Lancaster County farm scene 4/12/18 (Click to enlarge)
Lancaster County farm with the Sight and Sound Theater in the background.
Click to enlarge

“The Way That Leads To Death

Message summary: A deadly infection is wreaking havoc on our society as God, His Word, and His standards are maligned and rejected. Mankind raises a defiant fist to God declaring, “I’ll do it my way”. But God will not be mocked and mankind reaps what it sows, including many who choose to do things their own way though Scripture teaches otherwise. (Galatians 6:7-9).

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“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Late Thursday afternoon I stopped by the Old Windmill Farm to pick up our friend Jesse since we were joining with a group to attend a banquet together. He shared about a big fire on a neighboring farm that happened the day before where he was one of the first on the scene. 60 head of cattle, rescued from the fire, are temporarily fenced on Jesse’s property. We drove over to take a look at the sad aftermath and looked on as workers were busily cleaning up after the fire. When Jesse spotted the farmer we approached him and spoke for a few minutes. He still appeared to be in shock.

Lancaster County barn fire ruins 4/12/18

Jesse told me why they had transported the cows over to his place during the fire. The cows kept trying to get into the barn even though it was burning down! Apparently this is not unusual for animals in distress. They were so accustomed to going in the barn that they were determined, due to their fear, though the heat and flames should have driven them in the opposite direction. (After all, farm animals don’t do fire drills.) It took quite an effort by about 15 individuals to keep pushing them back until they could be loaded on a truck to transport them to Jesse’s farm.

Well, as he shared the details about his moving experience, I knew there must be some spiritual lesson here! We discussed it as we drove over to the Shady Maple. At the banquet I told my friend Mark about it and he suggested the daily text. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”.  Bingo!

Getting back in the barn, a very familiar place, would be normal for the cows. It seemed the right thing to do, but it most certainly would have led to their deaths. They were surely annoyed at the humans working hard to keep them out.

An interesting aspect of our daily verse is that it’s repeated twice verbatim in the book of Proverbs (14:12 and 16:25). It seems that the Holy Spirit wants to make doubly sure that we absolutely get this one! It’s a clear and straightforward saying with an enduring truth. Indeed there are many ways that seem right to man. Our world is full of these other “ways.”

A deadly infection is wreaking havoc on our society as God, His Word, and His standards are maligned and rejected.  Mankind raises a defiant fist to God declaring, “I’ll do it my way”. But God will not be mocked and mankind reaps what it sows, including many who choose to do things their own way though Scripture teaches otherwise. (Galatians 6:7-9).

The Benson Commentary states concerning our daily text, “There are some evil actions or courses which men may think to be lawful and good, either through gross ignorance, or self-flattery, or through want of necessary diligence in examining them by the rule of God’s word.”

The spirit of lawlessness is growing rapidly in our time. Here in America we are dealing with issues practically unimaginable a generation ago (or for that matter, even twenty years ago!) These issues signal a return to the turbulent biblical period of the Judges when the people became their own authority and acted on their own opinions of right and wrong. The writer portrays the spiritual climate with these words: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It is also descriptive of our own time period today.

“But in the end it leads to death.”

We pray that God will give you clear discernment to understand the times and a firm resolve to remain faithful to God and His ways. In a remarkable prophetic statement in Daniel 12:10 we read, “The wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we know there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. That’s why we cannot choose a man based law, one that suits our wishes, or one that stands in contrast to the Bible. We cannot make choices based solely on familiarity or our upbringing, for it may lead us to a spiritual death where we will ultimately spend eternity apart from You and all the untold blessings You have awaiting us in heaven. So we come to You in faith, through Christ, the fountain of life. Amen.

Brooksyne’s Note: As I edited the message today I thought about the helpful volunteers who were vigorously shooing the cows away from the flames. They were trying to save them from death but appeared as a threat to them instead. It made me think of biblical street preachers who are trying to point people in the right direction and those of us who attempt to show unbelievers the way to eternal life. When we tell them of Christ and the salvation He provides it usually goes against their normal way of thinking about how to get right with God. They consider us a threat to their own paths, familiar paths, or that which they learned from their upbringing. But we must remain true to the Word, even if it goes against the grain of conventional thinking, and let them know, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:12, 27).

Lancaster County barn fire scene 4/12/18
The barn fire was on the Verdant View Bed & Breakfast farm which also gives tours. This is a distant scene across the Strasburg railroad tracks taken yesterday afternoon. The Old Windmill Farm is behind us in this photo. Interestingly, Jesse’s Old Windmill Farm also gives tours but is distinctive in that it is Amish. The Verdant View Farm are “English” farm owners.

Verdant View farm before fire
Here’s a photo of the farm before the fire from their website. You can see how large the barn was that burned down Wednesday afternoon.

Lancaster County barn damage to siding 4/12/18
The fire melted the siding on the farmhouse and damaged the roof on a shed.

Semi recumbent bike at Martin Bike Shop 4/12/18
Yesterday morning, after several chaplain visits, Stephen checked out a semi-recumbent bike in Martindale, PA. Very, very comfortable!

Demonstration at Martin Bike Shop 4/12/18
While at the shop they were giving a tour to school children. This is a demonstration by the owner and his sons.
(These three photos will enlarge if clicked on)

Demonstration at Martin Bike Shop 4/12/18
Look like fun?

Demonstration at Martin Bike Shop 4/12/18
Yes, he is really riding this tiny bike!!! He’s sure in a lot better shape than most of us! Not only has he owned a bike shop for many, many years he must surely bike alot to keep his body this flexible.

Friends at ABR banquet 4/12/18
Last night we attended a banquet for a ministry we really value called “Associates For Biblical Research” that takes a strong stand for the absolute reliability of the Scriptures. In the photo is my older brother (left), a retired pastor from the Lehigh Valley, longtime friend Mark, a hospice chaplain, and new friend Marco, a church planter (right).

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Every Saint”  Video  Guy Penrod This song has a great message

News article about the barn fire from our local paper (Note: I am not sure how long this article will be posted)

Google map view of farm

Verdant View Farm website (At the time we posted this message their site has not been updated to report the fire.

Martin’s Bike Shop

Finally Today:

Old Windmill Farm billy goat kid 4/12/18
The newest member of the Old Windmill Farm is “Billy Boy”, a 3 month old billy goat!
Observant readers will also enjoy seeing the power-driven wagon.

Harper's Ferry West Virginia, Photo by Richard Spiegel
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
Photo by Richard Spiegel
(Click on photo to enlarge)

“It Will Be Worth It All”

Message summary: My emphasis on two words of encouragement is issued to each reader today. Stay faithful! Stay faithful! Stay faithful!

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

Richard SpiegelRichard Spiegel is a friend we see weekly in the course of our chaplaincy work. He is a project manager at White Oak Display. We both share a common interest in trains and railroads but more importantly we have a common faith in Jesus Christ.

He snapped our lead photo today on Maryland Heights, a bluff overlooking Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Maryland Heights is the highest mountain overlooking Harpers Ferry. Its southern face is a 300-foot vertical cliff that towers over the small hamlet of Harpers Ferry, the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It’s located here on Google maps.

Richard told me it is a rather demanding two mile hike to reach the point of the bluff. When his son was around 12 he wanted to take him there for the first time. Richard had been there and knew the special view that waited at the end over the bluff. But it was his son’s first time and he did a bit of grumbling as they hiked along. But then, upon reaching the picturesque destination, his son’s response to the view assured his dad the strenuous hike had been worth it after all!

Remember, Richard had already made the hike and, while trudging along he knew it was going to be worth the effort, once they reached the scenic overlook. But his son had never seen it and wondered why his dad was putting him through this unpleasant experience. Sometimes it’s that way for us as children of our heavenly Father.

When the choices are hard
When we’re battered and scarred
When we’ve spent our resources
When we’ve given our all

Our daily text describes our journey through this life as a race, which of course is similar to a hike. This hike includes hard times with unexpected bumps, potholes, and unwelcome terrain as part of God’s mysterious but providential plan. Along this hike we will have seasons of pain, disappointments and unanswered questions may daunt us. We may wonder; is it really worth it?

On a personal level some bear more burdens, not of their own making, than others; whether it be a physical affliction, difficult spouse, special needs child, absentee parent or child, or numerous other ways. Many live in places where expressing faith in Christ and living it out comes at a great price.

Some have worked in a prison ministry only to see that promising young man return to his old, destructive way of life. Others have taught Sunday School and grieve as you see the bad choices some of your students have made as they’ve gotten older. Parents know the pain of seeing a child take the wrong path and are waiting for their return. Many of my pastor peers know what I mean when we describe some aspects of ministry as one step forward and two steps back!

My emphasis on two words of encouragement is issued to each reader today. Stay faithful! Stay faithful! Stay faithful! As the old song says, “We’ll understand it all by and by.”  Another assures the believer, “It will be worth it all.”  Or as a more contemporary song powerfully declares, “It’s gonna be worth it.”

In Jesus’ name, we press on
In Jesus’ name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we’re so thankful for the living Bible that reveals the lives of many patriarchs, prophets, priests, disciples, kings, and common ordinary folks like us. We read their stories; their temptations, their triumphs, their tragedies, their testimonies and their overcomings. One of the great lessons we learn from the canonized Scripture is that all of human creation goes through peaks and valleys, triumphs and tragedies, unexpected losses and surprise victories. Through it all Your Word spurs us on to become faithful servants of God in the midst of it all and to stay faithful all the days of our lives. We may not see the reward on this side, but it awaits us in glory where we store our treasures of eternal worth that will never disappoint or bring defeat. As conquerors through Christ who loves us You made a way for us to enter eternity where we will delight in the forever hereafter. Keep us patiently faithful until that appointed time, in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Press On”  Video  Selah

“It Will Be Worth It All”  Video  Tommy Walker

Lebanon County traffic 4/10/18
As the weather gets warmer there are more and more open carts such as this one we saw in Lebanon County yesterday morning.

“The Blessing Of Working Together”

 Message summary: The Body of Christ truly works as the church “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. Let us do our part today in advancing the cause of Christ in the various ways we serve and realize this is best done in a generous spirit of cooperation. We encourage you today to faithfully serve in the manner God has led you; in your local church, your neighborhood, your community, your family and in other areas of service for the Lord. Let us seek to demonstrate the power of cooperation. ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16).

JK Mechanical work day 4/10/18Yesterday we visited the employees of JK Mechanical, a local company which provides various home and commercial service such as HVAC, solar, electrical and plumbing. Each year they close normal operations and all join together in serving the community in an community service day. Yesterday the nearly 100 member work force worked together in serving Black Rock Retreat, a Lancaster County Christian camp. Some used their trade skills in various projects but many did manual work such as spreading mulch, planting and splitting firewood.

It was a blessing to observe the employees working together and amazing to see how much can be accomplished in the course of a single day. Peter Fiorello, the camp director, had the opportunity to thank the company for their service and explain the many ways the camp is impacting lives.

Working together is essential for life to work. Our body parts cooperate with one another to accomplish their roles in making us a healthy being. A failure to cooperate presents a sign of illness or worse.

Cooperation neededTradesmen cooperate together in building our homes and this is essential for the whole to work properly. The other day I was visiting with Casey, the plumbing manager at JK, and he showed me the meme to the right which humorously illustrates the consequences of not working together!

A common representation of the Church is the image of the Body. Today’s text draws a powerful analogy from the human body and speaks of how, “From Him [Christ] the whole body [Church], joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

The following illustration took place in a children’s Sunday School class and speaks volumes regarding our need to be on the look-out for those who have a need and the importance of working together:

Davey, a new boy showed up just as the class started. Because he had just one arm, the teacher was a bit nervous, concerned that one of the other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. But since there was no opportunity to caution them, she proceeded.

She began to relax as Davey fit in very well. Then, when it was about time for the class to end, she asked the students to stand and join her in making the church. Showing them how to put the fingers of their two hands together, she said, “Let’s make a church. Here’s the church and here’s the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.”

As she saw Davey holding his one hand in the air, the awful truth of her actions struck her. The very thing she had feared the children would do, embarrass Davey, she had just done. She stood speechless, embarrassed by her own unintended insensitivity.

But before she could do anything, Sarah, the little girl next to Davey, put her right hand into his left hand and said, “Davey, let’s make the church together.”

What a tremendous illustration of the Body of Christ at work in cooperation!

Today we merely focus on the final phrase in our second daily text, “as each part does its work”.

The Body of Christ truly works as the church “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. Let us do our part today in advancing the cause of Christ in the various ways we serve and realize this is best done in a generous spirit of cooperation. We encourage you today to faithfully serve in whatever manner God has led you; in your local church, your neighborhood, your community, your family and in other areas of service for the Lord. Let us experience the blessing of working together and demonstrate the power of cooperation.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we pray for a spirit of cooperation and eagerness to contribute to the needs of the whole body, so that Your Church is built not just with sweat, bricks, and mortar but with love, care, and teamwork. Therefore we seek to work together in cooperation, unity and purpose as we do our part in building each other up in the various natural giftings and learned skills You have given us as we strive for unity in the faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God. We also want to be on the look-out for opportunities to reach out to those who are not of the household of faith. Through our loving and generous endeavors toward their needs we have more opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with them, helping them not just here and now but reaching them for all eternity. Amen.

JK managers, plumbing and electric
At JK Mechanical Casey, the plumbing manager, and Mike, the electrical manager, get along and work together well!JK workday wood splitters at Black Rock Retreat 4/10/18
These crews were splitting logs for fireplaces and campfires.

JK workday group at Black Rock Retreat 4/10/18
After lunch some of the group took a tour of Black Rock Retreat.

Brick Gables near Lititz PA 4/10/18
Our first stop early yesterday morning was in Lebanon County before our long drive down to southern Lancaster County to the Black Rock Retreat to visit the JK Mechanical work team. We stopped by to get a cup of coffee at this beautifully restored barn near Lititz PA. Barns like this have become very popular banquet and wedding venues.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“The Servant Song”  Video  Maranatha Singers

“Make me Your Servant”  Video  Maranatha Singers

Black Rock Retreat

JK Mechanical

Finally Today:

Animal stare down
We got home late yesterday afternoon and since we normally keep our nearly 17 year old cat Dottie in the barn I let her out for some fresh air. She still likes to mosey around. Later I looked out our office window and saw she was in a long stare down with this squirrel she thought she had cornered up on a brace. But after a while the squirrel, of course, managed to escape!

Rock Point Road farm 4/8/18
The trees are budding on this tree along the lane back to a farm on Rock Point Road, near Maytown, PA

“Once Far Off But Now Brought Near!”

Message summary: For when our hearts were far away, Your love went further still!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39). “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Map of earth Geographically being far off or nearby tends to be relative. When we first moved to Lancaster County in 2001 we attended a country church consisting mostly of congregants who lived in the immediate area. I asked a young man, “Are you from around here?” He replied, “Oh no, I’m from Manheim”.

Now Manheim is a small town only about eight miles from the church but from his geographical perspective “around here” was limited to the neighborhood around the church. From his outlook he lived “far off” in Manheim. We had moved down several weeks earlier from New England and to us “around here” was anywhere in south-central Pennsylvania, which certainly would include a town only eight miles away!

We were both raised in the Midwest, me in Missouri and Brooksyne in Oklahoma so this is now far off to us, over 1,000 miles. But our Zimbabwean friends live on the other side of the world and from their perspective, Missouri or Oklahoma is really not all that far off! Their travel time to Zimbabwe takes over 24 hours via air.

Acts 2:39 But in one way or another we have all been “far off”! And some reading this may still be.

Today let us consider the phrase “far off” from Acts 2:39. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39).

In the first daily verse Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost and winding up his message with his “altar call”. He has just preached to a large crowd who had asked “What does this mean?”

Surely there was a lot of confusion and false assumptions but he boldly asserted the promise of the Gospel of Christ and the extent of who the promise was for.

The promise is:

1) “For you and your children”; Now some of those children were probably there much like the two sons of Simon of Cyrene who were with Christ when He carried the cross. But other children were not, including those who were not yet born. In this phrase Peter may also have been using children in the sense of descendants. But this phrase alone would limit the scope of recipients. After all only a small part of the world’s population was listening to Peter on the day of Pentecost and very few of us would be their physical descendants.

2) “For all who are far off”; What did Peter mean by this?

A) “Far off” in the sense of geographically. Before He ascended Jesus gave His disciples the “Great Commission” to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Just ten days before Peter preached this message he had heard Jesus say at His Ascension “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Even during the events recorded in the New Testament we see this being fulfilled but in our day His gospel continues to go forth and virtually every “far off” place has been impacted.

B) “Far off” in the sense of far off generations; looking ahead to the impact of the promise on the generations to come, including our own. It’s really hard to imagine more than several generations beyond our own let alone 2,000 years which for us of course would be 4,000 AD!

C) “Far off” in the sense of being far from God. We can be far off from God due to many factors. Some have never heard His message, others have heard but rejected and then sadly some have received for a season but rebelled against it. Regardless of how anyone may be “far off” they can be recipients of the promise.

3) For “as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself”; He continues to call out to the fallen human race with a message of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. Have you responded to His call?

Ephesians 2:13 Later Paul also used the phrase “far off” in his letter to the Ephesians. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). In this context “far off” refers to those who were far off from God. The preceding verses state, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11,12).

All who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ can state, “But now in Christ Jesus I who was formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

You, oh Lord, have made a way
The great divide You heal
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes, your love goes further still

You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we are humbled and grateful that You don’t let people who are “far off” prevent You from drawing us to Yourself, making us Your children. You call those from distant lands, even those under oppressive government doing everything possible to prevent their people from hearing the message of the cross. You call those in far off generations who lived in early civilization, all the generations between and right down to our own. You will call the generations that follow us, should You tarry. And You deal with the hearts of those who are far off from having a right relationship with You, either because they have not heard, they heard but rejected the message of salvation, or they once walked with You but have wandered away from the faith. Surely Your arm is not too short to save, nor Your ear too dull to hear those who respond to Your calling. In Christ Jesus we who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ and we will be forever grateful. Amen.

See Isaiah 59:1
See Ephesians 2:13

My very personable Mom always wanted to know where people are from. If you said you were from New York City, with a twinkle in her eye, she would ask about someone else she knew who lived in New York City expecting that you might very well know them. Being from Missouri, New York was one of those far off places!

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“You Alone Can Rescue”  Video  Matt Redman

“Great Are You Lord”  Video  Casting Crowns

Quilt at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
Hosta Queen
Award winning quilt at the Pennsylvania Relief Sale

“The Beginning Of Life”

Message summary: Be assured that the immutable God of the universe knows where you live and where you stand. Today, let us make a renewed commitment, like Antipas and the church in Pergamum, to remain true to His name and be His faithful witness!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to My name. You did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives” (Revelation 2:13).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer At fourteen years of age Dietrich Bonhoeffer told his family, “I want to be a minister”. They were quite disturbed at his announcement and his brother responded, “What a waste of time the boring church would be.”

Fulfilling his desires, Bonhoeffer became a brilliant theology student, prophet, pastor and accomplished pianist. He was ordained for ministry just as the Nazis were coming to power. His public stand against Hitler branded him an enemy of the state and his license to teach was revoked. Serving Christ and His church was far from boring for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

He wrote in his classic and best-known book, The Cost Of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Seventy three years ago today on April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was condemned to die as a traitor, without trial. He was stripped naked and hung with wire. But his devotion to God has not ceased to influence others as his writings then and even now challenge readers to answer God’s call and serve Him wholeheartedly, without fear of man.

At any given time scores of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted for their faith. Most of the time these persecutions take place under the radar but periodically the awful plight of Christians being persecuted for their faith makes the news.

Yet persecution has been a part of the church’s experience from the very beginning. In fact Jesus forthrightly told His disciples they would be persecuted (John 15:20) and later the apostle Paul wrote, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

But today let us consider Antipas who, apart from the reference in Revelation, is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.

Book of Revelation The book of Revelation is certainly one of the hardest books to understand which has led to a variety of interpretations by earnest followers. The first several chapters are letters from Christ to churches.

In the daily Scripture text Christ is speaking to the church in Pergamum, an otherwise unknown church in Asia Minor, and one of the seven recipients of the letters to the churches. It was a wealthy city and its name meant citadel.

Jesus said to this church, “I know where you live.” Aren’t you glad today that Christ knows where you live! He knows all about your special circumstances and difficulties. Pergamum had a remarkable distinctive and we are uncertain precisely as to what Christ meant – “where Satan lives.” Suffice it to say this must have been an evil and hard place to hold onto the faith! Christ commends this church for remaining true to His name and not renouncing their faith in Him.

Antipas, who had the descriptive character of being Christ’s “faithful witness” was martyred late in the lifetime of the Apostle John, although little else is factually known about him from respected historical sources. However, by tradition he was reputed to be the bishop of the Christian church at Pergamum and martyred because of his consistent faithful witnessing in the face of all the satanic evil present there.

One source states, When Antipas was advised, “Antipas, the whole world is against you!”, he replied, “Then I am against the whole world!” Antipas was supposedly roasted alive in a hollow life-size bull, which had a bonfire under its belly, because he refused to renounce his faith in Christ Jesus. His faithful witness and martyrdom due to his unshakable faith in Christ Jesus are what earned Antipas mention in the pages of Holy Scripture.

The verse ends with this phrase, “where Satan lives” which suggests that there are specific locations of evil and satanic influence that are harder to serve than others. God bless our faithful brothers and sisters who live for God in difficult outposts like this and missionaries who follow God’s call to serve in extremely oppressive areas. Christ commended this church for remaining true to His name. They did not renounce their faith even during the most difficult of circumstances.

What about you? Be assured that the immutable God of the universe knows where you live and where you stand. Today, let us make a renewed commitment, like Antipas and the church in Pergamum, to remain true to His name and be His faithful witness! When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was being taken from his cell for execution Payne Best, fellow prisoner and British spy, heard him say, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life”. What a great perspective from a faithful servant.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, like the seven churches in Revelation, we too have strengths and weaknesses, in which we receive Your commendation and need Your correction. We want to be so yielded to Christ that we live for Him and are willing to die for Him.  We pray for our brothers and sisters who are currently facing all kinds of torment, suffering, and loss as they stand firm in the faith.  We pray that the Good News of Christ is reaching even more due to the persecuted church just as it has throughout the centuries.  Those who work the hardest to dispense with the Gospel are now exposed to it through the bold witness of those being imprisoned and persecuted.   Bibles, freedom, and personal rights may be withheld, but no ungodly official is able to quench Your Spirit that is very much alive in the hearts of those being persecuted for their faith.  The Word of God concealed in their hearts gives them power from on high to thwart the enemy’s plot to wipe out any trace of Christ’s presence in their lives. Encourage our brothers and sisters as they endure for the sake of Christ and the gospel message. Prompt us by Your Holy Spirit to be faithful in prayer for them, that they will be released from their oppressors, and that their oppressors will come to faith.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Bonhoeffer’s Execution:  The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung gave the following account:

On the morning of that day between five and six o’clock the prisoners were taken from their cells and the verdicts of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in the rooms of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God. (“Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxes)

Pennsylvania Relief Sale

On Friday evening we drove into Harrisburg to the Farm Show arena to attend the annual Pennsylvania Relief Sale that raises funds for missions and relief work around the world.

Youth choir at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18 (Click to enlarge)
(Click on image for larger view)
A highlight was this concert with the Weavertown Conference Youth Choir singing beautiful acapella music. Although the video link is not a recording of these youth singing, it’s a sample of how their music sounds. Video
Here’s an online comment about this song: “With the way my country is changing, forsaking God for paganism, I’ve never felt more in agreement with this song than right now.” We say “Amen!”

Food prep at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
Lots of food was available wherever you looked. We split a delicious cheese steak made by this busy group while listening to the men, with a spatula in each hand, using the steady clink-clink-clink rhythms to chop up the meat. As the meat sizzled away, they gradually slid it away from the highest heat to prevent overcooking the tender meat.

Food prep at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
We also shared a big piece of strawberry pie. These girls are cutting up fresh strawberries. What a joy to see so many young people working together and having a good time while doing so.

With friends at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
It was nice to see some friends including this visit Brooksyne had with our neighbor Jane and her daughter Janae. They were excited about the variety of plants available, including the cyclamens in Brooksyne’s hands, which are now brightening our kitchen.

PA state capitol at night 4/6/18
On our way home Friday evening we drove through downtown Harrisburg past the Pennsylvania State Capitol, a stunning sight at night.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“John The Revelator”  Video  Acapella

“Praise To The Lord, The Almighty”  Video  Travis Cottrell

“He Leadeth Me”  Video  Acapella  “His faithful follower I would be”

“My Jesus I Love Thee”  Video  Selah

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;

Article about Antipas

Finally Today:

Calvary Church Children's Choir 4/8/18
Yesterday we were led in worship by Calvary Church’s 200 voice children’s choir.
“Mighty To Save”  Video

“Am I A Mutt?”

April 6, 2018

Texas blue bonnet Photo by Ester
Ester took this photo of a bluebonnet while in Texas.
The bluebonnet was adopted as the state flower in 1901. The flower’s
popular name derives from its resemblance to a sunbonnet.

“Am I A Mutt?”

 Message summary: Paul asked the Corinthians to “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” We have a feeling that this describes most people reading this!

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26). “To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).

Mollie and Roxie, Valentine's Day 2018, Photo by Ester We often mention our two dogs.  Roxie will be 14 this fall (on the right in a Valentine photo Ester staged – you can see how happy they were about it). She has slowed down quite a bit since she’s in her 90’s (using the traditional formula of one human year being seven dog years).  Mollie, our border collie mix, is now seven but shows no signs of slowing down. She happens to be very smart and athletic, at least she often out-smarts us.

Our dogs did not come from a pet shop, have no pedigree and are certainly not registered. Roxie had a very rough start in life, having been rescued from an abusive setting, but has been a wonderful pet. Mollie came from the shelter (AKA dog pound) having been dropped off with a litter of unwanted puppies. However she has no esteem problems at all.

Today I recall an experience we had when we lived in New England about twenty years ago. We walked by a fenced yard, day after day, on the way to Ester’s school and passed a litter of mangy-looking pups kept in a squalid backyard. One of the pups always ran up to the fence and gave us the puppy look that steals even the hardest of hearts so we couldn’t resist.

We named her Penny. People often asked what kind of puppy she was. We’d respond, “She’s just a mutt” since we really didn’t know.

One afternoon I took a walk with Ester who was leading Penny on a leash. She was about eight at the time when she suddenly stopped, looked up at me and asked inquisitively: “Daddy, am I a mutt?”

This got me to thinking and please read my thought all the way through! You know, in a sense she is a mutt. She was born in Guatemala and immediately taken to an orphanage. Her birth mother was unable to care for her and we have no history of the birth father.  She came to us at three months of age dying of congenital heart disease and spent the next three months in a major medical center all the while isolated from other patients because she had scabies and salmonella in her blood. She’s had many heart surgeries and many heart catheterizations, three pacemakers and actually more overcomings than could be listed in this writing.

A mutt is defined as a dog that is a mix of usually undetermined breeds. Interestingly, in the human world, it can also mean an “insignificant person”. Well that’s as other humans may tend to evaluate but with God there is no insignificant person. But “mutt” can also be used to describe a person who may not know their background or have a rather ordinary background, certainly not noble, elite or as they use in Boston, “blue blood”.

Paul asked the Corinthians to “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” We have a feeling that this describes most people reading this!

Let me be somewhat blunt and ask you, “Are you a mutt?” Don’t be insulted! Think of where you’ve come from, spiritually speaking, and your acceptance into God’s family. Sure, many come from “good” families and that is such a blessing. But undoubtedly many others, like Ester, came into this world under very difficult circumstances and so many others come from homes far from ideal.

Consider this single phrase in our second daily Scripture, “He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

What a glorious truth! We’ve been accepted in the Beloved and we are a part of His family. Whether we were born into the most proper of families by this world’s standards, we were still born into sin, thus we were born with the sin nature – everyone of us. Only through Christ’s redemption are we accepted into God’s family and admitted entry into heaven. This glorious transition cannot be earned, purchased or inherited, for it is made possible entirely by His marvelous grace!

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but PRAISE GOD! I belong!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, how marvelous is Your indescribable grace that You should love a sinner such as I. Though I deserve death You grant eternal life through the death of Your beloved Son, Jesus. I am accepted into Your family, into the sainthood of all believers, through my redemption in Christ. So, too, I want to accept those who have turned to you in faith and obedience, who might be different, who break into my carefully etched out comfort zone. In doing so I learn how to be more loving and tolerant of others different than myself in a way that pleases and honors You. I come as a mix of Your love, mercy, and grace as I extend myself to others around me.  Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Family Of God”  Video  The Hoppers & Collingsworth Family

Finally Today:

Shannon at Kleen-Rite 4/6/18This morning we made several chaplain visits. In one of our visits we were telling the story about Ester asking if she was a mutt to Shannon, a young graphic designer and dog lover. She told us she was also adopted and has no background info about her ethnicity So she told us she always told people that she was a mutt! She also told us how much a blessing her adoptive parents have been. What a blessing to be secure in your identity!

“What I Believe”

April 5, 2018

Tree on a foggy morning 4/4/18 Photo by Shawn Sauerwine
Shawn, a friend from Val-Co sent us this photo of a solo tree on a foggy morning.

“What I Believe”

Message summary: Peter’s goal was to clearly proclaim the gospel in his first sermon recorded in Acts following the ascension of Jesus Christ back to heaven. Peter answers two questions and faithful proclaimers ever since do well to stick to the same essential truths Peter proclaimed on that day.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

“What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12). “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). “Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21).

Have you ever had someone share a memory that in turn prompts a consideration of your own similar memory? Of course you have! That happened to us Sunday in a sermon illustration our pastor used.

We both attended a small Midwest Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Sadly in 2013, after nearly 100 years of operation this college closed, going the way of so many Bible Colleges. It was a beautiful tree-filled campus on the north side of Springfield MO that had about 1,000 students when we attended. Like many smaller private Christian colleges it ran on a tight budget. We met the fall of our Freshman year and started dating soon after and have been together ever since, over 44 years now, and we aren’t tired of each other one bit.

Our memory prompted by our pastor on Sunday was a peculiar plumbing problem they had at our school. Individual dorm rooms did not have a bath but rather each hall shared a common bath with several toilets, sinks and showers. If you were showering and someone flushed the toilet the shower water would instantly get scalding hot.

Early on you learned right before flushing the toilet to holler “Shower” to warn the hapless showeree to move away from the shower stream. (A highly technical explanation for why this happened was because the toilet flush drew a surge of cold water from the system which of course affected the mix going to the shower.) Out of a firmly ingrained habit to this day we continue to holler “Shower” in our home whenever we flush the toilet (That part’s not true!)

Pastor Beau had a bit different experience, emphasizing he was a very young boy when he recalls this happening in his home. Like our college experience the water in the family shower got hot when another family member flushed the toilet. Well, his young mind thought the same thing must happen if he was taking a bath and the water wasn’t even running. If someone flushed the toilet he would quickly jump out of the bathtub, his young mind reasoning the water in the tub would instantly get hot. His older sister teased him by flushing when he was in the tub!

The point of the illustration is how we often make assumptions that seem reasonable but are altogether wrong. This can be the case with spiritual truths as well and many people had false assumptions following the resurrection.

Pastor preached from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in which Peter answered two questions the crowd had:
1) “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) This cleared up any wrong assumptions (13-36)
2) “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)  He answered this with a call to action (38-41)

Peter’s goal was to clearly proclaim the gospel in this first sermon recorded in Acts following the ascension of Jesus Christ back to heaven. Peter answers these two questions and faithful proclaimers ever since do well to stick to the same essential truths Peter proclaimed on that day.

The Matt Mayer song “Because he Lives (Amen)” begins with these words.

I believe in the Son
I believe in the risen One
I believe I overcome
By the power of His blood

Today let us examine the evidence set forth in Peter’s first sermon and clear up any wrong assumptions we may have as we sing the following words:

Amen, Amen
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when Peter spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem about being an eye witness to the resurrection of Christ; that He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did His body see decay and that You raised Him to life the people were cut to the heart. They felt the need to respond to this wondrous message and they did so. Those who accepted his message were saved, baptized and began meeting together to hear the apostles messages and fellowship with one another. Two thousand years later we too must respond to the truth claims of the gospel message. We do so by repenting of our sins, following Your teachings, obeying Your commands and fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters. Just as the people in Jerusalem spread the good news we too must share the good news so that all may know of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Old shed on a foggy morning 4/4/18 Photo by Shawn Sauerwine
Another photo our friend Shawn took yesterday morning of a deserted shed.Baby horse 4/3/18 (Photo by Ester)
Tuesday afternoon we stopped by and walked through our neighbor Lester’s dairy barn and Ester took this photo of their new foal born just last week.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Because He Lives (Amen)”  Video   Matt Maher

“Because He Lives (Amen)”  Video   West Coast Choir  Absolutely beautiful!

Here’s a video of Pastor Beau’s sermon where he uses the illustration mentioned in our message. We always ask “why?”… from curious toddlers discovering the fascinations of their small world to learned astronomers exploring the mysteries of outer space. In fact, the question “why” has two layers. We want to know the cause AND the significance, particularly for ourselves. Today, we may just discover those answers to the most important “why” question of all.

Personal note: Thank God for the beauty and spiritual enrichment of music, whether ancient or recently written. We have an appreciation for various types but especially important to us is the clarity of the message and the fidelity to Biblical truth. Some Christian music is quite popular within our circles but pales in comparison to popular worldly musicians. That is why in our view striving for popularity is such a vain pursuit. This point may be misunderstood by some but it occurred to me when I watched the NCAA basketball tournament this last weekend in San Antonio. They also had a huge concert, “March Madness Music Festival” at the same time near the arena where they played the basketball games. Between the Final Four games on Saturday they showed portions of this concert reminding me of how utterly I am out of it in regard to popular worldly music. I had never heard of “Imagine Dragons”, the group playing or the song which must be immensely popular now, “Whatever It Takes”.  This seems like it would be a good title for a call to commitment song! The song has nearly 257,000,000 views on YouTube. Although I could certainly admire the artist’s skill in singing the song so fast and clearly enunciating the words, to me it had no meaning at all. I thought I could maybe make some sense of it if I looked up the lyrics but that didn’t help either.

Finally Today:

Cameron Hawthorne, JK Mechanical service tech 4/4/18
Cameron Hawthorne, a service tech from JK Mechanical was over yesterday morning to give our heat pump a precision tune-up in preparation for the summer cooling season. Our system is seven years old but still running great and such a blessing over a multitude of window A/C units we were using. Cameron is a conscientious young man who has learned a trade that is a blessing to many.Yesterday I shared a photo of me mowing the yard early in the morning and wondered what readers might assume I was doing. So now for the rest of the story! We have two large oaks in our front lawn that drop many of their leaves in the spring as well as many acorns, covering our yard. We also have two dogs that use the great outdoors to relieve themselves, a color that tends to be similar to the brown rustic leaves and acorns. I clean their messes daily but, knowing Cameron was coming over and would be walking through the yard to get to the outdoor unit, I used my mower as a leaf collector, clearing him a path so he wouldn’t inadvertently step in anything I might have missed!

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