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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Photo of Fall farmview
This is the scene at the end of our road. Most of the harvest is in.
Click here to enlarge today's photo.
I also have a photo of this same scene in the spring and summer and hope to get a winter scene.

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"Spiritual Veterans"

"I then, as Paul--an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus" (Philemon 1:9b).

Today is Veteran's Day here in the United States, a day in which we properly remember veterans and consider the tremendous price they paid for our temporal freedoms.  I realize many veterans read these messages including several we know personally, and there other readers who are in active service. We thank you for your service. I specifically consider my Uncle Jim who passed away earlier this year who served in WW2 as a navy pilot.

Today I want to focus this devotional on spiritual veterans. Many have gone on before us and are now in the great cloud of witnesses. Others are still on this side and in their senior years of life.  They have faithfully served God in their generation and await their call home.

Photo of Sister HowardPastor John Howard was my first pastor (as a born-again Christian). Pastor Howard never had large churches, but due to his commitment to Christ, integrity, friendliness and genuine interest in people he impacted many for Christ.  I was one of several ministers he and his wife, Sister Howard, introduced as one of "our boys".   I saw her a couple years ago when we took this photo.

They both had such a sweet, loving spirit although they surely have known pain and fought bitterness. Their only son was killed when he was eleven
by a drunk driver. I still recall the pain and honest confession, "I still don't understand" in Mrs. Howard's voice as she shared this story with me several years ago. However, in spite of the pain and questioning, they have kept the faith and rejoice in the impact of their ministry in many other ways. I'm glad I'm a part of that.

As we grow older we see more and more of our spiritual mentors going to be with the Lord. Pastor Howard passed away in 1999.  I spoke to Mrs. Howard, who is now 89, on the phone last night and she again told me how proud she was of "her boys" (those she and her husband had discipled).

Today remember the contribution made by the countless old spiritual veterans.  Let us look at a tiny statement made by the apostle Paul, a true veteran of the Christian conflict.  He had fought the good fight of faith and was not at all reserved in identifying himself in the text as an "old man".  (The KJV states "the aged".)

He is one of scores of men and women who have risked their lives and sometimes laid down their lives, faced hardship, and otherwise bear the scars of battle for Christ and for our souls.  Our spiritual freedom was supremely paid by Christ's death on the Cross.  However many others have paid a great price to bring that message to us and to keep the flame burning bright.  Let's honor them and let us now take our place in line with the faithful!

I'm sure you can think of some veterans today.  Why don't you take a moment to thank God for them, and if you're able, get a word of appreciation to them.  You'll make their day an extra special one. That's what Mrs. Howard said to me as we concluded our conversation last night!

Finally we all will become spiritual veterans should the Lord keep us on this side. Brooksyne and I state our determination to stay faithful and enlist readers, near and far, to join us.

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, for those who've gone before us and remained faithful to the end we take note of their example.  For those who have sacrificed their lives that we might have freedom to read Your Word and worship freely we are greatly indebted.  And for those of us who remain we want to be vigilant in our daily walk with You, ever growing in Your grace and knowledge, and staying faithful until we draw the last mortal breath on this side, so that our first immortal breath on the other side will be from the portals of heaven.  It's all because of Your amazing love, Father, and Jesus' divine sacrifice.  Amen.

Some Spiritual Veterans

Today we would like to honor several spiritual veterans both present and with the Lord who have had a direct impact on our lives.

Gene Weber with EsterMy dad passed away ten years ago at 79 years of age. He was a hardworking man, teaching and demonstrating to me virtues of love for family, hardwork, loyalty and honesty. He was also a World War 2 veteran.  He is pictured holding his youngest grandchild, Ester.

Brooksyne's grandpaBrooksyne's grandpa was a sustenance farmer in the
mountains of northwest Arkansas with a devout and simple faith in God.  He was a tremendous inspiration to Brooksyne as his love for God and his devotion to the Bible was evident in all that he did.  About 30 years ago he was promoted to glory and is now numbered with the saints who worship God around the throne.

Photo of Charles HarrisOne of our favorite professors in Bible College was Dr. Charles Harris who stressed the need for sound Biblical exposition and drilled it into his students. He was a real contender for the faith and remains so to this day.  I still recall one of his sermons he preached over thirty years ago from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

Photo of Florence Bogdan
Over 30 years ago Pastor Stephen Bogdan and his wife Florence, showed great kindness to us when we were just starting in ministry. They had us over for dinner, encouraged us, and prayed for us. Pastor Bogdan has gone on to be with the Lord but Florence continues to faithfully serve the Lord in the Philadelphia area. We called her last night and as we reminisced she shared how they both had such an interest in young people which she still demonstrates. She told us that she had just visited with a troubled young lady that very day.

Photo of J. Christy Wilson
During our years in New England I visited at a mission's banquet with Dr. J. Christy Wilson Jr., who was a pioneering missionary to Iran and Afghanistan. Although my visiting time was relatively brief I could see why this man had such an impact upon many.

In 1951 Christy and his wife Betty flew to Afghanistan where they served for 22 years. Their three children were born there. Dr. Christy taught English in one of the local high schools for about five years and then he became the pastor of the ever-expanding foreign community. His greatest ministry, however, was prayer. It was a great joy for him to pray with individuals who came to him with their needs and concerns. The Lord used Betty to start Braille education with the blind in Afganistan. Many of the blind became devoted followers of Christ.

Christy was responsible for building the only Christian Church on Afghan soil, dedicated in 1970. Because of Afghanis coming to Christ, the Wilsons were expelled from the country in 1973, and the church building was destroyed by an unfriendly regime.

He is an exemplary spiritual veteran who is now in the great cloud of witnesses. A tribute to J. Christy Wilson.

Photo of Al and Thata Book
When we first moved to this area we came to know and greatly respect Al and Thata Book. They had served God together for over 50 years, mostly on the mission field, and maintained a sweet, serving spirit to the very end. In their late seventies, while on a missions trip in Africa, they died in an automobile accident. Though it was a two-fold loss for their families and the Christian community, it was also a double celebration for their godly influence as a couple. They were tremendous energy givers and fervent prayer warriors.   Brooksyne keeps the Books' photo and her grandfather's photo within view as she works at her desk so she can be reminded and spurred on by their faithful examples.

Are there some spiritual veterans that you might remember and honor today?

Aaron and ChristyYesterday we shared the story of Mary Lou Long. Last night her daughter Christy and her husband Aaron joined us for dinner. They both serve in the U.S. Navy. but are here on special leave so Christy can help care for her mother who has lung cancer.

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

"Find Us Faithful"  Video  This is a video prepared by a pastor for his parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  His mother was in the hospital with leukemia at the time, and she passed away five days before the anniversary but she did get to see this video. Even though I don't know them I was blessed at the message the video conveys. What a wonderful way to honor a mother!  

"One Pure And Holy Passion"  Video  This song has been on my heart the last several days, especially a line that states, "Give me one glorious ambition for my life, to know and follow hard after you." Amen!

"Letters From War"
 Video  Ester suggests this song today in honor of veterans.

Today as we were preparing this message we received a call from a local assisted living center where we have a part-time role as chaplains. In the early morning hours a resident passed away and Brooksyne was called in to minister comfort to his wife
who is also a resident.  We have enjoyed visiting and praying with this godly couple who shared a room together.  Each time we saw them they were either listening to inspirational music or taped sermons. Their children had set up a computer with a changeable slide showing a variety of family pictures that continuously scrolled across the screen. That's another great way for children to honor their parents and to keep the family members "present" even when they cannot physically be present!  

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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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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