"Overcome with Joy"
October 15, 2017
Mark 5:19 - And He (Jesus) did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you."
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.
In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
The family in which I grew up was an average Soviet working-class family. Around me were troubled kids, broken families, and parents who were always in and out of prison, I disapproved of people who had been in prison -- so much so I wouldn't shake hands or sit at the same table with a person like that.
Amazingly, the time came when I ended up facing a judge and receiving a jail sentence. It was the beginning of the Lord overturning my life. By putting me among the people that I despised, He humbled me.
By the time I turned 26, I had been convicted three times and was being hunted for yet another one. For two years, I hid from the authorities and had to live by committing one crime after another.
Should I tell you I was married and had two children?
Finally, I was caught and sentenced to seven years in jail. After a year and a half of my imprisonment, my wife divorced me. I tried to escape, but I always failed.
I constantly wondered why is it that I have to live according to the laws which were made up by people I don't know? What am I guilty of -- only of being born in this country which follows strange laws? What right do they have to keep me in this cage because I want to live the way I want?
Once more I and three others tried to escape. The guards spotted us and began shooting. It was a miracle we were caught alive. I was sent back to jail, this time to a penal colony. In the colony, I was in a constant conflict with the guards and staff. Since I was constantly trying to escape, guards would come to check on me every two hours.
Every Thursday various missionaries came to share God's Good News with the prisoners. One day the Lord sent a person who told me about Jesus Christ. He said that there is a God for whom there is nothing impossible, including changing a person's life and restoring his family. I was shocked. Why is he telling me about the restoration of a family? He doesn't know anything about me. What if he's telling the truth? Can I trust this man? He says that I need to pray and ask God to forgive my sins, and things would be different.
Only one condition: I have to be turned to God and believe in Jesus sincerely.
Thinking of my son, and how I didn't want him to grow up fatherless like I did, I thought that if this God can do anything, then I will turn to Him for help. I agreed to pray. I closed my eyes and repeated the prayer after this man. When we both said amen, I opened my eyes and saw that he was smiling.
He told me that there's a great celebration in heaven right now; all of the angels are rejoicing because one more soul was saved. Then, after telling me to get up early the next day in order to pray, he left.
He left and I felt like a burden was taken off of my soul. I felt like smiling at everyone. After a while, I noticed that I did not swear anymore. That scared me. I wondered what is going on? Then I knew I was dealing with Someone bigger than I am.
I had so many mixed feelings. First, I felt fear and the question popped up in my head: why did He appear in my life only now? If He had done that earlier I would have not done so many foolish and strange things. At that my heart sank, and I felt really discouraged.
But then, almost immediately, I was overcome with joy because He had come. For the first time, I prayed on my own, asking God to forgive me -- to bring my family back together, and to find my father so that I could tell all of them about Him. I still had three years of my sentence to go.
Then, praise God, I was released!
In a few months, I was back in the penal colony -- only this time not as a prisoner! God brought my family back! I am working on a radio project for prisoners. I got to study at a seminary, and I am constantly visiting various prisons and participating in prison ministry projects. Thanks to the Concordia Foundation, I am able to distribute Bible study materials throughout prisons in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region. It is a great project because it includes feedback communication with the prisoners.
There was a time when I thought that people who were in prison are the worst people on Earth. But God acted in my life in such a way that I now enjoy talking to these people -- among whom I was just a little while ago -- and sharing what God did in my life! I am so thankful that God revealed Jesus Christ to me!
THE PRAYER: Lord, I give thanks that You have been merciful to me a sinner. Now change the hearts of others who so desperately need to hear the Savior's salvation story. In His Name I pray. Amen.
Biography of Author: The author of today's international devotion is Igor Krutogolov who is chaplain of the prison ministry in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region. He distributes materials from Lutheran Hour Ministries and is director of the radio program called Crosses.
Established in 1993, Lutheran Hour Ministries-Russia, known in-country as Concordia Foundation, operates from its ministry center in St. Petersburg. It utilizes the internet and social media vehicles to broadcast spiritual content and produces radio and television programming, print media, music, and drama and puppet performances to get the Good News of God's love to the public. Staff and volunteers alike focus on youth and prison ministry opportunities. Using both Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC) and Equipping the Saints (ETS) evangelism-training workshops, people are edified in their faith and empowered to share their faith with others.
Be sure to check out LHM's International Ministries' blog page. You can find it by clicking here.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries