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"The God of All Comfort"
"Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him" (Acts 8:2). "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3,4).
Periodically during our lives there are events on a scale that especially touch our hearts such as the Amish shootings here in Lancaster County this last Monday. These events remind us of the great evil that permeates our world, the fragility of life itself and the "mystery of divine providence". Yesterday, as additional sordid details of the murderous plot were revealed Brooksyne began to weep as she cried out asking, "Why, why, why?"
There are personal events that have only touched you or events that were more localized in nature, not making national or international news. Since I have lived here in Lancaster County I recall when a little 14-month-old was struck and killed when he wandered behind his father's backhoe. I also recall a dedicated newlywed youth pastor who was killed when the church van accidentally rolled over him. During situations like this our family intercedes for those grieving family members and friends left behind.
And we again ask, "Why?"
We join many in our area and around the world in praying for the Amish families involved in Monday's horrific massacre, as well as the family of the killer. By all accounts his wife was a devout believer and that very morning led a prayer meeting in her church.
For many, events like this either becomes a crisis of faith (for believers) or an excuse not to believe (for unbelievers). Yesterday a friend who works at Lancaster General Hospital, where several of the young girls were initially taken, wrote how deeply this impacted the employees at the hospital and the anger they expressed at what they had witnessed. I also heard from a compassionate reader at Hershey Medical Center. Several of the girls were life-flighted to this hospital as well.
Dramatic and unexplainable loss is an issue people of all ages have always dealt with.
Consider Stephen who stood boldly for Christ and was stoned. Afterwards, "Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him" (Acts 8:2). Have you ever really pondered this verse? Surely the emotions were no less intense for them than they are for us in our losses. To "mourn deeply" has the sense of great lamentation, The literal Greek meaning is "to beat the breast in grief". Did they "understand" any better than we do?
Surely they did not.
Consider John the Baptist. He was specially called to serve God from his very conception. He had prepared the way for and even baptized Jesus. He had taken a bold stand for truth and righteousness before an ungodly king and was beheaded as a result. Consider his disciples. They had the grisly chore of taking his body and burying it. What were they thinking? What a great test of faith they endured.
Surely, like us, they wondered, "Why did God allow this to happen?"
Above all, consider the Lord Jesus Christ, who endured such opposition from sinful men and murdered on our behalf.
Some of you have experienced great loss in your own life. Yesterday in the outpouring of emails we received to pass on to our Amish friends several of you recounted your own personal losses, such as a grandmother who lost two granddaughters in a car accident. I myself have had some deep hurts and disappointments in life that I still simply don't understand.
The life of faith is tested, sometimes greatly. Jesus forthrightly told us, "in the world you will have tribulation" although we are generally surprised when we do experience tribulation.
But at times of tribulation like this, faith is also demonstrated in such a powerful way. Already some amazing things are happening in the aftermath of this tragedy, although perhaps not reported beyond our area as the "newsworthiness" of the event passes. Churches are coming together to pray and grieve. Last night I led a prayer for the situation at a service in an inner city Spanish church. Signs like the one pictured below Brooksyne's prayer are all over our area.
In keeping with their gentle nature a major theme heard from the Amish who've spoken out is "forgiveness." At the request of the Amish community trust funds being set up to aid the affected Amish families also include the killer's wife and family.
I spoke to friend who attended another large prayer meeting last night (the one that Michael W. Smith was at). She told how love and forgiveness absolutely filled the place.
Sam Stoltzfus, 63, an Amish woodworker who lives near the shooting scene and who was interviewed for national media, said the victims' families will be sustained by their faith. "We think it was God's plan and we're going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going," he said. "A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors."
Today, may those impacted find great peace in these words from the apostle Paul, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3,4). He is indeed "the God of all comfort."
Finally let us again recall the great statement of assurance many of us have memorized in Romans 8:28. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." In some cases we'll just have to wait for the other side to see how it works for the good. Through it all, let us stay faithful!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen C. Weber
Today's prayer: Father of All Comfort, I look to You for consolation and peace most especially during times of turmoil. Incredibly Your supernatural peace does not depend on the physical circumstances seen by my eyes or heard by my ears. You raise me up out of the gloom of despair as I place my hope not in the visible circumstances, but rather in You who renews my strength. You enable me to soar on wings like eagles far above the troubling circumstances that weigh me down. Keep my eyes, my ears and my heart lifted to the heavens where Your divine presence combats the assaulting storms of life. I lift up my brothers and sisters who are storm weary, asking You to renew their strength as You help them to endure the trials of life this day. Your comfort is inexhaustible and Your compassion overflows. Thank You, Father. Amen.
Many readers from all over the world responded yesterday with a condolence message that we will share with our Amish friends. For any who wish to send a message we will compile them and see that they receive them. Our friends often read messages from the Daily Encouragement and we have spiritual relationship with them as well. We are very sure they will touched by your messages. You do not need to identify yourself if you choose not to but please note your location (state or country) Send the email note to this address
Today's musical selection used in the podcast is an old hymn known and beloved by believers around the world. Our Amish friends enjoy this one when we gather and sing together around our piano.
"What a Friend We Have In Jesus" I have three online audio versions today.
This mellow, acoustic guitar version is shared by a young lady named Lisa Bloecher, "a small town Nebraska girl" who now lives in Texas.
Acapella by the Martin's (Brooksyne's favorite group hailing from Arkansas, where her grandparents lived)
An Okie from Muskogee
Several athletes are in our area holding services and school assemblies with Sportsworld Ministries. Lee Rouson, who was a running back for the New York Giants and played in two winning Super Bowl games joined us for dinner last night and Ester enjoyed having him in our home. He is a committed follower of Jesus Christ, serving as an associate pastor in New York City and sharing his testimony everywhere he can.
One of Lee's two World Champ rings (the one on his ring finger). When people meet him and see his size, perhaps noting his rings, some even recognizing him they often ask, "Who are you?" His answer, "I'm a child of the King!"
Last night's service was in the inner city and what a joy to see two pastors join hands in commitment to reaching others for Christ. Mario, (to the right), is the youth pastor in the church. He and his wife serve their church and community faithfully while both working full-time in secular work.
Barn Sing-along - everyone welcome!
Here are the additional details!
Our readers are invited to a Praise and Worship service on Saturday, October 14, at 6 PM at our Amish neighbor's barn. Before the worship service, from 4:30-5:45, another neighbor will be hauling children and adults on a hayride with his tractor and wagon. Refreshments will follow the Worship Service. Contact us if you would like to come and need directions.
Astounding: In the midst of our county's grief and the outpouring of love come reports that a group from Kansas plans to "demonstrate" at the funeral. This is one of most bizarre groups I have ever heard of but it actually claims to be a church. It's sure not a church with any of my brothers and sisters in it!
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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.
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