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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Faithfulness plague

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"Daily Encouragers"

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness"  (Hebrews 3:13).  "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

Today is a special day for us. Well, first of all it's Brooksyne's birthday so that's pretty special to our family! My birthday gift to Brooksyne is a large engraved plaque that goes above the double doors in our dining room.  It declares the last two lines from the chorus of her favorite hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" (seen above). We often sing this classic hymn with our dinner guests as we sit around our dining room table just before prayer over our meal.

October 21st is also the day this ministry started 12 years ago in 1996. It was during my pastorate in Taunton, MA that I preached a sermon on October 20th with the subject of "Encouraging One Another daily".  The message was based on the daily texts and I sensed a leading from the Holy Spirit to send an email the next morning to encourage a young married couple. (Both are still on the list to this day.)

It read:  "Hopefully each of you were in church yesterday and received fresh strength from the Lord and His Word.  Unfortunately, then, even as now, some had forsaken this important element of growth and discipleship.  As we see the Day of Christ's return drawing ever closer may we be encouraged.   Whatever you do today remember the main thing: 'Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might' (Deuteronomy 6:5).'"

For the first several years the messages were just a short challenge sent as a simple text email with no photos or music supplements. The list grew as messages were passed along and as I met people who were interested in receiving a daily encouragement message.

In 1999 we set up the website and as I gained writing experience the messages became more a brief devotional and the list continued to grow. For the first four years I wrote them early in the morning from my pastor's study in Taunton and then later from our home when we moved to Mount Joy, Pennsylvania in early 2001. During this time I began adding links to photos and music.

I resigned from a full-time job with a chaplain agency in late 2004 freeing more time to devote to this growing ministry and to pursue other ministry interests. In early 2005 I learned how to work with html and began to send the messages out using the formatted version most now receive.  Around this time Brooksyne took on a larger role editing the messages and adding her prayer and occasional notes. The list continued to grow although in most cases we do not personally know the recipient. At this time we also set up the podcast and the RSS feeds.

But our goal is still the same as that expressed in the very first message; to encourage followers of Christ.

Barnabas is one of my favorite Bible characters. He comes on the scene as "Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth who was also called Barnabas by the apostles, which translated means Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4). But now we only know him by his nickname Barnabas.  He is an encourager and the Scriptures demonstrate this. We are all indebted to encouragers even though it certainly is not considered one of the more prominent ministries, such as a polished preacher, a dynamic worship leader or a powerful vocalist.

Consider his influence: no book in the Bible was written by him nor do we have the text of any sermon he preached recorded in Acts as we do Peter, Stephen and Paul. In fact I am unable to find even a single quote attributed exclusively to Barnabas.  All the information we have about him is biographical and brief.

A subtheme of this ministry is "Everyone Needs Encouragement."  We sure believe that. Now there are certain times in our lives when we need it more than others, particularly when we're going through times of testing. Thankfully most of us don't live in a state of discouragement (depression). But I am never aware of a time I would feel that I just don't need any more encouragement. I am always receptive to further encouragement on a regular basis! So once again on the twelfth anniversary of this ministry let me encourage you today and urge you to be an encourager to others as well!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, much like Barnabas the Encourager, we want to be uplifting to our brothers and sisters, our family members, and others we see from day to day. There are those who've left us with stinging reminders of their hurtful words often accompanied by painful actions. Gratefully, there are others who have brought us strength and encouragement through their words of affirmation, hope, challenge, and helpful instruction.  They remained supportive of us when others gave up. Help us to be numbered among the encouragers as we live in these perilous days where confusion abounds and deceitfulness is rampant.  May we encourage others not only by our words but also by our steady, consistent, Christian walk.  In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  As we share the history of this web ministry I am reminded of our Lord's faithfulness and the diverse giftings He gives to those He has called. It is extremely humbling to us that God's Spirit speaks to the hearts of men and women, boys and girls from coast to coast and from sea to sea through our daily messages. Twenty years ago Stephen and I would never have imagined the medium of computer technology giving us "a voice" to reach people all over the world.  It continues to be a very exciting means for us to share messages from God's Word as they are lived out in our normal daily lives.    Your feedback and support spurs us on and challenges us to remain faithful in this writing ministry.  May God give you "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."  Join us in continually giving thanks for His abundant blessings that far outnumber the grievous burdens of each day.

Some faces of Daily Encouragement

Lee family
Nigel and Laifong Lee were the very first recipients of a daily encouragement on Monday morning, October 21, 1996. They have been on the list ever since and I reckon they have received over 3,000 messages. They live in the Boston area and are shown with their son Caleb. Laifong is from Malaysia and they met at Chi Alpha, a Christian campus ministry while in graduate school at Princeton. Both have earned scientific doctorates. They attend the Boston Worship Center where Nigel has been an elder and they also have a Bible Study in their home.  Nigel has an interesting association for students in Christian literature. His grandmother's sister was married to Watchman Nee. We still hear from them occasionally and rejoice that they are staying faithful to the Lord.

Andy LarrimoreAndy Larrimore is a friend who was in our church in New England who set up the intitial website in 1999. Andy had been in the banking industry but felt a leading to change careers. Daily Encouragement was the very first website he built but he is now into web design full-time and has his own business. He and his wife Joanne and their two grown children, Ashley and Eric, are continuing to be faithful! Ashley is in medical school at George Washington University and Eric is in the Marines and this very week will deploy to Afghanistan.

Brad ParksBrad Park is a Canadian IT professional we have never met personally. Several years ago he contacted me and offered to help with technical issues. He now hosts the website and covers the fee for the podcast. He's available when I have a question or technical problem. One morning the site was down and although he had a splitting headache he labored to get the site back up! People periodically inquire about the "staff" of daily encouragement. Well, actually that's just Brooksyne and me, along with Brad at this time.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
A current photo of us taken at my niece's wedding two weeks ago.

Ministry Chronology

October 21, 1996 - First email sent to a married couple and developed into a list (initially merely a group list added to manually one by one.)
1999 - Website developed
2002 - Moved to professional listserve (automated list manager for large lists)
2003 - Began radio messages
2004 - Resigned from job with EAP agency
2005 - Developed html email (formatted with photos), began podcasting daily messages, set up blogs/RSS feeds, Brooksyne "officially" joined in the message preparation.
2006 - Received official endorsement as an "internet chaplain" from chaplaincy endorsement agency (I had already
received an endorsement for corporate chaplaincy and Civil Air Patrol chaplaincy.)

Typical Message Preparation

A typical day begins around 6:30 each weekday with the writing of the message itself. This generally takes a couple of hours.  Brooksyne then edits the message and adds her thoughts and the prayer as I work on the formatting (photos, extra links, music, etc.) When she's done she joins me and we record it for the podcast. She then edits the message again after she views the fully formatted html edition. (We often still see later that we made mistakes!) The technical work involved in all the updating takes another hour or so and we are normally done around Noon (if there are not any problems or interruptions!)  Non specific prep time includes following up on emails from readers, learning new techniques, managing the business aspect such as thanking donors, making calls
etc. Brooksyne will often follow-up with very thoughtful emails and prayers written specifically for hurting people who may write us, as time permits.

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For those interested we direct you to a revised ministry update in light of our 12th ministry anniversary.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to open and play)

"He's Always Been Faithful To Me"
 Video  Sara Groves

"All Your Promises Are True"   Video
  Shannon Wexelburg
"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video
  Gaither Homecoming

Webs By Andy  Andy Larrimore's website business

Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne.

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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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