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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Martin farmpond
Martin farmpond in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Our friend Nancy Martin took this photo of their farm pond after a beautiful snowfall.
Click here to see a larger desktop-sized photo.
We are getting a spate of very cold weather in our area and presently have snow on the ground.

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"Loyal Yokefellow"

"Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life"  (Philippians 4:3).

Today I would like to consider the subject of loyalty which conveys a warm emotion just reflecting on its meaning.  Loyal friends in the midst of particularly difficult circumstances are streaming through my memory presently.  In my observation this is a character quality that is greatly diminishing in our fickle age.  With our disposable society, the family and all levels of society are seeing a breakdown in loyalty.  As we begin another year I am thankful first of all for the loyalty of God, although we usually don't use this term as an attribute of God, but rather His faithfulness.

But I am also thankful for the loyalty expressed by the people in my life and I myself want to be known for my loyalty.  I, along with many of you, have been stung by disloyalty; whether it is from a close friend, a co-worker, a church member or family member.  We can feel David's sorrow and feelings of loss when he wrote, "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me" (Psalm 41:9).  Jesus and the apostle Paul both knew the lingering sting of disloyalty.

In our daily text Paul writes of a "loyal yokefellow", whose identity is not specifically known.  Paul apparently knew he would be one of the primary recipients of the letter to the Philippians and would know that he was being addressed.  He was asked to mediate a dispute between two women who are very much identified by proper name for all in the church age to read about! "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord."

The descriptive title Paul uses tells us so much about this man.  The adjective, "loyal" can also be translated "true, legitimate or genuine".  Yokefellow may be a proper name "Syzygus", but it also has the meaning of being joined or co-yoked together.  What a beautiful term for a close, long-lasting friendship!

What a dependable friend this "loyal yokefellow" must have been to Paul!  He could be counted upon.  He was reliable. When push comes to shove these are the kind of people we all like to have around and I'm sure thankful that I know many folks like that.  Brooksyne is my best friend, but there are so many others for which I am thankful. What kind of friend are you?  What kind of friend will you be in 2010?  I want to be a loyal yokefellow!

People vary in their opinions and way of seeing things so there will always be potential conflict, but being disagreeable and respectfully disagreeing brings about different results in a solid relationship.   If we're disagreeable we refuse to see anyone's views but our own. When we respectfully disagree we treat the situation with sensitivity and try to see through the other person's eyes or experience.  It certainly doesn't mean that we'll agree in the end, but a close relationship is not usually ended as a result of a difference of opinion.

I am sure you all have some very close loyal friends and what a great blessing they are.  I pause for a moment as I type and consider so many that I have.  In fact many of them are recipients of this daily encouragement perspective, including one going back to first grade.  I have loyal friends from my college years and from each location my ministry has taken me. This long and growing trail of loyal friends is one of the blessings of getting older!

May the Lord bless each reader today with loyal friends and help each of us to be loyal to one another and of course to Him!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, You have shown us the greatest example of loyalty when Peter denied You at the critical hour prior to Your crucifixion.  It is so encouraging to know that Peter was forgiven, reinstated, and entrusted to be a great messenger of the Gospel.  Enable us, through following Your example and by the power of Your Spirit, to be forgiving, loyal, and dependable in the midst of difficult circumstances. Help us to do unto others as we would have them do to us.

Brooksyne's Note: As I edited our message today and came to the prayer time Peter immediately came to mind.  I can't think of a more powerful example of extreme disloyalty (Peter) followed by extreme forgiveness (Jesus).  The verse that stands out to me in addition to so many regarding Peter's denial and reinstatement is Luke 22:61, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter." This was immediately after Peter's third insistent denial of knowing Jesus.  I wonder what emotions transpired in that penetrating look that Jesus gave Peter.

I think about people who have betrayed me over the years (the list is small for which I am grateful.)  But I will honestly tell you if I see them out in public before they see me I certainly don't look straight at them. In fact I will reroute my shopping to avoid eye contact.  The sense of betrayal can easily overwhelm me in that setting and the old wounds reopen.  I can also gladly report that God has enabled me in other circumstances to initiate the conversation to begin the healing process.  I'm always reminded in these situations of the importance of parting in good standing when conflict forces separate paths.  May Jesus help us to forgive and He will bring the healing over time.

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.)

"They Will Know We Are Christians"  Video  This was a song we sang when we were young Christians in the seventies along with outstanding contextual images.  This is a version by "Jars Of Clay".

"We Will Stand"  Video  A well-written song dealing with a call to unity. This version is by a group called "Avalon".

Yesterday we shared a photo we took on the way home from our church service Sunday of some sheep licking the road surface. Several alert readers pointed out they were probably licking the leftover salt particles on the road (spread on the icy patches)!  

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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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