Devotional

“Never-failing Love”

“Never-failing Love”
 
Message summary: Enduring love is at the very heart of Paul’s message in what is known as the Love Chapter: “Love never fails.”
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 

“Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

 
In yesterday’s message we told a story about Bill Fernan, a friend from over 25 years ago, who provided an example of abiding love suitable for a Valentine’s Day message. We appreciate feedback and one friend wrote, “What a beautiful message for Valentine’s Day. I praise God for the blessing of being married to a wonderful man for almost 30 years! I’m going to share this message with my newly engaged daughter and her fiance.”
 
Examples of enduring love like we shared yesterday can be very heartening and we are pleased when we hear fresh stories. Yesterday, following our chaplain duties, we had our Valentine’s Day lunch at Red Lobster. Then we headed toward home but made a stop at Great Clips for Brooksyne to get a haircut. I waited in the van and quite honestly took a short snooze!
 
Brooksyne had to wait for her appointment so she went into the Dollar Tree next door where she had an interesting encounter:
 
I walked into the food aisle and an older gentleman, who looked to be about 6’3″ and perhaps 80 years of age, turned around and showed me a jar of coconut oil. He asked me, “Do you think this would help my hands? Probably because I’m so old my hands get real dry and they even have cracks in the skin”. I’d never tried it for hand cream but I told him it was worth a try and if it didn’t work he could use it in the kitchen as a substitute for butter or for frying his eggs. He decided to give it a try and then he launched into explaining to me why he had about 7 jello snack packs, each with four containers of jello w/ fruit, in his cart.
“My wife won’t eat for the ‘girls’ at the nursing home but she will eat these for me, so I stock up. I also try to make a pot of potato soup and take it often because she’ll eat that for me as well. She must remember it from the years we ate it at home.” I inquired as to how long she’d been in the nursing home and he answered, “I’m 88 and I was caring for her at home until she fell and broke her leg last July. I couldn’t lift her so I had to admit her to the home. After the surgery the dementia worsened; they think it was due to the anesthetic, but I visit her everyday and feed her at dinner time.”
I expressed my admiration for his dedication as a faithful husband of 62 years. We talked on for a few minutes and then he said, “It sure is hard, visiting her everyday and she doesn’t even know who I am.”
My heart sure went out to him and I felt led to say, “I know it must be really hard, but you’re doing the right thing. The people who work there everyday, the residents and their family members see your dedication. We have so many broken marriages and people who are not faithful to their family duties, you are showing them what it is to be a loving, faithful husband.”
He seemed to appreciate our conversation and said, “It’s not everyday you run into someone you’ve never met that you can just talk to.” It was obvious that he was lonely and God had a divine appointment for him and for me. As I was leaving the store he was at the cash register so I felt the Lord prompting me to leave a parting word, “You are the perfect example of a valentine.” He thanked me and appeared to be just a bit embarrassed, but he also appeared to be pleased with such an evaluation on Valentine’s Day.
 
Consider the popular portrayal of love with a gorgeous Hollywood couple having a lavish wedding surrounded by paparazzi. Magazines and newspapers sell like hotcakes.  But way too often the same Hollywood couple become headlines again when they’re soon embroiled in a divorce battle and once again the magazines sell like hotcakes so people can read about their ugly divorce, to see who cheated on who and how much money one party expects to receive from the fallout.

However, we believe the full picture of genuine, mature, and enduring servant type love is evident in demonstration we can all observe yet too often overlook. Love’s passion will fizzle. Youth and vitality turns into a distant memory captured only in photos or deep in one’s heart. But true love will remain all the days of our lives when we take seriously the marital vows, “for better, for worse; in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” Maybe we should add “in our days of youth and our golden years”. Though I’ve heard some seniors say, “I don’t really see anything golden about getting old.”

This enduring love is at the very heart of Paul’s message in what is known as the Love Chapter: “Love never fails.” Endurance is a word defined as “the act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress.” That’s the depth of tested love the world needs to see and emulate. As God’s children we are called to practice it and be living examples for those who look on, most especially our children. We should not only be attracted to each other, but remain committed to each other as well.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for the wonderful gift of love that we experience in a romantic relationship that often grows into a marital bond between a man and woman. It is a holy union in which we, as devout believers, make You the Cornerstone of our marriage and family. May we be a support to each other as we provide a loving and protective shelter from the bitter disappointments of life. May the fruit of the Spirit be evident in our daily walk both at home and in public places. Keep us wholly faithful to one another, rejecting every lustful temptation the devil sends our way. May we prove our love to each other with mutual respect, understanding, forgiveness, kindness, forbearance, and unity. In the precious name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

 

 
Val-Co visit with Don and Tabitha 2/14/19Yesterday we took our new friends, Don and Tabitha, to another location we serve with Vietnamese employees who enjoyed talking to them. Two of these employees recognized Don as their former doctor before he and Tabitha left for Cambodia as missionaries about 12 years ago.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
* Brooksyne looked it up and indeed coconut oil is a suitable hand cream.
 
The long code yesterday was the binary code for 2 Timothy 1:12: “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” For the record I can’t read the code but used this nifty online converter!
 
Finally today:

Amish buggy parking in Mount Joy, PA 2/14/19Yesterday afternoon on our stop for Brooksyne’s haircut we observed this new Amish buggy parking hitch in Mount Joy, PA. Horse emissions are a little hard to hide and somebody didn’t obey the sign!
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Devotional

“Abiding Love” A Valentine’s Day Message

“Abiding Love”
A Valentine’s Day Message
 
Message summary:  Carrying out our promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death do us part” is the greatest demonstration of one whose love has matured from that of romantic love to that of a tested abiding love. Think about that this Valentine’s Day!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.


“So she became his wife, and he loved her” (Genesis 24:67).

Today is Valentine’s Day when we celebrate romantic love. There’s no shortage of photos and stories of young love, couples in the springtime of their relationship; vibrant, strong, and attractive.

For several weeks we’ve been inundated with ads for flowers, candy, teddy bears and jewelry; tangible expressions of our love for each other.  I remember well the first years of my relationship with Brooksyne and the romance that drew us together and eventually the maturing love that has kept us together resulting in our 42 years of marriage.

Today we want to share a story that goes beyond that of initial romance to one of abiding love expressed in a very tangible way:

Bill Fernan is one of many treasured friends we’ve known through our journey of life. He and his wife, Lenore, lived in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania in a spacious farmhouse with a large barn behind it. He was a retired engineer (at one time the chief engineer for a large corporation) and inventor who was always designing something new and original. We were amazed the day he showed us his own nautilus type fitness center he’d designed and built using bricks as weights. When we tried it out we were impressed by the heavy amount of weight the bricks weighed when we tried to lift them. Nearly eighty years of age, he was a thin man but strong, because he worked out on a daily basis. Brooksyne made frequent visits to see Bill who made custom mats and beautiful wooden frames in a room off his large barn.  She and Bill did a little bartering; he’d make mats and frames for her cross stitching projects and she’d do calligraphy for select pictures he was framing.

Later in life Lenore had a debilitating stroke and instead of admitting her to the nursing home Bill chose to lovingly care for her at home as long as he was able. That’s why he had built the nautilus so he could gain enough strength to lift her, turn her over, change her (this was before adult diapers), feed her, and every three or four hours day and night, Bill would gently turn her over so she wouldn’t get bed sores.

Several years later when he was finally forced to place her in a nursing home Bill told us he would still awaken each night at the hour he was accustomed to turning her. While we were living in Massachusetts we received word that our greatly respected friend, Bill Fernan, had passed away.  He was in his mid-eighties at the time of his death. His wife was still living and being cared for in a nursing home until she passed away a year later. What a loving legacy Bill left for his children, in the way we are to lovingly devote ourselves to our spouses not just in their youth but “till death do us part”.


Let’s consider another enduring love story over 4,000 years old. According to our western customs Isaac had a most unusual courtship. His was clearly an arranged marriage, dutifully executed by Abraham’s faithful servant, and thoroughly recorded in Genesis 24 (which happens to be the longest chapter in Genesis.)  Isaac had just met Rebekah on the occasion of our daily verse and I’m intrigued by the phrase “he loved her”.

This is the first time this expression is found in Scripture and indeed Isaac and Rebekah began a long and eventful life together marked by lasting marital love. Although we don’t know how old Rebekah was when she died, we are told that Isaac married at 40 and lived until he was 180! Scripture records that they were buried together.

Isaac’s love for Rebekah is further demonstrated when he prays for her on the occasion of her barrenness (Genesis 25:21).

In a rather interesting and perhaps overlooked detail Scripture records the two expressing their love for one another in a passionate embrace (26:8). (The KJV uses the word “sporting”, the NIV “caressing”.)

Still later we find the aging couple agonizing over the bad decisions their children had made (26:35, 27:46). That’s sure a timeless agony parents of all generations continue to deal with. We often pray with broken-hearted parents concerning poor choices made by their child(ren).

Like any marriage there was some conflict in Isaac and Rebekah’s home and much overcoming, yet their marriage endured the storms of life. They surely had many of the same challenges married couples face today. They likely differed in their interests, personalities and temperament. They dealt with infertility, sibling rivalry, favoritism and grief over their son Esau’s marriages. Our last glimpse into Rebekah’s life shows her and Isaac heartbroken as they send their son Jacob off to get a wife from her relative’s clan hoping for the best.

What do you mentally picture when it comes to marital love? The passion of newlyweds, a young couple as they push their newborn baby in a stroller, a middle-aged couple like us still holding hands in public or an 80-year-old as he regularly turns his invalid wife to prevent bedsores?

Look at the daily verse. Do you remember the words to a song, “Put a little love in your heart and the world will be a better place!” What would our present world look like if husbands and wives everywhere genuinely loved their spouses with an enduring and sacrificial love like Bill Fernan demonstrated to his wife, Lenore? Flowers, jewelry, and candies are nice gifts that warmly say “I’m thinking of you this Valentine’s Day.”

But carrying out our promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death do us part” is the greatest demonstration of one whose love has matured from that of romantic love to that of a tested, abiding love. Think about that this Valentine’s Day!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your love for us is most visible in the great sacrifice You made in giving us Your only Son to die for our sins. John writes, “God is love” and it is Your love for us that shows us how to love one another. The love we have for our spouse doesn’t always bring about a warm, fuzzy feeling but at times is costly requiring great sacrifice. Help us to take our vows seriously and carry out that which we promise so that our tested love becomes an enduring love. As we do so, we honor the sacrament of marriage that You ordained, we honor our spouse, we are an example to others especially our children, and we fulfill the Scriptural command to be faithful to our mate. Amen.

 

 
More photos from our drive through Lancaster and Lebanon counties yesterday morning.
 
Lancaster County farm 2/13/19 (Click to enlarge)
Lancaster County Farm.
Click on photo to enlarge.
 
Lebanon County orchard 2/13/19 (Click to enlarge)
Seyfert Orchards in Lebanon County
Click on photo to enlarge.
 
Lebanon County church 2/13/19 (Click to enlarge)
Lebanon County Church with Blue Mountain in the background.
Click on photo to enlarge.
 
Lebanon County farm 2/13/19 (Click to enlarge)
Lebanon County Farm.
Click on photo to enlarge.
 
Lebanon County barn 2/13/19 (Click to enlarge)
Lebanon County Barn
Click on photo to enlarge.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Flesh of My Flesh” Video  Leon Patillo  A popular song when we got married in 1976.
 
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart”  Video  Classroom Classics version
 
Yesterday we shared a story about sharing a tract with a homeless man. This prompted a memory from a reader named Duke:
 
I had exited the car having just pulled into my driveway during a late night blustery snow storm. A known drug dealer down the street from our prior residence came running up to me out of nowhere at this point. I had personally never met him, but the police were regular visitors of his. As he ran up, I simply pulled out a Christian tract from my pocket and handed it to him while stating “God’s going to speak to you from this!” He said “I know He will!” He then turned and ran back off into the blizzard with nothing more being said. We can hope he repented and believed on Jesus Christ!
 
Finally today: 

Binary mugI bought this mug last fall when we visited the Intel headquarters visitor’s center in Santa Clara, California. Today I will give it to a programmer who works with code all day long. This is an example of the digital code that runs on our computers.
 
Can anyone tell me what this says?
 
01100110011011110111001000100000010010010010000001101011011011100110111101110111
00100000011101110110100001101111011011010010000001001001001000000110100001100001
01110110011001010010000001100010011001010110110001101001011001010111011001100101
01100100001011000010000001100001011011100110010000100000011000010110110100100000
01110000011001010111001001110011011101010110000101100100011001010110010000100000
01110100011010000110000101110100001000000110100001100101001000000110100101110011
00100000011000010110001001101100011001010010000001110100011011110010000001101011
01100101011001010111000000100000011101000110100001100001011101000010000001110111
01101000011010010110001101101000001000000100100100100000011010000110000101110110
01100101001000000110001101101111011011010110110101101001011101000111010001100101
01100100001000000111010101101110011101000110111100100000011010000110100101101101
00100000011000010110011101100001011010010110111001110011011101000010000001110100
0110100001100001011101000010000001100100011000010111100100101110
 
Hint: It’s one of my favorite Scripture verses. I am glad I didn’t have to memorize it this way!
Devotional

“Rich Toward God”


Donegal Creek in Lancaster CountySnowy path along Donegal Creek in Lancaster County.

To view this photo in a larger desktop size with a Scripture verse click here.

“Rich Toward God”
Message summary:  Are you rich toward God?

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Years ago we visited Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and one morning I took a long walk along the beach. I returned to our hotel on the first road parallel to the ocean, which passed many high-rise vacation condos. I was dressed in rather scraggly but comfortable clothing, not expecting to see anyone I knew and certainly not interested in impressing anyone.

A man who had the appearance of one who might be homeless approached me and said, “It’s nice to meet a rich man”. We engaged in a brief conversation and I learned his name was Carl. His words came as quite a surprise but also seemed like a golden opportunity for a witness. I responded, “Yes, I am indeed a rich man in Jesus”.

We shared for a few more minutes a spiritual perspective on riches and I gave him a tract. “It’s nice to meet a rich man.” I am not sure what motivated his unusual greeting, although I have my ideas, but it sure got me to thinking. I suppose I am rich in comparison to him since riches are so relative. I am certainly rich in this world’s goods, in comparison to those living in many regions of this world (which is the case for virtually all reading this.)

I have written and preached on today’s Bible texts several times. But today let us especially focus on the phrase, “rich toward God”. The main character in the text was not “rich toward God”. He did not use his resources for God but instead selfishly built bigger barns for himself. (See context in “The Parable of the Rich Fool” in Luke 12:13-21)

We all need to consider:

  • Am I a kingdom builder or a barn builder?
  • Am I rich toward God or rich toward this world’s goods?

Being rich toward God is a form of wealth entirely different than all worldly measurements. Actually I would be pretty certain that many of the famously rich in this world are not at all “rich toward God”. I am equally certain that there are many who live their lives in relative obscurity with little of this world’s goods who are truly “rich toward God”.

What’s your fundamental outlook on life today? Are you storing up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal?” (Matthew 6:19). Or are you storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal?  (Matthew 6:20).

Today let us commit ourselves to being “rich toward God”! Let us seek first His Kingdom! Let us build our lives on the solid rock of Christ and be like the person whom Jesus called the “wise man” (Matthew 7:24). When the torrential storms beat upon houses built by human hands they’re likely to perish. But when our hearts are shaped by the divine hand of God the storms of life cannot destroy that which is imperishable.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

 

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us to hear the words of Scripture and be generous toward You. We want to give our all without reserve, to put our hope not in material things which is so uncertain, that can also lead to vain conceit or abusive power. When we store up goods only for ourselves it shows our lack of trust in You and our unwillingness to depend on you. Instead we want to share generously with others and be rich in good deeds. In this way we lay up treasures that do not diminish with time but lasts for all eternity. Keep us on track with this life goal in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God”  Video   Maranatha! Music

“Cornerstone” Video  Austin Stone Worship Live  We ended our service this last Sunday with this song and what a great declaration of the firm foundation we have in Christ!!!

Brooksyne’s note: I made a brief reference to Pastor Raymond Koh yesterday and today marks two years that he has been in captivity. A video has been presented in Malaysia that features Pastor Raymond’s wife and two daughters. I believe it will inspire you to pray for his release and for his family as they wait for his return. Our longtime reader and friend, Laifong, from New England is close to this family and carries a heavy burden for them which is how we came to learn about Pastor Raymond. Video

Devotional

“Come Before Winter”

“Come Before Winter”
 
Message summary: The man who had given so much ministry and encouragement to others was now in a place of need.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“Make every effort to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:21).

For a few days of warm weather last week we had a taste of the imminent spring season. Even Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow! (Interesting fact: Back in the late seventies my brother Pat, who is now a retired pastor, served his first church in Punxsutawney, PA.)

But winter has returned with snow yesterday and freezing rain this morning. However, overall we have had a relatively mild winter, especially compared to Oymyakon Siberia, the coldest inhabited place on earth where the coldest recorded temperature in 1933 was -96°F. So next time we are tempted to complain about the cold we need to remember this place!

The first reference to winter in the Bible is part of a promise to Noah.

 
“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
(Genesis 8:22)
 
Today’s Scripture portion is found in the final chapter of Paul’s final book (chronologically). This epistle, though specifically written to Timothy as the torch of faith was passed, has in the providence of God come down to us and is in the body of inspired Scripture, including this very personal appeal. This small portion of a verse is surely among the most personal of all Paul’s words. We may wonder what possible value it may have to us.

Many spiritual and practical insights have been gleaned from this brief letter for Christ’s followers in each generation. It is especially encouraging to those in pastoral ministry, so let’s consider this little phrase, “Make every effort to come before winter”.

Paul sits in a cold, damp prison. He doesn’t get the blues or have a pity party, instead he writes some letters. Do you wonder if he had the slightest idea that these letters would become a part of the Holy Scriptures and be treasured by people from each succeeding generation?

He essentially cries out for Timothy to hurry it up. Just a few verses prior to this he had written, “Make every effort to come to me soon” (4:9).

Several reasons for the urgency of his appeal can be found in the text. He knows “his time of departure” is near (4:6). He needs his cloak as winter’s coming and his books since he still wants to study (4:13). Others had deserted him, most notably Demas (4:10,16).

However, we believe he fundamentally wants Timothy’s presence. Earlier in the letter he had written, “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4).

The man who had given so much ministry and encouragement to others was now in a place of need.

Can you identify with Paul? Consider people who are like Timothy to you. Their very presence brings comfort and assurance.

Consider people you can be a “Timothy” to today. People who, like Paul, have discipled and nurtured you in the faith but now are in a place of need. Perhaps it’s your parents, a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader or a pastor. They’re probably not in prison, but they might be in a nursing home or some other lonely place. Why don’t you give them your presence today? Some day you may be where they are!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, each of us has opportunity to touch another’s life as we come alongside them in their time of need. Likewise, we benefit from one who gives freely of their time and resources, their wisdom and love as they see us in need. We are reminded throughout Scripture that we have a duty to help and encourage those around us, especially our brothers and sisters, while sojourning here below. Help us to be mindful of those in need as we fulfill the Christ’s command, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.We want to “bear one another’s burden and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Amen.

 
Matthew 7:12, Galatians 6:2


Brooksyne’s Note: As I reviewed our message today I considered Paul’s request for Timothy to come to him before winter. He was anxious for his fellowship though it might be brief and unnatural since their visit would likely be under the surveillance of prison guards. Surely Paul’s heart was overflowing with questions about his brothers and sisters back home as well as Timothy’s ministry. No doubt he wanted to tell Timothy how God was working in his own heart there in the prison setting and how he was seeking to influence others even while in chains.

This brought to mind our brothers and sisters in captivity who are being persecuted for their faith, the same circumstances as Paul found himself in. We have been praying for Pastor RaymondKoh of Malaysia for nearly two years now who was kidnapped in broad daylight due to his stand for Christ. There has been no word of his whereabouts since he was taken. He is representative of hundreds of thousands undergoing persecution whose families are grief stricken and fearful that their loved ones are suffering or even worse, that they may not be alive. Though these dear persecuted believers are not allowed to visit with their loved ones, no authority on earth can keep us from praying for their safekeeping, their release and for their witness of Christ to bear fruit in their godless settings. Though we cannot visit in person we can faithfully pray for them as well as their loved ones.


Kember Scripture prints Kember Scripture prints

James from Pulaski, Virginia shared these photos of Kember prints he had brought to his house for safekeeping after his parents moved. He had read our article about Kember prints. “Ten of these were grouped over the sofa at my parents’ previous house, and I remember others displayed around the house and in my dad’s study. He has served as a pastor here in Pulaski since 1966.”



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“In Christ Alone”  Video  The Booth Brothers
 
Visiting the coldest town in the world – Chilling Out  Video  (14 minutes) The locals prefer winter since in summer it’s very muggy and buggy!
 
-71°C (-96°F) World’s Coldest Inhabited Place: Oymyakon, Siberia  Video (3 minutes)
Devotional

“Given A Trust, Proven Faithful”

Amish farm near Lititz PA 2/9/19 (Click to enlarge)On Saturday afternoon we drove by this Amish farm on Elm Road near Lititz, PA.
(Click to enlarge)
“Given A Trust, Proven Faithful”
 
Message summary:  We’ve all been given a trust, let us prove ourselves faithful!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Pastor Jesse & Wilma Dourte 1/29/10Wilma and Jesse Dourte

 
Ten years ago we met Jesse and Wilma Dourte and developed a special family type of friendship with them. Jesse went home to be with the Lord last month and Saturday I had the opportunity to share the message at his memorial service, using a sermon he had given me years earlier that he requested I preach at his service! He was 95 years old.

The Dourtes had retired from the pastoral ministry, having served churches for many years in our region of Pennsylvania and in the Midwest (central Kansas). Jesse and Wilma met in a Christian college, married and raised six children. In April they would have celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary. We were blessed by their their mature perspective on life in general and serving the church in particular.

In a spoken tribute at the service, Warren Hoffman, a long-time pastor friend of Jesse noted:

 
“Jesse served in pastoral ministry with strong convictions, unwavering faith, flawless integrity, earnest prayer, and ready generosity. In reflection on these years, Jesse said: ‘I always wanted to make sure people had a hope, not just a superficial Sunday belief. I wanted their faith to invade their whole life’.”

One thing that really stands out about Jesse and Wilma is
their personal interest in others and their continued burden for lost souls. In a hospital visit two days before Jesse died he shared that he had been witnessing to the staff. He was raised in a God-fearing home and became a Christian as a little boy. After marrying he and his wife were full-time farmers and much of that time he also served as pastor in a bi-vocational role.

Dourte Family w/ young childrenThe Dourte family in the early 60’s

A church posted this thought-provoking statement on their church sign: “Better To Be Faithful Than Famous”. Although there are famous people who are also faithful, it occurred to me how often those whom so many recognize as “famous” are certainly not faithful. Many public figures are famous to a sea of strangers but may be estranged from their own family members. Merely consider famous names in sports, entertainment, and politics. Sadly this is also true for some in ministry for Christ.

As followers of Christ we’ve all been given a trust. The apostle Paul wrote, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). We are stewards of God’s truth and it is required that we be faithful. This is fundamentally expressed spiritually but in reality spiritual faithfulness is expressed in practical ways as well.

Let us ask ourselves:

  • Are we faithful to our spouse and family?
  • Are we faithful to our church and ministry responsibilities?
  • Are we faithful to our work related duties and financialcommitments? 
  • Above all are we faithful to God and His call in our life?
May the Lord help us all to keep the commitments we make. In fact the greatest approbation we will ever receive is when we hear the words from our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Indeed, it’s far more desirable to be faithful than to be famous. We’ve all been given a trust, let us prove ourselves faithful!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You’ve given us so many venues in which we have opportunity to prove ourselves faithful. In our relationships, our work, our ministries and the marketplace we want to be faithful in the responsibilities entrusted to us. When tempted to compromise, due to seemingly insurmountable pressures we face, help us to remember that faithfulness to You is the greatest reward. To hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” are the most joyous words of affirmation we will ever receive! Keep us faithful, Lord Jesus, for it is in Your name that we pray. Amen.



That’s why we are especially blessed by longstanding faithfulness of believers like Jesse and Wilma Dourte. Our children, young people, young adults, really all ages need to be regularly impacted by these kinds of people. It’s why we strongly believe in the intergenerational church.

It’s not uncommon for many churches to entirely segregate their congregation by age, and when doing so, there can be an important spiritual dynamic missing. The blending of generations brings about a needed balance in our worship services, and a mutual respect for each generation. Older believers are strengthened and encouraged as they visibly see how God is calling and shaping a young life committed to Christ. And the young ones can visibly witness how God beautifully refines those, who though thoroughly tested through the years by the enemy’s arson, remain faithful and victorious in their spiritual journey.

Certainly classes suited for younger ages, where they can be taught the Bible at a level they understand, is appropriate and beneficial. We are speaking of churches that rarely bring children into the worship service at all. Some churches even keep the teens separate in a youth service on Sunday mornings as well as mid-week. We believe it’s healthy to see a congregation with families sitting together and people representing various seasons of life, whether it be grandparents, parents, single adults, teens or youth.

Brooksyne’s note regarding the Dourte family: Early on in our time with the Dourtes we learned alot about their grown children and extended family, even before we met each one of them. In talking about the past Wilma shared how difficult it was to milk the cows and get the farm chores done before taking on their pastoral duties on a Sunday morning. In fact she stated that they could not have done it without the help of their children. As I recall, as the children got older, they voluntarily took on all the farm chores on Sunday mornings. With a grateful smile she offered, “Our children never really complained. They just knew what had to be done and they did it.”

Wilma endures a hearing impediment, but with the assistance of hearing aids she seeks to overcome. I’ve known people who completely withdraw from others after their hearing is impaired due to their inability to hear well which greatly affects their communication skills. Yet Wilma joyfully interacts with people realizing that, in those instances where she might not fully hear or understand clearly, the awkward moments will pass and she is not hesitant to let you know she does not understand. Her genuine love and interest in the person speaks even louder than words can convey. Both Jesse and Wilma demonstrated to us the sweet grace of faithfulness and regularly dispensed godly wisdom to us. We will especially miss Jesse’s sage wisdom and even his eagerness to get together. When time had lapsed more than he wanted between our get-togethers, he’d call me and say something to the effect, “I have some fish here, Wilma already prepared a bowl of vanilla pudding, so if you can just prepare the vegetables we can come over and have dinner with you.” I always hung up and announced to Stephen “Company’s coming!” I made the announcement with a smile on my face knowing that Jesse wouldn’t just invite himself over empty-handed, but made sure he would contribute a good portion to the meal.



Dourte family 2010Here is a photo of Jesse and Wilma and their children taken about ten years ago at a grandchild’s wedding. They also have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including one born since Jesse died! The Lord gifted each family member with musical skills.

Pumpkin prep 1/23/17
Wilma and Jesse busy at work! These two dear friends, like parents to us in some ways, insisted on helping me process our pumpkins and butternut squash each year. In fact they looked forward to it every winter and warned us they would be very disappointed not to be a part of the toilsome job. Jesse was 94 last January and I believe Wilma was 93 when they once again sliced, peeled and cut the pumpkins and squash. We fed them lunch and dug right in, or should I say, cut right into the intense labor of cutting, peeling, and steaming the vegetables. Wilma must have been on her feet more than four hours and wanted to stay longer to clean-up though I drew the line there. They were  remarkable in their health and strength for their age. Update:  Wilma had a fall several months back and is presently wearing a neck brace. Since her injury she and Jesse began living with Maxine and Luther, their oldest daughter and her husband. Wilma will continue to stay with them, now that Jesse is gone. She is so grateful for their love and care as expressed many times to me.

 
Jesse and Wilma with Amish children 4/15/12
Jesse and Wilma loved people. Here they visit with some Amish children. At the service Saturday I met two young Amish men whom Jesse had taught chair caning in the last several years of his life.

Senior ministry couples at Mount Pleasant

Jesse and Wilma attended the same church with two other retired pastors.
Left to right: Jerel (now with the Lord) and Fran Book; Jim (now with the Lord) and Eva Ketner; Pastor John Keefer and his wife Faithe on the right. The Keefers lived across the street from the Dourtes and drove them to church weekly after Wilma was no longer allowed to drive which happened only about two years ago. The Keefers were a caring and attentive pastoral couple to the Dourtes as they often expressed to us.



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources


“Find Us Faithful”  Video  Steve Green  Pastor and Wilma have “lined the way” for many. I encourage you to prayerfully listen to this song as a reminder of those who have gone before us faithfully serving Christ and, as a song of personal aspiration, that those behind us might indeed find us faithful! This version has the lyrics.

“A Winning Combination” An article written about the Dourte family in 1964 for a church magazine, “Evangelical Visitor”. They had met Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton in Harrisburg, the state capital, where he commended the Dourte family.



Lancaster County farm stand 2/9/19At the end of the long lane leading back to the Amish farm, shown in our lead picture, was a produce stand selling Shoo-fly pies using the honor system.
 
Shoo-fly pies 2/1/19
Of course we bought a shoo-fly pie!
Devotional

“Complete The Ministry!”

Silverstone Inn, Lancaster County, PA 2/7/19 (click to enlarge)Yesterday we drove by the Silverstone Inn, Lancaster County, PA
No matter the season, whether clouds or sun, Silverstone always captures our attention and we can’t resist yet another current photo.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
 
“Complete The Ministry!”
 
Message summary:  “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord'” (Colossians 4:17).
 
Don and Tabitha visiting with RickYesterday we had breakfast with some new friends, Don and Tabitha Nguyen. Don was born in Vietnam and left when he was 13 years old in 1978 on a fishing boat along with his older sister to Hong Kong. There he spent three years in a refugee camp prior to relocating to Canada where he met his future wife. They both have amazing stories we hope to share in a future message.
 
Don is a physician who practiced medicine here in Lancaster for ten years. For the last ten years they have served as missionaries to Vietnamese who live in Cambodia. But they have temporarily suspended this aspect of their ministry for a season as they have returned to Lancaster to care for Don’s aging parents. Don is able to resume work as a physician during this period.
 

Don visiting Vallorbs employee 2/7/19

But they certainly are not off the mission field!  They both express a vibrant faith and desire to share the message of Christ wherever they are, whatever they do. Yesterday, after getting more acquainted during breakfast, they joined us for a visit in a company that has quite a number of Vietnamese employees.
 
It was heartening to observe the joy on the Vietnamese faces while Don and Tabitha communicated with them in their own language and showed personal interest in them. Although in our chaplaincy service we seek to reach all language groups by expressions of care, it’s not nearly as effective as communicating verbally in one’s native language.
 
Don and Tabitha have a ministry they have received from the Lord. They may have temporarily suspended their work in Cambodia but they are seeking to fulfill the ministry God has called them to no matter their location.
 
Earlier this week we had two messages about Epaphras who was from Colossae and from whom we could observe several teachable characteristics. Paul typically mentions names at the end of his letters, most of whom we know little about. In fact in this chapter of Colossians we read that Luke was a doctor (v.14).
 
The last name mentioned in Colossians is Archippus who apparently lived in Colossae. Paul instructed the Colossian believers, in this final portion of the letter, to “Tell Archippus: ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.'”
 
No other biographical information is provided concerning Archippus but this somber challenge, which we all do well to heed regardless of the manner in which we serve the Lord. “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
 
I find it helpful to change the challenge slightly to make it personal as an expression of my personal resolve. “I will complete the ministry I have received in the Lord.”
 
Friends, when God appoints us to ministry our appointment is not over until we draw our final breath and step on heaven’s shore. Let us be faithful to His calling in our lives till He calls us home.
 
 
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we’ve learned this week of Epaphras who understood the gospel of grace and passionately shared it with others and wrestled in prayer for those who were in his charge. What a shining example to those in the church of Colossae, including Archippus whom Paul specifically called out by name to remind him of his duty as a minister of Christ – to be faithful and complete the calling You placed upon his life. It is a reminder for each of us to be faithful, not slothful, doubleminded or pulled away by worldly desires, as we carry out the mission of the gospel of Christ. We don’t want to fall away like Demas* who later abandoned his spiritual post, but we want to be faithful till our final days here on earth. Amen.

 
* Demas is also mentioned in the final part of Colossians: “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings”. Later we have these sad words: “Demas, because he loves this world has deserted me” * (2 Timothy 4:10).
 
Another reference to Archippus is here: “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home” (Philemon 1:1,2).
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Satisfied”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band
 
Vietnamese Cambodians refer to ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia. They have a very hard life.
Devotional

“Clothed With Humility”

Old-order Mennonite farm (click to enlarge)
Many of the Amish and older-order Mennonites hanging their clothes out to dry no matter the season. We have often wondered how stiff and frozen the clothing is when taken off the clothesline. Brooksyne remembers, even in the relatively mild winters of Oklahoma, they often brought in frozen clothing since they had no dryer, and she thawed her hands by holding them over their floor furnace.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
 
“Clothed With Humility”
 
Message summary:  When we are clothed in humility we will consider others even more than ourselves which truly exemplifies a servant’s heart and Jesus was the supreme example of this.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5,6).

On Tuesday mornings we visit Audrey’s, a home decor and gift wholesale distributor, in rural Lebanon County. Each visit I have the opportunity to lead the employees in a short devotional and prayer time. It is voluntary but the majority of employees attend and participate. Normally when I preach I prepare my sermons ahead of time, of course, but due to the brevity of about a five minute message at Audrey’s, I often look for a home decor item such as a plaque to illustrate a message and build on that. After all, the message is less than five minutes long.

Audrey with sweater 2/5/19

This week as I walked through the large warehouse I found a set of three tiny sweaters, which gave me an idea for a message. So I picked up a red one and used it as a prop for my message. (Audrey is holding the sweater in photo.)

As I began my message I held up the sweater and teasingly told the group I really liked it but couldn’t find the size and wasn’t sure it would fit. Of course they got a chuckle out of the absurdity of picturing me wearing the tiny sweater and being confused because it didn’t have the size marked.

I went on to read the daily verse and told the group that we should all own one item of clothing that fits all of us; We should all clothe ourselves with humility.

Moffatt writes the sense here is, “Put on the apron of humility” an appropriate paraphrase picturing the scarf or apron as the badge of a servant. How easily the world’s competitive spirit filters into the hearts of Christians and Christian workers who become envious of one another’s success. How seldom we think of ourselves as servants for Christ’s sake. (Precept Austin).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4).

When we are clothed in humility we will consider others even more than ourselves which truly exemplifies a servant’s heart and Jesus was the supreme example of this.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we want to daily dress ourselves in humility, lest we walk in pride rather than servanthood. As God’s chosen people, we want to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help us to bear with those whom we have grievance against. Help us to forgive even as You forgive us. And over all these virtues help us to put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity so that the body of Christ is united and You are well-pleased with us. Amen.

Prayer adapted from Colossians 3:12-14



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Humble Yourselves”  Video  Maranatha Singers