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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roses along white picket fence
Our neighbors have this row of beautiful roses growing alongside a white picket fence on each side of their property.

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"The Deceitfulness Of Wealth"

"Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Mark 4:18,19).

Preaching in Vietnamese ChurchThis past Sunday I spoke at a missions conference at the Vietnamese Church in Lancaster, PA.  Both before and after the service I enjoyed talking to people and hearing their stories. Most of the folks came to the U.S. at the time South Vietnam fell to the Communists in May 1975. Several were among the "boat people" exodus several years later.  I spoke to a pastor who had been imprisoned for 6 years.

Over the past couple days these conversations have replayed in my mind.  I consider how God calls us from every walk of life and every region of the world to follow Him, much like the farmer's seed that is broadcast or scattered widely.  I also consider that each of us will face varying challenges, temptations, and overcomings as we respond to Christ's call.

In Friday's message we wrote that "worries of this life", when left unchecked, will choke the viable seed that is intended to bear fruit in our lives. The fertile soil (our life) becomes unproductive because the endless worries have sucked out the essential nutrients, water, and space needed for plant life to extend its roots and become firmly grounded.  What should have been healthy fruit instead gets entangled in the tentacles of worthless, common weeds.  We must be on our guard and learn to trust instead of worry.

Today we want to consider the second choking weed that our Lord reveals as an impediment to spiritual growth in regard to God's Word planted in our lives, "the deceitfulness of wealth."

In what ways is wealth deceitful?

1) Wealth is deceitful, because it appears to offer that which will satisfy our deepest needs. However, the one who aspires for riches so very often creates for himself an insatiable appetite for more. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men who ever lived, was asked "How much money is enough? He replied "Just a little more." It's like eating honey (or chocolate) - the more you eat, the more you want! Paul warns that those who have an appetite for money can easily be seduced from the faith and experience many sorrows, "Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain" (1 Timothy 6:10b).

2) Wealth is deceitful, for though it may appear to serve one's needs, in reality, it often becomes one's master. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

3) Wealth is deceitful because we think it will bring security, when in fact riches are a great insecurity.  Consider this past year and the unexpected financial losses scores of people experienced as a result of our troubled economy. (Of course, our troubled economy is due in great part to man's greed for riches, even if it means stealing from others.) Paul commands "those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17).  We do well to heed these warnings.

Ruthless pursuit of wealth can deter, destroy, disillusion and bitterly disappoint. F.B Meyer, Pastor and Evangelist, wrote an interesting perspective regarding the indecision of managing wealth, "Oh, the endless figurings in the brain—how to keep, or invest, or increase." 

The striving for riches can consume one's thoughts and energies, and in the process, the important things in life may be exchanged for that which brings only temporal ease or pleasure. Sadly, pain may also come which is far more lasting than the temporal pleasure.

As we pursue the Father above everything else He aligns our desires with His overall intended purpose for our life.  We close with the mission statement of Crown Financial Ministries that reflects the Biblical approach toward the riches that God entrusts to us while journeying here below: "Equipping people worldwide to learn, apply, and teach God's financial principles so they may know Christ more intimately, be free to serve Him, and help fund the Great Commission."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, for the blessing of another day we are thankful.  The greatest riches in this world cannot be bought with money, but are provided through Your abundant goodness and faithfulness to us such as the early hour sunrise or the evening sunset; the birds awakening us with their melodic chants, the fragrant flowers that bring vibrant color to our landscape, the love of a parent, spouse or child, the loyalty of a friend, the dedication of a worker, the stirring passion of a soulwinner.  All of these, and far more than we could enumerate, are blessings that come from you, not purchased with money nor earned by our works, but given to us as gifts from Your grace.  Thank You, Father.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  I rose from my slumber at 5:00 this morning due to the melodic noise of birdsongs filling the bushes, birdfeeders and trees with their calls all at once. It sure beats the sound of a clamoring alarm clock and birds aren't equipped with "snooze" buttons.
Though cardinals are my favorite common birds due to their color my favorite bird calls comes from the mockingbird.

Due to time constraints we were unable to publish a daily encouragement message yesterday (Monday, June 8).  We tried to get it prepared and sent, but ran out of time. We're sorry for those who keep looking for it to appear on their screen when we're unable to publish, but please understand there are some days when responsibilities in our work schedule conflict with our daily encouragement writings.  When we know ahead of time that we're unable to publish we try to notify you in the previously published devotional.

We want to share some photos from our life the last several days.

Lancaster Vietnamese Church June 7, 2009
What a joy to worship the Lord with the Vietnamese congregation on Sunday. It was a special mission service with the Vietnamese church from Harrisburg joining the Lancaster Vietnamese Church. The singing was outstanding in both English and Vietnamese. Pastor Cuong (Dave) Nguyen is a friend of mine through chaplaincy and can be seen in the photo included with the message translating my sermon.
(Brooksyne's Note:  If you look closely you can see the "tall man" in the congregation.  They sang "The Comforter Has Come" one of our favorites but sung in Vietnamese.)

Lancaster Vietnamese Church June 7, 2009
Following the service we had a delicious meal with lots of interesting food (not typical Lancaster County fare!)  My favorite were the delicious egg rolls.

"The Secret Of Encouragement" If you care to listen to a sermon by Pastor Nguyen in Vietnamese (mp3).

Mark Pulliam 6/7/09Mark Pulliam filled the pulpit at Discover Joy, the church where I am an interim pastor. Mark has been a friend for about 10 years when we met him in New England. Later he was my supervisor for 1 & 1/2 years when I worked for a company that provided EAP services.  Mark now serves as a hospice chaplain. He and his family joined us for the meal at the Vietnamese church and then came over to our place for fellowship Sunday afternoon.  We always have a great time together.

Jeanette Steudler

Yesterday we joined our friend Rick Steudler along with his mother, Jeanette, featured in the photo. We're always inspired by her joyful disposition at 91 years of age and the contagious smile she shares with all around her.  She has some health challenges but still walks up and down the stairs to her bedroom several times everyday! Wow!!  Rick wanted us to see her beautiful flowers and his large vegetable garden that he tends in a large plot behind her house. Like our reading today he contends with weeds and pesky animals.

BB's Grocery Outlet

Yesterday we experienced a local cultural experience in shopping at BB's Grocery Outlet, an Amish "supermarket". The store looks dark inside because they don't have electric lights. But when you get in, the skylights are adequate. Most of the workers are Amish and on occasion we have heard them joyfully singing hymns as they work stocking the shelves!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"My God Shall Supply" Phillipians 4:19 and Hebrews 4:16 from the Integrity Scripture Memory series. If you care to listen to this song open here and then click "play". This entire album has Scripture songs related to today's theme.

"All His Benefits" Here's another song from the series that really blesses us based on Psalm 103:2-5.

"Godliness With Contentment" A song written and sung by our friend Mike Book (mp3)

"Unshakeable Christian Contentment"  An online sermon transcript by Pastor P.G. Mathew.

"The Power Of Enough" A chapel message (mp3) by Lynn Miller. I have appreciated Lynn Miller's insights on this matter for several years.

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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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