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Friday, September 17, 2010

Corner acre mums photo
Corner Acre Mums
Around the corner from our house at the end of Kraybill Church Road our Amish neighbors are selling mums. Note the small self serve box hanging on the side of the barn. People pay on the honor system.

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"The Martyr's Oath"

Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13).

We gather with a small group on Wednesday nights to study the Bible and pray together. We often pray for the persecuted church and Wednesday night I referred to a little reported story from this past weekend out of Indonesia where Christians were being tormented by Muslim terrorists. A pastor had been stabbed numerous times and is in intensive care.

It seems that so many of these stories are either unreported or under-reported. I suspect they often take place in parts of the world where the news just doesn't get out. But quite frankly I also suspect we have a lot of political correctness going on to maintain the notion that Islam is a "peaceful religion."  But a sober reality is that our brothers and sisters face horrific persecution in Islamic dominated countries.

Wilma is an 85-year-old saintly lady in our church who has a way of expressing herself both simply and profoundly at the same time. From her heart she shared, "We have had it so good, we've never experienced these types of persecutions." I responded, "Because we've had it so good in our lifetime we might have an incorrect sense of entitlement that it could never happen to us. But it surely could."

Jere, another believer in our circle, shared that young students preparing for ministry in India must sign a Martyr's Oath which in part states: "I surrender this body on earth to the perfect will of Jesus and, should my blood be spilled, may it bring forth a mighty harvest of souls." When I graduated from Bible College in 1977 and went through the credentialing steps for ministry there was no mention of a Martyr's Oath to be signed. It just isn't something we've had to give much thought to in our ministry call here in the U.S.

Later Jere sent me "The Martyr's Oath" and I read it over several times. It reinforced what I've already concluded as I consider the Christian-ease attitude very prevalent here in the west. We are so blessed with peace and prosperity that our commitment to following Christ can so easily vacillate and lack depth. 

In stark contrast here's a statement by our Chinese family members in regard to their stand for the Lord: "The Muslim and Buddhist nations can torture us, imprison us, starve us, but they can do no more than what we have already experienced in China for many decades. Thousands of young men and women will go as missionaries who are not afraid to die for Jesus. They are not afraid to bleed, as they know their bodies are merely temporary tents to be used in the Lord’s service and that one day they will be in paradise where there is no pain and no tears. They are not only ready to die for the Gospel, they are expecting it."

Today's Scripture text expresses the heart of the Apostle Paul.  He was going to Jerusalem but had been prophetically warned of the persecution that awaited him there. His followers were greatly distressed and entreated him not to go. This stirred Paul's emotions and he pleaded with them, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?"

Paul, who was firmly committed to his brothers and sisters in the faith was even more committed to his "high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  The Spirit of God compelling him to "go" was more persuasive than his ministry partners begging him to stay.  He fully realized the possible consequences and yet he forthrightly declared, "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus."

"Ready to die" – This statement can correctly refer to our preparation to die in regards to having accepted Christ as Savior and making our peace with God. It might also be used in the sense of having our earthly affairs in order such as preparing a will, making financial arrangements for family members, planning our funeral, etc.

However "ready to die" means much, much more than that to so many of our brethren and to the Apostle Paul. In the daily text he is expressing a willingness to suffer and die for Jesus. Although he didn't die for his faith in Jerusalem he did eventually die as a martyr. He had also witnessed many others who died for their faith, beginning with Stephen.

Today I struggle as to how I can effectively bring this message to a close. I realize for some readers this devotional thought is very close to home since you live in a place where the possibility of suffering or dying for Christ is a daily reality.  And some of you have suffered for Christ.

But most of us have not, at least up to this point.  This could very well change, given the godlessness that prevails in our land.  We need to take necessary steps to ensure that we are growing in our faith and making Jesus the very center of our lives. May the Lord grant each of us an unwavering faith such as that of Paul who boldly proclaimed, "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, may our heart's cry be the same as that of the Apostle Paul who declared, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.'" Physical suffering and persecution for the sake of Christ will prove our faith to be genuine and will gain for us a crown of life. Suffering and persecution here on earth is temporal, but a crown of life is eternal!  Help us to live not just for the here and now, but set our affections on that which is forever so that we stay the course!  May our faith in You increase. And may our resolve to stand firm intensify as we see the day of Your return approaching.   In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

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.)

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus"  Video  Audio This is a powerful ballad and will bless you!

"Praise You In The Storm" Video  

"Blessed Be Your Name"

The Martyr's Oath

Here is the story I referred to in the message about last week's persecution of Christians in Indonesia.

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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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