Apologies for the lapse…

We’re still trying to get some logistical stuff sorted out. Since this blog is about faith as it applies to Southern Baptists and evangelicals, we have a couple of stop-gaps in place to avoid crossing any doctrinal or theological boundaries; unfortunately, once you get a bunch of people involved in the process, it sometimes takes some effort to get them all coordinated.

I have a couple of posts in the can, they are just waiting for review before we publish them. We’ll get this logistical issue taken care of– so don’t give up on us!

Thanks for your patience and understanding. Please check back soon.

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Thomas Hauker, June 6, 1555

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

~II Corinthians 12:9a

England, 1555. It is the second year of Mary I, half-sister of King Edward IV.

Edward, who had overseen the last years of the English Reformation, the dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church in England, and the institution of the Church of England, appointed his cousin, the Lady Jane Grey, as successor to the throne before he died at the age of 15.

Edward’s half-sister and Lady Grey’s Privy Council conspired to depose the Queen and in nine days, Mary I was named Queen of England. Mary quickly began work to dismantle the Protestant faith and to return England to the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. At the end of January 1555, it became law that heretics against Catholicism were to be burned at the stake.

People knew that high-level clergymen would be the targets of these public burnings; but tradesmen and even entire families would fall victim to charges of heresy. The final tally of executions under Mary I was to reach 287, with another thirty or so to die in prison.

It was in June of 1555 that Thomas Hauker faced his execution. Having previously arranged with friends that, if the pain were not too great to quench his faith in Christ, he should give a sign from the fire, Hauker went to the stake cheerfully, and prayed as the wood was lit. After a great while, Hauker—flesh burned to crackling blackness, face destroyed, fingers charred to bare bone—appeared to have succumbed to the flames.

The crowd let out a collective gasp before falling into hushed silence as Hauker, flames swirling about his destroyed body, the heat of the fire twisting the air about him, raised his face and hands towards Heaven. A cry escaped his mangled throat and he clapped his hands once; twice; again. Arms spread, Thomas Hauker slumped against the stake, dead in the body, present with the Lord.  His friends had their sign.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

This story was excerpted and expanded on from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which gives a great deal of detail about the persecutions of various clergy and laity during the five year reign of Mary I, or, “Bloody Mary,” as she came to be known.

 While Foxe maintains that over 300 martyrs were burned at the stake, no complete list of these names has ever been found or compiled. “Official” counts place the number at around 287 dead by burning, with another 30 to have died in prison. It is reasonable to suppose that others were executed or lynched by various other methods, although I have yet to find an account of such incidents.

 Lady Jane Grey was Queen for only nine days before her betrayal and overthrow by her own Privy Council and Mary I. Convicted of high treason in 1553, she was beheaded on February 12, 1554. Lady Jane Grey was a Protestant by faith and many have maintained that her death was the first martyrdom of the Marian Persecutions.

 This story is an unfortunate reminder that even amongst “Christians,” cruelty and intolerance will often be instigated and encouraged by those who seek to gain or retain power. In the end, it is the laity that suffers for these excesses; in the larger scope of things, this violent history is used by the Enemy to distort the vision of unbelievers, making the teachings of Christ to be words of hatred. As Christians, we not only have a responsibility to others, but a responsibility to Christ to protect and defend the Word of God and the Gospel against all challenges to its Truth, even against the powerful, even to the death.

My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:19,20

For indeed we have had the good news preached to us, just as they did also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

~Hebrews 4:2

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

  ~Hebrews 13:12-14

          

 

 

Forgiveness

I hope that this finds all of you in good health and high spirits, Reader. God is awesome!

 Today’s subject is: forgiveness.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21,22

Okay, so Jesus is saying that forgiveness should be unlimited, just as God is willing to forgive each of us without limit. In the parable that follows this statement (Mt. 18:22-35), Jesus highlights the injustices of our failures to forgive others, when we—who for the sake of sin cannot enter God’s Presence! —have been forgiven on account of the death of His own Son.

 In this verse, Jesus is talking about forgiving our brothernot forgiving sin. That’s God’s job! All sin must be paid for, but we are not the ones to exact payment. We live our spiritual lives in the knowledge that God has forgiven our sins through the sacrifice of His Son, Christ Jesus. In fact, not just forgiven—we are justified in the eyes of God because the blood of Christ covers our sins. God can’t see them. It’s like the sin never even happened.

 Whoa. Heady stuff. So, um… how does it apply to us?

 Turn it around; your friend lies to you, and you get hoodwinked. You really, really want to see justice done. In fact, “tormented forever, time without end,” seems appropriate. What to do, what to do… EUREKA!

 Just put your child up to be spit on, beaten, humiliated, slandered, scourged and then hung, naked, with his name prominently displayed next to the main highway leading into town and left to die a slow, agonizing death! It’s all good!

 Makes sense, right? No sane person even considers that this is reasonable. But it was necessary in order for us to be forgiven and have a relationship with God.

 For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed…

    Romans 3:23-25

 Christian behavior is often not so much a stumbling stone to the unbeliever, as it is to the “saved”. When someone wrongs you, how do you react? Not what do you do; the question is: what is your heart’s reaction? Because this—more than your outward response—indicates the type of person you are. When someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s easy enough to smile and say, “Well, he’s clearly in a hurry. Let’s say a quick prayer for his safety,” when your heart’s reaction at that moment was, “This is why they should let us mount grenade launchers on the hood of the car!”

 Murderer. (Hey, I didn’t say it. Jesus did. Sermon on the Mount. Check it.)

 There is another aspect to this, as well: in the parable, Jesus ends by saying, “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall my Heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” (Mt. 18:34, 35)

 There’s no way for us to control that knee-jerk internal response. It isn’t in the nature of men to do that. We aren’t longsuffering.

 God is. (Right now, stop reading this, pick up your Bible and read Romans 6; just read the whole chapter, it will do you good).

 This brings us to the point. (I know; brevity is not my spiritual gift. You can see why I love Paul.) If what we experience inside manifests itself by our outward actions, what am I? Does this mean that if my first reaction is anger, all is lost? May it never be! (Love Paul.) It just reinforces that I’m human.  By yielding to the Spirit, each time I’m faced with this situation it will be easier for me to surrender to the Spirit’s guidance. Eventually, I begin to have love and forgiveness toward others in my heart.

I’m Christ’s example to a wicked, degenerate world. God forgave me. Can I forgive others?

Not always. Lord knows, I’m trying, but there are a lot of people to whom I really want to see justice done. That isn’t my place: “VENGEANCE IS MINE; I WILL REPAY,” saith the LORD. There’s also the small matter of not being a stumbling stone to others (setting the right example through actions and words), and it’s “a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

 I’d just as soon avoid being on the receiving end of that whole “vengeance” thing, thank you very much. So…

… Forgive.