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Few men of this century have understood better the inevitability of suffering than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He seems never to have wavered in his Christian antagonism to the Nazi regime, although it meant for him imprisonment, the threat of torture, danger to his own family and finally death. He was executed by the direct order of Heinrich Himmler in April 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp, only a few days before it was liberated. It was the fulfillment of what he had always believed and taught: “Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passive, suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luher reckoned suffering among the marks of the true Church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake’… Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact, it is a joy and a token of his grace.”
John R.W. Stott, Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1978), 53
Billy Graham used to tell a story of a professing Christian who got a job in a lumber camp that had the reputation of being very ungodly. When a friend heard that he had been hired, he said to him, “If those lumberjacks ever find out you’re a Christian, your going to be in for a very hard time!” The man responded, “I know it, but I really need the job.” After he had been working at the camp for a year, he met the friend who had predicted the ridicule and persecution he would receive from the other lumberjacks. “Well, how did it go?” he asked the friend. “Did they give you a hard time?” “Oh no, not at all,” the man replied. “They didn’t give me a bit of trouble---they never found out that I was a Christian!” (Windows on the Word).
K. Edward "Ed" Skidmore
"MY SUPREME WEAPON IS DYING."
Joseph Ton was pastor of Second Baptist Church, Oradea, Romania, until he was exiled by the Romanian government in 1981. In Pastoral Renewal, he writes of his experience:
"Years ago I ran away from my country to study theology at Oxford. In 1972, when I was ready to go back to Romania, I discussed my plans with some fellow students. They pointed out that I might be arrested at the border. One student asked, 'Joseph, what chances do you have of successfully implementing your plans?'"
He asked God about it, and God brought to mind Matthew 10:16 -- "I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves" -- and seemed to say, "Tell me, what chance does a sheep surrounded by wolves have of surviving five minutes, let alone of converting the wolves? Joseph, that’s how I send you: totally defenseless and without a reasonable hope of success. If you are willing to go like that, go. If you are not willing to be in that position, don’t go."
Ton writes: "After our return, as I preached uninhibitedly, harassment and arrests came. One day during interrogation an officer threatened to kill me. Then I said, 'Sir, your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Sir, you know my sermons are all over the country on tapes now. If you kill me, I will be sprinkling them with my blood. Whoever listens to them after that will say, "I’d better listen. This man sealed it with his blood." They will speak ten times louder than before. So, go on and kill me. I win the supreme victory then.'"
The officer sent him home. "That gave me pause. For years I was a Christian who was cautious because I wanted to survive. I had accepted all the restrictions the authorities put on me because I wanted to live. Now I wanted to die, and they wouldn’t oblige. Now I could do whatever I wanted in Romania. For years I wanted to save my life, and I was losing it. Now that I wanted to lose it, I was winning it."
Perhaps an analogy will best clarify this. As Christians we may be compared with a reservoir for producing electrical power, like one of those you see when you drive down the canyon. When we accept Christ, construction of our reservoir is complete. We now have the potential to be useful and to affect lives. But until the flood gates are opened and the cascading river waters pour through, no power is realized. So it is when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. We open our lives to God and the Holy Spirit pours into us and through us. It is then we become most effective in God’s service.
As with the reservoir, this power-generating experience is not intended to be a one-time occurrence. It is to be an ongoing process. When our spiritual power runs low, we need to return to the Source and let the blessed Holy Spirit pour into us again, bringing fresh power.
Sermon Central Staff
ATHANASIUS CONTENDS FOR THE DEITY OF CHRIST
If Jesus is something less than God, he has no right and no power to forgive our sins. If Jesus can’t forgive our sins, we have no hope.
Yes, the doctrine of the deity of Christ is worth contending for. And there is nobody God used more to contend for this biblical truth than Athanasius.
Athanasius was born in the year 298AD in Egypt. In his early twenties he was a deacon in the church in Alexandria (North Africa). During that time, the doctrine of the deity of Christ came under attack by a highly influential pastor named Arius. Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, that he had a beginning, and there was a time when Jesus was not. Therefore, according to Arius, Jesus is the son of God, but not God the son. His heresy was later known as the Arian heresy (named after Arius). It sparked a flame throughout the empire, that would dominate the church for 60 years. It was a 20 year old young man by the name of Athanasius, 40 years younger than Arius, that God would use to contend for the doctrine of the deity of Christ (good word to 20 year olds here today, you don’t need to wait to have a huge impact in the kingdom. God can use you now).
Athanasius would endure decades of persecution, banished from the church, sent into exile five times, framed for murder, threatened with death, slandered by emperors and bishops, all for standing firm to the doctrine of the deity of Christ. In the end he prevailed, truth was preserved, and the church has stood on his shoulders ever since.
(From a sermon by Mark Connelly, The Deity of Christ, 8/24/2011)
Hitler imprisoned a German pastor, Martin Niemoeller, for eight years. He spent some time in prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau. Hitler realised that if Niemoeller, a First World War hero, could be persuaded to join his cause then much opposition would collapse, so he sent a former friend of Niemoeller to visit him, a friend who now supported the Nazis. Seeing Niemoeller in his cell, the one time friend is reported as saying, "Martin, Martin! Why are you here?" To which he received from Niemoeller the response, "My friend! Why are you not here?"
Those of us who pray for the persecuted church, mourned the loss of Cardinal Ignatius Kung who died last month at the age of 98. Though I’m not a Catholic, I admire Cardinal Kung who stood by his convictions, and withstood persecution for his faith.
He was ordained as a Bishop of Shanghai in 1949, shortly after the communists took over China. The Chinese government pressured him to align his loyalties to the "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association," he refused, choosing to remain loyal to his church’s chain of command. In 1955, the authorities brought he and 200 other priests to a stadium in Shanghai. The government ordered them to "confess their crimes." Instead, Kung shouted "Long live Christ the King! Long live the Pope."
Shortly thereafter, he received a life sentence, where he spent the next 30 years in prison, most of the time in solitary confinement. He was freed in 1987 and finally arrived to his final resting place last month.
SOWING SEEDS OF PEACE
In Europe, 1934, Hitler’s plague of anti-Semitism was infecting a continent. Some would escape it. Some would die from it. But eleven-year-old Heinz would learn from it. He would learn the power of sowing seeds of peace.
Heinz was a Jew. The Bavarian village of Fourth, where Heinz lived, was being overrun by Hitler’s young thugs. Heinz’s father, a schoolteacher, lost his job. Recreational activities ceased. Tension mounted on the streets. The Jewish families clutched the traditions that held them together-the observance of the Sabbath, of Rosh Hashanah, of Yom Kippur. Old ways took on new significance. As the clouds of persecution swelled and blackened, these ancient precepts were a precious cleft in a mighty rock. And as the streets became a battleground, such security meant survival.
Hitler’s youth roamed the neighborhoods looking for trouble. Young Heinz learned to keep his eyes open. When he saw a band of troublemakers, he would step to the other side of the street. Sometimes he would escape a fight – sometimes not.
One day, in 1934, a pivotal confrontation occurred. Heinz found himself face-to-face with a Hitler bully. A beating appeared inevitable. This time, however, he walked away unhurt – not because of what he did, but because of what he said. He didn’t fight back; he spoke up. He convinced the troublemakers that a fight was not necessary. His words kept battle at bay.
And Heinz saw first hand how the tongue can create peace. He learned the skill of using words to avoid conflict. And for a young Jew in Hitler-ridden Europe, that skill had many opportunities to be honed.
Fortunately, Heinz’s family escaped from Bavaria and made their way to America. Late...
G. Hastings- People for two millennia have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. People make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt. When a French ruler proposed the persecution of Christians in his realm, an old warrior said, "Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers." The hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and princes and rulers, scholars and intellectuals, have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.
David Limbaugh has written a book called, Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity, and in it he observed: "It’s one thing for Christophobes to be nervous about Easter and Christmas, given their obvious association with Jesus Christ, but surely holidays like Valentine’s Day should escape their scrutiny. Well, not quite. A public school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, permitted its students to exchange valentines of all varieties, including those showcasing pop stars Britney Spears and *Nsync. All varieties, that is, except one honoring Jesus Christ. Eight-year-old Morgan Nyman was told she could not pass out her homemade cards saying ’Jesus loves you’ or ’Freely Rely On God.’"