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Monday, September 27, 2010

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, PA

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"Turning Downtimes Into Uptimes"

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11).

We were visiting with a friend Saturday night who had a very serious and painful injury at work this last spring. He is recovering slowly and will not return to work for quite some time. This is hard for him as a responsible person with a strong work ethic and it led us into a discussion regarding how he is handling his "downtime". By nature more a doer than a reader he shared how he has been spending more time in the Bible and reading books that are challenging him to grow in his Christian walk.

In the providence of God we will all have periodic "downtimes" in life. We are not referring here to emotional ups and downs (which is another topic altogether), but rather those seasons when our busy routine is interrupted and circumstances, beyond our control, slow our pace of life.

The Apostle Paul was an active man; vigorously persecuting Christians in the New Testament church prior to his conversion. Luke paints the picture of a ruthless zealot in the following verses: "Saul began ravaging the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison " (Acts 8:3).  "Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord…" (Acts 9:1).

Only through a miraculous encounter with God could Saul's venomous, hate-filled messages of death turn into positive, life-giving messages of salvation.  He was no longer motivated by hatred but motivated by love for mankind.  No longer an enemy of the disciples of Christ he became a co-worker in the cause for Christ.

As a result of his remarkable conversion Saul became known as Paul. He remained very active, but he was now adding to the church instead of subtracting from it!  He traveled, establishing churches and testified for Christ wherever he found an open door.

But then doors closed (seemingly) and because of his stand for Christ he was persecuted and imprisoned. Now on the receiving end of that which he dished out for years he was beaten and dragged into prison.

We read of his imprisonments in Acts and at least three of his epistles were written from prison including Philippians. This must have been emotionally, spiritually and physically trying for him apart from the obvious discomforts and entrapments of a prison cell. Before his imprisonment Paul was constantly on the move.  He was an achiever and now his zeal for spreading the gospel message was confined to the four walls of a jail cell.

Did he wallow in his despair and bitterly complain about how unfair life was?  Not from the writings do we detect any such attitude.

Rather, a variety of Scriptures indicate that which Paul did in his "downtime":
  • Paul along with Silas had been severely beaten, thrown into an inner cell and hadPaul in prison their feet fastened in stocks in Philippi in his first imprisonment. After all this and at midnight they prayed and sang hymns to God. (Acts 16:25).
  • They continued to witness for Christ. (Acts 16:31).
  • Immediately following their release they encouraged others! (Acts 16:40).
  • Paul chose contentment over resentment regardless of the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11).
  • Unable to preach, apart from his interface with guards and prison inmates, he wrote letters! And these letters have become his greatest legacy as part of the Holy Scriptures for all generations to follow. Countless millions have found guidance, comfort, energy, forgiveness, wisdom, and spiritual growth through the inspired letters of Paul.
A period of confinement may slow down our physical capacity, but it can also accelerate our spiritual capacity if we spend that extra time hearing from God; less time doing, and more time being fashioned into God's image.  These can be defining moments in the lives of sincere believers.

Today we want to encourage any of our readers who may be going through a "downtime". God will use this experience in your life to grow you in ways that you would not expect.  Remember, nothing is impossible with God!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we are thankful that You are present in the daily routine of our lives but also in the quiet, seemingly inactive periods when we are forced to slow down, think more, and do less.  Your Spirit is at work in us as we invite You into the throne-rooms of our mind and into the recesses of our heart to shape us into Your likeness.   You take negative circumstances and make them work for our good.  We find great consolation in acknowledging that "all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose."  May Your intended purpose be achieved in our lives as we fully submit our circumstances to Your divine plan.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Added note from a news source:  Our message today is interesting in light of a report we just heard on the news concerning a growing problem in prisons. It seems cell phones are being smuggled into prison cells which allows prisoners to oversee criminal operations while still in prison! This is an example of using downtime for evil purposes.  There are untold numbers of prisoners who turn their lives over to God once they are confined and separated from the circumstances or co-conspirators who contributed to their wrong doing. Confinement can bring refinement if we consider it as a blessing rather than a curse.

Sword of the Spirit
Ron Sipe, a friend of mine, made me a neat sword and placed Hebrews 4:12 on it as reminder.  See here for a larger photo.

Union Mill Acres

One of our favorite fall decoration spots is Union Mill Acres along Elizabethtown Road. In 2008 I shared several photos from our visit at that time.

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
They have pumpkins and gourds of all colors and sizes.

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
In the background you can see the equipment for making a new bridge over Little Chiques Creek, a project that seems to be taking longer than it took to make the Golden Gate Bridge! This is a small bridge over a small creek but you sure wouldn't know that by seeing the sign with mandatory posted messages for the several employees at the site!

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
I like this view from the drive-through barn.
(except for the soda machine)

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania

Union Mill Acres near Mount Joy, Pennsylvania
The Scottish Highland cattle enjoy eating the pumpkins deemed unsuitable for sale!

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.)

"Praise You In The Storm"  Video  Casting Crowns

"Be Glorified"
 Video  Ron Kenoly

"Godliness With Contentment"  Audio mp3  This is a song written and sung by Mike Book, a friend of ours.

"Unshakable Christian Contentment"  An online teaching message

For local readers:
Union Mill Acres is here (google map)

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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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