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Monday, September 21, 2020

Small stand on Strasburg Pike
Friday morning we passed this small stand on Strasburg Pike here in Lancaster County.

"Whatever Happens"

Message summary: Let us stay faithful and continually seek to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, whatever happens.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27).

Last week Eric, a friend of ours, went home to be with the Lord after a yearlong cancer ordeal. We visited many times with Eric over the past thirteen years in the course of our chaplaincy ministry. He was very active in the church we attend and sang in the choir for many years until his illness last year.

Eric was a husband to Marty and father of three growing children, when he was first confronted with the diagnosis of cancer. An avid reader, he studied up and waited to see if surgery would be an option or if he would undergo the typical chemo/radiation treatment. But above all, Eric told our choir director and many others, "I want to glorify God no matter the outcome, I want to glorify God in life or in death." And he did just that to the very end of life on this side of eternity.

None of us knows what will happen tomorrow or even today for that matter, whether in our own lives and family, or on the national and international stage. Consider what a normal day September 11, 2001 was when we awakened early that morning. It was beautiful here on the east coast, but in a matter of minutes that all changed for everyone of us.

As hymn writer Ira Stanphill wrote,

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray.

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." I memorized this verse as a young Christian some 40 years ago.  I suggest applying the verse in the first person, "Whatever happens, I will conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." In personal application I see it as a challenge to resolve in my heart that I will stay faithful to Christ, seeking to conduct my life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, whatever happens.

Today let us especially consider the phrase, "Whatever happens...". I have always considered the “whatever” to mean whatever happens to me (Stephen Weber or any reader of the passage.) That is, whether I am having a good day or a bad day, whether things are going well or I’m going down a rough road; whatever happens to me I am to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Now this is certainly a valid outlook in life and I will continue to see the passage this way, yet as I consider the contextual interpretation, I consider another intention that Paul likely meant.

Just prior to this verse Paul had written concerning his own realization that he would continue to live for Christ or he might die for Him (martyrdom). When Paul originally wrote this passage I believe he was instructing the Christians at Philippi, "Whatever happens to me (Paul) you are to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."

He goes on to write, "Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence..." Now, what really intrigues me is that Paul had every intention of seeing the Philippian believers if it was God’s will that he remains alive.

However it was also his firm expectation, should this not be the case, that I will "only hear about you in my absence."  The "absence" in this context would be his departure to be with the Lord (his death). This is similar to his statement in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

He is confident that if that were the case (his being with the Lord) he would still hear the good report that the Philippians were "standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you".

Our service for the Lord Jesus Christ has eternal consequences. When we, in our divinely appointed time, are absent from the body and at home with the Lord, we will see the ongoing results of our ministry, just like Paul. Let us stay faithful
and continually conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, whatever happens.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man
Daily prayer: Father, no matter what deadly illness may destroy the flesh, it cannot rob our soul of inner peace and the uncompromising determination to “stand firm unto the end.” Jesus prayed in the garden, "Not my will but Thine be done" which was a matter of life or death regarding his flesh. It is our resolve to follow You faithfully, whatever happens, to choose to glorify You no matter the circumstances we endure while seeking to bring as many as possible into the kingdom of God. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Further musing on today's topic: Hebrews 12 refers to "the great cloud of witnesses"; that is those who served God in previous generations, ancient and I also believe recent. As they witness our lives do they observe us "standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you"?

Bill BrightBill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, had a significant influence in my life since I received much of my early Christian discipling through this ministry. He had pulmonary fibrosis, a very painful, degenerative disease of the lungs. The air sacs and tissues in the lungs swell, scars form, and the tissue become thick and stiff. This affects how much oxygen you get and makes it hard to breathe. I have heard it described as similar to slowly drowning.

In an interview toward the end of his earthly life he offers this perspective, "The most important moment in anyone's life as a believer is the last breath because the next breath is in heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. A Christian can't lose, if we live, we go on serving Him. That's an adventure. If we die, we're in heaven with Him, and that's incredible."

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Yes, I Will"  Video  Vertical Worship  Brooksyne's Note: Yesterday we sang this song that speaks of glorifying God on the highest mountain or in the lowest valley. The words of this song prompted me to pray for Marty (Eric's widowed wife) and the three children even as we were singing since it especially reflected their resolve to glorify God no matter what. Only later in the service did I realize they were actually sitting on the opposite end of our pew when Pastor Beau compassionately recognized the family publicly and expressed condolences. I'm sure they were moved by the song right there in person, not just through intercessory prayer being lifted up for them.
"He Will Hold Me Fast"  Video   Sovereign Grace Music This is an old hymn that has been revived and many, like us, are finding it very reassuring during this age. See here. "The Story Behind the Song"  Video

"I Know Who Holds Tomorrow"   Video  Larry Ford Ira Stanphill for a short time pastored here in Lancaster County.

"Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me"  Video  CityAlight  We have enjoyed this song through the pandemic and were so pleased to see it introduced in our church service yesterday. We are working on a message based upon the recurring line "To This I Hold" which we hope to share tomorrow.

CityAlight has its roots centered around their church in Sydney, Australia. Fifteen parishioners and also songwriters, wrote fifty songs in 2014, all of which contained a focus on Scripturally sound lyrics with simple music as its backdrop. Only ten passed the rigorous test of pastors, musicians, and lyricists who reviewed their songs. See here.

Coming up this Saturday for those who may be interested: We are joining a group from our area going down to Washington DC on Saturday, September 26 for a prayer march called, "The Return, National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance". See here for info. America is in deep trouble so let’s call on God’s power and a movement of the Holy Spirit to bring repentance and revival to our land! You can do this wherever you live.

Amish boys on Kraybill Church Road
Two young Amish boys here on Kraybill Church Road hauling what looks like corn on a small hand-pulled wagon.

Lebanon County tractor
Lebanon County tractor

Lebanon County pumpkins and gourds
Rural roads abound with stands selling produce and autumn decor items such as these pumpkins and gourds in Lebanon County. Make your choice: eat or decorate with them or as we do every fall, so both!

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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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