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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Male swan protecting family 5/9/17
Male swan rushing toward his presumed predator, Brooksyne, seeking to protect his  family.
See photos and captions below for the rest of the story!

"Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus"

Message summary: Join us in faithfully proclaiming God's Word, in unashamedly standing up for Jesus.

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"On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus" (Matthew 14:6-12).

Beheading is a particularly gruesome form of brutality and was the experience of at least two New Testament believers, though there were likely others.* Throughout the Scriptures the consequences of sin and the fall are quite evident. We still see these consequences today.

The daily text records the most prominent beheading in the Bible. It matter-of-factly states that on Herod's birthday he was tricked into beheading John the Baptist. It is surely among the harder passages to read, learn from and present spiritual application for God's people (let alone encourage). 

Martyrs for ChristOur first reaction tends to be, "Why would God allow this to happen to a man who served Him so faithfully?" But it did happen and has happened many, many times since. It's still happening today, the most prominent and recent example being the ISIS beheading of Christian men in Libya several years ago. We wrote about a lesser reported feature in that event in this message.

The following thoughts are derived from the fuller context of John's beheading recorded in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:17-29. 

In these passages we find three responses to God's Word that is demonstrated by all ages, in all places, and by all people.  In fact you and I are demonstrating one of the three. 
1) John faithfully proclaimed God's Word. 
2) Herodias (Herod's unlawful wife) stubbornly rejected God's Word. 
3) Herod was interested and liked to listen to John but spinelessly waffled in regard to God's Word, thus defacto rejecting it. When push came to shove he ordered the execution of John, whom he knew to be "a righteous and holy man" (Mark 6:20).

There is an interesting passage toward the end of Revelation concerning faithful witnesses for the Lord. "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the Word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).

Where do you fit in today? Apart from someone just dropping in on our site we don't expect to have very many readers that live in rejection of God's Word.  However some may be interested and even find our writings compelling, but you're still at a crossroads. We've spoken to some of you over the years via email. It's hard to admit, but are
you spinelessly waffling, still undecided about where to place your allegiance?

Join us in faithfully proclaiming God's Word, in unashamedly standing up for Jesus. For some of you this will be literally preaching, but for most it will be that steady day by day proclamation through our lives and words to individuals and small groups. There are millions today who, like John the Baptist, faithfully proclaim God's Word.  And frankly some will be beheaded or otherwise die due to their stand for the Lord. Today, regardless of the price we pay, let us unashamedly stand up for Jesus!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we confess that we are weak and fearful people, apart from Your Holy Spirit that makes us valiant and strong as we stand up for Your righteousness. The conflicting philosophies, the indulgent sinful behaviors of humanity, the worship of creatures rather than our Creator, and the false religions that abound require us to be equipped daily in Your spiritual armor. Our struggle is not physical but spiritual in nature as the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms battle for our souls. This conflict will not end until we unite with You in heaven, so keep us vigilant and trusting as we do battle with our enemy. You are the captain of our army and we will be victorious as we follow Your every command. Help us to do so we pray in the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.

* In Acts 12 James is the first of the original twelve disciples whose martyrdom is recorded in Scripture. He was "put to death with the sword" also by Herod. Presumably this means he was beheaded.

Consider how martyrdom is often used in the religion of Islam with those who are identified as "martyrs" if they die in the process of murdering others. The sense of Christian martyrdom is always a death for the witness of Christ. Associating the term with the killing of others is utterly perverse and essentially a blasphemous use of the word "martyr".

Swans on the Wenger pond

Swan family 5/9/17
Early Tuesday morning we passed this scenic pond on Milton Grove Road and saw a familiar swan family. I pulled over and Brooksyne got out of the van to take a closer photo along the bank. As she walked toward the bank the male swan rushed toward her as seen in the lead photo, not at all happy to see us intruding on his family!

Male swan protecting family 5/9/17
He came right to side of the pond and scowled at Brooksyne. Wherever she walked he blocked her. This swan family permanently resides in a pond belonging to Gene and Doris Wenger, friends of ours. At the time we first started photographing them they were Buford and Beauty, but we don't know whether they are the same couple today.

"Beauty" swan among reeds
My first photo of "Beauty" the snow white female swan was taken in 2009.

"Beauty" swan with cygnets 5/21/11
In 2011 we managed to get this close. Where was Dad then! Baby swans are known as cygnets. Notice the large nest in the background.

Swans on Wenger pond 12/20/15
In December 2015, after the cygnets left their nest, we saw the swan couple together.

Today's Suggested Music and
Supplemental Resources

"Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus"
  Video   Maranatha! Promise Band

Finally today:
Raised garden 5/10/17
Since we moved to our present home in 2002 we have had a small garden by the side of our house. This year we down-sized to an even smaller raised garden by repurposing some railroad ties that had been used in various places in our previous landscaping scheme. We have enough room for several tomato and pepper plants and some herbs. In the course of our chaplain visitation we pass many roadside stands and generally can get fresh produce at good prices, thus we don't need a spacious garden.

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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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