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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deer in Marin County California
Deer feeding at Abbott’s Lagoon in Marin County, California
Photo taken by Pastor Will Nelken.
(Click on photo for larger image)

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"The Love Of God"

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Richard and Ruth LehmanYesterday we attended the memorial service for a godly man who went to be with the Lord after living 81 years on this earth. We met Richard and Ruth several years ago when we represented the Daily Encouragement internet ministry at our local National Day of Prayer ministry tent. They stopped by our display, we had a brief chat, and they signed up for the email subscription.

Through the years, like many daily encouragement readers, we have periodically corresponded via email. This summer they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. I visited Richard awhile back at Conestoga View nursing home where he has resided over the last year. It was one of those visits where you seek to be a blessing but you leave receiving the blessing instead.  The principle of Prov. 11:25:  "He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" is exactly what I experienced in that visit.

Richard saw his mission field, in the last year of his life, to be the staff and residents of Conestoga View.  I'm sure it wasn't a location he preferred or ever imagined in his healthy years, but it was a place where God wanted him to shine his light.  He carried a heavy burden for both staff and residents there.  One grandson shared that he joined his grandfather in the chapel on one of his visits as Richard passionately interceded for the unsaved there in his new "home." 

The pastor shared an insightful example of Richard's attitude as he sought to represent Christ in his present surroundings.  Instead of reporting a staff member who had a nasty disposition, he chose instead to "shower him with kindness and pray for him."  He enlisted prayer support for this needy individual and over time Richard shared with his pastor that the employee they were praying for was beginning to soften and respond favorably to the kindness he was eing shown.
In recent weeks we've attended several funerals of Christian believers who made a lasting impact on those around them.  Though parting with loved ones is terribly painful it brings eternity into focus.  Usually our focus is the temporal here and now, but when a loved one is no longer within our reach we turn our hearts heavenward.  The celebration of Richard's life did just that as he had planned out the entire service including the selection of songs. A highlight for me was his request that the entire congregation stand and recite John 3:16. I am so enriched by the public reading of Scripture and observe that many churches seem to have forsaken this discipline and the actual Scriptural command (see 1 Timothy 4:13).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
How often has this verse been proclaimed! It's been called the gospel in a nutshell!  Each word is dripping with the honey of assuring truth for the believer in Christ.  It's probably the most memorized sentence in all of God's Word and many of you could close your eyes and recite it right now.  From our earliest days as believers we came to associate this reference more than any other with the very essence of the Gospel message.
Periodically throughout my pastoral ministry I enjoyed preaching from this text as have many of my peers in ministry. Here's an outline that I am blessed by that has often been used and God only knows who originally devised it:
For God (the greatest Giver)
so loved (the greatest motive)
the world (the greatest need),
that He gave (the greatest act)
His only begotten Son (the greatest gift),
that whosoever (the greatest invitation)
believeth (the greatest decision)
in Him (the greatest Person)
should not perish (the greatest deliverance),
but (the greatest difference)
have (the greatest certainty)
everlasting life (the greatest possession).
Today rejoice in the fundamental truth of God's love!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer:  Father, Giver of all good gifts, You gave the greatest gift possible when You sent Jesus to die in my place. Because of this most wondrous act of sacrificial love I have been forgiven of my sins. I want to live for You all the days of my life and take as many to heaven with me as I can.  Help me to share freely and generously the marvelous message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen.  In the name of Jesus Christ, my loving Lord and Savior,  I pray.  Amen.

Coffee cup
Our current humor blog entry was prompted by a yellow page ad we read while looking for a church to attend in Williamsburg Virginia last weekend. The main features expected to draw visitors to a particular church based on the large display ad were "casual clothing and Starbucks coffee".  This post is mostly satire but actually it could be true! Read the article here.

Brooksyne's Note: I was tremendously blessed to hear of Richard's outreach and intercession for the people at Conestoga View. He could have seen his time at this rehab as temporary, since it was supposed to be just that, and simply stay in his room and wish the time to go quickly.  Instead he chose to brighten the corner of his world for the time he had left on earth.

I frequently challenge the residents at the nursing homes where I do hymn sings, that instead of feeling "cornered" or trapped in a nursing home God has called them to brighten the corner at their dining room table, in their hallways and in the midst of activities for this is where God has led them during their golden years.  How blessed I was to hear repeated stories of Richard Lehman doing just this.  He will surely be missed by staff and residents from his mission field.

I'm reminded today of the interesting story behind the writing of the hymn, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are." 

In 1912 Ina Duley Ogdon received an invitation to be a Chataqua Circuit speaker.  This was a great opportunity for her since Chataqua Lake was a place in upstate New York where performers, musicians, lecturers and motivational speakers were invited who were famous throughout the country.  At the time it was the most popular spot where people by the thousands came to visit. Theodore Roosevelt called it "the most American thing in America."

Miss Ogdon, a brilliant orator, had felt God's calling on her life. Upon receiving the invitation, she excitedly considered the thousands of people that she might influence for the cause of Christ.  But as she was packing for the upcoming tour her father was seriously injured in one of the new-fangled "horseless carriages."  Ina, deeply disappointed and somewhat angered toward God for allowing this tragedy to happen, eventually cancelled her travel plans to care for her father.  After making her peace with God about the matter, she determined in her heart that she would be happy and remain "true to the many duties near" her.  She would do her best to "brighten the corner" where God placed her.

Ina completed this poem over the next year.  It became the theme song of Billy Sunday's evangelistic ministry for twenty-two years.  Instead of reaching only thousands in her lifetime Ina Duley Ogdon's inspired words have reached out to millions from 1913 right up to our lifetime.

"Brighten the Corner"  
 by Ina Duley Ogdon - 1913

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do.
Do not wait to shed your light afar. 
To the many duties ever near you now be true;
Brighten the corner where you are.

Brighten the corner where you are! 
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Just above are clouded skies that you may help to clear;
Let not narrow self your way debar.
Though into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer,
Brighten the corner where you are.

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the Bright and Morning Star.
Ever from your humble hand the bread of life may feed;
Brighten the corner where you are.

Today's suggested music:
"The Love Of God" (Audio)
"The Love Of God" (Audio) (Live church version)
"Your Love O Lord" (Audio)
"The Power Of Your Love" (Audio)

Today's photo: I met Pastor Will Nelken when visiting my brother Mike back in the mid-nineties.  I attended his church several times and had the oportunity to speak to his congregation. We have stayed in contact all through the years via email. He serves in Marin County California (north of San Fransisco) which is among the most unchurched places in the entire country. He sent me today's photo several days ago.

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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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