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Monday, October 27, 2014
Young people from the Russian Church near Lititz, PA
Photo taken on the Chiques rail trail.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
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"From Every Nation"
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20). "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'" (Revelation 7:9,10).
Let every kindred, every tribe
on this terrestrial ball,
to Him all majesty ascribe,
and crown Him Lord of all.
Yesterday we spent a wonderful afternoon with a Russian youth group that shared in ministry with the residents of Longwood Manor, a personal care center where we serve as chaplains. Most of the these young people are recent immigrants to the United States and come from all over the former Soviet Union, including a young man from Siberia. He informed me that his hometown already had two feet of snow on the ground!
They are part of a Russian Church here in Lancaster County that we have visited in the past. The church in Russia dealt with intense persecution during the Cold War and there are men in the Lititz church who can testify to their own personal dealings with such persecution.
The young people blessed the room filled with residents as they ministered in song and instrumentation, most of their songs in English. Yet when they broke into song in their Russian language it was as though the volume and exuberance jumped up one or two notches. We couldn't understand the words but we could sense God's presence as He spoke to us through the young people's genuineness, their confidence, their countenance and their inspired giftings. Many of them played a number of instruments, mostly by ear. We were even more touched as they individually conversed with the elderly residents, making every effort to listen to them and engage in conversation, following some to their rooms so they could visit further.
We both grew up during the early sixties in the Midwest (Missouri and Oklahoma). At that time the U.S was in the "Cold War" with Russia. Safety drills were commonplace in grade school in preparation of a nuclear attack. The little girl in the photo to the left could have been Brooksyne! Surely other readers in our age group will recall these drills and the sense of danger and uncertainty during that age.
At that time in my young mind I suppose I pictured all Russians as enemies and actually can't recall giving any thought to the everyday lives of the people who lived there, people just like you and me. I regret that, as a child, I probably gave no thought to the church people who were going through a horrible ordeal as the authorities sought to overthrow any allegiance to the one true God these people served, some for generations.
But of course there were people living for the Lord there at that time even as there are now in virtually every place on this terrestrial ball. As I have aged I've become more cognizant of my fellow believers in other places and today especially consider the terror that followers of Christ in Syria and Iraq and so many other places live under.
I hope all readers in one way or another can recognize the blessings in their national identity. In Paul's sermon to the Athenians in Acts 17 he states, "He [God] made from one man [Adam] every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation" (v.26). Paul claimed Roman citizenship and recognized the benefits of having this status. We both are natural born citizens of the USA. But we have readers from all over the world and each reader can say I am a citizen of ______.
But for the redeemed our primary citizenship as true children of God is in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote, "Our citizenship is in heaven." Regardless of where we live we share this common citizenship as the Redeemed of God!
There's a celebration coming that all of us will participate in. We see it in the astounding glimpse of heaven in the second daily verse. It will make any earthly celebration pale in comparison.
We are gathered as the citizens of heaven, a great multitude that no one can count. We come from every nation, tribe, people and language. We are standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb wearing white robes and holding palm branches in our hands. We are proclaiming together in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
Our citizenship here on earth is temporary, in fact very temporary! Our citizenship in heaven is eternal! Is your life reflecting that which is of greater worth to you?
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Heavenly Father, with great anticipation, I look forward to the crowning day when I will be among Your faithful followers! I am so eager to join brothers and sisters of every nation where we will at last speak one language, the language of heaven. With one voice we will exalt the Lamb of God who sits upon the throne proclaiming, Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!
Here's another great passage that goes along with today's theme: "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:18-20).
The talented youth played a number of different instruments. It's not uncommon to see them lay down one instrument only to pick up another one. They sang many English hymns the residents enjoyed singing along during the chorus.
We had a full house. The dining area was filled along with surrounding hallways full of people, including many members of the staff.
Following the service the youth met individually to visit with the residents which was a beautiful sight and so appreciated by the residents. This young lady is visiting with Alverta.
These young men are visiting with friendly Wilbur.
Afterwards I took the young people on a hike along the Chiques rail trail.
This photo is at the base of Chiques Rock.
Then a lively pizza dinner at our place. These polite young people expressed appreciation to us numerous times for the opportunity to minister at Longwood as well as the meal later. We were so impressed with their good conversational skills we later considered that not one of them was displaying an electronic device, which is a huge factor in disconnecting people in group conversation. The Longwood residents said Stephen and me, "You will be bringing them back to us won't you!" Absolutely!
Our main contact, Yelena who's also become a good friend, works at a company we serve as chaplains. She and her husband Peter are the youth leaders and express a sincere devotion to following Christ. They inspire us as they make a public witness of their faith and mentor young people to do the same.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"He Has Forgiven Me" Video Damaris Carbaugh
Two years ago we visited the Russian Church for a harvest service and shared a number of photos with this post. I also came across this message that I had included at that time that certainly bears repeating. (Some of the illustrations are old but one would have no problem finding current examples!)
"Critical Questions We Must Ask Ourselves"
By James K. Bridges
Render to Caesar
As Christians, we know that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20, NKJV) and that we have an allegiance to Christ as Savior and Lord, yet this does not contradict, nor does it require that we totally disengage from any responsibility to our earthly citizenship. Jesus taught us to pay taxes, show respect to authority, and to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17). Among those things we should render to our government is a willingness to volunteer to help at anytime we have the chance to relieve the suffering of fellow human beings. Another vital way to fulfill our responsibility as citizens is to register and vote in all elections. This is a valuable duty and a freedom which many Christians are ignoring, and the result has been the election of local, state, and national representatives who do not hold to Christian values or respect Judeo-Christian ethics. The fallout of this has been the appointment of judges who no longer respect the Constitution, the Congress, or the wishes of the majority of the people. An example of this is the three federal judges who have recently ruled to strike down the ban on partial birth abortion.
Stand up for Values
Christians must not allow their right to vote and to voice their beliefs to be lost. In the news media today, there is a growing effort to intimidate Christians from expressing their views. An attempt to intimidate pastors and churches from standing up for their faith is mounting. Threats of removing the tax-exempt status of a Baptist church in Arkansas, because of their July 4 Freedom Rally, have surfaced in the news. This church did not endorse political candidates, but simply declared their stand on the moral and ethical issues which are facing our nation. It is interesting that some liberal political candidates are openly attending churches and are being endorsed by the pastors and nothing is being said by the news media. However, the enemies of the gospel will do everything possible to frighten the church into silence. This must not happen! Pastors must know what the law allows and properly educate their people as to their rights. Dr. James Kennedy has gone so far as to say that in light of the command of our Lord to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” for a Christian to fail to exercise their right to vote is tantamount to committing sin. To avoid committing such a sin, let every believer register and vote, and let every pastor take the responsibility to assist his parishioners in getting registered to vote. In some states the opportunity to register has almost, if not already passed. This is a citizen’s responsibility, so act now!
What are Christians to Expect?
I knew it was coming, I just didn’t expect it so soon. I thought it would happen first in Canada, but to my surprise, it was Sweden. “A Swedish court sentenced a Pentecostal pastor to one month in prison after finding him guilty of offending homosexuals in a sermon” (Christianity Today, September 2004). We have warned ministers and congregations throughout our Fellowship that, if the deterioration of morals continues in our country, the time will come when we will be imprisoned for preaching against homosexuality. Oh, but it won’t happen here we are told. Famous last words! We didn’t think prayer could be removed from our schools; we didn’t think that the Ten Commandments would be removed from our public institutions; we didn’t think that the Supreme Court would block the Child Online Protection Act to protect our children against pornography; or that the definition of marriage being one man and one woman would come under such attack in our country — but all these have happened.
Christ, the focal Point
We are reminded of the words of Paul to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus must face the reality that persecution is inevitable if we live godly in Christ Jesus. We will be viewed as intolerant, bigoted, ignorant, extreme, without compassion, and unfit to be in leadership or have a voice in government. But Jesus has pronounced a blessing on all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and for His name’s sake, assuring them of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10,11). Persecution in this country has been limited to verbal attacks, for the most part, due to the protection of the laws governing our society. However, we are seeing a hatred such as has not been known in this country over moral and ethical issues. It is imperative that Christ’s church understands that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare between the forces of righteousness and evil, truth and error. The enemies of Christ are bold, but so must be His followers.
What are my responsibilities as a Christian?
Render to God
Jesus not only commanded us to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, He also commanded us to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus was holding a coin with the image of Caesar on it when He made this statement. He was teaching, by comparison, that those who are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) should render to God that which belongs to Him. We belong to God by creation and by recreation having been purchased by the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18,19). Believers who will use their time, talent, and treasure to serve Christ, His Church, and His purpose to reach the nations, will truly be rendering to God that which belongs to Him.
Making Christ Known
To make Christ known is the primary mission of the born again, Spirit-baptized believer. We must express Christ to our society, bringing the resurrection life and lifestyle of Christ to bear on our neighbor, our nation and the world. We owe our country the best the church can offer. John Adams stated that our constitution was designed for a religious people, and it will not work for atheists and unbelievers. The separation of church and state, as it is being promoted today, was not what the founders of our nation believed, nor was it the way they intended the constitution to be interpreted. Opponents of Christianity have twisted the meaning of our national documents in order to establish a secular state. Christians owe it to their country to stand for the Judeo-Christian morals and ethics upon which this country was founded. We have only to visit countries with secular and atheistic governments, and to talk to those who have migrated to the U.S. from these countries, to realize how great the loss will be if the U.S. is allowed to become a secular or pagan country. The cost to prevent such a deformation, which is now in progress, may be great. It certainly will require that the church become militant in prayer, aggressive in witness, and involved in the voting process of our country.
Be Aware of the Times
Freedom to serve Christ as conscience dictates and as the Word of God declares, has been costly down through the centuries. The World Christian Encyclopedia has indicated that from A.D. 33 to 2000 there have been an estimated 70 million martyrs. Twenty-five million martyrs were estimated from A.D. 33 to 1900, while 45 million martyrs were estimated from 1900 to 2000. There were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than in all the preceding centuries. Persecution and martyrdom surface in different parts of the world at different times. The church in the U.S. must arouse out of its intoxication with the Laodicean spirit (Revelation 3:16,17). The church must not be like King Belshazzar who celebrated in his banquet hall while the enemy was conquering his capital and his kingdom (Daniel 5:30,31). These are times when the church must be like “the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
(Click on photo to enlarge)
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