Tuesday, January 23, 2007

BEGAN Part 4

This is the last blog on the word, or perhaps better said, the work BEGAN. Again, please keep in mind that these blogs in particular, are purely specualtion. The stories come from church history, Fox Book of Martyrs, a book called Jesus Freaks, and my own memories. Enjoy, and please leave me a comment on what you think!! So far it looks like many have read these blogs, but none have posted any comments. Hopefully you folks don't think I have crossed the line on these blogs. If so, let me know!

Thanks, Jim

Acts 1:1
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach"

In the eyes of my mind, I see Luke pausing at this point. As his eyes close, the mind of the Almighty moves swiftly into the future to the end of the 16th century. There in the center of His sight is the Newgate prison. Not far in the distance is a procession. There in the middle of a group of heavily armed guards stood a man condemned to die by burning at the stake. The man, John Hooper, had been condemned for no other crime than that he would not bow to the church, his knees would bow to God and God alone!

As they moved through the streets of London towards Newgate prison. Some of the sheriff's men hastened quickly ahead to extinguish the candles of the street vendors for fear there may be an attempt to rescue Hooper. But the news that Hooper was coming moved more quickly than the guards. As the procession moved through the streets, the people came out of their houses, holding their candles high as a salute to John Hooper. As they looked upon his face, they saw absolutely no fear at all. In fact, as they looked into his eyes, there was an unmistakable joy evident to everyone. Not long afterwards Hooper stepped into the inner confines of that cold dark prison. As the door closed behind him, an eerie silence filled his jail cell. Over the next six days, he saw no one except those who his keepers wanted him to see. The eyes that he saw, the voices he heard, were those carefully selected by those who had imprisoned him. One by one his visitors would come, using every means they could devise: twisting the Scriptures according to their ways, offering friendship, great wealth, then strong threats. But nothing they said or did moved Hooper from his steadfast faith in Christ and the truth of God's word.

On Monday, February 4, 1555, the jail keeper told Hooper to prepare himself because he was going to be sent to Gloucester to suffer death. Upon hearing this, Hooper, who was formerly the bishop of Gloucester, rejoiced exceedingly, lifting his eyes and hands towards heaven, and praising God that he saw it good to send him back among the people over whom he was pastor, and there to confirm with his death the truth that he had taught them. He did not doubt but that God would give him strength to die well for His glory, and immediately he sent to his servant's house for his boots, spurs, and cloak so that he would be ready when he was called. When there were just over a mile outside of Gloucester, they began to hear the noise of crowds. Filled with fear, they sent one of the guards ahead to seek assistance from the mayor and the sheriff. For more than that last mile people crowded that roadside, crying and mourning his condition. When the time had come for him to be brought to the stake to be burned, the sheriff's men showed up with several clubs and weapons to which Hooper replied, "Master Sheriff, I am no traitor, and you have no need to make such a work to take me to the place where I must suffer. If you had told me, I would have gone alone to the stake, and have troubled none of you." About seven thousand people had gathered to see how Hooper would behave towards death. He smiled cheerfully at all who he recognized. After nearly forty-five minutes in the fire, his mouth black and tongue swollen, the crowd could still see his lips moving in prayer. Could it be that as Luke wrote the letter "n" that the eyes of the Almighty were looking into the future, peering through the walls of the Newgate Prison, fixed upon a man joyously awaiting the privilege of dying for Christ who went to the cross for him.

Perhaps you may be wondering today what these stories have to do with the work which Christ has "began" to us. The truth is, these stories, out of the history of the Christian faith, have to do with the very best part of that work begun in us. They deal with the ultimate completion of that work. There are many today that look at what Jesus did on the cross and see its ultimate fulfillment when a sinner puts his or her faith in Christ. They see the completeness in new birth. While new birth is a spectacular miracle, it is not the picture of completeness. The work has just begun. The joy of Christ is made complete when behavior changes, or language changes yes even when thoughts change. While it is true that all those things to bring joy to Christ, His joy is not made complete until that point in time in which the life of Christ so permeates our being that it is THE driving force behind all that we are, behind all that we do, behind all that we say. The joy of Christ is made complete, when our lives are so affected by that work He began in us, the HE IS OUR INDENTITY. Now if you are anything like me, you look at a statement like that and see nothing more than impossibility, and you are right. With us it is utterly and entirely impossible, but the work is not ours, it is God's and what IS impossible with us, is not impossible with God. May we, moment by moment, yield our lives to the Hands of the Master, that He may complete that work He started. That we may become Christ, to a world in desperate need of a Savior. May the story of our life in Christ not end with the word "began."

From one work in progress to another,


Please take of moment and let me know what you think about this series on the word "BEGAN" Thanks, Jim

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