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Friday, May 22, 2020

Sunset, Lancaster County, PA 5/21/20
Last night's dramatic sunset across from our home taken by Ester.

"It Only Takes A Spark"

Message summary: Our sparks may be relatively small, but we are part of a great worldwide team spreading sparks!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach othersĒ (2 Timothy 2:2).

Campfire singingAs young believers in the seventies we enjoyed gathering around a blazing campfire with others who shared our faith. Actually we still do but such opportunities are rare as we "mature" in our years. A musician would strum a guitar as we sang songs like "Kum ba yah" ("Come by Here"), "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", "I've Been Redeemed", "Give Me Oil in My Lamp" and other simple, repetitive tunes.

But most all who sat around the campfire would longingly wait for the musician to begin strumming a favorite of that time period, as we launched into the words of "Pass It On". It was a simple, campfire type song that called believers to share their faith. Surely there are some old-timers like us that recall the song although I haven't heard it sung in years. I can still hear the voice of Evie Tornquist who especially made this song popular:

It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing
That's how it is with God's love once you've experienced it
You spread His love to ev'ryone you want to pass it on

Today let us consider sparks. We know in a forest it only takes a spark to set a blazing, destructive fire. But the spark we write of today is positive and life-giving and we should be very intentional and prayerful that we might see this spark come ablaze in others we seek to influence.

Ravi ZachariasEarlier this week Ravi Zacharias, a long-time, strong contender for the faith, was called home to be with the Lord. The satirical site Babylon Bee, had a headline that was far closer to truth than satire, "Earth Deemed Unworthy Of Ravi Zacharias" (see below for link). Also see this verse: Hebrews 11:36-38

We have appreciated his ministry for many years; books, tapes, radio and hearing him speak live several times. Raised in India and converted to Christ during his teen years, Ravi likely had many sparks that attributed to his conversion but today let us consider just one, which has a local interest, for people from my area: Ravi shares from his testimony:

"As young teenagers, my sisters were invited to a Youth for Christ rally. I was not sure what it meant but joined them for the promise of refreshments. It was at one such rally that I first heard the gospel. The preacher was a man named Sam Wolgemuth. When the invitation was given, I walked forward. I didnít know what it meant, but I knew that I wanted what he had."

Sam Wolgemuth was raised here in Lancaster County at Mount Pleasant Church where we attended for many years and where we still have many friends. Early in our time at the church Sam's mother, Cecilia Wolgemuth, who lived past 100, was still living. I never met her but heard a number of stories about her and her family. Very earnest in her faith she never tossed out old Sunday School materials in the hopes that people left behind when Jesus returns might read the materials and turn to Christ.

Sam Wolgemuth She and her farmer husband Graybill raised one son, Samuel. Sam became a pastor and then went on to be one of the early leaders in the Youth for Christ ministry establishing the international outreach. He served as president of Youth For Christ from 1965-1973 during the time I was involved in YFC in a Kansas City Area High School and Brooksyne was also active in YFC in her high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Our daily text indicates that Timothy, upon hearing Paulís words, was to entrust his teaching to reliable men who would also be qualified to teach others. Thank God for the sparks of transmission since Paul gave Timothy this charge some 2000 years earlier. Thank God for the scores of faithful servants who have been a spark over the centuries and for those in our own generation. We have the same opportunity to be sparks as well!

Let us consider that final line in Ravi's testimony quoted above, "but I knew that I wanted what he had." Isn't that a great example of conveying faith!

Some of the sparks seem small and are little known such as Graybill and Cecilia Wolgemuth who served the Lord in relative obscurity in the context of a small country church, raising their son to serve the Lord. Of course there are long forgotten teachers and preachers in that church who had a role in Sam's development. Other sparks seem bigger, like Sam who was a leader in Youth For Christ and Ravi Zacharias.

But both types of sparks are of equal and vital importance. One of the greatest detriments to our service for Christ is the sense that what we do is little and thus not really very important. But ultimately the faith is spread one spark at a time. Of little importance is manís estimation; what really matters is that we remain faithful to our calling to share and to serve however and wherever He leads us.

I have been seeking to share the truths of the Gospel for over forty-five years now. Only a tiny, tiny fraction of the earth's population know who I am. My sparks are relatively small, but I'm part of a great worldwide team spreading sparks!

What joy wells up in my heart when I see those to whom Iíve entrusted these truths now passing them on to their generation. If youíre a believer, then youíre part of this chain. Some of you just started following the Truth and are the last link in the chain, but hopefully this will only be for a short time. As You grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus you also will want to heed Christís call to pass it on. Letís all be faithful!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, lay upon our hearts the unquenchable desire to pass on the spark of faith to others the important truths we received from reliable followers of Christ and from our own study of Your Holy Word. Help us not to relegate our duties to others, but take up our responsibility as we link together with other believers all over the globe transmitting Your timeless, life-changing truths to those who have ears to hear. Amen.

Brooksyne recalls: Years ago while serving as a chaplain at Turkey Hill Dairy I attended the funeral of an 80 year old woman, Ann Frey, who had a dynamic testimony for Christ. She was greatly loved by her family and the large number of friends who attended. She was known for her tremendous gift of hospitality.

Turkey HillThis family, the Freys, and though well-known here in Lancaster County, wouldn't likely be recognized out of this area. However they were the founders of the Turkey Hill Dairy and many of you have probably had Turkey Hill ice cream and teas! The trademark, "Imported from Lancaster County" is on each container which always sounds kind of funny when you are eating or drinking it in Lancaster County!

At the end of the service the pastor announced that a friend of the family would like to say some words in conclusion. Imagine my surprise when Ravi Zacharias, took the platform and shared from his heart.

He said that this dear woman and her husband were a remarkable blessing to him in his early years of ministry. They shared with him in an unpretentious and simple way words that he recalls profoundly encouraged him. It spurred him on in his calling to ministry.

He smiled as he told us of her very honest assessment of his ministry. She candidly told him, "Ravi, I really don't understand a lot of what you say, but you're very good at it so just keep on doing it." Obviously he listened and God has poured out His blessings and used Ravi throughout the world.

Stephen's note: Over ten years ago we met a senior couple who also have connections with Sam Wolgemuth, Jesse Dourte (now with the Lord) and his wife Wilma. Jesse's sister, Grace, was Sam's wife. In 2010 I drove them out to Chicago to attend her memorial service. Sam had already passed on at that time. It was a stirring service of a life well lived we shared here.

Another connection of interest to some is that their son, Robert, is married to Radio Bible teacher Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Dan Wolgemuth, another of Sam Wolgemuth's sons is the current president/CEO of Youth for Christ. He writes: "Ravi [had the] ability to take the truth and make it both accessible and, respectfully saying, palatable. In other words, he was not offensive in his delivery, even when he was confronting those who were staunch advocates of a different theology or perspective."

"He stands as a wonderful beacon to young people today who we are engaging with who want to see an example of someone who knew what they believed but wasn't so antagonistic in how they communicated it that it made the gospel unattractive."

Ravi was a Christian "apologist" a noun that can be confusing so I offer the following explanation:

ďApologetic" and "apology" are two similar sounding but entirely different words with two entirely different meanings.

1) systematic argumentative discourse in defense (as of a doctrine).
2) A branch of theology devoted to the defense of the divine origin and authority of Christianity.

1) A regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure: ďmy apologies for the delayĒ.
2) A formal, public statement of regret, such as one issued by a newspaper, government, or other organization.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Pass It On"  Video  Evie Tornquist  "Spark from the Past" 1976 Billy Graham Crusade in Seattle, WA with Evie Tornquist singing, as we remember her!

"Pass It On"  Video  Eternity

I've enjoyed reading some of the online tributes to Ravi;

From Tony Perkins: He was just 17 years old, a young, broken teenager living in Delhi when he tried to end his own life. But Ravi Zacharias didn't die. Not then. He woke up in a hospital, where someone handed him a book that would change his life -- and so many others': the Bible. "Thank God I was spared," he said later. But over a lifetime of evangelism that spanned every corner of the world, it is us who are thankful.

For the next 57 years, he dedicated his life to the Savior he found in that hospital room -- building a global ministry that he described as, "helping the thinker believe and the believer think." From 1984 on, after two decades of theological study and writing, he founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries -- brimming with Christian scholars and authors who set out to help people deal with the difficult questions of faith. Over time, the soft-spoken man with a great sense of humor and purpose would become, in many places, a household name.

To many people who knew Ravi's passion for answering people's questions about God, his last article on the RZIM website seemed fitting: "Just Thinking: At All Times." It was there that he could answer personally a question he had answered publicly -- about suffering, faith, and God's goodness.

After his sudden diagnosis in March, and an even grimmer prognosis in April, Ravi wanted people to know that even in the midst of cancer, "The Bible assures us that at all times God is with us. He is our comforter; He is our healer. He is our physician; He is our provider. He knows better than we doÖ God has an appointed time for all of us. His protection and security is ours 'til that moment comes when it's 'closing time.'"

Closing time for Ravi came early Tuesday morning, surrounded by his wife of almost 50 years and family. His daughter, Sarah, says that his tombstone will bear the verse that turned a hurting teenager into a man determined to help people find God -- John 14:19: "Because I live, you also will live."

Ravi came to the Lord, he wrote in his final days, "uncertain about his future." But he remains, as he hopes everyone is, "certain about my destiny." It is a destiny that, because of his life's work, many will share. #ThankYouRavi

Here's another one beginning with this quote from Ravi Zacharias: "The story of the Gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in Godís presence. I will never be 'no more'. I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me."

Finally today:

Ascension Day traffic, Lancaster County
We had forgotten it was Ascension Day yesterday until we saw some of the Amish businesses closed and heavy Amish traffic. They customarily get out on this day to visit with family and friends. Most of our readers will recognize Ascension Day to be the Christian celebration of Jesus rising into Heaven after He had spent 40 days on Earth after rising from the dead. Ascension Day is celebrated forty days after Easter Sunday on Ascension Thursday. This date is also ten days before the celebration of the Pentecost.

Sunset silhouette, Lancaster County, PA
Late yesterday evening we did a lot of work on our lawn and flower beds. Ester was taking a photo of the sunset when I unexpectedly walked into her view pushing a wheelbarrow. She decided to take the photo anyway and captured my image in this silhouette.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEģ, 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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