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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Buggy and red barn (Doris High)
Our friend Doris High captures one of our favorite rural scenes: a buggy passing a red barn.

"A Shaky Start, A Strong Finish"

Message summary: Although we may have a shaky start and can't go back and make a good start, through the grace of God we can start right now and have a strong finish!

Listen to our message on your audio player.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jamie at White Oak DisplayYesterday I visited Jamie in the course of our chaplain work. I commented on his hair which led to a conversation. He told me his mother did his hair on Mother's Day which took her three hours (now that's motherly devotion).

Jamie had a shaky start in life being born in the breach position which his mother was told could lead to development issues and mental impairment. But he has done well physically and mentally and was pleased to tell me he was free from alcohol and drug use. I encouraged him to follow Christ and have a strong finish. (Jamie gave me permission to share his story and we prayerfully hope it will encourage others as well.)

I told him I had just seen a video about a very shaky start of a player just drafted into the NFL. Derick Hall was born 4 months premature with a multitude of health problems, given only a 1% chance of survival. (See link to the remarkable video below.)

So many have a shaky start in a variety of ways. Each week we greet Suzanne in church. We enjoy seeing her vibrant smile and hearing about her faith-filled outlook. Suzanne also had a very shaky start nearly 50 years ago as a Vietnamese orphan born at the end of the Vietnam War. She came to the US in April 1975 to be adopted by an American family as part of a huge humanitarian airlift called "Operation Babylift".

Operation BabyLift

After learning of her origins I recalled seeing the above photo years ago and thinking, "What in the world is this all about?" Well, now I know. The babies were placed in cardboard boxes and airlifted out of Saigon. Suzanne, at 5 months, was included among the babies and she might even be one of the babies in this above photo.

Suzanne HauberSuzanne was adopted 48 years ago, raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ at an early age. Her birth parents very possibly died during the uprising in Vietnam. We often see her glowing smile among the church people. She was among the first who introduced herself to us six years ago by saying, "My name is Suzanne. I was brought here as a baby and I've been here ever since. I love going to church!" The photo to the left was taken about that time. Suzanne stands at about 4'8", thus we often lean down when talking with her.

We all have different starts in life. There are those who had a good start and even some born with the proverbial "silver spoon". Brooksyne and I were both wanted and born into loving families. That's an easily taken for granted blessing.

But we know it's not the story for many. Millions of babies are murdered while still in the womb, which many now celebrate in our increasingly decadent age. Some are born in poverty and/or face abuse. Others have significant physical and mental impairments.

Being in people work we observe and hear so many sad stories of heartbreaking childhoods. I spoke to a man who boasted that he had ten kids by five different women as if this were some type of noble accomplishment. All I could think of was the kind of upbringing these children will endure. Increasingly we observe these dysfunctional types of people as a result of generational decadence with so many not even being aware of God's standards for marriage and sexuality.

Brooksyne wrote this in a radio message, "Ungodly temporal pleasure can also bring lasting regrets with grave consequences, not just for the primary actors but the innocent lives harmed who are  as a result. Romans 14:7 says, 'No one lives unto himself alone'".

Doug is a friend of ours we visited for many years prior to his retirement from a company we served for over a decade. He has an interesting quote in each of his emails:

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."

That is an expression of 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

Working in the brokenness of our world we hear stories like the man with ten children mentioned above who didn't express interest in spiritual things or indicate that he was looking for a new start. But we rejoice to see others such as Jamie who expresses a desire to finish well.

Today, like Jamie or Suzanne, many of you reading this had a shaky start in life and have overcome many obstacles and some will spend the rest of your life overcoming. Jesus is the supreme example of One who overcame the world even to the very end of His life on earth.

Tragically, the majority live in defiance and disobedience to God's commands and are experiencing the consequences.  How wonderful and life-changing it is for those who respond to the good news of the redemption story of Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost. Although we may have a shaky start and can't go back and make a good start, through the grace of God we can start right now and have a strong finish!

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Praying manDaily prayer: Father, though we might have an upbringing much different than that of our neighbor, spouse, or co-worker, we all have the same opportunity to be a new creation in Christ. Not one of us, no matter how happy or sad our past, how difficult or carefree our upbringing, each of us has the need to come to Christ and be forgiven our sins. Though our sins are as scarlet they become white as snow when we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We can't go back and change the past but we can entrust You with our present and eternal future. Thank You for Jesus who became the supreme example to us as an Overcomer, who taught us to overcome the sin of this world and its destructive effects in our life! Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

* "He was born dead" Derick Hall's Miracle Journey to the NFL" Click to watch on YouTube

"Chain Breaker" 
Click to watch on YouTube  Zach Williams Powerful song, we all need the chainbreaker!

"Something Beautiful" 
Click to watch on YouTube   Gaither Vocal Band

Article on "Operation Babylift"

This Day in History: April 14th- Operation Baby Lift

The Children of an Lac  full movie as YouTube video (Note: this was made in 1980 and is rather poor quality)

Savior of Saigon  Video  (A nice summary) 3 minutes

Susanne with her mother
Several years ago we visited with Suzanne and her mother in the grocery store. Suzanne deals with her learning disability with much grace, often laughing at herself and with others about subject matters that can be confusing to her. She also deals with physical disabilities: visual impairment and balance issues so she uses a walker to get around.

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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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