“In Mansions of Glory”

Steinway piano in "The Breakers" mansion, Newport, RI

Steinway piano in “The Breakers” mansion in Newport, RI displayed in one of the seventy room Vanderbilt summer cottage.
“In Mansions of Glory”
Message summary: Remember this world is not our real home. Our Lord is coming back and we will one day be living in a place that will make Newport or any other supposed “paradise” on earth seem like a squatter’s village!

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“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
The Breakers, Newport, Rhode IslandNewport, Rhode Island is a rather quaint seaside city on Aquidneck Island where the super rich of the gilded age built their “summer cottages” in the late 1800’s. These cottages are actually huge opulent mansions built along the ocean with breathtaking views, where the rich came from all around the country and overseas to socialize during the summer for about six to eight weeks.

This last weekend we took a bus tour of Newport and visited “The Breakers”, perhaps the most famous of the Newport mansions. As we walked through we considered the contrast between the lifestyle of the super rich and the common man. But actually wealth is a continuum from abject poverty to the super rich lifestyle. Considering the conditions in which people live all around the world most of us have more in common with the super rich then the desperately poor.

Many years ago when we lived in Taunton, MA we toured the “Marble House” with a group of fellow ministers along with our wives. This “cottage” cost $11,000,000 in the late 1800’s to build. As we walked through the palatial interior several of us were humming an old gospel song titled, “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old”!

But those who wined and dined in this opulent residence are long gone. It’s very unlikely that they gave much attention to their souls, but of course only God knows. The tour guide told us that the owner of the Marble House built this mansion for his wife and gave it to her on her birthday. Two years later she was married to a mansion owner just up the street, so we know that riches really can’t buy or secure love. A fitting word for them and for all who ever live is the soul probing question of our Lord declaring, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his soul?”. Big mansion or little shanty, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Our daily verse has inspired, comforted, and encouraged believers for centuries and is the source of many Gospel songs (30 in the “Song Select” database alone). It’s actually the only time the word “mansion” is used in the KJV, translated from the Greek word “mone” which is often translated as “abide’, with its derivative being “abode”.

Modern versions usually translate the word as “rooms” or “dwelling places” and they have been unfairly criticized by some for this.  I suppose we get in our minds it will be like a large mansion on this earth and we don’t want that dispelled. Hey, after all, if we didn’t get a mansion on this side we like the assurance of thinking one awaits us in our eternal abode!

Well, as we pointed out, the Greek conveys the sense of “abide”. The dominant feature of heaven will not be the extravagance of our abode but the extravagance of abiding with Jesus in all His glory. We will be living in the very presence of “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father–to Him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 1:5,6).

Remember this world is not our real home. Our Lord is coming back and we will one day be living in a place that will make Newport or any other supposed “paradise” on this earth seem like a squatter’s village!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I can hardly wait to see what Jesus has been preparing for those who love Him, since His ascension into heaven nearly 2000 years ago. Knowing that the heavens and the earth were created in one day, we cannot begin to imagine all that is being planned for our eternal dwelling over the past 2000 years. Like the bridegroom preparing his house for the bride, we so look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb where we will worship Jesus in all His glory. He, who is the faithful witness; He, who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood; He, who loved us enough to taste of death that we deserved; He will be our center of worship where we will praise and glorify Him forever and ever. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“My Jesus, I Love Thee”  Video  Casting Crowns
“Mansion Over the Hilltop”  Video  Homecoming Singers
“I Can Only Imagine”  Video  MercyMe
“Blessings”  Video  Laura Story
“Redeemed”  Video  Big Daddy Weave
Ester in front of "The Breakers"Ester in front of “The Breakers”
The Breakers kitchen
The kitchen located downstairs to keep down the noise of the servants’ preparation of the food and to avoid a fire getting out from the ovens and setting ablaze “The Breakers” mansion. A dumbwaiter was used for sending food up to the family and guests and putting away beautiful china in tall cabinets. Lots of copper!

The Breakers great hall
The “Great Hall”

The Breakers great hall
Standing at the stairway in the Great Hall and two rather simple folks.
Carriage House Inn
We stayed at “The Carriage House Inn” which at one time was a very large home, later a nursing home, and now a rather cozy inn for guests!
Finally today:

Amish ingenuityThe Amish are well known for their resourcefulness and ingenuity (sharing that with the Yankees). Last week we shared some photos of our barn roof being replaced by our Amish friend Jesse and his son Moses. To get the new metal roof panels up to the upper roof Jesse devised this method; he used the vice grip to hold the metal roof panels and lifted them up with a rope!

“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Duty”

Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport, RI

Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport, RI
Castle Hill Lighthouse is located on Narragansett Bay in Newport, Rhode Island at the end of the historic Ocean Drive. It is an active navigation aid.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Duty”

Message summary: Let’s spread the life-saving message of salvation to all who will hear, here and now. Let us faithfully discharge our duties as Lighthouse Keepers.

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“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’’’ (Acts 2:40). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).

We visited Newport, RI over the weekend following our attendance at our friend Veda Shibilo’s funeral service on Friday. We both grew up in the middle of the country far from any ocean. In fact Brooksyne didn’t see the ocean till 1979 several years after we were married. But when we lived in New England in the nineties we were near the coast and frequently visited the ocean.

Goat Island Lighthouse, Newport, RIWe enjoy many features of the coast but our favorite shore sighting is the lighthouse. If there is a lighthouse anywhere near our travels we try to go see it. We have seen lighthouses up and down the east and west coasts. There are 21 lighthouses in Rhode Island and we saw several of them over the weekend.

We see them for their architectural and historical value. It’s also inspiring to see a structure with a foundation laid in or near the deep sea that has weathered many a storm and yet stands strong decade after decade. Lighthouses are popular tourist attractions, some even doubling as Bed & Breakfast spots throughout the country.

But lighthouses were not built for beauty but for a specific function; to give warning. Lighthouses are generally viewed from the land looking out to sea but functionally they are designed to be seen from the sea serving as a warning.

We read this on a plaque regarding the duty of the Lighthouse keeper at the Old Point Loma lighthouse in San Diego as: “Above all, and without fail, the light must be kept burning brightly from sunset to sunrise.” Likewise, for those who are Lighthouse keepers of the Gospel, our duty is to “live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8b) and to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11).

Most receiving these encouragement messages are followers of Christ, having accepted His forgiveness through the plan of salvation. However we should all value warnings. At the heart of Peter’s Pentecost message was, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'” (Acts 2:40). A powerful verse in the book of Hebrews states, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (2:3).

We urge you all to examine the state of your soul today. Are you saved from your sin and living to please the Lord?  If so, are You shining your light for Jesus as He has commanded, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify Your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:17)?

Today’s Scriptures are abundantly clear: we must warn the lost in this life and we must live exemplary lives as children of light. The salvation message must be shared with others now for it will be too late in the life hereafter since the kingdom of earth and the kingdom of heaven are eternally separate. Let’s spread the life-saving message of salvation to all who will hear, here and now. Let us faithfully discharge our duties as Lighthouse Keepers.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we who were once darkness, are now light in the Lord, through our salvation in Christ Jesus. We live as children of light partaking of the fruit of the light which consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. We seek to find out what pleases You, rather than ourselves. The vast majority take no thought for their future life but live only for the “here and now”. They gather treasures that have no eternal value, that are washed away like the sand when the waves wash upon the shore. To their eternal demise they dismiss the treasures that lasts for all eternity; those which never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for believers who will later claim their treasure trove. Help us, as children of light, to be faithful in exposing the darkness of this world and the dangers that lie therein, warning those who travel alongside us to prepare not just for this life, but for all of eternity. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“My Lighthouse”  Video  Rend Collective Ester and Brooksyne will be working at a Rend Collective concert here in York in April.

Ester flying kite, Newport, RI
On Sunday afternoon we went to the always windy Brenton Point State Park on Ocean  Drive to fly a kite. This is a very popular kite-flying point and hosts the annual Newport Kite Festival
Ester celebrated her birthday yesterday so it was special weekend for her!
Thimble Islands sunset CT (click to enlarge)
On the way up to Massachusetts Thursday we stopped by the Thimble Islands off the coast of Connecticut to view the sunset. The Thimble Islands is an archipelago consisting of small islands along the Connecticut coast in Long Island Sound many of which have homes on them which are accessible only by small boats.
Marcia Barber with student
At the funeral service it was nice to visit with many of the people in a church we served during the 90’s in Taunton, Massachusetts. Marcia was in the church during our tenure and continues to attend with a real servant’s heart and concern for others. This young man shared what a blessing Marcia was in getting him back on track. He is now a student at Gordon College.

The Breakers dining room
The dining room in “The Breakers” mansion. We didn’t eat here!

“The Need For Discernment”

Foggy morning sunrise

Most of our photos are of the sunset to the west but this week we had a foggy morning and saw this sunrise view peeking through the fog.

“The Need For Discernment

Message summary: May we not only read about God’s statutes but seek to understand their meaning so that we are very intentional in applying them to our lives.

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“I am Your servant; give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes” (Psalm 119:125).

These days we are barraged with information that deals with every subject imaginable. Our increased access to this information grows almost daily. Now we can have the latest news from practically anywhere in the world instantly on our smart phones as we find ourselves trying to keep up with all that’s going on.

The “information superhighway” just keeps getting bigger and bigger and provides an abundance of information that can be very useful and informative. But there’s also lots of information that will confuse or sidetrack the more important message. Not only life-giving truths but disastrous errors crowd the information superhighway.

Psalm 119 is well-known as the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. What is less familiar is that each verse, in one way or another, has a reference to God’s Word; His laws and statutes, etc. I believe the various Scriptural expressions are used synonymously and all reveal the heart’s desire of the Psalmist; to live by God’s revelation.

Another interesting feature in this long Psalm is that it consists of 22 parts, according to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet, with the names of which these letters stand for between each part. Each part consists of eight verses, all of which begin with the same letter in the Hebrew: thus, for instance, the first eight verses begin with the letter a, “aleph,” and the second eight verses begin with the letter b, “beth,” and so on throughout; hence the Masorah calls this Psalm “The Great Alphabet”. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)

In today’s Scripture the Psalmist prays in humility, “I am your servant.” I find blessing in the Psalmist’s humble approach to God. We must always remember who’s in control; He is the Master and we are the servant.

The nature of the Psalmist’s request is urgently needed by those who live by faith today: “Give me discernment”. The Hebrew word for discernment means “to separate mentally.” We need to be clear-minded in properly discerning many things. Certainly each generation needs to have those who are like the men of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

But the specific request regarding discernment made by the Psalmist is “that I may understand Your statutes”.  God’s statutes, His laws and precepts are intended not only for our good, but He desires His very best for us. The longer we walk with Him the more we come to understand His rules for governing our lives. We need to fundamentally realize that God’s statutes are always for our good. Nehemiah stated, “You gave them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments” (Nehemiah 9:13).

We do well to oft repeat the Psalmist’s prayer; “Give me discernment that I may understand Your statutes”. May we not only read about God’s statutes but seek to understand their meaning so that we are very intentional in applying them to our lives.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I ask for discernment that I may understand Your statutes. I pray for understanding that I might know how to implement these truths into my life. I also pray that I will grow to love and embrace Your laws so that it becomes a natural outflow of my commitment to love and adore You, and follow after You in all my ways. Amen.
Foggy morning valleyFoggy morning valley

“Duct Tape For The Soul”

New barn roof

Yesterday the main upper portion of our barn covered with new roof!
Jesse and Moses are installing the ridge cap. They will come back to install the lower overhangs, fascia trim and cupola.

“Duct Tape For The Soul

Message summary: Today are you brokenhearted? Do you have some spiritual wounds? I’ve got good news for you! God has not changed. He still cares. And He still acts. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

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“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
Yesterday Jesse and his son Moses replaced the main portion of our barn roof using new metal roofing. We expect it to last our lifetime. Father and son worked hard together, and it was encouraging to see work skills being passed on from one generation to another. Jesse kidded me that we were having our first Amish barn-raising.
After the main roof was on they needed to place the ridge cap on to seal the roof from weather since it was getting too late to fully finish the job. Jesse ran into a minor snafu and I offered some duct tape if needed to cover the seam but he figured it out.

Duct tape mailboxDuct tape is a notorious DIY hack for many applications. Several years ago I used it to temporarily hold a mailbox that had been hit with a snowplow till I could replace the post.
I learned early on in life the many virtues of duct tape from my dad. It’s amazing how much can be fixed with it. I’ve even seen well-worn Bibles covers that Christians refuse to part with bound together with duct tape!
Duct tape t-shirtIn our area many local businesses are owned by Christians and we are accustomed to seeing signs and Scripture verses on businesses proclaiming an aspect of faith.

One year a sales flyer from the Paul B. Zimmerman Hardware store near Ephrata Pennsylvania had the typical hardware store ads for drain cleaner, hinges, cable ties and other items for sale. But the flyer included a Scripture verse under the heading “Duct Tape For The Soul”.

Our daily verse is “Duct Tape For The Soul”: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The Hebrew word for “bind” (chabash) has the sense “to bind firmly.” I’m glad God’s binding is not a flimsy variety. This same word is used by Isaiah in describing the mission of the coming Messiah when he states, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1).

What a joy to personally experience this healthful binding in my own life and as a minister of the Gospel to help others experience it as well. There are inevitable times of broken-heartedness experienced all through life, and perhaps even more so as the aging progresses.

Today are you brokenhearted? Do you have some spiritual wounds? I’ve got good news for you! God has not changed. He still cares. And He still acts. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we’re so thankful that when we mess things up You don’t throw up Your arms, shake Your finger at us and say, “You made the mess. Now you fix it.” Plenty of others might do so, but Your compassion far exceeds Your judgment, for You did not send Jesus to condemn, but rather to save us from our own sin and folly. We do lots of temporary “fixing up” in our lives that comes unraveled again or needs ongoing repair. But when we lay our broken hearts before You, You pick up the fragile pieces and restore us spiritually and emotionally. Thank You for binding up our wounds and pouring in Your ointment of healing for our sin sick soul. Only You, Father, can heal the body and spirit. Once we are touched by Your healing hand, we can’t help but reach out to others who need that touch as well. You call us to funnel Your love and comfort to others in pain with the same comfort we ourselves receive from You when we are undergoing pain, suffering, or loss. May we be faithful in doing so. Amen.
(See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Duct-taped shoes

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“He Can Take It”  Video  Brian Free and Assurance
“Burdens”  Video  Jamie Kimmett
Finally today:
Father and son
This photo of Jesse and Moses was taken about 15 years ago in Maryland.

“The Builder Of Everything”

Old barn roof

Our utility barn with the new roofing material awaiting installation.

“The Builder Of Everything

Message summary: Today we choose to unashamedly place our faith in the God of the universe for He is indeed the builder of everything! Rather than refusing to believe we most assuredly declare, “We believe”!

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4). “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:2).
We have followed the recent news of the tornadoes that went through Nashville early yesterday morning leaving much destruction and far more tragically, the loss of 24 lives with about 34 unaccounted for as of this writing. The location caught our attention, not only because of the devastation but also because Brooksyne’s niece lives in that area. We were both raised in a region (Midwest) especially prone to tornadoes. A shared memory Brooksyne and I have from childhood is the tornado drills at school, hers in Oklahoma and mine in Missouri. Tornadoes are always in varying degrees destructive. I have never read of one that was constructive!
Speaking of building structures, today we are replacing the metal roof on our utility barn. The barn was built about 30 years ago by the original owner using salvaged material such as old timbers and barn siding. It makes for a solid and interesting structure that I use as a “man cave”, workshop and storage in the large loft. The original roof was three different types of sheet metal roofing. It now leaks and about 8 years ago we tried to paint it but the paint didn’t hold up well. So our friend Jesse and his son, Moses, are over and are presently installing the new roof with the appropriate color “barn red”.
Now I didn’t personally observe the barn being built but if I were to conjecture that it was a result of a tornado coming through our area and randomly blowing in assorted materials resulting in a fully constructed barn you would rightly think I’m crazy. The Bible says, “Every house is built by someone” and that would apply to barns as well! Even if I said a wind storm or other natural conditions removed the old roof and then picked up the new roofing materials and installed them that would seem absolutely crazy. No, Jesse is going to have to remove the old roof and install the new one!
In regard to Creation we accept the matter of fact statement from Hebrews 13:4, “God is the builder of everything”. Many in the world mock at such a belief. “It’s too simple” or “it’s not scientific” or “it’s old-fashioned” they tout.
However their view is even more ridiculous than the tornado conjecture above however “scientific” they may assert themselves. A common expression of disrespect to those who believe in the Scriptural teaching concerning Creation is that we are “science deniers” and so forth. We need to recognize the foolishness of this world and those who are actually ignoring overwhelming evidence!
Atheists, agnostics and even some professing Christians vehemently deny the Genesis Creation account yet they place their faith in the fallible, changing notions of human wisdom and refuse to believe in the overwhelming evidence for a Creator God. And as described in Acts 19 they malign those of us who do believe in God. Preaching concerning the Kingdom of God in Ephesus Paul spoke boldly and persuasively but “some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way” (Acts 19:8,9).
Today we choose to unashamedly place our faith in the God of the universe for He is indeed the builder of everything! Rather than refusing to believe we most assuredly declare, “We believe”!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You are great and greatly to be praised. You are the Builder of everything we see and so much that we’ve not yet laid eyes upon, both on the earth and in the heavens above. We are looking forward to the future city with eternal foundations where You are the architect and builder. Our everlasting home in heaven is not built with human hands, but by Your divine design. Keep us faithful till that glorious promotion day! In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“I Sing the Mighty Power of God”  Video  The Ball Brothers
“We Believe”  Video  Newsboys

Old barn roofHere’s another view of our two story barn with the worn roof that is being replaced today. Jesse will reinstall the cupola with a copper eagle weather-vane at the top.
Barn roof work
Early this morning the work began by removing the cupola!
Linda Trout at Railroad Diner in Richland PA 3/3/20
Yesterday morning following our first chaplain call to Audrey’s we ate breakfast at the Railroad Diner in Richland, PA with our friend Linda Trout. We met Linda in a church we served about ten years ago. Brooksyne ate the Pennsylvania Dutch “Baked Oatmeal” quite popular in our area. I was a little more reckless and ordered the “Trainwreck” which was a mishmash of vegetables, meats, and cheeses wrapped in an omelet. The food was great so we’ll visit again, and hopefully next time the train will roar past us on the track next to the Railroad Diner.
Owner of Railroad Diner in Richland PA 3/3/20
Derek Horst bought the Railroad Diner when he was still a teenager several years ago.
Finally today:

Three friends
Three friends helping me fix a lawn tractor in my barn.

“The Danger of the Little Foxes”

Oberholzer children with goats

Our friends, Jason and Rebekah Oberholzer, along with their 6 children, are back in New Mexico where they serve in mission work. Looks like they had quite a few goats greet them, enough for more than one for the older girls!

“The Danger of the Little Foxes

Message summary: We need to be on our guard against the little foxes and determine to deal with them early!

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“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Like many car owners I regularly look under the hood of my vehicles to check the fluid levels. The other day I opened the van hood and found that a critter, likely a squirrel or chipmunk due to the abundance of stashed acorns, had been there chewing on some of the foam mounting material and left quite a mess. Apparently on cold days the warmth of the engine after driving the van is appealing to these critters. It seems I caught the intruder just in time since it seems to run fine. But I looked it up and find others have had this problem and am using peppermint as a repellent and checking under the hood more frequently. If I would have not dealt with it early on no telling how much damage they could have done since they also chew into the wiring.

Yellow fox Now I’m pretty certain it wasn’t a little fox making a home under my hood although we do have fox in our neighborhood. Solomon wrote about “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards”. Although foxes can be destructive in a literal sense, in this statement Solomon appears to be figuratively speaking and that is how most commentators take it.

Life is full of fighting off little foxes and other pests of one type or another. But today we want to consider spiritual pests like “little foxes”. They tend to come in cycles. There are some little foxes I dealt with 40 years ago that really aren’t much of an issue in my life now, while new ones that I never would have expected have come in to replace them. Whether big or small they can all do extensive damage.  Wise Solomon spoke of the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.

These foxes are called little in the sense we easily may overlook them and fail to see their destructive impact. The way they appear look nothing like a destroyer but inwardly they are a great destroyer.

These foxes are little but destroy the fruits of the vineyards. Sin is one of these little foxes that can lead to unending disaster. In 1 Corinthians 5:6 Paul uses another analogy, “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?”

Examples of these “little foxes” abound today, the many subtle and not so subtle attempts of the enemy to get us off the right track. They come in so many different forms. Little pests can cause devastating damage, but when caught early and dealt with properly, we will have positive results compatible with our spiritual goals.
Today we will all inevitably deal with a variety of “little foxes”. In fact most major problems in life start out little. The alcoholic began with just one drink, the drug addict began with one little pill or one inhalation, the porn addict began with just one little peek and so on. The little foxes tend to grow.
We need to be on our guard against the little foxes and determine to deal with them early!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, we can resist the enemy of our soul. Solomon wrote about the little foxes that destroy the fruits of the vineyards which can result in total loss for the owner and laborer. When Satan comes at us like a sly fox we too are more vulnerable and can be robbed of the fruit of the spirit that You are wanting to produce in and through us. Keep us on our guard, staying vigilant in reading and applying Scripture, faithful in praying to You for help and ever watchful for the enemy who comes at us like a sly fox. Amen.

“The Blessing Of Helpful People”

Old railroad cars

Yesterday we passed by these old railroad cars and cabooses on a siding east of Reading, PA.

“The Blessing Of Helpful People

Message summary:
  Who are some helpful people that have blessed you? In what ways might another describe you as being helpful in ministry?
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“Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
On Sunday we went to a church service in the Lehigh Valley followed by a retirement luncheon held in honor of Tina Kester. For 33 years she served as secretary in the church where my brother was pastor for about 25 of those 33 years. Over time we developed a close friendship with Tina and her husband, Larry, and were pleased to hear the many expressions of appreciation from her church family and friends. Many guests came to celebrate Tina’s day, including a friend all the way back from her Junior High days. In fact he was the guest worship leader.
On the day before we received word that Veda, my secretary in the church we served in New England, went home to be with the Lord. Ester and I visited Veda in January and we shared a tribute to her at that time (see here). She and her late husband Bill and son Greg were tremendous blessings to us during the years we served that church in the 90’s.
Today we want to consider the blessing of helpful people. We are prompted by the two ministry helpers mentioned above but many have helped us in our ministry and we certainly hope we have been helpers as well. Just consider people like Tina, Veda, and Mark.
2 Timothy is the last letter we have from Paul and in the last chapter he acknowledges that, “My time of departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6). Several requests were made of his long-time associate Timothy from the practical such as, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (v.13a) to the intellectual “and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (13b). This indicates that Paul wanted his tools for study, that he was still eager to learn all that God wanted to teach him, though his time of departure was near.

But today let’s consider a personal request, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). We could focus today on Mark, who at one time had deserted the missionary team and caused a sharp division between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). In that case second chance Barnabas proved right and later Mark’s relationship with Paul was also restored.

Bible teacher David Guzik observes, “This is evidence of a restoration of trust in Mark from Paul. Paul had wanted nothing to do with him in Acts 15:36-40”. The Precept commentary reminds us that “The life of Mark stands as a testimony to the grace of God, Who is ever ‘The God of the Second Chance’. Many of God’s greatest servants failed miserably at the start of their course, but returned to finish the race in a God-honoring fashion.”
In this very personal appeal Paul states concerning Mark, “He is helpful to me in my ministry”. What a contrast to Demas mentioned in the previous verse who deserted Paul during this very needy time. Various versions render the word “helpful” as “profitable” (KJV) and “useful” (ESV).
Today there are scores of helpful people such as Veda and Tina and Mark. Helpful people are rarely in the limelight nor do they seek it. Yesterday Mike Poppa, the pastor who first hired Tina in the 80’s, was guest speaker and summed up Tina’s contribution to her local church: “Tina didn’t see her role of secretary as a job but a calling.” Whether your involvement in your church or ministry setting is that of a leader, teacher, clerical worker, grounds keeper, janitorial services, maintenance worker, kitchen coordinator, or any of a multitude of other small or big roles required for a local church/ministry to function, may you also see it foremost as a calling from God.
Who are some helpful people who have blessed you? In what ways might another describe you as being helpful in ministry?
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when You redeemed us from a life of sin we became a part of Your heavenly kingdom and want to serve in Your kingdom. We want to be of blessing and assistance to those who walk in truth alongside us. Those You call You also equip not only with knowledge and skills, but also character traits that build up Your kingdom and enhance other’s lives for good. Show us how to be a light to the world and a godly example to our brothers and sisters as we come alongside them in service to Your kingdom, seeking to bring You glory and to build others up in the faith. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Veda Shibilo with Ester 6/17/16This photo of Veda with Ester was taken in June 2016 when we were up in Newport, RI for a wedding. (It was taken outside in the dark night.)
Veda with friends (2001)
This photo was taken 19 years ago on our last Sunday serving the good people in Taunton, MA. It was taken in Ester’s Sunday School classroom where Veda was her teacher. Ester was 11 at the time and standing with a couple of her classmates.
Larry and Tina Kester with Curious George 4/5/19
Tina and Larry have visited us several times through the years. We took them for a visit to the Old Windmill Farm last Spring. Like Brooksyne, Tina is crazy about goats.

Praying for Tina 3/1/20
Yesterday’s service included a time of honoring Tina with words of appreciation from Women’s Ministries and others. Stephen’s brother, Pat, is at the mic sharing of his respect and esteem for Tina’s many years of loyal service, just before he prayed over her.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“I Believe”  Video  Jimmy Fortune  Following the luncheon there were several video tributes from friends unable to attend the gathering. One video was from Tina’s favorite gospel singer Jimmy Fortune! She was shocked and ecstatic that his face would surface with a personal message of congratulations to her, thanks to her current pastor, who arranged the surprise.
Finally today:
It’s interesting all the videos people place up on YouTube such as “Pennsylvania man captures all walks of life crossing log bridge” video I like this video since I have always liked logs across streams! Shows the variety of wildlife we have here in Pennsylvania although this was taken in the mountains.

“Fear or Trust?”

Manure drag line hose

This large hose is crossing the trail we often walk that starts right across from our house. While Brooksyne was walking Mollie and Sadie she took this photo.
Hint: it’s not a water hose!

Fear or Trust?”

Message summary: God continues to speak, “Fear not”. We must act upon His loving command if we are to have deep abiding peace and growing trust in the One who truly cares for those who belong to Him.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17,18).
Manure drag line booster pumpWe live in an agricultural area and several times a year we experience one of the least pleasant aspects of “living out in the country”, the application of organic fertilizer (AKA animal manure). Don’t misunderstand me, we love country living, but this particular aspect of living in the country is very unpleasant, especially the odor!
This week they are using a dragline with a large hose running all the way from the manure pit on a huge dairy farm about 1 mile east of us to the vast farm fields across from our house.
Manure drag line tractorThey pump the material from the pit to a booster pump up the road from our house then to a tractor that applies the slurry-like waste to the fields. It’s not a pleasant site but, due to the rains we have had this week, the odor has been minimal. For the curiously-minded like me it has actually been rather interesting to watch.
Since they don’t spray on the tractor trail this hasn’t kept Brooksyne from walking with our two younger dogs, Mollie and Sadie. Monday was warm and pleasant so not only was Brooksyne taking in the view and enjoying the exercise but the dogs were also busy sniffing groundhog holes and watching squirrels at play.
But as they approached the hose that lay across the trail (pictured above) both dogs came to a screeching halt and refused to budge. From their midget level the strange red hose was an intruder, not usually part of the walk, and it was sheer terror to them!
What made it worse, not only for the dogs but Brooksyne as well, is that the hose suddenly inflated and made a very loud popping noise as the manure sludge made its way through the line. She feared it might spring a leak which would certainly bring their pleasant walk to a screaming halt, Brooksyne doing the screaming, of course. As she told me about her experience we both recalled a humorous scene from “RV”!
We open with this lighthearted illustration about the dogs’ fear but certainly there are many situations in life that induce fear, some logical, others not so much. Fierce storms, financial issues and terrorist threats number among so many other troubles that instill fear. At the time we write this the news we are all hearing about is the coronavirus. There’s always something that can create fear.

Fear is generally thought of as negative but there is a positive aspect of fear as well. We are told in Scripture to “fear God”, although this is different than all other kinds of fear, having more the sense of reverence and awe. I have preached a sermon on the healthy, holy fear of God, something lacking greatly in the world and even in the Church. Now so many see and even refer to the Holy God as the “man upstairs”. His glorious name is without a doubt the most maligned proper name in the English language.

Fear itself is first expressed in the Bible shortly after the transgression in the garden when Adam said to God, “I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). The remainder of the Bible is full of many expressions of human fear for a wide variety of reasons. It’s still that way today and people seem to keep coming up with new causes for fear!

I find great assurance in the tiny phrase found often in Scripture translated “Fear not” in the King James Version (generally “Do not be afraid” in many other versions). This “Fear not” phrase is found from Genesis to Revelation. In today’s Scripture texts we have both the first and last occurrences in the Bible.

Today we encourage you to listen carefully for the voice of our heavenly Father. He speaks gently to your heart reminding you to put your confidence in Him. Some of you are really struggling with fear as you read this. It’s crippling you spiritually and emotionally and perhaps even physically. When I take the time to stop and really consider my emotions I realize that I experience fear and anxiety most when I’m not trusting in what God has said or what He has shown me through His character traits or what He has revealed to me through my fearful experiences in life.

God continues to speak, “Fear not”. We must act upon His loving command if we are to have deep abiding peace and growing trust in the One who truly cares for those who belong to Him.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I will not fear for You have redeemed me and called me by name. You know when I pass through the waters and You have promised to be with me; when I cross through the rivers they will not sweep over me. When I walk through the fire I will not be burned for You walk with me. Though trials may engulf me and tempt me to be paralyzed by fear, I can overcome the enemy of fear just as Jesus overcame the power of death. May the resurrected power of Jesus subside my fears and doubts while building my faith and trust in the Holy One of Israel. Amen.

See Isaiah 43

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Fear is a Liar”  Video  Zach Williams
“He Will Hold Me Fast”  Video  Sovereign Grace Music
For the chronically inquisitive: Spreading Manure with dragline video
Follow-up to Wednesday’s message “The Abyss Of Moral Insanity”: We spoke to the man this week and the foster child has been removed from their home.

“How’s Your Walk?”

1 John 1:7

How’s Your Walk?”

Message summary: Our fellowship with each other is ultimately our common decision to walk in the light over steep mountains and through dark valleys as Jesus illuminates our path one step at a time.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.
“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Several weeks ago a young man shared with me some struggles he was having in his walk with the Lord. I encouraged him to stay on the right track and offered some specific steps he could take.
A week later I saw him again and followed up by asking, “How’s your walk?” and he indicated it was better. Then, recalling my knee problem, he gestured toward my knee and asked, “and how’s your walk?”
Well, I was pleased to share that my knee is doing better but I just need to avoid over extending myself. Such was the temptation last Monday when we had sunny 50 degree weather!
Many familiar hymns describe our walk with the Lord such as “Trust and Obey” (“When we walk with the Lord”), “In The Garden” (“He walks with me and He talks with me”) and also the hymn classic, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”. But songwriters continue to use this theme in newer songs such as “I Can Only Imagine” (When I walk, by your side) or “The Stand” (So I’ll walk upon salvation).
All through the Bible the life of faith is described as a walk. The first reference of this is when “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). In Genesis 17:1 God spoke to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.”
The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him” (Psalm 128:1). The prophets used this theme in passages such as Jeremiah 6:16, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, ‘We will not walk in it'”. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

This theme continues all through the Bible. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). It is used in the epistles such as Paul’s instruction, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

This “walk” theme carries on into eternity with one of the final verses in the Bible stating, “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Revelation 21:24).
Today’s text declares, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” Our fellowship with each other is ultimately our common decision to walk in the light over steep mountains and through dark valleys as Jesus illuminates our path one step at a time.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, it is with godly perseverance that I follow in the steps of the Master because You will lead me over steep mountains and through dark valleys.  Your Word declares that whoever follows You will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life that will eventually lead me to my eternal resting place. By Your grace I move forward one step at a time in Jesus’ name as I walk in Your light and in obedience to Your commands. Amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“Trust and Obey”  Video  The Vagle Brothers
“The Stand”  Video  Shane and Shane
“Christ Is All”  Video  Matt Boswell, Matt Papa

“The Abyss Of Moral Insanity”

Cameron Estate Inn entrance (Brooksyne)

The days have been warm so Mollie and Sadie have enjoyed long walks including this one at the Cameron Estate Inn on Donegal Springs Road. The grounds have several trails to be enjoyed by both canines and humans.

“The Abyss Of Moral Insanity
Note: Today’s message is a bit longer than normal and covers a topic that may be distressing to some. It begins with an incredibly true story which is indented.
Message summary: We call out the faithful remnant to earnestly seek the Lord and be diligent in our efforts to retain the knowledge of God! May our godly knowledge be the filter through which all other information is understood, embraced, or rejected.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 3:10,11).
Many years ago (the late seventies/eighties) we were foster parents and did so with the desire to make a difference in a child’s life. To this day we remain in contact with several of the foster children we cared for, who of course are now grown. But even at that time the social workers tended to be young and it was evident to us that political correctness was creeping into the social framework of foster care. In a recent conversation Brooksyne learned just how crazy things have gotten, as she tells us in the following story:
I visited with an employee who is usually out on the field but he happened to be in his office on this particular afternoon. Bill and Susie (not their real names) are a Christian couple with grown children who live in a very rural area in a neighboring county. For several years they have been caring for special needs foster children, including those who come with medical equipment enabling them to survive. They presently have a little girl who is severely disabled.
Bill told me about an encounter that Susie had with the state social worker managing their case. She took their foster child for a visit with two of her older siblings during a family visit. Her brother was “transitioning” to a “girl”, the sister was “transitioning” to a “boy”. The social worker introduced them by their new names, the names that reflect their imaginary new gender.
The siblings’ change in appearance and names was startling to the younger foster child as well as Susie. Seeing the confusion in her foster child’s eyes and mannerisms, Susie suggested that they deal with the topic later after the children had visited for a while.
The social worker let Susie know that later is not the time, but right now was the proper time to set things straight with the siblings’ new imagined gender. She launched into a very uncomfortable and confusing lecture directed to the five year old foster child.
“If you want to be a doctor, if you want to be a fire fighter, if you want to be an astronaut you can be anything you want to be.” (That may be true when they grow up.) The social worker continued, “If you want to be a butterfly or if you want to be a unicorn, you can be whatever you want to be….”
Shaking my head in disbelief I asked, “Was she being serious as she said these things, the butterfly, unicorn, etc.?” “Yes, she was” he dejectedly replied. Of course, the encounter has made this very devoted couple rethink their role in reaching out to needy children as they are now expected to uphold the philosophies of the Youth and Children’s Services rather than their Christian convictions. This ridiculous encounter along with the body language of the social worker shocked Susie as it should.
Bill and Susie later had a meeting with her and it didn’t result in them feeling any more comfortable in her expectations of their role as foster parents. There is more to the story, but this is the gist of what the transgender, non-binary, gender neutral and all the other new words created that seek to conform to the whims and wishes of a very troubled segment of our society.
The other night I, Stephen, was thinking about this story, and in seeking to spiritually understand world conditions, the phrase in our daily message title came to mind, “The Abyss Of Moral Insanity”.
“Abyss” is defined as “a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm”. I learned that “moral insanity” is actually a psychological term but in the context of this message we mean the insanity that results in an individual and society when God’s truth and moral standards are rejected. It is described in the Bible as a “depraved mind” and a “powerful delusion” that leads people to believe a lie.
Today’s text is an insightful verse from a powerful book. Of course the entire Bible is powerful but Romans provides a particular depth in understanding the human condition, the tragedy of sin and scope of divine redemption. In seeking to understand and discern the current world situation and the immense falling away from godly standards I have been pondering this portion a lot. It describes the inherent natural tendency to sin in each person’s heart since the fall of Adam. The NASV has a concise description for this section heading, “Unbelief and its Consequences”.

Suppression of God’s truth leads to “futile thinking” (Ephesians 4:17) and although there is self-assessment of being wise, in reality it leads to foolishness (Romans 1:21,22). Sin causes us to exchange God’s truth for the lie (v. 25).

Let’s examine today’s second text phrase by phrase:

“They did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.” Contrast this with those who diligently seek and find it immensely worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. They study the Scriptures and seek to live by them. They realize the supreme call of the Proverb that cautions its readers, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Retaining the knowledge of God is a lifelong pursuit, something we must be committed to. If we don’t retain this knowledge we will fall for anything.

But many, really most, do “not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God”. Instead they have chosen the heavily trampled broad way which leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Substitutes for the knowledge of God abound materially, philosophically, educationally, and even in the spiritual realm. These substitutes are billed as “the real thing” and any other outlook may be ridiculed or viewed as “behind the times”.

The consequence of this failure to retain the knowledge of God is that “God gave them over”. This is the third of three occurrences of this phrase in Romans 1.  God’s restraining influence that would keep people living in proper relationship with Him and with each other is removed. This phrase “God gave them over” should put the fear of the Lord into every heart and mind. The master deceiver may have us thinking we are in control, but the Bible tells us, “The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:8).

There is grave consequence in failing to retain the knowledge of God, “God gave them over to a depraved mind”.  The Precept Austin commentary notes that this depraved mind “speaks of a mind that is so clouded by sin that it is no longer able to make reliable moral judgments. Here we have gone beyond deliberate iniquity to something much more frightening. At this stage people have lost the desire and the ability to think clearly. They have lost their mind and don’t even know it. The result is a world that has left God far behind. It is a society with all restraints removed, a culture devoid of all sense of right and wrong, where everyone is doing what is ‘right in his own eyes’.”

A “depraved mind” is a result of not retaining the knowledge of God. “Depraved” is not a word we often hear or use frequently. We may recall the theological term “depravity of man”, which describes the consequences of the fall. Other versions use the word “reprobate”, “base and condemned”, “degenerate”, “debased”, “corrupted”.

John MacArthur writes, “Unregenerate people cannot think properly about spiritual truth because they have a ‘depraved mind’. Only God can turn on the light in the human heart so that it can respond in saving faith to the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

The verse ends with this phrase, “to do what ought not to be done”. A depraved mind leads to depraved actions.  In so many areas we see a rejecting of God’s laws where people are doing what ought not to be done. Unless there is a massive return to God’s ways (revival) this will only worsen. Thus the phrase “The Abyss Of Moral Insanity”.

We call out the faithful remnant to earnestly seek the Lord and be diligent in our efforts to retain the knowledge of God! May our godly knowledge be the filter through which all other information is understood, embraced, or rejected.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we want to be a people whose hearts and minds are one with Yours. Through our diligent study and application of Your living word our thoughts and attitudes are formed. Keep us faithful to the truth of Your knowledge. We stand in firm opposition to the world’s substitutes; the acceptance, condoning, and celebration of anything You describe as sin. The world may dress it up, commercialize it, make it appealing, and cover up the disastrous results it brings on the individual, his or her family and society at large. Help us to read, retain, and regard Your knowledge as our pattern for life. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“This Little Child”  Video  Scott Wesley Brown This is a recent version with a much older Scott Wesley Brown but as I recall the song was written in the eighties and practically has a prophetic tone. It speaks of the increasing fallen state of the human race observable at that time but which has greatly increased in the last 30 or 40 years.
Finally today from Brooksyne: One other bothersome thought comes to mind from the conversation I had with Bill. During his and Susie’s visit with the social worker she blurted out, “I just can’t understand why all these Christians want to take these children and indoctrinate them with their religious belief.” Bill told me, it really troubled him and either he responded to her or wanted to say (I really can’t remember which), “Have you considered that it is Christians who are coming forward to care for these needy children!” So true!

Gender nonsenseThis last weekend we saw this nonsensical sign at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia.