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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mountains in NC
I took this photo in western North Carolina. Lure Lake is in the foreground with Chimney Rock in the background.
Here's another version with a different Scripture verse.

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"The Lord Will Repay"

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done" (2 Timothy 4:14).

I just finished reading a book titled "Amish Grace, How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy."  Authors, Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt and David Weaver-Zercher wrote about the Amish schoolgirl killings that took place in our area back in October 2006 and the Amish community's response that followed, especially characterized by forgiveness and reconciliation.

Recently Brooksyne and I became reconnected with an old friend we hadn't talked to for many years. In the course of catching up we learned that several years ago he experienced a tremendous loss in his life that has affected his family, vocation and finances. Especially painful is that it concerns a violation of sacred trust from those closest to him.  It has been a very painful trial for him that continues to this day but he has maintained his good disposition and a positive faith in the Lord. As we talked there appeared to be no bitterness or need for revenge on his part, but rather a committing of the matter to the Lord.

As I consider the Amish schoolgirl killings and my friend's heartbreaking experience I realize how hard it is being wronged.  The passionate response to these injustices, in my own heart, desires revenge. I have been pondering the Biblical concept that “the Lord will repay" in matters of unfairness. I realize that at the root of the issue (for me anyway) is having faith that this is really so, that God really will repay. What can be particularly troubling is when the offender seems not to be dealing with consequences or judgment, but rather appears to be getting by without fallout from the offense. 

Both of the daily verses concern the Apostle Paul. The first is in a teaching section regarding personal revenge when one is wronged.  We are to "leave room for God's wrath" and this is actually followed by a direct quote from the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 32:35: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord."  This is not normally the type of passage we would list as a promise but I believe it really is.

Most of us have not been wronged nearly to the extent as the Amish families or my friend (although some of you have).  But we've all been wronged in various ways and our response to these wrongs is a key expression of our faith.

In the second daily verse Paul is writing from his own experience. It's his final letter where he writes: "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm." This may have been the same Alexander he wrote of in 1 Timothy 1:19,20 who had rejected solid teaching and shipwrecked his faith, and had been "handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."

He had caused Paul "a great deal of harm."  He goes on to warn Timothy: "You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message."  It would appear, especially if this is the same Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy, that he was spreading doctrinal error that was causing confusion and also leading people astray.

But in spite of this great hurt Paul practices his own earlier teaching from his letter to the Romans when he acknowledges: "The Lord will repay him for what he has done." It would be great to have the original audio version as read by Paul for this phrase. Did he read it with an angry, spiteful, vengeful tone or with humility in recognition of God's most certain future judgment on this matter? (I believe it was the latter.)

Some of you are personally impacted by the theme of today's encouragement. You have been wronged.  You're seething outwardly and hemmoraging inwardly with a desire for revenge.  Applying the concept of "leaving it in the Lord's hands" might be very hard. But I also know that God wants you to trust Him in this regard.

God's Word promises us that He will never give us more than we can endure. And the key to this endurance is possible only when we cast all our cares on Him and lay our burdens at the feet of the Master burden bearer.  Trust God that you will not be overcome by evil but you will overcome evil with good. Trust Him also to repay according to what is just and right, in His time and in His way; in this life or the life yet to come.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer:  Father, in our attempt to get even with our offender, we can do irreparable harm not only to our wrongdoer, but most especially to ourselves.  Instead of having a spirit of forgiveness we harbor a vengeful heart.  Our hearts harden and take on the character of the enemy instead of the Savior who loved us even while we were dead in our transgressions and sins.  Our debt of sin He paid, and our death He died freeing us to break the chains of sin that had long held us bound.  Father, You heal the broken-hearted and console the wounded as they seek You in the midst of their affliction, whether it is a fresh wound or an old injury.  Our affliction from others is earthbound, but our affection for You is heavenbound where there will be no more heartaches or pain. Keep us steadfast and faithful till that appointed time.  Amen.

Today's has been an especially hard message to write and we both feel it is very incomplete. But perhaps it will get some readers thinking and studying!

Here's the book I referred to in the message. It has the most interesting and detailed treatment of forgiveness that I have ever read.

Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended TragedyAmish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy
By Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt & David L. Weaver-Zercher / Jossey-bass - On October 2, 2006, a gunman killed five Amish girls in a Pennsylvania hamlet. A stunned nation watched as the children were laid to rest---and as their grieving parents forgave the murderer. How could they pardon such a heinous act? The authors explore this question and reveal how God's mercy can triumph in our vengeful world. This book examines the Amish understanding of forgiveness and explores how and why the Amish responded to the killing at Nickel Mines with grace. It also asks if Amish practices parallel or diverge from other religious and secular notions of forgiveness, and addresses the matter of why forgiveness became news. "All the religions teach it," mused an observer, "but no one does it like the Amish." Regardless of the cultural seedbed that nourished this story, the surprising act of Amish forgiveness begs for a deeper exploration. How could the Amish do this? What did this act mean to them? And how might their witness prove useful to the rest of us? 288 pages, hardcover from Jossey-Bass  More information and ordering info.

Amis men at mud sale (photo by Deb, daughter of Doris High)
Amish men at "mud sale"
Mud sales are held by local volunteer fire departments here in Lancaster County in the spring season. They are called mud sales due to the fact that if it has rained or snowed it's very muddy. Last year I went to one and, in some places, the mud was up to my ankles! Here are some photos I took last year at the Gordonville Mud Sale. (scroll down)
(the above photo is by Deb, daughter of Doris High)
More mud sale photos by Deb are here.

Amish father and son at mud sale
Amish father and son at mud sale

Here's a beautiful piece of art titled "Happier Days" by local artist, Elsie Beiler.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Amazing Love"  (Audio)

"When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"  (Audio)

"Have Mercy"  (Audio)

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

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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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