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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Abandoned Pennsylvania farmhouse 2/9/14
Sunday afternoon we passed this abandoned farmhouse in a narrow mountain valley. Looks like it has some real potential with a lot of work!

"The Rest Of The Story"

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"For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain" (1 Thessalonians 2:1).

Pastor Dave Cuong Nguyen, Lancaster Vietnamese church
We visit many Vietnamese people during our chaplain work each week and seek to reach them. Our approach is the language of interest and friendliness since in many cases their English is quite limited and our Vietnamese is non-existent. It's a joy to extend a hand of friendship to them and see their big smile of receptivity. "Love in any language fluently spoken here" is a great song that speaks to this loving approach. Dave Cuong Nguyen, a friend of mine who also pastors the Lancaster Vietnamese Church, invited me to speak several years ago. The congregation was very receptive. Their worship was filled with zeal and sincerity. And we enjoyed a potluck meal following the service offering delicious Vietnamese dishes!

Grover Devault 2/7/14
This last Friday evening Brooksyne and I were at a dinner and sat beside Grover Devault, a chaplain friend of ours. For many years Grover served as an army chaplain and was stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He shared that all through the war missionary work continued with many Vietnamese coming to Christ and churches being established, many remaining to this day. Some of the Vietnamese church people were a result of this mission work.

Grover was in the Da Nang area in 1968 and was asked by a missionary to speak at an open air rally with some 500+ in attendance. At the time he recalled there was a response to his altar call and many came to faith. But he did not hear "the rest of the story" until he made contact with the missionary who'd invited him to speak over 30 years later.

The missionary told him that a suicide bomber had come to the rally with concealed bombs strapped to his body intending to blow up those attending. Instead the Spirit of God restrained him as he listened to the message of Christ's love and offer of salvation. Rather than carry out his deadly attack he responded to the altar call and received God's forgiveness for his sins! I would sure like to meet that man and hear of the change God has made in his life.

Surely the missionary, Grover, and others who planned and led the rally left that evening in gratitude for the harvest of souls that came forward for salvation. But had they known of this man's plans to carry out a deadly attack, they would likely have had an all night victory rally giving thanks for God's miraculous intervention. Sometimes, like Grover, we may see and hear of the story on this side but I believe so often it will be on the other side that we will actually hear more fully "the rest of the story". We rejoice in the great harvest of souls that took place in Vietnam during the painful years of war which resulted in the establishment of many Bible believing churches.

But I also consider that there are some who read our message today who have invited another to receive Christ but they rejected the offer. There are preachers reading today who have given altar calls and had few to no responses. That's discouraging not only for the preacher but also for the praying congregation that prays for new life in their church. How many times have you bowed your head in prayer during an invitation and hoped that you would hear a stirring in the congregation because an unbeliever was getting out of his or her seat to walk forward and openly surrender their life to Jesus?

We rightly speak of the importance of having godly men and women who are pillars of the faith planted in our churches but we also know of the importance of seeing new life through those who are newly born of the faith. It helps us to remember the early days of our coming to faith. It fills the church with fresh vigor and excitement much like having a new baby in a family. Perhaps that's why Jesus described it to Nicodemus as being "born again" in John 3:3.

It's no wonder that believers face discouragement from time to time or even for extended periods because of their seeming "lack of success." Contributing to this mindset are comparisons with others, our own expectations, expectations from others and a resigning attitude of "Am I really making a difference here?" I have found that the potential for discouragement does not lessen with age. In fact the challenges associated with aging can actually intensify periods of discouragement.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers several months after his rather short period of ministry there. We are told that during his time of ministry "some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women" (Acts 17:4). But we have no calculation of the number actually converted or any discipling activity following this or the setting up of a church. There's certainly no record of a church building being erected (which is indicated in the early church).

Paul and his ministry associates were run out of town shortly after he began to see the fruit of his labor. What chance would the fledgling group have to survive or to sustain themselves and develop into a church of believers?

Yet when Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, sets out to write a letter to "the church of the Thessalonians" he placed his confidence in God and was assured that his ministry to the Thessalonians had not been in vain. He wrote,
"For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain."  Another version states, "You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure."

What a wonderful assurance to have in spite of the apparent setbacks and disappointments Paul had encountered. "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, as we faithfully serve You it is not for our own fulfillment but for the fulfillment of the Great Commission that the Gospel message be delivered at home and abroad to the outermost parts of the earth. No matter our Christian service, whether great or small, when it is offered in Your name it brings reward, often visible here and now but at times unseen by the human eye. Help us to go forth in confidence and walk in obedience, no matter the fruit we see or don't see, as we seek to glorify Your name. We can take heart within our spirit knowing that we will hear "the rest of the story" on the other side. Amen.

Here's a video with Grover sharing about the Pocket Testament League. Grover was a Pennsylvania state police chaplain during the horrendous Amish schoolhouse shooting in our area about 8 years ago and had a productive time of ministry in that setting.
I noticed a picture on the wall behind the photo of Grover that many of our readers have probably never seen that is popular in our area, It's a depiction of the Nickel Mines Amish school before the shooting titled "Happier Days". Indeed one of the great characteristics of the many Amish schoolhouses we pass in the course of our work is the children, from the youngest to the oldest, happily playing together outside during recess. A very rare sight these days in our English settings.

"Happier Life" Amish school before shooting

Here are several more photos from our drive home from the mountains this last Sunday afternoon.

Restored stone Pennsylvania farmhouse in snow 2/9/14

In contrast to our abandoned farmhouse shown above is this beautifully restored farmhouse in the wintry snow setting.

Sheep in snow 2/9/14
These sheep huddled together near the barn as the snowflakes grew bigger.

Horses in snow 2/9/14
Across the road the horses began to rally together from the far edges of the field.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"It's Gonna Be Worth It"
 Video  Rita Springer. We need to hide the truth deep in our hearts that our labor is not vain and it is going to be worth it!

"It'll Be Worth It All After All"  Video  Terry Terrell  This has a really country sound with some interesting lyrics that speak a powerful word.

"Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All"  Video  Homecoming singers with Naomi Sego Reader

"It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus"  Video  Ben Markley

"What A Day That Will Be"  Video  Homecoming with Jim Hill

"I Know Who Holds Tomorrow"  Video  Homecoming singers

"What A Day That Will Be"  Video  With testimony by David Ring.  David Ring is a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker who has cerebral palsy. Since 1973, Ring has challenged thousands of people with his signature message - "I have cerebral palsy... What's your problem?" Instead of becoming paralyzed by his circumstances, David saw beyond his limitations and found hope in the overcoming power of Christ. His website.

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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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