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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Survivor tree (photo by Nancy Martin)
The "Survivor"
Our friend Nancy Martin shared this photo she took recently of a tree that was injured and lost a limb this last summer
when Hurricane Irene came through our area. It has recovered and is a demonstration from nature of "standing its ground". Below our message is a photo of the tree right after the storm before the damaged limb was removed.

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"Standing Your Ground"

"Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering" (Hebrews 10:32). "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13). "But he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13).

In America we can watch a lot of football at this time of year with college bowl games and the professional postseason.  I know this is a subject that will not "connect" to everyone, including many who live here in the USA, let alone other countries, so I'll keep the illustrative portion of the encouragement brief.

Goal line stand
Consider the goal line stand. You're on the defense and the opposing team has the ball on the one yard line with 1st and goal. You are a lineman and your job is to keep the opposing team from moving the ball that one yard, although they have four opportunities to do so. You must stand your ground!

Today so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are standing up against tremendous opposition in this great contest. Using football as an illustration may have a sense of trivializing the very real contest in which they battle.

The first daily text is a commendation to the first century Hebrew believers who had stood their ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. The Greek word translated "contest" is "athlasis", which is a root of the English word athlete. All we who follow Christ are involved in this great contest, what the Apostle Paul calls "The Race" (2 Timothy 4:7). Some approach this contest in a passive sense, as if we are just standing on the sidelines as spectators.

Others rightly recognize that we are in the midst of this great spiritual battle and God's call is that we actively stand our ground. The apostle Paul alluded to this stand when he commissioned followers of Christ to, "Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13).

The early believers to whom the Book of Hebrews addressed were enduring persecution because of their uncompromising stand. They stood their ground even in the face of tremendous suffering. In fact as I prepare this message from the comfort of my home office looking out across peaceful farm fields I feel so far, far removed from their plight. Last night we received an email from a daily encouragement reader in a country where many of our brethren are undergoing severe persecution. Today may God help us and all that read this to remember them in prayer as they stand up in the midst of the great conflict.

And may the Lord empower each of us with grace to stand our ground in regard to the particular issues we will deal with today and this new year. I especially have on my heart a call to all earnest followers of Christ to stand our ground regarding faithfulness to apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42, Jude 3) and Biblical standards of morality (Galatians 5:19-20, Colossians 3:4-6, 1 Thessalonians 4:2-4) The Bible speaks of a great falling away that will occur in the end times (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and I wonder if we are seeing that before our very eyes.

Nevertheless, stand your ground; for if you don't stand you'll surely fall!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Jesus, You warned Your listeners as You sat on the Mount of Olivet that at the end of the age nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom, famines and earthquakes will be commonplace. Believers will be handed over to be persecuted and many will turn away from the faith as wickedness increases. In the midst of such dark desolation we cling to the bright promise, full of hope and motivation for those who walk steadfastly with You; he who stands firm to the end will be saved. We will conquer the enemy, for the battle is not ours, but Yours, Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Personal Note: Last Friday we shared the story of five year old Marvin who lived with us on two occasions when he came to the U.S. for surgery. Now, almost 23 years later, we received a response from him about his experience of coming to a strange land to live among strangers. He receives our Daily Encouragement and somehow has it translated since he follows us closely.  Brooksyne posed the question and here's the response he sent: We think our readers will understand what a blessing it is for us to receive this note.

"When I got Estados Unidos I felt sad because I was away from my parents, but you immediately made me feel the love you expressed in your hugs, loving correction to my disobedience, to fulfill the whims of a child and take pictures and prepare those tortillas meals so delicious, and of course toys. I remember the people and children who visited us and its special affection they gave me, all that fear was far away, I received love that left a mark on my life and had trust in you. Now in our family, when we sit at the dining table we pray holding hands, just as you did to me. I also take lots of pictures, just as you did with me. I may conclude that the love of God can do anything. When I returned home I told my parents how wonderful to be in a home where Christ lives. I wish a happy New Year 2012 to you and your family."

We are posting Marvin's note for the benefit of a good number of readers who would have known him
and been among those he referred to as "I remember the people and children who visited us and its special affection they gave me, all that fear was far away, I got love left a mark on my life..."  Unlike earthly treasures, when we share a spiritual treasure, such as the love of God, it never depletes, but spread out to others, and often comes right back to us in fuller measure.

Marvin with Shawna and Sharon
Here is a photo taken over twenty years ago when Marvin was up in the States with us. He is with two sisters, Shawna and Sharon, who were in the church we served at that time in northern Pennsylvania.  Marvin was proud to wear his tie to church that Brooksyne bought him. In fact he liked it so much he often wore it at home. He came from a devout Christian family. Here's a photo of Shawna and Sharon at the Shady Maple where we met them for lunch several years ago. Both are married with children and also faithfully serve the Lord.  3 John 1:4

Marvin teaching Sunday School
Here's a current photo of Marvin (arrived this morning) with his Sunday School class in Guatemala. It appears he still likes to wear a tie! He is married with two children and works as a forester with the Guatemalan Forestry Department. Something else interesting regarding Marvin's career choice is that we had a lot of foresters in our church in northern PA!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Precious Lord, Take My Hand"  Video  Selah  
"Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on, let me stand"

"Be Strong and Take Courage"  Video  Maranatha Singers

"We Shall Stand"  Video  Maranatha Singers

Survivor tree (photo by Nancy Martin)
Here's a photo of the tree after the storm with the split limb fallen on the ground.

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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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