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Monday, June 6, 2016
We enjoy buying flowers from Elam and Naomi, our Amish neighbor's.
I especially like the smell of geraniums in a greenhouse!
"Suffering As A Christian"
Message Summary: As we see evil increase and greater rejection of God's ways true followers of Christ will be facing more and more persecution. Merely standing up to or speaking out about the pervasive wickedness has resulted in being labeled intolerant and bigoted. Then there are those who demand approval and participation. We need Christians who aren't ashamed to bear the Name of Christ and who practice the Biblical injunction to "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). Some are and many others will suffer as a Christian. Are you ready to suffer?
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"If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16).
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
All through Ester's elementary years Brooksyne included Bible verses each day in her lunch pail. She usually wrote them on her napkin with expressions of love and encouragement. We were grieved in our spirit when we just read a story about a California family who had a similar practice. A public school in California ordered a 7-year-old boy to stop handing out Bible verses during lunch – and they dispatched a deputy sheriff to the child’s home to enforce the directive.*¹
Never would we have even dreamed that the "PC Police" would have any say about what is included in a child's lunch pail and a child passing out Bible verses to others who requested them. We must faithfully pray for parents raising young children, that they will remain firm in the faith, not caving into the crazy political correctness of our world. This is one of the many forms of softer persecution more and more are experiencing.
Over 100 years ago C.H. Spurgeon preached a sermon titled "No Tears In Heaven", and observed, "Can you travel from the first of January to the last of December without feeling the weariness of the way? Have you no destroyed dreams, no bad debts, no slandered name, no harsh words, no sick child, no suffering wife to bring before the Lord in weeping prayer?"
Suffering is a result of several main causes:
Peter wrote from experience. He and John were the very first recipients of persecution following the birth of the Church. Following the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful and Peter's message to the onlookers he and John were seized and put in jail (Acts 4:3). A few chapters later he was bound (5:18) and flogged (Acts 5:40) but were released "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (5:41). By Acts 12 his fellow Apostle James had been beheaded and Peter was again in jail due to his faith although he was miraculously released. And Peter, according to tradition was later martyred for his faith.
"If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." For all my life this verse has meant someone else, usually far away. It's similar to Paul's statement "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Many of us have lived under conditions with very little persecution. But this could change very quickly.
It's getting closer and closer. I identify with those who are even now paying a price (suffering) for speaking the truth and seeking to live in obedience to the Scripture. Until recently this was not an issue but increasingly, with the growing prevalence of evil, this freedom is diminishing.
Last summer I sat across the table at a chaplain's conference and spoke to Wesley Modder, a veteran Navy chaplain who was being persecuted for staying true to his moral beliefs, which is the present front of persecution as powerful evil world forces demand that true Christians abandon the Biblical position on morality and rather than faithfully expose evil there are those who demand they support it.
The entire context of our daily text (1 Peter 4:12-19) deals with "Suffering for Being a Christian" and is a portion that we need to hide deep in our hearts (See Psalm 119:11).
As we see evil increase and greater rejection of God's ways true followers of Christ will be facing more and more persecution. Merely standing up to or speaking out about the pervasive wickedness has resulted in being labeled intolerant and bigoted. Then there are those who demand approval and participation. We need Christians who aren't ashamed to bear the Name of Christ and who practice the Biblical injunction to "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). Some are and many others will suffer as a Christian. Are you ready to suffer?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we pray for the persecuted church today.
We pray for our brothers and sisters in distant lands suffering at the hands of those whose lack of compassion and evil means knows no bounds. May the comforting presence of Your Holy Spirit be as soothing salve and a healing ointment deep within their souls. We pray for the family members separated from their loved ones. Speak peace and divine purpose into their spirit as You remind them that their loved one is standing with fortitude and courage in the very face of evil.
We pray for those who persecute and hold these innocent believers captive. May the very testimony and courage of these believers be as a shining light in the darkened prison of these captor's very troubled souls. Convict them of their sins and deliver them from Satan’s army of evildoers.
We pray for the families, churches, and communities of those who have paid the ultimate price for standing firm in their faith. Like Stephen, James, John, the disciples, and millions throughout the centuries, they laid down their temporal mortal flesh below and put on their eternal immortal spirit on the other side. You use these human tragedies to stir people’s hearts and to broadcast the message of salvation often bringing about repentance and reform. Nothing we do for you is in vain but works for the greater purpose of spreading the gospel.
And lastly, we pray for our own country that is changing drastically day by day. The god of secularism is trying to wipe out Your presence in every public forum: the media, our government, the schools, the workplace, the marketplace. People who hold deep convictions based upon the Holy Word of God are being maligned, mocked, persecuted and fined for their firmly held beliefs, costing them their savings, their livelihood. Especially prone to attack are those who hold the Biblical view concerning the sacredness of marriage and the sanctity of life. The Bible is being removed from the military even as it has been removed from the public schools in recent decades. Father, we might despair but instead we pray for a mighty revival within the church spilling out into all the places of influence, especially the family unit. May revival start right here within our own hearts, helping us to stand firm in these troubling times. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" Video Doris Johnson A modern rendering of the old Isaac Watts hymn quoted in our message today
"Unspoken" Video JustClay This song especially calls us to remember those enduring horrific persecution.
"Hold Me Jesus" Video Rich Mullins
"A Tribute to Persecuted Christians World-Wide" Video
*¹ The Bible verse incident mentioned in the first paragraph
*² John Piper quote from "The Holy Spirit Will Help You Die"
For those who want a longer thoughtful analysis of current conditions and a perspective on where things are heading consider this video (23 minutes) or here for a briefer perspective (1 minute 30 seconds) "Americans are experiencing increased intolerance and chaos throughout our politics, culture, colleges, corporate boardrooms and even mainline churches, because the progressive left thinks it is successfully transforming the country. These elites consider it a mopping-up operation and they’re going in for the kill."
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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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