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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yellowstone National Park (Photo by Howard Blichfeldt)
Yellowstone National Park
Photo taken by our friend Howard Blichfeldt

"A Word Of Encouragement
To Those Who Plant And Water"

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"What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Thirteen years ago this very day we packed up a truck for our move from Taunton, Massachusetts where we had served a church for seven and 1/2 years to Lancaster County. We moved to Pennsylvania so I could assume a management position as a corporate chaplain.

Packing up and moving is not something we're very good at, as we tend to be long-termers. This is only the third area we have lived in since our college days when as a newly married couple we left the Springfield MO area in 1977. For most of you a time of relocation has come a time or two in life and some much more. This week we watched a documentary about President Herbert Walker Bush who had moved his family 50 times in the course of his professional career. However many others spend their entire life living in the area in which they were born. A dear elder brother in our church, Menno Brubaker, lived to be 102 years of age. He was born in the same house in which he died. In fact he was carried into the same church as a baby where his funeral was held over 100 years later!

We were blessed to have served a solid church in New England and many came over to help us pack and load. In fact several came down this way to help us unload the truck and set up our rental house which we were most grateful since we didn't know anyone in this area when we moved down. As Brooksyne and I reminisce about our moves we consider how many of these folks are still a part of our life but in a different relationship than when I was their pastor. This is true in each church we served as well as many whom we have met in the course of our chaplaincy. Thankfully, we stay in contact with many of them through daily encouragement.

Our time of ministry in lives is for a season. That's true for most of us. You are planting and watering. Others have likely planted and watered before you and will do so after you move on. This is a concept I have written about called "cooperative ministry".

Paul moved around a lot but had an amazing ability to stay connected even though he did not have the benefit of modern technology. He was good at writing letters and following up!

In our daily text he is describing the establishment of the church in Corinth. As the founding pastor he had planted the gospel seed in the fertile soil of this church. Apollos had followed him in ministry and had watered the seed planted in faith. But Paul realized it was God who made the seed of faith grow. 

The principle is the same in individual lives.  In some lives we sow seeds, in others we feed, water and nourish the germinating seed. But God is the One who makes the seed germinate and grow, like a flourishing "tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither" (Psalm 1:3).

For over 40 years Brooksyne and I have been planting and watering the gospel seed in people's lives, starting in our high school years before we had met. We've done a lot of planting and watering and seen some reaping, although it never seems as much reaping as we'd like.

The reaping part so often comes later. We see and hear some of it on this side but so much will be revealed at the final accounting. And by faith we just need to stay obedient to God. The apostle Paul expresses a powerful truth in the daily Scripture. Consider just the phrase, "only God, who makes things grow."

That sure puts us in our place but it also relieves us of the personal feelings of inadequacy or failure when we don't seem to be seeing much fruit in our ministry. God asks us to plant but we are unable to force germination or growth.

Today I encourage all of you in whatever form of ministry you are in to remember that it's God who makes things grow. Be faithful in your part and rest assured that God will always be faithful in His! Keep planting and watering. It may be years before you see the full germination of that seed but we have both a commission and a promise. Stay faithful.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, help us to remain faithful in planting Your seed of salvation to those who have not yet bowed their knee, to those who have not yet confessed with their tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord. Whenever we open our mouths, may words be given to us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel to those who have not yet heard.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.

Yesterday I shared about my lack of proficiency in winter sports, especially skiing and skating. Wendy was our pastor's wife when we first moved to this area and she and her husband Jim remain good friends. My skiing comment prompted this memory:

"Many years ago when Jim was a youth pastor he took the kids on an annual ski trip and, of course, I didn't know how to ski. I was standing at a hill talking to some kids, acting like I could ski but I had no intention of going down! I must have jiggled my knees/legs.  There was a bit of crust on the snow so I went down the hill BACKWARDS!  Of course, I couldn't stop and I didn't want to fall down to stop. So, I kept whipping my head around and telling others to "move" so I didn't knock anyone down as I went zipping down the hill backwards.  Later, when I was inside, a kid from the youth group asked me seriously, 'Wendy, how come you went down the hill backwards mooing?'"

We just want to share a couple of recent examples of the blessing of hearing from people from our past. We do so to encourage you and hope you will receive similar affirmations regarding the blessing you have been to others. Also may it encourage all of us to consider who from our past we might send such a note or email to, or call or even make a visit!

Charest familyJoel and Adrienne were a young couple who worked with us for several years in our church in New England in the nineties. They were a tremendous blessing and very devoted to Christ, going into missions where they now serve in Africa. Joel has battled cancer in recent years but is overcoming. Yesterday we received a note from Joel and I was blessed that all these years later he still used two of my signature expressions; He wrote "We will never forget your words 'be encouraged and 'stay faithful'". I suppose a few of you who know me have heard me say this.

Kenny was a young man we had an opportunity to impact for a short time in the course of our chaplain ministry when he worked for a company we serve about five years ago. He had a lot of challenges and overcoming, including a custody situation with his young son. But he had an earnest desire to follow the Lord. Years ago he moved from our area to Ocean City MD where he now lives. He responded to a daily encouragement message a couple of days ago, correctly identifying the mystery plant we posted on Monday's message, and reported his son was now living with him and he is doing well.

Some older examples:

Years ago we received a very interesting phone call from a young lady. She identified herself and then asked, "Remember me?  I used to live with you".  I said "What!"  Due to her married name I didn't initially recognize the name or the voice.  It turned out she was a former foster child who lived with us during the late 70's when she was a first and second grader. She had come from an extremely disadvantaged situation. While living with us Brooksyne prayed the prayer of salvation with her as a child and we shared Bible stories and took her to church.  

She joyfully reported that she was now married and had children.  She is faithfully serving the Lord and attends church.  We talked for a few minutes and what uplifting joy to hear from her. We have since visited with her and her family and in fact she regularly reads these messages.

"Not In Vain"  A testimony from Brooksyne about a seed she planted 30 years prior to hearing about its germination. Text

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Too Much to Gain to Lose"  Video  Jake Hess & Gaither Homecoming singers

"Vrednic Esti Tu"  Video  Corul si Orchestra Nationala BBSO  Many will recognize the song by the tune but regardless of whether you can understand the words you will be blessed by these Romanian young people singing at an evangelistic service in Romania last year.

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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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