By Bill Federer
On NOVEMBER 18, 1807, Thomas Jefferson replied to Captain John Thomas of the Newhope Baptist Church:”Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that…of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable in His will;
a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”
“In the unity of the nation…we hope much from religion; very little from sectarian churches;
much from the Spirit of God blessing the Truth of his Word to the hearts of individual men;
much from the individual men that are nobler than their sect;
much from free men whose adhesion to forms and ceremonies is the least part of their existence;
much from religion as it exists in its higher forms in individual nature and in public sentiment;
very little from dogmas; very little from theology as such…
Let us implore the God of our fathers, by his own wise providence, to save us from our wanton passions, from impertinent egotism, from pride, arrogance, cruelty, and sensual lusts, that as a nation we may show forth his praise in all the earth.”
President Chester Arthur stated October 25, 1882:
“The blessings demanding our gratitude are numerous and varied…for…moral education of our youth;
for the influence upon the conscience of a restraining and transforming religion…for these and for many other blessings we should give thanks…
I do recommend…that the people, ceasing from their daily labors…draw near to the throne of Almighty God, offering to Him praise and gratitude for the manifold goodness which He has vouchsafed to us.”
“We are celebrating the planting of the Colony of Georgia… which had its roots in religious teachings and religious liberty, a State in which the first Sunday School was established…
Let me…read to you a very short passage from…a great son of a great Georgia mother, Theodore Roosevelt. He said:
‘Spiritually and ethically we must strive to bring about clean living and right thinking. We appreciate that the things of the body are important; but we appreciate also that the things of the soul are immeasurably more important.'”
“The less we emphasize the Christian religion the further we fall into the abyss of poor character and chaos in the United States of America.”
On NOVEMBER 18, 1957, Julius Caesar Watts, Jr., better know as J.C. Watts, was born.
A college and pro football player, he was a youth minister and, in 1994, was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he was chosen House Conference Chairman.
“I was taught to respect everyone for the simple reason that we’re all God’s children.
I was taught, in the words of Martin Luther King, to judge a man not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.
And I was taught that character is simply doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”
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THE TWELVE APOSTLES:
1. Andrew – crucified
2. Bartholomew – beaten then crucified
3. James, son of Alphaeus – stoned to death
4. James, son of Zebedee – beheaded
5. John – exiled for his faith; died of old age
6. Judas (not Iscariot) – stoned to death
7. Matthew – speared to death
8. Peter – crucifed upside down
9. Philip – crucified
10. Simon – crucified
11. Thomas – speared to death
12. Matthias – stoned to death
(source: Fox’s Book of Martyrs)
Chart courtesy of Every Student.com
Do you want to follow Jesus Christ? How much? What are you willing to give up? Your life? Will you stand in civil disobedience when you are told to obey the laws of whichever government in power over you?
We are quickly coming to a point where here in America, although we are supposed to have freedom to practice our faith, we are being restricted on how and where we can do so. The current administration argues that if you are a business, even though you have always used Christian principles for your business, that you should not be exempt from laws that violate your belief. This includes providing abortion services, along with honoring marriages between same sexes, to just name a few. Whether this will stand we don’t yet know. There are currently arguments before several judges with some of the cases either at the Supreme Court or on there way.
Then there is the school system. Our children are taught at church and at home that certain things are unacceptable in the eyes of God, yet when they are as school, these things are often promoted. Our children are taught that both their parents and their churches are wrong, bigoted, racist and evil. Schools are becoming less a place to teach our children what they need for the future and more a place for those who have differing values to indoctrinate our children. They are also being taught that the government comes before God.
Even as individuals we are not safe, we are being forced to pay for abortion in the insurance that we have, even though this practice is abhorrent to us. Recently Pastors that speak out in public or hand out tracts have been arrested. Even praying in public has been a cause for arrest and harassment.
Our men and women in the military have lost the ability to even talk about their faith to their fellow men and women. They are told to shut up and be quiet or they will face a court martial. We have in the last six years seen Veterans families told that they cannot say Jesus name in prayers at funerals, in hospitals, or anywhere on federal land.
We are told that instead of the Constitution saying we have freedom of religion, that instead it is a document that protects all others from having to either hear, or even know that we are a people of faith and follow Jesus. At the very same time we are told that Muslim’s should not be insulted, their prayers’s need to be respected and special places allowed within schools, and that laws that apply to everyone else, such as head covering when you are photographed at the DMV.
You read the history of the apostles and how they were treated, we know that they were tortured and killed because they followed Jesus, but how often do you consider what they were doing when this happened and who did it? It wasn’t always at the hands of the Jews. Often it was because they angered the government of the time. Consider the Apostle Andrew:
Concerning the cause and manner of his death, the following is contained in Apophthegm. Christian. Baudart., page 3: AtPatras, a city in Achaia, he converted besides many others, Maximillia, the wife of Aegaeas, the governor, to the Christian faith. This so enraged the governor against Andrew, that he threatened him with death of the cross. But the apostle said to the governor, “Had I feared the death of the cross, I should not have preached the majesty and gloriousness of the cross of Christ.”
The enemies of the truth having apprehended and sentenced to death the apostle Andrew, he went joyfully to the place where he was to be crucified, and, having come near the cross, he said,”O beloved cross! I have greatly longed for thee. I rejoice to see thee erected here. I come to thee with a peaceful conscience and with cheerfulness, desiring that I, who am a disciple of Him who hung on the cross, may also be crucified.” The apostle said further,”The nearer I come to the cross, the nearer I come to God; and the farther I am from the cross, the farther I remain from God.”
The holy apostle hung three days on the cross; he was riot silent, however; but as long as he could move his tongue, he instructed the people that stood by the cross, in the way of the truth, saying, among other things, “I thank my Lord Jesus Christ, that He, having used me for a time as an ambassador, now permits me to have this body, that I, through a good confession, may obtain everlasting grace and mercy. Remain steadfast in the word and doctrine which you have received, instructing one another, that you may dwell with God in eternity, and receive the fruit of His promises.”
The Christians and other pious people besought the governor to give Andrew unto them, and take him down from the cross., (For it appears that he was not nailed to the cross, like Christ, but tied to it). When the apostle learned of this, he cried to God, Saying,”O Lord Jesus Christ! suffer not that Thy servant, who hangs here on the tree for Thy name’s sake, be released, to dwell again among men; but receive me. O my Lord, my God! whom I have known, whom I have loved, to whom I cling, whom I desire to see, and in whom I am what I am.” Having spoken these words, the holy apostle committed his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father. M. W. Baudart. in Apophthegm Christian. lib. 1, super Andream, ex August. de Vera et Falsa Poenitentia., cap 8, Bernhard. in Sermon. de Andrea. Lanfrancus contra Berengar. Niceph., lib. 2, cap. 39, and lib. 15, cap. 39. Remigius in Psal. 21 and 40. Johan. Strac. in Festo Andreae, p. 23, haec et alia. Also, Konst-tooneel van veertig, by N. D. C., Concerning the Life of Andrew. MARTYRS MIRROR
But it wasn’t just the Apostle’s who faced the wrath of the rulers or Synagogues. It was almost any Christian that came to the attention of the leaders of that time. Paul himself was one of those who participated in imprisoning and killing followers of Christ. Consider the case of
FELICITAS WITH HER SEVEN SONS, JANUARIUS, FELIX, PHILIPPUS, SYLVANUS, ALEXANDER, VITALIS, AND MARTIALIS, PUT TO DEATH FOR THE FAITH, AT ROME, A. D. 164
Felicitas was a Christian widow at Rome, and had seven sons, whose names were Januarius, Fe-
lix, Philippus, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis. These lived together with their mother in one house, as an entire Christian church. Of the mother it is stated, that by her Christian communion, (conversation) which she had with the Roman women, she converted many to Christ. The sons, on their part, also acquitted themselves well by winning many men to Christ.
Now, when the heathen priests complained of this to Antonius, the Emperor-who had resumed the persecution which had begun with Trajan, but had subsided-saying, that there were not only men, but also women, who blasphemed the gods, despised their images, trampled under foot the Emperor’s worship of the gods, yea, turned away many from the old religion of the Romans; that this was principally done by a certain widow, named Felicitas, and her seven sons, and that, therefore, in order to prevent this, they must be compelled to give up Christ, and sacrifice to the gods, or, in case they should refuse to do so, be put to death, the Emperor, prompted or instigated hereby, gave . to Publius, the provost, or chief magistrate of Rome, full authority over them.
Publius, willing to spare Felicitas, as being a highly respectable woman, first secretly summoned her and her sons into his own house, where he entreated them with fair words and promises, but afterwards threatened to punish them with severe tortures, unless they would forsake the Christian religion, and readopt the old Roman worship of the gods. Felicitas, remembering the words of Christ,”Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven,” did not seek to evade the issue by using dissimulating or indirect words, but answered briefly thus, “I am neither moved by thy flatteries and entreaties, nor am I intimidated by thy threats; for I experience in my heart the working of the Holy Ghost, which gives me a living power, and prepares me for the conflict of suffering, to endure all that thou mayest lay upon me, for the confession of my faith.”
When Publius could not move the mother from her steadfast purpose, he said to her, “Very well; if it seems pleasant to thee , to die, die alone, but have pity and a mother’s compassion for thy sons, and command them, to ransom their own lives at least, by sacrificing to the gods.”
Thereupon Felicitas said to the judge, “Thy compassion is pure wickedness, and thy admonition is nothing but cruelty, for, if my sons should sacrifice to the gods, they would not ransom ‘their lives, but sell them to the hellish fiend, whose slaves, yea, whose serfs in soul and body, they would become, and be reserved by him, in chains of darkness, for everlasting fire.”
Then, turning away from the judge, to her sons, she said, “Remain steadfast in the faith, and in the confession of Christ; for Christ and His saints are waiting for you. Behold, heaven is open before you; therefore fight valiantly for your souls, and show, that you are faithful in the love of Christ, wherewith He loves you, and you Him.”
This filled the judge with rage against her, and he commanded them to smite her on the cheek, while he at the same time upbraided her vehemently, saying, “How darest thou thus impudently exhort thy sons in my presence, and make them obstinate to disobey the commands of the Emperor; whereas it would be far more proper for thee to incite them to obedience toward him?”
Felicitas, notwithstanding that death had been threatened her, answered with more than manly courage, saying, “If thou, O judge, didst know our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the power of His Godhead and majesty, thou wouldst undoubtedly desist from persecuting the Christians, and wouldst not seek to draw us away from the Christian religion by blaspheming His holy name; for whoever curses (or blasphemes) Christ and His faithful ones, curses (or blasphemes) God Himself, who, by faith, dwells in their hearts.”
Thereupon, though they struck her in the face with their fists, in order to silence her, she did not cease to admonish her sons to remain steadfast, and to fear neither tortures nor rack, nor even death itself, but to die willingly for the name of Christ.
Therefore, Publius the judge took each of her sons separately, and talked first to one and then to the other, hoping by this last resort to draw away from the faith, by promises as well as by threats, some of them at least, if not all. But as he could not prevail upon them, he sent a message to the Emperor, stating that they all remained obstinate, and that he could in no wise induce them to sacrifice to the gods. Thereupon the Emperor sentenced the mother together with her seven sons, that they should be delivered into the hands of different executioners, and be tortured and put to death in various ways; yet, that the mother was first to see all her sons die, before she herself should be put to death.
In accordance with this sentence, they first scourged Januarius, the first-born, to death, in the presence of his mother. The scourges were made of cords or ropes, to the ends of which balls of lead were attached. Those who had to undergo this mode of torture were scourged with them on their necks, backs, sides, and other tender parts of their bodies, either to torture them, or in order to martyr them to death as was the case in this instance. Felix and Philippus, the two brothers next (in age), were beaten to death with rods. Sylvanus, also called Syllanus, was cast down from a height. Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis were beheaded. Last of all, the mother was beheaded or put to death with the sword. This took place under Emperor Antonius Pius. A. Mell. 1st book of the Hist., fol. 33, col. 4 and fol. 34, col. 1-3, ex Prudent. in hincentio. Also, Acto. Adon. Mart., 23 Novemb. Greg. P. in Natali. S. Felic. Homil. 3, in Eu. Bet. Chrysol. Serm. 134. Arta apud Mombrit. MARTYRS MIRROR
Could we stand the same type of persecution? Many in the Middle East are doing so now. We have heard and read of people even in the last few weeks being crucified or dismembered. And yet there are those in this country who think that we should just go along with the government because the Bible tells us to obey them. They ignore the part of the Bible that tells us in all things God comes first.
Many of the ways in which we have to make decisions everyday are not even known by many people. Take a recent case where nurses were required to take part in abortions even though it is against their faith to murder. Or Pharmacists who are forced to give drugs that cause abortions. Or Doctors who are forced to provide abortions. The same with hospitals, especially under the new laws, if they don’t they are forced to close their doors in many instances because the government will not pay for patient care at them and they cannot get by without it.
Or consider teachers who are not allowed to wear a cross and are made to participate in practices at school that promote homosexuality. They are often fired if they pray with their students. Instead of protecting our ability to practice our faith. We are being pushed further and further into secrecy.
And yet if those early Christians had listened to the rulers of the day, they would not have lost their lives. For those who say that we should not practice “civil disobedience”, I must ask, what was the beginning of Christianity if it was not “civil disobedience?” The definition of civil disobedience is “the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.”
While these early Christians did not go to battle to change peoples and we should never do that, they did stand when those in power tried to force them to kneel to whomever was in control. They didn’t cease converting people to Christianity. They didn’t sacrifice to the false gods of the time.
Even before Jesus we have examples throughout the Bible of men and women of faith who disobeyed the rulers of their times. Daniel didn’t bow down. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, did not either. We have only to look to these to see examples of civil disobedience.