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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Live oaks in New Braunfels Texas
Live Oaks in New Braunfels, Texas
The name "Live Oak" comes from the fact that evergreen oaks remain green and "live" throughout winter, when other oaks, such as those growing in our area are dormant, leafless and "dead"-looking through the winter season.

"The Blessing of 'Home Folks'"

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"God places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). "I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Ephesians 3:14,15).

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

We returned home from our trip to Texas in the early 
evening hours yesterday. To use an old cliche, "It's always good to be home!" Ten days away has made a lot of difference in the greening up of the trees and lawns so we have lots of yard work and will resume our chaplain visits tomorrow.

Yesterday morning before our flight back home we received a brief email from our pastor that touched our hearts: "So good to hear you are having a wonderful time but we miss you all. Hurry back soon to us, your home folks. Love, Pastor John".  John grew up in a rural part of Pennsylvania and we enjoy hearing his folksy words and colloquialisms that come out in his preaching and conversation. I really like the phrase "your home folks". What a blessing it is to have home folks, especially those who notice when you're gone!

Photo displayed on USS Lexington 5/1/14While we were in Corpus Christi, TX last Thursday we both enjoyed walking through the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier. It was commissioned in 1943 and carried about 3000 crew members during WWII. We were impressed with some of the artifacts and photographs that included Scriptures like this faded photograph of a military man posing with his wife and children. The caption under the photograph is our daily text, "He setteth the solitary in families" (Psalm 68:6 KJV). It appears to have been taken about the time Brooksyne and I were growing up. She noted that the girls were dressed alike, the same way she and her sister dressed for church each Sunday. In fact it looks like this family is ready to go to church. Perhaps this photograph and Scripture text served as a visual reminder to the sailors, that their military service provided people in the U.S. as well as their own families their freedom to worship God.

The faces of lonely people occupy my thoughts this day. Loneliness is a universal phenomenon that many experience in every culture, regardless of race, nationality, age, or any other factor. You can be in a huge crowd and be lonely. An old rock song states, "All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people where do they all belong?"

The word "lonely" conveys such sadness and isolation. Many lonely people are not necessarily at a distance from other people. In fact they may very well be surrounded by people in a city, office environment, or their own family members. Even as the planet gets more and more populated it seems loneliness spreads as well.

Lonely personFundamentally it's because people have tried replacing the divinely appointed order of our relationship with God, family, and the fellowship of other believers with a host of artificial replacements. Even the meaning of "friend" has changed. Now people collect "friends" on social websites; people they may not even personally know or have a deep, meaningful relationship with.

Shepherd with sheepIn the beginning God and man had close fellowship and since that time many have had the wonderful assurance expressed by David in the Shepherd's Psalm, "Thou art with me".  That's the greatest antidote to loneliness!  Hide deeply in your heart these words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

In the beginning God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" and made a helper suitable for him and thus ordained marriage and "places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). We may also refer to our church body or Christian friends as the "family of believers." Jesus defined the meaning of the spiritual family when He expressed to his biological family in Luke 8:21, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it." Right now there are people in our church that I can easily relate to as a spiritual sibling or a spiritual parent.  Today I urge you to treasure and nurture your biological family ties as well as your spiritual family.

However as I conclude I still consider the precious souls reading this who are lonely today. It may be that you are separated from your companion or soul-mate by death. Perhaps you've been abandoned by an unfaithful spouse, or are dealing with estranged children. I don't minimize your pain even though it is not presently my experience. Several considerations:

1) Lean heavily upon the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases. You will find Him to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
2) If you aren't already, become active in a local Bible-believing church with a caring pastor and congregation.
3) Often the quickest way to end loneliness is to reach out to another who has a need.  When we put others needs first, God has a way of fulfilling our own inner need.
4) If you're lonely due to past hurts and you remain guarded, seek God for healing and start giving of yourself again to cultivate a friendship.

We hope each of our readers have the blessing of home folks!

I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God.
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod.
For I'm part of the family, the family of God.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, thank You for the many Scriptures that reassure us we're never alone, such as the oft quoted comfort Psalm, "Thou art with me".  It's when we look solely to other people to cure our loneliness that we neglect the greatest cure which is looking to You and finding guidance and solace in Scripture and in prayer! Help us to hide deeply in our hearts the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Surely I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us enables us to endure even in the loneliest of circumstances. We are encouraged and strengthened by Your promises and by the presence of Your Holy Spirit which keeps us from being alone for all time. Amen.

Here are some more photos of our visit to the King Ranch.

Longhorn cow with calves, King Ranch 5/3/14
A longhorn cow and two calves. Ninety percent of Texas is in some level of drought with about 49 percent in “severe” or worse drought conditions. Circular troughs the size of small ponds which are supplied by artesian wells are provided for the cattle. As we rode the ranch tour bus we saw quite a few simply standing in the middle of the troughs seeking to cool themselves on a hot Texas afternoon.

Longhorn bull, King Ranch 5/3/14
Old longhorn bull

Bumpgate, King Ranch 5/3/14
Due to the size of the ranch and the many gates they developed the bump gate.

King Ranch barn 5/3/14
An old building on the ranch.

Brooksyne with rattlesnake sign, King Ranch 5/3/14
Brooksyne was resting against a sprawling live oak tree when I took this shot of the rattlesnake warning. She checked with the tour guide about all the warning signs and they told us they'd only seen a couple in recent weeks. She was thankful she didn't see or hear ANY rattlesnakes!
On the other hand I (Stephen) would have liked to have seen and heard a rattlesnake!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Blest Be The Tie That Binds"  Video   Homecoming gathering

"The Family Of God"  Video  The Hoppers & Collingsworth Family

"Praise His Name"  Video   This is a video of the Easters recording "Praise His Name". We were on our way home yesterday and were listening to the words of this stirring song that speaks to one who feels all alone in their struggle. "You're not alone so how can you feel lonely" speaks to the fact that "Greater is He that is within me" reminding us that we are never alone if Christ resides within our hearts. We will overcome by the word of our testimony.

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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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