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Monday, March 20, 2017

Lebanon County farmhouse 3/19/17 (Click to enlarge)
Yesterday we passed this stately farmhouse in Lebanon County, PA. So many farm houses sit alongside streams in our area which provides a necessity but serves also as a very natural recreation for children to explore streams and fish. Walking through a stream or just sitting on the bank with your feet in the water, listening to the running water, can be so relaxing for both children and adults.
"He leadeth beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
(Click on photo for larger view)

"We Have Everything We Need"

Message summary: Let us live with the assurance today that God is working.  If we believe that with all our hearts then we are trusting and we can also declare, "We have everything we need."

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"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:11,12). "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

Voice of the Martyrs
As we expected there were many memorable take aways from the Voice Of The Martyrs conference we attended on Saturday in Hershey. ("The Voice of the Martyrs" (VOM) mission is "serving persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and leading other members of the Body of Christ into fellowship with them.")

The conference had four main speakers. Two speakers from India and China who had experienced or witnessed persecution; Gracia Burnham who, along with her husband
Martin were abducted by Islamic terrorists for over a year (Gracia was injured and Martin was murdered); and VOM staff member Todd Nettleton. Each presentation captured our attention and highlighted places in the world where so many of our fellow believers live but we rarely give much thought to their hardships and sufferings. We want to share one of the stories that touched our hearts, a gripping story that Todd shared.

He was visiting a camp for displaced peoples in northern Iraq who had fled from ISIS. The screen showed a photo of an Iraqi family that had converted from Islam to Christianity; a husband, wife and five very young children including a baby. The photo was taken in front of a community tent where they sleep along with other refugees.

Iraqi refugee camp
Todd walked around the camp and saw how little the family had to eat, the lack of supplies for the children, the very harsh conditions of their living quarters. His heart was heavy as he took it all in so he asked the father in earnest, "How can we help you? What would you like us to ask others to pray about?" The man thought for a moment, shook his head and said, "We have everything we need". (Photo on left is representative but not the actual photo of the family we write about.)

We've been thinking a lot about that. What an amazing perspective. Conditions we would find unbearable were deemed sufficient for this grateful dad. I wonder how comfortable the tent was, shared with so many. Did they each have a bed and separate bedrooms? How tasty were their meals? I wonder if they had cable access to their television or internet for their smart phones and computers, or whatever else we deem necessary for daily life and feel we just have to have. (Of course I say this in thoughtful jest.)

But the father told Todd, "We have everything we need." I want to remember that the next time I complain either outwardly or inwardly about something petty (probably today).

This young Iraqi believer likely has little to no formal training in Bible and theology but he really gets it. He was expressing and experiencing what the apostle Paul wrote, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need.... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:11,12).

Joe Guglielmo observed, "Some one hundred years ago it was determined that the average American had about 70 wants, things he desired to have. A similar survey was taken of his grandson and he had nearly 500 wants on his list and today, I’m sure that number is even higher. Why? Because people are not content in what they have!"

Harry Ironside
Contentment is never the result of multiplying riches, increas­ing pleasures, or gaining fame. All these only incite discontent, for when one obtains them, he finds he still is not satisfied. Con­tentment does not depend upon things on the outside, but results from attitudes within one's heart and mind!

Bible teacher Harry A. Ironside comments on this verse, "CHRIST is enough to satisfy the hearts of all who confide in Him and who leave everything in His hands. Such need never be cast down by seeming misfortunes. A Christian asked another how he was getting along. Dolefully his friend replied, "Oh, fairly well, under the circumstances." "I am sorry," exclaimed the other, "that you are under the circumstances. The LORD would have us living above all circumstances, where He Himself can satisfy our hearts and meet our every need for time and eternity."

Romans 8:32
Finally today let us consider a great verse from Romans. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" God "did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all." This alone should prompt our deepest eternal gratitude. If this was all God did for us it would be far more than enough and infinitely more than we deserve.

But the apostle Paul goes on to declare, "How will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" The clearly expected answer to this rhetorical question is, He will! He will fulfill His eternal purpose for our lives and that which brings Him glory.  Peter puts it this way, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3).

Let us live with the assurance today that God is working.  If we believe that with all our hearts then we are trusting and we can also declare like that Iraqi father,
"We have everything we need."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us to look beyond material provisions and recognize that the value of spiritual blessings far exceed our temporal needs and pleasures. May our heart’s cry be the same as that of the Apostle Paul who declared, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Physical suffering and persecution, for the sake of Christ, will prove our faith to be genuine and will gain for us a crown of life. Suffering and persecution here on earth is temporal, but a crown of life is eternal!  Help us to live not just for the here and now, but set our affections on that which lasts forever so that we stay the course! May our faith in You increase as we build treasures in heaven rather than chasing after fool’s gold here on earth. And may our resolve to stand firm intensify as we see the day of Your return approaching. Be with our brothers and sisters held in captivity and those who are being persecuted daily. We pray for the safety and release of our Malaysian brother, Pastor Raymond, in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

In Friday's message we shared about persecution. A longtime friend from our years of pastoral service in Massachusetts was raised in Malaysia and shared the following message:

Pastor Weber and Brooksyne,

I want to thank you for writing about standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters. The reality of "counting the cost" has hit very close to home recently for me because a Malaysian pastor friend was abducted on February 13 in broad daylight by masked men in what appeared like a professional operation. Till today, we do not know Pastor Raymond's whereabouts or if he is even still on this side of heaven. The Malaysian authorities have not made much progress in this case after over a month even though the abduction was captured by CCTV.

It still gives me a sick feeling inside to recall the string of text messages I received from Raymond's wife telling me that Raymond had been kidnapped. "How am I going to tell my daughters?" was something she said that still haunts me. Prior to this, I'd read accounts of persecution, even heard from people who had been persecuted at a VOM conference, but I was still unprepared for the emotional impact Raymond's situation is having on me. I and others in the U.S. who know Raymond and his family have been praying daily since his abduction.

Malaysian persecution and Pastor Raymond's story is here.

Rich Bushong 3/19/17
Rich Bushong saw me at the conference and walked over to greet me. I first met him over 15 years ago when I served as a chaplain for the company he still works for. We are blessed by the many fellow believers we meet in the course of our work who encourage us. Although I only visited his company for a year or two we stay connected through Daily Encouragement and of course it's heartening to see his steadfastness as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

Brooksyne with Amy Shreve VOM conference 3/18/17
Brooksyne with singer 3/18/17Amy Shreve and her husband, Gary, in the background, were the worship leaders from Marquette, Michigan at the VOM conference. They had driven about 1000 miles, even through the night, and upon arrival Gary began having a rapid heart rate of 170 BPM. Even in his distress he played guitar for the first two songs, but then had to be taken by ambulance to the Hershey Medical Center just over 2 miles away. When Matt, the VOM director, announced that Gary was headed to the ER via ambulance, Stephen whispered to me, "You should offer to take Amy since you're already planning to make a visit there." (I had planned to spend the lunch hour visiting a patient who recently had a stroke.) So I ended up taking Amy to meet up with her husband in the ER. It was such a different perspective since I have escorted Ester to the ER at HMC probably 10 to 15 times over the years when her heart rate soars to 222 BPM. It was a blessing to be able to reassure Amy that Gary was getting good care as we always have over the past 16 years. Before the conference was over Gary was back in the afternoon playing guitar as Amy led in worship while playing her harp. And this photo is taken afterwards at their CD table.

Jesse and Wilma Dourte 3/19/17
Our friends, Jesse and Wilma, joined us for the conference. Both in their nineties they carry a burden for the persecuted church and were so pleased to attend the VOM conference. Following the service we stopped by a Red Robin for dinner. While being seated I mentioned to the hostess that the Dourtes would soon celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. She told our server and the general manager also heard about it and sent word that they could choose a dessert from the menu "on the house"! (I made a note to take them back for their 80th and maybe they'll get the same offer, or maybe their entire meal "on the house".)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

We recommend our readers examine resources available through "The Voice of The Martyrs" and continue to carry a burden for the persecuted church.

Their main website (appropriately named https://www.persecution.com/ )

You can get an app that updates with a daily prayer focus. Yesterday it was Malaysia, today is the Philippines (Mindanao). We like the fact that a photo from that part of the world is included.

Their YouTube channel has many informative videos.

The following songs feature Amy Shreve, the musician at the conference, that we think you will enjoy:

"Be Still My Soul"  Video  
Amy Shreve

"Faraway"  Video  Amy Shreve  I really like this song that Amy wrote. It reminds me of the terrible storm written about in Acts 27 & 28 we wrote about recently. But it especially speaks to believers in this life:  "I have sailed these seas, I have held to my course, I've been whipped by the winds and the gales of the North........I can hear His call as the waves crash and fall to the land I love so faraway."

"This Is Our God"  Video  Amy Shreve

For further study on today's text:  (Philippians 4:11-13)

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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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