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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lancaster County farm scene 6/8/10
Harvest View
Yesterday we passed a number of beautiful farm scenes and I liked the various color contrasts in this scene due to the barley harvest (yellow field in center), although the photo really doesn't do it justice!

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"Genuine Faith"

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6,7).

Last night we went to a minister's picnic near Carlisle, Pennsylvania and enjoyed the pulled pork from a freshly roasted pig in addition to all the other side dishes and desserts that were brought!

Harold Crosby
We visited with Harold Crosby, a longtime friend and mentor, in our ministry. I first met Harold shortly after moving to Pennsylvania when Brooksyne and I planted a church in 1977. He is a zealous servant of Christ and at nearly 94 he's slowed down a bit but still demonstrates the qualities of earnest faith. He excitedly told us that he just read through the Bible (again) within the past seven months.

My most poignant memory of Harold took place shortly after I met him. I sat right behind him in a council meeting shortly after his first wife died and he was so emotionally distraught that he freely expressed his feelings of loss to the ministers present. But he went on, living by faith, and God sent him another wonderful mate in due time.

Now over thirty years later his wife, Liz, is in a nursing home and he goes every morning to visit with her. They share devotions and pray together during his morning visits. He still lives in the very home he has lived in for nearly fifty years. Although he has his family and many friends nearby it's a hard phase in his bonus years. His faith is being proved genuine as he continues to trust God to watch over him and Liz and their daily needs in addition to the unexpected challenges they will inevitably face.

Brooksyne has been memorizing the daily text (actually 1 Peter 1:3-9) and in the process I hear her repeating the verses aloud as she goes about her work or as we travel in the car. We are also sharing it in the course of our pastoral and chaplain care duties and it's a portion I seem to be learning by osmosis!

This morning I awoke with the phrase, "your faith – of greater worth than gold" which kept going over and over in my mind. Indeed what a blessing it is to have faith which is far greater than any material possession we might own, including gold that has great value in part due to its extensive and extreme purifying process!

The apostle Peter writes to all believers through the sacred Scriptures in the daily text: "For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." I am sure there are common types of trials that we share today that are similar to the early recipients of this letter. They also endured trials specifically related to their time period of which we cannot relate.

Trials do not appear to be distributed equally. Some sure seem to deal with trials more than others. I just got off the phone with Joe, a longtime friend, whose wife will have a lung transplant today. Joe is keeping his faith and believing God will see his wife through this very critical surgery.

But I am gripped with the phrase in the daily text, "these have come" referring to "all kinds of trials." The Apostle Peter goes on to explain their purpose, "so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." The trials that come our way have a purpose and we can be assured that all we endure through trial is under God's control.

Today I know some of you are going through an extensive trial and at times you are very discouraged. A sermon Charles Spurgeon once preached reminds us of the value of trials: "Expect trial, also, because trial is the very element of faith. One cannot be sure that faith is true faith until it is tried faith. It is not worth having till it has been fitly tested and brought to the touchstone of trial."

This testing of our faith is difficult but necessary. May the Lord fill our hearts today with assurance of His steadfast love and care, so that we may indeed "greatly rejoice" even in the midst of our trial. Remember, above all and through all, God is proving the sincerity of our faith. Let us not resent the refining process as we prove the genuineness and depth of our faith.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, in our trials we can greatly rejoice when we remember that you are giving us opportunity to prove the sincerity of our faith.  We have living hope that is not diminished by trial but grows with anticipation as we contemplate our eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for us as it is shielded by Your power.  As our faith is proven genuine we bring praise, glory, and honor to Jesus and we learn to exercise and grow the fruit of endurance in our lives.  Be glorified in and through us.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

Naomi WolgemuthYesterday we stopped by Messiah Village, a nursing home near Harrisburg, and visited for awhile with Naomi Wolgemuth. Naomi is always pleased to see us and introduces us to her many friends, over and over stating, "This is my pastor and his wife."

Naomi had a very interesting ministry for many years that we will hope to write about in a coming daily encouragement message. For fifty years she planted flowers
in front of her home on a bank along a well-travelled road that had an inspirational message!

That reminds me of an appeal I meant to make yesterday to my fellow pastors who read this material. Visit your shut-ins.  Although we serve as chaplains in a nursing home and find it is a rewarding form of ministry we do not replace the connection the residents desire to have with their pastor and friends from their home church. Yet I regularly hear from these people that they do not receive visits from their pastors and they feel feel forgotten by their church friends. However, let me recall and honor, Bob Malick, a pastor in my community I would regularly see sitting and patiently visiting with a member of his church even though the man was in a state of dementia.  That man has since passed on. See
Hebrews 6:10

Joe and Jessie Caroll
On the way to our picnic we stopped by to visit Joe and Jesse Carroll, who now live in Carlisle, PA. They were in an interim church we served several years ago near Harrisburg. For many years Joe served with faithfulness and integrity as the treasurer of the church.  They are a gracious couple with a deep love for each other and the Lord.  It's a blessing that we can still stay connected through daily encouragement net!

We received this note from a reader in response to yesterday's message on an Amish Youth Hymn Sing: I have friends in Pennsylvania who are Old Order Mennonite and recently the father built a large structure on their farm for the specific reason of holding these youth singings.  (He has 9 daughters and two sons!) I was there in April and although my friends are Old Order, one of them, a local teacher, accompanied me to a Horning Mennonite Church. The Horning group, as you probably know, are also called Black Bumper Mennonites as they drive cars that are black only. I also have a white van, so I know what it feels like to pull up in such a contrasting color! (Although it is better than red, I suppose). Anyhow, the Hornings share a church building with the Old Orders and also wear plain clothing. What was interesting, but a little odd, was that at the end of the first hymn all the young men came literally trooping in making a lot of noise as they made their way to their seats. An elder, got up and paced in front of the area where the young men sit and gave them glaring looks. I suppose this is a regular occurrence that the church has not put a stop to yet. What I did notice was that during the service, one or two plain dressing boys were text messaging their friends!!! It was such an unusual sight. Anyhow, the sermon was in English which was good since my German is rusty. Oh, and I also forgot to turn off my cell phone and had to do it quietly less the ring interrupt the service. That would not have been good!

Stephen's note: We have
also attended Horning Mennonite church services on several occasions and that is the faith of our neighbors. This summer we will be attending their daughter's wedding and will probably have the only white van in the parking lot (again)!  I also have a friend who is a Horning Mennonite minister who demonstrates an earnest faith in Christ.

Also, I regularly visit with Elvin, a man who is in the Mennonite group that still uses horse and buggies, and have a standing invitation to attend his church. He told me the services were normally in German but that if I came the preacher would speak in English. Here's a photo I took one Sunday morning as I passed the meeting house.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

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(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.) 

"Living By Faith"
 Video  This old hymn came to mind as I prepared today's message.

"Wrap Me In Your Arms"
 Video  Last night at the picnic I visited with Kristian Walker, a local Christian musician, we have appreciated for a number of years.  He sings an outstanding song I have never heard apart from his version titled "God Is In Control" that would have fit so well with today's message but I was unable to find an online version.

"Our God Is In Control"
I did come across this very thoughtful song by Steven Curtis Chapman, who has kept faith through the very mysterious death of his young daughter.  This song was written from his heart following that event.  

"Revelation Song"  Video  Another song sung by the Kristian Walker Band.

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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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