Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Persecuted Church

A while back I use to get newsletters in the mail from The Voice Of The Martyrs. I remembered they really affected me, so I went and looked them back up so I could start getting the newsletters again.

While at the site, I noticed they were offering a free book, so I got it. It really touched me deeply. It's titled, Tortured For Christ.

The book is about a man named Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned for 14 years. He is the author and writes about what he went through and what other prisoners went through during their time in Communist prisons in Russia. He tells of truths that people sometimes want to close their ears to and pretend is not happening around them.

He doesn't really get too graphic in the book, because he says he can not even retell some of the encounters because it's still too hard for him to talk about. He does tell of the struggles of the underground church living in Russia in this time period. It was illegal for Christians to worship openly and with freedom, they were jailed and tortured if caught. This did not snuff out the voice of the Christians, in which they had hoped it would, it did the very opposite.

When water gets pushed down into the ground, it is purified by all the rocks, sand, debris... and the farther down the water is pushed, the more purified the water becomes.

This is what happened to the church during this persecution. The church was forced underground. The ones who weren't deeply connected to their faith easily fell away and turned their back on the gospel to keep from being jailed, killed, tortured or to keep family members from being hurt or taken from them. The ones who refused to deny Jesus even during long periods of humiliating torture, found a peace and life giving force in Jesus that was stronger than anything words can even convey. Their very faith itself even brought their own torturers to their knees wanting to know this Jesus they were dying for.

We can say we are blessed to be living in a free country and to be able to worship when, where and how we please. Jesus said, "blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." There is something about being put under hot coals which brings out a strength in our relationship with God that can not be obtained by sitting around idly in our comfortable pews. The book isn't to scare anyone into the fear of having our freedoms taken, but to actually give comfort in knowing, if you are ever put in that situation, the Spirit is here for us in our times of need and will give us whatever we need to get us through anything man can come at us with.

"For we wrestle not against flesh, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph 6:12

I encourage you to order this free book and a few for family and friends.  You never know what direction the message from the persecuted church could send you in.  :)   Let's remember them in our prayers daily.

Go here for your free book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Jesus I Never Knew - Book Review

This is a book I got about 12 years ago. I've read it before, but something kept pulling at me to read it again. I'm so glad I did. I saw the book from such a different angle this time.  

The author straight out tells you in the beginning, this book focuses on Jesus' humanity.  And that he does. He goes into great detail by digging into who Jesus was, a Jew. Yancey gives such insight into what it was like to grow up Jewish as Jesus did. He gave such revelation on the Jewish roots that you have to say Ah-ha when you start to understand who exactly the 12 disciples were, with their Jewish heritage.  

The central theme of the book is the life Jesus lived during his 3 years of ministry, which encompassed his greatest sermon: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek,..." Jesus truly lived out his sermon on earth. He shows how Jesus spent his life with the outcasts, the poor, the broken, and how they were drawn to him.  The people who felt most condemned by the church of their day were flocking to Jesus and hanging onto his every word. Jesus offered hope, not condemnation, something the human spirit longs for. 

Yancey spent a lot of time contrasting the difference in the way the rich and the poor approached Jesus. The sermon and Jesus' messages tended to be too offensive to the rich, yet a comfort to the poor. He has no boundaries in his writings, some of the things he says are not meant to tickle readers ears. He lays out the truth set before us in Jesus, which can cause us in our comfort zone of a wealthy westernized society to squirm. Jesus brought us the great reversal. The world views success by strength, good looks, connections, and a competitive instinct, but these very things can block you from seeing this kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of. 

Jesus was always pointing out that the poor in spirit, the mourning, the persecuted, the hungry and the ones who thirst after righteousness have a peculiar advantage. The rich do not know they are in urgent need of redemption for the rich rest their security in their wealth, their things. But maybe, just maybe, the desperate person will cry out to God and if so, that person is truly blessed.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Where is God when it hurts?" I have often asked. The answer is another question, "Where is the church when it hurts?"

"I now have a built in suspicion against all attempts to categorize Jesus, to box him in. Jesus is radically unlike anyone else who has ever lived."

"Although faith may produce miracles, miracles do not necessarily produce faith."

"the paired theives (being crucified on each side of Jesus) present the choice that all history has had to decide about the cross. Do we look at Jesus' powerlessness as an example of God's impotence or as proof of God's love?"


I could write a novel about this book! Well, there is so much great info, I highly recommend reading it. Yancey also gives his insight into the death, Resurrection and Ascension in his unique perspective. I didn't remember the book detailing all of this, but it just happens to be the  perfect read to meditate on with our upcoming celebration of the Lord's Resurrection.  
I'm sure you could probably find a copy of this book in your library, since it's been around for a while. I would love to hear others' views and comments on the book.