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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Abundant Lancaster County harvest
This harvest view is about 1 mile from our home and a frequent view as we walk in our neighborhood.  The fields, barns, trees, and blue sky make for a colorful country setting.
Large view

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"Abundant Grace"
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

Last month I caught up with an old friend from Bible college at a Men's Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.  Manny has spent his entire ministry as a prison chaplain. As a student I recall his burden for prison ministries and while in college he worked as a volunteer at the Federal Prison Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri. He went on to become the national director of training for the entire federal prison system. He recently came through a harrowing health matter and is now regaining his strength and resuming his schedule. It was nice to visit with him again.

Alex and Manny
Pastor Alex Valezquez and Chaplain Manuel Cordero

In the late eighties Manny worked as a prison chaplain at a federal penitentiary in upstate Pennsylvania and met Alex
Valezquez who was imprisoned as a kingpin drug dealer. Alex turned to the Lord and Chaplain Cordero discipled him in his walk with Christ and assisted him in the restoration of his marriage. Alex went on to receive pastoral training and is now pastor of the Oasis City Church in inner city Philadelphia.

Interestingly, Chaplain Cordero attends this church and serves as assistant pastor!   Manny said that it took a while for him to get used to having a former prisoner that he had once shepherded now become his shepherd!

The motto of Oasis City Church is "Everyone Needs An Oasis." Praise God for these types of churches! Yesterday Brooksyne had an opportunity to speak to an inner city pastor in regard to reaching out to a needy soul and how blessed we were at the pastor's burden and willingness to do so.

Brooksyne and I love to hear stories of God's amazing grace, for they abound. All over the world today, in the midst of so much bad news, the good news of Jesus Christ is impacting scores of lives. Be assured it is happening, although you won't hear about most of them (until you get to heaven anyway.)
The daily text is an abbreviation of Paul's testimony. He testifies to having been "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man." Perhaps an indication of this was the description, just prior to his conversion on the Damascus Road, that he "was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples" (Acts 9:1).
I am especially intrigued and am still seeking insight on the phrase, "I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief."  Paul, who was a learned man in regard to religious training, realized after his conversion that in reality he had "acted in ignorance and unbelief."  I consider today so many who are taught by this world's standards and may even be highly educated who act in ignorance and unbelief.
I am thoroughly blessed by the last part of today's Scripture selection, "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." God continues pouring out His grace in abundance. His saving grace is resulting in remarkable deliverance power for sinners and remarkable sustaining power for saints.
But my specific word of encouragement today is for those of you praying for a lost loved one. Alex, who now pastors in Philadelphia, was raised in a Christian home in New York City. I wonder how many hearts were broken and grievous* tears flowed for this wayward loved prior to his conversion? How many years of seemingly fruitless prayer ascended to heaven on his behalf?

Keep praying and believing today and never give up. The words from a song I recall from my younger days as a Christian brings out an important truth: "God specializes in things thought impossible and He will do what no other power can do."  Keep on praying and believing!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we invite the presence of Your Holy Spirit to dominate our hearts so that every attitude and belief will be submitted to Your Spirit that resides within.  The ongoing struggle we encounter with Satan's desire to dominate us is overcome by the precious, wonder-working blood of the Lamb.  Sin seeks to steal our integrity, but Your righteousness upholds it.  We intercede on behalf of loved ones who are held captive by sin, that they will lay aside their garments stained with sin and be washed anew in the cleansing fountain of Your precious blood.  Amen.

* Brooksyne's Note:  Awhile back I was interceding for a loved one who is not following in the paths of righteousness. Tears were overflowing and my heart was physically hurting, feeling as though it was twice its normal size. I felt full of frustration, fear and helplessness since I could not change the situation. Then the Spirit led me to a thought by the late Henry Gariepy that especially applied to my prayer time.

"Paul tells us 'do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God' in Eph. 4:30.  The Holy Spirit is a divine person, and can be grieved, as Paul warns.  Grieve is a love word.  We grieve those we love.  Because the Holy Spirit is our best friend who dwells within our heart, He is grieved by our wrongdoing." 

After reading the above paragraph it helped me to realize why there is such a heaviness when we pray for those dear to our hearts who are resisting God's voice and tuning into the devil's.  We, full of love and concern for the spiritual state of our loved ones, are grieved by the choices they are making and it is understandable that we will feel deeply as we pray on their behalf.  It also gives us a sense of how we grieve the heart of Jesus as He intercedes to the Father on our behalf when we are struggling with sin in our lives.  

For our many readers who are interceding on behalf of a loved one, keep on praying and believing.  God does hear and answer prayer as we shared earlier in the testimony of Alex Valexquez.  Sometimes they have to partner with the darkness of sin to finally see the contrast of God's wonderful light of salvation.

Yesterday we experienced a great example of faith at work. A local company we work with as chaplains took their entire workforce to a Christian Women's Rehab Center for a workday providing labor and materials along with a catered Bbq lunch for their employees. This company has developed a stewardship plan and this was part of it. 

JK work day 11/10/10
These men are installing new windows in a children's play room.

JK work day 11/10/10
Before getting on the busses to return to the shop the entire crew gathered for a group photo.

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.)

"Mercy Saw Me" Video  Brooksyne suggested this in light of today's topic.   This version is by a group known as "Driven Quartet".

"Mercy Saw Me" Audio  Another version by Gail Kreason

"What Grace Is Mine" 
Video  Kristyn Getty

Oasis City Church

Chaplain Manuel Cordero is the recipient of the Billy Graham Center 2010 Institute For Prison Ministries award.  My chaplain rep, Al Worthley, made this statement “Manuel Cordero is the best qualified candidate for the IPM award due to his selfless, often sacrificial, commitment to prison ministry, experience in training, teaching ministry, and reaching out to provide for those who are locked behind prison walls or released back to society."

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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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