Daily Encouragement Net
The online Bible teaching ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
A daily, Bible-based perspective of hope, encouragement and exhortation.

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Amish church parking
Parking lot at Sunday's Amish church service along Kraybill Church Road yesterday morning. You might notice the tire tread tracks are a little thinner than typical tire tracks from our cars. Another evidence as I drove over were the organic emissions dropped on the road! For those who've enjoyed Brooksyne's Strawberry Rhubarb jam this farm is where she gets her rhubarb.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"Enduring Persecution"

Message summary: Scripture tells us to remember those who suffer persecution.

Listen to this message on your audio player.

"When we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure" (1 Corinthians 4:12). "But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name" (1 Peter 4:16). "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).

Early yesterday morning before we went to our church service we saw and heard a horse and buggy pass our house. I surmised that one of our Amish neighbors was hosting the church service in their home, which is the Amish custom. I drove down Kraybill Church Road around the corner and sure enough saw the buggies parked at Christian and Annie's place. The horses are unhitched and penned together with feed and water during the service.

Years ago we attended an Amish church service. It is quite different that what most of us are accustomed to. The men sit on one side and the women on the other. Usually there are several hundred in attendance (children included) so they are seated close together meeting in a large room in the house or if weather is suitable they meet in a barn. The plain benches are moved from church service to church service and also convert to tables for the simple meal that follows the service. The gathering lasts about 3 hours with several preachers who preach and read Scripture in German. The singing is also quite distinct in German with a very, very slow tempo and no instrumentation.

One feature of the service we attended years ago seemed especially peculiar to us. During the service, after we knelt at our benches in prayer, everyone stood up together but did not turn around to face the front as we are accustomed to. Instead the congregation continued to face the back of the room as a leader read Scripture. Afterwards we turned around and were seated in our benches.

After the service I asked our host about this and he said it is a way they remember and honor the  past years of persecution when various members of the congregation were on duty to watch for those who might quietly sneak in and attack the congregation as they worshipped. The Amish and other Anabaptists were viciously persecuted in Europe, which eventually led to their migration to America.

An important book in their culture is known as the "Martyrs Mirror" which chronicles accounts of their persecution. One famous account involves the story of Dirk Willems. Below is the iconic scene of his life (just Google "Dirk Willems images"). He was an Anabaptist* being pursued by his persecutor.

Dirk Willems

Here's the description:

Willems was born in Asperen, Gelderland, Netherlands, and was baptized as a young man, thus rejecting the infant baptism practiced at that time by both Catholics and established Protestants in the Netherlands. This action, plus his continued devotion to his new faith and the baptism of several other people in his home, led to his condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands and subsequent arrest. Willems was held in a residential palace turned into a prison, from which he escaped using a rope made out of knotted rags. Using this, he was able to climb out of the prison onto the frozen moat. A guard noticed his escape and gave chase. Willems was able to traverse the thin ice of a frozen pond, the Hondegat, because of his lighter weight after subsisting on prison rations. However the pursuing guard broke through the ice yelling for help as he struggled in the icy water. Willems turned back to save the life of his pursuer, thus being recaptured and held until he was burned at the stake near his hometown on 16 May 1569.

Surely one of the saddest forms of Christian persecution was this type, which is sort of like domestic violence. Even in our own lifetime we consider the conflict in northern Ireland between people with a Christian heritage. Growing up with my friend Dave who was a Catholic and me a Protestant, it's just hard to imagine this being a source of major conflict let alone deadly conflict. In my extended family we have people from a variety of religious backgrounds, Catholic and Protestant, but it's not a source of conflict since love and acceptance prevail over our differences.

Thankfully, the incidents of conflict leading to persecution among those who claim Christ as their Savior, has decreased greatly since the horrible times of the Reformation but all over the world Christians are being persecuted. There are presently two major sources of persecution of Christians, from Muslims in places like the Middle East and Africa and from secular ideology in places like China and Korea.

Muslim dominated lands are especially brutal. We read the accounts of fleeing refugees across the Mediterranean where Muslims throw Christians off the boat and amidst the horrible persecution occurring in the refugee camps. We are regularly reminded of the persecution in Nigeria by both Dennis one of our Sunday School teachers and by Sunday, a Nigerian reader. But many consider the worst country for Christian persecution is North Korea.

Yesterday was an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I am sure many churches had prayer for the suffering brethren as we did our in church.  Most reading our message today have never experienced real persecution, although it is increasingly happening here in the USA, especially among those who take an historic Biblical/moral stand against sexual immorality. A Grandma florist fined several hundred thousand dollars for refusing to participate in a gay "wedding" due to her convictions is certainly persecution. At a chaplain's conference I spoke to a military chaplain who was in trouble for teaching historic Christian beliefs on marriage and sexuality. These types of persecution are on the increase and one only wonders what is next on the horizon for those who are devout in their Christian faith.

When we are not undergoing persecution it is so easy to forget about those who are. It's so easy to forget how brutal life is for those who suffer at the hands of persecution when we're out and about enjoying our material blessings and freedoms. But let us not forget that all over the world millions of those who follow Christ are being persecuted today due to their belief and obedience to Christ.

This is not our typical daily encouragement message and in fact may not necessarily be encouraging at all. But Scripture tells us to remember those who suffer. We encourage you to consider some of the articles and videos we post below as a means of seeking to understand how hard things are for many.

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, in Hebrews we're told to remember those in prison as though we ourselves were suffering in prison. That way we will pray more faithfully and fervently when we put ourselves in place of our brothers and sisters who endure persecution and even death as they remain faithful to their witness for Christ. May their shining example serve as a witness to their accusers and help to lead them to faith even as Stephen's surely had a lasting impact on Saul. As one brother often prays, "May the soothing presence of the Holy Spirit be as salve to their wounds", whether they are physical, emotional, or mental. Speak peace and assurance to family members who are desperately waiting for their release, and increase their faith in the midst of it all, we pray. Amen.

* Anabaptist is not to be confused with anti-baptist! The prefix "Ana" means "again" used for those how practiced believer's baptism versus infant baptism. Of course that makes many of us Anabaptist who are not even familiar with the term!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Finding Life"  Video  A thought-provoking video

"You Are Not Forgotten" A Song For The Persecuted  Video

Stories of Christian Persecution | I Have Decided to Follow Jesus  Video  Jadon Lavik

I'll Remember/ Persecuted Church  Video

"Sing a Little Louder" (Persecuted Church)  Video

Persecution.com (The Voice Of The Martyrs)

The Muslim Brotherhood's Persecution of Christians  Video

Widow's Joy: He Didn't Deny Christ When Beheaded  Video 

Escaping from North Korea in search of freedom | Yeonmi Park  Video  Actual speech starts here.

North Korea has the deadliest level of Christian persecution in the world   Video

Observations on attending an Amish church service (scroll down below message)

Landis Valley
Yesterday following our church service we drove through the entrance to Landis Valley
Village & Farm
devoted to the history & culture of Pennsylvania's rural German community.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Finally today
Eyes on salsa
Gordy Harrower, our Adult Bible Fellowship (Sunday School) teacher, shared an interesting prank by his grandchildren. He and his wife returned from a trip and his grandchildren had placed eyes on objects all around their home. He continues to find them! I can't recall what he was illustrating or if it was just a cute family story but this verse comes to mind: Psalm 34:15

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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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