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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

City hymn sing
A group of Lancaster County plain people seeking to minister for Christ
on the streets of a large city.

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"Not Worthy"

"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground" (Hebrews 11:35-38).

"Forty brave soldiers for Jesus" is a powerful ballad set in the period of Roman emperor Valerianus Licinius that tells the story of a group of Christians who took a stand for the Lord and paid the price. In the footnotes I have a link to this song and I suggest at some time you listen to it. It's really a remarkable story and has a very interesting ending!

Yesterday as I was preparing the message about hope, as part of my study, I considered Hebrews 11. The nature of enduring hope is foundationally a spiritual hope. The "good life" (peace and prosperity), as many of us have known and desire it to be in this life, is not guaranteed by God as I reminded readers yesterday.  Heroes of the faith in the past and those in the present testify to this. The abundant life promised by Jesus is altogether different than the expectations of the world!  I want to explore this topic more fully today.

We admire the great people of the Bible who stood up for their faith.  Hebrews 11 is known as the "Faith Chapter" and is a hall of fame for people of enduring faith.  Toward the end of the chapter the focus moves from named individuals to unnamed heroes. 

I've been especially drawn to the daily portion of Scripture over the years, although it's not a reading that is particularly edifying in the same sense many other portions of Scripture are.

You've probably never been flogged (although one regular reader we hear from has had this horrible experience) but most of us have been jeered at some point in our lives.  That's about the extent of physical "persecution" thus far for most of us in America and many other areas where this material is read.  But of course in many other places they know the "flogging" and worse.

The writer of Hebrews is chronicling what happened to many unnamed heroes of faith.  It's not a pretty picture.  These are faithful people who stood up for God with uncompromising faith and obedience that they were unwilling to exchange for a favorable temporal outcome.  I don't understand why stuff like this happens, but it does and it always has.

My faith in the goodness of God asserts that my God is in control even when I don't understand or when circumstances make no sense at all.  It goes against our sensibilities that godly people would be stoned, sawed in two, or be put to death by the sword or by the bullets of hate-filled gunmen.  But then I immediately consider Stephen, the first martyr of the New Testament, who was stoned as he stood up for Jesus (Acts 6). 

I'm especially inspired by two phrases in this portion which are loaded with spiritual richness and seem to leap from the pages of my Bible; "that they might gain a better resurrection" and "the world was not worthy of them."  That gives me the perspective I need today.  Let's stay faithful and keep standing true for Christ, no matter the cost. Today let us link our hearts with these heroes of faith as we stand up for Christ and the Holy Scriptures.  Let us stand faithfully for the One who also knew the jeering scorn of unbelief and rejection.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Jesus, keep me true and faithful to Your calling in my life.  By Your grace and my unswerving commitment to You, Jesus, I will stand for You when others bow down to the gods of this age.  Help me to cling tightly to You, Imperishable Savior, as I reject the perishable gods of this age.  Amen.

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" (audio mp3) This is the song I referred to in the opening paragraph.

Note: Last week we mentioned hearing from Marvin, one of the children we had cared for in the eighties while he was here in the states for medical care. I mentioned the need for a translator and thank you to all who responded. The first response was a reader from Louisiana and he promptly translated the material from Spanish to English. In a future message we hope to share Marvin's story.

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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. Used by permission; 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 I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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