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Monday, November 24, 2008

Amish buggy from hot air balloon
Amish farm taken from a hot air balloon.
Photo by Debra Zimmerman (Used by permission)
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"Contentedness And Thankfulness"

"But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Carl Smith with EsterThis week marks the "official" start of the Christmas shopping season, at least here in the USA. However the newspapers are stuffed with sales flyers and the mall parking lot has been filled for weeks.  Ester works at a store called TJ Maxx and it has been crowded each time I pick her up in the afternoons. But the big shopping day for many will be this Friday and there is an abundance of great deals, particularly if you want to go shopping at 6:00 in the morning, or even earlier!

There's just more and more neat stuff that claims it will make the people we love happy if we just buy it for them.  Of course the ads are surely also designed to appeal to our own sense of desire as well. I can sure tell you that some of this stuff is alluring to my interests, particularly electronic type gadgets.

I want to pause this morning and consider the bigger picture. The foundational meaning of Christmas is that God sent His Son as the greatest and most needful Gift of all. Increasingly our current generation is losing sight of the initial Christian meaning of this sacred holiday due to the secularization and over-commercialization of this special season.

We that love the Lord and desire to live in obedience to the Scriptures are called to properly provide for our families.  Indeed the Word declares that, "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). 

However beyond our desire to properly provide for our families is the materialistic rat race. We're all affected by it and perhaps some of us are among the front runners in this race where the finish line is never within sight. Living in an age of affluence we have to be on guard against this tendency.  The Apostle Paul's words that follow our daily reading are so applicable today; "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:9, 10). My, isn't that so often the case!

Faithfulness plaque
A great Biblical teaching in regard to experiencing balance in this tension between properly providing (good) and the materialistic rat race (bad) is contentment.  Consider the power of the phrase, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." A Bible teacher has observed "Contentment is understanding that if I am not satisfied with what I have, I will never be satisfied with what I want."  Among the many ways the world seeks to force us into its mold is the lie that it can offer true satisfaction. Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have and finding satisfaction with that.  It's realizing in the words from the great hymn that, "All I have needed Thy hand hath provided."  Contentedness and thankfulness are interrelated.

Our daily verse declares that "If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."  I wonder how much food Paul was accustomed to and the extent of his clothing line.  Yet he says, "We will be content."  I believe our need for contentment is an attitude we must diligently strive for.   The pressures of materialism are ever before us, particularly during this season that we remember and celebrate God's greatest gift. What a wonderful, deep-settled peace we experience when we learn to live in contentment which gives us hearts of thankfulness!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, when I get overly anxious about having the latest gadget or the newest fashion I usually overlook the fact that I have so much already at my disposal.  So much, in fact, that I struggle to properly manage my possessions and can often be overwhelmed with clutter.  Thank you for the people I know who live with less so that others can have more; more of the basics of life and the provisions needed to reach others with the Gospel message.  Contentment from You cannot be packaged and sold, but it can be a way of life as I align my priorities in accordance to Your will. Teach me the great gain You want me to experience by setting my heart's affections not on this world's changing and peril-stricken economy, but by storing up treasures in heaven's economy where eternal riches never perish, spoil or fade. May that precious truth help me find contentment in a non-content society.    In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.

Carl Smith with Ester
Last night Carl Smith, Ester's job coach, joined us for dinner.  He has been of special blessing to Ester in the job she now has at TJ Maxx. Ester also came to know Carl's wife, Cindy, when she worked as Clinical Director, at a dental office where Ester got her braces.  Cindy, who bravely fought cancer for three years, went to be with the Lord on July 5, 2008.

Today's suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

(Click on the link to open and play)

"Godliness With Contentment"  Audio  This song is based on today's Scripture passage and was written and sung by our friend Mike Book.

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" Audio Text Hymn story with background devotional story written by Brooksyne.

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video by Selah

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video by Fernando Ortega

Special Thanksgiving Resources
(We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday)

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns" - A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thankgiving Table (webpage) Most every year our Thanksgiving celebration is first and foremost the turkey and trimmings. Lots of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in the link below.  Perhaps you could just use it as a discussion guide to provide stimulus for other's reflections.  (In the above photo of Ester and Carl Smith if you look carefully at the top of the china hutch you'll see our leftover thorn from last year.)

CD label for "Stories of Great Hymns""Hymns of Hope" Brooksyne has compiled eleven hymns that deal with the recurring theme of loss and ongoing trial and titled it "Hymns of Hope" based on Romans 12:12,  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Amber Martin plays the hymns on the keyboard and Lauren Gingrich accompanies her on six of the hymns with the viola. Tracks 12-22 play each hymn softly in the background while Brooksyne shares a personal devotional thought, the biographical setting of the hymn text, and an intercessory prayer. We recorded this in the very modest and limited computerized recording studio of Daily Encouragement so that we could make this ministry project available to all who are in need of such encouragement without huge overhead expense.  Thus we realize the audio quality is not what most are accustomed to. You can go to this site to listen to the songs. You can download one song at a time if you find this to be of special blessing or know someone whose spirit might be lifted by listening to these meditative hymns.

A Thankgiving prayer - (written by Joe Sherer, pastor of the Mount Joy Mennonite Church, and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service last year.)  Webpage  For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading -
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

A Thanksgiving family exercise - We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.  (pdf)

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony - This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)

Bob and Linda SouthardBob and Linda Southard are long-time friends of ours who now live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Though we've never lived close to them in proximity  we've thoroughly enjoyed our times of fellowship over the years and mostly communicate through email.  Bob and Linda are tremendous encouragers with enthusiastic personalities and both express earnest concern for others. He shares a weekly online sermon and this week's message is titled, "ThanksLiving." Here's a .pdf version.

used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

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, 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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