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Friday, September 18, 2015
No, we're not in Texas! Yesterday we had a meeting at the Ironstone Ranch near Elizabethtown, PA and saw an unusual sight for the Northeast; longhorn cattle! (Brooksyne comments, "The white longhorn looks albino due to the brilliant sun, but I got no cooperation when I tried to have them pose for me in more suitable lighting. In fact they simply ignored me!")
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"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
We've had several extra busy days with a number of visits and meetings. We stopped by the SOLANCO Fair, one of our many local country fairs here in Lancaster County, held through late summer and early fall. In fact about every week you can go to a fair if you want. These fairs have tractors, farm animals, produce displays, the kind of things we enjoy and of course...fair food!
At the SOLANCO Fair many churches and Christians ministries set up displays seeking to get a witness in for the Lord. We like to encourage those who make a public witness since they surely face disinterest, rejection and even mockery at times.
Of course area businesses also set up displays and we stopped by a display sponsored by JK Mechanical, one of the companies we serve as chaplains. We enjoyed visiting for a few minutes with several of the employees (photo below).
Walking further through the display areas we saw a booth with an interesting name, "Answered Prayer Locksmithing". Surely there was a story connected with this business name so we inquired during our conversation with the owner, John Williams. Indeed the name is an attempt to provide a Christian witness such as the "Wonder Transport" trucking company we wrote about in Wednesday's message.
John shared that he had a good job but was sensing a desire to start his own company so he and his wife began praying about it, asking God to show them very clearly what steps they should take. He walked into work the next Monday and was told that he had been fired! Well, that was answered prayer (though not the kind we usually pray for), and thus the name of his company.
Many years ago I heard a simple explanation of how prayer is answered; yes, no, and wait. Now that's probably a bit simplistic but I still find it helpful. We tend to see answered prayer only as "yes" according to our timing and desires. When John and his wife were praying about the matter of starting his own company they weren't anticipating his being fired, but that's what happened and they saw it as a direct answer to their prayer.
How do you deal with prayers that seem unanswered? Now let me make it clear; God is certainly able to answer any prayer we offer according to our desires and timing and amazingly He often does. But we also deal with the mystery of unanswered prayer on a regular basis. There are matters that are within God's power that He could handle instantly, but in His divine providence he does not. Yet He does provide needed grace to work around it or through it. Millions can testify to that grace. Let's look at one:
The apostle Paul received tremendous assurance in the daily text from God after a time of labored prayer that seemed to go unanswered: "Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me." He is dealing with his "thorn in the flesh". Much speculation has been made regarding the nature of this thorn, with a variety of interpretations offered. However Paul simply does not give us the details, although it's likely his original readers would have known due to their personal association with him.
The thorn in the flesh was certainly a painful trial, whether physical or otherwise, and Paul deeply desired it to be removed. I personally believe it was physical, perhaps an eye problem.
Yet this word of assurance spoken directly from God to Paul has brought comfort to countless believers through the church age: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
I specifically recall the day before my father had his open-heart surgery in 1997 he had read the Word and felt that this particular passage spoke directly to him. We generally interpret "the thorn" as representative of "the trial." I consider the lack of specific identity by Paul regarding the nature of this thorn to be part of God's design. For our trials truly take on many forms and God's grace is sufficient to help us endure the pain-filled particulars that are not within our own ability to change!
Are you going through a trial today? Do you have a "thorn in the flesh?" Are you experiencing what seems like "unanswered prayer"? God's grace is absolutely sufficient to sustain you, while His Spirit is also at work teaching you endurance and faith as you go through the trial. Paul kept the faith and so can you. In fact you will be stronger as a result of the trial and God will be glorified through your faithful response to His testing. After all, faith that cannot be tested is faith that cannot be trusted.
As a result of God's direct word of assurance to Paul he had a change of perspective and responded, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
Can you repeat the words of Paul as you undergo trial today?
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, whether our trials are emotional, physical, spiritual, financial or relational we are absolutely dependent on You for everything that we have need of. When we rely on our own intellect, past experience or natural giftings we miss the opportunity to see Your will perfected in our lives as we work matters out in our own limited strength and faulty wisdom. You work in the supernatural realm while we are confined to the natural unless we welcome Your power to be manifested in our lives. Help us not to resent or be embarrassed by our weaknesses, but to invite Your Holy Spirit power to work through them, so that we can learn endurance, find strength, glorify You, and be an example to others undergoing trial. Amen.
As we were reading our message for the Podcast this stanza from an old hymn came to mind:
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
Note: Due to our schedule we were unable to post a message yesterday.
Today following chaplain visits we will travel up to the Poconos for a bike ride above White Haven this afternoon and tomorrow will ride the rail train up the Lehigh Gorge from Jim Thorpe as we did this Spring. See here for info.
We drove by the Strasburg Railroad where Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends are running all week. This photo shows Percy the Tank Engine whose lips moves as he speaks. As he passed us he was talking the entire time. Thomas leads the next train.
Stephen, out of uniform, with several of the JK Mechanical Sales team members at the SOLANCO Fair.
Driving over to our Amish friend's home near Strasburg we spotted Sam Smucker out mowing his company's lawn along Strasburg Pike. Sam started his family business 55 years ago and his sons and grandson now manage it. However at 87 years of age Sam continues to be productive as he helps with the maintenance.
Model of the Star Barn
Yesterday we had a meeting with the Convene Business Group at the Ironstone Ranch and heard plans concerning a huge project called "Barns Of Lancaster County". The main attraction will be "The Star Barn", an iconic barn built in 1872 that sits in disrepair along 283, the main highway from Lancaster to Harrisburg. The barn complex will be carefully dismantled, moved and re-assembled on the Ironstone Ranch near Elizabethtown, PA.
Our neighbor Doug took this photo of geese flying over our home.
Does this mean winter will soon be on the horizon? No, we still have the fall to enjoy!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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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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