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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Colorful birds in snow (photo by Doris High)
Colorful birds in snow
(Photo by Doris High)

"In Memory of Karin Joy"

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In heaven's eyes, there are no losers,
in heaven's eyes no hopeless cause
Only people like you with feelings like me
amazed by the grace we can find
In heaven's eyes

"David asked, 'Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?'" (2 Samuel 9:1). Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?" (2 Samuel 9:8). "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'" (Matthew 25:40).

Karin Joy with Kathy Today we want to honor an unlikely little messenger who in a most powerful way demonstrates the value and preciousness of life. Karin Joy was born in Korea and was adopted into a family in our church in northern PA over 25 years ago. Virtually nothing is known regarding Karin’s background and earliest months. We do know she did not receive medical care for a heart condition routinely given in the U.S. and when she came to this country at about 18 months of age it was too late to treat her.

Mike and Kathy Matangelo and their loving family took her in, loved her deeply, and did the best they could for her. Our church prayed and medical care was sought, but in the providence of God she left this earth about six months after she came to this country.

Her funeral was surely one of the outstanding memories in our ministry. There was a spiritual electricity in that church I've rarely experienced. The theme of the message I shared was "impact". I assure you that little Karin Joy made a lasting impact. She never spoke a word verbally but she spoke volumes spiritually.

In our very, very, finite understanding we wonder why the situation did not work out as Karin's adoptive family had hoped. Haven't we all dealt with matters like this? We remain close friends with the Matangelos and recall their love for Karin Joy and the sanctity placed on her life.

Matthew 25:40It seems to me that Karin Joy might fit the category of those whom Jesus refers to as "the least of these" (as people rate one another’s value).

Mephibosheth might very well be a Biblical example of "the least of these". He is among my favorite lesser known Bible characters. He fell as a very small child
(2 Samuel 4:4) which resulted in him being "lame in both feet". His story is told in 2 Samuel 9 and, if you're not familiar with his life, you may need to read this entire chapter and some study material about him. Today's message is a summary.

He had a lot more than his share of problems and was now the sole surviving member of Saul's family with David as the king. His personal esteem couldn’t sink any lower as he saw the value of his life to be no more than that of a "dead dog". Since dogs were not valued by the Hebrew culture (in the sense we value them as pets) this self-description packs a double whammy, kind of like me referring to myself as "a dead skunk in the middle of the road".

Mephibosheth with DavidBut David models the love of God when he sought Mephibosheth out and made a place at the King's table for him, "like one of the king's sons", not just for the evening but for the rest of his life. He gave him land and appointed servants to provide for his needs. This is an excellent illustration of generosity and grace exhibited in the Old Testament.

Many of us are unable to identify with Mephibosheth at all. Life for us has been pretty good. Most importantly we have an assurance of God's love and a network of caring people around us.

We encourage you to consider others who may need a lift today by your expression of personal interest or your gesture of kindness and acceptance. David so powerfully illustrates God's grace in the fact that he didn't wait for Mephibosheth to cross his path, but actually made the necessary effort to locate him and then chose to personally bless him. How can you demonstrate that grace today to one who might be regarded as among “the least of these”?

There are others reading this message who readily identify with Mephibosheth. Life's been hard and you’ve wondered when and if things will ever work out. It's been one hard blow after another and you could reckon the value of your own life as that of a "dead dog".

You question in your mind, ”Does anyone love me? Does anyone really care?” And here you are reading this message. God has brought you to this message and wants you to receive His love and care. He wants you to hold onto this unchanging truth that is filled with eternal hope: God loves you and He cares about you.

The fact is, apart from the love and mercy of God every one of us are as "dead dogs". John Newton put it this way, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!" We might despair if we look only to this life, so we must be mindful daily of the way God has set up His kingdom.

He calls us to endure the difficulties in our life on earth, but He’s invited us to enjoy the eternal delights in our life in heaven. He has saved the best for last, but that’s OK because that’s where we’ll be forever, long after the troubles of this life have faded from view! I'm sure glad it's not the other way around, though, for those who choose not to enter the kingdom of God, it surely is!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, there is much that we don’t understand on this side; why some go through life seemingly with ease and little trouble and others seem to be born with trouble that never goes away. It is not for us to understand Your ways for You are a God of mystery with greater purpose than we can comprehend, and yet You have made clear to us through Scripture that which we are to understand. Some of the very trouble we seek to avoid is what brings us to faith and causes us to live a life that is honoring to You and purposeful to others. Keep our hearts sensitive and compassionate toward those who are undervalued by the world’s standards. When we put ourselves in their place, we identify with their struggles and feel the deep hurt they experience when looked down upon and rejected by others. May we be Your tender arm of compassion, Your gentle voice of acceptance and unconditional love. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Today's passage: 2 Samuel 9

Brian Matangelo family
Mike and Kathy's oldest son, Brian, was a teenager when Karin Joy came to live with them. The recent photo above shows Brian and his wife Brianna Matangelo with their beautiful family who reside in California. They both came from families who took in foster children and adopted children as well. It was a natural outflow that they would grow their family in the same way. What an amazing and effective way to make a major difference in a child's life.

Brooksyne's note: We mentioned Karin Joy's lasting impact and the way she stirred our church into action. A short time after her death a number of the families in our church took children in from Guatemala who had life threatening illnesses that could not be treated in their own country. We considered if Karin Joy had been reached earlier in life she might have been saved, so we became foster families and cared for international children as they came for treatment, surgery, and recovery. What a blessing it was to be a lifesaving conduit for these children and their families. Our church was all a buzz with little children who came very ill but returned to their country alive and well. We had four who stayed with us during this time, and thankfully, Ester who came to us at 3 months of age, had been put up for adoption. Finally we didn't have to return a child but could raise her as our own. Coincidentally, Ester's complex heart condition would have cost her life if returned to Guatemala according to the cardiologists who cared for her. So the Lord had it all worked out according to His plan.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"  Video  Selah

"Labor of My Heart"  Video  Steve & Annie Chapman I (Brooksyne) heard this song on our local radio station Saturday. It touched my heart personally as I fully identified with the words of this song. Long before Ester came to us I prayed and prayed for a child to love and care for that wasn't going to leave us. We'd been foster parents many times so all the children who'd lived with us left after their situations improved. Finally, Ester was the answer to my prayers, truly the labor of my heart!

"Carried To The Table"  Video  Leeland  A song based upon the story of Mephibosheth and applying it to our redemption in Christ!

"In Heaven's Eyes"  Video  Matt Spencer

"Mephibosheth"  Video  Sound Doctrine  The story of Mephibosheth set to music!

"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"  Video  Selah
We sure appreciate this song.  It is an example of rich, sound theology in a contemporary song.

"Lame"  Video  An interesting presentation of the Mephibosheth story. (5:54 minutes)

Here are some helpful booklets for those who may identify with Mephibosheth (you can either order these booklets or view them online as a pdf).
"When Life is Unfair"
Anchors In The Storm

Doris High's outstanding photo collection of birds & snow.

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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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