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ROMANIA: Extreme Truth

ROMANIA: Extreme Truth

“Are you not afraid of what we will do to you?” the Communist colonel asked, his tone a combination of mockery and challenge.

Young Pastor Kochanga, having preached only one sermon in his career, stood before the colonel, knowing that the man held the power of life or death over him. He answered in a respectful, yet fervent tone.

“Sir, truth is never afraid. Suppose your government would decide to hang all mathematicians. How much would two plus two be then? Two plus two would still be four.

“We have truth, as true as a mathematical equation. We have the truth that there is a God, and he is our loving Father. We have the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world and wishes to save everyone, even you. We have truth that there is a Holy Spirit who empowers men and gives them light, and we have the truth that there exists a beautiful paradise.

“Whatever whips and whatever instruments of torture you have, it will always remain so. Two plus two still equals four.”
Kochanga was beaten almost beyond recognition and then was never seen again. Though his battered and bloody face was hard to recognize for the other prisoners, in heaven he was immediately known and welcomed.

“Tell the truth.” Children learn this command at an early age, yet its wisdom is timeless. If we will return to simply acknowledging what we know to be true, we will always have the words to say when we are called upon to testify for Christ. Many people often feel unqualified to witness for Christ, saying they lack “training.” We fear being asked a theological question we don’t know how to answer. However, professing Christ doesn’t require course credit in apologetics. Simply tell the truth about what you know—just as those who have experienced religious oppression. Testifying about Christ is easier than it seems. We must go back to the principle we learned in childhood. We are commanded to acknowledge Jesus Christ—to tell the truth.

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SUDAN: Extreme Reminder

SUDAN: Extreme Reminder

“Collect some wood!” the soldiers snarled. Young James Jeda assumed that the soldiers were about to cook their dinner. Earlier that day, he had watched, horrified, as the radical Muslim soldiers killed his parents and four siblings in Southern Sudan. They spared James only to use him as a worker.

When the fire was well lit, James was surprised and terrified when they suddenly grabbed him, and he tried to flee. But the soldiers were too strong, and soon they had tied his hands and feet.
“Good news for you, young one,” said a soldier. “We are going to let you live. But you must join us by becoming a Muslim.”

“I cannot become a Muslim,” James said simply. “I am a Christian.” Infuriated by the young boy’s faith, the soldiers picked him up and hurled him into the fire. They packed up their gear and left the area, assuming James would die.

Young James didn’t die. He managed to roll out of the fire and find help.

Doctors were able to save James’s life, but he will always carry reminders of that day. His body bears skin grafts and scar tissue, and one arm is partially deformed by the burns. In heaven, those scars will be honor bars, a reminder of the day when James Jeda refused to turn his back on Christ.

Most people are suckers for souvenirs. One can hardly make it through the gauntlet of gift shops at an airport or train station without succumbing to the temptation to buy a memento of the trip’s experience. But what is there to remind us of our most significant life experience—our commitment to Christ? Some will look at their paycheck and remember the promotion they declined because they were not willing to compromise their morals. Others, upon seeing a public school classroom, will recall where they first learned what it was like to be persecuted. Still others will see a gravestone of a believer and be reminded of the meaning of commitment. These “souvenirs” are infinitely significant reminders of the price of faith in Jesus Christ.

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ROMANIA: Extreme Injustice

ROMANIA: Extreme Injustice

Pastor Florescu couldn’t bear to watch his son being beaten by the Communist officers. He had already been beaten himself, and he had not slept for two weeks for fear of being attacked by the starving rats the Communists had forced into his prison cell. The Romanian police wanted Florescu to give up other members of his underground church so that they, too, could be captured.

Seeing that the beatings and torture weren’t working, the Communists brought in Florescu’s son Alexander, only fourteen years old, and began to beat the boy. While Florescu watched, they hammered his son’s body unmercifully, telling the pastor that they would beat his son to death unless he told them the locations of other believers.

Finally, half mad, Florescu screamed for them to stop.

“Alexander, I must say what they want!” he called out to his son. “I can’t bear your beatings anymore.”

His body bruised, blood running from his nose and mouth, Alexander looked his father in the eye. “Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Stand strong! If they kill me, I will die with the word ‘Jesus’ on my lips.”

The boy’s courage enraged the Communist guards, and they beat him to death as his father watched. Not only did he hold on to his faith, he helped his father do the same.

Is there no justice in this world? When we read of the horrible atrocities committed against the innocent, we can’t help but wonder. We may falter in our faith when we hear about cruel suffering at the hands of evildoers. We may become discouraged when we long for the salve of mercy that seems to tarry. Is there no justice in this world? In answer to our cry, the Bible teaches the principle of “yes and not yet.” Yes, some evildoers meet with swift justice here and now. However, God’s mighty hand of infinite justice has yet to fall on this earth. That is saved for the end of time. We grow weary waiting, but he is undeterred.

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ROMANIA: Extreme Proclamation

ROMANIA: Extreme Proclamation

Sabina Wurmbrand reached over and pinched her husband’s arm. “Richard,” she said fiercely, “stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ. They are spitting on his face!”

“If I do so,” Richard Wurmbrand answered, looking intently at his wife, “you will lose your husband.”

Her eyes bore into his. “I don’t want a coward for a husband.”

They sat in a Romanian national congress on religion shortly after Communist soldiers had stormed their country. The assembled Christian pastors, priests, and ministers of all denominations stood, one by one, and spouted praise to Joseph Stalin and to the new Communist leader-ship, who had put thousands of Christians in prison.

As Richard stood to speak, many were thrilled to see that this well-known pastor would join their cause. But instead of praising the Communists, he praised Jesus Christ as the only path to salvation.

“Our first loyalty,” he told the gathering, “should be to God, not to Communist leaders.” The gathering was broadcast live across Romania, and thousands across the country heard Richard’s challenge.

Realizing the damage Richard was doing, Communist officials rushed the stage. Richard escaped out the back door but was a hunted man from then on. He would later spend fourteen years in prison.

Most of us will probably never be challenged to make our stand for Christ in front of an entire nation. But we are all called to make a stand for him wherever we are each day. It is not the size of the witnessing audience but the sincerity of our stand that matters. Our lives may not depend on what we say. But our jobs may depend on our decision to voice our convictions. It may mean losing a relationship. It may even mean estrangement from our families. In any case, it is far better to endure the consequences of our convictions than to regret their noticeable absence. When and where will you seize the opportunity to take a stand for Christ today?

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PHILIPPINES: Extreme Willingness

PHILIPPINES: Extreme Willingness

“My dress,” the young girl murmured, her words slurred through swollen lips. “Please give me my dress. I want to hold it.”

The Christians surrounding the girl’s bed were sad. Because of her extensive internal injuries, doctors could do nothing for her. Weeks ago, the believers had bought her a white dress to celebrate her new life and pure heart in Christ Jesus.

Her father had not been pleased with his daughter’s decision to follow Christ. One night, in a drunken rage, he attacked his daughter, beating and kicking her. He left her lying in the muddy street to die.

When she did not show up for church, her Christian friends went looking for her. They found the girl unconscious, lying in a heap, her formerly snow white dress now covered in blood and mud. She was brought to a doctor, but her injuries were severe.

Now she was asking for her dress.

“The dress is ruined,” her friends told her. They tried to talk her out of it, thinking that seeing the ruined dress would break down the girl’s spirit.

With the simple faith of a ten-year-old, she whispered, “Please, I want to show the dress to Jesus. He was willing to bleed for me. I just want Jesus to know that I was willing to bleed for him.”

Shortly afterwards, the young girl died.

God is not interested in our ability. We may be talented. Resourceful. Wealthy. Professional, popular, and punctual. Offering our various abilities in God’s service, however, is nothing like offering our availability. Our abilities are about ourselves—we can see ourselves doing this or that for God. In contrast, our availability is about God alone—we can only imagine how God will use us in his service. Being available to God means being willing to obey no matter what the cost. God wants our willingness to serve him regardless of our specific abilities. How do we become so willing? That, too, is God’s gift. He gives us the “want to”—the will or desire to be available to him.

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