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Monday, November 14, 2011

Donegal Springs Road Mount Joy, PA 11/13/11
Donegal Springs Road in Mount Joy, PA
We enjoy passing through this "tree tunnel" often. Through much of the season the trees on both sides meet in the middle and form a foliage tunnel. However in this photo taken yesterday the trees on the right are peaking while those on the left have already shed their leaves so the tunnel aspect of the photo is less spectacular. 

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"Identifying With The Persecuted"

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12) "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).

Yesterday was a day of prayer for the persecuted church. We joined thousands of congregations in seeking to fulfill the Biblical command in our second text; "Remember". After a brief description of the plight of these, our brothers and sisters, we prayed one by one through our congregation, earnestly appealing to our heavenly Father on behalf of members of our spiritual family we've never personally met.

Arriving home after church service I checked my email and read an email from a Pakistanian who described his life as he seeks to follow the Lord and the persecution he is enduring. He writes, "It is really very hard to be a Christian in Pakistan because the Muslims hate Christians. But we love them because as we read in the Bible that we are to do so."

Then last night I read a blog post by Ruth Wilkinson that gives an interesting perspective on this matter and have permission to quote from this source today. She is a Canadian so some of the details may not be according to our US customs and we have slightly edited it (see below for link to her original post):

Weber family in 1988
Weber family in our home in Saint Marys Pennsylvania for a holiday meal in 1988

The following is a mental exercise: Imagine it’s Thanksgiving Day. You’re seated at the table at home with your family. You’re looking at the biggest feast you’ll have all year. It’s nice and warm inside, snappy cold outside. The house smells wonderful and all of your favorite relatives are present. The Thanksgiving service over the weekend was great. Fantastic music, good sermon. Get the picture? OK. Time for some cut and paste.

Cut the turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, salads, pie and all of the food on the table. Paste in a sparse meal of rice with measured portions.

Cut your house and paste in one that’s half the size or likely a great deal smaller. Cut the new dining room set and paste in an old rickety table with a bunch of wobbly chairs that don’t match. (Stephen's Note: Having been to third world countries for many, owning a home half the size of most American ho
mes would still be an almost unimaginable mansion. besides the fact that they would not include any indoor plumbing.)

Cut your TV(s), DVD(s), computer(s), game system(s), stereo(s), iPod(s), and other portable electronic devices and paste one small 13 inch black and white TV with an antenna that gets a couple of tightly monitored stations and a small crackly radio. Certainly cut any Christian radio stations and paste silence.

Look around the room and cut half of the kids. They died in infancy, so they’re not here. Paste in the woman next door and her 3 children. Paste an empty chair for her husband. He was arrested 6 months earlier for telling somebody at the factory about Jesus. She hasn’t been allowed to see him for two weeks, but she keeps trying every day. Over the last half year she’s aged 10 years.

Cut your church building and paste an empty lot. Cut the recent church service and paste 8 people in a living room reading the Bible while one keeps peeking out the window.

How many Bibles do you have in your house? Cut them all. While you’re at it, cut every book by Max Lucado and all other Christian writers, every worship CD, everything recorded by the Gaithers, every poster, card, plaque or T-shirt that has a Scripture or the name of Jesus on it.

Paste one very worn and much mended paperback Bible that has somebody else’s name written inside the cover. It was given to you years ago by a Canadian “tourist” when he was told that you’d given your only Bible to somebody who needed it more. You’ve since heard that it was ripped up into sections to be shared. You’re very happy about that.

Get the picture now? OK. Bow your head to say grace. “Thank you God for…”

What? That none of it is true for you? That, try as you might, you can’t even really imagine this being true? But it is for scores of our brethren or even worse.

Sunday, November 13, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It's a time of special devoted prayer for our brothers and sisters for whom it is true. Take time to find out what you can do to support these followers of Christ. There is so much we can learn from them. If you are reading this, like our Pakistanian email friend, know that you are being remembered.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily 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.

Tomorrow we will complete the series from last week on Satan's schemes with an examination of the "Peril of Materialism". (I had intended to do so today but wanted to get in the challenge regarding our persecuted brethren.)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Today we want to share some resources you can look into when remembering persecuted Christians. We really need to make this an ongoing matter of prayer and interest, personally, and as a church body.

Not All Local Churches Look Like Ours  Blog article by Ruth Wilkinson used in today's message. I enjoy her cut and paste analogy! As noted above we slightly edited her message to fit our theme in our daily encouragement today.

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.

Open Doors  

Door Of Hope International website

"Persecuted Christians Need Your Prayer"  Video
 A touching presentation with song and images.

"The Martyr's Oath"  A daily encouragement message on this topic.

"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  This song reminds us that God is worthy of being blessed in the good times and the hard times.

"Press On"  Video  by Selah  I dedicate this song to all those suffering for their faith.

An interesting brief video presentation concerning Christian martyrs.

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" Tom Green (Audio) (Video) This is a powerful ballad concerning an event that happened in Armenia in 320AD and will touch you!

"Forty Brave Soldiers For Jesus" 320 AD in Armenia

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.

"By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century" is a tremendous book I read about 15 years ago that chronicles the stories of modern day martyrs.  I was unable to find it on CBD but see it is available on Amazon.

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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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