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Friday, April 8, 2011

Geese across Donegal Creek
Geese along Donegal Creek

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening Plan: This suggested 40 day reading plan began Sunday and if you are just reading this and want to participate it's not too late to begin! Here's the schedule. (These links will open to the selection to be read and a built-in listening device.) More information concerning the Scripture reading plan is below the daily message.)
  • Today's reading (April 8): Mark 1-6 beginning here.
  • Tomorrow's reading (April 9): Mark 7-11 beginning here.
  • Sunday's reading (April 10): Mark 12-16 beginning here.
"The Compassionate Touch"

"Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him" (Mark 4:41).

There are many people, young and old, rich and poor, who live in loneliness and crave the human touch. Some of you reading this message know from personal experience just what I'm talking about. Let me illustrate this by sharing the following true story:

Several years ago a widow lived alone. She made dinner every night for one and had conversation with none. Most of her closest friends had died, people rarely stopped by, and her phone never rang. She experienced a loneliness that grew day by day. She longed to fellowship with her brothers and sisters, to hear their conversation, and to feel their touch. Her fragile health forced her to be quarantined in her loneliness for a number of weeks.

One Sunday morning she mustered all the strength she could to dress herself and get ready for church. Her anticipation grew as she thought about how good it would be to meet with others again. She pictured herself receiving a handshake from the pastor; maybe a hug from her sisters in Christ. She needed to feel the warmth of someone's flesh besides her own.

She attended the service but returned to her home even more desperate and lonely. You see, the people didn't even notice her as they filed past her. No word of greeting, not one handshake was extended to this lonely widow. No warm conversation took place such as "We've missed you so much. We’ve been praying for you! How are you feeling?"

Roxie practicing pet therapy
As regular readers of our daily encouragement messages know, we have a ministry in a local personal care center. We have chapel services and also visit the residents one by one. It is of special blessing when a pastor or lay leaders from a resident’s home church comes for a visit, since they know them from an earlier time when they were active in their community. Such continuing care and interest from outside the facility is of enormous benefit to the residents. We often also take Roxie and the residents just love her. In fact some have called this "pet therapy"

Some of the less acceptable people of society, though not necessarily elderly, also end up residing in these institutions. Due to their limited mental capacity or severe physical deformities they've been delegated to these settings for necessary care. Many of them have a desperate need of a loving human touch or an interested listening ear that is more important to them than mere medical procedures or hygiene assistance supplied by medical and staff personnel. Such needy people make me think of those described in the Bible who were also needy, some of them even regarded as outcasts.

"A leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, "If You are willing, You can make me clean" (Mark 4:40). In the Bible times leprosy was a disease that had severe social consequences. Throughout the Bible we read about this and can easily conclude that lepers would have extreme reticence in personally approaching the Lord. They were accustomed to being shunned; an outcast from their peers and even their family.

But this leper stepped out in boldness. Or perhaps it was desperation that led him to take the risk of being rejected or reproved publicly as he approached Jesus. Our Lord did not turn away nor did He instruct the disciples to remove the outcast. Instead Mark describes it this way, "Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him." What Christ did in stretching out His hand and touching the leper was very significant. This man was so unaccustomed to the human touch that this loving act by the Lord must have been extremely meaningful, even if no physical healing had accompanied His touch (though certainly it did).

Brooksyne with residentTry to imagine what it would be like to live devoid of the touch of other people, such as leprous people are consigned to. I am so blessed with a happy marriage (35 years this May) and so many other sources of compassionate human touch that I enjoy daily. In our home we regularly enjoy a family hug, where we essentially gather in a huddle and all hug at once. I know many of you have similar blessings which can easily be taken for granted.

Today people all around you need the compassionate touch of other caring individuals. For many it's just one more component to wholeness. They have a longing for someone to reach out and touch them, to pray for them and believe with them for their need. Perhaps you’re not within reach of the person God puts on your heart and a phone call or email would lift their spirit. We have opportunity to represent the body of Christ as we reach out to others physically and spiritually sharing our love and support!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Loving Father, would You bring to our attention people who go unnoticed or those who are rejected by the “norms” of society. Put their face on our conscience so that we will take the time or make the necessary sacrifice to assure them that they are cared for. Show us how we can help shoulder their burdens. Prompt us to extend the loving touch that Jesus extended when He stretched out His hand and touched the leper mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. And remind us to faithfully pray for them which is an evidence of our genuine care. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne's note: The widows’ story serves as a continual reminder not to overlook the quiet individual who may slip into the background of more prominent church personalities. Before the service begins I make it a point to shake the hands of widows, widowers, and people with ongoing health challenges. In the back of my mind I ask, "Who needs the human touch of a handshake today?" I’ve done this for years because of reading the story about the lonely widow.

Several years ago Brooksyne had an experience that illustrates today's theme.

Tortured For His FaithToday Paul H. Popov, president of Door Of Hope International is visiting with us and we are sharing lunch together.  Door Of Hope is a ministry to the persecuted church. Paul's father Haralan spent over 13 years imprisoned in Bulgaria under the Communists through the late forties into the early sixties when Paul was a little boy.

Paul tells the story of his own experience and that of his father and family as they endured this time and of the ministry of Door Of Hope International that developed from this. We thoroughly enjoyed reading the book as well as others within our congregation. It is tremendously inspiring and will stir you to faithfulness in the face of persecution.  It will also create a greater hunger for the Bible as a result of reading it.

Regular readers know that I normally like to post a photo of our guests and ministry associates but since Paul has a ministry that takes him into closed countries and doesn't want to be recognized he requests that we not do so.

Today we are discussing ways of using email to minister to the members of the persecuted church as well as informing the western church regarding the reality of the persecution many of our brethren are now enduring
Door Of Hope website

Regular Daily Encouragement Net readers may find it interesting that our messages reach into many "closed" countries and we periodically receive messages from readers in these countries.

His father wrote a book titled "Tortured For His Faith" published by Zondervan which is an outstanding account of his experience. 

Here's the description of the book: Haralan Popov was a successful minister in Bulgaria when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment as "an American spy", at a widely publicized trial in Sofia. Enduring torture and brainwashing in communist prisons and labor camps, Haralan Popov remained faithful to God. After his release, Dr. Haralan Popov founded Door of Hope International in 1972. You can order his amazing and inspiring biography, for a contribution of $7.50 USD to the work of Door of Hope International. "Tortured For His Faith" has been published in more than twenty three languages and has been No. 1 on the best-seller list (pocket books) for many years. More than one million copies have been sold and it has exposed the militant nature of atheistic communism for more than 30 years. It has inspired readers, strengthened their faith in God, and motivated them to a greater compassion for the Persecuted Church.  
We would highly recommend it and Paul is making this book available to Daily Encouragement readers for the month of April free of charge by going to this page and filling out the form on the lower part of the page. Indicate that you are a daily encouragement reader in the comment box.

Paul's mother was Swedish and his father Bulgarian. They met in Bible School in London. I shared with Paul two resources that I have found to be a blessing:

"God's Remarkable Ways - The Story of David and Svea Flood"  A Swedish missionary with an outstanding story.

"40 brave soldiers for Jesus" A ballad concerning an ancient persecution.  (mp3)

40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening Plan

"You've Got The Time" Bible reading planOn Sunday April 3 we began a forty day program of reading through the New Testament and we encourage Daily Encouragement Net readers to consider joining in as we read/listen through the entire New Testament in 40 days. This takes about 30 minutes per day. Prior to each message we will provide a direct link to the Scripture portion to be read and listened to each day (and several links for the weekend daily readings).

The daily encouragement message for each weekday during the forty day period will be based on a portion of the text in the Bible reading for that day (or, on Mondays this may also be from a Scripture portion read over the weekend.)

Here's an overview of the plan I have prepared with practical tips (pdf)

Here's a schedule for the entire 40 day reading period along with discussion questions. This is especially suitable to bookmark during this period as it contains links that will open directly to the passage to be read for the day.

"You've Got The Time" Bible reading planThe reading links open to Bible.is, an online Bible with audio player and additional apps that you may find useful. For those who may prefer the KJV it is available. For international readers there may even be a version available in your native language. Just click the small tab directly below the Bible.is logo on the top left to see available versions. 

This Bible reading plan is a partnership of Daily Encouragement Net and Faith Comes By Hearing, a ministry which provides Bible listening resources all over the world. We will share more about this ministry in future messages.

Daily Encouragement on Facebook Join our Daily Encouragement Bible reading group on Facebook. You can read and listen to the material directly on Facebook.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"He Touched Me"  Video  Ernie Haase and Signature Sound Quartet & Gaither Vocal Band

"Let Your Heart Be Broken"
 Video  This is a wonderful song expressing our need to show compassion to others. It was in a hymnal "The Hymnal For Worship & Celebration" we used in our church in New England and we would sing it occasionally. This version is from a local church.

Let Your Heart Be Broken - Bryan Leech

Let your heart be broken,
For a world in need:
Feed the mouths that hunger,
Soothe the wounds that bleed,
Give the cup of water and the loaf of bread --
Be the hands of Jesus, serving in His stead.

Here on earth applying, Principles of love,
Visible expression -- God still rules above --
Living illustration of the Living Word.
To the minds of all who've never seen or heard.

Blest to be a blessing, Privileged to care,
Challenged by the need -- Apparent everywhere.
Where man-kind is wanting, Fill the vacant place.
Be the means through which the Lord reveals His Grace.

Add to your believing - deeds that prove it true,
Knowing Christ as Saviour, Make Him Master too.
Follow in His footsteps, Go where He has trod;
In the world's great trouble Risk yourself for God.

Let your heart be tender and your vision clear;
See mankind as God sees,
Serve Him far and near.`
Let your heart be broken by a brother's pain;
Share your rich resources, Give and Give again.

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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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