The Substance of Everything: Lessons from the Voice of the Martyrs Conference

The Substance of Everything: Lessons from the Voice of the Martyrs Conference

I am sitting here in a cozy chair watching five kids run and chase one another outside. Three boys and two girls. My daughter keeps catching the same boy…wait, I don’t want to think about that yet.

 There are four more kids at the table painting while the baby in the party sleeps. These are not all my kids. However, I would be delighted if they were mine.  I love a house filled with life, laughter, and mess (before my husband descends, that is).  I love that it is gloomy outside and 10 kids can still create, play, enjoy life together.  I know life will not always be like this, but right now, I am grateful.  I am grateful for the food we ate today, for the friends who surround us, for the rain watering the changing leaves.

What a contrast compared to the lives shared last weekend at the Voice of the Martyrs Conference.

My mind swirled as I grappled with the reality of four different people who have been tortured, neglected, and have lost loved ones due to horrific violence. Gilbert Hovsepian’s father was martyred in Iran. Sarah Liu was arrested, tortured, and then served in labor camps making Christmas lights for the U.S. in China. Necati Aydin’s wife stood before us while her two children sat in the front listening to their mother describe how her husband and his friend were brutally tortured and killed in Turkey. Lastly, Gracia Burnham talked of the lessons she learned while held captive with her husband in the Philippine jungle. She felt her husband’s body grow heavy next to her as they hid from the gun fire that took place during their rescue; a stray bullet sent her home to their children alone.

Grievously, these four lives are grains of sand on the vast beach of those gruesomely treated for their belief in Jesus. JESUS. Their bones were not broken for a silent god. Sarah had an electric rod forced into her hands and mouth because of her love for Jesus. JESUS. Gilbert’s dad was stabbed 26 times because he spoke out to free a man imprisoned for his faith in Jesus. JESUS. Necati shared the truth and love of Jesus to men whom he knew to be full of deceit because Jesus did the same with Judas, one of His own disciples. These same men who left Necati’s children fatherless.

Well, not really. These fathers are now in Heaven with the FATHER OF THE FATHERLESS.

Among my friends, I have often been referred to as a bit of a “Cold Hearted Cal.” Animals, if they do not fulfill a need, say meat for the table, are useless to me. A friend once explained to me how she gave mouth to mouth to a dying kitten. I told her she should have put it out of its misery. God is still working to infuse mercy into my black heart. I can bottle my emotions only to hide in the closet and cry with the best of them. Not this day. As we worshipped, the lump rose. As I listened, tears unwilling to be hidden steadily trickled down my face. As we prayed for those who are starving, running, dying in Nigeria and Iraq it was difficult to conceal sobs.

What am I to do with this information? I have read the statistics. More people have been martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the last 100 years than all previous centuries combined. Yet, it has not moved me to action. The Bible says these are my brothers and sisters, yet I do not grieve over their loss as I would if my sister’s husband was killed unjustly. Living in a country that allows me to worship and speak of my Father God freely does not give me permission to overlook the fact that at this very moment families’ hearts are shattered because their young children, the ages of my own children, have been decapitated, their heads impaled on poles, and placed in parks (read article here).

One of the speakers spoke of American persecution. Up until now, we have not been asked to endure physical persecution as a result of our faith. However, she feared many on this soil have succumbed to the persecution of comfort and excess. Living here where food lines shelves, clothes are available, and Hollywood numbs our minds to reality, I forget.

I forget I need God.

I forget that all the substance of this life belongs to Jesus Christ.

I forget the throngs of people who pass me daily might not know there is a Father who loves them sacrificially.

Because I forget about Him, I do not notice His miracles, His wonders, His provision.

This is why Gilbert Hovsepian, who currently resides in America, said he MISSED PERSECUTION. While in prison, being starved and beaten, he asked God to give him joy. Almost immediately, he received his answer as he felt God literally DOWNLOAD JOY from Heaven into his heart. A joy so overflowing he was belly laughing causing the other prisoners crammed in his cell to believe he had gone crazy.

Thus, the answer to the big, “SO WHAT” of all of this. The four speakers’ attitudes. Their words poured out forgiveness, joy, peace, a thankfulness they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. Gilbert was excited after his first punch that sent his head into a wall. He was thankful for the opportunity to speak truth to the men who just told him they did indeed kill his father because he was an American spy. They spoke of a tangible closeness with God for which I long. They each saw His protection, His provision for each day, for each run from persecutors. They felt His love wrap around them in prayers from all over the world. Gracia is thankful some of the men who held her captive are still alive because then she can continue praying for God to reveal Himself to them, that they might know Jesus’ saving power.

After chewing on this one day for a week now, I realize it is yet another call to me to SHIFT OUT OF AUTOPILOT. This has been the second time this year I have felt this desire, this nudge. Prayerfully, I go to my Father again asking Him to enliven all of my senses to His Holy Spirit. I do not want to miss opportunities to pray, encourage, teach, listen, cry with someone, or hold someone for His glory anymore. I want to care about the checker at our local grocery store. I want to start up that conversation with a mom at the park, not just check out to the Otter Box that steals so many of my moments.

Father, help me stay alert. Help me, as Necati’s dear wife translated best, to “go the speed limit of the Holy Spirit.” She confessed they never regretted that decision. I am inclined to think I won’t either.


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