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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tree growing on abandoned bridge support Susquehanna River
I took this photo while on a boat ride with a friend on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, PA. I was intriqued by this lone tree which had managed to grow on a long abandoned bridge pier, an example of perseverance!

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"Standing Up For Jesus"

"On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:6-12).

We are always hesitant to reflect on current worldwide events in this encouragement series. Like many of you we keep up with the news and so much of it is discouraging, sometimes even despairing. Periodically the report of a gruesome beheading makes the headline news, generally out of the lands of Islam.

A tragic story that surfaced a couple years ago was the beheading of three girls on the way to their Christian school in Indonesia. They were walking through a cocoa plantation in the Sulawesi Province, an area that has a long history of violence perpetrated by Muslims against Christians, when they were viciously slain.  The attackers' gruesome form of violence was even more reprehensible and barbaric when they placed one of the girls' heads outside of their church.

Beheading is a particular notorious form of brutality and was the experience of at least two New Testament characters. Throughout the Scriptures the results of sin and the fall are quite evident. We still see these results today.

The daily text records the most prominent beheading in the Bible. It matter-of-factly states that on Herod's birthday he was tricked into beheading John the Baptist.  It is surely among the harder passages to read, learn from and present spiritual application for God's people (let alone encourage). 

Our first reaction tends to be, "Why would God allow this to happen to a man who had served Him so faithfully?"  We just do not have the answer to this question.  But it did happen and has happened many, many times since. The following thoughts are derived from the fuller context of the situation recorded in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:17-29

In these passages we find three responses to God's Word that is demonstrated in all ages, in all places, and by all people.  In fact you and I are all demonstrating one of the three responses: 
1) John faithfully proclaimed God's Word. 
2) Herodias (Herod's unlawful wife) stubbornly rejected God's Word. 
3) Herod was interested and liked to listen to John but failed to accept God's Word, thus de facto rejecting it.  When push came to shove he ordered the execution of John, whom he knew to be "a righteous and holy man" (Mark 6:20).

Where do you fit in today?  Apart from someone just dropping in on this site we don't expect to have very many regular readers who live in willful rejection of God's Word.  However some of you may be interested and even find our writings compelling or you may enjoy our personal reflections or photos.  But you're still undecided about where your allegiance is, notably being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  We urge you to become one!

As true followers join us in faithfully proclaiming God's Word.  For some of you this will be literally preaching, but for most it will be that steady day by day proclamation through our lives and words wherever God has placed us.

There are millions today who, like John the Baptist, faithfully proclaim God's Word.  And frankly some will be beheaded or otherwise die for their uncompromising stand for the Lord. Today, regardless of the price we pay, let us unashamedly stand up for Jesus!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we confess that we are weak and fearful people, apart from Your Holy Spirit that makes us valiant and strong as we stand up for Your righteousness.  The conflicting philosophies, the indulgent sinful behaviors of humanity, the worship of creatures rather than our Creator, and the false religions that abound require us to be equipped daily in Your spiritual armor.  Our struggle is not physical but spiritual in nature as the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms battle for our souls.  This conflict will not end until we unite with You in heaven, so keep us vigilant and trusting as we do battle with our enemy.  You are the captain of our army and we will be victorious as we follow Your every command.  Help us to do so we pray.  Amen. 

(In Acts 12 James is the first of the original twelve disciples whose martyrdom is recorded in Scripture. He was "put to death with the sword" also by Herod. Presumably this means he was beheaded.)

I consider how suicide martyrs are associated in the diabolical religion of Islam with those who commit killings. The sense of Christian martyrdom is always a death for the witness of Christ. Associating the term martyrdom with the killing of others is utterly perverse and blasphemous.

There is an interesting passage toward the end of Revelation concerning faithful witnesses for the Lord. "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the Word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.

"He Leadeth Me" Video The Martins (I chose this song due to the line, "His faithful follower I would be")

"Press On"  Video  by Selah  I dedicate this song to all those suffering for their faith.

Persecution.com  Information about our suffering brethren.

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" (Audio) This is a powerful ballad concerning an event that happened in Armenia in 320AD and will bless you!  This story is even more inspiring as a few additional details are added in the version included in the "Christian Heroes" book (mentioned below.)

The Complete Book of Christian HeroesThe Complete Book of Christian Heroes By Dave & Neta Jackson/Tyndale House
Are there any true heroes? Discover the remarkable stories of those who have suffered for the cause of Christ throughout the course of history. This book reveals what inspired the great heroes of faith and drove them to give their all. Featuring such gripping accounts of each hero's life, this book gives the historical and cultural information as well as quotations and Scripture passages that amplify what each hero stood for. You will learn about John Bunyan, Mary Dyer, Brother Andrew, Todd Beamer and over 200 more heroes of yesterday and today. This is an excellent resource for any home library. For more information or to order click here.

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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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