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October 23, 2013

Kraybill Church Road 10/21/13
The Autumn beauty is ushering in its peak foliage in our area.
Here's the view looking up Kraybill Church Road from our house.

"Take Up Your Cross"

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"Then He said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In recent months Brooksyne and I have been reading an extensive biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer titled, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Mataxas who also wrote the bestselling, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery". It's a hard read, so much so that we've paused between readings for reflection. (We are also listening to the audio version.) The book chronicles the incremental changes in Germany during the rise of Hitler and is uncomfortably similar to extremely troubling events taking place here in America.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer served God faithfully at this time and is perhaps best known for his book, "The Cost Of Discipleship." He sought to be a faithful voice for God's truth during the rise of Nazism when the co-opting of many leaders within the German church drastically changed the biblical platform of the church to conform to the Third Reich.

Bonhoeffer helped lead a remnant known as the "confessing church" that remained true to Biblical doctrine and opposed the Third Reich. If Christians do not judge their nation in the light of Scriptural principles, they will inevitably interpret the Scriptures in light of national policies, and Bonhoeffer fought against this heretical and disastrous movement.  His uncompromising views led to his martyrdom shortly before the war ended in April 1945. One of the many mysteries of providence is the unfortunate timing of his death which was exactly three weeks before Hitler's suicide and four weeks before Germany's liberation. (But, of course, he could view these historic happenings from heaven.)

The book reminds us of the varying degrees of sacrifice people have made to faithfully follow Christ.  So many of us here in America and many other western lands have had a peaceful life in comparison to the price paid by many in other ages and even now in so many places. According to Open Doors, a ministry that has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries for 60 years, an average of 100 Christians are killed for their faith every month. Others are physically tortured, imprisoned and undergo some form of persecution in at least 60 countries. This is especially true in areas dominated by the Muslim religion.

Consider the brutal attack on the Christian wedding party at the Coptic church in Cairo just three days ago. Following the pronouncement of the couple as husband and wife the bride and groom stepped outside the church where "two masked attackers drove fast by the church and opened fire on the crowd. At least three women were instantly killed and 17 other guests were severely injured and rushed to nearby hospitals; some of them are lying in critical conditions. Fortunately, the newlyweds survived the attack. They were left alone, standing among shattered flower bouquets, pieces of broken window glass and the hysterical wedding guests.

Egypt’s large Christian population, estimated at 10 million, was shocked with the news; a happy wedding was converted into sad and devastating funerals in just a few seconds". (Open Doors)

We consider the great cost and devastating loss Christians in Egypt, Syria and many other places are enduring as they follow Christ. Our daily text is a brief statement from our Lord concerning the cost of following Him. It's found in each of the three synoptic gospels and follows Peter's confession of Christ in Luke's account.

Jesus issued an all or nothing challenge to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, He must deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me".
Notice how He begins, "If anyone would come after me.He declared this same challenge to a great multitude, "And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).  Each of us are called to carry our cross and follow Him.

In this verse Jesus lists three conditions for those who come after Him:

1) We must deny ourself. This is not a life of self-indulgence but one of self-denial, so contrary to the spirit of this age.

2) We must take up our cross daily.  The cross is not disposable but a life-long burden. Taking up one's cross also means dying to self. Luke emphasizes that this is a daily pursuit.

3) We must follow Jesus Christ. No matter the cost, how great the ridicule, or how extensive the persecution our full allegiance must be devoted to Jesus. We heed the words in the earliest call to Peter, "Come, follow me."

Let us thoughtfully consider this three-fold command from Jesus and examine our heart to see if we are obeying it.

Be encouraged today!

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, as we become one with Christ we become a new creation. The old order of things has passed away and all things become new because You are sanctifying our hearts and thus aligning our outlook to be a reflection of Yours. And furthermore we are issued the command to deny our own willful desires, take up our cross every day, and follow You wholeheartedly. May we be careful to make a checklist daily to see that we live in accordance to Your commands, that we might reach others for Christ and find reward in our daily obedience to You. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Stan and Deb Miller 10/22/13
Stan and Deb Miller paid a visit to Ester last night and prayed over her. She is doing well and so happy to be home. Still working through a nasty cough but she has made tremendous progress with her cold/virus/flu - whatever you might call it. Thanks again for your many prayers and emails expressing interest. Stan and Deb were who youth leaders and demonstrate genuine ministry by continuing to care long after she is no longer in the youth group.

Amish contractor 10/23/13
Early this morning I stopped by Lowes for a few minutes in the course of my chaplain visitation and followed an Amish contractor out of the parking lot, not exactly your typical construction truck.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

This last weekend I had an interesting time of fellowship with John Uhler, who serves with my brother as an associate pastor. He has developed a powerful personal mission statement titled, The Code Of My Cross" (pdf)

"Come to Jesus"
  Video  Homecoming Series

"Take Up Your Cross"
  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

"I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

"Follow Me"  Video  Kelly Willard

"The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference"  Video  Guy Penrod

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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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