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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autumn wagon, Lancaster Country PA
Fall Harvest Wagon

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"Providing For Our Own"

"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).

Yesterday afternoon we took a long walk just about the time the sun went down. Our neighbor was busy with the harvest, which is one the busiest times for hardworking farmers. As we walked down the road a harvest truck met us and then we saw the combine returning from the fields and pull up to this very old International truck to offload the soybeans. I don't know how much more work they had that day but the harvest is winding down in our area. But I am sure the farmer was weary when he got home that night!

We said a prayer today for all our farmer friends and all of you out there working hard for a living. We also consider several of our friends who are unemployed or who have been cut back. Through daily encouragement we have developed a friendship with a business owner in Florida who has had some very hard times due to the economy. Yesterday he shared this faith-filled update with us:

"Business is still very challenging. Many is the day it makes more sense to shut down than to keep going, if I look at it from a profit motive. But God always shows me to be still, and trust Him, and for some reason He wants this business to continue for now. I believe this business is, and will continue to be, a testimony to His provisions. Things do not make sense on paper, but at the end of the day, our bills are paid and we have plenty to eat. Jesus is my Savior, heaven is my home, my family is healthy and I serve in a church of wonderful believers. I am blessed."

When you work do you realize that you are expressing obedience to God as you provide for your family? We generally consider the fourth commandment in regard to the Sabbath Day but it also includes these words, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work" (Exodus 20:9). In a commandment primarily known for its teaching on the Sabbath, how vital to also hear the positive command to work.

"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family…" Paul is not giving a new teaching here but rather a reminder and reinforcement that from Creation the foundational social unit has been the family. In God's design the basic level of provision comes from this family unit. Immediate family would have the sense of parents and children, while relatives would be our extended family as we know it today. This is a pattern we are moving farther and farther from surely to society's peril.

I recall when I lived in New England a lady gleefully told me that her young son had a baby and that she was a grandmother. I curiously asked, "Is he married? Is he working to provide for his own?" I was surprised at her candor when she said, "Oh, they just don't do that anymore." Well many don't, but I'm thankful many still do.

"He has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The latter part of the daily verse has long gripped my heart. The apostle Paul uses very strong words of condemnation for those who forsake their responsibility in providing for their own. I believe these words stand true today.

Many years ago I knew a man who left his wife and four children for another woman. I recall strongly warning and rebuking him based on this verse. He did not heed the warning and has since walked a degenerate path, cutting off so many who'd helped him early on. Fundamental in God's order is the mandate to provide for our own. The Scripture teaches us that failure to do so amounts to denying the faith and leads to a condition "worse than an unbeliever."

Today I plan to work hard. I want to fulfill God's command to provide for my family. This is one way I express my faith and live like a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, we thank You for our family members who work hard day in and day out to provide for the material needs of their spouses and children.  We pray for our unemployed readers who want to provide for their families according to Scripture.  We thank You that You promise to supply all our needs according to Your riches in glory.  Open closed doors, provide through the willful generosity of others, and make available opportunities for bartering and other means to stretch the dollar until the door for gainful employment opens.  May endurance and faith increase in the lives of our brothers and sisters during their difficult wait.  As a result we will declare together with the songwriter, "All I have needed Your hand hath provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me."  Amen.

Brooksyne's note: As I edited today's message this morning I immediately thought about the Pilgrims and their way of life. Years ago I read about the hard lessons they learned about "the common good" in the history book,  "Saints and Strangers" written in 1945 by George F. Willison.  It is a narrative of the struggles and victories of our early pilgrims.  Then I recently came across a brief article written by Dr. Benjamin Powell that was originally published in November 2004 in the San Diego Union-Tribune that summarizes "The Pilgrims' Real Thanksgiving Lesson":

Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter in 1620, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote [revised from old English] that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labor, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.

Here's the old grain truck we saw being loaded with soybeans yesterday.

Field malva
Malva Across the Street
This is a persistent flower that is up in early spring and lasts through several fall frosts.
It grew from some of the clippings we place alongside the harvested field.

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.)

We considered songs that may be related to today's theme but were unable to recall any. However since we began with a harvest illustration here's one!

"Bringing In The Sheaves" Video The Chuck Wagon Gang

Christian work ethics: An article concerning the work ethic.

The Christian work ethic: Another more fully developed article.

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
(We'll be posting these resources through Thanksgiving.)


"Thankful For The Thorns" -
A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thankgiving Table (printable webpage) The Thanksgiving celebration includes family coming together along with the turkey and trimmings. Often there's a lot 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.  
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) Perhaps you could just use it as a discussion guide to provide stimulus for other's reflections.

A Thankgiving prayer: (written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago.)  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 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)

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

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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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