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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Photo of Wenger Mennonite open cart
Yesterday we travelled through an old order Mennonite area in northeast Lancaster County. The Wenger Mennonites are similar to the Amish but in fact are a distinct group.

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"Worthy Conduct"

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you" (Philippians 1:27,28).

Last night we had a couple over from York, Rick and Rachel Caldwell,  for a Mexican dinner and discussed our common desire to honor Christ and live with a Kingdom purpose. We discussed the challenges that very well may be ahead for the faithful and as we prayed I shared today's verse and considered its application for our lives.

I memorized this verse many years ago.  "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." I suggest reading the verse in the first person, "Whatever happens, I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  In personal application I see it as a challenge to resolve in our hearts that we will stay faithful to Christ, seeking to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Him.

Today I am especially drawn to the phrase "Whatever happens..."  I have always considered the "whatever" to mean whatever happens to me (Stephen Weber or any reader of the passage.)  That is, whether I am having a good day or a bad day, whether things are going well or I'm going down a rough road; whatever happens to me I am to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Now this is certainly a valid outlook in life and I will continue to see the passage this way, yet as I consider the contextual interpretation, I consider another intention that Paul likely had. 

Just prior to this verse Paul had written concerning his own realization that he would continue to live for Christ or he might die for Him (martyrdom).  When Paul originally wrote this passage I believe he was instructing the Christians at Philippi, "Whatever happens to me (Paul) you are to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."

He goes on to write, "Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence..." Now what really intrigues me is that Paul had every intention of seeing the Philippian believers if it was God's will that he remain alive.

However it was also his firm expectation that should this not be the case, I will "only hear about you in my absence."  The "absence" in this context would be his departure to be with the Lord (his death).  This is similar to his statement in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

He is confident that if that were the case (his being with the Lord) he would still hear the good report that the Philippians were "standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you."

Our service for the Lord Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. When we, in our divinely appointed time, are absent from the body and at home with the Lord, like Paul we will see the ongoing results of our ministry. Let us stay faithful and rejoice in the fruit of our labor as we daily seek to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, we praise You and give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy and most especially the freedom to worship You.  But we know that there are many regions in our world where Christians are persecuted and suffer martyrdom at the hands of those who are enemies of the cross.  We lift them up to You in prayer and ask that You will give them supernatural strength and unyielding resolve to stand up for You in the face of evil surroundings and conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.  May they never return evil for evil, but rather good for evil.  Though wicked men may destroy the flesh, they cannot rob the soul of inner peace and the uncompromising determination to "stand firm unto the end."  Sustain those who have endured the painful loss of loved ones as well as those whose family members are being held captive and are presently enduring persecution.  May You be glorified in the midst of these horribly adverse circumstances and may souls be saved for the kingdom.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Today's text, Philippians 1:12-30 is here.

Humorous note: As a chaplain I account to a minister in my chaplaincy organization by the name of Al Worthley. Today I sent him an email and the automatic spellchecker wanted to change his name to "Worthless".  Now Al has shown real interest, support and encouragement in regard to both phases of my ministry (company and internet chaplaincy) and his service has by no means been worthless, but rather very much worthwhile!

Rick & Rachel Caldwell
Rick and Rachel Caldwell joined us for dinner and fellowship last night.
They seek to honor the Lord in their business.

More photos from our journey yesterday.

Photo of Wenger Mennonite bikes
One of the interesting distinctives of the Wenger Mennonites is that they ride bicycles and usually have a cardboard box such as above for hauling stuff. In their part of the county you really have to watch out as they will also use the main roads. In the last six months we have befriended several Wenger Mennonites and became acquainted with a man who rode a bike to work year round for 45 years! He recently retired and moved to upstate New York to live near his children and  invited us to visit him in his new location. See here for story and photo.

Photo of Wenger Mennonite farm
The Wenger Mennonite farms are very tidy and well-kept. Due to their large families and retention their numbers are growing and they are settling in other areas as well.

Wenger Mennonite corn shocks
They harvest the corn and bundle them into shocks to dry out.
They prefer older farming methods.

Miniature pony (about three feet tall)
These miniature ponies are about 3 feet tall!
We passed a field with lots of them yesterday.

Here's a  brief descriptive article on the Wenger Mennonites.

Here's a longer article about the Wenger Mennonites from Donald Kraybill's book, "Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites - Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World." This is actually the first chapter. I read this book several years ago and it was very interesting and informative.

Today's photos were taken near this area where the Wenger Mennonites are especially congregated. (google map)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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"Give Us Clean Hands"  Video

"Refiner's Fire"  Audio

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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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