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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Original site of the  Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse.

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"When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. 'Let's not take his life,' he said. 'Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him.' Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father" (Genesis 37:21,22).

Last night we went to a minister's enrichment conference and heard H.B. London share a message of encouragement. Cousin to Dr. James Dobson, H.B. London, who pastored for many years, ministers primarily to pastors and others in full-time ministry as part of the outreach of Focus on the Family.  We sure left encouraged in our service for the Lord and we sensed a real move of the Lord's Spirit as so many of our peers went to the front to receive special prayer.

His message was inspired from the life of Joseph in Genesis where the story begins in Chapter 37. Joseph's jealous brothers were determined to "do him in" once and for all.  Yet one brother, Reuben, stood up to do the right thing by coming to his brother's defense. The latter part of the daily text makes Reuben's motives clear, an intent to rescue Joseph and take him back to his father.

In his book "The Invisible Hand", theologian R. C. Sproul points out that "the doctrine of concurrence refers to historical events in which the work of Providence has been acted out through human agencies.  That means at the same time human agents are acting, God is acting in and through them."

The "human agent" God worked through was Reuben who saved Joseph's life, although his intent to take him back to his father did not materialize (for God had another plan).  H.B. London pointed out last night that we all need people in our life like Reuben.  I've been pondering that point since I heard the message and what a blessing it is to know many "Reubens" over the years.

I look back over my life and I want to share one example that might especially encourage my pastor friends. In the mid-nineties, several years after assuming the pastorate of the church I served in New England, a group rose up to oppose my ministry. It was a painful time culminating with a business meeting where my attackers had their say and I faced a vicious assault.

It was really, as most church conflicts are, much ado about nothing. After days of fervent prayer in regard to this meeting I chose not to speak out on my behalf but remained painfully silent.  A number of members graciously spoke on my behalf, but I especially recall one devoted brother who stood and spoke out in my defense while tears filled his eyes.  It was the first time I'd seen him release his emotions in such a way and it was on my behalf.   He was one of those "Reubens" who brought me much comfort in a very uncomfortable setting and we remain friends to this day.

We need to understand that God is active in even the most seemingly difficult experiences we go through.  Reuben spoke out and made the most of an opportunity and we should do the same.  Do you suppose that when Reuben acted on this occasion he had the slightest notion that his brotherly act would be recorded for all to read nearly 3,900 years later?

Remember that God is still working in the difficult times and waiting periods of your life.  Today let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul: "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15,16).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, it is out of the cistern from which You pulled Joseph that his life took on even greater challenge than before.  Because he was deeply devoted to You he was elevated to high places but he still walked through many long, dark valleys.  His persistence was rewarded and Your plan was finally revealed to both Joseph and his family many years later.  Even as Joseph chose to walk by faith rather than sight, help us Father, to do likewise.  May we never stop trusting You especially when we face opposition or feel abandoned by others.  Though Joseph knew that the intention of his brothers was to harm him, he came to recognize that You intended it for his good to accomplish a much greater thing; the saving of many lives.  May we embrace the grace and love that Joseph had when many years later he spoke kindly to his brothers reassuring them that he would not return to them harm but rather good by providing for their needs.  Amen. 

A special note to my pastor friends: Let me share a message of encouragement I wrote when I served in an overseer position while in New England in the late nineties titled "Not In Vain"

Ruth Puleo
Last night we visited Ruth Puleo, a daughter of one of my predecessors at the church we served in New England. Her father, Pastor Alton Richardson passed away early this year.  He served the church in Taunton, Massachusetts in the late sixties. We especially place this photo up for our friends in that church who will remember Ruth as a high school student! She sends you her greetings and has fond memories of several of the "old-timers" we mentioned.  Ruth is now very involved in Women's Ministries. Here's a brief article she wrote.

Pat and Laverne Weber
We joined my brother Pat and his wife Laverne for dinner pror to the meeting last night. Ester was so pleased to see her aunt and uncle! My brother first shared the gospel with me in 1971 after he returned from the service and had accepted the Lord while serving in Germany. He has pastored for over 30 years now and presently serves the Faith Community Church in Easton, PA.

I referred to the concept of concurrence gleaned from this book in today's message:
The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good?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. 224 pages, softcover from P & R.

Here's a book especially recommended by Brooksyne by one of our favorite authors.  When we were going through troubled times in our pastoral ministry this book offered great encouragement and understanding of how God works good even in the midst of those who intend harm.  It's one book that will always remain in our library for reference when we forget about the mysterious workings of God in our lives and need to be reminded.
JosephJoseph  By Charles Swindoll / Thomas Nelson - Every day it seems another so-called "hero" falls from grace, but in his Great Lives from God's Word series, Chuck Swindoll introduces you to heroes who stand the test of time. In his third volume, Joseph, Swindoll challenges Christians to aspire to the virtues of obedience, mercy, and courage---all of which characterized the life of this richly blessed child of God.

Today's message is from Genesis 37

Today's suggested music:
"Blessed Assurance" (Audio) We sang this last night following the sermon by H.B. London. He led out spontaneously with no instrumentation and it was powerful as some 1000, young and old, joined together with heartfelt worship. What a joy to look at my side and see Ester singing out. The service began with a contemporary praise band by a college worship team with full intrumentation and all. I like this kind of music but please, please don't stop singing the great old hymns!  So few of the new can we sing by memory but the oft repeated hymns simply resonate from the heart as we've memorized their meaningful words over the years.
"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" (Audio) Begins with an outstanding violin instrumental.

This morning I was blessed as I took a walk and saw these volunteer morning glories growing across the lane from our house. They're most likely a result of some lawn clippings we've placed along the over-sized ditch and now provide an unintended beauty as drivers pass by.
Volunteer morning glories

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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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