the farm fields of southern Missouri in a private single engine plane.

IP-51n high school I had my most notable flight in a WW2 era P-51 Mustang fighter plane where I experienced as many G’s as I probably ever will unless we experience them at the rapture!

About 25 years ago I served as a Civil Air Patrol chaplain. My role was to provide moral and spiritual support to the members of the squadron and I was blessed to have a commander who valued that role. We were trained to assist in any type of air disaster although we never had one while I served.

This week many of us have followed the story of the Southwest flight that lost an engine and pressurization forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Listening to the communications between the air traffic control and pilot reveals incredible composure (a link to audio below). The pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, attended a Christian college in the Kansas City area and is certainly an asset to her profession.

But as I listened to the communication I was struck by a rather archaic expression still used in aviation that remains the official phraseology in very specific protocol during an emergency. The ATC will ask the pilot “How many souls are on board?” Although in a study I find there are various explanations for why this term “soul” is used it is a sobering reminder of the immortal value of each human; we are more than just flesh and bones.

The teaching site gotquestions.org has this definition of soul, “Simply stated, the human soul is the part of a person that is not physical. It is the part of every human being that lasts eternally after the body experiences death. The human soul is central to the personhood of a human being. As George MacDonald said, ‘You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.'”

Soul is used all through the Bible to describe the inner non-physical component of who we are. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

In the daily text Jesus asks two sobering questions. He does not answer them for the answer is evident.

Question 1: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Answer: It’s no good at all! You can gain all but it’s worth nothing if you lose your soul!

Question 2: “Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Answer: Nothing, there is no exchange value for the soul!

Charles Wesley in the hymn “A Charge To Keep Have I” wrote regarding our primary responsibility, “A never-dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.” May God help each of us to give primary attention to our souls.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, there is no comparable value on earth like that of our eternal soul, worth more than anything in the world or the world itself. We will not forfeit our eternal soul, by disloyalty to Christ, to gain any earthbound fortune, fame or position. When our hope, ambition and focus is fixed on this life only we forfeit all that awaits us in heaven – that which lasts for all eternity. While we patiently wait for that glorious day, guard our souls from that which would sway us to forfeit the fortunes of heaven for the pittance of earth. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Love Lifted Me”  Video  Kim Hopper

Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves;
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

“Where the Soul Never Dies”  Video  Gaither homecoming singers

What is the human soul?  from gotquestions.org

Article about Southwest pilot in Kansas City newspaper

Southwest 1380 actual multi-sector ATC audio  It’s amazing how fast they talk and that they can still get it. Also the courtesy and seriousness demonstrated by all. With all the nutty stuff going on in the world this audio was encouraging for that reason alone.

A Texan friend sent this interesting perspective regarding yesterday’s message: “As one who was never blessed with musical talent, and even less so since my illness, but I still love to sing praises to God, I really related to your teaching. It also made me think of a woman in our church who for the twenty years we have gone there sings loudly and out of tune, but you can hear the joy and love of the Lord in her singing. I love it. She has always been an inspiration to me, even more so now than ever.”

Donegal Springs, Lancaster County, PA (Click to enlarge)
Donegal Springs is about a 1½ mile walk from our house.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

“The Song Of The Redeemed

Message summary: All over the world God’s children are singing this song of the redeemed. We are declaring in scores of different ways our foundational belief that He is worthy.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:2). “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

We’ve been enjoying a song for several months titled “Be Enthroned” (link to video below). It begins with these words:

We’ve come to join the song
Sung long before our lives
To raise our voice along
Heaven and Earth alike

We sang it last Sunday in a missions service and the line that really struck me was “sung long before our lives”. Now of course there are many songs the church sings, some new, some old. Our musical tastes vary which has been a source of some division, minor in some churches and major division in others.

But as we sang the words on Sunday I thought of not one single song but rather the composite music of the church, the song of the redeemed, which is expressed in many different ways.

All over the world today God’s people are singing this “song of the redeemed”, a proclamation of praise to our great Redeemer and reigning Lord. We often consider this in a local church service, but of course singing takes place in a lot of places from large concerts to coffeehouses to families to individuals. They declare:

We’ve seen Your faithful hand
Your mercy without end
A king who bled and died
A God who sacrificed

The song of the redeemed is omnigenerational. The redeemed of all generations sing this song which, as the song we feature today states, was “sung long before our lives”. It will be sung by future generations should the Lord tarry and for all eternity. How we enjoy the line in Amazing Grace that states:

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Young children sing the song of the redeemed. Consider the blessing of hearing the children sing in church. We also have the pleasure of hearing our Amish friends sing as we gather round their table following a meal. The children sing the “adult” hymns along with Mom and Dad, verses and all, which is becoming a rare thing these days. So it always brings a smile to our hearts when we hear the youngest child singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and other such beautiful, timeless songs of the redeemed.

We like to see teenagers singing songs of their faith; young families sitting together bound in a mutual proclamation of belief; choirs and smaller musical groups as well as praise teams.

Older people are still singing the song of the redeemed. Last night Brooksyne described an older lady as rather frail who had just joined the choir. When we first moved to Lancaster County in 2001 for several years we sat in front of Menno, who turned 100 a year or so later. He still sang out the songs of the redeemed, many of the same songs he had led the congregation in singing when he was songleader many decades earlier.

The song of the redeemed is omnigeographical. I consider the song in a mission context with the redeemed singing from, “every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.

An older contemporary song (although still modern!) many of us will recall has these words:

It’s the song of the redeemed rising from the African plain
It’s the song of the forgiven drowning out the Amazon rain
The song of Asian believers filled with God’s holy fire
It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

All over the world God’s children are singing this song of the redeemed. We are declaring in scores of different ways our foundational belief that He is worthy.

Be enthroned upon the praises
of a thousand generations
You are worthy Lord of all
Unto You the slain and risen King
We lift our voice with Heaven
Singing worthy Lord of all

Today we urge you to join us in singing the song of the redeemed.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the vast majority won’t get asked to sing a solo in church nor will they play musical instruments. Even clapping their hands in rhythm is a major challenge for many. Perhaps they will be granted these skills in heaven where they will enjoy that which they were denied here on earth. But, whether we’re skilled musicians or sing off-pitch, whether we are a concert pianist or are unable to locate middle C on a piano, we can still shout for joy to You. We can worship You with gladness and come before You with joyful songs derived from sincere hearts of worship. Voices that the trained ear on earth might turn away, You wholeheartedly welcome because it comes with grateful worship and heartfelt praise. We dedicate to You that which You have given us and we praise You, Lord. We praise You in Your sanctuary; we praise You in Your mighty heavens. We praise You for your acts of power and for Your surpassing greatness. We join the millions who respond in praise to You, since You invite everything that has breath to praise the Lord. In the song of the redeemed, we praise You, for You reign! Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Be Enthroned”  Video  Calvary Church Choir

“He Reigns”  Video  Newsboys

“The Final Outcome”

April 18, 2018

South Africa (Photo by Doris High)
Our friends, Cerwin and Doris High, visited South Africa and she posted many photos of their journey including this one.

“The Final Outcome”

 Message summary: The final outcome for true children of God is always good!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:55,56).

Keeping up with the increase in Christian persecution around the world can be daunting and discouraging. But we feel it’s important to refresh our sensitivity to those mistreated and as an expression of obedience to Hebrews 13:3. We appreciate ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Door Of Hope and others that keep us mindful of the plight of the persecuted.

Most persecution involves Christian nationals in various places all over the world and is greatly under-reported. But those in mission work may also face the brunt of persecution for their obedience to go into all the world.

Yesterday we read the story of 50-year-old pastor Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina missionary and his family, who had built a life in Turkey for 23 years pastoring a church. For the last year and a half he’s been thrown behind bars and left to wonder if he’ll ever see America, or his family, again. He has been outrageously accused of spying, conspiracy, and terrorism.

You don’t have to read very far into the history of the Church to find persecution, which Jesus forthrightly told the disciples they would experience. Acts 4 has the first account with Peter and John thrown into jail for their proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead. Later in that chapter they were released but threatened. In Acts 5 the level had increased to physical floggings. But today’s account records the story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

Allow this truth to penetrate deeply into your spiritual being as you read this message today. The final outcome for true children of God is always good though the sometimes grim circumstances we may encounter on life’s journey could lead us or those who observe us to think otherwise.

Stephen or Steven is a common first name. It is particularly significant to Christians, as it belonged to Saint Stephen (Greek Στέφανος Stéphanos), an early disciple and deacon who, according to the Book of Acts, was stoned to death; he is widely regarded as the first martyr (or “protomartyr”) of the Christian Church.

Stephen was one of the first followers of Christ. The Scripture records nothing concerning his background or conversion. He is first mentioned when he was chosen by the early church to serve as a deacon. The historian Luke records that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He soon had a preaching opportunity and bears a powerful witness for the Lord, likely his first and certainly his last sermon.

But rather than getting appreciative pats on the back or seeing the altars full of repentant sinners, he faced a very unreceptive crowd who was “furious and gnashing their teeth at him”. He was forcefully drug out of the city and stoned to death.

Stephen's stoning Consider the human dimension in Stephen’s experience.  Surely he and others who observed his martyrdom had to overcome the question “Is this what serving God is all about?” As the first recorded Christian martyr he and other believers looking on might have wondered, “Where is God?” “Is God really going to allow this to go on?”  Surely Stephen loved his family and friends and had a promising ministry. At his burial “godly men mourned deeply for him” (Acts 8:2).  Surely he had to overcome tremendous fear as the situation turned from bad to ugly to deadly. And, practically speaking, imagine the horrific physical pain and agony he endured as large stones were hurled at him.

Note Stephen’s faith-building vision of “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. In spite of the visible defeat that onlookers could not deny, the eternal outcome was truly a victorious win!

Stephen was not delivered from harm in the way he might have expected or would certainly have desired. Yet this was part of God’s ultimate plan. Jesus wasn’t “off duty” nor was he oblivious to Stephen’s plight. I’m thankful for the witness who heard Stephen declare that he saw “the windows of heaven open and the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God”. What tremendous confidence and anticipation this must have given him in his final moments of life on this side!

So, back to our lives and our struggles this day. The outcome of our hard situation may or may not be as we desire or expect. But let us, like Stephen, look up to heaven in faith where we can get a glimpse of our Lord, who is never “off duty”. And remember the final outcome for the true child of God is always good! Truly there is victory in Jesus!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, in faith, we look to You for strength today and bright hope for tomorrow. Just as Stephen, as written in the book of Acts, had a glimpse of Your glory in heaven and Jesus standing at Your right hand he was filled with confidence to remain true to his convictions and calling though painful death was imminent. We pray for those enduring similar persecution today all throughout the world, including Pastor Andrew Brunson and Pastor Raymond Koh missing for over a year now. Bring comfort, assurance and daily hope to their family members and sustain them when they feel weak or helpless. May we all turn our hearts toward heaven so that we seek Your approval and blessing above the temporal thrills this world has to offer. May we perish every fond ambition, all we’ve sought, and hoped and known in exchange for the glories of heaven where we will reign with You forevermore. I want to make a firm resolve to live fully for You, for it is in You that I have put my trust: I will not be afraid of what man can do unto me.  Amen.

See Psalm 56

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources


“Victory In Jesus”  Video  Gold City

“Victory In Jesus”  Video  George Beverly Shea

News story about pastor imprisoned in Turkey

Some of Doris High’s photos from Africa

Andrew and Stephanie Onguka (with Brad in the center) 4/15/18
Andrew and Stephanie Onguka (with our friend Brad in the center)

“My Father Knows My Name!

Message summary: Thank God today I can declare, “My Father knows my name”. And so can each of you!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:1). “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands

On Sunday we heard an interesting missions presentation in our church from Andrew and Stephanie Onguka, a couple serving in Kenya, Africa. They work with young people and one of their challenges is dealing with those who, due to their background, have an overwhelming sense of unworthiness which gets in the way of their acceptance of a loving, heavenly Father.

One young man in Kenya, whom they spoke of has 22 siblings. His biological dad fathered numerous children from several different women, which sadly is not unusual. The young man told the missionary couple of his painful remembrance when his father greeted him by saying, “Now, tell me what is your name.”

His concept of “father” is so warped that it can be difficult for him to conceive of a personal loving, heavenly Father.

And yet, given the moral decline and breakdown in families, we realize there are many, many children and adults here in the US and all around the world living with a similar loss. A sad term among this broken culture is the term “baby mama”, used to describe the mother of a man’s out-of-wedlock children. Jim, a friend who served in prison ministries for many years in New Jersey, told us about a prisoner who bragged regarding his 45 “baby mama” children.

Those of us blessed to come from families with committed, loving parents cannot hardly imagine this. Although in our case both sets of our parents have been with the Lord for many years, as we reflect on our remembrances of them we both miss hearing their distinct voice calling us by our name.

But we all have a loving heavenly Father who knows our name.

The Holy Spirit will use many different means to bring hope and strength to His children in time of need. It may be a special insight He gives us regarding a particular Scripture.  It may be a call from a friend or prayer offered by a pastor, Christian brother or sister. The list goes on and on. God often uses the text of a song along with the musical accompaniment to speak to our hearts. I find particular encouragement in the words of a song titled, “He knows my name.”

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He’ll never leave me
No matter where I go

Today let us consider a short verse in Isaiah that is easily memorized and packed with assurance for the follower of Christ.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.” Store His reassuring words in your heart today. We have a command, “Do not fear” followed by an ever present reality, “for I have redeemed you.”

“Do not fear” (“fear not” in the King James Version) is a common phrase found all through the Bible. In fact it is found 62 times from Genesis to Revelation!

“For I have redeemed you.” The greatest gift in life is to be redeemed by God. Fanny Crosby wrote, “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am.” The redemption for our sins was paid once for all, fully paying the debt of our sins for all eternity!

“I have called you by name; You are mine.” I belong to Jesus today and indeed He knows my name! Today, in the midst of any frustrations, disappointments, fears, discouragement or doubts you may entertain, I urge you to focus on the One who truly knows your name, who loves and cares for you.

Regarding this passage Pastor David Guzik observes: “God twice owns His people. He has right of ownership both as Creator and Redeemer. His ownership is personal, because He says “I have called you by your name.” His ownership is certain, because He seals it by saying “You are mine.” Knowing we belong to the LORD is a wonderful answer to fear. We can know that He holds us, protects us, guards us, and cares for us. We can know that He would not have created, redeemed, and called us unless He intended to complete the work He began in us. How can we be afraid when we know our God is for us, that He is looking out for our interests?”

Thank God today I can declare, “My Father knows my name”. And so can each of you!

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, how special it is to know that I will not appear as a stranger before You in heaven, but You will call me to Yourself by name for You are thoroughly acquainted with me. As a loving father cares for his child so You care for me, your child bought by the blood of Jesus. You place me securely in the palm of Your hand so that no enemy can snatch me from Your protective and loving care. What a tremendous feeling of stability and peace this brings to my heart in a world that is becoming more impersonal, chaotic, and unhinged from the firm foundations established by Your excellent Word. My soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose You will not, You will not desert to my foes; my soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, You’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”* Amen.

* Adaptation of “How Firm A Foundation”)

Note 1: Jesus gave a wonderful teaching recorded in John 10 where He declares: “I am the Good Shepherd.” Many of us have memorized that statement since it’s one of the seven ego eimi “I am” statements of Christ recorded in John’s gospel. But the teaching goes on to declare that this caring shepherd “calls His own sheep by name”. What a blessed assurance to know that our Good Shepherd calls each of us by name!

Note 2: The increase in the “baby mama” phenomenon will have horrific consequences which we are already seeing. So many raise a fist of defiance against God but His Word says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7,8).

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Mission presentation by Andrew and Stephanie Onguka  Video

“He Knows My Name!”  Video  McRaes

“He Knows My Name!”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“He Knows My Name”  Video   Francesca Battistelli

There’s A New Name Written Down In Glory”  Video  Greater Vision

“Redeemed”  Video  Big Daddy Weave

“Redeemed How I Love To Proclaim It”  Video  Gospel Vocal Band

“Overwhelmed”  Video  Big Daddy Weave   With beautiful scenes from Africa

“Of Fish And Taxes”

April 16, 2018

River trail tunnel near Columbia, PA 4/13/18
This Friday and Saturday we had the warmest weather of the season so we brought our bikes down from the top of the shed and rode them on the Northwest River Trail along the Susquenna River. In this photo Brooksyne is entering the tunnel under Point Rock in a long abandoned railroad tunnel.
However Sunday cold, drizzly weather returned and it’s pouring today as well!

“Of Fish And Taxes”

 Message summary: Jesus makes a fish provide a four-drachma coin, the exact amount of silver coin needed, to pay the Temple tax. This miracle reminds the disciples that He is indeed the all-powerful Son of God who controls all creation, including a single fish.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:27). “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes” (Romans 13:7).

Trout fishing streamThis last weekend was the first day of trout fishing statewide here in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful Saturday and many fishermen (including women and children of course) lined streams throughout our state. But I am pretty certain no one caught a fish like the one described in our first daily text!

Each week we have the opportunity to share a brief devotional at one of our chaplain locations. This company is a wholesale distributor of gift and home decor items, many with a Scripture or Scripture-based theme. When possible I try to use one as an illustrative prop which the employees seem to appreciate.

The other day I was talking to Joshua, a young employee who has Down Syndrome. He has a loving family, church and employer who values his giftings, a great combination for anyone overcoming a disability. He is a diligent, conscientious worker.

I asked Joshua if he had any ideas for a message at the devotional time and he suggested the first daily text. In over 40 years of Bible study and ministry I don’t believe I’ve ever given much consideration to this passage, let alone tried to give a lesson so today let’s see what we can glean!

Fishing was common in the gospels. Several of the disciples were fishermen; in fact some of the great teachings and miracles of Jesus took place out on the lake and nearby shore.  Jesus connected with the disciples and their livelihood by calling them out to be “fishers of men”. There’s even a great fishing story between the Resurrection and Ascension.

Fish with coin in mouthToday’s text indicates that Jesus paid taxes while He was on earth. Consider this reality: the Maker and Master of the universe was subjected to paying taxes just like we are. In this case it was the religious temple tax.

Today’s account is an unexplained miracle. We’re not told how the first fish Peter caught would just happen to have the required tax amount stored in its mouth, an amount adequate to pay both Peter’s and Jesus’ tax.

It’s that way with a lot of miracles. There’s just no human explanation which is the definition of supernatural; forces or events that cannot be explained by science. Since we serve a miracle-working God, who is constantly working in the supernatural, I believe it and I believe you do so as well.

Paul writes, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). The apostle John writes concerning Christ, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

Jesus makes a fish provide a four-drachma coin, the exact amount of silver coin needed to pay the Temple tax. This miracle reminds the disciples and us that He is indeed the all-powerful Son of God who controls all creation, including a single fish.

Tax timeHere in the United States we are mindful of taxes especially now. After all, tomorrow (April 17) is the last day to file our tax returns for 2017. Wouldn’t you like to see the miracle of the fish repeated for all your taxes? Just get a fishing license (which is a type of tax), cast your line, and get the exact amount you need from the first fish you catch! If that works let us know.

But in the meantime hear Paul’s simple command, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes” (Romans 13:7).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, our citizenship here on earth brings about numerous responsibilities, including that of paying taxes. As citizens of the eternal kingdom, some of the ungodly causes our taxes help support is a troublesome challenge to our spirit so we address that through prayer and proper action at the voting booths, where we can run for office or vote for officials most in keeping with our biblical convictions. Once again, this tax season, we will dutifully pay our taxes as we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s in keeping with our duties as citizens. Amen.

Jason and Angie in Marietta PA 4/13/18
Friends, Jason and Angie Kinney, joined us for our ride with this photo taken in front of a a stately home in Marietta, PA. The Kinneys get lots of looks from fellow bikers and walkers as they ride their recumbent bikes. I tried riding it but… I don’t think it’s for me – nor did Brooksyne.

Train in Marietta PA 4/13/18
During our bike ride a big Norfolk Southern freight train roared by as it headed up the river toward Harrisburg and beyond.

Bikes ready for 2018 riding season 4/14/18
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon we cleaned and tuned up our bikes getting ready for what we hope will be another long riding season.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Songs of fishing and taxes” search came up with this video!

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail  If you live in our area this is a beautiful ride.

Finally Today:

With Jim and Dorothy Schmidt 4/15/18
Yesterday, following our church service, we joined friends Jim and Dorothy Schmidt for a delicious pot roast in the cafe at Calvary Homes Retirement Center where they reside.
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