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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goods Truck
Brooksyne enjoys shopping in Goods, a popular store with the Mennonites and Amish, near the Shady Maple. I enjoyed seeing this old truck right in the middle of the store!

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"Not Without Effect"

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Peter RafteryPeter is a friend in New England with a wonderful testimony. He is a living demonstration of God's transforming grace.  He's a big man, having played tackle in college football and then working as a "bouncer" in a Boston bar. He lived hard in the ways of the world until he was 25. At that time he met Christ and at his conversion he changed dramatically.  He now bears a strong, bold witness for Christ. Regarding his faith and dedication to Christ he says, "I'm no moderate."  He lived all-out for the world and now he lives all-out for Jesus Christ. What a joy to see the long-term transforming effects of God's grace in an individual!

Nicky CruzLast week we attended two Teen Challenge events where we met men recently converted to Christ. We also visited with some who were saved many years ago. The keynote speaker was Nicky Cruz, a former Mau Mau Gang leader, who gave his heart to Jesus  in July 1958 in New York City at the St. Nicholas Arena where members of numerous gangs had gathered to hear (or jeer) "Davie the Preacher" better known as David Wilkerson.

Initially Cruz was a troubled soul who spewed hate toward Wilkerson, "You come near me, Preacher, and I'll kill you." The preacher agreed, "You could do that. You could cut me in a thousand pieces and lay them on the street and every piece would love you."  Wilkerson spoke these words yet inside his  heart he was thinking, "And it wouldn't do a bit of good - not with you, Nicky - there's no love on earth that could reach you."  But the message of the hymn, "Jesus Paid It All" declares that Jesus' power can "change the leper's spots and melt the heart of stone." Jesus did melt Nicky's heart of stone and now, over 53 years later in his 70's, he continues to live for Christ and preach the Gospel to the masses.

Today we focus on the phrase, "His grace to me was not without effect." Here Paul is sharing his personal testimony. The biographical information we have in the Book of Acts and Paul's letters truly indicate that the grace of God made a wonderful change in his life. This one time persecutor became the persecuted.  He who had consented to the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1) was himself stoned (2 Corinthians 11:25).  If it had been written at that time Paul surely could have sung the grand old gospel song, "What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart!"

I can imagine the people who, when first hearing of the Apostle Paul's violent persecution of the church, shook their heads in disbelief as they clasped their hands over their mouths in hushed tones exclaiming, "Oh, I can't believe he was ever like that!"  In his own written testimony he states, "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" and "the worst of sinners" (see 1 Timothy 1:12-17).

What a dynamic transformation had taken place in Paul's life and years later he was able to declare this marvelous truth, "His grace to me was not without effect."

Authentic grace makes a difference in one's life. Titus 2:11,12 states, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." For some the change is more dramatic than others, but genuine grace will always bring about transformation in every recipient.

What about you today?  Do you need to submit to Him?  Repent!  Has Christ changed your life?  Rejoice!  Is He still working on you?  Respond and be resolute in your walk with Jesus!  I join with Paul and each of you as we proclaim together, "His grace to me was not without effect!"

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, only through the death of Your Son could we know the full extent of Your grace. Though our sins bring untold loss, Your grace brings infinite gain. Your grace exceeds our rebellion and points us to the Refuge for our sinful souls. Thank You, Father!  You don't grant a partial pardon, but You extend a full pardon to all who call upon Your name. Your grace is incomprehensible, infinite, and indiscriminate to all of Your creation. Help us to extend grace to others as You have richly extended Your grace to us.  Amen.

Excerpt from "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson describing Nicky Cruz and the Mau Mau's conversion:

"There he stood, a grin on his face, saying in his strained, stammering way, "I am giving my heart to God, Davie."  

I couldn't believe him. The change was too sudden. He was puffing his perpetual cigarette, the little jets of smoke streaming out the side of his mouth, telling me that something new had happened in his heart. What about the narcotics addiction? What about the stealing and the mugging, the heavy drinking, the stabbings and the sadism?  Nicky must have read my thoughts, because he defended himself by the only technique he knew, curing, "---- it", Davie, I've given my heart to God."

"All right, Nicky, okay." I wanted to give him confidence so I asked him and Israel (the other gang leader) to come with me, and I found them, and each of the Mau Maus who had come forward, copies of the Bible.  There were two sizes, little pocket editions and much larger ones. The boys didn't want the little ones.

Give us them big books, Davie, so people can see what we're carrying."

And with that, most of the boys lit up cigarettes, tucked their Bibles under their arms, and walked out."

Early the next morning a phone call came.  It was the police.  My heart sank. The lieutenant asked me if I knew the Mau Mau gang, and when I said that I did, he asked if I'd come right down.

When I got to the Edward Street Precinct, sure enough, there were half a dozen boys from the gang.  I walked past them briskly and introduced myself at the desk.

The desk sergeant called the lieutenant, and the lieutenant assembled the whole force.  He stuck out his hand.

"Reverend," he said, "I want to shake your hand." I took his offer, and he pumped me firmly.

How did you do it?" he asked. "These boys declared war on us a few months ago.  They've given us nothing but trouble for years. Then this morning they all troop in here and you know what they want?"

I shook my head.

"They want us to autograph their Bibles!"

I looked at Nicky and Israel and the boys who were with them. They grinned at me.

"Any time we can help you set up another street meeting, Reverend, just let us know," said the lieutenant, and as we all stepped out onto the sidewalks of Brooklyn, I saw the sergeant sitting at his desk, shaking his head in wonder.

The boys had been reading their Bibles most of the night and were fascinated with the Old Testament stories particularly.

"Davie!" said Israel, "I'm in the Bible!  Look, here's my name all over the place."

The Cross and the Switchblade, 45th Anniversary EditionThe Cross and the Switchblade, 45th Anniversary Edition
By David Wilkerson with John & Elizabeth Sherrill / Chosen
David Wilkerson had his life all planned out: a quiet pastorate in a small country church. But God had others plans, calling him to share the good news of Christ with violent gang members in New York City. Forty-five years later that young pastor still oversees Teen Challenge, the ministry that grew out of that calling. His story is a testimony to what can happen when ordinary people open themselves up to the work of an extraordinary God. Foreword by Chuck Colson.

The Cross and the Switchblade, DVDThe Cross and the Switchblade, DVD
By Starring Erik Estrada & Pat Boone / Vision Video
Called to serve the desperate teens of New York's gang-ridden, drug-infested streets, young country preacher David Wilkerson started one of America's most successful drug rehab programs. Countless souls have since been saved, proving that nothing can stand in the way of God's grace. Starring Erik Estrada and Pat Boone, this edition features DVD extras, including Nicky Cruz's testimony. Approx. 105 minutes.

Today we share several photos and brief testimonies of changed lives we briefly fellowshipped with at recent Teen Challenge events.

Brian (Teen Challenge student)
Thursday evening we sat next to Brian Zitt from Wood River, IL near, St. Louis, MO. He was excited to share that in the last six months he had converted to Christ and experienced deliverance from sin.

Pastor Danny Dawkins and his fiance, Flecia Gill from Baltimore, Maryland
We sat across from Pastor Danny Dawkins and his fiance, Flecia Gill from Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from Teen Challenge in 1999 and is now serving as an associate pastor. It was a blessing to see the enthusiasm they both demonstrated throughout the meeting.

JT and his sister Chelsie
Prior to the meeting Friday evening I sat outside the Shady Maple visiting with JT, who was waiting excitedly for his Mom and and Dad and sister, who drove down from the Buffalo NY area to attend the banquet. His addiction began following a painful injury treated with addictive pain medications. He is a barber and had his own barber shop but turned to the Lord recently and came to the Teen Challenge program for intense discipling. It turns out his family had arrived 30 minutes earlier and were inside the banquet hall looking all over for him.  I saw the joy and warm embrace when he met up with his sister Chelsie. What a blessing to see supportive families, which is not the case for all in the Teen Challenge program.

Ken Higginbotham
While waiting for the banquet to begin Friday night I saw Ken Higginbotham, a friend from many years ago when we both worked for the same chaplain service company after I moved to Lancaster County in 2001. He was waiting for his wife Norma, who was celebrating her birthday and going to have her free birthday meal at the Shady Maple! Ken has an interesting testimony. His mother died in childbirth when he was born and he was adopted and raised by his godly and strict grandparents in West Virginia.  Like most teenagers he was tempted to rebel and he asked his Grandma for permission to rebel!  Strangely, she said "Yes, but since you still live under my roof you'll rebel under my conditions."  Now that's a rather interesting answer with some wisdom. Ken told me his season of permitted rebellion lasted less than two weeks. Now over 45 years later he is still an active servant of Christ,  serving as a chaplain to a nursing home.

Dapper couple in old car
While on the road we passed an old car with an interesting dapper-looking couple in it dressed as if they were out on a Sunday drive in the fifties. We found it so interesting that I actually pulled over so they could pass me and then Brooksyne took this photo as we passed them again! (Click on the photo for an up close look at the driver who was looked over his glasses in our direction as if to say, "What are you looking at?")

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Since Jesus Came Into My Heart"  Video  The Todd Allen family

"May I Never Get Over The Cross"  Video  Eighth Day

"Jesus Paid It All"  Video  Aaron Keyes

"Not Guilty Anymore"  Video  Aaron Keyes

Teen Challenge Training Center

Tribute To David Wilkerson   Video

A pictorial tribute to David Wilkerson with a Dallas Holm song.  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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