Hardly a day passes when I do not receive via email, newsletter or postal carrier a warning concerning Islam.
The most common fear has to do with the apparent homogenization of religions in America. We know our President is a sincere Christian, but why are Muslims having dinner with him at the White House? Christians are concerned that the glorious atonement of Jesus Christ will be compromised and a false unity arise, one that sacrifices truth on the altar of tolerance.
I, too, grieved as I watched network television and heard mullahs praying to Allah at memorials. I was especially offended that, while America was still reeling from the atrocities committed by radical Muslims, so called moderate Muslims manipulated our conciliatory invitations, and then brazenly "witnessed" for Mohammad in public meetings. I knew that behind the eyes of "sympathetic" Muslim clerics was a vision of an Islamic America.
While there are, indeed, many honorable people who are Muslims, we have discovered one summary truth about Islam: within its precepts a spirit of terror abides. It not only seeks to terrorize the non-Muslim world and bring it into submission to Allah, it holds the souls of Muslims in the grip of terror as well. Consider: Of the thirty or so wars that are currently being waged worldwide, twenty-eight involve Muslims. In most Muslim nations, conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by torture and death. Thus, terror keeps the Muslim soul closed and unable to objectively examine the true nature of Islam. This spirit of terror holds even moderate Islamic governments hostage, where leaders fear the violent reprisals of radical fundamentalists.
Consider also that, for the sincere Muslim, there exists no sacrifice, no atonement for sins; no one in Islam can rely upon a Savior's righteousness to obtain peace with GOD. Islam offers only one way of assured acceptance into the afterlife, and that is to die fighting in a Jihad (holy war). This demonic doctrine of using deception and fear to create suicide warriors is a most insidious manipulation of the human soul! What an offense to the true character of GOD, Who does not ask us to sacrifice our sons, but instead gave His Son for our peace!
WAR AGAINST TERROR
I greatly appreciated that, in the face of terrorist threats (and pressured appeals from Muslim rulers) President Bush boldly committed our nation to war against terrorism. The extremists had been using fear and violence as their chief weapons, and they had been advancing literally unstopped throughout the world. Yet, my applause is not merely because the non-Muslim world will be safer, but because I perceive that GOD desires to confront this spirit of terror in order to release grace to the Muslim world. He is seeking to rescue the generations of Ishmael from the terror of Islam.
I fully agree that America and the West is in great need of repentance. However, September 11 was not merely about GOD judging America for its sins. The Most High was seeking to awaken America (and our allies) to break the control terrorism has in Islam and thus use this war to open the Muslim world to the gospel. You may question my reasoning, but a simple review of the last 60 years will give insight into the LORD's will for the U.S.
Let's return to the world of 1937: International tensions had erupted into a number of undeclared wars and conflicts; multitudes were overwhelmed with inconsolable human carnage and suffering. The Japanese, deluded that they were a superior race, attacked China, slaughtering 200,000 Chinese in Nanking alone in December. As the war in the Far East progressed, in 1939, Hitler, also deluded with illusions of racial superiority, released its "blitzkrieg" war against Poland. Over one million Poles died in the first two years; tens of thousands of Polish Jews were forced to dig their own graves before being murdered. At the same time, the Soviets attacked eastern Poland, then Finland and the Balkans. The Nazis turned their attention toward their southwestern frontier, overwhelming Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Denmark and Norway soon surrendered on the northern front.
We have been outraged and traumatized by the sudden death of several thousand on September 11, but by mid 1941 several million people had suffered horrible deaths as a result of war! In Europe, only the United Kingdom was able to stand under the relentless pounding of the German Luftwaffe, yet over 60,000 people died from the bombing in London alone. Through all this human suffering -- in spite of the great worldwide heartache that filled heaven with tears -- America remained neutral.
Then, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. America's anger exploded into resolve. A destiny was born in the USA on that day. America went to war against tyranny and worldwide injustice. Yet, we did not seek to conquer, but to liberate -- to set nations free. After WWII GOD opened the world for the harvest like no other time in history. Literally millions came to Christ.
However, America's job was not done. Two superpowers remained: the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviets, like the Nazis and Japanese Imperialists before them, were bent on world domination. In opposition were the freedom loving people of democratic societies with America as the leading nation. The Soviets were atheists; the Americans were primarily Christians. Throughout the long and terrible drama of the Cold War, no one really thought that GOD actually loved the Russian peoples and desired to liberate them from tyranny. Christian writers, prophets and theologians wrote volumes about the end of the world, each predicting with finality that godless Russia would descend upon Israel. Yet, it didn't happen. Instead, GOD used the USA to resist this totalitarian empire and, after decades of struggle, overnight it crumbled. Today, tens of millions of souls have come into the kingdom of GOD from these former Soviet nations.
Let me also remind you, beloved, that there was nothing overtly spiritual about America in 1941, and no revival was going on in the U.S. when Russia fell. America simply was a very imperfect, somewhat Christian nation. Just as the LORD needed the U.S. to stand against Japan and Germany, so GOD needed America to open the USSR for harvest. Now He needs this nation to lead again against the demonic nightmare of a world ruled by Islam.
SEASON OF HARVEST
Remember, Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come" (Matt 24:14). Jesus said the gospel must be preached in the whole world, "AND THEN the end shall come." The proclamation of the gospel precedes the time of judgment. We are in the season of the harvest.
Beloved, consider also that it was on December 25, 1991, that Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union. The next day the Russian government took over the offices of the USSR. Don't miss this: The very day we celebrate Jesus' birth is the day communism officially died! We don't follow signs, but this one stands right in the middle of the road to the future. Since the fall of the USSR, more people have come to Christ than the sum of all those converted since the first century!
Just as Nazism, Japanese Imperialism and Soviet communism were totalitarian governments bent on world domination, so is Islam. Before the Soviets fell, what they called "glasnost" began softening their society. Glasnost meant "openness." This is what GOD used America to provide: openness. And this is what He seeks to create again among Islamic people. He desires that Muslims too would be able to think honestly and freely for themselves.
THE COMING HARVEST
Christ's resurrection from the dead had just occurred and Jesus' disciples were already questioning Him concerning the Second Coming. "LORD, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" they asked. From the beginning, Jesus' disciples have always been anxious concerning His return. Thus, Jesus answered, "It is not for you to know times or epochs . . . but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:6 -8).
Is Jesus saying that we shouldn't want to know the details of the time of the end? No. But there is a right time to know the times and that is after the gospel has legitimately been lived and proclaimed worldwide, even to the "remotest part of the earth." Until that worldwide outreach is fulfilled, much discussion about the Second Coming can almost become a religious diversion from the real task at hand, which is winning the lost.
Don't get me wrong, it is perfectly right to hope for the rapture, even to dream of the time when our mortal lives are swallowed up in the embrace of GOD. Just a brief glance in the direction of GOD's glory, fills the soul with passion and anticipation. However, the fastest way to obtain the LORD's rapture of the church is to finish the LORD's work on earth. Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come" (Matt 24:14). The rapture is the consummate event of the harvest, and the harvest comes after the gospel has been preached to all nations.
There are those who believe it will be Jews that bring in the harvest; yet, recall Paul's letter to the Romans. He wrote that, "a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom 11:25). This phrase, "fullness of the Gentiles," speaks of the end time sequence which GOD has set for the harvest. If the nation of Israel is to remain hardened until the "fullness of the Gentiles has come in," how can hardened Jews, non born again Jews, be used to gather the ripened, worldwide harvest? Make no mistake, the Lord indeed has a marvelous plan that will uniquely center around Israel. Yet, since the first century it has been the church, the "one new man" -- Jew and Gentile united in Christ -- that GOD is using to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
THE MUSLIM HARVEST
It is for this very reason -- that the gospel must be preached worldwide before the end -- that I have such faith in GOD for the Islamic world. Today, more Muslims have come to Christ in the last decade than the sum of conversions for the past 15 centuries Just as the LORD focused His attention on stopping the advance of other totalitarian regimes: Japanese Imperialism, Nazism and Soviet Communism, so He intends to use this war on terrorism to stop the advance of Islam. The Holy Spirit is about to truly open Islam for the sake of the gospel.
Yet Islam is not like any enemy we have fought. You will recall that last week we talked about the spirit of terror that has woven itself into the fabric of Islam. This terror spirit not only holds the soul of the Muslim world in its grip, but Islam advances into the world using terror as an ever-available option.
GOD desires, not only to liberate Islamic nations from the bondage of terror, but specifically to open the mind of Muslims to hear and understand the gospel. While the Father's purpose with September 11 has many subordinate goals, I believe the main reason the LORD allowed the terrorist attack was to release American resolve against terrorism. Yes, as a nation we deeply need repentance, however the bigger picture is that GOD desires to use the U.S. and our allies to open the world of Islam. Thus, as we focus on this war, we are not simply praying for military victory or vengeance against terrorists; our prayer is higher, nobler. We are praying for the souls of Muslims to begin to open to the voice of the living GOD.
However, one might feel like the opposite is actually happening: We are being forced open to Islam. Indeed, our political leaders have openly been gracious to Muslim clerics. Americans, meanwhile, have wished to hear just one Muslim leader ask for forgiveness on behalf of misguided Islam. It has caused many to harbor malice toward Muslims in general.
I, too, felt this quiet anger, especially as the days and weeks since 9/11 progressed and still no apology came from the Islamic world. But something happened to me while I was recently in the Philippines. The first night of our meetings, just before I rose to speak, an Islamic Sultan showed up in the conference. You should understand that there were over 3000 Christian pastors and intercessors in the regional civic center where we met. This Muslim leader came because Christians had been praying for him and ministering to him. A sultan is a Muslim sovereign, usually the ruler or chief leader of a country. This man could trace his ancestry to Mohammad and was the cultural leader of the Muslims in the southern island of Mindanao, the second largest of the Philippine islands. Mindanao is also the hotbed of Islamic terrorism in the Philippines. Local Christians had been aggressively praying for the Sultan and, as a result, the LORD supernaturally protected him from a car bomb. Everyone, including the Sultan, knew it was Jesus Christ that had protected him.
His arrival surprised everyone. By way of protocol, the conference hosts invited him to say a few words; yet, as the Sultan stepped toward the pulpit, no one knew what to expect. It was apparent that he was trying to be conciliatory, even seeking to develop some meaningful peace and connection between Christians and Muslims.
His short greeting expanded to over a half hour. I was supposed to be the main speaker, but the sermon I had prepared had nothing at all to do with what was now happening. As the Sultan ended his talk, pastors and intercessors from the conference came forward and spontaneously asked him for forgiveness for the things Christians had done in the past against Muslims. Some in the crowd, to be sure, were upset with what was happening, a few even booing from the rear of the auditorium. But, up front the LORD was creating a safe environment, a shelter of love and grace that was free from the fears and bitterness of the recent past. The time ended with him, as a Muslim leader, also asking for forgiveness for the sins of Muslims. His confession was neither eloquent nor emotional. He simply said, "Please forgive us too." But it did something to my heart.
Even though I had been praying for Muslims in earnest for several weeks, I suddenly realized there was unresolved anger in me toward them. Such resentment stands as an obstacle for effective prayer. Indeed, Jesus said that, when we prayed, we were to forgive anyone with whom we had an offense. I honestly had not realized that I was carrying unforgiveness toward the Muslim world, but I was.
Now, by the grace of GOD, I left that bitterness at Christ's cross. When I spoke, I brought a revised message, adding a fifteen minute segment about the power of Jesus' blood covenant, which alone guarantees us access to paradise and forgiveness of sins. I asked anyone who wanted to be forgiven because of Christ's blood covenant to stand. Everyone stood, including the Islamic Sultan who had been sitting on the front row. I then led the people in a "repeat after me" sinner's prayer. I couldn't tell from where I was if the Sultan and his associates were actually repeating the prayer after me or not, but two days later, at a different meeting in Manila, Ed Silvoso gave an altar call to over 400 businessmen. Among the 141 businessmen who stood to receive Christ was the Sultan and two of his guards.
Only GOD knows if the Sultan truly understood what he was doing. I hope and pray he did. But this testimony is about how the LORD was opening at least one Muslim's heart: it started with us, as Christians, finding a genuine place of forgiveness in our hearts. If I played a small part in helping one man along the way, it was because, I let go of the offenses that the Muslim world committed against Americans and the West.
Today a great opportunity is arising in the Islamic world and we must be ready. There are many things we can begin to do. We can study ways to reach to Muslims; we can prepare ourselves to go to the mission field. However, if Muslims will truly hear the gospel, as Christians we must free ourselves from unforgiveness and pray with a heart without malice.
LORD, forgive me for harboring unforgiveness. Your word says, in prayer, we are to lift holy hands without malice. Father I ask that You cleanse me of everything but the compassion and mercy of Your Son. Oh GOD, use my prayers and my life, that Muslims would hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.