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Monday, June 7, 2010

Mexican Sunflowers
Mexican Sunflower

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"Dealing with Pests"

"Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" (Song of Solomon 2:15). "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:8,9).

Over the past eight years Brooksyne has taken her gardening very seriously and enjoys collecting seeds from spent plants as we travel through other states.  This year she had great success with seeds she had labeled "looks like red Mexican sunflowers" (see photo above) from our travels last summer. She planted them in March and ended up with about 30 healthy seedlings.

Bunny and squirrelShe excitedly planted them in her flower garden last week, but within a day she came in complaining that something was eating her new plants. Two days later she looked out the window of our dining room and saw a little bunny munching ever so contentedly on the new plants.  Within hours she had the look of a soldier as she armed herself with a homemade mix of cayenne in a water bottle and thoroughly sprayed all the plants.   I doubt that the bunny had the contented look on its face next time it began to nibble!  If a bunny could talk it might say, "Yikes!  What happened to the sweetness of these newfound plants I was enjoying in this back yard the past few days."  Whatever the bunny thought… it has kept him (or her) away from these plants since then.

I planted a small plot of sweet corn in an otherwise unused area in my back yard last week. This morning I checked and it was neat to see the tiny sprouts popping up through the soil. In several months we hope to be enjoying our own genuinely home-grown sweet corn but till then I'll be keeping my eye out for the many enemies this corn has; insects, disease, and other pests that will seek to destroy my crop.

It seems like life is full of fighting off little pests of one type or another, doesn't it? But today we want to consider spiritual pests. They come in cycles. There are some pests I dealt with 30 years ago that really aren't an issue in my life now, while new pests that I never would have expected have come in to replace them. Bugs are very tiny and yet they can do extensive damage.  Wise Solomon spoke of the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.

The pests I am referring to are the many subtle attempts of the enemy to get us off the right track. They come in so many different forms.

Let me candidly illustrate: We use our computers a lot. I have several levels of junk email filters to keep the crud out. In fact one of them automatically dumps the stuff into a separate folder that will get hundreds of messages every couple of days. But junk still gets through. I received one with a mildly pornographic image. I immediately dumped it into the deleted folder and then without delay emptied that folder. I don't need that "teaser bug" on my computer and I certainly don't want to invite it in my life!  Little bugs can cause devastating damage, but when caught early and properly dealt with we will have positive results that are compatible with our spiritual goals.

Today you will all inevitably deal with a variety of bugs. The daily Scripture text has some wonderful advice: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8). The dictionary describes the act of prowling as one who goes about "cruising, moving secretly, undercover, incognito, stealing, lying in an ambush." It's a perfect description of the tactics of our enemy, the devil, who lies in wait trying to steal that which is of most importance to us.  The Spirit through Peter gives us sound advice that will keep us from being tricked, caught off guard, and entrapped by the enemy's sinister schemes.

We are to "Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because we know that our brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings" (1 Peter 5:9).  Through our study and application of Scripture we will be wise to the devil's schemes which will help us stand firm in the faith.  We can also be consoled in knowing there are many others undergoing the same kinds of testings and yet have power through Christ to resist the enemy and endure the suffering that comes from such trials.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, through the knowledge of Your Scriptures, through the application of its truths, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we can resist the enemy of our souls.  Our faith is tested which is of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, so that it may be proved genuine, and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Faith that is not tested is faith that cannot be trusted, so help us to see that when the enemy is persistently prowling You are giving us opportunity to prove our faith to be genuine as we continue to recognize Satan's ways and resist his influence in our lives.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  As we describe the devil as a prowling enemy moving about secretly, I'm reminded that some of the worst and most destructive pests I've dealt with over recent years of gardening are those little pests that wait till the sun is gone, the lights are turned off and the gardener is fast asleep.  But a serious gardener will sneak out with a flashlight as I have done on several occasions and find an industry of pests working feverishly into the night devouring one leaf at a time right down to the stem if not stopped.  At dawn the bell rings for all little pests to find their hiding places until night fall again; unless they've been found out.  Once I discover the mystery pest I spray a concoction that will tell the little pests, "Your nights at the Plant are over."  In a far more serious way, I want to be vigorous in searching my heart regularly for those little attitudes that sneak in and seek to replace the wonderful fruit God has grown in my life.  I want to quickly eradicate those attitudes and behaviors through confession and Scriptural application so that only the spiritual fruit will mature, be productive and be pleasing to God and make me a blessing to other.

This weekend we had two memorable experiences.
We'll share one here and another with tomorrow's message.

Florence Bogden 6/4/10
On Friday afternoon we went to Philadelphia to attend a wedding. Friday evening we took Florence Bogdan out for dinner. Florence and her late husband Stephen pastored in Clearfield, a neighboring community, when we first moved to Pennsylvania in 1977. They befriended us and were a great source of encouragement as we planted a church. Several years later they moved to Philadelphia and Stephen served as the pastor of the historic Highway Tabernacle near the Center City for many years where they had an outstanding ministry serving the Lord faithfully and impacting many lives for Christ. On a couple of occasions we took groups of young people from our church in northern PA on mission trips to assist them and give the kids from a small town the taste of ministry in a big city. Pastor Stephen and Florence especially had a neat ministry befriending international students and hosting them in their home and Florence continues to have a mentoring role for young people who love her greatly.  

Joseph & Lori Cullen 6/5/10
On Saturday we attended the wedding of Joey & Lori Cullen. Joey is a young man who had been in the church we served in New England. Wayne & Yvette (Joey's mom) are in the left in the photo. Lori's parents, Pastor Phil and Carol Menditto are on the right side. It was a real joy to attend a wedding for a young couple setting out in life with a determination to mutually serve the Lord.

We appreciated reading this clear statement of faith on the back of their wedding bulletin: "We want to thank you all for sharing in the second most important day of our lives.  You may ask what the most important day was.  That day was the day we gave our lives to Jesus Christ and accepted Him as our Lord and Savior."

Wayne & Yvette Gallagher 6/5/10
Wayne & Yvette Gallagher are real trophies of ministry and as Paul said concerning the Thessalonian believers, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19). We worked with Yvette (especially Brooksyne) through a very hard time in her life. In fact she has shared her testimony online. Wayne and Yvette are both now in ministry and doing great.

John and Lorna Almeida 6/5/10
John and Lorna attended our church in New England and now live in New York and serve the Lord together.  

Joey Cullen with Lorna and Brooksyne 6/5/10
Lorna led our youth group during a time in Joey's life when he was rebellious but she determined to show the love of Christ to this troubled young man.
Looks like he's showing his lasting appreciation!

Pastor Phil Menditto 6/5/10Phil Menditto is a long-time friend from Bible college. He spoke at a little country church near Fair Grove Missouri that I pastored when Brooksyne and I first got married in 1976. He also spoke at our newly formed church in northern Pennsylvania in the late seventies when he served several years as a traveling singer and evangelist. In 1980 he and his wife Carol planted the Philadelphia Christian Center. I spoke for him once when the newly formed church met at a Howard Johnson Hotel. As I recall the adults met in a function room and they also rented a regular room for the kids. Phil has served faithfully ever since and after 30 years serves one of the largest churches in the Philadelphia area that is also the most multi-racial, multi-cultural church I have ever seen. At the reception we sat next to some Nigerian immigrants.  Phil's church is a genuine "soul saving station" with scores of people saved as Phil faithfully preaches God's Word. He is a peer in ministry preaching an uncompromised gospel. It is such a blessing to have peers like this in the ministry!

We were out of contact with Phil and Carol for many years and what a blessing it was to hear that Joey was dating their daughter, and later came on as their youth pastor!

The wedding was one of the most memorable I have attended. Phil preached a great wedding sermon, challenging the couple and all of us to an uncompromising commitment to Christ.  At one point in the service a musician sang a beautiful rendition of "He Is Exalted" while both the bride and groom stood before the altar freely expressing their worship to the Lord. But the highlight was at the very end when Laura sang a surprise song to Joey expressing her love and commitment.

Church bus Limousine 6/5/10Joey and Lori used a church bus for their limousine and the youth had fun decorating it! I suppose that saved Dad a lot of money!

Mom with Joey Cullen
My Mom loved all the kids in churches we served and the kids loved Mom. We found this photo from about ten years ago with Joey giving Mom a hug. Actually Mom loved people of all ages. She went to be with the Lord in 2005.

Somewhere I have a photo that Joey took that tells a story. When we first moved to Pennsylvania over nine years ago, Joey was (as a friend described him at the reception) a streetwise city punk.  He came down with his mother to visit us. We lived in a large old farmhouse at the time and on one of our walks I had seen a spooky old truck out in the woods by a creek.  It was creepy inside with a broken windshield and trash piled in it. One dark night I told Joey, "If you think you're so tough  go find that truck and then take a picture from the inside of the truck to prove that you really found it". He did it! That was before we had digital so we had to wait a couple days before the proof was seen through the picture.  

Tomorrow I will share some reflections about an Amish Youth service
in a barn I attended last night!

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.)

"He Is Exalted"  Video

"My Tribute"  Video  This song was rather new when we used it at our wedding in 1976. What a joy to hear it again at the wedding we attended this last Saturday over 34 years later!

Finally today:

Homemade Insect Spray for pests and critters:
1 Garlic bulb
1 small onion
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 qt. water
Blend together and let steep for a few minutes.  Mix in 1 tsp. liquid non-detergent soap and use immediately or keep in fridge for up to a week.  Insecticide soap may also be used as alternative.
(Shortcut:  I simply mixed about 1 tsp. cayenne with water in a pint spray bottle and sprayed.)

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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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