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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bill Shibilo with Ester
Bill Shibilo with Ester

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"Always With You"

"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

"The Lord your God is with you."  What a great promise this is!  It's a promise I often use when encouraging others going through a trial, especially those times "when sorrows like sea billows roll."  At times like this it's especially wonderful when we experience the reality of God's presence.

I recall when I shared this verse with Bill Shibilo, a dear friend of ours from the church we served in New England. I met with him and his family in an emergency room in our local hospital prior to his being life-flighted to Boston. We prayed together and I shared this simple truth, "The LORD your God is with you." He went on to be with the Lord shortly after this but we had many times of meaningful ministry with him during our 7½ years of service in that church.

Bill demonstrated a number of exceptional character qualities such as kindness, steadfastness and gentleness.  But one characteristic especially stands out.  He was faithful.  He graduated from a Bible Institute and then served in the military.  For nearly forty-five years he was active in his local church serving with every pastor in the church's history. He taught, served as Sunday School Superintendent, served on boards, sprayed for bugs, polished pews, passed out bulletins, ushered, and a whole lot of other forms of service.  For several years he turned the soil in our small garden plot as the above photo shows.  Some of his service was visible to others, but much of his labors for Christ were carried out behind the scenes. I never heard Bill grumble, not once.

I want to share one memory in particular. In one of our last visits to New England Medical Center prior to his passing, Brooksyne and I gathered with his family to share Scripture verses and sing hymns to him.  At that point he was very weak and had trouble breathing, let alone talking. But spiritually he was very strong and rested in the assurance of God's abiding presence and steadfast love.  Following prayer for him, he mustered the strength to proclaim to me, "In Jesus Name, God bless your ministry."  That's a blessing I will always treasure.

The promise of God's abiding presence provides sufficient assurance to meet any challenge.  Jacob testified of "God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day."  David expressed "Thou art with me."  In His darkest hour Jesus said; "I am not alone, for my Father is with me."  Our Lord Jesus told His disciples before returning to heaven, "Surely I am with you always."  In his final letter Paul confidently asserts, "The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength."  This glorious promise can be accepted by all believers, for God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" *

Some of you especially need this assurance and reminder today. You're getting battered about quite a bit. Some have written and told us, others we know personally. Broken homes, sick bodies, wayward children, loneliness, big decisions, financial struggles. 

"Let this blessed assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, our faith is strengthened and our hope is renewed as we personalize one of Your many promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  You have stood beside us in the worst of times and shown us that Your grace is sufficient to see us through every moment of everyday.  We remain confident in Your overflowing love, Your unending provisions and Your mercies that are renewed each morning.  Great is Your faithfulness!  Amen.

Personal note: Last night I called Bill's wife, Veda.  She served as my personal secretary and continues in that role with my successor.  She has been a part of that particular church her entire life.  She and Bill were the kind of blessings we pray upon fellow pastors!  Both of their sons are active in ministry as well: one in local church ministry, the other a pastor in Connecticut.

* Genesis 48:15, Psalm 23:4, John 16:32, Matthew 28:20, 2 Timothy 4:17, Hebrews 13:5,6

Today's suggested song is: "It Is Well With My Soul" which is alluded to twice in today's message.
Listen Willingdon Church
Listen Anchor Men's Quartet

Baby gold finch
Just as I was making the final preparations on today's message Brooksyne excitedly came in for the camera and snapped this photo of a baby gold finch.

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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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