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Friday, February 21, 2014

White Rock Covered bridge and Amish buggy, Lancaster County PA
Amish buggy entering into White Rock Covered Bridge in southern Lancaster County. We enjoy hearing the distinct sound of the clackety-clack of horseshoes on the wooden bridge deck!

"The Struggle Against Sin"

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"Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Hebrews 12:3,4).

Home Bible study at the WebersMost of us gather to worship our Lord and receive Bible teaching and encouragement unharassed. We have often had small group Bible Studies in our home, gathering around our dining room table as seen in the photo to the left. As we began our time together in prayer one evening, Ken thanked God that we did not need to draw the curtains to hide our activity, ask special permission to gather, or fear the authorities. At this time in our country and in many others we still gather freely with other believers, share our faith, study the Bible and live out our Christian convictions. However in recent years some believers have dealt with authorities over permits, government mandates, harassment from militant homosexuals and so forth, which is of grave concern for our continued religious freedoms.

But for many of our fellow brothers and sisters around the world their religious freedom is nonexistent. Woefully under-reported is the plight of so many Christians all around the world who daily face intense persecution. Hardly a week goes by without reports of horrific violence against Christians and churches in Nigeria. I just read a news report about the group targeting Christians in this country and a leader was quoted as saying, “All these infidels we are the ones killing them. We enjoy shedding their blood." Syrian Christians (and those all through the Middle East) increasingly face the hatred and scorn of the oppressor. Just yesterday I read of a threat to Christians in Lebanon.

Abdi Welli Ahmed, martyred missionaryBut sometimes we need a face and some biographical info to really identify. Rev. Abdi Welli Ahmed, a longtime missionary in West Africa and East Africa, was shot and killed by Muslim terrorists last year in Kenya. According to eye witnesses, his last words were: "It's good to be in the hands of El Shaddai."

One of the most fulfilling aspects of this online ministry is the ability to share God's Word of encouragement with our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in these areas. We enjoy all the feedback we receive and draw strength to continue in this ministry, but it's extra special when we hear from those in countries who deal with persecution.

The book of Hebrews was written to encourage the early believers (Hebrew Christians) to remain faithful as they faced growing persecution. At the time the book was written, some had already been imprisoned and others had faced the confiscation of their property (10:34).  Others had faced unspecified mistreatment (13:3).

But at the time the book was written none among the original recipients had yet faced the point of shedding their own blood (i.e. dying for their faith, martyrdom). In the previous verse we read, "Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (12:3). The writer is looking back to Jesus and all He endured as an example and source of strength for his readers, so that they would
"not grow weary and lose heart."

"In your struggle against sin." We all struggle against sin in at least two ways: 1) Our personal sinful nature and temptations to violate God's will. 2) The sense that we live in a sinful world opposed to God. It seems to me the writer is likely using this second sense in our daily text. For some this struggle is much more intense than others.

"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." The two words "not yet" are significant. At that time in the broader context of the church some had already shed blood for the Lord, namely Stephen and James, whose martyrdoms are recorded in Acts 7 and 12. As the Hebrew Christians read this they were surely aware of these and other martyrdoms throughout the early church. But it had not yet happened in their specific setting.

Bombed Nigerian ChurchToday most reading this still live in relative peace and freedom. There is no need to draw the blinds in our home for Bible Study or wonder if our church will be bombed as we gather on the Lord's Day. We are not yet facing this degree of persecution. But I believe there are many signs that we may increasingly pay a price for standing up for God's truth and righteousness.  I pray that all of us, regardless of our present conditions, "will not grow weary and lose heart" but that we will remain faithful to Jesus whatever the cost.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

As we prepare today's message we are also aware of the terrible conditions in the Ukraine and Venezuela. Although not specifically related to Christian persecution likely many Christians are impacted, and of course in a broader sense, our hearts go out to these people regardless of the faith they may have. My brother-in-law is a national Venezuelan, although for many years he has lived in the US. He still has family in that country and this is a deeply troubling time.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"A Tribute to Persecuted Christians World-Wide"

Don't Forget Us"

"How Long"
  Video  Stuart Townend

"We Will Hold On"  Video  Paul Baloche

"Let Your Kingdom Come"  Video  Sovereign Grace  “by grace we’ll preach your Gospel till our dying breath.”

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

Mission Network News
Article about Rev. Abdi Welli Ahmed

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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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