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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hershey Chocolate World
I like to see items repurposed and this old cart likely once used for raw materials in the Hershey Chocolate factory is now used to sell candy bars at Hershey Chocolate World!


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"Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11a).
"God places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).

Hershey Chocolate World visit 7/17/14Many of you who know me (Stephen) are aware that I can be a teaser, sometimes to a fault. We told one side of this story last Friday.

Last Thursday afternoon we were caring for three young children for some friends and for fun planned to take them to Hershey Chocolate World*. On the way we stopped to make a chaplain visit, taking turns watching the children in a school playground while the other visited with the employees.

I had walked through first and then Brooksyne. The children were of course looking forward to going to Chocolate World. As we waited for Brooksyne I had the excited kids in the van ready to go and then I suggested, "Maybe we should just leave Brooksyne here." Six year old Adoree' looked at the big warehouse building and thoughtfully stated, "But she would be lonely."

Now of course I wasn't really going to leave Brooksyne and quickly let Adoree' and her younger brothers know I was just teasing but it did get me thinking. At an early age Adoree' had already grasped the unpleasant emotion of loneliness.

We have a special fondness for Adoree's parents, Mike and JoAnna. When we first started attending our church JoAnna was a teenager. I still recall an earnest testimony and prayer request she made when confronted with evil and seeking to stand for God's righteousness. She met Mike in college and I had the privilege of sharing with them in premarital counseling and conducting their wedding in 2005. God multiplied their family with the addition of three children. And they are earnestly seeking to live for the Lord.

Lonely person Loneliness is a universal phenomenon that at some time visits every human soul in every culture, regardless of race, age, or educational level. 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 or office environment.  Even as the planet gets more and more populated it seems loneliness spreads.

In 2 Timothy Paul is writing what most Bible students consider his final words and he is grieved by the apostasy and desertion of several other fellow-workers. (4:10,16) but faithful Luke stayed by Paul's side. Through thick and thin the doctor held steady and faithful. Do you have friends like Luke in your life? I hope you do for we need these reliable, loyal friends to stand with us when we might otherwise fold.  Interestingly, next to Paul, Luke wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else.

Hershey Chocolate World visit 7/17/14
Paul was lonely in our text. He is nearing the end of his life and is facing trial.  Several verses later he states, "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me" (2 Timothy 4:16a). Apparently Luke had come since his first defense. Surely he must have found great comfort in faithful Dr. Luke.  Today will you consider some people that you know who might be lonely or hurting?  Make contact.  Even a brief word of encouragement, a pertinent Scripture or inspirational writing, or a prayer can bring a surge of strength and hope.  Please be sensitive to the needs around you and respond as Dr. Luke.

We value long-term relationships. Consider the way Billy Graham worked for so many years with the same loyal inner circle of ministry associates. In the present age of social instability and disloyalty I'm intrigued by the daily text.  Paul is ready to die. Who's with him? His longtime friend and ministry associate Dr. Luke. They had been through so much together. Luke first appears on the scene during Paul's third missionary journey in Acts 16.  In Colossians 4:14, Paul calls Luke a "dear friend."

We hope you have people like Luke in your life. We especially hope you have them when you really need them such as Paul in the daily text. Be that kind of friend today and you will surely have that kind of friend!

However as we conclude we still consider those 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. We don't minimize your pain even though it is not presently our 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. Consider these words from the familiar Psalm 23, "Thou art with me."
2) Are you actively involved 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 might need a caring friend. 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 lasting friendship.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:
Jesus, my friend who sticks closer than a brother, a mother or father, thank You for the many Scriptures reassuring us that we're never alone, whether it's during our mountain top experiences or in the valleys below.  You promise that Your Spirit will never leave us nor forsake us, but You will be with us always. We are encouraged and strengthened by Your abundant promises and Your abiding presence.  Amen.

Note from Brooksyne:  Lonely people are all around us, but we tend to look the other way when we don't want to take time to be part of that solution. Sometimes it's for lack of courage as well.  I can still see the empty and hopeless expression on the face of a young carnival worker I saw at a fair in Clearfield County over 25 years ago.  I was waiting in line at the merry-go-round when she caught my attention.  Her long thick black hair was very tangled and needed a good washing.  She collected tickets from the riders and operated the ride almost in robotic fashion. Her eyes and expression seemed so empty, distant and hopeless. God spoke to my heart as audibly as I've ever heard Him… "Tell her 'Jesus loves you'".  I felt my heart was going to burst as I contemplated her reaction if I spoke these words to a complete stranger, but the Spirit persisted.  I put Ester on the horse as this message kept echoing in my heart.  I said to myself that I would tell her after the ride was over.  But I let fear override the conviction from the Holy Spirit.  I've never forgotten that experience and have wondered many times if this was a desperate, lonely woman who simply needed to hear from God.  I repented of my disobedience and have prayed a number of times that God sent another messenger later to tell her the Good News. May we all have godly courage and take the time to seek out the lost and lonely people in our surroundings who may simply need to hear "Jesus loves you." Perhaps it won't result in the outcome you'd hoped for, but you will be at peace because you obeyed the Holy Spirit's prompting.

Gardner children at Hershey Chocolate World visit 7/17/14
Gardner children at Hershey Chocolate World

Footwashing at a wedding
Wedding ceremony for Mike and JoAnna Gardner
March 12, 2005

Mike and JoAnna requested a very special feature in their wedding service, washing each other's feet. I had never seen it before but it was a very touching moment.

Mike and Joanne Gardner wedding

Mike and Joanna Gardner and family 3/13/14
We watched their three children this last March so they could go out for an anniversary meal. Things have changed a bit in nine years including these wonderful additions; Nolan, Adoree, and Zane.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Sometimes I Cry"  Video  Jason Crabb

"If I Ever Needed Grace"  Video  Jimmy Needham

* "Hershey Chocolate World" is essentially the visitor's center for Hershey Chocolate Company and is a nice free place including a fun factory tour ride that shows how they make chocolate.

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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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