“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)

“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

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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 Rejection Of God’s Standards Of Morality”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Amish farmer in Belleville, PA (Photo by Greg Schneider)
Amish farmer near Belleville, PA
Belleville is in the Kishacoquillas Valley in Central PA south of State College. As you can see this farm spreads right up to a mountain. This photo was taken by Greg Schneider, a friend of ours, who is also a newspaper photographer.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“The Rejection Of God’s Standards Of Morality

“Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22).

Today we examine the fourth scheme of Satan, a massive rejection of God’s revealed standards regarding sexual morality. This has been headline news for the last several days; nationally (allegations of impropriety), in our state (regarding the situation at Penn State which is getting a massive amount of coverage here in Pennsylvania) and locally (regarding allegations of misconduct against a local educator).

Due to our God-ordained hormonal constitution people in every generation have dealt with sexual temptation. One of the shining examples of victory over sexual temptation is Joseph. The Bible tells his story in Genesis 39. The Bible also forthrightly records David’s failure in this regard and his story is perhaps the more familiar (2 Samuel 11).

But today we face a situation far more intense and distinct from those in previous generations. There is a flood of material condoning and even glamorizing immorality. In too many settings and organizations it’s actually taught as good and acceptable.  It’s included in the public school curriculum and presented through governmental agencies. Interestingly, there is a parallel sense of condemnation by popular culture of those who still maintain a Biblical outlook on morality. Those who hold to such views are seen as old-fashioned, narrow-minded, unloving, judgmental and intolerant.

I simply do not believe this condoning the wrong and condemning the right took place in recent generations.  In fact it was the reverse!  Sexuality was to be expressed through the bonds of marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman and was presented as normal and healthy. The Bible was revered by many and at least respected by others and its teaching held sacred.

Certainly there have always been people in every generation who practiced sexual immorality; some engaging in pre-marital sex, others in marital unfaithfulness and all through history a very small segment engaged in sodomy. But except in the most uncivilized cultures these behaviors were known to be wrong, even by the participants.  Sexual immorality was understood to be sinful behavior.

There are those reading this today who have engaged in sexual immorality in the past but have repented and found that the purifying scrub brush of the Holy Spirit brings renewal, cleansing and an invitation to start over according to God’s design.  Some of you are fighting this battle even now. You know in your heart this message is speaking directly to you.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Flee from sexual immorality.”  Today we need to practice, maintain, and proclaim the Biblical teachings regarding sexual morality.  But those who do so will be increasingly reviled.  Preachers who stay true to the Bible and faithfully proclaim the Word are branded old-fashioned and homophobic, if they merely repeat what the Bible says in regard to its unambiguous, forthright condemnation of homosexuality and hold to the Scriptural teachings concerning sexual morals.

This happened to me several years ago. In the course of a message I referred to God’s standards of morality and noticed a young college-aged lady seemed somewhat distressed. I found out later from her Mom that she felt her friends would be very uncomfortable with what I had presented (the truth of Scripture). It was the last time she attended our church.

My word of encouragement today is to stay faithful in word and deed to God’s teachings. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35,36).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, it is Your desire that we stay faithful to Your teachings. Scripture gives many examples of those who knew to do right, but chose to do wrong. The consequences of their wrong actions inflicted a great deal of loss, life-long regret and emotional pain, not only for themselves but often inflicting others as well. Help us to avoid the traps Satan has set for the believers by not only reading the Word, but applying its truth to our lives, and standing firm when the temptation to do wrong is ever before us. Help us *to control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know You. We pray for this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

*See I Thessalonians 4:4,5

For further study: The case for being narrow-minded! I recently came across a thoughtful online message by Ray Pritchard of “Keep Believing Ministries” titled “The Tragedy of Open-Minded Christianity – Revelation 2:12-17”  He likens the contemporary church to the church in Pergamum.

I found this especially insightful: “We are seeing it happen before our eyes in the area of sexual ethics, especially in the great cultural shift surrounding gay marriage. The simple truth of the matter is that until very recently the Christian church in all of its branches condemned all forms of homosexual behavior. We have a 2000-year track record of consistency on this issue based on what the Bible clearly teaches.

But now we’re not so sure. Even in evangelical churches a subtle change is underway. It happens something like this:

Stage 1: A church takes a stand in favor of traditional marriage and against homosexuality.
Stage 2: The church receives public ridicule for its stand.
Stage 3: Some of the church members feel uncomfortable with the negative publicity.
Stage 4: The church de-emphasizes its position in order not to offend the people they are trying to reach with the gospel.
Stage 5: Some people begin to wonder if homosexuality is really wrong.
Stage 6: They find ostensibly Christian writers who defend homosexuality as morally neutral.
Stage 7: The church moves to a position of silence on this issue.
Stage 8: The church welcomes those who have a “different position” on homosexuality.

That’s how you get a modern-day church of Pergamum. The slide in that direction doesn’t happen overnight, but I can tell you that once it starts, you can move from Stage 1 to Stage 8 fairly quickly. The worst of it is this:

Many people in the congregation have no idea what just happened.

They keep on attending.
They keep on giving.
They keep on supporting the church.
No church remains in the Pergamum stage forever.

Meanwhile the church has become schizophrenic.
On one level it remains faithful to the Bible.
On another level it tolerates those who promote unbiblical (and ungodly) teaching.

The end result is a church that receives both a commendation and a harsh warning from the Lord.

One final thing must be added to all of this. No church remains in the Pergamum stage forever. You can’t hold fast to sound doctrine while harboring those who promote immorality. In the end the church must go one way or the other.” (End of quote from Ray Pritchard message)

Monday we will complete this series on Satan’s schemes with an examination of the “peril of materialism”.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Holiness Is What I Long For”  Video  Sonicflood

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Knowing Satan’s Schemes”

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alpaca Farm in Lancaster County PA 11/11
Yesterday we stopped by to visit an Alpaca farm on Elizabethtown Road. The farm has an Open House annually and invites the community to walk around the farm grounds and pet the Alpacas.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Knowing Satan’s Schemes”

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). “So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

I’ve been attempting some Do It Yourself (DIY) home wiring in my home. It seems the first owner wired the house as DIY and some of the wiring is quite unconventional, so in a process of elimination I am seeking to correct it. It would be helpful to have a wiring diagram or schematic to determine how the house is wired but that isn’t available. So I am getting plenty of exercise running up and down the steps as I turn circuits on and off (with intermittent help from Brooksyne and Ester)!

I am thankful for information that is readily available on the internet when I ask a question but was still mighty flustered early this morning. Brooksyne heard my frustrating tone from a nearby room and came to pray for me. Thankfully the problem I was having was resolved!

The daily text indicates there is a schematic regarding Satan’s schemes. We have the Bible as a guide regarding our ancient foe and his timeless schemes (designs) to wreck. Naturalism has taken a toll in regard to not only belief in God but also belief is Satan.

Satanology is the study of Satan and though such a study should never be our major focus we do well to be aware of his activities. A different way of stating our second daily text is, “we know his schemes”.  They’re exposed throughout the Scriptures, both in fact and as revealed in the biblical characters who succumbed to the devil’s wielding power. We are reminded that Satan’s schemes are present in every generation through the historic hymn, “But still our ancient foe doth seek to work his woe.”

We must recognize that Satan is our adversary, seeking whom he may devour. In our first daily text “schemes” translates the Greek word “methodia”, from which we get the English word “method”.  From the beginning Satan’s method has been to discredit God and overthrow His plan to redeem the lost.

Satan has a plot for our doom but God has a plan for our triumph. Satan’s plot is summed up by Jesus in John 10:10, “to steal and kill and destroy.” God’s plan is to give abundant life in our journey below and eternal joys when we take up residency in heaven.

Satan’s original plot causing the fall of man (Genesis 3) provides many clues to help us recognize his ongoing schemes and methods.  He causes doubts; he distracts; he distorts; he deceives and he brings about utter destruction. We must not be ignorant of his schemes but rather we must daily wear the armor of God (Ephesians 6) so that we can take a bold stand.  We must be sober rather than frivolous and we must remain vigilant. Let us do so today so that we do not cringe in fear from our adversary, but instead we know and take a stand against the devil’s schemes.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, though Satan has a sinister and deceitful scheme for my life I will not fear. Your guidance for me in discerning his evil schemes is revealed throughout the entire Bible. Not only do we receive warning through the prophets, the disciples and other people of faith, but we see Jesus as the supreme example of One who resisted the temptations of the evil one. His time of testing in the wilderness and in the garden of Gethsemane reveal that resistance to temptation brings present and future reward. Though Satan wants me so that he can destroy me, You want me so that You can save me, here and now, and for the hereafter. Thank You for the spiritual armor that protects me from the evil one.

Over the next several messages we want to examine some of the methods used by Satan as we seek to not be ignorant of his schemes.


Alpaca Farm in Lancaster County PA 11/11
This farm has what seems to be hundreds of Alpacas and there’s more every year. Several years ago we also visited and posted more photos at that time (See here and scroll down for photos.)


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“It Is Well With My Soul”  Video  Vineyard Music  Traditional version  “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, …”

“It Is Well With My Soul”  Video  4Him   I  like this version of the classic hymn, It is Well. Perhaps you will as well.

“No One Believes In Me Anymore”  Video  Keith Green

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

 

“Not A Failure”

Friday November 4, 2011

Lancaster County PA barn & pond
Our neighbor’s farm pond and barn along Meeting House Road, Lancaster County PA. You can always count on their Saint Benard coming down to visit us as we walk by which is a bit frightful for our much smaller dogs!

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“Not A Failure”

“You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure” (1 Thessalonians 2:1).

Swimming with crocodilesI am reading a book with the intriguing title, “Swimming With Crocodiles”. It recounts the experiences of Ronn Moyer, a friend of ours, who went to Nigeria to serve in mission work as a young man in the nineteen-fifties. The title is based on the dare of several fellow workers on a hot day to take a quick dip in a pool of water known to have crocodiles! One member of the team was perched up high with a rifle in case a crocodile got too close to the swimmers and Ronn very specifically recalls the prankster shooting the rifle, which caused the men to panic and get out of the water as quickly as possible!

Ronn MoyerIn regard to his time of mission service Ronn shares the perspective of one looking back over 50 years to his service for the Lord as a young man. His words are wisdom to all of us who serve Christ. He writes, “My personal privilege was to spend 2½ years in Nigeria, West Africa, teaching English to fifth graders, operating a large citrus orchard to supply missionaries fresh fruit for better diet and teaching students how to improve their agricultural methods to better feed their families. Conditions were sometimes severe. Typical temperatures ranged from 70 to 120 degrees in the shade; no indoor plumbing plus contaminated water supplies which had to be boiled and filtered; no telephones or computers; letters through the mail to the states took about one month to send and receive; no social life or night life opportunities and malaria on two occasions, were some of the downside.

This was no easy period of time – to say the least – yet it was the most meaningful and rewarding period of my life.  When I finally came back home I understood that I had been an important asset in assisting students and families from Nigeria to get guidance and training to begin their lives on the right track. Years later, letters of thanks arrived at my home. Hindsight has convinced me that, even without my conscious knowledge, God was leading me through that time as a way of giving me confidence, spiritual strength and training for the work of my life to follow.”

Today I want to share with my fellow servants one of the greatest hindrances to peace and fulfillment in our ministry for Christ. Each of us faces discouragement from time to time and even for extended periods because of our apparent “lack of success.” Contributing to this mindset are comparisons with others, our own expectations, expectations from others and a resigning attitude of “Am I really making a difference here?” I have found that the potential for discouragement does not lessen with age.  In fact the challenges associated with aging can actually intensify periods of discouragement.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers several months after his rather short period of ministry there. We are told that during this time of ministry “some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women” (Acts 17:4). But we have no calculation of the number actually converted or any discipling activity following this or setting a church in order. There’s certainly no record of a church building being erected (which is the case in the entire early church).

Paul and his ministry associates were run out of town shortly after he began to see the fruit of his labor. What chance would the fledgling group have to survive or to sustain and develop into a church of believers?

Not In VainBut when Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, sets out to write a letter to “the church of the Thessalonians” he placed his confidence in God and was assured that his ministry to the Thessalonians had not been a failure. He wrote, “You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure” (2:1) Another version states, “For you yourselves know, brethren, our coming to you was not in vain.”

What a wonderful assurance to have in spite of the apparent setbacks and disappointments Paul had encountered and we all encounter in life. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, as we faithfully serve You it is not for our fulfillment but for the fulfillment of the Great Commission that the Gospel message be delivered at home and abroad to the outermost parts of the earth. No matter our Christian service, whether great or small, when it is offered in Your name it brings reward, often visible here and now but at times unseen by the human eye. Help us to go forth in confidence and walk in obedience as we seek to glorify Your name. Amen.


"Swimming With Crocodiles"“It’s Gonna Be Worth It”  Video  Rita Springer. We need to hide the truth deep in our hearts that our labor is not vain and it is going to be worth it!

“It’ll Be Worth It All After All”  Video  Terry Terrell  This has a really country sound with some interesting lyrics that speak a powerful word.

“It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus”  Video  Tim Phipps (This is the version that I really enjoy singing as a hymn.

“What A Day That Will Be”  Video

“What A Day That Will Be”  Video  This is an interesting video and includes video segments by some old-timers that provide an interesting perspective concluding with a powerfu version of the shong by the Homecoming Singers. Song only

Ronn Moyer’s book “Swimming With Crocodiles” can be ordered here.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Lessons From Comebacks”

Monday, October 31, 2011

First seasonal snow 10/29/11

We had an early seasonal snow this last Saturday and, although it’s clear and cold early this Monday morning, it’s still on the ground outside our office window. The above photo was taken Saturday as the snow began to cover. Some parts of our region got nearly 10 inches and broke all records for the date and month! However we only got a few inches.

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Note: This message uses a sports illustration. I realize using a sport analogy will not connect with everyone and may even annoy some. If so scroll down to “Biblical exposition”

“Lessons From Comebacks”

“But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).

Champ celebration

I’m a baseball fan, particularly in the postseason. In the recent World Series I really had no favorite team although, growing up in Missouri and having a Grandpa who was an avid Cards fan, I suppose I leaned a bit toward the St. Louis team winning. However I have three older cousins who are Texas fans who attended World Series games in Texas while their younger brother attended game six in Saint Louis!

Well, as sport’s fans know, it was a great series going to a final deciding game seven. Game six was certainly the most suspenseful game I’ve ever watched. Twice the Texas team was one strike away from victory but Saint Louis kept coming back. The Saint Louis team demonstrated an important character trait throughout the season, series and in individual games, especially game six. The ability to comeback.

“Comeback” is used in sports to describe an athlete or team that’s behind and comes back to victory. These comebacks can be encouraging to sport’s fans everywhere (except for those cheering for the team that lost!)  Comebacks remind us that it really isn’t over till it’s over.  But of course I see a spiritual application as well.

“Biblical exposition”

In our daily verse Peter is preaching to the curious crowd on the day of Pentecost. Fifty days earlier he was among the first witnesses of the greatest event in history. Apostolic preaching emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was and ever will be at the very heart of the Gospel. A faithful witness will always, “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

Peter, who infamously denied the Lord at His trial, had made a great comeback and now is preaching on the day of Pentecost.  He makes a great statement of faith concerning Christ: “God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death.” Jesus had experienced the agony of death and apparent defeat. His lifeless body was placed in a tomb and sealed. To His enemies a comeback now was an impossibility.

But Peter declared, “It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”  Peter surely recalled the teaching of Jesus he had heard time after time.  Early in His ministry Jesus had said “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). After Peter had made his great confession of faith, Jesus clearly taught that He would “suffer many things, be killed, and be raised again the third day.”  Even his enemies were aware of the claim and had made provision for a guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66).

But no paltry Roman guard was going to stop this Comeback!  Death had forever lost its sting. Jesus Christ mounted the greatest comeback ever and today we serve a risen Savior.  Let us rejoice in this truth and live for the One who once died and now lives forevermore. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him!  It is for this truth that we must earnestly and continually contend!

Now let me address another type of comeback. Many years ago I spoke to a group of supervisors at a meeting in a large lumber mill. This company gives the chaplains a brief opportunity each week to share a devotional at this meeting.  I find sports are a great way to connect with men and I shared an illustration about a baseball comeback at that time.

We also have comebacks in our own lives. It might be a comeback from a reckless lifestyle, an accident, or a spiritual failure. I acknowledged that many of these men likely had issues they overcame in life or would need to overcome.  I could see the men were listening intently.

After the meeting a man came up to me and told me how significant this message was to his own life. He lifted up his hand which had been seriously injured in an industrial accident. He was missing his fingers and part of his hand. He testified how he had comeback from the injury and was now holding down a productive job.

Peter weepingPeter’s denial had a potentially deadly spiritual failure. His deep remorse is expressed in the phrase, “He went outside and wept bitterly.” Peter was down but he didn’t stay there. His “comeback” is one of the great stories of the Bible. He came back to be a leader in the early church and wrote two letters that are in the Bible.

Today I’d like you to consider comebacks in your life; issues that seemed so insurmountable but you dealt with them and with God’s help overcame (or you’re presently overcoming). That’s part of your testimony. If you are dealing with circumstances right now that seem hopeless, always keep the faith! God is ready to forgive, restore, and guide You in the way You should go. If Peter could come back after his disgraceful fall you can as well.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, You proved that death could not keep its hold on our Lord Jesus Christ, when You raised Him from the dead. The resurrected power that You gave Jesus also dwells in us, the redeemed. It gives us the power to overcome the most impossible situations where Satan has had influence over us.   At times You miraculously intervene and other times You provide us with the strength to hold up when we experience trouble upon trouble. When we lose our way You lovingly, gently, and persistently nudge us back to the Great Shepherd of our souls. Thank You for specializing in things thought impossible and for doing what no other power can do!  Amen.


First snow storm of the season!
Saturday as forecast we received snow, a rare occasion in this area for October.

First seasonal snow in backyard 10/29/11
One of the unusual aspects of getting a snow storm this early is that the leaves are still on many of the trees. We were concerned for our oaks which were sagging under the weight of the snow but this morning as the snow has melted they are just fine.  However the weight and felled trees did cause damage all through our region and there were (are) many power outages.

First seasonal snow in front yard 10/29/11
Thankfully our only damage is the flattening of the pampa grass near our driveway. We cut it down each fall anyway. Of course the heavy frost also finished off our summer plantings but we expect that by this time.

First seasonal snow driveway view 10/29/11
We normally leave our fall decorations up through Thanksgiving but these pumpkins may not last that long after the heavy freeze.


The blessing of having friends who know how to fix things!

Chris Bert sharpening lawn mower blades 10/28/11
I had trouble with my old riding lawn mower so Chris Bert, who has an amazing range of mechanical proficiencies, stopped by Friday afternoon to fix it for me.  He also sharpened the blades as you can see in the above photo. Chris has an interesting “comeback” testimony.

Chris Bert mowing lawn 10/28/11
After the repair Chris helped me mow the lawn as Brooksyne and I prepared for the storm. This old mower has an interesting history that involves another mechanically proficient friend (see here)


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Arise My Love”  Video  Newsong

“The Champion”  Video  Carman


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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

 

“You Are My Hiding Place”

 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Brooksyne's flower arrangements 10/28/11

The weather report called for our first frost last night so Brooksyne scurried to her garden to save as many flowers and vegetables as she could and covered the mums as well.  She made several arrangements* this morning to share with neighbors so I asked her to let me get a photo for our readers before she gives them away. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution version.)
It is a beautiful sunny day but a storm is coming in and weather reports call for 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow. We’ll see about that!

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“You Are My Hiding Place”

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your Word” (Psalm 119:114). “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to You while You may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:6-8).

Amish buggy on rainy day in Lancaster County, PA 10/27/11

Yesterday in the course of our chaplain work we saw a lot of Amish buggies, one after another, on the rural roads in eastern Lancaster County. It was a rainy day and we considered why we might be seeing so many out in the inclement weather when it occurred to us that Thursdays during October and November are the time when Amish have their weddings.

Several years ago we attended an Amish wedding. One of their customs is rooted in their history of being persecuted. At one point in the service we all turned around in our seats and knelt at our bench while the bishop read a prayer in German. The prayer lasted nearly fifteen minutes and was recited in a sing song manner.

Following the prayer the congregation rose from the kneeling position and we turned around to face the front.  That is, Brooksyne and I turned around.  However we immediately noted that the Amish continued to stand in silence facing the back which seemed especially peculiar to us. Of course we turned around quickly and joined them, although at the time not understanding the meaning of this custom.

We spoke to our Amish hosts following the service and learned that this practice is rooted in a tradition started centuries earlier when the Amish were heavily persecuted. Though we confirmed with an Amish friend that this tradition originated from their days of persecution he was uncertain as to what it means. (Isn’t it that way with a lot of religious traditions?) However, one reasonable conjecture we have heard is that they were recalling a time when their ancestors kept an eye on the entrance where the persecutors could break through.

Persecuted

Probably the most fulfilling aspect of our online ministry is the relationship we have developed with persecuted believers and the knowledge that our messages are being read and passed around in places closed to traditional ministry. It’s amazing that from our peaceful home office in rural Lancaster County we can instantly communicate with fellow believers all over the world. Through the years readers write us who are in places of persecution and we then establish a relationship with them both by virtue of sending our daily messages but also through personal notes of encouragement. We especially consider a regular reader who sent a testimony of his experience in persecution in a brutally oppressive country. (Sadly, even receiving our emails or otherwise accessing ours and similar materials on the web, can be dangerous for him.)

In our lifetime we have been spared the types of persecution many are experiencing and have experienced through the long history of the church. But I have a gut feeling that this could change very quickly, especially for true contenders who will not compromise, like the three Hebrew young men in Daniel 3.

Hiding Place

“You are my hiding place” is a wonderful descriptive phrase found in both daily Scripture texts. The Psalmist is speaking of God. Charles Spurgeon comments, “Terse, short sentences make up this verse, but they contain a world of meaning. Personal claims upon our God are the joy of spiritual life. To lay our hand upon the Lord with the clasp of a personal “my” is delight at its full. Observe that the same man who in the fourth verse was oppressed by the presence of God, here finds a shelter in Him. See what honest confession and full forgiveness will do! The gospel of substitution makes Him to be our refuge who otherwise would have been our judge.”

Today we can rejoice that the ancient observation of the Psalmist, “You are my Hiding Place” remains a descriptive source of comfort and assurance for us all. Today we especially remember our persecuted brethren and pray that they will be filled with an assurance of God’s steadfast love and care.  May it bring peace to their inward souls no matter the outward circumstances of their day.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Father, in the midst of danger and troubles, we find refuge in You, for You are our Fortress and our Deliverer. You are our hiding place when we seek security and safety from the troubles that surround us.  We are confident in Your protecting and guiding hand as You carefully watch over us all our days and deliver us from all our troubles.  We pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters, as they endure hardships and tribulation, that Your songs of deliverance will bring a calm and peaceful assurance to their weary souls. Your teaching and counsel is our guiding light in this very troubled world. Thank You, faithful and loving Father.  Amen.


Our experience at an Amish wedding
Parked buggies at Amish wedding 11/18/10
Buggies parked along a long lane at an Amish wedding In Lancaster County

We were invited to attend the Amish wedding of the sister of a friend of ours. The service actually began at 8:30 AM but it was suggested that we arrive at 10:00 since the service is long and entirely in German. We walked in through a huge makeshift kitchen where food was being prepared and opened the door into the large barn-like workshop (the bride’s father had a business building prefabricated horse barns.)  We were escorted to a center seat in the barn facing the front along with five other non-Amish (English, as we’re referred to by the Amish). There were about 400 guests present with the men seated opposite the women.

The bishop, an older man with a very long beard, was giving his message without any sound reinforcement at all. We were unable to understand what he spoke except “amen” though Brooksyne recognized the words from the book of Ruth, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Though referenced in another language somehow the repetition of those words came through so she knew what the bishop was saying.  It’s quite a challenge to listen to a 90 minute sermon in English, so you can imagine the experience of listening in a foreign language!  The service went on for another 1 ½ after we arrived (which is about as long a service I normally attend including singing and preaching in English!)

Children and babies sat with either parent and overall were outstandingly quiet. One small girl must have folded her handkerchief about 100 different ways as she sat quietly next to her mother. Periodically a parent would have to take a crying baby out. And there were lots of babies!

The bride and groom sat in the front also facing each other with the groom having two unmarried men and the bride two unmarried girls beside her.

The bishop spoke earnestly it seemed but with very little of the inflection and verbal variety we associate with preaching in our customs. I watched for expressions I might be familiar with among the congregation such as a verbal “Amen” or even a nod of agreement but did not see any. The people merely appeared to be respectfully listening with very little emotion on their faces.  And, as you can imagine, there were quite a number (men mostly) who were “resting their eyes” off and on. The young men (teens) “rested their bodies” as several rows of boys slumped over with their heads in their laps sleeping soundly.

I am told the message, which is similar at all Amish weddings, is a recounting of the Biblical stories of weddings and marriages such as Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Boaz and Ruth and so forth.

After the message there was a brief time when the bride and groom stood up to face the bishop and I assume this was similar to the taking of the vows in our customs.

After this we knelt and had the long prayer I mentioned above. Then several of the men shared what I found out later were testimonies and experiences in marriage with the bride and groom (which I think is a great idea).

They then sang a very slow song in German which I found out later was a wedding song.  The song had 24 stanzas, I believe, and was sung acapella, as is all their songs.

When the service ended the church became a fellowship hall. The benches are designed to convert into tables and a group is assigned this task. The team work is outstanding and in a short time the room was transformed into a banquet hall.

I went to another part of the workshop where all the men gather to wait their turn to eat and struck up a conversation with several of the other Amish guests, who by now were wearing their large black dress hats. I sure felt out of place!  (When you see hundreds of identical hats hanging up on posts you wonder how they keep from getting mixed up.)

I was called in to be seated and joined Brooksyne at a table set for the English. We all bowed our heads together and prayed silently. The entire room silences anytime seated guests fill a table and prepare to eat.  So this was repeated many times during the serving of the food; lively chatter grinds to a halt respecting the newly seated group of people. (We never determined how this worked.)

The food was served family style as both men and women brought out large platters which we passed from one end to the other. The main dish was a delicious stuffing that had pieces of chicken in it. It was very good along with the customary wedding food – and a lot of celery served which is very customary at their weddings!

We left at this point thanking the bride’s father, who had invited us, as we departed.  But for most of the guests the day would go on with an afternoon hymn sing, the opening of the gifts, another meal and other Amish wedding customs late into the evening hour!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“You Are My Hiding Place”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“Hiding Place”  Video  Selah

A touching feedback: “Thanks for the tribute you have provided to the world of Nelma Carpenter and grandson, Buck, the last few days. The Carpenters served as pastors to our family for 10 years in Jonesboro, AR and we know them to be people committed to Kingdom service. Even though my family and I attended the  memorial service yesterday, I was blessed once again to watch the tribute on your Daily Encouragement web site. Thank you for speaking encouragement into a world where there is no hope, unless the world knows Jesus.”
(That tribute video is here.) Note: The first part of the tribute is to grandson Buck and the second part, beginning at 3:52, is to Nelma.

It’s not over till it’s over! I realize many of our readers don’t follow baseball and international readers may not even know what baseball is, but last night’s world series game sure demonstrated perseverance! It was one of the most suspenseful sporting events I have ever seen. We are not following any team especially but have relatives in both Texas and Missouri (Some of my Oklahoma cousins were able to attend some games in Texas.) Anyway the 2011 World Series winner will be determined this evening (game 7)!

A great testimony!!! This morning Brooksyne and Ester listened to an outstanding testimony on Focus On The Family reminding listeners that God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.  Our God is a God of miracles.  Listen here.

Salvaged mum 10/28/11

*Final note from Brooksyne: The main flowers in the arrangements were taken from two mums our neighbors had tossed due to fact that they had broken in the center (as seen in photo above).  I was purchasing some mums from Annie, our Amish neighbor, and spotted some she had tossed to the side of the barn.  I asked if I could have them and she couldn’t figure out why I wanted broken mums.  As you can see from the first photo today they make great cut mums and last for at least a week, if kept watered. They were a nice addition to the celosia and crackerjack marigolds that I cut last night before the frost hit.  So I will drop off an arrangement to thank her.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

 

“Like Sheep Gone Astray”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Amish hay harvest in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11

“Making hay while the sun shines” on an Amish farm in Lancaster County PA.

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“Like Sheep Gone Astray”

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

Sheep astray running back to the flock in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11

On Tuesday afternoon we took a long walk on our country path along Donegal Creek with our dogs. It was a pleasant fall afternoon but suddenly the dogs noticed something out of order. Four sheep from our neighbor’s flock had gone astray and were in a meadow across the creek. Instinctually Mollie especially had the urge to herd them back to the flock. But she was on a leash so she resorted to barking rather ferociously instead and it was effective. The sheep immediately responded, darted away from us, and ran to be with the rest of the flock in their own pasture!

Seeing these sheep “gone astray” reminded me of the many Bible stories and illustrations about sheep.  There is much to consider as we look at sheep in relation to the Great Shepherd.

The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of a shepherd and sheep to demonstrate man’s relationship with God. In fact it begins as early as Genesis 49:24 and continues through the final book of Revelation 7:17.  Of course the most beloved and comforting passage using this metaphor from the Old Testament is Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd”.  In the New Testament the most familiar passage is our Lord’s words, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

Isaiah in the great chapter concerning the Messiah states, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).  Indeed we have all gone astray, for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sheep gone astray are sheep surrounded by danger since they have no ability to protect themselves. They’re at the mercy of other predatory animals and aren’t built for speed even if they do run. They’re easily lost with no GPS to find their way home. Poisonous weeds look just as inviting as green pastures for grazing.  And I don’t need to tell you that moving vehicles are obviously a deadly force that sheep cannot defeat! Much like the sheep that face lethal enemies daily, we too deal with an enemy Peter describes as “the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Have you returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul? Although the Shepherd seeks the lost sheep, we have a free will. Are you in His fold of safety today?  If you’re in His fold, rejoice; life’s biggest problem has been resolved!

If you have gone astray and away from the sheepfold return to Him. Hear the voice of the Shepherd calling to you, “Come home!”  Respond to the beckoning voice of the Great Shepherd today.  Any fleshly temptation to indulge in passing pleasure pales in comparison to being under God’s steadfast love and care. Jeremiah writes, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight…” (15:16). He was feeding on some “soul food” while his own people were indulging in the enemy’s poisonous revelry.

Take note of the word “overseer” in our daily text as well.  This is the only place in the entire Bible that the underlying Greek word “episkopos” (“bishop” in the KJV) is used in a description of God.  It means “one who watches over or superintends”.  That’s what I need for my soul today and so do you.  I have returned to that Great Shepherd and I don’t want to be lost again!  Praise the Lord!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we thank You for the great Shepherd of the sheep, who equips us with everything good for doing His will, and who works in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We give Him glory forever and ever. Amen. (See Hebrews 13:20,21).


Teamster at Cherry Crest farm Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
 We enjoy the setting of this Corn Maze at the Cherry Crest Farm here in Lancaster County and got a kick out of the realistic booted legs under the plastic wrapped “Teamster”.  It was a windy day so the bag filled out and shifted back and forth which made it seem as though a person was inside the bag!

John Keefer
Yesterday a pastor friend stopped by for a visit. John Keefer read our story “Ho-ly Socks” several weeks ago and wrote to inform us he was still wearing socks his mom purchased when he was a boy some 50 years ago!

50 year socks
As he recalls she bought them from a neighbor and they had the name “wear-ever” socks. He quipped that perhaps they made them so good they never wore out and went out of business!

Pets in fall 2011 (photo by Ester)
Ester took this photo of our pets in front of our home. They enjoy being in the front lawn but Mollie must be restrained! (Missing from the photo is Dottie, our 10 year old cat, who is not too fond of being photographed with the dogs.)


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Softly and Tenderly”  Video  Altar of Praise Chorale

“Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us”  Video  Discover Singers

We’ve mentioned in several recent encouragement messages about a friend who died last week in auto accident in Little Rock Arkansas.  Here’s a video tribute to Nelma Carpenter and her grandson Buck. Note: The first part of the tribute is to Buck and the second part, beginning at 3:52, is to Nelma.

Cherry Crest

 

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

 

“Victory In Jesus”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amish clothesline in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11

It was a beautiful fall afternoon yesterday; a perfect day for our Amish friend Anna Ruth to hang her laundry out on the long line.  But as the farm odors  increased (you know what I mean), the laundry had to come down lest it cling to the clothing.
(For more photos of our visit on the Lapp farm see below the message.)

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Victory In Jesus”

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:55,56). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Nelma CarpenterLast Friday we shared that our friend Nelma Carpenter had died in an auto accident in Little Rock Arkansas. Nelma and her husband Tommy had visited with us the week before and encouraged us greatly during our fellowship. Her celebration service is today and although there will certainly be grief and the sense of loss there will also be victory as a result of her faith in Christ and that of many of the family members. Last fall Tommy spoke in our church and shared how the song “Victory in Jesus” was written at his uncle’s kitchen table by Eugene Bartlett in 1939. We shared this story in this encouragement “Even Unto Death” (see below for link to this message).

Many of you reading this today have had similar experiences in life. Some are more pronounced than others, but these are the blows in life that can knock us to the ground. We wonder in hurt and exasperation, “Where is God and what is He doing in all this?”

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen was not delivered in the way he might have expected or would certainly have desired.  Yet this was part of God’s ultimate plan.  Jesus wasn’t “off duty” and oblivious to Stephen’s plight.  I’m thankful for the witness who heard Stephen declare that he saw “the windows of heaven open and the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  What tremendous confidence and anticipation this must have given him in his final moments of life on this side!

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

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, in faith, we look to You for strength today and bright hope for tomorrow. Just as Stephen, as written in the book of Acts, had a glimpse of Your glory in heaven and Jesus standing at Your right hand he was filled with confidence to remain true to his convictions and calling though painful death was imminent. Help us to turn our hearts toward heaven so that we seek Your approval and blessing above the temporal thrills this world has to offer. May we perish every fond ambition, all we’ve sought, and hoped and known in exchange for the glories of heaven where we will reign with You forevermore.  Amen.


Yesterday we did our chaplain visitation in the morning and then met up with our friends Larry and Tina Kester for an enjoyable afternoon. We joined our friends Jesse and Anna Ruth, and their younger children, on the farm for lunch. We had chicken pot pie, sweet potato casserole (sweet potatoes just picked that morning), and Brooksyne brought a salad she had prepared.

Larry and Tina Kester on Amish farm 10/25/11
Larry and Tina are friends from the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. Tina has served as a church secretary in the same church for 25 years and is presently my brother Pat’s secretary (for almost twenty years). Larry and Tina are in Lancaster County celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary which is October 27. Congratulations!

Amish team spreading manure in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
The field work for the day was not amongst the most appealing but a necessary part of farming. Farm hand Amos and the team are _________________. * (answer below)

Amish boy chasing pony in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
Four year old Eli, with unbounding energy, chasing the pony for a bareback ride. Since he rode without a bridle he slid off more than he stayed on. Only a child with such dexterity could find the thrill in falling off more fun than staying on.

Beabull pups on Amish farm in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
These are “beabulls”, a cross between a beagle and bulldog.  I suppose the sibling placing his (or her) paw on the other pup is a little like us affectionately placing our arm around a loved one.

Strasburg steam train in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
As we came home yesterday afternoon we saw the Strasburg steam train and caught the whistle blowing at a grade stop; a pleasurable sighting of a past era.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Victory In Jesus”  Video  Don Marsh chorus  Read the introduction to our message today for a little context as to where and when this was written.

“Jesus I My Cross Have Taken”  Video  Indelible Grace  An outstanding hymn rarely heard today  written by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) whose father abandoned him at an early age and never let his son call him “father”. This song is a testament to the power of the gospel to address even situations where the rot of sin has spread into family relationships. Consider the words of this hymn in regard to Stephen as he boldly proclaimed the gospel message in the face of death. (This version does not use every stanza).

“Even Unto Death” This daily encouragement message shares the story of how Eugene Bartlett wrote “Victory in Jesus” as well as a story of the song’s impact when his wife died many years later.

* Spreading manure!

 

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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)