When we heard the news, saw the pictures, and imagined what it was like we were all sickened. The news channels covered it and depending on the channel you watched commentators either railed against the President for doing nothing or commended him for his restraint in the face of barbarism.
But another story has emerged from this terrible act. One mother lost two sons in this incident and has spoken out. Another of her sons, Beshir, has gone on television and spoken of losing his two brothers when he called in to the television show which was speaking of this atrocity. Here is a summary of what was said:
Beshier: “I did not lose one brother … I lost two. Bishoy who was 25 and Samuel was was 23. I am proud of them. They are a pride to Christianity. They make me walk with my head high.”
Host: “Great is your faith.”
Beshier: “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they did not edit out the part where my brothers and others declared their faith and called out to Jesus Christ. I thank ISIS. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith. Yes … believe me! This only helps us endure such crises because the Bible tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”
Host: How did your mother respond? What would she do if she saw one of these killers on the street?
Beshier: “I did talk to my mother about this. I can tell you that she came to this resolution in her heart. She said, ‘If I were to see one of these killers on the street, I would invite him home and ask God to open his eyes!'”
Beshir then prayed on air and asked God to open the eyes of the ISIS killers that they might turn from the lies they have believed to the truth. Everyone in the studio was deeply moved by this story and by the fact that it was being heard by tens of thousands all over the Muslim world. Phone calls poured in from people of various religions or no religion who saw this. The atrocities of ISIS, the faith of Christians, and the witness of
Christians reaching out in acts of kindness and faithful Gospel witness are causing them to turn to Jesus!
We rejoice in the faith of our martyred brothers. We rejoice in the faith of a grieving, but strong, brother and mother. We rejoice in the faithful witness of God’s people who continue to reach out in these lands through acts of kindness and faithful Gospel witness!
Soon, the Arabic translation of The Renewal of All Things will be available in Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and other languages where it is difficult to follow Jesus. Please join us in prayer for God to use this video as people hear the true story of the true God and Lord of the world.
Watch the 16-minute video here. Scroll down below the trailer to watch in six languages.
To my dear friend, and now sister in Christ, Susan
Once a group of theologians were sitting in a conference room discussing what, if any difference, existed between Christianity and other religions. Many ideas were proposed but no one could quite put their finger on what made Christianity unique. Then, C.S. Lewis, the professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature in a great British university walked into the room. Lewis had been an atheist for most of his adult life but his conversations with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, had convinced him of the truth of the Gospel many years before.
Lewis asked, “What’s all the rumpus about?”
Someone replied, “We are discussing what makes Christianity unique? We can’t quite put our finger on it. What do you think?”
And Lewis replied, “That’s easy. It’s grace!”
The others sat still for a while and then one by one gave their assent. Lewis had quickly identified the core component of Christianity’s uniqueness – the grace of God. Every religion is an effort by man to find God, to please God, and to make amends for bad things. It is man’s effort. Christianity is just the opposite – it is about God seeking after man and what he has done to restore sinful, weak humans to himself. This concept of God’s work to save us is called the grace of God. Grace is the personal work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and to do what we will never deserve to have done for us because of our sin. All of that is wrapped up in the one little word – grace. Religion is man’s efforts. Christianity is God’s efforts.
But there are other important attributes of Christianity that are unique.
- Most religions in the world are a variation of Greek philosophy which teach that matter (the physical part of creation) is eternal, in chaos, and is something to be escaped. Biblical teaching is that matter is not eternal but was created by God. When he created it, it was good. It became corrupted when mankind rebelled against God, but God’s purpose is to restore creation to its original, pristine state of goodness and perfection.
- Most religions in the world do not have a historical narrative. They deal with mythological beings in other worlds. Biblical teaching is that history is important – the history of nations, families, communities, and our personal history. God interacts with this world and is very interested and concerned with what happens on this planet. God’s ultimate goal is not to help people escape a fallen world. His ultimate goal is to restore what was lost. The bible does not present itself as myth. It presents itself as history with real events happening in real places.
- Jesus never came saying, “I will show you the path of enlightenment and inner illumination by which you can find your true self, your true divinity, and can be reunited with the divine.” If he had said that, no one would have paid any attention to him in his nation. Instead, he came with the message of the restoration of all things (this is why we call our video – The Renewal of All Things) – the restoration of people to God, to one another, the healing of the image of God, and the healing of earth.
- Jesus always claimed to be more than a teacher and a prophet. He was a teacher and prophet, but far more. He claimed to be the Anointed One prophesied by the prophets of Israel who would restore all things. One of these prophecies calls him “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) and Jesus claimed to be this Mighty God (see the Gospel of John).
- Teachers of other religions never claimed to be sinless, never said they would offer themselves as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and never said they would rise again from the dead in three days after they were executed. Jesus staked everything on this. He claimed to be the sinless anointed one. He said his death would be a ransom payment to rescue us from sin, and that it would all be proven by the resurrection.
What every person must do is to verify if these things are so. They must examine the historically verifiable documents of ancient history which we call the Bible, and especially the New Testament to see if this is what is really being said. Then, once they see that this is, indeed, what the New Testament is teaching, they must then ask themselves – was Jesus lying, was he deluded, or was he telling the truth? When people discover he was telling the truth they must call upon him and ask the living, resurrected Jesus to be their Lord and then spread that good news to others in the world.
It is crucial for everyone to learn the big difference. In Changing the Stories of the World I share how we must change people’s stories and the world’s stories by presenting the unique message of the Bible. Get a copy of this important book today and learn how you can change the stories of the world.
It’s not earthquakes, or wars, or supposed events in the heavens. Everyone is talking and writing books about such spectacular signs.
The surprising sign of the last days is … love. That’s right. Here is my text, 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.
Although Paul says in verse 3 that one of the signs of the end is that people will be unloving, he says in three other places that another sign is love abounding. Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, and lovers of pleasure. Love abounding – a sign of the end – if not the end of the age, at least the end of our culture and life as we have known it.
Some will reply, “Jonathan, that’s not love.” But Paul doesn’t say that. He calls them lovers. It’s just that the love that springs up in their hearts which is a gift from the God of love is misdirected and misused.
The other day, I posted on Facebook a picture of three homosexual men who were “united” in marriage by a Buddhist monk in Thailand. My comment was that when the definition of marriage ceases to be the union of a man and a woman, then marriage can be anything we want it to be, as long as there is “love.”
The three said, ‘We thought what better way to show our love for each other than by getting married.” The article reported that “The ceremony included the traditional exchange of vows in which the trio declared their love for each other, and in doing so, agreed to share their home and responsibilities.”
Love! Who can argue with this? Shouldn’t people be free to marry the person they love? The former mayor of my city boldly proclaimed this in 2012 at the Democratic National Convention. The audience roared with approval. Of course! It makes perfect sense!
Unless, we have missed a crucial point, that love has limits. Love has boundaries.
The greatest words ever written about love are found in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s not just followers of Jesus who love this chapter but everyone! But when we look closely we find, right in the middle of Paul’s beautiful words, something disconcerting about love. He says in verse 6, “Love … does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.” Uh oh. Unrighteousness? You mean there are standards for love? Truth? You mean some people might love what is false?
Yes, in the last days, men (and women) will love the wrong things. I suppose that has always been going on, but the last days scenario is that there will be an acceleration of affection for the wrong things.
May I say here that I am not “gay-bashing”? This is not an article about homosexuality. I could have easily talked about corporate greed for Paul says that men will be lovers of money. But the article in the Daily Mail.com on the three guys prompted all this so I use it as an example to press home this point – God has put love within the hearts of all of us. We are made in his image and because he is a God of love it is natural for us to feel and express love. But because of sin, it is easy for our love to be misdirected or to be expressed inappropriately.
We all smile at little boys who want to marry their mother. It is cute. But these little boys need to have their “mother-love” shaped into an appropriate expression of love. It is not right for little boys to grow up and marry their mothers.
In the same way, the love in all of us must be channeled, directed, nurtured, defined. Love must be seasoned with truth and righteousness. Otherwise, it stands in peril of being misdirected and corrupted. This is why Paul also said, “And it is my prayer your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9-10)
Love? Yes! Love abounding? Yes! Love indiscriminately offered to whoever or whatever or whenever? No!
Love must have knowledge and discernment mixed with it so that we might make right choices about love in order to be pure and blameless for Christ. Love must be expressed appropriately.
This is crucial for the times in which we live. We must have love with truth. We must have love with righteous standards. Otherwise, untethered, unanchored love will drift into greater and greater bizarre-ness. And in the end, love will cease to be, and we will cease to be.