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Friday, April 16, 2010

Pink dogwood bloom (photo by Doris High)
Pink dogwood blossom
Photo by Doris High
Our dogwood trees are blossoming beautifully right now
but the blossoming season sure doesn't last long! (IMHO)

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Our Living Hope"

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3,4).

Henry GariepyOne of the great Christian leaders of our time has recently received his imperishable, unspoiled, and unfading inheritance that has been reserved in heaven for him since the moment he invited Christ to be his Savior. I'm speaking of Colonel Henry Gariepy, national Editor-in-Chief and Literary Secretary for the Salvation Army for 15 years, who received his eternal inheritance on Saturday, April 3. His name might not be as recognizable as Max Lucado or Chuck Swindoll, but he inspired hundreds of thousands through his inspirational speaking and literary works.

In 1997 Brooksyne first became familiar with Gariepy's writings when she obtained "Songs in the Night" (Inspiring stories behind 100 hymns born in trial and suffering). We were so impressed with this book that we purchased multiple copies and distributed them to people who'd experienced loss or were undergoing intense trial. Since then, we've added about six or more of his 29 books to our library and have been tremendously blessed and challenged by each of his writings. His books are very biblical in content and convey thoughts of comfort, hope, and stories of believers overcoming obstacles in their lives. His theme of encouragement is evident in every book.

Imagine Brooksyne's surprise this week when she opened the online version of our own local newspaper and found Henry Gariepy's photo and obituary published, along with the fact that he had moved to our county about four years ago following retirement. For a long time she had looked for an email address or other contact to let him know how much his writings had touched our hearts, but his books did not have the information available. His writing style has had a lasting influence on Brooksyne's writing skills since she began co-writing with me several years ago.

As we were developing our message this morning Brooksyne was able to contact Henry's widow, Marjorie, via telephone to convey her condolences. Marjorie was very gracious, though she'd never met Brooksyne, and seemed very appreciative of our words of appreciation for her husband's books. When Brooksyne let her know that we would have made a personal visit to let her husband know how he had touched our lives, had we known he was in our area, she said, "He really would have appreciated that." Since we didn't have the opportunity here, we'll just share it in our message today and wait for a future date in heaven to personally talk with him.

Henry Gariepy's death is a fresh reminder that the living hope we have in this life is not temporal, but it transports us into our everlasting hope reserved in heaven. The daily Scripture provides a rich assurance to all believers and reminds us that the source of our authentic hope is found in Christ. The apostle Peter opens his epistle with a content-filled praise to God and I am genuinely blessed by the simple phrase "a living hope." This phrase has become a popular name for churches and ministries although this is the only place in the Bible it is used.

Hope is a powerful emotion we all have need of, yet many allow troubling circumstances to lead their thoughts into feelings of hopelessness. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians concerning those "who have no hope." Hopelessness and despair can easily take a grip on our emotions can't they? The great hymn writer Isaac Watts provides an interesting description, "Despair tells us that difficulty is insurmountable."

The "living hope" for the follower of Christ is a result of God's great mercy and the new birth He has given us, grounded in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The apostle Peter wrote these words to encourage believers undergoing various trials and persecution. Some thirty years after Christ's resurrection the church entered a time of horrific persecution during Nero's reign. It was shortly after this that Peter was martyred for his faith.

All of us who trust in Christ have this living hope. As we live out our lives we have many of the same problems as others. But our perspective differs based on an empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our hope is alive and our eternal future awaits us, no matter the present circumstances. Billy Graham characteristically states it so simply, "As a Christian I have hope not just for this life but for Heaven and the life to come."

Today we need to take hold of our living hope. Don’t lose sight of it. The writer of Hebrews spoke of this hope as "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." As God's children we have a living hope and an assurance that God will see us through. I encourage you this day to keep the presence of our living hope ever before you! I promise you, in doing so, you will be encouraged!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, help me to fix my thoughts upon the living hope I have in Jesus Christ my Lord. I anchor my soul in the bedrock of Your Holy Word so that when other viewpoints counter the truths prescribed in Your Word my anchor remains firm. When difficulties appear insurmountable remind me that I serve an extraordinary God who does not rely on natural solutions but works in the supernatural realm to meet each one of my needs. I am not tossed to and fro by wishful thinking but I am firmly grounded in the living hope of our resurrected Savior and it is in His name that I pray. Amen.

Landscaping at the Hershey Chocolate factory in Hershey PA
The Hershey Chocolate factory in Hershey PA has shrubbery spelling out "Hershey Cocoa" on the lawn and the trees in the background are at the peak of blossoming. We passed by this sight on Wednesday.

Blossoms and barn in Mastersonville, PA
Later Wednesday afternoon we took a walk through the tiny village of Mastersonviile PA and I got two favorite photo subjects in one shot; blossoms and a barn!

Witness truck
Yesterday we spotted this truck that was sitting out in a farm field north of New Holland, PA.  I appreciate attempts to provide a witness and this is sure an interesting means, the Scripture verse was scrolled across the bug deflector!

This brings to mind lettering we had on a van in the church we served in northern Pennsylvania many years ago. As I recall we placed the words "Jesus Is Lord" on the front of the van but used mirror lettering similar to what ambulances use so it was readable from a rear view mirror.

To this day I can't say how effective it was as a witness but it sure got some attention!

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 Hope Is In The Lord"  Video

I stand in awe within the presence of the Lord.
With Whom the wisdom of the ages lie.
Of whom the raging of the seas subsides.
The living sacrifice, the only source of life.

My hope is in the Lord
From this time on and evermore.
Oh my hope is in the Lord forevermore.

His tender mercies come with every rising sun.
To meet the sinner in his brokenness.
To offer healing and forgiveness.
And those who trust in Him will find their hearts at rest.

"My Life Is In You Lord"  Video

Here's the online obituary for Henry Gariepy

When Life Gets ToughWhen Life Gets Tough
 By Henry Gariepy / David C. Cook
Troubling times can happen in our lives-challenging times, life-shaking,
even faith-shaking. It's during these times we need an anchor for our soul...and our faith. With short reflections that take just a minute to read, Henry Gariepy helps you understand the big picture of life. Just when you think you can't go on, God will be there and His words providing the peace you needed to move ahead.  Brooksyne and I have this little book in our library and find it to be very encouraging.  These were distributed in mass quantity at Ground Zero to the Rescue Workers and Survivors of the 9-11-01 terrorist attack in New York City.

Preface Page: "Crises may bring us to a personal point of 'Ground Zero', where life seems shattered and its foundations are tested to the limit......Amid the storms of life, the Bible is our anchor that holds us steadfast; it is our compass that will chart the unknown way before us...As this book makes its way to thousands of those involved in the September 11, 2001 tragedy, we pay tribute to the many brave and tireless workers and to the faith and courage of families who lost loved ones...Our Salvation Army workers and canteens were at the World Trade Center before the second plane struck and continued serving those at Ground Zero and families of the victims there as well at the Pentagon, Western Pennsylvania, and related sites throughout the long days and nights and months following...."

Doris HighToday's top photo of the pink dogwood blossom is part of a spring photo collection by our friend Doris High.  Here's that collection.

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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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