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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Mule work team
Today's photo does not necessarily relate to the message below but it reminds me of a simple lifestyle with little pretense. The mule team has just completed a hard day of field work on a farm here in Lancaster County and are being returned to their stall in the barn. I went in the barn a few minutes after this photo was taken and they were sure enjoying their meal and water! (see note following message.)

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"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

We live near enough to Philadelphia that we get a number of television stations in that market. Since it's on the border with New Jersey we also get commercials for New Jersey. They're running one that I find particularly obnoxious. It's an ad for the gambling industry (the state sponsored lottery if I am not mistaken) that features a show band gleefully singing the familiar holiday song, "We wish you a ……" If you were to complete the words "Merry Christmas" you would be wrong in this commercial. No, they change the words to "million dollars."

Now I realize most of us wouldn't reckon this song as a sacred carol but the changing of the words is never-the-less one more insult to the real reason for the season, particularly the greed-based wording and sponsorship by the gambling industry. It runs absolutely counter to the mission of our Lord's giving of Himself to save the world.  The Christmas message for the believer should center much more on the giving than the receiving, for "it is more blessed to give than to receive."

Last night in Bible Study I taught from the daily Scripture passage. It's a portion of God's Word that we need to regularly keep before us. A renewed insight for me as I shared from the text was the phrase, "the boasting of what he has and does."

I consider just how much of our human nature is centered on boasting about what one has or what one does (whether an outward or inward boasting). Thus the appeal is there for the ad mentioned at the beginning of this message, "We wish you a million dollars".  I recall a simple song that has a tremendous contrasting message titled, "I wish you Jesus" by Scott Wesley Brown. (See below for the lyrics.)

According to one of my study references the Greek word translated "boasting" in this passage has the sense of "the braggadocio which exaggerates what it possesses in order to impress the people."* Wow, that's the exact intent of what boasting is really all about!

"What he has" is the sense of personal value based upon our income and possessions.  "What he does" is the sense of personal value based upon the type of job we have, our social position, amount of education, titles and so forth. People are ranked in each of these categories and this can lead to a source of pride and boasting. But any boasting on these matters "comes not from the Father but from the world."

"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." May we supremely have a growing desire to do the will of God, knowing that the eternal impact of doing so far surpasses any temporary standing or perishable reward.

Centuries earlier the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, "This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, the love You offer stands in great contrast to the love offered by the world.  No matter how many possessions I own or what title I earn from this life, these can never bring eternal joy or reconciliation with You.  But a repentant heart does bring about reconciliation and a desire to do Your will brings great purpose for my life.  As the world is fading away, and everything with it, I am storing up treasures that are not perishable, kept in heaven for me for that is where my heart is also.  Amen.

* Linguistic key to the Greek New Testament

"I Wish You Jesus" by Scott Wesley Brown

I could wish you joy and peace.
To last a whole life long.
I could wish you sunshine.
Or a cheerful little song
Or wish you all the happiness.
That this life could bring.
But I wish You Jesus, more than anything.

I could wish you leaves of gold.
And may your path be smooth.
I could wish you treasures.
Or that all your dreams come true.
And I could wish you paradise.
That every day be spring.
But I wish You Jesus, more than anything.

'Cause when I wish you Jesus,
I've wished you everything.

Scott Wesley Brown was a popular musician on the ever changing "contemporary" music scene when I was a young Christian and one of my favorite artists. Praise the Lord that he is still faithfully serving the Lord and writing music even though he looks quite a bit older now (as do we all!)
Here's his website (Note: This website has a very annoying audio jingle every time you change pages!)
"This Little Child" is one of his greatest songs in my view. Here are two full length mp3 versions from his website available as a free download
Original version
African version

Note: I will very likely write a separate message in the next couple of weeks based on the message in this song.  I recall sending a tape of this song as a witness to a loved one in early 80's in the hope of influencing him to place his faith in the Lord. As I listened to this song several times again this morning I am so blessed by its power and blunt expression of truth. I urge you to take about 5 minutes and sit back and listen to it, if this is possible. It builds to a powerful crescendo.

Here's another full length mp3 of the classic hymn "Come Christians Join to Sing"

Note from Brooksyne: An additional song that comes to my mind after reading the devotional this morning is the stirring song, "How Deep the Father's Love For Us" by Stuart Townend.  The third verse speaks of the attitude that we not boast in anything except for boasting in Jesus Christ:  His death and resurrection.  If you are unfamiliar with this song, take a listen, for it will bless you!  If you sing this in your congregation you already know that this song has tremendous depth in all three verses as it helps us to consider the vast, immeasurable love of our Father in giving His only sinless, holy, Son to make us His treasure.  Audio  Video

Note concerning today's photo: As regular readers know I have a friendship and association with many of the Amish in our area. They do not mind me taking photos of their lifestyle and surroundings but have an opposition to photos with identifiable facial features based upon their interpretation of "graven image."  Of course I honor this request and thus do not take or use such photos. Interestingly some Amish friends of ours are not opposed to me taking photos of their children but have requested that I do not share them with others.

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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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