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Friday, November 16, 2007
Photo of decorative wood hand cart
Decorated wood hand cart on a neighbor's porch

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"Strangers Passing Through"
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1).
Last night we had Jason and Becky Oberholzer over for dinner. Becky grew up in our church in northern Pennsylvania and we continue to be friends with her parents, Greg and Linda Burns. We met them when Becky was just a toddler and as Greg was finishing his studies at Penn State preparing to move to our area at that time.  He served as the County Agricultural Extension agent for many years in Elk County.

Jason and Becky Oberholzer
Jason and Becky Oberholzer

What a joy to visit with Becky and Jason, her husband of three years, nearly 25 years later.  God added the blessing of a baby girl to their home this past year. We enjoyed hearing their heart for missionary service over our dinner hour. They're contemplating a future move to New Mexico where they will work among the Navajo Indians.   Our fellowship and long-term association with people like Jason and Becky reinforces the great joy in serving Christ (there's nothing greater!) 
The apostle Peter wrote to believers who lived in the region of present-day Turkey, an area mostly evangelized by Paul.  Presently this region is overwhelmingly Muslim and recently some Christians were martyred for their faith making news around the world.

The letter was not written to a specific individual or church like many other New Testament letters, but to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout the region.
Peter wrote this about 30 years after the resurrection of Christ.  Social conditions in the Roman Empire were rapidly deteriorating (although it would still be many years before Rome would finally fall.)  Nero was likely in power, which was a time of intense suffering for Christians.  In this very letter Peter encouraged these fellow believers with this somber reality, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12).
But today I am especially intrigued by the way he addresses them in the salutation as "strangers in the world."  The underlying Greek word for "strangers" is used only three times in the New Testament; twice by Peter in this letter.  It fundamentally means "a resident foreigner."
Our primary citizenship is in heaven and we are merely strangers passing through.  It won't be a difficult concept to grasp several hundred years into eternity, but at this point in our temporal existence,  all we see is this present physical world.  Today let us heed the message to the early believers that Peter wrote and recognize that we too are merely "strangers" passing through! 

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer:  Father, we're so thankful that when our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from You, an eternal house in heaven. May we be consoled in knowing the greater the suffering here on earth the greater the glory awaits us in heaven. We make it our life long goal to remain strangers in this world as we maintain friendship with You, our Heavenly Father.  Like the Apostle Paul we strain toward that which is ahead as we press on toward the goal to win the prize for which You have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.  In Your appointed hour our bodies will be transformed so that they will be like Your glorious body. We eagerly await that transformation day when anticipation becomes reality for the faithful!  Amen.

The daily prayer is now posted each weekday on a separate blog.

Jason and Becky live in Franklin County, about three counties west of us, but are taking a mission class here in Lancaster. They have been married several years and have an 8 month old daughter, Christine. Interestingly Jason grew up in a church that our current pastor, Bob Verno served. Here's a photo taken when they visited our church this last summer. Jason is a herd manager at a dairy farm with 500 milking cows.

Burns familyHere's a photo of the Burns family in 1986 at the groundbreaking for our new church building in northern Pennsylvania. Greg and Linda are holding their son, Danny, while Becky looks up with a big smile wondering what's going on. A heartwarming pastoral story comes out of this home. One year I challenged the people to memorize a  verse from each book of the Bible. I reasoned that when we get to heaven and meet Haggai, Habakkuk or other more obscure Bible characters it would be nice to recall something they wrote. So I carefully chose a verse from each book and over the course of 66 weeks challenged the people to memorize one selected verse per week. About half way through that same year we were visiting the Burns and Becky, as a very small child, was memorizing these verses right along with her parents. Last night she told us she still remembered doing that (although she could not necessarily remember every verse now!)  We considered that when we see these verses or hear them read, even if we don't remember them word for word, we can remember the setting or book from which they came.  That's a blessing that remains even when much of our memories fade with time.

Today's Suggested Music

Dub and Joy Steincross
I want to share a song played on the piano by Joy Steincross, my cousin George's wife. Dub (as we cousins have always called him) is a retired minister yet he and Joy stay very active and always have a place for us in the KC area when we are out that way. They were especially kind and attentive to my folks during their last years before my Dad died in 1998 and my mom came to live with us. Here's Joy's webpage and an instrumental song titled, "Friends" (Audio)

"This Is My Desire"  (Audio)

"You Are God Alone" (Audio)

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

Thanksgiving Resources

New "Now Thank We All Our God" (Audio reading) - A reading and hymn story background written and shared by Brooksyne accompanied by our friend Amber Martin.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading - A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

A Thanksgiving family exercise - We have used this Questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.  (pdf)

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony - This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)

Books used in Brooksyne's research:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster Trade Sales

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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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