Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

Faith of the Martyrs

I have always been extremely interested in the 1500s and particularly the Reformation aspect. As a Protestant, seeing how early Protestant martyrs chose God’s truth while retaining their steadfast faith, quiet assurance of salvation, and love of truth fills me with indescribable admiration. I recently sought out films set in the Reformation era and discovered one that mentioned the story of Anne Askew (I cannot recall the name of the movie). It seemed fairly accurate based on what I knew of her life. I cannot imagine how believers of this era could hold their heads high and refuse to submit. Their eyes were on the prize . . . they endured the brutal caress of torture and never flinched.

I am so blessed to continue their faith tradition. When I say I am a Protestant I am immensely proud. I have a strong and unshakable legacy and a faith that can endure every obstacle. I think of my spiritual ancestors and feel a surge of wonder. They loved God more than the world and their actions showed it. Especially after studying the brutal Reformation era, I am also immensely thankful that I can practice my faith void of the terrors my ancestors faced. 

There is a song by the contemporary Christian band ZOEGirl, by Alisa Girard, Kristin Swinford, Chrissy Conway, Lynn Nichols, and Tedd Tjornhorn, that wonderfully (and eerily) captures the stalwart martyrs’ unbreakable profession of faith. It is called “Beautiful Name.” The chorus is particularly meaningful. 

“I will run, I will fly, I will live to be a sacrifice,
Through it all I’ll rise above, unafraid I’ll face what comes,
I will run, I will fly, and for my faith I’ll live and die,
I’ll be strong, I will press on, for the sake of Your beautiful Name.”

All I can add is, ‘Amen.’

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29, 2012

The Steadfast Faith of Marie Durand

In France there is a city called Aigues-Mortes, and in that city stands a large stone tower that has proudly stood against the centuries. It is called the Tower of Constance. At first glance it definitely does not look like the sort of place where you would want to spend even the minimum amount of time. Tall, rounded, and maddeningly simple, it is dotted with a few small windows here and there and topped by a small turret. You might rightfully guess it was a prison at one point. But for whom? Hardened criminals? Dissenters? Thieves and smugglers?

Women of the Protestant faith.

Many Huguenots, including those who somehow remained alive, spent time in prison, yet the story of Marie Durand is particularly haunting.  Her drama began in 1730. This was considered a ‘modern time’ in world history, an era of elegant music, sophisticated discourse, and courtly manners. The Edict of Fontainebleau was thirty years past. French Catholics imagined that there were no Protestants left in France. But there were many.

One of these was Marie Durand. Her crime was being the sister of a pastor. The guards came just after her wedding and separated her from the quiet, prayerful life she had been accustomed to. This was the point at which many women would have despaired or agreed to adopt the Catholic creed in a desperate bid for freedom. Marie never considered that. She was taken to the Tower of Constance, but she did not droop. She bloomed. She was filled with the spirit of the martyrs, consecrated by the blood of Christ and encouraged by the blood of those who had previously treated their faith as a jewel and placed it above even their own lives. 

Marie encouraged the other women incarcerated at the Tower of Constance, including those who were not being held on account of faith and had been imprisoned for various crimes. Encouragement must have been beyond difficult . . . the tower was a dark and dismal place. It must have reminded the women of legendary castle dungeons of old, complete with stark windows that kept in no heat or chill when each was most needed, fetid conditions, stairways that twisted and turned and seemed to go nowhere, and constant darkness. At any time these women could have confessed their ‘sin’ of practicing the Protestant faith. Perhaps they would have still been held prisoner due to their previous actions, or perhaps they would have been released. At any rate, Marie did not consider it. She remained a proud Protestant.

At least one person at the Tower of Constance seemed to have a measure of compassion. Eventually the prisoners were given a psalm-book. This must have seemed like heaven to Marie. She led the way, a godly woman who would have proudly been a godly martyr if called to be. Though pressure must have come from every side, she absolutely, utterly refused to give up her Huguenot faith. One might ask how long Marie was imprisoned. Five years? Ten?


For nearly four decades she languished in the Tower of Constance. She was only fifteen when she was first placed in darkness . . . at least one of the prisoners was even younger. In 1767 the Prince of Beauveau learned of Marie’s plight and ordered that the prison be emptied of Huguenot women. If he had not done this, then Marie and her prison-mates would have most assuredly died behind bars. The prince’s aide mentions that the women were starved for even the slightest hint of compassion and were surprised that there seemed to be men who cared for their suffering. They had been starved for human kindness, but Christ’s kindness had never left them. It was His constant compassion and care that had carried them through nearly forty years of unimaginable hardship.

Marie Durand never did give up her Protestant faith. There is a portrait of her --- I am uncertain if it is a new creation or a contemporary image --- that shows her as an elderly woman. The signs of imprisonment are evident on her face; her expression is closed from lack of trust, hard due to suffering, but she proudly wears a Huguenot cross that falls down softly against her shawl. I, too, wear a Huguenot cross, for this same reason. Faith. Pride. Virtue. If one looks for a Protestant woman to emulate, to admire, and to use as an example of faith and courage above all, one need look no further than Marie Durand.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28, 2012

Luther the Witty

I have always admired Martin Luther, not because he was a diplomatic gentleman but specifically because he was not. This was a man unafraid and unashamed to say whatever he felt. The same man who created beautiful hymns and painstakingly translated Scripture into the German tongue also had a legendary, monumental wit. As a Lutheran I am constantly seeking early Protestant forebears and spiritual ancestors I can study, admire, and honor. Martin Luther provides a wealth of information and intrigue. 

If Luther was perfect, how could we as Lutherans ever feel as if we could live up to the man who put God before all else, who strove so earnestly to do the Lord’s will? No, the fact that he was far from perfect makes it much easier to like and admire him, because he was a person just like us. Imperfect but loved. Flawed but cherished. Prone to outbursts, scolding, and self-loathing but always a firm and unapologetic Christian who never turned back. He was sometimes rude, living up to the stereotypes that the rest of the world seemed to fasten on Germans of all classes. But he was first and foremost a believer. An innovator. A steadfast, faithful beacon for those seeking a new way. He did not merely teach the five solas of the Reformation, he lived them. Heartily and proudly.

He was not always a perfect, proper gentleman. That is why I love him!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27, 2012

Journey to Matanzas
(a bit long; bear with me :-)

Just beyond the asphalt parking lot and modern conveniences
Rises a trail, a rough network of planks leading to my destination
A shocking jolt from old to new . . . I step on the boardwalk
And find myself disappearing deeper into the Florida wilds.

My feet tap along the boardwalk as I keep alert for wildlife
Trees of native ancestry rise high; brush tangles down below
Only the boardwalk keeps me from the wild undergrowth
Graceful palmetto branches slap against the railing.

The sky is blasphemously blue, past sufferings forgotten
The air, humid, warm, and gentle, smells of plants and sunshine
Tap, tap. My feet pound a staccato rhythm along with my heart
As I unwrap a paper lovingly jotted with French prayers.

With modern conveniences stripped away, only Florida remains
Primordial, overbearing, and merciless . . . the scene is set
Apart from the boardwalk, it must have looked much like this
When over two hundred French soldiers chose faith over freedom.

I stop alongside a fat green branch, noting nature’s beauty;
A large butterfly with black, gold-specked wings nests quietly
Oblivious to the aching memories of this hallowed ground
Flitting shyly from leaf to leaf under the shimmering mid-day heat.

As I walk, I grow discouraged, for the trail is longer than I thought
I wonder if I must have taken a wrong turn along the way
Yet a sudden buzzing in my soul and spirit, Protestant solidarity
Alerts me that I am near. My pulse races and my steps hasten.

I “recognize” this part of the trail from photographs and descriptions
I turn a corner, and there it is, a broad yellow marker well-weathered
“The Massacre at Matanzas” it says, that marker stained and faded
Down below the boardwalk, surrounded by a tangle of woodland.

The scene depicted is too clean, too inoffensive to modern sensibilities
I see Frenchmen kneeling in nondescript loose shirts; one lies dead
The man in red is, I think, meant to be Jean Ribault, recently betrayed
While a soldier in black --- likely Pedro Menéndez --- waits atop the dunes.

“More victims,” he seems to say. The marker also shows a Spanish soldier.
Calm and decidedly unbothered, dressed in armor, he patiently awaits
The arrival of more Frenchmen. They can be seen crossing the inlet in tens.
But there is no blood. No pathos. Just a cold, unemotional scene presented.

A marker cannot convey the terror or the prayers that crossed desperate lips
Nor the martyrs’ mixture of aching, desperate fear and steadfast faith
It cannot conjure the Spaniards’ calls to convert or the Huguenots’ firm denial
It does not show the contemptible scene of men’s hands tied behind their backs.

This marker cannot paint the scene vividly enough to imagine the injustice
It is inadequate to portray a massacre of such heart-wrenching dimensions
Yet it is something . . . a light in the darkness, a reminder of an event forgotten
I stand in awe, for I have seen it many times, but never in person.

There is a small marker down below, nearly lost in palmetto-strewn underbrush
Sunlight streaks through the trees, angelically illuminating the stone slab
“Massacre by Menendez of Ribault and his men, September 1565,” it says
No nonsense. No fuss. Nothing special, just a bare-bones reminder.

Yet there were in fact two massacres, one in September and one in October
Ribault died in October. The old marker has stood the test of time
And is decidedly better than leaving this area forgotten by human hearts
But provides conflicting information that tugs painfully at my spirit.

There is a bench along the boardwalk directly in front of the markers
I might stop and sit awhile, but I am restless and seeking
I take note of the tall, slender trees with crooked-tendril branches
And a prickly palmetto stand below; the scene has changed very little.

A tiny black-and-silver cross, gem-studded, rests between my fingers
I close my eyes and whisper the Lord’s Prayer in French as best I can
Then I tenderly commit the cross to the ever-changing palate of nature
And gaze out through the tangle of underbrush in silent benediction.

Retracing my steps and turning right, I find a platform over the dunes
Here is where the massacre took place . . . as far as we will ever know
Here, nearly two hundred and fifty souls were cruelly slaughtered
Simply for being born French and loving the Protestant creed.

It is quiet now. The rivers of Matanzas Inlet are deceptively calm
A few beach-houses across the inlet lie in ignorance of history
The dunes rise before me, entangled by bushes and plant growth
Here the sand was red with blood that ran in rivers.

Here the martyrs gave their lives for the faith they held dear
Choosing the kingdom of God over the freedoms of earth
Glorying the Lord by holding firm to their beliefs
And refusing to submit even in the face of death.

Two emotions play conflictingly in my heart
As I look out over those placid dunes soaked in the Holy Spirit
I am filled with pride for my own Protestant creed
For they had faith, courage, and strength to make such a sacrifice.

Yet the injustice once again rears its ugly head when I ponder
The New World they sought and the dreams they could have fulfilled
They wanted only to live free and prosper in the land called La Floride
To escape the rigors of persecution that old France delivered daily.

How achingly ironic that their journey to freedom might end this way
In a martyrdom only imagined on the blooded streets of vieux France
Having fulfilled my mission, I turn back to leave, each step heavy
Bringing me closer to the hum and squeal of everyday civilization.

Yet while I might be leaving the haunted shores of Matanzas
I am certain they will never leave me; the dunes call to me
My spiritual ancestors beckon brokenly so I might remember
So I might honor and cherish their memory and never let them truly die.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26, 2012

Fort Caroline Virtual Tour

Fort Caroline has a special place in my heart. This small National Park Service monument, a modern reconstruction of a sixteenth century citadel, may not look like much to the naked eye, but it was the site of much suffering. It is also an important place for a Protestant pilgrimage. My posts of March 05 and March 29 explain the history of Fort Caroline in depth. 

La Caroline, “Charles’ land,” so named after the king, began as a colony planted for the good of all France but became symbolically known as a Protestant haven for beleaguered Huguenots searching for religious freedom.  Fort Caroline was founded in June 1564 and destroyed by the Spanish in September 1565. The name became synonymous with lost dreams, senseless slaughter, and the faith-unto-death of these early Protestant martyrs. 

While going through my vacation odds and ends, I thought I would create a virtual tour with the Fort Caroline photos I took in March. As mentioned in my post of March 29, the fort interior was closed, but I still managed to capture various views of the walls and surrounding scenery. (Some of these photos were included in my post of March 29).


Beautiful, snow-like Spanish moss strikes a pose near the Ribault Column.The St. Johns River ("Riviere de Mai") can be seen from the Ribault Column.

Ribault Column is a replica of the monument Jean Ribault erected in 1562.At Spanish Pond, conquistadors rested before the savage attack of September 1565.

Though I did not walk far along Spanish Pond, there was a trail through the woods.Just beyond this "River of May" marker, I saw dolphins playing in the waves.

Local Timucua Indians befriended the French. This is a replica Timucua village.I especially like this close-up view I took of Fort Caroline from a nearby dock.

The archway was the closest I got to the fort's interior, due to construction.This side view of Fort Caroline shows how it most likely would have looked in 1565.

This is another of my favorite photos of Fort Caroline. Note the flawless sky.The Timucuan Ecological Preserve visitor center explains the French colony in depth.

Ribault and other Fort Caroline personages are shown in the visitor center. A suit of 16th century French armor shows how soldiers at Fort Caroline dressed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25, 2012

"Conquest of America" and the French in Florida

When I first took up the cause of the Florida Huguenots killed at Fort Caroline and Matanzas Inlet in 1565, I read voraciously about St. Augustine’s history in the hopes of finding out more. I searched the web for films, documentaries, anything about these lost souls, and then finally, in 2005, I came across a gem produced by the History Channel. This series called “Conquest of America” is divided into four parts. To my excitement, the Southeast section featured the Huguenots and their struggles. Also, two of my favorite Protestant personages, French explorer Jean Ribault and his second-in-command René de Goulaine de Laudonnière, were vividly-portrayed.

As with any historical documentary, I knew beforehand that I might not agree with the way the French were represented. I was genuinely pleased to note that the Huguenot plight was portrayed with compassion, and though the French leaders sometimes made choices with which the Christians of today might disagree, they were given their fair share of limelight in “Conquest of America.”

This being said, the film opens with a sneak-peek at some the most emotional scenes. It explains that Spain believed itself to be the steward of the New World and would not tolerate outsiders staking a claim. It then goes on to recreate the court of Catherine de’Medici (mother of King Charles, and his regent at the time), the court of King Philip II of Spain, Charlesfort and Fort Caroline in the New World, and of course the horrors of the Matanzas massacre.

“Conquest of America” starkly and stunningly presents the injustice and pathos of the raid on Fort Caroline, where men, women, and children in nightshirts are roused from their tents by the clashing of swords. The violence portrayed is not particularly bloody but certainly shows enough brutality to give viewers a grasp at how terrible this event truly was. If it is difficult to believe that such bloodshed was enacted here, Matanzas is even more harrowing.

The scene of the French Protestants choosing martyrdom at Matanzas has its share of bloodshed but is likely much “cleaner” than the actual gut-wrenching event. Professor and author John McGrath, one of the guests who speak throughout the film, puts it chillingly: “There are a hundred corpses lying on the beach . . . with their hands tied behind their backs.” That unfathomable and heart-wrenching visual brings the tragedy of the French Huguenots of Florida starkly into focus.

I first saw “Conquest of America” in 2005 on the History Channel but purchased the film in DVD form just last month (at Fort Caroline’s visitor center, no less!) and began to examine it in great detail. Now, being a history buff, I did notice a few things during Conquest of America. First of all, in the scene of summer 1565 when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés is preparing to sail from Cádiz, Spain, the “Spanish castle” in the background is actually the Castillo de San Marcos, a seventeenth century Spanish fort in St. Augustine. Those who have visited the Castillo will not only recognize its shape and unique coquina walls but will also note the 1842 U.S. Army “Hot Shot Furnace.” 

Near the end of the “Southeast” segment, when Menéndez first discovers the Protestant castaways on the beaches of Matanzas, he is standing directly in front of them when they awake. History says the French soldiers needed to be ferried over to Menéndez’s side of the inlet where the Spanish soldiers waited, so there was no way he could have faced them and spoken with them as soon as he first saw them. I am not sure why this particular “stone” was left “unturned.”

The music in “Conquest of America” is stirring and majestic. There is something very powerful about the score, something that adds to the drama and passion of the times. The actors were believable and, for the most part, greatly resembled those they were chosen to play. Again, I was very pleased with the portrayal of the Huguenots, not as perfect angels, but as men who were mostly good and would often make quick and sometimes deadly decisions. The narrator describes them as “proud Protestants” and explains that they chose to die for their faith rather than confess a different creed. 

All in all, as someone who rarely watches documentaries, I was impressed with “Conquest of America” and immensely glad that the story of the Huguenots in Florida was told in a truthful and compassionate manner. On a side note, for book lovers interested in the French tragedy at Fort Caroline and Matanzas, I highly recommend “Painter in a Savage Land” by Miles Harvey. This is a masterpiece that follows the story of Huguenot painter Jacques le Moyne de Morgues and describes what not only he but also his French compatriots suffered in Florida. This is currently my favorite book.

Ceux qui ont été perdus ne seront jamais oubliés.
Those who were lost will never be forgotten.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 2012

The Five Solas of the Reformation, in Depth

The “Five Solas” are the bedrock of the Protestant tradition. They are the truths for which our ancestors and spiritual forebears were willing to die . . . and often did. But what do they mean, and how are they supported by Scripture?

1.       Soli Deo Gloria – glory to God alone. 

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Reformation example: Early Protestants had a very close and personal connection to Scripture. They often memorized large portions and felt particularly close to the Lord through their understanding of His Word. Thus, the thought of giving up their lives for their faith was less harrowing than the thought of abandoning their beliefs, for they believed that following another belief system would be forsaking God. They believed that only the five solas could bring glory to God. They would not risk forsaking His glory to save their bodies.

2.       Solo Christo – through Christ alone.

“All things have been committed to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” (Matthew 11:26-28)

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Reformation example: “Through Christ alone” was a popular battle-cry of the Reformation due to the medieval Catholic Church’s reliance on saints, relics, and other such means as salvation aids. Protestants believed that only Christ could save and only Christ should be venerated. This is still a key element in Protestant worship. 

3.       Sola gratia – grace alone.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-23)

“‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:4-6)

Reformation example: Protestant theologians were amazed by God’s grace. The thought that they might be saved by grace through faith and not by some constant shuffle of deeds was a beautiful, soul-stirring, and liberating notion. Martin Luther wrote, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” This particular sola was one of the most highly touted of the Reformation.

4.       Sola fide – faith alone.

“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.’ (Romans 3:27-28)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

(Joyously Saved’s note: While past theologians have believed that the above verse contradicts itself, I believe it is saying that no Christian saved by faith would choose to live his life without doing good works in the Lord’s name, thus, a ‘true’ Christian lives his faith by ‘putting his money where his mouth is,’ so to speak. This does not have bearing on the manner of salvation.)

Reformation example: Faith alone. No strings attached. Pure assurance in Christ’s salvation and resurrection. Protestant believers did and do thank God daily for this wonder of God’s mercy. In the early days of the Reformation, “faith alone” was used quite often. This phrase meant that special prayers and particular articles of devotion were not needed to gain salvation. One could come to the Lord directly, from the heart, professing Christ, and be saved. The wonderment of that sola still brings tears to many eyes. 

5.       Sola Scriptura – by Scripture alone.

“But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Reformation example: The medieval Church relied on various forms of literature to define their faith. Protestants insisted that only Scripture was God-breathed and only Scripture could be used as a beacon of faith. Only Scripture was worthy of being quoted, memorized, and loved. Many Protestants throughout the centuries fell in love with the words of Scripture and memorized them voraciously. The French Huguenots were known for their love of the Psalms, choosing to sing the Psalms rather than to create manmade hymns.

The Five Solas may not be given the high importance they once were, but, in the spirit of my Reformation forebears, I lift them up as proud examples of the Protestant heart and soul. To God be the glory.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

England and the Protestant Destiny 

Having studied history since my earliest school days, I am always amazed at God's plan throughout the centuries. Today it dawned on me that American Protestants owe quite a bit to England. Here is why. England was known as a Protestant country by the time Jamestown was founded in 1607. Not only were Protestants of varying doctrines allowed to settle in this "New World," but later, in the next century, Germans of the Lutheran and Reformed persuasions were invited to settle in America as well. Swiss and German Mennonites were also included in the immigration explosion.

This slice of history is particularly significant for those with French Huguenot and German blood. In France, Protestants had been ravaged and ransacked for two centuries. By the mid-1700s they were desperate to find a new place and take a new stab at survival. Germany's Lutherans felt the same, but without the high level of persecution. The system in Germany dictated that if one lived in a territory belonging to a Catholic prince, one must be Catholic, and if one's prince was a Lutheran, he must be Lutheran. Perhaps that worked on the basic level, but occasionally people wanted to live in a place that did not match up with their religious beliefs. Thus, the invitation to settle in America, touting endless land and opportunity, shone like a beacon.

So the Germans and Huguenots and other Protestant groups gratefully accepted England's welcome. All that was required was that they would take the British oath of allegiance and therefore be counted as full citizens with full religious liberties under English law. Especially for the Huguenots, who even still were living through a period of hiding known as the "Church in the Desert," it was a godsend. The idea of a country promising religious freedom was likely met with doubt. Yet Protestant families came in droves. They had little . . . the clothing on their backs, a few personal items that brought a smile to their faces, meager supplies, and their beloved Bibles. Yet they had much, because they had their faith.

Faith sustained the settlers as food and water and shelter never could. During the long and arduous journeys, they prayed. Throughout bitter and seemingly-endless winters, illnesses and hardships, births and deaths and the other large and small events of life, they prayed. They had not given up their faith even when faced with death and persecution. They would not do so now.

Modern politics aside, the next time you see a British flag or hear some news from "across the pond," smile and be glad. Were it not for England inviting Protestants to America, not only would our ancestors not have come to this land of freedom, but we would possibly not be practicing the faith they passed down to us. I believe very strongly that if our ancestors believed so strongly in their creeds, the only fitting legacy is to practice that faith with the same boldness, fervor, and pride. I am very proud to do so. As a Protestant Christian with German and French blood in my veins, I will never fail to pay tribute to those who came before. Solo Christo, sola Gratia, sola Fide. Through Christ alone, through grace alone, through faith alone. The words run like fire through the blood.

Remember them always.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?

              --- Psalm 27:1

This has always been my favorite verse, but today it resonates even more deeply when I think of the early Protestants, many of whom were my ancestors. Psalm 27 delivers a powerful peace amid unending torture and fear of death. This is the peace and rest so often described in Scripture . . . in the middle of a storm, if we can only sit back and allow God to take the reigns, He will easily and willingly do so. Even if it is not in the way we ask.

I wondered which of my ancestors might have utilized this verse in times of trouble. Which of these early Protestants, those who knew the importance of memorizing Scripture, brought out this verse when it seemed as if the burden was too heavy? Was it on the martyrs' lips as they were silenced in a blaze of glory and welcomed into God's arms? Was it in the minds of mothers and fathers who answered an ominous knock at the door?

"Whom shall I fear?" Utter, complete, confidence that there is nothing in this world from which God cannot protect us. The days of the Reformation and the trials of the subsequent centuries were fraught with danger and heartache. The common idea of religious freedom was something our Protestant ancestors would have scarcely dared to ponder. But verses such as these gave comfort and reassurance. It must have been an amazing feeling to truly fear nothing. To trust God's judgment in every situation.

I can't help but think that, even in the bloody times in which they lived, these Protestant brethren had a better grasp of peace and faith than modern man ever could. If they could utilize such hope and promise even while living in such a dangerous situation, surely we can do the same today.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21, 2012

They Shall Never Perish

Beginning last September, I discovered a terrific site called Bible Gateway. I signed up not only to read sections of the Old and New Testament each day but also to receive a Verse of the Day. Today’s verse was John 10:28-30. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 

I thought of that bloody beach in Florida, late 1565, where the French Huguenots knelt and received death for upholding their creed. That verse might very well have been the martyrs’ song. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” No matter what was done to their bodies, their souls could not be touched. God took away the power of sinful man. “The body they may kill, but God’s truth abideth still,” as Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” so powerfully states. 

“No one shall snatch them out of My hand.” The men who killed the Huguenot castaways thought they were depriving their victims of eternal rest, sending their souls on a journey to torment. They left them to be forgotten. But the Lord held His martyrs, and nothing --- not even the most violent slaughter --- could take them away from Him. They were His children. They were His beloved, and their immortal souls were safe from those who wished them harm. The enemy could not corrupt them.

“My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all.” No-holds-barred. No catches. No small print. These men who dutifully and beautifully professed the Christian faith were already safe in all the ways that mattered. They could not be torn away from the Father’s hand. Whatever comfort they felt in those last horrific moments must have come from such verses as John 10:28-30 . . . God is more powerful than man. God watches over and succors His children, and even the most violent martyrdom could not wrench those proud French Protestants from His watchful eye.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20, 2012

The Printing Press and the Protestant Reformation

God always knows exactly what He is doing. When the printing press was first utilized in the mid-1400s, it was an incredible development that people of the day could scarcely believe. Its true importance and convenience was discovered with the advent of the Protestant Reformation. Word spread quickly to the people. A number of pamphlets of both the Calvinist and the Lutheran persuasion were quickly mass-produced and propagated throughout Christendom, leading to the theory that the printing press was the most influential component in the spread of the Protestant Reformation.

Imagine how it must have been in Europe during the first half of the 16th century. Many people were discontent, ill-at-ease with Church teachings they had never fully understood or accepted. Then, suddenly, there was a flood of pamphlets that taught freedom. There were people who believed just as they did. People who were willing to band together to make the truth known. The entire world was opened to them, and these soon-to-be-Protestants read voraciously, examining the pros and cons of the Catholic Church for themselves. Free and untethered. They were able to make conscious decisions based on their own hearts, not simply believing what others said they must believe.

"Institutes of the Christian Religion," one of the
John Calvin's most influential writings.

Today it is impossible to imagine the influence that the printing press had on the Reformation. Without it --- without writings by Martin Luther and John Calvin, without the Holy Scriptures translated into various languages, without the pamphlets that outlined "saved by grace through faith," this newfound faith might never have been discovered. Martin Luther had a high opinion of the printing press and recognized the effect it had on the Reformation: "God's highest and extremist act of grace, whereby the business of the Gospel is driven forward," he called it.

One of Martin Luther's works, published in 1581.

In 1522 --- nearly five centuries ago --- Martin Luther's New Testament rolled off the presses in the language of the common people of Germany! Thousands of these testaments made their way into German homes, becoming the family's most cherished possession. The Protestant Reformation refused to die. It utilized this newfound press in all ways possible, bellowing the truth of the Gospel throughout the known world to anyone who would listen. And even though many could not read, there were always learned family members or friends who would read aloud while the illiterate would raptly listen. "The just shall live by faith." A flash of realization. A recognition. An unbinding of the soul, a relaxation, a relief.

All due to Johann Gutenberg who, at his death, had only the slightest idea of what a wondrous thing he had created.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012

The Women of Fort Caroline

September 20, 1565 dawned wet and dismal. Exhausted sentries grabbed whatever sleep they could manage. Families huddled together in simple Floridian dwellings, praying that the storm would soon abate and their enemies would not take advantage of the chaos and lack of defense. But that is exactly what the Spaniard Pedro Menendez's soldiers did. Blustering through the wake of a hurricane, they burst upon Fort Caroline with no warning.

History tells us that most of the men were killed outright. Those who escaped later endured a long and bitter voyage back to France. The able-bodied soldiers who had previously put out to sea from Fort Caroline with Jean Ribault had been shipwrecked by this time and would soon be slaughtered along the beaches of Matanzas. But what became of the wives, the girlfriends, the mothers and daughters?

Physically, they were spared an ignominious death. Emotionally, the burden of seeing their loved ones killed must have been beyond horrendous. To make the loss of their men even worse, the women learned that the departed would be posthumously hanged. "Not as to Frenchmen, but as to Lutherans," a nearby sign read. And through it all, the women of Fort Caroline, hiding their children's eyes, sobbing outright or weeping quietly, wondered what their men had ever done to deserve such cruel treatment. They must have remembered beloved faces. Compelling eyes filled with steadfast faith and quiet courage. Fathers playing with children. Sons assisting mothers. So much had changed in an instant.

Perhaps the Spaniards believed they were being "kind" in sparing this band of about sixty women and children. They gave little if any thought to the heartache these wretched captives endured. It has been said that Pedro Menendez refused to kill women because he did not want the wrath of God upon his head. This illustrates the rhetoric of the sixteenth century . . . how can one rightly see killing innocent women as cruel but have no compunctions whatsoever against killing equally innocent men?

History tells us little of the women's subsequent trials. Some accounts say they were taken to San Juan, Puerto Rico, most likely to be educated in the Catholic faith. I imagine some grew ill and died along the way. Perhaps heartache was a cause of death as well. These women were forced to live among the same type of men who had unjustly silenced their loved ones. Did they remain true to their Protestant convictions? It is probable some did. I also imagine that the strength of their martyr husbands' testimonies might have strengthened quite a few of these beleaguered women. It is a romantic notion to hope that all remained true to their faith. We will never know the number for sure.

Did the women ever hear of Matanzas, the massacre they never witnessed? If they did, those who had been relieved that their husbands were out to sea during the raid at Fort Caroline must have grown numb with despair. History does not record their names, ages, or stories. Many of these women likely found a way to return to France -- one can only hope they did. Though we cannot give them identities, we can gave them a voice. Their dreams of raising families in le Nouveau Monde, in the New World, free of hardship and persecution, were so violently crushed that the extreme pathos and loss of this story still brings tears to one's eyes.

Rest well, women of Fort Caroline. God never once forgot your names.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 2012

The Knock on the Door

If any of your ancestors throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were Protestant, especially if they lived in France and certain parts of Germany, this was their story. Imagine having to dread every knock at the door. Perhaps it was a time of peace and they believed it was safe to reveal their religious leanings, only to be immediately suspected. Perhaps they had been forced to hide their religion from authorities. Whatever the circumstances, how must it have been for every knock, every outside noise, to cause a cold panic? 

Even the simplest activities were dangerous for Protestants. (While I am mainly thinking of the French Huguenots, being a Protestant in Catholic territory in Germany, or even a Lutheran in Calvinist territory, would have been much the same at various times throughout history). Words dared never be repeated. When Sunday came and certain families did not appear at the parish church, rumors flew like wildfire. Was it ever possible to sit in one’s home with children gathered around, enjoying the simplest family activities without subconsciously listening for that ugly knock that could mean prison, torture, or death? 

Despite all that constant worry and dread, faith was still the most important aspect in our ancestors’ lives. They prayed that the knock would not come but they handled interrogations with aplomb whenever it did. They did not shirk from outlining their beliefs and admitting their faith. They understood that human nature was unkind at best and that they had no control over the situation . . . only God did. And they left it at that.

The worst knock that Protestants need fear today is salesmen at our door or perhaps spokesman for a religion we do not endorse. Yet this --- this culture of fear, pride, courage, and faith --- is our legacy. Let us honor and respect our ancestors for what they bore and let us be proud they bore it; let us not forget the lengths to which they went so we, the descendants, might have truth. We must never forget how difficult their daily lives must have been.

If, hypothetically speaking, the proverbial knock on the door ever does come, let us go to meet it with grace and courage as our Protestant ancestors did. Let us proudly proclaim  the five solas of the Reformation. Let us feel an intense pride for the faith our ancestors bled and died for, the faith of which they were not ashamed and the faith we boldly proclaim. Let us draw on the strength of the martyrs and honor just as fiercely all that they honored. Let us be proud. Unshakable. Steadfast.

It is the only fitting legacy.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012

The Edict of Nantes

In my post of March 04, I spoke of the Edict of Fontainebleau (more commonly known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes) and how, after this decree, life for the Huguenots in France became unbearable. So what exactly was the Edict of Nantes, and why was it passed if only to be revoked less than a century later?

Beginning in 1562, France became a hotbed of civil war. While Catholicism remained the only religion of Spain and England took on a more Protestant face, France was matched bitterly between both factions, resulting in various instances of bloodshed (such as the burning of a church full of Huguenot parishioners in Vassy) that brought about the First War of Religion. Fighting raged on and off for over three decades. By 1598, the French were weary of bloodshed.

It was ironic that Henry IV (Henri de Navarre) was the king of France who signed this particular Edict. He had bravely espoused the Huguenot cause in his younger days but, upon claiming the throne, found he could not reign if he held true to his Protestant convictions. He made the choice to convert to Catholicism so he might rule, perhaps in part so he might be an "inside contact" for his Huguenot brethren. Despite his conversion he remained tender-hearted toward the Huguenots so brutally persecuted. In 1598 he passed the Edict of Nantes.

France held her breath. Protestants, having been shunned for the first six decades or so of their existence, doubted if this new edict could save them and restore their rights, so they dearly hoped for recognition. Catholics dubiously looked upon the edict as giving the Huguenots too much leeway. As Henry IV had hoped, the wars did not pick up where they left off. Frenchmen turned warily, casting a distrustful eye to their neighbors. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572 was still on everyone's mind. That event, which caused the death of thousands of Protestants, was the catalyst by which peace and agreement could never be found.

There were certain parts of the Edict of Nantes that could be considered highly favorable toward the Huguenots, while there were other parts in which the king delicately affirmed his newfound Catholicism just enough to appease pope and council. He asserted that the Catholic Church was the only "official" church of the French state but that Protestants practicing their faith earnestly and with no thought of civil disobedience might live and pray in peace.

Henry IV promised that any Huguenots visiting other countries would be sheltered from the far-reaching tendrils of the Inquisition. This olive-branch, this royal assurance that Protestant subjects would be protected from foreign evils, was a new concept and must have made the Huguenots finally feel some sense of worth and value. Not everyone was as pleased with the decree. "This crucifies me," were the words uttered by Clement VIII, the pope of the day. It made no difference that the Huguenots were still expected to show a certain amount of obeisance to Catholic feast days and to understand there were basic civil rights they must forego. In the eyes of their opponents, France's Protestants were dangerously close to freedom.

This unassuming parchment produced in April 1598 signified
life and freedom for the persecuted Protestants of France

The Edict of Nantes also granted the Huguenots certain towns where they might gather for protection, called "places of safety." If the Protestants were willing to pay, they might also be granted forts whereupon they could defend themselves if the need arose. It was easy to see that Henry, despite having joined the Catholic realm, still cared deeply for his former co-religionists and understood that no man should live in a constant state of fear and inequality. 

I remember reading extensively about Henry IV and being disappointed that he had abandoned his faith. Yet I realized that, in order for him to have the authority to publish an edict that could benefit the Huguenot populace, he had to belong to the Church that crowned kings. A Huguenot could have never come to such a high position in the sixteenth century. Thus his people would have been vulnerable and without protection. We cannot know exactly why Henry IV converted, whether it was simply to gain the kingdom of France, or due to sincere beliefs, or to help the Protestants by assuming authority in the only way that was possible at the time. Whatever his reason, the end result granted temporary peace to France's beleaguered Huguenots.

God has always worked in mysterious ways.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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