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Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn decoration at Weber home
Autumn decoration in front of our home.

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"Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia" (Romans 16:5).

Last night we went to the Manheim Farm Show, a county fair-like activity in the nearby town of Manheim. Here in Lancaster County we don't have a single county wide fair but many of the communities hold their own. Local organizations and ministries are given opportunities to raise funds through the various foods they sell.

It was a beautiful fall evening as we walked along and saw many friends we've made during our 8½ years of living in Lancaster County.  Not only did we run into people we hadn't seen for a long time but so did many others.  You could tell by their hearty greetings, their hugs, and the big smiles that crossed their faces.

We visited for a few minutes with Rich and his wife Jamie that we last saw about a year ago. I met Rich shortly after moving to this area when I was a chaplain at the company where he works. I also shared a message in his church last year. Jamie's father was with them and introduced himself.  He had become a widower after 57 years of marriage this past year.  On May 8, the very same day that Brooksyne and I celebrated 33 years of marriage, he said good-bye to his closest companion on earth. The evidence of the love and admiration he had for his wife was seen in the tears that welled up in his eyes several times in the few minutes we talked.

He told us that he and his wife had taught the 5 & 6 year old class in his home church for 40 years, but altogether she had taught it for 48 years.  As he shared this amazing story he was unaware of our pastoral role.  Knowing how hard it is to get Christian workers for this age group, we immediately thought of the blessing this couple had been to their local congregation.  He proudly told us that not too many years ago one of the students from his wife's class, in her latter teen years, told him:  "Your wife was my favorite teacher!"  Now that's a wonderful tribute to a teacher – for a teen to remember and to acknowledge the effectiveness of a Sunday School teacher from her very young elementary years.  This teacher's faithfulness was rewarded with such a compliment.  This couple had no grandchildren but he stated that those children over the years were like grandchildren to them.

When considering the advancement of the church through the ages we often think of a great apostle like Paul or a well-known leader in church history such as John Wesley or even some famous preachers of our own time. But I believe the vast majority of impact is being made by people virtually unknown apart from their own church or community such as this faithful couple. These are the people passing the faith along by personal relationship and faithful involvement.

"Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia" (Romans 16:5). Today's verse is easy to glance over as you read the final chapter of Romans. Paul has moved from great theological truths to practical applications to a very personal final chapter. This chapter is loaded with references to the people in Paul's life. He specifically greeted twenty-seven individuals by their proper names. Most all of them are obscure to us and mentioned no where else in the Scriptures.  One, Epenetus, had the incredible distinction of being the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia which carried great significance to Paul's relationship with him.  Asia is a reference to present day Turkey (Asia Minor) and thus his was the very first conversion during Paul's first missionary journey.  These first converts are mentioned in Acts 13 at Pisidian Antioch.

Paul calls Epenetus a "dear friend".  His name means "praiseworthy." What a special relationship they must have had. It's remarkable that they had stayed in touch all through the years with no email or phone capabilities back then! Now Paul is writing to him as one of the believers in the Roman church where he had apparently relocated from Asia.  Epenetus had stayed faithful and heeded the early encouragement of Paul and Barnabas who had "urged them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43).  Can you imagine the big smile that creased his face as Epenetus' heart was touched by the personal greeting Paul wrote to him in the letter read aloud to the other believers gathered on that day.

I expect that each of you have long-term, loyal friends like Paul. I'm certainly glad for those kind of friends. It's especially heartening when you know you've had a lasting impact on their lives as Paul had with Epenetus, or vice versa.  Today, is there a longtime friend like Epenetus that you're unlikely to run into on the street that deserves a personal overdue greeting from you? Take the time and make the effort to do so since, for some, it might be the only bright spot in their day.  It will surely bring a big smile to their face, warm their hearts and make a lasting memory for them!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, we thank You for workers in Your vineyard who helped to build a firm Biblical foundation in our lives over the years.  They obeyed Your leading; they prayed, prepared, and delivered Your divine truths in an age appropriate instructional manner so that we could grow in the ways of the Lord from our youth into our adult years.  Thank You especially for their loving devotion and faithful service. There is a difference in those who are motivated solely by duty rather than conviction and devotion.  May our sense of duty be a direct result of our devotion to Your great cause; the salvation of souls, love toward the body of Christ, and discipleship through instruction of Your Holy Word and by our godly example.  May we be counted among the faithful, in our relationship to You and in our relationship to others.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Amish mule team ready for field work
Yesterday afternoon Brooksyne and I stopped by for a visit with the Lapp family. Jesse was preparing for some field work as I drove in. The mule team was backed into the barn to load the manure spreader. Thankfully we arrived before he began to spread!

Newborn lambs on Amish farm
These two baby lambs were born last Friday but the mom wouldn't let me get very close for a photo.  The Lapp children are thoroughly enjoying watching the mother care for her little ones.

Amish pick-up with dog
Driving through the tiny village of Intercourse we came up behind this dog being transported in the back of an Amish pick-up. Looks like this dog is pretty relaxed. This brought back a memory. We had a little datsun pick-up many years ago when we first got married, though it wasn't horse-drawn. Our dog Enoch just loved to ride in the back of the pick-up on the wheelwells.  But one time that which we feared would happen finally did when he fell out!
You can read about it here.

shocked corn rows north of New Holland PANorth of New Holland, PA we passed this field with rows of shoked corn, a harvesting method used by the Plain people. Usually we see them spread through the field as in this photo but this farmer had them arranged in neat rows.

Flowers at Manheim Farm Show
The Manheim Farm Show prides itself on its focus on agriculture.
It has building after building with displays such as this one.

Lawn tractor at Manheim Farm Show
Every good farm show has to have an antique tractor collection. The Manheim Farm Show had a large one but this one caught my attention.
I thought this was an interesting way to power a lawn tractor.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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Friends  Each church I served had this song sung during our farewell (in 1993 when we moved on from northern PA and again in 2001 when we left New England to move to Lancaster County). Thankfully we have many friends from each of these churches to this day and have collected many more along the way!

Old Friends  
Along with my dad I enjoyed listening to Roger Miller songs growing up in the sixties in the Kansas City area.  (This is not a spiritual song but has an interesting sentiment.) Last night I saw a man wearing a Kansas City Chiefs hat and struck up a conversation with him. You rarely see a Chiefs fan in this area.  I told him I was from the KC area and thanked him for supporting my hapless hometown team (their 0 and 4 so far this season). I shared a line from this old song.

We will be driving up to the Lehigh Valley to visit my brother and his family following our church service this Sunday. Monday morning we plan to go to Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania, near the Poconos, visit the town, and ride the train! We hope to see some beautiful fall foliage in the mountains. We will be unable to prepare a daily encouragement message for Monday, October 12. We expect to resume Tuesday, October 13.

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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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