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Monday, July 1, 2013

Veterans Memorial Bridge, Columbia, PA 6/30/13
A view of the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the
Susquehanna River from Columbia, PA. The stone piers that supported the covered bridge mentioned in today's message can be seen through the arches.

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"Standing Firm To The End"

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
  All men will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved"
(Matthew 10:21,22).

On Saturday evening our dogs were distressed, especially our two year old Mollie. Marietta, a neighboring town along the Susquehanna River about 3 miles away, was having a large fireworks celebration and at the same time a storm was coming through the area with flash lightning and repetitive thunder rolls. I stepped outside and since it wasn't yet raining I heard and watched the marvelous display, a combination of natural and man-made. It was a spectacular show that I didn't pay a cent to attend nor did I travel even a block to observe!

As I dug a little deeper in my mind I began to imagine that the thunderous noise and distant flashes might be similar to those in close proximity to a major battle. This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg which was fought July 1-3 in 1863. Gettysburg is only about 40 miles west of us and we'll be going out that way later this month for a visit. Over the next several days we expect to develop messages based on this historic national event.

Civil war covered bridge over riverToday I want to consider a lesser known event that took place at the same time (actually a few days earlier) only about ten miles from us.  At the time of the Civil War the world's longest covered bridge (over one mile) crossed the Susquehanna River
between Columbia and Wrightsville PA. The Confederate troops were preparing to cross it and head east to the cities of Lancaster and then Philadelphia in a massive offensive. Yesterday we crossed the Susquehanna River near where the bridge once stood.

Union troops were ordered to blow up a section of the bridge to stop the Confederate advance. When that failed they burned the bridge down and the fire spread to the town of Wrightsville on the west side of the river. In a great humanitarian gesture the Confederate troops joined the townspeople in putting out the fire using a bucket brigade.

"Brother against brother" is a slogan used in histories of the American Civil War, describing the predicament faced in families (primarily, but not exclusively, residents of border states) in which loyalties and military service were divided between the Union and the Confederacy. There are a number of stories of brothers fighting in the same battles on opposite sides, or even of brothers killing brothers over the issues presented during the war.

Conflict of one kind or another, its intensity from light to severe will always exist on this side of eternity. Depending on the importance of the cause and how strongly we support it, it will divide us from those with opposing views.

In our Scripture text Jesus had just called his twelves disciples together and given them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (Matthew 10:1). He gave them further instructions and then warned them of the persecution that would follow as they took up the cause of Christ to nonbelievers including those within their own family.

Bible commentator John Gil's exposition of the Bible describes it this way:
"The father laying aside his natural affection for his child, whom he has begotten, and brought up, and has took so much care of, and delight in, and perhaps his only one, his son and heir; and yet, professing a faith different from his, such is his blind zeal and bigotry, that, breaking through all the ties of parental relation and affection, he delivers him up into the hands of wicked magistrates, to put him to death: and, on the other hand, children, forgetting the bonds they are in, and the obligations they lie under to their aged parents, rise up against them, and either with their own hands murder them, or appear as witnesses against them, and give their hearty consent to the taking away of their lives; even of them who have been the means and instruments of bringing them into the world, and of bringing them up in it."

Following the extremely harsh warning to the disciples of the possibility of family turning against them Jesus then reassures them with this promise, "but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."

Temporal suffering, rejection, and hatred will last only for a season. For those who endure such hardship the reward of eternal peace awaits them. As our country continues to experience division, unrest, and the stripping of our religious freedoms let us resolve to "stand firm to the end."

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, there are many of Your followers who stand for righteousness that also deal with rejection, mockery, and ridicule from within their own family. As we take up Your cross we must be willing to lose our life, for Jesus tells us that it is at that level of commitment that we will actually find our lives. He also warned us that He did not come to bring peace to the earth, for families will divide choosing one loyalty over another. Help us to patiently endure, remain steadfast in prayer for our loved ones, and regularly extend our love that comes from You to those who need it most. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

(Matthew 10)

Veterans Memorial Bridge, Wrightsville, PA 6/30/13
A view of the Veterans Memorial Bridge from Wrightsville, PA.
(I would like to have removed the wires but that might have
caused some inconvenience and expense to the locals.)

Susquehanna at Columbia PA 6/30/13
A peaceful view of the Susquehanna River

I was listening to a national radio program this morning and heard Pastor Dekker from the Delaware Shore share for a few minutes regarding a stand he took for the Lord. He recently tried to have a public service on the beach as an outreach and was rebuffed by authorities who used the "separation of church and state" mantra. (Churches have been having public services all my life and we had meetings on the diamond (town square) when we served a church in Saint Marys. I know pastors in New England that had baptismal services along the beach. Of course a beach is big and if passersby do not care to be exposed to religion they can easily avoid the service. Now the authorities have created a right to not even be exposed, using a concept that Thomas Jefferson and the framers of the Constitution would not have imagined (like a lot of the nonsense going on now). In fact they used to have church services in the Capitol Rotunda! (see here) Pastor Dekker is challenging this new restriction and thus it is in the news.

We attended the New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lewes DE this last May when we went to the shore. At the time we were edified in the service and by the message Pastor Dekker preached who addressed issues of our time boldly. We recommend this church for any who may be visiting the Delaware Shore. (Website)

Call to Fall:  Yesterday Ester told us that our church had a congregational prayer time with all who were able to kneel in prayer as our Pastor led in a prayer for national revival. I am thankful for Pastor Keefer and all pastors who stand as watchman in our day.

Yesterday Brooksyne and I attended a friend's church in York PA. I worked with Pastor Jim Herbert about ten years ago in chaplaincy and it was nice to reconnect. They had an outdoor outreach service in an effort to reach the lost. The special speaker was Steve Carrier, who uses  a creative method to draw interest to the Lord. See here. He has assemblies in public schools and to us the most edifying part of the message was when he shared a letter a young student had written to him which included a razer blade she had taped to the letter. She had a tough homelife and had been cutting herself for years. Steve shared how over the course of the week her mom then her dad came to Christ. She wrote Steve the brief note thanking him for coming to her community and testifying to the change in her life and their home.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

A song that arose out of the Civil War but is considered by many to also portray the broader conflict between good and evil is:

"Battle Hymn Of The Republic"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

A final verse not frequently used states:

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool,
and the soul of time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

  The Celebration hymnal has this added verse by Gary Rhodes:

We can almost hear the trumpet sound,
The Lord's return is near.
There are still so many people lost,
His message they must hear.
Father give us one more moment.
One more day, one more year-
With God we're marching on.

Here's an interesting commentary on the hymn.

Columbia Wrightsville Bridge history (article) See also here.

Battle Of Gettysburg (from PAhistory.com)

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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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