what are you willing to die for

“You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures.
I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion.
I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith.
I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”

+ St. John the Russian


(lingering pomergarnite / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2018)

The definition of the word martyr, according to Merriam Webster is: a person who voluntarily
suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion.

When we think of individuals who fit that description…we think of those individuals
who reach out to us from various Biblical tales.
We recall the stories of individuals who were tried and sentenced to death
for their faith in God, people like Daniel in the lion’s den—
or of Mesach, Shadrach, and Abednego along with King Nebuchadnezzar who decreed
having them thrown into the furnace…
We think of the stories of those individuals who refused to recant their belief in
the Omnipotent God.

Stories that are both far away and long ago.

And so in turn, we know from our Biblical history teachings that St Stephen was the first
recorded Christian martyr—
a man who refused to renounce his Christian faith, that of his belief in Jesus Christ…
with the near obvious result being his death…
and in Stephen’s case, it was by stoning.

The New Testament is laced with such stories—the stories of those who
suffered and died for refusing to denounce Jesus Christ as the Risen Son of God.

Yet today when we hear the word martyr or martyrdom, our 21st-century minds focuses in
on radical extremists…radical Islamic suicide bombers who offer themselves,
their lives, in order to kill as many other people as possible.
Not like the Christian who simply stands firm in his or her faith.

Christian martyrs are still being killed worldwide…
They die more or less quietly as their deaths are not publicized or are of common knowledge—
in part because they die in places where news of such is very hidden and or controlled.
Their deaths do not make the papers or the evening news.
Their deaths are not the headline gripping stories of deaths carried out by those who
prefer to kill mass numbers of people due to a skewed faith…

Many in the West, members of the Christian faith along with nonbelievers,
erroneously assume that Christian martyrdom ended with the fall of Rome…
due in part because the deaths of martyred Christians
does not make the nightly news or is not sprawled across the headlines.

The tales of imprisonment, tortures, and deaths of today’s Christians are not on the level
of breaking news as are those of the martyred Islamists because of the flip-flopped
extremist’s view of martyrdom.
Whereas the radical kills hundreds in one act—the countless numbers of tortured and
martyred Christians go virtually unnoticed.

However what we do know is that an Islamic Martyr sacrifices self in order to kill
while the Christian martyr is killed because he or she will not recant their faith…
and often is killed because of an attempt to protect others…
certainly not to harm others.

A vast difference.

Today most Westerners, and again that would be both Believers and non Believers,
does not feel a life or death threat or link to or for any martyred Christians
simply because the notion of a martyred Christians is not currently taking place.
Or at least that’s what we assume.

We aren’t still stoning or curcifying a person because they claim to be a Christian,
are we???

But what many in our society do not realize is that just because we live in an oh so
very modern society, there are indeed places still around the globe where Christians
are being stoned to death and even crucified for their faith despite our thinking
such barbarism disappeared eons ago.

Yet we read of IS and of the persecution of Middle Eastern Christians and
we occasionally hear a word of those who are killed for their faith in places
like North Korea, China, Myramar…but not here we will gloat, not where life
is civilized…right?

Yet what we fail to both see and understand is that the persecution of the Christian
in our Western Society is very much real…. however it is more hidden,
more insidious and quietly more subtle than those types of murders and deaths of those
Christians from either our history books or of those in far-flung regions of the world.

It would behoove us to realize that just because we consider ourselves “civilized” and
above the torture and or persecution of individuals for their Christian belief,
we should stop and take notice that there is one who is very much aware of the fact that
there is indeed such persecution taking place…
as such acts are carried out in a much more hidden and sinister type of execution…
And this individual is much more keenly aware of such…much more so than any human being.
And He couldn’t be more excited…

Abba [St] Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, said:
“One of you often says: ‘Where is the persecution so I can be martyred?’
Suffer martyrdom in your conscience; die to sin;
‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth’ [cf. Col 3:5]
and you will have become a martyr by intention.

Those [former martyrs] fought with emperors and rulers;
you have the devil, the emperor of sin, for adversary and demons for rulers.
For at that time a shrine and an altar stood before them and an abomination
of idolatry, an execrable idol.

Take careful thought;
even today there is an altar and a sanctuary and a virtual execrable idol in the soul.
An altar, that is luxurious gluttony; a sanctuary, the longing for delights;
an idol, the spirit of covetousness.

the exchange for the lie….

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—
who is forever praised.
Amen.

Romans 1:25

When the truth of God is turned to a lie,
his glory is obliterated.

John Calvin


(a purple passion flower found blooming deep in the Georgia woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

When I frist read today’s quote by John Calvin regarding turing God’s truth to a lie…
which therefore obliterated His glory…
I thought “YES, that’s it!”
“That’s what’s going on here”…
“That’s exactly what they’re doing…”
“They’re taking God’s word and altering it to fit the skewed and warped desires of
these current times of ours.”

“Twisting and turning everything God has uttered into some sort of carnal, wanton
and depraved acknowledgement which in turn makes these current times of wants
and desires all really ok.”

It’s been done ever so slyly with a deletion of a word here, a new interpretation or
altered context or sentence there…
and magically it’s now POOF….!!!!!
What once was a “no, not a good idea,” is now a defiant and triumphant “Yes” equating
to everything and anything now being perfectly fine and acceptable…

And in so doing… the Truth has been turned into a lie, thus obliterating and smashing
the glory of God into smithereens….

And just so we’re clear, the said “they” in all of this is pretty much our current
culture and society…
So the “they” is really pretty much us….

Yet…after reading the sentence several times over and over, I sat for a bit pondering
the statement further.

Whereas man has taken God’s words and altered, rearranged and reworded them to fit
neatly into man’s desired wants….
nothing about God has been obliterated….
Because no matter what man does or says, he cannot, will not “obliterate” God.

Nietzsche’s famous proclamation of God being dead did not render God dead…
for man cannot “kill” the Omnipotent Creator…
despite his attempt to rid God from man’s own mind, heart and life….
man does not have that power.

It’s like the angry child who stomps a foot and proclaims to be now ignoring
whomever it is who has incurred his or her wrath….
in essence attempting to render said individual, null and void, dead and gone…
the epitome out of sight and out of mind.

Yet God being outside of both space and time does not conform nor fit into man’s limited
restraints of such.
He is greater than as well as beyond limitations.
And because of that, He is incapable of being obliterated or “killed”
or even contained for that matter.

It is the clarity of observation made by Lauren Green in her newly published book
Lighthouse Faith that sums this all up in once simple sentence…
“that we live in the reality of God’s world,
not He in ours.”

So whereas man may think that he’s being overtly cleaver in his smug superiority–
creating verse and word according to himself…
the Truth which is both inside and outside of both space and time, cannot
be rendered anything other than what it is…
that simply being the Truth….

Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.
Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Pilate said to him,
“What is truth?”

John 18:37-38

measuring

The measure of a life,
after all,
is not its duration,
but its donation.

Corrie Ten Boom

rscn4795
(everything is so early this year—blooming cherry trees and the visiting honey bees/
Julie Cook / 2017)

We are a measuring people…
we just seem to love to measure…
It’s as if we’ve been measuring ever since the dawn of Creation.

We measure everything….
space,
time,
distance,
amounts,
gains,
averages,
percentages,
odds,
growth…

Just as we measure…
decline,
decrease,
failure,
depletion,
shrinkage,
loss,
and demise…

We measure both life and death…as well as the distance separating the two.

This whole concept of numbers, benchmarks, averages and time seems to be of the
utmost importance to us.
Measuring allows us the satisfaction of knowing if we’ve actually been successful,
having accomplished a certain task, goal or desire.
It also gives us some sense, some idea, as to how far we still need to go in order to
reach a set goal, desire or postion.

Measuring and its results makes us feel in control.

And it is certainly paramount when considering such endeavors such as construction,
tailoring, manufacturing, producing, building, mending…
It is in such that both precision and measurement walk hand in hand.
Meaning… we can’t have one without the other.
Anything other then precise leads to skewed, crooked, awkward, flawed
as well as imperfection…
as we’ve learned to equate measurement with both precision and perfection…
as well as with safety.

Yet no matter how precise we try to be, no matter how perfect, how accurate…
we continue making mistakes.
And our mistakes can have catastrophic results…
leaving us not in the place we prefer…
that of being knowledgable and in control…
but rather…
we find ourselves as helpless victims of our own failures and errors.
Wishing to hide, lest anyone know it was upon our mistake of flawed measuring
which resulted in disaster….

Yet we simply, and often flippantly, chalk that up to human nature…
for we are indeed an imperfect lot…
despite our best attempts to measure…along with precision, perfection,
accuracy and control…
we misread, mismeasure and miscalculate…

Yet in our busyness of measuring, we have become accustomed to measuring
not only the abstract…
but we are very comfortable measuring ourselves…
We measure our self worth and our sense of well being…
With our benchmark being anything and everyone other than ourselves…

We constantly gauge our level of satisfaction by how others measure up to us and
how we measure up to others…

Are we happier than…
Are we more successful than…
Are we better off than…
Are we more financially secure than…
Are we healthier than…
Are we prettier than…
Are we thinner than…
Are we younger looking than…
Are we more comfortable than…
Are we further along than…
Are we more popular than…

Our question must therefore remain…what is it that we measure?
And what shall we be measured by…

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:3

‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.
‘You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin;
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:35-36
(ephah: a Hebrew dry measurement / hin: a Hebrew liquid measurement)