With a growing ministry in the underground churches (Elijah began preaching and doing evangelistic work in 1958; Bible smuggling in 1959), I had to go great distances to visit believers all over the country. But I could not travel such great distances on foot. Even on a bicycle it would be nearly impossible. I needed motorized transportation.
After two years training and graduation from maintenance mechanics school (1960), I continued work as a maintenance mechanic at the clothing factory. In about 1970, I changed my trade to that of a plasterer (no frescoes in those days!) employed in government projects. But despite long hours, the pay was so low I would never be able to buy anything beyond a bicycle.
But God blessed me financially. I was eventually able to purchase a motorcycle for use in ministry. The motorcycle was of tremendous use. Yet later, for extending ministry to the Russian-occupied portions of Romania across the border, I would have need of two more wheels.
Cars are an even greater impossibility to a blue-collar workman than motorcycles! In Romania there were trains for cross-country travel, some public transportation for city commuters, and bicycles for the masses. Government officials and the KGB secret police (who operated fleets of sleek, powerful Volgas serviced in secret garages) drove cars.
God saw an even greater need, however, than transportation. I had come to think of myself as a worker in God's kingdom in the same way I was a worker in government construction. He sent an angel to our house one day in 1963. "Come one second with me to heaven," the angel said.
It was a complete surprise. Taken by the angel, my spirit was lifted instantly into heaven. Hallelujah! Praise God! I found myself in heaven's city, walking the grand streets and gazing awestruck at all the throngs of people and buildings. I saw Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and prophets such as Moses and Samuel, all very much alive and vigorous. I do not know how they appeared on earth, but in heaven they were tall and about thirty-three years of age. I watched saints approach and there was no need to speak, for with them I could communicate perfectly without saying a word! When the heavenly second was over, the angelic guide returned me to the bedroom where I sat weeping.
My eyes had beheld such glory I could not bear the thought of earth! At the thought of having to take part again in this drab and difficult life, I could not stop the tears. Fnally, God put a stop to my sorrowing. He revealed why He had brought me to heaven for that "second":
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1
Though I had started out right, I had somehow been overtaken
by chains and thrown into a quarry of my own making:
Beneath a peak Arabian,
Gaped a pit deep dug by man,
Each slave that labored there 'til dark--
Branded, doomed with Hagar's mark.
In Romanian society, communism has reduced wages to the point where a man works strenuously all day for enough to buy a mere chicken. But the best workers who continue to labor under such a system are rewarded--draped from chin to belt with ribbons and medals and treated to a banquet they will not see again until they have somehow surpassed another quota at the factory.
The Apostle Paul fought against this creeping in of Hagar's mark and the terrible yoke of self-righteousness in the early church.
True children of the God of grace
Often end in fleshly works;
Faithful once, they lose the race,
Ensnared by nets a fowler jerks.
From Jerusalem to Corinth and Rome he preached:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus..For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death!" (Romans 8: 1-2)
It took a trip all the way to heaven to show what I had foolishly laid aside--the fathomless, wondrous grace of Jesus Christ our Righteousness. The clock told me that the "second" in heaven had lasted three hours on earth. How different is God's time! I also know from this "one second" trip in 1963 how utterly different from man's works is the grace of God.
It is true that communism's hold was forced on people, but there are legalistic bondages that afflict believers just as cruelly. Even as brave Romanian people all through history fought against tyranny and sacrificed their blood and lives for Christ and freedom, believers in Jesus need to resist Hagar's mark.
And so I ask, are we freeborn?
Cephas-like, we're shysters still?
O Lord, we come to thee forlorn,
Our bonds are strong, our spirits ill.
Jesus was once again the Savior over-flowing with amazing grace:
I am Christ-born, His blood freed me.
How can I then to chains return?
For one red drop of liberty
My godly deeds I gladly burn.
It was a lesson of paramount importance that I did not learn completely in 1963. Years later, my wife and I were having trouble with our teenage son. We prayed night and day for him, yet his waywardness increased. The Lord showed me, however, that I was the problem: my self-righteous way of treating him was only making things worse. "But what was I to do?" I asked the Lord in great desperation.
"Just love him," Jesus said.
And the Lord was right. Against HIS love there is no law, nor, in this case, could there be much resistance. Our son returned home, responding to Christ's love and grace. Today he loves and serves the Lord with all his heart.