“The Beginning Of Life”

April 9, 2018

Quilt at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
Hosta Queen
Award winning quilt at the Pennsylvania Relief Sale

“The Beginning Of Life”

Message summary: Be assured that the immutable God of the universe knows where you live and where you stand. Today, let us make a renewed commitment, like Antipas and the church in Pergamum, to remain true to His name and be His faithful witness!

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“I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to My name. You did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives” (Revelation 2:13).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer At fourteen years of age Dietrich Bonhoeffer told his family, “I want to be a minister”. They were quite disturbed at his announcement and his brother responded, “What a waste of time the boring church would be.”

Fulfilling his desires, Bonhoeffer became a brilliant theology student, prophet, pastor and accomplished pianist. He was ordained for ministry just as the Nazis were coming to power. His public stand against Hitler branded him an enemy of the state and his license to teach was revoked. Serving Christ and His church was far from boring for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

He wrote in his classic and best-known book, The Cost Of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Seventy three years ago today on April 9, 1945, Bonhoeffer was condemned to die as a traitor, without trial. He was stripped naked and hung with wire. But his devotion to God has not ceased to influence others as his writings then and even now challenge readers to answer God’s call and serve Him wholeheartedly, without fear of man.

At any given time scores of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted for their faith. Most of the time these persecutions take place under the radar but periodically the awful plight of Christians being persecuted for their faith makes the news.

Yet persecution has been a part of the church’s experience from the very beginning. In fact Jesus forthrightly told His disciples they would be persecuted (John 15:20) and later the apostle Paul wrote, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

But today let us consider Antipas who, apart from the reference in Revelation, is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.

Book of Revelation The book of Revelation is certainly one of the hardest books to understand which has led to a variety of interpretations by earnest followers. The first several chapters are letters from Christ to churches.

In the daily Scripture text Christ is speaking to the church in Pergamum, an otherwise unknown church in Asia Minor, and one of the seven recipients of the letters to the churches. It was a wealthy city and its name meant citadel.

Jesus said to this church, “I know where you live.” Aren’t you glad today that Christ knows where you live! He knows all about your special circumstances and difficulties. Pergamum had a remarkable distinctive and we are uncertain precisely as to what Christ meant – “where Satan lives.” Suffice it to say this must have been an evil and hard place to hold onto the faith! Christ commends this church for remaining true to His name and not renouncing their faith in Him.

Antipas, who had the descriptive character of being Christ’s “faithful witness” was martyred late in the lifetime of the Apostle John, although little else is factually known about him from respected historical sources. However, by tradition he was reputed to be the bishop of the Christian church at Pergamum and martyred because of his consistent faithful witnessing in the face of all the satanic evil present there.

One source states, When Antipas was advised, “Antipas, the whole world is against you!”, he replied, “Then I am against the whole world!” Antipas was supposedly roasted alive in a hollow life-size bull, which had a bonfire under its belly, because he refused to renounce his faith in Christ Jesus. His faithful witness and martyrdom due to his unshakable faith in Christ Jesus are what earned Antipas mention in the pages of Holy Scripture.

The verse ends with this phrase, “where Satan lives” which suggests that there are specific locations of evil and satanic influence that are harder to serve than others. God bless our faithful brothers and sisters who live for God in difficult outposts like this and missionaries who follow God’s call to serve in extremely oppressive areas. Christ commended this church for remaining true to His name. They did not renounce their faith even during the most difficult of circumstances.

What about you? Be assured that the immutable God of the universe knows where you live and where you stand. Today, let us make a renewed commitment, like Antipas and the church in Pergamum, to remain true to His name and be His faithful witness! When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was being taken from his cell for execution Payne Best, fellow prisoner and British spy, heard him say, “This is the end. For me the beginning of life”. What a great perspective from a faithful servant.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, like the seven churches in Revelation, we too have strengths and weaknesses, in which we receive Your commendation and need Your correction. We want to be so yielded to Christ that we live for Him and are willing to die for Him.  We pray for our brothers and sisters who are currently facing all kinds of torment, suffering, and loss as they stand firm in the faith.  We pray that the Good News of Christ is reaching even more due to the persecuted church just as it has throughout the centuries.  Those who work the hardest to dispense with the Gospel are now exposed to it through the bold witness of those being imprisoned and persecuted.   Bibles, freedom, and personal rights may be withheld, but no ungodly official is able to quench Your Spirit that is very much alive in the hearts of those being persecuted for their faith.  The Word of God concealed in their hearts gives them power from on high to thwart the enemy’s plot to wipe out any trace of Christ’s presence in their lives. Encourage our brothers and sisters as they endure for the sake of Christ and the gospel message. Prompt us by Your Holy Spirit to be faithful in prayer for them, that they will be released from their oppressors, and that their oppressors will come to faith.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Bonhoeffer’s Execution:  The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung gave the following account:

On the morning of that day between five and six o’clock the prisoners were taken from their cells and the verdicts of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in the rooms of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God. (“Bonhoeffer” by Eric Metaxes)


Pennsylvania Relief Sale

On Friday evening we drove into Harrisburg to the Farm Show arena to attend the annual Pennsylvania Relief Sale that raises funds for missions and relief work around the world.

Youth choir at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18 (Click to enlarge)
(Click on image for larger view)
A highlight was this concert with the Weavertown Conference Youth Choir singing beautiful acapella music. Although the video link is not a recording of these youth singing, it’s a sample of how their music sounds. Video
Here’s an online comment about this song: “With the way my country is changing, forsaking God for paganism, I’ve never felt more in agreement with this song than right now.” We say “Amen!”

Food prep at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
Lots of food was available wherever you looked. We split a delicious cheese steak made by this busy group while listening to the men, with a spatula in each hand, using the steady clink-clink-clink rhythms to chop up the meat. As the meat sizzled away, they gradually slid it away from the highest heat to prevent overcooking the tender meat.

Food prep at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
We also shared a big piece of strawberry pie. These girls are cutting up fresh strawberries. What a joy to see so many young people working together and having a good time while doing so.

With friends at PA Relief Sale 4/6/18
It was nice to see some friends including this visit Brooksyne had with our neighbor Jane and her daughter Janae. They were excited about the variety of plants available, including the cyclamens in Brooksyne’s hands, which are now brightening our kitchen.

PA state capitol at night 4/6/18
On our way home Friday evening we drove through downtown Harrisburg past the Pennsylvania State Capitol, a stunning sight at night.


Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“John The Revelator”  Video  Acapella

“Praise To The Lord, The Almighty”  Video  Travis Cottrell

“He Leadeth Me”  Video  Acapella  “His faithful follower I would be”

“My Jesus I Love Thee”  Video  Selah

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;

Article about Antipas

Finally Today:

Calvary Church Children's Choir 4/8/18
Yesterday we were led in worship by Calvary Church’s 200 voice children’s choir.
“Mighty To Save”  Video
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