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Monday, March 26, 2012

Discover Joy meeting house

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"Faithful To Provide Strength For Today"

"Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine with ten thousand besides."
Thom­as O. Chis­holm

"O LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress" (Isaiah 33:2).

A little over three years ago we began pastoring a small country church that has a rich spiritual heritage going back to its beginning in 1878. Located in the small hamlet of Mastersonville, Pennsylvania whose only school and general store were closed years ago.  The church has been afflicted in recent decades by troubles and instability forcing its closure about ten years ago. Though it reopened a couple of years later it never regained the stability of a growing, viable congregation over the next five years, and was once again slated to close at the end of 2008.

After being informed of the situation we agreed to a short-term interim role in hopes that a longer-term pastor might eventually serve the church. That did not come about and, due to our over-filled schedule, we made the difficult decision to resign from the church early this year. Once again the doors to the church were closed after a final bittersweet service yesterday morning.

We closed with dignity as we acknowledged
the scores of believers, both ministerial and lay persons, who had served Christ in that location for over 130 years.  A number of folks visited the final service who had grown up in the church and told of the spiritual impact it had made on their lives; one man pointing to the altar where he had given his heart to Christ in 1974.  Another spoke of her wedding and that of her 3 sisters that took place in this church. One spoke of the years that she, as a young girl, learned to play the organ for congregational singing. A teen-ager stood to her feet and recalled the time she spent in the nursery and directed her appreciation to the now elderly woman who was her nursery attendant, forever endeared to this teen's heart.

Preparing for a local congregation's final service is something we had never done before and have no intentions of getting good at, but it was a moving service followed by a potlock dinner and lingering fellowship through midafternoon. I feel I can state that God was glorified and His people were edified.

In my sermon I reminded the congregation that we are called to faithfully serve Christ every day, particularly in times of distress and uncertainty, as we live by faith.  We, as believers, must have the faithful resolve of Simon Peter who in, a distressing and confusing time, stated: "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." (John 6:68).

What songs do you pick for the last service? Our concluding hymn medley was, "Blest Be the Tie That Binds/God Be With You Till We Meet Again". We also purposely selected a hymn that speaks so powerfully of God's steadfast faithfulness, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness". What a blessing to hear the acapella voices blend in full harmony as they sang this familiar hymn with deep and special meaning. Indeed God has been and ever is faithful!

Thomas Chisolm
In a letter dated 1941 Thomas Chisolm, who penned the song wrote: "My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness."

Some of you are dealing today with a distressing and confusing season in life. You may be as the Apostle Paul testified, "hard pressed on every side and perplexed" (2 Corinthians 4:8).

But let us focus on this portion of the petition in today's text: "Be our strength every morning." That is our ongoing need. Yesterday's strength is inadequate for the challenges of this day. 

"Our salvation in time of distress."  God is always our present help in the time of any trouble or distress. Today be encouraged by these truths as you join me in crying out "O Lord" to the One who is able and willing to provide for all our needs because He is forever faithful.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we look to You this day to bring us word of Your unfailing love, for we have put our trust in You. You are our strength every morning and our security at night. Your steadfast love reaches to the heavens and Your faithfulness fills the skies. There is no one like You that provides for our every need. You are our salvation in times of distress, so it is under Your protective wings that we find refuge and safely abide.  Amen.

Personal Note:  We have known for several months this day was coming. Our schedule was becoming increasingly difficult to adequately maintain. We will now focus on this daily encouragement writing ministry and our business chaplaincy. We'll still keep plenty busy since we are seeing growth and expansion in both areas, but we'll now have time for a day off from our daily duties and will also travel some over the weekends.

With Jesse Dourte at pulpit
Yesterday I was joined at the pulpit for a photo with Jesse Dourte, who had served the church as a pastor about 40 years earlier, and preached from behind this same pulpit.  He and his wife, Wilma, came to the church a few months after we began pastoring and became our "unofficial" visitation pastors, as they were very faithful in making visits to people in the community, inviting them to church.

As Brooksyne was cleaning and preparing the kitchen for our fellowship meal on Saturday she reached up on top of a cabinet to clear away a couple grocery bags.  In so doing she also picked up an aged magazine tucked into the recessed area of the cabinet. She was prepared to toss it but then saw a lengthy article and photos of the Dourte family written nearly fifty years earlier.  Some of our readers are very familiar with the Dourtes and will find the article (pdf) very interesting.

Today's Suggested Music and Sup
plemental Resources

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video  Selah

"He's Been Faithful To Me"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

"God Be With You Till We Meet Again"  Video  Selah  The moving song was sang at the conclusion of our service yesterday. This is a beautiful version.

"Blest Be The Tie That Binds"  Video  Unknown

Ken Pierce clearing drain lineI shared on Friday that 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 Thursday night, getting frustrated and messy in the process, we just couldn't clear the drain line.

It's a blessing to have capable friends with the right tools. Our friend Ken Pierce came over Friday and opened the line making us very happy! When you don't have something (a properly fuctioning plumbing system) you really realize how easy it is to take for granted.

Mystery Photo:  I should have known the answer since we had a bumper crop of readers who wrote! Friday I shared this photo from a farm sale and here's what Zane, who apparently has a lot of knowledge of cider presses informed us, "This photo is that of an apple/fruit press. The press is in a down position (meaning that it would have smashed the fruit to the bottom of the container with a hand crank). Typically, 2-3 types of apples are placed inside the barrel and pressed down with a fitted lid.  The juices flow outside of the bin into a pan that leads to a retention container. Most people from generations past consider this to the best apple cider you can find. I agree."  We received many well-written, informational letters and appreciate your participation.

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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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"Living securely today anchored in God's solid foundation"

O Lord, be gracious unto us,.... This is a prayer of the church under the persecutions of antichrist, imploring the grace and favour of God in their miserable and distressed circumstances; desiring his gracious help, assistance, and deliverance; pleading not any merits of their own, but casting themselves upon the mercy and kindness of God: