A leaning silo in rural VirginiaLeaning silo in rural Virginia
“Let Us Pursue The Knowledge Of The Lord”

Note: Due to Ester’s hospitalization (see below) a podcast was not prepared for this message.

“But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” (Daniel 12:4). Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hosea 6:3). “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

In 1977, the year we graduated from college, James Martin wrote a book titled “The Wired Society”. In what at that time surely seemed like science fiction he predicted a planet networked by personal computers foreseeing the concept of the internet, e-commerce, tele-commuting and other technological breakthroughs we now take for granted. At the time though many of his predictions surely seemed bizarre.

Now consider what many of us hold in our hands known as smart phones. We can instantly communicate with people from all over the world, read the latest news often as it happens and instantly research virtually any topic imaginable. Indeed knowledge is increasing!

In 2001 Martin wrote another book, “After the Internet: Alien Intelligence” in which he made some stunning predictions about where technology is taking us. If he is as correct in this book as he was in his earlier one we are moving into some frightening territory. He envisions us entering a brave new world in which alien intelligence can redesign and reinvent itself at electronic speed and without the control of human engineers. Indeed, alien intelligence will become so complex that humans will not even be able to understand the computers’ processes. Ultimately the question becomes: Will we control the machines, or will they control us?

The last half of Daniel’s book deals with prophecies that stretch far beyond his own day. Daniel lived about 600 years before Christ’s incarnation or some 2,600 years ago. Of course all through human history knowledge has been increasing. However in our time there has been an exponential increase in the rate of new knowledge and we see that indeed, “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” Where is all this headed?

Daniel associated this particular increase of knowledge to the “time of the end”. But the call to God’s chosen people is no different than it’s ever been. We are to grow in the knowledge of the Lord

Today’s second and third verses are a timeless call regarding our primary pursuit of knowledge. “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord” and “increasing in the knowledge of God”. Let us stay faithful to God and His established plan for our lives and pursue our knowledge of God above all!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we have seen throughout Biblical and modern history that Your people perish due to lack of knowledge. Additionally, nations crumble due to disregard and disrespect toward Your teachings that instruct us in the manner of which we should live our lives. The treasures of wisdom and knowledge are dispensed from Your invisible realm so we are confident that when we seek the heart of our Father we are also increasing in spiritual knowledge that comes from a loving relationship with You. Thank You for the Holy Spirit, our Helper, whom You sent to teach us and to bring to remembrance all things that You have taught us through Scripture. Your knowledge will preserve us through the fiery trials of this life and the unknown future from which we will navigate our spiritual journey. We need not fear, but we must trust You for all that comes our way. As the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians we pray, that we may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


Ester Update:  Our daughter Ester has been feeling very weak, tired, and her saturation level had dropped for two to three days. Yesterday Brooksyne took her to the ER in Hershey where Ester’s pediatric cardiologist met her and ordered a number of tests to rule out blood clots, etc.  After spending the day and evening in the ER she was admitted to the hospital late last night after finding that her digoxin level was too high (she has been on digoxin [digitalis] all her life). The normal range for digoxin level is 0.7 to 2 micrograms/ml and Ester’s was 3.8. She was retested this morning and her levels are still unacceptable. Couple that with a urinary tract infection they discovered and she had good reason to feel washed out. We’ll see how the day progresses and give thanks in the meantime that no blood clots were found which is always a concern. We thank you in advance for your prayers spoken for Ester and our family.


Of course in preparing and sharing these daily encouragement messages we are using some of the very technology that James Martin wrote about to communicate Biblical truth. We are not doing so in some state of the art news studio, but from a typical computer right from our own home in rural Pennsylvania, USA. Technology has been mightily used to spread the Gospel through the printing press, radio, the Internet and many other modern inventions, for which we give thanks to God.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Knowing You”  Video  Robin Mark


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“Godliness With Contentment”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Faithfulness plaque

This plaque hangs above the door in our dining room.

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“Godliness With Contentment”

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Coming down the stairs one morning, a British gentleman by the name of Lord Congelton overheard his cook conversing with one of the other servants. “I would be perfectly content,” the woman declared, “if I just had five pounds!” (Worth about $25 at the time.)

After pondering the matter, Lord Congelton decided to help his long-time employee. He pulled her aside later in the day and gave her a five-pound note. The surprised cook thanked her employer profusely, whereupon Lord Congelton departed.

But once outside the door, Congelton paused to see what, if anything, the woman would say. Surely, he reasoned, she would express her thankfulness to God. A second or two passed and Congelton heard the woman cry out, “Oh, why didn’t I say ten pounds?!”

Yesterday’s message was on “Learning The Secret Of Being Content”. The remainder of this week we would like to examine four points based upon a section from Paul’s letter to Timothy that will provide key guidelines in living a life of contentedness.

1. We experience contentment when we focus on godliness, not material gain.

Just prior to this section Paul addressed false teachers who supposed that godliness was a means of financial gain. I wonder who these teachers were in the context of that time period. In our own day we have those we might say “are in it for the money” and for some religion has paid off.

Today’s tiny verse is power-packed. Many view the experience of “gain” in life as having more money and possessions. But that is certainly not what the apostle Paul is writing about.  Consider the power of the phrase, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Paul is urging Timothy in the brief section that follows to consider genuine gain.

“Godliness refers to the act of being pious and living a good, reverent life toward God and others because of what Christ has done in us” (Richard Krejkir).  Godliness is a dying virtue in our time, though God will always have a remnant who walk in a manner that honors and pleases Him.

Earlier in this letter Paul wrote, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7,8). This expresses the infinitely greater value of godliness over any degree of financial or material gain. As a result of this godliness we have the inner peace of knowing that we are right with God and that whether we live or die, we belong to Him. This godliness is profitable for all things impacting us in both the present and eternal future.

Paul is simply presenting the two choices of masters Jesus gave in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Notice there are only two options that our Lord gives. You cannot choose both. Money is what you make it—a master or a servant.

From the beginning Satan has tormented the human race with the lie that what God has provided is never enough. At the very heart of Satan’s first lie and temptation to Adam and Eve was that the breathtaking beauty in the Garden was not enough; that human companionship was not enough; that God’s provision was not enough; that His authority was meant to be questioned.

Today we have a growing allure toward more wealth and possessions which we’ve been told will make us happy. But contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want (which will always be changing), but the realization of how much you already have and finding satisfaction with that.  It’s realizing and acknowledging that, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, when I get overly anxious about having the latest gadget or the newest fashion I usually overlook the fact that I have so much already at my disposal. So much, in fact, that I struggle to properly manage my possessions and can be overwhelmed with clutter. Thank you for the people who live with less so that others can have more; more of the basics of life and the provisions needed to reach others with the Gospel message. Contentment from You cannot be packaged and sold, but it can be a way of life as we align our priorities in accordance to Your will. Teach us the great gain we experience by setting our heart’s affections not on this world’s changing and peril-stricken economy, but by storing up treasures in heaven’s economy where eternal riches never perish, spoil or fade. May that precious truth help us find contentment in a non-content society.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Fret not for want of earthly things, they’ll never satisfy;
The secret of contentment is to let the Lord supply. —DJD


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain”  Video  A song based upon 1 Timothy 6:6 written and sung by our friend Mike Book. We find it so helpful when Scripture is set to music and in many cases this becomes the basis for memorization.

“Enough”  Video  Chris Tomlin

“You Make Me Lie Down In Green Pastures”  Video  Don Moen

A highly recommended read:

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don’t like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life’s transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Learning The Secret Of Being Content”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bluejay on leaves (Photo by Doris High)

Doris High took this photo of a Bluejay on fallen leaves, which is such an interesting contrast in colors.

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“Learning The Secret Of Being Content”

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).

Cyber MondayToday is Cyber Monday, a newer marketing term used since the early days of internet-based shopping to connote the special deals available to online shopping the Monday following Thanksgiving. Of course the day after Thanksgiving is referred to as Black Friday, a day known for mobbed stores. Stories abound of the bizarre demonstration of greed that takes place every year on this date. This year we heard, among other sordid stories, of a mother, whose children were with her, pepper spraying other shoppers in order to get a cheap game.*

Greed t-shirtThese two days mark the “official” start of the Christmas shopping season, at least here in the USA. However both of these days also highlight an ancient problem the human race has dealt with since the time of creation; “Greed”. Greed can impact us regardless of how wealthy or poor we consider ourselves to be. The Lord Jesus Himself warns, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15).

This week we will share a series titled “A Prescription for Contentedness”. Contentment certainly can’t be found among the material gifts available this year, so you won’t hear a sales pitch on a television commercial nor will you read about how to purchase it in the newspaper. Nevertheless it is a treasure that will be of greater value than any wrapped gift you might find under your tree this year. The teaching of Scripture is always relevant on this topic and every other topic.

In today’s text the apostle Paul states, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” What an interesting perspective and one which most of us share, though likely not in the same degree as Paul.

“I know what it is to be in need.” Paul doesn’t specify the degree of need here but elsewhere we read of his ministry experiences, “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:27). Some of our readers may have experienced need to this extent but I suspect most of us have not. Quite honestly in my life so often being in need would mean not getting what I wanted and later this week we will have a study that asserts a key to contentment is properly distinguishing between needs and wants.

“I know what it is to have plenty.” It’s a little bit harder to find a reference to this in the Scriptural record but I consider a brief association that Paul had following a shipwreck with a man named Publius who had lands and was a leading man on the island of Malta. Publius entertained Paul and his traveling companions for three days. I believe it’s reasonable to assume that Publius was a man of great wealth and for these several days Paul knew what it was like to have plenty. When they departed the island we read, “They also honored us with many marks of respect; and when we were setting sail, they supplied us with all we needed.” (This account is in Acts 28.) Most if us know what’s it’s like to have plenty but the tendency to compare ourselves with those who have more may blind us to this!

Paul completes this verse by stating, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Fundamentally, the state of contentment is not based on what we have (or lack of it). Nor is it based on how much we have (or how little)!

Beginning tomorrow our study through the rest of the week will be an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:6-10 which lists four vital focuses we must have to experience contentment. I believe God wants us to take proper steps to develop and nurture godly contentment so that we will find true and lasting satisfaction, in times of plenty and in times of dearth.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, help us to prayerfully apply Your Scriptures so that we can learn to be content in any and every situation. A godly contentment will fill our hearts with peace in place of an anxious heart that keeps us in angst as we struggle to obtain the newest or latest gadget or comfort. Help us to fix our eyes on You, not others as we pursue holiness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Today’s text in the Amplified Version: “I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.”

Note: Due to work on our home a message was not prepared this last Friday.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

* Pepper spray incident referred to in message

“Godliness With Contentment Is Great Gain”  Video  A song based upon 1 Timothy 6:6 written and sung by our friend Mike Book. We find it so helpful when Scripture is set to music and in many cases this becomes the basis for memorization.

“My Faith Has Found A Resting Place”  Video  A stately version of a traditional hymn by Bobby Michaels.  “It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me!”

“I Need No Other Argument”  Video  A nice version of the above song by Todd Agnew.

“Learning The Secret Of Being Content” A brief video challenge

A highly recommended read:

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don’t like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life’s transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Thankful For the Thorns”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Flower arrangement on Communion TableThe “lovely” arrangement on our Communion Table this past Sunday.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

 

“Thankful For the Thorns”

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Rose arrangementFor many years Brooksyne has enjoyed creating attractive flower arrangements for our home and friends, as well as the churches we have served for the past five years. Among the favorite flowers she grows are roses and presently we have three rose bushes, though they stopped blooming a few weeks ago. Each Sunday she generally makes arrangements for the church using seasonal flowers, such as the fall mums over the past couple months.

However this last Sunday she prepared a rather unusual arrangement for the Communion Table; clipped rose stems without the roses as seen in our top photo today. With gloves for protection she clipped them low at the base of our rose bushes and arranged them for display. It was not very pretty to say the least and probably made the congregation wonder if she was losing her senses!

How many of you plan to order a Thanksgiving bouquet from the Florist Shop this Thanksgiving? Roses are a perennial favorite. Why not have the florist cut off the roses and purchase only the long, thorny stems for your Thanksgiving centerpiece?

ThornsSound a little strange?  In the Thanksgiving Resources listed below our daily message we feature a story called “Thankful for the Thorns”. Years ago Brooksyne played the florist when it was presented in skit form in our church.  But this last Sunday she read the story to our congregation and used the rather plain, somewhat disheveled roseless stems as seen in the Communion Table photo as an object lesson.

In the story the florist cuts off the roses and sells only the long, thorny stems. The thorny bouquet is a visual reminder to customers to be thankful for the thorns or painful times in their lives.  Whether experiencing the difficult moments personally or within our families, we have motivation to seek God more fervently, which allows Him to bring perspective, healing, cleansing and maturing in our faith.  The eventual outcome brings beauty and purpose into our lives, much like the beautiful, fragrant rose that is an outgrowth from the thorn covered green stems.

In past years we kept a small wrapped box in our dining room where we could drop in notes from time to time telling of the way in which God had provided a special blessing.  Perhaps we need to also include notes that record the “thorns” that appear in our lives to be reminded of the lessons God has taught us through the difficult times. We can also use it to comfort and encourage others who are being pricked by thorns in their lives.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4, shares four experiences of spiritual and physical testing as he and his co-workers followed Christ.  In each example he showed how God proved His faithfulness in the midst of the severe thorns:

* “We are hard pressed on every side — but not crushed.”
* “Perplexed — but not in despair.”
* “Persecuted — but not abandoned.”
* “Struck down — but not destroyed.”

At times we’ve been a little “hard-pressed” in various challenges just as each of you have in varying degrees.  But we’ve also been challenged by God to trust Him when these “thorns” prick while developing fruit in our lives that can only be produced through these “prickly” experiences.  We find enormous consolation as we read and meditate upon the Scriptures.

Heart-rending emails arrive regularly from our readers concerning their thorns – some that prick and tear at the soul.  May you find the “God of all Comfort” to be your source of strength and hope.  “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

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

Today are you living with a healthy outlook, confident of God’s love and providential care, even during a season of “difficulty”?  Or are you focusing on the difficulty? Some people complain because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; Teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain; Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

(Prayer taken from the story, “Thankful for the Thorns”)

 


Brooksyne’s Note: “The Thorn of a Broken Ankle” Over three months I could bear no weight on my left leg so I used crutches and a wheelchair during that time.  There were so many valuable lessons I learned over that period of time.  The one I think of most often is the ability I have to park a long way from the store and walk with no assistance.  It’s something I took for granted and often whined when I couldn’t get a closer parking space. I know there are readers who are permanently wheelchair bound and even those who are bedridden. Our hearts go out to you and we know God provides special grace to you in these circumstances.

I can still recall the intense pain I felt when I accidentally stepped on a stem of thorns over 3 years ago.  Only days earlier I had the cast removed from my left leg due to my broken ankle that was reset and operated on. I had to give up all gardening the summer of ’08 and couldn’t wait to do some trimming of hedges and bushes when the cast finally came off.  Due to my foot still being quite swollen I was walking barefooted. First thing, I trimmed the very much overgrown rose bushes and did so verociously. Without thinking I threw the thorn filled stems behind me in the yard. I’d forgotten about the rose stems when I backed away from the bush and accidentally stepped on them. It was so painful I remember screaming and falling face forward due to the orders that I was not to bend my leg.  It was an painful experience (behind and in front of me).

Thankful for our doctors:

Ester with Dr. Mark CohenEster enjoys visiting with Dr. Mark Cohen, her pediatric cardiologist, who was the first American doctor to see her upon her arrival from Guatemala at 3 months of age. He specializes in pacemakers and has continued to care for her as an adult since her heart condition is congenital! Yesterday, during her 6 month check up, he told us of his planned departure from Hershey Children’s Heart Group. The news was met with a warm embrace while Ester shed many tears. She is very fond of him and has been helped greatly by his expertise and his genuine compassion when she is experiencing heart problems.

 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we want to share music with a theme of Thankfulness which we will add to this list and leave up through Thursday.

“Thanks To God For My Redeemer”  Video  This video is in Chinese and, although you can’t understand the words (unless you know Chinese!), it is is set to beautiful floral photos with an outstanding vocal and musical arrangement. It is also a reminder that we are part of a big worldwide family of fellow believers. Here’s an English version.  “Thanks for roses by the wayside, thanks for thorns their stems contain!” This last Sunday we sang it to the tune of “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”.  It was written in 1891 by August Storm, a Swedish believer. He was stricken with illness 8 years after writing this hymn and was an invalid until his death many years later.  He maintained a thankful spirit to the very end.

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

“In Everything Give Thanks”  Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter

“Thanks”  Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

“I Want To Thank You”  Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

“Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

“Thanksgiving Medley”  Video  Nice selection of grand old thanksgiving hymns.

“Now Thank We All Our God”  Video  Traditional version  Here’s a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

“Come We Thankful People Come”  Video  Traditional version  Here’s a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

“I’m Forever Grateful”  Video  Willow Creek

“Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart”  Video  Don Moen

“When I Thank Him For What He Has Done”  Video  The Cathedrals

Yesterday we referred to our friend Tommy Carpenter, whose wife and grandson were killed in an auto accident last month. Tommy writes, “Our grief has been deep, but we have found GOD’S GRACE to be greater than grief.”

A highy recommended read:

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don’t like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life’s transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well.


 

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through this Thanksgiving Day here in the US (Thursday, November 24).

Thorns“Thankful For The Thorns”: A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of “Thankful for the Thorns” (printable webpage).

“A Thanksgiving family exercise” (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

“Counting Your Blessings”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mount Pleasant church sign Mount Joy, PAThis church sign near Mount Joy, PA has a thought-provoking message!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Counting Your Blessings”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

Counting your blessings can be a challenge at times. Rather it’s so easy and natural to focus on losses. Several weeks ago we mentioned our friends Tommy and Nelma Carpenter from Arkansas who visited us in mid October. A week later Nelma, along with one of their grandsons, was killed in a car accident. We’ve been praying for Tommy and the family and called last week to assure him of our continued prayer support. Certainly this will be a hard Thanksgiving for the family so soon after such a life altering event.

But during our conversation Tommy exuded faith and assurance of God’s steadfast love and care.  In the midst of devastating loss he was counting his blessings as he saw God’s hand at work.

We believe that’s the attitude God wants for us as we view life here on earth. It comes naturally to rejoice in the celebratory times but God also wants us to acknowledge our blessings during times of testing.  After all, we’re instructed to give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Do you have an attitude of entitlement or an attitude of blessing?

  • The “attitude of entitlement” is rampant in our world today and results in whining and a sense of victimization. No matter how much you have it’s never enough.
  • The “attitude of blessing” is expressed far less often yet it results in joy and peace. It focuses on what we have rather than what we may not have.

Which attitude would you rather have?

Which attitude would you rather be around?

We are often politely asked, “How are you today?”  At this question we may tend to either provide the expected “I’m fine, thank you” without really giving it much thought, or we may immediately begin to consider our present physical condition or material provisions.  At this we may still realize how blessed we are or we may consider negative aspects to our present circumstances such as our health, a family concern, finances or world instability. Jere, a friend of ours often states “Better than I deserve.”  An elderly woman in a nursing home always responds, “Too blessed to be stressed.”

But there is a constant blessing that we do well to focus on, even though we do not experience it with our physical senses. Notice the phrase in the daily text speaking of the Father “who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  The apostle Paul wrote this from prison. He surely was experiencing little of what we so easily characterize as “blessings” today.

But his focus was on the spiritual blessings originating from the heavenly realms. These blessings, though unseen, are absolutely real.  In the next several verses Paul rejoices in them and so can we, no matter what our external circumstances may be.

Take a moment and reflect upon one little phrase in our daily text.  Notice the words “every spiritual blessing”.  Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus, readers throughout the centuries, and right up to our present day that this is how we’ve been blessed.

Today, as you go about a routine workday, it will be so tempting to look upon the physical realms, to assess our “blessings” or “headaches”.  When this happens get your focus back on the heavenly realms and your spiritual blessings in Christ:  His forgiveness, His care and His discipline.  These are but a few of our spiritual blessings in Christ.  In the verses that follow Paul elaborates on these spiritual blessings one after the other.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, You have poured out Your abundance on us from the heavenly realms in all manner of blessings. You forgave our sins and broke the chains that once enslaved. You brought fulfillment in our lives as You gave us a sense of purpose. You provided for us a roadmap through the Holy Scriptures that leads ultimately to heaven.  You’ve promised us eternal life.  We experience peace that surpasses human understanding and the list is unending.  For this and so much more we are eternally grateful.  We deserve none of Your blessings and yet we receive them all, not only in this life but we lay hold of future blessings in the life to come.  Prompt us to focus on our blessings since they far outweigh our troubles. Even when shadows darken the view of our blessings may they visibly surface as the indwelling Holy Spirit brings them to our remembrance.  May it be our heart’s desire to refresh others whom we meet from day to day in life’s journey as we walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.


Fodder bales on Galen Martin's farm

Our friend Galen Martin has a big stack of fodder bales on his farm. These bales are made from the corn stalks after the corn grain is harvested and will either be used for animal bedding or will go into the mulch for growing mushrooms. Each bale in the photo is actually a cluster of smaller bales and weighs 1000 pounds.

Mollie in prayer

Brooksyne knelt to pray on Saturday morning and shortly thereafter Mollie joined her (This not a staged photo – I just happened to look downstairs and caught this on camera). It looks like our older dog Roxie chose to “rest in the Lord”!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Today we want to share music related to our message as well as songs with a theme of Thankfulness which we will leave up through the week.

“He Hideth My Soul”  Video  Haven Quartet  This is the song that has the verse we concluded the message with and has the wonderful phrase “numberless blessings”. We dedicate this song to our friend Tommy Carpenter.

“Count Your Blessings”  Video  The Martins (One of Brooksyne’s favorite groups)

“Count Your Blessings”  Video  Smoky Mountain Hymns Instrumental (This the tune we are familiar with. We closed our service with this hymn yesterday.)

“I Want To Thank You”  Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

“In Everything Give Thanks”  Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter

“Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

“When I Thank Him For What He Has Done”  Video  The Cathedrals

“I Still Cling To The Old Rugged Cross”  Video  Lenexa Baptist Church  This song is not necessarily related to our daily theme but it sure blesses my heart!  Great graphics as well.

Karen Peck and New River  We enjoy this group and here is a playlist with 11 songs.

A highly recommended read: We both are reading this book and would commend it to our readers. We will share a brief review in several days.

Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing WellNearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
By Billy Graham / Thomas Nelson
Many people, even Christians, fear growing older. We don’t like to think about losing independence and control in our lives, but perhaps learning to accept these changes is the first step in dealing with them. After 93 years of living and decades of Christian service, renowned evangelist Billy Graham writes to encourage people of all ages to live with purpose and grace in Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well. Graham also discusses the importance of building strong foundations in relationships, facing life’s transitions with trust, and understanding our glorious hope in Jesus. Join Billy as he shares the challenges of fading strength, but still standing strong in his commitment to finishing life well. Ordering info.


Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through this Thanksgiving Day here in the US (Thursday, November 24).

Thorns“Thankful For The Thorns”: A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of “Thankful for the Thorns” (printable webpage).

“A Thanksgiving family exercise” (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Turning The World Right-side Up”

 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eartha globe at the DeLorme Map Company

“Eartha” globe at the Delorme Map Company headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Turning The World Right-side Up”


“These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).

Upside down globeI have long wondered about something and have yet to find the answer. Globes and maps depict the northern hemisphere as “up” and the southern hemisphere as “down,” and of course that is the orientation we consider right-side up. But is there an objective reason this is so? I wonder from the perspective of outer space if there is an “up and down”?


I do know, because of our customary view, that it looks strange to see a globe upside down which brings to mind the daily Scripture text. I preached from this text last Sunday and brought in a globe that our church in New England
had given me (knowing my interest in globes). I turned it upside down on its stand to illustrate my point. The congregation quickly observed that it was upside down and wondered what I was up to!

DeLorme Map Company "Eartha" globe inside viewAs you’re driving up Route 1 in Maine north of Portland you can’t miss the headquarters of the DeLorme Map Company in Yarmouth. In the glass-windowed lobby there is a huge globe completely made up of satellite images of the entire earth. They call the globe “Eartha”, which sort of sounds like the name of a goddess to me!


Eartha is the largest rotating and revolving globe in the world, measuring 42 feet in diameter and comprised of 140 gigabytes of information. Whenever we are up that way we always stop by to see it. Many years ago Ester and I walked around the globe and quoted from John 3:16, which is the clearest verse in the Bible stating God’s love for the entire world.

The daily text states, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).  It is a powerful expression of the world’s perspective on the mighty and far-reaching impact of the early church.  It is specifically referring to the ministry of the Apostle Paul and those who traveled with him as they proclaimed the message of Christ in Thessalonica. Apparently their reputation had preceded them. Their message was so absolutely transforming that it was said to “have turned the world upside down.”

The key Greek word here is “anastatwsantev” (listen) which means to “upset or unsettle”. When Christians confront a world headed contrary to God’s ways it surely is upsetting and unsettling.

Indeed, wherever the true message of Jesus Christ goes, it has a transforming impact. This impact will be seen in individuals, families, churches, communities, countries and entire cultures.  It’s important to realize that the transformation is upside down from the world’s perspective but right side up according to God’s created design!

I recall a special moment in my personal discipleship when a fellow believer shared with me a spiritual concept based on Romans 12:2. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That was nearly 40 years ago. The transforming process of breaking conformity to the world and conforming ourselves to Christ and His teaching continues in my life through the renewing of my mind. There have been many setbacks along the way but God continues the process and I am assured that He will carry it on to completion until the day He appears (Philippians 1:6).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, as we live in daily communion with You, our presence will make a difference in a classroom, in a workplace, in a neighborhood, in a community and most especially in our families. With Your sanctifying seal upon our lives we no longer live according to the lust of the flesh, but the life of the Son who resides in us.  May we see our world turned upside down as people walk away from evil while being transformed by Christ’s redemptive power.  It is in His name that we pray, Amen.


Today we would like to share several photos we took yesterday from our always interesting routes through eastern Lancaster County during the course of our business chaplain work!

Amish wedding parking in Lancaster County, PA
November is the month for Amish weddings. We passed a large one yesterday and saw lots of buggies and snapped this photo along Rt. 340 east of Bird in Hand, PA.  It was a very cloudy day so our photos aren’t as vibrant as we prefer.

Horse for sale in Lancaster County, PA
This homemade sign caught our attention. We checked with Elvin, an old order Mennonite friend. He told us this would be a horse suitable for a buggy.  “Anybody can drive” meant it would handle well!

Garden bench in Lancaster County, PA
Just up the road we saw apples for sale. We drove in and purchased a bushel so Brooksyne can can apple sauce and pie filling. In observing the farm I thought this was a resourceful way to use an old van bench! This brought another memory as well. Brooksyne was raised on a farm in Oklahoma and her colorful dad had a knack for collecting stuff, reasoning he would always find some way to use it. Her brother worked for American Airlines and had given him some discarded airline seats that he set up for relaxing outside, kind of like this bench!  (Brooksyne’s Note:  Dad’s collecting of odd stuff was often the source of some pretty serious arguments between him and mom.  Mom wanted it to be cleaned up, and Dad was charmed by it, including old broken down automobiles – it saved him a trip to the salvage yard when he was tinkering with our cars, trucks or tractors.)

Old order pump in Lancaster County, PA
I was intrigued by the pulley on this pump and assume they use the PTO on the tractor if needed for large watering jobs. (This “old-order” branch of Mennonites do not use electricity).

Pam with Amish buggy in Indiana
Early yesterday morning we visited with Lee Smucker, a new friend of ours, who shared this photo of his wife Pam beside an Amish buggy in Indiana. He observed how much larger and more comfortable the buggies were in this area than the ones we commonly see here in Lancaster County.  The side door lifts up like a garage door which would make it easier for families to get in comfortably.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Change My Heart O God”  Video

“Since Jesus Came Into My Heart”  Video  The Todd Allen Family

Here’s more info on the Eartha globe from the DeLorme website.


Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 24).

Thorns“Thankful For The Thorns”: A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of “Thankful for the Thorns” (printable webpage).

“A Thanksgiving family exercise” (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Creation Declares”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo of Autumn tree
Many of the trees in our area have now dropped their leaves but this beautiful tree is still in full autumn vibrancy.  The rain fell steadily yesterday causing the yards and roads to be splattered with loads of leaves. The trees will soon be wearing their barren winter coats.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Creation Declares”

“He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish” (1 Kings 4:33).

Autumn leaves, Lancaster Country PAThe autumn leaves are so beautiful in our area, whether a panoramic distant view, up close at a cluster of leaves, or even a single leaf! Brooksyne took the photo to the right. Here’s a large version suitable for a desktop background. The leaves are in the beautiful reds, yellows and oranges of fall although it soon will pass!

The daily text is an often overlooked aspect of Solomon’s broad interests and a part of the vast knowledge he was famed for. In this brief verse we see Solomon’s interest in Botany, Dendrology, Zoology, Ornithology, Herpetology and Ichthyology.

Oak leafTake a single leaf such as the Oak leaf to the left. Look it over and carefully make observations. Sort of like high school chemistry and the opening exercise (at least when I went to High School) of observing the flame of a candle. It’s interesting when you take a single leaf and carefully examine it to see how much can be observed!

Science is often characterized as an adversary to faith. It seems that many use it as an excuse and basis for their unbelief. But science is the observation and study of God’s created order and as such it can be a tremendous aid to faith.

The Psalmist declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). God’s hand is visible whether in the starry skies far beyond reach or in the amazing molecular structure of a single living cell.

I’m not an accredited scientist but I sure see the hand of God wherever I look. What about you? Look up and out, down and around you today! And consider the wondrous blessings of God’s handiwork.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we count among our rich blessings the bounty of Your handiwork – whether it’s that which we can observe only at a distance or that which we can examine closely, touch with our hands, smell or taste. You are a benevolent Father, giving us so much to enjoy.  Creation declares Your glory causing us to delight in Your creativity, in all its bountiful and varied displays. We give You thanks for it all.  Amen.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Creation Calls”  Video  Brian Doerksen

“All Heaven Declares”  Video

“Eternity” Video Brian Doerksen

“Only You”  Video  Vineyard Music

Last week I shared a photo and an observation about our front lawn oaks and a thoughtful reader shared this poem:

The Red Oak
by Jon Hassler

Among the four seasons’ perpetual jokes
Is the winter appearance of overdressed oaks
Refusing to fall with the sleet an snow
Oak leaves cling, lifelike, through fifty below
Until they are nudged by the force of the sap
Rising to fashion the oak a spring wrap.

I hope when it’s Autumn and winter for me
I can look as alive as the overdressed tree
And during the lengthening nights I can cling
To my wits and my heart – the tokens of spring
Only releasing them into the sod
The moment I’m dressed in the glory of God.


Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 24).

Thorns“Thankful For The Thorns”: A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of “Thankful for the Thorns” (printable webpage).

“A Thanksgiving family exercise” (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne
Donate

Please help us continue this free encouragement ministry

Sign up here for the free daily email encouragement.

Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Strangers In The World”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photo of white goats in leaf-filled field

We passed this field with white goats and managed to snap a photo through the fence.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Strangers In The World”

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).

Broasted turkeyI recall as a young boy being intrigued that there was a country named Turkey. Now of course as an American child my initial use of the word “turkey” was associated with the giant bird my mom prepared for the big meal each Thanksgiving Day.

Map of TurkeyThe apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to believers who lived in the region of present day Turkey (also known as Asia Minor), an area evangelized by Paul during his first missionary journey in Acts 13 and 14. The letter was not written to a specific individual or church as many other New Testament letters are, but “to God’s elect, strangers in the world”, scattered throughout the region.

This letter was written late in Peter’s life about 30 years after the resurrection of Christ. Social conditions in the Roman Empire were rapidly deteriorating, though it would still be many years before Rome would fully collapse. Nero was likely in power and his reign was a time of intense suffering for Christians. In this very letter Peter encouraged his fellow believers with this somber reality, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

But today we want to especially focus on the phrase he uses to address them in the salutation as “strangers in the world.”  The underlying Greek word for “strangers” (parepidemois) is used only three times in the New Testament; twice by Peter in this letter (here and 2:11, and Hebrews 11:13).  It fundamentally means “a resident foreigner.”

Parepidemos describes one who makes a brief stay in a strange or foreign place, who sojourns or who resides temporarily among a native people to whom he or she does not belong. The parepidemos did not expect to be regarded as a native of the place where he resided. We must ever be on our guard to resist acclimating our minds or aligning our affections with this evil world system which is “devolving” and corrupting day by day. Remember that we are “strangers”.

When Lot stopped being a stranger, and became a resident, even a leader among the inhabitants of  Sodom (Genesis 13:1-18), he lost his consecration and his testimony.  Everything he lived for went up in smoke! (Genesis 19:1-29).

Jim ElliotJim Elliot, a dedicated missionary martyred in the jungles of Ecuador as a young man, was a man of great faith. I suppose his most famous quote is:

“He is no fool to give what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.”

We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are residing here as a stranger in this present evil age.

Our primary citizenship is in heaven. We do well to keep a proper Biblical perspective of our life span on this earth; that we are merely strangers passing through. It won’t be a difficult concept to grasp several hundred years into eternity but at this point, in our temporal existence, all we see is this physical world. Today let us heed the message that Peter wrote to the early believers and remember that we are merely strangers passing through!

We need to live our lives with a song in our heart, and I suppose no song puts it better in this regard than an old gospel hymn.

This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we’re so thankful that when our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from You, an eternal house in heaven. We make it our life long goal to remain strangers in this world as we maintain friendship with You, our Heavenly Father. Like the Apostle Paul we strain toward that which is ahead as we press toward the goal to win the prize for which You have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. In Your appointed hour our bodies will be transformed so that they will be like Your glorious body. We eagerly await that transformation when anticipation becomes reality for the faithful!  Amen.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“This World Is Not My Home”  Video  A nice acoustic version of the song we closed our message with today!

When, as a boy, Albert Brumley was out in the cotton fields picking cotton, he knew that wasn’t the life for him.  He wanted to write songs for the Lord.  So he did (“I’ll Fly Away” among others).

Albert had grown up in poverty and witnessed two world wars and the Great Depression.  Life wasn’t easy, but he saw that it became a lot easier when you had Jesus as your friend walking alongside you.

Two themes seem to pop up in Albert’s songs over and over again.  One is the theme of heaven. Life here may be rough, but glory is up ahead.  The second theme is that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.  Establishing a personal relationship with Him now can bring a touch of heaven to earth.

For the Christian, our citizenship is not ultimately here on earth, but in heaven.  It’s the plain teaching of Scriptures:  “This Word is Not My Home.”

(from “The Complete Book of Hymns”)

“Come We That Love The Lord”  Video  Rowley Baptist Church

“O Savior Of Our Fallen Race”  Video  Keith and Kristyn Getty  Originally a 6th Century Latin carol, Kristyn Getty made alterations to the translation with the aim of turning the song into a prayer that emphasizes the return of Christ.

“Be Thou My Vision”  Video

“When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”  Video  Kathryn Scott


Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these resources to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 24).

Thorns“Thankful For The Thorns”: A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of “Thankful for the Thorns” (printable webpage).

“A Thanksgiving family exercise” (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (printable webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading: A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne
Donate

Please help us continue this free encouragement ministry

Sign up here for the free daily email encouragement.

Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“The Peril Of Materialism”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wilma's Dahlia 11/13/11
All of our summer flowers have succumbed to the season.
But this Dahlia, at our friend Wilma’s house, continues to bloom in spite of the frosty nights.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“The Peril Of Materialism”

“A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15b). “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

Today we complete a series began last Monday on Satan’s schemes. We will examine the peril of materialism, certainly one of the schemes of Satan, intended to distract us from living for God.

Old hands on old BibleAmong our responsibilities in our ministry role is regularly visiting people in nursing homes and senior living centers. We’re also chaplains at a local assisted living center and occasionally visit the elderly parents of the employees we serve in our business chaplaincy.

I was asked to visit an elderly lady who had been dealing with cancer and lives in one of the many senior housing complexes here in Lancaster County. In the course of seeking to encourage I also received a dose of perspective, which is so often the case in ministry!

I located her room in the large facility, introduced myself as a chaplain, and she warmly welcomed me into her small, but tastefully appointed room. I immediately noted the large, well-worn Bible on the table beside her chair. We visited for a few minutes before I shared a Scripture reading and prayed with her. Like so many of the elderly, she expressed how much she missed her own home.

As I was preparing to leave she added this after thought that turned out to be a great statement of faith:  “This is fine for now… after all, it’s not my permanent home.” I knew just what she meant. She wasn’t anticipating returning to her own home or even moving into a bigger apartment. Clearly by her “permanent home” she meant her eternal home in heaven. What a healthy spiritual outlook and example of a contented spirit!

Thanksgiving Day here in America will be celebrated in just over a week. Our mailboxes, newspapers, and email communications are filled with loads of enticing ads. We hear the blaring commercials on television that plead with us to buy more stuff. This amplifies all through the holiday season and especially prior to the Friday after Thanksgiving when the retail industry is banking on people who will come off their Thanksgiving celebration with a shopping binge for Christmas.  And over the last decade a number of retail stores have chosen to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.

If living better is defined by having more stuff we certainly live better than ever before, even in these economic times. Many items for sale were not even available twenty years ago. In fact, as I look through a sales flier, most of the stuff is new in my lifetime. Pity our poor ancestors who lived before this stuff was even available. They didn’t get opportunities like us to “live better” by maxing out their charge cards like many Americans where consumer debt is at an all time high!

Actually most of us reading this message are living pretty good as far as stuff.  The ever increasing bar of desire, then expectation, then need, and finally entitlement just keeps rising. I can drive through the “poorest” sections of Lancaster City and see row after row of satellite dishes on the public housing units, hardly a necessity.

Most of us don’t live in a mansion as currently defined, but relative to the masses in many parts of the world, we’re living very well off.  Just look at photos from places like Bangladesh. We live in a long period of peace and prosperity and yet this is one of the most dangerous times for spiritual health.

Jesus said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We are so conditioned to equate the essence of the better life with more stuff or our “abundance of possessions.”  Possessions can be an aspect of God’s blessing but we all know they generally provide a hollow, short-lived satisfaction. We keep needing more and more to maintain satisfaction. Frankly possessions can be similar to a drug fix.

Satisfaction, contentment, and thanksgiving are cousins in their word associations in the English language.  Robert Flatt puts it like this, “Thanksgiving like contentment is a learned attribute. The person who hasn’t learned to be content will not be thankful, for he lives with the delusion that he deserves more or something better.”

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  Charles Spurgeon also addressed the need for contentment: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, I know that godliness with contentment is of great benefit. It gives me a state of mind that is calm and satisfied; free from murmuring and complaining.  I’m reminded that it takes little of this world’s goods to satisfy one whose citizenship is of another country.  Help me to hold loosely to that which does not last beyond this life, and to clasp tightly that which has eternal significance.  May the character of my soul and the fruit of my actions be of much greater importance than the perishable items that are alluring to me. I look to You for proper balance in the things You have blessed me with and the attitude in which I receive these good things from Your hands.


Brooksyne’s note: Mrs. Jones, a legally blind 92-year old woman moved to a nursing home after her husband of seventy years had passed away.  She waited patiently in the lobby, and when her room was ready she maneuvered her walker to the elevator. As she did so the nurse’s aid accompanied her and gave her a visual description of her tiny room. “I love it,” she commented with enthusiasm.

“But Mrs. Jones, you can’t even see the room.”

She replied, “That doesn’t have anything to do with it.  Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.”


Today’s message completes our mini series on Satan’s schemes based upon a text from 2 Corinthians 2:11, “For we are not ignorant of his (Satan’s) schemes.” Here are the previous messages:
“Knowing Satan’s Schemes” (Intro message)
“Generational Restoration”
“Hath God Said?”
“The Wisdom Of This World”
“The Rejection Of God’s Standards Of Morality”
“The Peril of Materialism” (Today’s message)

We always appreciate feedback and the following two are a sampling of what we received in the course of this series:

Bob: Your message (the Authority of Scripture) is especially pertinent to my recent life history. I was a member of [a particular denomination] for many years and watched them slowly slide from a Bible believing and preaching church to one that condones immorality, and does not hold that the Bible is authoritative as it once did. It saddens me to see my former denomination slide into obscurity. I truly believe that God has removed the lampstand from this Church and it would not surprise me if in twenty years it would be hard to find this kind of congregation in many of our towns. They seem to be withering away because they decided to preach something that appealed to men rather than what God required of them. (Slightly edited to obscure the denomination identity.)

Lisa: Our daughter is studying in Europe for a semester, and she was growing a bit discouraged.  She was being mocked a little for her stance on remaining pure until marriage and she asked me for Scriptural references.  Your November 11th message was exactly what she needed!  She thanked me for sending the link to your website.  God Bless you all!


Geno tuning up computers 11/14/11We appreciate the folks who help out our ministry in a variety of ways.  Gene, a friend from one of our companies and a computer whiz, joined us last night for a salmon dinner and spent several hours tuning up our computers. We had two that were so infected they ran very slowly.  Today things are humming along!
Racoon (photo by Doris High)We never know what will turn up on our friend Doris High’s very active photo blog.
How about an assortment of Racoons and other critters!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”  Video  Michael W. Smith with a beautiful violin intro!

“Godliness With Contentment”  Audio  Written and sung by our friend Mike Book and recorded in our home “studio”.

“Take My Life And Let It Be”  Video  Christ For The Nations worship team.

“Your Grace Is Enough”  Video  Chris Tomlin

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Identifying With The Persecuted”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Donegal Springs Road Mount Joy, PA 11/13/11
Donegal Springs Road in Mount Joy, PA
We enjoy passing through this “tree tunnel” often. Through much of the season the trees on both sides meet in the middle and form a foliage tunnel. However in this photo taken yesterday the trees on the right are peaking while those on the left have already shed their leaves so the tunnel aspect of the photo is less spectacular.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Identifying With The Persecuted”

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12) “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).

Yesterday was a day of prayer for the persecuted church. We joined thousands of congregations in seeking to fulfill the Biblical command in our second text; “Remember”. After a brief description of the plight of these, our brothers and sisters, we prayed one by one through our congregation, earnestly appealing to our heavenly Father on behalf of members of our spiritual family we’ve never personally met.

Arriving home after church service I checked my email and read an email from a Pakistanian who described his life as he seeks to follow the Lord and the persecution he is enduring. He writes, “It is really very hard to be a Christian in Pakistan because the Muslims hate Christians. But we love them because as we read in the Bible that we are to do so.”

Then last night I read a blog post by Ruth Wilkinson that gives an interesting perspective on this matter and have permission to quote from this source today. She is a Canadian so some of the details may not be according to our US customs and we have slightly edited it (see below for link to her original post):

Weber family in 1988Weber family in our home in Saint Marys Pennsylvania for a holiday meal in 1988

The following is a mental exercise: Imagine it’s Thanksgiving Day. You’re seated at the table at home with your family. You’re looking at the biggest feast you’ll have all year. It’s nice and warm inside, snappy cold outside. The house smells wonderful and all of your favorite relatives are present. The Thanksgiving service over the weekend was great. Fantastic music, good sermon. Get the picture? OK. Time for some cut and paste.

Cut the turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, salads, pie and all of the food on the table. Paste in a sparse meal of rice with measured portions.

Cut your house and paste in one that’s half the size or likely a great deal smaller. Cut the new dining room set and paste in an old rickety table with a bunch of wobbly chairs that don’t match. (Stephen’s Note: Having been to third world countries for many, owning a home half the size of most American homes would still be an almost unimaginable mansion. besides the fact that they would not include any indoor plumbing.)

Cut your TV(s), DVD(s), computer(s), game system(s), stereo(s), iPod(s), and other portable electronic devices and paste one small 13 inch black and white TV with an antenna that gets a couple of tightly monitored stations and a small crackly radio. Certainly cut any Christian radio stations and paste silence.

Look around the room and cut half of the kids. They died in infancy, so they’re not here. Paste in the woman next door and her 3 children. Paste an empty chair for her husband. He was arrested 6 months earlier for telling somebody at the factory about Jesus. She hasn’t been allowed to see him for two weeks, but she keeps trying every day. Over the last half year she’s aged 10 years.

Cut your church building and paste an empty lot. Cut the recent church service and paste 8 people in a living room reading the Bible while one keeps peeking out the window.

How many Bibles do you have in your house? Cut them all. While you’re at it, cut every book by Max Lucado and all other Christian writers, every worship CD, everything recorded by the Gaithers, every poster, card, plaque or T-shirt that has a Scripture or the name of Jesus on it.

Paste one very worn and much mended paperback Bible that has somebody else’s name written inside the cover. It was given to you years ago by a Canadian “tourist” when he was told that you’d given your only Bible to somebody who needed it more. You’ve since heard that it was ripped up into sections to be shared. You’re very happy about that.

Get the picture now? OK. Bow your head to say grace. “Thank you God for…”

What? That none of it is true for you? That, try as you might, you can’t even really imagine this being true? But it is for scores of our brethren or even worse.

Sunday, November 13, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It’s a time of special devoted prayer for our brothers and sisters for whom it is true. Take time to find out what you can do to support these followers of Christ. There is so much we can learn from them. If you are reading this, like our Pakistanian email friend, know that you are being remembered.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.  They suffer, not as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. They are guilty of being a Christian believer, guilty of loving You more than their very lives; guilty of wanting to gather with their family of believers week after week; guilty of spreading Your Gospel though their government suppresses their message.  They are found guilty as charged of doing that which brings honor to You. They suffer according to Your will and commit themselves to You, their faithful Creator as they continue to do good.  May we follow in their courageous footsteps through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Tomorrow we will complete the series from last week on Satan’s schemes with an examination of the “Peril of Materialism”. (I had intended to do so today but wanted to get in the challenge regarding our persecuted brethren.)


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we want to share some resources you can look into when remembering persecuted Christians. We really need to make this an ongoing matter of prayer and interest, personally, and as a church body.

Not All Local Churches Look Like Ours  Blog article by Ruth Wilkinson used in today’s message. I enjoy her cut and paste analogy! As noted above we slightly edited her message to fit our theme in our daily encouragement today.

Persecution.com is a website purposefully calling attention to this matter. It is the US website for Voice of the Martyrs, one of the foremost ministries focused on the persecuted church.

Open Doors

Door Of Hope International website

“Persecuted Christians Need Your Prayer”  Video A touching presentation with song and images.

“The Martyr’s Oath”  A daily encouragement message on this topic.

“Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus”  Video  Audio This is a powerful ballad and will bless you!

“Praise You In The Storm” Video  Casting Crowns

“Blessed Be Your Name” Video  This song reminds us that God is worthy of being blessed in the good times and the hard times.

“Press On”  Video  by Selah  I dedicate this song to all those suffering for their faith.

An interesting brief video presentation concerning Christian martyrs.

“Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus” Tom Green (Audio) (Video) This is a powerful ballad concerning an event that happened in Armenia in 320AD and will touch you!

“Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus” 320 AD in Armenia

The next morning as the guards were retrieving the stiff bodies and loading them onto a wagon to be taken away and burned, they discovered that the youngest of the martyrs was still breathing slightly.  They set him aside, thinking that once he revived, he would surely recant.  But it so happened that his mother was present.  As she watched closely, her son made a small hand signal indicating his wishes.  “Go, go, my son,” she cried.  “Proceed to the end of this happy journey with your companions, so you will not be missing from those who present themselves before God.”  Then with uncommon strength, she picked him up and put him into the wagon with his brothers.

After the bodies had been burned, local Christians retrieved the ashes and remains and distributed them to the fledgling groups of converts in the surrounding cities and towns.  As dramatic reminders of the faithful witness offered by the forty martyrs of Sebaste, these relics encouraged and inspired the believers to preach the gospel more boldly than ever, and soon numerous churches were erected in honor of these men, firmly establishing Christianity in the whole region.

“By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century” is a tremendous book I read about 15 years ago that chronicles the stories of modern day martyrs.  I was unable to find it on CBD but see it is available on Amazon.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)