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Friday, March 23, 2012

Ice cream makers at Penryn Mud Sale 3/17/12
Time for home-made ice cream again.
Isn't this an interesting contraption!

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"The Freedom To Turn Away,
The Will To Stay Faithful"

"This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60). "From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. After many of His disciples walked away, "Jesus then said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to go away?'” (John 6:66,67).

Joel ShrumEarlier this week a highly respected young man from our community here in Mount Joy was killed in Yemen which made the national news. He was working there teaching business skills to Yemenis. According to a statement by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula he was slain for this reason, “It was God’s gift for the mujahedeen to kill the American Joel Shrum who was actively proselytizing under the cover of teaching in Taiz.”

According to the news article I read (see below) this is disputable, but as a Christian, I've no doubt that he sought to be a visible and effective witness for Christ. There are Christians who reach out to unbelievers in non-traditional ways as they seek to let their light shine.

Even in a very dark country dominated by a hate-filled religion it was heartening to read this report, "Hundreds of youth activists and other protesters marched Tuesday through Taiz demanding justice for Shrum. They carried photos of Shrum as they marched through the city’s streets chanting, 'Yemen is not a place for terrorism. We love you Joel!'"

We remember Joel's family in our prayers. It seems that he was willing to pay the ultimate price since that region of the world is notoriously dangerous. But we want to take the message in a different direction as I consider the plight of people who live in these regions of the world.

Countries that have anti-conversion laws are practicing one of the most oppressive forms of human oppression imaginable, the root cause of much blood shed over the centuries to present day. Freedom of religion is a blessing most of us take for granted. It is something that Jesus taught by example and it was consistently practiced by the early church. No one can be forced to be a Christian in a legitimate New Testament sense. Any religious system that seeks to do so is not genuine Christianity.

Freedom of religion is the freedom to practice or not practice any of the scores of faith systems out there. And really, any outlook on life is a faith system in one way or another, unless one believes they really know everything!

Consider the probing question that ends our daily text, “Do you also want to go away?”

Jesus believed in freedom of religion. He didn’t coerce or chase after the departing disciples forcing them to follow Him. No, following Christ must always be a matter of the individual will. In the New Testament, preaching was persuasive but the decision to follow Him was voluntary. (See Acts 17:4.)

Surely our daily text is one of the saddest expressions in the Bible. This was the response by many who, upon hearing the teachings of Jesus, said: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60). This response remains the reaction of many when confronted with the teachings of Christ. 

"From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him" (v.66). When the disciples (at large) came to realize the sacrifice of following Jesus was greater than they were willing to make, they turned back. This is the context of Jesus' question to the disciples, “Do you also want to go away?”

Peter spoke up to answer this question and uttered one of the most profound and yet simple statements of belief in the Bible. He replied: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God" (vv.68,69).

Amen! That's also my sentiment today and I hope every day! May we, like Peter, consecrate ourselves to God and continue as His follower. As the hymn states, "A faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me." By the grace of God I am determined to never go back! But the amazing thing is, due to
both the political freedoms I enjoy and the free-will that God has given me, I have the privilege of making that choice.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, there is no one nor anything that deserves our complete allegiance, but You, our Lord, who holds the words of eternal life. Though others may refuse to listen or turn away from the message of salvation we choose to persevere, for to Whom else could we turn? We persevere in trial and in victory, in the ups and downs and in the in-betweens of everyday circumstances. We seek to do Your will in all things so that we will be richly rewarded at the end of this life. 

We thank you for devoted followers like Joel Shrum who serve You in hard places.  We know that some of them, like Joel, will pay the ultimate price. We pray for his grieving family and friends. Grant them comfort and assurance in Your steadfast love and care.
May his life's testimony and his love for the people of Yemen be a lasting witness to that troubled region of the saving power of Jesus Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.

Article regarding Joel Shrum. He went to the same high school our daughter, Ester, attended.

Additional study & comments:

Some of Christ's teachings are not easily understood. Some teachings make sense to us, others we accept by faith, not fully understanding with our mind. However I have learned that there are many previously hard teachings that become easier to grasp after a period of maturation and experience as a Christian.

But some of His commands are hard and require sacrifice. When in college I read a book titled “True Discipleship” by William McDonald dealing with discipleship that, uncomfortably and with deep conviction, expressed the teachings of Christ with no soft-pedaling. Now I’m approaching the other end of life’s spectrum and realize how many ways I come short in being His disciple. Thank God for His abounding grace!

True Discipleship (online version), written in 1962, was a popular book when I was in Bible College. McDonald lived his faith till called home in 2007. You can read an interesting article concerning his devotion titled "A Visit to Bill MacDonald’s Apartment".  It ends with this paragraph, "Of course, if you were to visit Apartment #7 now, you wouldn’t find Bill there. On Christmas Day, 2007, Bill went home to be with Jesus. He left little of earthly value. The former investment analyst, you see, had no stock portfolio, no property, no investments of any kind on this earth. Everything he received beyond what was necessary for his basic needs, he gave away. We still have the books he wrote. We can thank God for that. We still have precious memories of the example he left us. But Bill is no longer with us, and we already miss him terribly. He reminded us so of Jesus."

Stephen's Personal Note:
 Thanks to our many readers, including our international readers, for your prayers and kind words. I have grown much stronger today and expect to be out and about in my chaplaincy role.

Yesterday we had quite a time dealing with a stopped up kitchen sink drain line. Even though we worked on it together as a family till late last night it's still stopped up! We ended up washing the dishes with me under the sink swapping out buckets for the drain water. Sure makes you appreciate a properly working drain as well as the plumbers who assist us in such essential matters!

More Penryn Mud Sale Photos

Cast iron pot with chicken corn soup at the Penryn Mud Sale
This large cast iron pot was steaming with chicken corn soup.  It was piping hot when we purchased bowls of this delicious
Pennsylvania Dutch Soup, very popular in our area.

Calf at Penryn Mud Sale 3/17/12
We enjoy the farm animals especially those with flashy earrings!

Tractor with Amish bench wagon
I posted this photo yesterday. Of course it's an old tractor but, not as common, is the attached covered wagon used to haul benches from house to house where the Amish have their church services!

So let me add one more mystery photo from the Penryn Mud Sale. What's this used for?  Since I don't know, myself, I'm looking for the answer as well! Send your answer here.

Mystery implement at Penryn mud sale

Today's Suggested Music and Sup
plemental Resources

"He Leadeth Me"  Video  Acapella

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

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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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