Daily Encouragement Net Header
The online Bible teaching ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
A daily, Bible-based perspective of hope, encouragement and exhortation.
Home   About Us  Archives   Free email subscription   ListenListen to these messages
 See here for more info.
<Previous Message                                                    Next Message

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photo of decorative wood hand cart
Decorated wood hand cart on a neighbor's porch.

ListenListen to us share this message on your audio player.

Note: Today's message is a bit longer than usual but has a serious call for earnest followers of Christ.

"Remember the Persecuted"

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:3).

This coming Sunday is a day of prayer for the persecuted church.  It's very difficult for many of us to identify with our persecuted brethren around the world. I have memorized the above Scripture verse and I earnestly desire that God would help me to live in prayerful remembrance of my persecuted brethren. Frankly the Holy Spirit convicts me in this regard that I am not more consistently concerned and moved by their plight.

I am thankful for "prison ministries" and we normally use that title to describe ministry to those imprisoned for crimes they have committed. But in his call to "Remember those in prison" this is certainly not what the writer of Hebrews had in mind.  He is surely speaking of those who were imprisoned specifically due to their obedience to Jesus Christ.  In many countries of the world this is happening today. Scripturally, we are called to remember them. 

We are also to remember those "mistreated".  In my judgment the NIV uses far too mild a word here.  The KJV states "suffer adversity" and the literal Greek word "kakoucheo" means "torment."  It is used only one other time in the entire NT, also in Hebrews referring to persecuted believers through the ages, "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.  The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:37,38).

Imagine being in the early church when this portion of Scripture was first read.  Moments earlier the pastor had read the warning from Scripture, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25). You intently listen as your pastor solemnly reads the letter from the esteemed apostle.  As you're listening you also look around and note not only those present, but those who are missing. No, they're not at the game or the mall or sitting home reading the Sunday cartoons. They're not even sick. 

Right away you notice Mary sitting alone with her children.  Her husband is imprisoned for his faith.  You look over and see John whose tongue has been cut out attempting to silence the gospel message that fell from his lips.  James is missing, his whereabouts unknown, but many suspect he was killed.

You really have no problem identifying with the missing since you know you could be next.  The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is very great.  The sense of the call to "remember" is not that they had forgotten but a solemn reminder of the cost of following Jesus. This is a present tense experience for many. I merely consider the brutal treatment of believers in Saudi Arabia and so many places in the world, especially where the Muslim religion dominates. One of the despicable lies of our time is the oft repeated notion that Islam is a "religion of peace." Trying telling that to our Christian brethren living and dying for their faith in those regions.

One of most gratifying aspects of this online writing ministry is the ability to share a message of hope and encouragement with those who are in spiritual isolation. We regularly get email replies from readers all over the world. We recall a message from a believer living in one of the most notoriously oppressive countries of all. He shared how he had made a soundproof room so he could pray without being caught. Most of us cannot imagine living under such danger or confinement.

Today's encouragement is specifically prompted by a concern I've had for this Christian as well as other recipients. In some sense I feel I now know them and my heart goes out to their plight.

When the letter to the Hebrews was written very likely the recipients actually knew someone under persecution.  Perhaps they could put a family member's face on the suffering or had even suffered themselves.  Very few of us reading this Scripture passage can identify with the writer, but the early church sure did.  Paul wrote many of his letters from prison.  He recounts his sufferings in some detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.  The early church watched and cried as the budding preacher Stephen was stoned.  They grieved when James was put to death with the sword.  Persecution did not stop with the closing of the apostolic age.  It actually intensified at times and one of the most severe times was early in the fourth century. 

All throughout the church's history our fellow believers have endured persecution.  The 20th century is considered to be the most severe in terms of sheer numbers.  And now, early into the 21st century, it seems that this persecution is intensifying even more.

Let us pray and "remember".  We are called to seek to identify with these believers, "as bound with them" and "as being yourselves also in the body." As I seek to identify I consider the unwavering faith required if I were to face persecution or even execution as I persevere in my profession of faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, help us to be moved by the plight of those who are prepared to suffer and even lay down their lives for the sake of Christ. Presently, most all of them are from other lands, which leads to our forgetfulness.  But we do want to remember them in our prayers and remember them as warriors of the faith, who for the joy set before them endured the suffering, shame and agony of their tormentors.  As they endured the humiliation they also overcame by the blood of the Lamb.  So many were presented the crown of life in heaven that is rewarded to those who received the sentence of death on earth by their persecutors.  On Coronation Day when we all gather in heaven we look forward to fellowship with these tried and true saints of our faith who did not give up meeting together, no matter the penalty, as they worshiped You.  Keep us faithful when tested by fire, we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Note: Today's message may seem like a less than encouraging message to see on your screen, but it is a much needed message.  We need to be reminded and shaken from our lethargy. Let's remember and pray. Today, this weekend, and I pray onward, let us remember these dear brothers and sisters who deal with persecution.  And God, help us to truly be moved by their plight. Their stories serve as examples to follow and empower us should we face similar circumstances which may actually be sooner than we think.

Produce stand in Lancaster County PA
We pass many of these small family-operated produce stands along the country roads we travel in eastern Lancaster County. We get fresh produce for a great price. (The large heads of Cauliflower were just 75 cents and the Broccoli heads were 50 cents!)

Neck pumpkins in Lancaster County PA
We bought two more neck pumpkins and since they keep a long time Brooksyne will not need to process them till mid-winter.  For several months they serve as an interesting decoration and then make multiple great meal servings!  In a message last week we shared how Brooksyne processes these.  We had some additional inquiries concerning this and here is a source to order seeds. We've never grown them ourselves though since they are abundantly available at farm stands in our area.

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.)

"The Voice Of The Martyrs"  Information about our suffering brethren. Here's a video

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

An interesting brief video presentation concerning Christian martyrs.

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus"  Tom Green (Audio) (Video) This is a powerful ballad concerning an event that happened in Armenia in 320AD and will touch 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.

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" 320 AD in Armenia
(The rest of the story below from "The Complete Book of Christian Heroes")

The next morning as the guards were retrieving the stiff bodies and loading them onto a wagon to be taken away and burned, they discovered that the youngest of the martyrs was still breathing slightly.  They set him aside, thinking that once he revived, he would surely recant.  But it so happened that his mother was present.  As she watched closely, her son made a small hand signal indicating his wishes.  "Go, go, my son," she cried.  "Proceed to the end of this happy journey with your companions, so you will not be missing from those who present themselves before God."  Then with uncommon strength, she picked him up and put him into the wagon with his brothers.

After the bodies had been burned, local Christians retrieved the ashes and remains and distributed them to the fledgling groups of converts in the surrounding cities and towns.  As dramatic reminders of the faithful witness offered by the forty martyrs of Sebaste, these relics encouraged and inspired the believers to preach the gospel more boldly than ever, and soon numerous churches were erected in honor of these men, firmly establishing Christianity in the whole region.

"By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century" is a tremendous book I read about 15 years ago that chronicles the stories of modern day martyrs.  I was unable to find it on CBD but see it is available on Amazon.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne.

Sign up here for the free daily email encouragement.

Permissions: Please feel free to pass on, reproduce and distribute any material on Daily Encouragement Net, in part or in whole, in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way or charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. It is our desire to spread this material, not protect or restrict it. I do request that you keep the contact, copyright and subscription information intact.

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."

Daily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com 
© Copyright 2009 Stephen C. Weber - All Rights Reserved
Daily Encouragement Net - 495 Kraybill Church Road - Mount Joy, PA 17552  USA

Contact us

"Living securely today anchored in God's solid foundation"