Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[Book Review] Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand

Warning: Reading this book may cause a sudden increase in your desire to serve God.

As a Christian living in the United States I have grown accustomed to have certain things, namely freedom to say and do what I want in regards to religion. Tortured for Christ tells of a time and place where such a thing was a faint memory.

Originally published in 1967, Wurmbrand tells of his experience being a Christian pastor in both Nazi, and later Soviet-controlled Romania. (The last half of that sentence should be an indication that the word "tortured" was not put in the title simply to pique one's interest.) He wrote mainly of his experience under Communism, referencing the Nazis only briefly, stating that the blessing of the Nazi occupation was that it taught the believers that physical beatings can be endured. Knowledge that would sadly become useful when the Communists came into power. However, the Communists did not come into power as you might think.

Seduction and Standing Up


Wurmbrand stated that the Communists did not come the Romanian church with guns blazing, but rather as a man who seduces a female for a one night stand. Sadly, for the most part, it worked. He wrote of a congress that was convened in the Romanian Parliament building where four thousand ministers of all denomination were gathered. They then voted Joseph Stalin, who was at the time president of the World Movement of the Godless and mass murderer of Christians, honorary president of this gathering of religious leaders. One by one these so called men of God stated how that Communism and Christianity were basically the same and then pledged allegiance to the Communist government. He then wrote,
"My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabrina told me, 'Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face.' I said to her, 'If I do so, you lose your husband,' She replied, 'I don't wish to have a coward as a husband.'"
That last sentence pretty much sums up the attitude of the Underground Church that sprung up around that time. Christians fearlessly spread the gospel, and joyfully went to prison and certain torture and death. He told many stories of the believers, but the one that touched me the most was the arrest of a young girl by the secret police. They followed her for some time and waited to arrest her on her wedding day in an attempt to cause the greatest amount of suffering possible. She went peacefully, and left the church kissing her shackles all the while rejoicing that she was the bride of Christ. How many of us would have had the same reaction?

Surprisingly, despite suffering unspeakable tortures at the hands of the Russians they bore no ill will to their captors, rather witnessing to them, winning many to Christ. Wurmbrand put it this way, when a crocodile kills a man, its tragic, but we do not blame the crocodile because it was simply following its nature. He stated that many of these soldiers were so brainwashed that they were little more than animals and should be treated with pity rather than contempt.

The Bottom Line


Wurmbrand's main purpose in writing this book was to highlight the suffering, as well as the fervor, of the Underground Church. He wanted to wake up Christians in free countries to the need of helping their persecuted brothers and sisters. I know it accomplished that goal with me, and I hope that it will do the same for you. The book is offered free of charge from the organization "The Voice of the Martyrs" so what are you waiting for? Go to their website and order it today.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Not of This World

If the followers of Christ are to focus on the heavenly kingdom, why do we try so hard to make one here on earth?

The United States, as the story goes, began simply as the result of a boat of Christian pilgrims seeking freedom from the oppression of the state-run church in Europe. They then formed a Christian nation that promoted Christian values. I say "as the story goes" because such a statement only tells part of the story. This misremembering of history comes from a belief in "The United States is a Christian Nation" myth. (For more details on how this myth became official, read a previous post). This myth of a Christian nation has led, and continues to lead, to all sorts of persecution and subjugation of non-Christian and Christian people alike simply because they believed differently than those in power.

Beliefs Then and Now

This persecution and subjugation has taken many forms in American history. From early on, the Puritans persecuted dissenters from their colonies, notably Roger Williams, the future founder of Rhode Island. He wrote,
"God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted and inforced in any civill state; which inforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civill Warre, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls." (source link here)
Such "inforced uniformity" most likely came from the belief that in order for Jesus Christ to return, God must have a pure people, and it behooves governmental authority to be the key agent of this purification. Often referred to as postmillennialism, an adherent to this view
"[B]elieves that the millennium is an era (not a literal thousand years) during which Christ will reign over the earth, not from an literal and earthly throne, but through the gradual increase of the Gospel and its power to change lives. After this gradual Christianization of the world, Christ will return and immediately usher the church into their eternal state after judging the wicked. This is called postmillennialism because, by its view, Christ will return after the millennium." (source link here)
To find a notable proponent of a form of postmillennialism called dominionism, one need look no further than former presidential hopeful, and current Texas senator, Ted Cruz. (A more in-depth look at his views can be found here) Dominionism promotes, among other things, a Christian-controlled government in the United States. While few talk so openly about their belief in this concept as he and his family, its pervasiveness can readily be seen. One finds a clear example of this pervasiveness in the reaction of many professed Christians to the United States Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.

Going the Wrong Direction


Such a ruling went directly against the goal of the "gradual Christianization of the world" which caused a lot of consternation in certain Christian circles (because many believe that the nation cannot be Christian if same-sex couples are allowed to be married). However, instead of renewing a zeal to preach the gospel, the ruling renewed a zeal to pass laws at the state and local levels to restrict this newly found freedom. Laws such as these, often passed under the guise of establishing religious liberty, tend to backfire in the long run. Many people now equate the terms "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" with intolerance and bigotry, and actively pursue means to erode the legal foundation for such laws (for more explanation of this issue go here).

To those who may think that I'm painting with too broad of a brush, answer this question for yourself, when you see society's morals eroding away, is your first reaction to find a spiritual solution or a political one? Spiritual solutions bring people together, political solutions drive people apart. I write this post because I have seen too many well-intentioned Christians heading in a direction that draws them away from God.

Jesus' Example and Rejection

As Christians we need to follow Christ, and a careful look at Scripture shows no occasion where He used political power to spread the gospel. After Jesus fed the multitude as recorded in John 6, the people wanted to make Him king, by force if necessary. Jesus recognized their intentions, but instead of accepting this political role, He withdrew from their presence (see verses 14 & 15). Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36

The common people who rejected Jesus as the Messiah wanted a political leader to deliver them from pagan Roman oppression. The religious leaders had another reason. John 11:47-48 states, 
 "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, 'What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.'" 
They did not want to lose their favored status with the government. Sound familiar?

The Bottom Line


Religion and politics should be coworkers, not marriage partners. Whenever religion uses politics to achieve its goals, it not only goes against the example of Jesus, but also alienates the very people God said we need to reach.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

[Video] Should a Christian Vote?

This question comes up almost every election cycle, especially ones as contentious as this one. You may not agree with everything he had to say (I didn't), but I hope that this video at least gets a conversation started. I recommend watching/listening to the video in its entirety, but if you simply have a question on a specific aspect, I have listed all his points and where to find them in the video. As always, I welcome your comments below.

  1. Christians are primarily citizens of another kingdom. 6:26
  2. It is not necessarily wrong to feel some patriotism. 7:22
  3. The concept of voting or choosing leaders is biblical. 9:37
  4. Christians should not allow political parties to divide them. 13:29
  5. Voting demonstrates that we respect the authority of the political system in our nation as established by God. 18:17
  6. It is one way that we can obey God's command to seek the good of those around us and our nation as a whole. 20:48
  7. It demonstrates we care about who our leaders are. 35:03
  8. Jesus calls us to make a difference in society and use our influence good in our nation. 36:05
  9. It is a privilege that if not exercised could be lost. 39:55
  10. Not voting can be a form of voting as it will influence the outcome. 42:18
  11. Voting is a part of our stewardship to use all the resources we have been given in ways that honor God; it may be wasting a vote is squandering a gift. 46:12