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October 2, 2013

Lancaster sunrise 10/2/13
An absolutely beautiful sunrise here in Lancaster County this morning with ground fog.
We took this photo from a loading dock near Strasburg, PA.

"Unless You Repent"

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Note: Today we share the second of four messages on the subject of death. Yesterday our message considered natural death. Today we will consider unanticipated death; tomorrow we'll write on violent death; on Friday the martyr's death.  (Originally we planned three messages but added a fourth since a distinction should be made between deaths resulting from accidents or diseases as opposed to death by violence.)

"Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:4,5).

Church signAll over our area and around the northern hemisphere it's harvest time. We are blessed by the hard work of harvest workers, and where we live evidence is all around. Our farming friend, Galen, indicated that it was an excellent year for farm crops this summer, yet planting and harvest is hard and dangerous work.  Several years ago I helped my Amish friend Jesse load corn into a chopper (for a few minutes). See below for photo.

It's not uncommon to pick up the local paper and read of yet another farming accident. Last week a young farm worker was killed in our area when he was pulled into a chopper. Having observed these machines up close I grimace as I consider such an awful way to die. But farm accidents happen with modern machinery as well. Many years ago my now elderly Aunt Mary's brother drowned when the tractor he was driving fell into a farm pond. 

Today let us consider death that comes early and unexpectedly. The ugly intrusion of death is no respecter of persons and comes to people of all ages and in various ways from accidents to deadly diseases to natural disasters. Throughout our nearly 40 years of ministry we have dealt with many people going through this intrusion. Several months ago Brooksyne was at the deathbed of a man younger than us when he breathed his last. We give thanks that he had gotten his heart right with God only weeks earlier.

The portion of Scripture used in today's encouragement has long intrigued me. Jesus referred to a contemporary tragedy that had made the news at the time by referring to an accident in which a tower fell and eighteen
"died when the tower in Siloam fell on them." No further details are given and we are left to wonder whether it was a construction accident or failure of the tower after it had been constructed.

Whatever the circumstance, when death comes people grieve deeply. We consider the agonizing death of these 18 and most especially the grief of their family members and friends. Among my most poignant memories of death took place while I was on a mission trip to  Columbia many years ago. We were returning on the mountain roads to Bogota and came upon an accident where a bus had run over a bike driver. I still recall seeing the body of the dead cyclist covered by a bloody blanket with a grieving friend kneeling beside him.

Jesus does not address the question that's foremost when such things happen. And in this passage recorded in the Scriptures He provides no comforting words. When things like this happen we want to know "Why did this happen?" or as believers more specifically, "Why did God allow this to happen?" Really, in our hearts we want to know how an unexplainable tragedy relates to God being in control.

Jesus does not provide an answer to these "why" questions, but He clearly rebukes the simpleton mentality of those who have the view that the eighteen who died "were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem." We have occasionally encountered a similar attitude when an individual sees suffering in someone else, essentially asserting that the suffering must either be due to "lack of faith" or some underlying sin. This is a profane form of spiritual pride. We are all sinners and we all have deficiencies in our faith.

Jesus deals with the bigger and more important issue. Hear the words of our ever truthful Lord, "But unless you repent, you too will all perish."  The emphasis of our Lord is in being ready for eternity. Have you repented of your sins? Are you ready to meet your Maker right now if it's your time? 

Jesus addressed the presumption held by many that surely those who died were "more guilty" than others living in Jerusalem at the time.  (The converse wording is that those who didn't die surely must have been "more righteous" than those who did.)  Again Jesus answers His own question by repeating, "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

God doesn't always act according to our expectations and that's a critical test of faith, particularly when we deal with the great "why" questions. But He is always in absolute control even when the situation we experience seems contrary to that truth.

Today we want to encourage each reader, especially those of you who are facing a difficult situation as you read this. May the Lord give you a deep and abiding assurance of His steadfast love and care.  Indeed, He is in control!

The emphasis of our Lord is the need for everyone to repent and, according to Jesus, all who do not repent will perish; "You too will all perish".  Tragedy may not come for you in a construction accident, car crash or deadly disease but this universal truth from Hebrews 9 asserts,
"It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment." We must all heed the words of Jesus, "Unless you repent, you too will all perish"Have you repented of your sins and turned to the Lord for His salvation?

Here's a common prayer that expresses repentance to God and a desire to follow in His ways. I urge you to pray this prayer from your heart today:  "Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner and am turning to You in repentance, asking You to forgive me of my sins.  I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me.  I place my faith in You and what You have done for me.  I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow in Your ways and serve You. Thank You for hearing my prayer."

Presenting ourselves to God is how we begin our new life as a Christian. It doesn't matter how sordid or troubled our lives are, if we come to Him in faith, He hears us and receives us as His sons and daughters. I earnestly pray that everyone reading this will do so.  And I would be very blessed and encouraged if those of you who have done so would let us know.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, none of us knows the hour nor manner in which we will leave this life. Deaths result from accidents and natural disasters for both the godly and ungodly. But there is sweet assurance for those who remain when our loved ones who die before their prime are believers. It's a fact that we will all one day perish so we want to be prepared for great and final event by repenting of our sins and living a life that properly prepares us for the final judgment. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Ester's Health Update:  We have excellent news to share regarding Ester's pacemaker (pacer). She went back to the hospital yesterday and met with the doctor and pacer technician. We indicated a week ago that there was a problem after her new pacer was inserted that resulted in one of the leads working improperly and therefore a concern to the doctor. But when the pacer technician indicated all systems were working (not really correct terms but you get the idea), Dr. Cohen was quite surprised and we all were rejoicing that all is well. Expecting other results there was a chance that more surgery would be needed, but we are thankful that is unnecessary and she is getting the full benefit of her pacer. She will undergo a heart catheterization on November 22 to deal with other matters related to her heart problems, but we'll enjoy a two month rest before then. In fact she is scheduled to visit my sister in Texas on Oct. 22nd and plans were on hold until this problem cleared with the pacer, so she is delighted that all is on schedule for her trip. Thank you for your interest and prayers. We do believe in the power of prayer and see its effect in this health matter.

Amish corn harvest 2012
Jesse plopped his straw hat on me making me an official Amish farmer for the day (actually only about five minutes since we stopped by amidst our chaplain calls!) He is instructing
his daughter Naomi Grace to back off. The children were excited about the harvest, with little Eli James telling me over and over in sing song, "It's harvest time!"

Chaplaincy visit 10/2/13
During our chaplaincy visit this morning Brooksyne was visiting at Bird-in-Hand with one of the workers who inspects small parts.

Chaplaincy visit 10/2/13
Stephen enjoying a laugh in Strasburg with two construction workers who are loading up their work trucks before they head to their jobsites.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

The following musical selections are Christian songs on death.

"My Jesus I Love Thee"  Video  Selah

"He's Walking Her Home"  Video   Mark Schultz

"Homesick"  Video 

"Save A Place For Me"  Video  Matthew West  A powerful perspective

"Heaven's Song"  Video   Phil Wickham

Death Is Gain "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Video 

"To Live Is Christ"

"To Live is For Christ to Die Is Gain"  Video  Incredibly moving 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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