Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Special 2020 City Notes | The Insanity of God: Praising & Clinging to Christ in the Valley of the Shadow of Death


This man's (Dmitri's) testimony of praising God in the midst of torture continues to arrest me ... + Matt KriegAn Impossible Marriage

+ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. + Psalm 23:4   
Every level of suffering matters to each person experiencing it and to God. But perhaps today, this story below can help you think about another's suffering with Christ. Whatever you are going through is hard. God sees your pain. And if Dmitri can endure what he did with Jesus, then by the same Spirit of God that helped him, may you be opened to trust in and walk with Jesus in your suffering ...
Dmitri's Story: The man's name was Dmitri, and he was arrested for starting a house church in communist Russia. He said that what was worse than the physical torture he endured for 19 years in prison was his physical separation from the body of Christ.

He wanted and needed that oneness.

But God was faithful. Two spiritual practices kept Dimitri connected to God:

1) Every morning, he, the lone believer in a prison of 1,500 criminals, would wake up, face the east, and sing words of praise from his aching, longing heart to the One who delighted in him. The other prisoners would bang their cups on the iron bars in angry protest and throw food and human waste to try to shut him up. 
2) He also collected scraps of paper in his cell. On each one, he would write a verse or song he knew with a stub of a pencil or a piece of charcoal and place it high up on a moist concrete pillar in his cell as a love offering to God. Inevitably, the guards would find them and beat him severely.

These practices went on year after year until the guards almost broke him. When he was told his wife and sons were dead, he agreed to sign a false confession that he did not believe in Jesus and that he was working for the West to take down the USSR. However, the night before he was to sign it, God allowed Dmitri to hear the real, fervent prayers of his wife and sons while he slept. He knew they were not dead. They were alive and still seeking Jesus. "You lied to me!" he said to his captors. "I am not signing anything!" He continued singing with fervor and writing on scraps of paper as praise to the living God.

Soon after, he found a whole sheet of paper in the prison yard. "And God had laid a pencil beside it!" Dmitri said. Back in his cell, he frantically wrote as much of the Bible as he could and stuck the entire sheet of paper on the wet concrete pillar. When the guards saw it, he was beaten and threatened with execution. As he was being dragged to his death, something amazing happened:

Before they reached the door leading to the courtyard—before stepping out into the place of executionfifteen hundred hardened criminals stood at attention by their beds. They faced the east and they began to sing. Dmitri told me that it sounded to him like the greatest choir in all of human history. Fifteen hundred criminals raised their arms and began to sing the HeartSong that they had heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning for all of those years.

His jailors, terrified, let go of him. "Who are you?" they asked. "I am a son of the living God," Dmitri responded, shoulders back and head high. "And Jesus is His name!" Dmitri was returned to his cell and released soon after his family ...

+ The Dmitri story above is a paraphrase of pages 153-158 in Nik Ripken's The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected featured in Laurie & Matt Krieg's An Impossible Marriage

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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