Devotional

“The Importance Of Patterns”

Espenshade farm sceneIt was nice to get our first snowfall of the new year this last weekend.
This is a view of Espenshade farm which we see at the end of our road as we turn onto Donegal Springs Road.

“The Importance Of Patterns”
 
Message summary: God is pleased and honored when we follow the patterns He sets for His people.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

 
“Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:9). “Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43).

Sewing patternEarly in our marriage Brooksyne sewed her own clothing, as her mother had done for her and her siblings. For Brooksyne sewing her own clothing became a means of creativity as well as thriftiness. For the last twenty or so years we have bought most of our clothing from the numerous thrift stores that dot our area since most of them raise support for a cause we are happy to contribute to.

 
When sewing a dress or other article of clothing Brooksyne started with a “pattern”, tissue paper outlines of the various components of the article of clothing she was working on. As long as she followed the pattern she was able to make clothing that looked and fit very nicely, sometimes making a few customized adjustments.
 
This week let us consider the concept of “pattern” in the Bible.
 
TabernacleIn Exodus we read the very detailed pattern for making the Tabernacle which takes up several chapters for what most of us find rather tedious reading material! Later in Exodus there is essentially a repeat of this pattern and how the Israelites had followed through in full obedience. Few would count these chapters among their favorites but we have them for the historic record.

Today’s first verse contains the very first use of the word “pattern” as translated in most standard versions such as the KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV and many others. So let us examine this verse as well as a verse later in Exodus demonstrating the Israelite’s strict obedience in following the pattern.

The Lord instructed Moses, “Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them.” This was a traveling sanctuary for use during their journey to the Promised Land, which ended up lasting forty years, which for most was the remainder of their lives!

“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” The instructions are in meticulous detail. These instructions, including the clothing worn by the priests, are covered in Exodus, chapters 25-28.

Later in Exodus we read concerning the completion of the Tabernacle project, “Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them.” There are a lot of records regarding disobedience and partial obedience in the Bible but here we have an account of full obedience; they had done it “just as the Lord had commanded”. This led to a blessing from Moses.

This fundamental teaching reminds us that God is pleased and honored when we follow the patterns He sets for His people.

In a broad sense the Bible provides a pattern on how life works and how we are to live our lives in obedience to God. Each individual will determine whether to follow this pattern or not. Later in the week we’ll learn that a foundational responsibility of Christian ministry is teaching and practicing this pattern or we will face inevitable consequences to breaking God’s pattern.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, because the Israelites dwelt in tents in their wilderness wanderings, You instructed that a tabernacle be constructed that would travel with them, where Your presence would abide. Surely the instructions You provided Moses did not always make sense nor would they have fully understood the purpose of all the particulars, yet the Israelites followed the instructions, thereby honoring You and blessing Moses as their leader. They responded to Moses’ instructions by giving, doing, and following in total the directions You laid out. Help us to practice obedience even when we can’t see the end results, for that is what You ask of us; to trust You, yield to You, and fully obey You. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.





Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)”  Video  Matt Redman This was a song our church’s choir sang yesterday during the worship service while those who had died over the past year were remembered as their photographs were presented in a power point presentation. Although we knew few that were on the screen it was a warm and honoring remembrance of those who had greatly influenced our lives over the years. Looking out at the congregation from the choir Brooksyne saw many wiping away tears including her own. Tomorrow we expect to place up our choir’s version of this song. (They don’t post the video until after the Monday evening service.)
Dottie on pillow
Personal Note: In last Thursday’s message we mentioned our 17½ year old cat Dottie who at that time seemed to be doing reasonably well for her age. On Friday afternoon Stephen noticed she couldn’t walk and was very weak overall. We set her up in a comfortable place and gave her some milk which she tried to drink. Ester stayed with her through Friday night and early on Saturday morning at 12:27 am she died in Ester’s arms. Apart from being very weak Dottie did not seem to be in pain or distress.
 
She was the only female from a litter of four kittens that a barn cat delivered in the dilapidated summer kitchen in our rented farmhouse three months after our arrival in Lancaster County in 2001. For a year we rented the hundred year old farm house before buying the house where we now live. Four weeks after the barn cat gave birth she disappeared and we became the sole caregivers of the litter. We found homes for the other three kittens but kept Dottie. Ester, at age 12, loved to bottle feed Dottie. She also dressed her, pushed her in a doll stroller, and often treated her like a doll which would cause most cats to hiss, scratch, and run away. But Dottie soaked it all up and became a very endearing pet. We already miss her presence.
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Devotional

“The ‘Why’ Of Work”

 
Phil Huber, General Manager at Audrey's 1/8/19

Phil Huber
 
“The ‘Why’ Of Work”
 
Message summary: In regard to our vocational work the why is a good question to ask and more importantly to know the answer to. How are you, in your work, being an asset to the planet?

Listen to our message on your audio player.

 
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:22-24).
 
Today we finish the first full work week of the new year. In the course of our chaplaincy we visit people in many different workplace settings, from manufacturing companies to service locations to warehouses. We like our job not only because we like people but we (especially Stephen) likes to get out and see how things are made and how they work.
 
Of course we also see many people in office settings that tend to look pretty similar from one company to the next. This week I was visiting with Phil Huber, the General Manager of Audrey’s, a company that is a wholesale distributor of gift and home decor items.
 
Phil is a fellow believer, a devoted Christian worker, so of course we share a common faith in Christ. For many years he had a top management position with Sight and Sound Theaters so he’s had an interesting business background. He led the team that established the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson, Missouri. Branson is where Brooksyne and I spent several days on our honeymoon and it’s near Springfield where we met in college.
 
Romans 12:12 artworkAs I looked in Phil’s office I saw a photo of his family on the right screen as he did his business work on the left screen. (Photo above.) I told him the left screen shows what he is doing but the right screen show why he is doing it.
 
Knowing the “why” is an important part of leading a fulfilling life including the very large portion of our life spent at work. Many people really don’t know why they do what they do or they rarely stop long enough to give it much thought. For many years I have considered it a part of my mission to remind people of the why.
 
In regard to our vocational work the why is a good question to ask and more importantly to know the answer to. How are you, in your work, being an asset to the planet? For most your work is only a relatively small cog in the whole but it is a very important one. Most companies won’t keep you employed if it isn’t!

I pointed out to Phil that providing for his family was an important why of what he was doing but I told him other photos could be on that screen such as a group photo of the employees in his company who, due to his capable management role, benefit with a steady job or a photo of customers who directly and down the line are blessed by the wholesome items his company sells. The photo of the plaque to the left is from Audrey’s and is an example of their inspirational plaques. It now hangs on our living room wall, regularly reminding us of a spiritual truth.
 
But the “why” for a Christ-follower has an additional dimension. We may fail to see an application to today’s text due to the initial addressee; “Slaves”. Although Paul is addressing the social structure in his own time and certainly we are no longer slaves in the sense they were, the principle remains the same. We need to remember whatever we do, whomever we serve that ultimately, “It is the Lord Christ we are serving.”
 
 
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, though we are not slaves, sometimes working hour after hour, day after day, and year after year can feel a bit like slavery. When we’re not our own boss and must submit to another’s authority at times we’re challenged with keeping a Christlike attitude. We’re reminded in Scripture that we should seek to please our authorities not just when they are watching us, but even when they aren’t. We don’t do our work to seek favor with the boss but we do it because You want us to work like we are working for You. Our greatest and lasting reward will be given to us by You when we receive our heavenly inheritance. We are grateful to You. Amen.

 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Start With Why – TED Talk Short Edited”  Video  Simon Sinek  (5 minutes) After I challenged Phil about the “why” of his work he shared this video, which essentially confirms my counsel, though it comes from a secular perspective.
Devotional

“Disruptive Diotrephes”

JOY acronym in Lebanon County store

We saw this greeting in the entrance of a grocery store in rural Lebanon County.
Many retail establishments in our area unashamedly bear a witness for the Lord!
“Disruptive Diotrephes”

Message summary: Do not imitate what is evil but what is good!

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good” (3 John 1:9-11).

We’ve had our cat Dottie for nearly 18 years now. We picked her out of the litter born to a barn cat when we first moved to Lancaster County in 2001. In her old age she’s slowing down but still appears reasonably healthy and begins purring loudly whenever she is picked up. Saturday she had her rabies vaccine shot at Tractor Supply, the only time she ever makes a trip out, which seems to be enough for her liking.

DottieOne of Dottie’s peculiar characteristics is she likes to find creative new places to lie down. For instance if I tear down a box and place it on the barn floor she has to check it out. I suppose she’s assessing whether it might be just a little bit more comfortable than all the other familiar places where she lies down. About 99% of her current schedule is spent lying down and resting. This is up considerably from the 90% she had used for lying down and resting when she was in her prime younger years.

Once Brooksyne came into our home office and there was Dottie, lying right across the computer keyboard. Perhaps the keys had a therapeutic, comforting affect on her back as she was sleeping. (Actually I imagine if I were able to lie down on a 6½ foot keyboard it might be rather comfortable in a strange sort of way!)

Afterwards we noticed problems with the computer. The screen was dark and the wireless would not work. Initially I made no association with the problem and Dottie’s lying on the keyboard so I spent several hours troubleshooting the problem to my great frustration. Finally I discovered that the problem was related to Dottie’s brief siesta on the keyboard. She had apparently hit several key combinations disrupting the computer!

Now Dottie is just a cat and I’m sure she wasn’t trying to be disruptive but that’s not always the case with humans, who really should know better. Some people are characterized by their disruptive behavior and/or attitudes!

Diotrephes is one of those interesting Bible characters who reminds us that the early church had problem people just like churches in our own day and throughout the generations. But he was a real corker! His character is summed up in the phrase “who loves to be first”. Apparently he never learned the childhood concept expressed in the simple acronym “JOY” (Jesus, others & you, what a wonderful way to spell joy.)

In the passage the beloved Apostle John goes on to say, “So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good” (v. 10). I use a descriptive adjective for this Bible character, “Disruptive Diotrephes”. Looking back, I have dealt with some troubled people through the years and a few real troublemakers as well, but really, no one like this Diotrephes!

I sure don’t want to be like a disruptive Diotrephes! I’d rather follow the example of dedicated Demetrius, whom we mentioned in yesterday’s message, another lesser-known Bible character whose story is told in 3 John as well. “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true” (v.12).

Are you like a disruptive Diotrephes or a dedicated Demetrius?
Be encouraged today,Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

 

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I desire to honor You as I develop and maintain healthy relationships with others in the body of Christ. Help me to resist the temptation to always be first as I put to death my selfish nature. I want to apply Your love and grace toward others, especially in matters where I lack understanding or where I may express myself differently than those who have authority over me. Remind me to be quick to pray and slow to criticize so that I do not disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit in my life or in the life of the church. Amen.

 



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Choose Joy”  Video  Calvary Church worship band (includes conclusion of the sermon which introduces this rather unusual song).
Devotional

“Well Spoken Of By Everyone”

Farm Show butter sculptureThis week here in Pennsylvania we have our annual Farm Show which is like our State Fair but held in the winter inside! A highlight each year is the butter sculpture.
 
“Well Spoken Of By Everyone”
 
Message summary: Today we issue three challenges.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

 
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘Please come at once!’ Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” (Acts 9:36-39).
 
“Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true” (3 John 1:12).
 
On Monday afternoon a 65 year old man died of a heart attack after collapsing at his jobsite in one of the companies we serve as chaplains. Tom was a thirty-five year employee and a key part of the company’s tech support team, an expert in providing advice to car wash owners at Kleen-Rite.
 
Yesterday we walked through the company to provide comfort and support to the employees, many of them deeply grieving over his sudden death. Tom was clearly a well-loved man and we heard many stories of how he went overboard to extend kindness to fellow workers. If someone needed gas, their car was broken down or a tire replaced Tom was there. If an employee was fearful of driving in inclement weather he picked them up. A fellow employee’s mom died who lived several states away and Tom handed him a wad of cash and insisted on not being paid back. One young lady told us she and some friends were out on a motorcycle ride when her bike broke down. She tried to call her dad but couldn’t reach him, so she called Tom. He drove over to where she had broken down, loaded the bike on his truck and told her to continue having a good time with her friends. Every year Tom presented every female employee a red carnation on Valentine’s Day. We heard moving stories like this over and over.
 
Today we use two lesser considered Bible texts that are examples of people who lived their lives in such a way that they made a difference in other people’s lives. We can learn from their example as part of the Holy Scriptures according to 2 Timothy 3:16,17.
 
Dorcas was a disciple in the early church who lived in Joppa along the Mediterranean Sea (near modern day Tel Aviv). She died and Peter was summoned. Dorcas’ grieving friends, “stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them”.  I wonder how patient Peter was as each of the women showed him the well tailored robes and clothing made by Dorcas, since most men are typically not all that interested in tapestry or clothing designs! However what her friends did, because of their love and respect for Dorcas, was similar to our experience yesterday as fellow employees gave tangible examples of how they remembered Tom’s personal expressions of kindness and generosity toward them.
 
Demetrius is an obscure Bible character whose brief but very informative reference is found in 3 John: “Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true”. What a great blessing the words, “well spoken of by everyone”.  Some people can be described in this way.
 
We will end today’s message with three challenges:
 
1) Consider people in your life like Tom, Dorcas or Demetrius. Let them know now how they have enriched your life.
 
2) What will people say about you when your time of departure comes? Especially consider those words, “Well spoken of by everyone”.
 
3) Everyone’s time of departure will come. Have you made things right with the Lord?
 
 
Be encouraged today,
 
 
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, according to Scripture it’s “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to Your mercy that we are saved.” Your mercy is especially made known to us when Jesus left heaven to be born of a virgin, when He walked among us in human flesh, and when He died for our sins. As we surrender our lives to You our works of righteousness and goodness will be a testimony of the transformation that has taken place in our lives. May we, like Dorcas and Demetrius, leave a legacy of kindness so that we are well spoken of by everyone, not for our self-glory but for the glory of God. Amen.

 
Brooksyne’s Note:  As I read the Scripture in our message today about the women showing Peter their robes; how lovingly and carefully Dorcas had sewn them it made me think of our walk through at Kleen-Rite yesterday. We entered an office area where there are several female workers who are customer service reps. As our conversation centered around Tom each of them pulled out a tool that Tom had given them to keep in their drawer after he voluntarily repaired a necessary item or piece of furniture that was not working properly. One pulled out a flash light, another pulled out a pair of pliers and yet another brought out a multi-head screwdriver; these tools made the women feel that Tom really cared about their needs. They were to save it for any future repair where they might need his assistance. I am sure now it will also be a reminder of Tom.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“I Can’t Erase The Message”  Video  Tim Livingston  This is a very thought-provoking song.
Devotional

“The Blessing Of Politeness”

Sam Wagner Covered Bridge, Montour County, PAThe Sam Wagner Covered Bridge over the Chillesquaque Creek on the Northumberland/Montour County line in north-central PA.
 
“The Blessing Of Politeness”
 
Message summary:  Some of you can sense persistent knocking of the Polite Gentleman but have not responded. We earnestly urge you do so today.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

Many have noticed the growing incivility in our age, especially as it pertains to politics. Incivility is defined as rude or unsociable speech or behavior, an impolite or offensive comment. This is not a one-sided issue and there’s enough incivility on every side to go around. But incivility can also be seen at many levels. Last week an angry driver sped up and tried to side swipe me when I attempted to move into the left lane to make a left turn that was coming up. As he passed us I didn’t look over at him but Brooksyne said he was waving his arms angrily at me though there was no reason for his anger, much less his dramatic incivility.

 
Dr. Dinse 1/6/18For about ten years we’ve gone to a very kind dentist who has a most pleasant disposition. Yesterday Ester and I had our exams and cleanings. The culture of kindness in his office is extended through his office staff, dental assistants, and hygienists.
 
One way Dr. Dinse demonstrates his kindness is his politeness not only to his patients but also his staff. Many years ago Brooksyne worked for a short time with a doctor who, due to his vacillating temperament, was often not polite or kind, either to his patients or staff (That’s why she only worked for him a short time!)
 
For instance when Dr. Dinse is working on your teeth he repeatedly asks if you are comfortable and constantly thanks his assistant whenever she hands him an instrument. He must say “thank you” hundreds of times a day. Perhaps he’s trying to make up for so much incivility out there or perhaps his mother really did a great job teaching him good manners!
 
Jesus KnockingHave you ever considered how polite Jesus is? He has been described as the Perfect Gentleman. The daily text describes His work among the human race in the lives of millions and millions of people to this day.

The Apostle John received this remarkable revelation from the ascended Lord, “I stand at the door and knock“.  The Greek tenses can be rendered, “I am persistently standing at the door and am persistently knocking.” An older, expanded translation (Wuest) which states, “I have taken my stand at the door and am politely knocking“.

And Jesus is doing just that in a spiritual sense. I recall an early effort at personal evangelism when I quoted this verse and a man earnestly felt his chest and said, “I don’t feel anything”.

 
But here’s our favorite story on this:

Child with stethoscopeA children’s nurse had an interesting approach in calming children. Before listening to the little ones’ chests, she would plug the stethoscope into their ears and let them listen to their own hearts. Their eyes would light up with awe, though she never got a response equal to a little four-year old’s comment. Gently she tucked the stethoscope into his ears and placed the disk over his heart.

“Listen”, she said quietly, “What do you suppose that is?” The little boy drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled line and looked up as if lost in the mystery of the strange tap – tap – tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin with big eyes as he curiously asked, “Is that Jesus knocking?” Apparently the little boy had heard a lesson on today’s text or more likely had sung the little children’s song based on the verse.


Some of you can sense the persistent presence of the Polite Gentleman but have not responded. We earnestly urge you to respond today to the Polite Gentleman by hearing His voice and opening the door of your life. Following this message is a brief prayer that expresses faith in Christ and has been repeated by millions in opening their lives to the Lord. Most of you have heard His voice and have opened the door of your heart and surrendered your life to Him. You are experiencing the wonderful fellowship with the One who promised, “I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” And that is life’s greatest blessing, not just for the here and now, but for all eternity!

 
 
Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Here’s a common prayer that expresses faith in God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. If you have not done so already, I urge you to pray this prayer from your heart today.

“Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me and my sin. I place my faith in You and what You have done for me. I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow You and serve You all the days of my life. Thank You for hearing my prayer. I will look to the Bible and find out what Your purpose is for my life. Amen.”

 

 
Another knocking memory: Years ago Brooksyne led a choir comprised of over thirty singers from several churches in a Christmas Musical titled “Hope Has Hands”. What a blessing to see the cooperative labors of multi-generations sing their praises to God (there were singers from ages 14 to 84 – singers represented from each decade of life).

The choir concluded with a beautiful number titled “Come”, which is a stirring invitation to come to Christ. They were completing the song by singing the compelling words, “Come” three times, each time getting softer, when suddenly there came a loud, rhythmic knocking from the back of the church. It was one of those experiences where everyone hears it, but out of respect for the setting, people try to stay focused and ignore the obvious which is what the choir and congregation did momentarily. But the knocking persisted and filled the entire sanctuary.

Brooksyne told me later, “After it persisted I began to wonder if it was God knocking as my thoughts were drawn to the time when the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall in the royal palace. As the mysterious knocking persisted my knees were just about to start knocking together just like the king who saw the handwriting on the wall in Daniel.”

Well, finally the mystery was solved when a perceptive observer discovered that it was a child who had a toy hammer and was knocking on the Plexiglas that separated the nursery window from the sanctuary. The curtains were drawn so we couldn’t see the child who was hammering. It sure served as an interesting beginning to my devotional calling to mind our daily text, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”.

 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Come”  Video  Phil Cross
Devotional

“The Agony Of Almost”

Amish traffic on Paradise Lane 1/6/19

Traveling home from the Old Windmill Farm yesterday afternoon there was a lot of Amish traffic on Paradise Lane. Most were young people going to their youth group!
(Click on photo for larger view.)
 
“The Agony Of Almost”
 
Message summary: Today let us consider the “agony of almost”.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

 
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian'” (Acts 26:28). “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
 
Once again I begin this message with a football illustration, which I realize will not connect with everyone, but please give it a try! If not scroll down to, “Exposition begins here:”
 
This last weekend there were four NFL playoff games and three of them were very close. In any game loss whether it’s close or not there is disappointment for the losing team and its fans. But some losses are agonizingly close. Last night’s final minutes of the game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles was very suspenseful. Living in this area most are Eagles fans but the coach of the Bears, Matt Nagy, is from a neighboring town (Manheim) so there is some division in the fan base even in our area.
 
The game came down to what should have been the game winning field goal for the Bears from a distance where almost all field goals are successful. The kicker, Cody Parkey (who used to play for the Eagles), lined up for the kick and, a second before kicking the ball successfully through the uprights which would have won the game, the Eagles coach called a timeout in a desperate effort to “ice” (frazzle) the kicker.
 
After the brief time-out once again there was another attempt at the game-winning field goal. (Pause: I was very conflicted at this point. Although I favored the Eagles I really hate to see a game won by a missed field goal.)
 
The kicked football hit the goalpost upright and then bounced down and hit the crossbar before bouncing out for an agonizingly close miss. The Eagles won the game. Elated joy for one side and unbelievable agony for the other! The Bears had almost won the football game.
 
I felt for the kicker who was experiencing, along with the rest of the Bears team and fans, the “agony of almost“. However a brief glimpse of him joining a group of other players on the field for a post-game prayer was an inspiring moment.
 
Exposition begins here:
 
Today let us consider an infinitely more important “agony of almost“.
 
Anyone who has witnessed for Christ, whether one on one, or in a group setting has dealt with rejection or a lack of receptiveness to their message and appeal to renounce sin and follow Christ.
 
Paul experienced this when he was testifying before King Agrippa and the Spirit led him to pour his heart out and challenge Agrippa to become a Christian. Agrippa responded, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian”. This is how the scene ends and we are left to wonder if Agrippa ever chose the way of Christ.
 
Some 1900 years later songwriter Philip P. Bliss was assisting an evangelist named Rev. Brundage. During the sermon, the evangelist quoted Acts 26:28 and declared: “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.” This prompted P.P. Bliss to write a hymn titled “Almost Persuaded”.

Agrippa properly recognized that Paul was seeking to persuade him to be a Christian. That’s significant. It wasn’t a sneaky, back door approach that Paul used. Agrippa knew just what Paul was doing, but in the end, the decision to follow Christ was Agrippa’s to make. We can only prayerfully present the truth and live the Christian life, but we cannot force people into a decision for Christ.

 
In today’s two texts we have a contrast between the peril of “almost persuaded” and the blessing of “fully persuaded”. Where do you stand?  Join us in this declaration: “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, there are scores and scores of people who hear the gospel message, wrestle with the changes it would bring in their life should they follow You, and then delay or ultimately deny You access. But it isn’t until we fully surrender ourselves to You that we can experience Your love, peace, forgiveness and eternal life which are the greatest blessings that come to those who walk by faith and not by sight. We thank You for courageous believers who share the gospel message as they seek to persuade unbelievers to come to faith. May we be among them is my prayer. Amen.

 

 
Kitchen window view 1/6/19After church yesterday we had dinner with the Lapp family at the Old Windmill Farm. They have renovated their old farmhouse and now have this panoramic view outside their kitchen window.
 
Swing in Amish barn 1/6/19
After our meal Eli took me out to the hay loft in the barn to show me the swing that he and his brother Moses rigged up which was hanging from the rafters. When I was young I sure enjoyed playing in my Uncle Gentry’s barn out in the country near Harwood, MO. However I should disclose that I didn’t swing out across the barn yesterday!
 
Eli on swing in Amish barn 1/6/19
However, Eli had quite a swing ride jumping off the hay bales!
 
Feeding pigs in Amish barn 1/6/19
Jesse was given 4 pallets of wheat pasta suitable for animal feed which he is using as feed supplement. Here the baby pigs are crunching some dry spaghetti.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Almost Persuaded”  Video  Cedar Springs Amish-Mennonite Youth

The story behind the hymn “Almost Persuaded”  Video

“I Know Whom I Have Believed”  Video  Antrim Mennonite Choir
 
Cody Parkey Misses Game-Winning Field Goal | 2018 NFC Wild Card Game Video (For those who missed the suspenseful moment!) Watch the bear mascot fall over as he watched the missed field goal!
 
“Icing The Kicker”  Video  This Pepsi commercial has been running for several months and if I recall correctly ran during the game yesterday. Note the winning coach’s facial expression at the end!
Devotional

“Living Our Lives Responsibly”

Cracker Barrel fireplace 1/3/19Yesterday we ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel and we sure enjoyed warming ourselves by the big fireplace with the occasional crackle from the searing logs!

“Living Our Lives Responsibly”
 
Message summary: May God help us this New Year to live our lives responsibly, for people are watching our lives! I am reminded of that when I think of the old saying, “More is caught than is taught.”

Listen to our message on your audio player.

“For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” (2 Thessalonians 3:11,12).

Yesterday I visited with Ken, a man who has demonstrated an overcoming attitude in living his life responsibly, in spite of a very hard start. He gives permission to share his story.

Ken Rinier

Ken Rinier

When he was only sixteen Ken came home to find the house he lived in emptied out except for his own bedroom. His Mom had left and this caused his dad such distress he began drinking heavily and living carelessly. Within two months they were evicted from their home. Ken set out on his own and lived in his car for two months until he could find a place to live. He worked full time (2nd shift) while he finished high school and now, 40 years later, he still works at the same company. No longer a teen just trying to survive he is now the plant manager!

Ken did not follow his father’s example, but by the grace of God, and with the positive influence of others who reached out to him, he grew into a responsible adult, who later became a loving husband and devoted father. Several people who had a formative impact on his life include a barber who allowed him to live in his first apartment before he could pay the rent as well as the company owner who believed in him, saw his potential, and gave him the opportunity to succeed.

Now Ken himself has not only a management position but also a mentoring role with others who can respect him for where he has been and what he has overcome in life.

Steve Green has a song that I recall having an impact on my life some 30 years ago titled “The Mission”. It has this verse,

There’s a call going out across the land in every nation
A call to those who swear allegiance to the cross of Christ
A call to true humility, to live our life responsibly
To deepen our devotion to the cross at any price


Responsibility is a character trait often under-rated in our modern world. I
n my observation, increasingly, irresponsibility is becoming a far more common character trait among employees in the workplace than in past decades. We see it in our companies when supervisors and human resource directors look for responsible new employees. Many times a new hire doesn’t last for more than a few days or repeatedly shows up late for work or doesn’t show up at all. Believers should be known for their dependable behavior and faithful work ethic.

  • Steadfastness is faithfulness expressed over the long haul.
  • Loyalty is faithfulness expressed in our enduring relationships.
  • Responsibility is faithfulness expressed in the daily management of life.

All three are means in which we honor God as we follow His biblical instruction in these areas. All three characteristics are demonstrated by God Himself and are a composite of His attribute of faithfulness. Aren’t you thankful that God is responsible!

We practice responsibility in a number of different ways: when we nurture our relationships; when we handle our finances with care and integrity; when we properly care for our belongings and those of others; when we respect other people’s property which may include their marriage partner, when we practice healthful living as stewards of the body that God has given us; when we are faithful in our work duties and many other ways.

I believe each of these character traits are important ways we glorify God. Through my years in ministry I’ve met quite a number of people who appear to have it altogether in personality or on the surface, but have made a fiasco of their finances or ignored repeated warnings about other important matters in their lives. God doesn’t just want us to show up on Sunday mornings carrying a Bible in our hands; He wants us to live out and apply Biblical truths at home, in the workplace, the public setting, and in our places of worship.

As we conclude the first work week of another new year let me urge you to examine your life as a follower of Christ. Are you living in responsible obedience to God on a day by day basis?

May God help each of us this New Year to live our lives responsibly, for people are watching our lives! I am reminded of that when I think of the old saying, “More is caught than is taught.”

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we pray that You will empower us to live responsible lives so that we can be living examples of what it means to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Help us to cast down temptations that weaken us by immersing ourselves in Scripture that speaks to that sinful behavior, by making ourselves accountable to a mature believer who can help, and by spending much time in communion with You loving You far more than the sin that besets us.  We want to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness so that we will be kingdom servants pursuing righteous living and providing positive examples for those whom we might influence. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.


Troy shedding paper 1/3/19Yankee Ingenuity we saw yesterday.
Troy is a hardworking carpenter who suffered a serious injury several months ago and is on light duty at his job as he recovers. He was tasked by his company to shred a lot of paper files. He decided the supplied shredder bucket was far too small and he was tired of emptying it so he devised this method! He also brought the shredder up to a comfortable height, much less wearying on the back!


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“The Mission”  Video  Steve Green
 
“All My Hope”  Video  Gold City  We heard this song for the first time (at least that we recall) yesterday and were so blessed! Consider this verse:
There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord then
Then He picked me up and showed me what it means to be a man
“All My Hope”  Video  David Crowder, The New Respects  Same song, different style
 
“I Got Saved”  Video  Selah  May the Lord refresh in each of us the joy of our salvation!
“I Got Saved”  Video  Corey Voss  This is a live version with young people. When we watched this we could recall when we were young and had this vibrancy for the Lord. As we have aged we certainly no longer look youthful but hope we are never lacking in zeal and keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord! (see Romans 12:11)