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Monday, July 31, 2006

"Ending Well"

"When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship" (Acts 20:36-38).

Yesterday we ended a nearly 10 month assignment at a local church where I have been serving as interim pastor. They have selected a long-term pastor and he will begin serving this week. We've been there long enough that the final service was a meaningful time similar to the other three churches that we pastored during our 25 years of pastoral ministry. We concluded the service by kneeling together around the altar as I prayed for the congregation.

One early lesson I learned in life and have sought to practice throughout my life is to "end well".  I believe this should apply to all our relationships in life, especially our spiritual ones.  Our daily verse may seem a bit unusual without its fuller context.  Paul had just preached a dynamic sermon to the Ephesian elders, a moving and challenging farewell before his trip to Jerusalem. (I have used this portion of Scripture in bidding farewell on our final Sunday to each church I've pastored and I did so again yesterday.)

In it Paul had stated that they would never see his face again (20:25) and this especially gripped their hearts causing them emotional distress.  However Paul did keep contact with this church through his letter to the Ephesians.  Following Paul's message we have one of the greatest "farewell" experiences recorded in Scripture.

After his message they knelt and prayed together and "they all wept as they embraced him and kissed him."  Can you picture this wonderful scene in your mind?  Have you had similar experiences in life?  I hope so.

What really moved the group to tears was a statement that Paul had made in the sermon that he would never see them again (v. 25). Consider how we would react in the fellowship transactions of life if we knew we would never see someone again. Normally, except in the case of gathering around a deathbed, we anticipate that sometime in the future we will meet together again.

I'm sure we would go to extraordinary means to express our love and to show how much that person had meant to us if it was a final good-bye. The fact is, we really don't know when we bid a loved one "farewell" whether we will see them again (at least on this side of eternity). I don't want to seem morbid, but it's a fact of life. I want to live in such a way that those who mean so much to me know of my love and appreciation, not just during farewells. I encourage you to live the same way!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, thank You for the dear friends who've brought vibrant color to our lives in various ways; those who simply warm our hearts, others who've taught us by their example and still others who've helped carry our burdens along the way.  So many of them were a part of our lives for only a season, but the duration of their influence is ongoing. Though we've had to bid "farewell" to so many through death or separation I'm heartened by Your promise that You will never leave us or forsake us.  No matter what season or calamity we may face Your enduring presence and provision will see us through to the other side.  Thank You for being a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Brooksyne's note: As I consider the depth of Paul's relationship with the congregations he served it makes me think about the character traits Paul offered as a friend to his fellow believers and as a servant of God.   He was a person who did not tell the people just what they wanted to hear, but he did speak forth what God wanted them to hear.  He held fellow believers accountable for their actions and attitudes.  He also identified with their weaknesses rather than quickly condemning their behavior, though he did not compromise the truth and standards of the Gospel.  And most importantly he began his letters and weaved throughout each chapter his love and affection for the people of God.

Further exposition and personal reflection: Today's message is a bit long so I will add this as a footnote. We may tend to stop at the chapter break but actually 21:1 is a continuation of this same event. "They accompanied him to the ship" That's really an interesting detail that I can identify with.  When we departed after a visit to my folk's house my Mom and Dad always went to the car with us and we hugged before we climbed in the car. We would then wave to each other till we were completely out of sight. 

Our Next Chapter: Yesterday I shared a Powerpoint presentation with photos I took during our time of serving this church using themed music as a background. One of the songs I used is "Friends" which has a line that states, "a chapter in your life is through."

As we complete our current assignment, a chapter has indeed ended and we are seeking the Lord for direction. We have some opportunities through chaplaincy and also hope to visit churches and share our ministry vision with congregations. If you are a pastor or church leader please contact us! We would be very open to another short-term interim type pastoral assignment as well.

We continue to pour our lives into this internet ministry and hope to continue expanding it to impact more and more people all around the world. The email list recently passed another milestone and is now the largest it's ever been. Visits to the website and podcast continue to grow as well.  I try to keep up with technology the best I can and recently developed a mobile version so it can now be read on cell phones and mobile devices. (We have already heard that some do.)

I begin to prepare the daily message each weekday morning around 6:00 AM. Brooksyne joins me to edit my writing and add her prayer and any additional thoughts she may have. We then pray together for the impact of our daily ministry and prepare the podcast.  I am usually finished with all the updating and technical work by Noon. Throughout the day we periodically respond to email feedback, particularly if a reader expresses a need in their life.

We welcome any who might want to provide an offering in support of this ministry. Here is a support page if you might be interested. I just created an "encouragement" Windows screensaver which has nearly 40 photos along with thematic Scriptures.  I am excited about this new feature and I would be happy to share this with supporters through a downloadable file or CD.

In the message I referred to the song "Friends" which I enjoy, especially during a time of parting. Here's an audio version (mp3) This is on a German site and I don't recognize the artists but they do a great job and have a rather upbeat arrangement.

Old lady that lived in a shoe!
Throughout our service in this church we passed this shoe along a four lane highway. Yesterday following the service we had a church picnic and then on the way home we pulled off the main highway and found the shoe, apparently a tourist feature someone built based upon, "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe."

This morning Brooksyne prepared a plate of home-grown tomatoes sprinkled with fresh chopped basil for me!  Mmm, Mmmm good!!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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