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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Buggies and windmill on Amish farm
Windmill and buggies at an Amish church service

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"Jesus Loves Even Me!"

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Awhile back we attended a church service in the home of our Amish friends. Although we've been exposed to a variety of settings where people do church differently, this service stands out as a memorable occasion different than the others. The Amish service is held in homes or barns with people of all ages sitting on hard backless benches; men and boys on one side while women, girls and infants sit on the other. The service is sung and preached in German. Although I have a German heritage I don't know the German language!

But the most distinct aspect of the service was the singing. The congregation sang in German one song that lasted for about ten minutes in a seeming archaic mode, a little like the sound of chanting monks. The Amish do not use musical instruments. A person sitting next to me shared his hymnal but it was of no help since I couldn't read German, but I did my best to follow along making out a few words in the text as it was sung. It seemed like one stanza took four or five minutes!

Our friends thoughtfully asked us if there was anything we wanted them to explain about the service. We inquired about the singing and they smiled as they already knew that would require a little more explanation. Jesse took a scrap of paper and wrote down the words of a familiar hymn in English, "Amazing Grace". He said if we were to have sung this hymn in English, it would go something like this, "A---ma---zi-------ng gra-----ce, h---ow sw-------t th---e so-------und". He explained that they purposefully sing the song very slowly with many added syllables and indeed repeat certain phrases over and over for emphasis. In fact he and Anna illustrated by singing the song so that we could understand their explanation.

Now that certainly is not the way we do it in most churches and it would sure take some major adjustment to sing in this style, but it does have merit. Many of the hymns and choruses are rich with meaning but as we sing at the customary tempo to keep the song and the overall church service moving we can easily overlook the depth of the words or phrases.

This is true as well in our Scripture reading. We may have a goal to read so much of the Scriptures daily as we adhere to an annual reading plan, but in keeping up with the plan we may miss small gems that require additional time and focus. Others might prefer to read smaller portions of Scripture and meditate on one particular verse or dig in deeper for further study.

One of the benefits of Scripture memorization is that it requires much repetition of the same verse, thinking on it for an extended period of time, and storing it in our brain as we seek to memorize.  After we memorize it our spirit cooperates with the Holy Spirit in recalling sacred Scripture at opportune moments. Many years ago I memorized the daily text, actually set to music.

Galatians 2:20

Remove the processor from your computer and what's left? A useless contraption fit for the junkyard! What happens to the  Christian if you remove "Christ" (i.e., you try to live the  Christian life and perform Christian work without Christ living and working out His life through you)? You have 3 letters left, from which you can compose the acronym...  

Each word in the sacred text ministers to my heart. But today let us slowly consider one phrase, "who loved me."

Writing of a deep assurance of Christ's love for him Paul simply says, "who loved me." This is Paul, who at one time with hateful vengeance, had persecuted the Church and at His conversion heard these words from Christ, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He now reflected on the love His Savior specifically had for him. So much so, that He "gave Himself for me."

"God so loved the world". Amen, He sure does and He specifically loves you and me this day and every day. You may not have experienced a loving earthly family as I thankfully have. We personally know so many who have not. There are those reading our message who have been abused and carry deep scars. Some have had the sacred trust of a spouse, parent or sibling violated. You are now learning to trust your heavenly Father who is altogether trustworthy. His steadfast love never ceases, even during times that you have proven to be untrustworthy or vacillating in your commitment to Him.

Pastor Robert Morgan, one of our favorite writers, makes this observation: "If you could have one verse of Scripture engraved onto your tombstone, what would it be? Or if you could have one verse and only one scripted and framed to hang in your living room or kitchen, which verse would you choose? Or, to put it a little differently, if someone were to write a biography of your life and put one verse on the title page, what verse would best summarize your aspirations and experiences as a Christian? I'd like to suggest that out of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, you'd have a hard time coming up with a better choice than Galatians 2:20."

Those with deep scars especially listen to us today. Take our daily verse from Galatians 2:20; write it on a card and memorize it. Say it over and over, phrase by phrase. Hide it deep in your heart. For what Paul wrote for himself, you can say for yourself and I can say for me. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, because of Your supreme love for us we are not consumed by Your wrath nor do we receive our deserved penalty for sin. Instead we are forgiven, cared for and loved by You.  Thank You for Jesus who laid His life down for us that we might be raised up to newness of life.  As our old nature is crucified with Him it is no longer our sinful nature that thrives, but Christ's spiritual nature who lives in us expressing His love, goodness and righteousness through our words, thoughts and deeds that glorify Him. May we be as a sweet aroma to You today.  Amen.

Note from a coal miner's daughter: Yesterday we wrote concerning the coal miners memorial service in West Virginia and received this note from a long-time reader. "I wanted to just comment on today's letter. I only got to see the very end of the telecast of the coal miners. I sure wish I had heard the lady sing the Miners Bible song.  My father was killed in a coal mine when I was 10 years old, so what I did get to watch brought back many, many memories. There was not a lot of fanfare for him like they have today for the miners, but it was just a fact of life back then. He was only 32 years old.  Things happened and mining went on as usual. I am glad they are putting more safety in place for future miners."

We attended the Amish home church service mentioned in today's message in December 2008. At that time we shared a daily encouragement message with a longer reflection on the service. (See the footnote)

For students desiring a more indepth study concerning today's verse I suggest this resource, which is actually a compilation of many resources. It has become one of my favorite "go to" resources when I prepare sermons and Bible studies.

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.)

"I Am Crucified With Christ"
 Video  An outstanding song by Phillips, Craig and Dean.

"I Have Been Crucified With Christ"  Video  Robin Mark  This version is a great way to learn the Scripture verse.

"Oh, How He Loves You And Me"  Video  

"Jesus Loves Me"  Video  

"Crucified With Christ" Video A short sermon segment by Paris Reidhead.

"Crucified With Christ"  Video  An interesting short teaching video.

Finally today:
Roxie and a really big rabbit
Roxie loves to chase bunnies and squirrels but has never caught one to our knowledge. However she was quite intriqued when she saw this large rabbit as was the rabbit who apparently felt safe behind the fence!

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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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