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Monday, September 5, 2011

Nebraska Amish buggy on Rt. 45, Centre County, PA 9/3/11
Saturday afternoon we came upon this distinct buggy representing a member of the "Nebraska" Amish on Rt 45 east of State College PA. Note the blue kerosene lanterns on each side of the buggy. This group does not use batteries on their buggies.

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"A Laboring Man"

"The sleep of a laboring man is sweet" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). "Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Psalm 104:23,24).

Today is "Labor Day" here in the United States.  It's a rainy day where we live and I am sure this is somewhat disappointing to those who planned picnics and so forth but we are blessed.

I don't know whether other countries have holidays similar to Labor Day. For most Americans it's just another long three-day weekend and the unofficial end of summer.  But over the years in my ministry I've seen it as a good time to examine what the Bible says about labor and I usually preach a sermon on that theme the Sunday before Labor Day. In fact I did so yesterday and the abbreviated sermon outline is posted below this message.

Labor day parade float Some 30 years ago when we were establishing a new congregation in northern Pennsylvania we looked for creative ways to have a witness for Christ and promote our young church. Bennetts Valley, a string of small towns in a narrow valley near us, always had a parade on Labor Day and we sought to get a witness for the Lord by participating in the parade.

We developed the theme of the day and based it on Scripture. So we pulled a trailer behind our church van and set it up like a working man's bedroom. Ken Ginther, a great big lumbering man in our church, volunteered to lay on the bed pretending to be sleeping. His work boots and other evidence of a laboring man were next to the bed. We had a tape player playing his loud snoring and a big banner on each side of the float declaring, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet." I am sure that this was the most unusual float that Bennetts Valley parade ever had to this day!

There's just no sleep as sound as the sleep following a hard day of work. I particularly recall those times in my life when I did hard physical labor such as farm work during my college years and later several elements of construction. There's indeed a special sweetness to the sleep that follows physically hard labor or a day of great productivity.

Today you may be off work and perhaps you've given little thought to labor but I hope you thank God for your job including the
hard work. I believe that's one way we please and honor God!  We also consider those who are trying to find work and consider the stress and worry that results from such an experience.

Psalm 104 recounts God's works in the natural world, showing His providential care over all His creation. I find it interesting that the picture of man in this account is at work. Some see work as a curse or a necessary evil. But God has ordained work into His created order. God said "six days shalt thou work." Solomon said, "the sleep of a laboring man is sweet" and Paul said (in a context concerning secular work) "serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men." In the book of Revelation we read of a future time when the faithful "will rest from their labor."

I pray that each of us will work diligently at whatever tasks God has called us to do as an expression of our faith, obedience, and gratitude.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You for the privilege of working with our hands and engaging our minds. Work is ordained by you and carried out in our homes and places of employment. Help us to make a positive difference as we live out our Christian testimony while diligently performing our work duties. There is no perfect workplace, yet we as people who seek to honor You, will be able to deal with less than ideal circumstances as we do our work primarily for You, knowing that it is from You that we receive the reward You grant to those who are diligent and faithful.  Amen.

Among the outstanding sins of our day is the desecration of the Lord's Day and the deterioration of the Bible work ethic:

1) God has ordained work. Prior to the fall God commanded Adam to "tend the garden" Genesis 2:15. Explicitly commanded in the 4th commandment "six days shalt thou work."
Labor is modeled and is foundational all through Scripture.

2)  Our work matters 
Consider the moral benefit (outcome) of your work. How does your work benefit the good of society?
Biblical example: David watching sheep, Peter as a fisherman
Modern examples: Machine part that goes into life-saving medical device, mechanical repair

Categories of work:

  • Sacred
  • Morally helpful
  • Morally neutral
  • Morally destructive
The Christian work ethic essentially asserts that all work is noble that is morally beneficial

3)  We are to work heartily as unto the Lord (includes secular work).
Colossians 3:22-24 "Heartily" surely include characteristics such as: diligent, resourceful, honorable and so forth.

4) Our work environment is one of our mission and discipling fields.
Example in Scripture Acts 18:2-4
Modern example: Compassion shown

In last Friday's message we shared about the auto accident Brooksyne had last Thursday. A car hit our van from behind and due to the age and mileage of our van may have done enough damage to total it. Due to it being Labor Day here in the US this will not be determined for several days. However, thankfully no one was seriously injured.

Ester's big day:  By this afternoon Ester will begin a new spiritual journey as she takes up residency with New Life for Girls.  NLFG seeks to help young girls to rid themselves of destructive behavior and live according to the Bible. Many of the residents have drug and alcohol addictions and are set free through the power of Christ. We're very thankful that Ester has not dealt with these issues but has for the past few years struggled with some behavioral matters that have been a great struggle for her (us, as well). NLFG will be helpful in assisting Ester to deal with these matters.  She will be in an intense Bible program for the next year and will receive a great deal of time one on one with godly counselors.

She was initially reluctant, but eventually realized that she needed the help they provide. We had several times of special prayer yesterday; at the church and in our home as friends stopped by to say their farewells. We've included a couple photos of two couples who stopped by to express their support and goodwill toward her venture. We're getting the first feel of ENS (empty nest syndrome) and so we're experiencing some mixed emotions, (tears falling even as I (Brooksyne) write, but remain very hopeful that this chapter in Ester's life will prove to be a great one. She will be in Lancaster city at the induction center for the next few months, later moving to York County (the county west of us) to a larger 80 bed residential dorm.  We are very thankful we could find local support due to her serious health matters.  No change of doctors or, if needed, hospitals. We can continue to oversee her medical matters - that was very important for our peace of mind.  We welcome your prayers for her growth in this big step she is taking.

Ester with Gambinis 9/4/11
Jim and Wendy Gambini, two of Ester's dear friends, who've encouraged her along the way!
Jim was our pastor when we first moved to Lancaster County over 10 years ago.

Ester with Bunny and Peg 9/4/11
Bunny & Peg O'Hare who first met Ester when she was 11 years old.  At that time we were all living in New England.  Ten years ago we moved to Mount Joy, several years later the O'Hares moved here as well to serve with Transport for Christ.  They've been great encouragers to Ester through the years.

Ester with JoPa 9/3/11We had a great time at the Penn State football game last Saturday! I had not been to a Penn State game for over 30 years (which happened to be a notable memory for another reason). This was a first for Ester. (Brooksyne is not much of a football fan so she stayed home and got some much needed work done.) We sat next to the student section but no one confused me for being a student! It was really loud especially in the beginning. (The stadium holds over 100,000 and seemed to be pretty full).  Penn State scored on the opening kickoff and the game was pretty mismatched with the other team not even scoring till the very end.

I suppose after watching the game live I realize how accustomed I am to TV with close-up shots and replays but the atmosphere was very interesting and exciting especially since our team won. It was also interesting getting there a bit early and staying a bit after the game meandering through the area with mobs of people. It was a very hot sunny day and I wish I had a nickel for every discarded water bottle as we left the mostly empty stadium!

I took Ester's photo with this statue of longtime Penn State coach Joe Paterno. He started coaching in 1966 and is still doing so although he was in an air conditioned booth looking down! He is 84 years old!  Mike Stillman, who provided the tickets, played under Coach Joe in the eighties and testifies to what a caring individual he is. I especially like the way he refers to the other team with generosity.

Nittany Lion mascot 9/3/11
Ester joined the rambuctious students in hoisting the Nittany Lion team mascot from the field level to the very top row at the end of the game as he laid on his back and students passed him up.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"We'll Work Till Jesus Comes"  Video  Homecoming

"I Shall Know Him"  Video  "When my life work is ended..."

Here's an excellent online booklet dealing with our attitude toward work: "How Can I Find Satisfaction In My Work?" This booklet is available as a pdf for online reading and study.

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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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