We've been discussing GOD's heart and purpose toward the Muslim peoples.
For the sake of new readers, I believe the attack of 9/11, at the highest levels, was allowed by God to incite a multi-tiered war effort against the spirit of terrorism that exists in Islam. For those who think Islam is a peaceful religion, remember that during the century following Mohammed's death, Islam spread primarily by Jihad: Muslim armies swept through and conquered the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Portugal, and much of the Mediterranean World. Islam spread holding a sword and the threat of death upon its captives; Christianity spread as men and women, following the redemptive pattern set by Jesus, gave their lives for others. Plainly, Allah is not the same GOD who inspired Jesus Christ.
Additionally, besides the spirit of terrorism in Islam, there is also a spirit of lust. Consider: according to the Koran, Paradise supposedly has 72 virgins waiting for the young Muslim suicide bomber who dies in Jihad. Additionally, Muslim men can have up to four wives while Muslim women can have only one husband. It is not hard to imagine where such "inspiration" comes from: it is earthly, carnal and demonic.
Yet, we mention these things, not so we can criticize, but so we can pray objectively. Consider also the treatment of women. In Muslim countries, women are relegated to a much lower value than men. In some countries, they are not even allowed to have an ID card because their picture will be on it. Thus, they are forbidden to drive, travel, work at certain jobs or even walk in public without a male escort. Some of this is changing, but it is not without much resistance. The Muslim world in general languishes under poverty, illness and shortened life spans. There is a deep cry in the heart of the Muslims today that can be traced back to its ancestral beginning. It is a yearning for spiritual freedom. GOD intends on answering their cry.
It is important to remember that Abraham had two children: Ishmael by Hagar and Isaac through Sarah. The Islamic religion springs from the Arabic descendants of Ishmael. For 13 years Abraham thought Ishmael was the child of promise. Ishmael was deeply loved by Abraham and, when Abraham prayed for his son, Ishmael was given a promise from GOD:
"And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation" (Gen 17:20).
GOD's plan has been to "bless" Ishmael, "make him fruitful," and "multiply him exceedingly" until he became "a great nation." However, on another occasion the angel of the LORD spoke to Hagar, Ishmael's mother concerning her son:
"Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count." The angel of the LORD said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. And he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers" (Gen 16:10-13).
So, added to the promise of future blessings, the LORD also revealed a description of the tribes which would originate from Ishmael: their hand will be "against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against" them.
But how shall the LORD bless them and make of them a great nation when the nature of the Arab peoples has been one of contention? Ishmael was compared to a wild donkey. Unbroken, stubborn and hard to tame. The answer for Ishmael is the for us and our rebellious natures: all need to be born again.
BACK IN THE PHILIPPINES
Last week we mentioned that an Islamic Sultan attended our November conference in the Philippines and that he had stood while we led the people in a sinner's prayer. His heart was softened and opened by the faithfulness of loving Christians who, without any hidden agenda or unforgiveness, proved that they were trustworthy. GOD did the rest. Yet, in America when our government leaders invited Muslim clerics to dine and pray at the White House, they met with stiff criticism from many Christians. What were our political leaders doing? Generally speaking, they were doing what we, as Christians, should be doing: seeking to win the trust of those in Islam.
It is my conviction that the military war against terrorism must be united with prayer for Muslims AND a relational outreach to those in Islam. Just like each of us, Muslims are defensive with people who appear hostile, but once we choose to accept them as people whom GOD loves, we begin to find their hearts opening. Indeed, in several countries, missionaries are using the Koran's references to Jesus to explain the truth about the Son of GOD.
This is what I believe the LORD is doing with President Bush. He is using the President's outreach to create a shelter for Muslims. Remember, Muslims are convinced that the West hates them. However, George Bush is doing all he can to let Muslims know he is not waging a war against Islam, but against terrorism. Indeed, I believe once the spirit of terrorism is broken, these trust relationships that are being established will create open doors for multitudes to come to Christ.
President Bush has pledged to continue the fight until all terrorist groups are destroyed, regardless of what country they may be in. Beloved, this assault against terrorism may be significant for reaching the Muslim world. Remember: the principle enemy of Ishmael is the spirit of terrorism that exists in Islam.
One last thing: During the last night of the Philippine conference, while I stood leading several of the people in prayer for Islam, suddenly the LORD flooded my heart with His love for Ishmael. This was an encounter with GOD and Abraham's prayer, "O, that Ishmael might live before Thee!" became my prayer as well. I believe there is still a cry in the heart of Ishmael that cannot be answered by the terror spirit in Islam. The name, "Ishmael" means "God will hear." It is the cry to be loved and accepted by GOD, to know GOD as Father.
After the Lord flooded my heart, the Holy Spirit opened a Scripture concerning the time when Hagar and Ishmael were in the wilderness and about to die. The word tells us that Hagar cried out to GOD. The LORD answered saying that He "heard the lad crying." Then the LORD's angel assured Hagar, "Do not fear, for GOD has heard the voice of the lad where he is" (Gen 21:17). GOD again will hear the voice of Ishmael crying from the wilderness. But, where was Ishmael when GOD heard his cry? Scripture says, she "left the boy under one of the bushes" (Gen 21:15 NAS). As we pray for the war against Islamic terror to open Muslim nations, let us also pray that, as terrorism breaks, GOD will use our President to provide Ishmael a place of freedom from terror, where he can openly cry to the Almighty. Is it possible that, once again, Ishmael shall cry to GOD from under the protection of "one of the Bushes"?