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Friday, January 4, 2008

Purple Finch
Purple finch feeding outside our office window.

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"The Great Contest"

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering" (Hebrews 10:32). 

For those of us living here in America we can sure get a lot of football at this time of year with college bowl games and the professional postseason.  I know this is a subject that will not "connect" with everyone so I'll keep the illustrative portion of the encouragement brief!

Consider the goal line stand. It's 1st and goal with the ball on the 1 yard line. You are a lineman and your job is to keep the opposing team from moving the ball that one yard, although they have four opportunities to do so. You must stand your ground!

The Greek word translated "contest" in the daily text is "athlasis", which surprise… is a root of the English word athlete. We that follow Christ are all involved in what the Apostle Paul calls "The Race" (2 Timothy 4:7).  Some approach this contest in a passive sense, as if we are just standing on the sidelines as spectators.

Others rightly recognize that we are in the midst of this great spiritual battle and God's call is that we actively stand our ground. The apostle Paul alluded to this stand when he stated that "when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).

The early believers to whom the Book of Hebrews addressed were enduring persecution for their stand. Yet they stood their ground even in the face of tremendous suffering. This wasn't "suffering" as we may experience when we see a particularly hard hit in a football game, and say, "OUCH." 

No, their suffering was a reality.  Today so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are standing up against tremendous opposition and facing persecution in this great contest. Using football as an illustration may actually have a sense of trivializing the very real contest in which they battle. As we prepare this message from the comfort of our little home office looking out across peaceful farm fields we feel so far, far removed from their plight.

Today may God help each of us to remember them as they stand up in the midst of the great contest. And may the Lord empower each of us with grace to stand in regard to the issues we will deal with today and in this new year.
 Prepare us, should we be called to face persecution, as so many of our brethren already are.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Jesus, You warned Your listeners as You sat on the Mount of Olives that at the end of the age nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines and earthquakes will be commonplace.  Believers will be handed over to be persecuted and many will turn away from the faith as wickedness increases. In the midst of such dark desolation we cling to the bright promise, full of hope and motivation for those who walk steadfastly with You; he who stands firm to the end will be saved. We will conquer the enemy, for we do not fight the battle in our own strength, but in Your strength, Lord Jesus.  Amen.  

Brooksyne's Note: Thank you for your generous prayers.  I am completely recovered from the 24 hour virus I had Wednesday and I give thanks to God for His healing touch!

Stephen's note: Today we will be travelling to North Carolina to visit my sister and family as well as some friends and spend several days in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  We hope to continue the encouragement series but may not always have internet access.

Today's Suggested Music

"Everlasting God"  (Audio)

"Let My Words Be Few"  (Audio)

"Be Still And Know"  (Audio)

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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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