As I should have expected, the Lord has been bringing many stretching opportunities for me to practice what He is speaking to me about...I praise the Lord!
Quite randomly we received a book from old college friends, Ricky and Aidan, this week. "Tortured for Christ," it is called, by Richard Wurmbrand, and tells of his experiences as a Romanian pastor during 14 years in Communist prison for his public witness and belief in Jesus Christ.
"Oh, my," I thought, looking at the shackled hands stretched out to the heavens on the cover. "I'd really rather read something happy! Something 'feel-good'! Life is already so hard, and if I have time to read, I'd rather read something restorative! Someone send me a Martha Stewart magazine!"
However, the next day we were scheduled to spend the whole morning driving to town, trying to get driver's licenses, and driving back, so on the way out the door, I grabbed it just in case I got bored.
Did the Lord ever know what He was doing! I've never read anything quite like it in my life, and I am confident that NO comedy, no vacation, no conversation, no novel could have ever restored my heart quite like this book has. I read it in two days, and find my heart to have quite a new perspective on my life...HIS.
There are a hundred stories from its pages that I would like to share, but let me tell you just one...
"An Orthodox priest, a friend of mine, telephoned me and told me that a Russian officer had come to him to confess. My friend did not know Russian. However, knowing that I speak Russian, he had given him my address.
The next day this man came to see me. He longed for God, but he had never seen a Bible. He had no religious education and never attended church (churches in Russia were very scarce then.) He loved God without even the slightest knowledge of Him.
So I read to him the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus. After hearing them, he danced around the room in rapturous joy proclaiming, "What a wonderful beauty! How could I live without knowing this Christ!" It was the first time that I saw someone so joyful in Christ.
Then I made a mistake. I read to him the passion and crucifixion of Christ, without having prepared him for this. He had not expected it and, when he heard how Christ was beaten, how He was crucified and that in the end He died, he fell out of the chair and began to weep bitterly. He had believed in a Savior and now his Savior was dead!
I looked at him and was ashamed. I had called myself a Christian, a pastor, and a teacher of others, but I had never shared the sufferings of Christ as this Russian officer now shared them. Looking at him was like seeing Mary Magdalene weeping at the foot of the cross, faithfully weeping when Jesus was a corpse in the tomb.
Then I read him the story of the resurrection and watched his expression change. He had not known that his Savior arose from the tomb. When he heard this wonderful news, he beat his knees and swore--using very dirty, but very 'holy' profanity. This was his crude manner of speech. Again he rejoiced, shouting for joy, "He is alive! He is alive!" He danced around the room once more, overwhelmed with happiness!
I said to him, "let us pray!" He did not know how to pray. He did not know our 'holy' phrases. He fell on his knees together with me and his words of prayer were: "Oh God, what a fine chap you are! If I were You and You were me, I would never have forgive You of Your sins. But You really are a very nice chap! I love You with all of my heart!"
I think that all the angels in heaven stopped what they were doing to listen to this sublime prayer from a Russian officer."
Thoughts of my "hard life" melted, burdens of hurt feelings, frustrations and difficulties gone...I had read my "something happy."
Something happy? I KNOW this Christ!
Something feel-good? I put Him on the cross, and yet He loves me, went there for me!
Something restorative? HE IS ALIVE!
Reading of the great persecution and sufferings of our joyful brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe gave me an extra dose of the "Christ-awareness" I was talking about this week. How very safe I have kept my life!
Happy to be a "good Christian" and to enjoy my freedom and to risk very little, dying for Christ quite rarely. How easily I am consumed by pleasing others, pleasing myself, making things comfortable and freely serving in ways that meet my preference, to people that are fun and easy to serve!
If it is true, as this book says it is, that approximately 160,000 Christians were killed for Christ in 1997 (the year before the book was published),
then I wonder if I,
whom am cautious to be bold for Him,
not wanting to be uncomfortable,
make someone uncomfortable,
or offend anyone,
would be one of them if ever the opportunity arose.