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Friday, May 15, 2015

Persistent tree
These sunflowers brighten the view from our home office

"The Last Enemy"

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"The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26).

As the sun was setting on Mother's Day this past Sunday I (Brooksyne) was taking a walk with our new Zimbabwean neighbor, Thobekile, whom we call Toby for ease of pronunciation. She lives just past Kraybill Cemetery which was established about 1800. It's less than half a mile from our home. As we were walking along I pointed out the freshly dug grave at the cemetery where a 19 year old boy, who died from a motorcycle accident, was laid to rest just over three weeks ago. As I did so I realized that Jed's parents were standing near the grave.

Being sensitive to their private space, I still felt the Spirit prompting me to talk to them. In compassion I gently approached them. They told me it was their first time back to Jed's gravesite, but it was fitting on Mother's Day. Tissues in hand, the broken couple expressed how devastating their loss continues to be.

Jed was his dad's farming partner, a star athlete, and a committed believer. He was a joy to the community at large, to his local church, and a special blessing to his family including that of five siblings. Though Jed's time was cut short his testimony endures as that of a young life fully surrendered to God.

Our children are loaned to us and our duty is to prepare them for life here and now, and most especially for all eternity. Toby and I joined hands with Kenton and Sue and prayed for God's continued comfort for their enduring grief while also giving thanks to God that they performed their parental duties to the fullest extent. It was a providential opportunity from God that we walked by at that time and became Christian comforters to this couple. They gratefully received our prayer for them.

Today's message is more sobering than most but does indeed end with a promise of encouragement. Each day over 150,000 people die.
  • Sometimes death affects us very personally such as when a member of our own family or a close friend dies. This evening we will be visiting with a friend who is going to Rhode Island to visit his ailing 93 year old mother who is in hospice care. Of course the ultimate "personal" is when our own time of departure comes (see 2 Timothy 4:6).
  • Sometimes, like Jed's death, it's in our own community and although we may not have known the individual it feels very close. Jed's grandmother Mary was a very close neighbor before she moved to a retirement village. Now Jed's sister Kate resides in her grandmother's home.  His former pastor, Joe Sherer, is a friend of ours and years ago I preached in Jed's church when he was a child.
  • Other deaths are newsworthy incidents such as the earthquake in Nepal or the train accident in Philadelphia. These deaths remind us of just how uncertain life is. We ride the trains occasionally (I will next week for a meeting in Washington) and generally we just consider it fully safe but death can surprise in many ways.
  • And of course daily someone famous dies and this often makes the news. I suppose this type of death moves me the least as I consider many who faithfully served God died in quiet anonymity at the very same time.
  • But the vast majority of today's deaths will take place with little fanfare, affecting only those who are close to them. As the old song goes, "Someone's crying Lord, come by here".
Death is simply part of the present "order of things" (Revelation 21:4). We are regularly reminded of death; death in wars, famines, floods, the tsunami. Today many in our spiritual family will die as a result of persecution. In each area of the world there will be accidents and diseases that take lives. Undoubtedly some reading this are presently feeling the "sting" of the death of a loved one.

Of all the billions who have ever lived only Enoch and Elijah escaped death. Yesterday we recognized the day our Lord ascended back to heaven after the completion of His mission here on earth. He died for the sins of the world but "death could not hold Him" (Acts 2:24).

The Bible teaches that the generation of believers living at the time of Christ's glorious return will also escape death and will be caught up together with their deceased brothers and sisters in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Many believe that we very well may be that generation, but then I realize many earnest believers in previous generations have also believed this. Only God knows.

Death is God's appointed method of transition to the afterlife, just as conception and birth are the appointed method of transition into life as we now know it.  Forthrightly the writer of Hebrews states, "Man is destined to die" (Hebrews 9:27).  I am aware of the supernatural departure of Enoch and Elijah, as well as the wonderful promise of the rapture for those living at that time, however the norm for most will be death. 

In today's text Paul calls death the
"last enemy". We look for encouragement and comfort in the truths and promises of the Holy Scriptures. Death will one day be destroyed. The perishable will be clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. Death will be swallowed up in victory.  When the old order of things has passed away there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

Meanwhile we continue to deal with death and grief, but not like those who have no hope, for we have hope based on the Bible's promises. Therefore, I comfort and encourage you all with these words today. One day there will indeed be no more death!

The main thing is are we ready? Have we accepted the glorious gift of salvation by faith in Christ? I welcome you to say this prayer from your heart. "Lord Jesus, I confess that I am a sinner. I believe that You came to this earth and died on the cross as a substitute for me. I place my faith in You and what You have done for me. I receive You into my life and choose this day to follow and serve You.  Thank You for hearing my prayer." This is the main thing.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Loving Father, some of our readers are grieving the death of a loved one. We pray that You speak peace to these dear folks and nurture their trust, even helping them to grow spiritually in the midst of their grief. May they see You at work even when the answers they seek are not the ones they are given. As believers we trust that You are working for our good, even when we don't understand, for we know that all things work together for good to those who love You, who are called according to Your purpose. Help us to remember that our sorrows and disappointments have a larger purpose than simply to make us miserable. These often come so others can observe our response, to see if we bear witness to Christ's abiding presence in our lives, in the hard stuff of life. Remind us that if we want to share in Your glory we must also share in Your sufferings (Romans 8:17). We don't get to choose what sufferings we must go through, but we do choose our response; whether it glorifies You or glorifies our suffering. Help us we pray. Amen.

We are blessed at expressions of faith on old tombstones, but this one at Kraybill Church Cemetery has a sobering reminder:

Remember friend as you pass by.
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me.

Old order Mennonite bike with cart 5/13/15
You never know what kind of traffic you will encounter on the back roads in Lancaster County, PA! On Wednesday we drove past this old order Mennonite who had apparently been grocery shopping. (This particular sect of Mennonites uses the horse and buggy, as well as bicycles for transportation.) If "English" women transported their groceries and other items by bicycle, like these Mennonites, the list of "wants vs. needs" would likely shorten since carting them by pedaling a two wheeler is much more a chore than hauling them in a four wheel vehicle powered by simply pushing down a gas pedal.

Geese family on Donegal Creek 5/15
Several large geese families reside on Donegal Creek. It's always a highlight of our spring walks on the trail.

Mike at Costco 5/14/15
Consider people wherever you live who have a joyful countenance and pleasant disposition. Just seeing them warms your heart and brings a smile to your face doesn't it! Mike works at our local Costco and we often see him either when we enter or leave the store. He always has a big smile, a friendly greeting, and is a great representative for Costco.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we share a selection of songs on death and dedicate them to all who are undergoing loss. There are numerous styles presented in the following selection, so it is our prayer that one will be especially meaningful to you.

"Khumbaya"  Video  Soweto Gospel Choir

"No More Night"  Video  David Phelps

“Save a Place for Me”  Video  Matthew West

"Hello After Goodbye"  Video  Legacy Five

"Closer to You"  Video  Mark Schultz

"Homesick"  Video  MercyMe

"All My Tears"  Video  Julie Miller

"The Line Between The Two"  Video  Mark Harris

"What a Day That Will Be"  Video  Homecoming Singers

"I’ll Meet You in the Morning"  Video  Appalachian Express Bluegrass

"Going Home"  Video  Mark Lowry & Kim Lord

"He's Walking Her Home"  Video  Mark Schultz

"I Will Rise"  Video  Chris Tomlin

"With Hope"  Video  Steven Curtis Chapman  A powerful song of faith following the death of his daughter

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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