Oct 3, 2011

persecuted, but not abandoned

I usually use this blog to write about lessons that would hopefully encourage, build up, and remind others about God's faithfulness, abundant love, and grace. The Master Creator has a beautiful way of opening our eyes to life lessons in the simplicity and wonder of nature. I love meditating and writing about these beautiful revelations.  But I would be doing a big discredit to these three aforementioned attributes of God if I didn't also occasionally include posts that are a little harder to write ... and a little harder to read. Posts that include true stories of godly men and women who experienced the worst persecution, torture, and pain ... yet remained trusting in God's providence. Men and women who defended the truth of God's Word even when it meant losing their lives. Stories that may not make you feel happy and comforted in the world's sense of these words, but instead, comforted that even in our hardest times, God is still working. He is still just. He is still sitting on His throne.

I started reading Foxe's Book of Martyrs recently and have been blown away by the hundreds upon hundreds of stories of the faithful warriors in God's army. People like Martin Luther, John Wycliff, and William Tyndale who shifted the way Christians understood the Bible and started a reformation that focused on God rather than man. Although filled with very sad stories that make me cringe with the brutality inflicted upon these godly people, reading this book also sparks a flame in me . . . a flame that yearns defend God's truth regardless of what others may say or do. A flame that finds joy in the midst of suffering and peace in the middle of conflict. This can only be possible when we abide in the True Vine, Jesus Christ. He can make something as horrible as death bring testament of what He can do to a surrendered life.

May these stories encourage you and remind you of God's faithfulness, abundant and never ending love, and His grace for His children. I pray they don't depress you, but rather, inspire you to live a life that is wholly spent to bring fame and glory to God, no matter the price to be paid. So here they are ... just a few of the many, many stories of the faithful.

Sabinus, bishop of Assisium in the Province of Tuscany, refused to sacrifice to Jupiter, the supreme god of Rome, and shoved the idol away from him. Whereupon, the governor had his offending hand cut off. While in prison, however, Sabinus converted the governer and his family to Christianity. Upon their confession of their newfound faith in the true God, they were all executed. Soon after, Sabinus was scourged until he died. This was in December 304.  {p. 33}
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Once when Maximus, the provincial governor of Cilicia, was in Tarsus, three Christians, Tarchus, Probus, and Adronicus were brought before him and repeatedly tortured and exhorted to recant thair faith in Christ. When they would not, they were sent to the amphitheater for execution. There severeal hungry animals were released to attack the Christians, but none of them would do so. The animal keeper then brought out a ferocious lioness and a larger bear that had killed three men that day, but both refused to attack the men. Being frustrated in his attempts to torture them to death with the teeth and claws of wild beasts, Maximus had them killed with a sword. {p.30}-------------------
John Wycliffe, born a native of Yorkshire, England, studied at Oxford University, where he majored in scholastic philosophy and theology. He began teaching at Oxford and became known as a brilliant scholastic theologian and one of the most respected debaters of his time. However, his views opposed the practices and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the prelates, friars, priests, and bishops turned against him and his followers.

This occurred at a time when organized religion had become depraved and corrupted. People gave lip service to the things of God, but they denied Him by their lifestyles. Early Christians were often persecuted and martyred by those of the secular world, but John Wycliffe faced persecution from those who claimed to be serving in the name of Christ.

Wycliffe disagreed on the following points: 1. The Holy Eucharist, after the consecration by a priest, is not the actual body of Christ. 2. The Church of Rome is not the head of all churches; nor did Peter have any more power given him by Christ than to the other apostles. 3. The pope has no more keys to the church than any other in the priesthood. 4. The Gospel by itself is a rule sufficient to rule the life of every Christian person on the earth, without any other rule. 5. All rules that are made to govern religious people add no more perfection to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than does white color to a wall. 6. Neither the pope nor any other prelate should have prisons in which to punish transgressors.

Wycliffe was commanded by church authorities to stop teaching his doctrines, but that did not stop him. He continued to teach the truth with more boldness. He was brought before the council several times, but he never stopped being faithful to God's Holy Word. He was continually harassed and threatened, even banished for a time, but he was able to return to the parish at Lutterworth and become the parish priest. John Wycliffe died in his sleep on December 31, 1384 at the age of fifty-six.

His supporters removed all of the statues and icons from his church in honor of his doctrines and teachings. Thirty-one years later, the Council of Constance removed his remains from their place of burial, burned them, and threw the ashes into the river. They felt that this would put an end to his teachings, but Wycliffe's doctrines could not be destroyed because they were based on God's Word. {{His full story is in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. This is a summary from
All About Following Jesus}
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William Tyndale was born near the border of Wales in 1494. He was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and later began his work of translating the Bible into English. Tyndale delighted in defending his beliefs while having discussions at the home where he resided. The local clergy who visited to dine soon grew weary of Tyndale's constant criticism of their doctrines. They became so weary with him, that they began to bear a grudge against him in their hearts.

Tyndale knew that in order for lay people to know the truth of God's Word, they needed to be able to read it for themselves. The clergy kept the Scriptures hidden and unavailable to their congregations. God gave William Tyndale the will and wisdom to begin translating and printing the New Testament.

The printing began in Cologne, Germany in 1525, but was interrupted by a legal injunction. The printing of his work was completed in Worms, Germany in 1526. Later Tyndale translated the Old Testament as well. It was of great spiritual benefit to the godly lay people of that day.

Tyndale experienced a lot of harassment, ridicule, and threats from the clergy and their aids throughout his lifetime of work for the Lord. Finally, in Antwerp, Henry Philips tricked him into coming out of the house, where officers were waiting to arrest him. He was condemned by decree of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, at Augsburg, in 1530. On October 6, 1530, in the town of Vivorde, Netherlands, William Tyndale was tied to a stake, strangled by the hangman to the point of death and then burned in fire for doing God's Work. It is said that as he met the Lord, Tyndale cried with a loud voice, "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes!"  {His full story is in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. This is a summary from
All About Following Jesus}
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"Then He [Jesus] said to them all: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." - Luke 9:23

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor. 12:9 – 10

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.” John 15:18-20 NIV

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12 NIV

“Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.” 1 Thessalonians 3:7

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.” Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

“It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. 

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” - 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Note: Please visit Voice of the Martyrs at persecution.com to learn more about the current persecution of the Christian church in various areas of the world. Keep those people in your constant prayers. Let us never forget to praise God that we are able to have our own Bibles, attend church, and freely speek of Jesus. There are many who do not have this blessing. Let's remember to pray for them unceasingly!

Recommended books for further study {I am sure there are many more books, but these are ones I have read and can wholeheartedly recommend}:
  • Foxe's Book of Martyrs
  • Tortured for Christ [by Richard Wurmbrand]
  • If I Perish [Esther Ahn Kim]

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    Elle Alice