(Note: Before reading, please understand that I am not attacking the Orthodox Church. In general, they have an amazing understanding of the majesty of God, a deep appreciation for artwork and beauty in worship, a respect for tradition, a love of history, and many more admirable qualities. However, many who call themselves “Orthodox” are desperately in the dark.)
According to statistics, 96-98% of those who live in Bucureşti follow Eastern Orthodoxy, a branch of Christianity that predates even the Roman Catholic Church in many ways. In the coming months, I hope to give you a few reasons for why these 2 million people still need to hear about Jesus. My hope is that this will help you to pray in a more informed way for this population so often unfamiliar to Evangelicals.
Reason #1 – I Don’t Know…
Every Orthodox believer whom I have met during street evangelism admitted he
no idea whether he would be going to heaven or to hell. This should have been
no surprise to me; Orthodoxy teaches that no one can know the destination of his
soul as this is something known only to God. It is true that God in his wisdom is the ultimate authority, but 1 John 5:13 states, “These things I have written… so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Millions in Bucureşti need to know.
Earlier this week, I went to Unirii and was surprised to find thousands of people standing in a massive line while the air reverberated with chanting in Romanian. Later, I learned that the protector of Bucharest, Saint Dimitrie the New, is remembered every year during the week of his martyrdom (October 26). I don’t know much about Saint Dimitrie, but seeing so many people gathered in his honor was both inspiring and upsetting to me.
I love it when I’m reading the Bible and I “discover” a verse that “wasn’t there before.” This morning, Psalm 85:13 stood out to me: “Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”
On the one side, the coming of Jesus into our lives makes us righteous, purifies us. His feet are like burning bronze, fire (Revelation 1:15), and when he steps in, he burns up all the garbage.
But on the other side, continuing in holiness prepares the way for him to work in us. When I live a holy life, a separate life, I become a place welcoming to the Spirit. Paul wrote, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” If I can grieve him, then surely I can be welcoming to him, too.
That thought went through my mind more than once during our meetings at Vasilica’s house. Although Mircea’s not doing so well with God (pray for him!), Vasilica is just rockin’ it!
Last week, the family was almost out of food, so Vasilica told her children, “You eat the food. The word of God is my food. I will read the Bible.” So she spent the day reading the Word of God, and she wasn’t hungry.
This week, a neighbor who knew the family’s struggles brought over some food. When Vasilica asked her neighbor how she had gotten the food, the neighbor revealed she had stolen it. “I will not eat it,” she responded. “You did evil to get it, so I cannot eat it. I am a Christian.” Her husband responded by calling her crazy, hitting her, and throwing out the only Bible the family has (a Gideon’s New Testament). Then he left to stay with friends. “I am a Christian, and Jesus will take care of me,” Vasilica said with finality. “I will not eat that food.” The next day, we came over with bread, milk, and fruit.
No, this entry is not about the totally sweet worship song by Cory Asbury and Jaye Thomas. (But, side note, if you’re in the U.S., make sure to visit IHOP:KC for the OneThing conference from December 28-31 for an awesome “Holy Ghost party.”)
Sunday, Jake and I turned 32, and so we decided to invite some friends to come over in the evening. I hate birthday parties and I think they’re stupid in general, but we wanted an excuse to hang out with friends. So there you have it.
A local church here in Bucuresti has been holding late-night prayer and “revival” meetings. I was super excited and had been hearing some awesome reports about healings, the presence of God, people staying until 2 a.m. to pray and seek God, and awesome, biblical preaching. So we headed there with high expectations on Thursday night.
Worship was awesome. This church the most life-filled worship service here in Bucuresti. People were singing loudly and with passion, and there was a real joy on people’s faces. That’s something I haven’t seen since moving out here, and, oh, how it fed my spirit!
I’m having trouble with the internet connection here, so I’ll make this update short. Despite the colder weather (fall has finally come to Romania, it seems), we had a wonderful meeting last night with the gypsy community at Mihai Bravu. Because of the cultural differences, we’re often left wondering how much of what we are saying really has an impact.
Well, last night, three people came up for prayer after a straightforward message about how Jesus calls us to walk in holiness. The first, a woman, realized she had been speaking curses against her husband by her bitter words. A man recognized he needed to surrender to Jesus and be born-again. The third, a young man, came up asking for prayer that a spiritual heaviness would lift from him; when we learned he wasn’t a Christian, we told him we’d pray for him but that the only way to have ultimate peace in his spirit is by surrendering to Jesus.