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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Espenshade farm 7/17/17
Brooksyne thoroughly enjoys her evening walks in our neighborhood. The beauty of the Esbenshade soybean field captured her attention so she brought home this photo. With abundant rains so far this summer our farm fields are healthy and lush.
(Click on photo for larger view)

"The Original Identity Theft"

Message summary: Today we encourage you to turn fully to Christ and be ever vigilant against our deceptive enemy, the original identity thief.

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"The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'” (Genesis 3:13). "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

About ten years ago I pastored a church in the Harrisburg area on an interim basis. We had a colorful senior nick-named "Red" in the church. During the Second World War Red served in the Navy in the Pacific while still a teenager. His aircraft carrier (the Hornet CV8) was sunk by Japanese kamikaze pilots in 1942.  Incredibly, he, along with three other men, clung to a log for seventeen days before finally being rescued.

In his late twenties Red accepted the Lord as His Savior. He later experienced heartache when his first wife died leaving him a teenage son to raise. Sometime later he met Elsie, a Christian woman, while he was driving her tour bus. After a time of courtship he and Elsie married and while I was their pastor they had been married for over thirty years. As a side note, after his military service, Red drove a tour bus for 55 years without a single accident.

Identity theft!

One Saturday morning I joined several of the men for breakfast, including Red, and we had the above photo taken. Of course it didn't really look like this as I had some fun with the photo by making everyone look like Red! (This was at a  time when I enjoyed puttering around with Photoshop.) Can you identify which one in the photo is the "real" Red?

We know people who've had her identity stolen. Identity theft has soared to one of the top modern crimes. Years ago a humorous commercial that ran on TV was a company that claimed to provide protection from identity theft. The ads show the actual person whose identity was stolen speaking in the voice of the thief declaring the real truth of how they would spend the stolen money. It was a humorous ad but the experience of having your identity stolen is not humorous at all.

Identity theft
Identity theft is a growing form of crime that primarily involves stealing vital information about another person and using that information to get credit cards and other forms of financial theft. But at times this information is also used by criminals in the commission of other crimes, so that the evidence trail leads back to the person whose identity had been stolen. And now there's also medical identity theft!

Being a victim of identity theft is a very grievous experience. It's not only time–consuming and expensive to resolve, but emotionally difficult as you seek to verify that you really are who you know you really are! It can damage a good reputation. Sin continues to abound in this fallen world, taking on new forms and depths of depravity. New technology is often at the forefront of facilitating ever newer forms of temptation and sin.

But there's an ancient form of identity theft that we, as Christ's followers, need to be on constant guard against.

From the very beginning Satan has used identity theft and disguise as a means of deception, as in the garden he disguised himself as a serpent. Today's first Scripture recounts Eve's response following the fall, "The serpent deceived me." To her credit she recognized spiritual deception albeit after the fact. Satan, through the serpent, had presented himself as providing a better way than God which remains his primary strategy many millenniums later and, by the scores, Eve's descendants are still falling for it, although he no longer deceives through the serpent.

Jesus, in His most lengthy teaching on Satan said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

Today's third Scripture forthrightly states, "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." Satan is the original identity thief. He seeks to steal the identity of an angel of light and then present himself as good. The word translated "disguises" is very interesting.  Other translations use the words "transform" or "masquerade" to translate the Greek word "metaschēmatizō", which means "to change in fashion or appearance."

A great line in the hymn "A Mighty Fortress" expresses it this way:

But still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe,
His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.

Thank God for the balance of the great old hymn which reminds us of God's provision to overcome our enemy, the original identity thief, through the infinitely greater power of Jesus Christ.  Today we encourage you to turn fully to Christ and be ever vigilant against our deceptive enemy, the original identity thief.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we look to You and depend on Your Word to teach us spiritual discernment so that we can readily identify Satan when he regularly appears in disguise. Thank You for Your indwelling Holy Spirit that bears witness with ours when we test the spirits to see that which is from You and that which is from the enemy.  When we're uncertain surround us with godly counsel and reveal to us Your truths as we prayerfully look to You for daily guidance.  Amen.

Sunset 7/18/17
Last night's sunset with the red rubber ball seemingly resting atop the cornfield. Yesterday we based our message on the predictability of each sunrise and sunset as evidence of the Creator God's design and faithfulness. Tommy Carpenter, a friend from Arkansas, who just may be the most inspirational Facebook poster we know, read our message and shared an interesting perspective from Jeremiah 33:20-26. It refers to a promise God made with a covenant for the day and a covenant for the night, so that day and night will be at their appointed time, as a sign of His great faithfulness.

Flowers 7/17/17
Lovely intermingling of black-eyed susan with crepe myrtle blooms.

Tomato plants 7/19/17
This year we removed a larger garden we had used since we moved here in 2002 and made a small raised garden behind our utility barn. We had lots of composted material and our tomato plants are growing so tall, although we still aren't harvesting ripe tomatoes! These plants are now over 7 feet tall making it difficult to stake them effectively.

Soybean field 7/19/17
Another soybean field, two houses to the north of us, in a photo Brooksyne took on her early morning walk. Such awe and beauty lies in the varying shades of green amidst the clear blue sky.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Here's a daily encouragement we wrote many years ago about Red. He passed away several years back but we believe his wife Elsie is still living. Elsie went to Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri near the time my cousin, Dub, also attended.

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"  Video  Large men's conference

"O The Blood"  Video  Triumphant Quartet

For local readers: This coming Sunday evening, July 23, The Triumphant Quartet will be in Lebanon, PA for the Music In The Park summer concert series. See here for info. This is a free concert although a free-will offering is received.  Note: The last several days we had mistakenly posted this date as the 25th which is a Tuesday, probably because that is the day we plan to take our Amish "grandchildren" to Knoebels Park! Thanks to several alert readers who called this to our attention.

Finally today:
New Cumberland men's group at breakfast 2007
Here's the original photo of the men at the men's breakfast mentioned in today's message with Red in front and left center. The guys sure had fun with the doctored photo I took to church the following Sunday.

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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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