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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crawford Barn at Longaberger Homestead
Crawford Barn at the Longaberger Homestead

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"A Basket Story"

"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands" (2 Corinthians 11:30-33).

This past Tuesday we visited the Longaberger Homestead near Dresden, Ohio on our way home from the family reunion.  Brooksyne, Ester and I made a basket together, although I'll readily admit Brooksyne did most of it (along with the official Longaberger basket maker)! After we made our basket we went up on a catwalk overlooking the factory floor (which is the size of 17 football fields) and saw hundreds of employees of the Longaberger Basket Company making baskets of all colors and sizes!  The visit prompted a basket story from the Bible.

William CareyWhen William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, was leaving for India as a missionary, he told a group of interested friends, "Saving souls can be likened to a man drowning in a deep well and a volunteer can do nothing unless there are people who will hold the rope for him to be lowered till he reaches the drowning man, and then pull them up to safety." Carey adds, "I will go to India as a volunteer to seek sinners drowning in the well of SIN. But I can't do it alone. I need rope-holders. Will you be my rope-holders?"

Perhaps William Carey was, at least in part, considering a rather obscure event recorded in the Bible when he told this story. Acts 9 tells the story of Saul's conversion. He had gone to Damascus, "breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples."  But he was dramatically converted and immediately began to preach for Christ while still in Damascus.  He then experienced the same persecution of which he had once been a zealous participant and now a plan was devised to kill him (v.23).

Saul being lowered in basketInterestingly the very ones he had come to persecute days earlier were now essential in his daring nighttime escape. Paul learned early on that he was part of a team. Acts 9:25 states, "But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall." Can you mentally picture these disciples tightly holding the ropes as they slowly and carefully lowered him down the city wall in a basket.

Now these unnamed disciples were instrumental in helping Saul out of town in the midst of persecution that was aimed directly at him. They, along with Ananias, (who perhaps was among them) became the first of many, many ministry associates to Saul, whom of course we now know as the apostle Paul.

Saul experienced divine protection in the midst of persecution, but he would also learn that God's deliverance often comes in cooperation with other people.
This is one of the most vital lessons we need to apply in our service for Christ.  When Saul was converted God could have directly intervened and removed the blinding scales from his eyes, but instead His healing power was released through the obedient hands of Ananias.

I am thankful for the scores of godly people through the years whom I have teamed with to advance God's cause. Many of you receiving this message are a part of that team as you regularly read our messages, share them with others, give us feedback, support us in prayer and even give financial support.

Today consider your life and ministry for Christ.  There are surely those who have held the ropes for you.  They've given a word fitly spoken, interceded in prayer for you, helped you out of a jam, lovingly rebuked you when you needed it (but didn't really want it), etc.

Consider also those whom you've reached out to and held the ropes for.  It may have been hard, inconvenient or even dangerous (as it was for the original rope-holders). 

But aren't you thankful these disciples did it?  Keep holding the ropes out there for fellow believers,
for your spiritual leaders, for those in missionary service, for your brothers and sisters in church and for loved ones who've not yet submitted their hearts to God!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we're thankful for the rope-holders who bear our burdens and encourage us in times of weakness and difficulty. You work through such human vessels to convey Your strength, comfort, protection, and challenge as we walk together in faith.  Help us to be faithful in doing our part to encourage, pray, and offer support to those You lay on our hearts that we may be united and strengthened in our Christian journey.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Text of today's experience as recorded in the Acts account.

Our visit to the Longaberger Homestead

Making basket at Longaberger Homestead
Brooksyne and Ester making our basket.

Basket made by the Weber family at Longaberger Homestead
Our finished basket!  (Should you decide to go to the Longaberger Village Tuesdays are the day to go.  We were fortunate to have picked this day unaware that baskets were two for the price of one, along with many other two for one special pricings!)

Ester in basket at Longaberger Homestead
We wonder if the basket they lowered Saul in was this big!

Longaberger Basket factory floor
The Longaberger Basket Company factory floor.

Apple basket at Longaberger Homestead
The world's largest apple basket!

Longaberger Basket headquarters
The Longaberger Basket Company headquarters office building is in Newark, Ohio. It is open on the inside as a huge atrium surrounded by offices with skylights for a ceiling.
(See this photo)

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
Sunday afternoon we went to Indianapolis so the three Weber brothers could eat together at the Weber Grill restaurant and attend the Indiana State Fair. (We'll share some photos from the Fair tomorrow.)  We stayed at a hotel right across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium.  The Indianapolis Colts had a game that day so the traffic getting to the hotel was a challenge but made for some excitement!

Weber Grill Restaurant, Indianapolis, Indiana
The Weber Grill Restaurant has a huge grill attached to the building.
I had hoped to get a photo with my two brothers next to the grill similar to a photo Ester took of me this spring at a Weber Grill in the Chicago area.

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.)

"We Are God's People"

"Thank You For Praying For Me"  Video

Information about the Longaberger Homestead

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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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