Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tortured For Christ

The Beginning

As of late, I have had the pleasure of reading a book, “Tortured For Christ” by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. I must confess that it has brought me to the brink of tears on several occasions. It is a powerful and moving account of a faithful pastor, who was imprisoned in Communist U.S.S.R. for 14 years. The accounts of the beatings, abuse and mistreatment is powerful, however, more powerful is seeing this man's heart for people. He was kidnapped off the street in February of 1948, and his first imprisonment lasted 8 ½ years. When I look at all of the horrible things he and his family endured perhaps one of the things that pains my heart the most was this: “My wife was visited by the secret police who posed as released fellow-prisoners. They told her that they had attended my burial.” What a wretched evil, vile thing to do. Think of the pain, really imagine it. It wasn't enough that he was taken, but that he wife was told that he was dead to pain her also. However, I don't find that the thing that was most striking. Every story he told, was powerful, yet I can not quote the whole book.

Father, Son and Murder

For your digestion I offer you this, the first story of his I read. Granted, it is something that happened to someone other then him, nevertheless, the pain of simply knowing the man must have been inconceivable.

A pastor by the name of Florescu was tortured with red-hot iron pokers and with knives. He was beaten very badly. Then starving rats were driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep because he had to defend himself all the time. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him. He was forced to stand for two weeks, day and night. The Communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly. Eventually, they brought his fourteen-year-old son to the prison and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying that they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say. The poor man was half mad. He bore it as long as he could, then he cried to his son, “Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating anymore!” The son answered, “Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words, ‘Jesus and my fatherland.’” The Communists, enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood spattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God. Our dear brother Florescu was never the same after seeing this.

While the pain of torture and beating, abuse, murder man seem like the primary story here, I think that the greater story is that of Brother Florescu raising a faithful son. Oh how I long to know that my son would choose death rather then betray Christ or have others betray him. That is faithfulness, that is Godly parenting. Perhaps, I (we) should make Proverbs 1:10 our prayer - My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Flee Sin, Run Far from it. Do not let your eyes take pleasure in wickedness. My son, do not betray Christ. He is worth more then all the riches this life can give you.

My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.

Proverbs 6:20.

Do you have cause to think that man is Good? Let me Remove it.

I don't think that there is a political system of governance that causes people to become wicked. I think and believe that it is there nature, it is inborn. They have the nature of there father Adam, fallen depraved and full of anger, hate and malice. Often times I have quoted portions of Scripture that attests to this fact, however, as a refresher, allow me to briefly state the bible case:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6 ESV)

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. (Genesis 8:21 ESV)

Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like the moth. (Job 4:17-19 ESV)

To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalms 14:1-3 ESV)

Who can say, "I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin"? (Proverbs 20:9 ESV)

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV)

"Why do you contend with me? You have all transgressed against me, declares the LORD.

(Jeremiah 2:29 ESV)

The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. (Micah 7:2-4 ESV)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19 ESV)

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:9-18 ESV)

For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16 ESV)

Of course this is only a handful of texts, and there are many many more, yet I think that some have devalued the word of God in there sinfulness as to not have these be an authority. I offer you accounts of this depravity from Pastor Wurmbrand's experiences.

What the Communists have done to Christians surpasses any possibility of human understanding. I have seen Com­mu­nists whose faces while torturing believers shone with rapturous joy. They cried out while torturing the Christians, “We are the devil!”We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of evil.... I often asked the torturers, “Don’t you have pity in your hearts?” They usually answered with quotations from Lenin: “You cannot make omelets without breaking the shells of eggs,” and “You cannot cut wood without making chips fly.” I said again, “I know these quotations from Lenin. But there is a difference. When you cut a piece of wood it feels nothing. But here you are dealing with human beings. Every beating produces pain and there are mothers who weep.” It was in vain. They are materialists. For them nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty. The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I heard one torturer say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners. I am very sorry if a crocodile eats a man, but I can’t re­proach the crocodile. He is not a moral being. So no reproaches can be made to the Communists.... They boasted that they had no pity in their hearts. I learned from them. As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine.

Does this bring Romans Chapter 1 to mind for anyone else?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18-23 ESV)

Taking a Beating for Christ

I must say, that when Pastor Wurmbrand, speaks of another pastor whom he was imprisoned with, Pastor Milan Haimovici, I was shaken to the core. While what is said about him is very brief, I have to say that this man is the greatest evangelist I have ever known about. Here is his Story – The heroic examples of those in prison greatly inspired the brethren who were still free. One of the really great heroes of the faith was Pastor Milan Haimovici. The prisons were overcrowded and the guards did not know us by name. They called out for those who had been sentenced to get twenty-five lashes with a whip for having broken some prison rule. Innumerable times, Pastor Haimovici went to get the beating in the place of someone else. By this he won the respect of other prisoners not only for himself, but also for Christ whom he represented.

Think about it for a moment... Would you take 25 lashes for someone else, simply to show love like Jesus? We are all about showing love like Jesus did in this country, but how far are we really willing to take it. Money, Time, Food, Hospital Visits, ect? How about 25 lashes? Of course this isn't the only beatings that were taken and given. It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners, as it is in captive nations today. It was understood that whoever was caught doing this received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us—so everyone was happy. The following scene happened more times than I can remember. A brother was preaching to the other prisoners when the guards suddenly burst in, surprising him halfway through a phrase. They hauled him down the corridor to their “beating room.” After what seemed an endless beating, they brought him back and threw him—bloody and bruised—on the prison floor. Slowly, he picked up his battered body, painfully straightened his clothing and said, “Now, brethren, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?” He continued his gospel message! I have seen beautiful things!

Beautiful things indeed – How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! How much do you enjoy encouraging your Christian brothers and getting the joy of suffering for it.

This is a powerful book. I would fully recommend it to all to read. I hope that we can learn from the faithfulness of these men and women, who have suffered before us, so that we may suffer for our savior.

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