We must remember.

martyr (mär' ter) n.
[<from the Greek word for "witness"]
1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2: a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I just finished this book. It was a terrific companion to our history focus the past two weeks - the early church and the martyrs who willingly, and often joyfully, gave up their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I won't lie ... it is a hard read. My children waited for tears to fill my eyes near the end of each story, for they know how deeply I am affected by testimonies of the steadfast faith of godly men and women who boldly refuse to denounce Christ to save themselves. The tears fell, my voice choked, and my children, too, were affected.
Who, I wonder, would not be moved by such accounts? Even those who tortured the Christians with vehement anger were silenced and awed by their unwavering commitment to their Lord. And many torturers, like Paul, surrendered themselves to the very God they sought to destroy.

There are dozens of similar books. Volumes filled with the testimonies of those who were tortured and lived, and eyewitness accounts from those who watched their brothers and sisters die - for Jesus Christ. And these books matter. They do not make the reader "feel good" but they absolutely force the reader to think. Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ? Is my love for God bigger than my fear? Do I hold the same conviction that compelled Jim Elliot to risk everything to bring the Gospel to a people who had never heard the name of Jesus? "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Would I suffer or die so my neighbor, my uncle, my governor, my senator might truly live because they witnessed me singing hymns to my God and praying for my torturers and could not resist the desire to know and love the same God?

If you have never read the powerful stories of the men and women martyred for Christ, please do.
If you have read them, read them again.
Because, brothers and sisters, we cannot and should not - forget.
"Never did the church so much prosper and so truly thrive as when she was baptized in the blood. The ship of the church never sails so gloriously along as when the bloody spray of her martyrs falls on her deck. We must suffer and we must die, if we are ever to conquer this world for Christ."
- Charles Spurgeon

A few highlights from the book Jesus Freaks. (stories provided by Voice of the Martyrs)

- A Christian prisoner in ____ was asked to sign a statement containing charges against fellow Christians that would lead to their arrest.
He said, "The chains keep me from signing this."
The officer protested, "But you are not in chains!"
"I am," said the Christian. "I am bound by the chain of witnesses who throughout the centuries gave their lives for Jesus Christ. I am a link in this chain. I will not break it."

- An officer told a Christian he was beating, "I am almighty, as you suppose your God to be. I can kill you."
The Christian answered, "The power is all on my side. I can love you while you torture me to death."

- The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society. There are things for which an uncompromising stand is worthwhile. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

- Sufferings gladly borne for others convert more people than sermons. - Therese of Lisieux

- You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm. - Justin Martyr, 165 AD

- Two Chinese Christians were led to torture and death.
One quoted Jesus' words, "It is finished," in a whisper.
His brother answered, "No, that's not what Jesus said when He suffered. He said, 'It is accomplished.'"

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed,
because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
I Peter 4:12-16

The story I found most touching was titled "Her Last Prayer."

The soldiers had discovered their illegal Bible study.
As the pastor was reading from the Bible, men with guns suddenly broke into the home, terrorizing the believers who had gathered there to worship. The officer shouted insults and threatened to kill the Christians. The leading officer pointed his gun at the pastor's head. "Hand me your Bible, he demanded.
Reluctantly, the pastor handed over his Bible, his prized possession. With a sneer on his face, the guards threw the Word of God on the floor at his feet.
He glared at the small congregation. "We will let you go," he growled, "but first, you must spt o this book if lies. Anyone who refuses will be shot." The believers had no choice but to obey the officer's orders.
A soldier pointed his gun at one of the men. "You first."
The man slowly got up and knelt down by the Bible. Reluctantly, he spit on it, praying, "Father, please forgive me." He stood up and walked to the door. The soldiers stood back and allowed him to leave.
"Okay, you!" the soldier said, nudging a woman forward. In tears, she could barely do what the soldier demanded. She spit only a little, but it was enough. She too was allowed to leave.
Quietly, a young girl came forward. Overcome with love for her Lord, she knelt down and picked up the Bible. She wiped off the spit with her dress. "What have they done to Your Word? Please forgive them," she prayed.
The soldier put his pistol to her head. Then he pulled the trigger.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15