“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!

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“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.)

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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.

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“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

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“God’s Great Faithfulness”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horse and BuggyA horse and buggy passing in front of our house. These are the trees we now have in view!
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“God’s Great Faithfulness”

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22). “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23).

Tree in splendid colorWe are entering into the peak of autumn beauty here in south central Pennsylvania.  We have a beautiful view outside our home office window of the trees along our road. The maple trees are just beginning their lovely display of their bright reds, yellows and oranges. The oak trees in our front lawn have leaves with a shiny reddish brown color.

These beautiful colors have been present in the leaves all along but through the spring and summer, they are hidden by green chlorophyll. The warm, sunny days and cool nights of early fall cause the trees to produce a substance that blocks the flow of water to the leaves. Without water, the chlorophyll breaks down, revealing the vibrant colors.  How interesting and mysterious is the work of the Creator!

Apart from the beauty of this season believers can receive a powerful reminder from these changes that God is in control and that He keeps His promises.  Following the flood God made a covenant with Noah that is in part expressed in the daily verse. “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” God has methodically kept this promise for thousands of years and today where I live I see the evidence with the harvest, the changing trees and cooler temperatures. He will most certainly do so “as long as the earth endures.”

Be assured, dear believer, that this same care is demonstrated in us.  The Psalmist expressed his assurance in a promise that can fill each one of our lives with hope and expectancy; “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8). Forever is still going on some 3,000 years after David wrote these words and, praise God, His love will always endure. Indeed, He will most surely fulfill His purpose in my life and in yours. Look up today and note God’s faithfulness in the universe.  Then declare and rest in His faithfulness in that which concerns you alone!

Thomas A. Chisolm wrote in the classic hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, “Summer and winter and springtime and harvest.  Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”

A firm, growing grasp of God’s faithfulness is an essential source of assurance and peace in the Christian life.  Are you weary today?  Are you feeling “burned out”?  Are you discouraged? Is there a vexing problem that seems insurmountable?  If you know the hymn, close your eyes and sing, whistle, or hum the tune to “Great is Thy faithfulness”.  It will help you consider afresh this wonderful attribute of God’s immutable character.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest.
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above.
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness.
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we join with all of creation to declare Your praise and to celebrate Your lovingkindness as we experience Your tender compassions daily. It is because of Your unceasing mercy that we are not consumed, but rather we are saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ. We rejoice in Your faithfulness; we rest in Your unfailing love; we are restored by Your forgiveness; we are rescued from our folly; and we are reminded that You will fulfill Your purpose in our lives through Your eternal, enduring love.  Amen.

We serve as chaplains at a company that had an interesting community workday yesterday. They closed down normal operations and took their entire workforce to make renovations at a local food bank and make access ramps for the disabled. JK Mechanical is a heating and air conditioning company and also installs solar panels with about 75 employees. This is the second year they have had a company-wide work day.

JK Mechanical workday 2011Crews built special platforms to be used for ramps for the disabled.

JK Mechanical workday 2011It is amazing how much work we observed that was done by noon. They had framed the walls and ceiling and were placing the drywall on the ceiling. The work also included running HVAC ductwork, insulation, wiring and by the end of the work day thay had the drywall on the walls! There was a great spirit of cooperation present.

JK Mechanical workday 2011After working hard all morning Doug and Mark take a makeshift seat and enjoy a big lunch!

Television News reports about the work day  Video  Video

JK Mechanical  It is a joy to serve this company as their chaplains! Chris Leaman, VP challenges others, “I would encourage other businesses to do this,” commented Leaman. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on your community, excellent team building, and a great opportunity to give back, which is what we should be doing.”  Amen, we can testify to this!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”  Video  Traditional version

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”  Video  Selah

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”  Video  Fernando Ortega (newer version, same words)

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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/31/10)

“The Golden Rule Outlook”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011Door of church in Manheim, PA
Church door in Manheim, PA
See Psalm 122:1

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“The Golden Rule Outlook”

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).Vandalism in East Donegal Township, PAEd Haugh, our local township police chief shares the following message on the East Donegal Township website: “The Susquehanna Regional Police have reported that there has been an increase in acts of vandalism occurring in Township parks. Most of these acts are criminal mischief in nature, such as upsetting picnic tables, overturning trash receptacles and scattering rubbish, and writing or drawing on picnic tables and park equipment.  It is disappointing that some individuals do not respect our community property and resort to petty acts of vandalism that tarnish the image of our parks. These acts, performed by a few individuals, hinder the enjoyment of the parks by the vast majority of park users that are respectful and careful about keeping the parks in the best condition possible.”

Roadside trashFor many years Brooksyne and I have walked along Carmany Road near our home, which provides a pleasant country walk with very little traffic. In the last several months though we noticed trash littering the road and attributed it to evidence of the breakdown in respect for property, in addition to new housing developments recently built nearby. There are beer cans, juice cartons and fast food wraps, along with other debris tossed out of car windows.  We’ve lived in our present location over nine years and have often commented how much we appreciate the clean roadways as we walk in our neighborhood.

Man cleaning  trashThe other day Brooksyne had a conversation with Allan, a neighboring farmer, and shared her troubling observation about the recent change with increasing litter. He provided an explanation that is instructive and a reminder of how we can make a difference. We had seen from signs last year on Carmany Road that the large farm was for sale. Allan explained that the farmer had retired and moved elsewhere, but each day while he lived there, he walked along the road and picked up trash, thus keeping the area clean day by day.

In fact Allan had asked the farmer, “What are we going to do when you move away? Who’s going to keep the road clean?” Now we are seeing the evidence of his absence. Brooksyne sort of took the cleanness for granted not realizing there was effort being extended to make it happen.

The daily text is often referred to as The Golden Rule, but due to Biblical illiteracy many do not know what we mean when we speak of this Golden Rule; “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” We live in a very fallen world where fewer and fewer practice the Golden Rule. We, as followers of Christ, light up the world when we individually and corporately practice a Golden Rule outlook.

Consideration toward others is the practice of the golden rule in the small details of life; beginning in the home and extending outward. What if the billions of personal interactions that take place all over the globe today were truly characterized by this outlook? Well that would certainly bring about world peace but in reality that just isn’t going to happen until the return of the Prince of Peace.

But by God’s transforming grace we can do something in our little corner of the world. Today in our speech and actions let us keep this Golden Rule outlook foremost in our hearts; “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You have placed Your children in a world where people push and shove to be first.  Because of their self-importance they may stop at nothing until they get what they want in life, no matter who gets hurt.  But You’ve called us to view life from a perspective that considers others as important or even more important than ourselves. We need humble hearts that put You first, others second and ourselves last in everything we do. In our humanity this is impossible, but as we are being transformed into the likeness of Your Son, Jesus, we become more like Him.  Our love and consideration for others grow and we apply the golden rule to our lives when we do to others as we would have them do to us. May this relationship rule guide us as we make decisions that affect others and ourselves.  Help us to have the mind of Christ in all that we do. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Make Me A Servant”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“We Lift Our Hands”  Video  Oslo Gospel Choir

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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/31/10)

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“Ram In The Thicket”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin wagon
We are now seeing lots of pumpkins and wagons, a sure sign of Autumn.
This one sure has an especially large pumpkin!

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“Ram In The Thicket”

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns” (Genesis 22:13). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Mike MartinMike Martin is a friend of ours who has an interesting ministry. He and his wife, Nicole, lead a “biker church” with a goal to reach bikers and others for Christ who may prefer a non-traditional church setting.

Mike shared of an interesting experience this last weekend where a special outreach to bikers was held at a Harley-Davidson dealership. Though the event had been scheduled for months some of the key leaders he was counting on cancelled last minute. He and Nicole were scurrying to fill some needed positions, in particular the BBQ Caterer, practically a necessity for any event of this type here in Lancaster County. On a weekend in mid September it’s pretty difficult to find anyone whose schedule isn’t already filled.

Nicole frantically called around and finally located a BBQ joint that catered events in Lancaster City called “Dan the Man BBQ”. He was available to meet their need, even on the spur of the moment. Turns out that Dan the Man is a Christian and, as the afternoon progressed and things went well, Dan told Mike, “I’m your ram in the thicket.”

Ram in the thicketThat’s an interesting allusion to a tremendous event in the Old Testament recorded in Genesis 22. In one of the signature demonstrations of faith and obedience in the Bible Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his own son: “But just as he took the knife, the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me'” (Genesis 22:11,12). Abraham passed the test.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.”  Dan the Man described his last minute availability to the Bikers Event as a “Ram in the Thicket” as illustrated in this famous Scripture passage.

We indeed can be a “ram in the thicket” to meet the critical needs of other people. God providentially ordains this in His design that we be interdependent on one another.  Romans 14:7 says, “No one liveth unto himself.”

Hebrew "Jehovah Jireh"However, as many of you know, the account in Genesis goes on to proclaim a future provision to meet our greatest need: “So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided” (Genesis 22:14). It is in this phrase, “The LORD will provide” that we find one of the Hebrew compound names for God many of us have heard and even perhaps sung about, “Jehovah Jireh”.  This is the only time in Scripture that the title Jehovah Jireh appears.

We may consider this in regard to general provision regarding our everyday needs but foundationally the phrase is referring to something else. This was just moments after the great provision of the ram was provided as a replacement for Isaac. We would surely expect Abraham to say, “The Lord has provided” (past tense).

Jesus Saves!But let us consider carefully the tense that Abraham actually uses, “The Lord will provide”.  He is referring to a future provision, Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. Traditional conservative scholarship holds that Genesis was among the Five Books Of Moses (The Pentateuch). Moses lived some 500 years after Abraham. At the time the oral record was placed in writing this statement was made “as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided'”. That was some 1,500 years before Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our sins.

Theologian RC Sproul observes, “It was on Mount Moriah, later named Mount Calvary, just outside of Jerusalem, where two thousand years after Abraham’s experience, our Savior on the night before His death went into the Garden of Gethsemane.  With sweat drops of blood He pleaded with the Father to allow the cup to pass from Him. “Nevertheless” Jesus said, “Not what I will but what You will” (Mark 14:36).  In that moment of the grand passion of Christ, the Father said no. The Father would not spare His Son.”

No, essentially God’s only begotten Son became our ram in the thicket. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).  Hallelujah, What a Savior!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for Jesus who willingly laid down His life to become our “Ram in the thicket”. He became a living sacrifice that we might receive forgiveness of sins; His death in exchange for our forgiveness, and thereby inheriting eternal life. We greatly rejoice in the fact that You did not spare Your own Son but delivered Him over for us all, that we might receive salvation, and that we might take up residence in the Kingdom of God.  We thank You in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

An Old-Fashioned Hymn Sing

Kreiders Church Lancaster County, PA

The hymn sing was held in a church near Manheim, PA constructed in 1859. It was a clear cool evening and we welcome the natural A/C of opened windows, the only kind the church had.

Outhouse at Kreiders Church Lancaster County, PA

The didn’t have indoor facilities!  Too bad we didn’t know since Brooksyne and I each had a cup of coffee as we drove to the church!

Kreiders Church hymn sing Lancaster County, PA

Sorry for the poor lighting but I took this from an open window looking in at the rather dimly lit meeting house prior to the start of the hymn sing. Tightly placed rows of benches faced forward and there were also two sections on each side facing the center.  The pews are arranged for women sitting on one side and men on the other as was the practice in this type of church, though last night families sat together.

Old hymnal

The hymnals were copyrighted over 100 years ago.

The place was packed and the acappella singing was filled with rich harmonies and male/ female parts. Though Brooksyne and I were unfamiliar with many of the selected hymns, we joined in wholehearted worship, as the exuberant congregation joined their voices to sing great hymns of the church.  We were blessed as we were introduced to old hymns (yet new to us) that were filled with great theological truths.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we will seek to provide musical selections similar to the style of the hymn sing service we attended last night.

“And Can It Be”  Video

“Softly and Tenderly”  Video

“Are You Washed In The Blood”  Video

“Rock Of Ages”  Video

Triple Tree Church – Mike and Nicole’s biker ministry church

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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/31/10)

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“Hope-inspired Endurance”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Photo of Horses in pasture

Horses in green pasture along Kraybill Church Road.
Click here for larger version with Scripture verse!
After all the rain we are very saturated green in our area. It’s a beautiful clear day with lots of sun but early this morning we could sure sense that Autumn is coming with temps in the forties!

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“Hope-inspired Endurance”

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

I’ve been blessed by our daily verse for many years. Can you see the ready-made three point sermon outline in this text? Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, begins the letter in a manner typical of his writing style, as he expresses warm appreciation in his introductory remarks. He gives thanks to God for the faith, love, and hope of the Thessalonian believers. It’s important to be thankful for those to whom we minister. Like Paul, we also need to assure them of our regular prayers on their behalf.

Today we want to especially consider the last phrase of our text where Paul is commending the Thessalonians for their “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Scriptures frequently stress the character quality of “endurance”. The underlying Greek word “hupomone” is used often in the New Testament. It has the sense of remaining, bearing trials, and having fortitude. My observation in the Christian life and in Christian service is that it’s one of the character traits most lacking among Christ’s followers today. That’s why I especially rejoice when I hear of a fellow believer staying on course.

Moon flowerThis endurance is inspired by “hope”. Inspirational artist, Thomas Kinkade, paints the following word picture, “Hope lights our spirit in the midst of despair; it is the life force that through the green stem drives the flower; it keeps a divine vision alive in the hearts of the weak and needy.” Now that’s an inspirational thought for endurance!

I recall a professor noting that the Greek word for hope (elpis) conveys an absolute confidence and assurance, not a wishful thought. The foundation of this hope is “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The hymn, “He Giveth More Grace”, has the following line in its third stanza, “When we reach the end of our hoarded resources our Father’s full giving has only begun.” Brooksyne often uses this hymn line as a prayer for the unsaved or backslidden. She prays that they will come to the end of their own “hoarded” resources and look to God whose resources are not hurtful, destructive, or based on the ever-changing philosophies of this world. Instead His resources are inexhaustible, satisfying and have eternal, redemptive qualities about them.

The believer endures great heartache as he or she watches a loved one year after year selecting from their seeming endless bucket supply of hoarded resources that lead them to yet another wrong choice. That’s why we often pray, “Lord, help (Johnny) to reach the bottom of the barrel so that he can dig no deeper and finally looks up to You. Help him to see that his way is not the right way and show Him Your way, Father.”

Brooksyne and I pray for all who are undergoing this kind of heartache today with a child, parent, spouse, sibling, friend, co-worker or whomever God has laid on your heart. May He fill you with His enduring hope as you wait for your loved one to come to Christ so that he or she can experience the abundant generosity of a loving, saving, giving God.

Let me add one more thought: We, as believers, can also be guilty of hoarding our own resources, such as education, possessions, pride and a host of other things or attitudes that pull us away from God rather than forcing us to fully rely on Him guide us in the thoroughfares of life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we continually remember the work of our fellow believers that is produced by their faith in Jesus, their labor that is prompted by love, and their endurance that is inspired by the hope they have in the Lord Jesus Christ. How grateful we are for the love and fellowship we enjoy with our brothers and sisters who serve You all throughout the world. We lift up those who are presently enduring matters that weigh heavy on their hearts. May the hope they have in the Lord Jesus Christ inspire confidence that You will give them victory as they stand firm in You. In the Mighty Name of Jesus. Amen.

Brooksyne’s Update: Over the years we’ve been transparent in our home life, most recently sharing with our readers of Ester’s decision (with strong prompting from Mom and Dad) to go to New Life for Girls, a residential home for girls and women struggling with behavioral issues or destructive addictions. We were genuinely blessed with many responses of support, prayers, and words of encouragement over the past nine days. We’ve earnestly sought God about Ester’s need for a very long time and most acutely since NLFG became her home where she would deal with some behavioral problems in her life. The first week was extremely difficult for us making the transition, but just when we were getting accustomed to the change we got a call from the acting director on Wednesday evening that Ester had chosen to come back home. NLFG is a voluntary program where participants choose to stay or leave. Because most of the residents come from very troublesome situations or have no home to return to NLFG is their only choice. Ester had a choice, of course, and we were asked to pick her up yesterday which we did so with very heavy hearts. She stands beside me right now as I share this  update with our readers. I asked her, “How can our readers pray for you, Ester?” She asks that you might pray for her to more fully understand what God wants to do in her life. We thank you for your heartfelt prayers on our behalf and are believing that Ester will find the resources (love, joy, peace, self-control,forgiveness, etc.) that God provides to guide her through life’s journey here on earth.

Mike MuhlhammerWe consider many who deal with trials today and one especially comes to mind. Mike is a young man who grew up in the church we served in northern PA some 20 years ago. He recently had a fall resulting in serious injury. Mike has had some other unexpected overcomings in life and we share his testimony here.  We welcome those who know Mike and others so burdened to pray for him as he recovers from the three surgeries he underwent for his injuries. His mother, Chris, who periodically fills in for a chaplain at a center for disabled people wrote, “About 2 weeks ago I preached a sermon that I have been working on for a long time titled “When things go wrong” – I used Job as my “role model” for how we should respond. In this location the residents are significantly impaired for the most part. One of the illustrations that I used as I closed was to have a tug of war with a large rope.  I had them pull and tug each other in opposite directions. Then I told them this was the reminder I wanted them to take with them was that sometimes all we could do was to hang on tight to God’s love for us – just like they hung onto that rope.  I know that I am hanging on to that rope right now and I sense perhaps you are too….”

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“He Giveth More Grace”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“When Trials Come”  Video  Keith and Kristyn Getty   The Getty’s will be ministering in our area on September 23 at Lancaster Bible College. Brooksyne will be attending the concert. For a number of years we have been blessed by this husband wife team.  If you are local and interested ticket information is here.  “There are two reasons we write modern hymns,” explains Keith. “First, it’s to help teach the faith. What we sing affects how we think, how we feel and ultimately how we live, so it’s so important that we sing the whole scope of truth the Bible has given us. The second reason is to try to create a more timeless musical style that every generation can sing, a style that relates to the past and the future.”

“In The Valley”  Video  Sovereign Grace Music

“My Jesus I Love Thee”  Video  Grace Church Toronto

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“Jesus Is Still The Answer”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario
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“Jesus Is Still The Answer”

“But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).

Andrae CrouchI’ve attended many large concerts and conventions over the years such as the “Creation Festival” held annually in central Pennsylvania. I specifically recall attending a concert in Springfield MO as a college student in the mid-seventies with Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, a popular band at that time. I recall the Lord touching my heart as Andrae repeatedly sang these words, “Jesus Is The Answer” in response to the stanzas that presented life’s questions to complex issues that every person faces. That was about 36 years ago but the truth of that song is just as vital now and prompts today’s message.

Jesus, That's My Final AnswerMany of you will remember the game, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” where the host would typically ask the contestant, “Is that your final answer?” It was during the popularity of this weekly game show that I saw a young man’s t-shirt that read, “Jesus, that is my final answer.” Now that very notion is increasingly offensive to many, but Jesus is the answer from our greatest need to our smallest need.

In our daily Scripture reference the apostle Peter is writing to a group of first century believers undergoing persecution. This passage (1 Peter 4:1-5) was very meaningful to me as a new Christian in the seventies. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour, but for over a year I lived with nominal commitment to His cause. I still wanted to have my associations with the world as I continued to “walk the fence.” What a miserable way to live! A committed believer sat down with me and boldly shared this passage and the Holy Spirit did His wonderful work of enlightening and convicting my heart.

Peter forthrightly tells his initial readers and all who heed the sacred words of Scripture, “You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do” (v.3). He goes on to make a list of sinful behavior that sounds very familiar to what pagans still choose to do in our day.

The pagans, in observing the transformed life of the believer, “think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you” (v.4). (The words “heap abuse” translated from the Greek is to “blaspheme.”) Indeed the early believers encountered abuse and so do we. This abuse may be verbal ridicule from a fellow worker, the writings of a pagan “intellectual” or for some of our brethren, physical torture and death.

Peter makes the solemn statement found in the daily text: “But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). This account will be the final answer and by far it is the most important.

Have you dealt with it yet? The apostle Paul wrote that “At the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10,11). Greatly rejoice today if you have taken care of this accounting and join me in boldly declaring, “Jesus is my final answer.” If you have not made this decision I urge you, please delay no longer.

Here is a sample prayer that expresses belief and commitment to Jesus Christ: “Jesus, thank you for loving me. I confess that I am a sinner. I believe You are the promised Messiah who came to die for my sins. Please forgive me of my sin and come into my life. I receive You as my Savior and will follow You as my Lord. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Amen”.

Jesus is the answer, for the world today.
Above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.If you have some questions, in the corners of your mind.
Traces of discouragement, and peace you cannot find.
Reflections of your past, seem to face you everyday.
But this one thing I do know, Jesus is the way.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You’ve appointed us to live in a decadent age where the hearts of men are turned away from the true living God and live instead by the world’s principles. But we who have the indwelling Holy Spirit must continue to build our lives on the foundation of our holy faith as we spread the gospel message, “Jesus is the first and final answer to all of life’s problems.” We seek to be directed by Your Spirit and live in such a way that we honor You even as scoffers ridicule us. May we show mercy to those whose faith is wavering and rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. In the process of daily living, as we reach out to the lost and dying, help us not to stumble so that on Your appointed day we will be brought into Your glorious presence innocent of sin.
(Prayer prompted by Jude 22,23)

Stephen’s Note: In an interview several years ago a reporter for a business publication asked me this question concerning faith in the workplace: “What are companies doing to make the workplace more inclusive?” I told him, “In my view, a major problem of the present business environment is that certain groups are easily offended and use this as a wedge to advance their own agenda. After all, everybody has something they can be offended about.”

Brooksyne’s Note: The message today reminds me of the following story:  A young man came to D.L. Moody and said, “Mr. Moody, I want to be a Christian; but must I give up the world?  Moody characteristically replied, “Young man, if you live the out-and-out Christian life, the world will soon give you up.” If there isn’t a price to pay for our life in Christ we have good reason to evaluate the genuineness of our discipleship.

Trailer full of green beansTraveling through central Pennsylvania I came upon a vegetable processing plant for Hanover Foods, in this case trailer loads of freshly harvested green beans.
Green beans on conveyorThe beans were offloaded then sent up a conveyor where they were washed prior to going into the plant. I would have found this an interesting plant tour!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Jesus Is The Answer”  Video  Andrae Crouch  When I listen to this song it takes me right back to that concert in Springfield, including Andrae Crouch’s moving introductory remarks.

“Jesus Is Still The Answer”  Video  Collingsworth Family

“It’s Still The Cross”  Video  Gold City

Today’s Scripture portion in context. 1 Peter 4:1-5

Today’s top photo was taken of Lake Ontario by a college student near Oswego, New York and sent to me by a friend.

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“Living In Reverent Fear”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Susquehanna River

We passed this wide section of the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg Pennsylvania last Saturday. I find this scene interesting with all the small islands. However farther up the river some of the islands are large enough to farm on! We had over 10 inches of rain yesterday, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, and this same river is now flooding.

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“Living In Reverent Fear”

“Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17b).

Pets on Ester's bedWe are in the process of training our daughter’s 8 month puppy Mollie. She has been a much greater challenge to us than Roxie as a pup. Since she is a border collie she has a compulsive urge to chase and herd. At times this is interesting to watch but not so much fun if you’re the one being herded. Our nearly 8 year old dog Roxie and our 10 year old cat Dottie are not amused as they are being chased and herded by a highly energetic, free-spirited puppy. It’s quite a sight to see Mollie yanking an unwilling Roxie down the steps by grabbing hold of Roxie’s collar with her teeth. For the most part Mollie seems pretty fearless which is not a good thing when it comes to lunging after oncoming cars as we take her for a walk. She is slowly learning to respond to the word “over” which we are teaching to indicate that she is to move toward the ditch rather than springing at the passing car.

LightningHowever yesterday she sure demonstrated a lot of fear. We’ve had a lot of heavy rains, over 10 inches yesterday, interspersed with flashes of lightning and crackling thunder. When the thunder roars Mollie comes running to us with a fearful, questioning look as she darts her eyes toward the window. From our perspective her fears are unwarranted since we are safely inside where there is little danger from the lightning and none from the thunder. The anecdote, “Thunder is just the angels clapping in heaven” would have no soothing effect on Mollie. She is seeking protection from the harmless thunderous noise, but on the other hand she will ensue deadly danger from passing cars as she lunges toward them thinking she has the capability and size to masterfully herd a car, truck, or even a bus!

Fear isn’t usually seen as positive or healthy. We’ve heard all our lives, “Get over your fear.” “Stop being afraid!” “Don’t be a baby.” But then we’re also taught to healthily respect the heat from a stove, the dangerous height from a second floor window, or the electrical current from an outlet in the wall. We’re taught how to accurately assess dangers so that we have a proper fear and understanding of the situation, and respond accordingly.

Many of us have memorized a Scripture that says in part, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear.” This is a stirring verse to memorize and apply when dealing with spiritual fears.

Yet the daily text speaks of a reverential fear of God which is a healthy fear. It is greatly lacking in our day. A healthy, holy fear of God is an essential component in the life of the maturing believer in forming our attitude and approach toward a holy God. John gives perspective on the isle of Patmos as he wrote, “Who will not fear You, O Lord and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy” (Revelation 15:4). In a secular culture where the Lord’s holy Name is spoken in vain or blasphemously, where God is commonly referred to as “the man upstairs”, we need a good understanding and reverential fear of God. The Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

As we apply our daily text, we will not be looking for our place in this world, for we are to live as strangers in reverential fear. The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary reveals some insight into reverential fear: “Fear and hope flow from the same fountain: fear prevents us from falling away from hope. Though love has no fear IN it, yet in our present state of imperfect love, it needs to have fear going ALONG WITH it as a subordinate principle. This fear drowns all other fears. The believer fears God, and so has none else to fear. Not to fear God is the greatest baseness and folly. The martyrs’ more than mere human courage flowed from this.”  Martyrs who lay down their lives for God are put through the ultimate test in choosing to fear God more than man.

Our daily verse may be one of the most ignored truths by contemporary Christians: “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Read that over a few times and prayerfully ask yourself, “Am I living my life here on earth as a stranger in reverent fear?”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we read in Proverbs that “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” and “The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” We must choose to fear You rather than man so that we prepare ourselves for living as sojourners here below with heaven in view at all times. We can do this when we live as strangers in reverent fear of You, our Father in heaven. Amen.
(Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 29:25)

Further thought on fear: David McCullough in his book “Mornings On Horseback” tells this story about young Teddy Roosevelt: Mittie (his mother) had found he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone. He was terrified, she discovered, of something called the “zeal.” It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance, she read him those passages containing the word ZEAL until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John 2:17: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, ’The ZEAL of thine house hath eaten me up’” People are still justifiably afraid to come near the “zeal” of the Lord, for they are perfectly aware it could “eat them up” if they aren’t one of His. Our Lord is good, but He isn’t safe.

Hershey park flooded 9/7/11
Photo of flooded Hershey Park 9/7/11

Regarding all the rain: Our yard is flooded and for the first time we have a bit of water in the corner of our basement. We sure hope it dries out soon but we have rain in the forecast today and tomorrow! Our area is being plastered with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. We have had a lot of flash floods in our area as well and many are dealing with far worse circumstances than we. Many roads are closed and impassable. A friend called this morning and reported the lower level of his church is flooded.  More photos of the flooding in our area.

Van update: Our van was deemed totalled as a result of the accident we shared about last Friday.  So we pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as we seek to replace it.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“We Choose The Fear Of The Lord”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“We Choose The Fear Of The Lord”  Video  Instrumental (We use this song as the background to our podcast today as well.)

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“All Aboard For Paradise!”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Steam engine on the Strasburg Railroad, Lancaster County, PA The steam engine on the Strasburg rail line in Lancaster County PA.

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“All Aboard For Paradise!”

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

The Strasburg Railroad is a historic rail line that has now been converted into a tourist attraction, with a train powered by a restored steam engine. It travels through the beautiful Amish countryside in eastern Lancaster County from Strasburg to Paradise, PA. We have Amish friends who live near the line who are accustomed to hearing the distinct sound of the steam whistle.

As the train departs the conductor calls out with a loud drawn out announcement, “All aboard for Paradise.”  Throughout the short trip a narrator makes colorful comments regarding the history of the area and the railroad. We’ve ridden the train several times but I recall once when we arrived at the end of the line he announced our arrival at the station “Paradise”.  He paused and then injected,  “Pennsylvania that is, which is the closest to the real Paradise some of us will ever get to.”

I’m sure he intended humor but he also speaks truth and perhaps was even trying to get in a witness for Truth, at least in the sense of giving the riders something to think about in the eternal realm.

Our first daily Scripture verse is a wonderful promise given by Christ to the church in Ephesus and through the written Scriptures it is directed to all of us.  “The paradise of God” is a description of what we commonly call heaven.

Our Lord’s words in our second daily Scripture ought to be written on the tablets of our hearts and in the recesses of our minds.  Jesus very pointedly asks a rather simple question. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” He doesn’t answer it, for the answer is obvious.  Many are giving their time, attention, and money as they seek to gain the temporal world, all the while giving no attention to their eternal soul.

Sadly, many who are reckoned as successful by this world’s standards ignore their soul to their eternal damnation. All they attained on this side, whether wealth or fame, are a pittance from the eternal perspective. Comparatively it means nothing to be able to “gain the whole world” and yet forfeit one’s soul.

I recall the old spiritual that declares, “This train is bound for glory.” Let us all keep this eternal perspective before us as we consider that we are indeed bound for the true paradise of God, which is an eternally glorious destination (exceedingly greater than Paradise, PA)!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, it is far too easy to become earthbound with our affections, aspirations, and accumulations. Yet, as we place our faith in You and follow the Scriptures, we learn that our hope is not fully realized through our earthly pilgrimage and certainly the best awaits us on the other side. Help us to find the joy of living here below as we store up our true lasting treasures in heaven where we will fully experience the eternal, unbounded blessings that await us as we enter Paradise.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Personal update: We are thankful for the compassionate notes we received in emails regarding Ester’s new chapter in life. We shared honestly about this in yesterday’s message (footnote).  We appreciate our regular readers prayers of support on her behalf. A number shared that they’ve had similar experiences with their children and though it was not overnight, God brought them through to the side of victory. We also heard from several presently going through similar battles. So, we pray for you even as you lift us up in prayer.

We appreciate the song “Come People Of The Risen King” by Keith and Kristyn Getty that has these thoughtful lines expressing the current realities in the Body Of Christ.

Come, those whose joy is morning sun,
And those weeping through the night;
Come, those who tell of battles won,
And those struggling in the fight.
For His perfect love will never change,
And His mercies never cease,
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace.

Regarding our van we are waiting to hear from the insurance company regarding whether it will be repaired or totaled.

Thomas the tank engine Thomas the Tank engine makes his appearance several times a year always causing a big stir and traffic jams from tourists and locals!

Me and Mom (September 2005)This photo is dear to me. We took my mom on a ride on the Strasburg railroad shortly before she passed away in 2005.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Come People Of The Risen King”  Video  Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

“I Am Bound For The Promised Land”  Video  Jars Of Clay

“This Train Is Bound For Glory”  Video  Lew Dite

“Rock Of Ages”  Video  Sovereign Grace Music

Strasburg Railroad

Yes, there really is a Paradise, PA!  Google map

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“Be Reconciled To God”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Butterfly on sunflower Brooksyne took this photo in our backyard.
Butterflies are drawn to the sunflowers! This year we’ve been feeding butterflies with scrap orange sections, watermelon and cantaloupe.
They along with moths thoroughly enjoy the fruit.

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“Be Reconciled To God”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).Church sign Today’s message is prompted by a church sign about a mile from our home. This church posts the title of the coming Sunday’s message (which I  like to see). However, due to the title and the particular way it’s worded it ends up having a possibly unintended meaning. It states:

This Sunday
“Be Reconciled To God”

Well, one could read it and see it as a challenge to get reconciled with God this coming Sunday. Perhaps some would even think they have to wait! Since I first saw the message posted on Wednesday I suppose that means I would need to wait till Sunday to take care of my most important issue in life but of course this is not the case, and was not the intention of the church either!

The phrases “good news” and “great news” are often spoken in our vocabulary. These phrases will be used millions of times today among those who speak English. Ester uses it a lot. For instance, “Daddy, I have good news, I’m going to Dutch Wonderland with a friend.” And I use these phrases as well to describe pleasant events in my life, as do many of you. I just wonder how many times today these phrases will be used to describe the really, truly good news, which indeed is great news, exceedingly great news.

Today’s text is a summary of the Good News; the glorious truth that reconciliation with God is freely available. A simple definition of reconciliation is the act of “bringing back together.” Anyone separated from God due to sin in their lives can be brought back to Him through reconciliation.  And you don’t have to wait for Sunday or go to particular church to reconcile with God!

I shared a lengthy Scripture portion at the beginning of today’s encouragement. I regrettably find a tendency in my life to skim over or perhaps even skip a familiar Scripture  when I read an article or a devotional such as those found in the popular “Our Daily Bread” booklet. Perhaps I unconsciously reason that I already know this Scripture before, but have not read the words of the writer before. God often convicts me of this. His Word is infinitely of more importance than any of man’s thoughts.

I like Matthew Henry’s thoughts regarding the act of God reconciling man to Himself:  “He beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept of the terms He offers, that they would be reconciled to Him, to all His attributes, to all His laws, and to all his providences, to believe in the Mediator, to accept the atonement, and comply with His gospel, in all the parts of it and in the whole design of it.”

May I encourage you to scroll up the page and read that Scripture portion again, slowly, meaningfully and aloud if possible. Hear the glorious call: Be reconciled to God! Then rejoice in the news that is truly great and pray for opportunities to share it with others!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, it is because of the great love of Your Son, Jesus, and His willingness to take our sins upon Himself that we are reconciled to You. It is truly amazing and the greatest news of all time for all generations.  Father, we want to be passionate as Christ’s ambassadors since You are making Your appeal through us reaching out to others with the greatest message of all time:  “Be reconciled to God.”  When we were lost, broken, and without hope Christ reconciled us to You who sought us, repaired our broken lives, and gave us eternal hope.  Where would we be without Jesus!  Thank You for receiving us, redeeming us, and reconciling us to Yourself.  Amen.

The Unexpected:

We, as a family, have been counting our blessings since yesterday about noontime.  I’ll let Brooksyne tell the story:

Stephen, Ester and I were traveling east in the van on Route 23 in Leola.  I dropped Stephen off at a supermarket and was headed to Comfort Inn in New Holland where I serve as chaplain. (Ester was to be dropped off later to meet up with a friend.)

I headed east and got caught up in a line of traffic (very common for Route 23 since there are many tourists at this time of year).  As the traffic slowed, so did I. Like many of you, I looked in my rear view mirror to make sure the person behind me was slowing as well. I was startled as I viewed a car coming behind me with way too much speed.  I thought to myself, he’s traveling too fast and will not be able to stop in time. Within seconds his Ford Fusion slammed into the rear of our van.  Before I had time to process the “hit” I realized I was now in the westbound lane and was facing oncoming traffic.  There was no traffic tie up in the westbound lane and a black jeep Cherokee traveling at probably 30 to 35 MPH was headed straight toward me (or she would properly say I was straight in her path.)  All I could do was call out, “God!” and lickety split she swerved to her right and headed for a yard.  Traffic halted allowing me to drive the van out of the opposing lane. I parked it in a driveway and got out to assess the damage.  In less than five minutes a state trooper, fire truck, and ambulance arrived (it must have been neighbors who called). So many people appeared from every direction.

The Damage:

Ester’s seat had unfastened sending her to the back of the van (we had removed the back bench seat weeks ago).  She hit her head and had some bruising.  Due to her health history and being on a blood thinner she needed to be checked out at the hospital. All the tests turned out negative for which we are thankful. I was not injured at all.

The man who hit us was not hurt but his 2008 Ford Fusion was possibly totalled.  The young woman, whom I believe God sent angels to steer her jeep out of harm’s way, was not injured.  She had two small children who were not harmed either.

About five minutes after the accident the van began to send out a lot of smoke (steam) under the hood.  The firemen were standing by and ready to dowse the engine fire but it was related to the radiator. The van overheated and will need mechanical repair as well.

Visibly the damage isn’t that bad and thankfully the man who hit us had insurance and the van has already been towed in for repairs. Because the driver, who hit Brooksyne, was trying to pull right of the van to avoid hitting her it forced the van to veer into the westbound lane rather than the car in front of her.  It could have been extremely serious, or potentially fatal had they collided head-on with the Cherokee.

The man, about 40 years old, repeatedly apologized.  When I gave him my business card he saw that I was a chaplain. He appeared to be excited and commented “You’re Pastors?” I responded, “You’re a man of God, aren’t you?”  “Yes I am, I sure am!” he said. He was on his way to apply for a job at Shady Maple. So we have taken up his need to find work in our prayers.

Van accident damage

Update: The van was hauled to the body shop today and the appraiser was pretty sure the insurance company would total the van due to the age (1999) and mileage on the van with the repair costing more than the van is worth according to some formula. However this amount would not replace the van with one that is similar. This is a bit disconcerting and discouraging to us since we had maintained the van very well and had hoped to get several more years out of it. What’s more the 2012 van we have as a rental is actually not as large. So we will wait till next week for the final word on this matter.

Van accident avoidanceAfter the entire mess was cleaned up and emergency workers left (about 40 minutes) I went to the other side of the very busy highway, parked the car, and took this photo.  I visited with the young woman who drove the Cherokee and gave her a big hug. She showed me how she drove her jeep from the road into this yard and steered it between this telephone pole and the guy wire. All who looked on were amazed at  how the only damage was the right mirror broken off by the guy wire. The tracks are barely visible but if you look closely you might be able to see how close she was to the wire. Indicating how close she was to our van there is a mark where her left side mirror hit our van.
Farewell van!
A sad sight to see our van hauled away. We’ve had it for over 7 years (It’s a ’99 model and we purchsed it used in 2004) and it’s been a great vehicle.  Brooksyne pointed out the irony of the “NEED ENCOURAGEMENT?” sticker on our van as it’s followed by someone on the way to the repair shop this afternoon!

The blessing of friends!

Yesterday following the accident we stopped by Mike and Michelle Stillman’s house. Michelle drove Brooksyne to the Lancaster General Hospital ER where Ester had been transported via ambulance. I drove the still operable van home since it was overheating and wanted to stay on the highway to get it home.

During the 1982 season Mike played for Penn State as the longsnapper on the NCAA National championship team. He offered me two tickets to this Saturday’s Penn State game so we picked them up and then they showed us their large litter of 11 Yellow Lab pups, just over two weeks old.  This was Daisy’s first litter…I wonder how many she’ll have the next time!

Yellow lab pups (9/1/11)Brooksyne with Yellow lab pup (9/1/11)The pups will be ready for adoption in approximately six weeks.
Anyone interested!?  Contact us and we will share with Mike Michelle.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Grace Alone”  Video   A great reminder!!!

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/31/10)

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