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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

White buggie
White buggy
The Amish in Mifflin County Pennsylvania are considered the oldest of the old order.
Notice the kerosene lamps hanging from the buggy!

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"Uncompromising Allegiance"

"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God'" (Daniel 3:28).

This weekend our family made a trip to northern Pennsylvania and saw many friends in that area where we pastored for nearly sixteen years.  I had the opportunity to preach in the church we established in St. Marys in the morning service and in Mt. Jewett later that evening.

On the way up we stopped at a restaurant called the "Bread of Life" in McAlisterville, PA. This restaurant is unashamedly Christian themed with a reference to John 6:35 on the front of the menu.  Christian furnishings tastefully decorate the walls and a friendly owner greeted the customers while they came and went.  As we opened our menus we chuckled as we read the many food items based on Biblical names or themes.  This included three types of sandwiches: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!

That was neat because of the message I was sharing the next day about these courageous young men whose story is recorded in the book of Daniel.  Their testimony is an extraordinary example of uncompromising allegiance to Almighty God in the face of the relentless enemy.

While in exile they were given the Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I once shared a message about these three young men while several Bible College students and graduates were in attendance so I asked, "Does anyone know their Hebrew names?"  Without hesitation nine year old Garrison raised his hand and with a knowing smile confidently responded, "Rack, Shak and Bennie." Now if you have children or grandchildren you're probably laughing as you might recognize these are their nicknames based on a popular Veggie Tales video. I can understand why a child (or others) might guess these were the Hebrews names!  But in actuality their names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:11).

Fiery furnaceThe account of these men of faith is surely one of the greatest stories of deliverance in the Bible.  These three young men demonstrate to believers of all ages the incredible power of faith and obedience. They got into serious trouble because they refused to compromise a core commandment of God in bowing down to King Nebuchadnezzer's golden image that stood over 9 stories high.

Interestingly God chooses to miraculously deliver these men, but their deliverance was not without a great deal of suspense.  They were subjected to the fury of the king as his attitude changed toward them. It wasn't enough that they were going to be thrown into the hot fire, but now the fire was heated seven times hotter than usual.  There could be no quick escape as the strongest of soldiers was ordered to bind them.  Then, before their very eyes, they watched these strong soldiers die from the blazing flames that they were about to be thrown into.  Most importantly they were not delivered from the hot fiery furnace but they were preserved through it.  Not a hair on their head was singed, their robes were unscorched, their bodies unharmed and there was no smell of fire on them.  Wow, that's a dramatic and miraculous deliverance! 

The daily verse is actually a statement made by the secular King Nebuchadnezzar, after he personally witnessed their miraculous deliverance.  They had earned his respect.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrate four qualities so needed by genuine followers of Christ today. (These were the main points to my message.)
  • Uncompromising Convictions (Daniel 1).
  • Unwavering Commitment (Daniel 3:12).
  • Unswerving Courage (Daniel 3:16, 17).
  • Unshakable Confidence (Daniel 3:18).
They trusted the living God, defying the wicked command of the secular king, fully knowing the stated consequences. They were willing to give up their lives for this conviction.   I believe true followers of Christ will increasingly need these particular characteristics as the world's system grows increasingly hostile to Christ, His followers, and the standards of the Bible.  Can this growing disdain and hostility be denied?

I urge you this day to live by core convictions that you will not violate, so that when the time of testing comes, you, like these three young men will stand firm in your faith. Elton Trueblood has written, "Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation." If you're in the suspenseful stage of the Lord's deliverance, don't be alarmed but stand firm.  For He has promised, "Never will I leave you.  Never will I forsake you."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, the dynamic story of the three Hebrew men has been a favorite story of Your miraculous deliverance for all ages and throughout all generations.  Their unyielding devotion to You is a tremendous example to those of us who call You our Father.  You are not only our Father who watches over us but also our Deliverer in times of trouble.  Faith that cannot be tested is faith that cannot be trusted, so it is in times of fiery testing that we prove Your power and You prove our allegiance to You.  Help us to be willing to give up our lives rather than serve or worship any god except the one true God.  Amen.

We want to share several photos from our trip this weekend:

Tom and Marsha Neizmik

We travelled up to Elk County this last weekend to attend a celebration for our longtime friends, Tom and Marsha Neizmik, who celebrated their 30th anniversary. Their three daughters did an outstanding job of arranging the gathering and many came out. Tom and Marsha came into the church shortly after they were married and have been a tremendous blessing to many in that community.

Here's a photo of Tom and Marsha along with a much younger me from a Creation festival in the early 80's.

Tom and Marsha NeizmikThe last wedding I conducted in the church I served up that way was for Bill and Lucy Mosebarger.  It was a beautiful December wedding with snow falling outside the candled windows and a spirit of incredible love in the sanctuary.  Bill passionately declared in the service, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord" and that's just what they have done!

I'll always recall the interesting manner Bill came into our church. He got his forestry degree at the University of Alaska and while there a student led him to the Lord. When he moved back to his hometown of Saint Marys he had no idea which church to attend so he went to the phone book and called me since our church began with "A" for AGAPE' and was the first listed. That's a neat way God providentially worked on that occasion, but probably not the best method for selecting churches!

Years ago I took a photo of their daughter Angela on the tractor trail across from our home.  This is the same trail and near the spot where Brooksyne broke her ankle in May. Mike Brubaker, the farmer we were talking to right before she fell and who helped lift her into the van has now planted this trail over (using no till!) The corn has grown up so that now you can't even tell where the trail was!

Mike and Sharon

Mike,  Sharon, & Emma Shaffer
   I dedicated Sharon to the Lord as an infant. Mike is a police officer and a board member at the church.  What a joy to see a young couple building their marriage and home on the Solid Rock of Christ!  On the way up Saturday we stopped for fuel about halfway.  In doing so we ran into the Shaffers as they were returning to St. Marys following a few days of police training. What a nice surprise!

Longtime friends at AGAPE
Brooksyne, visiting with long-time friends, some going back over 30 years. Lois, facing Brooksyne in the pink blouse, attended the very first service we held when we established the church in that community in September 1977 right out of Bible College.

Today's top photo: We saw this interesting buggy yesterday
near Lewistown Pennsylvania in Mifflin County on the way back home. Here's a note I read about this particular Amish group:

The "Big Valley" is off the beaten path and somewhat isolated from tourists. Three different orders of Amish share the valley with their "English" neighbors. They are easily identified by their buggies; black, yellow, and white. The "white buggy Amish" or "Nebraska" Amish are considered to be the oldest of the Old Order. Unpainted barns identify their farms. The houses have no curtains or rugs. Oil cloth or brown paper is used to cover the windows. The buggies have white cloth tops on simple brown box bottoms. Kerosene lanterns are the buggy lights. The women use head scarves instead of bonnets. The men wear white shirts and brown trousers held up with a rope belt.

White buggie
McAlisterville, where we ate at the Bread of Life Restaurant, is a neat little village about ten miles off 322, the main highway, in a beautiful farming valley that reminds me of some small towns in my childhood.  I enjoy the short missives of the American Storyteller who is from this community.  He has a story about a service station that now houses the Bread Of Life restaurant. If you're my age or older listen and see if you don't identify with this story (Nelson Lauver is an excellent storyteller in my view) and I sure like the way it ends.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

(Click on the link to play in your audio player)

"For The Sake Of The Call" 
 Video   A powerful song of commitment by Steven Curtis Chapman.

"Today I Choose"  Video

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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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