“Shining In A Dark Place”

Wayside Bible Chapel, Sedona AZ

Wayside Bible Chapel in Sedona AZ, a lamp shining in a dark place.
“Shining In A Dark Place”
Message summary: Wherever you live and whatever the conditions, rejoice today in this wonderful promise, “The gates of hell shall not prevail.” And then rejoice when you see the lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

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“Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

One day during our trip out west we drove from Flagstaff, Arizona, where we had spent the night, to Sedona. Several years ago I had driven through Sedona and wanted Brooksyne to see it. Sedona is a trendy tourist town surrounded by red bluffs with a very apparent new age type vibe. You can have “spiritual” experiences that I had never heard of!

My main interest for going down that way though was a train ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad which unfortunately had sold out. But we still enjoyed the beautiful trip down Oak Creek Canyon and a slow walk down the main street of the scenic tourist town. I parked in a free city parking lot and, as we walked down to the main street, we passed through a very pleasant church courtyard with a big bench and flowering planters.

A lady was tidying up the area so I engaged in a conversation with her. She was a Japanese American who has lived in the area about 30 years. I wondered how the church was there on what was surely very expensive property along the main road and she told me it had been there for many years before the town became a popular tourist stop. Around the church property were strategically placed literature displays with tracts and photocopies of the pastor’s sermons. In our conversation it became clear we shared the same faith and I commended her and the congregation for being like a lamp shining in a dark place. (Although I probably didn’t use that exact phrase in the conversation!)

I discerned through the pastor’s message and available literature that this was a Bible-faithful church. That was further verified when I examined the church website and saw the clear teaching on their Statement Of Faith.

We are thankful for churches like the Wayside Bible Chapel. They surely face much opposition in a spiritually dark place like Sedona. It seems the forces of darkness have always sought to snuff out the light.

Today’s first text will be familiar to many. It is our Lord’s Word to Peter following his great confession of faith when he proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus responded to this confession with a great promise: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  God’s truth marches on.  Nearly two thousand years have passed since He initially made the promise to Peter and the early disciples. And today the true church still makes this proclamation, which is at the heart of the Gospel. In fact it is the very foundation on which Christ built His church.

Many years later Peter wrote to the church, So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church, though at times it sure seems like they are prevailing. And that’s been the case all through the Church’s history. We are reminded in our very day of the forces of hell seeking to destroy the church. The hateful, venomous threats and violent actions of the enemies of Christ are quite evident.  Again today we especially consider our oppressed and persecuted brethren in many parts of the world, as well as those within our own country.  Please God, strengthen and remind them of Your promise: “The gates of hell will not prevail.”

Wherever you live and whatever the conditions, rejoice today in this wonderful promise, “The gates of hell shall not prevail.” And then rejoice when you see the lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Be encouraged today!

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:Father, today we pray for Your people all over the world; some who are enduring great persecution for the cause of Christ. Grant to them a mighty infusion of strength and assurance. Remind them of the prayers being offered on their behalf from Your people and from the One who is ever interceding. We pray Your blessings on those who serve in hard places and who may be discouraged as well as those going through tough times in their own personal life. Remind us all of Your promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Oak Creek Canyon/Sedona Arizona

Oak Creek Canyon road to Sedona, AZ 9/25/19
From Flagstaff to Sedona we drove a beautiful route through Oak Creek Canyon.

Wayside Bible Chapel courtyard Sedona, AZ 9/25/19
Wayside Bible Chapel courtyard which town guests pass through on the way from parking lots to the Main Street.

Sedona hummingbird 9/25/19
This was a very friendly hummingbird that didn’t mind Brooksyne getting up close, though it is hard to capture a good shot when the bird’s wings are all ‘aflutter.
Horse in Sedona, AZ 9/25/19
True to size horse statue in Sedona, AZ where many westerns were filmed over the years.

Red bluffs, Sedona, AZ 9/25/19
Sedona is surrounded by scenic red buffs

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Song For The Nations”Video  Jim Gilbert
“Higher Ground”Video  The Smucker Family
Wayside Bible Chapel, Sedona Arizona We appreciate churches that still place up a Statement Of Faith on their website. This one includes the present culturally unpopular but Biblically faithful position that “Holy Matrimony, marriage, as a sacred covenant instituted and ordained by God joining together one man as husband and one woman as wife, before God and men, and as a spiritual representation of the divine relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church.”
Some more photos of Sedona from a previous trip are in this message.
Finally Today: It was nice to travel and next week we will share more photos from our trip out west but on Thursday we were back out on the road in chaplaincy visits and enjoy seeing the variety of life here in Lancaster County.

Buggy 10/3/19This interesting buggy has benches in the back and a makeshift covering on a rainy day!
Horse team and wagon train 10/3/19
Horse team and wagon train

“What Can The Righteous Do?”

Hoover Dam from overlook 9/24/19

Hoover Dam from Overlook with the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in the background.
“What Can The Righteous Do?”

Message summary: Stay faithful today! As a regular sub theme of this ministry declares at the very bottom of each footnote we are indeed, “living securely today anchored in God’s solid foundation.”

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“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

During our trip out west we visited the Hoover Dam in southern Nevada/northern Arizona, one of the most massive civil engineering projects in America. Many years ago I read a book about building Hoover Dam and desired to see it up close. I had planned to take a tour but the lines were brutally long on a very hot day. (Several days later we toured Glen Canyon Dam which is similar.) I suppose if many of us were to think of a single notable dam in America it would be the Hoover Dam.

JackhammerThe summer after I finished high school before starting college I worked at a large pre-stressed/pre-fabricated concrete plant in Kansas. They made huge concrete components for bridges and parking lots. For a couple of weeks I had the most brutal job of my life; working a jackhammer.

Most of you know what a jackhammer is but I wonder how many of you have ever run one as a job? Even a ten minute stint should give you an idea of how hard the work is! I am thankful that after a couple of weeks I was assigned to the quality control team and comparatively speaking I stopped working!

They have a lot of security at the site and to take the dam tour requires passing through airport type security. I am sure they have means to detect guns and explosives (I sure hope so!). But I wonder what they would do if someone carried a jackhammer in. That’s something they probably wouldn’t typically be looking for!

Hoover dam I am sure if I went to the base of the Hoover Dam with a jackhammer and began chipping away I would quickly be arrested. However, due to the massive size of the dam my individual chipping would have little effect, but persistently chipping away at the foundation of that great dam over time would eventually have an impact leading to a catastrophic failure.

I look at the state of America (and this message certainly applies to the godly remnant living in other countries as well), and it is very evident that the foundations are rapidly being destroyed. Each day it seems that a chunk falls from the base of our foundation. I consider the loud distinct sound of a jackhammer as I observe current events. (Note: We are not referring to the spiritual foundation which cannot be destroyed but rather the foundation of our temporal society.)

“When the foundations are being destroyed” The incessant chipping away at the foundational teachings of Christian faith and Biblical morality should be obvious to all who have any degree of spiritual and moral discernment. Merely consider the lies, violence, and perversions that abound. Yet it seems that for many people all that matters is the economy and their own personal pleasures. The observations of the historian Edward Gibbons comes to mind, whose summary of conditions at the fall of the Roman Empire seem so similar to conditions today.

Here in America a vile but growing minority is diligently seeking to abolish any evidence of Christian faith from the public square. A group called “Freedom From Religion Foundation” is leading this effort (actually the group would better be named “Freedom from Christianity.”) These and many other groups are relentless in their attempts to destroy the foundations.

“What can the righteous do?” That is the throbbing question for believers of every generation. Most of you reading this daily message have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and live under His authority. We are part of the righteous remnant that God has sustained through all ages. This remnant can be seen early in Genesis, when shortly after the Fall, “men began to call on the Name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26) and all through the Bible, through church history and right up to the present.

What a great joy to be among those standing up for God in our own day! What can we do as we see the foundations being destroyed? If our primary stock and focus are in the foundation of this temporal life we will surely despair. Paul’s words come to mind, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

But, if like Abraham, “we are looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10) we will stand firm as the godly have done through all the ages.

Psalm 11 gives at least three contemplative answers to the question, “What can the righteous do?” 

  • We must recognize that the Lord alone is our Refuge (Psalm 11:1). 
  • We must realize that God is in His holy temple observing the sons of men (Psalm 11:4).
  • We must recall the glorious truth of His character “for the LORD is righteous, He loves justice; upright men will see His face” (Psalm 11:7).
We must remember that no person, law, legislation, or imposed ideology can remove what God has revealed to our hearts and concealed within our spirits.

Stay faithful today! As a regular sub theme of this ministry declares at the very bottom of each footnote we are indeed, “living securely today anchored in God’s solid foundation.”

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say, than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us to be ever watchful and always prayerful as we see the foundations of our Christian faith attacked. Through the power of Your Spirit we want to take a firm position against the enemy and be strong in our faith. We stand with our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world who are going through the same kind of struggles, or worse, and especially pray for those who are paying a great price for their uncompromising stand. You assure us that after we suffer for a little while, You will restore, support, strengthen and sustain us as we stand firm on Your foundation. Amen.

Hoover Dam from bridge 9/24/19
We began our visit with a walk over the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge 890 feet above the Colorado River.

Hoover Dam 9/24/19
We walked across the dam which, prior to the construction of the bridge only nine years ago, also carried a heavily traveled highway from Las Vegas to Phoenix.
High scaler at Hoover Dam 9/24/19
Next time you complain about your job try to imagine being a high scaler!

Train along Arizona route 66 9/24/19
Leaving Hoover dam we headed to Flagstaff Arizona along Arizona route 66 with lots of trains to watch that chug, chugged right alongside us on the nearby tracks.

Seligman Arizona route 66 9/24/19
Seligman Arizona claims to be the birthplace of interest in historic route 66.

Sign in Seligman Arizona route 66 9/24/19

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“The Solid Rock/Cornerstone” Video  Calvary Church Choir and Orchestra
Finally Today:

Rt 66 "selfie" 9/24/19

We had a lot of fun along Rt 66 and it was interesting how many Chinese people we ran into who were also interested in Rt 66! (Such as the one who took this photo)
Brooksyne grew up living practically next to Rt 66 in Tulsa, OK and it also ran through Springfield, MO where we met in college. However by that time it was just an old business route with Interstate 44 bypassing it.

“The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death”

Death Valley 9/23/19

Death Valley from Zabriskie Point
“The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death”

Personal Note: This morning just after 3:00 AM we returned home from our trip out west. We have a lot of catch-up as anyone knows after returning from a long trip and will resume our chaplaincy visitation tomorrow. Over the next several days we will share about our trip with photos, along with an encouragement message based on our observations.

Message summary: Psalm 23 is probably the most famous chapter in the Bible. Many of us have memorized it and we quote it often when ministering to those going through “the valley of the shadow of death” or when we ourselves are going through a dark valley.
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“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back, I know You are near
While out west we drove a lot in our rental car seeking to maximize the value of our unlimited mileage. Initially we wanted to make the circle route around the Grand Canyon to see the canyon as well as several famous national parks in southern Utah. But I thought it would be quite an experience to also go to Death Valley, the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. In fact it holds the record for the hottest place on earth with the highest ever recorded temperature of 134 degrees F.
Extreme heat sign, Death Valley 9/23/19It was only about 100 degrees when we were there, hot enough! We went to the Visitor’s Center then drove through the valley to the lowest point, a place called Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the western hemisphere, 282 feet below sea level. Tourists were taking turns snapping photos for each other, especially those of us who have not perfected the art of selfies. It’s the only time we’ve ever been more than a few feet below sea level.
“Death Valley was given its forbidding name by a group of pioneers lost here in the winter of 1849-1850. Even though, as far as we know, only one of the group died here, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave. They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts. As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said “Goodbye, Death Valley.” (from park website)
Psalm 23 is probably the most famous chapter in the Bible. Many of us have memorized it and we quote it often when ministering to those going through “the valley of the shadow of death” or when we ourselves are going through a dark valley.
David wrote this Psalm and surely knew the experience of walking through the valley of the shadow of death, as many of our readers do. For some it’s a long journey of unknown length. Hopefully we have all been able to say “Goodbye Death Valley” after God draws us aside in the midst of our valley experience and He restores our soul.
However we have on our hearts several who are in the rigorous and austere region of their valley experience, where direction signs are scarce and water is sparse. We were mindful and prayerful of their situation even as we traveled in this desert location. Some of our friends are traveling in the shadow of death. Sometimes that shadow is very dark and it’s hard to find the light.
But today let us consider how the verse concludes:
A resolve: “I will fear no evil.” In the midst of fear this mindset can be very difficult to lay hold of or to maintain. But David had a basis for it with a promise from God that we can also have.
The Promise: “For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” God’s abiding presence; His sustaining hand and His faithful guidance is abundantly taught in the Scriptures. And His comforting presence is not only there for the Psalmist, but He is present today for you and for me.
And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?
Be encouraged today,

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, *there’s one thing I count on; You’re the same God who never fails and You will not fail me now. In the waiting You’re the same God who’s never late but You’re working all things out. Yes, You’re working all things out so I choose to lift You high in the lowest valley. I will bless Your name and sing for joy even when my heart is heavy. I will choose not to focus on the dark valley or be distracted by its shadows. I choose to see through the valley, past the darkness, and look with confidence to the other side since the dark valley is a place to go through, not a place to reside. You will, by Your grace and goodness, bring me through the valley and restore my soul so that in the end I will stand in triumph on my foes and testify to Your goodness and faithfulness. Amen.

*The words at the beginning of our prayer today are adapted from the song link we present by Vertical Worship “Yes I Will”.

Badwater basin, Death Valley 9/23/19
Badwater Basin, Death Valley
The lowest point in the western hemisphere.
Golden Canyon trail, Death Valley 9/23/19
We hiked up the Golden Canyon trail, a slot canyon in Death Valley.
Coyote, Death Valley 9/23/19
This coyote was walking along the long road it seemed oblivious to our presence. intent on eating bugs on the highway. It takes resourcefulness to survive in Death Valley!
China Ranch Date grove 9/23/19
South of Death Valley we visited the China Ranch Date Grove
It was here that we drank our first Date Milkshake. It was good and sweet!

China Ranch Date truck 9/23/19
China Ranch Date truck

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“You Never Let Go”  Video  Matt Redman
“Yes I Will”  Video  Calvary Church worship team with strings. We devote this to our friends going through valleys. Includes introduction.

I, Brooksyne, was inspired by words in this song as I began to write our prayer today. Every time we sing this at church I am so moved by the message to stand firm and rejoice even in the midst of the trial we may be enduring, choosing to glorify God in it. This song will touch your heart and may help you to remember that God is glorified not only in the good things we enjoy in this life but also in the trials we endure. Romans 8:17 says that to prove that we are heirs of Christ, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.
Finally Today:

Red Rock Canyon 9/23/19

On the way back to our hotel from Death Valley we drove through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

“Endurance And Encouragement”

Amish home and clothesline 9/19/19 (Click to enlarge)

One of our most photographed clotheslines we post from Lancaster County
(Click to enlarge)
“Endurance And Encouragement”
Personal Note: Tomorrow we (Stephen and Brooksyne) are taking a trip to see several of the western scenic areas and national parks in Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. Ester is headed to San Antonio to stay with her aunt and visit her boyfriend, Jason, who lives next door to her aunt.
We plan to visit Death Valley, Hoover Dam, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. We’ll enjoy the scenery in the driving distances between them as well! We hope to take a train ride in Sedona, bike around the Grand Canyon (not all the way around it of course!) and a float trip through Glen Canyon.
We do not expect to post daily encouragement messages till October 2. In past travel we sought to keep up the daily messages but find it very difficult since we are accustomed to using two computers in our own home setup. Our whirlwind sightseeing adventure will require us getting out early each morning!

Message summary: Some of you reading this message are in a season of setbacks or face a discouraging situation. May this brief word of exposition of the daily text bring you endurance and encouragement!

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“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

One of the greatest joys in ministry is staying connected and observing the Lord’s continuing work in the lives of those we have associated, whether it’s in churches we have served, our chaplaincy role or in various other associations.  As a Bible teacher I am so gratified when I hear, “You really taught us the Bible.” Any pastor or Bible teacher reading this surely knows what I mean.

The apostle John stated, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). In this context John is not speaking of his biological children (although that is also true!), but his spiritual children, those he had taught, ministered to, and with whom he had broken bread.

We heard yesterday from Marvin, one of the children from Guatemala we had in our home 30 years ago for medical care when he was six years old.  For several years he has wanted to bring his family up from Guatemala to meet us and finally he was in the process of doing so but hit a snafu when his visa application was denied.

He’s very disappointed, as are we, but he sent us this email by using an online translator to translate his Spanish text:

“At times like this, we like to trust this biblical text. ‘Give thanks you in everything, because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  ‘The plans are of man; the final word is of the Lord’ (Proverbs 16:1). We are happy and trusting in God.”

Undoubtedly, like Marvin, some of you reading this message are in a season of setbacks or face a discouraging situation. May this brief word of exposition of the daily text bring you endurance and encouragement!

“Everything that was written in the past.” Paul here acknowledges the truth of what he later expounded on to Timothy when he wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). We can be assured that the divine Editor has provided in His Word all we need and we should diligently seek the Bible in its entirety for His teaching. If we faithfully study we find that even the harder passages, where the meaning and value are not as apparent, are rich with truth. This week Rick, a reader from North Carolina, called me. He and his wife Debbie have been bombarded with troubles. He shared how a rather obscure verse from Job had ministered to them during their devotions. Often life’s experiences will bring added meaning and understanding to these difficult passages over one’s lifetime.

“Was written to teach us.” The purpose of that which was written in Holy Scripture is that we might be taught. Significantly, Jesus’ followers are called disciples (Greek “mathetes” which primarily means a learner). The great commission was and is to make disciples. Are you learning today? Are you growing in Christ? Specifically can you remember the central truths your pastor shared in his last sermon? What about the Word you read this morning? The Word is always an effective teacher, but we have a responsibility as learners. Most learning takes place by constant exposure, experience and familiarity. (See the Bible knowledge test below.)

“So that through endurance.” This is a great and vitally necessary truth. A quality so lacking in our world, even among many Christ-followers is endurance. The Greek word that is used here (hupomone) conveys, “to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere, abide”. In our world of vacillation and instability we need maturing followers of Christ to demonstrate the character quality of endurance! By God’s grace let us demonstrate it today. Even and especially when the going is tough.

“And the encouragement of the Scriptures.” God’s Word applied to our lives develops this endurance and richly encourages us. Feed on it today, all day. Hide it in your heart. Memorize it. Sing it.

How sure the Scriptures are! God’s vital, urgent word,
as true as steel, and far more sharp than any sword:
So deep and fine, at his control they pierce where soul and spirit join.

“We might have hope.”
Do you need hope today? Sure you do. Some more acutely then others. Hear from this Scripture and be encouraged: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen and Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Jesus, I’m so thankful for the hope You give us that is far more than just wishful thinking. It is based upon the unshakable foundation of the inspired Word of God. It is through the enduring Word that we find encouragement and needed strength to stand firm during the times of testing and when others scoff or try to revise Your instruction for our lives. Our hope is in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth! Amen.

This test is intended to check your overall knowledge of the Bible, based upon your personal reading and exposure to Biblical teaching over time. This is not material you “cram” for, since it is a broad overview of Biblical knowledge and understanding.

Knowing the answers to many of these questions indicates your overall familiarity with the Bible. I would not expect a newer Christian who has only recently started reading and studying the Bible to know as many answers as a long-time student of Scripture.

This test will take awhile so take it when you are able to concentrate for an extended period of time.

I suggest you initially take it with your Bible closed and then do so with an open Bible by going back over it.

You may also print the test out and share it with others if you would like.

This test is completely anonymous and collects no personally identifying information.

Click here to get started with the test. If you’d like to leave the test at any time, just click “Exit this test”. Your answers will be saved.

Yesterday had the feel of Autumn in the air and we will share some photos we took which are quite different that the ones we expect to take next week out west.
Pops produce stand 9/19/19 (Click to enlarge)
Pops Produce Stand near Strasburg features this colorful display
(Click to enlarge)
Val-Co lunchtime basketball 9/19/19
These Val-Co employees, Isiah (correct spelling) and Logan, shooting hoops during their lunch break sure have a nice rural background.
One day old piglet at Old Windmill Farm 9/19/19
Yesterday I held this one day old piglet on the Old Windmill Farm.
Kitchen Kettle Village scarecrow 9/19/19
We stopped by the Kitchen Kettle Village where they had a piggy/scarecrow competition.
Kitchen Kettle Village scarecrow 9/19/19
We liked this “hogwash”!
Church sign 9/19/19
This church near Ephrata PA often places thoughtful messages on their church sign.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“By His Hand He Leadeth Me”   Message we shared several years ago about Marvin.
“The God Who Stays”  Video  Matthew West
Finally Today:

Trip to Paradise sign 9/19/19This sign is for the Strasburg Railroad which has a short tourist ride from Strasburg to Paradise PA.
A riddle: Tomorrow we are going to another place also called Paradise although it’s hardly that and is usually known by another name. However technically the airport is in an unincorporated area known as Paradise. See here.

“Our Ram In The Thicket”

Tractor and hay wagon 9/17/19 (Click to enlarge)On Tuesday afternoon we came up behind this FarmAll tractor and deluxe hay wagon near our home here in Lancaster County. Looks like some are in for a stylish hay ride!

(Click to enlarge)
“Our Ram In The Thicket”

Message summary: Today we will consider a practical and spiritual application to the ram in the thicket.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

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

Years ago I came across a concept of “a ram in the thicket” as an interesting expression of being used to meet the need of another person in an unexpected way, during an especially needy time. Have you experienced the blessing of another person being like a “ram in the thicket” to you? Have you ever been like a “ram in the thicket” to another person?

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

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

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

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

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

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

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

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

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

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


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Jehovah Jireh My Provider”  Video  Paul Wilbur  Remember singing this!
“Oh, What A Savior”  Video   Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
“Jesus What a Savior”  Video  Housefires

“The Blessing Of ‘Unlikely’ Friendships”

Wagon train at Frey's greenhouse, Lebanon County, PA 9/17/19 (Click to enlarge)

Early yesterday morning we passed this decorative “wagon train” at the Frey’s Greenhouse near Lebanon, PA.
(Click to enlarge)
“The Blessing Of ‘Unlikely’ Friendships”

Message summary: Today we urge you to value your friendships, particularly those with other members of the family of faith. Consider “unlikely friends” and the commonality you have within your relationship.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).

Mike is a long-time friend who has a birthday today. I don’t remember very many of my friend’s birthdays but this also happens to be the date we had the very first service at the church we planted in northern Pennsylvania as a very young couple right out of Bible College in 1977. I had met Mike the day before since he came with questions about the new church. He and his wife Kathy attended our first service and shortly thereafter became a vital part of that young congregation. We have been friends ever since, although we have both moved on from where we met.

Many friendships are likely such as the one with my first grade friend, Dave. We met after his family moved across the street from ours. We were best friends in grade school and Junior High together and we remain good friends some sixty years later. Likely, friends are our neighbors, people we work with, school mates or fellow church attendees.

Often we develop a friendship based upon people who’ve experienced life similar to the way we have. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
But today let us consider unlikely friendships. We thought of this the other day considering our friendship with Jesse and Anna Ruth Lapp, who are Amish and some 25 years younger than us. Although we have an age and cultural divide we became fast friends ever since we met them as newlyweds back in 2003 and this close friendship has turned into more of a family type relationship.
On Sunday afternoon, as we walked together in the neighborhood and ran into neighbors along the way, our visits that day included five family groups from different cultural and theological backgrounds, yet we all had the commonality of knowing that Jesus died for our sins and that we must be born again to enter into His kingdom.
When we lived in New England we saw an example of what would seem to be an unlikely friendship. An older white lady and a young black man walked together on our street each morning conversing with one another. There didn’t appear to be anything romantic about their relationship and when we greeted them they just seemed to be good friends. Perhaps they lived in the same apartment complex. With all the divisions in our world we are inspired by that kind of unlikely friendship!

A lot of friendships in the body of Christ are that way. People, who in the natural would have very little in common, but due to their mutual love for Christ have so much in common. Mostly we have in common that which matters most. Our mutual walk with the Lord supersedes (or at least it should) whatever may divide us.

Today we urge you to value your friendships, particularly those with other members of the family of faith. Consider your “unlikely friends” and the commonality you have within your relationship.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, this world would be quite bland and much would be lacking in our lives if we didn’t have good friends. Friends who spur us on, who love us when we need it most, who lend a hand even before we ask, who encourage us by their words and deeds, who believe in us when others doubt our worth. Friends are among the greatest blessings You give us to walk with on this journey of life and we thank you for them. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Friends Are Friends Forever”  Video  Michael W. Smith

“Just As He Had Done Before”

Sight and Sound background 9/12/19

An early morning scene in Lancaster County on Edisonville Road near Strasburg.
The huge Sight and Sound Theater is in the background.
(Click to enlarge)
“Just As He Had Done Before”
Message summary: May God help us all to cultivate a Biblically-based standards of behavior and a personal devotional life and maintain them whatever the cost may be.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before”  (Daniel 6:10).
Dave is a friend who runs a local business who is paying a price due to his adherence to His Bible based beliefs. Forces of darkness and ignorance  have targeted his business using the social media mob tactics. But he is remaining strong and unwavering.
All through history people of faith have paid a price for their stand in a hostile world. It of course continues in our own age in a variety of ways. Today let us consider an example from Daniel.
For most readers Daniel is best known as a prophet and for the Bible book that bears his name. However, he had a long, distinguished career in civil service serving with several administrations and worldly kingdoms.
He made a decision as a youth that he would remain true to his faith and standards. “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (Daniel 1:8). This was likely an expression of his obedience to the Jewish laws.
The daily text takes place late in his life. Some troublemakers were out to get him. But the standard tactics didn’t work since, “The administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (Daniel 6:4). What a testimony! Oh for politicians and government officials in our age to have the same record.
“Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God'” (Daniel 6:5). He was about to face a similar test as he did in his youth.
Essentially the troublemakers played up to the king to issue a decree regarding prayer, “That anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den” (Daniel 6:7).
In our daily text Daniel demonstrated his faith in God by praying. Notice the final phrase in the verse, “just as he had done before”. Other versions state, “as he had been doing previously” (Amplified), “as he did aforetime” (KJV), “just like he always did” (CEB).
Daniel was not doing it just to make a statement or to test the resolve of the king’s decree that forbid the act of prayer. This had been his ongoing practice. It was this act of obedience that led to Daniel’s being cast into the lion’s den. In fact the decree was merely intended by his enemies to be a trap.
May God help us all to cultivate a Biblically-based standards of behavior and a personal devotional life and maintain them whatever the cost may be.
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:Father, we are grateful that the story of Daniel is included in Scripture that we might learn from his sterling example. As Your devoted follower He formed the habit of praying to You three times a day in an environment where allegiance was not directed to the one true God but to others gods and to the king. He withstood the godless orders of the day and stayed true to You “as He had been doing previously”. May our faith and ourhabits of devotion to You not be deterred by man’s law but keep us trusting You even more when others trust You less. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.


Quarryville barn 9/12/19We pass this barn north of Quarryville, PA and especially noticed the very narrow structure in the front which appears to be for some kind of storage.
Fall wagon near New Holland, PA 9/12/19
Our area has many of these displays selling decorative fall items.
Fishers Greenhouse near Strasburg, PA 9/12/19
Fisher’s Greenhouse on N. Star Road near Strasburg changed their display to fall which includes many ornamental vegetables and of course mums.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Build My Life”  Video  Calvary Church Choir and congregation (This is the song we mentioned yesterday from the choir though it wasn’t posted at that time.)
“The Lord Is My Salvation”  Video  Keith & Kristyn Getty