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Monday, November 24, 2014

Maple Tree
  This large maple tree is on Colebrook Road near our home.

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"The Blessing Of Friends"

"Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."

"And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself" (Acts 27:3).

Today as we begin a series of messages dealing with thankfulness let us consider the blessing of friends. All through life we have set out on collecting friends, then seeking to maintain contact. That can be a challenge but actually modern technology is a great aid in maintaining contact as well as restoring lost contacts.

David Simpson childhood photoDavid is my longest time friend I've maintained contact with, all the way back to first grade nearly 55 years ago. He just had a birthday, hitting the big "60" and his wife Sandy posted this childhood photo on Facebook. He lived across the street and we had the same classes all through Elementary School. In high school my family moved about twenty miles away in the Kansas City, MO area but we still stayed in touch. Dave served as the best man in my wedding and today is a successful businessman in Springfield, MO. Even more important he is a faithful follower of Christ.

Through life I have sought to collect friends: Bob from college, Mike and Tom from our earliest days of pastoring. All though life we've been collecting and of course through marriage most of our friends are mutual.

Bob and Laura Cooke 11/23/14Among our newer friends are Bob and Laura. In recent years they moved to our neighborhood from New Jersey and live around the corner in a big old stone farmhouse built in 1834. It's heartening to know you still make new friends all through life. (We stopped by yesterday as they were working outside tending to their ducks and other outdoor chores.)

Today I want to consider enduring friendships as one of the greatest blessings in life for which we should be thankful.

Notice two phrases from our rather obscure daily text.  In reading this long narrative portion about Paul's captivity it's so easy to miss them.

Paul is on his way to Rome as a prisoner. He's appealed to Caesar. He's surely discouraged and weary from travelling the stormy seas and being under surveillance the entire time. Uncertainty is his only glimpse into the near future.

The ship stops at Sidon where Julius "courteously entreated" Paul.  This translates the only time in the New Testament that we see the Greek word "philanthropos", the root for our English word "philanthropy." Julius, a hardened centurion, assigned to guard Paul at all times gave him freedom to see his friends and later spared his life when others wanted to do away with him (Acts 27:43). What a positive example and stimulus for us to forge a friendship even in the midst of a hardship and being in the company of those we might not prefer. It reminds me of an acquaintance I recently met that chose to pray every day for his competitor/"enemy" instead of hurling insults or responding in kind to his combative tone.

There is no mention elsewhere in Scripture that Paul was ever in Sidon, but nevertheless he had some friends there. I wonder who they were and how he had met them.  We're not told about the circumstances but it's easy to determine they're the kind of friends you want to have around all throughout life's journey. Their presence in our lives refresh us when difficulties and disappointments would otherwise drain us of energy and motivation.

These friends had a part in Paul's refreshing.  The word "refresh" translated from the Greek is a word found only in this passage throughout the entire New Testament. It has the sense of "kind attention". That's what Paul needed and that's what these unnamed friends did as they provided for his needs; physically, spiritually and emotionally.

That's what I've quite often needed and have experienced through so many good friends, including many of you on this list.  Thank you. And I encourage you to pass it on to others today as well. There's a lot of refreshing needed in our lives as we deal with daily challenges that can deplete us of a positive outlook! We all need caring and devoted friends to stand with us. Today we urge you to thank God for the blessing of friends!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You have given me many treasures that cannot be bought with money and friendship is among them. I thank You for the special friends who brighten my outlook and challenge me to be a better person. Thank You for my caring friend who loves me and never gives up on me even when I feel like giving up on myself. For that dear friend who comes alongside me and helps carry the burdens that I bear, I am especially thankful. My life is enriched and my spirit is refreshed as I share my heart with a close friend who does not criticize but accepts my frailties; who prays for me and expresses love for me in ways that build me up and strengthen me in the trials of life. Father, You are the greatest and most trusting Friend that I will ever know so help me to draw near to You so that You draw near to me.  Amen.

Note from ClarenceToday's opening quote is from the Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'm always touched at the end when George Bailey receives a note from the angel Clarence reminding him, "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends." Clarence's message is also a reminder to each of us. Friends are of tremendous blessing, especially when we endure hardships of any kind.

Dave Simpson 6/26/14
Here's a relatively current photo of my friend David Simpson when I visited with him in Springfield this last summer.

Decorated Amish buggie (photo by Lee Smucker)
In the little village of Bird In Hand there is a store locally known as the Amish Walmart. It's Amish owned and heavily used by Amish although we have shopped there on occasion. Our friend Lee Smucker took this photo of an Amish buggie parked out front with some holiday lighting. "The woman explained that it's getting near Christmas so they decorated their buggy."

Pedro at White Oak Display 11/21/14
Pedro is a good-natured employee at White Oak Display who demonstrates a srong work ethic and a most pleasant disposition.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Special Thanksgiving Resources
We offer these resources to families and church leaders to enrich the spiritual impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. We will post these resources through Thanksgiving Day here in the US (November 27).

We appreciated singing the traditional Thanksgiving hymns. Here are several classics that you may or may not have heard this season.

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video  Best Loved Hymns

"Come Ye Thankful People Come"  Video  Traditional version
Contemporary version but thankfully maintaining same tune and lyrics Video

"Thanksgiving Medley" (We Gather Togather, For The Beauty Of The Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come)  Video  Studio Musicians

"Give Thanks"  Video  Don Moen

"Thank You Lord"  Video  Community choir at a Lancaster Day of Prayer event in 2008.

"Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul"  Video  Holland Davis

Thorns"Thankful For The Thorns": A family reading and exercise that is a wonderful way to give a thoughtful focus around your Thanksgiving Table. The Thanksgiving celebration typically includes family coming together for a huge meal and hopefully a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness. However it can often be difficult to have a spiritually oriented conversation. Why not add some stimulating discussion about the ways God has worked in your life over the past year! Some of you are not in charge and are only visitors at your Thanksgiving gathering, but if it is possible share together around the table the theme of "Thankful for the Thorns"
(printable webpage).

"A Thanksgiving family exercise" (pdf) We have used this questionnaire as a stimulus for discussion among family members in the past in our home. We encourage you to share results around the table at Thanksgiving before or after the meal.

A Thanksgiving prayer: Written by Joe Sherer, a pastor friend of ours and shared as the benediction at our community Thanksgiving Eve service several years ago. (webpage) For those who enjoy written prayers this would be a beautiful prayer to read together at the Thanksgiving table.

A Thanksgiving Scripture reading:
A selection of Old and New Testament readings dealing with thankfulness appropriate for church, family and personal readings. (pdf) (Suitable for printing out and copying.)

Today and all through this week we will share a selection of Thanksgiving music.

"Be Magnified"  Video   Kim Hill

"In Everything Give Thanks"
 Video   Charlotte Ritchie, Jeff & Sheri Easter  This song will bring joy to your heart!

 Video  Marshall Hall and the Homecoming Singers

"I Want To Thank You"
 Video  Karen Peck and New River  This is a song expressing thankfulness to the many people who impact our lives and also reminds us of the blessing of seemingly insignificant expressions of faith.  From the Gaither Homecoming series.

"Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me"  Video  Gordon Mote & Jason Crabb

"Thanksgiving Medley"  Video  Nice selection of grand old thanksgiving hymns.

"Now Thank We All Our God"  Video  Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"Come We Thankful People Come"  Video  
Traditional version  Here's a bit more contemporary version with same lyrics.

"I'm Forever Grateful"  Video  Willow Creek

"Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart"  Video  Don Moen

"When I Thank Him For What He Has Done"  Video  The Cathedrals

"Worthy Is The Lamb Crown Him .. Crown Him With Many Crowns"  Video  Travis Cottrell

"Thank You, Lord"  Video  Dennis Jernigan

"Thank You For Loving Me"  Video  Tommy Walker

"10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"  Video  Matt Redman

"For These Reasons"  Video  Lincoln Brewster

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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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