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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
This beautiful tree-lined lane leading to an old farmhouse is just around the corner from our house. The splattering fall colors of foliage seem so inviting for a stroll down the country lane!
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"You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:10-17).
I am aware that today's Scripture selection is longer than usual. I want to highlight just one phrase in it but felt the surrounding context is especially important to fill our hearts. I encourage you to read it slowly, perhaps aloud, if you are in a place where you can do so.
We regularly count our blessings in our family. We do this in part to resist the tendency to take our blessings for granted. God has indeed blessed me with a wonderful wife and family and comparatively a very good life on this earth. As we join hands in prayer before our meals I often pray, "Thank you Lord that we continue to experience Your blessings of freedom, peace and provision in our home."
But we wonder how much longer these times will last and our faith in God is certainly not contingent on whether or not they do.
I consider how different my life is than a similar aged male in Sudan (although I wonder how many even live as long as I have.) I consider God's love for me and God's love for him and, although our lives are dramatically different, yet His love is identical for both of us.
I have before me an excellent message by James K. Bridges titled, "Critical Questions We Must Ask Ourselves." (I have included the message below.) Essentially he solemnly calls believers to consider what may very well be coming in regard to the current direction civilization is going. He points out that the World Christian Encyclopedia has indicated that from A.D. 33 to 2000 there were an estimated 70 million martyrs. However from A.D. 33-1900 there were 25 million and 45 million in the last century alone. WOW.
So many of us reading this material just can't grasp that. Our lives have been so free from persecution of any type. We may even suppose we have a right to live out our lives in freedom and prosperity. The portion of the daily text that again grips my heart as I share this is, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
I frankly struggle with the meaning of this verse based on my own personal observation and experience. Clearly many millions of believers have lived facing very little persecution in their lifetime, apart from ridicule and perhaps scorn. But I believe we need to be prepared to see this increase and perhaps include more severe and physical types, even martyrdom.
Bridges' message concludes with a powerful challenge. "The church must arouse out of its intoxication with the Laodicean spirit (Revelation 3:16,17). The church must not be like King Belshazzar who celebrated in his banquet hall while the enemy was conquering his capital and his kingdom (Daniel 5:30, 31). These are times when the church must be like 'the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do'" (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Be encouraged and strong in the Lord today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we pray that we will not be fearful or ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that Christ will be exalted through us, whether by life or by death. Whatever happens, help us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that we honor Your name and bring strength to the Christian body. Amen.
"Critical Questions We Must Ask Ourselves"
By James K. Bridges
Render to Caesar
As Christians, we know that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20, NKJV) and that we have an allegiance to Christ as Savior and Lord, yet this does not contradict, nor does it require that we totally disengage from any responsibility to our earthly citizenship. Jesus taught us to pay taxes, show respect to authority, and to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). Among those things we should render to our government is a willingness to volunteer to help at anytime we have the chance to relieve the suffering of fellow human beings. Another vital way to fulfill our responsibility as citizens is to register and vote in all elections. This is a valuable duty and a freedom which many Christians are ignoring, and the result has been the election of local, state, and national representatives who do not hold to Christian values or respect Judeo-Christian ethics. The fallout of this has been the appointment of judges who no longer respect the Constitution, the Congress, or the wishes of the majority of the people. An example of this is the three federal judges who ruled to strike down the ban on partial birth abortion.
Stand up for Values
Christians must not allow their right to vote and to voice their beliefs to be lost. In the news media today, there is a growing effort to intimidate Christians from expressing their views. An attempt to intimidate pastors and churches from standing up for their faith is mounting. Threats of removing the tax-exempt status of a Baptist church in Arkansas, because of their July 4 Freedom Rally, have surfaced in the news. This church did not endorse political candidates, but simply declared their stand on the moral and ethical issues which are facing our nation. It is interesting that some liberal political candidates are openly attending churches and are being endorsed by the pastors and nothing is being said by the news media. However, the enemies of the gospel will do everything possible to frighten the church into silence. This must not happen! Pastors must know what the law allows and properly educate their people as to their rights. The late Dr. James Kennedy went so far as to say that in light of the command of our Lord to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” for a Christian to fail to exercise their right to vote is tantamount to committing sin. To avoid committing such a sin, let every believer register and vote, and let every pastor take the responsibility to assist his parishioners in getting registered to vote. In some states the opportunity to register has almost, if not already passed. This is a citizen’s responsibility, so act now!
What are Christians to Expect?
I knew it was coming, I just didn’t expect it so soon. I thought it would happen first in Canada, but to my surprise, it was Sweden. “A Swedish court sentenced a Pentecostal pastor to one month in prison after finding him guilty of offending homosexuals in a sermon” (Christianity Today, September 2004). We have warned ministers and congregations throughout our Fellowship that, if the deterioration of morals continues in our country, the time will come when we will be imprisoned for preaching against homosexuality. Oh, but it won’t happen here we are told. Famous last words! We didn’t think prayer could be removed from our schools; we didn’t think that the Ten Commandments would be removed from our public institutions; we didn’t think that the Supreme Court would block the Child Online Protection Act to protect our children against pornography; or that the definition of marriage being one man and one woman would come under such attack in our country — but all these have happened.
Christ, the focal Point
We are reminded of the words of Paul to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus must face the reality that persecution is inevitable if we live godly in Christ Jesus. We will be viewed as intolerant, bigoted, ignorant, extreme, without compassion, and unfit to be in leadership or have a voice in government. But Jesus has pronounced a blessing on all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and for His name’s sake, assuring them of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10,11). Persecution in this country has been limited to verbal attacks, for the most part, due to the protection of the laws governing our society. However, we are seeing a hatred such as has not been known in this country over moral and ethical issues. It is imperative that Christ’s church understands that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare between the forces of righteousness and evil, truth and error. The enemies of Christ are bold, but so must be His followers.
What are my responsibilities as a Christian?
Render to God
Jesus not only commanded us to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, He also commanded us to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus was holding a coin with the image of Caesar on it when He made this statement. He was teaching, by comparison, that those who are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) should render to God that which belongs to Him. We belong to God by creation and by recreation having been purchased by the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18,19). Believers who will use their time, talent, and treasure to serve Christ, His Church, and His purpose to reach the nations, will truly be rendering to God that which belongs to Him.
Making Christ Known
To make Christ known is the primary mission of the born again, Spirit-baptized believer. We must express Christ to our society, bringing the resurrection life and lifestyle of Christ to bear on our neighbor, our nation and the world. We owe our country the best the church can offer. John Adams stated that our constitution was designed for a religious people, and it will not work for atheists and unbelievers. The separation of church and state, as it is being promoted today, was not what the founders of our nation believed, nor was it the way they intended the constitution to be interpreted. Opponents of Christianity have twisted the meaning of our national documents in order to establish a secular state. Christians owe it to their country to stand for the Judeo-Christian morals and ethics upon which this country was founded. We have only to visit countries with secular and atheistic governments, and to talk to those who have migrated to the U.S. from these countries, to realize how great the loss will be if the U.S. is allowed to become a secular or pagan country. The cost to prevent such a deformation, which is now in progress, may be great. It certainly will require that the church become militant in prayer, aggressive in witness, and involved in the voting process of our country.
Aware of the Times
Freedom to serve Christ as conscience dictates and as the Word of God declares, has been costly down through the centuries. The World Christian Encyclopedia has indicated that from A.D. 33 to 2000 there have been an estimated 70 million martyrs. Twenty-five million martyrs were estimated from A.D. 33 to 1900, while 45 million martyrs were estimated from 1900 to 2000. There were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than in all the preceding centuries. Persecution and martyrdom surface in different parts of the world at different times. The church in the U.S. must arouse out of its intoxication with the Laodicean spirit (Revelation 3:16,17). The church must not be like King Belshazzar who celebrated in his banquet hall while the enemy was conquering his capital and his kingdom (Daniel 5:30,31). These are times when the church must be like “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to open and play)
"You Are My Hiding Place" Video Selah
"Wonderful, Merciful, Savior" Video Selah
"This World Is Not My Home" Audio Country Mountain Hymns (instrumental)
"For The Sake Of The Call" Video Steven Curtis Chapman
"Because Of Who You Are" Audio
"A Life Of Endurance" A thoughtful article by Randy Alcorn
For the "Not So Squeamish": Each fall and winter we have a mice problem where we live and as the weather has gotten colder I've caught several (mouse duty in our home is exclusively a male responsibility). Last night I checked the closet in our basement where they especially seem to enjoy and I set the traps. One had managed to pull the trap aways and then escape from the trap wounded. I picked it up by using needle-nosed plyers (since I didn't really care to pick up a semi-alive mouse with my hand.) Here's an interesting catch from several years ago. This is not a doctored photo! I actually sent this photo to the Victor company which is headquartered here in Lancaster County in nearby Lititz, PA. I figured they might use it for promotion, but I learned their record catch in one trap was three mice. Interestingly our neighbor is very fond of live mice. She has many knick knacks all about her house of "cute" little mice. Update: This morning the trap I set last night is again missing and thus far I can't find it!
Yesterday I shared a photo I took Sunday of some maple trees near a church in Mastersonville, PA early on a foggy morning. (Fog tends to add beauty to photos.) I note that Doris High also has some beautiful photos from the same foggy Sunday morning taken a short distance away on her blog.
Here's a revised google map of my local photos with locations I took them.
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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 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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