The online Bible teaching ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
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Monday, April 11, 2011
Humphrey, the Lancaster County camel!
We periodically pass this camel near our home.
The owner is a Christian and has an annual Christmas display with real animals.
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40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening Plan: This suggested 40 day reading plan began last Sunday (April 3) If you want to participate and have not been following the reading schedule up to this point we suggest starting with today's reading (Luke 1-4) and reading Matthew and Mark after this reading period ends. Here's the entire 40 day 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.
Note: As this message developed I see that it is longer than normal. If time constraints keep you from reading the entire message I certainly encourage you to scroll down to read the paragraph concerning the persecution that Haralan Popov endured.
"Remembering the Persecuted"
"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them" (Mark 13:9). "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).
Last Friday I spent several hours with Paul H. Popov (this was mentioned in the footnote of Friday's message). Paul is the president of "Door of Hope International", a Christian ministry that focuses on the persecuted church. When guests join us for dinner we ask them to sign our guest book. Beside his name Paul wrote Hebrews 13:3 and then made an interesting observation about the theme verses of our respective ministries. Daily Encouragement is based on Hebrews 3:13; simply reverse the chapter and verse of the same book and you have the theme verse of "Door of Hope International" (Hebrews 13:3)!
Today's reading is from Luke for those participating in the reading plan of "Faith Comes by Hearing". Each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) has a long chapter devoted to what is known as the Olivet Discourse, a sermon given by the Lord on the Mount of Olives just prior to His death. In this message Christ shares regarding future events and warns His followers to expect persecution: "But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them."
Persecution has long been a part of the life of the church practically from the beginning, though it's difficult for many of us to identify with our persecuted brethren around the world. This is especially true if we live in free countries where we haven't yet experienced persecution. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to "remember". "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). I have memorized this verse and I earnestly desire that God would help me to live in daily prayerful remembrance and intercession for my persecuted brothers and sisters. Frankly, the Holy Spirit convicts me in this regard that I am not more 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 this is not what the writer of Hebrews had in mind in this text. 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 still happening today. Just yesterday I read about 200 Christians who were rounded up and imprisoned for their faith. 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).
In his book "Tortured For His Faith" which is an account of his sufferings Haralan Popov, Paul's father, shares a form of horrible torment that he experienced at the hands of his communist captors as they tried to break down him down:
He was ordered to stand facing the prison wall for two weeks straight. Required to stand 8" away from the wall he could not blink, sit, rest or sleep during the entire time. Guards watched him 24/7 and if they caught him blinking they would punish him. He was given crumbs and watery, foul-tasting soup to keep him alive. At the end of the two week period his face and head were huge, his eyes like flames of fire, and his legs were like that of an elephant. Yet they did not break his will to live for Jesus. He endured such kinds of torment for over 13 years. Why didn't the authorities simply kill him and be done with it? They admitted that such killings simply caused the cause of Christ to grow.
Imagine with me being in the early church when Hebrews 13:3 was first read. You intently listen as your pastor solemnly reads the letter from the esteemed apostle. A short time before this you had heard this exhortation, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25). You look around and note not only those present, but those who are missing. No, they're not at a game or the mall or sitting home reading the Sunday cartoons. They're not even sick.
You look around and see Martha and her children. Her husband is imprisoned for his faith. You look over and see James whose tongue has been cut out attempting to silence the gospel message that fell from his lips. Jude 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 discipleship. 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 most gratifying aspects of this online writing ministry is the ability to share a message of hope and encouragement with those 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. In his email he shared how he had made a soundproof room so he could pray. Most of us cannot imagine living under such danger and confinement.
When the letter to the Hebrews was written very likely the recipients actually knew someone undergoing persecution. Perhaps they could put a family member's face on the suffering or had even suffered themselves. Few of us reading this Scripture passage can identify with the writer, but the early church surely could. 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 wept 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 and 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. We 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. Many of them have received the crown of life in heaven that is rewarded to those martyred for their faith. On Coronation Day when we all gather in heaven we look forward to enjoying earnest fellowship with these tried and true saints of our faith who did not give up meeting together to worship You. Keep us faithful when tested by fire, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Today, this may seem like a less than encouraging message to see on your screen, but it is a 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. And God, help us to truly be moved by their plight. Their stories serve as examples to follow should we face similar circumstances.
Free book: "Tortured For His Faith" 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. 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 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. We would highly recommend it and Paul H. Popov is making this book available to Daily Encouragement readers for the month of April free of charge! Merely go to this page and fill out the form on the lower part of the page. Indicate that you are a daily encouragement reader and request the book in the comment box. (Don't forget to include your mailing address.)
Paul met with me to discuss how an email list component could serve his ministry. Door Of Hope International is a ministry to the persecuted church. We discussed 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 International website.
40 Day New Testament Reading/Listening 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. (At this point we suggest starting at the reading for the current day and then if desired reading the eralier reading when the 40 day period is over. These readings take 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 for the next 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 is a page where you can download the entire Bible to your computer in a variety of versions.
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.
The 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.
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"Press On" Video by Selah I dedicate this song to any of our readers suffering for their faith.
"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" Tom Green (Audio) (Video) This is a powerful ballad concerning an event that happened in Armenia in 320 AD 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.
"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.
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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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