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Thursday, February 13, 2014
Regardless of the temperature we see many of the Amish and older-order Mennonites hanging their clothes out to dry. We have often wondered how stiff and frozen the clothing is when taken off the clothesline. Brooksyne remembers, even in the mild winters of Oklahoma, they often brought in frozen clothing since they had no dryer. (Click on photo to enlarge)
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"The woman You put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it" (Genesis 3:12). “But they all alike began to make excuses" (Luke 14:18).
Normally when Brooksyne and I make our chaplain visits to companies we go our separate ways within the company. I focus on visiting the men while she visits the ladies. However occasionally we walk through together hopefully demonstrating a happy and committed married couple.
On a recent visit we were chatting with a man driving a forklift who stopped for a moment to visit. I inquired about his wife and he reminded me that he wasn't married. He said to the effect "We've been together 15 years so that's about the same." Brooksyne boldly stated, "If you've been together for 15 years, what's your excuse? Why don't you marry her?" He thrust his left hand toward us and stated, "Because I can't wear a wedding ring" showing us his missing ring finger from an accident many years ago. * Of course, Brooksyne didn't let it go as easily as that and indicated he could wear a ring around his heart (figuratively speaking). He reluctantly admitted he should do the right thing.
We all look for ways or expressions that will quickly excuse us from negative consequences. As a child Ester often pretended to be our waitress. She would write down our food order and bring out the meal that Brooksyne prepared. One time she dropped a main food item on the floor and, before we could even say a word, she immediately cried out, "It's not my fault!"
Brooksyne and I looked at each other and burst out laughing as we asked each other, "Then whose fault is it?" Making excuses or blaming others for our accidental or willful mistakes has a long history doesn't it?
Adam offered the very first excuse shortly after his first transgression. God's straightforward question to Adam following his transgression was, "Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" Really, this required a simple yes or no answer. But Adam replied, "The woman You put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it."
I'm particularly intrigued by the first phrase in Adam's reply, "The woman You put here with me." At Eve's creation Adam expressed his approval and delight: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). He's blaming his wife Eve to whom he now wants to distance himself so he refers to her as "the woman". She was the first to partake of the forbidden fruit, but he was with her and, without any evidence of hesitation, he also partook of the fruit and ate it.
In an attempt to shift the blame Adam worded his defense carefully (without the help of an attorney). He shifted the blame not only to Eve but secondarily toward God. He referred to his wife as, "the woman You put here with me." Remember the adage, "Be careful of pointing your finger, since there will be three fingers pointing back to you!" Indeed God's first special gift to Adam at Creation was His provision of a companion/helpmeet. But now Adam blamed both his helpmeet, Eve, and God for his willing act of disobedience! His is the first excuse recorded in human history.
The world we live in today mirrors that of Adam in making excuses for just about everything under the sun, whether it's outright rebellion or unwillingness to take responsibility for one's actions. Adam's response to God who was holding him accountable reminds me of many leaders and politicians today when questioned about their errant behavior or decision. Rather than answering "yes" or "no" they dance around the answer by giving excuses or shifting the subject to something else as they seek to get the inquirer off track.
Our second daily text refers to a parable Jesus spoke concerning an invitation to a great banquet (Luke 14:12-24), "Come, for everything is now ready." To this gracious invitation “they all alike began to make excuses" (Luke 14:18). This is a reminder that anyone called to follow Jesus may make excuses for not doing so.
Taking responsibility is at the very heart of our relationship with God. A fundamental component of restoration is not denial of the sin, but confession and taking responsibility for it. David, when finally coming to repentance concerning his sin with Bathsheba, cried out, "I have sinned against the Lord" (II Samuel 12:13). When we confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness we are restored in our fellowship with Him. We also need to ask forgiveness from the one(s) we've sinned against and make restitution if possible. Confession is a wonderful antidote to excuse making and is a sign of spiritual maturity. Let us be quicker to make confession than we are to make excuses. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Today let us live responsibly and stop making excuses. Excuses will only prolong or exasperate the growing problem. Consider the very ugly and permanent damage David brought onto himself and others by trying to cover his sin rather than reveal and confess it (II Samuel 11). Whether we fail or fall God has graciously made a provision for our restoration and it begins with confession not excuses. That's good news!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as we confess our sins we thank You that You are faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Help us to confess our sin, welcome Your cleansing, and invite the Holy Spirit to help us courageously deal with personal consequences from our sinful defiance. You are a gracious Father who does not cast us down in our failures, but You uphold us with Your gracious and loving hand. When pride and fear consume our hearts it holds us back from taking the proper steps to right a wrong. Replace our fear with courage and our pride with humility so that we will take the proper steps to correct a wrong we've committed. Help us to find peace in knowing that we have obeyed You.
* Of course we have not identified our friend with the missing ring finger though he gave us permission to use his photo and story in our online message. In fact when I saw him yesterday he was looking forward to it! Stephen has had a long-time friendship with him for a number of years.
Brooksyne's Note: Even as we wrote about the importance of seeking forgiveness from one to whom we've sinned I considered that, for some, there will be no receptivity. You could go away from that person and question whether or not it was God leading you. My dad told me a story about the time he and Mom, early in their marriage, tried to reach out to a person who had actually been the offender. They humbly approached him and sought to restore their broken relationship. He only responded by spitting on the Bible they offered to him. They could have walked away devastated. I'm sure they were disappointed as their visit did not result in his coming to faith nor was he interested in restoring their broken relationship. They never were able to make that relationship work again. But, nonetheless, they were obedient to the Father and gave this man the opportunity to turn away from sin and turn toward Christ. They did the right thing and should have peace in their hearts that they were obedient to the Scriptures. The outcome of our obedience is not where we look for peace, it's found in our obedience to God.
Looking out of our office window we see the overnight and morning snow cover of over 10 inches. Stephen has shoveled the walk several times already. We're also being invaded by hungry birds of all colors and sizes. As we finish our message today around Noon it's getting brighter and the snow has stopped (at least for now).
Yesterday was a very cold but sunny day so we took a few photos as we traveled through northern Lancaster County in the course of making our chaplain visits..
Early yesterday morning we passed an Amish school with the children playing in what looks like soccer outside in the snow. It was 9 degrees but they didn't seem fazed by the cold! (Click on photo to enlarge)
This old-order Mennonite farmer didn't let the weather stop him from moving a disc. Farmers always have work that needs to be done done and cold weather is no excuse. (Click on photo to enlarge)
We drove over to Weaver's Store in rural Fivepointville. It is referred to by many locals as the Mennonite Mall since it has many items unique to the old order Mennonite groups. These plaid shirts are an identifying feature of several groups of old-order Mennonite.
By late afternoon we headed back toward Lancaster and passed by an old-order Mennonite area. Amish men were building a barn, even though it was in the low twenties. Can you find all three?
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Excuses" Video Kingman Quartet A few oldtimers may remember this one!
"I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy" Video Michael English and Gaither Vocal Band
For those who may have some time and a desire to dig deeper (actually a lot deeper) here's a recent teaching video by J.I. Packer on personal holiness he shared at 87 years of age. He has some very interesting insights. Packer wrote a formative book for me titled "Knowing God".
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
(Click on photo to enlarge)
"We want to encourage you daily in your walk with Christ!"
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