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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day arrangement 2012
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I entered the kitchen and spotted this warm Valentine's Greeting from Brooksyne - complete with coconut, pecan and chocolate covered strawberries!

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"Lasting Love"
A Valentine's Day Message

"So she became his wife, and he loved her" (Genesis 24:67b).

Rose arrangement (photo by Doris High)Today is Valentine's Day when we celebrate romantic love. There's no shortage of photos and stories of young love, couples in the springtime of their relationship; vibrant, strong, and attractive.

For several weeks we've been inundated with ads for flowers, candy, teddy bears and jewelry; tangible expressions of our love for each other.  I remember well the first years of my relationship with Brooksyne and the romance that drew us together and eventually the maturing love that kept us together resulting in 35 years of marriage.

Today we want to share a story that goes beyond that of initial romance to one of enduring love  expressed in a very tangible way.

Bill Fernan is one of many treasured friends we've known through our journey of life. He and his wife, Lenore, lived in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania in a spacious farmhouse with a large barn behind it. He was a retired engineer (at one time the chief engineer for a large corporation) and inventor who was always designing something new and original. We were amazed the day he showed us his own nautilus type fitness center he'd recently designed and built using bricks as weights. When we tried it out we were impressed by the heavy amount of weight the bricks weighed when we tried to lift them. Nearly eighty years of age, he was a thin man but strong, because he worked out on a daily basis. Brooksyne made frequent visits to see Bill who made custom mats and beautiful wooden frames in a room off his large barn.  She and Bill did a little bartering; he'd make mats and frames for her cross stitching projects and she'd do calligraphy for select pictures he was framing.

Elderly couple (husband caring for wife who had stroke)Later in life Bill's wife, Lenore, had a debilitating stroke and instead of admitting her to the nursing home Bill chose to lovingly care for her at home as long as he was able. That's why he had built the nautilus so he could gain enough strength to lift her, turn her over, change her (this was before adult diapers), feed her, and every three or four hours day and night, Bill would gently turn her over so she wouldn't get bed sores. (Stock photo on left.)

Several years later when he was finally forced to place her in a nursing home Bill told us he would still awaken each night at the hour he was accustomed to turning her. While we were living in Massachusetts we received word that our greatly respected friend, Bill Fernan, had passed away.  He was in his mid-eighties at the time of his death. His wife was still living and being cared for in a nursing home until she passed away a year later.

Isaac and RebekahLet's consider another enduring love story over 4000 years old. According to our western customs Isaac had a most unusual courtship. His was clearly an arranged marriage, dutifully executed by Abraham's faithful servant, and thoroughly recorded in Genesis 24 (which happens to be the longest chapter in Genesis.)  They had just met one another on the occasion of our daily verse and I'm intrigued by the phrase "he loved her."

This is the first time this expression is found in Scripture and indeed Isaac and Rebekah began a long and eventful life together marked by lasting marital love. Although we don't know how old Rebekah was when she died, we are told that Isaac married at 40 and lived until he was 180! Scripture records that they were buried together.

Isaac's love for Rebekah is further demonstrated when he prays for her on the occasion of her barrenness (Genesis 25:21).

In a rather interesting and perhaps overlooked detail Scripture records the two expressing their love for one another in a passionate embrace (26:8). (The KJV uses the word "sporting", the NIV "caressing".)

Still later we find the aging couple agonizing over the bad decisions their children had made (26:35, 27:46). That's sure a timeless agony parents of all generations continue to deal with. Just yesterday we prayed with a broken-hearted parent concerning poor choices made by a child. 

Like any marriage there was some conflict in the home and much overcoming, yet their marriage endured the storms of life. They surely had many of the same challenges married couples face today. They likely differed in their interests, personality and temperament. They dealt with infertility, sibling rivalry, favoritism and grief over their son Esau's marriages. Our last glimpse into Rebekah's life shows her and Isaac heartbroken as they send their son Jacob off to get a wife from her relative's clan hoping for the best.

What do you mentally picture when it comes to marital love?  The passion of newlyweds, a young couple as they push their newborn baby in a stroller, a middle-aged couple like us still holding hands in public or an 80-year-old as he regularly turns his invalid wife to prevent bedsores? 

Look at the daily verse.  Do you remember the words to a song, "Put a little love in your heart….and the world will be a better place!" What would our present world look like if husbands and wives everywhere genuinely loved their spouses with an enduring and sacrificial love like Bill Fernan demonstrated to his wife, Lenore? Flowers, jewelry, and candies are nice gifts that warmly say "I'm thinking of you this Valentine's Day." 

But carrying out our promise to love our spouse "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death do us part" is the greatest demonstration of one whose love has matured from that of romantic love to that of a tested abiding love. Think about that this Valentine's Day!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, Your love for us is most visible in the great sacrifice You made in giving us Your only Son to die for our sins. John writes, "God is love" and it is Your love for us that shows us how to love one another. The love we have for our spouse doesn't always bring about a warm, fuzzy feeling but at times is costly requiring great sacrifice. Help us to take our vows seriously and carry out that which we promise so that our tested love becomes an enduring love. As we do so, we honor the sacrament of marriage that You ordained, we honor our spouse, we are an example to others especially our children, and we fulfill the Scriptural command to be faithful to our mate.

Note from Brooksyne:
 Earlier this morning I made Stephen some chocolate covered juicy strawberries in celebration of Valentine's Day as viewed in the earlier photo. As I type this note I see him filling my numerous bird feeders which is a romantic overture to me (since I really enjoy watching the birds eat). Interesting what aging will do in a long relationship to change your perspective on what conjures up a romantic gesture!

Pat and Lois Simpson Today's message is dedicated to my childhood neighbors Pat and Lois Simpson who are actively demonstrating today's call to faithfulness. This July they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. They lived right across the street from our family on Lacy Lane in Belton Missouri from when I was in first grade till we moved from that area following my freshman year in high school. Their son David, whom I met in first grade was my best friend growing up and we remain close friends to this day over 50 years later!

I spoke to David this morning and inquired about his Mom and Dad. His dad has had Alzheimer's for several years and no longer is able to live at home. But Lois faithfully visits him a good part of each day. We're certain that their enduring love is well-pleasing to God.

We last saw Pat and Lois about six years ago when I was out that way and took this photo in their home in Belton Missouri. They raised six children.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

One of the top Super Bowl commercials this year was of a beautiful young couple "sharing" a yogurt. Video  Last year we shared a story of an observation we made at a Burger King restaurant of a couple who were also sharing a meal. It was a touching scene but would probably never be used in a commercial. Read here.

"Living By Vows"
Video  Article
 A testimony of enduring love by Robertson McQuilken regarding the care he gave his wife with Alzheimer's disease.

"When God Made You"  Video 

"Only God Could Love You More"

"The Love Of My Life - A Wedding Song"  Video

The beautiful rose arrangement photo used in today's message was taken by our friend Doris High.

What is the Biblical view of marriage? (Notes from my sermon this last Lord's Day.)

In an age when family values are under severe attack and the traditional foundation of the family seems to be crumbling, we need strong teaching on the Biblical view of marriage and the family.

1) Marriage is God-ordained. "The Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’" (Matthew 19:4,5). God’s design for marriage goes back to mankind's beginning. The family, as God’s means of propagating His creation, grows out of this primary human relationship.

Jesus reinforced this teaching: Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6).

2) The marriage relationship encompasses the deepest unity of man and woman in its spiritual, social and physical expressions. The first woman was declared to be a suitable helper for the man (Genesis 2:18), the perfect complement (Genesis 2:23). God intended them to share both blessings and responsibilities. Mutual esteem and self-giving love strengthen the marriage relationship. God intended this physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual union to be focused on one partner only.

3) Marriage is to be an exclusive relationship, a lifelong faithful union with one’s spouse. "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). The Old Testament recognized the existence of polygamy (marriage to multiple partners), but still declared that monogamy (marriage to one partner) was the ideal (Psalms 128:3, Proverbs 5:18; 31:10-29; Ecclesiastes 9:9). "Lifelong" means monogamy and sexual fidelity until the death of one partner. Sexual expression with more than one partner violates the holiness of biblical marriage and thus is sin in God's sight. Thus the fundamental meaning of the 7th commandment.

4) Marriage is a covenant, a solemn binding agreement made before God and man. The religious ceremony of the wedding before church and community emphasizes that marriage is more than a legal agreement between two individuals. The church has a responsibility to support and nurture the marriage that has been affirmed by public vows.

5) Marriage, ideally, the relationship between husband and wife should parallel the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-30). The husband should love his wife "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). The wife should submit to her husband as the Church should submit to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). But it is a misreading of Scripture, however, to conclude that the husband can become dictatorial. The entire passage is introduced by the admonition, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). It is only after each spouse submits one to another from a heart of love that the head/submission relationship will work. The husband has special responsibility for the spiritual leadership and welfare of the wife and family (Psalms 78:5-8, Ephesians 5:23). While the woman has responsibility as a parent, God has called the husband to be the leader in the home. The woman is not inferior to the man. Both have full dignity and equal standing before God. In homes where the father is not a Christian or refuses to provide spiritual leadership, it is right for the mother to assume this responsibility. Strong spiritual training is essential for children to develop spiritually (Proverbs 22:6).

A happy and complete marriage is realized as husband and wife make Christ the center of their marriage relationship. With Christ as the head, the marriage has an excellent chance to succeed.

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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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