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Monday, August 9, 2010

Roadside produce stand in Cumberland County PA
A roadside produce stand in Cumberland County, PA.
We took the photo in the evening after much of the produce sold

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"Seeking To Persuade"

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'" (Acts 26:28). "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11). "For Christ's love compels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

This weekend we heard the news concerning a medical team ambushed and killed by Muslims in Afghanistan. Only this morning we learned that one of the victims, 40 year old Glen Lapp, was from Lancaster.  The  missions team were returning to the capital after providing medical care to people in a remote village. In our service yesterday, like many congregations, we prayed for family members and friends left behind.

Several years ago a reporter and photographer were kidnapped in the Middle East and finally freed when they feigned conversion to Islam. What an incredible contrast this reveals between the two largest faith systems in the world today.  Among the root causes of terrorism is a goal to "convert", by any means, the rest of the world to the Islamic religion. A similar goal is seen among Christians but the methodology is persuasion not force. Any notion of forced conversion has never had a place in legitimate Christianity as established by our Lord, although sadly there are accounts of some individuals or groups that have been forceful using similar strategy over the years.

Awhile back I heard a very interesting missionary whose ministry is encountering Muslims in London with the truth claims of Jesus Christ. He has extensively studied the religion of Islam in order to prepare himself for public debates with top Muslim "scholars". These debates are held at a place in London called "Speaker's Corner", a large public area where various groups are allowed to express themselves.  His insights on Islam are extremely interesting as well as his perspective concerning the current terrorism situation.

The great commission of Jesus Christ to His church is "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15).  Our call is to seek to persuade others to this way of life as is also the ambition of any worldview.  Secular humanism is for instance seeking to convert others to its outlook on life. The issue is not the desire we have that others share our beliefs but rather the means of our persuasion.  We can't force someone to become a Christian, since it involves transformation from the inside out initiated by a decision to believe and follow Christ.

Today in virtually every region of the world there are followers of Jesus Christ preaching this good news attempting to persuade others to follow Christ.  I am one of them. There are scores of followers who are expressing the love of Jesus Christ through acts of compassion accompanied by a verbal witness.  As I prepare this morning's message dedicated Christian believers in many parts of the world who share God's love are imprisoned and their lives are imperiled.  Their crime: merely witnessing for Christ.

The apostle Paul provides such a powerful example for us in this regard.  He had at one time been an ardent persecutor of the followers of Christ, but at his conversion everything changed.  He himself took on the great commission as he sought to persuade people to believe on the crucified and living Christ and become Christians.  In Acts 26 Paul was sharing his faith with Agrippa when he responded, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"  Paul's response should be ours as well; "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains."

Wherever we are today let us continue with our mission of preaching and persuading as we are compelled by Christ's love.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we seek to persuade others to follow You by showing that this all-surpassing power that guides our lives day in and day out is not from us but from You, Father God, who dwells within us. Your love compels us to reach out toward others to share the love of Christ in our conversation and show the love of Christ through our actions. Help us to be faithful in doing so.  Amen.

Here is a sample prayer that expresses belief and commitment to Jesus Christ: "Jesus, thank you for loving me.  I confess that I am a sinner. I believe You are the promised Messiah who came to die for my sins.  Please forgive me of my sin and come into my life. I receive You as my Savior and will follow You as my Lord. Thank You for hearing my prayer.  Amen".

Some additional thoughts prompted by today's message:

1) I consider the very perverse nature of what are know as anti-conversion laws. What a blessing genuine freedom of religion is. We think of it likely in the sense of freedom to attend church but it's much more than that. What a blessing it is that we can choose to follow Christ or choose to not follow Christ. I am free to seek to persuade people to follow Christ and others are equally free to persuade otherwise.

2) The designation "scholar" is used to describe virtually any spokesperson for Islam no matter how outlandish their views or regardless of any educational credentials.  Just listen or look for the phrase "Islamic scholar" when hearing or reading a report about Islam. This same title is rarely used for easily recognized Christians who are very studied in the teachings and culture of the Islamic religion.

3) The designation "holy sites" or "holy cities" such as a reporter saying, "There was a bombing today in the holy city of Azabazaraza."  Have you ever considered how many holy cities and sites the Islamic religion has?  It's interesting that I don't hear the designation used by the media for Jerusalem, Rome or many places that have great significance to Christians, Jews and other religious groups. But if it's some obscure place in the desert, significant to some Muslims, it's a "holy city."  This brings about a righteous anger in me because it perverts the meaning of "holy" that should be used to describe our pure and holy God.

The Answering Islam website provides plenty of thought-provoking insight and perspective on this topic. 

Roxie's encounter with a powerful little kitten!

Roxie and kitten
The last couple of days we've had some neighborhood kittens visiting our place (uninvited, I might add). Early yesterday morning as we were preparing to leave for church we put our dog Roxie in the fenced in backyard.  One of the kittens was laying across the top step and, try as we might, we were unable to persuade a very timid Roxie to come down and see us off as she always does. She paced back and forth, and kept tipping her head toward us and the kitty as if to say, "Help!!  Make this wildcat move so I can have my steps back, my deck, my yard."  In all her anxiety Roxie forgot that she has two others sets of steps that she could use.

Roxie and kitten
As we kept calling Roxie she nervously edged closer but then the fierce kitten rose up  with an arched back as if to declare, "No one uses these steps without my permission!"  Roxie,  fearful of passing the kitten, looked at us as if to say, "What am I do?"

Roxie and kitten
Finally Roxie dashed around the kitten in a flash and came down to bid us farewell at the gate!  I walked the kittens up to their rightful home yesterday afternoon and all is well again in the animal kingdom at the Weber household.

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.)

"Almost Persuaded"  Video  Josh Turner  This hymn was written in 1871 by Philip P. Bliss and was inspired by a sermon he heard in which the evangelist quoted Acts 26:28 and declared, "He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost!"

"Return To Me"  Video  An interesting short message by Brian Doerksen

"The Power Of The Cross"
 Video    Keith & Kristyn Getty

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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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