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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amish clothesline in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
It was a beautiful fall afternoon yesterday; a perfect day for our Amish friend Anna Ruth to hang her laundry out on the long line.  But as the farm odors  increased (you know what I mean), the laundry had to come down lest it cling to the clothing.
(For more photos of our visit on the Lapp farm see below the message.)

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"Victory In Jesus"

"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (Acts 7:55,56). "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Nelma Carpenter
Last Friday we shared that our friend Nelma Carpenter had died in an auto accident in Little Rock Arkansas. Nelma and her husband Tommy had visited with us the week before and encouraged us greatly during our fellowship. Her celebration service is today and although there will certainly be grief and the sense of loss there will also be victory as a result of her faith in Christ and that of many of the family members. Last fall Tommy spoke in our church and shared how the song “Victory in Jesus” was written at his uncle’s kitchen table by Eugene Bartlett in 1939. We shared this story in this encouragement "Even Unto Death" (see below for link to this message).

Many of you reading this today have had similar experiences in life. Some are more pronounced than others, but these are the blows in life that can knock us to the ground. We wonder in hurt and exasperation, "Where is God and what is He doing in all this?"

But allow this truth to penetrate deeply into your spiritual being as you read this message today. The final outcome for true children of God is always good though the sometimes grim circumstances we may encounter on life's journey could lead us or those who observe us to think otherwise. Today we'll consider the gripping story of Stephen in the book of Acts.

Stephen was one of the first followers of Christ. The Scripture records nothing concerning his background or conversion.  He is first mentioned when he was chosen by the early church to serve as a deacon.  The historian Luke records that he was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit."  He soon had a preaching opportunity and bears a powerful witness for the Lord, likely his first and certainly his last sermon. 

But rather than getting appreciative pats on the back or seeing the altars full of repentant sinners, he faced a very unreceptive crowd who was "furious and gnashing their teeth at him."  He was forcefully drug out of the city and stoned.

Consider the human dimension in Stephen's experience.  Surely he and others who observed his martyrdom had to overcome the question "Is this what serving God is all about?" As the first recorded Christian martyr he and other believers watching might have wondered "Is God really going to allow this to go on?"  Surely Stephen loved his family and friends and had a promising ministry. At his burial "godly men mourned deeply for him" (Acts 8:2).  Surely he had to overcome tremendous fear as the situation turned from bad to ugly to deadly. And, practically speaking, imagine the horrific physical pain and agony he endured as large stones were hurled at him. 

Note Stephen's faith-building vision of "the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."  In spite of the visible defeat that onlookers could not deny, the eternal outcome was truly a victorious win! 

Stephen was not delivered in the way he might have expected or would certainly have desired.  Yet this was part of God's ultimate plan.  Jesus wasn't "off duty" and oblivious to Stephen's plight.  I'm thankful for the witness who heard Stephen declare that he saw "the windows of heaven open and the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."  What tremendous confidence and anticipation this must have given him in his final moments of life on this side!

So, back to our lives and our struggles this day.  The outcome of whatever we're going through may or may not be as we desire or expect.  But let us, like Stephen, look up to heaven in faith where we can get a glimpse of our Lord, who is never "off duty".  And remember the final outcome for the true child of God is always good! Truly there is victory in Jesus!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, in faith, we look to You for strength today and bright hope for tomorrow. Just as Stephen, as written in the book of Acts, had a glimpse of Your glory in heaven and Jesus standing at Your right hand he was filled with confidence to remain true to his convictions and calling though painful death was imminent. Help us to turn our hearts toward heaven so that we seek Your approval and blessing above the temporal thrills this world has to offer. May we perish every fond ambition, all we've sought, and hoped and known in exchange for the glories of heaven where we will reign with You forevermore.  Amen.

Yesterday we did our chaplain visitation in the morning and then met up with our friends Larry and Tina Kester for an enjoyable afternoon. We joined our friends Jesse and Anna Ruth, and their younger children, on the farm for lunch. We had chicken pot pie, sweet potato casserole (sweet potatoes just picked that morning), and Brooksyne brought a salad she had prepared.

Larry and Tina Kester on Amish farm 10/25/11
Larry and Tina are friends from the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. Tina has served as a church secretary in the same church for 25 years and is presently my brother Pat's secretary (for almost twenty years). Larry and Tina are in Lancaster County celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary which is October 27. Congratulations!

Amish team spreading manure in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
The field work for the day was not amongst the most appealing but a necessary part of farming. Farm hand Amos and the team are _________________. * (answer below)

Amish boy chasing pony in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
Four year old Eli, with unbounding energy, chasing the pony for a bareback ride. Since he rode without a bridle he slid off more than he stayed on. Only a child with such dexterity could find the thrill in falling off more fun than staying on.

Beabull pups on Amish farm in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
 These are "beabulls", a cross between a beagle and bulldog.  I suppose the sibling placing his (or her) paw on the other pup is a little like us affectionately placing our arm around a loved one. 

Strasburg steam train in Lancaster County, PA 10/25/11
As we came home yesterday afternoon we saw the Strasburg steam train and caught the whistle blowing at a grade stop; a pleasurable sighting of a past era.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Victory In Jesus"  Video  Don Marsh chorus  Read the introduction to our message today for a little context as to where and when this was written.

"Jesus I My Cross Have Taken"  Video  Indelible Grace  An outstanding hymn rarely heard today  written by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) whose father abandoned him at an early age and never let his son call him "father". This song is a testament to the power of the gospel to address even situations where the rot of sin has spread into family relationships. Consider the words of this hymn in regard to Stephen as he boldly proclaimed the gospel message in the face of death. (This version does not use every stanza).

"Even Unto Death" This daily encouragement message shares the story of how Eugene Bartlett wrote "Victory in Jesus" as well as a story of the song's impact when his wife died many years later.

* Spreading manure!

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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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