-Daniel Chapter 9-a “The 69 Weeks”

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Some Say the Antichrist Has Already Come

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Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation

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Alexander the Great comes to Jerusalem

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Daniel Chapter 8 preview

Where is a Saladin?

SaladinI have a number of links and/or experiences in and with the Islamic world including some near relatives. From this I’ve come to a generally different view, as compared to what is considered the normal North American Christian view of Islam and Muslims.

So even writing about this is kind of “skating on thin ice”. But I’ll share my heart, while realizing that this will upset people on both sides of the divide, so to speak.

This has been prompted by the murder this week of over 100 children in Pakistan. It was perpetrated by the Taliban, Muslim against Muslim. But the shear barbarity of the massacre, the utter heartless, meaningless slaughter of innocents is beyond anything that qualifies in any way whatsoever as justified, in any form or theory or even more so, in any religion.

I’ve entitled this post, “Where is a Saladin?” Very few will have any idea what that means. Perhaps those of the Muslim faith will. I’m not hugely informed on these things, only marginally so. But to those who don’t know who Saladin was, he was the leader of the Muslims forces at the time of the Crusades, when the Crusaders came down from Europe to try to retake “the Holy Land” for “the cause of Christ”.

Saladin, magnanimous in victory against the Crusaders

Saladin, magnanimous in victory against the Crusaders

It was such a time of infamy that I won’t get into it here. But from almost all historical accounts, the nominally Christian crusaders encountered in the leader of their foes, Saladin, a man more humane, gentlemanly and civilized than they themselves were. No, I’m not siding with the Muslims against the Christians here; this is the verdict of historians and the people of those times. The “heathen, barbarian infidel” had more character, maturity and even Godliness than the marauding Crusaders.

The Frenchman René Grousset, who wrote a history of the Crusades, wrote of Saladin, “…his generosity, his piety, devoid of fanaticism, that flower of liberality and courtesy which had been the model of our old chroniclers, won him no less popularity in [European Christian] Syria than in the lands of Islam.

My question is, and I pose this as a friend and in acknowledgment of the many good qualities I’ve experience in my interaction with Muslims and Muslim nations: where is a Saladin today? You could be quick to say that I should be taking to task my own people instead of those of the Muslim faith. I’ve done that on occasion, you can read about one example here in this article, Hawks and Doves.

But sincerely and with hope, I so much wish to see a strong … is “uprising” the word?… or something coming from the decent, concerned Muslims of the world to truly stand up with horror and outrage at some of the things that are being perpetrated in the name of your religion. And some of my Christian friends may wonder at this point:

“Mark, are you calling on the Muslims to follow their Mahdi? The one the Koran prophesied would come?”

No, actually I’m not. It’s a matter of empathy with a battered and almost defeated people, a people not my own, who are being defeated from within at this time, not really from without. In our times there have been Churchill, Gandhi and even Nelson Mandela who arose to, in a sense, save their peoples in times of great distress. These Islamic people, with devotion towards the God of Abraham, need leaders to help save them from their enemies within at this time

Malala flat croppedMaybe here in the insular bubble that’s imposed by the American media upon its people, we’re just not hearing about the outrage and the groundswell rising in the Islamic world against these unspeakable outrages that are committed daily by people calling themselves religious and Islamic. If this is already going on but I’m just unable to find out about it since the American media doesn’t tell us about it, please get in contact with me. I do want to know about it.

But if there is apathy, fear, fatalism or indifference in the Islamic world to what has virtually taken over the name of Islam and religion in our times, then my question rises again. Where is a Saladin? Where is some mature, compassionate yet angry and animated leader within the Islamic world who will lead his (or her) people to stand up against this horrible filth that is done in the name of the God of Abraham?

Someone has said one time, “All that’s necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Why do the evil men of our day have more faith and boldness than those who stand for love and brotherhood, compassion and the higher things of the God of three faiths?

It really saddens me. Satan must be laughing with glee that not only is innocent blood being spilled every day, but that he is able to have it perpetrated in the name of the God of Abraham. What a defeat and besmirchment of the name of God for those who say they stand for and hold high the standard of God.

I don’t have an answer to my question. It reminds me of what one of the ancient prophets said, Ezekiel. As the mouthpiece of the God of Abraham, he said, “I sought for a man among them to stand in the gap and make up the hedge, that I should not destroy the land. But I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30)

God looked for someone to “stand in the gap”, to lead God’s people to victory. But He couldn’t find anyone. People like this are not only needed in the Islamic world. They’re needed all over. To rally the people of faith out of their numbness, often their ignorance, out of their immaturity and up the mountain of faith, love and the light of God that could make them beacons to the nations.

To me, it’s particularly pitiful currently what is triumphing within the Islamic world which (and they will know this) is so far distant from the many great accomplishments and heights of civilization and benevolence that have been seen in their history. With sincerity and respect, I hope your people will rise above the heart-wrenching times that are upon so many parts of your society.

May God, the compassionate, the merciful, raise up warriors of faith, love and humility to fight against the darkness that’s engulfing their people now. Not with carnal weapons but with spiritual weapons of love and truth, drawing men away from evil. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”.

Aliens and Astronauts

not of this world flatI’m an astronaut but I am not an alien. Let me explain. In a sense the first Christians were called to be astronauts, other-worldly citizens of a world to come. Not aliens, but no longer really earthlings either.

But many Christians today just fly kites. Some fly little Cessna’s, a few fly airliners and can carry God’s people from one place to the other. Even fewer are in God’s army air corps, really fighters in the battles of the Lord. They fly military aircraft at 50,000 feet. And a very few actually get all the way into space; they escape the gravity of this planet and our world.

You can hear it in the way people talk. I know someone at church. I can tell she is a pilot. She has the demeanor of a millionaires’ wife. But she talks in the first personal and sincerely about persecution.rise above flat How many American Christians can talk convincingly and passionately about suffering persecution? Usually it’s only a very few who somehow have the marks of Christ upon them; they have somehow stood up, stood out and suffered for His name personally.

This person I know is like that, that’s what made me first notice her. She has a good degree from a top university. But she struggles to find a job in a city where there is virtually no unemployment. She is personable and speaks several languages. What could be wrong? She is “over qualified”, they say.

But actually, it’s worse than that. She belongs to God. God is opening and closing doors. She is “in the world but not of it” (John 15:19). She is a child of the King, more than a child of this world. So God is somehow staying very involved in her life. At a time when she should be basking in all the glory of man, have a trophy husband, a SUV and a mansion by the lake, she struggles and has been struggling for a while now.

But she’s cheerful. She is keeping the faith and taking care of herself, expecting God to do a miracle when for a worldly woman, the doors of this present world would have already opened for her. But God is keeping them shut for her, it seems.

Like the verse says, “God having provided some better thing for us.” (Hebrews 11:40) Since she is not of the world, these normal things are more difficult, doubtless because God Himself is leading her by a way not known.

We are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth“. (Hebrews 11:13) It’s interesting to meet others who fly the friendly skies of God Himself, the heavenly realms, who rise above the mundane “course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) and are willing to “suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season”. (Hebrews 11:25)

I hardly know this person. But I recognize in her a kindred spirit, a sister in the Lord and not only that, but a person who’s suffered for her commitment to Him and has suffered personal lose for her faith and discipleship. I was giving a talk in Sunday school recently about witnessing and I talked about passing out tracts. She was the only one in class who pulled a tract out of her purse. She keeps those there so she can pass them on to people she witnesses to.

angel in heavenIt’s not a very big herd of folks like this, precious little and precious few. She and I are just passing acquaintances. But I recognize in her that she flies the skies of the Spirit and that a crown awaits her at the end of her flight and this life we live now.

Have you seen enough to know that “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) is not for you? And you’re trying to get airborne? Trying to break out of the gravity of this old world? To get away from the pull of this planet and to rise into the heavenlies? You’ve got to start somewhere. “Go fly a kite”. “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6)

It’s going to cost you. Maybe you already feel a little different from the norm. But if you aim for the heavens, many will really think you are strange. Maybe you won’t fit in, or even be able to find a job, like my friend. But you’ll know heights of knowledge, experience, otherworldliness and intimacy with the Lord that will be more than anything you’ve ever experienced before. There are not very many of us right now. But we can begin to recognize each other in a crowd after a while, just by the way we talk and how we talk about life. “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

Ultimately, “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ”. (Revelation 11:15) A few of us are already getting ready for this. For people of this world, we can almost seem like aliens. But we’re not; we’re astronauts.

Hawks and doves (Part 1)

hawk&dove-flattenedAn hour ago I was on a walk, something I often do after getting back from church. Suddenly I started flaying my arms wildly as it sounded like a flock of birds was flying right at me. Then I saw that a dove or quail had been in some cactus right next to the sidewalk I was on and had taken off as I passed by. It flew into some bushes a few yards away and was followed closely by a small hawk.

The hawk perched on the eve of a house, directly above the bush where the dove was. This was surprising and looked interesting. I walked up the sidewalk and stood there to see what would happen. Basically nothing happened for several minutes. Standing there, I was thinking about the whole thing. Hawks stay alive by killing things. That’s just the nature of hawks. And of course the dove had been hiding from the hawk probably down in the cactus I’d just walked by and was simply trying to stay alive. I found myself sympathizing with the dove, although I understood the hawk’s viewpoint. I thought about shooing the hawk off but I would have had to walk into someone’s yard to do that. Also it wasn’t really essential that I get involved with this, even though my thoughts were with the dove.

I walked on down to the park, took my prayer time and walked back home. As I walked back by where the hawk and dove had been, I noticed that the hawk was gone. No feathers were on the yard or around. So my guess is that the hawk got tired of waiting for the dove to fly out of the bush and it went off, seeking better game.

I walked back home, thinking about my experiences at church today and in the last months. And I was thinking some about the hawk and the dove. There was the hawk, trying to prey upon the dove. And I was thinking if any of this was significant and maybe why the Lord let that happen right in front of me.

And the thought came to me that this was all a bit of an allegory of how some things are in some churches and in Christianity right now. Jesus said to His followers, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) When the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, it was said to be like a dove. (Luke 3:22) Often God’s people are pictured as sheep but sometimes they are pictured as doves. Jesus called them “harmless”. So I suppose a real church or gathering of the people of God should be somewhat like a flock of doves, harmless, together and free. But from this experience today that the Lord was letting me have, I do have to admit that some churches I’ve been to are like that dove in the bush with the hawk just above it.

In 2010 in Houston, Texas, after returning from a lifetime of missionary service abroad, I was somewhat desperate to find a home church. I ended up going to a large evangelical church in north Houston, hoping to find Christian friends to connect with. The first Sunday the sermon was pretty good. I went on to the adult Sunday school, somewhat wandering in as someone new, a guest. Before the meeting was started, a woman began talking to me about President Obama. She went on and on about how he was just the same as the former dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu. Others from the class were standing around as she talked to me, a visitor.

As a missionary, I was in Bucharest, Romania for four months in early 1992, at a time when the social upheavals in Romania were still very much in flux. For much of my life, Eastern Europe had been the field I was called to. So to compare our President to a Communist dictator was not something I felt comfortable with, either factually, or emotionally.

Also it was heartbreaking that this was a well known evangelical church, with the latest in facilities, its own school and thousands of attendees. I was someone who was really seeking for a Christian family and then I was set upon as soon as I entered a Sunday school by a radical political agenda. I tried another Sunday school group in the same church next week. Again the Sunday school theme of the hour was also dominated by a strong political agenda, with much in the way of disparaging comments about those of the opposite view.

“The hawks” were preying on “the doves”. I ended up ceasing my search for a church home in Houston. Probably if I’d looked and looked, I could have found something. But I had a demanding job and also I felt still called to work on the series of videos that have finally been hosted now on a web site.

But even here in Austin I find  “hawks”, people in the congregation I go to who feel that the body of Christ is the place to recruit and propagate their strongly political, worldly message on Sunday mornings. I don’t begrudge people having their political views. I was brought up in a very politically minded family and there’s a time and a place for that. But I am a dove and that’s what Jesus called His followers.  I don’t want to be attacked by hawks in church on Sunday morning.

(How about you? Have any thoughts about “hawks and doves”? I love to hear from you about it. You can use the reply box below. God bless you!)

Suicide Bomber sees The Light

bomber dressingI received this letter from a friend in Europe recently. It was just astonishing. I’ll add it here as I received it; the English isn’t perfect but you’ll understand. Some names and places have been changed a little. Here’s what my friend wrote:

I know a man who lives in [West Europe] who used to be a “hodja”.  That is a Muslim priest (you know, those who serve in a mosque and sing in Arabic). He has a wonderful testimony of how he became a Christian.

saying goodbyeHe was very ill of a kidney disease and had pain all over his body and a terrible infection. He couldn’t get any help from doctors and finally decided to commit a suicide by blowing himself up at a public place and kill many others with him, especially people from other religions .

So, he prepared everything for this “kamikaze” they call it and went to kiss his little daughter for the last time. But when he left her room and was in the living room, he heard a voice, “Is there only one religion in the world that can help you?”at the door

He said to himself, “Of course not.” Since he was a religious figure, he knew there were more than 3,500 religions in the world. He had been praying to Allah to heal him but nothing happened. So, before going on, he decided to pray to another god from a different religion. “Who knows”, he said, “maybe I can get some help.”

He decided to pray to the Christian God because this is the second largest religion from their point of view, after Islam. So he prayed to Jesus and asked him to help him and heal him.

Immediately all the walls and the floor and the ceiling disappeared and he found himself in the middle of the universe and a great Light was standing in front of him. He knew that the Light knew everything about him but loved him so much. He felt like an empty bucket in front of the Light; he couldn’t give anything in return to this great love.

seeing the lightThe Light said, “I am Jesus who you called for help and I’m healing you.”

Then great light came out of the Light and came over him, flowed though him and he felt warmth and peace. Immediately all pain and weakness disappeared and he found himself well and happy in the living room again.

He changed his mind about killing himself and decided that there was point in living now since he was well and somebody heard his prayer. From that day on, he started proclaiming that Jesus Christ healed him.

At first his family and friends thought that because of his illness he had gone insane. But he was getting better and better. He was gaining weight again and strength and went on talking about Jesus. So they decided to kill him because he betrayed his religion and turned to the enemies of God.

Then he took his wife and daughter and escaped to [West Europe] where he found plenty of other people like himself from his country – converted Christians-  and joined a Christian church there. This happened about 10 years ago.

Now he is well and healthy, full of zeal for the Lord and weeps for his lost relatives to whom he went back again last year and gave them Bibles and urged them to read and get saved. When we prayed for his relatives in his country to be saved, he started crying dearly. He said, “You folks are happy. You have freedom and you do not appreciate what you have. Talk to the people, talk so that they get saved.”

It’s hard to know what I could add to that. This story affects me in so many ways. I’m thrilled and glad to hear of such a miracle like that. But I am aware that this kind of experience is something that is happening throughout the Islamic world. Not “en masse” but if you keep up with these things, there are many testimonies of Islamic men and women having incredible experiences in finding Jesus this way in recent times. Instead of fearing and hating Muslims, it seems far closer to the ways of God to realize that very many of them are turning out to be the “sheep” of God, rather than the monsters we are so often told that they are.

Many of us have known the verse, Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” But the next verse says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” And in these times, the preacher most likely to reach out to the millions of Muslims in western lands around the world is you and me.