Devotional

“A Consideration Of Divine Providence”

 
Bird feeder photo by Doris HighStarlings at a very busy bird feeder!
Lancaster County, PA
Photo by Doris High
“A Consideration Of Divine Providence”
 
Message summary: The providence of God can be a terrifying thought or one of tremendous comfort. It depends on your position in Christ. As believers we can rest in the calm assurance that God rules for our ultimate good. Today, may you find peace and assurance in this Biblical truth.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“He (God) made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt” (Exodus 14:25).

I read a news report that told of a rather brazen form of thievery. A California resident had all four wheels stolen from under his car. I also read about a car where all four wheels came off as the driver was driving on the highway. Apparently all four tires had just been changed and they had installed the wrong nuts. Amazingly, no one was hurt.

 
Have you ever had your wheels stolen or a wheel come off while you’re driving down the highway? Although I’ve had a few flat tires I never recall a wheel falling off or a blowout while driving. My last flat tire was several years ago after I drove over a nail.
 
We may give little thought to wheels, but consider the significance of the invention of the wheel. It’s a very useful tool of life in so many ways. Today’s text references the very first mention of a wheel in the Bible.

Exodus 14 chronicles the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites as they walked across the Red Sea on dry land as God parted the waters. As they departed Egypt the Egyptians chased after them. I wonder how the rank and file chariot drivers felt when commanded to follow their leaders through the parted sea! They witnessed a mighty miracle, nevertheless Scripture declares that their hearts were hardened (v.17).

Notice the first part of the verse: “He (God) made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving.” (No further explanation needed here!) This is an example of God’s providence over the affairs of men. Now surely the finest mechanics in Egypt had serviced those chariots for Pharaoh. These mechanics would have been highly skilled using the latest wheel building techniques and the finest materials available. But when the Almighty God of the universe ordains that wheels come off, no human invention or mechanical skill will stop them!

“Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” The Egyptians rightly recognized that the Lord was fighting for His people against their enemies. They’d already witnessed God’s miraculous power in the ten plagues that preceded the Israelite’s escape. Why did they think that He was going to turn His back on them at this very critical point?

The great doctrine of providence states that God is superintending over all of His creation in every way at all times. He’s got each hair on our head counted (present tense) and not a single bird falls without His knowledge. The Westminster Catechism states, “God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to His own glory.”

The providence of God can be a terrifying thought or one of tremendous comfort. It depends on your position in Christ. As believers we can rest in the calm assurance that God rules for our ultimate good. Today, may you find peace and assurance in this Biblical truth.

 


Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber


Praying manDaily prayer: Father, in Your hands are the very depths of the earth and the tips of the mountain peaks. The sea is Yours, for You made it and Your hands formed the dry land. It is at Your beckoning that the sea can be turned to dry land or dry land turned to sea. When the enemy comes against us like a flood, Your Spirit will lift up a standard against him. We never want our hearts to harden toward You, like the Egyptians and later the Israelites. Keep us faithful and trusting You and Your providential care, in the good times and in the trying times, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 
Lancaster County opiate overdose deaths, Quarryville, PA 1/25/19On Friday we had a chaplain call to a nursing home in Quarryville, PA and passed this church which marks Lancaster County opiate overdose deaths with these crosses on their lawn and even more on the side lawn.
 
Ice cream toppings at Dick Shellenberger funeral1/26/19
Dick Shellenberger was an acquaintance of ours who died a week ago. He worked in food management for many years and served as president of National Ice Cream Retailers Association in 1992. He wanted an ice cream social to follow his celebration of life service and this was one of three tables that offered a large assortment of toppings along with hot fudge and caramel. Kreider’s Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry Ice Cream was provided, which he helped in developing their ice cream recipes.  In every role Dick filled, whether at home, work, politically, or in the community he was known as a devout man of Christian faith. His obituary.
 
Lacy at Crackerbarrel 1/27/19
On Sunday afternoon we invited a friend, along with his 3 year old daughter, Lacey, to join us for lunch. Since Lacey was not familiar with us she didn’t want to hold Ester’s hand as we gave thanks for our lunch. Ester suggested that Lacey hold Little Piggie’s one hand and she would hold the other so we could all be connected. That was a perfect solution for Lacey which brought about this precious smile. Later, Stephen and Lacey’s dad walked out into the parking lot while Lacey sat with us on the porch at Cracker Barrel. I asked Lacey, “Can you find your daddy?” Her eyes darted through all the parked cars until they finally rested upon her daddy. “Did you find him, I asked?” Lacey responded, “Yes, he’s with the farmer.” Well, the farmer happened to be Stephen wearing his hat, that in Lacey’s estimation looked like a farmer’s hat. I suggested she call him, “Farmer Steve”!
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Who You Say I Am”  Video  Anthem Lights
 
Brooksyne’s Note:  We sang this song at the conclusion of our service yesterday which is a powerful reminder of who we are and who we belong to! This song really spoke to my heart since the Lord brought to mind a young man who has gone through life without the love of a mother or father, and has suffered greatly as a result. The line, “I am chosen, not forsaken. I’m a child of God, yes I am” is such a precious truth for those who have not had loving parents, especially the love of a father. When I came home I began reading Greg Laurie’s book, “Richard Widmark, the Salvation of an American Icon”. Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Fellowship Church in Riverside, California, wrote this book because neither Steve McQueen nor Greg Laurie ever knew their biological father and both endured the abuse by a series of men brought home by their promiscuous, alcoholic mothers. It left irreparable damage, but thankfully, Laurie found Christ at 17 years of age and learned the love of a Heavenly Father while still in his teens. It would take Widmark nearly 50 years to come to know his heavenly Father, just months before his death. Interestingly, the young man the Lord brought to my mind yesterday also had an alcoholic mother and absentee father. It’s far too common in our world today due to mass immorality that become the norm, not the exception. If you identify with Laurie, Widmark, or the man I prayed for yesterday I hope that this song will speak to your heart today.
 
I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who You say I am
I am chosen, not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me, not against me
I am who You say I am
I am who You say I am

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

 
“Who You Say I Am”  Video  Piano version by Jon Michael Ogletree
 
Today’s busy bird feeder photo was taken by our friend Doris High, whom I’ve come to believe just may be the world’s most prolific photo blogger! Here’s her feeder collection
 
 
Finally today:
Manure spreading on Kraybill Church Road 1/28/19We have a crisp, clear and cold morning here in Lancaster County (temp of 28 degrees when this is posted). Here’s a photo of the field work this morning across the road from our house. So far, no odor!
 
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Devotional

“There’s Still Room”

Frozen water feature (Photo by John Thomas)Early this week we had some very frigid weather. John, a local reader, sent this photo of a wind-blown spray at a pond fountain.
“There’s Still Room”
 
Message summary:  Let me ask you today. Have you accepted the invitation at God’s table or are you still making excuses? If you have accepted the invitation for your place at the table join God’s servants in faithfully proclaiming, “Still there is room!”
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
“And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:22). “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These are true words of God” (Revelation 19:9).
Yesterday, following our morning chaplaincy duties, we had lunch at the “Shady Maple” which is a huge smorgasbord here in Lancaster County. We both donate blood and during the last collection drive they gave us each a BOGO for a meal at the Shady Maple.
It’s probably the most famous eatery here in our area and in our nearly 18 years of living in this area we’ve eaten there a lot, in part due to a promotion of a free meal on your birthday (with one paid meal). So on our birthdays we can take each other out free!
Shady Maple
The huge restaurant is out in the country but is a tourist destination in its own right. We are sure many of our readers, especially local, have eaten at the Shady Maple!
We realized that we must be showing our age when we received the senior meal pricing (10% off) without even asking. However if we hang around till are 90 we can get a 50 percent discount! But I’m willing to wait awhile for that discount!
Shady Maple serving area
The Shady Maple is an all you can eat buffet so we have to be careful how often we go or I would have an even bigger pouch! The restaurant’s Scripture theme could be, “And they ate and were well filled” (Psalm 78:29). The food is great but the most outstanding feature is the tremendous variety of about everything edible including some items I really wouldn’t care to eat. The buffet line with the food is 200 feet long. It’s by far the biggest restaurant we’ve patronized with the main dining area seating 1,200 people and the banquet facilities another 1,000. Almost every time we go there, including yesterday, there are many fellow diners.
As much as we look forward to an occasional meal at the Shady Maple, it pales in comparison to our anticipation of the great banquet Jesus is preparing for believers in heaven!
Great Banquet
Enter a caption

Heaven is going to be an extraordinarily remarkable place. Among our heavenly blessings will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, an absolutely incredible banquet that will surely be unlike any on this earth. When I try to figure out how all this will happen I quickly realize that while I live in this tent of a body I “see through a glass darkly.” Or as the old hymn says, “the half has never yet been told.”

Perhaps Jesus had this marriage supper in mind when He told the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-24. The overall message of the parable is about the excuses and outright rejection of many in regard to entering God’s Kingdom. That’s still true today! The Master instructs His servants to go out and extend invitations to a great banquet. Many who were invited made excuses as to why they couldn’t come.

The banquet invitation was then extended further, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” The servants returned to their master with the report found in the daily text, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.

How sad the excuses that keep us from the Great Banquet Table.

Yes indeed, there’s still room at the table. And today the Master’s servants continue to extend the invitation to a great banquet. Scores of devoted missionaries, evangelists and pastors, Sunday School and youth workers are proclaiming, “There’s still room.” Dedicated lay people are taking this message to their world today, “There’s still room.” Through this internet ministry Brooksyne and I declare to those who visit this page, “There’s still room!
What a great truth is found in verse 23 where we read of God’s desire, “That my house may be filled.”

Let me ask you today. Have you accepted the invitation at God’s table or are you still making excuses? If you have accepted the invitation for your place at the table join God’s servants in faithfully proclaiming, “There’s still room!”

There is always a place at the table,
There’s a feast that’s now waiting all your own,
Your place is set each time the family gathers;
It will never be the same til you’re home.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the theme of the great banquet parable calls to mind another parable where You challenged the crowd by saying, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” You are the Bread of Heaven that nurtures our spiritual hunger and the Living Water that quenches our eternal thirst! Since Your supply is unending there is still room because You are not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. We especially pray for wayward loved ones today, particularly those who have abandoned their spiritual heritage. Father, lead them back to their spiritual roots where there is always a place at the table. We’re so thankful You’re in the restoration business where hearts are mended and families reunited for Your glory. We thank You in advance for answered prayer. Amen.

 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“There’s Room At The Cross For You”  Video  Billy Gaines
 
“There’s Always a Place At the Table”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band
Devotional

“A Lesson From Rubbernecking”

 
Bindnagle Lutheran Church, Lebanon County PA 1/22/19 (Click to enlarge)Bindnagle Lutheran Church
Church built in 1803, Lebanon County, PA
(Click to enlarge)
 
“A Lesson From Rubbernecking”
 
Message summary:  If we get distracted easily and struggle with rubbernecking on our journey to heaven our focus may need regularly redirected so that we very intentionally “fix our eyes on Jesus”!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
 
I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land
O who will come and go with me
I am bound for the promised land.
 
Rubbernecking is an expression used to describe what happens when drivers slow down to observe a traffic accident. The term “rubbernecking” refers to the physical act of craning one’s neck, performed in order to get a better view. When driving on one side of a multi-lane highway the traffic on the side that did not have an accident will inevitably slow down due to the rubbernecking curiosity of drivers on the unaffected side. I admit, I’ve done that.
 
That got me thinking about our journey through this life to heaven expressed in the song “Bound For The Promised Land” and in the Scripture “the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.
 
As we make this journey we can so easily get distracted by what we see along the way.
  • Sometimes it’s something that directly affects us and that we ourselves experience; a trial that we encounter such as we would experience if we were in a traffic accident. Those trials inevitably come in life and we trust the Lord to get us through them. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
  • Other times it’s a matter that indirectly affects us such as when we are on the same side of the road as the accident and traffic stops or slows which throws off our schedule. That happens a lot in life.
  • At other times we really aren’t directly affected but we and many others get distracted by curiosity.
I was considering this and I mused how I tend to rubberneck at the inevitable results of mankind’s rebellion against God. My focus of course should be “the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” and as the writer of Hebrews stated, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” However admittedly far too often I get my eyes off the prize and focus on the carnage around me.
 
Now this requires some balance since we want to stay informed regarding national and international conditions. But at least in my case I am very prone to get distracted and redirect my focus which can lead to discouragement and at times even despair.
 
Another verse comes to mind as I prepare this message. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
 
For many of us a fiery ordeal and testing is due to a health crisis, being in an accident, a financial or family struggle and so forth. But when Peter wrote these words he was very likely speaking of a fiery ordeal and testing due to persecution, an experience hundreds of millions of our fellow believers experience presently.
 
However let us consider just the phrase, “Do not be surprised”. Why should be surprised at the direction of a nation and world increasingly rejecting God and His standards of living? The Bible speaks of reaping what is sown (Galatians 6:7) and this concept applies not only to individuals but to nations.
 
If we get distracted easily and struggle with rubbernecking on our journey to heaven our focus may need regularly redirected so that we very intentionally “fix our eyes on Jesus”!
 
Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.
 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we’re reminded often in Scripture of the eternal inheritance that awaits the faithful. We anticipate that day when we will behold Your beauty and know the fullness of Your love. But it’s on our journey below that we get sidetracked or caught up in matters that distract our attention from that which has lasting eternal value. Help us not to be surprised by the trials that come upon us but enable us to endure because we know that You want us to be faithful, to stand the test, and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Amen.


 
Farm in Dauphin County PA 1/22/19 (Click to enlarge)Farm in southern Dauphin County, PA
We’ve not had a deep snow yet this season but enough to add some additional interest to this rural photo.
(Click to enlarge)
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“I Am Bound For The Promised Land”  Video  Musicians not identified

“One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)”  Video  Matt Redman
 
“This World Is Not My Home”  Video  Guy Penrod

“Drifting Too Far From The Shore”  Video  Bradley Walker (This song uses a different analogy.)
Devotional

“Holy Marriage”

“Holy Marriage”
 
Message summary: Today let us consider the Biblical, God-ordained design for marriage, the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime. Today let us again remember that, “Marriage should be honored by all”.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). “Marriage should be honored by all” (Hebrews 13:4).

Yesterday we engaged in a conversation with a young man who had just completed a 30 day drug rehab program for opiate addiction through Teen Challenge. He now lives in a half way house and is working as a temp in a company we serve. We sought to encourage him by sharing several of what we have seen as helpful and even essential keys to keeping on the right path and staying faithful.

Like so many we hope he will overcome. This brought to mind those we have seen overcome for the long haul. Today we share an example:

 
Photo of Wayne and YvetteBrooksyne saw a post on her Facebook page celebrating the anniversary of a wedding I had conducted in January 2006. In fact the post had a rather unbecoming photo of me at the service. Yvette had been a part of the church we served in Massachusetts who had a very hard life. (We have a link to her story below.)
The wedding service was very special. Yvette and Wayne had both been associated with Teen Challenge where they first met. Family, friends from church, and a large contingent of friends from Teen Challenge made up the witnesses to their wedding ceremony.

Teen Challenge was originally so named due to its outreach to teens back when it was founded in the late fifties by David Wilkerson. But soon after the ministry started it began to reach out to people of all ages who are trapped in various addictions.

The message remains “Jesus is able to save and deliver” and through the years scores of men and women all over the world have experienced miraculous and long-lasting deliverance. I served on the board for the New England Teen Challenge and have many friends who went through the program going back all the way to my college days when I met Sonny Oliver. (We also have a link to his story below.)

The Teen Challenge folks sure made up an interesting group at the wedding. They tend to be socially less restrained than many (in a good sense in my view); not impolite, just very expressive. As the service progressed one of the groomsmen was very concerned that I had forgotten the “You may now kiss the bride” part and gestured to remind me. I whispered (but inevitably loud enough for all to hear since I was using a microphone), that it was coming up.

Toward the end of the ceremony it seemed that practically everyone thought I would miss it and there was an anticipatory rumble throughout the congregation and even from Wayne and Yvette. At the appropriate time I said, “Wayne, you may finally kiss your bride.” As I introduced the new Mr. and Mrs. the congregation erupted into earnest applause as the couple departed down the aisle.

The kiss was anticipated in large part due to a commitment that Wayne and Yvette had made during their dating period. They knew the effects of immorality and had made a commitment to refrain from physical intimacy during their courtship, including kissing, deciding their first kiss would be their wedding kiss!

The Scripture’s forthright statement in the daily text is just as needed today as 2000 years ago, perhaps even more: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). *

Indeed there is so much immorality in our world (unless we merely redefine immorality as many are doing). But using God’s standards as expressed in the Holy Scripture we clearly see that there is so much immorality. Thus “each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband”. This is a reinforcement of the Biblical, God-ordained design for marriage, the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime. Today let us again remember that, “Marriage should be honored by all”.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

 

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, how grateful we are for the union of a man and a woman in holy marriage. You designed the family unit to work together, play together and support one another as they go through the celebrations and difficulties of life. Help me to be absolutely committed to my marriage partner and to the family You have chosen for me. May I bring vitality and blessing to my family this day. In Your name I pray. Amen.

 
* 1 Corinthians 7 also teaches that some have the gift of celibacy.
 
When I had last conducted a wedding ceremony in Massachusetts in 2000 prior to our move to Pennsylvania the Massachusetts marriage license designated the couple with the traditional titles bride and groom. Massachusetts was the first state to pervert the definition of marriage and this happened shortly before I conducted Wayne and Yvette’s wedding. At that time Massachusetts designated the couple on the state issued marriage license as party A and party B!
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
We wrote a story about Yvette many years ago titled “No Hopeless Cause”
 
A message about Sonny Oliver.
 
“He Can Take It”  Video  Brian Free and Assurance

“Chainbreaker”  Video  Gaither Vocal Band
 
“In Heaven’s Eyes”  Video  Sheila Walsh
Devotional

“Offended By Truth”

“Offended By Truth”
 
Message summary: Truth is hate to those who hate the truth!
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.
 
“We must speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
 
I see a nation on the brink
I see a people prone to think
That truth is like an ocean wave
Changing with the tide.
 
But for me there has to be
An absolute, a center line
And it’s the Word of God eternal
The cornerstone of Christ
 
Several weeks ago a church in rural California used their changeable message sign to post a truthful but very culturally unpopular message. It hit the social media circus, many were offended by it and the pastor lost his position as pastor. The sign’s message was blunt but true and just 25 years ago wouldn’t have caused much attention. Some would have agreed with it, other would have disagreed but would have accepted, perhaps even respected, the church’s right to express its beliefs.

But we now live in the age of the easily offended and day after day we read of someone causing a stir because they are offended about something. With social media this can quickly become “viral” and mob-like. This works especially well for those offended by conservative views.

In the nineties I pastored a church in Massachusetts that had a changeable message sign at the entrance to our parking lot. We placed up Scripture verses and short truths expressed in catchy phrases and changed it weekly. Our church was located on US Route 44, the busy east/west highway passing through the city, so we had lots of traffic. Through the years we would occasionally get a positive comment about a message posted. But my most informative feedback memory was not positive.

 
Abortion Stops A Beating Heart
 
One year during a “Sanctity of Life Sunday” we posted this simple, unambiguous, irrefutable message: “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart”. A few days later a lady called our church office and told me she had seen the sign and was deeply offended and extremely upset about it. She thought there should be a law against posting such a message and threatened that she was going to check into it. She said her children were so upset they cried. Well, the truth really hurts and in this case illustrates the awful blindness that sin causes. However, that was it and it blew over and we left the message up without further incident till it was time to put up a new message.

When reading about the California church sign I considered how different things might be today for posting “Abortion stops a beating heart” and similar type messages. With social media as a catalyst someone would have twittered out a photo and in no time an offended group would have probably gathered around the sign at the entrance of our church in angry protest. They might have yelled at our church people as they entered the parking lot and no telling what else!

Today, whatever Biblical issue is being assaulted in your corner of the world, keep standing for the truth. A lie: no matter how it is packaged, no matter who repeats it or how often, whether or not a majority holds to it, it is still a lie!  Let us commit to being proclaimers and examples of truth in the midst of a world that redefines or “modernizes” what is perceived as truth to promote its own truth-denying agenda.

Today’s text is a phrase from a verse that we purposely quote to make us think. In its initial application it was directed to the church in Ephesus and addressed their interpersonal relationships. But we feel the principle applies to the church’s stand in the world as well. “We must speak the truth in love.” Unfortunately the concept of love and hate has been so muddied that this is very hard. Truth is hate to those who hate the truth!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we learn from Scripture and we see by Jesus’ example that we are to speak the truth in love, even when it is easier to go along with the crowd or the trends of our society including the post modern thinking that doesn’t rely on facts as much as one’s personal experience, emotions, and ideology. Help us to be courageous believers who live the truth and speak the truth. Give us strength not to apologize or shrink back when we’re attacked as ambassadors of Your unchanging truths as presented in Scripture. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



Several additional considerations on offending and being offended:

1) Of course this message should not be construed as an excuse to bully or intentionally offend others.

2) All through life I have been insulted and/or offended. I think this has been virtually everyone’s experience. Sometimes the insults are intentional and mean, but most of the times unintentional, a misunderstanding.

3) And I have also insulted and/or offended others. I also think this has been virtually everyone’s experience. Most of the time these insults and offenses to others have been unintentional, or likely a misunderstanding. But frankly, especially in my pre-conversion days, I look back at my insensitivity and immaturity and admit that I was intentionally mean at times, such as getting a laugh at someone else’s expense. In some cases I have sought forgiveness from those I hurt, in other cases such as a lost contact I must leave it in the Lord’s hands.

4) Now “being offended” can be used to silence those with whom one disagrees and if lawyers get involved can be a potential source of big money.

 
Several years ago I recall when Daniel Riley, a singer with the Gospel group “Gold City” shared how that in his small town in Alabama, they had, as long as he could remember, a nativity scene on display. One person was “offended” by it and an outside group called the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” demanded its removal. Like so many small towns they complied rather than pay the legal fees to fight such an outrageous demand.
 
He shared that the same evil, Satan-inspired group demanded a town remove a sign often seen in smaller towns all across America. “The Churches Of ______ Welcome You”. Now how in the world could that be offensive to anybody? When we drive by a sign or billboard with a message offensive to our faith (which we see a lot) we either disregard it or at times it prompts us to pray.
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“I Will Stand”  Video  Gold City
 
Here’s another example of the sheer evil and twisted thinking of the religious left “Nadia Bolz-Weber Asserts Life Begins at Breath” in regard to the pro-life viewpoint. (Note: I am not related to this Weber!)
 
 
Observations.
  • I believe the sign message expresses the truth, but am not sure that was the best place.
  • We don’t have the full story about the pastor’s dismissal. Maybe there were other issues and the sign message was used to egg someone on, which it sure did!
  • Interesting when looking at reviews of the church on Google maps, the amount of negative reviews the last couple of weeks almost certainly by people that never heard of this church prior to this. You sure don’t want to get the social media mob coming against you!
  • The church web site now states “forbidden”.
Devotional

“Fearfully And Wonderfully Made”

Iowa River dam (Photo by Steve Ephraim)Icy Iowa River Dam
(Photo by Steve Ephraim)
Today we have the most frigid temps of the season with a current 8° and wind chill of -16°. It sounds like we have factory fans blowing outside our doors and windows!
“Fearfully And Wonderfully Made”
 
Message summary: Let us pray for a return to Biblical obedience in regard to God’s gift of sexuality, marriage and children. Let us respectfully recognize and celebrate that motherhood begins at the point of conception when God places a new life that he forms within the mother’s womb.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13,14). “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'” (Luke 1:42-43). 

 
Baby bottlesYesterday many churches here in America acknowledged “Sanctity Of Human Life” Sunday including the church we attend. As we walked into the foyer a couple of cribs were loaded with baby bottles. Those attending were encouraged to pick up one or more bottles and fill them with change over the next several weeks to help support Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services, a tremendous local organization that stands for the values of life providing pregnancy tests, prenatal & parenting education, sexual integrity education and post-abortion counseling.

Last Friday the annual “March For Life” was held in Washington, a march I have attended many times going back to the eighties. This event has people from many different faith backgrounds taking a visible stand for the individual’s “Right to Life”. This year’s theme was “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science”. Brooksyne and I unapologetically take a strong stand for the Sanctity of Life; for the protection of the unborn, the infirmed, and the elderly; for those the world regards as being unworthy of life.

Today’s first Scripture is straightforward. The Psalmist David acknowledges that he was formed by God while in his mother’s womb and gives thanks. Even with his rudimentary knowledge of prenatal development at that time he knew he was “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

The second text is from a familiar narrative section read often during the Christmas season though some may fail to see the doctrinal significance in it. Check out the context. The angel assured Mary of God’s special plan for her (Luke 1:35) and she submitted to this plan (1:38). She was told that her relative Elizabeth was also with child in her sixth month of pregnancy (1:36).

After the message Mary “hurried” to see Elizabeth and her greeting prompted the baby to leap in Elizabeth’s womb. The Greek uses the word “brephos” here. This word is used nine times in the New Testament for both pre-born and infant children. No distinction is made between the two in New Testament Greek. This joyful baby was John who had another three months of prenatal development and security inside his mother’s womb at the time of Mary’s visit. Today many babies are routinely slaughtered at this age and even older.

However, it’s Elizabeth’s response to Mary that is most interesting and instructive. “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?'” (Luke 1:42-43).

Notice Elizabeth’s recognition of Mary as “mother of my Lord”. How long had Mary been a mother? Of course we don’t know exactly. This is not revealed to us; days, weeks, a month. Yet Elizabeth calls her “the mother of my Lord”. Most all abortions are now performed after the point of Elizabeth’s declaration!

 
Let us pray for a return to Biblical obedience in regard to God’s gift of sexuality, marriage and children. Let us respectfully recognize and celebrate that motherhood begins at the point of conception when God places a new life that He forms within the mother’s womb.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, when You took the dust of the ground to form Adam and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life You had a purpose for his existence on earth. And You have a purpose for all human life. Forgive us for assuming that we know more than You, the Creator of life, in willfully choosing whether one is allowed to live and another is destined to die before one breathes his or her first independent breath. We thank You for the millions who take a visible stand for life, based not on a popular theme but on truths established in Your Holy Word. Help us to be vigilant in doing what is right and good in Your sight, even when it is inconvenient and costly to our personal lives. In our disposable society help us never to dispose of human life that You created or to dispose of truths that You intended for us to live by in favor of a political, intellectual, or financial agenda.

We pray for those in the abortion industry who are motivated by financial gain by the taking of innocent life much like Judas who took the 30 pieces of silver as He handed Jesus over to those who would crucify Him. Like Joseph’s brothers who took the 20 pieces of silver in exchange for selling their innocent brother. Father, we look to You in faith asking that You speak to the indifferent and bigoted hearts that cause innocent lives to be slaughtered every minute of every day. We pray this impassioned prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.


 
Mollie eyeing squirrel from front window 1/18/18 (Ester)Last week we shared a photo of Mollie eyeing a squirrel nestled in a tree and asked if readers could see the squirrel. Some could and others not at all, but today viewers can easily see the squirrel Mollie has her eye on in this photo Ester took from our front window!

We enjoy our bird feeders and with the variety of birds that come in for feed, usually black oil sunflower seeds. But birds are also attracted to peanut butter. Our cat Dottie had been a good mouser for the past 17 years and kept our utility barn relatively mouse-free. Since she died last week I have had to set traps and already have caught three. However we also caught something we would rather not. (photo)
 
Bear trying to get to bird feeder in northern PA
Larry, a friend from White Oak Display, shared this photo with us that he took from his cabin in northern Pennsylvania. Apparently squirrels aren’t the only unauthorized critter attempting to get the bird seed!
 


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“Untold”  Video  Matthew West
 
“From My Mother’s Womb”  Video  Jannie L. Guzmán
 
There are so many thought-provoking, touching songs on this topic! See here.
 
 
Note: Today’s photo of an icy dam on the Iowa River was taken by Iowan Steve Ephraim, who sent an encouraging reply to Friday’s message, “Nice job on your engineering analogy from the perspective of a lifelong mechanical engineer!” When posting the photo I teasingly asked Brooksyne “is that spelled dam or damn?” prompting a memory from some 25 years ago when a lady was proudly showing Brooksyne her scrapbook with photos including several dams. However in her scrapbook she consistently misspelled the photo captions and used the expletive spelling. Not wanting to embarrass her Brooksyne just quietly smiled to herself as she flipped through the scrapbook.
 
Finally today:

Amish transport van at Costco, Lancaster, PA 1/17/19
A common site in our area are vans used to “haul” the Amish and other plain groups who use these vehicles for longer trips when the horse and buggy mode of transport is not feasible. Most of the time they are black vans with little identification. We saw this van last week while filling with gas at Costco. I engaged in a brief conversation with the driver, a New York City first responder who was disabled in the 9/11 attacks, and as you would probably expect from anyone driving a van like this, he is quite a colorful man!
Devotional

“The Consequences Of Forsaking God’s Pattern”

Pennsylvania red bank barn in snow (Photo by Greg Schneider)Pennsylvania Bank Barn
Overnight we had snowfall with a storm forecast for this weekend.
We have milk and bread!
 (Taken by our friend Greg Schneider)
“The Consequences Of Forsaking God’s Pattern”
 
Note: Today’s message is longer and perhaps a bit more mentally challenging than many using an illustration from engineering.
 
Message summary: Let us renew our resolve to follow the Lord and walk in accordance to His pattern of belief and His way of life.
 
Listen to our message on your audio player.

“He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to Him” (2 Kings 21:22). “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. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:28-32).

All this week we have been studying the concept of “pattern”:

* God is pleased and honored when we follow His patterns.
* We are not to conform to the pattern of this world.
* Scripture provides a pattern for what we are to believe.
* Scripture provides a pattern for how we are to live.

 
Today let us consider the consequences of forsaking a pattern and to do so I use an illustration from engineering. We visit with many engineers and product designers in our role as company chaplains. Presently, most are mechanical. However, all through my ministry, I’ve associated with many different kinds of engineers; electrical, chemical, civil, software and others. Engineers apply science to specific functions and products. I suppose I enjoy my engineer associations because I have found engineers to be usually very sensible. They are smart but generally not pretentious. I appeal to any engineers reading this to give me some slack if my illustration below is not precisely put into the proper terms you prefer to use.

Drinker valve
We serve as chaplains at Val-Co, a company that makes watering equipment for poultry. Some tend to think that getting water to chickens wouldn’t involve any more than a farmer using a hose and just filling up drinking containers for the birds.  But in large chicken houses the birds get their water by tapping their beak on a drinker valve that opens so that a single drop of water comes out and then the valve closes completely. It’s designed so that the bird gets adequate water without drips which would create dampness in the facility conducive to disease. Of course thousands of these valves are needed in a large chicken growing operation.
 

Drinker valve assembly machine

The machine that makes these parts runs very, very fast producing thousands each hour yet each single part must stay within the design tolerance which prompted me to discuss with Tom the importance of this machine making these parts so precisely.
 
The engineering specifications (pattern) call for a very specific measurement but a very slight acceptable deviation is allowed. Yesterday, when I was visiting with Tom, a manufacturing engineer, he explained that these parts have a design tolerance of +or- .0005 of an inch which is less than the diameter of a human hair!

“Engineering tolerances are assigned to parts for manufacturing purposes, as boundaries for acceptable build. No machine can hold dimensions precisely to the nominal value, so there must be acceptable degrees of variation. If a part is manufactured, but has dimensions that are out of tolerance, it is not a usable part according to the design intent.” (Wikipedia)

We believe in life there is a parallel. Of course none of us attain the precise design specifications as ordained by our Creator since we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Only Jesus completely lived entirely up to the design specs originally intended for the human race!


Today we want to consider the consequences of forsaking God’s design specs (pattern). Both Bible and secular history abundantly demonstrate these consequences. Especially in the Old Testament we can easily recall the cycles of
rejection and disobedience followed by renewal and obedience, repeated over and over. In secular history we observe the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms.

Even the “good” characters in the Bible forsook God’s design specs at times, most notably David, in the Old Testament. Scripture records the life-long heartaches King David endured as a consequence of his sin. His family and others also experienced grief, conflict, and loss as a result which is often the case when a person sins. From the New Testament we consider Peter’s denial of Christ, the guilt and shame it brought, and his blessed restoration.

Forsaking God’s design specs always has consequences, some immediate but others delayed. Delayed consequences can lead to one’s faulty thinking that it really doesn’t matter since there appears, for a time, to be no negative consequence to one’s choice.

One factor is how it seems as though there is a “grace allowance” (for lack of a better term) even for those who reject God’s design specs, at least in the sense that life may still work and seems to be going OK. I struggle as I place these thoughts in writing lest I be misunderstood. The grace allowance for the human race is similar to the engineering tolerance. Life still works even when we don’t match up to the divinely ordained specs. However, Scripture teaches us that there is a most certain judgment, if not now it will be at a future date!

Now let me seek to make a spiritual analogy: mankind as noted above has always (since the fall) failed to wholly live up to God’s pattern. As Romans 3:23 famously states, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Grace provides a safety factor for those who repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and serve Him as Lord.

But I consider that there is also an allowable tolerance and failure factor to society as a whole even the unrepentant and those who willfully reject God in regard to God’s design.

Looking at the human race as a whole we see more and more willful, open defiance of God’s design specs on many issues. Consider marriage and the family, sexuality, truthfulness, responsible living, hard work and in so many other areas.

Of course the failure factor will ultimately be revealed in the final Great Judgment when Jesus separates those who receive His eternal inheritance in heaven from those who perish in hell. But since there is a delayed period between sowing and reaping many assume all is well even while charting their individual course that ultimately leads to eternal destruction.

The daily text is an obscure verse succinctly describing the life of King Amon, son of Manasseh. “He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to Him.” What a sad legacy King Amon left for all to read, right down to our own generation.

Let us renew our resolve to follow the Lord and walk in accordance to His pattern of belief and His way of life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we seek to honor You in our lives. We don’t want our lasting legacy to go down in the history books like that of King Manasseh and his son Amon, who forsook You, the God of his father, King Hezekiah. Though he repented late in his reign so many he had already influenced for evil, went on to influence their children and their children’s children. Instead we want our lives to reflect that of King Hezekiah who trusted in You, the God of Israel. Thank You, Father, for letting us make choices for ourselves, but we dare not trust our own wisdom in making these choices. We rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to establish the desirable pattern for right living here and now for that will also determine our future for all of eternity. Amen.



Randy inspecting machined partRandy is inspecting a part he just made and informed me his tolerance was also +/- .0005. Being within this tolerance means the part is acceptable, although of course the conscientious machinist strives to precisely make the part to the exact specified dimension.

However I suspect that the part would still “work” even if it was slightly lesser or greater than this accepted allowance, though there would certainly be a point when the part would fail. There’s only so much margin; the next step is the failure factor.

 
Chicken drinking from Val-Co drinker valve (Photo by Joe Ulicny)Our friend Joe Ulicny, who leads the marketing team, at Val-Co took this photo of the part mentioned in today’s message being used.
 
Brooksyne visiting with "Baba" 1/17/19
Brooksyne visiting with Baba who, for many years, has run the machine that “spits” out the drinker valves designed for the watering systems in chicken houses. (In many cases with languages we don’t know we learn their names but probably spell them wrong!)
 
Brian and Tan 1/17/19
It’s great to see people getting along! Brian is a supervisor on the second shift who has become great friends with Tan, a Vietnamese immigrant. Tan calls Brian his big brother, although they are only a couple of months apart in age. In several weeks they are both going to Vietnam to visit Tam’s family.
 
Smucker team 1/17/19
Last night we joined the Smucker team for a gathering that included lots of food, bowling and laser tag. We didn’t care to display this photo on the site but for the first time in life we actually played laser tag! This photo shows the prize winners who won gift cards from a game played during bowling.



Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
 
“He Has Shown You, O Man, What Is Good”  Video  Maranatha Singers  Micah 6:8 set to song
 
 

“May The Mind of Christ My Savior”  Video  Jake Armerding


May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self-abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.