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Monday, November 15, 2010

Balloon over Lancaster County 11/14/10
Up, up and away!
As we departed for our church service early yesterday morning this colorful balloon was rising over the farm west of our home.

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"Remembering The Persecuted"

"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:19).

Sometimes our well intentioned ideas have unintended consequences. Years ago we had a Christmas program in our church and wanted to demonstrate that the Lord cares for all kinds of people and wants them to be saved. I was forewarned of a particular skit that three men were going to use to illustrate this point, but the rest of the congregation was not.  It was to be a surprise.

Three wise guys
Three of the men in our church dressed up as hoodlums and at a specified time entered the foyer of our church. They revved up a motorcycle several times and clattered heavy chains. Those of us who gathered in the sanctuary heard what sounded like numerous motorcycles and broken glass.  We imagined the foyer glass door had been shattered and crashed through. The skit was so realistic that people thought we were being ambushed by brutal thugs!

Not realizing how intense this skit would be I didn't think through the possible consequences of a frightened group of people.  A visitor in our church service grabbed a chair and prepared to meet the intruders as they were making their way into the sanctuary.   I managed to stop him before he hit anyone!

(Note: The plan was that the three "hoodlums" were three modern wise guys and would hear the message of salvation and accept Christ. But I don't recall ever getting to that part due to the fear that had resulted in the parishioners and the need to calm everyone down.)

Yet the lesson had another unplanned teaching moment which we will always remember. It reminded us of how our Christian brethren around the world gather from Sunday to Sunday in places of danger.  For many of them the difference is that it isn't a staged attack and it's not necessarily a surprise element of their gathering.  They attend a service knowing that a very real attack could very well take place before their meeting is over.  Many of them have family members or friends who have been imprisoned, attacked or killed for their faith.

Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Perhaps your church participated in this day of praying for the persecuted church.  During a special time of prayer in our church all through our church we offered up prayers to the Lord and demonstrated that we had not forgotten our persecuted brothers and sisters. I preached from 1 Peter where the early church is instructed regarding persecution, which they were experiencing at the time of Peter's writing. I began by urging the church to consider hearing the message as if we were the original recipients and we were indeed experiencing persecution.

Of course at the present time we are not but millions of Christians worldwide are subject to intense persecution for their faith.  They meet secretly in their homes while being oppressed by government forces, violent mobs and Islamic terrorists.  Their towns and homes are attacked and burned.  Christian children and women are sold into slavery and raped.  Christians are brutally tortured and brainwashed in an effort to force them to recant their faith. They spend year after year in solitary prison cells and hard labor camps.  They fear for their lives.  And they die for their faith.  Tens of thousands of Christians are martyred each year.  Millions of Christians face discrimination in their daily lives.  Their education is restricted.  They are forced to take the lowest jobs in their societies.  They are frozen out of the political and judicial processes.  They are ridiculed.

Most of you live in areas where you've never encountered the conditions described above (at least at the present time).  What a special privilege Brooksyne and I enjoy in this daily encouragement internet ministry where we are able to reach some of our persecuted brethren.  We are especially heartened when we receive an email from a closed country.  Some of our correspondents inform us of the terrible circumstances of their persecution. (However since email is screened  we have difficulty in getting through in some places.  Filters and government intrusion may keep materials such as daily encouragement inaccessible.)

Our word of encouragement to all today is a word that Peter uses to conclude a portion of Scripture concerning persecution of the early church: "So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.  They suffer, not as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. They are guilty of being a Christian believer, guilty of loving You more than their very lives; guilty of wanting to gather with their family of believers week after week; guilty of spreading Your Gospel though their government suppresses their message.  They are found guilty as charged of doing that which brings honor to You. They suffer according to Your will and commit themselves to You, their faithful Creator as they continue to do good.  May we follow in their courageous footsteps through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Note regarding the "Three Wise Guys" photo: The skit took place about 25 years ago based upon my observation of the background in the photo. Jim, to the left, passed away from cancer about 15 years ago. We still stay in contact with his wife and two daughters who are both married, raising children and faithfully serving the Lord. In the middle is Mike who was our very first friend in that area and remains so to this day.
He is a Realtor in North Carolina. Last week he visited us along with his family. Ken is the tall man on the right in the photo.

We had a beautiful autumn day yesterday and welcome you via the internet to join us for our afternoon walk along the farm trail across from our house.

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
Part of our walk is between two rows of trees on a leaf-covered path. Our dog Roxie really enjoys this part. I really like the sound and feel of walking on crunchy leaves!

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
Around the bend from the tree-lined path we walk down a long tractor trail and see our neighbor's farm in the afternoon sun.

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
Our neighbor's Saint Bernard comes out to greet us and frighten Roxie.

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
Another neighbor's sheep scurry away at our sight!

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
Donegal Creek is almost completely covered with watercress. Several years ago the watercress was commercially grown along this stream but now grows voluntarily.  Someone new to this area might very well walk right into the creek thinking this is a groundcovering, not a watercovering!

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
These cows were excited to see us and ran down the meadow to the stream to greet us!

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
This duck persistently honked at us.
It must have been warning other fowl of our presence.

Afternoon walk in Lancaster County, PA  11/14/10
When we reached Colebrook Road at the end of the trail I took note of these maple leaves, now past the spectacular stage and changing into the somewhat muted colors. Soon they will all be gone for the season.

For the terminally curious here's a google map of our trail.

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.)

Today we want to especially share some resources you can look into when remembering persecuted Christians. Even though a special annual day of prayer has merit we really need to make this an ongoing matter of prayer and interest personally and as a church body.

Persecution.com is a website purposefully calling attention to this matter. It is the US website for Voice of the Martyrs, one of the foremost ministries focused on the persecuted church.

Persecution.net is similar but has different materials.
It is the Canadian website for Voice of the Martyrs.

Open Doors  This includes information about the International Day Of Prayer referenced in today's message.

Videos of testimonies of persecuted Christians.  

"Remember My Chains" is a specific video that includes actual testimonies of persecuted Christians.

"Remember Me"  Video

"Persecuted Christians Need Your Prayer"  Video

"The Martyr's Oath"  A daily encouragement message on this topic we shared several months ago.

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

"Praise You In The Storm" Video  Casting Crowns

"Blessed Be Your Name"
Video  We sang this song yesterday in our church service.  It reminds us that God is worthy of being blessed in the good times and the hard times.

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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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