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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Blue Mountain pond and farm scene
A tranquil setting with an overcast sky near Blue Mountain in southern Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
Click on photo to enlarge

"The Mystery Of Divine Providence"

Note: A message like this may seem rather academic when we are in the midst of a trial personally or following the events in Ukraine considering the great suffering of the people. But in a commitment to expound on the whole counsel of God (see Acts 20:27) we feel today's message is a needed truth to consider.

Message summary: The mystery of providence describes those situations when life just doesn't make sense. Have you ever experienced the mystery of providence?

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"'Do you refuse to speak to me?' Pilate said. 'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?' Jesus answered, 'You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above'" (John 19:10,11).

The internet and modern technology makes it possible to follow world events in real time, instantaneously; some events are even streamed live. Social media can give us a very personal sense of the real-time suffering of individuals as we are seeing in Ukraine.

As I muse upon recent events and pray for the Ukrainian people, I also seek to understand the reason for it all. Events like this are certainly under "the mystery of providence".

"Providence" is the doctrine of God's power in sustaining and guiding human destiny. The gotquestions.com teaching site explains,

"Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8). This doctrine stands in direct contrast to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate."

The mystery of providence describes those situations when life just doesn't make sense. We wonder - if God is in control, and He most certainly is, why did this happen??? This is true in areas impacting all of us such as being in just the precise place and time to be involved in a deadly car accident or to have missed it by only a few seconds. I recall the testimony of a man who lost his entire family in a flash flood while driving on an interstate in Kansas. Knowing God could have prevented this from happening, yet allowing it, is a great mystery of providence. Many of you can consider situations like this in your own lives. We sure can.

This is an ancient issue of faith experienced by people in the Bible. It is particularly difficult when it's due to power hungry, evil men. Imagine the faith struggle the mothers of the slain infant boys wrestled with due to Herod's evil power play at the time of Christ's birth. Later, consider the grieving family and friends of John the Baptist whom Herod had brutally killed (beheaded). In the early church why was James killed (again by an evil Herod) but Peter was freed from captivity? These are things we just don't understand.

Of course I've wondered many times about the kind of impact my namesake Stephen would have had if he hadn't been stoned shortly after his ministry started. His sermon (Acts 6,7) demonstrates his outstanding grasp of biblical literacy pointing us to the sovereign, abundant grace of God toward rebellious sinners, and also to the danger of hardening our hearts against God’s grace. But in the mysterious providence of God this was his final sermon. Only God knows those whose lives were changed because of it.

Pilate is representative of the power that many leaders mistakenly assume they have. Consider Vladimir Putin in our own time and many, many others all through history and in our present time. I believe the phrase "drunk on power" fits well with these type of leaders. Power must coincide with humility or there is great risk for abuse.

Pilate was ultimately a little pip-squeak who really thought he was something. He thought he was in charge. The only reason we even know his name is his association with Jesus Christ. Apart from that he would have joined the thousands of once "powerful" rulers who have passed into obscurity.

His arrogant statement in our daily text, "'Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" was to the One who said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

Our great Savior boldly reminded Pilate who was in charge. "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above". Jesus knew His Father was in absolute control and any "power" that Pilate had was ultimately under His Father's subjection.

In Acts 4 the disciples are facing persecution and offer a wonderful prayer with a stunning truth: "Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen" (Acts 4:27,28). 

Does verse 28 capture your attention? The disciples recognized that God was the ultimate source of blessing, authority and power, even when facing perplexing, troubling, and potentially deadly circumstances. We too should recognize that God at times uses undesirable, painful and even unimaginable circumstances, often by the very people who seek to do us harm in carrying out His overall plan in our lives. And that is a tremendous key to finding peace and living the abundant life. Remember, no power or force on earth exceeds the almighty power of the One who said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth".
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your divine providence governs us with wisdom, love, and faithfulness as You are the Master Steward over all things in the universe. You are in complete control of all things and sovereign over all that You created including us, Your redeemed children. You are the risen and reigning King and nothing is outside Your sovereign will. If Your divine will is met with resistance, You allow it for Your purpose, and when it affects us adversely we must overcome the circumstances for Your glory and for our good. Help us to do so by Your sovereign grace we pray. It is not a giving up attitude, but rather we express our desires, but ultimately submit, "Thy will be done" which is also our heartfelt prayer for our brothers and sisters of the Ukraine as they seek protection and freedom from a brutal invading dictator. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: In writing today's prayer "when it affects us adversely we must overcome the circumstances for Your glory and for our good" I had in mind a woman who was interviewed after finally being released from a concentration camp after WW2. She was asked how she could ever forgive the guards who daily abused her and nearly took her life. She responded (to the effect) I have turned any attitude of resentment or unforgiveness into thanksgiving to God for all the fruit He produced in my life as a result of being in the concentration camp. Her amazing response has never left my mind and has often prompted me to forgive others when I consider their offense is minuscule in comparison to what this godly woman had to forgive of her offenders.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Sovereign Over Us"  Video  Worship Initiative

"Blessings"  Video   Laura Story

"God Is For Us"  Video   CityAlight

Today we share more photos from southern Schuylkill County on the the north side of Blue Mountain.

Red barn in southern Schuylkill County
A well-utilized red barn in southern Schuylkill County with the unusual sight of a waving U.S. flag from the top of a flag pole mounted right in the barn yard. This barn photo is over the Blue Mountain Ridge in the ridge and valley province region of Pennsylvania. The Appalachian Trail runs along the Blue Mountain Ridge.
Click on photo to enlarge

Zimmerman Covered Bridge in southern Schuylkill County
Zimmerman Covered Bridge  Living in the house visible through the covered bridge gives the homeowner's a real advantage when giving people directions to their home.
Click on photo to enlarge

Rock Covered Bridge in southern Schuylkill County
The Rock Covered Bridge is few miles upstream from the Zimmerman Covered Bridge on Lower Swatara Creek. It has a handicap accessible fishing platform beside it (seen to the right). As best I can determine these are the last two covered bridges in Schuylkill County. This county has two major geographical regions. The southern valley is very agricultural and is similar to the Penn Dutch region we live in. Over a mountain ridge is the anthracite coal region which is very different.
Click on photo to enlarge

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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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