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Monday, December 21, 2015

Swans on Wenger pond 12/20/15
Swans on Wenger Pond
I passed this scene on the way to church yesterday

"You Follow"

Due to internet connection problems at time of preparation a podcast was not prepared today

Note: The Daily Scripture verse is placed within the message today.

Mount Pleasant Christmas choir 2015 (Click to enlarge)Last night our church choir presented their Christmas concert  "Breath Of Heaven" to our church congregation and many visitors. What a joy to have a packed church and parking challenges! The choir had thirty voices ranging in age from 8-80 and sure filled our country church with melodious music.

One of the songs in the musical is titled "You Follow" and has these thoughtful words regarding Mary and Joseph's resolve as they faced their arduous journey to Bethlehem. It has a challenge to all of us. We have the link to a video of the song in our resource section below

You follow with "Yes" and "Amen."
With a heart that surrenders, again and again.
It doesn't matter where He calls you to go,
You follow, you follow!

In Luke 2 we have what is likely the most read and familiar birth of Christ's account, particularly in family and church settings. The first three verses, which we may tend to gloss over set the scene:

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register" (Luke 2:1-3).

Caesar had decreed a census which required everyone to go to his home town to register. Luke shares an authenticating detail
(this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) There certainly have been many, many more since then including those during our lifetime. Josephus, a Jewish historian in his "Antiquities of the Jews" completed in or shortly after 93 A.D. states, "Archelaus's country was assigned to Syria for purposes of paying tribute, and Quirinius, a man of highest rank, was sent by Caesar to take a census of things in Syria and to make an account of Archelaus's estate."

For most this decree was probably seen as merely another nuisance requirement of government and a source of taxation. We all know about both of those don't we! Their lives were disrupted and I can imagine there was a lot of grumbling against Caesar.

Yet God providentially used this decree to place Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem at just the right time, where centuries before it was prophesied that the Christ was to be born (Micah 5:2).

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child" (Luke 2:4,5).

The journey for Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem was long (about 70 miles). They didn't have a modern car or an interstate highway. The journey was surely challenging. Had God revealed to them this detail? Do you suppose they questioned why or did they murmur some along the way? Whatever mode of transport they used, scripture does not specify, it was surely not an easy trip, particularly considering Mary's advanced pregnancy.

Yet since Mary and Joseph had both heard from God regarding His plan they were both likely at a point of humble submission. When Mary was first approached by the angel Gabriel concerning God's glorious plan for her life she responded, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38). After the angel had spoken to Joseph in a dream "he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him" (Matthew 1:24). This mysterious trip was part of His plan. An assurance of His plan is great to have as we face the inevitable challenges and bumps of life. The song continues specifically from Mary's perspective:

Some are called to Bethlehem
to face what others never face
To human eyes it makes no sense
You pray you have what it takes
'Cause when it's God you know you simply  have to trust
The place He's leading will be glorious
You follow with Yes! and Amen!
With a heart that surrenders again and again

It doesn't matter where he calls you to go
You follow, you follow!

I ponder this concerning my life today as I want to stay in the center of God's will. Perhaps you will as well. I also wonder what mysterious paths may lie ahead in 2016. Consider also how our lives might also be disrupted in ways we don't understand due to what the Lord is doing to accomplish His will in someone else's life.

Many of us, like Mary, have also committed our lives to the Lord as His servants and are confident of His leading. We have abundant promises concerning His steadfast love and care.

Yet His way can be uncomfortable, mysterious and at times may make no sense at all as we go through it. But God calls us to keep trusting and obeying, seeing His work in our life as a blessing, not a burden. At some unspecified time we will see the bigger picture and we can be absolutely assured that through God's providential leading it will come together for our good as it did for Joseph and Mary. After the birth of Christ and the visit from the shepherds as things returned to "normal" "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

Stay faithful today and have a blessed Christmas!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, broaden my faith and increase my understanding as You lead me from day to day.  In the midst of Mary and Joseph simply obeying the laws of their government You had a supernatural event unfold in their lives that would completely change history and completely change my life many centuries later.  Help me in the ordinary events of my life to respond with the submissive heart that Mary had. I declare that I am Your servant and I recognize that You can do anything, for all things are possible to those who believe.  Accomplish Your will in my life, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

In the course of studying for today's message it struck me that Syria mentioned in our Scripture passage is this day a place of great turmoil. I found this interesting note on the gotquestions.org website, in response to a question about current events in Syria. "It is true that, with every passing day, we draw closer to the Second Coming of Christ (James 5:8). And the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 has yet to be fulfilled: “A prophecy against Damascus: ‘See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.’” Damascus, the capital of Syria, has a longstanding reputation for being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. It has never been without citizens or totally destroyed. But Isaiah’s prophecy still stands; there is coming a day when Damascus will be nothing but a “heap of ruins.” The current war in Syria could indeed be one of the events leading up to the capital’s destruction." (see here)

Special Year-end appeal:

DonateWe want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. Our ministry labor is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive a fee (of course this percentage of time varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation to our ministry see here for more information or donate directly online through my chaplain account here. Thank you!

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Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Mount Pleasant Christmas choir 2015 (Click to enlarge)

"You Follow"  Video  Mount Pleasant Choir

"O Holy Night"  Video  Mount Pleasant Choir and Congregation
After the musical was over last night Stephen Meck, who had videographed the entire musical, handed my camera back to me as Brooksyne led the choir and congregation in "O Holy Night". The voices of the choir and congregation blended beautifully. I was sitting at the front and it didn't occur for me to record till the final verse that begins, "Truly He taught us to Love one another".

"You Follow"  Video from Brentwood Benson

"O Holy Night"  Video  David Phelps

Miguel at White Oak 12/18/15
We visit with Miguel at White Oak Display and have been following him on the purchase of his first home. Closing was Friday and here he is holding the house key he obtained an hour earlier at closing. He is also holding his company issued Christmas ham!

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"  Video  Outstanding presentation with background story and touching photos (Artist not identified), but appears to be produced by a local church. This would be a powerful video to use in a Christmas Eve service.

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year. This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.   This year we dedicate this to my Aunt Mary, who happens to me my last surviving aunt or Uncle on either side. Her husband, my Uncle Don, passed away early this year.

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down on this archived message)

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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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