February 26, 2016
During the first and second centuries, Christians were persecuted, tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to the lions, used for target practice in the “games” and a whole lot more because they wouldn’t give up their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and they wouldn’t bow down to other gods. What drove their persecutors crazy was the fact that the more they tortured and killed the Christians, the more Christianity spread. When called upon by their tormentors to recant their faith, they instead rejoiced all the more that they were counted worthy to suffer the afflictions of Christ. Many went to the furnaces and pyres singing their love for Jesus Christ.
In or about 104 AD, the Roman emperor, Trajan, began a bloodbath which varied in intensity through successive emperors until the emperor, Constantine, brought a halt to it in 305 AD. In 257 and 258 AD, the emperor, Valerian, issued an edict requiring all persons of the Roman Empire to sacrifice unto the heathen gods. He further ordered a cessation of even the mention of Jesus Christ, and forbade Christians to visit their own cemeteries. It was specifically calculated to eliminate all Christians through the instant execution of those who refused his orders. One contemporary historian wrote, “Now the blood flows in streams.”
Question. Why did the Lord allow such a massacre of His people? If the Lord is a loving Bridegroom, whose purpose it is to gather for Himself a people to become His Bride, where is the picture in all of this of His care and provision? Where is the picture of “His mercy which endureth forever”? Why did He not rise up in vengeance against the persecutors of His people?
Seems to fly in the face of all reason, doesn’t it? Strange way to begin this Coffee Break, but I want you to see how the Grace and Mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ works in situations like this. Let’s see if I can get through the story today of the first Eskimo martyr – Rosa Frankson – and the enormous impact her martyrdom had.
We left off last week talking about Mom’s “Esthers” group in Point Hope, and the fact that it became a drawing card for the young girls of the community who were being trained in social graces, but patterned after Esther and the picture she became as a responsive bride-to-be in preparation to meet her King and expectant Bridegroom. Rosa was one of those girls who both saw, heard and received the Lord Jesus Christ into her life. Almost immediately thereafter, she was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
The change in this 12-year-old girl was nothing short of spectacular. She changed from being a timid youngster to a bold and outspoken preacher of the Gospel, testifying to her friends and peers of the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
Before long, the "Esthers" had grown to a sizeable group of young girls. More than that, these youngsters were coming to regular church services and dragging their parents along with them. To this point, however, Rosa's parents and family members were not among them.
Among those families who had started coming and whose lives were experiencing genuine change by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ were folks who had previously been very dependent on the shaman. The shaman did not take kindly to their testimony of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
One of the things that is true of all those -- whether shamans, astrologers, witches, sorcerers, mediums, or whatever -- who utilize, or attempt to utilize, spiritual power and authority is that they themselves live in deception. It is a deception foisted off on them by the evil spirits whose lies they have believed. They believe that their authority is real and that they have power over life and death -- power they can exercise over people who will not respond to or recognize them.
The shaman in Point Hope was one of those unfortunates so deceived. He took personally the loss of influence in the lives of the families who were abandoning him and decided to do something about it. One very still winter night I was awakened to hear a voice muttering incoherent words outside. (In the cold temperatures of the arctic, sound carries for miles.) I got out of bed and looked out the window to see the shaman walking in circles around our house throwing some kind of powder or substance toward our place. I said to myself, "You've GOT to be KIDDING!" and went back to bed.
Over a period of several nights, this activity continued, alternately awakening my mother, then my father, and even my brother. We talked about it a few times in our morning devotions and laughed at the silliness and foolish arrogance of Satan.
The priest was also among those who took personally the loss of families who had been in regular attendance at the Episcopal church. Feeling threatened over the loss of his perceived authority and influence, he decided to take action in a different way than the shaman. Visiting the homes of a couple of the families he trusted, he said to the parents, "We have to put a stop to this. These people are departing from the faith, and it is all due to the influence of Rosa Frankson who has been contaminated by religious extremism. You need to talk to your children and have them apply pressure to Rosa to get her to stop."
It was the first of shots being fired in a spiritual battle that would have lasting repercussions and consequences -- both in the present and in eternity.
Rosa was a living demonstration of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. The impact of Jesus Christ in her life as her personal Lord, Savior and Shepherd -- and not just as some religious, historical figure -- was such a glaring contrast to the dead, dried-up religion the community had come to know that people wanted to know what had happened.
As a 12-almost 13-year-old, Rosa naturally was a drawing card to other teenagers. Her excitement was infectious. Mom's "Esthers" club suddenly became "the place to be" for girls aged 10 to 16. More than that, the families of these children began to check out our church services.
The priest, who did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, saw what was happening as "religious fanaticism" and thought he could put a stop to it. More than religious fanaticism, however, he felt that his standing as a leader in the community was being challenged, and like the shaman, he felt threatened.
Visiting the homes of a couple of the families he trusted, he said to the parents, "We have to put a stop to this. These people are departing from the faith, and it is all due to the influence of Rosa Frankson who has been contaminated by religious extremism. You need to talk to your children and have them apply pressure to Rosa to get her to stop going over to the Capeners."
The fact that it was directed towards us was demonstrative of the fact that the priest was unable to see the real change in Rosa's life, or the lives of other teens who had also begun to acknowledge Jesus Christ in their lives. He was blind spiritually and consequently saw what was transpiring as a battle for political leadership in Point Hope. It is kind of analogous to the "big fish in the small pond" scenario.
Unknown to the priest, the shaman was also visiting the homes of his "friends" and telling them virtually the same thing. "You've got to stop Rosa Frankson. She can't keep going over to the Capeners.
The next time Rosa headed towards our place for the Esthers club meeting, several boys were waiting for her. They seized her, roughed her up some, threw her on the ground and said, "You don't go over to Capeners' anymore, or else."
She laid on the ground not saying anything and just waited for them to leave. When they were out of sight, she got to her feet, tried to straighten out her hair and her appearance as much as she could, and then headed over to our house for the meeting. When she came in the door, she was obviously disheveled and Mom asked her what had happened.
"I got beaten up and told not to come here," she said, and then added, "but they're not going to stop me."
To most of us who have grown up in traditional American society, the idea of a shaman is totally foreign. The idea that a shaman actually has any real power and/or the ability to actually bring curses upon someone that results in disaster or tragedy is just so much bunk! Or so most folks think.
Hollywood’s movies often portray shamans as relatively harmless Indian witch doctors who do their thing with herbs, do a few incantations, scatter strange mixtures in the fire with resulting sparkly displays, and have visions.
What gets left out of these movie portrayals is the fact that the overwhelming majority of shamans exercise demonic power. There is nothing benign about it. They do have a kind of power (although it is more psychological than magical), and they do exercise it in order to subjugate people and keep them living in fear.
This shaman was no different. The lack of true spiritual authority being taught and exercised by the local priest and those who professed Christianity only emboldened Point Hope’s shaman. The thought that someone might actually thumb their nose at his authority – and especially a teenage girl – was intolerable!
At the same time, the priest viewed Rosa's continued attendance at the Esthers and her ongoing influence among the young people as a personal failure of his (self-) perceived spiritual authority.
Most native cultures have had "trial by fire" as a normal part of their way of living. If someone new came into their village, or if someone within their community arose to challenge existing authority, that authority was put to the test. The intruder or the "upstart" would be attacked or challenged in some physical way to see how they would respond. The degree to which they resisted or fought back, and the outcome of any fight where they were victorious, resulted in immediate respect.
Rosa's refusal to stop coming was met somewhat the same way by the boys who attacked her. As far as they knew, they were participating in a conventional native ritual. There wasn't anything personal about their attack. When Rosa ignored them after they had roughed her up, it gained their respect -- at least for a couple of weeks.
Neither the priest nor the shaman saw things that way, however. More pressure was applied to the families, and their boys instructed to be more brutal. Again, they laid in wait for Rosa to catch her on the way to the Esthers club meeting.
This time, they beat and kicked her, shouting, "You WILL NOT keep going over to the Capeners or you'll really get it next time!"
Again, she laid on the ground waiting for them to leave. She was not as quick to get up this time, being bruised and having blood running down her chin from a profuse nosebleed. She wiped her face, got up anyway, and headed straight for our house completely undeterred by the beating.
This story has a dramatic ending and I’m going to save that for next week.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call takes place on Mondays at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Our call-in number has changed to (712) 775-7035. The new Access Code is: 323859#. For Canadians who have difficulty getting in to this number, you can call (559) 546-1400. If someone answers and asks what your original call-in number was, you can give them the 712 number and access code.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (605) 562-3140, and the access code is 308640#. We hope to make these gatherings available by Skype or Talk Fusion before long. If you miss the live call, you can dial (605) 562-3149, enter the same access code and listen in later.
Blessings on you!
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