ISIS executes 21 Egyptian Copts in LibyaWho will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

You probably saw the horrific images on the news.  I did, and I can’t get the images out of my head.  I see twenty-one men in orange jumpsuits, force-marched to a deserted beach on the shores of Tripoli, in Libya.  Having been given the choice by ISIS terrorists to convert or die, these twenty-one men have chosen to die.

If you look at the video of these twenty-one martyrs frame-by-frame, you will see them saying their last prayers.  Then, just before the scimitar blade comes down on their necks, each man cries out: “Ya Rabbi Yassou”, “Jesus is my Lord.”

After the beheadings were announced by ISIS, the Coptic Church in Egypt released the names of the men.  But strangely, they released the names of only twenty of them.  The name of the twenty-first man was missing, leaving many to wonder about him.

It’s an inspiring story that later came out about this unnamed, twenty-first man.  The Ahram-Canadian News Agency in Cairo broke the story.  This unnamed twenty-first martyr was actually a non-Christian construction worker from the African country of Chad. (Note his darker skin in the picture above.)    But when this twenty-first man saw the determined, committed Christian faith of his twenty co-workers from Egypt, he knew he wanted what they had.   He chose then to be marked for death, and identified with Jesus, and with His followers.  It was a bold confession unto death that this twenty-first man volunteered to the terrorists: “Their God is my God!  Their God is my God!”

Today I read the story of this twenty-first martyr, and I think about the power of a faithful witness to Jesus as Lord.   Yes, I know the American adage that says don’t talk religion or politics!  But the Christian life is a calling to martyria, which was the ancient Greek word for a “witness”.    The word martyria was first used by early Christians to describe a life lived in faithful “witness” to Jesus as Lord.    Theirs was a “witness” sometimes leading to martyria by lion, fire, sword, and cross.  Sometimes leading to ridicule, harassment, and shaming.

Imperial Rome tried to persecute Christianity right out of existence, but the more they persecuted it the faster and farther it spread.  Roman Emperors soon discovered The Law of Spiritual Thermodynamics that says, “The greater the heat the greater the expansion.”   The more they tried to stamp out the Church the greater it grew.   (See the astonishing growth of the Church in modern China!)

Church Father, Tertullian of Carthage (A. D. 155-240), described The Law of Spiritual Thermodynamics working in his day; Tertullian wrote:  “Christians can afford to be put to torture and to death, and the more they are cast down the more they grow; the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Apologetics, chapter 50, emphasis added).

In today’s Scripture text the apostle Paul writes to Christians in Rome facing persecution and harassment.  Some might be tempted to be ashamed of Paul’s persecutions and many imprisonments.  Some might be tempted to just go with the flow of those around, and when in Rome to do as the Romans.   Some are perhaps fearful of the days ahead.

But Paul assures them, as he assures you and me: Neither things present, nor things to come, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In all of these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Ya Rabbi Yassou”, “Jesus is my Lord.”
Tim

 

WHAT THINGS?

On April 13, 2015 By

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing […]

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For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.                                                                                   Romans 5:10-11 […]

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Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and […]

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Trust Me

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.
Some wandered in desert wastelands,
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Thanks In Advance

Record my misery;
    list my tears on your scroll—
    are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will turn back
    when I call for help.
    By this I will know that God is for me.

In God, whose word I praise,
    in the LORD, […]

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Tasting God’s Goodness

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and theLORD heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The […]

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Don’t Quit On Me

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The LORD will vindicate me;
    your love, LORD, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of […]

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From Self-deception to God-redemption

But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my […]

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Trust Me

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
    the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
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