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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snowing morning in Lancaster County PA with 2 Corinthians 5:7
A sunrise view from our home on a cold winter's morning
(though we have no snow on the ground presently).

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"Living By Faith"

"We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Yesterday I received a call from Jim, a long time friend from New Jersey. He shared a burden concerning his oldest son who has been very sick the last couple of weeks and has a cancer diagnosis. Jim and his wife are carrying a heavy burden for their son and his family.  When uncertainty about the future surmounts it can seem like we are in a dense cloud. And yet Jim gave testimony of how he already sees the Lord working in the matter. We prayed together over the phone for God's guidance and sustaining strength. We dedicate today's message to Jim and Dorothy and all who face sorrows like sea billows rolling.

We've all experienced times when our vision is impaired due to thick fog. It can be extremely unsettling when we're behind the steering wheel of a car and we can't see if we're veering into the other lane or toward the ditch. In northern Pennsylvania we sometimes dealt with a whiteout in the winter. But we also have experienced the thick clouds of trial, as described by the hymnwriter who wrote, "when darkness veils His lovely face."

I recall a trip many years ago when I lived in New England and had a meeting in Washington DC. Returning to Providence, RI I had difficulty getting out due to the heavy fog which canceled many flights. I actually had to stay all night at the airport (too cheap to rent a room) and early the next morning the fog was still so thick that you could barely see the planes pulled up next to the terminal.

But by mid morning the fog in the Washington area lifted and it was a beautiful day when I finally boarded the plane to return to Providence. The pilot announced that the weather in Providence was very similar to the way it had been in Washington earlier that morning. That was assuring! 

Clouds from airplane window
On the way to Providence I could see out the window the thick clouds below us. After we descended we were surrounded by dense clouds and I could see nothing out the plane window as I intently looked for the first glimpse of the ground on the way down. We were getting very close to landing, yet we were still engulfed in clouds. Just as we crossed the access road around the airport, at the very end of the runway the ground finally appeared and within seconds we were on the ground.  That's always a great feeling, and especially so on that trip!

Plane in cloudsThe pilot could see no more from the front of the plane than I could see out the side of the plane. He had to rely entirely on the instruments to land the plane safely. He was carefully following a glide path, which indicated his course as he lined up to the runway. Too high, too low, or off-center were all indicated by the instrumentation that he meticulously followed since he couldn't visually line up for the landing.  He was essentially flying by faith in the accuracy of these instruments and not by sight!

What a wonderful illustration of faith as we navigate through the clouds of life. God has provided absolutely reliable instrumentation in His Word. Truly we can say, "The Lord is faithful to all His promises" (Psalms 145:13b).

"We live by faith, not by sight".  Some of you are doubtlessly going through very thick clouds right now in your life and perhaps there's even unexpected turbulence.  By faith recognize the integrity of God's promises and trust God.  He's forever faithful!

But we like to see don't we? We like to know what's going on, and we especially like to be in control of our circumstances. Much of the time we believe we really are. We think we have it all figured out. However we must remember the wise proverb, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

God wants each step of our earthly journey to be a step of faith so that our eyes are not focused on the situation nearly so much as they are focused on Him and the continuing work He is doing in our lives.  If our physical vision is limited then we will more fully rely on our spiritual vision and see that God providentially allows these foggy periods in our life for His glory and for our good. Just as the fog required the pilots to rely on their instruments rather than their sight, so our trials will cause us to focus on God, our faith and the eternal, which is where our focus should be.

Earlier I quoted a phrase from a hymn that expresses my heart today: "When darkness veils His lovely face". Those who know the hymns can complete the sentence, "I rest on His unchanging grace." Oh, for this blessed assurance to be upon each of our readers today is our prayer, especially those experiencing life in the clouds!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father help us to have the kind of faith prescribed in Hebrews 11:1 where "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  It is the kind of faith that is triumphant in the worst of circumstances because our faith in Christ is the victory that overcomes the world.  We will not be overcome by life's circumstances but we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb.  Praise God!  Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Solid Rock"  Video  Sovereign Grace Music This is the hymn referenced in the message today. It was written nearly 200 years ago and the allusion is not an auto or plane of course but rather nautical! "In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil."

"It Is Well"  Video  Musician not identified. Something that struck me when viewing the lyrics to this song and following yesterday's study on the Gospel is the clear presentation of the Gospel in this song!

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

This is a familiar hymn story but this account has some additional details some may be unaware of:

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone . . .". Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.

The Spaffords later had three more children, one of whom (a son) died in infancy. In 1881 the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Israel. The Spaffords moved to Jerusalem and helped found a group called the American Colony; its mission was to serve the poor.

Although the original manuscript reads "know" at the end of the third line, almost all recordings and written reproductions read "say".  (SCW note: Interesting in light of Romans 8:28)

"Living By Faith"  Video  This old hymn came to mind as I prepared today's message. I don't suppose too many these days have even heard of it.

"Till The Storm Passes By"  Video  An unspecified choir

Brooksyne's Note:  This morning I invited my sister, Elaine, to sip some coffee with me from mugs I got at our local Thrift Store.  They're made by Frankhoma Pottery which is located only about three miles from the home where we grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma so I was delighted when I spotted them a few months back.  You know what it's like to find an item or a person that takes you back in memory to your childhood years. In fact we've been on a sentimental journey for the past three days during our visit together.  She and her husband, Steve, reside in New Braunfels, TX and headed back in that direction today in their massive RV. Steve has prostate cancer so we dedicate today's message to him  and Elaine (in addition to Jim and Dorothy), as they courageously deal with the all the medicines, treatments, and painful symptoms that result from this disease.  Elaine is an attentive, loving caregiver to Steve and my heart is warmed by her diligence and dedication to his many needs.

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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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