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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Historic Smithton Inn, Ephrata, PA
The Historic Smithton Inn in Ephrata, PA was built in 1763 during the Colonial period.
It is now a Bed and Breakfast at a busy intersection. We pass it regularly and try to imagine how different things would have looked 200 years ago when all transportation was literally powered by horse or foot!

"Overwhelming Evidence"

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"They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail" (Acts 5:18). "They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah" (Acts 5:40-42). "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

I am not ashamed of the gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ
No, I am not afraid to be counted
But I'm willing to give my life
I'm ready to be
All He wants me to be
Give up the wrong for the right
No, I am not ashamed of the gospel
No, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Today consider the price you have paid and presently pay to stand faithfully for Christ. Very few of us have resisted to the point of shedding our blood (See Hebrews 12:3,4). Yet many are suffering and shedding blood for their faith even as we prepare and you read these materials. Recently ISIS beheaded four Christian children in Iraq for refusing to convert to Islam. Canon Andrew White, who is known as the ‘vicar of Baghdad’, told Orthodox Christian Network that the killings happened in a Christian enclave close to Baghdad which has been taken over by ISIS (the Islamic State). Just imagine the conviction, boldness, and courage of these children remaining true to their faith to the point of death. An overwhelming evidence of their commitment and surely God's special dispensation of grace during such a horrendous experience for the children as well as their families.

Arrested for being a Christian
In our Sunday School class, this last Lord's Day, we were asked in what way do we demonstrate to the world that we are genuine Christians. That prompted a memory of a thought-provoking quote from our earliest days of serving Christ, "If you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

In the daily text the early disciples had been arrested and unquestionably the ruthless religious authorities had enough evidence to convict them. The apostles had been very public in their witness for the Lord, unashamed in the proclamation of their testimony.

Following their arrest the Lord miraculously intervened and they were delivered from their prison cell by an angel. "But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 'Go, stand in the temple courts,' he said, 'and tell the people the full message of this new life'" (Acts 5:19,20). They could have easily sneaked out of town in the dark of night and escaped the fury of the high priest and the Sanhedrin. They could have reasoned "we better lay low for awhile till this settles down."

Yet that's not what they did!!! "But at daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people" (5:21).  They were not afraid or ashamed to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The evidence of their disobedience was overwhelming.

They were again brought before the council but expressed their resolve to stay true to the Great Commission in the famous words, “We must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). At this point in the church's history there had not been a martyr dying for Christ's cause but that changed in the very next account of Stephen (Acts 6,7).

According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's David Barrett and Todd Johnson the standard definition of martyr is "believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility." They assessed that up to the year 2000 there had been some 70 million Christian martyrs, of which 45 million were concentrated in the 20th century.

Today, let us who bear the name of Christ, without shame or fear, follow the disciples' example in speaking the Gospel no matter the consequences.
If they suffered for Christ they wore it like an honor badge. I consider once again that old saying, quoted above but we personalize it by asking, "If I, Stephen Weber, were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?" "If I, Brooksyne Weber, were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?"

We've never sought to be convicted of a crime, but we pray that others do observe overwhelming evidence that we are Christians. And if ever arrested for being a Christian we pray there will be overwhelming and indisputable evidence for a conviction. That's an accusation and conviction that we would humbly accept.

Furthermore we consider the evidence
we will leave at the times of our death that we lived our lives as dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. Will it be overwhelming?

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we pray for the courage and conviction to stand up for You in peaceful times or during times of hostility where our lives may be on the line. There are many throughout our world who are presently enduring hostility from earthly authorities and their present lives are  cast in the shadow of death today. "We choose to obey God rather than men!" May it be more than just reading or writing about it in Scripture, but when confronted by enemies that contradict or rebel against Your commands, we choose You. May we be found faithful in standing up for that which is right, rather than that which is popular; that which is approved by You, Father God, trumps that which is approved by man.  By Your grace we will count it an honor, like the apostles who left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name of Christ. We can do this only because of Your grace and the promise of eternity with You. Amen.

Historical note: In today's passage from Acts 5 the famed Jewish scholar Gamaliel made an interesting appeal:

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Two thousand years later "these men" and scores who have followed their way have still to be stopped thus essentially affirming Gamaliel's statement that "it is from God."

DonateSpecial Note: We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Our ministry (and support) is essentially comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies (of course, this varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job for each of us (20+ hours weekly). Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and family income. You can donate by check, online or using PayPal. If you would like to make a donation see here for more information or donate directly online here. Thank you!

Angel on our barn loft door
The backlit angel on our barn loft door. It is a gift from my Uncle Don who cut out the angel from plywood and attached the lights on the back.

Sheerlund Forest tree farm (photo by Mike Martin)
Our friend Mike Martin took this photo several years ago at Sheerlund Forest tree farm near Reading, PA.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"I Am Not Ashamed Of The Gospel"  Video  Janet Paschal

"When It's All Been Said And Done"  Video   Robin Mark

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for You?

"70 million Christians' martyred for their faith since Jesus walked the earth"

This morning I also saw this: Iraqi churches used as Islamic State prisons

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

Are you Christmas shopping online?

Daily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Amazon. Any orders placed to Amazon using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through Amazon! Tip: If you are a regular Amazon customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop on Amazon.

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
Here's an idea!  "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea!  "The Blessing"

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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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