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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Amish hay harvest
Amish hay harvest
Yesterday afternoon I helped out by pitching the hay bales back on the wagon to be stacked in the 90+ degree heat.
We were working near the Strasburg Railroad so we periodically heard the loud whistle of the steam engine.

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"Daily Bread"

"Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:8,9).

One of our favorite print devotionals is the booklet "Our Daily Bread."  In the course of our ministry we have distributed thousands of copies and continue to do so.  It's a blessing to see that people read them and find value in spiritual truths. Yesterday I was visiting in a home where we had given one of these booklets and saw that the wife had cut out selected pages and taped them to her kitchen cabinets as spiritual reminders!

The title "Our Daily Bread" is surely taken from the well-known words from the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."  However I wonder if our Lord might have also had the daily verse in mind when He shared His model prayer.

Proverb 30 records the sayings of Agur son of Jakeh even though most of the Proverbs were written by Solomon. What a timeless truth he expressed when he prayed the prayer that comprises our daily verse.  He introduces this section with these words that reveal his prayerful heart, "Two things I ask of you, O LORD."

There are always dangers in the life of faith and one is the continuous tension between poverty and wealth. As I carefully and prayerfully consider today's verse I admit I have a hard time praying it myself. "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." I would desire riches over poverty and certainly more than just daily bread.  I want my pantry to be filled and nice vehicles to drive!

But the basis of the prayer is easily observable and is just as appropriate today as three thousand years ago:

1) When things are going well and we're enjoying peace and prosperity it's very easy to forget that this world is not our home. We begin to cling to this temporal world and its values.  Our heavenward focus is exchanged for an earthbound focus. Our eyes and thoughts begin to feast upon humankind instead of Almighty God.   Agur put it this way: "I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'"

2) On the other hand when things are tough we may resort to the arm of flesh (stealing in its many forms) to get by rather than trusting in the Lord.  According to Agur we would, in this manner, "dishonor the name of my God."

The tendency for many of us who live in the prosperous regions is to consider those who have more than us to be rich and our economic classes reflect this. We look up the scale and then reckon ourselves "poor" comparatively.  Most reading this do not even consider themselves as rich because we use the term "rich" for the very wealthy or at least those several notches up the scale from us. You may even be annoyed at me for pointing this out! 

Bill Gates is my age and comparatively he is far, far wealthier in terms of this world's riches than I am. In fact his home is about 45 times larger than mine!  I recently heard a contrasting story from a Christian bank president who grew up in India.  He told his listeners about growing up in a house that was 8x10.  Five people lived and slept in this house.  My house is about 20 times larger than that!

But comparatively most of us are very rich when we consider the perspective of the tremendous poverty in many, many parts of the world, especially third-world countries. I have visited some of these countries and seen people that truly know the meaning of "daily bread."  Most of us certainly have far more than "daily bread" don't we?  Our food pantries and clothes closets are filled.  We are "rich in this present world" (1 Timothy 6:17) and do well to regularly heed the cautions. 

Today let us count our blessings, share generously from our bounty, and praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, You are the Giver of all good things.  You have given us so much and we are indeed grateful.  Move upon our hearts to be generous with our resources.  When we're tempted to look at other's possessions in comparison to our own, may we always be mindful of those who have less rather than those who have more.    This will help us to be more prayerful and generous toward those who are without.  It will also help us to be less whining and more content with what we have.  Amen.

Brooksyne's note: Our message today reminds me of a dear woman in our past congregation.  Ester pretty much adopted her for a grandmother in absence of her own grandmothers who lived over 1000 miles away.  Ester gave her many nice little gifts over the years since she had no children and it was a way of honoring her.  She was very grateful and expressed it often.  But shortly after receiving these gifts she would share them with others in her apartment complex who had very little.  At first it slightly annoyed me, but then I came to realize that it was her generous spirit that couldn't resist sharing with others who had less than she.  She not only shared her few possessions but she drove many who had
no other means of transportation and visited the needy and on and on the list goes.  She continues to do this though she is now in her late seventies.  She is an inspiration to me.

Further study: In my observation the Biblical warnings concerning the spiritual dangers to the rich exceed those concerning the spiritual dangers to the poor. Moses warned the people concerning this prior to the Conquest (Deuteronomy 8
Jesus has numerous warnings to the rich including His famous warning about the eye of the needle.
The apostle Paul's most extensive address of this matter is in 1 Timothy 6.

The Treasure PrincipleThe Treasure Principle  By Randy Alcorn / Multnomah
Jesus told a story about a hidden treasure that, once discovered, brought life-changing joy. In The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn unearths a simple yet profound principle that will radically change your concept of stewardship. Short on guilt, Alcorn illuminates the liberating joy of giving and its impact, not only for today but for eternity as well. A perennial bestseller, this revised edition includes a new concluding chapter, "31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God About Your Giving."

"Our Daily Bread"  This longstanding devotional series serves as a model for the layout of  daily encouragement. I recall my Mom reading the "Our Daily Bread" from when I was a child right up to her passing. Most are familair with the little three month booklets but you can also read the messages online.

The Strasburg Railroad
Watch a video about the Strasburg Railroad. Here's a photo I took of the steam engine.

Farm pond
There's just nothing like a cool dip in the farm pond after field work!

Today's suggested music:
As I concluded today's message I included a portion of the Doxology, that wonderful, brief expression of praise sung all through Christ's Church.
  • In our area we periodically hear (and sing) an extended version of the Doxology that is known as the Mennonite Doxology
  • An interesting round version
  • A beautiful piano instrumental version.
  • A "contemporary" version.
Brooksyne suggests "Count Your Blessings" (this is not the version you will expect!)

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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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