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Monday, December 8, 2014

Poole Forge Covered Bridge 12/7/14

Yesterday we drove through the Poole Forge Covered Bridge in Eastern Lancaster County
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"When You're Discouraged Because Of The Way"

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"The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way" (Numbers 21:4).

Arlin Buckwalter 12/7/14
In our Sunday School class yesterday Arlin, a 50 year old + friend of ours, was recalling a very specific memory from his teen years. Like so many, he apparently had some low esteem issues and feelings of aloneness that were becoming problematic in his life as well as his relationship with God. He was walking home from school one day feeling unloved and discouraged. He shared with the class that he could take you to the very spot and draw a circle around the place where the Lord spoke directly to his heart and he made this resolve in his heart, "God loves me and that's enough."

He concluded by stating to the effect, "So it really doesn't matter whether others like me, if God loves me that is enough." After the class was over I walked up to Arlin, patted him on the shoulder, and assured him, "Arlin, I like you!"

All of us, in one way or another, relate to Arlin's candid narrative about feeling unloved or that his life really isn't important to others. Today we want to consider those who may be discouraged along the way and share a truth to uplift your spirits. Perhaps you are struggling with these kind of emotions or you know someone else who is. Today, settle deep in your heart, "God loves me and that's enough"!

Scene from "It's a wonderful life"
One of our all-time favorite movies is "It's a Wonderful Life." We have a family custom of watching this movie together during the Christmas season. It's an example of how the classic movies were directed and produced without swearing, violence, and sexual scenes for the viewers, thanks to the Hays Code!* In the 1930's the Hollywood movie studios agreed to abide by a code under which no film would "lower the moral standards of those who view it."

Essentially, if you're not familiar with this movie, the main character, George Bailey, runs a small Building and Loan Association in Bedford Falls. But it barely survives, in part due to George's generosity and kindness to others. He's always threatened by the movie's chief antagonist, greedy old Henry F. Potter, who wants to drive George out of business for financial control of Bedford Falls.

George Bailey praying The movie opens with a scene of prayers rising up to heaven for George who is discouraged to the point of despondency and suicide. He strongly felt that his life had made no difference to others and he'd be better off dead (of course, his overindulgence in alcohol would have contributed to such thinking).

The angels discussing George's crisis call on a junior angel, named Clarence, who has yet to earn his wings. He must go to earth, avert George's suicide attempt and convince him, "George, your life really does make a difference". Much of the movie is a narrative overview of George's life so that Clarence will be acquainted with his troubled "student".

There's one early scene that always touches me. When Clarence is first called in he's told that George is in trouble and he asks, "Is he sick?”  The senior angel says, "No, it's worse than being sick, he's discouraged.”

The way Clarence helped George was to show him what it would be like had he never been born. This powerfully reminded George of the value of his life as he saw how many people, from all walks of life, he had touched from his early years to adulthood.

Bedford Virginia sign
This sign caught our eye last month when we drove through Bedford, Virginia on the way to Nashville. We both recalled a scene in the movie where the angel is showing George what life would be like without him. He thinks he's in Bedford Falls but a local resident informs him, "This isn't Bedford Falls; it's Pottersville!" In the absence of George Bailey's restraining influence, greedy old Henry Potter took over the town and named it after himself!

Now certainly I don't vouch for the theology in the movie as the Bible doesn't teach that angels earn their wings or that they are humans who have previously died. But I believe there is great power in the prayers ascending to heaven for people who are in need and I know how debilitating discouragement can be.

Very likely some reading this today are discouraged, some feel unloved. You might even feel as if your life means nothing. Obviously, there is a deadly trend right now in our society of those taking their lives. More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 2013 report. 

We firmly assert that each life does matter and has great significance.

Consider the daily text, "The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way." The people of Israel had come out of Egypt in great fanfare but soon they encountered difficulty and began their grumbling. In the context of the daily text they had been wandering for some time and were "much discouraged because of the way." After all, what could be worse than slavery in Egypt? Surely, the way to the Promised Land would be a cinch in comparison to their former way of life.

We also can become discouraged "because of the way" for a variety of reasons. The Israelites certainly had not expected what they encountered and likewise we find that life often has twists and turns on the way to our eternal abode. John Bunyan does a great job describing this in his Christian allegory, Pilgrim's Progress where his hometown is the "City of Destruction" (this world), and his destiny is the "Celestial City" (heaven).

Today we especially address those of you who are "much discouraged.” God loves you today and so do many others. Hold steady, keep your faith!  God will make a roadway in your wilderness wanderings. The Son of light has come to penetrate lingering shadows of doubt, discouragement, and any disadvantages we might deal with. Your life, like George Bailey’s, is truly worth living and is touching many others though you may not even be aware of it.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, from time to time we turn our eyes from You and become consumed with troubles that surround us, or worse, we become consumed with self-pity. Our emotions cloud our view of eternity giving us the false notion that here and now is all that matters. The apostle Paul stated, "If in this life we have hope in Christ only, we are of all people to be pitied". We can become "much discouraged because of the way" that our journey through life is not smooth, predictable, nor can we avoid the twists, turns, and detours by using a gps. You never promised that our Christian walk would be easy, but You did promise never to leave us or forsake us. You promised to come alongside us and work out even the bad things we encounter for our overall good and for the good of others. Keep us faithful and trusting during the journey we pray. Amen.

*This Production Code was often called the Hays Code, named after Will Hays, the respectable Presbyterian layman hired by the industry to head the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. The Code banned profanity, obscenity, and nudity. It required that adultery not be condoned and that any form of evil not be made attractive. It also specified that clergy of all religions be presented respectfully and not as villains or buffoons. ("The Christian History Devotional" by J. Stephen Lang. (See below for information about this outstanding book)

** New York Times, May 2, 2013  -
In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides. Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, but the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising....

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Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

The Christian History Devotional: 365 Readings & Prayers to Deepen & Inspire Your Faith  By J. Stephen Lang We have been reading this book for about six months now and have thoroughly enjoyed the author's insightful details about famous people who've made a difference in their lifetime. You don't have to be a historian to appreciate these 365 one page Readings and Prayers that acquaint us with our spiritual family, people who are as much a part of the rich Christian heritage as the people of the Bible. In these 365 vignettes you'll encounter familiar names such as Billy Graham, Martin Luther, Augustine, Corrie ten Boom and many others. You'll meet Christian athletes, scientists, authors, artists, soldiers, and others from the first century to the present, a diverse cast of truly amazing people. We share this link for ordering in those who may want to consider purchasing for personal enrichment or as a Christmas gift.

"God Will Make A Way"  Video  Don Moen

"I Am Loved"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"For God So Loved"  Video 
Brian Free and Assurance

"The Love of God"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

Article on "It's A Wonderful Life" from Wikipedia

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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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