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October 7, 2013

Donegal Springs
Saturday afternoon we visited the Donegal Springs which produces 2,000,000 gallons of water per day. The Donegal Springs Presbyterian Church had a Harvest Day festival.
(The Cameron Estate Inn is just beyond this pool to the left)

"Ready To Die"

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Note: This is the final message in our series on the theme on death. Today we will focus on persecution.

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" (Acts 21:13).

Several weeks ago we read the news about the horrible terrorist attack on a mall in Nairobi Kenya. Well published was the religious litmus test given by the terrorists to determine whether one would live or die, with Muslims being allowed to live. This is just one glaring example of the hate-filled religion of Islam's oppression of other faiths. I am so weary of the politically correct assertion that Islam is a "religion of peace". If they're not oppressing and killing those in other faiths they are killing each other, motivated by their religion, such as what happened in Iraq this last weekend.

Many observe that persecution of Christians is on the rise all around the world. This is of course primarily due to Islam. However all through the ages in various ways and to various extents Christians have been persecuted, beginning in the New Testament period. The first several centuries were especially brutal. But the last century has also been brutal due to communist regimes and Islam.

The face of persecution is rapidly changing as the spirit of lawlessness grips our land. Several years ago I visited with a local business owner who has strong Christian convictions. His company is fighting an evil government mandate that his company's insurance plan must include abortion coverage, something that he finds morally objectionable. Other Christian business owners have been persecuted for their stand on traditional morality. So far this has wrecked some businesses and likely silenced many others.

Military chaplains and the increasingly smaller remnant of Christians in the military are harassed if they refuse to accept or promote the new "morality" (see Isaiah 5:22). Being passed up for promotions and firings have resulted in the business and military world based upon one's taking a Biblical stand on morality. So far this persecution has not included the traditional understanding of persecution with imprisonment, torture and death but many of us see that coming.

Today's Scripture text expresses the heart of the Apostle Paul.  He was going to Jerusalem but had been prophetically warned of the persecution that awaited him there. His followers were greatly distressed and entreated him not to go. This stirred Paul's emotions and he pleaded with them, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?" What a touching statement regarding the value Paul placed on relationships.

Paul, who was firmly committed to his brothers and sisters in the faith was even more committed to his "high calling of God in Christ Jesus". The Spirit of God compelling him to "go" was more persuasive than his ministry partners begging him to "stay". He fully realized the possible consequences and yet he forthrightly declared, "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

"Ready to die" – This statement can correctly refer to our preparation to die in regards to having accepted Christ as Savior and making our peace with God. It might also be used in the sense of having our earthly affairs in order such as preparing a will, making financial arrangements for family members, planning our funeral, etc.

However "ready to die" in this context means much, much more than this to Paul and so many of our brethren. In the daily text he is expressing a willingness to suffer and die for Jesus. Although he didn't die for his faith in Jerusalem he did eventually die as a martyr. He had also witnessed many others who died for their faith, beginning with Stephen.
Bible commentator Albert Barnes observes, "This (being ready to die) was the true spirit of a martyr. This spirit reigned in the hearts of all the early Christians."

Today I struggle as to how I can effectively bring this message to a close. I realize for some readers this devotional thought is very close to home since you live in a place where the possibility of suffering or dying for Christ is a daily reality. We often hear from many readers in Kenya and pray for their safety as they undergo persecution.

Given the godlessness that prevails in our land, among many lawmakers and their constituents, the climate is changing in North America for the Christian believer. We need to take necessary steps to ensure that we are growing in our faith, making Jesus the very center of our lives. May the Lord grant each of us an unwavering faith such as that of Paul who boldly proclaimed, "I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, may our heart's cry be the same as that of the Apostle Paul who declared, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Physical suffering and persecution for the sake of Christ will prove our faith to be genuine and will gain for us a crown of life. Suffering and persecution here on earth is temporal, but a crown of life is eternal!  Help us to live not just for the here and now, but set our affections on that which lasts forever so that we stay the course!  May our faith in You increase as we build treasures in heaven rather than chasing after fool's gold here on earth. And may our resolve to stand firm intensify as we see the day of Your return approaching.   In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Brooksyne's note: I'm halfway through the book, "In the Presence of My Enemies" by Gracia Burnham. It's a gripping account of Missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham and their year of terror in the Philippine Jungle 2001-2002 where they faced starvation, constant exhaustion, frequent gun battles, coldhearted murder and much more at the hands of their Muslim captors. Martin was killed during a spray of gunfire. I consider their bravery, dedication and long to mirror such dedication in the face of the enemy. They could have denounced God and converted to Islam as others did and had a more "comfortable" captivity.

A missionary group in India has their missionaries sign a martyr's pledge which in part states: "I surrender this body on earth to the perfect will of Jesus and, should my blood be spilled, may it bring forth a mighty harvest of souls." When I graduated from Bible College and went through the credentialing steps for ministry there was no mention of a Martyr's pledge to be signed. It just isn't something we've had to give much thought to in our ministry call here in the U.S.

In stark contrast here's a statement by our Chinese family members in regard to their stand for the Lord: "The Muslim and Buddhist nations can torture us, imprison us, starve us, but they can do no more than what we have already experienced in China for many decades. Thousands of young men and women will go as missionaries who are not afraid to die for Jesus. They are not afraid to bleed, as they know their bodies are merely temporary tents to be used in the Lord’s service and that one day they will be in paradise where there is no pain and no tears. They are not only ready to die for the Gospel, they are expecting it."

Activist Pastor Bob Fu, now based in Texas, tells about the persecution of Chinese Christians in his new book, "God's Double Agent". One-time atheist and now head of ChinaAid, Bob Fu believes China may soon have one of the largest populations of Christians worldwide. He answers questions related to some of the ongoing persecution in China in this article.

Horse farm on Kraybill Church Road
Numerous times we have posted photos of the horses down the road from our house. We thought this harvest view we drove by Saturday was nice with the clean fields and large stack of bales in the background.

Country log house farm
We also drove by the Country Log House Farm which is a bed and breakfast.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

We have been sharing musical selections are Christian songs on death this last week.

"When I Cry"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band   When we heard this song on the radio Saturday we considered its timely message for times of sorrow and perplexing situations.

"To Live is For Christ to Die Is Gain"  Video  Incredibly moving video with images of persecution our brethren have endured through the ages

"Tears Are A Language God Understands"  Video  Amy Lambert

"My Jesus I Love Thee"  Video  Selah

"He's Walking Her Home"  Video   Mark Schultz (This true ballad written by Mark was about a couple who befriended him right after he moved to Nashville. They had a very close relationship and he honored the woman's husband right up to the day God called his wife home. A very touching song for a long married couple.)

"Homesick"  Video 

"Save A Place For Me"  Video  Matthew West  A powerful perspective

"Heaven's Song"  Video   Phil Wickham

Death Is Gain "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  Video 

"To Live Is Christ"

Today we referred to "the spirit of lawlessness gripping our land". The other night we heard an interesting perspective on the news by Judge Pirro titled "The Rise Of Lawlessness". Now I have no idea concerning her religious faith but this commentary nails it (See here for video and transcript)

"Discerning The Will Of God" a message by Pastor Steven Cole. Excellent exposition on our daily text and surrounding context (pdf)

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Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
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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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