They Gave Their Lives

The church has known many a martyr for the faith and one of the early Christian martyrs was Polycarp (69-155).

Polycarp was a good friend and pupil of the apostle John and a leading figure in the church in the first part of the second century AD.

Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna and was among one of the early martyrs for the Christian faith.

ln the year 155 at the age of eighty six years Polycarp was arrested by the Romans and brought before the Roman proconsul Statius Quadratus.

The proconsul said to him, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the Atheists.” (An atheist in this sense was one who denied the existence of the Roman gods.)

Polycarp refused to do so, urging him again the proconsul said, “Swear and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ.”

Polycarp declared, “Eighty six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury, how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour.” Polycarp joyfully went to the stake; amidst the flames he praised God for having been deemed worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake.

And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found life shall lose it and he who has lost life for My sake shall find it. (Matt. 10:38,39)

The Lord Jesus at the Centre of Human History

There have been many figures throughout human history who have exerted a great influence on the world. However, no single figure has exerted a more profound influence than the Lord Jesus Christ. Even our calendar dating system (e.g. 2016AD) is based on Jesus’ birthdate at Bethlehem in Judea, although several years out.

 The Christian world divides time to before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD)

AD refers to the Latin term –anno Domini, which means in the year of the Lord. This practice of dating things from the time of Jesus’ birth was first introduced in the year 525AD, and became standard in the Gregorian calendar.

 Throughout the Middle Ages until the present day, this has been the unofficial global standard and recognised by international institutions such as the United Nations.

There are those today who are not happy with this convention, but it has held for a very long time, and it is based on the biblical truth that Jesus Christ stands  at the very centre of all human history.

 He is, as the Apostle John says in Revelations, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”  (Rev 22:13)

The Cost of Christmas

It cost Mary and Joseph the comforts of home during a long period of exile in Egypt to protect the little babe.

It cost mothers, in and around Bethlehem, the massacre of their babies by the crude order of Herod.

It cost the shepherds the complacency of their shepherd’s life, with *the call to the manger and to tell the good news.

It cost the wise men a long journey and expensive gifts and changed lives.

It cost the early Apostles and the early church persecution and sometimes death.

It cost missionaries of Christ untold suffering and privation to spread the Good News.

‘It cost Christian martyrs in all ages their lives for Christ’s sake.

More than all this, it cost God the Father His own Son-He sent Him to the earth to save men. It cost Jesus a life of sacrifice and service, a death cruel and unmatched in history.

God Works All Things for Good

We often get annoyed when certain difficulties come our way, and fail to recognise that God has His purposes in all events in our lives, even the difficult ones.

For example, a Christian minister was on his way to preach in a Church in the mountains of Kentucky USA. He was prevented from fulfilling his engagement to preach because of a terrible blizzard.

Wearily he made his way through the snow to the home of a young man whom he knew. He wondered why God had closed the door to his preaching.

This young man and his wife were very poor but they were glad to take the preacher into their home until the blizzard had gone.

That night this preacher had opportunity to speak with this young man about ministry. The preacher was used to minister to this young man and to lead him to the conviction that God was calling him into the ministry.

This young man became a preacher and was powerfully used in later life by God to lead many people to salvation. The apostle Paul said,

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Strength in Adversity

There is a fascinating and unusual tree called the “Bristlecone Pine.”

Growing in the mountain regions, sometimes as high as two or more miles above sea level, these evergreens may live for thousands of years. The older specimens often have only one thin layer of bark on their trunks.

Considering the habitat of these trees, such as rocky areas where the soil is poor and precipitation is slight, it seems almost incredible that they should live so long or even survive at all.

The environmental “adversities,” however, actually contribute to their longevity. Cells that are produced as a result of these perverse conditions are densely arranged, and many resin canals are formed within the plant. Wood that is so structured continues to live for an extremely long period of time.

However, the Bristlecone Pines which grow in richer conditions grow faster, but also die earlier. The harshness of their surroundings, then, is a vital factor in making them strong and sturdy.

How similar this is to the experience of the Christian who graciously accepts the hardships God allows to come into his life.

ln Hebrews 12:11 we read that such chastening produces “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

Are you in a difficult place today because the winds of trial are sweeping over your life? lnstead of complaining, thank God for the assurance that “after ye have suffered awhile,” He will “establish, strengthen, and settle you.” Rejoice in the added power and grace that comes through adversity!

No Time to Look Up Into Heaven

King Henry IV of France once asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the great eclipse of the sun that had recently occurred.

“No,” said the duke, “l have so much to do on the earth that l have no leisure to look up into heaven.”

Commenting on this, Thomas Brooks said, “It is sad to think how heart and time are so taken up with earthly things that we have no leisure to look to Christ and the things that belong to everlasting peace.”

How many people are so absorbed in earthly matters that they never take the time to think beyond this present temporal world?

The person who thinks only of the here and now is indeed a fool. For the things of this world are temporal. The momentary pleasures of this world cannot bring the eternal rewards of heaven.

A day is coming when this present world will be no more and there will be a new heaven and earth reserved for those who did take the time to look up and place their faith in the King of Heaven.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you.

(Matt. 6:33).

The Atomic Experiment

lt was May 21,1946. The place – Los Alamos.
A young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific atoll at Bikini. He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction–scientists call it the critical mass-he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction.

But that day, just as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. lnstantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus interrupted the chain reaction. By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other persons in the room. . .

As he waited. . for the car that was to take him to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, ‘You’ll come through all right. But I haven’t the faintest chance myself.’

It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.

Two thousand years ago the Son of the living God walked directly into sin’s most concentrated radiation, and He allowed Himself to be touched by its curse. By His substitutionary death on the cross He broke the chain reaction of sin and its terrible deadly affects for all those who place their faith in Him.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ (Gal. 3:13)

Now is the Time to Believe

Dwight L Moody, by his own admission, made a mistake on the eighth of October 1871. On that day, he made a mistake he determined he would never repeat.  He had been preaching in the city of Chicago. That particular night drew his largest audience yet. His message was “ What will you do then with Jesus who is called the Christ?”

By the end of the service, he was tired. He concluded his message with a presentation of the gospel and a concluding statement: “ Now I will give you a week to think that over, and when we come together again you will have opportunity to respond.” A soloist began to sing.

But before that final note, the music was drowned out by clanging bells and wailing sirens screaming through the streets.  The great Chicago fire was blazing. In the ashen aftermath, hundreds were dead and over a hundred thousand were homeless. Without a doubt, some who heard Moody’s message had died in the fire.

 He reflected remorsefully that he would have given his right arm before he would ever give an audience another week to think over the message of the gospel.

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit’; where as you do not know what will happen to you tomorrow. For what is your life?  “(James 4; 13,14)

An Old Seaman’s Motto

An old seaman said, “ In fierce storms we can do but one thing. There is only way to survive; we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.”

Commenting on this idea, Richard Fuller wrote:

“This, Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you.

Reason cannot help you.

Past experiences give you no light.

Only a single course is left.

 You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may- winds, waves, cross seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers- no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm and hold fast your confidence in God’s faithfulness and his everlasting love in Christ Jesus.”

 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God my rock in whom I take refuge: my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Cobbling for the Glory of God

The following story is told of a cobbler who lived in Edinburgh.

One day the newly installed minister of the shoemaker’s church made his first call at the shoe shop. As the pastor talked, he used some lofty theological language.

 The cobbler replied with understanding and deep spiritual insight that left the preacher astonished. “You should not be cobbling shoes,” he said. “A man with such thoughts and such a manner of expressing those thoughts should not be doing secular work.”

The cobbler was quick to reply, “Sir, take that back!”

“Take what back?” asked the preacher.

“That I am doing secular work,” responded the shoemaker.

 “Do you see that pair of shoes? They belong to widow Smith’s son. Her husband died last summer. She is supported by her boy, who keeps a roof over their heads by working outdoors every day. Bad weather is coming. The Lord said to me, “Will you cobble widow Smith’s boy’s shoes so he won’t catch cold and come down sick this winter?” And I said, “I will.”

“Now you preach sermons under God’s direction, I trust, and I will cobble that boy’s shoes under God’s direction. One day when the rewards are given out, He will say to you and me the same sentence: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. ( Col 3:23)