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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Porcelain cook stove
This porcelain wood cook stove sits in an 1800's farm house here in Lancaster County. The farmhouse (recently sold in an auction) was relatively well maintained but appeared as if it had not been updated for about 75 years. The owner still used a wood stove to cook with and each room was furnished in such a way that it reminded me of visiting my grandparent's house in the mid-sixties.  A neat place to visit but Brooksyne and I are way too accustomed to using modern conveniences to consider using appliances from a previous era (surely considered very modern at the time).

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"No Easy Button!"

"Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith, 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said" (Acts 14:22).

Scott & Jean AdamsSince 2004 Scott and Jean Adam have travelled around the world in their yacht distributing Bibles in what they call "Friendship Evangelism". They wrote on their blog of "trying to find homes for thousands of Bibles" during their travels to remote regions. Yesterday they were murdered along with another couple by Somali pirates (whom I suppose were "peace-loving" Muslims). They experienced one of the hardest demands of discipleship expressed by our Lord Jesus and experienced by the early apostles and so many others through the long church age, that of giving up their lives for the cause of Christ.

Easy ButtonMany of you are familiar with a popular ad campaign run by the office store, Staples.  It features an "Easy Button", that serves as a fun visual reminder to shoppers that needed office supplies are readily available at their store. No thinking or planning needed; just stop in and make your purchase there. We bought an easy button years ago and have had a few laughs using it in our home.  Push the easy button and a voice emphatically states, "That was easy." But the easy button most certainly doesn't describe the Christian life!

Thru It All Body Shop, Mount Joy, PAWe have a business on West Main Street in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania called "Thru-It-All Body Shop." Years ago I stopped in to visit with the owner to inquire about the name of his business.  As I suspected, he told me "Thru It All" is based on a gospel song from the seventies called "Through it all."

As we shared together in conversation he recounted God's faithfulness in helping him over the years as he dealt with various hardships and overcomings that believers must endure to enter the kingdom of God.  It's the only business I've ever seen with this name. I did a Google search and couldn’t find another like it!

We live in a time when "easy" is valued, expected, considered an entitlement to many, and is usually applauded when observed by others. These folks want to make their lives easier; whether it’s their chores, their jobs, their relationships, or physical exercise. In other words whatever takes physical, mental, or emotional exertion on their part, they want to put in as little as possible and yet get the same results as those who give their all.  I think many of us can relate to this outlook in particular areas of our lives.  This is especially true when it comes to relying on modern conveniences. Microwaves, dishwashers, lawn mowers, cars and countless other conveniences didn't even exist until the 1900's and now they're a way of life to us living in the 21st century. Sadly, we often dread even the smaller tasks required for using the "convenience" appliance.

This mentality can spill over into the spiritual as well and rather than considering the harder demands of Biblical discipleship we may tend to look for the easy way. When facing a matter that may be hard or require great sacrifice we might choose an easier solution and not get the results we'd hoped for.

In the daily text Paul and Barnabas are on their first missionary journey and returning to some of the cities where they had earlier established churches.  Their basic reason for returning to these young churches is summed up in this phrase: "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:22a).  Paul knew that those who choose to follow Christ may initially be zealous in their faith as a result of getting their hearts right with God, but he also knew that those same people, when going through life's hardships, may turn away from the very One who would see them through such difficulties.

Luke sums up the essence of their verbal message in a single phrase, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22b).  This portion bears careful attention in an age when the call to follow Christ is often presented to unbelievers as “simple" or “easy.” We might not be too comfortable sharing Acts 14:22 with those we are seeking to win for Christ but it's part of revealed truth!

Notice the part "we must go through." This hard reality seems to be an acknowledgment that there is no easy button in life. Testings of all kinds are present from our childhood to the final breath we draw in this life. Really, the hardest test of one's life most often comes very late in life when death is within sight.  Thankfully, during our times of testings, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

I am sure some of you today are "going through many hardships."  You wonder how the particular matter you are dealing with is going to work out and when it will come about.  If you could purchase the "easy life button" you'd drop whatever's on your schedule today and head to the store to buy it.

Fellow believer, let me encourage you today.  God is faithful!  He will make a way.  It may not be easy or the way we prefer, but we have a promise of entry into the kingdom of God as we remain faithful to Him.  Let this future event encourage and guide you today as You trust Him to accomplish His plans for your life. 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, though I am called to go through many hardships, there isn’t one that I face alone.  For in my weakness You are made strong, in my folly You are the God of infinite wisdom, and in my fear I take hold of the hope offered to me which is firm and secure.  You will not abandon the work of Your hands but fulfill Your purpose for me as You strengthen, sustain, and instruct me during times of testing. I do not want to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.  Keep me faithful to the end.  In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, Amen.

Got Faith Community Church signI have a new post to my humor blog titled, "Pastor Discovers New Church Growth Method"

Note: This is fiction, humor and satire. Satire is often misunderstood so I caution you, please do not write to encourage or rebuke Pastor Chip or the "Got Faith Community Church", as much as you might be tempted! However I do allow moderated comments on the humor blog if you have additional suggestions based on this church growth method or have a response to the article.

Easy Grace church signToday's mention of the Staples "easy button" just may prompt a future humor blog article concerning a church growth method successfully used by a church in Buffalo, Missouri. It began when Pastor Eddie Haskell purchased an Easy Button from the Staples Store in Springfield to illustrate his sermon on grace. The folks enjoyed it so much that he purchased a quantity of easy buttons to distribute throughout the congregation. He encouraged them to express their agreement to his message points by pressing their easy button. This led to what he calls the beautiful "voices" of God's people silmutaneously uniting in affirming his message, similar to collectively saying "Amen." Due to the creative service (and the free easy buttons) the church began to experience rapid growth. Many people, weary of the old-fashioned "Amen" response still used in many churches and wanting something higher tech began to attend the church. Pastor Eddie and the board even changed the name from "Grace Community Fellowship" to "Easy Grace Community Fellowship".

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Through It All"
 Video  Andrae Crouch  This is the version I recall as a young Christian.

Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His word.

I've had many tears and sorrows.  I've had questions for tomorrow.
There've been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation, God gave blessed consolation
That my trials only come to make me strong.

I thank God for the mountains and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I'd never had a problem,
I wouldn't know that He could solve them,
I'd never know what faith in God could do.

Stephen's note: I have shared this story in this series in the past but feel it's a good time to do so again. It is in regard to a very specific time in my life when the song, "Through it all" meant a great deal to me.  Early in my ministry I had hit some real obstacles and closed doors.  We had moved to Pennsylvania to start a church and although I felt I had been led by the Lord, I wondered if I had made a huge mistake and was leading my bride of one year into our first major heartache.  She was 21 and I was 22 at the time.

I was driving a little blue Datsun pickup and my memory is still so vivid I know precisely where it happened.  Brooksyne was sitting in the middle and a college friend named Larry, who had come up to encourage us in our new venture, was sitting on the passenger side. I was so intensely discouraged about the doors that kept closing that tears involuntarily began to flow down my cheeks. I sure didn't want  Brooksyne or Larry to see me, so I angled my face toward the left of the window as I drove. Now that old pickup sure didn't have a tape player built in (that was a real luxury at the time) but we had a small tape player affixed to the dashboard.  Just then the song, "Through it all" began to play and God used it to renew my assurance that He would see me through that time of hardship.  He did!  That was in 1977 and a faithful group of believers have met together for over 33 years now as a result of God's opening the right doors in His timing and at His location.  God is faithful!

"Through It All"  Video  Hillsong  A newer song with the same title.

"Through It All"  Video  Matt Redman  Another newer song with the same title.

"God Will Make A Way"  Video  Don Moen

Our local "Thru It All" body shop even has a website and even made our local news! Video

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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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