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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hummingbird feeding
(Photo by Doris High)

"How Much More"

Message summary: Praise God for Jesus' comparative illustration that gives us boundless hope for those requests dear to our hearts as we go to Him in earnest prayer. The most important gift our Father could ever give to us is the Holy Spirit, whom He promised to give all believers after His death, resurrection and His return to heaven as mentioned in John 15:26. Our Father ever loves and cares for His own.

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"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:11-13). "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!" (Romans 5:10).

BreakfastThis morning Brooksyne went up to our neighbors to gather the eggs laid overnight and afterwards prepared the freshest egg breakfast we can possibly have (unless you somehow manage to catch the egg as it's laid!). We have several neighbors on our rural road who raise chickens for fresh eggs and Marvin, our neighbor across the road even has a rooster, which offers us an authentic old-time country sound in the early morning.

Lancaster County, in spite of being a metro area of over 550,000 people and far from the customary heartland of agriculture in the Midwest, is one of the most prolific agricultural producers in the country. Shortly after we moved here Noah Kreider (now deceased), who ran a large egg producing company (Kreider Farms), told me that farms in Lancaster County produce 3 billion eggs a year. That's 89 eggs every second! And many more have been added the last 20 years that we have lived here. A recent article in our local paper reported that Lancaster County farms together house more than 20 million birds (egg layers and meat birds).

We have a lot of associations with egg producers including our friend long-time Galen and his son Daryl who operate a large chicken house along with their able farm hand, Ken. For many years we served as chaplains at the Val-Co company, one of the world's largest manufacturers of poultry equipment. Then there's Jesse and Anna, our Amish friends on the Old Windmill Farm who have supplied us with brown eggs following a visit on their farm!

Fish and eggs have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years and in today's passage Jesus is illustrating the loving care of the heavenly Father by using an earthly father's nurturing concern in providing for the physical needs of his children.

Scorpion sticksMost of us consider scorpions and snakes practically inedible and that seemed to be the sentiment at the time Jesus taught upon this earth. Scorpions and snakes were used in this teaching in the sense as to what a father would not give to his children. However in some culture snakes and scorpions are dietary delicacy such as the scorpion sticks!

Both of us recall eating eggs and fish growing up and all through life. In my home growing up "fish" was "fish sticks" which I recall was a real treat at the time. Apart from frying up some fish we caught I don't think we ever had "real" seafood till I was an adult. On the other hand Brooksyne's uncles caught a lot of bass and would pass it onto their family. They enjoyed it often, though Brooksyne has memories of spitting out bones in between bites since her mom didn't bother to filet the fish.

But our moms never cooked up a dish of scorpions or snakes!

Our Lord's illustration presumes the caring relationship He has ordained that parents should have for their children. The statement, "If you then, though you are evil", intrigues me. I understand this to be in a comparative sense as Jesus shows us the caring heart of His Father. He contrasts our sinful and prone to evil human nature with our holy and perfect God. We never have to question God's motives when He is at work on our behalf, though it may take time (hindsight) and an earnest study of the Scriptures to understand His ways in some situations.

It grieves our hearts when we consider how many in our world do not have caring earthly parents. This is especially evident with absentee or abusive fathers and, to a lesser degree, mothers as well. There are many raised in homes with truly (not just comparatively) evil parents who give little attention to their children's well being, but instead feed upon their own destructive addictions or selfish ambitions. We recently read a book by Jim, a retired missionary friend, from our church who had a mother like this. Undoubtedly some readers can identify with this having been raised by these kinds of parents.

We pray that you are allowing God to heal the lingering memories that surface as He reveals His tender mercies to you each day. I'm so glad that, as believers, we have the power to break those bad patterns instead of repeating them. Our model of parenting should be based on Biblical principles rather than making excuses based on the old adage, "Well, that's the way I was raised!"  As historians often quote, "Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat the past." I digress a little on this point, but feel it's a very important underlying message as well for all godly parents.

One small portion of the text is especially encouraging, and I want to bring this message to an end with this perspective: "How much more will your Father in heaven…" These powerful words bless and strengthen the child of God today and are true whether or not you've had a loving, caring earthly father. God is more than willing to give us all that we have need of and lovingly supplies more than we actually need.

This phrase (how much more) is used in Romans several times such as our second daily text,  "For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!" (Romans 5:10).

In these texts "Christ is showing us the heart of God the Father. God is not selfish, begrudging or stingy and we don't have to beg or grovel as we come with our requests. He is a loving Father who understands, cares, and comforts.  If humans can be kind, imagine how kind God, the Creator of kindness, can be." (Life Application Bible)

Praise God for Jesus' comparative illustration that gives us boundless hope for those requests dear to our hearts as we go to Him in earnest prayer. The most important gift that our Father could ever give to us is salvation, "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:23). Our Father ever loves and cares for His own.

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, help us to give good gifts to our children just as You give good gifts to us; gifts of love, acceptance, forgiveness, affirmation; provisions of food and clothing, shelter and mobility, teaching them right from wrong by instruction and example, and reinforcing consequence that will help shape our children into caring, giving adults who live responsible lives; children that will care for us in our needy years even as we cared for them when they were in need. Help us to give them personal attention and contribute to their feelings of worth and value. You are our supreme model for giving good gifts to our children, even as You give gifts to us that last for a lifetime and many non-material gifts of eternal worth that will transfer from earth to heaven. Help us to do the same with our children. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: In a footnote to the paragraph about breaking bad patterns from our childhood I have thanked God repeatedly over the years for my mother who came from an abusive home where her father was an alcoholic and a vile man. His father (my great-grandfather) was also an alcoholic and abusive to his nine children. Most all of them became alcoholic and abusive. How tragic that two generations (at least) were doomed to repeat a terribly destructive lifestyle. I never met my grandfather (nor any of his siblings) because he spent about twenty years in the state penitentiary before his death. He brought such shame and lingering pain to the family that we had no photographs of him and his name was not even mentioned while I was growing up. How tragic!

My mother, along with all her siblings, broke the chain of alcoholism when they individually chose not to have it in their homes. This was very much the proper response since we've learned in recent years that when family members are predisposed to alcoholic tendencies we cannot know ahead of time which family member will be able to stop with just one drink. In fact, I have a cousin in recent years who broke from this pattern of abstinence and became an alcoholic – losing her husband and children and even spent time in jail because of repeatedly driving under the influence of alcohol. One person affected by this predisposed addiction is one too many, for the influence will likely trickle down to the next generations and so forth. There certainly are exceptions, but I'm pleased that my parents played it safe and never felt we were deprived because of our parents' decision.

Day of the Christian Martyr - According to church tradition June 29 marks the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul. This month, Christians around the world honor the faithful witness of those who, like the Apostle Paul, have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel. May we be inspired to have that same boldness to share Christ in our community.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Good, Good Father"  Video  Pat Barrett

Gathering eggs
Ester and Brooksyne collected our neighbor's eggs while they're away today. Well, Brooksyne would correct me by saying SHE collected the eggs and Ester stood from a distance and took the photos (birds, chickens, and the young steer in the background are not a part of Ester's comfort zone).

Fresh eggs
Beautiful brown eggs right out of the coop. Amazingly these chickens seem to lay very clean eggs every time Brooksyne is called upon to collect them. Usually eggs don't come out so clean and a photo immediately after collecting them would not look so nice, as chicken owners would surely agree.

Finally today:

Brandon, service tech from JK Mechanical
This morning we had our HVAC system serviced (cleaned and tuned-up) by Brandon, a service tech from JK Mechanical. As we shared yesterday in our message about "Working Wholeheartedly", it is a blessing to see those like Brandon in the succeeding generations learning a trade, working hard and living responsibly! I see Brandon in the course of our chaplaincy visits to JK but it was nice to have him perform our service and learn a little more about him. He is a graduate of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology here in Lancaster.

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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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