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Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunset over farm pond 6/27/10
Last night's sunset over farm pond

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"The Mystery Of Divine Providence"

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made" (Psalm 145:17).

Last Thursday afternoon I visited a friend in the course of my chaplain work. I specifically recall how he proudly showed me a photo of his wife and young daughter. As I walked away I remember the big smile on his face as he bid me farewell.

The very next evening he was killed instantly when a tree fell on the pick-up truck he was driving. His wife, who was with him, suffered only minor injuries. "I'm pretty sure he was killed instantly," an officer at the scene said. "It was an act of God. A split-second either way and there probably would not have even been an accident or anyone injured."

The phrase "act of God" may seem irreverent to some but ultimately it's a reasonable expression of the Biblical doctrine of God's providence. Divine providence is the means by and through which God governs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate.

Now this is a teaching that certainly does not lend itself to a short summary and is never really understood completely on this side.  But let me share five observations concerning this mystery of God's providence, especially in regard to tragedies such as the untimely death of my friend:
  • Tragedies are experienced by people of every age and generation. All throughout the Bible, such as Stephen's stoning right at the beginning of his ministry, throughout church history and in our own life's experience we've all witnessed heartbreaking tragedies; some personal and others at a distance. (A little baby was killed Saturday in Central Park in New York City when a tree branch fell on her.)
  • Tragedies ultimately stem from God’s curse as a result of the sin of the human race. Please note this is not saying that each and every tragedy is a result of specific human sin (see point 4) but rather are a part of this fallen world.
  • Tragedies show us that life is fragile and that death and judgment are imminent so our hearts must be right with God through true repentance before we die and face judgment. (Luke 13:1-5)
  • It is futile to try to figure it all out and in doing so we can easily make wrong judgments. Two examples are Job's friends throughout the book of Job and another tragic story as told in Luke 13:1-5.
  • The Scriptural assurance of God's control and care through all circumstances (Romans 8:28).
Today's daily text expresses a timeless truth concerning God: "The LORD is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made" (Psalm 145:17). The greatest testing of our faith comes during these intense times as we may find ourselves questioning God's providence and goodness in these kinds of tragedies. Some of our readers have had very difficult experiences in this regard. I can think of a number of friends who have experienced very severe heartache yet hold on to their faith.

Here's a Scripture passage that we've recently been distributing in our chaplaincy ministry. Brooksyne has posted it above the kitchen sink, bathroom mirror, and next to our computer as a prompting to memorize it.  Let it speak to your heart this day. Store it up in your spirit so that when tragedy strikes and the endurance of your faith is tested it will not come as a surprise nor will the troubling circumstances overpower your faith:

"In His great mercy He has given us … an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade kept in heaven for you. 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" (I Peter 1:3b,4,6,7).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily payer: Father, we know that the processing of gold requires extreme temperatures so that impurities are separated from the genuine. Likewise our faith which is of greater worth than gold goes through a purification test especially when we endure extreme trials. It is through these trials that we have opportunity to prove the genuineness of our faith and declare along with Job who went through extreme and prolonged testing, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." It was in the painful process of losing those things which he could touch with his hands and see with his eyes that Job learned to praise You with an inexpressible and glorious joy. This attitude of praise comes only by faith, not by what we can touch or see. Help us, Father, to give thanks in all circumstances and trust You for all that concerns us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Here's a common prayer that expresses repentance to God and faith in the plan of salvation. I urge you to pray this prayer from your heart today. "Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner and desire to turn to You in repentance. I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me. I place my faith in You and what You have done for me. I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow and serve You. Thank You for hearing my prayer."

Expressing ourselves to God in this way is how we all begin our new life as a Christian. I earnestly pray that everyone reading this will do so as well!  I would be very blessed and encouraged if those of you who have done so for the first time would let us know.

Brooksyne's Note: When God lays a Scripture passage on my heart I type it out, make duplicate copies, laminate them, and then post it in several locations in our home where I spend time doing "mindless work." When washing dishes or drying my hair at the bathroom mirror I read the Scripture(s) over and over and then begin the exercise of memorizing them. After memorizing the passage(s) I then review them each time I see the posting or when I take walks so that I don't forget them. I'm always amazed as to how these verses work in my heart as a spiritual meditation. The very passage I have just memorized not only speaks to me personally but so often is the very word an individual needs to hear either in our business chaplaincy, our daily encouragements or our pastoral ministry. I recently memorized I Peter 1:3-9 which we shared a portion of today. I encourage you to print out verses to memorize as well. I
f you'd like a laminated copy of I Peter 1:3-9 just send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope to this address: 495 Kraybill Church Road - Mount Joy, PA 17552 and I'll be glad to send you a copy.

Oren Hofstetter's retirement party 6/27/10
Last night we joined many of our local friends for a surprise retirement party on a beautiful farm here in Lancaster County. This farm has been in the same family for 8 generations since the 1700's!

Oren Hofstetter's retirement party 6/27/10
Our friend Oren (pictured with his daughter, Cassie, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law Rachel in background) recently retired after 22 years of working for Kelloggs. Oren and his wife Naomi demonstrate great servant's hearts and are representative of the millions of Christ-followers who serve faithfully in their local churches and communities without much fanfare.  Here's a message we wrote about them several years ago and a more recent photo of Oren and Naomi.

John & Florence Zimmerman 50th
John and Florence Zimmerman recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  We sat across from them and enjoyed their fellowship.

Feeding cows on Amish farm 6/26/10
Saturday evening I helped my Amish friend with his chores prior to milking. (In case any may wonder I am not Amish even though I am aware the black suspenders may lead some to believe that I am.  Don't know how the shorts and colorful shirt would fit in!)

Amish girl on scooter
Friday I shared a photo of two scooters leaning on a barn. I should have explained that these scooters are a common mode of transportation among the Amish. This young lady had just picked up some items at our local hardware store.  (She's one of few who wear shoes in the summer months.)  When I see them scooting along in their bare feet I consider how calloused and tough their feet must be!

The Amish in our neighborhood are building a new one room schoolhouse.  The men all pitch in together to do the work and the women serve a big meal. The children are playing on the dirt pile, something I recall as being a lot of fun when I was a kid.

I saw one of those heartwarming sights that would have made for a great photo as I drove onto the property Saturday. A big family of all ages was looking out toward the railroad tracks watching intently and talking about the train coming. When the Amtrak passenger train sped by they all jumped up and down and waved excitedly. The mother explained to me that their 21 year old son was on the train heading out to Wyoming to work in the hay harvest. He was looking for them all to be there waving, and he certainly
was not disappointed.  I'm sure it was an encouraging site that he will draw strength from far away from home. (See Acts 27:15)

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.)

"Farther Along"  Video  This old gospel song expresses well.

"Thank You Lord For The Trials That Come My Way"  Video   This song has very thought-provoking lyrics and is one of the first songs I recall Brooksyne playing at the piano and singing when we held service at a Rehab.   It was popular in the seventies. Today's version is by a Croatian singer.

"He Will Carry You"  Video  Scott Wesley Brown  We dedicate this song today to all our readers going through a tough time.

The definition of divine providence used in today's message comes from this website

For further study: Here are two insightful books I have read on the topic of God's control and the mysteries of His providence.

The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good?The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? 
By R.C. Sproul 
In a world steeped in anguish and evil, how can God be in control? Do all things really work for good? With head-on honesty and biblical insight, Sproul examines the difficult doctrine of divine providence. Discover how your Lord lovingly guides the events of your life without creating human wickedness or destroying human freedom.

Trusting GodTrusting God
By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press
Does trusting God come easily to you---until adversity strikes? Amid troubles and tribulation, do you sometimes doubt whether he really cares? Exploring three essential truths about God---his complete sovereignty, his infinite wisdom, and his perfect love---Bridges shows you how to rely on God implicitly in every circumstance. 240 pages, softcover from NavPress.

For many years Jerry Bridges has been one of my favorite authors. In the course of preparing these resources I came across a book I have not read yet but due to Jerry's insight am confident it would be a good read.

Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal TragedyIs God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Terrorism, Tsunamis, and Personal Tragedy
By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press
There's no more crucial topic in today's world than understanding what God is up to in the midst of personal and global tragedy. Author Jerry Bridges helps readers answer the question "Is God in control?", offering comfort and hope by exploring the greater purposes of God in light of Scripture.

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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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