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Archive for the ‘faith in life’ Category

The Christian History Institute published the story of forty Roman soldiers who were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on March 9th, 320 A.D.

“Consider—you alone of Caesar’s troops defy him! Think of the disgrace you bring upon your legion. How can you do it?” Governor Agricola was speaking to forty soldiers in the 12th Legion of the Roman army who refused to offer sacrifice to the emperor while they were stationed near Sebaste in modern-day Turkey.

“To disgrace the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is more terrible still,” replied one of the soldiers.

The governor became exasperated. “Give up this stubborn folly. You have no lord but Caesar! In his name, I promise promotion to the first of you who steps forward and does his duty.” 

When that lure did not break their ranks he increased the pressure. “You persist in your rebellion? Then prepare for torture, prison, death!”

The soldiers stood firm. “Nothing you can offer us would replace what we would lose in the next world. As for your threats—we’ve learned to deny our bodies where the welfare of our souls is at stake.”

Agricola ordered them flogged. Guards dragged the men out into the cold where they were stripped and tied to posts. Whips with hooks of iron tore the men’s sides. Unbelievably not one of the forty surrendered. “Chain them in my dungeons!” roared Agricola. He referred their case to Lysias, commander of the 12th Legion, whose coming was soon expected. When Lysias arrived he threatened a sharp penalty if the soldiers continued to disobey.

On this day, 9 March 320, the men remained respectfully defiant. A new torture occurred to Agricola. Nearby was a frozen pond. The March air was sharp. “You will stand naked on the ice until you agree to sacrifice to the gods,” he said.

The rebel soldiers tore off their own clothes and ran toward the pond in the freezing air. “We are soldiers of the Lord and fear no hardship,” shouted one. “What is our death but entrance into eternal life?” Striking up a song, they marched onto the frozen pond. Baffled, Agricola posted guards. He had baths of warm water heated as an incentive to the forty to come off the pond.

As dark closed in, the forty prayed, “Lord, there are forty of us engaged in this battle; grant that forty may be crowned and not one be missing from this sacred number.” It appeared their prayer was doomed to disappointment, however. Babbling, one of the forty crawled away from the ice. Guards helped him into a bath but the heat proved too much of a shock to his frozen system. He immediately went into convulsions and died.

However, one of the guards had seen a vision of angels with crowns hovering over the pond. Impressed by the bravery of the remaining thirty-nine, he shucked off his clothes and ran onto the ice. The martyrs numbered forty again!

When the sun rose, Agricola was told that the forty were dead. He ordered the bodies burned and their ashes dumped into a nearby river so the bones could not be collected and venerated. When the guards began stacking the stiff corpses onto a wagon, they discovered that Melito, the youngest of the soldiers, was still alive. 

Melito was a local boy. The soldiers recognized his mom nearby. “Listen, Mother, take your boy home, save his life if you can. We’ll look the other way,” they said.

“What kind of talk is that?” scolded the woman. “Would you cheat him of his crown? I’ll never let that happen!” As the wagon began to roll away, she hoisted her son in with the others.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12).

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congregation

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV).

We should go to church because we need it, but also because our brothers and sisters in Christ need it, too. Yes, we gather together to worship the Triune God. No, it isn’t a solitary endeavor, however. We “stir up one another to love and good works,” and encourage each other by our attendance and involvement. They need us and we need them.

When you go to church, greet people warmly and with a smile. You may be the only person who’s greeted them that way all week.

When you sing (even if it’s a song you don’t like), sing it anyway. You may encourage someone who wonders if it’s possible to praise God in their circumstances.

When you sing a song you like, sing it fervently. You may motivate someone near you to sing with all of their heart.

When you pray along with someone else, say “amen” so it can be heard. You may strengthen the faith of someone who isn’t sure if God answers prayer.

When you listen to a sermon, pay careful attention with an open Bible on your lap. You may encourage someone who read and study  God’s Word every chance they got but has slacked off lately.

When you talk to people, show genuine interest in them and ask them how they’re doing.  You may encourage them to do the same.

You never know the impact and influence of simple acts simple acts during a worship service. You need the church and the church needs you.

(This post was inspired by a series of tweets written by Garrett Kell.)

 

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220px-John_Calvin_by_Holbein

There are other circumstances in which those who are pious should stand firm in peace and patience. Such qualities should extend to every situation that we encounter in this life. No one, then, has properly denied himself except the one who has abandoned himself to the Lord so that every aspect of his life will be governed by his will. The person thus composed in soul will neither judge himself to be miserable, nor will he spitefully complain against God for his lot in life, come what may.

The true necessity of having such a disposition is clear if you consider how many unforeseen events we are exposed to in this life. We are continually harassed by one illness or another; the plague advances; we are cruelly vexed by the calamities of war; frost and hail render the land barren and leave us with little, devouring our expectations for the year’s crop. Wife, parents, children, and close relatives are snatched away by death; homes are consumed by fire. These are events which make men curse their lives, despise the day they were born, hold in contempt heaven and its light, rage against God, and, being fluent in blasphemies, accuse God of unfairness and cruelty. But the believer must in these circumstances consider the mercy and the Fatherly kindness of God. If the believer, then, should see his house made lonely by the loss of those nearest to him, even then he must not stop praising the Lord. Rather, he must turn himself to this thought: “The Lord’s grace continues to dwell in my home and will not leave it desolate.” If the believer should see his crop consumed by drought, disease, or frost, or trampled down by hail and famine threaten him, even then he must not despair within his soul, nor should he become angry toward God. Rather, he must persist with confidence in this truth: “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever” (Ps. 79:13). God, then, will provide for us, however barren the land. If the believer should be afflicted by illness, he must not be so stung by the severity of his hardship that he erupts in impatience and demands from God an explanation. Rather, he must, considering the justice and gentleness of God’s discipline, recall himself to patience.

Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord.

(A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin; translated by Aaron Dendinger an Burk Parsons, Reformation Trust, 2017, pp. 51-53)

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psalm29

I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 29. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life receives power, comfort, and strength, from the all-powerful God.

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Psalm-3

I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 3. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life means doing what you can do, then leaving the rest in God’s hands.

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In my daily Bible reading in the last couple of days, I read Ephesians 4. It’s a great chapter, but when I was finished I went back and read verses 25 through 32 again. I thought to myself, “I could work on everything in this passage for the rest of my life and never master it.”

Here it is – try it on for size:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

I’m convinced there is enough in this passage to keep us busy for a long, long time. By the power of God’s Spirit, let’s get started (or keep going) – for His glory and our good!

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unashamed-romans-11617-1-638

This morning I had the privilege of preaching my final sermon as Pastor of Cross Creek Bible Church on Romans 1:16-17. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: We are not ashamed of the gospel – believe it, preach it, and live out it’s consequences for God’s glory and our good!

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