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Monday, April 15, 2013

Lancaster County farm scene 4/13/13
Saturday morning we passed this perfectly manicured farm near Rothsville, PA
(Click here for a larger photo)

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"A Lesson On Starts"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"  (Hebrews 12:1).

Hopkinton MA start of Boston MarathonThis Monday morning some twenty-five thousand runners are gathering in Hopkinton, MA for the start of the Boston Marathon. What a place of excitement mixed with a bit of suspense as to who will win, who will place, who will finish and who will drop out!

We have a lot of starts in life. Our first start was at our conception and of course our birth. We started walking and we started kindergarten. The many different types of starts in life are far too numerous to mention but you get the overall idea. This weekend we witnessed a contrast in starts.

On Friday night Brooksyne came alongside a friend as they witnessed the love of her life slip into eternity. For many years she devoted her life to caring for his medical and emotional needs, but she now starts a new chapter as she continues life without him.

On Saturday we attended a wedding and saw a young couple start a new chapter in their life; the start of their lives together as a married couple. What an honor to witness their solemn exchange of vows. We'll share several photos and some reflections of this joyous occasion below our message.

Bethany Lynn first time in church 4/14/13On Sunday we saw Bethany Lynn, who started coming to church for the first time since her birth on April 2 (though Bethany attended church faithfully as a preborn infant and the youngest on the praise team). In several weeks her parents will stand with her before the congregation at her dedication. Her parents faithfully fulfilled their duties as the scheduled greeters yesterday greeting us and handing us a bulletin each at an entrance. Those arriving through the front entrance saw Ken holding Bethany as he distributed the bulletins!

Starts can be joyful or grievous. Some we look forward to with joyous anticipation, others with sorrow, coupled with fear of the new start. Many of these "starts" become a defining moment on our timeline. So many are good, but others like he or she "started using cocaine", "started a prison term" are certainly not desirable!

But God is with us in all the starts of life, both planned and unplanned, desirable and even the undesirable.

A start which we can all share is our start as a new believer in Christ. John Newton described
this start in his hymn, Amazing Grace, as "the hour I first believed". Some of us can pinpoint our salvation experience to a precise hour. In my experience I had rejected the notion of following Christ when my older brother first shared the gospel with me in May of 1971. That Summer I was persuaded to attend an evangelistic meeting and on Sunday evening, August 22, I believed and accepted the Lord about 9:00 PM.

But many are unable to pinpoint the precise time they started their Christian life, especially those who came to Christ as children. Of course their experience is no less legitimate though I have spoken to believers who are bothered at their inability to pinpoint a precise starting point in their Christian walk.

Today's Bible text is among my many favorites. In fact it was the first text I preached from as a Bible School student. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"  (Hebrews 12:1).

It speaks of the most important race in our life; our spiritual race that starts when we come to Christ, the surrendering of that which might cause us to drop out of the race, and the perseverance to stay the course till we are called home to be with the Lord.  Have you started and are you faithfully running this race?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your grace has no measure and it was graciously extended to me the hour I first believed and started my spiritual race. You not only prepared the way but You also run alongside me and enable me to throw off those things that hinder or weigh me down. You've given me an enduring spirit to stay on course during the desirable and undesirable starts of new chapters in my life. It's not the one who runs the swiftest, nor the one who runs for a day, but it's the one who endures to the end that will be saved. I want to be among that number, and by Your grace, I will receive the eternal rewards that come to those who finish well. And then I start the next chapter that never has an ending; that of living in heaven and praising You for all eternity. I can hardly wait. Amen.

This Saturday we were blessed to attend the wedding of Justin and Ashley Eberly, a young couple living their lives for Christ
. Ashley attended the small country church we served in Mastersonville, PA and became very special to us.

Justin and Ashley Eberly wedding 4/12/13
Kerry Martin, the pastor of the church Justin and Ashley now attend, conducted the ceremony and I preached the message. He did a great job and I learned it was his first wedding to officiate. Since my credentialing in 1976 I have conducted many weddings and it is a blessed aspect of ministerial service.

Justin and Ashley Eberly wedding 4/12/13
After the service we gathered with Justin and Ashley for a family photo.

Justin and Ashley Eberly wedding 4/12/13
A member of the church who owns a used car lot let Justin pick his choice of car for the getaway. They roared off from the church to the reception hall in this Mustang! As you can see in the background the church is in a beautiful country setting.

Justin and Ashley Eberly wedding 4/12/13At the reception Ashley, who is a graphic artist, prepared this informative "About You" welcome poster for the guests. (Click here to enlarge). Among other guest info were the ages of those in attendance ranging from -2 months (pre-born) to 89 years; the guests' association with Justin and Ashley; those who traveled farthest and so forth. We thought this to be a great idea.

Justin and Ashley Eberly wedding 4/12/13
Jesse and Wilma were the oldest couple in attendance with Jesse being the 89 year old on the welcome poster. During an open mic time of sharing at the reception it warmed out hearts to see him slowly, with the aid of a cane, make his way to the front and speak words of commendation and blessing on the newly married couple
. Jesse and Wilma recently celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary.

Trampoline delivery to the Lapp children 4/12/13On a lighter note: Several weeks ago we received a request from our Amish friends that we help them find a good, safe and affordable trampoline. The children had saved up money from doing chores and were going in together to make the big purchase. We had studied it out online and while walking through a BJ's store saw one that we thought would suit them. I called them from the store and Anna put the younger children on the speakerphone as I described it. They were so excited! Friday evening we drove over to their farm and dropped it off. Eli James was the first to meet us before the others came out. The two older children paid me in fifty dollar bills. I expect the next time we are over that way we will see the trampoline all set up! More work for a hard working farmer dad.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"When I Say I Do"
Matthew West The best man and one of the groomsmen sang this song during the time Justin and Ashley lit the unity candle and shared private communion together. This song represents the start of a marital union.

Here are two interesting perspectives in song for those who now start the journey of life without their loved one:

"Don't Cry, I Am Home"  Audio   Unseen  This moving song caught Stephen's and my attention as it played on the radio. It's the first time we heard it and we both were deeply touched by its message. It will touch your heart as well, especially those enduring fresh grief.

"Don't Cry For Me"  Video  Not specified

"Till The Storm Passes By"  Video  Ben Speer and Homecoming singers We have some very special people on our hearts who experienced a double loss this last week and we prayerfully dedicate this song to them.

On a lighter note: We gathered last night for some old-time gospel music by a men's group, quartet and duet. Curt, a friend of ours, along singing in a quartet shared a song that he said was his grandpa's favorite. Brooksyne reminisced that it was also among her dad's favorite songs and was sung often in her southern gospel upbringing.  Video

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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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