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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tufted titmouse (Photo by Doris High)
Tufted Titmouse
(Photo by Doris High)

"Hidden Heroes"
The Suffering Church

This week we are considering "Hidden Heroes"; those who faithfully serve others with no desire of gaining attention or acclaim. On Monday we considered a family's faithful journey with a husband and father who had Alzheimer's Disease. Tuesday we considered a mother with two special needs children who has essentially devoted her adult life to their care. Yesterday we considered "hidden heroes" to be those grown children who honor their parents, loving and caring for them through the aging process till the very end.

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"And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10,11).

Today let us consider a huge segment of our Christian brothers and sisters that are essentially hidden from our view while we live in places where we still have peace and freedom to live out our faith relatively unhindered (although this is certainly decreasing here in America). These are essentially "hidden heroes", who remain true to their faith through great suffering, imprisonment and for a growing number, death.

This week our hearts ached for the family whose daughter, 26 year old Kayla Mueller, was killed in Syria by the ISIS barbarians. Due to her being from America her story is being published but there are scores of godly people being slain who go down without public notice, though their sorrowing families certainly take notice, along with their fellow believers.

Christians who refuse to embrace Islam are killed in atrocious and violent ways too barbaric to describe.  If you want recent examples, they crucified two youths in Syria for refusing to proclaim Islam’s credo, saying to them, “Perhaps you want to die like your teacher [Christ] whom you believe in?  You have two choices: either proclaim the shehada or else be crucified.  One of them was crucified before his father, whom they also killed.”

According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Researchers Barrett, Johnson, and Crossing, in their 2009 report, in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1:32), estimate that approximately 176,000 Christians will have been martyred from mid-2008 to mid-2009. This, according to the authors, compares to 160,000 martyrs in mid-2000 and 34,400 at the beginning of the 20th century. If current trends continue, they estimate that by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually. That's about 575 martyrdoms per day!

Most of this happens below the radar and receives little attention here in the US. Many of us give little thought to the plight of our brethren undergoing this persecution. I hope today’s message will reach some of you who live in areas of persecution and will be a source of encouragement to you. We also hope it is a reminder to all our believing friends to, "remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:3).

Peter's crucifixionPeter is writing to the persecuted church of his time; a church very familiar with suffering that surely faced discouragement. According to reliable church tradition Peter was crucified under Emperor Nero, the cross being upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ.

Let's consider the phrase, "the God of all grace" in our daily text. A wonderful aspect of God's character alongside His comforting assurance is found in this tiny clause. We may often think of grace as pertaining only to our salvation, but the God of all grace is constantly bestowing His unmerited favor on His needy people.

God extends His grace to all believers in all situations. When believers undergo persecution and have opportunity to tell their story the common theme of their experiencing God's amazing and unanticipated grace is woven into their narrative from the beginning of their capture to the time of their release. Donnie Lama, who has been a reader for many years, contacted us years ago and told us his story of being persecuted for his faith, but experiencing God's grace in the midst of brutality and suffering. And, if we could only hear their voices from heaven I have no doubt whatsoever that martyrs, at the time of their death, experience a divine grace from God such as Stephen when he saw Jesus standing at the Father's right hand. Such grace emboldens the devoted believer to withstand anything the enemy hurls at them!

God's grace is customized to whatever it is that has your personal attention today, leading to stress and worry. For some it's dealing with a severe medical condition, in some cases an ongoing, chronic struggle. For some couples it's an aging parent facing a major living arrangement transition. And yet others are nervous about their job security. Many carry a heavy burden for children and other loved ones who aren't walking in the truth. The list goes on and on.

Whatever situation weighs heavy on your hearts this day, let's consider from our daily verse several blessings from the God of all grace:
  • He has called us "to His eternal glory in Christ". This should prompt us to keep an eternal perspective. May God strengthen those enduring persecution with this truth.
  • Our suffering is very real but is only for "a little while". This is a reminder of the temporary nature of our time on this earth!
  • He will restore. A promise of future restoration. What we see or are presently enduring is not the final picture. Even the most vivid imagination cannot envision the blessed future restoration God has for those who remain obedient and faithful to Him.
  • He will make us strong, firm and steadfast. Staying faithful and true by God’s grace regardless of what we're dealt is a result of His work in us.  Turn over your weakness to Him, confess your doubts and fears, and invite Him to do the work needed to make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
  • To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen"
Remember this important truth: Suffering is for a little while, but sharing in His glory is for all eternity!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, we see the greatest example of temporal suffering in the person of Jesus Christ. By giving His all to pay the full ransom for our sins He underwent inhumane persecution to the fullest extent of giving His life through death that we might live. What seemed a hopeless cause turned into a victory above all other victories when His resurrected body made it possible for us, as His followers, to join in His eternal glory. But for now we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. We like the glory, but are repulsed at the idea of suffering, and are mindful of those presently undergoing injustice and persecution, as well as the families undergoing tremendous stress and often grief. Fix in our hearts and minds the needed perspective that it's just a little while that we suffer, but it's for eternity that we share in Your glory. May we be found faithful along the way! In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Donnie Lama* Testimony of Donnie Lama  When Donnie sent us his testimony it was in very broken English, very difficult to read and understand. With his permission and blessing I, Brooksyne, translated it and he oversaw the changes, so that we could make this more readable to those who read only English. It's a longer story but it will bless you. Donnie contacted us this past year and continues to boldly stand for our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Hidden Heroes"  Video  The Talleys   This morning we received an email from Dixie Phillips, who wrote the song, "Hidden Heroes":   "Thank you for your kind words about our song 'Hidden Heroes.' Your words were such an encouragement."

"What Grace Is Mine"  Video  Keith and Kristyn Getty

"Grace Alone"  Video  Maranatha Singers

"Follow Me"  Video  Kelly Willard   This is among my many favorite old hymns written by Ira Stanphill.

"Just A Little While"  Video  Gaither Homecoming

Just a little while to stay here
Just a little while to wait
Just a little while to labor
In the path that's always straight
Just a little more of sorrow
In this low and sinful state
Then we'll enter Heaven's Portals
Sweeping through the Pearly Gates.

Earlier this week we shared two messages touching on Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Lou Guiliano is a long-time friend from New Jersey who serves as a hospice chaplain shared these two resources dealing with end stage dementia.

Alzheimer's Prayer

Dear Lord,
Please grant my visitors tolerance for my confusion,
Forgiveness for my irrationality and the strength
To walk with me into the mist of memory
My world has become.

Please let them take my hand and stay awhile,
Even though I seem unaware of their presence.
Help them to know how their strength
and loving care will drift slowly
into the days to come just when I need it most.

Let them know when I don't recognize them
that I will. . . I will.
Keep their hearts free from sorrow for me,
For my sorrow, when it comes,
Only lasts a moment, when it's gone.

And finally Lord, please let them know,
How very much their visits mean,
How even through this relentless mystery,
I can still feel their love.

Author Unknown

Requests from People with Alzheimer’s

Please…be patient with me. My disease is beyond my control, accept me the way I am. I still have something to offer you. Talk with and listen to me. I can’t always answer, but I do understand the tone of your voice. Because I cannot remember, does not mean that I am dumb. Be kind to me. Your kindness may be the highlight of my day. Don’t hurry me. Each day I struggle to keep up and understand. Consider my feelings. I am sensitive to shame, embarrassment, failure, fear and uncertainty. Please don’t ignore me. Treat me with dignity. I am not less of a person because I have Alzheimer’s disease. Remember my present. Let me do what I can do. Break down activities into steps I can handle. I respond to encouragement. Remember my future. I need hope for tomorrow. Pray for me. Your presence shows true compassion.

Author Unknown

A longtime reader from Nova Scotia shares this perspective of children with their own families who cared for their aged parents before the days of Depends, handicap accessories, washing machines, and on and on the list goes. Our conveniences are so commonplace we don't even think of them as "convenience":

Your devotional reminds me of how my mother and father took care of my grandfather.   I can’t remember much about that, as I was only 5 years old. My grandfather, (Dad’s father) had cancer.  And at the time in 1959, there was no chemotherapy or other tests. They took care of Pop at home. Mom was expecting my younger brother at the time. She only had an old washtub and scrub board. I don’t think there was any electricity at the time. Mom often told me she had to scrub Pop’s laundry. Not pleasant from what she used to say. Mom and Dad had 4 children at that time, with one on the way. I remember Dad sitting at Pop’s bedside the day he died.  There were no nursing homes. They took care of their own. Not that taking care and visiting a parent in a nursing home is any less important.........

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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