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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lancaster farm stand 1/18/17
Lancaster County Farmstand
Though it's winter Brooksyne purchased some brussel sprouts and squash at this produce stand yesterday in rural Lancaster County.

"Jesus Cares For Me"

Note: Today's intro background is a bit long. If you must, the heart of the message begins at the image of the I Peter 5:7 plaque.

Message summary: What a tremendous blessing and relief that our Lord really cares!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

Jesus cares for me
It seems too good to be
All my worries and doubts released
Jesus cares for me

What would a church service look like during the New Testament age? Certainly, all who have a commitment to Scripture should want want to be like the New Testament church. That was our desire
in 1977 when, newly married and fresh out of Bible College, we planted a church in Northern Pennsylvania.

A few years ago we saw a church near York, Pennsylvania with this message below the name of their church, "Worship - the way God Intended", which struck us as having a whole lot of chutzpah. It seemed to us they were implying that other churches and forms of worship were not as God intended, but theirs was!

Several times we have attended a church with our neighbor which has a simple form of worship very purposefully seeking to maintain a pattern of worship established by their forefathers. We've also attended Amish church services, held in Amish homes, which also seeks to maintain a pattern from the past. However the service is in German, which certainly would not have been the original language used in the early church!

We can be sure that the usual features in many modern churches would not have been in the NT church. No PowerPoint or even an overhead projector! No blue nightclub lights or fog machines. No printed materials unless they were hand copied.

But three features still practiced in virtually all churches would likely have been part of the NT church: singing songs expressing our faith and worship to God, prayers were uplifted to God, and there was the preaching of the Word. Who knows though, they probably had announcements! It's hard to imagine a gathering in any age without potluck dinners including the New Testament church where Luke writes in Acts 2, "They ate together with glad and sincere hearts."

Even at that time the actual style, whether singing, praying or preaching, probably varied somewhat by region and from one generation to the next. Since Jubal, the father of music mentioned early on in Genesis, there has always been contemporary music since musicians write a style of music that reflects their time period. It might surprise those in our age who think contemporary music is unique to our times. Songs we now consider old were once brand new!

Anyway let's try to reconstruct a NT service of a group of churches in present day Turkey identified by "God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia..." (1 Peter 1:1,2).
"Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" were regions rather than cities so this was likely written to a group of local churches separated by many miles.

They were undergoing persecution like many today, especially in that region and the entire Middle East. The esteemed apostle Peter wrote them a letter which was circulated and read verbally to individual congregations.

Wouldn't it have been interesting to be present in one of those services? They likely sang, prayed and an elder or church leader preached a message from the Word. Then the room grew especially quiet as a letter from Peter was read. People in that age surely had a lot better attention span and didn't have many of the distractions we have today. But they came to church with many of the same burdens that people bear in every generation; medical problems, financial challenges, marriage and family strife, loss of loved ones, people tempted to return to the world's patterns and struggling with sin, etc, etc.

Read 1 Peter in their shoes. Some of it that seems rather academic to us was quite personal to them. According to this nifty site it takes just 16 minutes to read 1 Peter in English presumably similar to the original so it really wasn't a long message. Not having nearly as many distractions as we have their attention was fixed on the elder reading the letter. (I would expect that older siblings might have taken the noisiest children out so the messenger could be heard.) I think when he got to this line it must have deeply touched the people. "πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρίψαντες ἐπ' αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν." That's the actual Greek text the NT was written in. Thank the Lord for translators so that we can understand Peter's message: "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

1 Peter 5:7
Consider the blessing of being cared for today. Think of people you know who care about you, who would be deeply distressed if anything adverse were to happen to you. Having family and friends like this is a blessing often taken for granted.

Yet sadly there are many who wonder if anyone does indeed care. In our work we meet those who are alone. And even being around other people does not always keep one from being lonely. Broken relationships abound, children that do not have the love and support from their parents, or vice versa, and of course marital breakups.

He came from a successful "professional" family but went a different route and has made some serious mistakes, some bad choices, and deliberate sins along the way. He was implicated in an accident involving a death. He was despondent and guilt-ridden. He returned home but was rejected.  It seems he really could say from his human experience those terrible two words, "Nobody cares". But a caring Christian family took him in and expressed God's care for him. It's wonderful to observe a part of the body of Christ acting this way.

Today we are so happy to report that God provides a constant source of care. Rejoice in the simple statement of truth in the latter part of the daily text. "He cares for you". These are powerful words. You can personalize this statement on the veracity of God's reassuring words, "He cares for me"

Today, right now, God cares for you. He knows when our heart is pained, when burdens press and cares distress. He knows when our day is weary and our long nights dreary. He knows the sources of anxiety we are dealing with. That's why we are to cast our anxiety on Him. When it seems no one else wants to help carry our load we are invited, or even implored, to cast our burdens upon our Lord!

What a tremendous blessing and relief that our Lord really cares!

O yes, He cares; I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, though we feel at times no one cares about our needs or even notices that we are in need, we are assured that You take notice and do care for us. We are invited to pour out the contents of our heart to You. We are not silenced because You're too busy, preoccupied with other matters, unable to meet our need, nor are you weary of hearing from us. Your heart is touched by our grief, perplexities, weaknesses and loneliness. We thank You that we can cast our cares upon You because You really do care for us. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:17
Good's Stores are several department type stores here in Lancaster County run by old order Mennonites, giving them a special feel. One of the uplifting sights we saw at Good's yesterday at the back and front entrance is the above Scripture posted on a white board. I wonder if employees take turns posting a new verse each week, using their own creativity in their writing and artistic style, since there is much variety in the way the verses appear from week to week. (Notice: "old things are passed away" gets much smaller since our old life has passed away and NEW is large and capitalized since that's the way we are to live in our new creation in Christ.)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Jesus Cares For Me"  Video  Bart Millard

"Just Be Held"  Video   Casting Crowns

"Does Jesus Care?"  Video  Homecoming Singers

"Cares Chorus"  Video  Kelly Willard

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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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