In the jail at Gheria, Romania, the names of prisoners thought breaking the rules were noted, and each was given twenty-five lashes. There was a special day set aside when the painful punishment was administered. On that day, the officer would pass from cell to cell, gathering those who were to be flogged.
Since the wardens changed shifts continually and the prisoners were many, it was impossible to know all of the inmates by name. A certain Christian inmate would step forward and say, I am he each time a guard called in his cell for one to be beaten. He would be brutally whipped again and again in the place of another.
In the end, when this Christian prisoner was near death after one of the sacrificial floggings, the other prisoners tried to comfort him. They told him, Brother, be happy now. Soon everything will be over. You will be in heaven. There will be no more pain, only joy!
He turned, looked at them with love and replied, May God do to me as he wills . . . but if he were to ask me, I would tell him not to take me to paradise. I would prefer to remain in jail. For I know that above are unspeakable delights, but in heaven one thing is missing: to sacrifice oneself for another.
In a world that values hoarding over sharing, the biblical principle of sacrifice seems like a strange idea. Get as much as you can as quick as you can is the name of the game when it comes to worldly ideals. The Bible teaches another means of success. Its called sacrificelaying down ones life for another. Its not natural. It does not even sound appealing to our lower nature. Once we try, however, it becomes a compelling way of life. Gods Holy Spirit inside of us helps us to put ourselves second behind others. In fact, his Spirit even helps us want to do it. Are you willing to put others needs above your own?
| 2008/5/24 17:35|
The Second Persecution, Under Domitian, A.D. 81
The emperor Domitian, who was naturally inclined to cruelty, first slew his brother, and then raised the second persecution against the Christians. In his rage he put to death some of the Roman senators, some through malice; and others to confiscate their estates. He then commanded all the lineage of David be put to death.
Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, who was crucified; and St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos. Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, was likewise banished to Pontus; and a law was made, "That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion."
A variety of fabricated tales were, during this reign, composed in order to injure the Christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans, that, if famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians. These persecutions among the Christians increased the number of informers and many, for the sake of gain, swore away the lives of the innocent.
Another hardship was, that, when any Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed, when, if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same.
The following were the most remarkable among the numerous martyrs who suffered during this persecution.
Dionysius, the Areopagite, was an Athenian by birth, and educated in all the useful and ornamental literature of Greece. He then travelled to Egypt to study astronomy, and made very particular observations on the great and supernatural eclipse, which happened at the time of our Savior's crucifixion.
The sanctity of his conversation and the purity of his manners recommended him so strongly to the Christians in general, that he was appointed bishop of Athens.
Nicodemus, a benevolent Christian of some distinction, suffered at Rome during the rage of Domitian's persecution.
Protasius and Gervasius were martyred at Milan.
Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.
From: Foxes Book of Martyrs
| 2008/5/25 18:22|
The Third Persecution, Under Trajan, A.D. 108
In the third persecution Pliny the Second, a man learned and famous, seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did any thing contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution. "The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this-viz. that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation-not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary-never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal."
In this persecution suffered the blessed martyr, Ignatius, who is held in famous reverence among very many. This Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. Some do say, that he, being sent from Syria to Rome, because he professed Christ, was given to the wild beasts to be devoured. It is also said of him, that when he passed through Asia, being under the most strict custody of his keepers, he strengthened and confirmed the churches through all the cities as he went, both with his exhortations and preaching of the Word of God. Accordingly, having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the Church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, lest they should deprive him of that which he most longed and hoped for. "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!" And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such as the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake, what time he heard the lions roaring, saying: "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread."
Trajan being succeeded by Adrian, the latter continued this third persecution with as much severity as his predecessor. About this time Alexander, bishop of Rome, with his two deacons, were martyred; as were Quirinus and Hernes, with their families;
Zenon, a Roman nobleman, and about ten thousand other Christians.
In Mount Ararat many were crucified, crowned with thorns, and spears run into their sides, in imitation of Christ's passion. Eustachius, a brave and successful Roman commander, was by the emperor ordered to join in an idolatrous sacrifice to celebrate some of his own victories; but his faith (being a Christian in his heart) was so much greater than his vanity, that he nobly refused it. Enraged at the denial, the ungrateful emperor forgot the service of this skilful commander, and ordered him and his whole family to be martyred.
At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many, and their patience so great, that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration, and exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy, "Great is the God of the Christians!" for which he was apprehended, and suffered a similar fate.
Many other similar cruelties and rigors were exercised against the Christians, until Quadratus, bishop of Athens, made a learned apology in their favor before the emperor, who happened to be there and Aristides, a philosopher of the same city, wrote an elegant epistle, which caused Adrian to relax in his severities, and relent in their favor.
Adrian dying A.D. 138, was succeeded by Antoninus Pius, one of the most amiable monarchs that ever reigned, and who stayed the persecutions against the Christians.
| 2008/5/26 19:50|
As a soldier in the Soviet Red Army, Vania Moiseev was constantly reprimanded for sharing his faith. Many men in his regiment came to Christ through his testimony. When his commander ordered him to keep silent about his faith, he replied, What would a nightingale do if ordered to stop singing? It could not, and neither can I.
Everyone who knew Vania said that his faith was contagious. Soon he was arrested and subjected to brutal torture. He wrote to his mother saying, I know we will probably not see each other again, but dont weep for me. An angel showed me the heavenly Jerusalem, and it is beautiful. Please do your best, dear Mother, to meet me there.
He went on to assure her God was encouraging him by sending angels to his side. He described the various encounters he had with angels. Angels are transparent. When you have one in front of you and a man stands behind, the presence of the angel does not block the view of the man. On the contrary, you see him better. When you see through an angel, you can understand and appreciate even a torturer.
In the end, Vania was killed for his faith at age twenty-one. He was a young martyr whose courageous life enabled him to become a hero all over Eastern Europe.
Angels are everywhere. Their likeness is in books, shaped into candleholders, hung as Christmas ornaments, and formed into angel-shaped cookie cutters. Many people regret they have never seen real angelsGods heavenly messengers. Yet everyday angels are often overlooked. An unlovely person in need of our acceptance just may be an angel. The enemy who hurts us may be the angelic being we are looking to see. Even if a person turns out to be an ordinary human after all, our love for that person will still bring us one step closer to heaven. Like Vania, are you looking at your life through a heavenly perspective? Are you looking for angels where you previously saw only an enemy? Look for potential angels to love today.
| 2008/5/31 15:51|
The following is a letter from a governor named Pliny to the Roman emperor on the growth of Christianity less than one hundred years after the crucifixion of Christ:
I have never been present at any of the Christians trials, and I am unaware of the methods and limits used in our investigation and torture. Do we show any regard to age or gender? If a Christian repents of his religion, do we still punish him or pardon him?
Currently, I am proceeding thusI question them as to their religion; if they state they are Christian, I repeat the questioning, adding the threat of capital punishment. If they still persist, I order them to be executed. I do not believe that their stubbornness should go unpunished.
I recently questioned a group of Christians who, after interrogation, denied their faith. From this event, I could see more than ever the importance of extracting the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female prisoners. But I was able to discover nothing except depraved and excessive superstition.
I therefore thought it wise to consult you before continuing with this matter. The matter is well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. This contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has also spread throughout the villages.
Nevertheless it still seems possible to cure it.
Are Christians easily cured of their Christianity? When push comes to shove, are most believers incurably faithful to Christ or merely running a mild fever? Persecution is one sure way to discover the truth. Only God knows a persons heart. However, persecution introduces us to our real selves and helps determine whether we will forsake Christ or remain faithful. If we are truly committed to Christ, then he will give us the stamina we need to endure for his sake. If we are more committed to an ideology than the person of Jesus, we will find ourselves faltering under pressure. Are you an incurable case for Christ or will your beliefs turn out to be excessive superstition instead?
| 2008/6/2 22:03|
This really encouraged me today! We need to lay hold of the promises of God like the Chinese Christians!
Songs of praise filled the crisp air. It is four in the morning. Where are they coming from? one man almost laughed in amazement.
The harvest is plentiful, my friend. It is going to be a long day but a good one for the kngdom, said the pastor as he smiled. Lets get to work.
The sea of believers at the river seemed to have no end. The pastor spoke compassionately as he baptized them, each with hands lifted up to a new life in Christ. He and his associates baptized eleven hundred new believers that day.
God is moving on China in a powerful way. Believers are being added to the fold daily. Six years ago, in a city of Northern Shanxi, several hundred Christians attended house churches. Now that number has grown to seventy thousand. In another city of fifty thousand, there is heavy persecution, yet three thousand devoted believers meet every week in underground churches.
One pastor commented insightfully, We believers are stronger than before. The more they want to pull down the banner of Christ, the higher it flies.
For decades, the church in China has suffered consistent persecution. The government instituted a strike-hard policy in a vain effort to curb the growth. Todays membership in the underground church is considerably higher than the membership in the Chinese Communist Party!
Growth is a sign of health. Healthy churches grow just as healthy plants grow. Nutrients, light, water, and good soil are all requirements for a healthy plant. In the same way, churches need specific ingredients to grow. One of the most unexpected ingredients for healthy church growth can be a fair amount of persecution. Persecution purifies the believers and makes them appreciate the value of their faith. As the pastor in this story illustrates, the more a church is persecuted, the more its members rise up as a testimony to the steadfastness of Christ. Are you bitter or better because of persecution? Are you using it to your advantage to grow the kingdom?
| 2008/6/4 18:39|
One of the most unexpected ingredients for healthy church growth can be a fair amount of persecution. Persecution purifies the believers and makes them appreciate the value of their faith. As the pastor in this story illustrates, the more a church is persecuted, the more its members rise up as a testimony to the steadfastness of Christ. Are you bitter or better because of persecution? Are you using it to your advantage to grow the kingdom?
| 2008/6/4 18:45|
| 2008/6/5 14:56|
Just like shaving a tigers hair doesnt do away with its stripes, so I am still a Christian. I still have meetings. At first there were only five meetings in my house; now there are more than a dozen.
MRS. VO THI MANH, A VIETNAMESE GRANDMOTHER
IMPRISONED FOR HER FAITH
| 2008/6/6 14:33|
The twenty-year-old Bible student was asleep when he was awakened by shouts of Allah-u-Ahkar! (Allah is Almighty!) Radical Muslims entered his room and beat him nearly unconscious. As Dominggus fought to escape, a sickle came down on the back of his neck, nearly severing his head. The attackers left him in a growing pool of his own blood, assuming he would soon die.
Dominggus said that his spirit left his body and was carried by angels to heaven, and he witnessed his own corpse lying motionless on the ground. He no longer felt fear or pain, but rather peace as he awaited his new life with Christ. Then he heard, It is not time for you to serve me here.
The next voices Dominggus heard were those of Indonesian emergency medical workers. Since they did not know whether he was Christian or Muslim, they were discussing where to take his body.
Dominggus prayed to God for strength to speak. Finally, the words I am a Christian came out. One can only imagine the look on the workers faces as the dead student answered their question.
Today, Dominggus has fully recovered. His physical scars remain, but his spirit has a renewed faith and a message of forgiveness. Dominggus stated he is closer to God, and now, he is actively praying for his Muslim neighborseven those who attacked him.
In an uncertain new world of violence and threats, Christians are commanded to face the future without fear. Fear only aggravates a bad situation without alleviating any pressure. We can confidently face the futures uncertainties on earth because we know our eternal destination is secure. We know our heavenly future is eternity with Christ, as Dominggus so clearly saw. After all, we are much more than just earthly bodies that our enemies may maim and even kill. Your life will go on far after your body is destroyed. Your true future is what happens in eternity, not what happens here on earth. What fears do you have about the future? Can you entrust them to God and face the future without fear?
| 2008/6/7 16:02|