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Friday, September 28, 2007
We pass this beautiful farm near Strasburg PA.
This is only a few miles from the site of the Nickel Mines school shooting last year.
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"The Final Outcome"
(Today's message is a bit longer than usual)
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (Acts 7:55,56).
Yesterday I went to a neighboring city to attend a CBMC meeting (a group of Christian businessmen). I rode over with my friend, Mike Stillman, who was also the speaker. Mike played college football in the eighties at Penn State and was a member of the 1982 national championship team starring as the longsnapper.
As we drove along we were talking football and I shared how my family had driven through South Bend Indiana on the way to Wisconsin last year. We drove through the campus at Notre Dame and admired the beautiful setting. A great deal of emphasis is placed on their football team and the stadium has a prominent place right in the center.
Mike played in two games there and he asked me if I saw the "Touchdown Jesus." At first I thought he cited a license plate with this message as we were traveling, but he went on to explain that at Notre Dame they have a building you can see from the football field that has a large mural of a Jesus figure raising his arms in what appears to be the touchdown gesture.
As a matter of fact I did not see the building when I was there however it did get me thinking!
Al and Thata Book, were a missionary couple who first went to Africa in the early 50's. After serving in Africa for many years they had various duties for Christ in the states and while in their sixties they learned Spanish and went to Central America as missionaries. We met them in our church when we moved to this area in 2001. They really weren't slowing down at all in 2003 when they returned to Africa for six months of missionary service even though they were in their late 70's. Only days after arriving in Africa they were killed in an automobile accident. We were stunned upon hearing of the tragedy and again considered how things work out in the mysterious plan of God.
Many of you reading this today have had similar experiences in life. Some are more pronounced than others, but these are blows in life that just knock us to the ground. We wonder in hurt and exasperation, "Where is God and what is He doing in all this?"
But allow this truth to penetrate deeply into your spiritual being as you read this message. The final outcome for the true child of God is always good!
Certainly there will be rough spots in the journey of faith and many of you know as you read this what I mean. Some are presently experiencing it! There are times in the midst of a serious trial that we may wonder "Is this really going to work out?" Sometimes "working out" is not as we expect, but yes, ultimately it always works out. Our responsibility is to stay faithful to God.
Stephen was one of the first followers of Christ. The Scripture records nothing concerning his background or conversion. He is first mentioned when he was chosen by the early church to serve as a deacon. The historian Luke records that he was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." He soon had a preaching opportunity and bears a powerful witness for the Lord, likely his first and certainly his last sermon.
But rather than getting appreciative pats on the back or seeing the altars full of repentant sinners, he faced a very unreceptive crowd who were "furious and gnashing their teeth at him." He was forcefully drug out of the city and stoned.
Consider the human dimension in Stephen's experience. Surely he had to overcome the question, "Is this what serving God is all about?" As the first recorded Christian martyr he and other believers watching might have wondered "Is God really going to allow this to go on?" Surely Stephen loved his family and friends and had a promising ministry. At his burial "godly men mourned deeply for him" (Acts 8:2). Surely he had to overcome tremendous fear as the situation turned from bad to ugly to deadly. And imagine the horrific physical pain and agony he endured as large stones were hurled at him.
Note Stephen's faith-filled vision of "the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." Here's where I apply the football analogy. I receive joy when I picture Jesus raising His hands in a touchdown gesture as Stephen slumps to the ground. In spite of the apparent visible defeat that onlookers could not deny, the eternal outcome was truly a victorious win!
Stephen was not delivered from his troubles in the way he might have expected or would surely have desired. Yet this was part of God's ultimate plan. Jesus wasn't "off duty" and oblivious to Stephen's plight. I'm so glad Scripture tells us that Stephen saw the windows of heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. What tremendous confidence and anticipation this must have given him in his final moments of pain-filled life on this side!
So, back to our lives and our struggles this day. The outcome of whatever we're going through may or may not be as we desire or expect. But let us, like Stephen, look up to heaven and get a glimpse of our Lord, who is never "off duty". And remember the final outcome for the true child of God is always good!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, I'm so glad for those in the cloud of witnesses that cheer us on in our spiritual marathon. Just as Stephen had a glimpse of Jesus standing he was filled with confidence to remain true to his convictions and calling in the midst of utter rejection and unbearable pain. Help us to turn our hearts toward heaven so that we desire Your approval and blessing above worldly applause and man's favor. This will keep us diligent in our Christian walk even in the midst of disappointment and times of waiting. Amen.
We again welcome daily encouragement readers to visit our new humor blog and my very first attempt at satire. The situation is set in in Fair Grove Missouri at the fictional Fair Grove Community Church (FGCC) where there is serious church division concerning the new pastor's proposal to replace the overhead projector and incorporate PowerPoint. Read the blog post here. We actually began our ministry as a newly married couple in May of 1976 at a little country church outside of Fair Grove, which is about 20 miles north of Springfield.
A photo of the Notre Dame mural "touchdown Jesus".
Today Brooksyne and I travel to Ocean City, New Jersey to share our ministry at a conference sponsored by SEND.
Here's a photo taken at yesterday's CBMC meeting in Hanover PA.
Mike is at the right in the photo.
CBMC is an international association of Christian businessmen seeking to live for Christ.
Recommended book regarding today's topic:
The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? By R.C. Sproul / P & R Publishing - In a world steeped in anguish and evil, how can God be in control? Do all things really work for good? With head-on honesty and biblical insight, Sproul examines the difficult doctrine of divine providence. Discover how your Lord lovingly guides the events of your life without creating human wickedness or destroying human freedom. Click here for ordering information.
Today's suggested music:
Al and Thata indeed "fought the good fight" (2 Timothy 4:7). This song so powerfully describes the homecoming of a faithful soldier for Christ.
"Another Soldier,s Coming Home" (Audio)
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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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