My scripture today is from Mark 8:34-38
Today I want to share 5 windows from History….
Window #1: Gladys Aylward (1902-1970)
Stanza #1 – Take My Life and let it be….
Mk 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) - As a teenager, Gladys read a magazine article about China that changed her life. She kept thinking about the millions of people in that distant land who had not yet heard of God’s love. She knew she had to tell them. To do this, she was told, she would have to go to Missionary Training School. After finishing, she was informed that she was not qualified – she failed her exams. This setback did not derail her passion. She worked at jobs and saved her money. Then she heard of a 73-year-old missionary, Mrs. Jeannie Lawson, who was looking for a younger woman to carry on her work. Gladys wrote to Mrs. Lawson and was accepted if she could get to China. On Saturday, October 15, 1932, at age 30 Gladys Aylward left Liverpool, England bound for China. Upon her arrival in Yangchen she took up Ms. Lawson’s work and began learning the Chinese language; something the training school said she could never do. She began sharing the Gospel in surrounding villages. She began to take in orphans. Before long she had 20 young children under her care – not to mention the 30-40 wounded soldiers she cared for. Her ministry eventually grew to over 100 children. She adopted China as her homeland and became a citizen in 1936. This was not motivated by politics or ideology but by love for Jesus. It afforded her a more effective venue to proclaim Jesus Christ. When the war reaching its pinnacle in 1938 she smuggled her children out of China – it took 27 days. When they arrived in Sian the doctors were amazed. She had pneumonia, Typhus, malnutrition, and exhaustion. She recovered by God’s grace. At the end of her life Gladys wrote the following about herself: My heart is full of praise that on one so insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory for the blessing of His people in poor and persecuted China. When the communist took over china Gladys was forced to leave. But she did not stop. God called her to work among the Chinese and she never disobeyed. Rather, she established refugee centers in Hong Kong and Taipei. Gladys Aylward is a sterling example of taking Jesus at His word when he said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Window #2: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Mk 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Johann Sebastian Bach is my next window. (1685-1750) Johann Sebastian Bach was born into the musical family of Bachs in 1685. By the age of ten, both of his parents were dead. Early in his friction-filled life, young Johann determined he would write music … music for the glory of God … and this he did. Most of Bach’s works are explicitly Biblical. Albert Schweitzer referred to him as The fifth evangelist, thus comparing him to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. At age 17 Bach became the organist at the church; soon thereafter he was given charge of the entire music ministry. During his ministry in Weimar, Germany he wrote a new cantata every month … EVERY MONTH! And during one three-year period he wrote, conducted, orchestrated, and performed (with his choir and orchestra) a new cantata every week! No one had any idea what a mark Bach would leave. His legacy lives on some 300 years later. You can hear his music at will. At the beginning of every authentic manuscript one will find the letters “J.J.” This stands for Jesu Java (Jesus help me). At the end of each original manuscript you will find the letters “S.D.G.” This stands for Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God). Bach is a reminder that one who gives his life to Jesus and serves Him does not count it a loss.
Window #3: Polycarp (2nd Century)
Mk 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
Polycarp (2nd Century) - Can you imagine what it was like for the church in Smyrna as they watched their beloved and aged pastor burn at the stake? Polycarp was his name. He was a disciple of Jesus’ disciple, the Apostle John. One could tell it immediately because he possessed the same tenderness and compassion as his mentor. Polycarp was Bishop of the church at Smyrna (present day Turkey). Persecution broke out in Smyrna and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The godless and bloodthirsty crowd called for the carcass of the leader – Polycarp. The authorities sent a search party to find him. He had been taken into hiding for some Christians but the Romans tortured two young believers until they finally disclosed his location. When the authorities arrival was announced there was still time to whisk Polycarp away but he refused to go saying, “God’s will be done.” In one of the most touching instances of Christian grace imaginable Polycarp welcome his captors as if they were friends. He talked with them and insisted they eat a meal. Ha made only one request before being taken away – he asked for one hour to pray. The Roman soldiers listened to his prayer. Their hearts melted and they gave him 2 hours to pray. They had second thoughts as well and were overheard asking each other why they were sent to arrest him? Other authorities also experienced a warmed heart when Polycarp arrived. The Proconsul tried to find a way to release him too. “curse God and I will let you go!” he pleaded. Polycarp’s reply was: “For eighty-six years I have served him. He has never done me wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King was has saved me?” The Proconsul again looked for a way out. “The do this old man, just swear by the spirit of the emperor and that will be sufficient.’ Polycarp’s reply was: “If you imagine for a moment that I would do that, then I think you pretend that you don’t know who I am. Hear it plainly. I am a Christian.” More entreaties by the Proconsul…and still Polycarp stood firm. The proconsul threatened with the wild beasts. Polycarp’s reply was: “Bring them forth. I would change my mind if it meant going from worst to best, but not to change from right to wrong.” The Proconsul threatened, “I will burn you alive!” Polycarp’s reply was: “You threaten with fire that burns for an hour and is over but the judgment on the ungodly is forever.” The fires engulfed him. The witnesses noticed his faith and joy. He was finished off with a dagger. He was buried for the cause of Christ on February 22, 155 A.D. It was as much a day of victory as it was a day of tragedy.
Polycarp illustrated the power of knowing Jesus intimately. Intimately enough to follow Him into the flames. As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
Window #4 :John Hus (1364-1415)
Mk 8:38 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Our fourth window is John Hus (1364-1415) “We’ll cook his goose!” believe it or not, this phrase actually began as a reference to a man whose last name means “Goose” in Czech … John Hus. John was the pastor of the Bethlehem church in Prague where 3,000 people came weekly to hear him proclaim the Gospel. He read the works of the great martyr John Wycliffe and life, Wycliffe, stressed the role and absolute authority of the Bible and emphasized personal piety and purity of life. Hus lifted Biblical preaching to an important status in church services. The archbishop of Prague told John to stop preaching and had the works of John Wycliffe burned. Hus refused. The archbishop condemned him and removed him from his pastorate. John Hus was forced into the open air to preach. No pulpit was made available to him. But, the common people heard him gladly. John claimed that Jesus and Jesus alone could save someone from the judgment of sin. John said the church was not the saving agent. He also said that Jesus and Jesus alone was the head of the church – not the Pope. In 1415 John Hus was arrested and condemned to die for heresy. They placed in him a damp prison cell for an extended period of time hoping to break his will, get him to recant, and use him as an example to others. John would not budge. He said, “I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the truth.” On July 16, 1415 he was taken away to be burned. While being carried away he was heard to say “God is my witness that the evidence against me is false, I have never thought or preached except with one intention of winning men, if possible from their sins.” The fire was lit. The flames engulfed him. Hus began to sing a Latin Christian chant, “Christ, thou Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.” John Hus is a clear example that the Words of God and the person of Jesus are worthy of any price. As Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
These stories are not about “Super Christians” – they are stories of everyday people who found the love and grace available in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nor are they merely stories of yester-year; at this very moment, around the world, in over 40 countries, our brothers and sisters daily face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Past, present, and future, these are stories of those who had grasped Jesus’ words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”