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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dark Canyon in Turkey (photo from Steward family blog)
Euphrates River and "Dark Canyon" region in Turkey

(Photo from family blog)

"Dying Out Loud"

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"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace" (Acts 20:22-24).

"After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord’s will be done.' After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:10-15).

"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;

We are blessed by testimonies; living examples of how God is working in people's lives. Many testimonies are about conversion; what the person was like before they turned to Christ, how they came to Christ and how their lives changed in conformity to God's transforming power. Other testimonies are about how the Lord works out a troubling matter in one's life. Testimonies build faith and remind us that "God's not dead, He's still alive" as an old song goes.

I heard a testimony on Tuesday night that touched me deeply and will try to recount it here in an abbreviated manner. *

Steward familyStan and Ann, along with their two children left for service in Turkey about eight years ago. Prior to that they lived in southern California where Stan was a police officer in San Diego. As an adult he responded to a call from God that he had received many years earlier as a child. Stan and Ann wanted to go where there was a desperate need. This desire/calling led them to Turkey and along the Iraq/Iranian borders, a very inhospitable spot for the seed of the Gospel.

They built friendships and saw people healed in response to their prayers but had not witnessed a single conversion to Christ. The family was praying desperately about this matter when Stan was diagnosed with terminal cancer. They remained in Turkey, determined to allow the Lord to use them in the midst of this most difficult trial of their lives, as they considered how they might be witnesses to the Turkish people while dealing with Stan's terminal disease.  Just last Friday evening, August 2,  Stan went to be with the Lord.

His dying days are chronicled in a soon to be released book called "Dying Out Loud" which expresses the goal of very publically demonstrating his faith in God through the dying process. Stan states, "God whispered into our hearts, 'live this dying out loud'."

Today's first two Bible texts are in regard to the Apostle Paul's trip to Jerusalem, where he felt compelled to go even though he knew danger awaited him. The first passage is from a message to the Ephesian elders. It is an astounding expression of personal commitment regardless of the cost of discipleship. All through the church age there have been believers demonstrating a resolve like Paul who wrote, "I consider my life worth nothing to me". A more contemporary example of such resolve is Dietrich Bonheoffer who was martyred for his faith during World War 2.

The second daily text speaks of the time that Paul had left Ephesus and was en route to Jerusalem. In Tyre, Syria he sought out a group of disciples who "through the Spirit urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:4). Then he went to Caesarea where a colorful and demonstrative "prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’" The prophetic warning from Agabus, accompanied with the visual effects, still didn't deter Paul!

His life's mission was "to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."

Today let us renew our mission in serving Christ and remain faithful to His supreme cause to the very end, no matter the outcome on this side.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You are our light, our strength and our song; the Cornerstone of our faith and our solid ground that holds us firm through the fiercest drought and darkest storm. In the midst of tremendous trial we can still find heights of love and depths of peace that still our fears and release sweet assurance to our souls. From our first cry to our final breath You command our destiny and no enemy can thwart Your plan for our lives. We stand in Your power and walk in Your strength through Christ Jesus our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.

Prayer adapted from lyrics of "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"In Christ Alone"  Video  Travis Cotrell This is the song written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

"I'd Rather Have Jesus"  Video  Dallas Holm

*"Dying Out Loud" Tuesday night I watched an outstanding sermon of challenge and encouragement by Dr. George Wood. He ended with a remarkable testimony concerning Stan, the story I abbreviated today. It moved me greatly to the point of tears and I was scarcely able to sleep following the service. You can watch the entire Tuesday evening service online in an archived video  Link to service  (This may open to a live stream but click on the Tuesday Evening service.) The start of the testimony is at 2:23
. I would expect the testimonial video used in the message will be available as a separately in the coming months or it may come with the book.

"Dying Out Loud: No Guilt in Life, No Fear in Death" is available here. It is written by Shawn Smucker who happens to live here in Lancaster County and is related to a family-run business we work with as chaplains (S.S. Smucker & Sons). Here's the description: Dying Out Loud is the story of Stan, his wife, Ann, their children Elle and Stanley, and their dedication to following God no matter what the cost. They traded the comforts of suburban Southern California for the crowded cobblestone streets of Istanbul. They explored the border regions of Turkey that snake along Iran, Iraq, and Syria. They prayed with nomadic tribes people in the Triangle of Terror, and they brought the light of the gospel to those living in the Dark Canyon. But none of those adventures compared to where God led them next: a journey of visions, revelations, and sorrow. A journey into stage-four colon and liver cancer, and a journey that beckoned them to walk the shrouded path through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yet even there they discovered peace, grace, and a new hope for the lost around them.

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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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