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Monday, November 22, 2010

Amish family on way home from church (photo by Doris High)
Our friend Doris High took this photo of an Amish family driving home from church. The four children appear to be entertained by a book they are reading together.  

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"Thankful In All Circumstances"

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Yesterday we visited an older couple at a local senior home. We've been visiting them for several years and have witnessed the painful effects of the aging process they continue to endure.  They are now at a point in life where they are pretty much confined to the senior center.  We shared about activities they once enjoyed but are now unable to participate in. The husband had been an avid hunter and fisherman so their room is decorated with photos and mounts that remind them of their earlier active years.  The wife is bedridden with severe, crippling arthritis in addition to what appears to be Parkinson's Disease since her body is constantly trembling.  And yet they both express a quiet confidence in God and convey a positive attitude as they live out the remainder of their lives.

2000 year old Sequoia tree slice at Boston Museum of Science

When we lived in New England we enjoyed visiting the Museum of Science in Boston.  Among the many displays is a sliced section of a huge Sequoia tree from California that had been cut down in the 1950's. Scientists had determined the age of the tree by the number of annual rings to be 2,000 years meaning that this tree had been living since before the birth of our Lord!  A small detail shows how they can determine years of drought and years of plenty by the size of the rings.  A magnifying glass enlarged the rings, so the difference was quite obvious. 

As Brooksyne and I were looking at this impressive display she further observed that in both years of difficulty and years of plenty, the tree had still grown, but at a different rate.

As I ponder the tree observation I consider the ways in which we measure spiritual growth in the human life. In contrast to the tree I believe our most measureable years of growth and maturity are a result of enduring and overcoming difficulties of various kinds; the dry periods and fiery storms of life, if you will.  In 2 Peter 1:5-8 believers are challenged to, "Make every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." We might refer to them as the "tree rings" of spiritual maturity.  Peter further indicates that if we "possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ"  (2 Peter 3:18).

Our daily Scripture provides a familiar but much needed perspective on life and trials: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Today some of you are going through an extended trial.  The Greek word for "trial" that James uses is very interesting. "Peirasmos" conveys a "putting to proof" or by implication, "adversity".  These times of testing are difficult but necessary in proving our faith in God to be genuine and effective.  James tells us to "consider it all joy" and that may be very hard to do, but as we seek God's perspective on this subject, I urge you to do so today.

Just as the rings on a tree prove its endurance in the years of ease and years of difficulty, our enduring faith proves our walk with God to be genuine and mature, not lacking in godly character.  We faithfully serve Him during times of ease and during times of trial.

When we were young a song popular at the time conveyed an interesting perspective concerning trials. In fact it was the first song I heard Brooksyne sing as a pianist and soloist.  Its text was applicable to our lives in Bible College as very young believers in the faith.  And now some 35 years later we can see and understand more fully the wisdom in the text and how it relates to our daily lives:

Thank You, Lord, for the trials that come my way.
In that way, I can grow each day as I let You lead.
And I thank You, Lord, for the patience those trials bring.
In that process of growing I can learn to care.

But it goes against the way I am to put my human nature down
And let the Spirit take control of all I do.
For when those trials come, my human nature shouts the thing to do
And God's soft prompting can be easily ignored.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we pray that You will help us to grow in Your grace and knowledge, that we will continue to mature in our Christian walk.  Scripture, repeatedly, indicates that spiritual maturity is a result of enduring trials of various kinds.  In the midst of these trials Your soft prompting or guidance through Scripture, through other believers, and through the circumstances we face can easily be ignored when self gets in the way.  Today we make every effort to add to our faith those characteristics that will sustain and grow us in our Christian walk.  In doing so we will be effective and productive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, during times of ease but even more so during times of difficulty
.  Keep us faithful and keep us growing, in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  I remember singing the moving song, "Thank You Lord". There's also a stanza that puts life's trials into proper perspective:

I thank You, Lord, that when everything's put in place.
Out in front I can see Your face,
And it's there...You belong!

Howard Bichfeldt, a friend of our ministry, writes this interesting perspective in response to our message Friday on marriage:

Thank God “The Word of God Does Stand Forever”.  In this secular society fueled by the liberal media, Hollywood, politicians and the like, it is no wonder there is so much confusion, apathy and amoral behavior.  In the midst of this chaos, one need only look to His Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Bible to me is that even now, two thousand years later, there is no collection of writings that are more certain, more plausible, more sensible, more instructive, more telling, more capable, more defining, more reassuring, more inspiring, more rewarding, more life altering and more life saving than His Word. Other than Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, has there been a greater gift than the Word itself?

Brooksyne in tree
We posted this photo last week but it does seem to fit again today. We wonder how old this tree grew to be, what storms it endured, and what brought it down. It presently serves as a lawn ornament in Lebanon County along Rt 117 south of Palmyra.

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.)

"Thank You Lord For The Trials That Come My Way"  Video

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Don Moen

Doris High is a local friend of ours who regularly and copiously adds to her photo blog. Here is the collection today's photo of the Amish family is taken from.

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We want to offer these ideas to families and church leaders
to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.
(We will post these resources through Thanksgiving.)

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table (printable webpage) The Thanksgiving celebration includes family coming together along with the turkey and trimmings. Often there's a lot of food with little meaningful conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns" or the questionnaire we've provided in this link
"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf). We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: (written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago.) Webpage  For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

The Pilgrims Come to the New WorldWebpage  

A Day of Rest in Plimouth Colony: This is a summary of a chapter in the lives of the pilgrims that Brooksyne uses to teach about their Sunday worship.  (pdf)  Note: Although we spell it Plymouth today the old spelling was Plimouth.

CD label for "Stories of Great Hymns""Hymns of Hope" Brooksyne has compiled eleven hymns that deal with the recurring theme of loss and ongoing trial and titled it "Hymns of Hope" based on Romans 12:12,  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer." Amber Martin plays the hymns on the keyboard and Lauren Gingrich accompanies her on six of the hymns with the viola. Tracks 12-22 play each hymn softly in the background while Brooksyne shares a personal devotional thought, the biographical setting of the hymn text, and an intercessory prayer. We recorded this in the very modest and limited computerized recording studio of Daily Encouragement so that we could make this ministry project available to all who are in need of such encouragement.  Thus we realize the audio quality is not what most are accustomed to. You can go to this site to listen to the songs. You can download one song at a time if you find this to be of special blessing or know someone whose spirit might be lifted by listening to these meditative hymns.

"ThanksLiving" Bob Southard, a friend of ours shares a weekly online sermon. Here's a pdf version of his thanksgiving sermon.

Resources used in Brooksyne's research on the Pilgrims:
Saints & Strangers  By Vision Video
Three Young Pilgrims  By Cheryl Harness / Simon & Schuster

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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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