“Remember Your Creator”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Corn shocks on Lancaster County PA farm

Corn shocks on an old order farm.
Corn shocks standing in corn fields were once a common sight during harvest. This method
of drying corn was replaced once mechanical harvesters appeared on the scene. However we are blessed to see them still on some of the old order farms serving as a living history demonstration!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Remember Your Creator”

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4).

In our Daily Encouragement series we regularly feature stories about people our age or older. However our ministry also includes working with and challenging the younger generation. A noteable example of this in Scripture is Paul working with young Timothy.

Solomon is often reckoned as the wisest man who ever lived.  He presided over the building of the temple during a time of great peace and prosperity in Israel’s history when he lived around 1000 BC.

However he also had some serious moral flaws and the Biblical record faithfully acknowledges them, an evidence of the integrity of Scripture. I recall a professor pointing out that the inclusion in the Bible record of events such as David’s sin with Bathsheba or Solomon’s never-ending list of wives and concubines gives evidence to its authenticity. The writers of the Bible applied no airbrush to Biblical characters.

Ecclesiastes seems to be the expression of a man who, although rich in wisdom, had grown cynical in his faith.  I believe this is related to his disobedience, for the Bible specifically states, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4).

In the final chapter of Ecclesiastes Solomon reaches deep and again expresses the faith of his youth. He acknowledges the trouble that inevitably is a part of life and even the cynicism that many experience with age, but I’m intrigued by his call to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”

I like the way the Life Application study note treats this verse: “A life without God can produce a bitter, lonely, and hopeless old age.  A life centered around God is fulfilling; it will make the “days of trouble” – when disabilities, sickness, and handicaps cause barriers to enjoying life – satisfying because of the hope of eternal life.  Being young is exciting, but the excitement of youth can become a barrier to closeness with God if it makes young people focus on passing pleasures instead of eternal values.  Make your strength available to God when it is still yours – during your youthful years. Don’t waste it on evil or meaningless activities that become bad habits and make you callous.  Seek God now.”

I know many who have remembered their Creator and have done so throughout their lives  right into their senior years. They’re not cynical, but amidst the inevitable disabling effects of aging, they rejoice in God’s love and provision. They demonstrate a great spiritual maxim: Obedience brings blessing.

This day whether you’re young or old I challenge you, deep in your soul, to remember your Creator!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we’re reminded by the cynical attitude of Solomon in his latter years, that it is essential for us to stay on the straight and narrow path laid out for us. We have no way of knowing when we yield to temptation just how far sin will take us, how long it will hold us, nor the damage it will do. So we must be wise and resist sin so that we find blessing instead of shame, victory instead of failure, and life instead of death.  Help us to never weary of following You. All the days of our life we want to remember You, our Creator. Amen.


We enjoy visiting with folks of all ages and nationalities.
Today we will share several photos of some of our younger friends:
Dennis
Dennis came to the states from Cuba as a young teenager about ten years ago. He gave his life to the Lord about four years ago and is now active in his church teaching the adult Sunday School class!  He is standing beside a large pump he assembled at Valco where we serve as chaplains.

Jeff and Isiah

Jeff and Isiah work together as a team on machines that make live animal traps in New Holland. I enjoy visiting with them weekly and challenging them to serve the Lord faithfully. As I walk through the plant Dennis, Jeff, and Isiah often have Christian radio playing with  good biblical teaching by proven ministers of the gospel, most from my generation.

Mmeli

Mmele recently came from South Africa and is a real source of light with his big smile and appreciative, joyful disposition.

Jack & Michelle Diffendarfer

Jack is a young man who went on a mission trip this last summer and testified concerning his experience at a company Christmas banquet we attended last Friday night.
He is shown here with his wife Michelle.

Jack Diffendarfer on missions trip
Here’s a second photo of Jack. During his mission trip he helped make a playground for the children. It looks like they’re wasting no time in breaking it in even during the construction phase!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“When Love Was Born”  Video  Mark Schultz

“Love Came For Me”  Video Shannon Wexelberg  This is a CD Brooksyne has repeatedly played this Christmas season. This particular song has a great message written by Shannon.

“God Of The Ages”  Video  Charles Billingsley


Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.

“In Remembrance of Me” pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

“When Christ Was Born” pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of “How Great Thou Art”. It’s a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
“O Come Let Us Adore Him”  pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).


Are you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/11)

“Leadership”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, NYC

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Leadership”

“Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God–good!” But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Samuel 12:13-15).

Flight 1548 Hudson River

I appreciate good leadership in whatever form it may be expressed, whether it’s in the church, the corporate world, or at times even in politics! A singular example of taking charge and providing good leadership took place on a January afternoon nearly three years ago, when Captain Chesley Sullenberger (also known as Sully) safely “ditched” a plane in the Hudson River saving all 155 passengers on board, Sully being the last one to safely exit the aircraft. (Photo of plane in water. Note: I did not take this photo!)

Manhattan skyline at night

Last night, as we were riding a tour bus exiting New York City, our driver took us through the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River and then pulled over to show us this spectacular view of the city at night. As we looked at the dark still waters with the magnificent skyline we considered the grim outcome had the Captain’s strategy and heroic efforts not taken place in 2009.

God has raised up good, solid leaders since the beginning of time; their portfolios differing greatly depending on their giftings, skills, and interests. Our Scripture text gives us a glimpse of Samuel’s leadership skills as he formally speaks to the Israelites about the choice they had to make in following after God and His commands. He also informs them that the hand of God will be against those who rebel against God’s commands, just as their fathers experienced.

Following Joshua’s death, Israel went into a long cycle of apostasy and revival in the period of the Judges. Samuel was a godly leader who served as the final Judge and transitioned the nation into a monarchial kingdom. He was very reluctant to do this, but the people clamored for a king so they could be like the nations around them. Reluctantly Samuel oversaw the selection of Saul as king and provided the powerful words of counsel in the daily verse.

These words have great meaning for us today. Samuel gave the people a promise and a warning at the introduction of Saul as their king. It’s a call to personal responsibility to each listener, but notice the phrase that indicates the importance of leadership also obeying these commands: “If both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God–good!”

The remainder of Israel’s history recorded in the Old Testament until the Exile essentially is a biography of these kings, most of whom did not follow the Lord. I am sure that during the reign of even the most wicked kings there was a godly remnant who feared the Lord, serving and obeying Him, choosing not to rebel against His commands. They nevertheless lived under the consequences of the king’s wickedness. An example of this is the great prophet Jeremiah who faithfully served during the destruction of the land, but endured cruel treatment due to his godly convictions. Of course desolation covered the entire land which was a consequence even for those who chose to follow after the Lord.

The apostle Paul instructed, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1,2). So today, we are all called to faithfully follow God and pray that our leadership will reflect that major decision.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we pray for our leaders that they will look to You for guidance and follow Your commands as recorded by the prophets long ago. We want to be a blessed nation and will be so if men and women in positions of authority live godly lives as commanded in Scripture, and those who follow respond in like manner. Help us to be faithful in doing our part. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


Yesterday we had the opportunity to travel into New York City along with the employees of a company we serve as chaplains. Today we will provide some variety to our normal rural selection of photos with several from the big city!

Mac-It Group NYC 12/12/11

The Mac-It Company is celebrating 100 years of being in business this year and provided the trip as a special Christmas gift to their employees. This photo was taken at Central Park.

Christmas Spectaular at the Radio City Music Hall NYC
A highlight of our trip was the Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall. We were very pleased that the show included the Christmas story along with Scripture readings and traditional Christmas hymns. This is a photo I took of the Living Nativity.

Stephen & Brooksyne in front of Rockefeller Center 12/12/11

We did a lot of walking all through the city. Here we are in front of the Rockefeller Center  in the morning. In the background is the same tree we walked by early last night and featured it all lit up at the top of our message.

Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center rink 12/12/11

We didn’t go skating but enjoyed watching from above!

World Trade Center Memorial

A stunning experience was our visit to the World Trade Center Memorial. Two large fountain pools representing the two towers are ringed with the names of those who died. It is very moving.

NBC entrance

Look up and you will see some interesting sights rarely considered by most passersby. This is over the main entrance to NBC which most would not realize is also a Scripture text.
See here.

Jerry

Gene riding on the bus home late last night.
Gene is among the many interesting people we meet in the course of our chaplaincy. He is 87 years old but still works 4 hours a day, five days a week, because he wants to keep moving! Yesterday he kept up with the group and I think by the end of the day we were more tired than he was! At one point he ran and looked as nimble as a twenty year old!

We were all pleased and thankful to return to Lancaster County around 11:00 last night, safe, sound, and tired!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Silent Night”  Video  Sung by and dedicated to our friend Herb Basso, who went to be with the Lord several weeks ago. Herb was a part of the church we served in New England. Violin by Elizabeth Silvia, the daugther of a pastor friend of ours, who now serves in Wyoming.


Are you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/11)

“Bothered by Beeps”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Old order Mennonite church and parking lot

Parking lot of an old order Mennonite meeting house.
This particular branch of the Mennonite faith uses horse and buggy (similar to the Amish) as well as bicycles (see photo below)

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Bothered by Beeps”

“Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them” (Nehemiah 9:34). “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Smart phoneEverything seems to beep in modern life. Microwaves beep, smoke detectors beep, cell phones beep, emergency vehicles beep, dryers beep, watches beep. Surprisingly, Brooksyne’s digital food/nutrition scale even has a beeping alarm.  In recent years we also respond to ring tones. To take the “blast” out of a wake-up beep that could get one off to a grumpy start in the morning we’ve chosen a mellow ring tone on Brooksyne’s cell phone that gently wakes us at 4:35 each morning (though not always on the first try.)

We tend to tune out the beeps after awhile or, if annoyed enough, we may even disengage the source of the beeps. Beeps can disrupt one’s thoughts or irritate one’s nerves after awhile. We can ignore or disable warnings, but we do so to our own peril such as our friend who disabled the smoke alarm by removing the battery since it kept going off when his wife cooked!

But far, far more perilous is the widespread disregard for the beeps (warnings) from God and Scripture, the greatest of which involves the most definite future judgment. These warnings are not only massively ignored, but mockingly ridiculed, much to Satan’s pleasure.

In the first verse I selected today from Nehemiah, a group of Levites are exhorting the people that have returned from the Exile.

They acknowledged (confessed) the failure of their ancestors to follow God’s law.  Indeed the condition of not only that period but human history can be summarized in this outline based on the first text:

•    [They] did not follow your law
•    They did not pay attention

* to your commands
* or the warnings you gave them

Warning tapeOur earthly nature tends to find God’s “beeps” annoying, often disruptive to our plans, and they are so often ignored.  After all, in many cases, the consequences of ignoring them are not immediately apparent. Thus the tendency is to feel the warnings have no value. Many have sought to “remove the batteries” from God’s beeps; doing all that is within their power to silence them. We see these never-ending attempts to silence the beeps through the secular media, liberal theology, revisionist history, political forces, the entertainment industry and many other godless venues.

The Apostle Paul is referring to these warnings in the second verse. We should learn and understand that God’s warnings are not a source of annoyance but an expression of His love, just as a parent who loves their child warns of potential danger. This is a very important truth to hide deep in our hearts as we seek to live in a manner that pleases the Lord. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, all throughout Scripture we hear Your warnings but there is much that we cannot foresee nor do we understand. Some of this understanding will fall into place as we have opportunity to look back and see how You were at work though Your hand was not visible at the time. We desire to trust in You with all our heart and not lean upon our own limited understanding. As we trust You fully, we will obey You faithfully and Your blessings of favor will fall upon us. Amen.


Some photos of an Old-Order Mennonite Meeting House
Old order Mennonite church and parking lot
Based on the amount of buggies all around the building it must have been packed!
Notice the colorful blankets on the horses. We pass this meeting house in the course of our travels and have a standing invitation to attend with our friend Elvin, who works in one of the companies we serve as chaplains.

Bikes at Old order Mennonite meeting house
Many also ride bikes to the service although it was below freezing.
There were many more bikes parked elsewhere with blankets and jackets thrown across them as well!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Not Guilty Anymore”  Video  Aaron Keyes

“Christmas Medley”  Video  Jars Of Clay

Ester posing with Joey Welz at our Family Christmas Celebration at Longwood Manor.Joey was the featured musician who played piano and sung last night.  His fame (50’s & 60’s) were the songs he wrote (or co-wrote), sang and played; the most famous being “Rock Around the Clock” made famous by the Comets.  Some of our readers will remember all too well.  Tonight Ester will enjoy a little more contemporary setting as she helps manage the crowd at a concert featuring “Jars of Clay” which is being held at Lancaster Bible College.  Brooksyne and I will be attending another company related Christmas Banquet (one of four just this week.)  We enjoy these “waistline unfriendly” banquets!

Are you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/11)

“Spreading The Word”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Roxie's pet therapy ministry
Roxie greeting Josephine.
Josephine & Arlene (looking on) are now with the Lord.

ListenListento this message on your audio player.
“Spreading The Word”
“When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17,18).

Roxie at LongwoodOur dog Roxie has a form of “ministry”, joining Brooksyne as she visits at Longwood Manor, a local personal care center where we serve as chaplains. Some would call this “pet therapy” but we prefer to call it ministry. Our other dog, a growing border collie pup named Mollie, is a little too young and rambunctious for this type of ministry and our cat Dottie really doesn’t care to get out at all. In fact her trip every couple of years for her rabies shot is about all the travelling she can handle!

Brooksyne walks with Roxie through the facility as she greets residents and most of them as well as the staff enjoy seeing Roxie since she is really a friendly dog and mild-mannered. Roxie even wears a special collar for seasonal ministry!

Photo of Roxie ready for ministryBut she really likes being around her family. Whether we’re gone five minutes or five hours she greets us as if she hasn’t seen us in ages. (typical of all dogs we have had). She indicates her joy by wagging her whole hind end which also happens to make her curly tail move very rapidly. This causes the tip of her tail to hit her eyes repeatedly so it’s interesting to watch her deal with the resulting discomfort.  In addition we now have Mollie who vies also for our attention. The jealousy between the two can get just a little ugly from time to time but I think it’s safe to say they have also become good pet friends (or siblings).
We feature Roxie in our opening illustration because she serves as a means of warming the hearts of residents who are pet lovers, who might not bother even talking with us as we seek to evangelize, if they have no interest in spiritual matters. This is the case in all types of outreach ministry. There are various ways we might stir the interest of nonbelievers as they connect with us in areas of similar interest, i.e. music, drama, object lessons, sports, flowers, or even our pets.  But our main goal is “spreading the word” concerning our faith in Christ.

The first evangelists were some pretty smelly, sun parched shepherds. They had witnessed the infant Jesus lying in a manger and heard the Gospel from a heavenly choir.  Now they “spread the word.”

That’s been the mission of believers ever since, commanded in the Great Commission and demonstrated in the Book of Acts. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  He’s still building His church and all believers are a part of that building process.

At the time of Christ’s birth the Bible clearly states that after the shepherds had seen Jesus “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” We have no additional follow-up concerning these men after that eventful night.

Like so many at that time, through the ages of the Church and in our own day, they likely had to overcome some deep hurts and losses to cling to their faith in Christ as they lived out the rest of their life on this earth. It’s always been that way. We have a couple long-time friends whose wives have multiple sclerosis and are confined to wheelchairs. Both have had some unexpected bumps in life’s road, but they continue to rejoice in God’s grace and faithfulness!

The shepherds were the first evangelists at the birth of Christ and we are all called to follow their example in spreading the word. All over the world, including your town and mine, this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing today. Our mission is to “Go tell everyone.”  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, follow the shepherd’s example and look for opportunities to spread the word.

Go tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere,
Go tell it on the mountain,
Our Jesus Christ is born.
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying womanDaily Prayer: Father, all over the world Your Spirit is moving. And You move through people such as the shepherds who told all they knew concerning the Christ Child.  Two thousand years later we have so much more knowledge and experiences to share with those around us because we have the Word of God that shows Your divine character and tells us of Your great and miraculous deeds. May we never tire of hearing the stories of Jesus or become lax in telling others about Jesus. Your choice to enter this earth in such a lowly and timely manner is a story that not only the shepherds were commissioned to go out and tell, but it is the commission of all believers to spread this amazing story.  It’s not just for the people of Jerusalem or simply a segment of our society or a select period in history. Instead Christ’s coming affects people of all tongues, tribes, and nations, from the north to the south, from east to west – all who will call upon the Lord Jesus to be saved. Help us to be bold and unwavering in our quest to reach the lost and dying world that touches us each day.  Amen.


Roxie practicing pet therapy
Bess loves animals and she looks amazing for a woman in her mid 90’s when this photo was taken!
Roxie and Dottie in front of coal stove

This photo was taken several years ago but looks the same as today except our other dog Mollie who was not with us at the time would be joining them. After a wearying time of ministry Roxie crashed in front of our coal stove, along with our cat Dottie who was glad her dog friend had made it home safely (we assume that’s what she is thinking). It’s the warmest spot in our house and they know it! We primarily heat our home with this coal stove, using Pennsylvania anthracite coal. I fill the hopper in the back and empty the ashes early each morning. From the hopper the coal is slowly, automatically fed to the burner, a white hot portion only about 4×3 inches but generally adequate to keep our entire house warm except for the coldest days. It has a glass door on the front so I can see the warm glow and verify that it’s working. From a distance when I see the light I am confident the heat is there as well!

Mollie catching rope
Mollie is not ready for “ministry” yet but will play “catch” all day long, in this case catching her favorite rope toy. She rarely misses.  Ester took this photo.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Go Tell It On The Mountain”  Video  Jacob Moon

“Jesus Saves”  Video  Tony Derosa   Outstanding!

“Jesus Saves”  Video In searching for a classic version of the hymn “Jesus Saves” I came across this stirring instrumental presentation. A lot of work went into this, the music is beautiful, and the simple timeless message “Jesus Saves” is seen in many places and various formats.

“The Comforter Has Come”  Video  Jars of Clay (A newer arrangement but same powerful lyrics.)

“Tell Me The Story Of Jesus”  Video  Carman


Are you Christmas shopping online?
Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

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 12/11)

“The First Tailor”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dottie's breakfastDottie our cat watches when I eat cereal at my desk and waits for me to set the bowl down. When I’m finished she laps up any remaining milk.
I don’t think I would find this a very comfortable eating position!

ListenListento this message on your audio player.
“The First Tailor”

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7).

What type of clothing distinguishes you? Of course that will vary depending on where you live, your customs, the climate and so forth. It would be interesting to have a group photo of Daily Encouragement readers from all around the world and note the wide variety and yet basic similarity!

Leather vestTwo articles of clothing I regularly wear distinguish me (Stephen); suspenders and often, especially when it’s colder, a vest. The other day a friend saw me wearing black pants, a blue shirt and black suspenders and asked if I had become Amish! Brooksyne is a little less predictable but her wardrobe leans toward the autumn colors. One thing is for sure; you won’t see us wearing fig leaves!

The very first immediate consequence of the fall was that Adam and Eve became aware of their own nakedness and need for a covering.  The Bible describes their pre-fallen condition as “naked and not ashamed.”

An easily observable condition to this day regardless of where we live is the natural and unashamed nakedness in the animal kingdom. Our three pets, two dogs and a cat, run around all day without a stitch of clothing and think nothing of it. If animals are clothed it’s due to a novelty for humans such as putting sweaters on dogs or perhaps an assumption that they need additional warmth in severe climates. Even the “higher” animals, those that evolutionists claim are “more related” to us, do not clothe themselves. The need to clothe and the ability to do so is distinctively human and goes back to a consequence of the fall.

At the very moment of Adam’s transgression (interestingly not Eve’s) their eyes were “opened, and they realized they were naked” (Genesis 3:7).  They crudely sewed fig leaves together to make coverings and sought to hide from God.  But God initiated the search and the very first question God asked fallen Adam were, “Where are you?”.

He proceeded to pronounce judgment for their disobedience. But God also acted redemptively in serving as the first custom tailor. Consider the provision in the daily text: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).

Where did the “skin” come from?  Up to this point there had been no death in the Garden.  Surely an animal or animals were slain to provide these skins. It sure wasn’t road kill!*  Blood was shed.  I believe it was likely a lamb, but this is not specified.

The two verbs are so rich in meaning.  God made and God clothed.  What a type of a wonderful covering God provides for all mankind! Isaiah proclaimed and so can we today, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

We fast forward to the birth of Christ when Almighty God became the supreme articulation of Deity to all humankind. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger.” Charles Wesley, in his first published hymn text, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” reveals God’s greatest Gift to the world in the following words:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the Incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying womanDaily Prayer: Father, my soul rejoices in the wondrous Gift of Your Son, Jesus, who descended from the sinless atmosphere of heaven and clothed Himself in the garment of humankind. Prior to this marvelous undertaking You spoke to us through the prophets who revealed only a partial and prepatory revelation of the Triune God.  But the perfect revelation of who You are is revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ which is made understandable in human terms. For the Son is the radiance of Your glory and the exact representation of Your Being.  As we have come to know Jesus, the Son of man, we also know You, Father, because Your character and power are revealed in the life and works of Your Son, Jesus.  Thank You for mercifully adopting us as Your children and clothing us in robes of righteousness, for without this clothing, we cannot enter heaven.  Amen.

See Hebrews 1:2,3 and John 14 :10

Brooksyne’s Note: Many references from Scripture come to mind regarding the clothing that is not an outward adornment bringing glory to oneself.  Rather I’m thinking of the clothing that dresses the inner self where the character of Christ is revealed to others as we converse and mingle with others throughout the day.  Consider I Peter 3:1-6 where Paul speaks to wives regarding their inner dress. In Colossians 3:1-12 Paul tells believers to clothe themselves with humility, compassion, kindness, etc.  Ephesians 6:10-17 reminds us of the ensuing battle of the enemy and the only way we will be victorious is by clothing ourselves in spiritual armor.

* Explanation: For any readers unfamiliar with the term “road kill”; it’s an animal that’s been run over by a vehicle. In certain parts they will salvage the meat of a road kill deer if they know it’s still fresh enough to eat safely.


Mother/daughter Christmas shopping 2011Brooksyne shares: This last Saturday I joined a group of ladies at a Christmas tea featuring Nancy Lee Demoss as the speaker. What a blessing to sit under her teaching.  She is a devout woman of God. In her early fifties and yet never married, she has been set apart for a single purpose in presenting the solemn Word of God without compromise. Though most of her listeners are women Stephen and I have walked through two of our companies where we’ve seen young men tuning into her daily radio program, and that is of special blessing.

Following the Christmas Tea we had lunch with our friends who attended and then went to the National Christmas Center – it’s really like a museum. It was featured in the most recent Martha Stewart Magazine.  And then our last stop was the mall where Ester insisted I put on this silly hat so she could take a photo for her facebook. So here we are…..and the hats remain at the J.C. Penney’s store (for any interested). The least I can do is run a free commercial for them since we “borrowed” their knit caps with braids for the photo shoot!


Stephen’s note: This last Saturday my cousin, 80 years old, passed away. Jeannine is the oldest from our generation of cousins and the first of our generation to go. Jeannine was always positive, never grumpy and no touchy disposition on her part. She was always pleasant to be around and interested in others.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Hark The Herald Angels Sing”  Video  Amy Grant

“Immanuel”  Video  Charles Billingsley


Are you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/11)

“The Trap Of Greed”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Willows on Rockvale Road, Lancaster PA 12/1/11Yesterday we passed these beautiful willow trees on a farm along Rockvale Road.
(Click here for larger version)

ListenListento this message on your audio player.
“The Trap Of Greed”
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9,10).

Safeguard live animal trap

Yesterday in the course of our chaplain work I visited with Rick, who was making some design improvements to a small animal trap the Safeguard Company manufactures and sells. He showed me how the trap was intended to work and a key component of the trap’s effectiveness is the bait, intended to attract the animal into the trap. Later in my visit I also saw Jeff and Isaiah, two young men who assemble these traps by the thousands day after day. It seems there is no shortage of nuisance animals.

Speaking of traps I’d like to consider a different type of trap we need to be wary of, the trap of greed, as we share our fourth point in our series on contentment.

We experience contentment when we conscientiously and diligently avoid the trap of greed.

We marvel at the timeless relevance of God’s Word.  In 1 Timothy 6 Paul has warnings to both the rich (1 Timothy 6:17-19) and those who desire to be rich (verses 6-10 which we have been studying this week).

We surely benefit from the warnings that Paul gives to the rich. You may say, “Well, that’s sure doesn’t include me!” Yes, it probably does include you. Most of us have far more of this world’s goods than the vast majority of people on a worldwide economic scale.

We also  need the solemn warning in our daily text that Paul gives to “people who want to get rich.” You see, it seems no matter how much we have, we always want more! The progressive bait in the trap of greed begins with the devil putting troubling notions in our minds that tempt us with “many foolish and harmful desires” which in turn “plunge men into ruin and destruction.”

Thomas Brooks who served the Lord in the late 1600’s writes of “the plague of unsatisfiedness”.  Wow, imagine what he would see today! William S. Plumer who lived in the mid 1800’s wrote, “A right view of the perils of wealth would, with the divine blessing, have a mighty efficacy in curing our covetousness and discontent.”

Scripture verseLet’s just consider one word in our Scripture text today.  The word “trap” has the root meaning “fastened by a noose”.  Wow, isn’t that the case?  A noose is loose at first but gets tighter and tighter. Isn’t that the nature of sin in general and greed in particular? There’s an appeal, such as the bait set in a trap, but going down that road indeed leads to ruin and destruction. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Let us heed the Scripture’s warning today, being careful to see money for what it is and using it for what God intends!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying womanDaily Prayer: Father,  we consider the Scriptures that warn us of attitudes, desires, and behaviors that lead us on a road to destruction. We want to be faithful to the righteous path that we began the day we surrendered our lives to You. May we seek You wholeheartedly so that our desires, our actions, and our affections align us with the straight and narrow path You walked before us.  May we use our resources for Your glory and not our own.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.


Church signWe regularly see messages with short slogans and Scripture texts on church signs, along the road at farms and even on silos, such as this one we passed yesterday. They are such a blessing! Occasionally I see signs that don’t edify me but the all time worst church sign  was a church that had bingo for fundraising. The large marquee sign along US Route 219 in New York advertised bingo night with this phrase, “Holy Ghost Bingo”. What a shameful witness for the third person in the divine, holy Trinity!


Stephen with tie at Smucker Laser 12/1/11
Yesterday in the course of our chaplain work we visited with Stephen who works in a company that does laser cutting and often does programming work at a desk. He was teased, “When working at your desk you should be wearing a tie.” So he complied, wearing this tie!

Amish cart on Newport Road, Lancaster County, PA 12/1/11
Yesterday we passed this little pony and cart turning on to busy Newport Road. These conveyances do not strike us as being safe on busy highways

Amish boy racing in field 12/1/11
This boy was having a great time harness racing through a field as we passed by.


Are you Christmas shopping online?
Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

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

“I’d Rather Have Jesus”   Video  Dallas Holm

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Refrain:
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.


Writing today of sordid greed making news in our area is a lady that killed her grandmother by poisoning her after stealing moeny from her. (See here)

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Ministry Update  (Revised 12/11)

“What’s Your Excuse?”

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amish cart (Photo by Debra Zimmerman)

Lancaster County Amish farmwork taken from a hot air balloon.
Photo by Debra Zimmerman (Used by permission)
See this photo for zoom-out context.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“What’s Your Excuse?”
Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”  (Luke 17:15-17).

Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left one million dollars to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million. How’s that for a grateful heart? (Now a million dollars is still a lot today but can you imagine how much more it would have been worth when Andrew Carnegie died in 1919!) Carnegie’s ungrateful relative reflects the attitude of far too many, not only in our day but throughout the centuries.  Let’s review a story that Jesus told regarding ten lepers.

One returned to give thanksJesus often asked questions to get His audience to probe their own minds before he would launch into an important teaching. Settings where teachers set up their lesson by first asking thought provoking questions always stimulates my own thinking and it helps me to assess the crowd that has gathered. In Jesus’ teaching from Luke 17:11-19 He had healed ten lepers but only one, a Samaritan, returned to give Him thanks.  This brief Scripture passage certainly drives home a hard hitting message, but it also stirs one’s imagination for all that was not said.

I’ve wondered what excuses the other nine might have had in failing to return to give Jesus thanks. Of course the text does not tell us and we can’t be absolutely certain, but let us consider nine possible excuses they might have used. Notice they are all pertinent to our day as well!

Perhaps:
1)  One was too busy. Surely their disability had resulted in a lot of work that needed done. (Self-importance)
2)  One forgot. (Ingratitude)
3)  One was planning to do it later. He reasoned that he would eventually get back to thank Jesus… sometime. (Procrastination)
4)  One thought somebody else would do it. Perhaps he saw the one returning and thought “he will speak for all of us”. God does not accept vicarious praise. “Let everything that hath breath…”  (Lazy)
5)  One wanted to see if the healing would last. He looked and thought this is wonderful but let’s see if it comes back before I do any thanking. (Skeptical)
6)  One had a religious prejudice. Perhaps he didn’t want to even be associated with the Samaritan (Superiority)
7)  One thought it really didn’t matter. (Thoughtless)
8) One thought “I still have a lot of other problems.” Like many he saw the glass half empty. Indeed on this side whatever God may do for us we very likely have or will have other problems. (Negative)
9)  One thought “I don’t want to bother Him.” Scripture is abundant in calls to thank, praise and glorify God. We never bother Him in calls to be obedient! (Inferiority)

What’s your excuse for not returning thanks to God?

Four great truths could be derived from this message:
1) Thankfulness is an act of the will. This man made the decision to return and offer thanks. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back.” We need to make a decision that we will be thankful and act upon it.

2) Thankfulness matters to God. It brings glory to God. The man “returned to give glory to God.”  The Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” We can be assured Scripturally that as we thank God we also glorify Him. “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me” (Psalm 50:23).

3) Thankfulness is an excellent expression of faith. “And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”  This part of the text somewhat puzzles me. Apparently the Lord had seen faith in the demonstration of desperation in the ten lepers when they had cried out in a loud voice: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Now Jesus is commending that faith.  Chuck Swindoll notes, “Faith believes in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

4) Thankfulness is an excellent testimony. Consider that this story made it into the record of Holy Scripture because this man was thankful!  As we live a life of thankfulness we also present a good testimony.

Today let’s not make excuses in being unthankful to God or others. Will we be like the one who returned to give thanks or like the other nine?

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we want to bless You at all times allowing praises to spring from our hearts and express themselves in our words and actions.  We magnify Your name and exalt You, Almighty God, for You are our great Deliverer.  As we celebrate our thanks to You we tell of Your mighty power and miracles in our lives. We teach these to our children so the next generation might know them, even the children not yet born, that they in turn might teach their children. We want each generation to set their hopes anew on God, remembering His glorious and miraculous provisions, as they turn their hearts toward You. Thank You, Father, for everything!  For apart from You we have nothing!  Amen.

(Prayer inspired by Psalm 78:5-8)


“Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” What we may infer from this is that the others who failed to return to offer thanks must all have been locals (Jews)!

Additional thought from Bible commentator Brian Bell’s study notes on this passage:

  • How grateful the men should have been for the providence of God that brought Jesus into their area.
  • How grateful the men should have been for the love that caused Him to pay attention to them and their need.
  • How grateful the men should have been for the grace and power of God that brought about their healing.

Brent with JK installing ductwork 11/22/11“Brent The Tool Man”

We are having some extensive work done on our home’s HVAC with a new heat pump. Ductwork needs to be routed throughout our home since our home has not had ducts. It’s quite a job for the crew working on it since they have to get into our attic and snake ductwork throughout the house, including through closets to get to lower levels. But they are doing so with diligence and a good attitude. Brent is showing off his skills in handling power tools!

We have been using a coal stove for primary heat (which we will continue to use as a supplement and for the ambiance in our family room) and several window A/C’s for cooling (which we will no longer need) so we are looking forward to this improvement!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

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

“Thank You Lord”  Video  Acapella

“Thank You Lord”  Video  Don Moen

“I Thank God”  Video  Rhema Marvanne  An eight year old girl who has a very nice, mature voice.  Her family are people of faith, and sadly, her mother passed away two years ago.

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

“Thanks”  Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Forever Grateful”  Video  Willow Creek

“Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart”  Video  Don Moen

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

Today’s photo was take by Debra Zimmerman, daughter of our friends Cerwin and Doris High. More photos from this balloon collection are on Doris High’s photoblog site.

A highly recommended read:

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


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)

“Thankful For the Thorns”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

 

“Thankful For the Thorns”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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

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

 


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

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

Thankful for our doctors:

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

 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks”  Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m Forever Grateful”  Video  Willow Creek

“Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart”  Video  Don Moen

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

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

A highy recommended read:

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

“Counting Your Blessings”

Monday, November 21, 2011

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

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Counting Your Blessings”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which attitude would you rather have?

Which attitude would you rather be around?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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


Fodder bales on Galen Martin's farm

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

Mollie in prayer

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


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Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)

“Turning The World Right-side Up”

 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eartha globe at the DeLorme Map Company

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

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Turning The World Right-side Up”


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Change My Heart O God”  Video

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne


Donate
Please help us continue this free encouragement ministry

Sign up here for the free daily email encouragement.

Ministry Update  (Revised 10/21/11)