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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Psalm 139
(Click on photo to enlarge) 
This photo was taken in
Maine by Greg Schneider, a friend of mine.

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"Through Many Hardships"

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22b).

Many of you know what I mean when I say a funeral can be a very blessed, edifying service.  When a believer has faithfully served the Lord the service is really more of a celebration. One of the most memorable services I ever attended was for a minister friend named Larry.  He was only sixty when he passed away but had served the Lord for many years in a variety of ways.  A highlight of the funeral service was an opportunity for people whose lives he had touched in some way to offer a word of tribute to him.  I was struck by the assortment of people over many years that spoke out.

Following the tribute portion they played a rather staticky portion of music that at first annoyed me.  I wondered, "Why would they put that on now?" until I recognized it was a tape recording of Larry singing one of my favorite songs from the seventies. Wow, it was a very touching experience which is permanently etched in my memory.

Larry had experienced some rough bumps in life, some very specific hurts that he and his wife had shared with me. I'm sure he expected to live longer than sixty.  But oh how I could sense the richness of his faith when he sang out through the recording, "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God.  Through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon his Word."

The daily Scripture portion has often intrigued me.  Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey and are actually returning to some of the cities in which they had earlier established churches.  Their work is summed up by the phrase, "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:22a).  But the careful historian, Luke, sums up their verbal message in a single phrase, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22b).

I normally preach for about ½ hour. These daily messages are designed to be read in about 5 minutes. I condense them to 1 minute for a radio message. But it's really a challenge to condense the essence of a message to one short sentence. But that's just what Luke does here!

I wonder how many of You have found this verse to be endearing?  It's not likely on the list of your top ten favorite Scripture verses, but it is a reality that will be played out time and again in the Christian life.  Some of you today are in the very midst of a serious "hardship" (the KJV translates "much tribulation") and your faith is being tested.  Brooksyne likes to often quote, "Faith that cannot be tested is faith that cannot be trusted."  In the testing of your faith you prove whether it is genuine.  Incredibly it will draw you closer to God rather than drive you away, if it is indeed genuine.

Brooksyne and I want to encourage you today.  God is faithful!  He will make a way.  The answer may not always be the way we would prefer, but as we remain faithful we have a promise of entry into the kingdom of God and His promises are absolutely sure.  Let this truth encourage you today.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, I'm so glad that You have blessed us with character traits that give us keeping power and sustain us in the midst of inevitable hardships.  The fruit of the Spirit, available to all believers, includes peace and patience (Gal. 5:22, 23).  It is only through the endurance of hardship that the much desired gift of patience blossoms.  It helps us to process the unwelcome events in our lives with more godly understanding which also helps us to trust Your ways and Your timing.  By trusting You rather than the changing circumstances we find Your changeless grace and abiding peace.

Stephen's note: I have shared this story in this series in the past but feel it's a good time to do so again. It is in regard to a very specific time in my life when the song, "Through it all" meant a great deal to me.  Early in my ministry I had hit some real obstacles and closed doors.  We had moved to Pennsylvania to start a church and although I felt I had been led by the Lord, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake and was leading my wife of one year into heartache.  She was 21 and I was 22 at the time.

I was driving a little Datsun pickup and my memory is still so vivid I know precisely where it happened.  Brooksyne was sitting in the middle and a college friend also named Larry, who had come up to encourage us in our new venture, was on the passenger side.  I was so intensely discouraged about the doors that kept closing that I involuntarily started to cry. I sure didn't want either Brooksyne or Larry to see me, so I angled my face toward the left of the window as I drove.  Now that old pickup sure didn't have a tape player built in (that was a real luxury at the time) but we had a small tape player affixed to the dashboard.  Just then the song, "Through it all" came on and God used it to renew my assurance that He would see me through that time of hardship.  He did!  That was in 1977 and a faithful group of people have met together for almost 30 years now as a result of God's opening the right doors in His timing.  God is faithful!

"Through It All" Here's a beautiful audio version of the song referred to in today's message.  The writer and original artist was Andrae' Crouch, who is still ministering for the Lord. In the mid seventies Andrae' Crouch was an example of contemporary music, especially to my parent's generation and older. We sure enjoyed going to his concerts. His group was called "Andrae' Crouch and the Disciples."  Now, to many it will sound old-fashioned!  And should the Lord Jesus tarry, in fifty years today's contemporary music will sound old-fashioned and the determiners of cool will be older than I am. "Generations come and generations go" (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

We also would like to share a link to beautiful song also titled, "Through It All" (This sounds like a split track.)

Lab pups
Yesterday, I visited a farm with some new lab pups.
They were pleased to have their photo taken but their mom wasn't so sure!

Columbia Market House
This morning I visited the Columbia Market House, an historic market in downtown Columbia, PA.

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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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